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The Right Kind of Crazy

A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation
Narrated by: Christopher Grove
Length: 7 hrs and 13 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (176 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From Adam Steltzner, who led the Entry, Descent, and Landing team in landing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars, comes a profound book about breakthrough innovation in the face of the impossible.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is home to some of history’s most jaw-dropping feats of engineering. 

When NASA needed to land Curiosity - a 2,000-pound, $2.5 billion rover - on the surface of Mars, 140 million miles away, they turned to JPL. Steltzner’s team couldn’t test their kooky solution, the Sky Crane. They were on an unmissable deadline, and the world would be watching when they succeeded - or failed. At the helm of this effort was an unlikely rocket scientist and accidental leader, Adam Steltzner. After barely graduating from high school, he followed his curiosity to the local community college to find out why the stars moved. 

Soon he discovered an astonishing gift for math and physics. After getting his PhD he ensconced himself within JPL, NASA’s decidedly unbureaucratic cousin, where success in a mission is the only metric that matters.  

The Right Kind of Crazy is a first-person account of innovation that is relevant to any­one working in science, art, or technology. 

For instance, Steltzner describes:

  • How his team learned to switch from fear-based to curiosity-based decision making
  • How to escape “The Dark Room” - the creative block caused by fear, uncertainty, and the lack of a clear path forward
  • How to tell when we’re too in love with our own ideas to be objective about them - and, conversely, when to fight for them
  • How to foster mutual respect within teams while still bashing bad ideas 

The Right Kind of Crazy is a book for anyone who wants to channel their craziness into creativity, balance discord and harmony, and find a signal in a flood of noise.

©2016 Adam Steltzner and William Patrick (P)2016 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Wasn't what I was hoping.

I'd give this book a solid "C-" rating overall. I picked it up hoping it'd be an exciting story primarily about the team, the decisions, and the process of how a complex NASA mission comes together.

The book had some of that, but not enough. There's a fair amount of biography that felt a bit unnecessary, arrogant, or seemed forced (like what motivational quites he claims to have written on his college physics exam equation sheets). Parts seem contradictory (bashing what he calls transition points from NASA Langley, but never seems to acknowledge his own designs had 100 transition points, etc.). Overall, the book came across too similar to a politician, who wrote a book to "write down his version of history."

Perhaps I'm biased. As a scientist who's got no current connection to NASA, I was hoping to pick up a book that'll turn my eyes to the heavens in wonder. I almost stopped listening when it became clear that feeling would never come.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Very interesting with practical advice

Very rarely does story telling and leadership lessons come through in one book. Adam put it all together and ignited a passion for the engineer in me to challenge my curiosity.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Loved it!

I wasn't sure what to expect. Was it going to be a technical looking at EDL? But it turned out to be a technical work and a great motivational. Seeing how problems were solved and technical challenges overcome was refreshing.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rob
  • Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • 09-07-16

For space AND business geeks

I'm not often planning a 10-year mission to land a Mini Cooper-sized UFO on a hostile planet like Mars but the lessons Steltzner suffers through while doing just this can be applied to every day life. I'm a space and business geek...this satisfies both sides of that coin.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Engaging

Good mix of lessons in problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership. The subject-matter of Mars landings keeps the story engaging.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A Challenge to Curiosity and Creativity

Steltzner spins a good story. He can be a little full of himself, but his audacious, inquiring spirit is contagious. Good insights into problem solving and team building.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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All that craziness expected

The book taught me about a lot of points of life as professional. Specially related to the common goal. Which drives to success of the project and the leading aspect of human nature for connections in the ongoing activities.
Highly recommended for those who are willing to be an executive some day.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent recount of an amazing story

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes - Interesting story of leadership and management faith

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Right Kind of Crazy?

When Nasa finally approved rover on a rope

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Russell
  • Durham, New Caledonia
  • 01-20-16

Right Kind of Crazy is Right Kind of Book

If you could sum up The Right Kind of Crazy in three words, what would they be?

Inspiring Insightful Human

What did you like best about this story?

From first word to last, Right Kind of Crazy paints a picture of human potential and our drive to reach it, only to find there is even more potential on the other side then we ever realized. It compels the listener onward, to understand what happens when we're scared of discovering our potential and what happens when we go for it, eyes wide open because our curiosity says we have to. And throughout, this narrative unfolds to reinforce how much more potential there is when we come together in order to do great things. The fact that all of this unfolds in the context of interplanetary exploration is just icing on the cake...

Have you listened to any of Christopher Grove’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Have not, but after this one, looking forward to hearing more of his work.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

What a great gift to kick off 2016. Thank you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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team leadership 101 and awesome space crafts.

Great book about curiosity to learn more, being a team and cool entry-descent-landing tales from Mars.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful