Stay grounded or reach for the stars?

You may have heard the saying that you should reach for the stars.  It comes out in different ways…

Leo Burnett said: “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”

Mike Tyson said: “I’m a dreamer. I have to dream and reach for the stars, and if I miss a star then I grab a handful of clouds.”

Les Brown said: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

It has been said in many other ways, but the idea is that if you aim high enough, even failure is amazing. Even failure becomes a success.

But Emil Zatopek , a middle distance runner from the Czech Republic, has a different take on it: “You can’t climb up to the second floor without a ladder. When you set your aim too high and don’t fulfill it, then your enthusiasm turns to bitterness.  Try for a goal that’s reasonable, and then gradually raise it. That’s the only way to get to the top.”

So which is it do you set your sights on the stars and aim high?  Or do you keep your eyes just one step ahead and aim for the next step.  I know when I climbed Mount Washington, at a certain altitude we were in the clouds.  We kept climbing and climbing and climbing…and still all we could see was a few feet up.

The mountain seemed endless.  We could not aim high because we could not see more than a few feet ahead.  Did that work for us?  Yes.  Would seeing the top of the mountain have worked for us.?  I am sure it would have.

READ ALSO: Zig Ziglar (1926-2012) Motivational Quotes

What is the moral of the story?  I am not sure.  But I think it helps to have a lofty dream, to keep the big picture in mind.  I think knowing where you want to end up gives you motivation and inspiration to get up each day and get in the game.

But I also think that when it comes to actually putting your foot forward, you need to keep your eyes on the ground.  Each action needs to be measured on its own merit.

Big goals.  Small steps.  Why not have both?



  1. Hi David,
    When operating a small business or launching an entrepreneurial endeavor, I think having a dream is critical. Whether you aim high from the start or move step by step is probably a matter of style. The key, I think, is to have a goal and keep moving. Thanks for sharing this post with the BizSugar community.

  2. Dear David – Sometimes more than one perspective may be possible, even though incongruous. The motivational aspects behind each can bring you further on the journey. Due to circumstances, relationships and situations, one motivational thought may work better than another at that time.

    Hiking on a clear sunny day, you see rising above you the top of the mountain. There’s your goal. If you have a photograph of that picture in your mind, that goal can be brought into play when needed.

    Hiking on a cloud covered day, all you can see is a few feet ahead, whereupon you will need to motivate each step, knowing that the top of the mountain is hidden from view as you move slowly upwards.

    It looked like a fun hike, either way. Blessings, Debby

  3. My undergraduate school’s mantra was “ad astra”…I’ve always liked that- and have always chosen that as my mid-term focus.

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