New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is with the Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness, Univer­siti Ke­bangsaan Malaysia

But, is it re­ally im­por­tant to achieve all that we as­pire for by 2020? A vi­sion def­i­nitely should have a fin­ish line. Our vi­sion scores full marks for that. Our achieve­ment deficit should not be for want of try­ing. And, we must be­lieve that we can achieve our as­pi­ra­tions. As Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak in­spired us in a speech re­cently: “Be­lieve that the coun­try is on the right track and ac­tively pur­su­ing our as­pi­ra­tions; we can achieve what we hope for.”

In a com­pany con­text, Jim Collins and Jerry Por­ras ar­gue in their 1996 book,

that any true vi­sion prob­a­bly has only a 60-70 per cent chance of suc­cess. This is be­cause, apart from chal­leng­ing a com­pany to move where it has set out to go, the vi­sion serves other pur­poses as well. It gives mean­ing to em­ploy­ees’ toil and gal­vanises them into achiev­ing the dream.

Ex­tend­ing Collins and Por­ras’s anal­y­sis to the na­tional con­text, a vi­sion of­fers citizens a point of rally, hope of a bet­ter fu­ture and an ex­hor­ta­tion to take charge of their des­tiny. Fol­low­ing this logic, vi­sions should nec­es­sar­ily be larger than life.

There­fore, we should not be un­duly per­turbed should we fall short of our vi­sion come 2020. This is be­cause by any stan­dard, Vi­sion 2020 is am­bi­tious and bold. It is even au­da­cious, as any vi­sion should rightly be. As Cle­ment Stone, an Amer­i­can self­help au­thor’s much-pop­u­larised say­ing goes: “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star!”

There is a school in front of my house. On its front wall, stu­dents had wisely scrawled the fol­low­ing line: “Aim high, that way you will not fall far.” In­deed, Michelan­gelo once re­marked: “The greater dan­ger for most of us lies not in set­ting our aim too high and fall­ing short; but in set­ting our aim too low, and achiev­ing our mark.”

What do we do when we achieve or do not achieve our vi­sion? We go and set an­other. It is in this spirit that the govern­ment has kick-started dis­cus­sions across so­ci­ety on the con­tent of a new vi­sion — the Na­tional Trans­for­ma­tion 2050 or TN50. That an­nounce­ment has gen­er­ated much ex­pec­ta­tion. The prepara­tory ef­forts are well-trailed. Na­jib, too, has of­fered his view as to what TN50 should con­tain. He wants Malaysia to be among the top 20 coun­tries glob­ally by 2050.

In for­mu­lat­ing TN50, we should not be too fix­ated on our strengths and chal­lenges as a na­tion. Fix­ing a vi­sion far into the fu­ture is an ex­er­cise that goes be­yond con­sid­er­a­tion of our cur­rent ca­pa­bil­i­ties and en­vi­ron­ment. How­ever, that does not mean that TN50 should be a fan­tasy.

Take then for­mer United States pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s de­ci­sion in May 1961 to send an Amer­i­can to the moon by the end of the decade. He was chal­lenged to set this goal af­ter Yuri Ga­garin’s suc­cess­ful or­bit of the Earth a month be­fore. Then, the US was em­bar­rass­ingly far be­hind the Rus­sians in space tech­nol­ogy. Kennedy knew that to put a man on the moon would be “a very chal­leng­ing tech­no­log­i­cal feat”. Yet, he had the au­dac­ity to en­vi­sion so de­spite the cur­rent ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the US space tech­nol­ogy. The rest is his­tory.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Its com­man­der, Neil Arm­strong, stepped off the Lu­nar Mod­ule’s lad­der and onto the moon’s sur­face and ut­tered these ever-mem­o­rable words: “One small step for a man, one gi­ant leap for mankind.”

TN50 should in­cor­po­rate the noble as­pi­ra­tions of Vi­sion 2020, mak­ing ad­just­ments, of course, to suit the en­vis­aged fu­ture. This is be­cause those wor­thy goals have res­onated so well among all seg­ments of so­ci­ety.

The trans­for­ma­tion en­vis­aged should not just be of the econ­omy. It should also be of the mind and spirit of ev­ery Malaysian. The val­ues en­cap­su­lated in our Rukun Ne­gara should form the foun­da­tion of TN50. TN50 should for­tify our be­lief that what­ever the colour of our skin and faith, we share a com­mon des­tiny. We are all in this to­gether — build­ing a beau­ti­ful na­tion for pos­ter­ity; a so­ci­ety that is tol­er­ant and re­spect­ful of one an­other.

TN50 should con­vey a manic op­ti­mism for the coun­try’s fu­ture. It should ig­nite pas­sion among the citizens for its ac­com­plish­ment.

Vi­sion with ac­tion can change the na­tion for the bet­ter. It is, there­fore, im­por­tant that TN50 sets out a de­tailed ex­pla­na­tion of how to turn the new vi­sion into re­al­ity. As Nel­son Man­dela once said, “Ac­tion with­out vi­sion is only pass­ing time, vi­sion with­out ac­tion is merely day­dream­ing, but vi­sion with ac­tion can change the world.”

Chil­dren cel­e­brat­ing Na­tional Day in Tangkak, Jo­hor, last year. Vi­sion with ac­tion can change the na­tion for the bet­ter.

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