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Mars or Bust: The Power of Prioritizing

marsI heard a fascinating segment on National Public Radio last Sunday. It started with an audio clip of Carl Sagan, which piqued my interest since I knew that Sagan had died years ago. “I don’t know why you’re on Mars,” the dead man intoned. “But whatever the reason for going to Mars is, I’m glad you’re there and I wish I was with you.” After the recording ended, the NPR news story continued with comments from a number of people who were busily planning to make the vision of a manned Martian visit a reality.

The breadth of that vision was inspiring, and the story reminded me, just three short weeks past the unofficial deadline for New Year’s Resolutions, of the power of prioritizing. And it got me wondering how many visions we sacrifice when we choose poorly.

My nation’s history is filled with examples of vision-setters. President Kennedy’s 1961 speech to Congress articulating the goal of sending an American to the Moon before the end of the decade inspired years of technological brilliance in the space race, culminating in Neil Armstrong’s first moon walk on July 20, 1969. And that vision is still inspiring the next generation of astronauts and wannabes.

By contrast, President Lyndon Johnson’s much-vaunted “War on Poverty” vision has inspired many millions and cost many billions in the 50 years since Johnson shared it—yet the “war” grinds on with no victory in sight.

These two visions remind me that the greatest ideas must rest on more than good intentions. The challenge I take from them is to choose wisely, in my personal and professional spheres of influence. Because chasing a vision carries a cost, and the greater the vision (no matter how noble), the greater the cost.

The vision failing,
Hides another that will never be.
The wise choice combines a mix
Of hopes, dreams, and practicality.

How do you prioritize in your work? Share a comment with us!