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 French writer and Nobel Prize winner Anatole France once said, “To
accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only
plan, but also believe.” Many of us, especially those of us running small
business, know how to plan and act. We make lists, we chase funding, we
gather clients, and we bury ourselves endlessly in the avalanche of paper
at our desks. We are, in fact, the marathon runners of action. No one can
dispute the number of hours of sweat and elbow grease we pour into our
The question is, how well is that approach working for us? Hour for hour,
small business owners and entrepreneurs earn less than most employees in
the business sector. Oh sure, we may bring home a large paycheck, but when
we divide that paycheck by the number of hours we put in, how much are we
making per hour? More importantly, are we really living the dream we set
out to dream? Was our dream big enough? Did we even have a dream?
It turns out that one of the main reasons we small business owners work
really hard without getting very far is because we don’t have an inspiring
long term vision that leads us, step-by-step, into the future of our
dreams. Most of the time, we’ve either forgotten our dreams or didn’t have
one to start out with. As Victor Hugo said, “There is nothing like a dream
to create the future.” We need a dream, and we need to dream big!
In business terminology, the dream is typically called the Vision, and it
defines the final destination of your business. The dream tells you where
you are going and becomes, in effect, your North Star. If you’re not sure
how to set your North Star, check out these quick start guidelines. Some
of the most successful and spiritual companies in the world have visions
that fall within these guidelines:
•    Free the World: The best visions from the great companies free the world
of some limiting condition. These companies seek to somehow make the world
a better place. Southwest Airlines wants to “free the skies” so more
people can afford to fly. Grameen Bank wants to free the world of poverty,
and Medtronic, with their medical implant devices, wants to free people
from physical pain. How do you want to improve the world?

•    Not in This Lifetime: The truly great companies have visions that cannot
be achieved in one person’s lifetime. For instance, Southwest Airlines
wants to free the skies so anyone who wants to can afford to fly. That
might take a while!

•    Not Quantifiable: Part of the reason that big visions cannot be achieved
in a single lifetime is because they cannot be quantified. Medtronic’s
vision is to “Restore people to full life.” The vision doesn’t say how
many people they will restore to full life with their medical implant
devices, or within what period of time. The vision is basically in effect
as long as people who have suffered health issues need to be restored to
full life.

•    Long Term Inspiration: Even though these great visions cannot be
fulfilled within a single lifetime, they have to be so inspiring that
generations of people will strive to achieve it regardless. When the
founder of the company is no longer leading the company, the vision must
remain as a beacon, guiding the company toward that same destination at
all times. Despite its ever-increasing size, Southwest Airlines has
managed to maintain a strong and purposeful culture in which every
employee is still on a crusade to free the skies. No employee shows up for
work just to “do a job.” The Southwest Airlines vision is so strong that
every employee is a crusader of freedom.

•    Risk: Big dreams entail big risks. Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb
Kelleher was willing to risk his career for four years (and his own money)
while he fought in the courtrooms to get Southwest Airlines on the ground.
Though airlines and DFW airlines fought Southwest in the courtrooms. Yet
Kelleher was willing to risk everything to “fight the good fight.” Why?
Because he believed so strongly in the vision that nothing else mattered.
Pablo Picasso once said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” If
everything you can imagine is real, and you can start the creation process
simply by dreaming it, why not dream big? The truly great companies have
shown us what it means to dream big, and how much you can achieve by
expanding your horizons and lifting your vision to the highest degree. If
you’re not sure how to create your vision, or if you don’t know whether
your vision is big enough, check it against these questions below:
•    Does your vision liberate the world in some way of some limiting
condition? Remember, “making a buck” only frees you, not the world, of a
limiting condition.

•    Can your dream be quantified? If it can be quantified, it’s not a dream
but an objective or goal. A dream has to be so big that you can’t put a
number or a date on it. That’s what keeps it always in front of you,
always in your future.

•    Does your dream last longer than you will? A dream that will carry your
company to greatness has to last longer than your lifetime, otherwise
you’ll achieve it too quickly. If you’re dream can be achieved quickly,
it’s not a dream-only a goal. Remember, dream big! Set your vision far
into the future. Only big dreams can free the world.

•    Can your dream inspire not just you, but all who follow you? Since your
dream will last longer than your lifetime, it has to be inspiring to
everyone in your organization. Is your dream that inspiring? It doesn’t
have to inspire the world, but it does should to inspire everyone in the
organization. Does it create that “fire in the belly” for everyone in your

•    Does your dream involve risk? If you’re working on a no-risk dream,
chances are that not many will follow you, and your dream won’t last
beyond your own involvement. Real dreams, big dreams, have risk, and they
are also inspiring enough that people will join the cause for life.
Ready to dream big? If not, take some inspiration from this poem written
by John Turnipseed, Director of People Services at Southwest Airlines.
Dare to Dream
Some people only look at life through eyes that seldom gleam
while others look beyond today as they’re guided by a dream
And the dreamers can’t be sidetracked by dissenters who may laugh
for only they alone can know how special is their path
But dreams aren’t captured easily;
there’s much work before you’re through
but the time and efforts are all worthwhile
when the impossible comes true
And dreams have strength in numbers
for when a common goal is shared
the once impossible comes true because of all who cared
And once it’s seen as reality a dream has just begun
for magically from dreams come dreams
And a walk becomes a run
But with growth of course comes obstacles
and with obstacles come fear
but the dream that is worth dreaming
finds its way to the dear
And the dream continues growing
Reaching heights before unseen
And it’s all because of the courage of the dreamers
and their dream.

This Personal Development article was written by The Art of Business on 2/14/2005

Raymond Yeh, PhD, is a senior research fellow at IC2 Institute at the
University of Texas at Austin. He has been a management consultant to many
nations and works with executives of global companies such as IBM, GTE,
AT&T, Siemens, and NEC, as well as with founders of many start-up companies.
Dr. Yeh has published ten technical books and the highly acclaimed business
book titled, “”Zero Time: Providing Instant Customer Value-Every Time, All
the Time!”” Contact him at and access his work

Stephanie Yeh has spent many years in the business world consulting with
major corporations around the world, including Fannie Mae, Acer, Tatung,
Children’s Hospital of Dallas, and Intergraph on human resource management,
process reengineering, and technology assessment. She has also coached
numerous corporate executives and small business owners on business strategy
and management. Contact her at access her work