How To Put A Man On The Moon


In 1961 John F. Kennedy inspired the people of the United States by setting an outrageous goal. He convinced the nation that it should commit itself in landing a man on the moon. This way, he believed, the nation would be forced to change their paradigm of what was possible forever.

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

John F. Kennedy

When John F. Kennedy spoke these words the technology to put people on the moon didn’t exist yet. He just eloquently spoke to a feeling we all carry inside: if we put our minds together we can do impossible things. We just know we can.

Last Friday I learned of this quote during a presentation of Marius Smit, founder of Plastic Whale and inventor of ‘plastic fishing’.

Some years ago, somewhere around 2010 if I remember correctly, Marius was a typical burnt-out marketing fellow, travelling the world with his girlfriend during their sabbatical. Somewhere on an African beach he was for the first time confronted with the miserable effects of what we now call the ‘plastic soup’: he saw beaches completely covered with plastic waste from the ocean.

When Marius came back to Amsterdam he didn’t want to go back to his old way of living. He wanted to do something meaningful with his life and he knew in what direction to look: he wanted to contribute to solving the problem of plastic waste. He didn’t really know where to start otherwise than that he knew he wanted to address the problem of plastic waste here, in Amsterdam. If we prevent plastic to fall in the water it won’t flow to the ocean. He knew John F. Kennedy’s quote. He wondered ‘what is my man on the moon?’ and then he realized what he needed to do: build a boat from plastic waste collected from the canals of Amsterdam.

Marius didn’t know anything about building boats, let alone building boats from waste. He was a marketing guy, not an engineer nor did he know anything about chemistry. But as soon as he made his grandiose intention public help started coming in. All kinds of companies, organizations and individuals offered support, ideas and facilities. Long story short: there are now 4 boats driving through the canals of Amsterdam that are made from plastic bottles that were once floating in the water.

What is fascinating to me is the notion that we as human beings have a need to put people on the metaphorical moon. We flourish when we are triggered to unleash our potential. We feel so much better when we can contribute to something that is meaningful and speaks to the imagination.

I was having lunch with a successful Strategy Director this weekend. He works for an international advertising agency. He showed me the flip side: what happens when you don’t apply your talents in a meaningful way. You might be rich, own lots of shiny stuff and eat in fancy places but it doesn’t take away the emptiness. He feels trapped in his job and has been feeling like this for many years. He told me: ‘we tell our clients to be brave and authentic and the commercials we make for them are about bravery and authenticity but nobody is brave in our company. I have been unhappy for years but I am not even brave enough to quit my job’

During our conversation we realized my ‘man on the moon’. It is exactly the aforementioned existential meaninglessness and emptiness that I want my fellow human beings to transcend. For myself, I really want to build a team consisting of people with great hearts and minds, and create a global community of like-minded people. I want human bravery and kindness to spread, I want us to inspire our generation and the coming generations to overcome our human embarrassment and to build tools that generate connection, compassion and social action.

Especially to all the creative and visionary talents out there who are dying slowly in uninspiring, superficial  or cynical environments and stay there because it pays well: man up and do something useful with your gifts.

I already build one tool that transforms the lives of people: the 100 Day Warrior. Now I want to perfect that tool and spread it. Who wants to help me build tribes of fit, compassionate and brave people worldwide? Humanity needs all the help it can get and you know it.

Feel the call? Here is my number: +31622112260.


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