Dreaming is fun because a dream can be anything. There are no rules, no approvals necessary and no one you have to impress or satisfy. You can turn off the safeties, play in traffic, and generally indulge in anything you want.
Businesses are built on dreams. Such dreams are unrestricted and creativity is free to flow. The fantasies that can be aroused are full of spectacles of wealth and the freedom such wealth seems guaranteed to create. There’s the gratification of receiving respect and accolades from powerful and accomplished people, and the self-satisfaction of controlling one’s own destiny. This is the temptation and the snare of starting your own business.
While dreaming is a necessary step, it is hardly the final one. The steps that follow have more requirements and they involve barriers and obstacles. When it stops being as easy as dreaming, many would-be entrepreneurs give up or perhaps never start at all. That is not such a bad thing. Starting a business is not for everyone, especially someone who is merely a dreamer. So what must a dreamer become to make it as an entrepreneur?
Vision is Dreams 2.0
To turn a dream into reality, there needs to be vision. What is vision anyway? Is it just seeing into the future? No, that would just be more dreaming. Vision is where you take your dream and apply the laws of physics, economics and human nature to make something happen. It is when you cut yourself off from all the wonderful possibilities that pop up in dreamland, choose one and make it real.
Not all dreamers are visionaries but all visionaries are dreamers. It’s just like all dogs aren’t cocker spaniels but all cocker spaniels are dogs. Vision is dream refinement and the visionary is the refiner.
Does business require vision? No. There are plenty of visionless businesses with visionless leaders. They plod along and fill a space in the marketplace. If that doesn’t sound very exciting, it’s because it isn’t. That lack of inspiration keeps things small, tight and constricted. In short, it neuters a business from having any meaningful impact in the world.
Does impact require vision? Indeed it does. It might seem grandiose to claim vision in a small business. But don’t forget, every big business started small. It started in someone’s head, it was a mere dream. Before it became reality, it became a vision. That’s how we got FedEx and Whole Foods Market, Ralph Lauren and Amazon. It’s also how we got Saint Benoit Creamery and Cafe Gratitude.
You probably haven’t heard of the last two. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t founded visionary people. Sometimes the vision is deep rather than broad. It’s your vision — you get to choose.
Why Vision Is Worth the Cost
You probably noticed that dreams are free but visions seem rather costly. To turn a dream into a vision, you have to take your dearly held dream, cut on it and throw away fanciful details and romantic notions. At first glance this may make vision sound like it takes all the fun out of things. But consider the difference between thinking about riding a roller coaster and actually strapping in to take the ride. Thinking about it is free but to get to that wild ride you have to buy the ticket.
Not everyone has the stomach for a roller coaster. But there are plenty of us who buy our ticket, take the ride, get off with a whoop and run to get in line to do it again. These people are the bonafide entrepreneurs who are truly visionaries.
There are some things in life you can only get by buying your ticket. Vision is one of them. Successful entrepreneurs can tell you it is worth the price. It is thrilling to see a dream of yours solidify into a vision that takes shape in the real world. It is exhilarating when your vision takes on a life of its own. It is exciting when other contribute to your vision, whether they be employees, customers or even competitors who drive you to give more and take it to a higher level.
Dreamers are a dime a dozen. Ideas are easy to come by. But vision requires sterner stuff. The upside of this truth is that it is a barrier to entry. Only the hearty even entertain the notion of being a visionary. Just making that choice puts you in an elite group.
So buy your ticket. Only ticket holders get to take this ride.
Dreaming Photo via Shutterstock
Kenneth Vogt: You have written a thought provoking post! Would you say that a “mission-ary” is person between a dreamer and visionary?
Have you read the works by Dr. Edwin A. Locke on goal-setting and organizational leadership?
I would say that a “missionary” requires both a dream and vision along with a few other key components. I am not sure that I see completely eye to eye with Dr. Locke. I believe he would say that certain personality traits result in leadership whereas I would say they are more concurrent. Still, his was groundbreaking work.
Great post. Getting from a dream to reality requires work and planning, but that can be broken down into manageable chunks that are doable.
While doing is of course critical, this article is more about a change in being. A dreamer can add all the doing they want and still never get anywhere. In fact, if someone is still a dreamer they aren’t ready to do anything. Becoming a visionary is a step that cannot be skipped.
I think if you don’t have dreams, you can’t have goals.
It’s a process. Dreams are a prerequisite for vision. Goals don’t even make any sense before that.
Nice post! We are great at starting things, generating ideas, questioning the system and inspiring others. We identify potential in others and we are great at finding opportunity. But Dreamers tend to lack follow-through because once the buzz of the vision phase has passed, we lose interest and are tempted to move on.
Ideas are a dime a dozen. Turning ideas into reality is where the real magic (and money) is.
Excellent entry. I couldn’t agree more about the buying your ticket part. The dreamer definitely knows this.
Very nice explanation by Vogt. Dreams definitely could be anything but it takes a lot of effort and hard work to give it a real hue. You not only have to be hard-working but also ambitious to fulfill your dreams come true. When it comes to business, it’s needed that you have a plan and work accordingly so that you can safely reach your destination, no matter how much the obstacles are.
Ambition is one path. For others, there is a pull rather than a push. If you don’t think of yourself as “ambitious” and yet you still feel the need to turn your dream into a reality, you too can be visionary.