Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Advice from an astronaut

August 30, 2013 

Earlier this week, I went to hear an astronaut speak.

When astronauts speak, you listen. You know, because they're astronauts.

This particular astronaut was Mark Kelly, and he was speaking at the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum. He said this: "How good you are at the beginning of anything you try is not an indicator of how good you will become."

He had just told a story about the first time he landed a jet on an aircraft carrier. Afterward, the evaluator asked if he was sure he wanted to be a pilot. At the time, a lot of the other pilots were better than he was. He decided to stick with it, of course, and eventually he had the last laugh.

You know, because he's an astronaut.

Maybe it was just one of those stories successful people tell so they can sound humble and inspire people who weren't born with greatness like they were. I mean, if Mark Kelly had been a terrible pilot trying to land a plane on an aircraft carrier, he wouldn't have lived to tell about it.

But I liked the quote and wish I'd heard it earlier. I could have used it.

As I've probably told you before, I have four children between the ages of 11 and 17. The oldest, my daughter, is looking at colleges.

She wants to be a teacher. Her three brothers just want to know what's for dinner.

This is the part where I say, "It seems like yesterday." That's a cliché, but I can't think of another way to say it.

It seems like yesterday I was standing in a hospital room holding this tiny person. My wife, Bess, was down the hall. We were attending graduate school in Athens. Bess was getting her teacher's certification. I, the self-appointed breadwinner, was studying creative writing.

Even back then, in a robust economy, a creative writing degree and a couple of bucks would get you a cup of coffee.

My new daughter began to cry. She wasn't happy in this cold new world. I began to talk.

At the time, I didn't realize that's what parents do: When your child needs help, you open your mouth and start imparting something. You hope it's wisdom; it's probably not.

Since then, I've had the opportunity to say a lot of stuff to my children. The other day, one of my boys was told by his Little League coach that he needed to shorten his swing and change his pitching stance. He thought he knew everything about baseball and it turns out he's just getting started. Life's like that. What do you say?

I remember that day in the hospital, holding my little girl and wanting her to be happy in her new place. I don't remember what I said, but I remember that I felt scared but also kind of good to suddenly be responsible for somebody else beside myself.

If I'd known about it then, I could have said, "How good you are at the beginning of anything you try is not an indicator of how good you will become."

She could have said the same thing to me.

You never stop learning.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com.

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