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Shoot for the Moon

Achieve the Impossible With the Apollo Mindset

By Richard Wiseman
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Shoot for the Moon by Richard Wiseman

Shoot for the Moon (2019) looks at the life lessons we can learn from the extraordinary people that accomplished the seemingly impossible mission of bringing mankind to the moon in 1969. This is practical and actionable advice that anyone can put to use today in order to do focused and purposeful work and achieve extraordinary things.

Key idea 1 of 9

Having a sense of purpose is a great motivator, as is the presence of known competitors.

July 20, 1969, is the date of a singular event in history, the day Apollo 11 landed safely on the moon. But it took decades of painstaking work filled with trials and tribulations to reach that goal.

What kept the Apollo team motivated was a great sense of purpose. They held on to the dream that US ingenuity would be responsible for the first moon landing, and that this would promote the American values of freedom and democracy around the world.

Such stakes are, of course, a big motivator. But having a strong sense of purpose doesn’t require rocket science. It can happen among any team, even one at a university call center.

The University of Pennsylvania has a grant program to help qualified but financially-constrained students afford tuition. The program has a call center devoted to contacting alumni and asking them to donate.

In 2007, psychologist Adam Grant had former beneficiaries of the program visit and speak to the team at the call center, to let them know in person just how much the money had changed their lives.

Grant noted how this created an impressive motivating factor. With the staff now clear on the difference they were making, they had an increased sense of purpose which revealed itself as a 140 percent increase in the time spent working and a 171 percent increase in funds raised.

Another proven way of boosting performance is to add a competitive element. And for the Apollo team, this aspect was certainly present. After all, the US was engaged in a riveting space race with the Soviet Union.

Back in 1898, this motivating factor was studied by Norman Triplett, a psychology professor at Indiana University. When observing cyclists racing both with and without competitors, he noticed that the sportsmen consistently reached faster speeds when facing competition.

In 2008, Triplett’s findings were expanded upon by Japanese psychologist Kou Murayama. He found that the motivating factor of competition increased even further when the individuals were part of a team, and team members were able to monitor their performance against their competitors’ performance.

Then, in 2014, psychology professor Gavin Kilduff found that the motivating factor could be increased even further when the competitor is a personally-familiar rival.

However, as we’ll see in the next blink, being competitive needs to be balanced against another important factor: knowing when to take it easy.

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