Vision Part 3: Rescued!

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“They’re out! “ That’s the news regarding the 12 young boys from Thailand and their soccer coach.  It’s taken 18 days and an international effort of individuals and resources to not only discover this group but to guide them out of the cave that has held them captive with flooding monsoon rains.

As I watched the news last night I had to admit to my wife – “I can’t even wrap my mind around what it must be taking to accomplish this task.”  I’ve seen no reporting of the amount of resources expended to get these boys out but the financial cost must be astronomical.  One Thai Navy SEAL has died in the midst of his efforts to find and save this lost group.  That alone feels like a heavy price.

I’m not writing to beat anybody up but I am writing to acknowledge what a unified, “MUST DO” effort does.  Once declared – it holds the accomplishment of the vision as necessary at all costs.  It might sound insulting to even mention the price paid for the discovery and rescue of these 13 but the fact still remains that it was high – very high.

Imagine if the community and families of Mae Sai had not declared the discovery and return of these young men valuable at all costs.  Imagine if they would have said – “Eh – it just feels like too great of an effort.  It’s just going to cost too much.  We’re not even sure if we will ever really find them.  We have so many other needs here already.”   I would dare say this lost bunch would have barely made the news in Thailand – much less the world.

Sound horrible?  Hard to imagine?

I’m certainly not wanting to take anything away from the need and effort expended in the rescue that just took place.  It’s nothing less than remarkable.  But significant challenges surround all of us these days – and we don’t even need to go around the world to find them.  Most of our communities have caves that are figuratively filling with water right now – and people are in trouble – but there is no international rescue effort now in play.  Heck – there may barely be a community effort.

So – lest I be labeled as a bleeding heart right now – let me clarify my purpose.  I believe that one big reason more trapped people aren’t getting rescued from the caves of their companies and communities right now is a lack of unified vision.  A lack of declaring something as so valuable that we collectively declare a WE WILL!

Sound simple?  You know it’s not.  There are so many ingredients that have to be worked through in order for a unified vision to grab hold that it can feel insurmountable.

There is the need for clarified values   (What is most important?  And who decides?)

There is the disagreement around what constitutes a real need    (That’s not really a problem.)

There is the conflict around whose responsibility it really is (Who’s going to pay for this?)

There’s the issue of blame   (This problem is really their fault – let them fix it.)

There is the politics around whose voice gets heard among the chorus of concerns

So – how is it that in the case of 13 young men lost in a cave in Thailand, all of these challenges were almost instantaneously overcome?

Something to think about.

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Vision Part 2: The Reason It’s Important

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In August and September of 1977 NASA launched Voyager 1 and 2.  Their mission – 4 years of space exploration.  40 years later they are both still out there traveling beyond the most distant planets in our solar system and reporting back on what they find.  Nothing, manmade, has ever traveled so long and so far.

60 Minutes just re-aired this story last Sunday (7/8/2018).  I found it amazing – again.  Not only are these space workshops continuing to send back new data from staggering distances but they carry with them a message from earth for any other life forms that may find them.  Two golden records filled with music.

golden_recordVoyager 1 is now in interstellar space (the space between the stars of our galaxy) and is roughly 13 billion miles away from earth.  Its radio signals, traveling at the speed of light, take 19 hours to reach us.  Remarkable – when you think that the transmitter that sends these signals uses less power than the light bulb in your refrigerator.

At the end of the 60 Minutes story there was a conversation between reporter Anderson Cooper and Ed Stone, project scientist for Voyager.  Stone is 82 now but was 36 when he first took the job with NASA.

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COOPER:  So – the sun is our nearest star.

STONE:  Yes – correct.

COOPER:  And then, from the sun, what is the next nearest star?

STONE:  Alfa Centauri – which is about 4 light years away.

COOPER:  So, Voyager is now in between the sun and that next star.

STONE:  Yes – That’s right.

COOPER:  Traveling how fast?

STONE:  It’s traveling – I think about 38,000 miles per hour.  It travels about a billion miles every three years.

COOPER:  (laughter) That’s incredible.

In about ten years, when Voyagers nuclear power runs out, Stone says they will continue zipping through the vacuum like conditions in interstellar space.  It’s very empty out there and they’re unlikely to crash into anything.  Long after all of us are gone Voyager 1 and 2 will just keep going and going.

STONE:  Think of that.  We’ve actually sent a message which will be in orbit in the Milky Way galaxy actually forever.  Even after the sun and the earth no longer exist in their current state.

COOPER:  Wait.  My little mind can’t process some of this.  Even after the sun and the earth…

STONE:  …the sun will become a red giant and envelop the earth and that will happen maybe 5 billion years from now.  These two little emissaries will be out there in their independent orbit basically for billions of years.

COOPER:  It kind of boggles the mind.

STONE:  That’s the reason it was important to send it.

That’s the reason…because it boggles the mind.

Because it stretches the imagination.

Because it takes our WHAT COULD BE and makes it our WHAT IS.

That’s vision.

Vision Part 1: We WILL…

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I can’t remember a time when I have not been transfixed by the splendor of space.  The stars, the planets, the vastness, the beauty, the enormity – amazing.  As a youngster I watched with wonder the Apollo missions.  It seemed such a cosmic* undertaking.  Human beings rocketing into space, landing and walking on the moon and then splashing safely back to earth.  Mind blowing.

But in the midst of my splendor – there was also this awareness of very present danger.  I remember , as a child, Apollo 13 and how close they came to calamity.  And then, as an adult, watching the Challenger explosion.  Very sobering stuff.   I mean…think about it.  Riding a rocket into space?!  That just sounds crazy.  Who, in their right mind would risk such a thing?  Right?

And yet we did it.  Why?

It’s this strange tension between the mind-blowing possibilities and the ominous dangers that seems to stir our imaginations.

Am I right?

And it is here that the voices get loud.  On one hand the voice of WHAT COULD BE calls out.  What if what feels impossible became possible?  What would it be like to be part of something like that?  But almost on cue – THE OTHER voice screams – that’s crazy!  There’s a reason no one else does that – because it can’t be done.  People could get hurt.  It is too dangerous.

At moments like these having a honed vision becomes important.  A vision takes all the potential cosmic things of our life and declares one valuable.  Not just a little valuable — preeminently valuable.  Of all the other things we could do…of all the things that might scare us away from doing this…we WILL.  This declared thing informs our direction.

Simon Sinek says, “A good vision statement explains in specific terms what the world would look like if everything we did was wildly successful.  The clearer we can see it – the more likely we are to achieve it.”  As a result, vision allows us to sift through the competing voices of WHAT COULD BE and THE OTHER and be more informed about what feels relevant to do next.

Without a clear vision – it can be tough to navigate any meaningful journey because the competing voices can get quite distracting along the way.  Vision informs what positive direction looks like.  It keeps us on the path of what we have declared as valuable.    Without it we are merely drifting in hopes that something meaningful will find us.  And although this is possible – it’s quite unlikely that space travel would have found us any time soon.  That work was going to be ours.

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*Pun intended.