top of page

CH A P T E R 2

"Vision – The Story of Perception“

“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.”
~ Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor at Harvard Business School

We have sight, but that is not to be confused with vision. Vision sees the unseen. It projects far into the future. It has the ability

to imagine something that has never existed before as if it were right before the visionary’s eyes.

Perceptions of your vision are borne out of the resources, time, and dedicated effort that you have placed into understanding the importance of what it means to the organization’s success.

Parents, for instance, instinctively know how to motivate and inspire their children. Albeit, some are better than others, but for the most part, in their effort to explain the world, parents develop visions for their families. Think of Tiger, Simone, Serena, and even me, for instance.

Many parents struggle with figuring out how to execute their vision for their children, especially when they lack motivation. How many other parents had a budding superstar under their roof but did not discover the key to unlocking their potential?

A vision is like a fire in that it requires fuel, ignition, and maintenance if it is to burn brightly and consistently. I strongly recommend writing down your vision in each area of life—career included—to ensure that what you have in mind is clear to you and those tasked with helping you carry the vision out.

Visions should be simple enough that they can be easily understood. A complicated vision will only confuse everyone about what the central task is and what the endgame looks like. If you want people to have faith in your vision, you must first ensure they understand it.

Children have complete faith and confidence that you, as a parent, teacher, or coach, have their best interests at heart, so long as your vision resonates with them. Okay, that is a bit of hyperbole since gaining a child’s complete trust and confidence is rarely possible. Children are natural-born interrogators who love to question just about everything. But perhaps there is something to be gleaned from that as well.

A vision that cannot stand up to questioning is not worth the paper it is written on. It should be taken apart and put back together repeatedly to ensure it can stand the test. Banks are often tested and hardened by imagining the forces that might threaten the financial stability of the institution. After going through rigorous simulations, the bank is only certified strong if it survives.

The fact that children ask questions is not because of a trust issue. They have no reason to doubt a loving and responsible adult. Instead, they question because they are naturally curious. Their minds, unspoiled by adulthood responsibilities, are free to explore. As they do, they ask questions so that they can order the world.

Your vision, though respected by your team, should be means-tested by them. A good leader does not mind defending the merits of his or her ideas. Ideas worth implementing are strong enough to be questioned. But it all starts with sharing the vision clearly enough that others can decipher it.

Keep your vision short, ensure it is memorable, and the meaningfulness will be evidenced by your organization’s and even your children’s willing adoption and belief in it. For example, the statement “Amazon will be the safest and most customer-centric company in the world” is short, simple, and easy to understand.

I believe my parents were visionaries. They raised my sister and me to believe we could accomplish anything we wanted. They were so good that until just two short years ago, I could have sworn that we grew up rich. They taught us that the principles of a wealthy mindset far outweighed anything we lacked from a material perspective.

I grew up fishing off the waterfront steps of Corpus Christi, Texas, on a tree-lined cul-de-sac in a house with a huge backyard full of fruit trees and space to run. My mother changed her car every year, and my dad was a supervisor at Southwestern Bell. We went to a private school and had tutors to help us with anything that we needed. Our household was the kind where everyone gathered for birthdays, holidays, and, most

importantly, big family dinners on Sundays. We were a Dallas Cowboy Family! My father would not have had it any other way. Dad, my uncles, and I were super fans, and everyone else was obligated to go along for the ride.

Two years ago, my idyllic view of my youth was shattered when I decided to take the short drive down I-37 from San Antonio to show my wife my wonderful childhood home. I wanted her to see the ideal paradise that had helped shaped me into the man she loved. When we arrived, I was shocked at the stark contrast between what was and what I remembered as reality. Not only was the tree-lined neighborhood not tree-lined at all, but my house was the size of my present-day garage. What I thought was an exclusive cul-de-sac was nothing more than a corner turn. My wife literally had to stop me from hopping the fence to see if the orchard was actually out back. In retrospect, I know my parents were not rich, but it felt like we were. We never wanted anything. So not only do I know that my parents’ vision was to ensure that we were safe, educated, and comfortable, but I can tell you that their actions backed it up, and I am better off for it.

Whenever a vision is cast, it has a hypnotizing effect on a person’s sight. Suddenly, everything around them looks hopeful and filled with possibility. A vision is not a lie. It is a promise—a promise that the image you hold in your mind will someday materialize before your eyes.

The second example of why visions should be simple and that a child should be able to embrace them comes from a beloved teacher. As I stated earlier, I went to a private school. No, it wasn’t because we were rich. The school was in very close proximity to my house, and my mom worked extra shifts at the hospital to pay for the modest tuition fees. In retrospect, the teachers who worked there could not have made much money. I suspect they were committed to the craft and wanted to see students excel more than anything. Their reward was not counted in dollars; it was measured in the success stories of their graduates.

My first-grade teacher was Mrs. Murphy. I loved her, and she loved me. She must have retired after my class because I do not remember seeing her in my second-grade year. I remember begging my mom for a few dollars one Christmas so that I could buy Mrs. Murphy some perfume. I knew Mrs. Murphy would like it because my mom had gotten some for my grandmother for her birthday, and she loved it.

There are some things about Mrs. Murphy I will never forget. Her sweet demeanor, her kind eyes, her loving smile. I also remember, to this day, how she made me feel. At any moment of the day, if I choose, I can be transported back to those days when Mrs. Murphy filled the classroom with her signature brand of warmth and acceptance.

I recently asked my mom why I loved Mrs. Murphy so much. She did not hesitate to answer that it must have been because Mrs. Murphy had taught me to read and write. In so doing, she had opened an entire world for me. I asked Mom why I didn’t know how to read prior to the first grade, and she told me that I mixed my words up and wrote everything backward. Dyslexia, I wondered. But my mother insisted that I was just tangled up and struggled to put the words in order. But Mrs. Murphy made it her personal responsibility to help me get it all straight. She tutored me after school every day for a year!

I know that Mrs. Murphy was very proud of me when I passed the 1st grade. It was as if she had invested all the knowledge from her 40-year teaching career in my success, and she beamed at the outcome when I thrived. My mom actually kept in contact with her, so I am aware that Mrs. Murphy knew when I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. I know now, even as I intuitively knew as a child, that Mrs. Murphy’s vision was to ensure that no child was left behind, even if it took more time than she was required to invest. She was never paid for the extra help she gave me. She wanted to ensure I succeeded; that was all the thanks she needed.

She had a simple and actionable vision, which she backed up with her time and effort.

My vision for my team has likewise been simple. Currently, it is “Excellence Starts Now.” The onus for the vision is on me, but it offers a torchlight for Associates that is beyond metrics and the banality of restating everyday tasks.

I am happy to say that both the Army and Amazon have not lost their vision, which is why I was ultimately attracted to both. Vision is essential to the culture of any company or organization. So, as you embark on putting your stamp on your organization, remember that your vision has to resonate with your team. What you believe the vision to be is of little to no consequence. What principally matters is what your team believes or perceives your vision to be. Your every goal has to be the reinforcement and validation of the tenets that align with the organizational objectives and conditions that support the adoption of and belief in your vision.

Whether it is the feeling of being loved and supported in your humble childhood home or the feeling of completing work-related objectives, it all starts with someone’s vision. For me, life’s trajectory was altered for the better because a teacher gave me the confidence to overcome educational shortfalls.

If you are bolstered to believe that you can accomplish missions, large or small, just from the support given to you by a trusted leader, congratulations. You have been blessed to meet a visionary. Visions exist only in the hearts and minds of those they are meant to influence. Keep it short, ensure it is memorable, and the meaningfulness will be evidenced by your organization’s willing adoption and belief in it.


bottom of page