Mae Jemison became the first African American woman in space when she went into orbit on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992, but her awe-inspiring list of accomplishments doesn’t stop there. Jemison, who is now retired, left NASA in 1993 to start her own research company, which explores how we apply technology to our everyday lives. A trained dancer, she also has several television appearances on resume, including a stint on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Jemison holds nine honorary doctorates, in a variety of disciplines ranging from science to engineering, and the humanities. Mae Jemison is the current principal of the 100 Year Starship organization, a joint project between U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA to research the possibilities of space travel by private citizens.
Jemison recently spoke with Fast Company about the importance of boldness and dealing with fear.
It’s a weakness only if it keeps you from doing stuff,” Jemison explains, adding that derring-do is not necessarily a strength. She believes as you learn your strengths and work on weaknesses, the key is more an issue of balance than to focus on one in hopes the other will disappear.
“You can rely on strength so much, you don’t build up your other capabilities,” says Jemison. Having too much empathy can hold you back as much as not having any and not be able to read a room, she points out. As for herself, she always tries new things to see what she could do better, something as simple as switching which hand she uses to do something. “I do things with my left hand just to see if I can,” she explains. The change in perspective is enough to shake things up a bit. “We are all tasked to balance and optimize ourselves,” she underscores.
Jemison also emphasized the importance of camaraderie between women and building confidence. Read more at Fast Company.