Our current definition of what it means to be a visionary, is, by design, both limited and limiting. For the most part, we consider visionaries to be that small, select group of people who take on extraordinary projects, often under extraordinary circumstances, and with projects that are done on a massive scale. The visionary is commonly someone that we look up to, that we admire and/or envy, and whom we definitely believe has unique and special qualities. For the most part, most people believe that those qualities reside only in a select few people – the visionaries – and rarely do most of us consider that we all are, in fact, visionaries to the core. Equally rare is the understanding that all human beings are visionaries purely as a natural outcome of the design and nature of being human. Before we elaborate on that, let’s quickly consider a few things about the nature of a vision as well as the critical distinctions necessary in order to bring a vision into reality.
What it takes to realize and assimilate a vision into a culture, as compared to having an imagination about the possibility of something coming into existence, is a function of making and implementing certain critical distinctions.
The absence of understanding the above has profound and far-reaching implications. In order for a vision to be brought into existence and sustain itself, as distinct from something that someone imagines to be possible (regardless of how wonderful and valuable it is to have an imagination), rests in the complete embracement of such critical distinctions.
The 5 Critical Distinctions:
- Having a clear, detailed picture of the vision itself – one that can be imagined in detail, foreseen and described;
- Having the ability to comprehensively articulate the vision and enroll others in the vision;
- Having the ability to empower others to communicate and act, of their own volition, towards the fulfillment of the vision;
- Having the ability to identify, generate and assemble whatever resources are needed in order to fulfill the vision;
- Having an unstoppable commitment, regardless of circumstance, condition or story, to the fulfillment of the vision.
In addition to the above, it’s important to note that for a vision to be realized, we must fully know and clearly understand that any and all economical and functional aspects that surround the vision, are in fact, completely inseparable from the vision itself. They must be regarded and known centrally, as being truly fundamental to the wholeness and integrity of the vision itself, and in the failure to embrace this, no vision of lasting, positive cultural impact, can ever be brought into existence.
Now, getting back to where we started, and to my claim that all human beings are visionaries, this is a relatively simple matter to address, yet it has important implications.
Let’s consider our 5 Critical Distinctions through the lens of a particular scenario where two children are playing outside.
- For some time Peter has been imagining having a tree-house in his backyard. He’s been thinking about it and imagining what it might look like and how much fun it would be to build and play in. (Peter has a clear, detailed picture of the vision).
- Peter says to his friend, Sally, “I’ve been looking at our big tree and I think it would be awesome to build a tree-house there. We’d only need to make a few steps on the trunk and that would get us up to where those three branches come together. It would be easy to put some flat boards between those two bigger branches, and those other branches above we could easily use to make a roof. Sally has been listening to Peter and she, too, is imagining what it would look like. She gets excited by the thought of it. (Peter has clearly articulated the idea, and has enrolled Sally).
- Sally says, “The sides would be easy to add. We could attach a rope to that third branch and then use it to slide back to the ground. It’d be so much fun, we could hang out there, in the shade, on hot days. We might even be able to read and do our homework there sometimes. (Peter has articulated it in a way where Sally is now engaged and acting in alignment with fulfilling the vision).
- They both now start talking about where they’ll get the wood, from where they’ll get the rope, what they can use as a ladder. Peter talks about the old fence and the loose pilings on the ground to take could be used for the baseboards. Sally is sure that her dad won’t mind her using his hammer and nails. She’s even sure that she can get him to help. (Peter and Sally are now actively identifying and working towards assembling the resources that are needed to fulfill the vision).
- Over the next couple of weeks, in the evenings, after school and in their spare time over the weekends (even on those couple of days when it was raining), they still stuck with it, shared the workload, enrolled their parents in helping, and made it happened. (they acted on the commitment to fulfill the vision and bring it into reality).
Where I think the value lies in this conversation is that we are in a very unusual time in human history. Our global pandemic changed the world in so many ways. So many lives were distracted. Businesses were shut down, jobs were lost, people went through illness, financial crisis and faced with extraordinary difficulties. We also saw that it was a time of extraordinary creativity. People were having to figure out solutions to problems that they never imagined arising. People who lost their businesses and their jobs were having to find new and previously thought of ways to find gainful occupation as a means of earning an income. In many respects, the events of the last few years have created an opportunity for us to democratize entrepreneurship. It would help us as a culture if we broadened our understanding of what a vision is and what it means to be a visionary. It would help us to both recognize and deepen our appreciation for several things – our innate capability to imagine a future that doesn’t currently exist, the ability to assemble what’s needed to bring that imagination into reality, and the opportunity to capitalize on the outcome in meaningful and valuable ways.