Crazy Things Can Come True

March 18, 2018

"Crazy things can come true" was one of Elon Musk's opening responses after the historic test flight of Falcon Heavy on February 6, 2018. What I witnessed was amazing. What I have seen is someone dedicated to a purpose. The purpose of making the human race multi-planetary.

With a lofty and perceptively unachievable goal like making the human race multi-planetary, Elon will accomplish a lot of crazy things before it's over. While I was watching this 14-story rocket achieve orbit, I had to think I felt much like those watching the Wright Brothers fly their plane in circles at Huffman Praire on Sundays after church. It seemed unbelievable.

In both situations, we are witnessing what people can achieve when dedicated to a purpose. Each step (no matter how unbelievable) seems logical and attainable to fulfill the purpose.  For SpaceX, it was reusable rockets—"the what" they produce. This led to the need to land rockets back on land and an autonomous barge out in the ocean. Then strapping three of those rockets together to create Falcon Heavy.  Then getting all 27 rocket engines to work; the flying, the separating the two boosters, their twin landing, the second stage, the payload deployment. It did seem I was watching something unbelievable even for me who has been following SpaceX's progress for years.

The fact that my mind was having a hard time accepting it was because of my own availability bias. Cognitive biases lead us to make irrational assumptions, conclusions, and decisions.

Specifically, Availability Bias is a term to describe why we believe something is more likely because it's easier to think or picture it happening based on experience. The harder it is to think of, the less it seems to be true.

The professor, of Management and Psychology at the Whorton School, Adam Grant and the author of "Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World" goes into this cognitive bias in great detail. Non-conformists like Elon Musk and the Wright Brothers can achieve what seems to be unachievable because of their commitment to their purpose—their belief in what they are trying to accomplish along with each small step to achieve their purpose. Thomas Edison said "I didn't fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a light bulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work."

It all starts with a commitment to purpose and years of dedication to that purpose. Witnessing the final product may seem unbelievable especially when you've not seen the 100s of trails and small successes.

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