The Apollo book will launch this Thursday at an event in London, then through Amazon around the world: i’m very excited, because setting a book free marks a chapter point, closing off one voyage, and creating the space for the next. I’m also very proud, because it’s a fairly decent piece of work, and i feel i have achieved the thing that i set out to do. I worked with someone early on who told me that you should always celebrate success, and he was right, although with the caveat that you should also always own up to failure.
In some ways i am sad to see the book take flight, because there is such a richness of material there that i could have written the thing to be twice as long, but a hard learned lesson is that brevity is usually creates the strongest narrative.
‘To the Moon and Back: Leadership Reflections from Apollo’ does not sit easily alongside my other books: it’s not positioned as a research piece, nor is it specifically developmental for an Organisation, nor does it explore the broadest context of the Social Age. It does not even sit directly within my work around Social Leadership. Instead, it is just two simple things in one: eight stories about the Apollo missions, which are stories of incredible ingenuity and achievement, structured around eight reflections on what leadership lessons we can learn from it all. If anything, it is a personal reflection, which i guess counts in the context of a social approach: anyone can choose to pick that reflection up and learn from it or discount it. Either is fine.
Having said that it is not ‘developmental’, i realise that there are, of course, deep lessons to be learned, about purpose, momentum, vision, and failure. The greatest success of Apollo was tempered by the fifty subsequent years of turmoil and lost ambition. Only now are we finding our energy and enthusiasm to return to the moon.
Since Apollo 11 landed on the moon, the population of the earth has doubled: that single statistic, one that relates neither to technology, nor orbiting bodies, is the one that hit me the hardest. It’s easy to say ‘everything has changed’, but it truly has: the systems of 1969 are surely creaking under the pressure of 2019.
Apollo always held a tension: the virtuous intent ‘for all mankind’, tempered by the geopolitics of the Cold War, for all mankind who think like me. We were divided in 1969, but possibly more so, and more intractably so, now.
Nearly all the astronauts came back changed: some found religion, some found art, many found money, and some found dismay and despair. A loss of purpose and structure. For every gain, there is a price to be paid.
I share the work around Apollo not as any kind of answer, and i hope i have not fallen into the trap of finding easy lessons. I cannot stand those messages that paint pictures of the stars and tell simple stories stripped of meaning. Meaning is something that we find ourselves, within ourselves, and something that i hope this work will act as a provocation for.