What Inigo Montoya taught me about vision

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The Princess Bride is a classic movie. It’s quotable, has great characters, the plot is ridiculous, yet emotionally honest enough to make it cult-like in its following. All in all, a great movie.

One of the most memorable threads throughout the movie is Wallace Shawn’s character (Vizzini) repeatedly using the word “inconceivable”. All throughout the movie. Something happens, inconceivable. Good, bad, indifferent, it doesn’t matter; it’s inconceivable. Finally, Inigo Montoya tells him, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

It’s a funny moment. You might even laugh when he says that. As a leader though, the same can be said about how people use the word “vision”.

It’s easy to start using a highly potent word because of what it conveys, but it gets misused so much that its meaning gets diluted and robbed of its potency. Vision is why you do what you do. Vision is seeing both what is and what could be, and knowing why your team is headed in the direction it is.

“We send Survey Monkey surveys to everyone who attends because their opinion matters to us. That’s part of our vision.” That’s not vision. Vision should be a part of the reason why you hosted the conference in the first place. Getting good feedback helps reinforce the execution of the vision: did this conference accomplish why we hosted it?

“We use special dishes for serving dinner to our visitors because that’s our vision.” That’s not vision;  special plates are a specific detail in an expression of the vision. Special dinner plates are what you use. A nice dinner is how you communicate a visitor’s value, which can be a part of your vision: “People matter to us because they matter to God.” The plates aren’t the vision; they’re the effect of the vision.

When it comes to using a highly potent word like vision, we need to be even more intentional. Taking the time to hone your vision into a clear, concise idea is invaluable to your organization. Make sure you know what you’re saying. Otherwise, I don’t think it means what you think it means.

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