Business Success Without the Blindfold

Copyright 2006 Debt or Alive, Inc

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” Jack Welch

Vision is the first critical element in business success. Vision gives a clear picture of what you intend your business to accomplish. Without vision, you simply don’t know where you’re going. Hard work and perseverance cannot replace a clear vision.

It is something like the experience I had at a wilderness camp in the Canadian Rockies. About twenty of us were blindfolded and led to a maze in the woods. The maze was laid out with ropes strung together, from tree to tree. The terrain was uneven, with bumps and hollows in the ground. The ropes ranged from a foot to three or four feet off the ground. Our objective was to ring a bell somewhere in the course.

I know that I retraced my steps more than once, coming to a place where the ropes met at a forty-five degree angle, or where a rope ended at a tree. I knew I had come to that same corner before, touched that same tree before. Then I would turn around and go back, trying to find my way without being able to see. Throughout the course, I met others, our hands touching on the ropes as we groped in darkness along the rope maze.

Meanwhile, I could hear the bell ring at least three times. That meant at least three of the participants managed to find their way. One time the bell rang, I knew I was close. I could tell the direction of the sound, but somehow, I got off track again. I didn’t find the bell. Most of us didn’t.

I did persevere. I didn’t give up, even as began to feel frustrated that I couldn’t get out of the maze. I kept trying to find my way, back and forth and up and down along the ropes, but I couldn’t find my way with my eyes covered.

After we took off our blindfolds, the bell was clear enough. With the blindfolds, most of us couldn’t find it. All of our effort was wasted effort.

I’m not sure what lesson the wilderness camp leaders intended us to gain from the experience on that day. But as a metaphor for doing business, the experience is a powerful object lesson of what happens when you set out to accomplish something without being able to see where we were going.

We had no vision. We were supposed to find a bell somewhere, without having a clear vision of where the bell was. One of the participants who finally did ring the bell said that he had missed the bell even when he had found the right tree. He hadn’t reached high enough up the tree trunk to find the bell.

The whole process is something like going into business to achieve “success.” There is no clarity of vision in such language. What does “success” look like? Will you know if when you find it? Where is it? Without a vision, you can work hard, struggle, come close without knowing it, and never reach your objective.

The word “business” is directly related to the word “busy.” Both mean “care,” “anxiety,” and “being occupied.” This is a good description of my experience of the rope maze. I have no idea how long we were on the ropes course. It seemed like an eternity. I know I was very busy, continually moving, continually working, continually trying to find my way, going over the same ground again and again without ever reaching my objective. I was busy, but my busy-ness was not effective.

Perseverance in the wrong direction is simply wasted effort. Without a clear vision of where you are going, you can get far off track, still working hard, and never accomplish much of anything.

The trap of being doing business without a clear vision of where you are going is that you simply become busy. Being busy is no substitute for doing the real work of your business.

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