I wish I could tell you that this vision statement emerged fully formed in a blinding flash of light ... or some other comparably grand birthing. The reality is more chaotic, perhaps more comparable to a real birthing process: long, sometimes painful, messy and ultimately, inspiring and worth the effort.
During our process of building Balance Point (then Balance Point International) in the late Seventies in Japan, I noticed a dysfunctional pattern to our organizational growth: When we had about 30 staff and were growing rapidly, we would add staff and then lose them after just a few months. The net effect was no growth and an existing staff that was overworked and near burnout.
We had about 15 core staff, many of whom had been with me from the beginning. Several of them had joined me as part of the original staff of our first company in Japan, American Salesmasters Japan Ltd. Others had joined Balance Point during those first few months of growth. These people stayed with the company and, though they were often overworked, seemed to be truly inspired and satisfied by our work. I wondered why they stayed and the new people left. It was important that we resolve the issue because until we fixed the problem, we couldn't expand the availability of our seminars in Japan.
My first realization was that my role had changed and I suspected that
the responsibility for this problem started with me. I had worked closely with those original staff. We had conducted guest events, made enrollment calls, set chairs and led trainings together. We had even painted the walls of the Training Center together because we couldn't afford professional painters.
My second realization was that it wasn't just friendship forged by those early days of working together that was missing for the new staff people. It was that the original staff understood at some level what Robert White was 'up to': why I was so committed to bringing the Balance Point seminars to people. They knew, perhaps at a cellular level, why I was doing this work and where we were going with the idea in Japan. What was missing was that I could not verbally articulate these core ideas. In fact, if you asked me what my vision or the Balance Point vision was, I wouldn't have known what you were talking about.
Years later, after studying the distinctions that create outstanding results, I learned that everything I have ever accomplished in life was guided by a connection to a clear purpose, moving toward a compelling vision and being executed with aligned actions consistent with a set of positive values. (This context for results later became the design for our VisionQuest executive training and much of the work we've done to support achieve results for corporate clients.)
I was already a living example of the power of purpose and vision. The problem was that I didn't understand those concepts and couldn't speak that purpose and vision; so the only way they could be transmitted was somewhat 'accidentally' through direct working contact. This was not a reliable method for growing an organization or promoting an idea to millions of people.
I began to learn about the power of vision through speaking with friends, reading and attending seminars. I also learned about the growth patterns of organizations and that the problems we were experiencing were common to service organizations of our size as they attempted to grow. I began to ask myself "why am I here?" and "why does Balance Point Dynamics exist?" Those questions were the way through to realizing the Balance Point purpose. I also asked "what are we trying to create through this work? What is the compelling future state that will make all of this effort worthwhile?" I had discovered what I now describe as "the purpose and vision questions."
In 1982, a graduate named Kim Schueftan telephoned. Kim had participated in some brainstorming sessions with me and knew of my efforts to learn about a way to capture our work in words that would empower and engage people. Kim was a writer, editor and typical graduate: aware, responsible, and highly intentional in his communication. He told me about a photographic exhibition sponsored by Pentax in Tokyo. He said the exhibition captured the intention of our work in photographs and I must go to see them. I was busy and not accustomed to attending exhibitions so I attempted to avoid his request. Fortunately, we had taught him well so he was persistent. I eventually agreed to attend the exhibition.
The result was a profound experience of vision that has changed my life and guided Balance Point since 1982. Perhaps I could have figured it out without this seemingly chance occurrence. Perhaps not. I wandered alone through this brilliant exhibition of photographs of people from all over the world. There were pictures of people young and old, male and female, rich and poor just people, living life in all its magnificence.
I don't know how long I stayed there but it was longer than planned. I realized this photographer had captured, in both the individual pictures and in the effect created by the entire collection, my deepest hopes and dreams for our planet. Average people with their children and families; people at work and at play. Separate in so many ways, unique, yet connected at the most essential level. I knew instantly that the creation of these images could not be an accident. Only the purest kind of intention could have created these masterpieces. I knew I had to meet the photographer and talk with him so I took a business card from the display and walked out into a regular, busy Tokyo street. I had a clear sense that my life had changed in that relatively brief time and would never be the same.
I returned to my office and asked my secretary to call the photographer, Yoshiaki Nagashima. A few weeks later he visited Tokyo from his home in Osaka and we met. Our one-hour meeting plan turned into three hours. I learned that as a young man he had seen the black and white photographic exhibition, later published as a book, titled The Family of Man. It had so inspired him that he resolved to spend three months per year traveling the world and taking color pictures of people. At the time I met him, he had a catalogued collection of over 17,000 pictures of people. That was in 1982 and Nagashima-san has continued his travels every year so the collection today must be much bigger.
I also really connected personally with this very eccentric Japanese. Remember, this was 1982 and very few Japanese had traveled out of their country. Those that had traveled, usually did so with an organized group to Hawaii or San Francisco or Hong Kong. Nagashima-san traveled alone and to some of the most remote places on earth. I realized he was a lot like me: an average person inspired by a dream and living a commitment to it. It seemed like for every one of my bad habits, he had one also! He smoked too much, probably drank too much beer and didn't spend enough time with his family. And, like me, he was motivated to follow his dream and was willing to put up with substantial disapproval from family, friends and business associates in order to live his vision.
I told him that perhaps Balance Point could use his pictures to create a multi media program for graduates. He agreed to cooperate though he had almost no understanding of what I was actually talking about. Near the end of our visit, I asked him how I could support his work. I know from my life experience that unless you find something to do together, friendships tend to fade. He answered that his dream was to have a book published featuring his pictures of people. He fished into his bag and took out a notebook. In the notebook were records of his approaches to over 20 Japanese publishers. Repeated visits, repeated delays and "we'll consider it" ... the Japanese ways of saying 'no' ever-so-politely. Yet Nagashima-san went back to them again and again. I was so inspired by his commitment. Again, I saw myself in this pattern: repeated rejection yet a willingness to do whatever was necessary to accomplish a vision.
I told him I would publish his book. I knew nothing about publishing and had no idea of the challenges ahead. I just knew this happening in my life was no accident and I needed to follow the inspiration wherever it led me. This opportunity to clarify my vision for EP's work resulted in the added benefits of creating the One World, One People and One World, One Child photographic essay books.
The title and the 'vision name' was dreamed. I had been writing the essays for the book and thinking about what is was about these pictures that captured my deepest thoughts and feelings. I went to bed one night wondering about this and woke up with the words one world, one people burning in my consciousness. I scrambled to the bedside and wrote them down quickly fearing that I'd forget them and that it would be a great loss. The excitement with which the book's designers greeted my suggestion for a book name confirmed my own conclusion: this was a compelling vision statement that other people would be drawn to.
These books, in addition to winning many awards and bringing recognition to Balance Point, have raised a large amount of money for children's charities. With Nagashima-san's cooperation, we've also created a set of greeting cards and, for several years, an annual Balance Point desk calendar, featuring his pictures. Nagashima-san has always donated his work to benefit the charities and it has been a wonderful partnership.
He also accompanied me when I visited the Sarvodaya community development organization in Sri Lanka and I actually got to see him work with and photograph people. What a thrill and a great learning experience. Nagashima-san attended the seminars and has become a regular participant in our graduations and our One World, One People Events. When I attended the graduation of our seminar for Kobe Earthquake survivors in 1995, I was delighted with his presence and to learn that he had again donated his work to an exhibition that would benefit the survivors. We've also hosted that exhibition in our Tokyo Center. Our family also had the privilege of hosting his daughter, Sayaka, for a home stay in Aspen, Colorado.
My friend and former President of Balance Point USA is Robert Gass. Robert taught me the term "vision buddy" to describe someone to whom you are connected at the level of a commitment to a vision. I'm so happy to have created this friendship with my "vision buddy", Yoshiaki Nagashima.
Read More about One World-One People: