Armstrong’s X-Factor | Unforgettable
50th Anniversary of Moon Landing
July 20, 2019
Why do we remember
Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s 11-word phrase when he set foot on the Moon?
Armstrong’s memorable words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” not only summed up the overwhelming feelings of a people riveted to the edge of their seat, but was etched in our memory with the X-factor.
It was an ancient technique that worked then, and will work for you now.
President John F Kennedy had put forward the challenge of getting a man not only to the moon, but on the moon.
Now, only 8-years later, hundreds of millions tuned into to their televisions and watched as that dream become a reality. It was 10:39 p.m., July 20, 1969, when Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module and began his descent down the lunar ladder. Gripping the ladder with his left hand, Armstrong announced, “I’m going to step off the LM now.” 16-minutes later, at 10:56, Armstrong let go. Bouncing from the lowest rung onto the moon’s surface, Armstrong’s boots kicked up a spray of fine dust from the moon’s powdery surface.
During all those moments, there was communication from Houston and from the White House. But no one remembers what any of these key players said. Why?
Because Armstrong nailed it with the X-Factor.
Amidst all the technical challenges and detail, it would have been understandable if Armstrong had simply said, “Wow.”
But he didn’t.
He had thought about, planned and rehearsed this moment. Enveloped in a suit that left his words muffled at best, it was the quality not the quantity of words that made the day.
Armstrong not only landed on the moon, but with the X-Factor, landed the day with his 11-words.
the X-Factor comes from the Greek χίασμα
χίασμα means crossing, as in a bridge that’s balanced for crossing. A chiasmus mimics its original spelling. And, like the X the starts the word, a chasimus is a statement that’s balanced on all sides.
Historically proven, the X-Factor’s symmetry inspires listeners to put faith in an idea that they will presume to be well-thought, balanced and memorable.
The X-Factor is an incredibly effective tool. A well-worded chaismus creates the sense that all tenets of an argument have been accounted for, leaving the listener with the sense that the outcome is obvious. The hourglass’s X-shape recalls it’s timeless nature - and how memorable phrases earn their keep.
Here’s another famous chiasmus from the same period:
President John F. Kennedy, standing in the eastern portico of the U.S. Capitol, on January 20, 1961, delivered his inaugural address. It too had the X-Factor!
"Ask not what your country can do for you;
ask what you can do for your country."
The A-B-B-A pattern is like drawing an X - it reverses the order of words in the second of two parallel phrases or sentences.
Other ten-dollar descriptors for a chiasmus include reverse parallelism, syntactical inversion, antimetabole … yep, let’s go with the X-Factor.
Landing your presentation or website content with the X-Factor
can turn forgettable into unforgettable. Here’s some unforgettable examples to inspire your next work:
"If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." - Stephen Stills, "Love the One You're With"
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"
"Laid back, with my mind on my money and my money on my mind." - Snoop Dogg, "Gin and Juice.”
"Now, this is not the end. No, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." - Winston Churchill, "1941 Mansion House Speech"
"I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees." - Emiliano Zapata, Mexican Revolutionary Leader
"You see things; you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'" - George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah
“The first will be last, and the last will be first." - Jesus, The Bible, Book of Matthew 19:30
"You must eat to live, not live to eat." - Socrates (via Plutarch), "How the Young Man Should Study Poetry"
Masters of the X-Factor know that a great chiasmus can bridge the distance between moon and earth, between what was and what will be.