"Remember, this whole thing started with a mouse." - Walt Disney

Author:  Alexander Patananan
Institution:  UCLA

In his book "The Heart of a Champion," Bob Richards tells the story of Olympic champion Charley Paddock. While speaking before a group of students in Cleveland, Ohio, Paddock challenged the audience to THINK BIG: "If you think you can, you can," he coached. "If you believe a thing strongly enough, it can come to pass in your life!" Before Paddock concluded his remarks, he lifted his hand and said, "Who knows, there may be an Olympic champion sitting among us."

No sooner did he utter those words than a spindly-legged child approached him. "Mr. Paddock," he said excitedly. "I would give anything if I could be an Olympian just like you." It was the boy's hour of inspiration. From that moment on, his life would change. In 1936 that skinny kid traveled to Berlin and turned in four electrifying performances, capturing gold medals in the process.

His name: Jesse Owens.

During a victory tour through the streets of Cleveland, Owens stopped to sign autographs. A tiny child pressed against his car, looked his idol in the face, and said, "Gee, Mr. Owens, I'd give anything if I could be an Olympic champion just like you."

Jesse reached out and replied, "You know, young man, that's what I wanted to be when I was a little older than you. If you will work and train and BELIEVE, then one day you'll hit your goals."

Twelve years later, at Wembley Stadium in London, England, six sprinters exploded out of the blocks in the 100-meter dash. The sprinter in the outside lane burst into the open, drove down, and broke the tape first. His name: Harrison "Bones" Dillard.

A coincidence, you say? It'll never happen again, you say? No, it WILL happen again, to the person who captures a vision and backs it with passion and action (Source: Bits & Pieces, 1/13/2000).

Visions That Make A Difference

Vision. It is such a simple word isn't it? Put roughly, vision can be defined as "the development of ideas and plans to accomplish a particular goal." In this context, it is obvious that having a vision requires three main components. The first involves realizing a particular task or objective that you want to achieve. The second requires a formulation of a plan of action. In other words, what do I need to do in order to accomplish my objective? Finally, the third and by far the most important part of a vision is its actual execution.

Vision is something that is required in every aspect of our lives. Without it, mediocrity, at best, is to be expected. For example, when you write an essay, there must have been a point where you realized what your essay would exactly be about. You then figured out a general layout of the paper, and finally completed the project. In research, you also need a vision if you wish to investigate a topic and produce meaningful data. Thus far, I have talked about a vision in terms of the mundane tasks. However, a vision is anything but mundane. When people talk about successful individuals, for example, the phrases "that person had a great vision," or "that person was a visionary," often come to mind. In fact, the Bible tells in Proverbs 29:18 (KJV), "where there is no vision, the people perish." So what is this thing called vision and how do I get it? What I am about to tell you in this editorial could be life changing, or it could not – it is up to you. But the principle is clear; a lack of forward thinking and action will never lead to success.

The Selfless Visionary

I heard the story of a sophomore who approached her teacher after a class. "David," she said, "I would really like to do research in chemistry!" Enthusiastic for the student, but a bit perplexed, the teacher proclaimed, "That is great to hear! However, I noticed that your major is biology. What makes you desire to do research in a field that is not your specialty? Would not research in biology better suit you?" To the amazement of the professor, the student said, "Well, I heard that medical schools like undergraduates who do research in chemistry, and it would be the best thing that would improve my resume!" As I listened to this story, I wondered if everyone thought this way. Oftentimes when people are asked why they want to be a doctor, a common response is "because they make a lot of money!" Likewise, people often join certain clubs and organizations so that they can add it to their resume, and hence have a better chance at getting into a medical school or a graduate program. People often publish so that they can be famous, have a good career, and gain many friends. But as I was told this story I wondered how many people actually do research, join a journal, or write a paper for the benefit of others, rather than just self-promotion? Desires of obtaining riches are not necessarily bad to have in themselves, but when they consume much of one's thoughts and visions the "big picture" is obscured. Now, what do I mean by "big picture"? Let me illustrate it in the following way.

Almost everyone knows of Sir Isaac Newton and his discovery of the laws of gravity in the 1600s that changed the face of science. However, few realize that if it were not for a man named Edmund Halley, the world might never have known of Isaac Newton or of his discoveries. For it was Halley who not only challenged Newton to think critically about his ideas, but who also proof read his mathematical formulas, prepared figures illustrating his concepts, and aided Newton in the writing and financing of his most famous work entitled, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Because of Halley, Newton reaped the rewards of reputation and honor while Halley himself received no attention at all. In fact, it was only until after his death when his prediction of an orbiting comet was verified using Newton's laws that he received acclaim. And even then his notoriety was only seen during the periods that Halley's comet passed by the earth.

Throughout his life, Halley was a dedicated scientist who was not concerned by who received the glory as long as the cause was advanced. Now let me ask you something. With regards to that club, journal, or research group that you just joined, if you were to receive no credit for what you did there, would you still give your all? If you did not receive any credit for a novel system or drug that could help thousands, would you still work on that project tirelessly? You can always strive for money, power, and fame. But, if this is your main focus, will you ever achieve what you want? Before you place that pen next to a piece of paper to write down a result, or type that next word for your manuscript, what are you doing it for? Just keep in mind that we all have one life to live. As John Bunyan, the great British writer of the 17th century once said, "You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you." For Edmund Halley, fame and money would not come during his lifetime. Halley could without a doubt have easily set his vision on improving his placement in society and easily become a wealthy individual. But, his tireless assistance to Newton did more than elevate a single individual's status; his selfless vision changed the history of mankind.

A Vision Is Worthless Without Action A particular society once messaged the great African explorer, David Livingstone, and asked, "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to send other men to join you." In response to this, Livingstone replied, "If you have men who will come ONLY when there is a good road, I don't want them."

J. Erik Jonsson, the founder of Texas Instruments and the much-appreciated Ti-series calculators once said, "It is action that makes the difference. No matter what the vision, it must come to the point where we simply do our best and get the job done." Many people have ideas and plans, but they always fall sort due to their lack of desire to sacrifice their time and energy in order to accomplish the vision. Take, for example, this situation. I have a deep canyon that impedes the construction of a much needed supply route to a city in need. I am also the chief construction manager for the operation. Thus far, I have laid an asphalt road, the basic building block of my route. However, I am now presented with a complex situation that needs planning and determination. I quickly recognize and assess the situation, and develop a set of blueprints for a cable bridge that will surely solve the problem and get the crew to the other side. However, at this point, I am too careless to give my blueprints to the appropriate people and command the construction project, and eventually become distracted with other things. Another group, however, also recognizes the problem and makes it to the other side before my team. I have missed my chance at helping others. This sounds like a rather silly example, but I challenge you to analyze your life right now. Has there not been a moment in time were you have decided to take the easy way out and in the process missed a big reward? Of course we all have blown great opportunities, but success is ultimately achieved when we analyze our failures, correct the mistakes, and determine in ourselves to endure the course that our visions takes us on.

As I close this editorial, I want to leave you with one final story. Approximately 350 years ago, the founders of the United States of America arrived on the east coast of America. These founders had a vision. In the first year after their arrival, the group quickly established and developed a town site. In the second year, a capable government was elected. In the third year, the government proposed creating a five mile road west into what was then desolate wilderness. In the fourth year, the citizens tried to impeach their government due to "mismanagement" and the "waste" of public money as a result of building a "road to nowhere." "Who would ever need to go west!" they scoffed.

The pilgrim founders were a determined group. They had the vision and aspiration to endure the thousands of miles of deadly ocean to obtain freedom. But, in just a few years their vision had shrunk to such an extent that it could not exceed but a few miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision. Have you lost your vision?