Mastering Those Martian Moments

by Onyeka Nchege on November 14, 2015


Astronaut Spaceman Mars Planet

    “Mastering Those Martian Moments: Surviving as a Leader When You Feel Stranded on Mars”

Those of you who know me are aware that I love going to the movies. It’s my chill thing and it’s one of my “relax and revive” stress busters. A couple of weeks ago, we had a family outing and we went to see The Martian. As I typically do with sci-fi movies, I went in with no expectations. I wanted the story, not my presumptions, to lead me. Since I purposely had not paid any attention to the movies’ reviews and spoiler alerts, I made the decision to rate this one myself.

The basic premise of the story is about an astronaut, Mark Watney, who was presumed dead by his crewmates and consequently left behind on Mars with limited food, oxygen and other supplies. He makes contact with NASA after his crew leaves and must learn how to survive on an unfamiliar planet until he is rescued.

About 30 minutes into the movie, I was hooked. I started seeing leadership comparisons to what happens when you are new and leading transformational change. The recent changes at my organization have shifted some leaders into new, and very different, roles from the ones that they had grown up in, very different from their familiar. As I considered the changes accompanying our IT transformation, I pictured some of our leaders facing a situation like Watney and wondered, What would they do and how would they do it if they were stranded on Mars? How would they survive a Martian Moment?


I noticed 5 leadership traits that act as survival skills in what I’m going to call Martian Moments, those times when, as leaders, we’re faced with sustaining ourselves in the unfamiliar:

    1. Acknowledge the moment and its reality.
    The unfamiliar is scary and it is imperative to come to terms with that fear. Recognition and acceptance of fear allows us to process how to combat it. We are then in a position to associate the unfamiliar with things that are more familiar to us.

    2. Revive your confidence in who you are and what you know.
    Though unfamiliar to us at first, we arrive at every moment armed with our own experience and knowledge. Again, the association of the unknown, to things that we know, assists in elevating our confidence putting us on our path to success. Be prepared to ride the momentum of confidence. It will take you a long way.

    3. Expect the unexpected.
    It is important to remember that though we are armed with experience and knowledge to help us succeed, the unfamiliar will still come with unexpected circumstances. Our best laid plans are just that, plans. Plans are only beneficial if they are pliable to unexpected realities.

    4. Believe in your teammates.
    Though we feel alone in this area of unfamiliarity, we are never alone. Each of us has the direct and indirect support of our teammates. Even when our team seems to leave us stranded, as Watley’s crew did in the movie, there is always an explanation. We can choose to trust our team’s good will. Do that, and you could illuminate the whys behind their action and new information you never considered before.

    5. Think outside the box.
    The unfamiliar compels you to apply your experience and knowledge, and it allows you to be creative. The creativity of out-of-the-box thinking is exactly what produces the breakthrough moments required for greatness.

My most impactful takeaway from the movie was realizing that we have all been The Martian at some point in our lives. We have all been moved to a place of unfamiliarity, and we have all had to create a plan for survival.

Take Action: No matter what it looks like or what you believe you see, decide today to reset your reality and “Martian” your way forward. That’s how you capture your Martian Moment.

Leadership on the GO…..It’s ON



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Onyeka Nchege is the Chief Information Officer for Coca Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated (CCBCC), the largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in the United States. A frequent speaker on technology empowerment, leadership development, and business improvement, Onyeka is a graduate of the Georgia State University J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Onyeka currently serves on the Board of Directors for Apparo, Advisory Board for UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte, and Bethel Baptist Church Ministries.
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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Chermaine Forte November 15, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Well said! I have had to use the same analogy when I view the movie in comparison to other aspects of my life. Thanks for sharing and adding an extra spin from a leadership perspective.

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avatar Onyeka Nchege November 17, 2015 at 9:36 am

Thanks Chermaine. Much appreciated.

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avatar Retha November 16, 2015 at 9:27 am

Thank you for this one, it really hit home for me. Over these last few months, I have been feeling like I am totally in a Martian Moment and the leadership traits you pointed out helped me to change my perspective.

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avatar Onyeka Nchege November 17, 2015 at 9:38 am

Thanks Retha. Sometimes we have to write about our own #MartianMoments to gain perspective…

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avatar David L. Johnson November 18, 2015 at 9:00 am

First of all, thanks for the perspective. Secondly, I had not wanted to see the movie, but now I am intrigued. Thirdly, your 2nd and 5th trait really resonated with me. The 2nd trait, because there are a few foundational truths that are inescapable regardless of the newness of the situation. I think of God-honoring principles and values as well as experiences God has allowed in our lives to shape us in partial preparation for this “Martian” experience. The 5th trait, because it is that further development that can only occur in the unfamiliar, which makes us more of what God expects us to be, so we can do more to enrich the lives of others around us to the glory of His name. The other traits are well stated and great, these were the two that stuck for me from the first reading. Awesome stuff!

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avatar Onyeka Nchege November 18, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Thanks David. Wow….great insights.

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avatar Gerald Lundy November 18, 2015 at 7:20 pm

Great read and viewpoints on where we stand in unfamiliar territory. Thinking outside the box generates creativity and fosters hope in dire and routine situations. I found the movie motivating as well. Great anology and on time post Onyeka.

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avatar Onyeka Nchege November 18, 2015 at 11:50 pm

G – thanks bro. I have seen you think outside the box so I know first hand that it generates creativity and fosters hope. Thanks for your insights.

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avatar Antonio Lawing November 18, 2015 at 9:35 pm

Greetings King , My hopes are that all is beyond well for you and yours! I’ve been off social media for a couple weeks and went on there to review some pics from a car accident my mom and sister had involving a deer. Before you wonder, YES! By GODS GRACE they both are fine, however, the status of the deer and her car remain suspect! Lol. It was then I ran into your post, That was a very interesting read. I could definitely both receive and relate. The Martian experience is very symbolic to a metamorphosis, like the transition of a catapillar to a butterfly. I see this transition clear in my own journey, to die is to live, uncharted territories are actually predestined prophesies, but until we go through the “Martian” experience it’s impossible to be Fearless and Fly! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, truths and Reality!!

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avatar Onyeka Nchege November 18, 2015 at 11:54 pm

Wow….thanks Antonio. Absolutely love the line “uncharted territories are actually predestined prophesies”. Well said!! And it totally resonated with me. #StayBlessed

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avatar Shanda Gidney November 19, 2015 at 9:36 pm

Thank you Onyeka, this is truly a timely post for me. Your wisdom is much appreciated!

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avatar Onyeka Nchege November 19, 2015 at 11:40 pm

Thanks LaShanda. Glad you found value in the post.

You know I screen shot this and saved it….Haha.

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