Hidden Figures: Proof of the Impossible

Just finished watching this movie during my flight back home from Spain and I can’t help but think about the real life examples of success, persistence, and the unifying power of a single objective.

Allow me to share four (4) the messages I noticed.

I – I Don’t Have To Be A Victim of My Circumstances

Question: How many times have you given this same advice to others but can’t seem to believe it for yourself? I have done it many times.

The three protagonists went through a lot of adversity to get to where they ended.

  • Trying to peer review calculations when 70% of the math was classified.
  • Performing supervisor responsibilities even though that wasn’t their job.
  • Becoming the computer supervisor by sneaking into the building at night.
  • Fighting the court to gain access to college classes at an all white school.

In the end, all three chose to fight their way to success as opposed to whining about their situation. All three did things considered impossible:

  • Katherine become the first in the US to figure out how to bring back a human from orbit.
  • Dorothy becomes the first IBM computer supervisor for NASA at a time where no one knew how to use a computer.
  • Mary becomes the first female engineer at NASA.

Against all odds, these ladies delivered the goods in spite of all the barriers people, allegedly on the same team, placed in their way.

We can choose to whine about our circumstances or use them to become stronger.

II – Persistence Reloaded

I can’t seem to talk about this enough. The more I read about successful people the more I accept achieving my full potential will require persistence.

These ladies had to keep their heads down, work hard, and deliver results for a long time before opportunity came knocking.

However, here is what you need to remember: they never stopped preparing for their moment.

Regardless of what others thought, they kept pressing forward, improving themselves, and getting ready for their moment to shine. And when the moment came, they opened the door with confidence.

It reminds me John Wooden’s classic phrase, when opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.

I have to admit, some days I need a break. I want to accept defeat and let life win. But, it is examples like the ones from this movie that allow me to recognize the struggle as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction.

III – Results Matter

In the realm of leadership, I believe the individual should come before results. Notwithstanding, results matter too.

There’s no doubt in my mind that one of the top reasons these ladies got their chance to shine was due to the results they delivered daily.

  • Katherine was crunching the correct numbers faster than anyone else in the building.
  • Dorothy figured out how to use the computer before the IBM consultant could.
  • Mary was innovating the design of the reentry capsule.


This leads to my last point.

IV – Dreams Break Barriers

It took some time but the idea of getting a man to orbit overruled the discriminatory ideas and practices of the time. The only thing that mattered was getting a man to space.

There are two scenes that represent this best.

  1. The NASA Space task force director hammering down the “colored ladies restroom” sign. And,
  2. At the end of the movie, Paul bringing coffee to Katherine to her desk late at night.

The first example, ended with the director saying “…at NASA we are all one color…”. What a great way to state that to him it was more important to have Katherine, and any other colored person, working on the goal instead of losing 40 minutes walking 1 mile for her to get to the restroom.

The second example, it’s a realization by Paul, who was originally sabotaging Katherine’s work, that she was valuable to the team and needed to be treated as such.

Bonus: And the impossible became possible

I am marveled by the plethora of examples of mankind being wrong. It’s exciting to think that every advancement we have today is because someone dared to dream the impossible.

Maybe, it is time for us to accept the old adage “if you can see it; you can achieve it.”

Look around you…notice that you are surrounded by things that were once deemed IMPOSSIBLE.


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