Get to calls for Veterans Day saving Wednesday, only take an extra ten dollars off your twenty five dollars purchase, plus take an extra 15 percent off seven nine to sweaters, just twenty five. Forty five bucks for the family. Thirty three, ninety nine and under and get 50 percent off, 30 betting plus get a little more for your wallet with Kohl's cash plus best in every store pickup. Give with all your heart. Chuckles and COCOM select sales of twenty five.
I remember I left a service 50 percent of Republican member 11 through twenty first with Tamako cheers and exclusions applies historical Starcom for details.
I know most of us are having a hard time adjusting to the new normal. It's challenging for most of us and makes it easy to get stressed out. That's why it's really important to move your body at least once a day. Whether you're walking, jogging or doing yoga, make a choice for yourself and try to maintain a healthy balance. I recently started going on long walks in the mornings and it's been a great addition to my morning routine and with my Fitbit, it makes it really easy to track my fitness.
Every day I get excited to check how many steps I walk to make sure I'm achieving my goals and aiming higher on my next walk. For a smarter way to transform your health, visit Fitbit Dotcom and get free shipping.
Everyone, welcome back to you on purpose to number one health broadcast in the world, thanks to each and every single one of you who come back every single week to listen, learn and grow.
Now, I'm really excited about bringing you fascinating guest where we can dissect their minds, understand their concepts and theories and figure out how to practically live their messages in our lives.
And do you know how much I love authors and how much I love books? And I remember seeing this on a list of books that Adam Grant and Susan Kane had published and immediately caught my eye because the title was Think Like a Rocket Scientist. And I thought to myself, this is cool. Like, who's written this?
And it happened to be a former rocket scientist.
And I was fascinated because obviously, as you know, my books will think like a monk written by me for a month. And I think, oh, here we go. We've got something in common. We try to challenge people to think differently. And so this book immediately caught my eye. I read through a ton of it already and can't wait to finish it. But I'm so excited that today I get to sit with the author. Ozanne Varro is a rocket scientist turned award winning professor, author and podcast host and native of Istanbul.
He moved to America to major in astrophysics at Cornell University, then served on the operations team for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers project. Laurel later became a law professor at Lewis and Clark College and wrote the Democratic published by Oxford University Press.
Those articles have appeared in outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, BBC, Time, CNN, The Washington Post, Slate and Foreign Policy. Now, this is going to be really interesting, you guys, because I know you like regular content. He blogs weekly on his website. Ozanne Viral dot com will give you the link later. And Obama has delivered keynote speeches to both small and large groups and major corporations, nonprofits and government institutions. Today, as I said, we had to speak about his new book, which is Think Like a Rocket Scientist.
The Simple Strategies You Can Use to make giant leaps in work and life isn't wonderful here today. Jay, delighted to be here. Thank you so much for having me on. Yeah, absolutely.
It's not every day that you get to sit down with a former rocket scientist. This is I see this as a huge honor or a former monk for me.
You know, it's like this is like almost the beginning of a joke, like rockets that all the rockets that month walk into a bar.
So true. We'll see what happens next. Yeah, we still have we need to invite a funny friend, too. It's like, who else can we invite to our you know, they always say like a good conversation is between, like people who just have really crazy unique experiences. And I feel like this is kind of like that, you know, like rocket scientist, at least from my uneducated brain. You know, it's all about exploring and going outward and seeing what's possible.
And living as a monk is all about going inward and seeing what possible. And so it's it's fascinating to sit down with you and think about that. But but I want to start off with this question as we dive into your book and talk about many things, how do you actually become a rocket scientist? Like, what is the process of that? Because growing up, I didn't even know that existed. And often we kind of refer to it in some ways, like a monk.
We refer to it as a term that it's kind of like make believe or imaginary. You know, it's not necessarily real things to tell us that.
Yeah, you know, it's it's there is no college major called rocket science. There is actually probably no one would like the official job title rocket scientist. We just use the term rocket science colloquially to refer to the science and engineering behind space travel. So, for example, I was an astrophysics major, but you can also become a rocket scientist by majoring in aeronautical engineering, for example. So for me, the term is used broadly to refer to people working on space travel, people working on converting the seemingly impossible into the possible.
Yeah, it's awesome and fascinating and it's great to hear that because I was thinking, well, it's like what if what if what if they were actually sometimes called rocket science? It would be crazy. Crazy. But tell me about this. When when you decided to write this book, why did you think it was important? Similarly, like, I was trying to change people's mindsets with my title, why was it important for you to challenge people right now to stop thinking like a rocket scientist?
What is it about the thinking of a rocket scientist that is so vital and important for everyone today?
So I opened the book with telling the story of President John F. Kennedy stepping up to the podium at Rice University Stadium. This was in September 1962. And he pledged to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth before the decade is out.
Now, at the time, this was literally a moon shot and a lot of people in the audience thought he was crazy. People at NASA thought he was out of his mind because so many prerequisites for making the moon landing a reality hadn't been done yet. No American astronaut I worked outside of a spacecraft. Two spacecraft had never docked together in space. NASA didn't know if the lunar surface was solid enough to support a lander or whether their communication system would work on the moon.
I mean, JFK actually said some of the metals required to build the rockets hadn't even been invented. We just jumped into the cosmic void and hope that we grow wings on the way up and grow those wings we did.
In less than seven years after Kennedy's pledge, Neil and Buzz took their giant leap for mankind.
And the contrast I like to draw is a child who was just six years old when the Wright brothers took their first power flight. So this is back in nineteen eighty three. It lasted for about 12 seconds, moved a hundred feet, would have been seventy two when the flight became powerful enough to put a man on the moon. I mean think about that for a second. That's sixty six years.
That's within a single human lifespan. And that giant leap is often attributed to technology.
Right. This was a triumph of technology, but I don't think that's right.
I think the triumph really belongs to the humans behind the technology and a certain thought process. They used to turn the seemingly impossible into the possible.
So I wanted to write a book about that thought process, in part because rocket science, it's such an intimidating term. Right? Hence the saying like this is rocket science or it's not rocket science. So we tend to put these people in a corner and say that's just reserved for geniuses. Right. I don't want to know anything about that because it's too complicated.
So I didn't want to write a book about the science behind rocket science, but I wanted to take these nine simple strategies from from rocket science about approaching uncertainty, about innovating within constraints, talk to people about how rocket scientists approach failure, how they approach success and walk them through really simply how they can take these principles and use them in their own lives to to make giant leaps.
Yeah, and I love dialogue. How practical that is, because I think for anyone and obviously you've given a very grand example of like, you know, when John F. Kennedy is pledging to go to the moon. But you think about even in our lives, like so many times, we have ideas or dreams or things that we would love to work towards, but we kind of see it as unreachable. Right. And we kind of put them and leave them there on the shelf and we go, oh, well, that's never really going to happen to me.
It's probably not possible. But what I feel like you're trying to do with this book, and that's what I saw when I was really reading it, is that these nine strategies that you share, they're actually like little steps to to be able to make that giant leap in your own life. And I really appreciated that because I think whenever you hear about these especially these big you know, these big statements, I think there's a famous statement from Henry Ford.
And it was like, you know, if I ask people what they would have wanted, they would have said faster horses. And and it's like, you know, people don't have the vision to really bring that into reality. And I feel like you're trying to ground that for all of us through all of these nine strategies. And I love the studies that you do share in the stories that you do share and hear. What what is what was the one that surprised you the most?
Right. What was that what was the outcome of the or the kind of principal that you actually thought? You know, that's actually really counterintuitive. Like you may have thought of it some way, but actually it was like a..
That totally blew my own oblivion. I think the last chapter in the book, which is called Nothing Fails Like Success, is probably one of the more counterintuitive takeaways from the book. Right. Because we tend to think of success as a good thing.
I devote that chapter to explaining how success can create complacency. And I discussed two of the biggest disasters and rocket science history, which are the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, which claimed the lives of all seven astronauts on board. And those disasters happened after NASA had experienced a string of triumphant successes. So with respect to the challenger, there was a number of really successful Challenger space shuttle launches I'm sorry, leading up to Challenger.
And NASA began to develop tunnel vision even when engineers were raising their hands and saying, look, the O rings, which were responsible for the explosion of the of the challenger, they were being damaged flight after flight.
And one engineer actually six months before the Challenger disaster, he wrote a memo that turned out to be really prescient. He said, if we don't do something about the problem with the orangs, which, by the way, are these flexible rings that seal the the the boosters to make sure that hot gases don't escape so they serve a critical function. He wrote a memo saying that if we don't fix this problem, it's going to be a catastrophe of the highest order.
I'm talking the loss of human life, but the managers ignored the engineer's requests because they thought, look, in previous missions, we succeeded even when there was damage to the Oring. So as long as we repeat the process that we followed yesterday, then success is is inevitable. And basically the same thing happened after the after the Columbia space shuttle disaster as well.
The technical flaw was different, but the underlying cultural flaw of success, creating complacency of success, creating conformity was very much, very much the same. And so to me, that that was really counterintuitive because, you know, our first instinct when we succeed is to start lighting cigars or popping champagne corks to start celebrating.
But when we do that, we fail to realize that we may have succeeded despite making a bad decision, despite making a serious misstep. And if you don't sort of sit and conduct the same type of analysis, that might follow a failure.
If you don't look back and say, you know what, why what role did luck and privilege and opportunity play in the success? If you don't do that sort of reckoning, then those small little failures will eventually snowball into something that that you can't control. So I think there is a lot of value to thinking of ourselves even after we succeed as a work in progress. So I think the moment you think you've made it is the moment you stop growing, the moment you declare yourself to be an expert on something as a moment that you start making confident declarations without backing it up with the facts.
The moment you think you're in the lead is the moment you just stop listening to other people. And so so I think there is a lot of value to, even when success arrives, to staying humble and realizing that, you know what, you succeeded, not necessarily because of your genius, but you may have gotten lucky. And if you don't fix the errors that happened in the the path of that success, then then that those failures or small failures might catch up to you in the long run.
Yeah, I think I think that's a super powerful and strong message, I think there's this I saw this really good viral video recently. I think I showed it to on Instagram. It was it was a video that someone had compiled of. And the tagline was, don't celebrate too early. And it was a compilation of like swimming races, marathon sprints, where the person just started celebrating when they're about to hit the line. And then number two came and took their place.
And it's happened multiple times. And obviously that's in a very that's in a very specific, you know, race scenario. But even in life, so much so, I feel like, yeah, you don't learn as much when you win unless you conduct that analysis. And I remember that a very small way. I remember if I did well in exams, I would always regret it. The year later when I'd be like, wait a minute, how did I do?
Well, last year, like, I wish I wrote down why I did well, right? Because then I would have something to go on. And and you're so right that there's such a need for that post win analysis and the appreciation of not just luck, but the appreciation of things that lined up the appreciation of things that just happened, not even by chance look. But by happened because the things that went right that you didn't expect. Right.
And I think it's almost like when we win, we're like, oh, we expected that to happen. But when we lose, it's like, oh, I didn't expect that. And then that's when we tear it apart. My wife loves cooking and is always on the lookout for new recipes or new ingredients to try. Now, just recently she discovered just egg. Have you ever tried a plant based egg? We made an omelet with just egg and it really blew my mind.
Honestly, it's been years since I've had eggs, but I couldn't believe how amazing it tasted. Just egg is made entirely from plants. It's packed with clean, sustainable protein and it scrambles and tastes like eggs. It's great for omelets, but also delicious in French toast. Now why try a plant based egg? Just egg is protein packed and it's no cholesterol compared that to just two conventional eggs, which alone surpass your daily recommended amount. Just egg makes it easy to take the first step toward a healthier lifestyle and plant based diet without sacrificing taste.
I've been on a plant based diet for years now and it has really changed my life. The benefits are amazing. I feel more productive, healthier, and it supports my immune system. Start your most important meal of the day with just egg. It's such an easy, nutritious option and solution when making small swaps. So join me and try. Just make it's available nationwide on Amazon Prime now or in the car or a Whole Foods, your local grocery store or co-op in the egg aisle or frozen section.
Just egg a better egg for you and the planet. Thank you for sponsoring this podcast. Do you ever spend hours looking for a good book, browsing different titles, asking your friends for recommendations and end up with nothing? It's the worst feeling, right? One of my friends just gave me a subscription to Literati and it has changed my life. Literally a subscription book club that send a book to your door each month. Handpicked by world renowned authors and leaders, every month you get one paperback or hardcover book that's specific to your luminaries club.
You can discover a new topic each month, whether you're into business, sports activism or the arts like Malalas Club Fairless or Stephen Curry's club. Underrated. And if you just like me and enjoy interactive experiences, you'll also be able to use the literati app to discuss what you read with your luminary. Yes, really and other readers. The literary app also gives you exclusive access to discussions led by book club luminaries Malalas, Stephen Curry, Richard Branson, Susan Orlean and others.
You won't get insider access like this anywhere else. Treat yourself this holiday season, a family member or a friend and give a subscription. Subscriptions are available for one, three, six or 12 months of books. It's a great way to keep the holiday magic going through twenty twenty one and help others elevate their reading list to go to literati dot com forward slash on purpose to get fifty dollars off your annual membership, to find your perfect book club and sign up today.
Remember, no one else has book clubs like these only at literati dot com forward slash on purpose can you get one book every month curated by today's leading authors and visionaries that literally dot com forward slash on purpose to save fifty dollars of your membership and make your holidays unforgettable this year.
I guess a lot of people feel I need to address this to a lot of people feel like they never met and so they're more in that category of failing. And I think this I've seen this quote before and I've seen it turn around before, could fail like a scientist. And it's almost like fail like a rocket scientist, even more aligned with it. And it's and you don't want failure in the book. Tell us about how to really fail effectively because you talk about not just failing fast, but learning fast.
And I love that change. And I want to know more about that because I think we hear a lot about, oh, just fail and it's OK to make mistakes and it's OK to fail. But I'm fascinated by how we can really fail effectively and dive into that, because I think for most people they don't win and get complacent. We fail, but we don't learn fast enough. So let's let's dive into that.
Yeah, that's absolutely right. And I think that the distinction that you just mentioned between failing fast and learning fast is a really important one, because that mantra of fail fast, fail often fail. Forward is all the rage these days in Silicon Valley. I was reading that and I talk about this in the book, too, that Silicon Valley companies are now holding funerals for failed startups, complete with like deejays spinning records and bagpipes and liquor flowing freely.
And, you know, and I don't buy it. I don't buy it because go back to our discussion with success. When you celebrate something, you're probably not learning from it.
And so to me, the goal should be to to learn fast, to not fail fast. And research really bears this out, too. And I said a research study of cardiac surgeons who actually get worse after they fail, after they botch a procedure, they don't get better. Failed entrepreneurs are no more successful at taking a company public than first time entrepreneurs. It happens we don't learn from from failure because often we attribute failure. When we fail to external factors, we say we fail not because I made a mistake, but we failed because it wasn't the right time.
Right. We failed because of the customers or the competitors of the regulators. And when we don't do that internal reckoning, then we don't learn from anything. So moving from failure to failure without really learning is is a recipe for disaster. As a scientist, take a very different approach to to failure to them. And this is true for successful businesses and successful people as well. Failure can be the best teacher if you know how to approach it properly.
And almost all breakthroughs are evolutionary, not revolutionary. So let me let me let me talk about what I mean by that, because you're right, a lot of people think like they're not succeeding, but they're not succeeding because their time horizon is oriented toward the short term. Right. They're looking at the next week, the next month. And they're not looking, as Kennedy did seven years down the road or even a year down the road. So if you look at scientific history, every single breakthrough has been evolutionary.
Albert Einstein's first several proofs for equals EMC squared completely failed. Thomas Edison famously said, I haven't failed. I just found ten thousand ways that won't work. James Dyson, the famous British inventor, you know, he he spent, I think 15 years, came up with over 5000 prototypes of his bag, this vacuum, until he found the one that worked.
So we tend to be obsessed with with grand openings, but the opening doesn't have to be grand as long as the finale is. And I think one of the best things that we can do, because I see this with businesses, with politicians, businesses are chasing these short term quarterly outcomes. Politicians are looking at the immediate electoral cycle, but the businesses and the people who can calibrate their thinking for the long term know that they might have to endure some pain in the short term, that they might have to fail a few times.
But if they're learning from each of these failures, if they're learning fast, that's going to be the recipe for creating something extraordinary down the road. And when I look at my own life, you know, any success I had with the book came because of decisions I made three years ago, four years ago, not decisions I made two months ago, that the really important decisions tend to have a long lifespan. But once you start planting the seeds, they'll grow slowly.
But if you keep doing that, then they become something that's really far more than what you could have expected, which is true for the moon landing as well. Right? I mean, seven years from Kennedy Space to to landing on the moon is really incredible. And it's because for once we decided to look not for the next year now for the next two years, but for seven years down the road.
Yeah, definitely. And that reminds me of a statement I had from Bill Gates. When he said that we overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in 10 years, and I guess it's hard, though, to feel like when you're making a decision. It never feels right because we decide where the decisions feel right based on the result, and that's actually a mistake, I feel, because sometimes you can get the result that you didn't want from the right decision for you at the time.
But I feel like so much of our decision making is is given validation based on the result. Does that make sense?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, exactly. We're always like we paralyze ourselves because we're like, I don't know if this is the right decision because I don't know what's going to happen in three years. So how do you make a decision, regardless of trying to live three years ahead? Because in one sense, you know, one knows, right? No one can see that. Yeah.
And I want to underscore what you just said, because it's so, so important. It's possible to do lots of things right and still fail. And it's also possible to do lots of things wrong and still succeed. This happens all the time.
I mean, this happens in soccer. This happens in landing a rover on Mars. This happens in businesses. But we're so obsessed with with the outputs that we forgot. We forget the quality of the inputs.
And so on a personal level. The thing that I do is and the thing that I advise other people and businesses to do is to to reorient their focus away from outcomes and toward inputs.
So for me, for example, writing the book, if I'm thinking about bestseller lists and how many copies the book is going to sell, two things are going to happen. One is going to completely rob the joy out of what I do. I mean, I love writing. It's like the thing I love the most. When I get up in the morning, I spend three hours writing and that's a great day for me. But once I start thinking about quantity of sales and bestseller lists completely, Rob's a joy away from what I do.
And number two, and perhaps worse, when I when when people start focusing on outcomes, they start making bad decisions because they try to sort of anticipate what the market is going to wants and sort of cater to that. That's certainly an important part of the equation, but it can't be the only part of the equation.
And so often we're so narrowly focused on the outcome that we forget about the inputs, the things that are actually going to make our work work great.
So I think that pivot from outcome to to process is as a really important one. And another useful strategy that I've used in the past, too, that I've seen successful businesses use is a premortem. So to take some of the focus out of the outcome, basically say the preborn says, let's assume that whatever working on failed and work backward from that to figure out what may have gone wrong. And then you sit down and say, OK, well, it failed because of X, Y and Z.
So, for example, for me, the failure would be I didn't submit the book on time to the publisher and then I work backward from that to figure out, well, why may have I have failed. Right? A It could be because I didn't do the research in a timely fashion. It could be because I wasn't doing the writing on a consistent basis. And then you figure out basically ways to guard against those threats. And and that also has a way of, I think, identifying things that could lead to potentially bad outcomes.
But really, the the best thing we can do is to to be more input oriented and less outcome oriented. And that requires after, by the way, both failure and success, asking the same questions. What went wrong with the success? What went right with the success, what went wrong with failure and what went right with this failure that takes the focus off of the outcome and points you toward what matters, which are the inputs?
Yeah, I'm so glad we agree on that. I've actually shared something very, very similar with the book. When I get asked the same thing, I couldn't agree with you more. It's such an obsession with the process because it's that obsession with the process that gives the best opportunity for the result. Exactly as opposed to the focus on the result. And the reward completely takes you away from this current ability to be creative and with what you were doing.
My creative have often described as like selfish creators and sellout creators. I think of like a sellout creator is a creator trying to pander so much to the audience that you miss out on your inner voice, which is actually what makes it unique and in the selfish creator is kind of like the person who writes a book that only they want to read and that we know that is isn't good evening because it's kind of, you know, and yeah, finding that balance but still always focused on the input I think is so important before you start focusing on how to market something more or put something out there.
And those are some really powerful entrepreneurial tips. I wanted to ask you if you could explain what first principles thinking is and how Elon Musk has used it, because I think that would really interest my audience as well. Sure. So when Elon Musk was first thinking about sending rockets to to Mars to to take people to Mars, he first began by shopping for used rockets on the American market. And Musk was a really rich guy. This was right after he sold PayPal to eBay.
But even as wealthy as he was, rockets were way too expensive on the American market. So he then went to Russia.
I kid you not to shop for decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missiles without the nuclear warheads on top, of course, but even those were too expensive. So what of his plane rides back from Russia empty handed?
He had an epiphany and he arrived at that epiphany using first principles, thinking to first principles.
Thinking is a way of cutting through assumptions that are cluttering your thinking as if you're cutting through a jungle with a machete. You're basically unlearning what you know. You're leaving behind the baggage of history to pave the way for a better tomorrow. The analogy I give in the book is the difference between a cover band and and an original singer. So a cover band plays somebody else's songs, but the original singer goes back to the raw materials, the musical notes, and goes through the painstaking process of creating something.
So Elon Musk realized initially that he was playing the role of a cover band and try to buy rockets that other people had built.
And so he went back to first principles and asked himself, well, wait a minute, what is a what is a rocket made out of like what are the non-negotiable raw materials of a rocket?
And how much would that cost if a if I just bought these on the open market and then built the rockets myself and it turned out that it was like two percent of the typical price of a rocket, which is a crazy ratio.
So you just said, screw it, I'm going to build my rockets, my next generation rockets from scratch and first principles thinking let him along with Jeff Bezos, a space company, Blue Origin, to upend another deeply entrenched assumption and rocket science. So for decades, rockets that carried their payload into orbit couldn't be reused. They would burn up in the atmosphere or plunge into the ocean, requiring an entirely new rocket to be rebuilt. Now, imagine doing that for commercial flights, right?
You fly from I'm in Portland. You're in Los Angeles. I fly from Portland to Los Angeles. The passengers deplane. Someone steps up to the plane and just torches.
It sounds crazy, but that's basically what we did for rockets for four decades, that a modern rocket isn't that much more and more expensive than a Boeing 737.
But space flight is so much more expensive because rockets couldn't be reused, at least not efficiently. And SpaceX and Blue Origin have both changed that. They're reusing numerous rocket stages, sending them back out to to space like like certified preowned vehicles. And so when when SpaceX took two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, it was a few weeks ago when we're recording this, but that the first stage of the rocket that carried them into space, landing back, landed back in the on this barge in the middle of the ocean.
There's now a landing pad next to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center.
And that's a new thing in rocket science, because both Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos were able to look at the problem in a different light than than others had done before and questions an assumption that that so many people in the industry had taken for granted. Yeah, yeah.
And that's fascinating. I had no idea. I had never had them before and definitely didn't know that. It's what I like about it the most is just that I think so many of us in our life fall into the bad habit of.
Allowing the assumptions that we hear of an industry or a group or a society or a community to become our assumptions and our reality, and it's like, you know, almost like assumptions she's just putting on other people's assumptions is if there are clouds and then all of a sudden it feels like there are assumptions and they just block us from being really creative, being really innovative and finding these solutions. And we may not even be trying to solve space travel. Right.
But the point is that the same principle is so powerful for us, whether it's with our habits or even whether it's with what we think is possible. And and, you know, I think so often we hear things like, oh, but you need money to make more money as an example. And it's like, oh, well, if you had that assumption, it means you will be waiting a very, very long time. Exactly. Well, we have an assumption of like, oh, no, you have to educate or train in this way to be in that industry or whatever it may be.
You know, and I think you're so right. And all of these things end up blocking us and just, yeah, just kind of wasting time. They make us waste time when we can.
Yeah. And what you strive for ends up becoming your ceiling, right. So if you're striving to be mediocre, then that's the best you can do. You can't always get what you want, as the Rolling Stones remind us, but if you aim a little bit higher, then you have in the past, it's amazing. And especially if you're reoriented toward toward the long term. It's amazing what you're able to to accomplish. I think many of us operate out of like jail cells of our own making, like we're like gripping the bars.
We're cursing the guards. Let us out. But the door is open. Actually, you can just get out and leave.
But we're operating on there's so many assumptions. And by the way, this is not our fault. These assumptions usually come from social conditioning. They come from educational conditioning as well. We've been seduced into believing that flying lower is safer than flying higher, that small dreams are our wiser than moonshots.
And when you hear that message over and over and over again, it becomes your jail cell. I was fortunate enough to I grew up in Istanbul in very humble circumstances, but my parents made me believe that basically, if I worked hard for it, that anything was was within my reach. And so what? I was 17 years old. I learned English as a second language came to the United States by myself. My parents didn't speak a word of English, but they encouraged me to to pursue my dream.
So I remember I was 17 years old. I gotten into Cornell and I was sitting in Istanbul and I was obsessed with space even then. I mean, I was obsessed with space dating back to like when I was five.
And I was researching what the astronomy department at Cornell was was up to. And I saw that a professor was in charge of this planned mission to Mars, what would later be called the Mars Exploration Rovers project.
And, you know, if I was operating out of the jail cell that my society had constructed for me, I probably would have said, oh, like, it's amazing that he's working on this. And how lucky are the people that are working with him. But there is no way that I'm going to apply. Right, because what do I have to contribute? And that voice definitely appeared in my head. He said that the voice said to me.
You're a skinny kid with a funny name from a country halfway around the globe, if you send this email to him asking for a job that doesn't exist. There was no job listing. He's just going to laugh. Right. Like this is this is a complete moonshot for, you know, your place and don't do it. But then I asked myself two questions and these two questions I still ask myself every day.
The first one is what's the worst that can happen and the worst that can happen, honestly, in most cases is like everything that you care for is still going to be there.
For me, that the worst case scenario was that he just never went back to my email.
And even if you can come up with more answers to that, by the way, write them down. It's really powerful that writing down those possible worst case scenario has a strange way of, like, disempowering them.
And then ask yourself also and this is a question I asked myself was what's the best that can happen if you send this email was the best that can happen and the best that can happen did happen, which is I landed a job on the operations team for this Mars project in like two weeks later.
I had front row seats to the action and thanks in part to I had taught myself how to program in high school. But but I think that that is that is really, really important because we we just we get in our own way in so many different ways that it's not our fault. It's it's so much social and educational conditioning. And it it requires purpose and effort and being intentional to be able to strip away those layers of social conditioning, to regain our childlike curiosity and the childlike dreaming that that we used to do, which is, I think, so important and such a crucial ingredient in any success story.
Yeah, that's thank you for sharing that, by the way. I was going to dive into that. I'm glad you shared that then your journey to that because. Know, I'm sure many of your school friends would have not thought about doing something like that, or maybe some of them try to or maybe some of them would even have envisioned it. And so often we're thinking differently to the people around us. And it's scary. It's scary to think differently to the people around you.
And I think a lot of people listening or watching this can can identify with that where you feel a bit of fear because you're like, oh, maybe I'm not allowed to think like this. So maybe I shouldn't think like this or maybe actually even think like this. I'm going to get into more trouble. But you spoke about two things there that are really important. You talked about working hard and obviously we hear a lot about working smart. And what I like in the book is you talk about a difference between strategy and a tactic.
Right. And you get this example of tenacity, five dollar challenge. But the reason why I wanted to bring that up is I think that's a really important distinction, because I think in our journey sometimes to create these moonshots, there's a big difference in strategy and tactics. And everyone tries to use the word strategy a lot. And we also try and use the word tactic and hacks a lot. But there is a big difference. Yeah, if you just explain that to us, the difference in how we think more strategically for sure.
So so tactics and strategy, as you said, they tend to they tend to be used interchangeably, but they actually refer to very different things.
So tactics are a wash. They actually start with the definition of strategies. Your strategy is like a plan overall plan for achieving an objective. And then tactics are the tools you're using, the actions you're taken to actually get to that objective.
And often tactics are traps. And what we what we see when when people look for life hacks, for example, or a formula, they're asking tactical questions. They're trying to see. Well, let me see what this other person did and let me just copy and paste their tactics and expect to to to to get the same outcome, which is usually a recipe for disaster. Are you a business owner? Are you sick of using spreadsheets and multiple systems?
Me too. But guess what? The good news is? You don't need to use them anymore. Ditch the boring spreadsheets and upgrade to NetSuite. NetSuite by Oracle is the world's number one cloud business system. And since I switched to NetSuite. I've said so much time, money and resources. I stop paying for multiple systems that didn't benefit me or give me the information that I needed. Everything is much more organized and I have everything I need in one place right now, financials and more.
It feels really good to have control over it. And the best part is it's so simple and easy to use whether you're doing a million or hundreds of millions in revenue. You can also save time and money with NetSuite. Join over twenty two thousand companies using NetSuite right now. Let NetSuite show you how they'll benefit your business with a free product to add NetSuite dot com forward slash schedule your free product right now and NetSuite dot com forward slash J. That's NetSuite dot com forward slash J.
I know it's really easy to fall into a very slow and tired routine, but now more than ever, we need to make sure we're moving our bodies to help manage our stress during these difficult times. I'll be honest, it wasn't easy for me either, but there has been a great motivation tool for me. I recently started going on early morning walks and it was a struggle in the beginning.
But now I get excited for them and it's been a great part of my morning routine. Each day my Fitbit tells me how many miles I walk, keeps me tuned in with my body by helping me manage my stress, heart health and sleep. I've also started setting goals for myself and my Fitbit has made it easier for me to achieve them. Each day I walk a mile more than the previous one. It's been a good way to hold myself accountable.
My favorite part of Fitbit Sense is its battery life and the fast charging it can last six days or more. And when it runs out of battery, I usually plug it in while I meditate. By the time I'm done, it's ready to go. The Fitbit scent even comes with a free six month premium trial for new users, where you can get personalized guidance, exclusive insights and sneak tools to help make a healthier you happen. Visit Fitbit Dotcom and get free shipping now.
But strategy is very different once you define your own strategy. Once you zoom out from the tactics to to thinking about what you actually want to achieve in your life, then tactics become a lot more malleable.
Then there is like so many so much more wiggle room in terms of coming up with different ways of achieving something. So you mentioned the the five dollar challenge that you use that at Stanford. If I can just recap that for the audience. So so Selic is a professor at Stanford who runs that entrepreneurship class and she walks into a classroom and divides up the classroom into into teams. And she says each team gets five dollars in seed funding. And your goal, you've got two hours to make as much money as possible.
And then you're going to give a three minute presentation to the class to take a moment to think what you would do if you are in one of these teams and most teams did what you might expect them to do.
They took the five dollars and they bought materials for for a makeshift car wash, or they went all school and started like a lemonade stand.
And those teams didn't do really well. The teams that were a lot more successful asks a very different question. They realized that the tactic, which is the five dollar bill sitting in front of you, was a basically a worthless and distracting resource. Instead, they went back to first principles, which we talked about before, and framed the problem more broadly as what do we do to make the most amount of money as possible if we start with absolutely nothing.
So one particularly successful team ended up making reservations at popular Silicon Valley restaurants and then selling those reservation times to wealthy executives who wanted to skip the weight.
And they made an impressive, I think, three hundred dollars and two hours. But the team that came in first realized that both the five dollar tactic and the two hours were not the most valuable tool in their arsenal.
Instead, they realized that that the most valuable tool in their arsenal was the three minute presentation time they had in front of this captivated Stanford class. They ended up selling that three minute slot to a company that was interested in recruiting Stanford students and walked away with like seven hundred dollars.
And it's it's it's genius because they were asking the strategic question of like, well, what do we do? What do we have here? It's so easy to get distracted by the five dollars. Right. So ask yourself, you know, what is the five dollars in your life? What is the three? How do you abandon that and find the more more valuable two hours? But even that, how do you abandon the two hours and find the most valuable three minutes that's in front of you, that's sitting in front of you, that's just looking right at you.
You know, breakthroughs, we tend to think begin with a smart answer, but they often begin with a smart question that reframes the problem and sees it in a light that no one else is seeing.
You know, the way you told it as well, which I thought was brilliant. It's almost like, yeah, the resource that we always have. Sometimes we're like, OK, so I've got five hundred dollars to invest, I've got fifty dollars to invest. And you're so right. And that can actually be a distraction and a limitation as opposed to everything. Second of all, the two hour time constraint, we often tell us, OK, I've got to do this in the next three months and it's just a false time constraint.
It's there is no real there's no real deadline to end.
We're putting a false deadline on ourselves.
And then finally, we often miss the smallest amount of time that actually could be the most valuable. The you know, when you think about three minutes and I've got three minutes to present, we got to prepare for that. But you don't see that as an opportunity when you hit that example like that makes so much sense. But that's not the first thing that would come to any of our minds. I guess my question begins, do they how do we stop shifting to think in that direction?
And what what are the habits? What are the mental changes that that a rocket scientist or people who are able to think like that? What are the steps that they're taking to get that? Because we're not going to get there overnight by by trying to imitate that example. It's very right next to someone asked me that question. I'm going to try and then we might. Right. It doesn't work like that. How do you actually build that mental muscle that allows you to actually think?
Absolutely. So there's there's a number of things you can do. One is to first become better at asking questions. I think that's such an important skill because we live in a society that's so obsessed with answers and finding the right answer. But right answers are so cheap these days. Honestly, if by the time that you can Google the and the find the answer to a question on Google, the world has moved on. But being able to ask smart questions is a really important, important skill.
And one of the ways that you can do that is to be able to sort of emulate the team that that won the the five dollar challenges to to ask strategic questions and move away from tactics.
So. Move away from the what you're doing to why you're trying to do what you do, so think about strategy, because once you zoom out to to see the strategy, then you might be able to spot tactics that that other people are missing.
The second thing that I found really valuable is to bring in people into the conversation who know nothing about what I'm working on.
So outsiders basically and outsiders have a way of of asking really good questions to spot what you're missing because they are not wedded to conventional wisdom.
They don't know the status quo.
So they're going to ask you what people call, quote unquote, dumb questions that are actually not dumb at all because they go to something like fundamental aspect of the problem that you're failing to see.
And this is why, by the way, so many of the the success stories that we just talked about are outsiders to their industries.
So Elon Musk, he came to rocket science from from Silicon Valley and he learned about rocket science by reading textbooks on a beach somewhere in Rio de Janeiro after he sold PayPal to eBay.
Jeff Bezos was in the finance world before he went into to start Amazon. Reed Hastings was a software developer before he started Netflix. And all of these people were able to see the holes in the thinking of the established players because they were outsiders.
And so this doesn't mean that, you know, you you hire an expensive consultant or bring in an expensive speaker.
It could be as simple as talking to your significant other or your friend who knows nothing about what you're working on, but presenting to them what you're thinking about and letting them ask those really simple questions that are going to jolt you out of your your perspective. The story I tell in the book is by J.K. Rowling and the first Harry Potter book when she submitted the the Harry Potter, I think it was the Sorcerer's Stone, which is the first book to publishers.
There are unanimous in their opinion. They all thought that the book was not worth printing. One publisher in the UK called Bloomsbury Publishing so promise in the book when others missed it. And the head of Bloomsbury Publishing, Nigel Newton, he saw Promise in the book because he had a secret weapon by the name of Alice, his eight year old bookworm daughter. And so what Nigel did was to bring the first chapter of Harry Potter home with him, and he gave the first chapter to Alice.
Alice read the book, and she came back down stairs and went to her dad and said, Dad, this is so much better than anything else I've read. And the input of Alice convinced her dad to write a meagre two thousand five hundred pound cheque to J.K. Rowling to acquire the rights to to publish the first Harry Potter book, which, by the way, is the best bet made in publishing history. Right.
Because J.K. Rowling is now a billion dollar author, all because Nigel Newton was willing to get the opinion of someone who was a complete outsider to the publishing industry, but was a member of the target audience audience for the book.
So that's something else you can do is to to bring in outsiders into the conversation. And the third thing I would say is to be very intentional about questioning the assumptions in your life. So ask yourself, you know, why do I have this process?
Why do I have this routine? Why do I have this habit?
Why am I doing what I'm doing on a daily basis? Because we normally don't ask those questions when when we get into the habit of doing something we're operating on on autopilot.
Right. It's like a, you know, a choose your adventure, choose your own adventure book that always has the same ending. So it's it's really important to disrupt yourself from time to time and ask, why is this process in place? Why am I taking the same route to work every day? Why am I using this browser to do what I do? I mean, these are very simple questions. But if you extend them to the more important decisions in your life, it's really amazing what can happen as a result.
Before we started recording, we were talking about how my book tour got cancelled because my book was published on April 14th when when the pandemic was wreaking havoc on the world. And you know that I spent two days just being miserable because I was basically trying to control what can't be controlled. Right. I can't change the pandemic. I can't change it's disruption on my book marketing plans.
But then that disruption, I started asking myself the more productive questions of, OK, I can't change the the hand that the universe dealt me, but what can I do with the hand that I was dealt?
What assumptions am I operating under?
And my assumption, by the way, which was not first principles thinking was that authors do book tours. And this is that's the only reason. I was doing it, by the way, right, like other authors I admire, they publish a book, they go on a book tour. So I'm going to publish a book. I'm also going to go on a book tour, but not stopping and asking myself the more strategic question of, well, what is the purpose of a book tour?
Because a book tour is a tactic, right.
In service of a broader strategy of of spreading the word about the ideas in the book. That is my overall goal is to help empower people to to think like a rocket scientist, to reimagine the status quo. And if I zoom out and ask myself that strategic question, the tactics become malleable. And by the way, I started to realize that the tactic of a book tour is like the five dollar bill.
It's it's not worth the certainly not, but it's not the best use of my time. I mean, I could get on a plane and fly to New York and walk into a Barnes and Noble and sign books for 50 people and come home. And it's going to take me an entire day or two. Or I could sit in the comfort of my office, as I'm doing now, and do virtual events and virtual book launches and podcast conversations and reach a far bigger audience than I would have reached with with a book tour.
And often we we don't question assumptions until the universe forces out of the status quo.
Right. Forces us out of the status quo. That's when we start questioning everything.
But the people who get ahead are the ones who do that questioning before they're forced out of the status quo before a crisis strikes. They're they're they're doing the questioning and asking these strategic questions of themselves before a crisis comes knocking on the door. So you have to, in many cases, dig the well before you're thirsty and and and think through your outdated assumptions before the universe does, before you.
I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you for that very thoughtful set of steps and thoughts that we can go to. And it all comes back down to asking the right questions. And and that's, you know, that's what we forget you, right? When you when you asked yourself the wrong question, you get lost in a whole trajectory, the wrong question of like, OK, well, what what are what are other countries doing? And I have to do that question is, what leads you down this whole trajectory of planning and building and traveling and then you coming back from will not go.
Wait a minute, that didn't make any sense. And so, you know that it didn't make any sense. It wasn't right and appropriate for the time that we were in. And I could agree with you more. So I'm yeah, I'm hoping that everyone is listening right now. There's a lot of subtext. Amazon's telling us around just, you know, really looking at the decisions you're making in your life right now, really reflecting about the steps you're taking in your life right now.
I'm just questioning why you're doing them, what you're doing them for, why they make sense. And if you don't have a good enough answer for yourself, and that's really the most important answer is can you answer it for yourself? Because someone else may have a perfect reason for why they think you should do something. But if you don't have a good reason for why you think you should do it, then it's then it's probably not as strong as you believe it is.
So I was on a few more questions for you. Before we round up, I want to ask you this. Why do you suggest we use the least of the company exercise? Because I love it, too. It's another great example. It's one of my favorite exercises.
And the story I tell in the book is from from Merck and how Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier applied it. But basically, he asked his executives to play the role of one of Merck's top competitors for a day. And so they switched perspectives and they figured out ways to kill the company to to put Merck out of business, which is when CEOs talk about change in innovation, they're asking usually the cliche questions like how do we think outside the box or why?
What's the next big thing?
But those cliched questions tend to generate cliche answers. But if you play this game of kill the company and you ask your executives to come up with with ways to put the company out of business, then they are by definition moving out of the current perspective, moving outside of the box and looking at the box from the perspective of a competitor seeking to destroy it. Now, that's the first part of the exercise. Once you identify those threats, then you switch to the opposite perspective.
So you go. But they went back to being Merck executives and figured out ways to to defend against those threats. And so and you can but you don't have to be a big corporation to apply that in your own life. You can ask yourself, you know, you can play the killed a company game with your job. Right. You can say, well, why might my boss pass me up for a promotion? Why may I not get this job that I'm interviewing for?
Or why are people buying our competitors products?
It's not because you're right and they're wrong. It's not because they're stupid, it's because they're seeing something that you're not seeing, it's because they believe something that that you don't believe is because they're telling themselves a different story and you're not going to be able to see that story if you're looking at the world from your own limited perspective and kill the company is a great way of forcing yourself out of that perspective and adopting the perspective of somebody else.
Yeah, I think it's a great activity to do with yourself, to do with your teams, to do it, anyone, because it actually allows you to think so big and broad and crazy, which being told to think outside of the box definitely doesn't have a creative brainstorm. Definitely. Does it do? No, I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that. OK, I was on. So what I want to ask you now is these final two segments of the podcast, which are called Fill In the Blanks and the final five to fill in the blanks is I read a sentence and you have to fill in the final word and the final five on introduced straight after that.
So are you ready? Yep. So, OK, let me think which ones I want to pick up on a choice for you here.
Challenging conventional wisdom starts with. Getting out of your jail cell, OK, absorbing complex issues. Begins with simplifying them nice, reframing a problem welcomes. Better answers. What impresses me most about humans is their ability to. Adapts to the to the uncertain nice. These are your final fights, so the final five, these are questions that are answered in one word to one sentence maximum. You can you're very good. You follow the rules, which is a wonderful not everyone always does.
I really appreciate those not. Here we go. This is some of these are a bit more personal. If you feel the need to talk a bit more, you can be the first to actually. How often do you walk Einstein and do you find yourself to be more creative during those times?
Yeah, we walk him my wife Kathy and I walk him once or twice a day at least. And absolutely some of the best ideas I've had in in recent memory have come during those walks because one, I'm stepping away from what I'm doing and actually letting my subconscious make connections. But also I've got an amazing partner with me, a sounding board, who is asking me the right questions that because she doesn't know what I'm working on. So she has an outsider perspective that with that we talked about and she'll often help me see things that I'm missing.
I love that. And that's beautiful. The second question is actually about love, because you started the book dedicated to Cathy. You my cosmic constant. Yes. What was that? What was the thinking behind using that terminology? What does that mean to you? Well, I think it's you know, it was a connection to the universe, of course, and thinking like a rocket scientist. And and I've had so many changes in my life coming from Turkey to the United States as an immigrant and then from astrophysics to law, practicing lawyer to law professor and then from law professor to popular author and speaker.
So the ground underneath my feet has never been stable, really, and my whole life is just the changes. The only or seems like change is the only constant. But there is another constant in my life, which is which is gothe weirdly enough, I also dedicate my book to my wife.
I love that. Yeah. People I see in their minds says to my wife, who's more month than I'll ever be. I love that so much. And it's very true. OK, cool.
All right. Last three questions of the interview and what's something that you will once said to know that you recently changed your mind on?
I was certain once that science and spirituality could not be reconciled, and I have changed my opinion about that in the past, probably year or two. Actually, I was always I had this very materialistic view of the world, not in the monetary sense, but in the sense that like anything that's not subject to prove or disprove by the scientific method. Was that worth thinking about?
And and I don't think that anymore. I think science and spirituality is thinking like a monk and thinking like a rocket scientist can coexist and in ways that are beneficial to to both fields. OK, last two questions. If you could create a law that everyone in the world would have to follow, what would it be?
If I could create a law that everyone in the world had to had to follow. You know, be kinder to one another. I know it sounds cliche, but it's it's so important to just be a little bit more kinder to one another and to see each other in a way that we don't see each other, you know, not looking at people like a commercial transaction, a business card, or the person standing in between you and your Starbucks macchiato.
But actually seeing them as a human being who's experienced joy and sorrow, who's experienced triumph and grief in all of their imperfect, beautiful glory.
We don't do that. You know, we just walk past people. We just see through each other as opposed to really see each other. And I think that would be the the law I would create is is require us to actually to actually see each other.
Yeah, I love that. Thank you. And the fifth and final question is, what was your biggest lesson that you learned from the last 12 months?
Success doesn't make you happy if you're not happy with your success. And it's not that I wasn't happy. It just I think I've had this. And this isn't just 12 months, by the way. It's probably my whole life I have tied myself. I tied myself worth around my accomplishments. And so I would sort of get a big dopamine hit, whatever. I succeeded at something. And I always thought that happiness was over the next mountain. And as long as I conquer this, next thing you know, achieve this, the next milestone that's going to bring me bring me happiness.
But if you're not happy before success, you're not going to be happy after success. And to me, it's happiness comes from not those big moments that you anticipates going back to what we talked about before, but actually reorienting your focus toward the process, toward the little joys of life, like the joy of our morning walk with Einstein, the joy of, you know, my my morning cup of coffee, the joy of an unknown, eternal and uninterrupted hour of writing.
That's where the that's where happiness comes from. Happiness to me, that doesn't come from the the big accomplishments.
Regardless of what it might look like from the outside, it's always hard to win whenever we first admit that. It's hard to kind of stomach it sometimes. Like I also for a long time realize that in at least in my opinion, happiness and success are two different things. Yeah, and success is based on what I achieve. And happiness is based on how I feel about myself and how I feel about what I'm doing and contributing. And I don't think happiness, if you're happy, it makes you more successful.
And I don't think of you as successful. It makes you happy. I think they are just what they are. And and it's OK. Like, I think I, I have dreams to be happy and I always have dreams to be successful and I have plans to be happy and have plans to be successful in it. And I see them as separate. They, they, they get me different, a different sense of meaning and fulfillment in different ways.
And when you try and interconnect them, which is what I think you're saying, there's so many of us for so long believed that if we're successful, we'd be happy. Well, the opposite, too, which is if you're happy, then you'll be successful. And that's not that's not true either. You know, it just doesn't really matter. And you can define what each of them are for you. So no, thank you. Thank you for sharing that and really appreciate everyone.
This is Roseanne Barr and the book Think Like a Rocket Scientist. Simple strategies you can use to make giant leaps in work and life. You can go and grab a copy. Now, I obviously highly recommend this book. I think it's fascinating the way, as I can tell, Stories is a phenomenal writer. Of course, you can check out his blog as well, that the book definitely goes to that point of just crystallizing a lot of these really, really important and fascinating tips.
And that's what I love about the book Inside It. Stepto makes sense, but it will be so much more practical and deeper for you if you dive into the stories in the studies that design makes really, really clear for us like he's done today. Amazon, thank you so much for joining me on purpose family. Really, really great for me. And I hope we actually get to meet in person one day, too.
Yeah, I love that as well. You just live right down the coast here. And if I can say one more thing, I'd love to offer a special bonus to your audience for getting a copy of the book. If you head over to rocket science book dot com for a purpose, you'll find twelve short videos that I recorded recorded. These are like three minute besides videos with practical, actionable insights from the book that you can implement right away. I'm also going to share with you a thirty minute productivity video that I have that takes takes you behind the scenes on sort of how I structure my days and how I get more done in less time.
And you can find all of that at rocket science post.com for this purpose.
I love that. Thank you so much for doing that. I really, really appreciate it. And make sure you make the of that rocket science book don't come forward slash purpose to get all of that information and it's all free. So please, please, please go and grab it. He sat on the opportunity, of course, go and grab a copy of the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and I'm sure will other good bookshops. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much. My pleasure, Jay. Such a phone conversation. Thanks for having me on.
Ukraines. Hi, I'm Nick Lyle, Slavophiles, and I want to invite you guys to give our show a listen if you're looking to fall in love with a new podcast, I'm someone who's been around the block and in my relationships in life, and I've certainly learned a lot about myself and in relationships. And we spent a lot of time on our show talking about social dynamics and interpersonal relationships. We have two great shows for you to check out our Asked Nick episodes on Monday.
Our callers call in, they share their problems, their questions, and I decide to share my insight, my opinions. And some people seem to find it helpful. Sometimes I surprise myself.
And on Wednesdays, check us out where we have a more traditional show with all sorts of types of guests, experts, personalities, actors, athletes, interesting people, and just have some insightful conversations where we learn about life, love and all things that you can possibly imagine.
We will look forward to seeing you there. Are you a home repair or improvement pro looking to grow your business home adviser can help every two seconds. Home adviser matches homeowners looking for help with their projects with the best local pros in the area who can do the job. That means your business gets connected to new customers quickly and easily. Get started now and adviser will help you find your next job. As a listener, you can redeem a hundred dollar lead credit when you sign up text grow one hundred to six seven zero seven six to get started with your 100 dollar credit or visit home advisor.
Dotcoms grow 100 again. That's Home Advisor Dotcom grow one hundred.