Someone else’s vision

Pop quiz: what’s your vision for your current job or project? For your career? For your life?

Don’t know? Many of us don’t. And that’s a shame.

You can knock the Color guys for having a comparatively short-sighted vision, but Nest creator Tony Fadell’s original vision was to be acquired by Apple. That seems to have worked out relatively well for all involved.

Whether they succeed or fail, they’re likely to win eventually, because they have a vision, and it’s theirs.

I spent years throwing myself wholeheartedly into helping realize “someone else’s vision”, but came up empty and disappointed. After that, I bristled at the idea of fulfilling and enriching someone else at the expense of my time and talents.

Back then, I used to sit around and wait for “leadership” to come down from the mountain with their “vision” engraved on stone tablets. But that’s a copout, and like all forms of giving away personal control and accountability, it’s likely to end in frustration and resentment.

Not long ago, I was talking with a friend who said of his boss: “I can’t wait to go make him a bunch of money.” I was surprised. Why would he want that?

When I thought about it, I imagined that it was twofold: 1) This meant my friend knew that if he could make someone else a bunch of money, he could do it for himself if he really wanted to, and 2) He got to have a clear idea of what he wanted to accomplish and how to measure his success.

After that, I started thinking about my areas of influence, the things I was good at, and the things I cared about, and picked something to try to drastically improve at my workplace. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be mine.

I now make a point of developing a very clear idea of what I want to accomplish and how I’ll measure it. It helps to write it down. I try to keep this vision short-term, and re-evaluate about every 90 days. I’ve also found that it’s crucially important that this vision is of  your own making, and not handed to you.

Having a clear vision like that puts all of your thoughts and activities into a crucible. It’s easy to turn down distractions like needless meetings, tasks, or time-wasting when you have a strong, understandable, near-term vision for what you want to accomplish.

There’s a sort of primal, inherent fear of taking the risk in accepting that kind of responsibility. But if you really analyze it, would you trade risking greatness for a guarantee to wallow in the hell of mediocrity?

Yes, it can be scary. But if you are able to discover a vision, nail it down, focus on it, and achieve it, I promise you won’t find many things in life so energizing and rewarding. And it won’t be long before yours is the only vision you’re striving to achieve, while others line up to join you.

Think about it. Are you laboring for someone else’s vision? Have you been frustrated by it? What can you do to find your own?