A giant leap is just a series of small steps

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

From the time Kennedy proclaimed “We choose to go to the moon” until Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon and uttered the famous phrase “one giant leap for mankind”, a brilliant, dedicated group of pioneering men and women undertook the impossible: to do what no one on earth had ever done.

It was a giant leap.

Without question, this giant leap wasn’t a singular step of “let’s do it” to “done”. Rather, this monumental achievement was nothing more than a series of meticulously orchestrated steps, each of which relied on the step before it.

Before the capsule could land on the moon’s pock-marked surface with a gentle cloud of dust, allowing the astronauts to step out and achieve a first among men, NASA’s engineers had to complete a dizzying array of steps. They had to calculate the landing trajectory, the weight of the spacecraft, the moon’s gravitational pull, atmosphere, the list goes on.

But before they could even calculate the approach to the moon, the brilliant minds at NASA had to figure out how to simply get a rocket’s payload into a stable earth orbit and back.

And that’s before they even addressed how to build spacesuits that could withstand the demands of space!

In some cases, the engineers had to solve problems before they even knew what questions to ask for the next step. And sometimes they had to invent the question to come up with a solution.

There were no shortcuts.

In the case of space travel, shortcuts mean death.

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

Giant leaps in technology

Achieving big leaps in technology requires the same thinking. No company has ever succeeded by delivering every single thing it promises day one.

Companies that try to deliver giant leaps in one step die. They either launch too late (death), launch a faulty product no one wants (also, death), or run out of money even trying to launch (again, death).

Giant leaps in technology are nothing more than small steps.

No shortcuts.

Consider Amazon. Day one they started doing what no one had ever done before: sell books online.

Fast forward to today, and Amazon is less known for books than they are for fast delivery for anything you could ever want, movies, paper towels, clothing, and soon even cars. And that’s only a fraction of everything the company offers.

If Amazon had tried to deliver all their current offerings in one step, they would have died.

Giant leaps are nothing more than small steps.

Amazon started with books.

Then they slowly started adding more product categories, like CDs, clothing, and computer parts.

Eventually, they offered other retailers to sell their products on the Amazon platform, thus adding integrated fulfillment.

After building internal tools to solve their own IT scaling problems, they launched AWS to offer those same services to other technology companies to become the most valuable cloud infrastructure company in the world.

In order to become the Amazon we know today, they had to go through each step that preceded it.

You can see the same pattern in Facebook which started out as a social network for college students before expanding into messenger, marketplace, an ad network, political propaganda tool (привет руссики), and soon an in-home data collection device, *cough*, I mean video conferencing tool.

If you look at Google’s history, you’ll see a similar pattern. Their first step was solving crawling the web and delivering relevant search results before taking steps to become an ad-platform, email provider, cloud-based word-processor, and much more.

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

All of these companies share the same path:

One step after another.

Each step relying on the one before it.

Rinse, repeat, until you finally look back and see a single giant, overarching leap.

Every giant leap is nothing more than a series of steps. No shortcuts. No exceptions.

Now, go put one foot in front of the other and build something great.


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Originally published at charlesforster.com.