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Story Musgrave has a resume few can match.
He was a NASA astronaut for more than 30 years and flew on six spaceflights. He is the only astronaut to have flown on all five space shuttles (Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour and Columbia).
He was a trauma surgeon and parachuting instructor. He has seven graduate degrees in math, computers, chemistry, medicine, physiology, literature and psychology. And, on top of all that, he has been awarded 20 honorary doctorates.
But, he never finished high school.
Story joined the Marines to fight in the Korean War, where he served an aircraft electrician and an engine mechanic.
After the war, he wanted to go to college, and earned his GED in the process.
In August 2016, Story gave a speech to 200 students from all over the world. These learners were competitors at Pearson Certiport’s Microsoft Office Specialist World Championships, a global competition that tests students’ skills in Word, Excel® and PowerPoint®.
During the speech, Story imparted seven pieces of wisdom to these budding scholars and computer scientists:
1. “Creativity stems from a childhood spent in exploration.”
At the start of his speech, Story projected black and white photo of a baby. It was him, shirtless, diapered, and bent over examining an insect.
“Who I was as a kid, that’s my hero. The kid brought me to a place in life where I could pursue opportunities presented to me,” says Story.
“That’s my hero, and that’s the important part of my career. The kid got me to a place in life where I could take advantage of opportunities that came my way.”
2. “Can you say you’re a pilot without a license? No. Certification is important.”
Story pushed the students to get the certifications they need to prove they have the skills required to excel in the modern workplace.
3. “Life is a big playing field with huge opportunities and challenges. That’s what you want. You want to be challenged. You want something you have to live up to.”
“You look at everything I had ever done–my flying, my fixing stuff–and I knew that everything I had ever done was leading to this moment.”
During his career as a NASA astronaut, Story performed the first shuttle spacewalk on Challenger’s first flight, flew on six shuttle missions and earned the title of lead spacewalker on the Hubble Telescope repair mission, among other achievements.
He encouraged the students to accept challenges because they could be the biggest opportunities of their lives.
4. “When you learn a skill young, it will always be with you.”
For Story, it was learning how to be a mechanic by working on farm equipment as a boy and on planes in the Marines.
He calls his life approach “radically pragmatic.”
He’s applied his mechanic mindset to being a surgeon stitching people up, and as an astronaut fixing the Hubble Space Telescope.
5. “I always empower the people around me to show me a better way.”
Before surgery, he would describe his procedure to the team and ask for feedback.
Even though he’s extremely accomplished in many fields, his ego is not too big to learn from others.
6. “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Initially, Story didn’t get accepted into college.
But that didn’t stop him.
He just showed up on campus and insisted they accept him.
He says, “They saw that the Marines had helped me make something more of myself—so they took a chance on me.”
7. “The more you put in, the more you get out.”
Story doesn’t focus on the hard work he put in, but on the journey.
“When you have a calling, when you have a passion for something, you have to share that. There is some travel and there are some long hours,” says Story.
“But I think it trades off nicely. I think the advantages for them outweigh the disadvantages.”