Having worked for a large company for many years I was continually confounded by the lack of vision of top leadership. My experience of many of the executives of large companies who receive salaries in the high six, seven, and even eight figure range, is that they mostly rely on making small tweaks to an existing system, instead of bold visionary game-changing moves or far-forward strategies with big payoffs down the road.
Of course we can speak to the short-term profit orientation impressed upon large publically held companies by Wall Street, but even most privately held companies above a certain size seem to trade vision for tactics when the stakes in the game reach a point at which people begin to feel as though failure is no longer an option.
Recently though, I’ve been moving into a place in which I feel as though I finally understand the nature of vision and why it’s so fleeting for some and so liberating for others. Vision, by its nature, is the ability to see far forward. It’s not about noticing the obstacles right in front of us or anticipating what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week. Vision is the ability to glimpse into the future. It’s the super high beams piercing through the dark of night to show us where we are going.
I have found that vision is challenging, partly because seeing into a kind of future that requires us to change something we’ve grown accustomed to is something that most of us would rather not have to think about, because its scary.
But here’s the kicker—the knot that binds us into a form of servitude to the way things have always been done—seeing far into the future is just that, a vision. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we know what to do about the vision. In fact, I have found that when we have a vision it’s like the Universe giving us a glimpse of something coming so that we can prepare for it. If we already knew how to do that thing we are envisioning then it wouldn’t be a vision, it would just be an anticipation of an expected future event, like a highway sign telling us our exit is ten miles away.
So when we have a vision there is a strong impulse to ignore it because heeding it will require us to face all our insecurities and beliefs we hold about ourselves related to what we feel we are capable of doing. The nature of a vision means that we are envisioning a future event, condition or trend that we’ve never had to deal with before and do not yet know how to respond to.
Grasping a vision requires that we grow into the ability to meet the vision with a solution. It means we have to have the courage to do that thing we think we cannot do. It means we must challenge ourselves to become more than we are today so that by the time that future event, condition or trend shows up we will be ready for it.
The nature of vision is that it forces us to either evolve to meet the vision, or otherwise ignore it.
Tip of the Week
Many people discount their ability to have vision. So let’s just assume for a moment that you are true visionary. If you are a true visionary, think about a vision you have for the future. Okay, now relax your mind as though floating on a cloud and let the vision float on its own. Where does it go? How does it move? How does it evolve? Consider this play. Share your vision with a friend and see where they take it. Envisioning is fun stuff. The more you do it, the more it becomes like second nature. As you do it more, you might just find yourself one day holding a vision for the future that makes you tremble with excitement—you will hold the kind of vision that changes lives for the better.