I am a sucker for a well-crafted motivational phrase. That’s actually how “Go Forth And Be Awesome” got started. But not all motivational phrases are created equal. Some go too far for the cute analogy and miss the point altogether.
It’s hokey hokum.
Today’s egregious example is about aiming for big goals. When I was researching it, I found two distinct versions. Let’s dispense with the wrongest of the wrong first.
“If you shoot for the stars, you’ll at least hit the moon.”
No, that’s not how the universe works. I can’t tell you “Pick up a dart and aim for a wall because at least you’ll hit the bullseye.” You absolutely COULD, but the geometric probability is astronomical. In fact, humankind is especially good at aiming for stars and NOT hitting the moon. As of January 2017, there have been 314 space flights with people, and only 6 of those landed on the moon. Zero of which were by accident. That gives you, at very best, a 1.9% chance of hitting the moon. Hardly an “at least” scenario.
On to the most prevalent version…
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, at least you’ll land amongst the stars.”
You miss the moon but you’re still in space. Not what you were aiming for, but it is kind of neat. Who says you only get to aim once, though? This isn’t basketball, it’s rocket science! NASA doesn’t aim just once and neither should you. Shoot, check, adjust. Translating that to Lean Startup vocabulary gives you “build, measure, learn”.
It is a well-meaning phrase at its heart. No need to jettison it into space. We just need to give it a little corrective push into effectiveness.
“Shoot for the moon. Check your path. Adjust as needed.”
Not as snappy, but it will prevent from people realizing they aren’t headed on the right trajectory and just accepting their lonely drift into space.