BHAGs and High Performance Achievement in Korean

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Just read this article from Dave Ramsey’s team about High Performance Achievement and goal setting.

The question posed at the beginning of the article is:

When it comes to life, do you want to just roll with it, or will you reach for something more?

And the solution presented is:

Forming habits that push you further than you normally go.

The formation of habits and our motivation to accomplish great things are big areas of interest for me. I’ve already posted a few good articles on each, and here are a couple of really great books on each subject as well:

  1. The Power of Habit: Charles Duhigg
  2. Drive: Daniel Pink

The Dave Ramsey article brought to mind another concept that I haven’t considered for a while: a BHAG.

What is a BHAG?

A BHAG is a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. 

To help make sense of what that means exactly, here’s some more info about BHAGs from Wikipedia:

  1. strategic business statement similar to a vision statement which is created to focus an organization on a single medium-long term organization-wide goal.
  2. [It is] audacious, likely to be externally questionable, but NOT internally regarded as impossible.
  3. [It] encourages companies to define visionary goals that are more strategic and emotionally compelling.
  4. [It is] an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress towards an envisioned future.

The term “BHAG” was coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, and here are an additional 4 things that they say BHAGs must be and do:

  1. A true BHAG is clear and compelling.
  2. Serves as unifying focal point of effort.
  3. Acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit.
  4. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.

Notable Examples of BHAGs

  • Amazon: Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.
  • Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
  • JFK’s Moon Challenge: “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
  • Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home.
  • Sony: Embody changing the image of Japanese products as being of poor quality; create a pocket transistor radio.

At the time, each goal seemed impossible and over-the-top to onlookers, but after some time, each goal has made significant, even amazing, progress.

Why this matters to you

Nearly all of the above talks about business: why BHAGs matter to businesses; how BHAGs can direct and provide compelling motivation for teams; examples of company BHAGs. So why should you care about a BHAG? Maybe you’re not a business, but we all have goals. BHAGs for individuals are just as important as BHAGs for companies, if not more so. The main reason for that is also the main purpose behind a BHAG:

To create an audacious visual identity of the kind of life you want to live in the future and begin living that life out NOW in the present.

That’s what BHAGs do. They change you. They change the atmosphere. They change the landscape, and the vision, and the purpose. They change your identity, and they change your self-talk. And they do it NOW. Not 30-years in the future. NOW.

Changing your identity

Let’s look at a few common goals and misconceptions about those goals:

  1. “I want to lose 50 pounds” typically means “I need to get to work on eating right and exercising right.”
  2. “I want to run a marathon” tells you to “get to work training and running on a daily basis.”
  3. “I want to be a published author” says “find an agent, show your ideas, get to work.
  4. “I want to own my own business and grow that business into a Fortune 500 company” says “come up with a great business idea, find some investors, get a great team behind you, and get to work.

The problem with ALL of these is that they focus more on the DOING of your goals (“get to work”) than on BEING the kind of person who that is (“I’m already working”). Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What would a healthy person be doing right now?
  2. How would a marathoner eat?
  3. What time would a published author get up (or stay up to) working on their next book?
  4. What would a Fortune 500 CEO be doing with his time during the day? On weekends?

See, healthy people instinctively know how to make healthy choices about food and exercise because it’s part of who they are. Marathoners know how to eat and train well. Authors know when to write. And CEOs know how to spend their time. This is their identity. It’s not one of their goals.

Stop trying to DO your goals and start BEING the kind of person who already LIVES that life.

The best example of this: After JFK announced the Mission to the Moon, NASA got busy cultivating the kind of atmosphere – throughout the entire corporation – of a team whose business it is to send people to the moon. The story goes that one day in 1961 as JFK was on a tour of the facilities, his entourage came upon a young man mopping floors in the hallways. The President stopped to chat with him, shook his hand, and asked what he did at NASA. The janitor proudly responded, “Sir, I’m helping to put a man on the moon!”

How to make a BHAG

1. Big, Hairy, and Audacious

If your BHAG isn’t huge, it’s just another goal.

  • If you think you have a 100% certainty of achieving that goal in a given time frame, then your goal either isn’t big enough (make it bigger), or it isn’t audacious enough (shorten the time frame).
  • If you think you have a 10% chance of ever achieving that goal, then it’s far too hairy (make it more focused and specific).

What you want to shoot for is a goal that gives you a 50-75% chance of reaching. It needs to be so big, hairy, and audacious that you need to reach for the stars to achieve it. If your BHAG doesn’t require a significant motivation and sacrifice to achieve, then it’s probably not big enough.

2. Goal

If your BHAG isn’t measurable, it’s just a dream.

  • We all have big, hairy, audacious dreams, but the thing that separates dreams from goals is the final step – the concrete evidence – that will prove to ourselves whether or not we’ve achieved that goal.
  • And like all good goals, a BHAG should be able to be broken down into smaller, more manageable and measurable goals by which to track your progress.

3. Sacrifice

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Additionally, like any good goal, a BHAG requires sacrifice. A good mantra to repeat to yourself as you strive for your BHAG is “I live like no one else now so that later I can live like no one else.”

Push yourself to achieve far beyond your current capabilities so that later you can reap the benefits of your labor.


So, what’s my Korean BHAG?

2016 is going to be a big year for us.

  1. We are planning to be completely debt-free.
  2. We are planning to have completely finished having children by then.
  3. My 6-year contract at Jeonju University will be up – so I’ll need to reapply if I choose to.
  4. We are planning to move into a new apartment.
  5. My initial goal was to achieve a TOPIK Level 6 by that year.

However, with the new changes to TOPIK (Intermediate and Advanced combined) and the idea of just studying for a test versus practical application of the language, I’m modifying my initial goal to this Big, Hairy, Audacious one:

To be employed in a KOREAN-SPEAKING context in a Korean company by 2016.

I do love my job at Jeonju University now, but teaching only English kind of moves me in the opposite direction. I’d love it if I could stay at Jeonju University, but just transfer to a different department – something that requires speaking Korean, and something more in my field of expertise (like marketing, design, advertising, or computers).

But with this new BHAG and my present reality combined, it means I’m going to have to start living like a Korean-speaker daily from here on out – including talking to our office staff in Korean, my wife in Korean, and our friends in Korean.


We’ll see what 2016 brings for me. But what’s your BHAG?

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