An Additive Vision

We all have a vision for what we want our lives to be.

We all have a vision for what we want the world to be.

We all have a vision for what we want our work to be.

Those visions have drastic implications for how we live today. If we have a vision for a life in which we own multiple homes and fancy cars, we will take certain jobs and look and act a certain way.

If we have a vision for a world in which our systems are responsive to the needs, potential and dignity of all people, we will work in certain companies and on certain projects to reach that vision.

Our visions become the guiding principles and guide posts for what we do today. If we believe we are not becoming more of what we envision, we will probably switch what we do for work, which is why it is so important that we know and understand what our visions are.

Yet, as I’ve talked with people about their visions over the last few weeks, there seem to be two different types of visions held by most people. Those visions are:

The “If-Only” Vision. This vision is a vision for an ideal world “if-only” this certain thing happens.  It’s a vision that goes something like this:

  • If only Trump weren’t in office, I’d be okay.
  • If only my wife were nicer, I’d be okay.
  • If only I had more money, I’d be okay.
  • If only my boss was better, I’d be okay.
  • If only there were more people like X in our company, I’d be okay.

It’s a vision against what is happening today.

And, the Non-Specific Vision. This is a vision that says everything and nothing. It’s a vision that goes something like this:

  • We’re building this incredible, super-specific product to make a better world.

And outside of work, you see people saying things like:

  • I’m doing this because I want to make a difference.
  • I’m marrying this person because I want to be happy.
  • The best thing I can do with my life is giving back.

The problem with this type of vision is that we’re not specific about anything. We want to make a “better world,” “make a difference” and “give back,” but we haven’t done the next step of actually defining success for each of these visions – and determining if we can actually do something to make these visions a reality.

Introducing the Additive Vision

I’ve realized how much GAN followed one of the two visions above for the last few years.

Our vision at GAN has been to “make a better world for founders” while also saying that we’re making a better world by being against founder depression, everyone moving to big tech hubs, and cultures that are destructive to the humans working in them.

We never had a vision for what we were really about. Neither of the two “visions” above tells us what the world could actually become.

Over the last few months, I’ve worked alongside Reilly Flynn (my partner at GAN Ventures) and Philip Lorish (a Ph.D. out of University of Virginia) to understand what a compelling, forward-looking vision could be. 

It took reading 15+ books and speeches, a twice-a-week discussion, and numerous writing prompts to get to a place where we have a vision.

That vision is for a Whole Economy, one in which our systems are responsive to the needs, potential and dignity of all people.

It’s a vision towards something and a vision that’s building something – we’re building a Whole Economy in which our systems (i.e., how we work, how we communicate, how we get around, how we empower others) are working towards a world that is responsive to the needs, potential, and dignity of all people.

We are building towards a vision that we deeply believe in and are passionate about – creating and repairing systems that are responsive to the needs, potential, and dignity of all people.

We’re being specific and defining a new kind of world. 

Said another way – this vision is additive. It’s increasing the goodness in the world for everyone who is a part of the vision.

And when you are for something, it automatically gives you vision.

Why This Matters

This vision now gives us a lens through which we make all of our decisions at GAN.

  • We can ask if investing in this company is additive to a more Whole Economy.
  • We can ask if launching this new product is additive to a more Whole Economy.
  • We can ask if our culture is additive to a more Whole Economy for the people working at GAN (by asking how we’re helping people achieve their potential, if we’re coming alongside their needs and if we’re giving people more dignity as a result of them working here).

Questions to Ask From Here

I hope you can take the lessons we’re learning to create a vision that “builds towards” something specific versus being nebulous or anti-something else.

Some questions that have helped me understand this are:

  • What is our vision?
  • What happens if we are successful?
  • Are we more for than against something in our vision?
  • And are we giving ourselves the time and energy to figure out our vision (because it will take hours to understand what we’re about)?