Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Martian - Andy Weir

Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
ASIN: B00EMXBDMA
Publisher: Broadway Books
Year: 2011
E-Book
Pages: 369

The Martian is a fascinating read of survival, mental and physical strength and endurance as well as a noteworthy study of the resilience of the human spirit. It holds many lessons for both the military and civilian leadership of today on a number of levels. The novel is the story of an astronaut who has been inadvertently left behind on Mars when his crew mates have to undertake an emergency evacuation. This sets the conditions within which the book unfolds as NASA, his former crew and the main character strive to overcome the numerous challenges that both survival and potential rescue throw up. The central theme of the book is the necessity to overcome and persevere.

As indicated earlier there are a number of takeaways for the modern leader:

1.       Prioritize: you cannot address all of your challenges concurrently, rank them and face them off in order; otherwise they will become overwhelming;
2.       Keep your mind active: regardless of how you do it, you must not allow yourself to become mentally lazy. You must keep engaged or you risk lethargy;
3.       Do not wish for what you do not have: wishful thinking is a luxury that leads to self-pity. Focus on the reality in front of you and be realistic;
4.       Acknowledge the reality around you: do not close your eyes to your situation, face it head-on however difficult that may be.
5.       Life is not fair: life owes you nothing and you cannot pretend otherwise. Success or failure depends upon your attitude and approach;
6.       Train hard and anticipate failure: failure in training is one of the building blocks to success as it teaches us respect for our environment, humility and determination;
7.        Study: you never know when the information you are looking at will become necessary;
8.       Plan to one degree of What if?: do not try and anticipate all possible outcomes to an action. This will preclude you making any decisions. Accept that your initial plan may not be successful and considered options but not at the expense of a decision.
9.       Accept risk.
10.     Goals: Set reasonable goals for yourself and focus on meeting them.
11.      Psychological Strength: Understand that, as a leader, many decisions that you have to make will be difficult and may, with hindsight, not be correct. That is life and part of the responsibility of accepting a leadership role. You must have the psychological strength to carry on and lead regardless of the popularity (or lack thereof) of your decisions.

Weir has written a very engaging book. It is dynamic and readable; mixing humour with message and is thus both uplifting as well as a testament to the human spirit. The messages it conveys are very relevant and easily grasped. I recommend this for leaders regardless of profession.

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