A couple months ago, I wrote a guest blog for Tweten Online. This post was to apply lessons learned from Rocket Science to the Startup world. I was proud about this post and meant to repost it here at some point in the future.
Fast forward to the last few weeks. Space is hard. And it showed when space had a very hard week. First the Antares rocket exploded, which was carrying supplies to the ISS. Then, a suborbital Virgin Galactic spaceship broke up seconds after it’s engine fired to send it past the cusp of space. One pilot was killed and another was seriously injured.
In the age of social media, news of these events spread quickly. The news on my twitter feed was particularly fast, since most of the users I follow are space enthusiasts. Some even tweeting near these events providing first hand accounts. But I was encouraged that most of these communications were thoughtful and well reasoned. And all shared an optimism that a new day would come and space exploration would continue.
Space is hard, but it is also poetic. The poetry couldn’t be missed when just two weeks later a historic event in space occurred, signalling this new day even when news of the tragedies was still fresh in our minds. The ESA lander, Philae, touched down on the surface of a Comet. This probe passed through a fiery launch and made an approach to a comet never before attempted. It didn’t work flawlessly, but it accomplished it’s mission. It survived. And it bounced. Twice.
Below, I’m reposting my original article. It was written months before any of these events. But I can’t help but think these lessons are being replayed right now. We all make mistakes and fail. We dust ourselves off and keep going. We pull on our #scishirts and give a big thumbs up to our supporters.
Space is hard and so is life. But that’s what makes it worth it.
Rocket Science is synonymous with something that is difficult, impossible or even inconceivable.
Some of rocket science’s basic premises go against every experience we have from everyday life. For instance, to go into a faster orbit, you must slow down. While it seems alien or foreign, we can take lessons from rocket science to apply to startups or even day to day life.
The first lesson is that while it seems complicated, it just takes dedication to learn something as complicated as rocket science. In your startup, there’s likely things that behave totally different than what you’d expected. That knowledge is your competitive advantage. Learning it couldn’t have been any easier than rocket science – in fact it’s probably harder since you had to discover it yourself. But that discovery can only make your startup stronger. You should embrace your ignorance and search out what you don’t know. Make learning your number one goal, much like Eric Ries preaches through the Lean Startup movement.
I’m going to share with you a secret about rocket science. Learning all the complicated principles and advanced mathematics is actually the easy part. The real hard part of rocket science is what happens when the rocket blows up on the launch pad. You put all your work into this project and before it even has time to lift off, it blows up into a thousand pieces. Maybe it knocks you onto your back (literally). Do you stare up into the sky, through that cloud of dust and just give up?
Failure happens. Rockets explode. Startups crash.
The best lesson I can give anyone is to get back up. When you get back up, you show the world your dedication. Dust yourself off and get back to work. This has happened in space exploration again and again and again. But those involved in spaceflight have repeatedly dusted themselves off and restarted the space program. They believe that what they do is important and are willing to risk their lives for it.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid of not pushing yourself. In the end the only way to do something great is to set your sights high. And don’t forget to look out the window while you’re quite literally climbing up through the atmosphere, rocketing to new heights. The view is amazing!