How to Let Your Vision Evolve Over Time

How to Let Your Vision Evolve Over Time

Growing up, the only vision I had for my life was reminiscent of a 50 Cent album - Get Rich or Die Trying. As a teenager I had spent years hustling to get to the point of survival in the music industry, and finally landed a job at the biggest record label in the world.

But after five years of cubicles and daily back-to-back meetings followed by sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll fueled nights at Hollywood clubs, I knew I couldn't keep it up for the rest of my life. Even though that had been my ultimate dream, things change when you get older and start wanting different things. I realized that how I was then wasn't always how I would be. I felt a deep yearning to see the world and experience cultures and businesses outside of entertainment, and I started brainstorming ways to make enough money to replace my meager salary.

One day at my office, I came across a random viral YouTube video. It was of a 29-year-old woman named Sloane who was able to hear for the very first time thanks to a special kind of hearing aid. It was an irresistibly joyful and moving scene, and people couldn’t get enough—it even snowballed to the point that she ended up on Ellen.

Sloane’s experience was powerful. It’s obvious to the millions who saw the video that it was life-changing for her… but its power didn’t stop there.

Because when I saw that video, it got me thinking about how different my life would have been without sound. How my life path had changed because of my compass—music. And it gave me an idea.

I sent the video to Joe, who was helping build schools in Guatemala at the time. He was the only person I knew who was involved in charity work. Before I met him, I had thought philanthropy was a walled garden filled with $10,000 tables and black tuxes, something reserved for the super elite—but neither of us were that. So when Joe and I met, we instantly felt like family, maybe in part because we both came from humble beginnings. We wanted more than our backgrounds had predicted for us, and we felt a persistent tug to help others who were living less-than-easy lives.

Joe watched the video and listened to my idea: to start a brand that would sell headphones and speakers and use the proceeds to give hearing aids to people in need, just like in the video. It would be the world's first social good electronics company. He jumped on board instantly, and I put in my two weeks notice and cashed out my life savings—my 401k from Universal Music Group had accumulated a whopping $5,000. (It turns out working with superstars doesn’t mean you have the bank account of one.) 

We high-fived and jumped on a plane to China, without a business plan or any idea on how the electronics industry worked, to source products for our new social enterprise, LSTN. We filled my apartment’s kitchen with as much inventory as we could buy, handmade our own headphone packaging with boxes from the local Michael’s craft store, cobbled together a website, worked our asses off, and prayed. Hard.

And, just four years later, we sold to Apple for $3 billion dollars!

Just kidding—we are not Dr. Dre. This is not a rags-to-riches story about making billions from selling headphones.

But it is a different kind of rags-to-riches story. 

Because almost exactly a year after first seeing that video of Sloane and visualizing doing the same thing, Joe and I found ourselves in a gymnasium in Piura, Peru, with a young girl named Maria. 

Like the hundreds of others there that day who had traveled from all over Peru, often great distances under difficult circumstances, she came with the hope of hearing for the first time. This being our very first day as volunteers with Starkey Hearing Foundation—our new company’s philanthropic partner—we were especially excited that our station was the last step, where hearing aids would be fitted and tested. She sat down in the hard plastic chair in front of us, nervous and full of anxiety and hope. I was in charge of fitting her hearing aids and gently pushed one into each of Maria’s ears.

What happened next was one of those moments in life that bursts at the seams and can never be fully captured on a two-dimensional page. 

Maria’s eyes went wide, and then a look of pure wonder flashed across her face. Her astonished joy delivered the moment of truth: she could hear.

Tears flowed from her parents as they collapsed on the floor in relief. Overpowered, we cried, too. 

What started off as a farfetched dream had turned into the closest thing to a miracle we had ever seen. 

This was all possible because I had allowed my dreams to evolve and grow over time.

Like mine, your vision is not set in stone. It will change as you get older, discover new things, and meet new people—and that’s okay. You may find that after years or even decades pursuing the same thing, you’ve gotten everything out of it that you can, or it turned out to be different from what you expected, or it just doesn’t excite you the way it once did.

Stay attuned to those feelings. As risky as it may feel to change course, the greater risk is staying in a career, business, or relationship even when it no longer feels right. Sadly, people do this all the time. They get trapped by golden handcuffs, trading years of misery for shiny benefits they may or may not live to enjoy. Or they look back at all the time and effort they’ve invested in their path and can’t bear to see it go to “waste.” Or they feel overwhelmed by the challenge of starting something new.

People get scared because it’s easier to wrap their heads around what they have to lose than what they have to gain. What they don’t think about is the opportunity cost—the years of potential joy, fulfillment, and growth they’ll lose if they continue on their current path. As I’ve learned firsthand, even the worst day doing something you love is better than the best day doing something you hate.

So, don’t be afraid to let your vision evolve. Just because you change course doesn't mean all your previous efforts were for nothing. They made you who you are and brought you to this point. Those experiences will always be part of your story, and they’ll continue to influence you for the rest of your life. You’ll have the comfort of knowing you did those things, and even though you grew out of them, you’ll never regret doing them in the first place.



About Bridget Hilton

Bridget Hilton creates tools to help teams and leaders connect in the workplace through rich experiences and shared goals. Her keynote helps Fortune 500 companies navigate topics of mental health and wellness, burnout, employee belonging and connection, inspiration, motivation, and goal setting. Her book Experiential Billionaire and card deck Treasure Maps is out now. She is located in Los Angeles, CA and is booking keynotes and workshops worldwide now.