By Thomas Leonard
Step 1. Get that it is now becoming normal to have a vision.
Having a vision is not weird. Having a vision used to be a ‘woo-woo’ thing, but as more people have more time, space, money and reserves, they can afford to think bigger and think beyond themselves. And part of thinking bigger is to sense more of what’s possible. I believe that the terms vision and visionary will become natural and commonplace in the next 10-20 years. To NOT have a vision will be unusual. Even if your vision is “just” an intuitive feeling or intangible sense at this stage, it IS a vision and it’s worth discovering, articulating and experimenting with.
Step 2. Find someone who can hear you.
Dreams, visions and ideas are often dashed and diminished by well-meaning friends, family and colleagues. They tend to ask questions in their quest to keep you ‘safe.’ Or, because they don’t have a vision of their own, they don’t know how to listen or hear you and your ideas properly. And it’s that special type of hearing that the person with a vision needs more than anything at this stage. Visionaries see and feel on a different frequency than the average person. So, being a visionary and having a dream can be a very lonely experience. You feel the magic and the excitement of your idea, its potential and its likely reach, but until your vision has become a reality, it’s often difficult to find enough other people who ‘get it’ and who will adequately encourage you to clarify and develop your idea and bring it to life. That’s where a vision-trained coach comes in.
Step 3. Before you develop a plan, start experimenting.
Most people think that when you have a vision, you should first come up with the strategies and a plan to properly position and implement it. But my view is that it’s better to first experiment-and-learn for a period of 1-6 months. By experiment, I mean to involve others – those who would benefit from your vision. By doing this, you stay focused on people instead of getting ‘carried away’ with just an idea. This approach also provides a reality check and a chance to see your idea be used and benefit others. And they, in effect, become your R&D Team, if you let them. How many people are we talking about during the experimentation stage? I’d say between 25-1,000 individuals. That’s enough to get a sense of the viability and attractiveness of your vision. I believe in this “experiment first” approach because of the immediate feedback and support loop that it provides. And it takes you out of your mind and into the lives of others, which is where the best ideas come from anyway.
Step 4. Identify the outcomes to the beneficiaries.
Now that you’re engaged with the people who can benefit from your vision, it becomes easier to clearly identify how people benefit from your idea. And by focusing on THAT (instead of your own benefits, or on the project or on the vision itself), you tap directly into where the energy and fulfillment is. You’ll need this energy to sustain yourself during the 1-20 years it takes to implement your vision, so it makes sense to discover and tap into it early in the process. And there’s another benefit as well. It helps you to evolve through any of the ‘causiness’ that often is what prompted a person to have a vision in the first place. In other words, if you had an abused childhood, you might find yourself having a vision to reduce/eliminate child abuse. You’ll be fueled by the fact that you’re still not healed or complete with what happened and this ‘charge’ is both emotionally and financially very expensive. But by focusing on the outcomes and the benefits (instead of the problem), you transition from a person ‘with a cause’ to someone with a clean vision. In other words, you become a person who is at choice about what you’re working on, instead of being driven by the past.
Step 5. Come to fully understand the relevance and timing of your vision.
Visions don’t just ‘appear.’ They become ‘seeable’ and possible because people evolve and civilizations develop. Part of what I do with clients is to help them discover the link between their vision and the events and trends occurring in their country and/or in the world. This larger perspective and context can make the difference between success and failure as one seeks to forward the vision. In a highly connected world, it’s hard to make something happen ‘all by itself.’ Tapping into trends and events can provide the boost you’ll need to accelerate the implementation of your vision. Relevance provides a path for people to understand what you’re talking about and how to get involved.
Step 6. Do some research.
You probably aren’t the only person to have this vision or something close to it. Take 30 days and research – on the web and in related magazines/books – everything you can about the area of your vision. You need to know.. –Who is doing something similar? –How is your vision/project different/better? –What can you do that stands on the shoulders of what others are doing?
–What newly emerging niche hasn’t yet been served?
–What large niche isn’t being served well?
–What trends are occurring that will affect the people that your vision seeks to serve?
Step 7. Pick some numbers.
At this point, you have enough information and experience to pick some numbers. -The number of people you want to affect/touch (your audience)
–Revenue targets –Costs/Budget –3-5 year plan/performance
I generally recommend that you pick bigger numbers (50,000-50,000,000). Just trust your intuition and body – there is a number there. Just say it. You may not know how you’ll reach those numbers, but that’s not the point. The most important thing to do is to pick the audience number that occurs to you and then work backwards to see how you would reach those numbers. That gap is good – it will stimulate your creativity.
Step 8. Package your vision.
People have to ‘buy’ your vision – whether it’s an idea, concept, product, service, company, approach, method, tool, invention, business, agency or skill set. Obviously, the positioning and packaging of your idea is key to its success. But by this time in the cycle, you already have a sense of what does work (thanks to the experimentation phase), so most of the time here is spent on scaling up what already has proven to work.
Step 9. Develop a plan and timeline.
At this stage, you are already in momentum, so the plan and timeline you develop will be a lot more accurate and realistic than if you tried to do this planning before you knew the market as intimately as you do now. Here are the elements of the plan to identify:
–The Team. Who will help you in this project?
–External Expertise. What information or experts do you need to advise and deliver?
–Cash. How much capital do you need to start? To fund your project annually?
–E-Systems. Do you need a website? Email newsletter? Internet marketing?
–Strategies. How will you position, market and create buzz for your vision/idea?
Step 10. Orient your life around your vision without losing touch with your life.
People used to “give it all up” for a cause or their business or an idea. They’d eat, drink, sleep, and breathe it until their life essentially disappeared into the vision. But this isn’t necessary today. Thanks to increased awareness, improved communication/networking technology, better understanding of stress and self-care, and overall smarter ways of living, the person with a vision CAN have it all – themselves, their life, their families and the vision. Nothing need get lost in the passion of the vision. Part of the coach’s job is to support the client to fully integrate the vision in with the client’s life so that it doesn’t ruin, but rather strengthens, the client’s life.
© 1999 by Thomas J. Leonard, father of coaching and a former financial planner.