What is it exactly that separates that 2% of top professionals, from their 0.01% sub-minority called ‘Visionaries’…? What kind of quality can make individuals of similar IQ, expertise, education, training, experience, and sometimes even character, to be so different in terms of results?
Or perhaps you are thinking that the difference is not so great… Surely, for someone who cannot understand or replicate a note of music, the difference between Clementi and Mozart is not so great. The same way a regular driver would notice no apparent difference in how a lap-time is executed between Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher during their prime, and any other top racing-pilot. The same way NBA had M. Jordan, and the others… no matter how talented, capable, trained and focused.
That quality is called Vision, and although I have extensively written and talked about it throughout the years, today I want to approach it from the perspective of its side-effects. Or rather, the side-effects you experience when you are immune to Vision. Many great professionals are extremely narrow-minded, lack imagination, and (more importantly) lack a greater idea and/or a greater feeling regarding what they do, who they are, and what could be possible. Despite their excellent qualifications (sometimes even better than their Visionary counterparts), they do not only fail to change things for the better (in their industry, organization, profession, etc), they even fail to leave a distinctive mark behind even after decades of playing the game.
I am not talking about vanity here, or posthumous presence (reputation) the way the ancient Greeks viewed it, as much as I am referring to this most satisfying feeling of having made as great a contribution as possible, for as many as possible, as lasting as possible. Even if it was for 1 person, on 1 occasion, for a few minutes. History is written moment by moment…
Great professionals need Focus, as we have so often seen. The training and development of Focus usually excludes broader practices and concepts such as Creativity, Originality, Improvisation, Instinct. Through years of practicing and experience, top professionals hone their craft, losing the additional weight that will keep them from flying. Unfortunately, most of the time they also lose the Great Idea and inspiration they had when they were envisioning this as children, teenagers or young professionals. Some, due to character-traits lose it very early indeed. They are called ‘pragmatists’, have data-driven minds and a fragile psychological constitution masked under a calm facade. They become excellent managers of whatever their profession requires, useful particles of their industry, necessary mechanisms for the overall game (a game those ‘visionary’ colleagues have set up) as they choose to restrict themselves out of fear for the unknown…
Visionaries are also people of many faults, if not even more: eccentricities, communication problems, inability to blend-in, and many more. What they always DO have however, is a Greater Idea about what they are doing than merely the mechanics of the job. The greater idea can be a Cause, a group of people, their families, someone who inspires them, an ideology, a theory, a role model whose example they aspire to replicate in their own way, or (as it is most often the case) their very self! Egocentric freaks… all the C. Ronaldos and L. Jameses of this world… Now that I am thinking about it, were Alexander the Great or L.v. Beethoven easy-going fellows?
Of course, it would be naive to think that all egomaniacs are visionaries (or even successful) and all reasonable leaders nothing more than failures to be forgotten. But if YOU are a leader, if you do have all your facts right, and you are failing nevertheless, perhaps the time has come to stop dwelling on how to improve the little details, and start seeking the ‘big notion’ instead. Especially nowadays, this is what most success-stories seem to have a priori.