Christina Koch, along with astronauts Luca Parmitano and Alexander Skvortsov, parachuted to earth yesterday after 328 days in space, setting a new American duration record for a single space mission by a woman.

(Scott Kelly holds the American record for men with 342 days in space, Peggy Whitson the record for cumulative time with 665 days spread across three missions.)

During the mission Christina, along with Jessica Meir, also took part in the first (and second and third) all-women space walk, one of a total of six she conducted.

"Firsts" are important. "Firsts" are definitely newsworthy. 

If you've heard of Christina, it's surely due to the first all-female spacewalk. Or because of the spaceflight duration record she just set.

But those accomplishments, while notable, are actually the by-product of a larger, more important mission. (Literally and figuratively.)

Christina studied the behavior of fire in space in an effort to prevent future fires, use fuel more efficiently, and possibly someday reduce pollution levels on Earth.

She conducted experiments on the role of space and gravity on plant health, cellular development, and tissue growth. She researched methods of growing food in space, an important step in preparing for long-duration missions where resupply is impossible.

She even studied how growing plants can affect people on an interpersonal and community level. Social dynamics are important in space and on Earth; the more we improve relationships, the better off we'll all be.

That's just a partial list of her accomplishments. Space, zero gravity, extreme cold: spaceflights provide an outstanding platform for scientific experiments. Christina worked on kidney health. Capillary structures. Agricultural cameras. Bio-fabrication. Microgravity crystals. The list goes on.

Efforts that should pay far larger dividends than any "first" possibly could.

But those efforts were only made possible by her ability to manage the physical and mental rigors of such a prolonged stint.

I'm convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. 

It is so hard. You pour so much of your life into this thing.

There are such rough moments ... that most people give up. I don't blame them. It's really tough.

That happens to all of us. We set a huge goal, we set out to achieve it, we hit the ground running... and then, inevitably, hit a rough patch. The tougher the times, the more resolve we need.

That's why consistently doing what we need to do to succeed, with total focus and resolve, is incredibly difficult.

Which is why the ability to respond positively to failure and adversity -- and to keep working hard -- is crucial. 

After all:

  • To succeed, you must delay gratification
  • To succeed, you must withstand temptation
  • To succeed, you must overcome uncertainty and fear 
  • To succeed, you can't just set priorities; you need to follow through and actually do the things that contribute the most to your success

For Christina, setting a space duration record wasn't the goal. Neither was taking part in the first all-female spacewalk.

Both were "just" icing on a much larger cake.

Her goal was to be an outstanding astronaut: to maintain the space station, conduct experiments, be a great teammate, adapt to changing conditions and priorities... to work hard, and stay the course, in service of a larger goal.

In short, Christina embraced the grind.

Christina didn't focus on setting a record. 

She focused on the day-to-day -- and over time, accomplished what no other American woman ever has. 

Which is how success really works.

Keep your head down and focus on doing the work, day after day after day... and great things always happen.