The difference between being a space rocket and a donkey

“You’ve been a space rocket for too long now. You’ve got to be a donkey from now on”.

I felt like a bit of an idiot as soon as I said this to my client, but he laughed anyway.

The space rocket mode

The client I was speaking to had just launched a new product range. He’d been working on it for months, new branding, ordering in new product lines, setting up a new website, running focus groups on price points, all that good stuff.

And finally, it was out there and people had started buying it. Well, a few people, anyway. You know what it’s like at first.

And he was tired. He’d lived and breathed all of this for ages. The launch had been very exciting and nerve-wracking. He’d put everything into this. And of course, he’d been doing all of this on top of his normal work of running the existing business and selling the other product range.

He had been a glorious space rocket, running on high octane fuel (coffee) and reaching for the stars.


But I know that he can’t keep up this space rocket behaviour. Not even space rockets can do that. They burn bright for lift off and then spend the rest of the time going much more slowly to Saturn, or Betelgeuse. And humans definitely can’t do it. We’re not built for it, and we burn out if we try to keep up a fast pace forever.

I know this because I’ve tried to push myself too hard for too long, many times in the past. And then wondered why I’m irritable or why I get ill just as I go on holiday. And I’ve seen lots of clients work incredibly hard on something and then lose momentum at the launch phase, or just before they finish off their big project.

Software developers have a system for being able to switch between being a space rocket and being a donkey. They don’t call it that, they call it a series of sprints.

They break up a big project into different parts and then schedule a sprint where everyone is a space rocket going really fast on their part of the project for a period of time. And then they stop. And check what they’ve done, or do something a little easier for a while. They go into donkey phase.

The donkey phase


When you’re in the donkey phase, you carry on doing what you need to do, and gradually building up your marketing and all the bits and pieces you need to achieve your goals. But you do it in a consistent, measured way, plodding along every day. Here are some ideas for marketing when you’re in donkey phase.

If you’ve ever followed a training plan for a marathon, you’ll have done the same thing. You do some gentle strength building at first, then some full-on training and after that, there are some days when you don’t even go running at all. Clever sports trainers have worked out these plans because they understand how muscle strength builds up, when you need to rest and when you need to really go for it.

Maybe you need to switch between donkey and space rocket a bit more in your business.


Find out more

And here are some more articles you’ll find invaluable for creating the kind of business you want to be known for:

Tips for using Zoom for meetings and conference calls

How to handle someone being horrible to you online

How to respond to feedback



Photo credits to Spencer Watson, Anna Kaminova and John Baker from Unsplash