“I believe success is achieved by ordinary people with extraordinary determination.” – Zig Ziglar
Jim Collins coined the acronym “BHAG,” short for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. I set my first BHAG when I joined the Boy Scouts: becoming an Eagle Scout. I also wanted to do it in the shortest amount of time my troop had seen in 30 years. Combined, this sort of thinking was unreasonable. There were many naysayers along the way, yet I somehow knew it was possible. I dug in, pushed, and worked my tail off. I knew what I wanted, where I wanted to go, and I wasn’t afraid to do the work and figure it out. When I achieved my Eagle Scout rank, it felt great.
Looking back on that now, I realize that one success in particular had a profound impact on my thinking. I was in a phase of life when I was too inexperienced to know I couldn’t do it and perhaps was too stubborn to listen to the detractors. This small victory solidified that the unreasonable was possible.
Will there be naysayers? Absolutely.
Will there be obstacles? 100% guaranteed.
Will it be easy? Not likely.
But almost anything is possible when you clearly know what you want.
Fast forward to today. When I work with leadership teams and senior leaders, my primary role is to act as a supporter, cheerleader, and promoter to help them look outside the box by exploring not what is reasonable, but what is unreasonable. What exactly is crazy thinking? What if you could do anything and get anything you want? What would that be? Let’s start there because I firmly believe that once you define what you want, the rest of the process becomes mechanical. It involves breaking goals down into bite-sized chunks that can be tackled one at a time.
Collins’s research reflects that one of the greatest impacts senior leadership teams can have for an organization is to create a BHAG, assign a completion date, and then “own it”. As everyone in the organization begins getting on board with the plan, the easier it becomes to achieve it.
This reminds me of a favorite story of mine involving President Jack Kennedy. He said the USA was going to be the first to put a man on the moon, which was about as unreasonable as you could get at that time. However, he planted a flag in the ground, stating that this was the plan. Slowly, people started believing that not only was it possible, but that it would – without any question – happen. During a visit to NASA, President Kennedy approached an older man pushing a broom. He introduced himself and asked him what he did there at NASA. The gentleman is reported to have looked the president right in the eye and replied, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” And he was doing just that. He was crystal clear in his role and knowledge of where the organization was going (it nearly brings me to tears when I recall this story).
THAT is our obligation as leaders: to help our people understand what is our common, unreasonable goal.
This concept remains at the top of my mind for more personal reasons. I would encourage you to keep in mind that you can have a BHAG for different parts of your life, such as work, relationships, and personal. Recently, while in Kansas, I had 7 hours and 52 minutes to think about extraordinary living in the realm of the unreasonable. I have chosen to set a personal BHAG around my physical fitness by becoming an endurance athlete. To say this at 51 with a prosthetic hip and knee, low testosterone, and a bit of a belly may sound outlandish. Well, now we are in the land of the unreasonable. Sprinkle in my first attempt at a marathon trail run to include 38-degree weather, rain, three inches of mud to trudge through with almost every step, and sustained winds of 50 miles an hour, and we are getting even more unreasonable. Top it all off with some last-minute travel, food poisoning, and the full emptying of my stomach on the trail, and we are flat-out ridiculous. Yes, even I am a naysayer now, let alone my orthopedic surgeon and a laundry list of others. Perhaps I’m just not bright enough to know I can’t. Maybe I’m too stubborn to know when to say ‘no’…but I lined up and gave it a shot.
I have to say it was a miserable, yet amazing and grand experience. I had the privilege of discovering what the outer ring of unreasonable really looked like for me. To succeed, I needed to dig in and go to those places I don’t often have to go to. I wasn’t the last to finish those 26.2 miles of trail, but I was close.
The point is, I was covered in mud, soaked to the bone, frozen, with a sour stomach…but I finished. Reka walked beside me to the area where all the booths and finish arch once stood; they had since blown away. There were literally maybe four people at the finish zone. I felt awful and elated at the same time. It was an extraordinary experience and one I will never forget. I often say I’m the luckiest guy on the planet and I believe I am.
So, when you’re looking to define what you want to achieve in life – whether it’s your business life, relationships, or personal life – get crazy! Be unreasonable then go for it. The journey may not be easy and there will likely be naysayers along the way, but the results will be nothing short of extraordinary.
Do you and your team need help with learning to think outside of the box? Are you interested in leading your company to achieve extraordinary things? Then reach out to us today for a no-obligation consultation. We’re here to help!