I recently had the amazing opportunity to tour a local aerospace facility and got to see how they make rockets. It was such an incredible experience and opened my mind up to the vastness of opportunities that the average person doesn’t explore. Much of what we learned is covered under a non-disclosure agreement and I don’t want one of the most powerful men in the Western world mad at me, so I’ll stick to sharing my lessons learned.
I absolutely love touring other people’s businesses and learning what makes them unique. One of the best parts of my job is that I get to explore companies from all industries and sizes and meet the amazing individuals who lead them. There are always significant learnings that come out of these visits, we always have take-aways that help us improve, and I highly recommend you do the same.
This company must apply continuous innovation to the problem of building a rocket designed to carry passengers into space and return them – safely – to Earth. They experiment with different designs, structures, materials and types of fuel to find the most effective and cost efficient means of transport. The seemingly inexhaustible number of complex combinations of ever-changing conditions they have to try and control is astounding.
Outside of wanting to become an amateur rocket scientist, the biggest thing I took away from the tour was the dynamic relationship that exists when you introduce a high level of accelerant into a complex structured system like a rocket. Depending on the type of fuel you choose, you can create an engine that is too powerful for the structure and burns too fast or an engine that is not powerful enough and doesn’t burn hot enough. Both scenarios result in an unsuccessful outcome for this team.
I think that relationship parallels the complex combination of passion and discipline that affect the human condition and our ability to be successful.
Passion (and lots of coffee) is the fuel that accelerates an individual to reach goals, to exceed expectations, and achieve high levels of performance.
Discipline is the structure that helps facilitate whatever path that individual is trying to follow. The successful individual provides a very balanced combination of these. And typically, individuals will become misguided when one of these aspects is too heavily concentrated or lacking. Think of the person you know who has either a lack of passion or too much passion, but no structure. That person is going to provide incredible amounts of energy with little thought to the direction and the consequences of his or her actions.
Conversely, person with a high level of structure and little passion is going to be very regimented in their approach without much energy which turns into just a routine without any north star. This concept is probably fairly straightforward to most people, but I think it’s a balance that is challenging for most of us to achieve. I struggle with it on a daily basis and I’d like to share some tips I’ve learned to keep my levels high and consistent.
Rituals and Habits Create Structure
In any new venture as well as in my personal life, I always start building a good structure first. Similar to a solid construction of the hull of a rocket, the right structure provides stability in your acceleration. I focus on always developing the rituals and habits around my life that keep me focused and organized. It comes in the form of exercise every day, continuous education, daily routines, weekly planning, etc. These should occur on a consistent basis so you don’t have to think about them. Once I have that in place, I work to constantly maintain and improve my habits while allowing me to fail at them without judgment.
Be Interested and Be Interesting
People who know me now know that I don’t lack passion about life, but that hasn’t always been that case. One of the things I learned through my struggles is that I need to appreciate and be passionate about the little things; to always celebrate the little wins. I always try to be interested and interesting in order to keep a constant steady stream of passion in my life. This allows me to never lose my acceleration from lacking enough fuel and also helps me to not burn out because I had the wrong type of fuel or injected too much at the wrong time.
I do my best work when the pressure is on. Productivity too early for me is rarely a good thing because it lessens the creative process. On the other hand, if I wait too long and back myself up against a deadline, I can be rushed and don’t give the creative process enough time to give me the right inspiration. So I allow myself to practice structured procrastination. It may sound contradictory to plan out your procrastination but I find it effective to give me the right amount of pressure to let my passion turn into creativity. I can run at a high temperature for a short period of time focused on completing a specific task or achieving a particular goal.
Lastly, give some serious thought to where you’re pointed and who you want to be. The last thing you want is to build a very efficient rocket that is pointed toward the wrong destination.