Identify Your BHAG

I have a brain-crush on Jim Collins.

It’s true. I’ve read and listened to his books at least 10 times and regularly slip in his ideals (properly cited, of course) to my students, in my speeches, and at my Monday girlfriend lunches. I’ve seen him speak and he autographed my copy of “Great by Choice,” where I got to shake his hand. **Sigh**

One of my favorite models that he introduces in “Good to Great” is the Hedgehog Concept. It gets his name from the animal who does one thing and does it really well: as Jim describes it (hey, I’ve spent a lot of time with him so I figure we’re on a first name basis by now), the hedgehog rolls into a prickly ball to protect itself from the sly fox. He translates this to business success which I translate to personal development. If you find yourself bored, stuck, or just plain depressed, do some soul searching around these three principles:

1. Do something you’re passionate about.
Something that you can’t help but think about. Something that you read about even when you’re on vacation. Something you do because you love it, even if you didn’t get paid. What are the things in your life that make you smile most? What injustice do you get most fired up about? You could be passionate about helping the elderly, or educating children, or assisting single moms.

2. Do something to drive your economic engine.
In other words, how can you take your passion and make money at it? I firmly believe that money follows passion. Your passion-money connection might not be immediately visible, or highly logical, or even in existence yet (think Facebook). A few years ago there was a “Silly Bandz” craze whereby rubber bands were molded into various trendy shapes and colors. Kids would collect them and wear them as bracelets and link them together and trade them. My daughter spent all of her allowance buying them, while I sat back and asked myself, “Now why didn’t I think of that?” (I asked myself the same thing about Webkinz.)

3. Do something that you can be the best in the world at.
This one can seem a little intimidating at first, until you remember that Jim is talking about companies, and I’m talking about personal development. So bring it down a notch. What can you do that you can be the best in your region? In the town? In your neighborhood? Start small and work your way up. You can always move up to being the best in the world. The key here is just to be the best. Often, this is something that comes very naturally for you. If you’re completely stuck, ask your closest friends and family members what you do that is unique, that sets you apart from others. If you have a life or workplace coach, ask him or her what they see in you that’s special.

The sweet spot where these three things connect is your BHAG – your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (another Jim-ism). What’s that one big dream that is so crazy you’re almost scared to say it out loud, let alone think it? Yet when you do allow your mind to wander there, you get a big smile on your face. This is when you’ve really made it! (My BHAG is to someday collaborate with Jim on a project. Yikes- I said it out loud! But I’m smiling!)

Don’t be afraid of your BHAG. He’s a friendly creature. Cut out a picture of him and put him on a vision board. Write him down and put him on your mirror. See him everyday and make him a part of your life. But acknowledge that it will take time. Acknowledge that it will take a lot of hard work. And acknowledge that it will never happen if you don’t take a step today (even a small step will work) in the direction of your BHAG.

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Where’s Your Inspiration?

I identified my life quote when I was in high school.

With Emerson’s definition of success in mind, I set off into the world to succeed. Along the way, I’ve found leadership and inspiration from various people in a variety of ways.

At the risk of sounding trite and predictable, my mother was my first inspiration. As a single mother, she portrayed a sense of resolve that filtered through to me. She endured betrayal, yet still always looks for the best in others. When faced with a teenager’s dilemma, she didn’t tell me what to do; rather, she consistently encouraged me to do the right thing by answering to “the girl in the glass.” Most importantly, she led by example. She never asked me to do or behave in a way that she didn’t already exemplify. Her fortitude and perseverance have molded me into the woman I am today.

Perhaps also predictably, there are several nationally known personalities who have inspired me: Stephen Covey, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Jim Collins, and Simon Sinek, among others. They are not only leaders in their professions as authors and speakers, they are leaders in thought. I admire their intellect – their ability to take complex matter and relay it to us “common folk” for general consumption. They are leaving the world a bit better, and I aspire to be like them.

But sometimes leadership and inspiration can hit you when you least expect it.

EllieI’d like to introduce you to my cousin’s daughter. Her name is Ellie, and she was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. She was granted a trip to Disney World from the Make-A-Wish foundation, so when her family went in January, we made the short trip from my home in Florida to see them. The thing that struck me most about this active four-year-old was her determination. At one point, she was climbing backwards up a slippery slide on the playground. When she neared the top of the 6-ft slide but was having trouble rounding the corner to reach the top, I asked her to sit down because I was scared she was going to fall. She looked right at me and said, “No! I can do this!!” The look on her face was pure, solid resolve. It brought tears to my eyes. And it reminded me that no matter how hard life gets, if you keep trying, and maybe adjust your approach a little, you can reach the top.

This little girl, who laughs often and much, won the heart and appreciation of this honest critic. At the blossoming age of four, she has already succeeded.