“I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of human beings to face challenges."
45 years ago today, man first set foot on the moon.
Neil Armstrong's little bounces across the lunar surface, broadcast around the globe in grainy black and white, captured the imagination of a nation in a way that hasn't happened since (although a sound argument could be made for US goalkeeper Tim Howard's recent performance in the World Cup.)
On that day in 1969, we had reached the pinnacle of technological achievement as a country. That moment represented years of hard work, grit, and imagination on the part of engineers, scientists, manufacturers, and astronauts. There is truly no better example of entrepreneurial spirit in our history than that July morning 45 years ago.
Looking back, there are many lessons to be learned from that moment in history. There is no better model for today's entrepreneurs, whose mandate is to make big, audacious goals a reality. So let's take a look at what can be gleaned from the efforts and experience of putting the first man on the moon.
While it is a challenge for us to wrap our heads around the idea of a world where the moon was out of reach, that's exactly what it was when JFK gave his now legendary speech at Rice University, famously declaring, "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
It takes bold vision to drive entrepreneurs forward into uncharted waters. The concept of the personal computer was crazy until Steve Jobs and Apple made it a reality. A world without software was unthinkable until Marc Benioff showed the tech world the way. Entrepreneurs need to dream big in order to inspire those around them.
If the employees of NASA hadn't bought into JFK's dream, or if the astronauts hadn't thought it possible, Apollo 11 would have never made it to the launchpad. It's not enough simply to have big dreams; you also need to convince those around you that your dreams are possible, and those people can in turn sell that dream to your customers.
That is how industry paradigm shifts take place, when people can unite around one goal and have the singular focus to do everything they can to make that goal a reality. The biggest challenge of an entrepreneur is never having the big idea. It's convincing other people to follow you and help you achieve it.
We often forget that the Soviet Union played a huge part in making the moon landing happen. Without the pressure and competition with the USSR, it might have taken years longer for the moon landing to happen—if it would have happened at all.
The drive to get there first—the urgency to get a product to market—is the fuel that powers the furious pace at which entrepreneurs operate. That drive, created by competition, is an entrepreneur's indispensable ally. Never fear your competition; it is the impetus that drives truly great breakthroughs and pushes entrepreneurs to be at their best.
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