Why the Middle of Your Success Story Matters

Posted April 26, 2021 by Mark Perna

Remember those goals you set way back in January, to make 2021 a better year? Maybe they were health and wellness goals. Maybe you set your sights on professional growth, better work-life blend, or more quality family time. Whatever it was, you made a decision to get there.

From the stage (and these days, the screen), I often share the inspiration I found in a short line from the blockbuster movie Apollo 13. Looking up at the night sky, Commander Jim Lovell muses on how they reached the point where humanity had walked on the moon. He says, “It wasn’t a miracle. We just decided to go.”

I remember that first time I saw Apollo 13 in the theater and the deep answering thrill my heart experienced at this powerful line. We just decided to go. None of the logistics had been figured out or even invented yet. America was nowhere near ready to land on the moon when President Kennedy made it a national priority. But the decision was made.

It’s easy to look at the starting and ending points of that goal, from Kennedy’s declaration that America would land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth, to the culmination of that goal on the Apollo 11 mission when Neil Armstrong’s foot first touched the surface of the moon. But what about everything that happened in between?

The story of the middle

The history of America’s space program has always fascinated me. On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to travel into space on a mission that lasted 15 minutes—a quarter of an hour that changed our country forever. Just 20 days later, President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress (and later Rice University) to set the ambitious goal of a successful moon mission by the end of the decade.

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Between the beginning and end of the goal, Americans worked tirelessly to make it happen. Each successful mission laid the groundwork for the next success.

  • The Mercury Program (1958–1963) had the objective of putting a man in space and keeping him there for a certain amount of time. Each of the six Mercury missions extended that time.
  • Next came the Gemini Program (1961–1966). Gemini launched 10 space flights with the objective of putting two men in Earth orbit.
  • Then came the Apollo Program (1967–1972). The goal of these three-man missions was to land a man on the moon and, in Kennedy’s words, return him safely to Earth. Apollo launched 11 crewed space flights, six of which landed on the moon.

Landing on the moon was always the end goal, but the middle was filled with goals and objectives that needed to be achieved to make that end goal possible. In one mission alone, Apollo 9, there were 11 things that had never been done before, including the first two-person spacewalk (EVA), the first two-spacecraft docking in space, the first extraction and crewed flight of the lunar module, and many other firsts.

Without the middle of the story, there would be no successful end.

Getting unstuck

I love a good success story. Someone dreams big, sets a huge goal, and then overcomes all odds to reach it. But success stories tend to focus mainly on the highlights: the moment that person made a decision to go, to change something meaningful in their life—and the moment that change was realized. Most of the story is in the middle.

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The real decision to go is made again, every day, when you’re in the middle. Between setting your goal and reaching it, you have to stay committed. But that’s precisely where we can get stalled.

If you’re feeling stuck in the middle right now, here are some tips to keep you committed to the decision to go.

  • Set smaller goals that ladder up to the big goal. Getting to the moon was the big goal, but there were a myriad of smaller goals that had to be met first.
  • Celebrate the goals achieved along the way. The space program is the perfect example of staying focused, creating a long-term plan with short-term objectives, and celebrating each success with a greenlight to the next objective. This is how we made it to the moon. “It wasn’t a miracle, we just decided to go.”
  • Look at your light at the end of the tunnel. Your light is the reward and the tunnel is the effort you have to put forth to reach the reward. The tunnel is really the middle of the story, the part where you keep committing to your decision to go. Keep looking ahead—it will help you keep going.
  • Invite some accountability into your journey. America’s successful space missions were accomplished not by an individual, but by a team. Maybe you’re a person who can go it alone, but more likely than not, it can help to be part of a team. Accountability and support can propel you closer to your goal.

The middle part of your success story matters. When you’re in the middle, stuck somewhere between making the decision to go and actually arriving at your destination, stay committed. And like amazing men and women who made America’s space program successful, stick with your decision to go.

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About The Author
Mark Perna
Mark C. Perna is an international speaker and bestselling author. He also serves as CEO of TFS Results, a strategic consulting firm at the forefront of the national paradigm shift in education and workforce development.
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