I went to see Buzz Aldrin speak last night.
Last week I’d received an invite to the launch of UBank’s ‘Since Today’ campaign. These things come in now and then and most of the time they involve being invited to an opening, or a film, or some such event that enables the relevant institution to get the “brand” out there.
Normally there is a twenty something PR person, or two, keeping watch over half interested financial journalists and the various senior and mid level executives reluctantly shanghaied into the guise of hosts.
Realistically, most involved would generally prefer to be at home, tucking in the kids or tucking into dinner. But they grin and bear it, drink the cheap wine, politely eat the little pastries (sadly not gluten free) and try and make pleasant small talk with people they’d generally not spend a lot of time with.
But this one was a little different. Buzz Aldrin was to speak and there were a limited amount of interview spots.
Now I should own up to being a total space nut. I have been from the first time I saw Star Wars, dived into the pages of Have space suit will travel and mucked around with rockets in the local park. And Buzz, unwittingly came along for the ride.
That iconic picture of Buzz, with Neil Armstrong reflected in the visor, has been hanging on a wall at my place for years, and even now it’s in my son’s bedroom. When I had ran my own little web design business it had had pride of place on the office wall. And I’d had it on my wall at University and my wall at home when I was just a kid. My parents had brought it back from Cape Canaveral when the shuttle programme was all bright and new and I have treasured it ever since. Not for the hero inside the suite, although he was certainly heroic enough in reality, but for the promise the entire picture seemed to hold out.
But I heard nothing more. I wasn’t that surprised to be honest. BigPond Money is not exactly the Financial Review, although we do try our best. But then on Wednesday I was asked to confirm a time....
The long and the short of it is that I rocked up to the event, a spring in my step my iPhone charged, microphone mount in pocket and a borrowed heavy duty camera in my bag. I’d even scooted across to Abbey’s Books and picked up two of Aldrin’s book to get signed. One for me Magnificent Desolation and one for my kids Look to the Stars.
And there I sat, in the front row. Listening to one of my childhood heroes personally recount his life story.
This is a man who went through West Point, who fought in the Korean War and who not only survived 66 combat missions but also shot down two MIGs. He then went on to fly F-100 Super Sabres in West Germany. Armed with tactical nuclear weapons these attack fighters would have been right in the thick of it, if the cold war had turned hot.
He then earned a Doctor of Science degree at MIT and managed to be in the right place, with the right skills, and the right knowledge (orbital rendezvous) to be accepted into the NASA astronaut program. From Gemini 12, to Apollo 11 and then to the moon.
And Buzz can certainly tell a tale. This 82 year old is made of stern stuff and you can see the determination that drove him to achieve so much. Not just in the period to Apollo but also in the years since.
Buzz Aldrin, the man behind the mirrored visor
He spoke of leadership, of inspiration, of making changes to his own life. Changes that not only helped change his own destiny but the world around him. He spoke of the need of education grounded in science, maths and engineering and the importance of a space vision, not just for individuals but for the world. My own childhood inspiration spoke to the adult and was not found wanting.
But after his speech and a few obligatory questions from the crowd, his 82 years and a flight that only got in this morning meant that he left early.
I did not even get a chance to shake his hand.
But oddly enough that brought something home. Something that we all should consider. What is it that brings you inspiration? What is it that you can do to make a positive change in your life? What do you need to do to knuckle down and do the job that needs doing?
We all have disappointments, like Buzz who was initially knocked when he applied to NASA, but I think it is clear that we all need to be motivated to do something more, to keep on pushing back the comfort zone.
And I have to say that it’s no surprise that UBank brought him out to launch their campaign. I was lucky enough to end up have a pleasant chat with their MD and it is pretty clear that they also understand that great things can come of getting the basics right. Both as an organisation and what they seek to offer their customers.
And realistically for a lot of people just getting their savings or mortgage in order will be enough. But for others it might lead to building up an investment portfolio, or putting something aside for their own or their kid’s education, or simply to seek some measure of financial security in troubled times.
And my epiphany? My basics are generally ok. The kids are in a good school, we can pay the bills that come in, I like my job and it pays ok. Although like many, I do watch the markets (and Canberra) and wonder what’s next.
Adam Smith said that prosperity comes to the commonwealth when people seek to better themselves and their families. Prosperity comes not from some complex government plan but from the unintended consequences “the invisible hand” of countless thousands just doing the best they can, for themselves.
Which gets me back to my epiphany.
I left the event feeling strangely disappointed at the immediate circumstances but still deeply impressed and encouraged by a message of positive change. One that resonated very deeply.
So what’s next?
For me, I want to make a difference, and my plan? Well, I want to build the first private Australian rocket to get into space. I was working on the beginning of this project a few years ago, it was my dream. It got me down to the shed and my lathe as well as reading obscure books on thrust ratios and the like. But in time, it just got caught up in the day to day.
If you’d like to help, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am going to need resources and time but I am also going to need a dedicated team. That and I suspect a new political movement.
But enough about me.
How can you make a difference, for yourself, your family and for your community?
Get the basics sorted, and then get out there! Help change the world for the better, in whatever way you can.
The views in article are those of Matthew King, the author and are not necessarily those of Telstra BigPond. This is not an endorsement or a sponsored article.