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We hurled a people into space by building a pool: the case for simplification

In the tech world, it's common to hear people refer to "moonshot" companies. It's a term used to describe companies who aim to do something that seems impossible, much like the moon landing did during the space race in the 1960s.

Title: The case for simplification. On the right, a picture of a seemingly endless staircase going up a very tall mountain.

Back then, we landed on the moon by throwing everything we had at the problem. We had to invent new technologies, new processes, and new ways of thinking to make it happen. It was a massive undertaking that required a huge and diverse group of people working toward the same mission.

If you've never done it, you should ask your friends and family what they were doing when we landed on the moon. Many people remember exactly where they were and what they were doing, in vivid detail. It was a moment that changed the world.

On some level, I think we all have a desire to do something that changes the world. We want to make a difference, and we want to leave a legacy. We want to do something that matters. Whether you're working for a company hurling rockets into space or not, I'm sure you face challenges that seem impossible to overcome.

One of my favorite things about NASA of the 1950s and 60s was that their approach to unfathomable problems. They used observation and reasonable assumptions to break challenges into smaller pieces, and solved them one at a time.

  • How do you train a new astronaut for a spacewalk? Environmental Research Associates (ERA) simulated the experience by submerging space-suited earthlings.

  • How do we figure out who has the right physical characteristics to survive the force of a rocket launch? Build a people-sized centrifuge and spin them at 32 Gs until they pass out šŸ¤¢. John Glenn.

The space program is full of examples like these - and they are fantastic examples of how to pick apart big ideas into smaller chunks that can be solved one at a time.

This process is something that is important for us all to get comfortable with. When I was studying mechanical engineering in undergrad, I learned to simplify and solve problems by making helpful assumptions. In my computer science courses, we were taught to approach new problems by using algorithms and data structures to break them down into smaller pieces.

Building entire companies is no different - people will pay you for the products you build when you solve a problem for them. The more complex the problem, the more likely it is that you'll need to break it down into smaller pieces to solve it.

As you're working on building your dreams, take the time to remind yourself that this process is important, and it gets easier with practice.

You're not climbing a mountain - you're building a staircase. This is true of every project you'll ever work on, and it's true of every company that's ever been built.


Why I love watching experts

You can learn a lot from watching people who are really good at what they do - hearing them explain their thought processes and techniques is always surprisingly enlightening. These are some of my favorite examples of people who are really good at what they do, and who are also really good at explaining it.

  • šŸ–„ļø We've been building my new company using TypeScript -- which has a huge learning curve. I just started working through Matt Pocock's free TypeScript tutorials, which teach you how to solve common TypeScript problems hands-on. It's a teaching method that I really love, and I've already learned a ton.

  • šŸ‘©ā€šŸ³ Chef Sohla El-Waylly has a series on the Babish Culinary Universe YouTube Channel called Stumping Sohla. In this series, the chef is given a culinary challenge, like "Astronaut Thanksgiving" (seriously), and she solves it on the fly.

  • šŸŽø On the YouTube channel twoodford, you'll get to watch a master luthier (read: guitar repair-dude) perform miraculous repairs on an endless array of nearly priceless guitars. His patience and tenacity are incredible, and it's clear he has spent countless hours honing his skills.

I'm not an expert, but I play one on TV

I'm still not sure I can lay claim to full-on expertise in much, but that's not stopping me from sharing my work online.

  • šŸŽ™ļø on APIs You Won't Hate (the podcast), I spoke with Constantin Schreiber about his company FastGen, and his experience going through YCombinator this winter. His team is building no-code API tools, and I love their measured and thoughtful approach to building a company.
  • Over at Craftwork, my teammate Sam has been exploring the seemingly endless color choices homeowners are given for paint. If you need help with the dizzying process of picking colors, check our our exploration of white, blue, green, and pink paints.

Your turn - what's keeping you busy?

I'd love to hear what you're working on. If you're building something, or if you've found something interesting, reply to this message and let me know!

I read every reply, and I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading Tiny Improvements. If you found this helpful, I'd love it if you shared this with a friend. It helps me out a great deal.

Until next time - be excellent to each other!

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    We hurled a people into space by building a pool: the case for simplification

    Everyone has their moonshot: something that seems impossibly difficult. We can learn a lot from the people who have landed their own moonshots.

    Ā© 2019-2023 Mike Bifulco

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    Disclaimer: šŸ‘‹šŸ½ Hi there. I work as a co-founder & CTO at Craftwork. These are my opinions, and not necessarily the views of my employer.
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