Mar 17, 2021

Don't say it’s impossible

In reading Elon Musk’s biography, it is clear that a big pet peeve of his is people telling him something is impossible. 

Here’s a passage that I particularly like in response to an employee telling him that a deadline for a specific part at SpaceX to be built was impossible:

Elon will say, ‘Fine. You’re off the project, and I am now the CEO of the project. I will do your job and be the CEO of two companies at the same time. I will deliver it,’” Brogan said. “What’s crazy is that Elon actually does it. Every time he’s fired someone and taken their job, he’s delivered on whatever the project was.

One of Elon Musk’s superpowers, that the majority of people lack, is the open-mindedness to try and succeed at doing the “impossible”.

Here’s another footnote that I liked from the book that illustrates this:

It should be noted that there are many people in the space industry who doubt reusable rockets will work, in large part because of the stress the machines and metal go through during launch. It’s not clear that the most prized customers will even consider the reused spacecraft for launches due to their inherent risks. This is a big reason that other countries and companies have not pursued the technology. There’s a camp of space experts who think Musk is flat-out wasting his time, and that engineering calculations already prove the reusable rockets to be a fool’s errand.

This book was published in 2015 when it was still unclear whether reusable rockets would work but we now know that they do. It is astonishing how wrong the “experts” were. Instead of trying to figure how to reuse the rockets, people were totally comfortable with the idea of building and destroying a massive rocket after each launch. This seems ridiculous in retrospect.

It is dumb to state something is impossible, unless it violates the known laws of physics. Maybe something is expensive to do, in terms of time or money, but it’s probably possible and potentially worth doing.