“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
We often get mesmerized by the suggestion that we need a grand vision. That is why I always find it fascinating to hear that so many high achievers had no grand vision, or at least they did not have the grand vision of the particular success they achieved.
Tom Brady was the latest person I heard to suggest such a thing. In the pregame segment he taped with Terry Bradshaw, Brady told Bradshaw, “I never imagined myself in this situation,” meaning playing in his 7th Super Bowl with a chance to win 5.
We often hear that we need to imagine it before we achieve it, but in reality, being excellent always rests with doing one’s best in the present moment, after all, it’s the only moment we ever live in. Now, to be sure, some of that excellence in the present is direct toward planning, but it always strikes me unusual, and quite wonderful actually, when someone exclaims that their life exceeded their wildest dreams.
I am not suggesting that imagery, planning, and/or goal setting are bad. That’s not at all my point. Planning has a purpose, but even though planning is about the future, it’s an act that must be done – like all others – in the moment. Thus, even planning must be performed excellently in the moment.
If one is to do rather than just dream, the planning must turn to action, and when taking action, so much big excellence is in the tiny details. Sometimes the grandest way to imagine something is to see the ordinary with extraordinary detail, focus, and care. Grand visions without action never materialize, but actions without a grand vision can still build a masterpiece one little detail at a time.
I think this is why Brady was so composed when Super Bowl LI started so poorly for the Patriots. He realizes that his vision of what he wants need not prevent him from dealing effectively with what is. He understands that he has built a masterpiece one little detail at a time, so that is how he took to dismantling the large deficit. Like with his entire career, perhaps in focusing on the tiny details he could influence, he exceeded what he could have accomplished had he tried to take in the entire bigger picture.
There is nothing wrong with a grand vision, but there is also nothing wrong with a limited or seemingly small vision with extraordinary focus on the little things that make the big things possible. As Emerson wrote, “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” Sometimes this wisdom leads us to places beyond our wildest dreams.