Bad Advice


Shoot for the moon or get a degree in Geology because this is actually a rock.

Shoot for the moon or get a degree in Geology because this is actually a rock.

My favorite piece of bad advice is:

“Shoot for the moon: even if you fall short you will land among the stars.”

It is an inspiring message about having bold goals and recognizing that there is success along the way even if it isn’t as bright and bold as you expected. But it is bogus advice. It is, after all, astronomically impossible. The stars are literally light-years farther away than the moon. If we were actually to shoot for the moon and fall short we would find ourselves in outer orbit in the vacuum of space.

From there we would either be: a. dead, or b. returning to earth for debriefing.

Because if we were clever enough to get ourselves most of the way to the moon we ought to be clever enough to get back to earth. Apollo XIII did it. You can do it too.

You might argue that it’s just an Inspirational Message: it’s just supposed to be catchy. Contingency plans? Not catchy. I mean, who ever got anywhere on contingency plans. (You know, except the astronauts of Apollo XIII).

What about:

“Shoot for the stars: even if you fall short you can land on the moon.”

Seems pretty catchy to me.

Also more likely: if you are equipped for a journey to The Stars- say or nearest neighboring star system Alpha Centauri which is more than fifteen light years away- you are jolly well equipped to land on the moon.

And what about:

“Shoot for the moon; if you fall short you can always come back to Earth.”

Why isn’t this considered good advice? Strive for a goal, don’t burn any bridges. If there is one thing storytelling teaches us it is that the Hero not only has to go on an impossible adventure but they come home at the end. One does not simply walk into Mordor and set up housekeeping. No. You go there. You come back again.

My biggest question, though, is why do we treat inaccurate messages as Good Advice when accurate messages are just as catchy and actually have some meaning? Is Inspiration more important than the Message? Is it that much more important to buoy up our collective self-esteem that accuracy and accountability are irrelevant?

Science! Just do it.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on February 13, 2013.

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