How do we create a vision? Put such a question into a web search engine and you will get over half a billion pages with conflicting advice. Some give general guidance while others list detailed steps to the perfect vision statement. It is like the guidebooks on how to write a bestseller - usually the only bestsellers are the guidebooks themselves.
For me the answer is simple: you either have a vision in your mind, or you do not. Nobody else can imagine it for you. How is it then that for some people it is so natural to see a distant picture and to easily create opportunities for getting there? Or that when they face an opportunity they have immediately a vision of something bigger and more ground-breaking. Just looking into the future - as advised on most of the websites - is not enough. There must be something unique about these people.
Michael Michalko, the author of Creative Thinkering, gave a wonderful illustration of this phenomenon recalling a history of Michelangelo’s masterpiece: the sculpture of David. It turns out that Michelangelo was given an order for the sculpture after some of the most acknowledged artists of the epoch had rejected it, complaining on imperfections of the marble block assigned to this work. For most of them the block was considered inadequate for reflecting the preconceived scene of triumphant David and the defeated giant, carefully crafted according to predominant standards. For the other sculptors, the block was simply crooked and totally useless.
All of them looked at the same piece of marble, but only Michelangelo saw in it a ready sculpture, different from ideas used up until then. He saw a form imprisoned in a stone. His role was – as he described – just to take away everything what was not needed. Looking is not enough. All that great artists, with similar abilities and esteem (at least at that time), looked at it the same way, with the same goal and with the same resolution, but only Michelangelo saw it differently.
He created something amazing and eternal, just because he had let himself be inspired by the material itself. He was opened up to the possibilities it was offering (and then adjusted his concept of the figure) while the others saw just obstacles in the material. He changed his way of seeing because he had different way of thinking. He was ready for changes. He changed not only the ‘obligatory’ way of demonstrating a hero and embodied virtues, but also changed the attitude towards creating a sculpture: searching the concept of the art in a material instead of processing the material according to a preconceived concept. Certainly, it also required great courage. Thanks to this, he not only did his job, but also created an everlasting masterpiece wowing future generations.
Looking is not enough; one must be able to see. Next time make sure that you look at your problem from all possible perspectives, with an open mind, curiosity and boldness. Your epoch-making solution may be enchanted in stone.