Whenever we need a mid-week pick-me-up, whenever we’re feeling drained, all we really need to do is look at people who were, and are, so relentlessly in pursuit of what they believe in. These are people who we read about with longing, and more often than not, these are also people heavily criticized by their contemporaries.
For in being way ahead of their times, they made us all uncomfortable enough to accept a new truth.
We wind up this month’s series on a shared vision with examples of people with ideas enough to encompass an entire generation, and with the conviction to see them come to life. A shared vision is only as compelling as the number of people who believe in it!
1. Warren Buffett: What does it take to earn more than the world’s most famous billionaire? Warren Buffet is widely regarded as one of Wall Street’s smartest investors, and it is famously said that he never invests unless he has personally met and spoken to the founding team.
However, the one thing that sets him apart from all of his wealthy peers is how well he manages to stay clear of the spotlight. In line with his personal principles, he likes to keep his head down and prefers to work with his team, outside of the public spotlight. He gives us a valuable lesson in leadership simply by being as low-key as he is. In a world of valuations, he is probably the ultimate unicorn.
2. Leonardo Da Vinci: Da Vinci was a polymath at a time when such a word didn’t exist to describe geniuses who didn’t fit into traditional boxes of education. While he is widely known as a painter, few know that he was also a mathematical genius. He did extensive work in designing warships and even flying machines. To put that into context, the Wright Brothers took their first flight in 1903 while Da Vinci passed away in the year 1519.
He didn’t limit himself to the material sciences either and spent his time think up plans for what an ideal city would look like. Today, as we place growing importance on cross-disciplinary learning, we cannot forget that the very idea was first pioneered over six hundred years ago.
3. Ada Lovelace: When Ada Lovelace invented what would become the future computer, no one wanted to fund her project. So, she took her significant inheritance (she was Countess Lovelace, after all!) and gambled at the racecourse. Not just that, she actually used the machine she had created to out-gamble all other bidders. The rest, of course, is history.
It is also helpful to remember, at this point, that Ada Lovelace looked beyond what Charles Babbage had been able to propose. Her model was designed around the fact that if one could manipulate numbers using a machine, they could manipulate anything. From modern word-processes to even the concept of search engines, we have her to thank. Through her work, she has inspired generations of computer engineers and coders alike.
4. Oprah Winfrey: "The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but on significance- and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.”, Oprah famously said. She is the guru before all life gurus and the person who popularized the concept of a vision board.
Anything that you can envision clearly enough is possible, she says, and she even cites an example of how she purchased a ball gown for President Obama’s inaugural event, even before the elections were even underway! Sheer conviction can take us places, and Oprah’s millions of followers from Meghan Markle to Michelle Obama are proof.
5. Jack Ma: We don’t often discuss this visionary leader of the Alibaba Group, but he deserves a place on this list. Back in 1994, the western world was just discovering the internet. At that point, Jack Ma built his business around internet usage! Over three decades ago, he could envision what the future would look like, and he managed to convince investors, employees, and external stakeholders to believe in the same vision.
Today, the Alibaba Group has revenues of over a quarter trillion dollars and just happens to be China’s biggest retail venture. That’s not enough for someone looking into the future, though, because Alibaba is now pioneering the concept of integrated omnichannel retail in China, something that doesn’t quite exist anywhere else in the world.
You might notice that we focused mostly on business and technology leaders since they are most relevant to businesses today. However, visionaries can come in all aspects of civilisation- from sportspeople like Roger Federer to political leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, social activists like Malala Yousufzai and scientists like CV Raman, the names we can collectively think of would probably overflow the pages of all known books.
This is why we request you to share your own stories of shared vision in the comments below- perhaps, your inputs might just inspire someone else to take the big leap.