Goal Achievement – One Small Step For A Man?

It was only in my previous article that I was writing in wonder at the images of the Curiosity rover on Mars in August 2012, magnificent illustration of the goals we can achieve – then came the news that Neil Armstrong had died…

I was only 3 when man landed on the moon. Or should that be when ‘mankind’ landed on the moon?

"The Great Gordino"

click to go to nasa.gov

What’s the difference? Well, in the image of the footprint left on the moon after that first walk, is it a footprint of ‘a’ man, of the footprint of mankind?

Armstrong always said that he only thought of his first words on the moon after launch and in the capsule before he stepped out. Part of me finds that hard to believe, but in the many documentaries I have seen about him, his love seemed to be in the testing and engineering side of things, so it does seem possible that his first words would have been airy fairy irrelevance to him.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” was what he came up with, and the watching world lapped up the profoundness of it.

Except Armstrong was insistent that he said it was one small step for ’a’ man – after all, without the ’a’ then man and mankind mean the same thing, and an engineer wouldn’t be wasting words like that!

He did admit that even he couldn’t hear the ’a’ when listening to it, and preferred the quote to include it in brackets, because even though it may or may not be there, it should have been!

You may think that it matters not a jot when you take a large view of that day back in 1969, so let’s do just that…

It was the first time we as a race had ever stepped foot on anywhere other than our planet. However far we eventually go into the universe, that moment on that day will always be the first.

It was a part of history, but it was living history, and with Armstrong’s death it moves into a different section of the history annals.

Armstrong was quiet man, not interested in celebrity, and he said he would always be a white socked nerdy engineer. He loved the small details, and risked his life many times as he pushed flight tests to the limits and beyond, just to see what happened.

That showed the mental strength he had, and it’s sort of fitting that the boldest, biggest, brashest of ideas – walking on the moon – was realised by someone who represented aiming for those ideas with considered and purposeful rationality.

Here’s a great picture of him back in the module after the moonwalk – looking pretty pleased with things!

"goal achievement"

just back after a nice little stroll..

So, does it matter about the man/mankind words? Well no, not really, but I like to look at it as an example of small details, and it’s small details that add up to make a big goal.

For example, when Armstrong and Aldrin got back into the module to take off, their suits had broken the ignition switch, so they had to use part of a pen to make it work! For the next mission, that switch was moved, a lesson had been taken on board quite literally, and the goal of space flight had been made easier for the next people.

Whatever your goal is, it’s likely that the small details of that goal will also have been worked out by others before you, laying out a path that you can follow to see what happens.

Look at your goal, and then look at where you are now. Map out as many of those details as you can between you and the goal, and then take your own first step!

Let me know what you think!
‘Til Next Time,
Health & happiness,
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  • Thanks Gordon, love this! I was nearly 7 when the first moon landing happened. I can vaguely remember watching it on telly, although my clearer memory is of one of the landings in the sea which I think must have been Apollo 13. My view on the words is that we all know what he meant, and it’s a pity when people get too caught up in the debate and lose sight of the big picture. The story about the pen is great, hadn’t heard that. Those details……….this reminds me of one of the things I often talk about: having a mentor. It’s really valuable to find someone who has taken your path, or something similar, before and can help you move forwards. Usually it costs a lot but it’s a worthwhile investment. Better than getting stuck and not moving at all!

    • Thanks Harriet,
      I did enjoy the pen story too – imagine how they felt when they looked at it and realised they had broken it! Also there is the story of how NASA spent all the time and money to develop a pen that could operate upside down and in zero gravity, whereas the Russians just used a pencil!
      You make a great point about a mentor/coach. Yes, you can research a lot of info on your own, and implement it on your own, but a mentor give you that added sense of belief, plus another aspect which can be equally as important – accountability!
      Cheers, Gordon

  • Didn’t know that story about the broken switch; funny – what I remember about the walk on the moon is that it happened the same time as Woodstock and I couldn’t go! Maybe that’s why I fell asleep trying to wait for Neil to take that historic first step…

    Wonderful lesson about learning from mistakes; often it’s the mistakes that provide the greatest opportunity for growth yet the way in which they’re perceived can launch the aspiring goal-getter into a sense of failure and the real lesson’s lost.

    Thanks for the great story!

    • Thanks Andrea!
      You are so right about the opportunities for growth that we can find in mistakes – it might only seem a small mental shift, but it can have such big consequences.
      Also, with most goals, you get the chance to go again – if Neil did make a mistake with his words, that one moment was gone, there was no second go, but most goal journeys are more like the pen story: mistake, lesson, improvement.

      Cheers, Gordon

  • Thanks Gordon,

    I love this post, fantastic! I was 7 when the first moon landing happened. I can remember watching it on telly with my dad in the middle of the night. I did not understand a word of what Neil Armstrong said, as I didn’t spoke English at the time, but being an technical engineer myself, I do now understand the major difference due to a insignificant small word choice! Whenever I see the moon Neil Armstrong and the other astronauts will be in my thoughts.

    Thanks for this great post.


    • I find nothing stops me in my tracks more than looking up at a full moon and thinking that we managed to send humans up there – it’s almost beyond belief, and has given me a feelgood boost for many many years!
      Cheers, Gordon

  • Hey Gordino,
    I enjoyed your article. I can remember watching about this on tv when I was young.I was just watching the history channel on tv about their mission to the moon about an hour or two before reading your article.But as for the small details I believe that they lead do you there.


    • Hi Barry,
      I found that watching the documentaries really showed how at the edge the science was at the time, often seemingly making it up as they went along. You’re definitely right that the details go to make up the whole.