IN THE MACHINE
What is your vision for yourself? Now, stop. Really. Stop. And read slowly, because it is not intended as a rhetorical question. I ask you again, what is YOUR vision? For yourself, and for your business? What is your ultimate objective in life; for what e
is managing director at The
What is your mission? What is the ultimate goal for your business; who is it you want to become? And your values – what are they? What are the principles and standards that govern who you are? Who do you choose to be as you fulfil your mission and actualise your vision?
Whether you are aware of it or not, your vision, mission and values are the most important facets of your business. And if you can’t articulate them – if you don’t know what you want to achieve and what it is you stand for – then someone else is going to tell you what they are. And allowing society to tell you who to be and what to strive for is unwise in a number of ways.
The industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries was a time of profound change, innovation and entrepreneurism. The invention of automated machines – the loom, the printing press, the steam engine – enabled the rise of the rich merchant class and instigated a new urban economy. After centuries of feudal divide, those dedicated and savvy enough could invent, create and produce themselves into the upper-classes of society.
For many during this time, the machine became a god; a technological marvel that symbolised the irrepressible superiority of humanity. The idea of mechanism began to thrive as a philosophy and slowly started to invade the overall fabric of society. The sciences, led by Rene Descartes and Isaac Newton, became purely mechanistic and the universe (and everything in it) was reduced to the level of mindless automation.
This view was best summed up by Nikola Tesla, an engineer, inventor and prolific creator who nonetheless believed that “Man, like the universe, is a machine. Nothing enters our minds or determines our actions which is not directly or indirectly a response to stimuli beating upon our sense organs from without.”
Eventually, and inevitably, this mechanistic point of view began to pervade our educational institutions. The word education derives from the Greek word educare, which means to extract; to bring forth from within. Education was initially designed to highlight a student’s latent knowledge and abilities; to draw out of them that which they did not yet realise they knew.
However, after the rise of philosophical mechanism students became nothing more than ‘learning machines’. The heart and soul was banished from our educational processes and emphasis was placed on programming students with suitable knowledge and formulae. Education became a process of putting stuff in and innate knowledge was ridiculed or ignored.
Let me emphasise that point because it is important: you have been largely taught, by society and by the educational system, that your innate vision doesn’t matter. You have been taught that conformity brings reward. You have been programmed to believe that success will come if you, like a machine, can just get the data right; if you can find the right formula. Follow the rules. Comply. But this idea is failing. If modern business has shown us anything, it is the inescapable connection between greatness and individuality. It is not conformity that accelerates opportunity; it is creativity. It is not compliance that precedes success; it is disruption. Rebellion. What Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Richard Branson and Elon Musk have reiterated is that, if you truly want to leave an indelible legacy on this world, then you had better know who you are and where you are going. You had better be prepared to defend your personal vision in the face of staunch opposition and allow your own voice to be heard above the din of the outside world.
Carl Jung, the father of analytical psychiatry, remarked that “Resistance to the organised mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organised in his individuality as the mass itself”. In other words, if you want to rise above the machine, then you need to have more faith in your personal vision than the direction bestowed upon you by education and society. You had better be tuned in to your own, inner GPS.
Despite the misguided philosophies of the 18th century, you are not a machine. You have every opportunity to be an intuitive, creative and disruptive force of nature. An alchemist. Similarly, your business will not thrive because of some outdated procedure or meticulously formulated (mechanistic) plan. It has a greater chance of succeeding if it is tied to a vision, a mission and a set of values that inspire you, the business leader, and captivate those who you come into contact with.
So, I ask again. What is it? What is your vision?