Some have their life’s visions emerge over decades of self-study; some have them appear in a blinding flash of inspiration; still others develop their visions by self-deprivation and trials.
In my case, it’s a task for a POM session with the ever-fresh Nicholas Bate. Which is why I’m sitting at my desk at 11.30pm on a Friday surrounded by bits of paper featuring sketches of mountains, deserts, buildings, and question marks.
I’m not cynical about such sessions. Like all self-help resources, it’s useful in proportion to the effort you put into it. The trouble is, I’m not sure what my ‘vision’ is, or why it should be singular. What could my vision involve?
It could involve women. I mean, I’ve had only six actual dates since arriving on campus, and two of those were undergrads towards whom I found myself looking at more fatherly than lustfully. (OK, so my twenties are a distant memory, but frankly I was expecting a little more action than this.) But somehow I just don’t crave any ‘life partner’; I’m a lone wolf by nature, and I can’t imagine myself part of a duo. People ain’t my vision.
Or it could be fatalist, like 1984’s message to Winston: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face – forever.” But I’m just not THAT much of a cynic: the pleasure of life for me is usually enough to sear away the endless pain of existence, even when you hurt all the time.
What about hitting the road again? If I could write my ideal job title it’d just be ‘Adventurer’ (benefits are excellent, but the salary’s terrible.) The trouble with visions is that they have to lead somewhere, have an outcome. A jungle or desert just won’t work as a vision, even if unfamiliar skies are the places I’ve been happiest under.
I tried the concrete, too: a Modernist building of a single room a kilometre wide, with an endless pool reaching to a distant sunrise. Almost working. Space, hope, and opportunity.
Then I realised: what led me here to WBS was that I needed to turn my back on my vision. I’d been obsessed for decades with keeping my options open, never getting in too deep, never concentrating too narrowly, always having backup plans and other choices. I realised I needed to focus on a single path, at an age where your options for starting over … start annealing. Time to make choices.
So how about this: create a billion in shareholder value. Note shareholder value, not personal wealth. Whatever companies I approach (and they’re all young growths) demonstrate the strategic pathway to a billion in market value, labelled with as many graphs and programmes and discounted cash flow projections as needed. Then find its NPV and show I’d be worth the risk of employing to do it.
High risk, high adventure, and a goal worth striving for.
And maybe, as its outcome, that hillside villa in Nafplio, looking out over the harbour as the sun sets on the hilltop castle. One of maybe a dozen places around the world where, just for a while, I found peace. Twelve or so places I’m scared to visit again in case the inner peace doesn’t come back.
So that’s my vision: to have attained the course goals (degree certificate, knowledge acquisition, personal development, and career setup) that’ll bring me the peace of mind to go back there without fear. To return to Nafplio, when I’m ready to go.