The Martian: 9 things we’ve learned with Mark Watney
A month ago, I watched The Martian’s first trailer. In the beginning I was confused, I thought it was an fan-made trailer of Insterestelar’s movie, because… you know… Matt Damon dressed as an astronaut… but fortunately I was totally wrong. More than a brand new movie, it was based on a book with a very challenging purpose: a guy left alone in Mars.
OK, the trailer got my attention. When the movie will be released? In October 1st, I couldn’t wait. So I went for the book and i didn’t regret. Since the beginning I noticed that the profile of Mark Watney (the guy left in Mars) seemed very familiar for me. It didn’t take much time to have this post’s idea. Here I will explain 9 things that would make Mark Watney a serious candidate to the best planner of that world. 😛
Ok, now: * SPOILER ALERT *
Before anything, the guy appears buried in the sand in the middle of a deserted and inhospitable
planet. After a shortly analysis period while he fight for his own life, he notice that he is alone, the crew was gone, there is no communication with Earth or nobody, the next mission will be 4 years from there and the food would last 6 months approximately.
1. Good humor, courage and faith
What are the chances of someone giving up on everything face of this catastrophic shit? So, he decides to live and he calculates everything he needs to do to save himself. Sometimes, his good humor gets morbid, but come on, maintain the good mood in this kind of situation is a hard task. Even to maintain the sanity would be tough. And he would have to have faith in risky bold plans.
At this point, I thought about how many times we lose these three things while we are working in our projects. But it is just the beginning.
2. Know to read the game and play with what you have
So, the guy needs to organize something totally chaotic. Every resource is limited, the duration time is long, any mistake is a mortal risk. The first thing he does is to study. The scene analysis is his partner for discovering possible ways and take decisions. Then, observing the behavior of the variables in the ambient, he can predict events that will be extremely important in his plan. All events? No. But certainly, most of them.
3. Be aware when making questions
Watney has a harder task than get answers. He needs to elaborate questions. That is, Mark had to define the problem he is facing to handle it more properly. If his knowledge of the problem is incomplete, the solution never will be proper.
How many times our biggest problem was to formulate a question for getting an answer?
4. Imagination is more important than knowledge
Mark Watney is extremely creative. When he undestands his position, he make a lot of brainstorms with himself and then he goes to consider a lot of possible ways. These ways are very different, since the most conservative (NASA) to the most crazy and fictious ways (like eating his own arm to have enough proteins). But the point is, Mark is open to synapses that could help to solve his problems and create new opportunities. His creative idleness is very important, since he doesn’t go anywhere out of the Hab (team base) without a good reason.
5. It is important to take risks
Every choose bring risks. Planning is to know how understand the risks and know take these risks in favor of results, working with calculated risk as good as we can. So do Watney when he considers the GTR as a viable heat source to warm his journey. Or when he uses hydrazine to create water.
6. Crisis comes, crisis goes
Any plan has crisis in potential, right? In a rough way, it is more than something that went wrong. Crisis is something that went really really bad. In the story, it is hard to separate what is crisis and what is not, after all the story begins with that one big crisis: a living man left alone in Mars as a result of a lot of unpredictable happenings. But the point is, Mark can deal with crisis very well. The coldness in his analysis and decision making in each crisis, shows how crisis poorly managed can compromise the whole project.
I need to talk about the big sand storm. Sometimes the crisis is right ahead, but it is so imperceptible that you only realize when you are in middle of it. It is why you have to be careful for the signals that shows the crisis and know how to bypass it or face it. The earlier you realize it, the better you can deal with it.
7. Tools (not always) proper
When you are left alone in Mars, it is important to have tools.
Mark Watney pays homage to hacking. He has a lot of tools, but they are developed to use in the way he used. Mark was ingenious and he hacked many things to make his plan real. For those who don’t know what is hacking, by the current definition, hack is to chang or give new use to something to apply properly focusing to reach an objective. (HIGINIO, M.) 😛 . The most powerful hacker I ever known is McGyver, but now the second is Watney. How could we rethink or improve tools we use everyday, even without being left alone in Mars?
8. Alone x Team work
Sometimes it’s good to work alone, but sometimes it’s good to work in a team. There is a moment when Watney get stressed because the guys who are trying to help him, millions of kilometers away, put so many restrictions and advices that he miss when he was working alone in Mars. On the other hand, this team work help him to think in some basic conditions for important moments of this story. Know equalize both work styles and extract the better performance of each momento of each style helped him to progress a lot.
9. Testing, Measuring and Trusting
Mark has tested a lot his prototypes. He made so many tests that we get bored. But this is a very important step in any plan. The test give conditions to avoid, implement or validate something. When he is testing, Mark always take notes about all results, always. When he executes his plans, Mark take anotes about the performance and he checks or adjusts the results to know if, how and when he would reach in his goals.
But more than testing or measuring, Mark has to trust. Trust his calculations are right, truste his technical knowledge is enough to not killing him in some experiment. Would you trust your life is your plan?
The Martian is an awesome book. If you have never read this book, consider to read it. Try to pay attention to Watney’s skills when is planning you survival, the tatic plans, the way he commits himself with his results, as if his life depended on it. And it depends.
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