How to Think Like a Rocket Scientist – Ozan Varol with Dave Asprey – #738

“The mantra in rocket science isn’t to fail fast, it’s to learn fast. The goal is to learn from each mistake, from each bad decision and improve with each iteration.”

In this episode of Bulletproof Radio, my guest, is a real-life rocket scientist. Ozan Varol definitely brings the goods in this conversation. You’ll learn how to think big, flirt with uncertainty, not be afraid to fail, and launch your success.

In his new book, “Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life,” Ozan explains how to develop critical thinking skills so you can tackle seemingly impossible things.

As an astrophysicist, Ozan was part of the operations team for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers project, where he built stuff that went to the Red Planet and wrote code that snapped photos of the Martian surface. Then he pivoted to become a lawyer, then changed direction again to become an award-winning law professor, author, and public speaker.

The whole time, he kept on thinking like a rocket scientist. Here’s Ozan’s perspective on a few of the things we talked about:

Figure Things Out: “In the real world, problems are not handed to you on a silver platter. You have to find the problem and then you have to reframe it. Define it. Figure out ways of looking at it from different angles so you can illuminate other answers that you may have initially missed, but you don’t learn any of that in school.”

Pivot & Problem-solving: “If you’re listening to this and the pandemic has disrupted the way that you conduct your business, ask yourself, how do I solve the problems that the world needs solving right now, as opposed to the problems that I want it to solve, as opposed to the problems that I expected to solve? How can I use my skills, resources, product services in a way that I haven’t used them before to address the problems that now exist in the world?

Think Long Term: “Step No. 1 is just realizing that if you are able to look toward the long term, and stop chasing short-term outcomes, the results tend to be much better at a both personal institutional level.”

Know Your Blind Spots: “Sometimes blind spots come because I am too close to the problem to think differently. And this happens quite a bit. You’re so immersed in the weeds of what you’re talking about or what you’re thinking about. And it’s hard for you to step back and see other paths.”

Find Your Curiosity: “Whenever I follow my natural curiosity, regardless of where it may be lead, that works out well for me. But when I start chasing outcomes, that completely robs the joy away from the process. Whenever I can turn process into play, work becomes play, play is work. There’s really no distinguishing between the two, and I’m just following my curiosity, regardless of where it might lead. That’s right where the magic happens.”

Enjoy! And get more resources at Dave.Asprey/podcasts.

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Follow Along with the Transcript



Book: Think Like A Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use To Make Giant Leaps In Work And Life

Key Notes

  • Interest in space began when Ozan was 4 or 5 years old – 1:55
  • What let you keep your childlike excitement? – 6:01
  • You don’t learn about the years of tweaking, struggling, failing, fixing you don’t learn about Newton’s experiments and alchemy, which spectacularly failed to convert lead into gold. – 7:58
  • First principles thinking is a way of distilling a complex system into it’s fundamental non-negotiable sub-components. – 10:47
  • All of your time on the Mars rover, and all this stuff you’ve done, what was your peak nerdgasm? – 13:55
  • When people experience awe, they become together. – 17:04
  • We then enter the workforce ill-equipped basically to deal with uncertainty. – 21:26
  • I was completely in hustle mode, leading up to the launch of the book and I wasn’t building in time to pause, reflect and deliberate. – 25:25
  • Do you have any enlightenment about where your blind spots come from? – 28:50
  • Take blockbuster, for example, right. Too close to the problem to think differently. – 30:56
  • Talk to me about your interpretation of moonshot thinking. – 33:43
  • I just worked backward from that desired outcome of like, okay, what do I need to actually get there. – 37:35
  • You say in the book, there’s one single word that boosts creativity. What is the one single word?   – 38:35
  • The power of flip-flopping and how do rocket scientists identify truth. – 41:28
  • First comes with getting out of chasing short term outcomes. – 45:16
  • Take one of your deeply held beliefs ask yourself what fact would change my opinion about this. And if the answer is no fact would change my opinion on this, you’re in trouble. – 46:45
  • The mantra in rocket science isn’t fail fast. It’s to learn fast. – 51:03

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