Houston, We Have a Problem…and the Solution

Tom-Hanks-in-Apollo-13-19-001

(Photo credit: Kobal)

Some Facebook friends have recently been expressing various degrees of anxiety, uncertainty, and discomfort. Some of it seems to be stemming from physical issues, recent surgeries, etc. For others these feelings are the result of upcoming changes, which are leaving them anxious and sleepless.

I can identify with some of this. Uncertainty has engulfed my life recently, as I find myself unexpectedly pondering choices for the next phase of my career. Do I take a local job now or in the future, or sit back and wait as other opportunities outside this region continue to unfold and present themselves?

I’m buoyed by the backstory of a current event, an event whose 45th anniversary is today, and something I read a few days ago.

“Don’t try to steer the river.”

It’s a quote from author and motivational speaker Deepak Chopra. And it seems apropos.

There’s a big difference between steering and navigation; steering the river IS impossible, while navigating your way along it is vital. We all need to utilize our acquired skills and vision to navigate the river. Opportunities then present themselves along the way and choices can be made.

Michael Greller arrived at an interesting decision a few years ago along the river. A contented and effective elementary school teacher, who’s also a scratch golfer, he had a chance to caddie for another golfer in a tournament. Greller absolutely fell in love with the pursuit. Yesterday he watched as his guy Jordan Spieth won golf’s biggest prize at The Masters.

Carrying the bag (both literally and figuratively in this case) for someone else is an interesting choice. Certainly it’s not for everyone. But for Michael Greller, it was THE perfect career decision. He had acquired phenomenal skills as both a golfer AND a teacher. Instead of steering toward one of those professions, he let the river lead him to a juncture allowing him to combine BOTH of his passions.

We should all be so lucky, or so patient to put ourselves in a similar situation.

“Houston, we have a problem.” 

Faced with the catastrophic explosion of his space shuttle’s vital oxygen tank, those were the very calm words spoken by veteran astronaut Jim Lovell, as he communicated the dire circumstances to his NASA colleagues back on Earth.

The event occurred on this day, 45 years ago. Certainly it produced many of the same emotions experienced by my friends and me in our current-day circumstances–anxiety, uncertainty, fear. But Lovell’s unruffled reaction laid the groundwork for an heroic rescue and a great movie starring Tom Hanks.


It’s funny, but Hanks channeling Lovell comes out sounding not so much as a problem, really, but more of a challenge.

Lovell didn’t try to steer the river in those harrowing hours in 1970, but he relied on his experience and his skills to think critically, solve problems, and execute life-saving choices along the way, which helped the Apollo 13 mission end in triumph instead of tragedy.

We’re all on the river, leading us to potential partners in life and business, and to opportunities and junctures where we must choose. Some of us make unwise choices, or perhaps do not anticipate the chances awaiting us around the next bend to offer navigation into different areas, and even to execute second chances, and make corrections.

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.”

The words of the late, great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, reminding us that the river will also ALWAYS present new options as we navigate.

It’s amazing what we all can achieve, especially when we have the power of our convictions, experience, and skill, the ability to simply relax and let the river carry us for a bit, and the temerity to roll the dice once in a while.

Dave Coombs is a longtime morning radio host and writer who’s letting the river carry him right now.

2 Responses to Houston, We Have a Problem…and the Solution
  1. Becky Bell Reply

    For me, my belief is that we give 100% effort in our pursuits, but at the same time, don’t swim upstream. There’s a point when you have to let go and let GOD…Do your BEST every day..and leave the outcome to GOD…But..NEVER give up…the movie UNBROKEN was the perfect example of enduring pain and suffering while never giving up.

    ALL THE BEST…BECKY

    • Dave Coombs Reply

      Yes, Becky, there’s a fine line between “never giving an inch” and “never giving up.” That line separates the stubborn among us from survivors and flourishers.

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