What is a vision?
You have ideas. A vision is an idea that has you. When the possessive relationship goes in reverse, it would feel like a betrayal to walk away, and it becomes your duty to bring it forth. With your waking eyes, you cease to just see the world as it is, and you begin to see it the way it could be. Making your vision real would transform the world into a place of such beauty that you must make it so. Every day you labor to incarnate it, to let it manifest. It becomes your Muse; you feel compelled to give it voice and expression. You are the clam, and it is the sand that festers inside of you, until you produce a pearl. It is your mistress, your secret passion, your crazed obsession, your Great Discontent. You live in its service. Your mind, body, and force are its instruments. You will not be fulfilled until it is fulfilled. It is your calling. What hardship, rejection, and sacrifice are you not willing to endure for it to survive and to succeed?
Any vision powerful enough to do this to you, can also do this to others. You just have to help them see what you see. You become an evangelist. You say, “drop your nets and follow me!” to talented and influential people. You have a way of getting people’s attention and convincing them that this should be their highest priority. That it is bigger than them. That it commands their time, their money, their genius.
A vision has an air of destiny, a whiff of inevitability. You perceive it as the coming consequence of major trends you’ve perceived emerging in technology and society. It will happen, with or without you. If you don’t do it, someone else will. Ironically, that’s why it has so much power over you.
Maybe Caesar saw that the Republic was bound to fall, and an empire to take its place, but he wanted it to be The Empire, and it to bear his image. In the same way, maybe Steve Jobs saw that computers, these huge devices that filled rooms, would become small, and personal, and take on various form factors, and be used for an ever widening set of business and personal applications. Maybe he saw, in the 1970s, some glimmer of the modern tablet and the smartphone. Would the world have built empires of personal computers and tablets and smartphones without him? Yes, undoubtedly. But instead of just any technology empire, the world has his empire, the Apple empire, with the unique vision he gave it: of technology as a product of and a vehicle for art, creativity, and design; of perfection as refinement applied to a standard; of a vertically and horizontally integrated ecosystem of products and services that all complement each other.
Visionaries become empire builders. They imagine castles in the sky, and worlds within worlds. They see the ‘big picture’, the forest through the trees. They predict the coming megatrend, the tsunami that will engulf everything in its path. But then they surf the tsunami. They slash a path through the forest. They build the castles. They attract teams that are capable of actually doing and making the things that are in their minds.
Words have meaning. “Vision” is tossed around as a vague, fluffy quality possessed by a few rare entrepreneurs. Nobody knows what it really means, where it comes from, how to tell if someone has it, or if they do, how to assess its quality. That’s a shame, because it’s actually a highly technical world, used to describe a very meaningful force, the force responsible for driving humans to build creative empires. Once you know what to look for, you should have an easier time spotting it, cultivating it, and betting on it.
Fortuna audaces iuvat