Doing the Impossible
President John Kennedy understood the incredible power of simplicity and focus, and he used it to help drive the United States of America to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal – putting a man on the moon.
In the early 1960’s, for reasons involving the need for progress and the pressures of the cold war with Russia, President John Kennedy and his advisors determined that accomplishing the goal of putting a man on the moon should become a priority for our nation.
It was much more than simply an ambitious goal. It was a goal that most people, including those in the scientific community, though of as being impossible.
President Kennedy, in a speech on May 21, 1961 to a Joint Session of Congress, used the power of simplicity to rally the nation to his cause when he said,
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
Kennedy could have chosen to make his case with page after page of explanation and definition of the goal. Instead, he wisely chose to simplify, rather than complicate, which enabled an entire nation to get clarity and focus on what had to be done.
Look at why Kennedy’s words were so powerful and effective:
- He set a deadline: “before this decade is out”
- He made the goal clear and easy to understand: “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth”
- He explained why it was important: “no project more impressive…or more important to the long-range exploration of space”
- He made clear the obstacles t overcome: “none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
Kennedy could have taken an hours of time and pages of words to try and convince people to join this cause. Instead, he took exactly 64 words to not only define the goal, but the reasoning behind it and the challenges it imposed.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. His statement to the world when as he stood on the moon was elegant and inspiring in its simplicity: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
10 words that went down in history.
10 words that expressed more than any one hundred books could have.
The old saying “Less is more” became an old saying because it is so undeniably true.