Create a Vision With Staying Power


An Effective Vision Does More Than Simply Show Where You’re Going


“Vision” is one of the most commonly used and most widely misunderstood terms. There’s a tremendous amount of power in a vision. But unfortunately when the term is not used or understood correctly, we lose out on the opportunity to access the power.

Consider the Apollo Moon Project. It was amazing. They overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. When President Kennedy articulated the vision to put a man on the moon by 1969, the technology to accomplish it had not even been invented. An exciting decade of focused, Herculean efforts ended in 1969 when two men walked on the moon and returned safely home. It was amazing! …and then it was over.

What’s happened with NASA since? It has never recreated these spectacular accomplishments. There was a miraculous decade and then nothing.

BECAUSE: They didn’t know why they were doing it. There was no clear purpose. Were they doing it to win the “space race?”.. or the “Star Wars” initiative?… or in the spirit of Star Trek “to boldly go where no one has gone before?”

There was a challenging picture that focused efforts, but once it was achieved, it ended. It was not a “vision” that guided people into the future.

I was speaking about this awhile ago with a group of people and an engineer in audience said, “I was on the Apollo project.” I asked him what his point of view was, and he said, “You’re right purpose is important. Those of us working on the project did have a clear purpose. As you may remember, we were concerned about overpopulation in the 1960’s. For us, this project was about finding new frontiers to populate in order to save the human race. It was very motivating for us.”

That’s a noble purpose. But it wasn’t commonly embraced by the larger population, and because they weren’t aligned around a significant purpose, there was nothing to guide NASA into the future.

What we have discovered when looking closely at “vision” is that a picture the future is a powerful part of the vision, but it’s not enough. To provide ongoing guidance, a vision must show why as well as where.

Significant Purpose

A compelling vision includes a significant purpose that explains why in order to provide an answer the question, “What’s next?”


16 comments to Create a Vision With Staying Power

  • Jesse, you left me hanging after the video! What are the 3 compelling elements that were left out of the NASA “vision”? Help! In my opinion, JFK’s “putting a man on the moon in 10 years” was more a mission than a vision.

    • Thanks for raising that question, Lowell. Sorry it is a cliff-hanger.
      The three elements of a compelling vision are:
      1) significant purpose
      2) clear values
      3) picture of success (a picture of the end-result – what it looks like in the future when you are fulfilling your purpose and living your values)

      My post The Key to Vision Statements That Work explains this in more detail.

      I agree with you on NASA, Lowell.

      • Jesse, I love how you respond so completely. I agree that purpose and values (or guiding principles – as I refer to them now) are vital. I’ve just begun to speak about visualizing out loud. I always felt it was too soft for most folks, even though sports greats have been doing it for years.

        • Thanks, Lowell. The conversation is my favorite part of blogging – an opportunity to learn from others and to extend my own thinking.

          Visualizing is important. I used to tiptoe into it, thinking it might seem too soft, but my experience has been that if I’m comfortable, others are also. I often use sports to introduce it. The history of mental imagery goes back to the 1984 Olympics when the Russians walked away with most of the gold medals. The focus used to be on mental rehearsal, but then they discovered the real power was in visualizing the end result – standing on the podium receiving the gold medal. Another post you might find helpful: The Power of Picture: 7 Tips to Create Your Picture

  • Another excellent post, Jesse! (The movie, Apollo 13, happens to be another one of my all time favorites. :))

    As I’ve been exploring values and vision in my own life and also that of our country, something keeps coming up for me more and more here lately. You’ve already shared helpful and excellent insights on values in past posts. And as a result, I’ve become more aware of just how sometimes what we ‘think’ we value can be very different from what our actions may indicate as values. (unconscious motives overriding conscious intentions)

    In light of these things, it really does seem the missing ingredient to help answer the big ‘why’ question in terms of vision has to do with legitimate NEED. As I reflect on my own legitimate needs and that of my children to help me shape my own vision, I can see how larger groups (organizations and even the country)…if they can figure out and harness the most legitimate needs to shape the vision they (or we) want to have in the future, that would more clearly address the ‘why’ behind it. And perhaps garner more wide-spread support to fuel efforts.

    Thanks again for sharing another great voice and allowing us to ‘see’ you too! :)


    • You make a very good point, Samantha. Vision is about being of service. I call it a “significant” purpose. Peter Senge calls it a “noble” purpose. But the reality is, whatever one calls it, at a very deep level, our human nature calls us to serve that which is greater than ourselves. Being of service around a legitimate need provides meaning to our lives and gives us a deep sense of fulfillment. And when a group of people know they are in service of the same purpose, a tremendous energy is released and amazing things happen – whether this is a family, a company, or a community. When I speak about this, I find that almost everyone has experienced this to some degree at some point in their life, maybe a high school sports team, a community project or even a work team. These days we are facing some very legitimate needs on a very large scale – to preserve our beautiful planet and the life it supports, including our own.

  • Great video, Jesse! Hope you do more of those. Keep up the good work. Bret

  • Starting with WHY is so integral to unlocking a life of success and happiness. Such an awesome reminder. I am a huge proponent of asking this question at early ages to help students and young adults enter their careers with a sense of direction and purpose. I think this will not only build strong businesses but strong families and marriages as well. Thanks for being an inspirational voice in the midst of so much chaos on-line!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Erin, and your thoughts on the importance of WHY. It is one of the most powerful words. It is ironic that WHY is the most common word of children who first are learning to talk, and a common response from adults is “because I said so.” Seems like we teach children to stop asking that question. I’m glad to hear you are putting the question back in our vocabulary.

  • Robert Drescher

    Hi Jesse

    Personally I have always felt that a good vision should be based on the underlying values of an organization, but its main purpose is to provide a view of the future that can be achieved without breaking the organizations base values.

    Now if you want to power and organization to reach that vision it either has to be obvious as to what purpose the vision is to attain, or that purpose needs to provided.

    You just cannot create values through a vision, values have to first underlie everything else, but a valid vision must align with those values or it will never be reached.

    • Hi Robert, You are in good company in this viewpoint, as Jim Collins and Jerry Porras discuss it in their book Built to Last. It would take me longer than I have space in this comment section to explain why I only partially agree. So I thank you for motivating me to write a blog post on this subject, and I will welcome your comments.


    HI Jesse,
    I want to know what was the vision in Apollo 13 movie.
    was it just to land on the moon . or save the men .

  • Life is about giving, not getting. Glad to see a reference to having a significant purpose.

    • So true. Life is much easier when we have that perspective, and in the end, we actually get more. If you click on “purpose” in the category sidebar you’ll notice that I tend to write a lot about purpose. Glad you liked this post.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>