Drawing a Blueprint for Success: Becoming a Visionary
So, we’re onto the first element of creating your Engine of Improvement and that is building a blueprint for success. For starters we’re going to talk about the importance of having a vision of what success looks like to you. This will be incredibly personal, it will be your vision. Not your parents’ vision, your employers, your teachers, not even your partner’s vision. Yours.
We all know of a famous engineer/inventor or even politicians and business leaders who inspired and drove a team to success based on a vision. Whether it be Elon Musk’s visions of humans on Mars or Henry Ford’s of motorised travel. Contrary to a lot of popular modern thinking, they didn’t do tonnes of market research, surveying and whatnot. That’s not to rule out its importance, but it came later — they started with the vision. You will be doing the same for the thing most important and most precious to you — your life.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said a faster horse.” — (Possibly) Henry Ford
Dare to Dream
The aim here is to develop a solidified idea of what a perfect life looks like to you. Not a 10 year vision or a 5 year vision, imagine yourself now in your perfect life. Only you know what your success looks like. Now is not the time to be “realistic”, now is the time to really let our heart take the wheel, now is the time to dream big. Take your time over this one and be unreasonable. Why would you settle for being an actor when you can be an Oscar winner, hell, you think DiCaprio just wants one? No, he wants to win the most, so be the actor with the most Oscar wins in your vision. Think terraforming the moon is your version of success? Add it in. It doesn’t have to be career focused, maybe you want to raise a happy family? Travel to every country in Asia? Put it in there. Get inspired by the stories of others, including fictional characters. Consider developing your own questions before trying to seek the answers.
…But Dream Accurately
However, once you have taken some time and you’ve built an out of focus, vague list of likes, wants and desires, start to write your vision down in accurate detail. Where do you live? What’s the weather like? What do you do that creates meaning in your life? What are you known for? Who do you hang around with? Do you travel a lot or would you like to put down roots somewhere? “I want to live somewhere with nice weather.” simply isn’t accurate enough. What even is nice weather? Some like a snow-white winter, some like it hot.
To create this complex vision, it’s simpler to break it down. Let’s draw the guidelines for our blueprint first. First build a picture about what motivates you, what you enjoy and the kinds of things you want out of life. In the above example somewhere with warm weather, but then keep going and adding in other factors. Use questions like the ones above to prompt you and seek out inspiration from celebrities, co-workers or even friends and family. What kinds of things do they have that you’d like to curate in your own life? Think of your favourite fictional characters, what qualities do they have that you’d like to be in your own life?
Then, we’re going to start creating our outline sketch, it’s okay if we stray from the lines here, we’re working with pencil. Start to consider real-world places, jobs and ways of living that meet the criteria you’ve laid out with your guidelines. It’s a bit like laying out all of the edge pieces of a puzzle, revealing the final picture becomes easier once we’ve laid out the pieces and got the edges done.
Lastly, we’re going to finalise the design with ink on the paper. It’s time to decide which pencil marks are out of whack and which ones deserve to become immortalised in ink. This is where we get excruciatingly specific. So let’s say we know we want to work from home, we want 2 kids, we want to live somewhere warm, with a pool and a vibrant nightlife culture, we might bring this into focus by saying: “In my perfect life I live in suburban California, in an open 4 bed house (master bedroom, two for the kids, and a guest room) with a pool, a large home office and a basement that has been converted into a personal bar where I can host parties for my friends.” There’s so much more colour in that vision, you can almost see the fancy Californian restaurants, the pool, the parties, the sigh of contentment as you lounge by your own pool with a good book. Now you’re daring to dream and crucially, when it comes to turning your blueprint into an action plan later, you know you need to factor in things like building a case for U.S immigration.
Don’t Sleep on Factoring in Meaning
It’s not always easy to develop this vision, particularly where you will find meaning. When we see a blueprint of a thingamabob, we might not always know what its purpose is. Instead it is implicit to the drawing but not always outrightly stated. Often, we don’t really know what we truly want or what we will want in the future. I still to this day do not fully know what field my ideal career is in, but I at least know what it looks like. When we are young, we envision never having to work again, sipping cocktails on the beach. However, the clues left to us by lottery winners, young multi-millionaires and reality show celebrities hint that this gets boring very quickly.
There’s a reason Bill Gates is still working away on charity projects and Tom Brady is still in the NFL. It’s because their work provides their life with meaning. That’s not to say meaning or purpose has to come from your career, it can come from the relationships, family, hobbies and charity. Again, start with the blurry and slowly bring it into focus. What motivates you right now? What kind of books, podcasts inspire you and create the most energy? Tap into that energy, analyse it and you will find the clues to how you might find meaning. Don’t get me wrong, definitely factor in the sweet moments, the cocktail sipping vacations, but it’s wise to assume that alone might not be enough in the end.
Your Vision Can and Will Change
Your vision can and probably will change, but that doesn’t mean we should start with something any less accurate. To use our earlier example, maybe an article about Melbourne crosses your path and you decide actually, Australia is the place you want to be. That’s okay because you’ve already been working towards the big move, saving for a house deposit or you’ve developed a business that allows you to live overseas etc. The fact you set the goal of moving to California and worked towards it makes moving to Melbourne much easier. We will cover this more when it comes to implementing your vision but crucially, we need an accurate vision so that we’re at least vaguely moving towards a vision that means something to us.
Otto Lilienthal’s bat-like gliders only vaguely resemble a modern Boeing 747, yet without Lilienthal’s research into flight we don’t unlock the sequence of events that creates the 747. The vision to create flight for humans had to start somewhere and Otto’s vision, while not the 747, was specific. Similarly, you must work towards a specific vision for your life and trust that you work you do early will provide a solid platform as you grow and evolve and make curating a more perfect life easier.
Without a vision at all, we’re in survival mode — we’re paying the bills, staying in a job because a yearly pay rise keeps us feeling like we’re progressing and making decisions because they’re the “right ones” society told us to make. We’re surviving but we’re not getting closer something that feels like success. A lot of millennials already know from going to university for a worthless degree how it feels when you arrive at the end of that journey — misled, dejected and no closer to your calling in life, save for knowing what not to do. Ultimately, we’re not making choices that lead us down the right path because when we reach a crossroad, even a sign-posted one, we don’t know which path to take since we don’t know what our destination is. If we have a vision to work to, we start to create our own opportunities, we start to make decisions based on a clear destination and we start to build a life we’re in control of.
In essence what I’ve written above already is the exercise to do here, lay out a vision for your life in as much detail as humanly possible. You can do this in a fashion most suited to you, however if you would like a format and prompts I have created the “Build Your Blueprint: Be a Visionary” template (coming shortly) to download which you can fill out on the paper, or as a page in your journal.
As you do this exercise though, make sure you take the time to get introspective and get inspired. It’s good to do this over several sittings and contemplate what you’ve written — maybe do the exercise several times. Read, watch and listen to inspiring things. Is there someone who’s already achieved what your perfect life looks like? Do you have a competitor(s) for what you want to achieve, what are they doing? Take the time to find what you really enjoy doing outside of work, listen to fiction and non-fiction.
Don’t take forever though, your engine of improvement awaits and all the time we spend deliberating we’re standing still. After a point it’s time to create a specific vision and have something tangible to work to.