Voyager 1 is leaving our solar system and entering the heliosphere (real-time data here), the first man made object to reach this milestone. During the majority of my lifetime this space craft has been on an ever expanding journey. Had the mission commanders waited for the next generation of technology or more durable materials the launch could have been reasonably delayed many times. Instead, a leader determined the Voyager was ready and it was launched (along with Voyager 2). The mission has been so successful that it has been expanded multiple times. Had the ideology of NASA and JPL been to achieve perfection, the mission would still be in the design phase. Instead, making the impossible possible means accepting failure and misions are launched with the best ideas that can be assembled at that time.
What are you waiting to launch?
Our best stories come when we are less than perfect but our purpose shines through despite our flaws. Our best memories are the ones where we challenged ourselves to go beyond our perceived limits. So often we reach the greatest heights when we steady our focus on the next step and not just on the summit that looms too far above to comprehend.
A couple years ago I camped at a popular lake in the Idaho wilderness. The area is very popular with backpackers and selection of camping sites is a fierce competition. Except I arrived in the first week of October and the only other car at the trailhead belonged to a couple that had walked a mile to the end of the first lake. My destination was six miles further up the trail. I made great time hiking, set-up camp, and even scampered another mile to a pass above the alpine amphitheater before returning to my tent as darkness descended.
In the tent and settled for a cold evening with a couple inches of snow ready to shuffle the landscape’s palate by dawn, I absorbed the isolation of my geographic coordinates. For a few minutes the scenarios of possible (and unlikely) events played on the main screen of my mind. I prepared for a Man vs Nature shocking sequence to unfold. I listened for the approaching danger, uncertain of its form. After a few shallow breaths, I managed to regain focus. I had dreamed of solitude such as this the night before. I lived in the intermountain west because I believed wilderness was the incubator to many of our best ideas. Revitalized with my sense of purpose, I zipped open the door to my lightweight shelter and took in the evening sky with its gleaming stars. I revelled in the crack of twigs not far from the tent, found humor in the mysterious thuds from far off ridges, and listened intently to the high symphony of the pine trees singing the tune of approaching weather. I embraced the fear, the beauty, the silence, the unknown, the remoteness. It was the imperfection of the moment that made it perfect. And only by laying in the middle of this vast glacier carved bowl of rocks could I come to appreciate the power of being somewhere else on the mountain other than the safety of the trailhead or in celebration on the summit.
Where on the mountain have your best stories found their genisus? I would guess many start far before we reach the top of any peak.
What would perfection look like for you enterprise? For some causes this would mean they would cease to exist. If for example your vision is a cure for cancer then perfection is a cancer free world. An amazing future but it is uncertain how soon this might be realized.
Consider another question. How would unwavering commitment to your organization’s purpose manifest itself? For many causes it would be a fully engaged board and staff, donor who are advocates, volunteers who find opportunities matched to their individual talents, and a community that believes it is better due to the presence of your organization. Being committed is within your control. Managing perfection requires variables that are internal and external. One of these is within your control right now, the other requires execution without setbacks.