After the considerable amount of research I did for my new book Achieving the Impossible: Lessons from the Apollo Space Program, I basically believe today that everything is indeed possible. Only a month after he walked on the moon, Neil Armstrong said, “I felt a successful lunar landing might inspire men around the world to believe that impossible goals really are possible, that there really is hope for solutions to humanity’s problems.” (LIFE magazine interview, August 8th, 1969).
But reaching any goal requires 4 prime factors: time, energy, resources and money. The bigger the goal, the more of each of these things that you need.
I believe we have plenty of money, especially when we look at some of the million or billion-dollar projects on which it is wasted (military weapons, digital gaming and marketing of junk food come to mind).
I also believe that the energy and resources are there. It is obvious by crowdfunding that you can mobilize a lot of people for a cause. Also take a look at the number of NGOs in the world, for which many people work for no charge.
So if money, energy and resources are available, what might be the major hindrance to achieving the impossible–getting something accomplished such as fixing some of the incredible problems our world is faced with today? It has to do with our agreement on priority and urgency. And that has to do with the last of these 4 factors: time.
Considerations of Time
Chronos and Kairos
The ancient Greek had 2 references to time. The first of these is Chronos, which is simply time as it moves forward; chronological or sequential time.
The other is Kairos, which refers to the right, opportune, or special moment. Kairos refers to a moment that, if you miss it, it is gone and cannot be repeated. An example is not having the courage to ask someone out when you get the opportunity, and then someone else does and that “Kairos moment” is gone.
Another way of looking at time is presented by the Austrian School of Economic Thought, and is referred to as Time Preferences. It is the relative value of something in or near the present time, as compared with its value in the future.
Boiling the Time Preferences concept down to simplicity would simply mean this: the sooner something occurs, the more a person values it. A million dollars tomorrow would be much more valuable to a person than a million dollars in 10 years.
These views on time explain why many people have trouble saving for future goods. More and more, everything must be instant. We live in an asset economy—an economy in which growth is based largely upon an appreciation of equity assets such as stocks and real estate. In such an economy, which exists in the U.S. at present, people make or take loans based on assets. When someone owns a home, they watch for it to increase in value so they can immediately borrow more money to purchase more assets. Today, it seems, no one wants something for which they have to wait.
This attitude has become prevalent in business as well. You tell a potential investor that it will take 10 years for a company to really take off, and they laugh at you. They’ll say, “I want explosive growth now!” I have been incredibly fortunate to gather to me both staff and investors who have been helping my company steadily grow over the last 8 years—and it’s doing incredibly well.
On a much larger scale, the same could be said for the Apollo program: many people stuck it out for 11 years to make that moon landing and beyond. That was the Chronos side; it took years of training, innovation and engineering before we were even ready to land on the moon.
Of course, the Apollo program hit its Kairos moment on July 20, 1969. That moment shone brightly in the words and actions of one man, Neil Armstrong, when he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” That is certainly a Kairos moment; no one can ever repeat that one.
Saving the Future
If we look back on Neil Armstrong’s statement made shortly after the moon landing, what has really changed? So you don’t have to look earlier in the article, I’ll repeat it: “I felt a successful lunar landing might inspire men around the world to believe that impossible goals really are possible, that there really is hope for solutions to humanity’s problems.”
We can now look back and ask: What did that landing inspire, in terms of solving humanity’s problems? I won’t say “nothing” because there are certainly those who are dedicating their lives to a better world. But if you look at the condition of our world all these years later, you can see that we sure have a long way to go. And if you look at where we are spending the majority of our time, resources, energy and money, it’s doubly true.
If we don’t build anything for the future, there will be no future. In a blunt example, if someone ate all the food they produced and didn’t put any away, in the near future people who depend upon that person are going to starve. That’s the “now” mentality in action.
Let’s stretch that example out, and look at the fact that the world we are creating now is the one we’re going to leave to our children and their children. We have many issues: population, climate change, food supply, diseases, and more. If we take everything from our planet for “now” and leave a half-ruined planet to our kids, what have they got to work with and pass onto future generations? And even more importantly, what lessons have they learned from us in terms of preserving what they have for future generations?
This kind of time preference—for the “now” only—does present its own kind of problem which is very obvious when looking at preserving our planet. Austrian economist Bohm von Bawerk said, “The now is always coming to a conclusion because you have the now right in front of you. The future you have to imagine.” The future’s not here. So if we can’t imagine what a world would look like in the future with all of today’s problems, and then what it would look like without those problems, then we aren’t taking responsibility for it.
An Apollo Program for Today
If we can find it in ourselves to take these problems seriously enough, and apply the time, energy, resources and money needed to solve them, then I think everyone will see that today, we need an Apollo-sized program applied to solve the major issues that confront our planet.
At Pipeliner, we’re doing all we can to push the world in the right direction. Our assistance is being provided in the area we know best: business. Through our free educational efforts, and through our software, we’re helping businesses to reduce risk and leverage opportunities. In so doing, we’re helping create healthy commerce, which in its turn helps to create a healthy society and, ultimately, a healthy world.
It’s time that all of us—every individual and every business—lent a hand in this effort.