A great American pioneer passed away February 26th. Katherine Johnson was a central figure in the novel and movie Hidden Figures. She worked her way from a public-school teacher in West Virginia to being a “computer” (super-mathematician) for NASA. Her calculations paved the way for Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon and John Glenn’s orbit of earth. And she did it with a pencil, slide rule and incredible intellect.
How did a 1930’s African American woman navigate racism, sexism and bureaucratic inertia to achieve such accomplishments? Johnson never thought she couldn’t
. She had pure intention, focused on becoming a first-rate mathematician. Even as a child she counted everything she saw; dishes, steps to church, even the stars.
We recommend Johnson’s approach for speakers. If you seek to accomplish something valuable in your field, fire up your intellectual curiosity and find your passion. Speaking propels your ambition, so don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Be out front. PowerPoint or video are only back-ups. Johnson calculated the way to the moon and back safely with simple tools. You can do it with your brain, your voice and your sense of purpose.