How easy is it to sacrifice your values in pursuit of success?
Said another way, what are you consciously or unconsciously willing to give up in order to get what you’re aiming for?
In our book, Thriving in Business and Life, we dedicate a chapter to the importance of infusing our values into everything we do, including our vision crafting. Values, ideally, are like a compass that helps keeps us true to our own values-based North Star while we pursue our passions. But, unless we have a strong support network of colleagues, family, and friends to whom we’re willing to listen, the powerful pull of an ambitious vision can pull us off course.
Yes, we may accomplish the obvious, more visible aspects of our vision, but what about the deeper, usually more important components—the ones that underpin our foundational values?
In his book, Powerhouse CAA – The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency, James Andrew Miller tells the remarkable story of how Michael Ovitz and his partners broke away from the William Morris Agency in 1975 to form their own agency.
Industry professionals and their friends thought they were nuts. But Ovitz’s vision was crystal clear and he acted on it. He requested just 10 minutes to make his pitches and he didn’t even require clients to sign contracts. He grew CAA into the world’s leading talent agency, representing celebrities like Tom Cruise, Barbara Streisand and Steven Spielberg.
That, however, was only the beginning of the story. When Miller interviewed Ovitz and his former CAA partner, Ron Meyer in more recent times, as reported by Stephen Galloway in the Hollywood Reporter, Ovitz was 69 and had not had a major involvement in the entertainment business since he was forced out as president of the Walt Disney Company in 1997, less than two years after exiting CAA.
Ovitz, who seemed to have gained the perspective time provides stated that, “When I started building those kinds of business relationships, I didn’t realize that I was sacrificing relationships that were actually more important to me, because I was completely engrossed in what I was doing. Ovitz then went on to share that he wished he had a close adviser to caution me. But, he confessed, “I didn’t.”
In the interview, Ovitz, looking back on his past, posed an interview question to himself, “What could you have done differently?
“We were on such a roll, in every aspect of the business,” he responded. “I was oblivious and insensitive to a lot of the people issues. And the reason was, there weren’t enough hours in the day. I was flying around the world for 600 hours a year to do these deals. The economics were huge for us. It helped us. And I was basically myopic in my drive.”
Responding to a question about whether he had let his ambition become unbridled, Ovitz went on to say, “It was more than unbridled. But winning is not everything.” Ovitz then then shared how former Warner Bros. executive Ted Ashley had said to him, “You know, Michael, you could do your seven days of work a week, but if you cut back 10 percent, no one would know the difference.” But, Ovitz said, “It went in one ear and out the other.” Ashley went on to say, ‘You could even cut back 15 percent, and no one would know difference”
“What I realized later on in life,” Ovitz reflected, “Was that he was right, but I didn’t realize it at the time.”
When asked to name the “psychic income”—the moments on the job that had brought him the greatest joy—Ovitz highlighted some of his deeper values like working with his colleagues, and particularly his business partner, Meyer, with whom he had a famous falling out as the two parted company.
We don’t have to be building a powerhouse agency to let our vision run ahead of our values. Many of us have done it—sometimes at the real expense of family and friendships. Like Ovitz, it is often far down the road of life that we realize that such compromises on our values were never worth it.
While, this one-time powerhouse agent provides us with some important insights, consider this possibility: “What if you could learn a formula for infusing your values into the process of creating success?” Consider the difference that could make in your life and your work. Ponder the possibilities, daydream for a moment or two.
It’s never too late to reinstall our values into our vision and our life.
Yes, certain memories can haunt us. We may find ourselves reflecting on our regrets or how we have repeated mistakes in our careers and relationships because we were overly fixated on what we could accomplish. We can get stuck and feel powerless in this mode, reliving old patterns and old stories that we just can’t seem to change. We all have our own playlist that keeps running in the background of our minds, as if they are individual tracks on shuffle, repeating on an endless programming loop.
But, remember the old saying: If you don’t change your direction, you’ll end up where you’re headed.
So, yes, it may be time for a reassessment. And, there's some good news in that regard. We can change direction by paying attention to where we are looking, deliberately shifting our attention from reliving memories to visioning future possibilities; possibilities that are re-infused with the things that matter the most to us in life inextricably connected with our goals.
With that in mind, today’s Thriving tip is to create a new habit:
Look forward into the future, not backwards into the past. We can always learn from the past, but that’s different than obsessing over yesterday. We set out with lessons learned in hand, to create a very different tomorrow.
We may have learned the hard way that if we don’t deliberately create a vision about where we want to go in life—one that is deeply infused with our most important values—we can easily get off course. We may have also realized that without listening to friends who will help keep us on track, we can find ourselves returning again and again to familiar destinations we’d prefer to avoid.
But that was the past and right here in the present moment, we can engage the Vision-First process we describe in our book and online course; where we imagine that our new vision is already real; that we’ve already reached an intended goal successfully with all of our foundational values even more fully enhanced.
This is fundamentally different than looking forward towards a hoped-for result. Instead, our process guides us to regularly practice a type of imaginative time traveling that enables us to look backwards from a future point in time where the vision has already become reality. Regularly calling up that future vision and the deep feeling of it having already been accomplished, provides yet another North-Star-true compass to guide us away from the pitfalls of unbridled ambition.
Here's your Thriving Challenge for the week:
Experiment with identifying the values that are truly most important to you
and then infusing them into the core of your vision and your goals.
Invite those around you to hold you accountable for both the
attainment of your tangible goals and your core values.
Check in regularly to ensure that both are on track.
Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding