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Voyager 1

On September 12, 2013, Voyager 1, the farthest man-made object from Earth, left the solar system. But things weren’t always this way. Voyager 1 started with just an idea and a dream by NASA after a Grand Tour plan was proposed in the 1960s to study the outer planets of our solar system. In the early 70s, NASA began to work on this mission, ultimately culminating in the Voyager 1 launch on September 5, 1977.

Voyager 1′s primary mission was to study the outer Solar System, and was ultimately accomplished as the spacecraft encountered the Jovian system in 1979 and the Saturnian system in 1980, taking the first detailed photographs of the two planets and their moons. After its primary mission ended in November of 1980, Voyager continued to soar through the solar system, and as of August 22nd of this year, has been operating for  36 years, 11 months and 17 days.

The Voyager 1 spacecraft is currently 128.26 AU, or 11,922,511,800 miles, away from Earth. Tomorrow it’ll travel further, nearly 900,000 more miles, leading it closer to its next destination, the Oort Cloud, only 300 years of travel time away.

Perspective

By today’s standards, the technology aboard Voyager 1 is as simplistic as you can get. Currently operating with just 70 kilobytes of memory on board, 240,000 times less than a 16GB iPhone 5, Voyager’s journey has taken it further than the wildest expectations of NASA and the scientists and dreamers that built the spacecraft.

On February 14, 1990, having completed its primary mission nearly ten years earlier, NASA gave Voyager 1 the command to turn around, point its cameras toward Earth and photograph the Solar System. By this point, the spacecraft had reached a distance of 3.7 billion miles from Earth and was traveling at a rate 40,000 miles per hour.

Of the 60 frames sent back to Earth from Voyager 1, one stands out above the rest. The photograph, named The Pale Blue Dot, puts our world in perspective.

Pale Blue Dot

Seen from about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles, 40 astronomical units), Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space.[

Earth is visible in the image as but a small, pale blue dot, taking up just 12% of a single pixel. The great astronomer Carl Sagan commented on this photo:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Feel small? Your one day in a sea of billions of days being lived – innumerable human experiences happening, goals being won or lost, life happening – might make you feel small and insignificant, but your one day can lead you magical places.

The operational capabilities of Voyager 1 are expected to stop functioning somewhere between 2025 to 2030, well before its scheduled arrival in the Oort cloud in around 300 years. But the spacecraft’s significance won’t end there. Voyager 1 carries with it a gold-plated audio-visual disc filled with images of Earth and its lifeforms, scientific information, spoken greetings from dignitaries, sounds of earth life, and music from around our world.

Voyager 1 launched with just 70 kilobytes of memory  and a primary mission that ended just over three years after its launch. In 40,000 years, carrying with it the signs of the cultures of humanity, Voyager 1 will pass by its next star. The small, golden disc on a spacecraft launched on far outdated technology will be traveling long after you and I are gone, doing so one day at a time.

The way you look at the world and your own life will dictate whether your goals are visible and in your future, or lost in the darkness around you. Your perspective is everything. Always keep moving forward.

Live to Dream Again

On June 27th, 2014, NBA fans watched as the NBA Draft took place in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York with 60 players being picked by nearly every NBA team in the league.

On draft day, dreams that had begun long ago were finally realized, and with them stories were told of the journeys taken to reach such a goal – like Gary Harris, the 19th pick, who grew up with a poster in his room that read, “What did you do today that will get you into the NBA?”. The Lakers’ 7th pick, Julius Randle, grew up a Kobe fan, probably practicing Kobe’s last-second shots and dreaming of one day playing like his idol, and will now get to play alongside him. The 3rd pick of the draft gets to work with his idol too. Once Cameroonian Joel Embiid’s injury is healed, he will be trained by Hakeem Olajuwon.

It’s a long road to the NBA Draft, and an even longer road to the NBA. Those that were drafted realized their dreams. But there was one dreamer who didn’t.

The NBA’s Pick

With the NBA Draft only four days away, 7’1″ former Baylor Center Isaiah Austin received the devastating news that his NBA dream was over. He wouldn’t be drafted and wouldn’t make it to the NBA. His basketball career was cut short due to his recent diagnosis of Marfan Syndrome, discovered during a pre-draft physical. Marfan Syndrome is a genetic disorder which affects connective tissue throughout the body and can cause the enlargement of the aorta, a life-threatening symptom, especially to a professional athlete. This discovery has ended Austin’s career as an athlete, but his story isn’t over.

Midway through the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver walked onto the stage and said:

I want to take a moment to recognize Baylor center Isaiah Austin. You may have heard about Isaiah. He is one of the nation’s best collegiate players, and was expected to be picked tonight before the discovery just a few days ago that he had a genetic disorder called Marfan Syndrome and is no longer able to play competitive basketball.

Like the other young men here tonight, Isaiah committed himself through endless hard work and dedication to a potential career as a professional basketball player, and we wanted to make sure he fulfilled at least this part of his dream.

So it gives me great pleasure to say, that with the next pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the NBA selects Isaiah Austin from Baylor University.

Though the pick was ceremonial, Isaiah’s name was called that night, drafting him into the NBA. Dreams can change, but passions always push us forward. In an interview before the draft, Isaiah said,“It’s not the end, it’s only the beginning.”

Our life dreams are like great cliffs before us on our own path through life. It’s only when the challenge is real that our dreams can be realized. Some will crest the cliff expecting success to greet them, but are only met with a blank horizon or another cliff. When dreams die, life’s finite quality becomes all too real. But once we realize life is a finite, but beautiful journey, we can live to dream again.

Thomas Edison’s Greatest Failure

Change is terrifying. Even to an inventor, having to rework what seemed like a great idea multiple times might push the inventor to giving up. Failure is almost as terrifying as change to some, but both should be regarded as an opportunity, as simply an open doorway into an elsewhere that had not been previously available. Stephen King’s Carrie, sitting on my nightstand this very moment half read for the “nth” time, was rejected 30 times before being thrown in the trash by King. His wife found it, fished it out, and convinced him to resubmit it. And now it’s on my nightstand having been a wildly successful novel and movie. Failure is just a doorway.

In the early 90’s a depressed, broke, divorced, single parent wrote a book. That sentence could define so many people at this very moment except that depressed, single parent published that book, along with six others to complete her Harry Potter trilogy. J.K. Rowling went on to become a billionaire for a short time before losing that status after donating over $160 million towards poverty and children’s welfare.

Failure is a poorly looked upon trait today, often awarded to those who can’t seem to have a successful venture or idea. Failures are weird, ignoring society’s norm of getting a job and instead focusing on their own dreams and ideas. These failed misfits are ignored until their ideas strike a chord and are a success.

One such misfit had managed to accumulate 1,093 patents at the time of his death, no doubt many labeled as failures, if they were even remembered. Nobody thinks about these failures though, when they think about this misfit, Thomas Edison. In many areas of his life, Thomas Edison was a great failure, but he is remembered for his many successful inventions, like the motion picture camera, phonograph, the perfection of the light bulb and many more. His failures, though, powered these inventions.

Edison had a great many failures, but the story of one of his greatest starts with the Edison Ore-Milling Company.

Edison Ore-Milling

Edison started the Edison Ore-Milling company in 1881 after recognizing the scarcity of iron ore in the 1870s. Edison’s initial attempts at acquiring iron was a failure as his patented method of extracting iron from beach sand proved to be too difficult. Edison then moved on to retrieving iron from crushed rocks brought up from mines.

After perfecting these methods, Edison built a large factory in Ogensberg, New Jersey, in 1889. The factory held three gigantic electromagnets and was built to produce up to 1,200 tons of ore every day. However, this amount would never be reached as difficulties hurt production.

One year after the factory was completed Edison started the Edison Electric Company, and then two short years later that company merged with Thomson-Houston Electric, which formed General Electric. Edison redirected the funds he earned from his electric company into upgrades for his Ogdensburg plant. Ultimately, the same production problems persisted and Edison failed to gain any significant number of customers.

Upon realizing it was a failure, Edison shut down his company in 1899 and sold off the technology to other mine owners. Soon after, Edison decided to use some of the technology he had previously employed for the ore-milling business in the cement business. And so began the Edison Portland Cement Company.

Edison Portland Cement Company

Edison was able to improve on the technology and the production process of cement, licensing some of these improvements to other manufacturers in order to keep his new business venture profitable. This tactic ultimately backfired, however, because his competitor’s production was greatly improved, resulting in the market becoming saturated. Edison’s initial success nearly resulted in another failure.

Edison believed that concrete would have a large number of applications, including housing, furniture, refrigerators, and more. The production of such items in the early 20th century didn’t make sense economically though, which prevented Edison from producing any of these items. Edison did investigate the usage of formwork molds, however, which could be repeatedly used to create concrete houses. Edison experimented with the process in 1910 by building a garage and gardener’s cottage at his mansion in New Jersey.

Edison ultimately donated the patented information used to make houses from molds to qualified builders rather than charge for it. Philanthropist Henry Phipps, Jr. saw the potential in these affordable houses and set up the Phipps Houses organization, which is still around, in order to create affordable houses to stem New York’s housing shortage.

Phipps intended to build an entire city for working-class families using only the concrete molds. However, Edison wasn’t able to deliver the plans due to the complexities of the molds, which consisted of over 2,000 pieces each, and added significant cost to a builder wanting the molds. In the end, some houses were built with investor financing, and these houses are still in use today in Union, New Jersey.

Edison’s Greatest Failure

Failure opens doors. Naturally, the lack of failure allows one to continue on through life without seeing the doors that would have presented themselves if failure had interrupted their path. Edison’s Ore-Milling Business was considered a failure, but that failure allowed him to use the technologies he developed in his cement company venture, which proved to be significant.

Edison’s Portland Cement Company was nearly out of business by the 1920’s. The company was barely surviving and was just a shell of what it once had been. But as luck would have it, Edison and his cement company narrowly avoided failure when he won a large new contract for 35,000 cubic yards of concrete, 45,000 barrels of cement, 30,000 cubic yards of gravel, and 15,000 cubic yards of sand.

Like some doors that are only presented after failure, dreamers never stop dreaming, and Edison’s dream led to a permanent place in the history books. On September 21, 2008 Edison’s last minute cement contract lived it’s final day, as the New York Yankees vacated the historic Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built, for the last time. The project started in May of 1922 and was completed in just 284 days, in time for the Yankees to play in their new Yankee Stadium for opening day in the Bronx. Yankee Stadium underwent renovations in 1973, but Edison’s walls went untouched, as they still stood strong. Yankee stadium was in use until 2008 and stood until 2010, 90 years after Edison’s company was close to failure.

Yankee Stadium still stands, in every baseball fan’s heart. It will always represent and hold some of the greatest moments in baseball history. And a failure built it.

Thomas Edison once said on his failures, “I have not failed 10,000 times, I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

What stadiums are lying in your future?

Untouchables

Sports act as a mirror for our own lives, showing the stories of men and women as they work to better themselves, and their craft, as they attempt to journey to the grand stage, be it a baseball diamond or a basketball court. There are many greats in sports, and many more whose jerseys adorn fans across the globe.

These players inspire us and wow us with their ability to play with the best in the world. Their stories inspire our own. But only a select few become one of sports’ untouchable greats which will stand the test of time. Inspiring a generation through greatness is difficult, but doing so across multiple generations is a goal that should be on the horizon of all.

Wilt

On March 2, 1962 Wilt Chamberlain became one of the sports world’s great untouchables. Chamberlain’s 100 point game remains one of the great pinnacles in the sports world. In the small Hershey Sports Arena in Pennsylvania and in front of a crowd of 4,124, Chamberlain, then of the Philadelphia Warriors, achieved one of the greatest records in basketball by scoring 100 points against the New York Knicks.

In the 52 years since the 100 point game, only one player has come close to the record, with Kobe Bryant scoring 81 in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks on January 22, 2006. Only 3 players have scored 70 or more and only 22 have reached 60 or more. When scoring 50 is considered a once-in-a-lifetime event, Wilt’s record remains one of the great untouchable records in sports.

Stockton

In 2003 the storied career of John Stockton ended, and with him went two records likely to remain unbroken. During his 19 year career, Stockton amassed 15,806 assists and 3,265 steals. Jason Kidd, who retired in 2013, remains the closest player to both records, trailing Stockton despite having an incredible 12,091 assists and 2,684 steals.

Amongst the three active players closest to the record, one, Steve Nash, is about to retire with close to 11,000 assists. The second, Andre Miller is nearing age 40 and has only 8,153 assists, and the 3rd closest, Chris Paul, already finished with his 9th NBA season, is 9,694 assists behind Stockton, an amount that is greater than Andre Miller’s entire career.

Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky, called The Great One, is one of the greatest athletes in the modern sports era and perhaps the most untouchable person in sports. Gretzky hold the records for the most goals, assists, and points, as well as a few others related to the previous 3. In Hockey, a player’s points are comprised of the total number of both goals and assists. Gretzky, owning records for the total number of assists and goals across a career, scored 2,857 points over his career, 970 points over the second highest amount, owned by Mark Messier, and 1,120 over the closest active player, Jaromir Jagr. Gretzky’s records are untouchable.

Young

The most wins earned over a career by any pitcher in Major League Baseball is 511, and those wins belong to Cy Young. In 2013, the pitcher with the most wins was Max Scherzer, with 21 wins. If he were to average that number, his personal best by 5 wins, across an unlikely 20 seasons, he’d still be short by nearly 100 wins. Even the pitcher with the second highest number of wins, totaled at 417, is still nearly 100 behind the 511 record.

What’s most astounding though, is that the 511 win record was set over 103 years ago by Young, and not until 1927 has a pitcher ever reached the second highest win category when Walter Johnson earned his 417th win.

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Racing the Sunset

Mars Sunset

Life is a race. The race to the finish line, the race to retirement, maybe the race for knowledge, power, or money. Whatever you’re racing for in life, whatever the grand goal is, there’s a chance you’ll never meet it, that it will slip away, like the sunset over a beach. What if your goal only has you racing the sunset?

John F. Kennedy once spoke about his goals during a speech in Houston, saying, “But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

Why do anything? Why try if you’re only going to be racing the sunset? But few realize that once their sunset disappears,  it’s gone forever.

Kennedy challenged a nation to race its sunset in that great speech in Houston, saying,  ”We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

On January 4, 2004 the MER-A, commonly known as the Mars Spirit Rover, landed on Mars, a celestial body leagues away from the simple goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. A year later, on May 19, 2005, the Mars Spirit Rover took the above image of a sunset on Mars.

Only 43 years separated a President’s dream of a man landing on the moon from a machine’s photo capture of a sunset on Mars. What is your sunset? Does it dare you to dream? To explore? Always chase it, let it pull you forward into life’s amazing moments.

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The Admiral

On the last day of the 1993-1994 NBA Season, two future Hall of Famers were locked in an epic scoring battle, each vying to capture the coveted NBA scoring title for that season. David Robinson, nicknamed The Admiral, of the San Antonio Spurs trailed Shaquille O’ Neal, then with the Orlando Magic, by 33 points going into the final day of the season on April 24, 1994.

As if out of a novel, both Robinson and Shaq had games that day, and with Robinson already trailing 33 points behind Shaq, Robinson not only had to overcome that deficit, but also had to outscore whatever points Shaq racked up on his last game as well. The goal of being scoring leader seemed to be sailing away from The Admiral.

The 71

Shaq scored 32 points that night, increasing the number of points Robinson had to beat to 65 in order to win the NBA scoring title for the ’93 – ’94 season. At the time, only 5 players had scored 66 points or more in an NBA basketball game: Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, David Thompson, Pete Maravich, and Michael Jordan. Besides Michael Jordan’s 64 point performance during the ’93 – ’94 season, no one had attained 60 points or more since Pistol Pete Maravich in 1977.

Robinson ended the night with 71 points, edging out Shaq by a mere 6 points for the scoring title and securing his place as an NBA great. Robinson’s 71 still remains as one of the highest point totals ever scored by a single player in an NBA game, behind only David Thompson, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kobe Bryant.

Adversity

Robinson’s idea and dream of being the scoring leader had few boundaries, save for the end of his career or a career-ending injury. But the inspiration and drive to achieve the scoring title in the last game of the season had a small, perishable window. Inspiration doesn’t wait for anyone or anything, and luckily Robinson was ready. Will you be?

Facing adversity, being different, facing difficulties, and wanting to accomplish something great does not build your character, it simply reveals it. How you react to the obstacles you face is entirely up to you. But your results will continue to be average at best unless you work to build your character and better yourself, so when the day comes when you have to score 71, you can do it.

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Dirk and Game 7s

In his career, Dirk has played four Game 7’s so far. His stats: 28.0 PPG, 14.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.0 BPG with only 0.8 TPG on 53.3/40.0/87.1 shooting. 56.0% eFG, 63.2% TS, 131 ORTG, 98 DRTG.

He won all of them. This Sunday, Dirk and the 8th seeded Mavs face game 7 against the 1st seeded San Antonio Spurs. Sunday will be fun.

Consistency can never be overlooked. Whether you’re the Spurs’ Coach Popovich preparing for Sunday against the Mavs or a brand wanting to build fans both online and off it. If your message is intended to cut through the clutter that seems to surround everything of value in life, then it can’t lack consistency.

I’ll be live tweeting during the game this Sunday. Follow me here: @iamryanpayne.