Our article on the subject of ‘Vision’ in business was published in the Sweet Nexus Connects Us Online Magazine in January, 2015. Thanks to Michele Jennae Battershell and Sweet Nexus http://sweetnexus.com/ for inviting us to contribute!
“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.”
– Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Some of our most inspirational leaders – in business and in life – have possessed ‘vision’. Vision can be almost ethereal; although we all seem to recognize vision when we experience it, defining it can be like trying to grasp fog.
There are several traits common to those with vision; the most profound is the desire to create something greater than ourselves; to make an impact in some profound manner. Leaders who visualize the feasibility of a positive outcome and are willing to spend the time and effort to pursue that possibility are inspiring. Innate curiosity lives in all who possess vision – they are thrilled when seeking knowledge and experience.
Visionaries are undeterred by hardship. In fact, the struggle seems to make them all the more determined to succeed. Stack the odds against an optimistic visionary, tell them it cannot be done, and they grit their teeth and move forward.
The pursuit of money almost never goes hand-in-hand with the pursuit of vision. Few of the great visionaries of our time have been focused solely on gaining wealth.
Ross Perot started Electronic Data Systems with a $1,000 loan from his wife and an idea he was determined to manifest. The company was sold to General Motors in 1984 for 2.4 billion.
Steven Jobs dreamed of making computers for the average person. He and Steve Wozniak, armed with the $1,350 they earned by selling Steve’s Volkswagen Microbus, appropriated space in his parent’s garage and went to work to create the first Apple computer.
The possibility of failure was simply not entertained and the driving force was creation – not dollars.
Within vision lies optimism
Bent over in the sweltering, white-hot Arkansas summer sun to pluck cotton from unforgiving barbed stems, Thomas James Kearney had, by anyone’s definition, a hard life. An African-American sharecropper in racially segregated 1950’s rural Arkansas, Thomas, his wife and eighteen children lived in a small, rotting shack without electricity or indoor plumbing.
The children were only able to attend school after the cotton crop had been harvested – everyone, even the smallest family members, had to pick cotton to ensure their survival. But in spite of a miserable existence that might have sent most fathers to the depths of overwhelm, Thomas had a vision. He was a consummate storyteller, entertaining and educating his children every evening after supper with tales of exotic places and interesting lives. He made certain they all learned to read. The power and magic contained in books instilled in his children the gift of curiosity and desire for a better life.
He made it clear to them that college was not optional in their family. Despite the aching muscles he endured from dragging ten foot sacks of cotton weighing over a hundred pounds during the day, Thomas continued to read to them nightly. His vision came to fruition, as one by one, seventeen of his eighteen children graduated from college. Many went on to law school. Daughter Janis Faye Kearney graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and later became the Personal Diarist of President Clinton while he served in the White House. Thomas lived to the age of 107, and saw his vision manifest in the success of his adoring children.
Sometimes vision is laced with grit and determination
Reeling from the burden of caring for her drug and alcohol addicted mother, Liz Murray faced the cold reality of homelessness at the age of fifteen, when her mother finally died of AIDS. She was on the street; so hungry the pain kept her awake at night as much as the fear. Her school attendance had always been haphazard –by the time she was living on the streets, she was not attending at all. Still, Liz had a vision for her life – she wanted it to count for something greater than herself. She resolved to finish high school, no matter how difficult.
Stealing food to survive, Liz also absconded with self-help books, and read them voraciously. Her tenacity earned her a 4.0 grade point average, though she attended school in rags, often smelled bad and carried lice. Triumph over insurmountable odds? Certainly. But what Liz had was vision. She knew she was meant to do something greater with her life than merely exist. She decided that Harvard was within her reach after learning of the New York Times scholarship. Graduating from Harvard with a degree in psychology, Liz is a motivational speaker who has shared the stage with Tony Blair, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama.
Occasionally, vision seems almost otherworldly
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, insisted Arthur C. Clark. The co-author of ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’, Clark was a British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist. He may well have had a crystal ball. His vision in 1959 included what is now the cell phone, GPS device, satellite television.
By 1974, he was unwaveringly certain that every household would have a small computer by the year 2000, and that we’d be able to use it for banking, theater reservations, shopping and education. That Mr. Clark had a wild and brilliant imagination is obvious; what he knew without doubt in his very core could only be described as vision.
Vision in Business
The companies that thrive during good times and bad are those whose founders have a clear and unique vision that delineates what they can provide to their communities and beyond. They never lose sight of their dedication to excellence or the desire to be solution-driven. They embrace challenge and continue to welcome new ideas with curiosity and enthusiasm. Accepting that they’ll experience some discomfort along the way, they sail through the world with confidence, never viewing themselves as victims.
Running your business may take heart – but the soul of your business is vision. Hold it tenderly. Feed it with knowledge and curiosity about the world. Cultivate it as if it’s the most beautiful orchid in the rainforest. Spend your journey touching lives and making a difference.
To read the other great articles in the January, 2015 edition of Sweet Nexus Connects Us magazine, click here: http://issuu.com/sweetnexus/docs/sncu?e=15156069/10948973