Astronaut Scott Kelly Tells Leadership Series Luncheon “The Sky Is Definitely Not the Limit”

Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Scott Kelly Speaks at the Rockhurst University Leadership Series

A man who set a record spending nearly a year in orbit above the earth told an audience of nearly a thousand at Tuesday’s Rockhurst University Leadership Series luncheon that even getting off the ground once seemed like little more than a dream.

Kelly, whose keynote presentation “The Sky is Not the Limit: Leadership Lessons from a Year in Space” was the highlight of the fifth luncheon at the Kansas City Downtown Marriott’s Muehlebach Tower, said when he was young, he found it difficult to focus. It wasn’t until college that he said he realized that he had to learn how to work hard — a lesson that he said would impact more than just his approach to academics. It also would become the foundation of his entire worldview.

Kelly, flanked by large screens moving through some of the breathtaking photos he took aboard the International Space Station and shared with the world through social media, told the audience that deciding to spend a year in space to study the effects of long term space travel on the human body was one that did not come easy. But greatness and leadership is not about taking on the easy tasks.

“It’s about doing the hard things,” he said. “Anybody can do the easy things.”

In a morning visit with families and children staying at the Ronald McDonald House Charities homes in Kansas City, a question and answer session with Rockhurst University students, and his luncheon keynote, Kelly said living for a year in space was anything but easy, or comfortable. Living in cramped quarters, thousands of miles from home, in zero gravity, amidst a team from different cultures, facing unknown consequences to prolonged exposure to radiation and reduced gravity, Kelly said he had some doubts along the way. But he said he was also steeped in the incredible beauty of the universe and learned some important lessons about leadership, like being flexible.

“Situation-dependent leadership is critical in space, and also on planet Earth,” Kelly said.

He also said he learned the value of working with a diverse team of people who brought their own strengths to the table, staying focused on the things he could control, of having a clear goal and a plan, and being unafraid to fail. And he said if those values could propel humans through the cosmos and onto a space station built through international cooperation, then they could help humans accomplish nearly any goal. 

“We can choose to do the hard things and if we do that, then the sky is definitely not the limit,” he said.