The Value Of A Clear Vision

What I mean by vision

As I read and study successful people, I see the same pattern over and over.  They all have a clear and simple vision.  Of course, I’m not talking eyesight here.  I mean the mental picture of where they see themselves going or how the world could be different.  Having a clear vision is the cornerstone of any important work.  With it you stay focused and make steady progress.  Without it, we tend to wander or even worse, follow others.


Examples of Vision

Few people publish their vision (though they should). They are often hidden in biographies or stories about the startup phase of their business. Stories about why they went in this direction in the first place.

If you read about Thomas Edison, Henry Ford or Steve Jobs, you may hear them describe the moment their epiphany struck them, why it was important. Their visions took hold and gained momentum. They often sold their homes, borrowed money and recruited others to help them bring their vision to life. Vision is that powerful.  Here are a few examples:

“I will build a motor car for the great multitude.”  First expressed by Henry Ford around 1903-1906. Seven years before Ford started using their innovative assembly line. 

“create a low-cost, low-fare, better-service quality airline in Texas.”, Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines.

Jake Sully, Avatar: “we will show the Sky People... that they cannot take whatever they want! And that this... this is our land!”, Jake Sully in Avatar.

“I'm gonna change the world, and make women's butts better.”, Sara Blakely of Spanks:

These innovators, had visions that were short, sweet and eventually changed the world. Their visions are also powerful and solve a problem for people. Not everyone, but you can begin to see their cohort. 

Where To Start

Writing down your vision allows you to mull it over and spend time with it. It may take some time to come up with the right words, but soon you will have a well-crafted idea you can recall and recite easily. The more you play with your vision, the more it will take hold. If not, if it doesn’t take hold and start occupying your thoughts, it’s probably not the right one for you. That’s ok too, there will be others.

Try Your Vision Out On People

Once you have some words that describe your vision, try it out on a trusted friend or two.  Start by bringing it up in casual conversation and see how they react.  Are they hostile, critical, full of fear?  What are the obstacles they see? These are all important clues and quite frankly the more they protest, the more likely it is you're on to something.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today."  There is a gulf between the status quo and our vision of tomorrow.  Doubt is an easy response.  Keeping it in its place will allow your vision to grow.

Few people publish their vision (though they should).

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Use Your Vision For Making Decisions

Your vision has many uses.  One is to help everyone in your organization make better decisions.  Southwest Airlines vision, posted on their website is:  “To become the World's Most Loved, Most Flown, and Most Profitable Airline.”  If you go to Southwest’s community page, you will find stories that tell of employees going above and beyond, making a real difference in people’s lives.  Here’s just one example.

The leadership at Southwest also uses their vision in making business decisions.  Early in Southwest’s history, when they only had four planes, they were faced with a downturn and a decision.  They could lay off employees or sell a plane.  Southwest decided to sell the plane.  Becoming “Most Loved” isn’t just about customers at Southwest.  It’s about employees too.

Your Vision Can Attract Fans, Allies & Customers

A clear vision allows you to communicate with fans, supporters, allies and customers in a clear and direct way.  Your vision will reflect your ethics and values, what’s important to you.  And that will touch a basic need in the right people, people who see your vision, share it. 

But not everyone will feel the same way.  Some may find no value in your vision or even be repulsed by it.  But that's OK.  It's much better to build your business with a loyal following and shared values.

A clear vision will also help you acquire allies.  A great example is provided by a meeting with Walt Disney and the board of Atlantic Richfield (ARCO).  Walt was getting ready to open Disneyland and wanted Atlantic Richfield to sponsor Autopia in Tomorrowland.  He told the board of his vision, of Autopia and its small cars driving on a freeway.  As the cars drove along the ride’s freeway, they would pass Atlantic Richfield billboards.

 After Walt was done, the board asked to be alone to deliberate his proposal.  After a few minutes they brought Walt back in and agreed to a ten-year, $250,000-dollar sponsorship.   And Walt?  He walked out of the meeting with a check for $25,000.

Your Vision is a Cornerstone

Having a clear vision is Powerful.  These are just a few examples of how people have used vision as the cornerstone of a bigger quest.  Whether it’s Walt Disney, Herb Kelleher, Sarah Blakley or yourself, you can use vision as the cornerstone of what I call the owners quest.

While your Vision provides a sense of direction, a story.  The owner’s quest includes other considerations.  Things like:

  • What first principles are at work?
  • Why are you doing this?  What is it for?  Who does it serve?
  • How will you nurture an excellent culture? 
  • What is the current state?
  • What resources will it take?


Having a clear vision isn’t just for starting an airline or theme park.  It could be used by a college student thinking about life after graduation, or a high school student thinking about careers, or a husband and wife dreaming of their own home.

Tom Damoth

Tom is passionate about turning dreams into reality. When he's not working on Voycoo, you'll find him hiking, taking photographs, or training for his annual 100-mile bicycle ride. Tom is the creator of Voycoo, a To-Do List with a twist.