How to Avoid JFK’s Goal Setting Mistake

On May 25 1961 to a joint session of congress John F Kennedy set an ambitious goal to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.

Source John F Kennedy

This goal capture the imagination of a nation.

In his speech Kennedy didn’t sugar coat what it would take to achieve the goal. He made clear the decision to accept his goal would cost the nation, steal resources from other important projects, and require a commitment to stay the course on the part of the entire nation.

Most of us know the results of embarking on this huge goal.

On July 20, 1969, the goal was realized when Apollo 11 successful put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.  With the world watching we heard those immortal words from Neil Armstrong.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Today we no longer have the capacity to place a man on the moon. And for all the magnificence of the  Shuttle program, the United States cannot put a man in orbit or on the International Space Station.

What happened?

In another part of his speech to the join session of congress that May, JFK also outlined funding for other programs, and mentions a larger dream.

Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.

That dream of “even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself” gathers dust on the shelves of history for one very simple reason. The dream wasn’t big enough, wasn’t clearly defined, was timid at best by using an uncertain “perhaps” instead of something more compelling.

Kennedy set the nation on fire with an ambitious goal, but failed to create a bigger wider, larger dream to capture the excitement of a nation, which would have allowed a progression of growth, beyond the dead-end goal of putting a man on the moon.

From your huge, big, hairy audacious dream come your goals. Each goal a slice of the bigger dream.

The dream needs exceed what you can achieve in this lifetime while giving you many worth goals to sharpen and grow you.

Your dream stands beyond your ability to achieve the whole of it.

Yet it gives you those big bold goals to work toward, step by step, day by day, one step at a time: To offer you satisfaction in  attaining them, which in turn inspires you to take hold of the next biggest goal, and go for it.

Because the American space program failed to vision a dream beyond just a moon landing, we shrunk back to a lesser goal of the international space station.

Now there is talk of Mars, and putting a man on Mars…yes another audacious goal, but supported by what dream?

What does this mean for you?

Your dream needs  to pull your greatness from you.

One goal won’t get you there, but that goal, by accomplishing it, will build on the tools you need for the next slice of your dream you want to tackle.

When we fail to grow, we shrink.

Don’t allow that to happen to you.

Build that huge dream.

Nick Grimshawe


Leave a comment
  • Excellent support story to differentiate between goals and dreams! Back in the ’60 there was the competition between USA’s and USSR’s space programs that allowed the audacious goal of putting a man on the Moon to exist and be accomplished. Space programs do need a grander vision to receive support for each individual goal, in a time where most projects enter a cost versus profit analysis before being approved.
    Adrian Gurgui recently posted…Take Regular Breaks!My Profile

  • Thanks for your comments Barb. Certainly what you have done with Adkreator is a great example.


  • HI Adrian,

    Thanks for your comments. I am sure I could be accused of simplifying things a bit, but I did it to make my point. Yes we tend to dig down from dreams and try to cripple them with the evidence that won’t support them, eg funding, cost VS profit etc. Yet when Kennedy asked Wernher von Braun what it would take to accomplish his goal, von Braun is said to have replied. “The will to do it.” Yes there were a million complications all requiring separate goals, but in the end, it’s something simple like the will to do it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Copyright © 2013-14. Created by Meks. Content by Nick Grimshawe.  Powered by WordPress.

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline