America wanted to be the first country to put men on the moon, so they pumped billions of dollars into NASA to get there before the USSR.
But once Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had set foot on that dusty lump of rock floating 384,000 kilometres out in space we call the moon, things kind of fizzled out for the American space programme. The US had ‘won’ the race by their definition—even though the USSR was first to put a satellite and a human into orbit—but didn’t have any idea what to do next. So they ended up playing golf on the moon (really).
Meanwhile the Russians found a new purpose — figuring out how to live and work in space. The knowledge they acquired constructing the Salyut (1971) and Mir (1986) space stations was vital to the success of the International Space Station, which still uses suits, rockets and modules based on fifty-year-old Soviet designs.
(I’m remembering how much I used to love reading about space technology when I was a kid now).
Don't set yourself goals
The last time I set out New Years resolutions for myself, things didn’t pan out so well. I wish I could say it was a spectacular failure but in reality it was the kind that falls to the ground with a dull thud.
The problem with setting a finish line is knowing what the hell to do when you get there.
Alan Shepard on the moon with a makeshift golf club during the Apollo 14 mission
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, increase your fitness or switch careers, setting a goal is not always a good idea.
When I wrote 1,000 words a day for a month, I had a goal of doing it for 30 days straight… and just about made it. But crossing that imaginary finish line left me simultaneously elated and out of breath, and my writing output flatlined for months afterwards as a result.
It's the little things that add up (over time)
Instead of fixating on a pot of gold on the horizon, focus on optimising the things you do every day.
Build systems for yourself:
- If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
- If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
- If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.
- If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.
Let’s take another example. Recently I’ve been concentrating on making writing an automatic habit, something that I do each Sunday morning no matter my mood or location. It’s meant that I’ve written on trains, in hotel rooms and even on the bus home, but I’ve ended up with enough material to write a book, even though it was never an objective I’d set out for myself this year.
If your goal is to lose ten pounds, you may wake up each day with failure in mind because the goal is hard to reach, and you are only progressing by small amounts. It takes up all your willpower. I recommend that instead of a goal you have a system. Willpower is a finite resource.
— Scott Adams
The next you’re setting out a plan, pause for a moment to consider your motives.
I think setting yourself goals makes you less happy, and you can still achieve great results without them in your life.
- Feeling lost? Relax. You're probably headed in the right direction
- Cosmonauts: How Russia Won the Space Race (BBC4)
- Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta on Goals
- A real-time recreation of the Apollo 11 mission
- Dilbert's Scott Adams on Why It's Better to Have a System Than a Goal
Posted to life in 2014.