Quote of the Month: Dan Canin

At the recommendation of one of my bosses, I’m reading a book called Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales, which examines the psychology behind accidents (aviation, space flight, hiking, rock climbing, etc.).  It takes a very interesting look at how we are capable of being very intelligent but have blind spots in our thought process.  In a weird way, it is very similar to the recent Wired article featuring Teller about the psychology of magic.

On page 113 of my paperback version, Gonzales quotes Lockeed engineer Dan Canin who was commenting on the trade-offs between safety and pushing boundaries with NASA:

“Shit happens, and if we want to restrict ourselves to things where shit can’t happen . . . we’re not going to do anything very interesting.”

We all take on projects with a certain amount of risk.  In Mr. Canin’s case, that risk equates to whether or not people will live or not, something I’m not experienced with seeing as I’m pretty sure no web site ever reached through someone’s screen and attacked them.

Still, the path to greatness usually comes with risk.  The Apollo astronauts knew there was a pretty good chance they would die but they took on that risk in the name of pushing boundaries.  Space Shuttle launches sometimes become common enough that we almost tend to think of them as commercial flights, but they aren’t.

In order to make new discoveries, to “do anything interesting” as Mr. Canin put it, comes with risk.  But when you mitigate those risks and avoid them, the results can be spectacular.  Don’t assume you can make those big leaps without the risk that comes along with it.

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