If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that there Christian groups that believes that tomorrow, May 21st, is Judgment Day, and that a giant earthquake will shake the world, and believers will be taken up to heaven. (Actually planetary destruction by fire occurs on October 21st, Rapture Day.)
According to these same believers, the world was supposed to end in 1994. Oops.
Yet despite that error—and despite the fact that numerous “end of the world” dates have come and gone, and despite the fact that Jesus himself said that no one could know the day or hour—a large number of people have given themselves completely to the belief that Judgment Day is tomorrow, and are spending money buying billboards and time standing on cold corners, desperately trying to convert others to their belief in order to save their souls before then.
Wow. Wouldn’t it be great if our families, our employees, our customers and our vendors believed this strongly in our vision for the future?
How would we create this kind of belief?
First of all, when someone said, “We tried that 17 years ago, and it didn’t work,” we would pause for a moment, and consider the validity of that statement. When the world didn’t end in 1994, was that a failure? I’d have to say no. Lots of people got converted around that premise, I’m sure. And when the final bell didn’t ring, some of them continued to follow the conversation, attend church just in case, perhaps even modified their behavior because they had been convinced that the judgment day IS coming—one day—so you better be ready.
Second, we would ask: “Is it possible that when we tried it 17 years ago, we made some mistakes in our assumptions or execution?” Most tests, demonstration projects and attempts to be innovative fall flat, for all kinds of reasons, poor assumptions and poor execution among them. Sometimes we’re too early to the party, sometimes too late. Sometimes we attempt to correct things when we have not nailed down why they went bad in the first place. If we can figure out what we did wrong 17 years ago, we can use that information to inform our decision to try something similar today. But let’s keep in mind: Today is not 17 years ago. So our project will certainly be different, because it will be carried out in today’s world. Many, many more people have been touched with the message that the world is going to end tomorrow then they did back in 1994 because of the proliferation of information on the Internet. Even if the world doesn’t end tomorrow, this in itself could be considered a success.
Third, we would clearly have to appeal to our partners’ emotions. ”Get right with God or burn in hell” is pretty motivating. By painting not just the collective but the individual up side of successfully achieving the vision in glowing detail, each participant is intimately familiar with how he or she will personally benefit. But also make clear what the personal pain will be if the mark is missed. (Still here on May 22nd? Ouch!)
Fourth, we’d have to feel okay with being a bit out of step with the rest of the world, and we’d have to make our partners comfortable, too. Believing something will happen when everyone else says it’s ridiculous or impossible is a learned skill. It takes hours of mastery and investment. Time spent visualizing the outcome. Sharing the story even when it embarrasses you. Putting everything in your world in the context of the vision. Hanging out with people who are in the vision with you and support you. Even time spent convincing others that you are right and they are wrong is valuable, because it helps to hone your vision, answer objections, discover new answers to potential drawbacks, and gives you the opportunity to convince yourself even more. Because the person who needs to be convinced first is you.
Lastly, give up on your contingency plans. People who really believe that the world is ending tomorrow know that they have no options. There is no Plan B. It’s this or nothing. Do you feel that way about your vision?
You can start today to build this kind of belief in what you’re trying to create. But maybe you want to wait until tomorrow…just in case.