I picked up the phone to a highly animated, almost desperate, very convincing voice. “Listen, it’s in the mail and when you get it you damn-well better read it. And hurry it up sister. It’s all about the main character: humor, sarcasm, irony, total control of the situation. I want to be Watney!”
In Andy Weir’s debut novel, The Martian, main character Mark Watney is unceremoniously left to die on Mars. The odds are grossly stacked against him, his survival highly dependent upon his decision making skills. He begins by sorting out, with a step-by-step approach, how he will survive for the short-term, taking into account what we in Holistic Management call his Whole Under Management, noting his supplies and figuring how long he can stay alive. He harnesses his creative energy to extend those supplies, knowing he must keep himself alive another four years waiting for the next Mars mission, Ares 4, to arrive. Once his food, water and shelter are handled, he begins running the diagnostics to re-establish communication with Earth, realizing his long-term survival depends on that communication link. “So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water re-claimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode…..” you get the idea.
Watney’s Holistic Context is very straightforward: survive until Mars mission Ares 4 arrives. On any given day, countless numbers of times, Watney is in the process of plan>monitor>control>replan, with that all important context in mind. The clarity of that context gives him the drive to continue, even as his food and water supplies are dwindling, equipment breaks down and explodes, and communication satellites are blown out of reach. He stays true to his planning process, throughout the possible life-ending setbacks.
I mentioned to my husband, Trevor, that I was impressed by the character’s ability to make clear decisions, peeling away emotions, staying focused on the raw facts. Trevor replied, “Of course. It was a life and death situation. If he made the wrong choice, he died.”
If we could only recognize that each one of us is Watney, that creating our Holistic Context with our families and on our respective ranches gives much needed clarity to the decision making process. Unfortunately, I think our contexts are often foggy generalizations, but we go ahead making plans, meanwhile ignoring the monitoring and controlling steps and when all goes haywire we wonder, “What the hell just happened?” The prospects of a lonely death on the face of Mars may not be our reality, but we are facing dilemmas which are monumental to the well-being of our greater Whole. Have we had enough rain to take on our planned summer grazing clients? Is the ranch staffed appropriately and is the crew happy and working well together? Are we able to meet our financial plans during unexpected drought? With our Holistic Context put into place we are able to plan>monitor>control>replan through these situations.
In most instances we have very little control without a plan; but more importantly, we must recognize that with monitoring, we can catch deviations before we are too far off course. Without this action, our plan is of little consequence. We must work with what we are given, in humility, knowing that our only hope is being true to a process and set of procedures, acknowledging “no plan survives first contact with implementation,” being prepared to accept that, most likely, we were wrong.
Mark Watney gets it wrong, a lot, but he clearly understands his survival depends on him. He has no one to blame. By monitoring each action in order to correct his course before things are completely out of control, he keeps himself alive, each day being one day closer to a possible rescue.
HM’s Future Resource Base strips the ability to blame anyone but myself. It begins, “How MUST I behave to create ‘my desired reality?’ If there is a finger to point, it is only at ourselves and our ability or lack thereof to use the Framework.
I encourage you to pick up The Martian, being ready to realize the power of the twenty-four letter word plan>monitor>control>replan. It just might change your life.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!