Pure Accelerate’s Inspired Keynote

How many of us are living our dream life? As children, we wanted to be astronauts, architects, or doctors. Somewhere along the way, we begin to doubt ourselves and our potential. We abandon our lofty childhood aspirations for a humdrum life.

Pure Accelerate‘s Day 2 Keynote speaker Leland Melvin didn’t fall victim to any of those dream killing traps. Melvin, now an engineer and educator, followed his lofty childhood ambitions by becoming an NFL receiver and also an astronaut.

Even if you are team #StorageIsBoring or don’t care about NASA, Melvan’s inspirational speech is well worth a listen.  

As a child, Melvin dreamed of being a scientist. Unlike most of us with dreams, he brought his dream to fruition. He credits some of the following things for his success:

  • Seeing people like you. We all know #DiversityMatters.  Melvin credits seeing Star Trek’s Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, portrayed by Nichelle Norris, an African American actress for changing what he believed possible for a career.  At that time in Melvin’s childhood, African-Americans were typically depicted in stereotypical roles like handymen or housekeepers. Who hasn’t doubted their aptitude and abilities?! When you don’t see people who look like you or are like you in ways like race, gender or socioeconomic status, we can create self-limiting narratives like “Since I don’t see any women in tech, tech must not be for women.” On the flipside, seeing people for whom you identify can change your perception of what is possible. You could end up thinking, why not me?!
  • Grit. Life is hard, and it’s easy to give up when things get tough. Melvin shares struggles like recovering from a medical disqualification and permanent hearing loss in one ear to fulfill his space travel dreams and work with an international team on the Space Station.
  • People that believe in you. Frequently, Melvin mentioned Curious George’s “man in the yellow hat” that person believes in you when you may not believe in yourself.  Have you had this kind of person in your life?  The type of person that helps you to build confidence and pushes you to aim higher.

If you watched the keynote, how did it make you feel?  As Leland told his moving story, I cried.  Being able to connect with others through storytelling is a beautiful thing.  Helping people realize their potential is a noble calling.  Are you in a position to be someone else’s man in the yellow hat?

PS — If you are like me and can’t get enough of Leland’s storytelling, be sure to check out his book: Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances: Leland Melvin