“Apollo 13” and the Power of Vision

In my Tuesday men’s group this week we started talking about the Power of Vision. “Vision” is an important organizational idea for most of us —  it’s that picture of the idealized, visualized future that guides our plans and strategies. Our Vision Statement is supposed to be our North Star, that point on the horizon toward which we are continually steering. A powerful concept indeed.

And that got me thinking — is there a movie I think does a great job of depicting that power? Yep: Apollo 13.

No way, you may say — Apollo 13 was about a moon mission gone terribly wrong. It was the event that seared the phrase, “Houston, we’ve got a problem” into the national psyche. It was about a vision lost, a goal abandoned, a grave and life-threatening disappointment encapsulated in Jim Lovell’s stark statement, “We just lost the moon.” Well, yes, sort of. But it was also about the kind of real life chaos that can happen in our everyday lives, and how circumstances sometimes require that our vision for the future be suddenly and radically revised. Our circumstances may not be life-threatening, but they can certainly upset and significantly alter the neat image of the visualized future that had been our vision. Real life often demands that we shift on the fly.

In Apollo13, as the reality of new circumstances began to sink in, the vision of the entire team shifted. You could say that the “intermediate” vision — a safe landing on the Moon, followed by a safe departure — had to be abandoned in favor of what in truth had been the ultimate goal all along: the safe return of the crew to Earth. The movie depicts a mission team’s resourcefulness, problem-solving abilities and creativity in the face of conflicting data, inadequate information and the acute pressure of deadlines. Through it all their North Star remains the same: get those guys home. (That’s why every time I watch Apollo 13 I cry when those parachutes open.)

So I salute the power of great vision — but none of us needs reminding that our tidy picture of the idealized future is certainly going to become a moving target. Every Vision Statement should come with an asterisk and a disclaimer that reads, “Your actual mileage may vary.”

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