On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech to a joint session of Congress that set the United States, and the World on a course to the moon: it was daring, ambitious, geez Louise – many thought it was downright crazy – but there it was, in black and white:
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.
John F. Kennedy
2978 days later, on the 20 July 1969 Neil A. Armstrong became the first human to step foot on another world: our world came to a stop, staring upwards collectively, our worldview permanently changed.
Today we tend to look back and see both these events in the context of the past, seen through the success of the final achievement. But when JFK made that speech we’d barely mastered orbiting the earth – the longest American space flight up to that date was 15 minutes, the jet engine was only 20 years old – hell, a time before powered flight was even possible, was still in living memory: to say we’d step foot on another, ostensibly unknown, world wasn’t just ambitious, it was something else, something this very event gave us a word for.
This was a moonshot.
Now defined in your dictionaries as “an extremely ambitious and innovative project.” I believe Moonshots are critical to every person and business, it’s healthy to set huge goals: because it’s the huge and ambitious goals that challenge you to innovate, it’s all too easy to bumble through project after project making progress on individual jobs that pay bills but ultimately don’t add value to your overall offering.
It’s here that having moonshot goals allows you to put skill learning, the jobs and people you work with, and your planning processes in focus: moonshots help shake out the pointless, the energy sapping, and the avenues which on quick inspection may look promising, but with the clarity of that broad picture quickly become obvious dead ends.
Moonshot goals help you define what is important, they allow you context to create genuine granular plans faster and more efficiently than you would otherwise have, because you have that end goal to place your immediate plans within – and that’s frequently where I know my short term planning can fail. There’s often so much going on I don’t know where to start; but with a larger goal to work toward you can create streams of activity which give immediate definition and purpose to everything you do, making your work focussed, efficient and engaged.
Not all took JFK seriously, many mocked his ambition, and it’s almost certain that if you set yourself moonshot goals that you’ll find people that either don’t understand their value, or through lack of vision simply mock you. The former will eventually see your progress and will often enjoy your enthusiasm and journey, the latter you can’t help – and painful as that can sometimes be – you’ll often find that if they’re willing to mock your big dreams, they’re also just as happy to impart negative energy and cynicism to your daily life as well; and seriously who needs those people in their lives? Not me.
It’s no great secret that I’ve always been ambitious, and thanks to parents and a partner that allowed me the space to dream and explore the things I wanted to do I’ve been privileged to have led a life guided by the mindset that if I put my shoulder to the door I will be able to open it.
As a result I’ve done some pretty cool stuff over the years: from broadcast presentation to running a political war room, and from organizing festivals to setting up design agencies, fashion labels and much more, it’s been a blast! But the track of my ambition was rudely derailed by the political situation here in the UK – The B word, for it shall not be mentioned here, made me reassess my goals and painfully made me realize that many of the things I’d planned for long term might not be possible here anymore.
So the last few months I’ve been back to the drawing board: and approaching 40 next year, I now have myself a new set of goals for the decade to come: emigrating half way across the world, striking out with a new business that carries my name, building a home for my family, and studio and workshop that will finally allow me to fully explore all of the avenues that my creativity wants to – and crucially to finally take all the projects that I have the skills and the time to do, but have always left simmering on the back of the hob: from radio stations to podcasts, blogs, a collection of my photography, and more: I have my big goals set for the next 15 years: they’re crazy goals, but I know I have the skills, talent, enthusiasm and support to make these happen.
They are my moonshot. Find yours.
Photo Credit: NASA Archive Public Domain
Photo Location: Sea of Tranquility, The Moon