The Great Wall of China is the only man-made object that can be seen from space with the naked eye and it took 1,771 years to build; it was started in 221BC. The great Cologne Cathedral in Germany took 600 years to build. This brings us to you and me. What will our legacy be? What is our vision and how long will it take to realize our vision?
We have lived in a very selfish world where it is all about what is in it for me. This is a single generation lifestyle, where we have an appetite for quick bold strokes rather than a long enduring march. In a single generation mindset this is where your goals and your purposes will die with you. If you don’t take the time to see what you will leave as a legacy then you haven’t invested the time to see what really matters.
Everybody ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose; those are the ones with vision. Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be. Anyone with a vision will tell you this is not merely something that could be done; this is something that must be done. But this is not a knee jerk action, since a vision needs time to incubate so your character and competency can match the vision. A God-given vision will eventually feel like a moral imperative; a gut-level, unquenchable desire linked to your destiny.
As a leader, think about your company and the vision you have for it. The average age for a corporation according to the Woodside Institute in America is 37 years. This is one generation’s working lifetime. Ted Turner who built CNN and then sold it to AOL is a classic example of this type of thinking. Today’s companies measure success financially quarter to quarter, and never generation to generation. As a result, most companies exist for one person’s working lifetime. The majority of private companies die in the second generation. How would that have worked in my opening examples of multi-generational accomplishments? In America we have not figured out how to purposely have multi-generational businesses. But other countries have. Companies like Kongo Gumi, was founded in 578 AD and builds Japanese temples. Berretta, of Italy, have endured since 1526. If you can accomplish your vision in this lifetime then your goal and vision is probably too small. A grand vision will likely follow the pattern of the bible that is at least 3 generations long, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The greater the vision, the more motivated people are to participate in it. What you aim for is what you will hit. And in the worst case of no compelling vision, if you aim at nothing, that is likely what you will hit – nothing. Les Brown, a great motivational speaker, said “shoot for the moon and even if you miss you will land among the stars.”
The key to realizing grand visions is to pass on the heritage of the heart. Who shapes the heart? Fathers and mothers in a family, leaders in business, pastors in a church, and teachers in a school. An unrevealed heart cannot be transferred. You must take the time and be transparent to others, especially the next generation, with what you desire and what you are struggling with. You MUST share this with the torch bearers of the next generation. The ability to provide immediate context and long term perspective is critical to making deposits about what can be and what must be overcome to make your vision materialize. This happens best when you co-labor together. This is also the key on how to pass a vision from one generation to the next. The one inheriting the vision should come alongside you and co-labor with you, as you gradually transfer authority. When authority is transferred, accountability changes.
In a relay race, the lane you start in is very important. In fact if you run outside of the lane, you are disqualified. When your people are each in the right lane, they and you will know it. A lot of us don’t like boundaries, but they are often there for our benefit. The heart of an Olympic runner has something that compels them to be in that race and in that particular lane. It is the same for those who live in a multigenerational vision. They have a tremendous opportunity to move at accelerated speeds and produce extraordinary results.