Two years ago, I set out to write a book. I made a clear vision: finish a novel. It was simple and understandable and something in alignment with who I am as a person. As the following year progressed, a lot of voices suggested I should give it up. “The book isn’t good, nobody will want to read it”. “It’s too hard. How will you ever finish”. “This is such a pipe-dream, a cliche. A waste of time”. But with a clearly articulated There, which was to write a novel, and a relentless pursuit of that dream, my book was written and picked up by a publisher.
When it comes to casting vision, or deciding on a ‘There’ for your life, there are two elements that are as important as they are simple. These paramount ingredients are clarity and commitment. We can accomplish almost anything when these two elements are present in our vision casting process.
The best and most successful people are dogged pursuers of their dreams. They do not quit. They do not give up. They cast a vision that they wholeheartedly believe in, a ‘There’ that resonates so deeply within their soul that even failing at it becomes more tolerable than giving up on it.
A great example of this in history happens when the newly appointed general, Napoleon, is in hot pursuit of the Austrian forces in Italy. Napoleon had gotten command of this army largely due to one of his wife’s former lovers. With a lack of capable leaders in the devastating French Revolution, Napoleon’s ambition had allowed him to rise quickly. But his men were not convinced.
After pursuing the Austrians for a many months, and winning skirmishes with fervor, the men knew Napoleon meant business and that the little guy was in charge and was not messing around.
The French caught the Austrians at a town called Lodi. The Austrians made their stand at Lodi because a skinny, 200-yard bridge was the only way into town.
With clarity and charisma, Napoleon reminded his men of the ‘There’ – defeating the enemy. He reminded them of the weeks they’d spent in pursuit and how close the vision was to becoming a reality. He roused the men and reinforced their commitment to the There. It would take a lot of courage and sacrifice for these men to fight, three across, for 200 yards to get to Lodi and overcome the enemy.
But that is exactly what they did.
The Austrians retreated after the bridge crossing and it was not a particularly important victory. For anyone but Napoleon, that is. The Austrians were not committed to a vision. They let it go. Things were tough and they couldn’t remember why this little Italian town was important, so they retreated further in. A few weeks later, Napoleon conquered Milan.
Napoleon’s ruthless path through Europe follows this pattern. Napoleon himself said of Lodi that it was then that he began to believe there was a special quality to his existence, that he was starred, meant for great things.
Napoleon saw the fruit of a simple and clear There, committed to beyond reservation.
There are only three things that keep us from our dreams. The first is ability. The second is clarity, a focus of direction and a full understanding of what we are pursuing and why. The third is commitment, easier things are given precedent, challenges are caved into. These latter two, commitment and clarity, can overcome a lot of that first obstacle, teaming up on it in a Napoleonic bully sort of way.
Whether it is me writing a book or Napoleon traversing Europe or you living out your deepest dreams, the two most essential elements are clarity and commitment.
This muddled world tries to quiet and confuse our dreams with loud noises, shiny distractions, and nay-saying naggers. We tend to believe the lie that if we just set our path on a comfortable cruise control our dreams will happen organically. But we don’t know where we are going. There is no clarity. We end up being directed by conditions and external influences, shrugging off the hard introspection of asking “what do I really want?” as lame or hopeless.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
If we set our course with clear intention, it will awaken us to a level of peaceful commitment that is difficult to deny.
Pursue your dreams. Figure them out. Write them out. You only get once chance at this life. And you were made to be you. Clarify who you are. And commit to it, no matter the cost, no matter the temptation to concede.