What’s YOUR Space Program?

We’ve always heard that the space program has done more for us than explore space, the moon, and Mars– but that we have NASA to thank for some other, “accidental,” by-products:

Teflon and Velcro come to mind — and I use those daily, I think.

What’s your space program?

In other words,

what crazy big projects keep you from being bored, and/or provide a release?

When I was a band director, I would invest dozens of hours in creating a special end-of-season marching band year-in-review movie.

Not in my contract, not needed to deliver curriculum, but it was a de-stressing project. AND – I learned a lot about video software, and packaging and pacing for maximum impact.

Side benefit? I think some of those lessons help me pace training, especially longer sessions.

A couple years ago, I tried to put together a massive event at a waterpark hotel. The vision was to bring together 400 people and 3 speakers for 2 days of learning and performing.

There were focus groups, lots of emails, and meetings to prepare and pull it off. Turns out there was no market for the event — the 40 people who attended got a lot out of it, but it did not have the predicted energy or future demand. I made $28 (exactly – seriously!) and had dozens of leftover bananas and granola bars.

The outcome? I learned things I knew nothing about before; going rates for equipment rental, needed room sizes for numbers of people, how silly it is to assume that if you rent a meeting room, you can use the built-in screen at no charge, and the racket that is “catering minimums.” Boy, that’s where they get you.

There were even more lessons that had to do with marketing, follow-through, timing… and they all helped me with my next “space program”…

I spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars developing a college class targeted at business students that provides immersion in customer service best practices at one of the best worldwide models of service – Disney World.

What did I learn? What a “fam trip” is. How catering minimums can be used to my advantage. Who to contact to set up reserved fireworks viewing areas (I’ve already used that one!). The protocol of convention site visits. Underlying trends and politics in higher education.

I also got to visit with the woman at the head of content development for Disney Youth Education in Orlando. Wow! That alone was cool. Even though the institution who started me on this course design has since put the project on hold, I’ve learned tons, AND have a “ready-to-roll” class on customer service and business leadership for the institution who wants to take the plunge.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “FedEx Days” mentioned in Daniel Pink‘s Drive.

These projects were my “FedEx Days,” but they were even broader than that — more like the space program.

What’s your space program?

If you don’t have one yet, take the plunge — you can’t predict what you’ll learn, and you’ll have a heck of a fun trip!

3 Responses

  1. Melissa
    | Reply

    I decided to design a 3’x4′ banner for a trade show display by myself instead of hiring a graphic designer- partially trying to save money, partially because I wanted to learn how to use CS. It is going slowly but I have learned SO much. And it looks pretty cool, too. 🙂

  2. Eric Stove
    | Reply

    Very intersting article, Alan! The title caught my interest, as the real space program, in a way, paved the way for my space program. My father worked in Aerospace from NASA’s inception in 1958, through 1972. He was actively involved in the Explorer, Mercury, and Apollo program, and also Skylab, and the launch of Australia’s first satelite. So, I grew up in a technical family that had an interest in electronics, computers, and technology. In the early/mid 90s, I bought a second hand computer for word processing. The curiosity took over and the next thing I knew, I was building them from parts, installing operating systems, etc., etc. Also in the late 90s, I discovered our the family hobby of ham radio From there, I learned electronics, and building and repairing my own equipment, which led to working on more electronics. Between my interest in computers, and my interest in radio, I have taken those skills learned into working part time in the IT field in our school; doing everything from networking computers, to fixing them, to now repairing iPads. All of that happened because of hobbies that were technical in nature, so my space program definitely paid off.

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply


      Thanks for weighing in. That’s a great story – and you know how potent stories can be. Keep up the curiosity, and the great work.

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