On Vision

This is a post that has been percolating as a draft post for nearly two or three months now.  But as a theme, its something I’ve wrestled with far longer.  Those who know me well, know that at my core, I’m kind of a systems and strategy kind of guy. What makes gets my ticker picking up its pace,  is when I get to work with a big picture idea and help generate/coach the strategies and systems to see that that big picture come alive and grow.  And so, that’s why this post reflects something that strums the passion bone in my body.

I want to spend a little bit of time articulating some things I’ve come to believe about a word that gets used a lot,  but is rarely understood fully.   This post is sparked in part because I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what vision is, and what it is not.  Part of that is because its so elusive, and part of it is because it frequently rides the buzzword wave.  So here’s what I think about vision:

Vision inspires curiosity.

You know you’ve heard, read, or experienced vision when it leaves you hanging,  when it sparks that desire in you to know more.  That’s why some of the most compelling visions are those that paint a picture, or connect a story, with a future.

Vision does not answer all the questions.  It doesn’t tell you how something is going to happen.  It doesn’t tell you when something is going to happen.  It sometimes doesn’t even articulate where.  But compelling vision will always leave you with questions.

In the end, vision begs strategy because it inspires curiosity.

Vision Polarizes.

This is crucial.  A vision that everyone likes, is not vision, its a sedative.  The reality is, visionaries (you know, those people with a vision), have a lot of enemies.  They get a lot of flak and its often only in hindsight through the eyes of history, when they start to get labelled visionaries, that the animosity tapers down a bit.  The reality is, really compelling visions have haters and lovers.  A compelling vision is something that either calls people to it, or repels them.

It polarizes.

Coincidentally, that’s why vision is so powerful.  While a vision is polarizing, its also uniting. How?  People who are captivated by the vision, who buy into it share a common cause – a cause worth fighting for.  Sedatives, don’t inspire that kind of passion, or unity.

This also means that its really difficult for a committee to come up with a vision.  Committees are great for hashing out ideas, for brainstorming, for strategizing, for planning, coming up with mission statements, x year plans, etc..  But not for creating vision.  If a vision is launched by a committee I can pretty much guarantee you it will be safe, not polarizing and ultimately, not really a vision. Maybe what they’ll have is a really great mission statement, or slogan, or even a plan – but not a vision.

Incidentally, this also means, that great visions aren’t always popular, and not so great visions sometimes are.

Vision is an “impossible” future.

More than just a picture of something different than the status quo, on the surface, visions seem impossible.  That’s because visions paint a picture of something that isn’t in the midst of what is.  Anything else isn’t a vision it’s just a report.

This is also why having a vision is not the same thing as having a goal.  With vision, you don’t even know if it will come to pass.  You dream for it, you desire it, you’re passionate for it (if you’ve caught it), you even pursue it,  but at times it seems so impossible that you’re not sure you’ll ever see it happen.

Sometimes you don’t.

A goal on the the other hand is something you expect to reach.  It has an obtainable finish line.  Difficult maybe, and certainly something you may not complete.  But nevertheless can happen.  It’s possible.  Visions aren’t really like that.

This is one of the reasons why visions are so polarizing because some people will hear a vision and laugh at the audacity of those who believe in that vision.  “Such an impossible goal!”, they say.  Except, its not a goal.

A goal is deciding that you are going to quit smoking.  A vision is seeing the entire world free of the addiction of tobacco.

A goal is to build a rocket to reach orbit.  A vision is to land a man on mars.

A goal is to build an electric car.  A vision is to end humanities dependence on oil.

Catch the drift?  Oh and here’s another little interesting thing.  Visions are realized by goals. Lots and lots of incremental, obtainable, strategical, itty bitty, goals. The impossible reached by a long chain of possibles.  But it all starts with a dream for something outrageous.

This is why…

Vision requires sacrifice.

To get from here to there is going to take a lot more than wishful thinking.  If a vision is a picture of something impossible, then it its not a skip, hop, and dilly dally dance away.  It’s hard work, and perseverance, and endurance and sweat and tears, and loss, and pain to get there.  Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

The interesting thing is, compelling vision has increased value because of the cost to achieve it.  But conversely, without any cost, does the end really matter?

That’s why its interesting to watch what happens with people who are captivated by a vision.  No amount of sacrifice seems too much to inch closer to realizing that impossible reality.

Vision doesn’t always generate a movement.  But it always starts with one person.

The funny thing about vision, is that it sometimes can be so polarizing that the only person who believes it, is the one in who it was birthed.  Vision can live and die in the life of one individual.  Sad, but true (and sometimes good).

But the underlying truth, is that regardless of whether vision results in a movement or not, it is always birthed in the heart and soul of a single person.  Call it muse, or God given, or calling, or inspiration – but that spark is awakened in some guy or some gal and lives when they can’t shake it, and then embrace it.

Yet another equal and perhaps even more powerful truth, is that while a vision starts with one person, it never gets completed with just one.  That’s why I’ve found that a vision often lives and dies on how well it gets communicated, and I guess in the end, how polarizing (and thus compelling) it really is.

Vision isn’t taught, it’s caught.

You can’t teach people vision.  You invite them.  You can’t reason vision with people. After all, it’s impossible right? No, reasoning doesn’t work.  You inspire, you challenge…

You lead.

Visionaries, don’t get people on their vision train by fancy billboards, and great marketing campaigns (it only seems like they do).  Great visionaries have a vision that captivates people because they are living it, they are leading it.  An impossible reality, that’s already real to them.

Vision is not complicated.

Ha! Once the planners and the strategy masters, and engineers start mapping out the goals to see that impossible vision become reality, it certainly starts to seem complicated. But the vision itself, the essence of what gets dreamed about and communicated, and shared, isn’t complicated.

It may be impossible, but it’s simple. If you can’t remember a vision, then it’s complicated, and not really a vision (probably more a plan).

But let’s not confuse a slogan with a vision. Slogans are birthed from visions, but a vision never comes from a slogan. When you hear the well known slogan “I have a dream”, you immediately connect it with the vision Martin Luther King Jr. had for a better world.

Without the vision, “I have a dream” is just an incomplete sentence.

What’s your vision?

Here’s another somewhat uncomfortable truth.  Some of us will never have vision sparked, or birthed in us (and unfortunately some people uncomfortable with that try to manufacture it).  The reality is, that’s okay.  I believe that some of us were never meant to birth the vision…

But all of us are meant to carry a vision.

In the end…

These are just a few thoughts and observations I’ve had/made about vision.  As time goes on there likely will be more I could add (and may add) to this post.  But for now, just wanted to get this written out.  What do you think about vision?  What would you add to this?

 

 

Using circleci.com for automated WordPress plugin testing.

A few months ago, one of the teams I work with went on the hunt for a good continuous integration service for running tests on the code we write.  We jumped on the unit test bandwagon at the beginning of the year and wanted to really amp up the quality of our product by having tests run on every commit.  I was tasked with this job (and anyone who knows me knows I LOVE playing with new things, so it was a task I was looking forward to doing)

Most WordPress users are familiar with travis-ci.org and the internets were full of instructions for getting things plugged in and up with travis.  Unfortunately, our project is inside a private github repo so we couldn’t use the free travis plan to run our tests on and the premium plan was a bit to pricey for our first attempt at this.  So after searching around, I stumbled on circle.  From all appearances, circle looked like it would work very similarly to travis and bonus points were that their plans are much cheaper – so great for getting started with.

If I was in charge of a telecommunications company…

Yes, this is one of those “If I was in charge, I’d do this…” posts.  Don’t we all have opinions on how companies should be run?  Just had these thoughts today so decided to write them down.  Canada is known as one of the worst places for mobile phone plans (from a consumer perspective), largely because of the lack of competition.  If by some freak cosmological accident I ended up in charge of a telecommunications company, here’s some things I’d do:

I’m not going to talk about pricing or packages or anything like that, because at the end of the day what matters most for company longevity is customer loyalty and word of mouth marketing (even more so in today’s hyper social world).  The only reasons why I think the existing companies are doing so well in Canada now are because of their entrenched position with infrastructure, and the lack of choice for consumers.  With that said,

1. I’d ensure that our company has some sort of automated process that scans existing customers accounts (ooo privacy, but bear with me) and if there are any current company promotions that are better plans (either in terms of the same as what they have but cheaper, or more features than what they have for same price) than what the customer currently has we automatically switch them to the cheaper plan and notify them.

FireHost and WordPress Multi-site… how well do they play together?

Recently, one of my clients purchased a server with FireHost.com.  We’d been on the search for a new web host for some time now to serve as the infrastructure supporting upcoming web applications we have in the works.  We needed a company who is well recommended, and will help us scale and scale quickly.

You pay a more for a host like this  but it’s part of the investment costs you need to make if you want to be positioned well for solid growth as a business.

Anyways, the purpose of this post is NOT to discredit or gripe about yet another hosting company that fails to live up to expectations. We actually really like the setup we have at FireHost. Although getting things setup were a bit of a pain – their support has been very prompt and generally okay.  No, this post is more of a fyi for folks who are in a similar situation as us.  I couldn’t find any information on this subject on the nets so thought I’d post my own findings.

WP 3.7 drops with an interesting surprise…

I thought I was following the development of WordPress 3.7 fairly closely but something totally missed my notice and only caught my attention when a plugin I develop stopped working with the latest version of WordPress.

The culprit?

do_action( 'save_post', $post_ID, $post, $update );

Notice anything different?  The difference is that this hook used to only have 2 parameters, “$post_ID”, and “$post” but NOW it has a third one, “$update”.  It’s actually a nice addition as it makes it super easy to determine whether the post is being updated or not.  However, due to the way I hooked into this action (with a function that had extra parameters on it), Organize Series broke.  Easy enough fix, but quirky enough that I thought it deserved a post as I haven’t seen anybody mention this little addition!

 

Get wp-cli running with MAMP

I got really intrigued with the wp-cli tool for command line WordPress (seriously awesome, check it out)… however I haven’t switched my osx machine to use the built in php and mysql so I kept getting this error:

ERROR 2002 (HY000): Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/tmp/mysql.sock' (2)

Easy fix:

sudo ln -s /Applications/MAMP/tmp/mysql/mysql.sock /tmp/mysql.sock

And BOOM! I’ve got wp-cli working now.

path not plan

I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately.  We’ve all heard the phrase,

“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Right, but also wrong.  I’ve seen people who are terrible planners succeed, and people who are meticulous planners fail.

Yet something else, seems to work.  Path.  Those who have a path, who have a direction, who have an idea of where they are going – that beats planning every time.  Why?  Because, those who are creating a path can change their plans.  Those who just plan might get the plan down pat but then miss the path.

Sometimes you may follow the path someone else blazed before you.
Then other times, you blaze your own path.

Maybe it’s just a play on words but I like the idea of path over plan (even though I’m a planner at heart). I like the idea that I have a path to follow rather than a plan to execute.  There are a lot of paths to choose from, even a few that may need creating – but that’s where the learning and the skill and the risk comes in – because that choice does matter.

Failing, doesn’t depend on your plan (or lack of it).  It depends on your path.

Choose wisely.