The value of personal BHAGs

As we wind down 2014, one of my favorite things is to reflect back on what took place the past eleven months and look forward on what I’m excited for in the coming year.

For the past few Decembers, I’ve created personal BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) inspired by organizations that follow Jim Collins’ philosophy.  From reading twenty books to getting to wheel pose in yoga to visiting a new country, the goals are meant to be a mix of ones I am certain I capn accomplish and others that are daunting and far-fetched.

As I begin to brainstorm new BHAGs, I always review my current BHAGs and see which ones I’ve accomplished and which ones I’ll miss.

This year, I had fifteen BHAGs and only managed to accomplish 2.  That’s a 13% success rate.  I shared this with a friend who then asked me what the point  was of making BHAGs if I was only going to miss most of them.  Her question stung although very valid.  I did ask myself… “well, what is the point?”

I took a look at my 2014 personal BHAGs:

  • Save an additional $X amount
  • Read 20 books
  • Go to a new country
  • Run a total of 300 miles
  • Be able to do a wheel in yoga class (check – hello upside down world!)
  • Finish one module in Rosetta Stone
  • Be able to swim five laps
  • Be in the 15lbs weight lifting in boot camp
  • Go to a new state or province (check – Greetings Atlanta!)
  • Take my mom on a holiday
  • Complete 10 hours of coding
  • Take a public speaking course
  • Be able to do forty pushups in a row
  • Trapeze lessons
  • Private (going to keep this last one to myself)

I didn’t end up doing most of them.  I didn’t even end up completing the one I thought would be the easiest – reading twenty books.  As of December 3rd, I’ve only read twelve.  But of the books I did read, one was Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices and several were Haruki Murakami.  I chose books that challenged me as a reader and a thinker.

Same with the run 300 miles BHAG.  In 2013, I had complete a running race as a BHAG and at the time I wrote that goal down, I hadn’t run more than ten minutes since tenth grade gym class.  In 2013, I ran my first 5k and then 10k and fell in love with the race.  In 2014, I set my eye on a half-marathon as part of my getting to 300 miles.  I ended up running three half-marathons from February to October but sadly those plus training did not equal 300 miles.

When I reflect back, the value of my personal BHAGs isn’t completing them and giving myself a gold star.  The BHAGs provided me with an opportunity to explore new hobbies, new interests, new passions.  I learned what I like (running and yoga) and what I hate (following cookbook recipes1).  It was in trying to accomplish my personal BHAGs that gave me most meaning.  The journey is the reward.

So here I am at the last month of the year and starting to think about 2015’s BHAGs.  Will I have many?  Chances are yes.  Will I complete them all?  Not a chance.  I’ll be surprised if I finish more than two but I’m excited to see what it will take to complete them.

Share with me some of your BHAGs or New Year’s resolutions.  I would love to take a peek and see what I can borrow.

1 I had this silly idea one year of cooking once a month from a recipe book. It failed miserably.  I tend to be more of an innovator and creator in the kitchen than a recipe follower for better or worse.

What my favorite childhood books taught me

I was recently invited to a baby gender revealing party where the guests were asked to bring a childhood book with a handwritten message in lieu of a traditional Hallmark card and gift.

It’s been awhile since I last bought a children’s book so I was a bit at loss of what book to get.  As a lifelong reader, I thought back on what books were my favorite to brainstorm for the expecting couple’s gift.  What came to mind were two books that I still love to this day.

Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman was first read to me in Kindergarten.  The story is about a baby boy who receives a blanket at birth.  As the boy grows up, he brings his blanket with him everywhere, eventually turning the beloved blanket into a raggedy fabric.  Unable to part with the blanket, the boy’s grandpa turns the blanket into a jacket which the boy lovingly wears until the jacket also becomes teared.  The boy’s grandpa turns the jacket into the vest, and the same activity occurs, and so the vest becomes a handkerchief, and eventually into a button, and over time the boy looses the button, leaving the book with a sad, unresolved ending.

As a child, the story resonated with me.  It taught me that just because something has been loved, used, and tired, it doesn’t mean that it automatically gets thrown out and forgotten.  With a different eye and a fresh perspective, a beloved but destroyed blanket can be reused and turned into many, many different items.  It’s like one of those Ikea hacks that we often see on Pinterest.  Missing a few bolts?  Turn that Ikea Malm desk into a bed frame!

The second book that came to mind was The Balloon Tree by Phoebe Gilman(1).  The Balloon Tree is about a young princess whose father, the King, leaves the kingdom for a few days.  The king leaves the princess’ uncle in charge and tells the princess that if she gets into any trouble to release a balloon and he will see it and rush home.  As soon as the king leaves, the uncle locks up the princess and orders for all the balloons in the kingdom to be destroyed.

Unknown to the uncle was that the princess knew a secret passage to get out of her imprisoned room.  The princess goes on a long search throughout the kingdom for one balloon to release and call for her father.  Unfortunately, all balloons seem to have been destroyed.  Through ongoing persistence and resilience, the princess eventually finds a balloon from a wizard and plants the balloon under a magical tree that grows multiple balloons.

I adored this book as a child because of the pictures, the idea of balloons everywhere, and because the princess’ name was so similar to mine.  I eventually chose The Balloon Tree as my gift over Something From Nothing because I loved the can-do, positive attitude of the princess and the resemblance of the story to Hamlet.  Princess stories often involve the princess being helpless and needing saving but The Balloon Tree princess took control of her own situation and came out the winner.

It was a pleasure to be able to provide a gift to the expecting couple during this exciting time in their lives but I think I got a bigger gift from this activity than they did.  Thinking about what book to get provided me with the opportunity to return to a time where reading was simply for enjoyment and entertainment and also allowed me to reflect back on what made my favorite childhood books so special and how they made me feel.  It reminds me of that Maya Angelou quote,

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I couldn’t remember much of the story of Something From Nothing and The Balloon Tree at first until I did a bit of googling but I did recall how they made me feel and how much I loved them.  What are some of your favorite childhood books?

(1) As I write this, I just realized my two favorite books as a child were from the same author! 

Out with networks, in with communities

There are so many articles and tips on how to network. From how to effectively network to how to get over network-phobia to winning at networking, the internet is full of good tricks of mastering the art.  But I personally find networking to be rather impersonal – more so transactional if you will.  Networking is very much what you can do for me and what I can do for you.  It is such an old school mentality of building connections.

The world has become increasingly connected and information and stories are shared instantaneous.  With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Path, it’s time to revisit how we network and shift it to building a community.  Focus on creating authentic connections through knowledge sharing, idea transfer, and story-telling.  People are genuinely more intrigued and willing to maintain a long-term connection with you if the initial touch point is authentic.  That you want to learn something from them, not gain something that would benefit you or help them with a future string attached.  Let’s focus less on networking and more on building an authentic community.