Harry Alford


What’s A Vision Quest And Why Your Startup Needs One

3 Steps To Realize Success

A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures and usually only undertaken by young males entering adulthood. A vision quest marks a significant life transition which can be humbling, powerful and ultimately a great opportunity to learn more about yourself. Today, it has transcended into other areas of life including sports and business. This rite of passage ritual is clearly depicted in a 1985 coming-of-age movie, Vision Quest.

Louden Swain, played by Matthew Modine, is a high school wrestler who has just turned eighteen and decided that he needs to do something truly meaningful in his life — wrestle the defending state champion. Against the wishes of his coach and teammates, Louden disrupts the team around him and creates health problems of his own.

There are deep parallels between sports and business. Athletic careers are typically shortlived. Startups grow and die fast. This sport is brutal. When it comes down to it, in business and sport, it’s about making fewer mistakes than your opponent and if you can continue moving forward. This is why I believe founders should schedule a plan for success much like a vision quest. Below is how Louden became able to realize his own vision quest:

1) Set An Intention

Vision Quest opens with Louden, while jumping rope, declaring his intentions in his final season as a high shool wrestler:

“My name is Louden, Louden swain. Last week I turned 18, I wasn’t ready for it, but I haven’t done anything yet so I made this deal with myself — This is the year I make my mark.” — Louden

Against the wishes of those around him, he embarks on a mission to drop two weight classes (190 pounds to 168 pounds) in order to challenge the toughest opponent, Brian Shute, a menacing 3-time state champion from nearby rival Hoover High School, who has never been defeated in his high school career. Louden’s on a vision quest…trying to find his place in the circle.

Louden makes it known to everyone on his team and his town that he intends to wrestle Shute. Louden even makes Brian Shute aware of his intentions to wrestle him. Louden isn’t concerned about his competitor’s worldview. Rather, he is saying his dream out loud, forcing himself to articulate what he wants.

2) Train Hard And Learn To Fail

Undoubtedly, Louden faced obstacles along the way such as heartbreak and deteriorating health. But those were miniscule compared to realizing his full potential. Louden learned how to cope with and rebound from failure. He learned how to handle these situations and how to persevere through them.

With entrepreneurship comes change, which entails the inevitability to adapt and often-times fail. Failure is an intricate part of growth and a preceding feature of nearly all successes. Sometimes you can do everything in your power to succeed and things still don’t go your way. You have to learn how to fail.

Sometimes you’ll even surprise yourself and your teammates. Louden proves that weight-cutting has not diminished his strength. Towards the end of the film, Louden climbs to the top of the pegboard which he, nor his teammates, have ever been able to accomplish.

3) Win

In the final moments, Louden pins Shute and realizes his vision quest. In a way, Louden was following a self-fulfilling prophecy — a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true due to positive feedback between belief and behavior. Louden lived, breathed and dreamed of beating Shute. Something entrepreneurs can certainly relate to is being maniacally focused 24/7 by visions, dreams and new ideas. In Louden’s case, it paid off.

Not all vision quests result in clear and decisive victories and it can often include elements of vulnerability and self-reliance. However, upon deeper reflection you may be surprised by whatelse you’ve been able to accomplish on your journey. There are many benefits to embarking on a vision quest and setting your intention is a great starting point. According to Deepak Chopra, “intention is the starting point of every dream.” To many founders a successful startup is the dream. As long as you persevere on the vision quest your dream will mirror your intention.

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