By: Jan Mazotti Issue: Vision Section: Letter from Editor A visionary is defined as one who is given to impractical or speculative ideas; a dreamer. They come in all shapes and sizes. Oftentimes, needle-moving vision has no definition—it is something that is characterized in the brain of the visionary and few others. However, our lives would not be what they are without amazing visionaries leading the charge into the great unknown. Historical visionaries include the likes of Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison. But the amazing Steve Jobs former CEO of Apple Inc. and of Pixar Animation Studios, is someone in recent history that changed life as we know it, and succinctly shared his thoughts on vision.
VISIONARIES CAN CONNECT THE DOTS
In his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 Jobs talked about connecting the dots. He recounted his college years saying, “After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out ok. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made.” While not an easy living, sleeping on the floor, and trading coke bottles for the 5₡ deposit to buy food, Jobs learned to follow his curiosity and intuition—something that would be priceless as he and Steve Wozniak started Apple.
During his speech, Jobs told of how his college offered one of the best calligraphy classes in the country, so he decided to learn, believing there was not practical application. Wrong he was. Jobs said, “When we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them.”
“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life,” he declared.
GOOD OR BAD—VISIONARIES LOVE WHAT THEY DO
The next part of his story really addressed success and failure. In his Stanford speech he shared the journey to success with Wozniak and Apple, the release of the Macintosh, and the devastating public firing by someone, whom he had brought in, when their visions no longer jibed. While considering leaving Northern California, Jobs realized he loved what he did. So he started again. “It turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life,” he said. And, during the next five years, he started NeXt, a workstation company and acquired Pixar Animation Studios from Lucasfilm in 1986, and sold it to Disney in 2006 for a valuation of $7.4 billion.
“I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle,” he urged.
At his speech to the graduating seniors at Stanford, Jobs reminded them to live each day to the fullest—to remove the external expectations, the pride, the fear of embarrassment and failure—because just as surely as they were born they are going to die. He shared his story of learning about the cancer that would later claim his life and he said, “Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
He urged the audience to embrace life. “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” he said.
This issue of ICOSA is filled with visionaries of small and large organizations, in academia, across the government, and in community organizations that are absolutely moving the needle. These pages are filled with stories of leaders who can connect the dots, love what they do, have a sense for the future and are planful as to what comes next, and don’t waste time being drug under by naysayers. They have courage, they have foresight, they wisdom, they have dumb luck, they are in the right place at the right time—ultimately, they have vision.
They have a different eye, they have a different mind, they have great leadership skills, and they are on the forefront of change in the world. As Steve Jobs would say… “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
All the best, - Jan Mazotti