Soul-Talk: What Are You Seeing That Is Not Yet Visible?

11/28/2011 12:08 am ET | Updated Jan 27, 2012

"What are you seeing that is not yet visible?" Could you have access to information that would change the world, or at least your own life, if you were only willing to see what is not yet visible?

This subtle yet powerful question was put to me recently by Frances Hesselbein as we sat down together for the first time in 20 years. Frances is the CEO of The Leader to Leader Institute and someone Peter Drucker once called the most effective executive in America.

Amongst her legendary accomplishments, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for turning around the Girl Scouts of America and was the first woman appointed to chair The Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Serving on many important boards of directors and having edited 27 books on business, Ms. Hesselbein is no starry eyed lightweight wandering aimlessly through life.

In this one telling question, Frances reveals a key secret to leadership, be that leadership of an organization, your family or simply your own life. Rather than being the exclusive ground of the leadership or visionary elite, seeing that which is not yet visible is, in fact, the ground of whom you truly are. We each have access to information for which the body, mind and emotions can be useful tools for bringing awareness and ideas into fruition. But in order to discover these new visions, we need to allow ourselves to look, to see, to imagine in new ways.

If you have been following this Self-Talk to Soul-Talk series which began in October, then you will recognize the notion of learning to see life through "soul centered eyes." Soul centered vision has the ability to see past what is physically present and into that which is about to become visible. I'm pretty sure you have had some experiences wherein you saw something that was not yet visible. Have you ever heard or noticed something and exclaimed to yourself, "I knew that!" And you really did. You saw it earlier, but did nothing with it.

We've all "known that" beforehand, but perhaps denied what we were seeing, allowing it to remain hidden just below the level of the visible. Sometimes we see something inwardly and our mind takes over in the form of that inner critic we talked about last week: our Self-Talk tells us "that can't possibly be true," or "get a grip - you'll never be able to do that" or other forms of self-limitation. The only problem? What if you really were "seeing" something not yet visible? Is it tangible yet? Not so much? Real nonetheless? Absolutely.

How do you think the iPhone came about? Or that computer you are using to read this? Surely you don't think the device magically appeared and then got named the iPhone or MacBook? The visionaries of the world operate out of curiosity, creativity, and imagination; they come up with visions of mobile devices before anything has been constructed -- they may start with nothing more profound than a vision of a need being fulfilled. I know that may sound dumb to you, but that's how things work. Someone begins to see something not yet visible, often called the creative imagination, and then sets about doing the work necessary to discover what is required to translate an inner vision into an outer reality.

The idea has been around us forever, perhaps most simply and elegantly stated by George Bernard Shaw and then paraphrased by Robert Kennedy: "Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?"

If you can dream something that is not yet visible, you just may be able to do something about translating the dream into reality. Creating something in the real world takes a lot more than simply having a vision or a dream. Obviously, you need to test the range of what appears to be possible given your circumstances, conditions, and a host of practical questions. Part of the challenge is that seeing through soul-centered eyes rarely comes complete with an operating manual. You have to be willing to use your vision and then risk doing the work to make it into something real.

Doing the hard work of testing, refining, starting over, etc is enough for most people to give up before they even start. Edison went through over 1,000 combinations of gas and filament before his vision of light bulb turned out to be real. Good thing his Self-Talk had not been programmed to notice obstacles, limitations, and flaws, otherwise he may have heard its loud voice reminding him of all his previous failures: "What makes you think you can make this one happen, bucko?"

So now we have a grand challenge: Are you seeing something which is not yet visible or are you simply in the realm of self-delusion? If you pick the former, your brain will start to imagine how it might get there. If you choose the latter, your Self-Talk will shut you down so quickly that there won't be anything to do. How do you know the difference?

That's a great question and I would love to know how you go about discerning between inspiration and illusion, between pure fantasy and seeing or perceiving that which is not yet visible. For me, the process is one of staying ever vigilant, ever mindful, paying attention to what I see inwardly and what shows up in the real world. My personal process of vigilant mindfulness is a combination of daily meditation and checking things out along the way. If I am truly seeing something not yet visible, the vision will persist through multiple meditation sessions, augmented by discussions with others, brainstorming and other approaches to creative development.

I'm sure this subject is inspiring to some, and wholly unsatisfying for others. George Carlin said it this way in his book, Braindroppings: "Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that shit."

I have always loved his humor. In this instance, it is just brilliant. In one set of short sentences he summed up the challenge for all of us. You can dream of things and ask why not, or you can just give up before you even start. Next week, we'll examine a very real, very practical example of how seeing something not yet visible is transforming the world of healthcare for victims of paralysis.

I'd love to hear from you. What's your take on this notion of seeing things not yet visible? What would leading a soul-centered life mean to you? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)

If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)