by Jeremy Nulik
Before we address more substantive themes, it would be good to lay assumptions on the table. In that spirit, here’s what I think I know about you:
1. You’re scrappy. You do a lot with a little. People are often amazed at what you can accomplish on a small budget or with just a handful of dedicated people.
2. You’re driven. You want to accomplish something and are willing to endure pain to get it. You challenge others to have that same expectation.
3. You’re optimistic. You believe in your and your cohort’s abilities to overcome challenges. You are energized rather than deterred when challenged.
If any of these assumptions are true — at least to some degree — and you have found yourself metaphorically nodding along, then I have three more assumptions:
1. You’re scrappy. You can be a miser with your investments. Doing so has put you and others at risk of failure when deeper investments or acquisition of expertise would have reduced the likelihood of failing.
2. You’re driven. Your need for accomplishment can supersede and blind you to the needs of others. That is, if something or someone is not of immediate utility to you, you can cast it or them out. This behavior has sometimes limited your accomplishments.
3. You’re optimistic. You are the last one to accept and understand defeat. You ignore warning signs and carry on when it is clear that you are headed for disaster.
Every character attribute has its shadow. And, if ever there was a year full of shadow, it was this past one. When faced with overwhelming uncertainty, our nature is to revert to behaviors that are the shadow versions of our character.
There exists a mindset which can help you to remain on the light side of your character. This mindset is not one that comes from flipping a switch or toggle. You cannot swipe or scroll this ethos into existence. It is the result of a ritualized practice based on strategic foresight. It has to do with the quality of the futures you project, entertain, and articulate.
Here is a way to get started on that mindset: Write your own Wikipedia page (at least the summary) for an audience 50 years in the future.
This recommended starting place is based on another assumption: You believe you already have a vision. In setting out to execute a vision, the temptation for most entrepreneurs is based on carrying forward their potential accomplishments. There are often phrases such as “number one” or “employer of choice” or “industry leader.” While these aspirations are neither ethically nor morally wrong, they usually fall flat in the face of a test: Does that vision inspire you and others?
A more inspiring take on the question of crafting a vision can begin with the following prompt: How will the world be changed because you were able to achieve your vision? What wake will you leave behind after you are gone?
Answers to these questions are the elements you would find on a Wikipedia page. They are something bigger than you and your impact – and bigger than what you could achieve. They have to do with what you could achieve through others because you did your remarkable thing. A vision that articulates how the world could be changed is one that can inspire both you and those around you to commit with your highest character.
So get to it. Create your Wikipedia page (summary, life and career, legacy, awards and honors). Such an appeal to this mindset can create the groundwork necessary to weather uncertainty. It is the foundation of any useful vision for the future.
Jeremy Nulik (email@example.com) is evangelist prime at bigwidesky, a human business consultancy, in St. Louis, Mo.