All successful entrepreneurs display imagination, vision and entrepreneurship. Most importantly, though, they know the difference between the three. This is because they go through each of these consecutive stages in order to achieve success. They experience the bliss of imagination, the wonder of vision and, most essentially, the pains of outgrowing them both in order to fulfill their entrepreneurial callings. Most successful entrepreneurs go through this cycle several times during their lifetimes. Let us explore each stage in further detail.
The ability to imagine something—whatever it may be—is the very seed of success. Our imagination allows us to see what does not exist yet but could. In this regard, however, imagination can become either the basis for a marvelous, fulfilling journey or an endless streak of unfulfilled fantasies. The difference will be determined by what comes next.
For imagination not to become an endless streak of unfulfilled fantasies, it must become a vision—a working model of the future. Formulating a feasible vision requires the wisdom to learn from the past in order to envision a better state of affairs for the times to come. This must encompass a thorough understanding of history together with a daring—yet responsible—and creative—yet feasible—proposition for the future.
Imagination requires inspiration and a playful mind. Formulating a feasible vision requires brilliance and maturity. Becoming an actual entrepreneur, however, requires all the of the above plus courage, resilience, patience, hard work and, last but not least, the ability to compel others to join you in the pursuit of your vision. Entrepreneurs rarely succeed as lone wolves. In this regard, entrepreneurship demands leadership and teamwork in order to realize the necessary synergies to make the vision a reality. While dreamers imagine and visionaries envision, entrepreneurs translate all of that into a tangible reality. Entrepreneurs are the alchemists of the real world. They are the epitomes of Thomas Edison’s quote, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”
Even though there are many examples of successful entrepreneurs, I believe the quintessential example is Walt Disney. He is the textbook personification of all three stages: imagination, vision and entrepreneurship. There are few sillier, yet more magical, images than those of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse, both the product of Disney and Ub Iwerks’s imaginations. Disneyland, however, is much more than that—this emblematic theme park is the product of a well-defined, integrated, feasible vision. Yet above all that lies The Walt Disney Company, one of the world’s most overwhelming examples of successful entrepreneurship.
Most people have no trouble dreaming of a better life, a better business or a better world. However, just a few have the dedication and intelligence to articulate such dreams into a clear, feasible vision. Then, even fewer have the will to pursue such visions against all odds. And just a handful finally carry them to completion.