Saturday, September 10, 2005
of just beginning.
Below is a snippet from a letter sent by Robert Goddard to H.G. Wells. Goddard led an amazing life. He persevered through a lot of rough public handling to lead the world into space.
Goddard credits the ignition of his inspiration to H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, which he'd first read at age 16. He designed and launched the world's first liquid filled rocket in 1926. Got all of 41 feet and changed humanity.
A few years earlier, in 1919, he was an ascending young science star. A Ph.D, working on rocketry research partially backed by the Smithsonian.
He was an intuitive, brilliant, careful scientist, and he'd worked out the engineering and the physics of early rocketry. It was apparent to him that you could do a lot more with rocketry than all but a few folks like H.G. Wells had considered.
He got an OK to publish his scientific paper on the potential for space travel using rocketry. As the publication date approached he surely must have privately felt some anticipation and pride.
His bio as one of the Time 100 continues... "Goddard meant his moon musings to be innocent enough, but when the Times saw them, it pounced. As anyone knew, the paper explained with an editorial eye roll, space travel was impossible, since without atmosphere to push against, a rocket could not move so much as an inch. Professor Goddard, it was clear, lacked "the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."
Goddard seethed. It wasn't just that the editors got the science all wrong. It wasn't just that they didn't care for his work. It was that they had made him out a fool. Say what you will about a scientist's research, but take care when you defame the scientist. On that day, Goddard — who would ultimately be hailed as the father of modern rocketry — sank into a quarter-century sulk from which he never fully emerged. And from that sulk came some of the most incandescent achievements of his age."
Tough, wonderful stuff. Lots of lessons.
I was poking around the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian a while back and got stopped cold by a Goddard quote they'd posted. It was from a letter he'd written to H.G. Wells, dated April 20, 1932. I wrote it on a paper scrap that's been posted over my desk ever since.
"There can be no thought of finishing, for aiming at the stars, both literally and figuratively, is a problem to occupy generations, so that no matter how much progress one makes there is always the thrill of just beginning".
I really love that... The thrill of just beginning.
Goddard didn't know where his work would go. Early on, it clearly didn't go the way he'd hoped, even though he was doing great work. He just persevered. He changed the world, one day at a time, a little bit, all the time.
So, for you, my friend. As you start or grow your enterprise, it will surely not be what you expect. I expect some of it will not be as fun as you think. This isn't a script.
Remember Goddard. Remember that after years of struggle and effort, the thing that he measured his life by was not the rough personal trials and not the global awards. It was the thrill of just beginning.
Don't wait. Your new enterprise is out there to start and grow. What's in it for you? Maybe nothing. Maybe something.
However, I guarantee this. Put it in the bank. Forever, you will always have the thrill of just beginning.
Time 100 article
Wikpedia link to Robert Goddard
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum