Kate had a vision. My 12-year-old niece loved her dog and chocolate-crested gecko, but a cat was what she wanted most of all.
“No,” her parents said. “We already have animals.”
“But we don’t have a cat,” she replied.
“Cats scratch furniture. And they need their litter boxes scooped.”
“I can scoop the litter box.”
“And take the dog for walks? And feed your gecko?”
“I can do it,” Kate said confidently.
“No. We’re not getting a cat.”
For some kids, that would be the end of the conversation. But not Kate. For her, no was just the starting point.
Lesson 1: Hear the no, but refuse to accept it as the final answer.
So, Kate got strategic. She looked up the closest humane society and put the address in her phone. The next time they were out running errands nearby, Kate asked to stop at the shelter.
“We’re not getting a cat, Kate.”
“I know. But we can stop and just look at them.”
So they did. And this started happening regularly. Because Kate had a vision.
Lesson 2: Make a plan.
Knowing her mother didn’t want a cat to scratch the furniture, Kate started searching for declawed cats online. On their occasional visits, she’d point out the ones she’d researched.
“This one is declawed, Mom.”
My sister-in-love stayed silent. Kate didn’t push. She just tried new strategies. Because that’s what you do when you have a vision.
Lesson 3: Collaborate. Find common ground. Offer solutions that allow those in power to say yes.
Enlisting her sister’s help, Kate and Jessica looked online for their favorite adoptable cats. Together, they printed out pages from the website with the cats’ names and descriptions.
Lesson 4: Find allies who share your vision and work together. A group effort has synergy.
Kate would select a page and, at a convenient time, show it to her parents.
“Look at this one, Mom. Isn’t it cute?”
“Yes, it is cute.”
She’d explain why it was special. What its habits were. That it was good around dogs.
“We’ve already talked about this.”
“I know, I’m just showing you.”
Kate and Jessica began leaving photos of cute cats in surprising places: the back of the bathroom mirror. In the kitchen cupboard. Under the remote control. All in places their parents would look, not suspecting a whiskery, sparkly-eyed kitten to stare back.
It made an impression. Privately, my brother admitted he found this endearing, hilarious, and surprisingly persuasive. Kate was determined. It’s hard to argue long-term with someone committed to a vision.
Lesson 5: Surprise those in power with your commitment. When possible, use creativity and even humor to get your message across.
Kate persisted. After another strategic visit to the humane society, now Pixie is a part of the family.
I’m inspired by my niece’s accomplishment. Not just because of the outcome, but because of her strategy. I sincerely hope she runs for office someday.
The value and power of vision
Kate’s purr-suasive campaign shows how a clear vision can help us work toward a more perfect union.
A vision is fuel for the long game. When we focus only on what’s wrong, it leads to overwhelm, paralysis, and inaction. Focusing equally on what you seek—your vision—prevents burnout and increases motivation.
Consider for a moment
What is the end goal of your activism?
What are you working toward?
What outcomes do you seek?
It’s not enough to focus on ejecting one elected official. Or getting revenge on a racist leader. Go beyond just what you don’t want and focus on what you want more of.
My own vision is of a healthy planet with community that thrives in equality, justice, truth, opportunity, and collaboration. Where we listen well and work to lift each other up.
My vision has room for dissent, but no tolerance for intolerance. It’s not utopia; it’s a vision that requires work. And, for me, it’s a vision worth working for.
What’s your vision?
Take a moment to write a description—or even create a visual collage—of the outcome you’re striving for. You can share in the comment section too.
Then, like Kate, put it somewhere to remind you. Maybe on the bathroom mirror. Or your cellphone wallpaper. Also consider putting your vision where others can see it.
A vision is how you energize yourself and others into mid-terms, to 2020, and beyond. That’s the power of vision.
Once you have a vision, recall the five lessons from Kate’s kitty campaign
1: Refuse to accept no as the final answer. Your vision is the final answer.
2: Make a plan. Start taking steps immediately—no matter how small.
3: Collaborate. Find common ground. Offer solutions that allow those in power to say yes.
4: Find allies who share your vision and work together. A group effort has synergy.
5: Surprise those in power with your commitment. When possible, use creativity and even humor to get your message across.
This is what democracy looks like.
Taking action to create your vision is the most important thing you can do with your time on earth.
So think big, and take small actions toward it every day. You just never know whose mind you’ll change.