Dec 19 / Grant

Look for hidden figures.

If you have watched the film Hidden Figures, I hope these simple ideas resonate with you; if not, I'll explain.

A true story set in times of unjust racial prejudice and the space race between the Americans and the Russians. The plot talks about the overwhelming capability of a human being if two factors are in play:

  1. When the need for change shines a spotlight on the ability to stay relevant.
  2. New thinking creates new solutions.

In a critical scene, one of the 'computers' (Humans were called computers before the introduction of the IBM) had to run over 1 mile to use the bathroom as people of colour didn't have a bathroom in their division.

Time after time, she would disappear, prompting her program leader to ask where she was all the time. On one occasion, confronted about the issue, she broke down, she was the smartest in the room, yet the system didn't see her as equal.

Soon after, the program leader is seen smashing the 'whites only' sign down, showing a level of respect and leadership that stunned his computers.

Lesson one: When we want to break down barriers, sometimes we need help. Someone that has the strength to be on our side no matter the repercussions.

In another incredible twist to the plot, one of the 'computer supervisors' consistently asked to be recognised by her manager for the work she was already doing. But once again, the system didn't recognise her talent.

A positive act of defiance followed. She witnessed the installation of the first IBM computer at NASA; while the engineers couldn't figure out how to use it, she saw an opportunity to become more relevant. She realised that as soon as this machine was operational, she and her colleagues would be replaced.

Rather than resign herself to the scrap heap of irrelevance, she took it upon herself to learn to code and become the one that got the machine working.

Not only that, she insisted on training her colleagues so they would become more valuable to the organisation rather than a picture of the past.

Lesson two:  Don't wait to change. Be constantly learning and constantly adding value to yourself and those around you. Relevancy creates longevity.

The final lesson I want to share is about habits and how to use hidden figures to change the trajectory of the future.

One of the challenges of the mission was that the current calculations wouldn't bring the shuttle back to earth; they needed to create new maths to change the orbit and get the astronauts home safely.

This is one of my favourite scenes, as there is much to inspire you and your business.

Lesson three: She didn't focus on creating something new; she looked to the past for maths that had already been made. 

We don't always need new solutions; that's the fuel of our egos. 

99% of the time, the solution already exists; we need to allow ourselves the space to let it rise to the surface or ask for help from other people or industries.

Lesson Four: The solution won't present itself when you are in a continuous loop (or habit). 

You need a point of disruption in the loop and send you on a new and positive trajectory.

If they didn't break this loop, the shuttle and those on her would have been lost.

Illustrated below: For change to occur, something has to change.

While we may not be trying to send a rocket into space or bring it home, our lives are littered with moments where we don't feel we can progress. 

In that moment, we need someone we trust to have the courage for us.

When we feel like we are becoming irrelevant, look to learning as your saviour, and suck at something new for a while. It's better than being left behind.

Finally, when the solution you have keeps giving you the same results, disruption creates a new trajectory. 

The new course may be risky and unknown, but you are likely not the first to encounter this issue; look to prior knowledge to create a new path for you.

Regardless of your life or business, the ability to continuously ask new questions will inevitably create new outcomes.
Until next time look for those hidden figures.

Subscribe To The Lone Leader Weekly Email

Every Wednesday at 7.30am you’ll get 3 simple tips to make leading alone a little less, well, lonely.

Grant Difford

Cheerleader and coach for The Lone Leader.
Created with