What does a Roman horse's ass have to do with the space shuttle?

Last week, I had a conversation with some business partners about the paradigms we need to change in these times of structural change. The conversation led to the topic that the most important thing for a paradigm shift is to change systems that we are trapped in without really realizing it.

Why, for example, I asked, are the letters on a computer keyboard - Q, W, E, R, T and so on - arranged on the keys in the way they are? Has the layout perhaps been scientifically researched so that we can type faster and better? No, the layout has nothing to do with it. When it was introduced for mechanical typewriters in the 19th century, the aim was not to be able to type as quickly as possible: Each keystroke moved a metal rod that struck a letter on the paper, and if you typed fast, these rods could get caught and you had to untangle them by hand. Therefore, the letters were arranged in such a way that an optimal and just not too fast writing speed could be achieved, even if it meant that frequently used letters were far apart. Then came the ballpoint typewriter and later computer keyboards, where nothing could get caught, but the arrangement of the letters remained the same.

After I had told this story, one of the attendees asked: "Do you know what the Roman horse's ass has to do with the space shuttle?"

Everyone shook their heads.

If you look at the space shuttle, he said, it had different sized rockets: One big one and two small ones. Why were they different sizes? Is it to get more speed into the rocket? No, the smaller ones were manufactured at a location from which they were transported away by freight train. And the train had to pass through a tunnel, which was of course adapted to the normal train dimensions. And why are trains as wide as they are? Because the distance between the rails has a certain width. And why are rails exactly as wide as they are, and not wider or narrower? Among other things, because there has always been a defined track width for horse-drawn carriages, which the first railroad builders followed.

And this track width in turn has to do with the track grooves that existed on the large Roman roads for the wheels of horse-drawn carriages and chariots, and they were about as wide as two horses' rumps. This was because the bars used to attach the chariot to the horses passed to the left and right of the horses running side by side.

In short, if the Romans had had different horses, or if the chariots had been pulled by three horses side by side instead of two, the space shuttle might have been built very differently.

These two stories illustrate something that we observe in many places: Many things, once established, simply stay that way for years, decades and even centuries, and we adapt without being asked and no longer question it. This is called path dependency - the longer a technology exists, the more difficult it is to break new ground. For years, decades and even centuries, we simply continue to transfer what already exists and are unable to completely redesign it. And better models remain marginal phenomena, such as the Dvorak layout for faster typing. Or take a look at how cumbersome the transition from petrol to electric cars is.

So much for the past. Now let's look to the future and think about it: In what other places are we adapting so much? Where do we not question anything, where do we allow ourselves to be restricted?

If it starts with not using the full potential of our index finger when we have the wrong keyboard, what other places are we not going to our full power to realize our full potential?

Each of us has a chance to optimize our lives in a powerful way, and that is what we at Win-Win AG have been striving to do for years: to take ourselves and our companies to a different, higher level. And all of this comes from within, as soon as you are really prepared to ask other questions and ask yourself:

  • "Does it have to be like this?"
  • "Can I do better than that?"
  • "How can I do this better?"


This is a wonderful by-product that also arises in the soul power workshop, where we consistently address the question: "What do I really really really want in life?" Because the more freely you can determine what you want from within, the easier it is for you to question things on the outside and find out how you can optimize them for yourself so that you can really live the life you want to live.

With this in mind, always be aware that the good is the enemy of the better!

Yours sincerely,
Wolfgang Sonnenburg
winning for life

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