15 February 2019

Mars Rover Opportunity - goal setting in space!

Image from @MarsRovers

There is nothing more intrinsic to your success than setting a goal. Having a goal in mind gives you direction, a point on the horizon to aim toward. But sometimes, you achieve something beyond anything you could have imagined.

A prime example of this hit the headlines this week: The Mars rover, Opportunity. Opportunity, hit by a dust storm seven months or so ago, was finally retired from service after an astonishing 15 years on the Red Planet.

Initially, Opportunity had landed on Mars with the aim of travelling around 1,000 metres over around 90 days. In reality, the robot lasted 15 years, travelling more than 28 miles, sending more than 217,000 images back to earth. The rover also found a mineral on the planet that forms in water, helping build a broader picture of the potential for life on Mars.

Can you imagine sending the rover to Mars with all of that as the expectation? Talk about pressure! As it bounced out of space, landing in a mass of airbags before coming to a stop on the dusty landscape, its landing alone was an extraordinary achievement.

Under pressure

Would the mission have been so successful had they set out to achieve so much? I don’t think so. This step-by-step, evolving approach is something we can all learn from. The Mars Rover is a reminder that you can set huge goals, but break them down. Landing on Mars, was the first goal. Sending back an image, the second. Surviving 90 days, the third. And so on. Goals should be broken down into these chunks, and should always evolve.

If someone said to me back in 1999 that I was setting up a business that would reach £53 million turnover, have a team of more than 400, have its own data centres, and design and architect its own cloud range; how on earth would I have got started there? I’d have been paralysed by the weight of that pressure. Instead, I set my sights on reaching a certain number of customers, £1 million in revenue, 100 team mates, and so on. Each of these goals seemed like insurmountable challenges at the time. Each goal that we hit, gave us confidence to go further the next time, aim even higher.

Goals simply have to evolve as you grow and develop. You never know where something is going to take you. If you get one goal and are rigid with that, you could lose so many other opportunities along the way.

Don’t underestimate yourself.

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