In business and the arts, the differerence between hope and despair, energy and stasis, and awareness and being lost is sometimes just the difference between being able to think of at least one conceivable way that you might get out of your situation.
If doesn’t matter if the path you have conceived is, unbeknowst to you, unworkable.
What matter’s is that you can see a way to the goal – no matter how fictional and impossible – that you believe you could travel.
The Yellow Brick Road
My friend Wendy was looking for a place to for her Stuffed Animal Rescue Foundation. The current location of the SARF was made up of a challenging combination her home, her office, her car, and anywhere else she could find storage for the many wonderful things and creatures that constitute the SARF.
But rent in Austin is very expensive. She was feeling very discouraged about her chances of finding a good place for the SARF that would be in her budget.
To make matters worse, there was a small abandoned commercial building near her home that she had been eyeing and daydreaming about for years – and it had just been rented to someone else.
Then our friend Ann mentioned a location that had some small afforable trailers for retail use. Wendy liked the idea, but the price was just too high for her. She couldn’t see it happening.
That’s when the southern draw of America’s most famous 20th century salesman, Zig Ziglar, spoke to me from the heavens and suggested I ask Wendy a few questions I learned in his teachings.
(I don’t remember the prices exactly, but this makes the point).
Me: What’s the cost of the place?
Wendy: $1200. Too much.
Me: What’s the cost of your current office?
Me: Would you be giving up the office you are currently renting and instead work in this new place?
Wendy: Yes. But the new places is DOUBLE my rent.
Me: How much more were you willing to pay for a new place?
Wendy: Up to $250 more a month. But didn’t you hear me? This places is DOUBLE my rent. I’m paying $600 now and this place is $1200! That’s crazy. That is DOUBLE.
Me: (Zig gets out the calculator) So you would pay up to $300 + $600. That’s $900. The difference is $350. Let’s see.. So this is your dream you said? To be in a space like this?
Wendy: Yes. DOUBLE my rent.
Me: So ok, you’re going to sit on your dream because… let’s see.. OK! For $11.66 a day you can have your dream. Seems like a steal to me.
When presented like this, Wendy decided she could find $11.66 a day for her dream.
It’s an old technique to break the expense down daily. But that’s not the point of this post. The point is that Wendy was far more motivated when she could see how she could get to her goal.
It turned out that place was already rented but I think once she had the vision in her head, had a path to it, could start envisioning it, then her situation went from despair to hopeful and from victim to someone on a mission.
I recently saw this idea referred to as “The Yellow Brick Road”.
The Yellow Brick Road
Sometimes goals aren’t enough to motivate. You need to see how the hell you’re going to get there. Otherwise your goal can seem more like a fantasy.
There’s the saying “If you can dream it, you can do it”. One way to interpet the saying is “you can do anything you set your mind to”. But maybe a more powerful way of intepret the saying is, “First get the vision clear in your head. Then that will help you find your way there”.
The wonderful thing is that as long as you can see SOME path, it doesn’t matter if it’s the right path or not. Because you keep going and you learn along the way. You have momentum. Even though Wendy wasn’t able to get that place, she was energized to go out and hit the search with gusto.
You can see the emerald city in the distance. You see the yellow brick road in front of you and you can picture yourself walking along this path to get to the city. When you can see a path you feel inspired and hopeful and strong. The fact that there are dangers along the way and forks in the road don’t feel as threatening once you believe you have at least one path to get where you want to go.
It’s about seeing the path to somewhere else. It’s about trading one reality for another.