On Thursday, a meteor blew up over Russia. On Wednesday, there was plenty of press preparing people for an asteroid that would pass by on Friday. So, even when millions were ready to watch the skies for one cosmic event, another happened without warning that had a much greater effect. It is prudent to make plans for our futures, and we might even be considering the right topic; but, we have to be ready for surprises. No risk doesn’t exist; and, rewards can show up without warning.
Those of us living in the Pacific Northwest in about 2004 had a similar, though much smaller, experience. Our meteor explosion, called a bolide, happened at night and set off a lot of car alarms. I didn’t hear the alarms. I was tens of miles away snow camping at Lake Valhalla, in wilderness, miles from people and one lonely mountain highway. I happened to be up in the middle of the night adjusting my sleeping bag. The world turned bright. My tent glowed from every side, but there wasn’t a sound. Either someone was playing a trick with a large flashlight on a solo camper, some catastrophy happened to an airliner flying high over the pass, or the aliens had landed and were coming to take me away. I poked my head out of the tent and watched a trailing string of fire balls drift down the sky. No radio. No cell phone coverage. No one to talk to. As my adrenaline subsided I considered my choices. I could try to ignore it and go back to sleep. I could channel Monty Python and “Run away!” I could attempt to assist, because if it was a plane crash I’d probably be the first new person on the scene; but traveling on snow, alone, towards an unknown destination was risky. I decided to listen for helicopters and walk their way if they flew by. Eventually I accepted the silence and fell asleep. I learned the truth when I got home. (Want more? Buy the book.)
We (the human race) didn’t begin searching for collision course asteroids until recently. When I graduated from college in 1980 the prospect was acknowledged and dismissed as if it was as likely as extraterrestrials visiting. The solar system was assumed to be a reasonably stable place. Finally, someone started to look. Getting funding was difficult, but somehow they found some money; and then they found asteroids. A short time later they announced that a little looking proved their initial guess was wrong. They had to bump up the estimate by a factor of ten. Surprise! The job isn’t over, but there’s confidence that we’ve found most of the potentially lethal ones. We’ve even become confident enough to announce scheduled passages. “Here comes another one. Watch it online!” Then, oops. From a completely different reaction we are hit by something traveling 67,000 miles per hour. It was “small” because it only weighed 10,000 tons, 20,000,000 pounds. Maybe funding will be easier to get now. I suspect the NEO (Near Earth Object) budget is far less than NORAD‘s. The time to shift some funds was a decade or two ago, but now works too. By the way, the advocates for a meteor protection system are having trouble with their funding. HINT. (A curiosity: What did NORAD’s sensors show? They’re looking in a different direction, but what did they make of an air burst 20-30 times more powerful than the bomb we dropped on Hiroshima? Did we scramble a bomber or two? Did we change our DEFCON status? Was the President ushered towards a bunker or Air Force One?)
With foresight and an open mind, turn a negative into a positive. One of the places I’ve applied for a job sees asteroids as opportunities. That 10,000 ton asteroid that became a meteor that became a meteorite that injured people and became a news item may have been mostly metal. Many asteroids are. If not, then it may have had a lot of water. Metal and water are valuable in space and the folks at Planetary Resources plan to mine in space. As I understand it, they saw what happened with the BP spill in the Gulf, saw the extraordinary technologies required for deep-sea resource extraction, and realized mining in space was simpler, cheaper, cleaner, and possibly safer and more profitable. “Mining’s bad!” But come at it from a different and unexpected direction and it may be good. (By the way, when I applied there were 1,500 other applicants. I didn’t get the job, but I’m glad to see there are so many people who want to help.)
It is easy to live in fear. We live with long lists of what can go wrong without a moment’s notice. The list of what can go right without warning tends to be shorter and dismissed as wishful thinking; but, people do win the lottery, and some fall in love at first sight – so I hear.
As my financial situation deteriorated, I reminded myself that good news can happen within a phone call, an email, a letter, or a news item. It has happened to friends. I’ve even had some nice examples. My work on the History of Computing for Education and Learning was prompted by a conversational turn within a phone call. RSOL’s 40% then nearly 80% jumps on Tuesday and Wednesday happened without warning. Especially in the digital age, ideas, posts, photos, videos go viral without asking the owner for permission. Hannah Hart’s indiegogo crowdfunding program requested $50,000 and received over $200,000. She uploaded the videos of her watching the donations come in. It is a lesson in the emotional course of accepting overwhelming generosity.
Consulting, teaching, and simply being sociable with interesting people brings me into contact with a lot of people who are taught caution and management of their expectations despite their impressive ideas and visions. That’s prudent, but can be taken to an extreme. I like to ask, “Who do you want to be interviewed by?”; because, if their idea catches on they’re going to get noticed. Someone is going to end up on Oprah’s show. Someone is going to sit across the desk from Jon Stewart. There are no guarantees because, “No risk doesn’t exist.” yet conversely, “Rewards can show up without warning.”
I’m watching the progress of some friends’ ideas. The most exciting ones realize the pairing of simplicity with quality, are tapping into rising trends because they are champions of ideas instead of mercenaries chasing dollars, and are solutions pervasive enough to reach across the country, and beyond. Tiny houses well done: Mighty Micro Built House & paleo diets for health: Primal Island They are like many entrepreneurs, working hard without a schedule or guarantee of a return on investment, who after months or years of work may suddenly find themselves handling very healthy businesses. Welcome back to the 10,000 Hour Rule, where years of effort happen without notice until an event that makes success seem to appear overnight. The day before that critical call was a struggle. The day after will probably be a struggle too, but with much more substantial positive reinforcement (of which money is a fine example.)
I hope the same for myself. That’s how I keep my spirits up while my money was draining away. RSOL gave me a nice emotional boost. If it and the other stocks in my portfolio attain their proper valuations (according to me) my financial life will be greatly improved. Significant positive news for MicroVision could make MVIS climb at historic rates. A regular and frequent corporate client or three could be gratifying to me and my mortgage company. My collaborative self-publishing workshop could go national if we find the right support. Maybe Planetary Resources needs an ex-rocket scientist despite 1,500 other applicants. Various publishers may send me large checks because my books became best sellers, in which case, Hello Jon Stewart. Maybe my lottery ticket(s) will win me the jackpot, or some other windfall will favorably come my way. I watch them all – yet something tells me I am more like the folks at NORAD and NEO, watching here and there, but about to be surprised from a similar and different direction. The day before, I won’t know a thing about it; and then, there’s the day that will come. Stay tuned.