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Transcript #68: Conscious Leadership in Action with Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space

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Episode #68: Conscious Leadership in Action with Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space

Caneel Joyce:

Welcome back to Allowed, I am your host, Caneel Joyce. And I’m here with you today with a client whom I met a long time ago in my coaching life, and I think in his life as a founder, as well. This is a person who has inspired me repeatedly, as I told him.

 

I remember when I became smitten with him as a leader and a person, who really, I think, can challenge the way that we think about the journey of being a founder. This man is inventing something that you may… Your jaw may drop when I tell you about what he’s up to, what he and his company are up to, as well as how quickly this company has grown, and how much it stands to change, literally, not just the world, but the solar system as we know it.

 

So, this man, Tim Ellis, he and his team have collectively built the largest 3D printer on the planet, and have proven themselves capable of printing rockets. So this is a machine, that with very few parts, can put together, and rapidly iterate upon designs, for things that can fly not just in our own stratosphere, but also can go into outer space. I’ll let him tell you more about that. These things are humongous, they tower above the human body, and it’s pretty inspiring to see.

 

Now, why does any of that matter? I’ll let him tell you about that. So you’re in for a ride and a treat. We are going to get to know this very special human being, whom I hope can help you discover how leading from your own zone of genius is the one and only path to you being the great one that you can be. Welcome to the show, Tim Ellis.

Tim Ellis:

Yeah, awesome, Caneel. Thanks for having me, and yeah, happy to chat and share our story.

Caneel Joyce:

I’d love you to describe, in your own words, your mission and vision with this company.

Tim Ellis:

I guess first a little more about me. So I started my career as a rocket propulsion development engineer. I was working at Jeff Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin. So, first joined when the whole propulsion team there was only about 20 people.

 

At first, as an intern, and then did a few back to back internships, and then was there full-time for a few years. So I would go from a blank sheet of paper to first working version of a rocket engine, and did all the different steps in between, did first metal 3D printing at Blue Origin, and then ultimately started the metal 3D printing division.

 

So putting all of that together, then had the idea to found Relativity. So the goal of Relativity, and really the initial inspiration, was watching SpaceX land rockets and dock with the International Space Station. When I founded Relativity five years ago, SpaceX was 13 years old, and despite all of that success, they were still the only company in the world that wanted to make humanity multiplanetary and go to Mars and launch people there.

 

All their animations were really beautiful, but they’ve faded to black right when the people walked out on Mars, and I thought, “Man, why, despite that really cool, inspiring success has no one else started to help make this mission happen?”

 

And then I also saw, with 3D printing… I really felt it was inevitable to build an industrial base on Mars and on another planet, and so at some point in humanity’s future, a company had to be founded to actually build that technology. Otherwise, it just wasn’t going to happen in our lifetime.

Caneel Joyce:

Hmm.

Tim Ellis:

So I had felt Relativity could be that company. And then the second inspiring part of it was really looking at an aerospace factory, for the last 60 years, has not fundamentally changed. We’re still building products one at a time, by hand, with these giant factories full of fixed tooling and big complicated machines that are building products with hundreds of thousands of individual parts with a very complicated supply chain.

 

So I really felt 3D printing was an automation technology that was a new tech stack for aerospace, much like electric vehicles and batteries, and Tesla came along, and that was a new tech stack for cars and transportation, versus gas and internal combustion engines. So we had the opportunity to actually build that. So that founded Relativity, we’re 3D printing rockets.

 

So we design the rocket… We actually have two rockets now we’re developing. Plus, we also build the 3D printers in the factory. We’ve raised about $700 million to date, and it’s been like… yeah, as you said, a wild ride. I’m happy to share more personal anecdotes along the way.

Caneel Joyce:

Let me just tell you first, as I hear this story, and I put myself in the shoes of someone who’s been outside of this… You and I met shortly after you and your co-founder, Jordan Noone graduated from Y Combinator. This is this in 2016, I believe at the time your team had five employees?

Tim Ellis:

Yeah. I believe we had five, and… but we were still a very, very young company. I do remember, looking back, and me and Jordan started working with you, it was… Yeah, we were early.

Caneel Joyce:

You were really early. How old were you then?

Tim Ellis:

I think I was 25. Maybe 26. I founded Relativity at 25. Jordan was 22, I believe. So yeah, we’re quite early in our career. But yeah, I’ve definitely found rate of learning is very important.

Caneel Joyce:

Yes, yeah. I would say that’s one of your superpowers as a leader. It’s really what has enabled you to scale, so, so quickly.

 

One of the reasons I love working with startup founders is… Now it’s hard to call you a startup. But you’re a venture-backed company, and you were super small when we first met. But the way that that particular game of business plays, is it plays through you, as an individual, and the big dare is, can you change as fast as your company will? Can you change as fast as your company needs you to? Because if you can’t stay one step ahead of that change, you’re going to feel the pain. It’s like boot camp for the soul.

Tim Ellis:

Yeah, yeah. It is. It is inevitable that there will come a time, even if you learn really, really fast. I’ve definitely found that there are times where your company’s growing way faster than you are, and it is painful, it is hard. It is actually one of the hardest things about running a startup, when you are stretched, and you’re growing.

 

I even tell our team this, it’s kind of like… When life is good, it’s usually when you say, there’s highs and there’s lows, but the lows, you pick yourself back up again. Usually, people say that when things are pretty good. But you forget that when there’s lows, the whole point of them is that you forget that there are highs and that things come back.

 

So I think, especially being a founder, you are putting your vision out there, and it feels really deeply personal. When investors reject you, or hires reject you, or it feels like maybe the team isn’t set up for success. You can definitely take a lot on yourself and… Dealing with those emotions is probably one of the hardest parts of running a startup. Just the self psychology of it all and the intensity of it all is a lot to contend with.

Caneel Joyce:

What’s the time When you felt really challenged by your startup? What are some of those hard emotional times you can remember now?

Tim Ellis:

Yeah. The question is almost, when did I not? Yeah, it is hard. So just more color. So when we met… I think maybe we even started talking when we were just two people, when we were hiring our first employees. So we started in Y Combinator, we then raised series A straight out of YC, so we had about $10 million of funding.

 

This is back in 2016. And then slowly started hiring. So we hired up to about 14 people. I had actually never managed people before. That was another big challenge. But yeah, it was 14 people for the first two years, and then for the last three years, we’ve gone from 14 to nearly 400. So I think the… Your earlier point is, the most true that I’ve found is that every time you’re growing… And I’ve always heard this.

 

Every time your company in doubles, everything changes, and that’s very true as far as operations. But yeah, even with yourself, I think figuring out how to actually hire people… Probably, the people element have been the most… yeah, the most intense.

 

I think finding customers, even the rejection of investors, that stuff hurts, and that’s really intense, and, I think, hard to get through. But yeah, I still have found the greatest personal challenge with just the people side of things, like, how do you inspire and lead a team and get them to work really effectively, and deal with tons of different personalities and integrate it all together?

Caneel Joyce:

What have you learned about yourself in the process?

Tim Ellis:

I feel like I’m… In many ways, I feel like I’ve learned, to some extent, you want to double down on what you’re really, really good at in your zone of genius, and then your job is actually to hire for people that have a zone of genius that fills in for your weakness. That’s actually not bad. It doesn’t mean you can’t improve in different areas.

 

I’m still working on it. In many of areas that are not my zone of genius, I actually think it is worthwhile to continue to learn and learn from the best in that. But I think the skillset of actually being able to bring on great people is one of the most important ones, because you learn a lot from external sources and different perspectives, but almost nothing’s better than working day in and day out with people that are truly accomplished in their career, and then just learning from them.

Caneel Joyce:

Well, yeah, and learning and learning from mistakes, as well, I think, is one of the most common ways to learn.

Tim Ellis:

Yeah.

Caneel Joyce:

So it’s such a great thing to have great leaders around that you can follow in their footsteps and get their advice and get them to weigh in on things. As I said, mistakes… Are there mistakes you remember ever making along the way?

Tim Ellis:

Definitely. Yeah, definitely. I would say there was definitely that some hiring mistakes here and there. I don’t necessarily think that they were bad people. Some of them have gone on to do great things. But yeah, just catching earlier, when… yeah, people that were fit at one point in time for the company are maybe less of a fit now, and they’re just not having that much fun, really.

 

I think this dual opt-in, that I… I think about, you want people that are growing and learning, and actually excited to be on the team. So I don’t know if it’s a mistake as much as learning, that if I were to do it all over again, and certainly how I am now, it’s much faster to pick up on pattern recognition of when people are struggling, how to actually help address it directly. I think practicing a lot more directness, and just realizing…

 

I think one big turning point for feedback to me, it was realizing if you don’t give feedback, you’re actually hurting someone. You’re doing them more of a disservice than giving them feedback that they don’t want to hear, because you’re still thinking it.

 

But if you don’t tell someone directly, then you’re actually withholding insight for them to be able to learn from. Because I certainly was much more conflict-avoidant early on, and I think… I never thought it was directly from age or inexperience. I still don’t think it was. But I think it was just not having actually been in a situation of power before.

 

People were actually looking to me to lead something. In prior lives, even at Blue Origin, and even all the way back to our rocket lab in college, it was usually… I had great ideas, and I think people paid a lot of attention to that, but it was much different when the buck completely stops with you, and everyone actually reports to you.

Caneel Joyce:

Yeah. Pretty confronting. Tell us about camping in a tent.

Tim Ellis:

Yeah. Yeah. So, as I mentioned, we went from two people to 14. That was the first two years. I think a lot of the… In hindsight, that was so slow. But I think the reason… The reason it was… Yeah, it would be so much faster now. I think I was very focused on operating efficiently, I guess, and I was way at the wrong point to think about it.

 

Like, don’t make any mistakes, everything needs to be perfect and really well synced, and goals crisp and clear, and everyone’s in the same loop all the time. It was very bad, and I think the mistake there… I’ll get to the tent. Sorry. But the mistake there was thinking that we just came from companies. So Jordan Noone, my Co-founder, was at SpaceX, a lot of our early team was SpaceX, and people that came from other startups that are much larger. So I think we had been part of the chaos of a bigger company, and so we said, “Okay, great.

 

We’re going to start this one, but we’re going to run it way better. We’re going to be a lot more efficient.” That was the wrong thing. We should have been focusing on growth early on, and been okay, if things weren’t perfect. So I think that caused some of the initial slowness. But then, at the time, we were 14, so there was a moment where we raised $35 million Series B from Playground Global, and I remember standing up in front of the whole company on that day that we announced it. So I don’t think anyone really even knew we were fundraising. I just remembered telling them, “Hey, we have raised this new funding round. This is the next phase of the company.”

 

We had been going through some pretty intense cultural turmoil. There was just, I think, different visions internally of the direction we were going and what was important. We had hired, I think, a really great core set of people, but certainly hadn’t hired any executives that had really built and scaled a company before in a big way. So we’re all just learning. I remember, when I told the company, “We just got all this funding,” just the look on everyone’s faces. I was expecting celebrations and cheers, and that this news was, all of a sudden, going to bring everyone together and solve all of our problems. It was almost the exact opposite.

 

I just remembered, no one clapped, it was like… we disbanded. Of course, I’m sitting here with imposter syndrome, being like, “Am I a bad leader? Did I do a bad job?” All the voices came in my head. That was the breaking point, actually. I still remember, to this day, that was probably the lowest point of Relativity to date, because it felt like even with all the resources in the world, there just wasn’t enough internal spark in the team to rally and be able to do it.

 

So I resorted to what at least had always worked for me personally in the past, which is, whenever I’ve had a personal breaking point, there’s this… the true breaking point, where you actually feel like you can’t go on any longer, you always have to look yourself in the mirror and say, “All right. I’m about to break, so now what?”

 

I think for me, I’ve usually just rallied and done something super crazy to like… maybe it’s like a final hurrah, or going all in, or something. But in this moment, I said to myself, “Right. I got to do something crazy. It’s not about the act of working harder, but it is about the message it sends that things are going to be different.” So I actually slept in a tent in the office. I originally was planning to do it for a week or two. I think it ended up being three or four weeks, much to my partner, Michelle, because she hadn’t seen me, because I was on the funding road for five months before that, and actually moved to Silicon Valley, I think, to just do a bunch of pitches back to back to back.

 

So yeah, it was more time in the office. In hindsight, I don’t know if that actually did anything for anyone else, but it definitely did something for me, and it proved to myself that I was going to be all in and do what it took, and I was just hoping that that energy would be contagious. And then the second thing was realizing, all right, we got to shoot for absolute top of the industry talent-wise, essentially. Now that we have this funding…

 

Again, I think we have a great team, a lot of those people are still at Relativity and doing great things, but we needed people that have led 500-person teams, or a thousand-person teams, and were super well-known in the industry, not just because their resume is awesome, but because they’re just a killer engineering leader. So we started to go after some of those people, and then hire them.

 

I think that then fed a flywheel, where then I learned a lot faster how to be a great leader, because I hired people that they themselves were great leaders. In many ways, I’m in a privileged position, because I can just go hire those people. For them, many of them came from companies like SpaceX, that has probably employed, I don’t know, 20,000, maybe 30,000 people through its whole history, through cycles. Some of these people lead multi-thousand-person teams, and they were there for 14, 15 years.

 

So they actually had to do the hard work of climbing through the entire ranks and rising to the top as the best leaders. And then I get to just… I hire them and then learn from them and work with them.

Caneel Joyce:

Yes, it’s a privilege and a responsibility. I’m sure you feel that sometimes, too.

Tim Ellis:

Yeah, for sure. For better or worse, I do you feel deeply responsible. They’re a team and investors. But yeah, I’m super lucky. I have imposter syndrome all the time. The one thing I’ve never had imposter syndrome about is the $700 million or 400 people.

 

Those are just numbers to me. I guess that that part has never freaked me out as much as just getting a hold of what’s going on and the prioritization of what’s next, and what do we need to work on, and where do I need to level up, and just being increasingly self-aware about what’s important and what’s not.

Caneel Joyce:

You’ve mentioned your zone of genius a couple of times on his interview. What have you learned about what your zone of genius is and isn’t? And how has that understanding of you evolved over time?

Tim Ellis:

It’s definitely still evolving, so I wouldn’t speak about it in concrete terms now. It took a while to… I think, in hindsight… So I’ve definitely found I’m pretty good at sales, just as a skillset. So it’s not just customer sales, it’s investors, bringing them on board, hiring great people, or ultimately customers. I think a big part of that just come… I don’t know where it came from.

 

I guess it’s just I believe that myself, and I’m willing to share it in a way that actually still mind-blows me. So it’s less convincing someone, it’s more just sharing why am I convinced, and then being really open about it. So I think that’s definitely a zone of genius that I’ve come to find. But then, I also think… Strategically, we’ve made some really smart decisions, really smart. I would say there weren’t actually really any giant mistakes, strategically.

 

Everything, from getting our launch sites, and how we approach product market fit early on, how we iterated that, the next product we’re building, a lot of that was actually pretty right. So I do think strategy, and having the first sight of how things are going to play out, and really come into a good solution there was a big one.

 

I think areas that I’m focusing on now, I think operationally, when it comes to metric-sizing or operating by metrics and insights and data and goal setting and really clear accountability and really clear… rallying the team and having your finger on the pulse of exactly how everyone’s doing, and not leading or coaching through what you think is the best, but really paying attention to what actually works with each person, I think I’m still building the mental map of that.

 

I think, light years, the last two or three years, light years ahead of where I was when I started. But yeah, I think I’m finding that the EQ game and really the management skills and coaching and leadership skills of a team, that is a deep, deep game that has a lot of levels and a lot of learning, and just takes quite a bit more time. I haven’t seen people that are necessarily natural, out of the gate, on it. I think everyone feels like a fish out of water, to some extent.

Caneel Joyce:

That’s what I keep hearing. Yeah, it’s definitely what seems to be the norm. So, the decision to leave YC, 25 years old, you and a co-founder, and to go and invest in an experienced executive coach is not a decision that every single person in your class at YC made.

Tim Ellis:

No.

Caneel Joyce:

Why did you choose-

Tim Ellis:

I don’t think so.

Caneel Joyce:

… to make that investment at that stage?

Tim Ellis:

So I think there were two real things, actually. So the first is, there was a lady, Amy, I believe her name was, at YC, she was a partner. I think she’s left since. But she was their internal founder psychologist or coach that actually worked at YC. So they did give the advice to everyone that this was a great investment, and that you should do it. Of course, not everyone took the advice. For whatever reason. But I’ve always actually taken… Almost every advisor just asked tons of questions, and then really humble, and pretended like you knew nothing.

 

Think actually being young, and never have been in the startup world, and somewhat naive was actually a really big strength, because I just asked a ton of questions and had networks to find the best people to get advice from. I think investing in coaching over the last couple of years has really built a self-awareness skillsets.

 

So yeah, the second piece of it was, I had a co-founder. Me and Jordan, I think, even, at that point we started the company, knew each other for seven or eight years. We knew each other through a lot of college. He was a few years younger than I was. But we had worked together in the same rocket lab, I went off to Blue Origin, he went off to SpaceX. And then after we had left the companies, on our drives home, we quickly formulated what became Relativity.

 

But yeah, I think we’re really different people, and we’ve learned we are very different people. It’s like a marriage, really. It was kind of like, we had got married as very different people, and then had to figure out how to work together. So investing in coaching really helped us be more self-aware about our relationship, and ultimately figure out ways to scale together and actually invest in, not just ourselves, individually, but how we were actually showing up as a team, that I think ultimately helped us certainly work together significantly longer.

 

Jordan has since went on to… He started a venture capital firm, and I’ve heard some rumblings that he’s working to get into some other stuff of what comes next. I think we, because of that experience, are really able to actually learn a ton together.

Caneel Joyce:

Hmm. Are there specific things you remember learning, like a breakthrough aha moment, big insight along the way?

Tim Ellis:

Yeah, there was a lot. I think, especially from coaching… Yeah, it was really great, because I think it put a bunch of frameworks together that were not prescriptive, but actually help ascribe meaning to your own thought process. So things like imposter syndrome, which I’ve mentioned a lot, which is really, actually, things are going very well, but you have this habit yourself of not really being used to that state, where people are looking up to you and you think you’re great and amazing and doing a good job.

 

So it’s just like putting a name to that. I think upper limiting is another one I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, where things actually gets so overwhelmingly good, that ironically, you actually do things to self-sabotage that state and make yourself feel sad or hollow, essentially. I thought that was really interesting, because even before Relativity, I remember it that totally happened to me.

 

We’d go launch a rocket at USC, and pretty much that day was actually a bad day, usually, for me. I would usually not feel great on the day that something amazing was accomplished, and that’s been for many, many years. And then now the concept of upper limiting, it makes a ton of sense. It makes a ton of sense. So I think just more awareness, it’s not about controlling your psychology, but I think more awareness and more learning just helps you name what’s going on, and I think that just puts a lot more mental framework to the experience of being a founder.

 

So, same with co-founder dynamics. Before we started working with you, we were only a few months old as a company, but then certainly, as we started to scale and worked together through the years, I just think it helped put a framework together when we were really disagreeing about something or agreeing about something, I was like, “Well, why? Why is this part actually working and going very well? Why is this part not working? Where are we both coming from?”

 

Certain things became obvious as we learned more about ourself, to then realize that, oh, yeah, this makes sense in this dynamic, because now my view of the world is, I don’t know, play to win, or, we’re going to take a big bold bets, and we’re swinging for the fences, and you think more, let’s be really efficient, and be sure that everything is really well communicated, and details really matter. So then it just was more clear where we could also play towards our zones of geniuses and strengths and weaknesses. And then just made more sense why things were the way that were.

Caneel Joyce:

The two of you just had such clear complimentary personalities in so many ways. There were these opposites, and they seemed to fit together in these really nice ways.

Tim Ellis:

I think that’s why… I still remember the feeling. Especially as we were defining what Relativity was. It was super yin and yang. Essentially, when we both agreed, we knew we were coming to a very good source of truth. The odds of something being right, or the right strategy, or story, or direction when we both agreed was pretty powerful, because we would just come at it from such different places, that then I think it helped make sure what strategy we were doing, or what technology development, or who we are hiring worked for me and worked for Jordan, and that was a kind of perfect Venn diagram of what ultimately made Relativity a success so far.

Caneel Joyce:

With now close to 400 employees that you are accountable to, and 700 million raised, and rocket ship growth-

Tim Ellis:

Yep.

Caneel Joyce:

… and being in the press a lot, and all of this, how are you keeping yourself sustainable or sane?

Tim Ellis:

I think a big one for me is some unstructured time, actually, and just recognizing that I need that to recharge. So yeah, what I mean by unstructured time is sunblock, whether it’s two hours or three hours, that I know I’m not going to look at my phone or be super reactionary to emails and texts, but yeah, actually just do nothing. I listen to music a lot.

 

I think certain things are more restorative than others, but yeah, that is 100% where I get a lot of creative ideas done, and it’s really recharging. But it also is where I think a lot of the strategic breakthroughs happen, where it’s like everyone says go right and you’re going left. A lot of that spontaneity, it doesn’t even come from trying to figure it out.

 

I think just not having structured time lets your brain… it’s almost more in a meditative type state. Yeah, I’ve also done… I thought it was super weird at first, but like a float tank type… you float on salt water, it sounds so bizarre-

Caneel Joyce:

In a dark, enclosed and pitch-black, and you’re wearing a wetsuit, so you kind of… you’re buoyant, you float, and-

Tim Ellis:

Or no wetsuit.

Caneel Joyce:

Or no wetsuit. Because it’s so much saline in the water. Right?

Tim Ellis:

Yeah, just float. So yeah, it’s super interesting. But no, I found there, too, you just… it’s about doing what recharges you, and I think that’s really important. The more and more momentum we get, the more I’m also less fearful, are we going to die this year? Are we going to die this year? It’s not that there’s not a lot of execution to go, but it does feel more attractable. So then I’m realizing, okay, this is actually a marathon.

 

Now I’m 30, almost 31, so I could see, yeah, it’s like, pretty clear Relativity is going to be around on this trajectory for the next decade, ad yeah, I’m increasingly confident of that. So if that’s true, then I can now see how, all right, I need to actually figure out how to make it sustainable for that period of time. And then same with the team, too.

 

I think that’s important, and it’s a big differentiator for our culture, as well, is that… at least paying attention to these signals. Doesn’t mean we’re not going crazy hard, because we definitely are in certain places, but we’re paying more attention to it. I’ve been vulnerable with our team, and normalized more that we can actually have these conversations and talk about it.

Caneel Joyce:

Well, I remember closer to when we first started working together, and this is the last topic I think we’ll cover here, one of the biggest, I think, releases for you and your executive team, and also one of the things that allowed you guys to not leak as much energy was when it really sunk in this difference between fact versus story.

Tim Ellis:

Yeah. I think fact and story is a really, really good framework that I’ve… yeah. Again, it’s one of these things from coaching that in hindsight, it’s so simple, but no one ever thinks about it that way. And then once you do, it’s like, you can’t turn back, and then you start to see it everywhere. So fact and story where, essentially, any feedback.

 

It’s great for feedback, or it’s great for situations where people have difference of opinions, and someone’s like, “Oh, well, I see it this way.” And you’re like, “Well, I see it this way.” You just break it down and say, “Okay, well, factually, here’s what happened.” And then the other person can say factually, here’s what happened for them. Emotions are facts.

 

I thought that was also pretty interesting, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s like, sensory-wise, what was said and what’s happening, and then from there, you are figuring out what stories you’re telling. So from the same set of facts… The facts, everyone should agree on. And then the stories are things that many people would have completely different interpretations of the same facts. But I think it’s just recognizing that that’s what it is.

 

We’ve got the same series of facts, but we have different stories about them, and things that you’re saying are making me make a story up in my mind, which may or may not be true, but I feel it’s very true, because I’m telling it to myself, and that’s heightening emotions. I think separating that lets you be a much more objective and consistently [inaudible 00:38:39].

 

And I do think consistency is also very important, especially at scale, because the ship is quite hard to turn, both as quickly as it grows, and then as large as it does. So consistency is pretty important to try to get to, because it’s more about compounding the direction that you set, and each direction change just takes more time from the team to move forward.

Caneel Joyce:

I’d love if you could just touch briefly upon, why is this mission and vision that you’re on… why does it matter? Why does space matter to you?

Tim Ellis:

So it matters a lot, but I’m not a space geek or rocket nerd like at all. Okay, maybe I am a little bit, at this point. But I didn’t start out that way. I actually originally went to USC, thinking I was going to graduate and be a screenwriter. So I actually had nearly perfect grades in science and math in high school, but actually dropped out of those classes to join the school newspaper.

 

And then how to draft a novel in high school. I had this dream of being a writer, and USC was a great film school, so… I’ve always felt more creative at heart, and I just think of engineering more like creativity with physics. And then, of course, being an entrepreneur, it’s even better, because you have to be a storyteller, and really learn how to congeal a vision, which is super fun to me. So I think from that standpoint, I think going to Mars and making humanity multiplanetary is really just important for the vision of what the human species is all about.

 

I think there’s tons of problems to solve on earth, and there’s no question about that. But to me, it just gets much more philosophical and existential. If we were having this conversation, and there were actually a million people living on another planet right now, having their own conversations, and maybe long distance relationships and love stories between Earth and Mars, and…

 

Really, it’s about expanding the possibilities for human experience, and I just think the emotions, the complexity of what it means to be a human being would be greatly expanded. And then that’s worthwhile, because what else is the point of being human, other than just expanding experience and maximizing our potential as a species? I think that’s why it’s worthwhile, is because really, I think it is about what is the ultimate purpose of our species.

Caneel Joyce:

Is it a purpose of our species? Does it matter, necessarily, that we get there?

Tim Ellis:

I think I’m less… I certainly want it to happen in reality, because I think it’s a lot more inspiring for it to be real than for it to just be an idea. I think film and many art forms already carry you somewhere else in fantasy land. So I do think actually making it happen is a lot more interesting. But no, I think it’s what it means to be human to me.

 

I think one of the most unique traits about human beings is that we are willing to go after things that are seemingly impossible, and come out the other side, somehow, against all odds, successful. And I think it’s just about the pursuit of something so ambitious, and so seemingly impossible, and then proving to the world and to ourselves that, yeah, despite that, we figured it out.

 

I think that’s just really interesting, because I think it just is more what it means to be human, and then spend your life doing that. I have, since high school, thought about what I want to do, from the standpoint of, all right, I’m already 90 years old, looking backwards, what do I wish I spent my time on? Everyone dies eventually, anyway.

 

I’m not like fatalistic about it, but I think it’s actually extremely empowering, because you can’t actually fail. You can pretty much do whatever you want, and literally cannot fail if you take that perspective of life, that it’s going to end eventually anyway, so this is just play time to do amazing things. I think, at least for me, I get a ton of energy from that place, because it’s, I think, inarguable.

Caneel Joyce:

Well, Tim, that’s all we’ve got time for today. There’s tons of questions I didn’t ask you, but we have such a good collection of things. Did you get to cover what you wanted to cover?

Tim Ellis:

Yeah, yeah. I thought it was fantastic. No, I’d be happy to share more in the future. I think I haven’t done a ton of this to date, but I think as… I’ve picked up on… Actually, learning some stuff through the years now, it feels like it’s always great to share.

Caneel Joyce:

So thank you so much for taking the time to learn something, hopefully, new and interesting and inspiring today. I really hope this brought you some clarity. Please do share and recommend this show to others. That is very helpful for getting the world on the same page with you, and now you’ve got a team of champions that you can be in dialogue with about this stuff. All right. Thank you so much for being here, have a wonderful day, and I’ll see you next week.

 

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