What is your Red Mercedes?

The first time I drove my new red Mercedes to work, reality set in. I was exhilarated as I reached cruising speed on the Interstate highway. My dream had finally come true! The proof of my success was a tangible thing.

A horn honked to my left. I looked over and the driver of a yellow Corvette was giving me a thumbs up! Laughing, I returned his sign of approval and he moved away. A moment later I realized an 18-wheeler was on my right, pacing me. I looked up at the driver and laughed again when he signaled the thumbs-up and tooted his air horn before moving on. It was all too much–the physical embodiment of my ten year old Vision.

Then I was jolted back to reality when a gravel truck threw a rock. “NO!” I screamed, but I was helpless to prevent the rock from hitting the shiny red hood of my new car. Thunk! The rock hit the hood, bounced up and hit the roof. A flash of anger heated my blood and I drove the rest of the way to work with tears in my eyes. I parked in my usual space, carefully examined the car for damage, and found only two tiny paint chips instead of the huge craters I had feared. Whew! Unless I knew where to look, the chips were invisible.

I learned many lessons through that Mercedes, and have applied them in my life and career.

First, the initial Vision must be supported and reinforced. Once, when I was discouraged with a project at work, a friend gifted me with a model red Mercedes at Christmas. That model sat in a prominent place in my office for years as a reminder of my dream. Each time I looked at it I was reminded that no matter how hard the work, or how tired I was, I was moving toward a specific goal. Worthy goals are long-term, and they don’t come without effort, but the vision does need to be reinforced and renewed from time to time.

Next, modifications may be appropriate. My initial Vision was of the low-slung, two-door sports car, but when I was finally ready to buy, that car no longer fit the person I had grown to be. It was not until I drove a modest four-door diesel sedan that I felt right about the car, and that was the one I ordered. I was ten years older than the giddy twenty-six-year-old who developed a Vision with stars in her eyes. Now I understood better the realities of life, and comfort had become more important than style. The changes had been subconscious, but they were there and had to be acknowledged.

Then, there will be setbacks along the way, but the you must not waver in your Vision. During that ten year period, I made a horrible job change decision without doing enough research. Eighteen months later I was contacting recruiters again, and it was the experience I had gained in that disastrous position that tipped the scales in my favor for the new position. No matter how difficult the setback, you must learn from the mistakes and use those lessons to move forward. Let mistakes provide new energy toward achievement of your Vision!

Next, there will come a time when you must set aside your Vision and move forward again with a new Vision. I drove my red Mercedes for ten years and more than a hundred thousand miles. Eventually, however, the car became a burden and had to be sold. It broke my heart to give it up, and it took several months before I could let it go. But eventually I realized the car was only a symbol and I had moved beyond needing a tangible symbol to continue my growth. My new Vision had for years involved my improving job and interpersonal skills, and there was no physical symbol of that Vision. Don’t cling to your Vision beyond its useful life; form a new Vision and use it to continue moving forward.

And finally, dream publicly. Share your Vision with those closest to you, and let their enthusiasm help carry you along. Each time I told my Red Mercedes Story, I was teaching others the value of having a specific Vision of their future “when you’re where you want to be.” One of my students achieved his first hole-in-one the weekend after he completed my class. My training department staff learned to envision a fully functioning department that led an entire company to greater heights of learning and application.

As a leader in your company, make a list of the things you would like to change. Where can you improve efficiency and productivity? What procedures or policies need to be tweaked? Are your sales goals high enough? Are your relationships collaborative and supportive? Is your morale high, turnover low? How can you improve your service to customers and employees?

Once you’ve answered those questions, begin to develop a new Vision. How will you feel inside that Vision when the changes have been implemented and you’re where you want to be with your staff, company, family? Remember to reinforce and renew, always look forward, always involve feelings and emotions to make the Vision relevant. Share your Vision with others, and use achievement to teach and develop others.

And a last thought. The red Mercedes was a symbol of the person I dreamed of being–happy, successful, financially secure. I understood that if I could have a Mercedes I would have achieved many of my goals, and I used the Mercedes to help me achieve those goals over a period of years. Your Vision must include the real things you’re trying to achieve, not become the goal itself.

Have you experienced the power of Vision in your career or life? Share your story in the Comment section below. I’d love to hear your experiences and lessons learned!

About Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR

Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR, is the author of three non-fiction books, including the Second Edition of Hiring Right: A Business Blueprint for Lower Turnover and Higher Profits. She is a retired Human Resources Director with more than 40 years' experience. Certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, she is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Society for Human Resource Management.
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