Where there is no vision, the people perish . . . — Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
Senior Google staff member Jamie Casap recently suggested that rather than asking our kids what they want to be when they grow up, we should ask them what problems they wish to solve in the world. As Casap said, this changes the conversation from “who do I want to work for?” to “what do I need to learn to be able to do that?” In other words, the more people are clear on what they’d like to accomplish, the more likely they will be to achieve it.
Similarly, Nobel Laureate Isidor Rabi was once asked why he chose to be a scientist. He answered that while most parents would ask their children if they had learned anything at school that day, his mother would greet him with, “Did you ask any good questions in school today?”
When we ask questions, we are on a mission to get an answer. We are motivated to learn and take an active role in our development. Students who ask questions pick up far more information than those who glide passively through their school years.
In Proverbs we learn, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This is true for nations as well as for individuals. Every nation needs to have a vision of what they stand for and the role they hope to play in the world. If a nation lacks direction, it will ultimately fall into anarchy or into the hands of another nation. In contrast, a country that rallies around strong ideals and values will be united and strong. It will achieve great things both for its people and for the world.
In the same way, if we as individuals don’t know what we stand for or what we want to do with our lives, we can end up in a mess. Without clear direction in our lives, we aren’t likely to accomplish much. We are all gifted with talents and abilities from God. It is our job to form a vision and a mission for our lives.
When we know what problems we want to solve with our God-given abilities, we are already on our way to making great contributions. When we ask important questions, we are already on our way to becoming full of wisdom. If civilizations perish when there is no vision, the opposite is also true — they will thrive when there is great vision.
I want to encourage us to have a vision and a mission for our lives. Let us ask ourselves these questions: What would we like to accomplish? What kind of person would we like to be? How do we want to be remembered? Let us ask ourselves these questions frequently — and then live the answers.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President