Las Vegas was just a dirty town in the middle of the desert with a few gas stations, greasy junk food diners and a few slot machine emporiums. Nearly everyone saw little more than a native American town, but the gangsters in Chicago envisioned Las Vegas as a glittering global tourist haven.
You see, the state of Nevada had only legalized gambling in 1931. Even though gambling had been legalized, no one paid much attention except maybe the local cowboys and some soldiers from nearby military bases. Las Vegas in the early 1940s was most certainly not an attractive place to do business or even live.
Prior to the formation of Las Vegas as the world capital of gambling, American tourists looking for a great time had to go all the way to Cuba. In Cuba, gangsters were welcomed by the corrupt Batista regime, casinos were plentiful, and the profits were huge. Around a decade after the opening of the first casino in Las Vegas, Fidel Castro’s Revolution swept Cuba. So, the people were left with no other alternative for legal gambling than going to Las Vegas.
Las Vegas remained Mafia free and largely irrelevant until the Mafioso, Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky realized the potential for Las Vegas. The timing could not have been better. The duo opened the first gambling resort of Las Vegas – The Flamingo – it opened on December 26, 1946. It was the first of many Mafia-financed resorts. Las Vegas proved to be a very profitable and legal business for the Mafia. Once a dull desert town, it soon became the glitzy Las Vegas Strip.
Vision is what transformed this insignificant town into one of the most famous cities in the world- Sin City. Vision is what transforms problems into opportunities. The ability to ‘see’ isn’t something restricted to your physical eyesight alone. It goes way beyond that. It is the ability to imagine in your mind’s eyes on what could be.
Vision isn’t restricted to only men of the Mafia. It is available to everyone from world leaders, state governors, entrepreneurs, board room gurus and everyday employees everywhere. It is something which can be acquired through possessing a positive mental attitude and some imagination.
Here in Nigeria, there is unique tribe of people who were famous mostly for their housekeeping, culinary and bedroom skills. Someone saw beyond that paradigm and created Calabar as one of Africa’s preferred tourist destinations. Donald Duke saw what was not and created it.
Where people saw only sand and oil; Sheikh Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai saw a business and tourism haven. His vision lives on through other offspring of the al-Maktoum dynasty.
Where people saw pipes mostly as a way to convey water and sewage waste. John D. Rockefeller saw pipes as a new means of transporting petroleum products. Walt Disney created a theme park when nothing of its kind existed before.
What are you seeing?
Sometimes as entrepreneurs we are plagued by being short-sighted in our outlook. We see only what’s in front of us without imagining what could be. This is usually because we don’t have any references for what we imagine. No one has done this in the past and so we don’t imagine we should be the first to blaze the trail.
So we could be offering the most amazing cupcakes without thinking of the possibilities of offering baking classes to go with it. Or maybe you could own a school and make a decent income teaching pre-schoolers without ever thinking of the possibilities of extending your service to include parental classes during the weekend. I mean, who teaches parents to be great parents? Perhaps it’s entirely possible that we don’t have a juvenile delinquency problem, we have a parental delinquency challenge our hands.
In the Nigerian music scene, even though it is plagued by piracy and file-sharing websites making it quite difficult for artistes and producers to make money from selling record albums; some really smart music executives have been successful by offering their songs as caller tunes. Telecommunication companies in Nigeria recently paid out nearly Nine Billion Naira N9,000,000,000 (that’s a lot of zeroes) in royalties for caller-tune downloads.
Employees are not left out of exploring the depth of their imagination either. Most newspaper vendors don’t read much of their own papers. If they did they perhaps would be brilliant social commentators and appear on the media to dissect the news and trends.
Librarians don’t read much of the books in their library. If they did they would be amongst the most knowledgeable people in the city and maybe even hold large seminars and workshops.
Look beyond the short-term gains of today and see the future of what could be if only you took a chance and do something quite remarkable.
To do so is pretty simple. It starts with asking the right questions. Asking questions like ‘What if’ or ‘Why not’ are great ways to envision that which doesn’t yet exist and challenge the status-quo.
Of course there are a dozen other really important questions that can assist you become more imaginative but let’s save those lessons for another day shall we?
For now just dare to look beyond what’s already being done and reach out for new possibilities.