As Creators, our dreams often take time. This week marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther Kings “I Have a Dream” speech. (We encourage the reading of the text of the entire speech, by clicking here.)
The way that you create anything is by harnessing Dynamic Tension (which Robert Fritz describes as “structural tension”) and involves three steps:
- Focus on the envisioned Outcome in which you describe what you want to create (a theme we have written a lot about over the past several weeks). MLK does a masterful job of describing the vision (it is, in fact, the one aspect of the speech it is most famous for):“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…’
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
- Assess Current Reality by telling the truth about where you are in relation to the envisioned outcome.In his speech, MLK often interweaves descriptions of current reality in the same sentence as aspects of his dream. However, at the very beginning of the speech, after having referenced the Emancipation Proclamation and its promise of freedom from slavery in the U.S., he tells the truth about current reality:
“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition”
He has now set up the “dynamic tension” between what he wants and the current reality. His masterful ability to do this is why many say this is one of the greatest speeches of all time.
- Commit to Baby Steps that begin to move you from your Current Reality toward the Outcome.The call to action in MLK’s speech is more general than specific because what needed to happen in different states and cities at the time were particular to the local circumstances.
“Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair…
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline… Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
While you may not have the presence and oratory power of a Martin Luther King, Jr., you can use and harness Dynamic Tension to communicate and inspire others by speaking to what you want (Vision/Outcome); where you are (Current Reality); and what’s next (Baby Steps).