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Motivation from Apollo 13

“From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it’s not a miracle — we just decided to go.” — Jim Lovell, Apollo 13

In 1995, during one of the lowest points in my life, I found life-changing inspiration in an unlikely place. I went to see the movie Apollo 13 and heard Tom Hanks, playing Commander Jim Lovell, speak the line quoted above. “It’s not a miracle — we just decided to go.”

Life was pressing me hard on all sides. Maybe you’ve been in a similar place, where you just didn’t feel like you had what it took to meet the daily barrage of problems and setbacks. I didn’t know it, but that day, sitting there in the theater, my entire life outlook was about to change.

Before you can make a decision to go, you have to determine your destination. I knew where I wanted to go, but my challenges seemed insurmountable and my resources, slim. And yet those things did not determine my success. We’re so used to measuring our chances by the size of the challenge versus the extent of our abilities. We don’t always consider where change truly starts: with a decision.

Making the Decision

“It’s not a miracle — we just decided to go.” I went home with those words reverberating in my mind. It was my choice to move toward my destination, to pursue what I wanted with everything I had. Going to that destination, pursuing a goal, making any kind of forward progress all start with a decision.

I don’t know if you have ever had a moment like I did that day, when a simple sentence can transform the way you think about everything. But if you have, you know the power of such a statement at the moment it’s needed most. It was transformative.

I can’t work miracles, but I can make a decision. This line took the impossible (a miracle) and showed me that it was, actually, possible. And it depended not on my circumstances or resources, but on my own determination.

Let’s Go

As we launch this new school year, all of us face challenges of one kind or another. I don’t know what specific difficulties you are facing on a personal or organizational level. But I do know that if we can put a man on the moon simply because we made the choice to go there, we can overcome the challenges and struggles we face by choosing a destination and determining to reach it.

What challenges in your world seem like they would require a miracle to solve? Maybe it’s motivating students to perform at their full potential. Maybe it’s becoming an enrollment and retention rich organization. It could be building a planning culture, creating a competitive advantage for students, and integrating Professional Skills into the learning experience that seem just about impossible. But they’re not.

Those magical first steps on the moon may have seemed like a miracle in 1969, but they weren’t. They were the result of a decision and an unwavering resolve to see that decision through. We can bring the same decisive action to the challenges, big or small, that we face today. The choice is ours. Let’s go!

About the Author
Mark C. Perna Mark C. Perna is a best-selling author and the founder of TFS in Cleveland, Ohio, a full-service strategic consulting firm whose mission is to share and support every client’s passion for making a difference.

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