Artists, Engineers, and Entrepreneurs: Col. Greg Johnson

“The pilot is always one switch throw away from making a bad situation worse.” It’s a joke at the pilot’s expense, but it’s also a saying about the fragility of flight and the importance of being ready for anything. In this episode of ae2,  former NASA astronaut, Col. Greg Johnson teaches us a lesson about problem solving.

Like many kids who grew up during the 1960s, Greg remembers July 20, 1969 as the day he was inspired to become an astronaut. Unlike most of us, Greg actually did it.

Don’t say no to something because then it will never happen!

Growing up as a military brat, Greg’s family lived near various U.S. military bases around the world, including Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where he was constantly surrounded by planes. So it’s no surprise that Greg grew up to become a fighter pilot. After serving in Desert Storm, he met future NASA administrator Charlie Bolden, who encouraged him to become a test pilot. In 1998, Greg was selected to compete with 3,000 people for 24 positions in the Astronaut Academy.

In his time as an astronaut and a pilot, Greg has learned a lot about managing risk, managing emotion, managing stress, and solving problems. His greatest advice? Don’t panic. 

It’s much easier said than done, but he reminds us that when you’re stressing out about a problem, you’re wasting energy that you could be using to solve your problem. He encourages us to compartmentalize and draw from similar situations and feelings.

Focus on what you CAN control—focus on the single most important element of your problem.

It can be easy to fall down the rabbit hole worrying about secondary issues, but once you solve your primary problem, secondary problems are lessened and become easier to solve. Don’t be too hasty in solving your problems. Look to others around you who have different skill sets to get opinions that are different than your own. Stick to the plan, but always be questioning.

Check out the episode below for more advice from Col. Johnson.

If you are unfamiliar with ae2, this Web series from Hiller Measurements is a long-form interview-style program that explores thought leaders at the “business end” of companies, creative works, and research. In each episode, Hiller Measurements’ President Jeff Olsen explores the creative drive, personal motivations, and stories of perseverance of visionaries who are still “in the hunt.

Through ae2, our aim is to find the business model in the engineering mind, the drive and technique a gifted artist is developing, and the impact for good that outweighs the personal risk taken on by bold business creators. Overall, the goal of our series is to inspire viewers to step out, build, and create.

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