‘I Have a dream’ – 50 years on. Now it’s time for a new one…

On August 28, Americans will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The highlight of that day in 1963 was Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. 

The most famous few lines of the speech are well known: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

I like to paraphrase the futurist, Joel L Barker, with a little poetic license of my own:

“A vision without action, is just a possibility. Action without vision won’t change anything. A dream that becomes a vision, and leads to action, has the potential to change the world.”

I believe that we all encounter people through our lives that have a dream and a vision that has the potential to change our world, but do we always notice it or remember it? Sometimes we dismiss it as too difficult, too radical, or just a bit scary, and we continue down the same path and forget the visionary intervention that could have changed our world, and those around us.

I have two such people in my past. The first was a boss in Leeds where I was working for a mortgage company. He was called Mike, and his dream was to celebrate difference, to champion uniqueness. He looked for it in people and encouraged them to make the most of what made them different from the crowd, because it had the potential to make them stand out, and once they stand out they have the power to make people listen and then change. I remember and champion his dream every day.

The second such influence was a boss I had back in the 90s, at Barclays, he was called Nigel. He was like a train. He was bursting with ideas and initiated them by creating an enormous amount of noise and drama. Often the ideas were too crazy to even contemplate, and they were rarely going to fly at Barclays, but even though the blueprint for change wasn’t always achieved, things did change in the path of this whirlwind. And although I am sure Nigel remains frustrated to this day of the amount of change he didn’t manage to achieve, he achieved probably more change at Barclays than anyone had ever done before. His vision was to drive change with an explosive force that people could not ignore. I try to live by his dream every day.

So I have a dream. It is that we stop complaining about the people around us who are difficult to manage, or who don’t conform  to the rules, because if we are honest, aren’t they our best performers? Don’t they achieve the biggest sales, create the most distinctive events, have the strongest influence, and are remarkable in a crisis? How much more fantastic would they be if they knew how special you thought they were, rather than being tolerated, and told they just don’t fit. And rather than worrying about change, and being afraid of the destruction it sometimes creates, my dream is that we experiment more, that we make some mistakes, we drive faster and harder, create a whirlwind of positive change that is so breathtaking that the dust never settles.

Life and business is so much more fulfilling when you are following a dream or a vision, and the turn it into action. It doesn’t have to be your dream. Listen for the ones that make you smile, or make your heart beat just a little faster, and then make them yours.