What do astronauts and the most successful startup founders have in common? Well, quite a lot, it turns out.
Both driven and deliberate, entrepreneurs and astronauts tend to possess special skills that push them forward and help them reach their goals.
If you're just starting out - and even if you're not - here are a few vital attributes of the men and women with the Right Stuff worth emulating:
"There are no wishy-washy astronauts," in the words of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. "You don't get up there by being uncaring and blase." If there's a constant in the dreams of space explorers, it's determination. Most started thinking about a career in space very young, and worked hard to gain the skills necessary to realize their goal.
You may need to ask yourself if you truly have that drive. If you don't think you do, it might help to give your goal a sense of purpose. Why do you care about a new app or electronic device? To support your family? To make people's lives easier? To change the world?
Be honest about your motivation and use that as a long-range target. But, to help keep yourself focused and confident, set goals for yourself along the way that are challenging but attainable. Astronaut Mae Jemison has great advice for those who think big. "What we find is that if you have a goal that is very, very far out, and you approach it in little steps, you start to get there faster. Your mind opens up to the possibilities."
Be a Calculated Risk-Taker
I was surprised at first by Astronaut Michael J. Massimino's statement, "I think most astronauts are not risk takers." Risky business seems like the very definition of the space program. But, Massimo elaborates. "We take calculated risks for something that we think is worthwhile."
That's the difference. As a startup founder, you may feel obliged to risk it all. But, don't neglect to incorporate a risk-evaluation process from the start. You want to take calculated risks, after all, not some blind, shot-in-the-dark.
A recent study by Forbes Insights, on behalf of financial services giant Deloitte, found that an increasing number of companies are integrating strategic risk analysis into their business planning process. Every potential obstacle and new technology is considered, and an appropriate business model is formulated, which accepts that setbacks and realignments will be inevitable.
By initiating and implementing a risk-evaluation process into your daily business, you can plan your next moves with less fear of the unknown.
As you develop your business plan, be realistic. High risk, competition, and market fluctuations, don't mean you shouldn't try.
But, they do mean understanding the challenges and moving forward accordingly. As space shuttle pilot John Young aptly put it, "Anyone who sits on top of the largest hydrogen-oxygen fueled system in the world, knowing they're going to light the bottom, and doesn't get a little worried, does not fully understand the situation."
Hopefully, your startup experience isn't that dangerous. But, getting a new venture off the ground is risky! You're gambling a lot of people's time and money - including your own! Being realistic might mean sharing the risk. If you can't make it happen by yourself, consider partners and a co-founder.
If you're developing a software product set a realistic timeline for delivery. You're not doing anyone any favors making promises you can't keep. People will still need to be paid while the extra days and weeks go by. Better to have planned for a longer development period during the initial fundraising and budgeting process.
Don't ignore the Problems
"Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here."
When one of Apollo 13's oxygen tanks exploded on 13 April 1970, command module pilot John available . hereSwigert had to deliver the stark news to Mission Control. Commander James A. Lovell followed by describing the problem as simply and succinctly as possible. And for good reason. The engineers back on Earth needed to know exactly what had happened to correct the problem and get the astronauts home. The transcript of the exchange is
You're going to meet challenges along the way. Acknowledge them. Apologize to shareholders and customers, if necessary.
Then put aside ego and attitude, and fix the problem even if it means being honest about your own shortcomings. After all, as Chris Hadfield once joked, "there is no problem so bad you can't make it worse." You may find that you suddenly need to upgrade your own knowledge base, learning more about cloud-based technology, for example, or the latest marketing techniques.
You can also learn a lot from your mistakes. Vani Kola is a Managing Director at Kalaari Capital, based in Bangalore, India. suggests that much can be gleaned from failure, in particular the Challenger disaster. "The accident, tragic as it was, is used as a case study for various topics, engineering ethics, dangers of group thinking, decision structures, client intimidation, topics that are relevant even today for startups and their management teams to contemplate."She
Be An Explorer of Opportunities
Jean Clauteaux from Uriji Jami, a storytelling startup, recently had the opportunity to sit down with Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American engineer who captured headlines in 2006 as the first female private space explorer. I asked him if she was able to give him any special advice.
"She truly inspired us," Clauteaux told me. "Anousheh reminded me, 'the most important thing in your endeavor is to help people, help your team to increase capacity to build their own path, help your customers to have a better life. As an entrepreneur, you are an explorer of opportunities.'"
Not surprisingly, all of these traits, from determination to a sense of adventure, will work in synergy to give you the strongest foundation to make your startup dream a reality. And like the astronauts, the best entrepreneurs find that many lives can be changed through their startup ventures.
To quote Anousheh Ansari's mission patch: "Imagine, Be the change, Inspire"