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Dylan Taylor on Approaching Risk

Dylan Taylor on Approaching Risk

By: Leah Burton

How are the world’s leaders tackling the most demanding challenges globally? It’s a question that many of us seek to understand and a strategy we seek so that we can set ourselves up for the best outcomes in any area of our lives.

Dylan Taylor, the Chairman and CEO of Voyager Space, a space infrastructure company, has experienced his share of risk. He has spent years navigating the growth of one of the world’s largest multidisciplinary space companies, a task that is no easy feat. 

At the same time, Taylor is an avid explorer and has undertaken some of the most exciting adventures in the world. From hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro to diving 35,000 feet to the depths of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench and exploring remote wildernesses to flying to space as a commercial astronaut aboard Jeff Bezos’ New Shepard spacecraft in 2021, he has taken his fair share of risks.

It’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about approaching risk in all areas of life. But what strategies should leaders implement as they put themselves in situations where they must use risk and bridge the gap between various industry players? Dylan Taylor shares his unique take on risk and how it informs his approach to entrepreneurship, allowing him to better understand a problem before taking action. 

Lessons on Risk

Follow your Passion:

When Dylan Taylor became the 606th human to fly to space, it was an opportunity that allowed him to follow his passion as a leader whose goal is to get as many people up into space as he can while leading by example. Of course, there are risks, and as Taylor mentions, the industry’s track record isn’t excellent.

However, risk is a great way to see a new perspective. Taylor reflects on how lack of collaboration and imagination are challenges one can better examine during moments of risk. In terms of space, Taylor believes these instances where he can take risks show humans are still playing at the lowest common denominator and not pushing things forward in terms of creating higher levels of quality, environmental awareness, and stewardship for fellow humanity when it comes to the impact space exploration serves. Going to space helped him acknowledge his drive to create a humanity 2.0 where we can improve life on Earth while utilizing space to its fullest potential.

Regarding safety on the flight, Taylor told his youngest daughter, “Everyone dies. But very few people truly live and very few people push the edge of what’s possible. That’s human nature, and the more we do that, the better off we are as a species.”

This begs the question: What do you do if something goes wrong during the space expedition? 

Dylan Taylor says there are always procedures you need to follow in detail. For example, he mentions if you’re not sitting in the proper position in your seat, you won’t survive. “There are small elements of your training that you really need to pay attention to. During the simulation, it was like a puzzle you needed to solve. They’re always throwing a monkey wrench into simulation and you’d have to figure out what to do. That’s exciting.”

In case of emergency plans:

Diving into the Mariana Trench was another fascinating experience indicative of how Taylor manages risk in his everyday endeavors. When one travels over 10,000 meters at the deepest point in the ocean, if a problem arises, you must move forward and find a way to solve it. Taylor says it’s similar to his approach to his own entrepreneurship.

He says, “I’m all about calculated risks. The approach to these problems is straightforward. First, I don’t throw caution to the wind. I’ll ask hundreds of questions. 

My mentality is that I’m not committed to diving into the Challenger Deep; I’m committed to getting to the vessel and going to the dive site. If I’m not comfortable, then I won’t do it. When asking questions, I always ask myself if I understand the problem and look at it from every possible angle.”

Taylor asks what could go wrong and, if so, what Plan A, B, and then Plan C. Having a contingency plan is vital. Once Taylor is satisfied with the contingency plan and all his curiosities have been answered, he switches from what seems like a riskless mode to completely trusting in the system. “It’s a very high screening process that leads to trust so that I have no concerns,” he says.

One attribute of the process is that it helps him make decisions more quickly instead of dwelling on the problem. He ensures he understands the problem and what is needed if a situation occurs. According to Taylor, having a plan is less important than planning and ensuring everything is safeguarded. 

“It’s essential to think through options and probabilities, what’s probable and what’s possible. It’s a good way to evaluate complex problems and allows you to move quicker and operate on the fly while maintaining thoughtfulness since you thought through the scenario. You essentially have a framework to work with.”

Additionally, it’s always essential to trust people. It’s simple but not easy. Even when putting your life on the line, which is what you’re doing when going to space, even if the risks are evaluated, you have to trust your team. 

“The work hard, play hard” mentality is essential to build bonds with the team. Before the spaceflight, he and his fellow crew members shared their backgrounds, trials, and tribulations and expressed vulnerability with each other to create a better sense of collaboration and trust. 

“Putting in the time, expressing vulnerability and common vision makes contingency plans critical and helps everyone work together,” Taylor says.

Reassure Others When Hitting a Wall:

Taylor believes that if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not making decisions. “If you’re not failing it means you’re not aiming high enough. It happens all the time where leaders fall short of what they want to do.”

One of the most challenging moments for Taylor, particularly during times of crisis when you have apprehension and the moment affects you personally, is when a leader can’t commiserate with their team. He says your team needs reassurance while having that emotion is natural. Your team needs to know you feel what they feel, but you are ready, willing, and able to lead them through a crisis.

These insights can provide a helpful guide for those playing it safe or perhaps too afraid to take risks in their businesses. Seeing other leaders demonstrate thoughtful approaches to risk can open up new avenues for innovation and growth.


Published By: Aize Perez

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