He was barely old enough to walk, but his dad thought it would be cool to introduce the little guy to airplanes. So off they went to an air show, where little Neil sat atop his father’s shoulders and watched the flying acrobats. Three years later, he took his first ride into the sky, aboard a small airplane affectionately known as the Tin Goose. It was July 20th, and he was five.
Thirty-three years later - to the day, strangely - he climbed out of a different flying machine and kicked up some lunar dust. On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon.
Today is the anniversary of both of those achievements: Neil’s first airplane ride, and the day he descended the steps of the Eagle lunar module. There’s something about the date coincidence that I find very powerful.
You see, from an early age Neil was energized by the idea of flying. I can only imagine how big his eyes must've been at that early air show, and how his pulse probably raced once he was strapped into that tiny cockpit at age five. That energy - what we often label passion - never faded. He was hooked, and he embraced that enthusiasm all the way to the moon.
His first lunar step has been called "one giant leap." But if you think about it, giant leaps are relative, aren't they? We all have our dreams, our visions for a dynamic future where we live the plan we've so carefully imagined . . . but they don't fit a template.
It doesn’t matter if you’re five or fifty; the thrill of discovering a new passion, of finding that one special thing that hijacks your thoughts and - more importantly - your heart, is profound. But we often get sidetracked, or, worse, discouraged.
Maybe we think the dream is unattainable, which is really another way of saying we've lost confidence in ourselves. Or sometimes it's the opposite: we don't think the leap is giant enough, maybe not worth the effort. We compare our dreams to what others are accomplishing, and find ours lacking.
Both of those are mistakes. Your giant leap probably looks nothing like mine, and it shouldn't. Likewise, something that's a big step for me might be something you could do in your sleep. The important thing is to identify your leap, and then take it, regardless of what anyone else thinks or does.
For Neil Armstrong it was simply a matter of looking up from the perch on his dad’s shoulders, shielding his eyes from the sun, absorbing the sights and the sounds of mechanical marvels. Think back and remember where you were when you discovered your passion. Then think about what you can do right now to take the next step.
Instead of using January 1st as your marker for instigating positive change in your life, why not borrow Neil’s lucky day? It’s hard to imagine an event more inspiring than a moon walk, a milestone that was decades in the making. Let July 20th be the beginning of your own moon shot.
What giant leap will you make, starting today?
Images courtesy of NASA