Delusions vs. Goals

One of my former bosses, John Dragoon (@jkdragoon), had a great quote that I really like.

“The difference between a goal and a delusion is the deadline.”

That resonated with me.

I’ve since modified it slightly to read as follows:

“The difference between a goal and a delusion is the existence of a plan.”

To be more specific, a plan includes the following:

  1. a set of activities that need to be done to achieve the desired outcome;
  2. a schedule that outlines the deadlines by which each activity needs to be completed to achieve the desired outcome.

The greatest example I can think of that illustrates this principle occurred before I was born.

It was the declaration by U.S. President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961:

“..this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

There was a clear outcome.

There was a clear deadline: Dec 31, 1969.

On July 20, 1969, this remarkable outcome was achieved (5 months and 11 days early).

Behind the scenes, thousands of engineers had reverse-engineered (so to speak) what technical achievements they needed to solve in order to meet the goal.

Only 20 days earlier, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) had just launched the first American, Alan Sheppard, into space for a 15-minute suborbital flight.

They had to solve the problem of having rockets powerful enough to launch an envisioned lunar-landing module with fuel for the long trip into space.

They had to solve the problem of getting the lunar module and astronauts to the moon.

Then they had to solve the problem of getting them back to Earth's orbit (alive!).

Then they had to solve the problem of getting them to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere (alive!).

Multiple engineering teams worked concurrently to address each of these issues.

Each team had specific deadlines to meet.

Hypotheses had to be tested in the real world.

And in the end, NASA pulled off one of the most remarkable feats in human and engineering history... part, because they had a PLAN.

When you think about the things you want in your life, are your dreams goals or merely delusions?

Sometimes it’s nice to have dreams that are delusions, as you never have to confront the sometimes harsh reality (and work) it takes to turn dreams into reality.

If so, that’s fine. In that case, dreams are entertainment — just don’t fool yourself and expect dreams without plans and actions to become reality.

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