See The Invisible
By: QUANTAL LANGFORD
"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible."
— T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Jordan. Oprah. Tony Robbins. Apple. Each brand is considered the pinnacle in its respective arena of influence. What connects these brands? Vision—the innate force that lays the groundwork for an athlete's drive to excel, for a brand to differentiate from competitors, for a leader to grow his or her organization.
Vision is the very thing that attracts audiences to these people and products on a consistent basis. They are able to communicate their dream and vision concisely and allow others to share in a vision that's not even their own. People buy Jordans because, as the commercials say, “They want to be like Mike”. People buy Apple products because it makes them feel that they are innovative or smart for doing so. People resonate with the vision of each brand so strongly that they become loyal followers for life.
I believe everyone has a dream and purpose that needs to be shared on this Earth. Even as a kid, you had your dreams set on what you wanted to be when you were an adult. But things happen along the way—things like kids, rent and bills—and somewhere that vision gets lost. You may be the next great athlete, or have an award-winning movie idea or technological breakthrough in your mind right now... but no one will ever know if you do not produce. Fear can cause people never to show their vision to the world. And the world is a sadder place because of it.
I want to share a story about my son, named Ish, who proudly enough just signed a pro basketball contract overseas in Australia. I remember seeing him play sports when he was younger, and thinking that he was a natural athlete, capable of playing a variety of sports and excelling in them. My wife and I found out he adapted well to basketball and did well at it. He played on the elementary team as well as AAU Basketball circuits to display his abilities. His mom even made him play with the older adults in pickup basketball.
Kids enter middle school and high school, and other interests take hold—sometimes much to the dismay of their parents. But through good times and rough times, Ish kept working on his skills. He spent hundreds of hours on the shooting machine. He went through extra workouts and conditioning drills. Many times he would rewatch old games with his mom, analyzing each decision and play. Entering college he received a scholarship to play at Carson-Newman College in Tennessee. From the start, he became one of the best players in the history of that program, as the Eagles' fifth-leading all-time scorer and career record holder for 3-pointers made. Even in college, we were watching game film. His mother, still diligent, continued to dissect game situations and plays. Upon completion of college, Ish signed his first pro contract with a team from Kosovo. It didn't turn out like we had hoped; he barely played, hindered in part by a language barrier with the rest of the team.
Ish returned back to the U.S., feeling frustrated and lost. The vision he had in his heart was still there but clouded, without clarity. He soon went on to try out at some NBA D-League events around the country, making the final cut on all the tryouts, but still never receiving a contract. For many, that would have been the end of a dream. Content to the fact that they would need to get a regular job to make ends meet, while all the while, that vision that had burned so bright would fade dimmer with each passing day.
I didn't want to see that with my son.
So he ended up finding a decent job while he was still training for that next opportunity as a pro basketball player. Months passed, with no results. But Ish still trained just waiting for another chance to show what he's capable of doing on the basketball court, envisioning the opportunity to sign that contract, put on a basketball jersey and follow his passion.
Here's the funny thing about having a vision. The holder of that vision is able to see the end result, but still must be patient in the process of that vision becoming reality. I believe that's true for anyone developing a brand or new business, growing an organization or team, creating art or music, developing a new product, or becoming a professional athlete. The trials that take place are the prerequisite for potential greatness for any vision to take hold with an audience.
Those brands mentioned earlier didn't become phenomenons overnight. Each resulted from a vision that quietly transformed on a consistent basis into what you see today.
So for my son, all the trials—the sweat, the tears, the frustrations, the wins, the losses, the hill sprints, the bike sprints, the pull-ups, the shooting drills, the game film studies, the dribbling drills, the defensive drills, the rebounding for made shots, the driving up and down I-75 for tournaments and games—were part of a process of transforming a vision that he's had on his heart since he was 9 years old into reality.
"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours."
— Henry David Thoreau