Saturday, July 18, 2009

Neil Armstrong on the Importance of Having a Great Vision

The Sky's the Limit
On the 20th July, 1969 the first lunar module touched down on the moon near the Sea of Tranquillity.

When stepping down the ladder onto the dusty surface, astronaut Neil Armstrong voiced those memorable words: "This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Many who watched the events on their television had a sense that history was being made, that this day heralded a new era in the exploration of the universe.

Sustaining Vision
While the path toward this step appeared to have started seven years earlier when Armstrong entered the space programme, in reality it began much earlier, for Armstrong said that from the time he was a child growing up in the 1930's in the American state of Ohio, he always knew that he would do something significant in aviation history. As a youngster he had a vision that he would be someone important and it was this vision that sustained him and spurred him on literally to those very great heights.

Downward Movement
A few years after that momentous event, Neil Armstrong made a very interesting observation. He said that of the fourteen men who had gone to the moon at that stage, eight of them had had a nervous breakdown after they had returned.

When asked to explain he said: “One of our biggest problems is that it takes so many years for astronauts to train. We live the space programme and we breathe the space programme then we do it and after we've done it there's nothing left! Your vision has been accomplished.”

This story from space illustrates the way that reaching toward a grand vision can be a marvellous sustainer for individuals and organizations. Although visions can be too high that they appear daunting and out of reach, often the greater the vision, the greater the spur, the more impossible the vision appears, the greater the sense of challenge it evokes.

Gordon Moyes, Be a Winner: How to Create a Positive Personality. Melbourne: Vital Publications, 1982.

Apollo 11- ‘In This One Moment, the World Came Together in Peace’, Stories for Speakers and Writers (SFS), 16 July 2009.
JFK’s High Vision—We Choose to Go to the Moon, SFS, 16 July 2009.
Lunar Communion, SFS, 21 April 2006.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Television footage of the first human footstep on Lunar soil on July 20, 1969. Astronaut Neil Armstrong took these first steps, followed shortly by Buzz Aldrin. This is a reproduction of the television image that was transmitted to the world on July 20th, 1969, NASA.

Picture courtesy of Boston’s The Big Picture. See the forty fantastic photos at this link: Remembering Apollo 11, The Big Picture, 15 July 2009.