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Impact Makers

Oct 22, 2020

How many times have you heard the phrase - “Well, it’s not exactly rocket science” when someone is referring to something as easy? 

I guess that means that we associate those who actually ARE rocket scientists with being exceptionally smart. 

And while that’s probably true - actually it IS true - the reality is that you and I can think like a rocket scientist, without actually having to send anything into space. 

So, just how do rocket scientists think? And how can you and I apply that thinking to our work and our lives in order to increase our impact? 


My guest on Episode 47 of the Impact Makers Podcast has an idea. In fact, he’s been there, done that, and has written the book on it. 

Ozan Varol is a rocket scientist turned award-winning professor and #1 bestselling author. He’s also one of the world’s foremost experts in creativity, innovation, and critical thinking.


Ozan grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, learned English as his second language, and moved to the United States by himself at the age of 17 to attend Cornell University and major in astrophysics in order to achieve his dream of becoming an American astronaut. 


While attending Cornell, he served on the operations team for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers project that sent two rovers – Spirit and Opportunity – to Mars. Then in a surprising twist, ditched his dream to become an astronaut, and chose to attend law school instead, where - in true rocket scientist form - he graduated first in his class, earning the highest grade point average in the school’s history.


After practicing law for a few years, he decided to join the ranks of academia at Lewis & Clark Law School in beautiful Portland, Oregon, where he became a law professor, with a goal of influencing others to make giant leaps on Earth. 


In April 2020, Ozan’s book - Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life - was published, and it was recently named one’s 6 Business Books You Need to Read in 2020


It’s also listed as one of Amazon’s Top 20 books of 2020 in three categories (non-fiction, business, and science), and was chosen as the number one pick on noted author Adam Grant’s list of the top 20 leadership books of 2020

I recently connected with Ozan, and have enjoyed learning from him through his popular weekly emails, and I’m challenging myself to apply the 9 strategies in his book to make giant leaps in my work and in my life. 

I think you’ll get a lot of great takeaways from my conversation with Ozan today, and you can find links in the show notes to connect with him, buy the book, and sign up for his weekly email that shares one big idea that you can read in 3 minutes or less.


Topics Discussed In This Episode:​​

  • Why moonshot thinking can produce great results - even if you don’t reach what you’re aiming for. 
  • What we can learn from snakes that can create space for new ideas to emerge.
  • The importance of just starting - and not waiting until everything is in place - to facilitate the emergence of new ideas.
  • The benefits of moonshot thinking during times of chaos and uncertainty.
  • How looking at the assumptions in your life and applying first principles thinking can generate original insights.
  • 3 ways to open up your mind to allow for moonshot thinking - even if you don’t consider yourself a visionary thinker. 
  • What George Costanza and rocket scientists have in common - and what you can learn from both.
  • The power of putting yourself into “Airplane Mode”, and why doing nothing is more valuable than you think. 


People & Resources Mentioned In This episode:

Ozan Varol

Weekly Contrarian - one big idea you can read in 3 minutes or less

Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life Hardcover by Ozan Varol

Impact Makers Podcast episode 009 - Prison to Plan to Payoff: Becoming an Entrepreneur with Kary Oberbrunner

Adam Grant

X, the Moonshot Factory

Astro Teller


Elon Musk

Blue Origin


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