During the month of February in the United States, we celebrate and bring awareness to the roles African Americans have played to U.S. history. There are so many amazing people to take note of, particularly when it comes to civil and human rights. As a female, who is in awe of any female in the sciences and because I just watched the movie, Hidden Figures, I want to share what I have learned from Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan - three African-American women who worked at NASA at the time of the Friendship 7 launch in 1962.
Follow your passion - this statement has been a personal mantra since I decided to become an entrepreneur in 2014. These women loved science and math. They didn't give up pursuing their passion and when Mary Jackson decided she was going to become an engineer, a role primarily filled by men in 1962 and still so in 2017, she didn't let that stop her. She had many obstacles to overcome, but she educated herself and eventually became NASA's first black female engineer.1
When something matters, when you are passionate about it, when you think about it constantly and your heart yearns for it, go for it.
Don't give up no matter how many roadblocks come up - Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, and all the women who worked in NASA's West Area of the Langley Campus in 1962 lived during the civil rights movement in the United States. Segregation was acceptable throughout the country and these women lived knowing they could be discriminated against daily and there was nothing hey could do about it. But they didn't let that stop them from doing their and contributing to their field. They knew they could educate themselves, help, and use their knowledge to aid the U.S. in the race to have a man orbit the Earth.
Know your stuff - don't just say you can do it. Don't just try and fake it till you make it. Know your stuff. You may say you can do something when you really can't, but don't wait till you are called to the table to prove your knowledge. Study on your own. Educate yourself. Do everything you can to learn what you can. One day you may be called to the table to show your stuff. Be able to support yourself and know your sh*t.
Adapt - when Dorothy Vaughn found out that computers may take over the role of her department, instead of looking for jobs outside of NASA or waiting to be reassigned to another department, Dorothy read up on computers and became the expert in the field. Then she trained her department to be as knowledgeable as herself so that when the time came, her department was able to operate the computers before anyone else could.
When you can adapt to a situation instead of staying set in your ways, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of change. We don't know what the future may bring. Change may not always be a good thing. But there is one thing for certain and that change is inevitable. If you want to keep up with the way the world moves, it is always in your best interest to learn what you can and adapt when you can.
Always give your best - when Dorothy was overlooked for a promotion she didn't give up. She wasn't complacent, had a tantrum, or just gave up. She kept doing her work and made herself invaluable to the company. In the end, she got the promotion she deserved.
We know that life does not always go the way we planned. There are times when you are brought down to your knees and the desire to give up is stronger than the will to get back up again. But when we stand up and continue to give life everything we've got, in the end, life finds a way of rewarding us with what we deserve.
These women and the lives they lived are prime examples of what I stand for as a transformational life coach. If you have ever felt called to do something different but do not know where to turn, listen to the direction of your heart, educate yourself, and never give up. It will all be worth it.
1. Shetterly, Margot Lee. Mary Jackson Biography. NASA, 2016. Web 02 February 2017. https://www.nasa.gov/content/mary-jackson-biography