SpaceX Explosion & the Formula for Success
This week SpaceX’s Starship exploded on landing during a test run, but this was an improvement. The Starship is designed to carry 100 metric tons of weight into orbit. This could be the ship that one day brings people to Mars. But first, it needs to work, and although it exploded on landing this test was an improvement. In the previous two Starship tests, the explosion happened much earlier in flight.
SpaceX offers one of the simplest and grandest insights into one of the most effective strategies on the planet. There are many terms for it, but what I like to use is “beat it with a stick until it works.” As a Cybersecurity consultant, I have been faced with a constant series of difficult problems to solve. These are the types of problems where I was at the end of the line. There wasn’t a vendor to call or another expert, I was the guy and the solution would be figured out by me. Sure there were others on my team and I wasn’t always the person who found the solution, but I was the person for many years who ensured problems were fixed.
To succeed I used the technique “beat it with a stick.” This is a technique that has been used throughout time and has come with various names. The fundamental principle is don’t quit until it works. This is why SpaceX offers a miraculous example of this in practice. The Starship which exploded this week cost SpaceX $5 Billion dollars to develop. Can you imagine the feeling of investing months and years of time, plus billions of dollars, and watching it explode in real-time before your eyes? What is the feeling you might have had if you were in charge?
To be frank I think there are very few people who have existed in history that can take the “beat it until it works” mantra better than Elon Musk. The philosophy that you can learn from SpaceX, from Elon Musk, that you can use every day in your life is just simply never give up. As a Cybersecurity consultant, I would often see a problem and identify 10–12 solutions within a few seconds. Each solution that I attempted would be one whack of my stick against the problem. If the solution worked great, but if it didn’t work that was of no consequence. In the first place being able to cross a possible fix off the list gets you one step closer to the solution, and moreover, there was an endless stream of problem-solving ideas behind it. This is to say there was an endless supply of new whacks with my stick to take at the problem.
Herewith SpaceX, yes they had an explosion this week, but that just gets them one step closer to solving the problem. One step closer to a manned mission to Mars. This mindset of being relentless and unemotional to failures is the key to success. This can come in the smallest of forms like missing out on a good parking spot all the way to blowing up a spaceship.
If you put your mind at the end of the problem where the solution lives and know you are going to get there then there really is no purpose in stressing over the failures and bumps along the way. You will find a parking spot and SpaceX will get to Mars.
One of my favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill where he states “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” The problem most people run into is that they get caught up with the immediate success or failure outcome in front of them. This might come in the form of a sales presentation that you expect to crush and when you don’t walk away with the sale you feel devastated. All the work and hard effort and a bad outcome. But if you change that mindset to look at the future the small bumps along the way become irrelevant. If you are in sales this might mean thinking ahead to how in 6 months you will close 12 deals no matter what. With this attitude, if you don’t close a deal on a given day it doesn’t quite matter and that one “no” just got you a bit closer to the next “yes”. So pick up that stick and take another swing at your problem!
In the coming days and weeks challenge yourself to think into the distant future and question if any of the immediate situations that play out in your day are that important. Is there ever a single failure or setback that is really worth griping about? Do you think SpaceX and Elon Musk are throwing in the towel after a $5 Billion dollar explosion? And if they aren’t giving up then why would you after one bad sales call or any small bump in the road?