When Goal Achievement *Was* Rocket Science – 12th April 1961!

 When writing about goal achievement, I’ve often joked that it isn’t rocket science (unless you work for NASA). There’s good reason for me saying that, but as I write this, on 12th April 2011, it’s a great time to look back 50 years to the first man in space, and wonder at goal achievement in full swing…

It’s actually also 30 years since the first US space shuttle launch, when Columbia blasted off in 1981, but that anniversary is eclipsed today by the 50 years since the first man went into space. That man was Russian Yuri Gagarin.

Both Russia and the US seemed to deny that there was any kind of space race, but everyone knows that there was, and it was a fierce one too! It was such a notable ‘first’ to achieve, that both countries wanted to get there to be able to use it on the ideological front.

They had both been sending animals into space, and the US had a manned flight planned for May 1961. Alan Shepard made that flight, but Gagarin had got there a month earlier. So, let’s look at the goal achievement elements of the story…

A comment I often make about goal achievement is that most goals you can think of have already been achieved by others, that you can find out how they did it and follow the same path. This, of course, was not the case way back in the space race, it was all a case of discovery, trial and error.

Theory had to be tested, and there was no way of knowing how it would turn out other than just trying things in reality. Safety had to be handled fairly recklessly, partly due to the desire for speedy progress, and partly due to no definition of how to make things safer!

Gagarin was only 27 when he went into space, and there are key achievement lessons in his story. Having developed an interest in flight at school, he followed that interest and learnt to fly. He then joined the Russian air force, and it was there that he got the opportunity to try out for the new space programme.

He was part of a large group of potential cosmonauts, who were put through intense physical screening. Obviously he made it through that cut, but lots of others didn’t, and their goal ended there. Some physical attributes we can control, others we can’t, and that’s a lesson to use in life.

Some goals will not be possible for you, for reasons that you cannot control, and it may be the case that you go a long way down the road to your goal before this road block appears. When that happens, acceptance is the key. I don’t like fairground rides, so I doubt *I* would pass any space programme physicals!

Back to Gagarin, who went through further tests and ended up in the final two. While the other man was from wealthy family, Gagarin was a peasant’s son, and it’s thought this swayed the decision in his favour, because it presented a better ideological front for communism. Again, that’s not something Gagarin had control over.

Something else Gagarin had no control over, was the spacecraft itself! It was unknown whether he would even remain conscious during the flight, so the craft was controlled from the ground during the 108 minute flight.

After Gagarin’s flight, the US felt they could not afford for the Russians to leave them behind in the space race, which led to President Kennedy’s famous promise of getting a man to the moon before the end of the 60s.

The scientists at that time had absolutely no idea how they would achieve that goal, it was literally a case of back to the drawing board. Going back to my joke, here was a classic case of when goal achievement *was* rocket science!

Of course we all know that the US got to the moon in 1969, even though neither Kennedy nor Gagarin lived to see it.

I love drawing goal achievement lessons from stories like this. As the US space shuttle programme draws to a close in 2011, and as the Russians continue to use rockets as they have all along, there’s another lesson which sticks in my mind…

While the US got their best scientists and inventors to come up with a pen that could work upside down in the zero gravity of space, the Russians took a much more simple route – they used a pencil!

Not all goals need incredible efforts to achieve, sometimes the simplest answer is the easiest, and it may be right in front of you. Other goals may be hard to achieve, as hard as sending a man into space perhaps.

Not likely, even though it may seem like it. The best way to find out it to simply get started! You can do your best to see if anyone else has achieved your goal, and then follow their steps, or you can take the plunge and find out as you go along! Some people prefer the adventure of finding things out for themselves.

Personally I like the approach of following where others have gone before, it seems an easier path. However you approach it though, I hope you can see how you can use the 50 year old story of the first space flight to draw inspiration for your goal achievement.

This is the kind of idea I cover in my book ‘Transform Your Life in 21 Days!’

Til next time,

Health & happiness,


Do leave a comment!

Leave a Comment