A repost day today, which includes one of my favourite Russian fairy tales of all times. It comes into my mind once at least every day….

My eyesight is tolerable.

I remember being tested, and given my first glasses, and marvelling at the sudden serendipitous clarity of every leaf-edge, every faraway face.

I felt like that far-sighted man in a Russian fairy tale; I know it as The Four Friends.

Prince Nice-But-Dim falls in love with the wrong girl.

This is because Princess Perdita has been stolen by the evil wizard, Chornoy, who uses the princess as the most sinister of bait. For he is a collector of the souls who try to rescue her, but who fail.

Undeterred, the Prince sets off. And on his way, he offers a job to an unlikely threesome: Long, who is impossibly tall: Wide, who can swell to the size of a small mountain: and my favourite, Quick-Eye, whose gaze is so far-seeing and piercing he tends to set light to things.

When the Prince arrives with his friends, he finds the statues of those the wizard has petrified, before stealing their souls.

Each night the beautiful princess is hidden in a place impossible to find. And all night every prince who has ever tried searches in vain. With sunrise, their soul becomes forfeit, and another statue joins the collection.

Of course, while the Prince is not gifted, his friends are. Quick Eye spots the princess every night, leagues away from the high tower which is their nightly starting line. Long transports them to retrieve her: Wide expands to fill whole lakes and render them fathomable.

Prince wins challenge, vanquishes wizard, marries extraordinarily beautiful princess and lives happily ever after.

I say the Prince is not gifted, but I find I am inaccurate. This unassuming King’s son had startling powers of a far less noticeable and showy kind.

He is a people person.

These three, they are a little unorthodox. One could have denied their requests for employment because, lets face it, they really didn’t fit the Courtier profile. But for Prince Nice-But-Dim, they were the wisest employment choices of his life.

He may not have had the far-flung-sightedness of Quick-Eye: but he had another kind of vision. he could work out how people ticked. He could wrap them in his own view of things, so a man would move heaven and earth to help him achieve his goal.

It  is an elusive talent, this. To know not only what you want, but how to explain and motivate and lead to achieve it.

One of my favourite leadership parables is that of Apollo 13. You all know it, it has passed into folklore. But we all love listening to fairy tales.

Familiarity breeds contempt, and by 1970,the world was less frenzied about the miracle of space travel than it had once been. People were not tuning in to watch the television footage in the same numbers. Life moves on.

Right up until the moment an electrical fault inside one of the service module’s oxygen tanks set off a catastrophic explosion which lost them vital electricity. They were 200,000 miles from Earth.

The Command module, meant to support the three crew members and take them safely back to earth, was critically low on electricity.

Lead Flight Director Gene Krantz immediately aborted the mission and it simply became imperative to save the three lives on board.

The ingenuity under pressure, from both the crew and Ground Control in Houston, are legendary and awe-inspiring. The crew realised they had no instrumentation to  direct their rocket during re-entry.

Then they realised there was a large spherical point of reference in the window of the module. The Earth was simple but effective, there, staring them in the face.

It was dubbed the successful failure, because everyone refused to accept the death of three crew members as an option. Everyone survived.

The team was of like mind: a shared vision.

It is only when one finds oneself with un-like minds that one realises how utterly vital a community’s shared vision is.

Today I was talking, explaining my vision for a piece of work I have been doing,  in much the same way as I do here. And I became aware that I was inspiring the most mountainous incomprehension.

I was on one planet, and my attentive, polite listener was on another, and we were in a vacuum and consequently it seemed the sound would not carry. We did not, you see, share an understanding of how things should be.

I might have been talking another language.

There are some times one should simply stop talking.

While I will not change anything dramatic about my life- a salary is a salary- I am working on tactical withdrawal  from this particular arena, worthy of ground control at Houston.

My eyesight is tolerable.

My vision is much better.

31 thoughts on “Vision

  1. This is very true. Where people share a common goal and a degree of loyalty anything can be achieved. 🙂 Loyalty is a much overlooked superglue in society.

    1. It is, Heather. Over here it gave us enough courage and strength to fight one of the most evil and all-pervasive regimes which has ever stretched its fingers out over the earth. Phil and I were talking about what would have happened during the war if David Cameron, our prime minister today, had been in charge. I shudder to think.

  2. Hi Kate, this is very timely, I am working with a third party on something at work and we’ve had a telephone conversation and couple of exchanges where it appears that we are trying to achieve the same thing – and we can’t understand why the other can’t understand so it feels very strange. Agree with hippyh too about loyalty.

    1. Hi Nicola! Thanks for popping over! It’s strange how that immense comprehension seems to be the feature at workplaces the world over. Shame: it’s such a wonderful thing when you can kick back with people who see things the same way, and just create…

    1. 😀 You’re right…you remind me of the MacDonalds in our town where the workers are just fabulous, the management are always on top of demand, everyone is polite and everyone- genuinely-seems to love working there! Inspirational…

  3. I love this, Kate. Well told and retold, like your favorite Russian tales.

    I know a people person, or two, and they are a wonder to behold. A garden club friend, though a bit gruff on the edges, has a heart of gold and is masterful at getting people to do what needs to be done. I’ve seen her “work the room” for an upcoming project, people shaking their heads no, and then walking away the chairperson of project X or hauling in dirt and bulbs. She’s done it to me. I’ve just learned to say yes, for I will in the end.

    Now, I must see if I can get Tom to go to the store for the greater vision of meals.

    1. 😀 Interesting you should say that, Penny: Phil is a closet great cook, but he likes to cook in lovely surroundings. Whenever we have had the kitchen done, it has resulted in an upsurge of wonderful meals cooked for me! It seems the new surroundings make the vision just perfect.

  4. This is certainly a good time to remind Washington what can be accomplished by having a vision and working together to achieve it. Where are those Apollo 13 types when we need them?

    1. I know: you just long for someone to step forward and think really intelligently, and just grab this big messy bull by the horns. It worked for us, once, long ago, when we really needed it. Now? I think everyone’s a bit lost, PT…

  5. Dear Kate, The comment by “PiedType” reflects my thoughts exactly. Here in the United States we no longer have a shared vision. Witness what happened yesterday with the Super Commission on the deficient. We have only partisanship.

    We do have a president who, like the prince in your Russian fairy tale, has the ability to choose people with the gifts that will help him govern. However, because consensus has been so important to him, he has not stepped forward until recently to censure the idiocy that seems to represent good governance for many citizens of our country.

    I’m baffled, befuddled, bewildered, and bemused by all this. In fact, I find myself being downright angry. I know that the “eyesight” of many of our politicians is poor. The trouble is that, unlike you, they have no vision.

    So that’s my tirade for today! Thanks for reading it.

    1. Concensus can be a bit of a millstone round one’s neck, at times. Perhaps our Churchill benefited from the fact that it was a luxury we could simply not afford with our backs against the wall, back in 1939. A strong vision – it’s all that’s needed. So many of your presidents have had it. I do hope it returns to your country soon.

  6. And you are a People Person! One of the top “labelly” accolades my company gave to leaders who were exceptionally good at team building and achieving results was “persuasive administrator”. The words sound so weak, I really disliked the label. So I just called them a People Person. Voila – clarity!

    Glad you grabbed an alternative. I love The Gambler:

  7. Oh do I know this feeling! And have this experience more often than I like! Working in an academic environment as I do, I have learned one thing well–there are contextual learners (listeners) and linear learners (also listeners). I’m definitely contextual, as are most writers, I would think! Often the two really do NOT speak the same language. And you are wise beyond wise to know when to be still! I give you much credit for knowing that to be true in this particular instance. More than likely you will choose to reinvest in your effort with a new twist when a fresh burst of wind lifts you! Fabulous Russian Tale…your application of it quite fascinating! Debra

  8. I am so glad you decided to repost this. It is, quite simply, brilliant. I love the classic fantasy theme of the fairy tale; i admire the way you have related it to the Apollo crisis, and I deeply appreciate the frustration of doing everything humanly possible to get others onto a necessary wavelength – and failing.

  9. Enjoyed this post, Kate, repeat or not.

    We could so use a Prince Nice-But-Dim here. I agree with Dee (and will gladly climb aboard her soapbox) about the partisanship more and more on exhibit in D.C., making a consensus as to ANYTHING seem well beyond our grasp. I pray we won’t need to wait until our backs are further against the wall than is currently the case before someone, who is both a visionary and a people person, steps forward to make him(her)self known to us.

  10. What a wonderful post – beautifully written. Good advice to sometimes just stop talking – I do that with my son who has high functioning autism (speech can often can in the way of communication) – my hubby often likes me to stop talking too – hahaha

  11. Great stories and personal experience! It can be really hard when you are sharing your vision but others can’t understand. Hope you were able to work something out back then that satisfied both of you to some extent!

  12. A timeless post, always to be of value to readers. Too much time is spent with noses to the ground like hounds on the scent of the day-to-day. Vision requires standing up and looking to the horizon. You are a visionary.

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