The entire vessel shook violently. The view out the small window bounced around erratically as the pilot’s jaw clattered.
The tinny voice came through the vessel’s PA, nearly drowned out by the roar of the rocket.
Commander Austin drew in a deep breath under the mask of his flight suit. The sky darkened as the shuttle continued to ascend beyond the horizon.
His hands tightened on the controls. He tried to read the dials in front of him, but the powerful shaking made the attempt pointless.
A loud metallic “CHNK” and the shuttle released from the lifting body that housed the rocket propelling him beyond the atmosphere.
The shaking stopped. Everything stopped. Where there was once deafening noise and jarring vibrations, now there was silence and stillness. Austin looked down at the cross around his neck, hovering in front of him in low gravity. He looked out the small window, marveling at the thin blue line between Earth and the infinite expanse of space.
“Controls are yours. Begin your descent, Commander.”
Commander Austin pulled himself from the magnitude of the moment and began doing what he had been trained to do. The goal: to be the first space shuttle capable of landing intact and being used again.
He pushed forward on the flight stick, the nose of the shuttle tilting back towards the Earth. The shaking started again — subtle at first, then growing into a powerful earthquake trapped in a tiny cockpit. The test pilot maintained control, guiding the shuttle back through the atmosphere, back into the blue skies and white clouds.
CRACK! A sudden, sharp bang shook the cockpit — first sparks, then fire.
The shuttle began spinning wildly out of control, dropping from the sky like a bird shot by a hunter’s bullet.
“Eject, Commander Austin!”
“It’s not working! I can’t!”
The shuttle crashed into the Earth, digging a trench the length of a football field in its wake. Emergency crews descended on the wreckage. Commander Steve Austin was extracted. He was alive, miraculously, but broken. Doctors at the nearby hospital would report that his legs were crushed and amputated, his right arm shorn off, and his left eye was lost.
Typically, the next steps would be to salvage what was possible, to save his life, and cope with this new reality. But a secret government organization had been awaiting this opportunity, the opportunity to create something new — a cyborg.
“We have the technology. We can rebuild him.”
If you are my age or younger, you might not be familiar with the hit 70’s TV show, the Six Million Dollar Man. Astronaut Steve Austin is maimed in a test flight gone wrong. Rather than living the rest of his life as a cripple, the government uses the opportunity to replace his lost limbs and eye with “bionic” robot substitutions, sort of like a precursor to Robocop. With his new enhancements, he gains superhero-like abilities — running 120mph, lifting cars, seeing through walls, and so on. Only by being torn apart, torn down, almost to the brink of death was he able to be rebuilt into something extraordinary. And the cost for this incredible transformation was $6 million, a laughable amount in modern currency, thus the name of the show.
In 2007, I was just 24 years old. I’d only been Life Saver’s chief executive for 3 years. And the economy was crashing. 2006 was our best year ever at the time. 2007 ended with the distinction of being the first year we ever saw revenues DECLINE. 2008 got worse. And then, after a rough summer, on September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch went out of business, and the world stood still. Our office phone didn’t ring a single time for TWO DAYS. I remember calling in to check if it was still working. 2008 ended with revenues down by nearly FIFTY percent.
2009’s sales dropped by half. AGAIN. Dealers were going under. The industrial park we were in was almost empty. I wasn’t paying vendors on time, and there was a stack of my paychecks in a drawer. I wasn’t depositing my salary checks to myself, so there would be enough in the bank to make payroll. And then the bank reduced our line of credit.
When 2010 started, I decided we were either going to adapt and figure it out or go out of business. I decided THE economy wasn’t going to dictate MY economy. And then we got to work. We started focusing on retail advertising on a national level. We developed a lead program. We made the seemingly insane choice to “go high-end,” upgrading the product to a more expensive, premium iteration. We started hosting our annual dealer conference in Florida. We restructured our manufacturing process. And at the end of 2010, we were up. Not a lot, but up.
And the next year the rebuilding continued: further product enhancements, multiple lines, acquired a competitor, a second shipping center in California.
2019 will end with our sales triple what they were in our “best year ever,” 2006, and nearly ten times our revenues in 2009.
Like the Six Million Dollar Man, when we were beaten down, nearly to the brink of death, rather than accept barely surviving and carrying on as a shadow of our former self, we took the opportunity to rebuild into something extraordinary. Because you can’t reconstruct yourself when things are going well. It takes being stripped down, critical pieces torn away.
And if that’s where you are, in life or in business, hanging on, barely alive, congratulations. This is your chance to become something vastly superior to what you were before.
You have the technology. You can rebuild you.