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  • James McPartland

Take a Moonshot

"How do you get one step closer? Focus on 5% growth a day, align your actions with your highest values, then consistently imagine you're already there, looking back asking yourself, How did I get here?'" — James McPartland

Businessman punching through a wall

Let's take a moonshot.

I was recently on a call with a highly successful CEO; a woman who's built a rapidly growing organization and seems frustrated that the business is stuck…

At least, it’s stuck from her perspective.

I asked her to describe what she believes is in the way, and according to her, there were a number of things. So I said, “Think about it this way…

“You're looking at the moon from earth, and you're trying to think of how to get to the moon from earth (much like President Kennedy did back in the early 1960s). He was told it’s difficult to get to the next place when we look through the lens of where we are. All we see and hear about are obstacles, difficulties, and conversation after conversation of being told what can't be done.”

We end up stuck. So we took a moonshot. And this is what happened to John F. Kennedy when he did the same:

When Kennedy said he was going to put a man on the moon, he was told it couldn't be done. Special advisors, people in his cabinet, dignitaries, luminaries, and others who had accomplished great things all said the same thing: You can’t.

It wasn’t until a man who, on his own dime, came to see President Kennedy that the president heard what he needed to hear:

“Look.. you'll never be able to get to the moon from Earth because what's in front of you are obstacles… What’s in front of you are people who've never done it before. So certainly they're going to tell you it can't be done…

“What you need to do is go to the moon, stand on it, and look backward. Do that, and there are no obstacles. Then work your way all the way back to the first step you need to take to build your ship to go to the moon.”

So this CEO and I had a “moon flight” discussion. And what came out of that was a question around values. One of the ways to rev our engines for the flight we’re about to take is to look at the work we're doing and or who we're trying to be and ask if our activities are in line with our highest values.

And to do that, we must first understand what our highest values are.

When I see stress arise or if I get stuck in my life, I usually come to recognize that I'm either operating against one of my highest values, or somebody's violating one of them.

So this CEO and I looked at aligning her personal values with the business values-- envisioning them as train tracks that are going across her life, to see if the things that were happening across the tracks were in congruence with who she's trying to be and what she's trying to get to.

To expand her thinking I said, “The key to this practice is not “What do you want to do?” It’s “Who do you want to be?” And how do you bring that forward in your life, in your work, in your family, in your existence?”

For our big, hairy audacious goals in life, we do well to ask ourselves, “What do I need to LEARN to build that ship to go to the moon?” Maybe more importantly, “What do I need to UNLEARN in order to make room?”

The unlearning we often need to do is an important aspect of understanding how to fly and to be in line with our values.

But friends, go easy. We don’t need to unlearn, learn, grow or change a hundred percent,

right away. Many CEOS, entrepreneurs, and high performers struggle with this concept of “5% improvement”-- but it’s so important:

If we can get five percent better today or by the end of today over and into tomorrow, that percentage of improvement compounds over the course of a week and a month and we make pretty significant progress over time. Consistent implementation of small incremental changes set us up to win because any steps we take have to be integrated into how life is right now.

So focus on 5% growth a day, align actions with your highest values, and take a consistent look at the earth from the moon.

Look at where you are in your life and business and ask yourself, “If I was to be 10 times the size of this, what would I be thinking about?”

You may not at this point in time have the vision for 10 times bigger, but the practice will certainly expand you beyond the incremental growth that most of us fight for by continuing to work harder doing the things we're doing. And that friends, get’s us one step closer to the moon.

Take a flight. It'll be worth your time.


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