In my last article, I discussed the importance of disruption in commerce, and how it changes everything at the time. Interestingly, if we take a step back, we see that most likely the greatest disrupter in history was Jesus of Nazareth. His short “career” disrupted and changed the course of history for the following 2,000+ years. Setting religion aside, we can examine his life, and from it extract principles that can be applied to any disruption.
1. Being Sure About Your Cause
The first principle I want to point out is being sure about what you want to disrupt. If you don’t have that certainty, which includes certainly in yourself and a conviction of your plan, you’ll end up drastically affected by everything that comes your way. Instead of succeeding with your disruption, you’ll be blown off course.
In the case of Jesus, we know that by the age of 12 he knew his direction. At that age, his parents found him in the temple speaking with the teachers, who were astounded at the depth of his understanding. It was obvious he had realized he had a mission, and what it was.
What’s interesting, though, is that Jesus did not embark on his disruption until he was 30 years old. Up until that point, he was living as normal a life as anyone else in his time—in his case, as a carpenter. Given that life expectancy at that time was not much over 30, it was probably pretty difficult for him, waiting throughout his best years to fulfill his vision.
Jesus was related to John the Baptist; they actually grew up together. There came a time after they were grown when John decided to baptize Jesus. It was this event that signified to Jesus that his time had finally come and began his mission.
Some people might say, “Why should I wait? I have a great vision, and I should start now.” So what is the right time? How is it signified?
In the case of Jesus, he received his own confirmation that his vision was correct and that he could now begin it. In the case of a business person, they can listen to those around them, to their advisors. This doesn’t mean paying attention to the “naysayers”—the people who are going to be negative no matter what. Leave them out, but listen to those whose advice you can trust. They may tell you that your vision needs to be thought out more. Or, they might tell you that it’s finally ready to start.
Just as there was for him, there are signs for anyone else set out to disrupt, too. There are indications and signals that tell you when you should start off. Until you do, you should continue to live your normal life, day in and day out. Because timing is crucial.
History tells us that Jesus didn’t immediately strike out into his ministry, though. First, he retreated off by himself and reflected. He was asking himself if he could truly stand up to the task at hand and examining the possible consequences.
He encountered three major obstacles when he was by himself. First, he found himself hungry and was tempted to convert stone into bread. He refrained from this temptation, famously stating, “Man does not live by bread alone.”
To me, this shows us that when you are engaged in a purpose that you believe in, you can be fearful that your daily life won’t be covered if you follow your vision. You’re tempted to do something that isn’t supporting your vision because you fear that you won’t be getting your daily bread. The answer is to simply engage in your daily activities, and if you keep at it, you will arrive where you want to go.
The second obstacle he encountered was to turn totally away from his goal—to take the easy way out. He was basically promised riches and anything he wanted if he turned away and went off his chosen path.
To me this means the temptation, for a businessperson, to take a shortcut so they don’t have to work hard and get what they really want. That shortcut leads to the loss of your cause and your focus. It means getting totally sidetracked from your own unique vision to live the vision of someone else just for money or pride.
The bottom line: stick to your cause and stay on course.
The third obstacle Jesus encountered was to test his vision in a negative sense—in his case, he was challenged to jump off of a high wall, because if he was who he said he was, he wouldn’t be hurt. He refused.
In a general sense, this would equate to you actually working against your own vision, your own cause. You’re doubting that which is in you and making yourself doubtable.
There is a fine line between correcting yourself—we all do that, we’re not perfect—and constantly doubting yourself and the conviction you came to in the beginning. In doing so, you’re not only losing the strength of your vision, but you lose confidence in what you should do.
Uniqueness of Vision
In truth, everyone has their own unique vision. Only they can fulfill it. That doesn’t mean a vision has to be enormous and global—for example, someone could have a purpose to be a great firefighter, care for their community and do well. Not everyone has to be Steve Jobs. We need people like that, no question, but we need all kinds of visions, and no one should be asserting that theirs is bigger and more important.
The “size of vision” always reminds me of a beautiful story. Charles Handy, a former marketing executive for Shell Corporation, tells the story of his father, who had been an archdeacon in the Church of Ireland. When his father died, Handy flew to Ireland to attend the funeral and was astounded at the number of people who were present. Handy had thought of his father as a local cleric off in the Irish countryside, but at the funeral one and then another of many people came up to Handy and told him how great his father had impacted their lives. There were people there from all over the world. We just can’t judge people for the size of their vision, because we never know how far it will ultimately reach.
We can walk in the shoes of Jesus for a moment and see that, for every day before his chosen work began when he was 30, he was a working man like many others. He was getting up in the morning, sweating over his work, going to bed. He was patiently waiting to fulfill his vision. He may have even wondered if he would have to wait his whole life and be an old man like Moses.
Some people jump out too early, and nothing happens, and they never end up disrupting anything, even if they’re capable. Many of us demand of the younger generation, “Come on with the visions, already!” That kind of impatience leads to the chaos we encounter many times in today’s world.
What can we learn from Jesus, then?
1. Know your cause that leads to your mission and vision.
2. Timing is important. Confirmations of your vision, indications that the timing is right, are important also. Be patient and wait for the right time.
3. Deal with your obstacles:
a. Know how you’re going to keep yourself fed. Support yourself while you’re on your journey, and know you’ll ultimately make your dream come true.
b. Don’t stray from your vision for an easy solution or easy money. Don’t make compromises.
c. Don’t be tempted to “test” your own calling for negative reasons. It’s needlessly filling yourself with self-doubt. Just know that your vision is worthwhile, and keep at it.
Confront your obstacles and deal with them realistically. Additionally, be ready to confront your own inner obstacles, because the biggest barriers are often within.
I believe every great disruption begins with these principles. Learn from them!