In a speech at Rice University on September 12, 1962, President John F Kennedy roused support for America’s mission to the moon with a stirring speech that celebrated the determination of American innovators and adventurers to “Climb the Highest Mountain”. The speech cited a litany of accomplishments made possible by a shining vision and unrelenting hard work. I encourage you to read it, but have excerpted a small portion here.
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things (accomplishments and aspirations), not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
I don’t recall ever having heard this speech or the quote before, then recently I heard it twice: Once, while visiting the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon and again in the introduction to a new Brad Paisley song, “American Flag on the Moon”.
The sentiment “We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard” resonates with me.
It acknowledges that real growth is the outcome of vision and struggle.
This means choosing a path that others don’t
Figuring out how to do things you have never done
Committing to doing them as well as they can possibly be done.
The quote also recognizes that high achievement is a challenge compelled by a desire to win.
It’s the same in business. How often are conversations about marketing and business strategy dominated by “What does (competitor’s name here) do?” or “That’s the way we have always done it.”
I agree that these are legitimate observations and material to the discussion, but they are easy to ask, easy to answer and they don’t go far enough.
Questions should challenge leadership to envision a product, service and/or client experience that changes everything, a vision that makes us better than we have ever been and superior to our competition. This kind of vision inspires employees. And, properly executed, it delights and attracts customers.
Here’s the thing…executing a new vision, even if it’s not radical, is hard. Really hard.
It means that old ways of doing things may have to go. It takes commitment, resources and determination. People need to be trained and leadership needs to evangelize.
This ain’t business as usual. But the pursuit of this vision is powerful because, as President Kennedy’s speech assures us, “that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills”.
What companies do you believe consistently raise the bar for themselves and their competition? How have you or your company raised the bar for yourselves?