Entrepreneurs with a big vision attract money. Leaders with a big vision attract top talent. Yet many founders of great innovations and managers of the most engaged teams are not naturally flamboyant. To many, claiming how we are changing the world can seem kind of boastful, even silly. In my experience, such people make excellent, authentic visionaries. Here is how we access the visionary firebrand that lives inside even the most bashful or reluctant of us.
Think Small First
Any initiative that actually changes the future impacts one person first. If you are an honest skeptic, you always want to drill into the practicalities that underlie any grand claim. Go with that instinct. You want to see evidence of success on a small scale. None of us need persuading that there is a big world out there. Getting the unit economics right is always the hard part. If you see one ordinary person gaining measurable benefit for one common problem, you will naturally want to replicate and propagate.
You Are Already Proven
Our culture perpetrates a great lie on almost everyone. Almost everyone is convinced that they need to perform—preferably in some super heroic way—in order to be worthy of love and respect; or to see yourself as worthy. When a person’s natural creativity gets tangled with his or her sense of sense of worth, they tighten up.
We have never had much success telling people not to feel this. Rather, we encourage you to notice this feeling, notice how you tell yourself you are not good enough in some way. Then recognize it as not true. Fulfilling a great vision won’t make you whole. You already are deeply complete, just as you are. Then what you set out to create becomes fun.
Own Your Shadow
For each of us, there is someone we are trying not to be. Jung called this your shadow. For me, there is this image of the arrogant dickhead that I would become if I were more renowned. In a typical day I probably unconsciously file away several examples of successful people exhibiting qualities of character and behavior that I judge as superior or insensitive. I can almost hear my mind saying again and again, “I don’t want to be like that.” Our commitment to our shadows—to not becoming who we are trying not to be— outmuscles our desire to deliver on a great vision.
Funny thing about shadows: they are not really outside of ourselves! It has helped me to recognize that, in my own subtle ways, I am already superior and insensitive. I don’t need success to make me into the dickhead I am trying not to be. I have made it my practice, whenever I think I see qualities I don’t like in people of prominence, to admit some way I do that too.
When you trust yourself to be self aware no matter what success or failure does to you, when you remain convinced of your value even when you feel the need to prove it, when you diligently deliver on the small stuff, then, as the poet Kipling put it, “You fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run and yours will be the earth and everything that’s in it.” May your big vision and everything in it be a great gift to yourself and to all.