I’m too young to remember when Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon, but somehow I still ended up with Apollo themed jammies and our family patriotically drank Tang©. Mom bought scads of those Space Food Sticks© in the foil wrappers, which tasted like tubular chocolate flavored beef jerky.
My Mom even found recipes for “hot Tang®” (Big Reveal: it’s hot water and Tang© powder) and made that drink for our frequent snowmachine expeditions. Hot Tang™ tastes like you might expect.
The entire hopes and dreams of our nation, and, indeed, the world followed three brave men as their capsule door was closed. Thunderous engines fired, and the massive space ship shook off condensed ice on its hull as it shuddered, at first slowly, and then quickly into the Florida sky. Every television in the world was tuned to the voyage when the spaceship left Earth orbit and hurled into a lunar intercept. The astronauts ran through the checklists, and in a journey worthy itself of a Hollywood film, managed to land on the Moon mere seconds before the lander would run out of fuel. While preparing to launch back to rendezvous with the orbiting Apollo capsule, Buzz Aldrin looked down and saw the circuit breaker had broken off. He then did the coolest thing ever done on the Moon:
“Since it was electrical, I decided not to put my finger in, or use anything that had metal on the end. I had a felt-tipped pen in the shoulder pocket of my suit that might do the job. After moving the countdown procedure up by a couple of hours in case it didn’t work, I inserted the pen into the small opening where the circuit breaker switch should have been, and pushed it in; sure enough, the circuit breaker held. We were going to get off the moon, after all.”
This was a total Boy Scout/Be Prepared moment. Faced with the prospect of a lonely death in sight of his home planet, Buzz decided that no way was some stupid circuit breaker is gonna hold him back. Buzz has steel in his soul and has the brains (BS in Mechanical Engineering, PhD in Astronautics) to take action.
You’d smile, too, if you were going to get to eat space food. Buzz is on the right.
Additionally, Buzz was the first person to pee on the Moon, but that wasn’t due to Armstrong’s lousy piloting, it was due to Buzz being a total dude.
So, you’re 39, you’ve just walked on the Moon. I mean YOU JUST WALKED ON THE MOON! (and peed on it, too) and . . . Now What?
When you achieve your goals, “Now What?” is the hardest question. It was even harder for Buzz Aldrin. He was internationally known, and had done a life’s achievement, but life was yet to be completed for him. He already had his epitaph (“THIS IS THE SECOND DUDE TO STEP ON THE MOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”), and he was only 39. How do you go up from there?
He didn’t know, and that was the worst thing that can happen to a man. (I think the answer may be different for women – men leave a legacy to history by what they do, women leave a legacy through their children, but I have no experience being a woman, other than the time the football team I was on dressed up like cheerleaders for a Pep Rally. The clothes were not comfortable, except for the skirt. The skirt was okay.)
In the 1970’s Buzz, his legacy seemingly set, spiraled downhill until he was ready to spiral back up.
What changed? He changed, he moved his goals from being on the first team to the Moon to figuring how to best get man to Mars, and even now has figured out a fairly quick, low energy (not in a Jeb Bush way, but rather using less rocket fuel) way to get there that he’s trying to sell to NASA. Is that a worthy goal? Yes. Is it one he can throw his whole being at and change the destiny of mankind (again)? Yes. But from me to you, Buzz, NASA can’t even get a paperclip into space right now, so keep spending time with that guy whose name rhymes with Belon Rusk. Just sayin’.
(An aside, isn’t NASA not being able to send people into space a lot like, say, the Arby’s running out of roast beef????)
Buzz is a personal hero, for his intellect, but also for the way that he transformed himself to something better than before, by creating goals for himself that are lofty, meaningful, and difficult as can be, and being bull-headed enough to achieve them.
Why is he my hero? Because I had (unwittingly) created a goal trap for myself. I wanted to have sufficient funds to take care of my family for the foreseeable future. This isn’t “buy myself an island and declare myself a sovereign nation type of money, but WilderNetWorth® (which is 10 years of life expenses in the bank, free and clear). I hit that goal several years ago. It’s not a bad goal, but for me it was probably too significant to the way that I thought about the world. And I hadn’t been working on the next goal, or really, I hadn’t even defined it. Frankly, I didn’t realize the problem was as big as it was for me personally. Then I remembered Buzz. Heck, if he can do it . . .
That’s an interesting question, because if we don’t have a direction in life, regardless of the motion, we’re just treading water. I know that Scott Adams has had wild success with his focus on Systems over Goals (and there is a great deal of evidence to support him) but there are times and places for goals, and perhaps even certain personalities that are goal driven. Being good enough to be selected as one of the first people to go to the Moon just *might* imply a bit of goal driven behavior. We will talk more about Mr. Adams philosophy the future posts (and I agree with him in many respects), but he is certainly one of the most original thinkers on the planet today.
But a system is a thing you do to maintain, and even improve. At least for me, when I hit my weight goal, I’ll have in place a system to maintain.
All that being said – I still have goals.
Finding your goal for some of you is probably the easiest thing in the world, but for me it was hard, and I’m not sure I’m fully there even now. I read dozens of books and websites, and two of particular help were The Nine Laws and Halftime.
Particularly useful for me was the exercise (in both books) that deals with owning up to your own mortality and deciding what you want to be known for. Spending a few hours in that thought bubble will help you understand what really is important, and will get you focused on what is really missing in your goals. And, in future posts, we’ll come back to that, too.
“Now What?” for me (at least in part) are these words I’m writing to you right now – it’s my goal to be an uncomfortable influence on you every day (okay, at least three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) to ensure you wake up . My goal is to be like Tony Robbins©, but with less hair, stalking you via this blog to encourage you on rough days, and to inspire you on good days to make them great.
Now, get up, get going and make the world awesome. Otherwise I’ll make you drink hot Tang©.