Transform Your Life: Craft a Vision, not a Resolution #6

Warwick Fairfax

December 31, 2019

The start of a new year leads many of us to create New Year’s Resolutions, but we’d be wiser, and happier, and help more people if we instead moved into 2020 crafting a vision rooted in our deepest values and passions. Crucible Leadership founder and Beyond the Crucible host Warwick Fairfax explains that resolutions leave us feeling obligated, not motivated — so they tend to last only a few weeks. A vision, though, can last a lifetime because it’s a picture of our preferred reality: something we are off-the-charts passionate about that grows over time and is focused on making the world a better place. It may take some time after a crucible experience to heal from the pain it caused and learn the lessons it taught, but from those devastating moments come the wisdom and the wherewithal to lead a life of significance.

Hightlights

  • Why resolutions don’t stick and visions do (2:36)
  • The critical difference between resolutions and vision (4:06)
  • How motivation fuels vision (5:54)
  • Why vision is a picture of a preferred reality (8:35)
  • Walt Disney as a example of how visions tend to grow (10:34)
  • The seeds of a vision that lasts (13:41)
  • Why the scope of your vision doesn’t need to be grand (16:20)
  • The first step to bouncing back from a crucible experience (19:48)
  • The importance of having a team around you to help craft and execute your vision (22:14)
  • Helen Keller’s inspirational thoughts on vision (27:30)

Transcript

Gary:
Welcome everyone to this episode of Beyond the Crucible. I’m Gary Schneeberger, the cohost of the podcast and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. This podcast of Beyond the Crucible is all about living and leading with significance. The eye piece that we look through to get there, the starting point of our discussion is a crucible experience, those things that happen in life that are devastating, painful, change the trajectory of your life. Sometimes they’re failures, sometimes their setbacks and tragedies and traumas that happen to you, but the common experience, it’s painful. It’s traumatic.

Gary:
Here with me to discuss this is someone who knows that firsthand. It’s Warwick Fairfax, the host of the program as well as the founder of Crucible Leadership. Warwick, we’ve got a topical and I think very helpful discussion on tap today.

Warwick:
Gary, great to be here and absolutely. Yeah, it’s very topical as you say.

Gary:
The reason that we say as topical, listeners, is that this episode of the podcast is going to air on the last day of December. It’s going to air, it’s going to go live on December 31st. We all know what happens on December 31st. That’s New Year’s Eve. As the new year approaches, new year’s resolutions start popping up all over the place. It’s like an emotional game of whack-a-mole. Everybody you know is launching a, I’m going to do this this year, I’m going to do this this year. Everybody talks about their resolutions.

Gary:
Warwick wanted to discuss rather than resolutions and maybe the limitations of resolutions, something critical to the crucible leadership model and that is a vision. As we’ve talked as a team, we’ve hatched a name that will probably not be the name. Maybe it will be, we’ll figure that out later, but we’ve hatched a name of just internally how we’re talking about this episode and that is how you can be a visionary, not a resolutionary. You can be someone who’s motivated by, engaged in a vision rather than a resolution. Warwick, explain just at the 30, 40,000 foot level, why is vision a better pursuit than a resolution regardless of the time of year.

Warwick:
Yeah, it’s an interesting question. Starting with resolutions, often in the new year people want to get fit, so they may be go on diets or go to the gym and you have these resolutions, but the problem with resolutions is they typically don’t stick. You have an idea and then couple of months later, I’m sure health clubs will tell you that the gyms go back to normal and it’s not quite as many people as it was first few weeks in January. Same with diets. I mean, they’re just notoriously hard to keep.

Warwick:
Resolutions, they sound good, but in of themselves they can be somewhat transactional, somewhat short term, well meaning, but they don’t tend to stick. Whereas vision is something that is more longterm. It’s more motivating, it’s more tied to deep beliefs within you. Really at the sort of highest level, visions tend to stick and resolutions are a bit like quicksand. They don’t last.

Gary:
What you said about gyms is absolutely true, because when I go to my gym on December 31st or January 2nd or whatever it is, I get there after the new year, I guarantee you all the equipment is going to be harder to get to, but you just kind of take a deep breath and wait a couple of weeks and that will go away, because the people who are going there, the new people who are going there, don’t have a vision longterm for what their fitness goals are. As we’ve prepared for this podcast work, you and I both have come up with phrases to kind of describe the difference between a resolution and a vision.

Gary:
One of the things I said was, in a resolution your focus is on, I’m going to do better. In a vision, your focus is on, I’m going to do good. The idea is, resolution, my behavior is going to change in some way and it’s going to benefit me and it’s going to be fine. I’m going to do better. In a vision, I’m going to do good. I’m going to do something, I’m going to commit myself to something that’s going to make the world a better place. That is another differentiator that it’s not as much self focused. Resolutions tend to be self-focused, whereas visions tend to be other focused. That’s a fair assessment. Isn’t it?

Warwick:
Yeah, it is. Certainly in the Crucible Leadership world, we define a life of significance as one that’s fueled by a vision, that wants to make the world a better place, that wants to help other people, a life lived on purpose. From a Crucible Leadership framework, vision is absolutely something that should do good. Other people might have visions for just success and money, power, and everybody’s entitled to lead their own life, but in terms of a vision that will really motivate, a vision that fits in terms of our philosophy, absolutely. I think it’s a accurate paradigm you’ve described in which a resolution is, yeah, it’s often self focused: dieting, exercise.

Warwick:
It’s more motivated by “shoulds”. The sad thing is, “should” is not particularly motivating. It smacks of legalism, of obligation. Anytime you’re obligated to do something, it tends not to work. Now you tell your kids, “Hey, take out the garbage; wash the car.” It’s like, okay, well, you should do that, but in and of itself, it’s not particularly motivating. Doesn’t always get done. Whereas vision, if it’s especially one that’s altruistic, which is what we talk about here, where you really want to help other people in a Crucible Leadership framework, maybe you’ve had a tragedy and out of the tragedy you’ve gone through and maybe you want to help other people avoid it, or maybe you’ve learned some lessons to just fundamentally change the direction of your life, a vision which is fueled by a passion, it’s more than resolution.

Warwick:
It’s not transactionary, it’s more transformational, it’s motivational. Anything that you are really motivated by in which you feel like, hey, if I stop, there’s somebody out there that could have benefited, that won’t benefit if I don’t do this. That kind of motivation, there’s something about when it’s about other people, it’s somehow, maybe it’s the way we’re all designed, the human condition, but somehow it’s more motivational. Yeah, it just comes down to vision tends to be more transformational, should be more outward focused.

Warwick:
A resolution can be more just transactionary short term. Yeah. If it’s not tied to some longterm vision, the chances of it lasting are pretty low. Some people love new year’s resolutions. I’ve never been a new year’s resolution kind of person, because just it’s like, well I’ll come up with something and it won’t last and I’ll feel all sorts of pressure and obligation to do it and I probably won’t do it. I don’t know, I find it discouraging to be honest, that kind of resolution mentality.

Gary:
Well, I mentioned that we both had some phrases that we thought encapsulated this. I said mine and the kind of guy I am, I like the words that come out of my mouth. I think I can be clever sometimes and insightful. I thought “I’m going to do better” versus “I’m going to do good,” that’s a pretty good summary. Then you said something to me that I was like, oh well mine wasn’t so good. Here’s what Warwick said when we were talking about this yesterday and I want you to talk about, Warwick, what you meant by this. “Vision is a picture of a preferred reality.” Vision is a picture of a preferred reality. Tell us what you’re thinking when you said that.

Warwick:
Yeah, I mean I write a lot about vision. I read a lot about vision. Vision is a picture of a preferred reality. An ideal vision is something that you can feel, touch, smell. You dream about it at night. You just have a picture in your mind of exactly what is going to be, who you’re going to be working with or the kinds of people, what it’s going to be like. An ideal vision is something that seems almost impossible but not quite. If it’s like, “Ah, this is easy,” that’s not very motivational. If it’s like, “Oh, there’s no way,” that’s not motivational either. When it’s what they call like a stretch goal, you feel like, yeah, I think I can do it, but hey, it won’t be easy, but you know what? I am going to make it happen. I’m going to make it happen. That’s the perfect vision, you have a picture of a preferred reality that you’re off the charts passionate about.

Gary:
It’s different, what you just described, than what a resolution is. To say, I’m going to lose 15 pounds, well that’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do. There’s a definite end to it. It’s not certainly as hard as transforming your neighborhood. It’s not as hard as empowering your team in the next year to be able to make decisions without your input or with less of your input. There’s a grander scale in most cases to visions and that’s, if you have to imagine a preferred reality, it’s not necessarily an end point to that.

Gary:
It’s preferred and it continued to be preferred and refined and better and better and better as opposed to the end of a goal. I’m not going to eat sugar anymore. Okay. I’m not eating sugar anymore. Not easy to do, but it’s not necessarily described with some other leadership contexts as a BHAG, a big hairy audacious goal. It’s not one of those kinds of circumstances.

Warwick:
I think just to comment on what you just said, I think that’s really true is vision is, yeah, I mean you might have a picture in your mind which might lead you to think there’s an end point, but visions tend to grow. We’ll maybe talk about this more later, but I think of Walt Disney is really a prime example. Originally it was more in the ’20s, and ’30s, how can we make a movie from cartoons where it’s not just a few minute Mickey Mouse cartoon, which he was proud of and which are wonderful, but how can we tell a compelling story, hence Snow White.

Warwick:
Well, from then he moved on to making feature length movies about animals that were very successful. He then had this vision of Disneyland, a theme park in which it will be safe for families and just a whole different vision, and then from there, Disney World. The vision evolved and grew. It kept growing, but yet he had this image in his mind of what he wanted at each point and he made it happen. It was incredibly motivational and his team obviously bought into it. Yeah, visions are transformational: they grow and develop.

Gary:
Right. If we were to take Walt Disney’s vision that you just explained, and let’s say Walt Disney on December 31st, decided he was going to have a resolution: “By golly, I’m going to make a feature length film from animation.” That could have stopped right there. Once he did his first feature length film, that could have been the end of it, but he had a vision and that vision, as you explained, that vision grew and multiplied and changed over time. Each goal was, “Okay, that was a success. We hit that. Now let’s keep going,” because the vision was grander than just, “I want to make a an animated film.”

Warwick:
Absolutely. I think the question is really a resolution for what, for what reason. Motivation is the key to action and so if a resolution is tied to a broader grand division, maybe it’s not a resolution, because I think I don’t like that word too much because people just tend to start and stop them. If it’s more, okay, what action am I going to take today that’s part of a grander plan, that’s part of a grander vision, what’s a first step or a second step or a third step, that’s to me not so much a resolution. It’s more part of the plan, the grand plan you have of making your vision becoming reality. It’s a different mindset.

Gary:
Well listeners, we’re trying to help you get to a different mindset. Not to say that you can’t do resolutions, but we’re saying that if you do those, also engage in a vision because a vision is going to be something that longterm is going to continue to motivate you. That longterm is going to continue to change and allow you to achieve new steps of significance that benefit others. We’ve talked a lot about the philosophy of all this, Warwick. Let’s talk about the brass tacks. What informs a vision for someone?

Warwick:
Really it starts in a few places, which is you have to be off the charts passionate about your vision. It has to mean something to you. Now it could be out of a crucible experience. Maybe you went through something that you don’t want anybody else to suffer. Maybe you went through abuse or a health challenge and you want to set up an organization to help cancer survivors or survivors of abuse. That obviously would be very motivational to you because you want to help other people, or maybe like, Walt Disney, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had full length color movie in a cartoon, but somehow is a compelling story?” You’ve got to be off the charts passionate about. That’s absolutely fundamental. From my perspective, it helps if that is tied to your fundamental beliefs.

Warwick:
It could be aspect of faith, a philosophy, but somehow your vision also has to be tied into your values and beliefs, so that you feel like, you know what, this is important. Back to the example of abuse, you understandably might say, people shouldn’t have to go through this. It’s wrong and I want to help people avoid it. I want to help people bounce back and lead productive lives. It’s easy to see that that’s not just some airy vision. It’s tied to somebody’s fundamental beliefs and values they feel like is really important. That gives its roots and helps it grow.

Warwick:
The other thing is it really helps if it’s tied to your fundamental design. We’re all designed certain ways. Back to the Walt Disney example, he was an animator. He started off noodling with cartoons on napkins and pieces of paper as a boy. Yes, as the company grew, he wasn’t always drawing as much as his lead animators, but his team knew that Walt got it, he was one of them. He knew how to draw. He could grab the pen. No computers back then. Old pen and ink and what have you and he could say, “Yeah, how about we do this?”

Warwick:
I guess to summarize, a vision has to be something you’re off the charts passionate about, that you feel like the world can’t afford not to have this. It’s that important. It’s tied to your fundamental values and beliefs and it’s also in line with your inherent design. You do all those things it has a much greater chance of becoming reality.

Gary:
Two quick things about what you just said. It does not have to be a grand vision, a world changing vision in the sense of truly global world. It can be a very micro neighborhood vision. Correct?

Warwick:
That’s correct. I mean the thing is visions can start small. Like for Walt Disney, even before Snow White, he just wanted to get a shop together with some people that really loved creating fun cartoons, that will be really creative. Well, I don’t think he was thinking at that stage necessarily, I’m going to have a global empire, but they can grow. Certainly, success isn’t dependent on having a vision that becomes as large as the Walt Disney company. You could have a vision, yes, on a grand scale to lead a large for profit or nonprofit in the U.S., or elsewhere, but you also might say, “Look, I want to clean up the neighborhood park.”

Warwick:
Maybe there’s drugs and crime and you want to make it safe for your kids and your friends’ kids. That won’t be an easy vision. You’ll have to get your neighbors on board. It may be the local community council. That will not be easy, but it may be a park in a small town somewhere. It’s not the scale of the vision. To me a vision that changes one life is a big vision, so it’s not the scale as some people would measure it. It’s more, how important is it to you. That’s how I would measure the size of the vision so to speak.

Gary:
For people who are listening right now, Warwick, who you mentioned a couple of times, a vision to be successful, you have to be off the charts passionate about. What do you say to the listener who is sitting there and maybe because of the crucible experience they’ve been through, they’re feeling less than off the charts passionate about anything at this moment? What’s your counsel to them to discover what they are, because everybody’s passionate about something. Maybe we don’t feel it all the time. How do you unlock that if you’re not feeling it? How do you find again or find for the first time what you’re truly off the charts passionate about?

Warwick:
Yeah, it’s not always easy. I know for me in the ’90s, as I think listeners know from previous podcasts and blogs, after I lost a large family media business in Australia, been in my family for 150 years after a $2.25 billion takeover-

Gary:
That was billion with a B, for listeners.

Warwick:
(laughing) It was,

Gary:
I love saying that every time you say that. I just got to be clear.

Warwick:
I know. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. When that ended I wasn’t thinking, “Oh okay. Yeah, this ended. Okay, that’s fine. Hey, let’s move on to a big vision here.” No, I mean through most of the ’90s, I wasn’t in particularly good shape. I was depressed at least to some degree. It took quite a while to bounce back. I think with the crucible experience in a sense, the first step is just dealing with the pain, accepting what you’ve gone through. Maybe if there are things you have to make right with others to do that, if it’s forgive yourself for your own mistakes. I had to claw my way back into finding things I could do without screwing up.

Warwick:
Everybody’s different. Maybe some people’s bounce back will be a lot quicker than mine. You’ve got to get yourself first into a healthy place as best you can. Sometimes that’s seeking counseling, whatever it will take. You’ve got to sort of trust the process. As you try different things and experiment, if you’re open to it, it will come. There’s no magic way. Sometimes it’s asking other people about, I don’t know, next steps, thinking of things, what is it you enjoy. I don’t know that I asked this question. I probably should have, but didn’t think of it at the time is, okay, this whole John Fairfax debacle was awful, the media company, but how can I use this pain for a purpose.

Warwick:
I don’t know that I asked that question, but I don’t know that there’s a simple answer. Do the internal healing as best you can and just be open. At least in my case, I’m a person of faith, so prayer helps, whether it’s prayer or meditation or reflection. Just think about, okay, how can I use this pain to help others. Maybe ask friends. At least from a crucible experience, that’s often helpful, but be open to it. We did a podcast that’ll air at some point here soon with Margie Warrell, who is a fellow Australian, she talks a lot about fear and she talks about not letting fear hold you back. Don’t let the fear and pain hold you back. Try and channel that into something productive. It’s not a linear process. You just got to be open to it.

Gary:
Patience really is required on a lot of levels, right?

Warwick:
Yeah.

Gary:
To really hatch all aspects of the vision. It does not come quickly necessarily. It can, but I guess what you’re saying, it seems like what you’re saying is, don’t be discouraged if right now, listener, you’re not feeling off the charts passionate about something. It will come as you step out and you start to engage what Warwick is talking about, how were you designed, what are your values, what are the things that you care about, what are things people tell you that you’re really good at, what are those kinds of things. Then in walking in those, you will come to a point through prayer, meditation, counsel with others, you will come to a point where you’ll marry those values and passions to a vision.

Warwick:
Absolutely. One of the things that’s really important is, people aren’t designed to walk alone. At several junctures, when you go into the depths of the pain and as you’re beginning to come out of it and explore, “Gee, what can I do?” And be productive, use the pain to help others, ask other people that know you. It could be a spouse, very close friends, and they will often see us more objectively. Sometimes, hopefully they’ll have more hope for us than we have for ourselves. Seek their counsel. Then as you begin forming your vision, you want, as I call them, fellow travelers who will be with you on the journey of building that vision.

Warwick:
Most people that I know that formed a great vision, they had people with them. Walt Disney had fellow animators that believed in his vision. At each step of the way, as you’re recovering from the crucible, as you’re beginning to form your vision, you’ve got to have people in there with you. That’s just absolutely foundational and fundamental.

Gary:
You’ve mentioned Disney a couple of times. As we start to begin the process of wrapping up, is there anyone else off the top of your head historically or in your family or your own story? Is there anybody else that you can sort of single out for listeners as someone who really crafted a meaningful vision and then lived that out, or is living that out now?

Warwick:
Yeah. Henry Ford, who founded Ford motor company, a huge auto company is one. He tried a number of different times, different companies, which at first didn’t work, but he had this vision of what he called creating a motorcar for the multitudes, in an era, in the early 1800s, when cars really were for the very wealthy, not for your average in this case, American, where he first launched his company. He had this vision that automobiles as they were called, could be something that your average person could afford. Hence he launched the Model T in 1908, the first affordable car. That’s one. Thomas Edison is another one. He had this great quote, which is, “A vision without execution is hallucination.”

Gary:
Oh, that’s good. Say that again for the listeners. Say that again so they can write that down.

Warwick:
Yeah, vision without execution is hallucination. In the late 1800s, at that time people got light in their homes and factories through gas. Gas wasn’t exactly the safest way to light your home. It could explode, but that’s what they had. He had a vision of the incandescent light bulb that would be safer. As I think most of us know from school, it took thousands of tries at different filaments until he had the magic filament that actually worked. That was kind of his vision.

Warwick:
In my own family, John Fairfax, as listeners will know from previous podcasts and blogs, he had an earlier experience of a small newspaper in England which went bankrupt, because an unscrupulous lawyer sued him for libel for a story that the judge said actually wasn’t libel. He came out to Australia and he had this vision of founding a great newspaper. This paper would be without fear to express opinion, without the reproach of self interest, sworn to no master and free from narrow interest of sectarianism.

Warwick:
He was working in the local library. He was a librarian at the time, became now the state library in New South Wales where Sydney is. He and a would be partner of his, Charles Kemp, they would sit long into the night dreaming about this newspaper. They had this vision that they called, the plan. As I said, this would be this paper that wouldn’t be a party paper, but would really hold people accountable, defend interests that need to be defended. They kind of had the vision mapped out pretty clearly. While John would handle the business side, his partner, Charles Kemp, would handle the journalistic side and together they collaborate on the editorial.

Warwick:
He had a clear vision and he brought a team together and made it happen. Each of these visions were really, whether it’s Henry Ford, John Fairfax, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, there was certainly some altruism in there. They did in a sense, want to make the world a better place, whether it’s affordable transportation, a safe source for energy, Walt Disney and an idea of just having cartoons that tell a bigger story in a longer format, like Snow White, or John Fairfax wanting to have a paper that would be non-sectarian. Yeah. Each of those was in very different ways, was a big vision.

Gary:
Well that is a fantastic and an inspiring place for us to end our time together today. On the subject of inspiration, I found a quote as well I wanted to leave you with, listeners. This is from Helen Keller. It was interesting when I was looking up quotes, Warwick, for vision, Helen Keller, maybe because she was indeed blind, has so many quotes about vision, but here’s the one that really struck me. “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.”

Warwick:
A life without vision is almost like looking at the world in black and white. There’s no color.

Gary:
Absolutely. I guess since it is December 31st, and if anybody really has to make a resolution, say someone’s dared you to do it, maybe resolve to craft a vision in 2020.

Warwick:
Absolutely. That’d be the one resolution I think that actually could make some degree of lasting sense.

Gary:
There you go. This New Year’s, listeners, resolve to craft a vision. You can be with us here on, Beyond the Crucible and at Crucible Leadership and we will help you craft that vision and understand what underlies and informs your vision. The way that you can keep up with what we’re doing here at Crucible Leadership, for one thing, you can subscribe to the podcast that you’re listening to right now on the device, on the service, the app that you’re listening to it on. You can subscribe to the Beyond the Crucible podcast. Never miss an episode through all of 2020.

Gary:
You can also check us out on our website, crucibleleadership.com. Warwick has a number of blogs there. There are other assets there. There’s a workbook that allows you to identify where you are in the process of walking this path to a life of significance. You can also engage with us on social media. Warwick’s very active on social media. On Facebook, you can find Crucible Leadership at Crucible Leadership, Facebook/at crucibleleadership, and Warwick is active on LinkedIn and you can track, follow what he’s up to on LinkedIn. That’s at Warwick Fairfax. Warwick spells his name, as I always say, with a silent W in the middle. It’s W-A-R-W-I-C-K, at Warwick Fairfax on LinkedIn.

Gary:
We wish you a very Happy New Year and hope that you’ll come back and join us on Beyond the Crucible, so that we can continue to have this dialogue and this conversation about how crucible experiences, those painful moments in life, they change the trajectory of your life, but they don’t need to be the end of your story. In fact, they can be the beginning of a new chapter of your story. One that’s fueled by vision, and that leads you to a life of significance.

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