Vision Or Just Seeing Things? A Lesson From “Man Of Lamancha”

How Far Can You See?


“One person with belief is more powerful than a force of 99 with only interests.”

John Stuart Mill



Here’s a question for you to begin your weekend.  If you can clearly see a vision but others can’t, is it real?

A common metaphor that people invoke when someone is attempting a feat that others don’t understand or feel is possible, they will say “you’re just charging windmills.”

The metaphor comes from Cervantes’ Don Quixote and the musical adaptation called “Man of Lamancha.”  In this story, a man named Alonso with a long list of occupational failures transforms himself into a knight and sets out upon knightly adventures which include his infamous joust with a windmill he believed was a monster.

Along the way he encounters a girl of questionable morals named Aldonza…but to Don Quixote, she is the lady Dulcinea.  Through his relentless belief that this girl is a lady, she finally discovers the good in herself that no one but Don Quixote could see.  In the end, she becomes Dulcinea knowing she could never live like Aldonza again…and the moment gave us the iconic Broadway song “The Impossible Dream.”

I’m willing to wager someone has used the windmill metaphor with you at least once in your life.  What a paradox that the metaphor could be so appropriate, but at the same time dead wrong.

The way they have it wrong is simple…if you cannot see it, it’s not real…even if it is.  Many times, a person who correctly has a vision of something grand and very achievable is ultimately coaxed into giving up because those around them can’t see it.  What a tragedy when a grand vision is abandoned not because you lack the capability, but because others convinced you that reality is defined by their vision rather than yours.

What does all this have to do with turning critical thinking into critical doing?  The philosopher Frederick Hegel once said “to be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great.”  Critical thinking involves the willingness to challenge every assumption and look at a situation from many avenues of approach.  Simply rephrasing the question from “what is” to “what could be” is the cure of mental myopia and extends your vision further than you can imagine…and that vision is very real even if others can’t see it.

Look at how the story turned out.  A failed soldier/farmer/tax collector transformed himself into a knight, and his vision that no one else could fathom transformed a lady of the night into a lady of a knight’s heart.  That transformation couldn’t have happened if those qualities weren’t there all along.  In the end, who had vision, and who was just seeing things?

Your challenge is to let critical thinking be your guide in pointing your compass to what is possible for you to accomplish.  If you have the vision to see it, that great deed can be done and the sad reality is those who accuse you of charging windmills are the ones that are just seeing things.

The poet T.S. Eliot wrote “only those who will risk going too far will can find out how far one can go.”  A Critical Doer will never let others lack of vision set the boundaries of how far you can go.  As long as you can see it, it’s real.

How far can you see?


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Updated: September 5, 2015 — 1:14 pm