A few weeks ago, my friend Bryce and I were talking about the point of NASA, or the lack thereof. I posed the question: Why do so many of our tax dollars go to a program that looks to outer space when we have plenty of issues down here on earth?
Bryce had a really interesting answer (beyond the other benefits of NASA research, like anti-gravity pens, velcro, and dry ice cream). He had recently listened to a renowned physicist (Neil Tyson DeGrasse) on NPR who said that not only should we be continuing space research, but we should be actively striving to get a man on Mars.
His reason? That having such a lofty goal as putting a man on the moon could inspire an entire generation of American children to take science and technology to a whole new level.
The main example he used was the previous space race, the goal of putting a man on the moon. Although it may seem like a fairly pointless goal, the very fact that there was such a lofty goal helped to inspire millions of kids to think big. It made Americans dream big. And there was urgency behind it–we wanted to get our man on the moon before the Russians did.
Compare those days to 2010. What goals do we have like that? Cure cancer? Sure, that’s a great goal. But it’s not as sexy as putting a man on Mars. If you want to inspire little kids, you need to have an exciting goal. And you never know–maybe the ensuing out-of-the-box thinking will result in a cure for cancer. You never know.
I think these types of lofty goals can help any business succeed. At my organization, we have a few “visioning” meetings every year, during which we sit around and talk about where we’d like to see our organization in 5, 10, even 50 years. Looking that far into the future–a future that even the most loyal employee won’t be around to see–helps us think bigger than ourselves. There’s always an excited buzz in the air after we walk away from these meetings.
Last, I think dreaming big can help us in our personal lives. Why do you think people run marathons? It’s an arbitrary distance to run, an activity that can potentially do long-term damage to your joints…but it inspires people to reach deep inside themselves and achieve something spectacular. Or your dream can be even less logical. The point is that it gives you something to strive for.
What’s your big dream?