The Right Kind of Crazy

A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation
by Adam Steltzner | Portfolio © 2016 · 256 pages

Adam Steltzner is the right kind of crazy. How else do you figure out a sky crane to drop a rover on Mars? (Hah.) In this book, he walks us through "A true story of teamwork, leadership, and high-stakes innovation." Big Ideas we cover include the power of holding on to the doubt (#HOTTD!), embracing the Dark Room, working out and shopping at Radio Shack on Mars.

As I drove home that night, I kept thinking about this movement in the sky—what I’d now call celestial mechanics—and for the first time in a long, long while, I was deeply curious about something. And that curiosity changed my life.
Adam Steltzner

“On its face, this is the story of an audacious engineering project: the design and construction of a hugely complex rover and the innovative, ‘crazy’ landing system that delivered that rover to Mars. But that’s just the basic plot.

This is also a personal story about how I ended up at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory building spacecraft and how I learned from my time at the lab to lead an extremely talented team to solve impossible problems. It is a story about harnessing human curiosity to build something truly fantastic and about being honest enough about human nature to protect ourselves from self-deception on a scale that could bring disaster. And it’s an exploration of the thought processes, leadership techniques, and problem-solving skills that went into making such an exceptional effort possible.”

~ Adam Steltzner from The Right Kind of Crazy

Have you seen the sky crane that dropped the rover on Mars?

It’s nuts.

Well, technically, it’s the right kind of crazy.

Adam Steltzner was the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineer who led the group of genius rocket scientists that made that near-impossible feat happen. Not bad for a guy who barely graduated from high school and got an F+ in his high school math classes, eh?

This is his personal story and the story of, as the sub-title suggests, “Teamwork, Leadership and High-Stakes Innovation.”

It’s a fun, fascinating, quick-reading, brain-bending book that will stretch your mind + imagination of what’s possible in general, and what’s possible within your life in particular.

I enjoyed it and if you liked watching/reading The Martian and want to get some leadership wisdom on in the context of a fun space-adventure autobiography, I think you’ll dig it. (Get a copy here.)

I’m excited to share some of my favorite, practical Big Ideas so let’s jump straight in!

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About the author


Adam Steltzner

Explorer of the Solar System, student of human nature, engineer, writer & speaker.