At its core, a rocket launch is the controlled explosion of a small nuclear bomb—controlled being the operative word.
A rocket burns with unbelievable fury. One wrong step, one miscalculation, and you can expect the worst. “There are a thousand things that can happen when you go to light a rocket engine,” explains SpaceX propulsion chief Tom Mueller. “And only one of them is good.”
Hollywood would have you believe that astronauts riding on these rockets keep their cool because they’re a bunch of swaggering, risk-taking hotshots.
But the reality is much different from the Hollywood depiction.
It’s their training—not superhuman nerves—that allows astronauts to thrive under conditions of enormous uncertainty. By the time an astronaut sits on top of a rocket, she’s gone through years of training and practiced hundreds of failure scenarios in a simulator.
They don’t run these failure simulations because the exact same problems will happen in the exact same way in space. Most of the time, the problems that come up in space will be different from the simulated ones on the ground.
The purpose of the training, as astronaut Megan McArthur explains, “is to build you up.” It’s to prove to “yourself that you have the ability to work when some really terrible things are happening.” It’s to provide the skills and flexibility needed to tackle any problem—even problems that they’ve never seen before.
This mindset is valuable whenever you’re making a leap into the unknown.
When we’re operating in uncertain conditions, we tend to grasp for certainty. We search for order in chaos, the one right answer in ambiguity, and conviction in complexity. We look for the life hack, the shortcut, the step-by-step formula (Tell me exactly what to do, and I’ll go and do it!). Over time, we lose our ability to interact with uncertainty.
Instead of searching for hacks that inevitably fail to work, you can do what astronauts do—prove to yourself that you’re versatile enough to tackle whatever problem might arise.
You’ve never launched this specific product before.
You’ve never tried this specific marketing strategy before.
You’ve never had a job like this before.
But you have years of experience in the simulator that is life. You’ve launched other products, executed other strategies, and had other jobs in the past.
There was a time when it was the first time that you did anything. You’ve been here before, and you’ve emerged intact. You endured setbacks, solved unforeseen problems, and developed critical skills that you can apply to your next mission.
In the end, you have a choice.
You can avoid uncertainty, hide within the familiar comfort of the status quo, and keep doing what you did yesterday.
Or you can step into the unknown, confident that you can use your considerable abilities to handle the cosmic curve balls that will inevitably come your way.
As I wrote in Think Like a Rocket Scientist, if you stick to the familiar, you won’t find the unexpected.
Those who get ahead in this century will dance with the great unknown and use their skills to play whatever hand the universe may deal them.
P.S. I’ll soon open applications for the Moonshot Mastermind, a 12-month program for 6 high-caliber leaders from multiple industries who support each other across the finish line of their most intimidating goals.
In prior rounds, our mastermind members achieved stellar results. They multiplied revenues. Got big new clients. Created breakthrough new products and services. And became a close-knit community that goes to bat for each other.
The next cohort will kick off in July. The program is highly selective and limited to C-level executives or those who run a company with a proven track record of success.Click here to get on the waiting list.
You’ll get notified first before we open applications to the public.