Rocket science is easy

Today’s post is in answer to my recent challenge to readers to provide me with subjects. Emma @onatrainagain (do check her out on twitter) asked me “What helps you, either professionally or personally to clear and free your mind to achieve or to enable you to work towards your own goals?”

In the comment that surrounded the challenge Emma mentioned that coaching had helped her see things more clearly and she said that it wasn’t “rocket science”. I think this comment is the perfect route in to her conundrum because you see rocket science is actually very easy. You take several inert materials and combine them together to make a big bang. The problem is that your bang is generally large, often dangerous and that creates problems. The hard part is in fact the rocket engineering. How do you harness the power and make it propel you forward? Let me give you an example. You’ve had a hard week at work so you have a quiet drink to unwind, one leads to another and suddenly you’re facing Saturday with a hangover, you don’t get all the rest you need, jobs don’t get done and before you know it, it’s Monday morning and you’re just as tired as you were. How do you unwind and feel better? It seems counter intuitive when you’re tired to do some exercise but often that helps. Now it may be that neither solution in isolation would honour your needs but perhaps a combination of the two might work. A couple of drinks followed by an early night and then a nice walk the next day could help – you see it’s how you combine the materials that enables you to control the bang and fuel your spaceship!

In Emma’s case, she actually knew intuitively what she needed to do to de-clutter her mind (the rocket science) but having a coach enabled her to combine the right elements together to reach ignition and blast off (the rocket engineering). To extend the analogy further, her question to me relates to how does one keep your spaceship heading in the right direction? I think first off, I’m at my best when I have a defined goal. I don’t always need to know all the steps. Just like when Kennedy promised America a man on the moon by the end of the 60’s, NASA didn’t know how to deliver it but that clear outcome really helped them focus and we all know how that turned out.

A spaceship in flight needs constant corrections to stay on course and I find that a combination of elements helps me maintain focus, both professionally and personally. Exercise, diet and rest are simple building blocks but essential. I struggle if one of those 3 pillars is taken away. I believe the support of friends and / or family is an integral part. Not necessarily in any particular sense of helping with your goals but their unconditional support is very nourishing.

The final part of the jigsaw is the trickiest piece for me. I’m at my best when I’m working either with like minded people or in pursuit of a goal which brings benefit to others. I have spent much of my career in public service and even now as a coach I work with individuals to effect change in their own life. Churchill once said “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” and sometimes I’m so keen to help others that I’ll prioritise their needs ahead of my own. That’s where the previous paragraph comes in, I constantly have to juggle my priorities – even as a self employed coach, work/life balance is hugely important.

So in conclusion, there is no one thing that magically clears my mind but being aware that life is a delicate, constantly shifting process (often requiring adjustment) helps take the pressure off me, allows me to come up short once in a while and surpass my own expectations  at other times. When Apollo 11 left for the moon there was no guarantee that they would land, they needed plenty of training, good equipment and a bit of luck. If they hadn’t landed they knew Apollo 12 would do the job next time round and that allowed them to operate freely (including landing with only 3 seconds of fuel left). They trusted to their training and experience and expected that they’d have to make some of it up as they went along – which sounds a lot like my life.

I hope you enjoyed the first of my series of reader suggested blogs. Find more about me at or follow on twitter @projectlibero.

2 thoughts on “Rocket science is easy

  1. Emma Reply

    Excellent post Jon. Thank you. I love the way that you pass on advice by giving clear examples that we can all relate to. Particularly like the rocket theme and the Churchill quote.

    Good luck with the rest of your challenges 🙂

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