Post a new topic
    0 Replies Latest reply on Feb 16, 2009 7:14 PM by modernbusines

    How Man Really Got to the Moon: An Exercise in Goal Setting

    modernbusines Adventurer
      The following is an article I have recently written on my blog at and I thought it might be of particular interest to those who are planning on starting a business, or taking their business and/or life to uncharted territories of success through powerful goal setting. For more articles like this, be sure to stop by and subscribe.


      How Man Really Got to the Moon: An Exercise in Goal Setting

      On May 25th of 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress and announced his intention to place a man on the moon, and return him to earth safely, prior to the end of the decade. While space travel seems more and more commonplace these days, and almost routine to most people, it is important to put this statement into context. At that time, in 1961, the United States had barely put a man into space, much less near or on the moon. To many, stating such a goal was more an act of lunacy as opposed to something obtainable. Yet, despite the critics, in July of 1969 when Neil Armstrong took the first human steps on the moon, the unattainable became a reality. So, how exactly did this happen? The key lies within "goal setting".


      Goal setting is an art, and an exercise in self belief to be sure. However, it is also a discipline which can be learned, and in the opinion of this author, the greatest successes stem from the goals which do seem to be ludicrous when setting them. Donald Trump refers to this kind of mindset as "Thinking Big and Kicking Ass". While discussing setting goals, Jim Collins coins these types of goals as "BHAGS", or Big Hairy Audacious Goals. BHAGS, I believe, are what propel you forward in your personal and professional life. Landing an man on the moon before the end of the 60's and returning him to earth safely can certainly be considered a BHAG. While setting attainable and common goals can certainly help organize you from day to day (which is certainly an act that should not be overlooked or downplayed), it is the goals that get you outside of your comfort zone that yield the most benefit in the long term. These are the goals that will propel you towards personal and business development, and without them it may be difficult to evolve in these areas.


      Name the Goal, and Think BIG


      Naming the goal would certainly be the first step in the process of propelling yourself forward. Note that Kennedy did not propose to "have a man in space", "Orbit the moon", or even "land an unmanned craft on the lunar surface". He proposed a goal even larger than anyone believed could be successfully met. It was outside the realm of what people felt comfortable with (as it had not been done before and their minds were battling between reality and possibility). This is one of the greatest lessons that one can learn with "big goal setting", that is making the unattainable, attainable. No-one would have believed that putting a man on the moon, and certainly in the proposed timeframe, would have been possible. However, the successful achievement of this goal was made possible through the very act of committing to it. Do not underestimate the power of committing to something. If you believe it is possible, commit to it. In doing so, you will be forced to boil down the steps necessary to reach that goal into smaller, more palatable milestones. For example, once NASA understood what the end goal was, and committed to it, the many brilliant minds were forced into action to determine how to get from where they are, to where the goal specifies that they need to be. Immediately the gears started turning. They needed to put a man in space for a sustained period of time, they needed to understand the implications of traveling deeper in space than had previously been done, they needed to devise a way to break away from the main craft and land on the moon, and they needed to determine how they would bring that astronaut back from the moon safely. Countless thousands of tasks and steps would flesh themselves out, and this was all made possible and facilitated through committing to this BHAG.


      Be Specific with Your Goals


      Be certain that when you are setting your "big goal", you are specific. Note the specificity of of Kennedy's proposal. He stated that we would put a man on the moon, return him to earth safely, and that this would all be done prior to the end of the decade. Not only is he specific with the goal, but he determines the deadline for this goal. This is a vital part of the equation, as the aggressive timeline helped to fuel the innovation required to make the goal a reality. Ensure that your goals have specified timelines. For example, do you want to lose weight? Setting the goal of "I want to lose some weight" will likely not get you to where you need to be, and it can lead to endless cycles of self doubt. Rather, set the goal as "I will lose 20 pounds by the end of April". This sets the specific success criteria AND the time allotted to doing so. This specificity will likely help push you into determining what needs to be done to complete that goal in that amount of time.


      Commit, And Burn Your Ships


      Equally as important as everything that I have stated thus far is your commitment to the goal. What if the USA had not fully committed to the goal set forth by Kennedy, or Kennedy himself had not fully committed? The chance for failure would have been increased exponentially. Kennedy knew this, and in his address to Congress, he ensured the commitment of all involved. Kennedy stated in his address, the following:

      "Let it be clear-and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make-let if be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action-a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal ‘62 - an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all."

      For your goal to truly spark the innovation required to complete it, you MUST fully commit yourself. One method that will help you in doing so is "burning your ships". When Hernando Cortez took his 11 ships and 600 men to the Yucatan Peninsula, they found themselves in a hostile environment, and fiercely outnumbered by the Aztec empire. Noting the dissention in his men, and understanding that they took comfort in the possibility of escape via the ships that they arrived in, Cortez did something that would solidify the men's commitment of the goal of conquering the Aztecs... he burned all of the ships. This meant that there would be no escape for any of the men, and the only way to survive would be through victory. By "burning his ships", Cortez and his men eventually did conquer their adversaries who vastly outnumbered them. Kennedy also suggested that we "burn our ships" with the space program by announcing our intent to meet the goal to the entire world. Kennedy stated in his address to Congress:

      "We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful."

      Ensure that you have given full commitment to the successful outcome of your goal. If not, there is a very real negative consequence that can occur outside of the unsuccessful completion of your goal. A commitment to a goal is a deal that you are making with yourself. If you made a deal with someone, and they broke their commitment, you would likely have a hard time trusting them again. The same is true with deals you make with yourself. Breaking your commitment to yourself can form a vicious cycle of self doubt that is not easily corrected. This is not to say that failure to meet this goal, given that you fully committed to it, will result in such self doubt. Rather, that failure to fully commit and devote all your resources to that commitment can be devastating on the psyche.


      Setting "big hairy audacious goals" is never an easy thing, and committing to them is seldom a given. In doing so however, you tap into a side of yourself that you might not have otherwise utilized. You propel yourself forward to meet the goal, and you navigate either through, or around any obstacles in your way. Let us take the lesson of committing to putting a man on the moon as an example of how thinking big and committing fully can push us into new areas of success that were previously unrealized.