Own My Growth

Helping folks with practical tips to manage themselves better

The Curious Case Of Lisa Nowak

Lisa Nowak

Being an astronaut at NASA is perhaps one of the most elite and exclusive jobs in the world. Out of the thousands of applicants, NASA recruits only 6 of them every decade. The whole application process is rigorous and highly demanding. Applicants require deep expertise in science and engineering, with at least a thousand hours of flying experience and extraordinary physical fitness.

Lisa Nowak had all the qualities that NASA sought.

She had a Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering and Astrophysics. She worked with the US Navy, flying hundreds of air missions while on active duty for half a decade. In 1996, Nowak was selected to be an astronaut at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, qualifying as a mission specialist in robotics. After almost a decade of intensive training, Nowak went on her first mission in 2006 aboard the space shuttle Discovery as a mission flight engineer, spending nearly two weeks in space.

Clearly, Lisa Nowak had everything going for her.

But in 2007, Lisa Nowak’s life came crashing down. After discovering that her lover was seeing another woman, in a fit of blind rage, Lisa drove fifteen straight hours covering 900 miles, from Houston to Orlando to confront her boyfriend’s new lover. According to news reports that came out later, Nowak had a steel mallet, a gun, and a knife that she intended to use to harm and kidnap the other lady. But the whole attempt was botched, and Nowak was arrested in the process.

While chatting with my kids this evening, I narrated the story of Lisa Nowak to illustrate the importance of being aware of one’s own emotions.

Many of us think managing emotions is a matter of common sense and basic intelligence. But, it is not so.

Our common sense and cognitive intelligence are just measures of our ability to process data and information to make good decisions. However, when dealing with emotions, there is a different, more subtle emotional intelligence, also known as EQ. This EQ represents our ability to process our own feelings and those of others around us to make sound decisions.

To lead a balanced and fulfilled life, all of us must develop our emotional intelligence. Folks who are emotionally intelligent know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people.

In the awareness of the emotions lies the power to moderate our behaviors so that we can derive the best outcomes for ourselves in whatever we do. Sadly, this awareness is what Lisa Nowak was lacking. 

More than our IQ, skills, and expertise, our emotional intelligence or EQ has a more significant role in our effectiveness and success. It was to pass on this message that I told my kids the story of the curious case of Lisa Nowak.

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