The Apollo Principle

The Apollo Principle

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On May 25, 1961, in his address to Congress, President John F. Kennedy proposed the national goal of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s. This goal was accomplished on the Apollo 11 mission, when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969, later returning back to earth.

In just 8 years, a nation had achieved the impossible. Since that era, nobody has returned to the moon, which says something for the incredible feat that was accomplished back then. This was the era which saw the invention of the pocket calculator and the audio cassette. It would still be an incredible feat today, with far more advanced technology at our disposal.

There is a great story (and it may be just a story) that I love. It is the story of the janitor mopping the floor at the Space Station being asked what his job was in the organisation. His answer was: ‘I’m helping to put a man on the moon”.


To me, this highlights the Apollo Program’s secret sauce – increasingly used today, and something that I use. A big mission or goal to unite people in purpose.

Big crazy goals inspire and align people in ways that small goals can’t. They attract some of the best minds and open some of the toughest doors. Inside many human beings, there is something that loves the power of a big challenge. A big challenge aligns people under a common cause like nothing else can.

The same mechanism is used for winning wars and world cups, for that matter. Getting members of a nation or organisation to line up in a common cause takes something huge. It just doesn’t happen, otherwise. The small details of life get in the way if there isn’t a big mission to be part of.

Many more of the most exciting and highest performing organisations on the planet are trying to use this principle – and it is helping them to achieve incredible feats.

Elon Musk has his Tesla Mission to accelerate the growth of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass-market electric cars into production. Also, his company SpaceX which designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft has the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets!

And then, there is Larry Page and Sergey Brin from Google. Their mission is to organise the world’s information to make it universally accessible and useful.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has currently raised $1.2 billion of an $18 billion valuation with his company’s bold mission to “Make car ownership a thing of the past”.

At The Dandelion Project we deliberately use what we call ‘The Apollo Principle’ to help our community to come together and improve where we live. Becoming the best place to live on earth by 2020 is a moonshot goal that is already raising the bar for achieving so much more. Without that crazy goal, improving our community would be much harder.

The only downside is that we have to be prepared to look fairly ridiculous at the start. Prepared to be told time and time again that what we are trying can’t be done. Prepared to fail in the pursuit of something bold.

The toughest thing about ridiculously huge goals is saying them out loud. Much of the hard work is done for you if you are just prepared to state them.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

– John F. Kennedy


  • How can you use The Apollo Principle to help you get a totally different kind of momentum?
  • How can you inspire those around you to come together to achieve something bold?



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  1. What you’re doing, Marc, is making a huge difference in many, many ways. I sense people’s optimism that things can change and be better, and all that on an island which is already a simply splendid place to live. I applaud you and your colleagues for your energy and enthusiasm. There are many who are simply struggling with daily life, and without the time and the energy to actively take part, yet. Please continue your quest.

  2. Thanks John. That means a lot.

  3. Michelle says

    As you found out when you visited Fargo we are rather like minded. I truly believe everything is possible. Maybe not in the way we first dreamed it, but whatever we seek can happen. Our passion to continue learning…to take risks…to act and adjust are all apart of the journey. A big goal for me is to transform education…that is my passion. Because of that passion I have purpose. I share this goal with a wonderful group of committed educators and entrepreneurs. We will turn this “whale” which will be like landing on the moon or at least the International Space Station!

  4. Kellie Brooks says

    You are one of a kind, Marc. In all the best, most beautiful ways.

  5. mamokhethi says

    Hi Marc, the Apollo Principle is incredible! I would like to improve and contribute to make change to the community in regard to tourism and creat awareness how most of us can earn a living selling our own culture.

  6. jarlath donnelly says

    The janitor story has to be BS. If you see a janitor mopping a floor are you going to ask him what his job is? You’re likely to get “I’m dressed like a janitor and I’m mopping the floor – figure it out Einstein!”

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