How 7 BHAGS Changed My Life (And How They Can Change Yours Too)
Updated: Jan 29, 2018
When I was 9 years old my parents bought me a book for Christmas called A History of The World Cup. As a young soccer player intrigued by the game I hungrily devoured the pages, absorbing the colorful pictures and reading the stories about the riveting games and the charismatic players, such as Johan Cryuff from Holland, Diego Maradona from Argentina, Pele from Brazil, and Franz Beckenbauer from Germany.
When the World Cup came to America in 1994 I watched almost every game. My dad would throw in a VHS tape, hit record, and we would stare in awe at the crowds, games, players, and neatly manicured green soccer pitches.
Then the U.S. played their games and I was hooked. Tab Ramos was my favorite American player, the U.S.’s most gifted player with a magical first touch and lightning fast moves. Like me, he played the game with a chip on his shoulder. When he went down with a broken jaw from an elbow by Leonardo against Brazil, I was gutted.
After that ’94 World Cup I dreamed about playing in a World Cup. This was my first BIG goal.
Indeed I’m a success junkie.
After an Achilles tendon rupture ended my professional soccer career I suddenly found myself with plenty of free time. Instead of trying to watch 30 episodes of Game of Thrones all in one sitting – yes, I do somewhat resemble Kristofer Hivju -
- I decided to ditch the television in favor of a more inspirational entertainment diet of reading about success.
Brian Tracy. Jim Rohn. Tony Robbins. David Schwartz. Robert Kiyosaki. Julie Broad. Darren Hardy. Dale Carnegie. Napoleon Hill. Tim Ferris.
I read them all – some books more than once. I was like a starving success refugee – I just kept feeding myself success stories every single day.
In reading through all of this amazingly inspirational information I noticed a common theme of success – GOALS.
Most of the authors make a distinction about these goals – they aren’t just stated goals, they are written goals. As Brian Tracy says, “A goal is more than a dream; it’s a dream being acted upon.”
Then, I came across a book by Jim Collins called Built To Last (also author of Good To Great).
In this book Jim uses a term I had never heard before for describing goals. He called these goals BHAGs. What the heck is a BHAG?! It sounds like something you would call the person who cut you off in traffic, “You frickin’ BHAG!”
BHAGs, however, are not what you would call someone to put them down.
They are Big.
They are Hairy.
They are Audacious.
They are Goals.
Big. Hairy. Audacious. Goals.
When I first started playing in Major League Soccer in 2003 I wanted to be one of the best defenders in the league. To accomplish this lofty goal of being the best, I realized that I had to do three things: learn from those who had done it before (Robin Fraser, my teammate at the time and later my coach), write down my goals (below), and then execute. After taking some hard knocks during my first year as a rookie, I wrote these goals in 2005:
I wrote these goals at the beginning of my third year as a professional soccer player. At this nascent stage in my career I hadn’t accomplished any of these goals. In fact, I hadn’t really been close in accomplishing any of them. At the time I was in the US National team pool and had garnered two caps so my chances of playing on that team were decent.
However, I had the audacity to dream that I could accomplish these goals. Instead of being fearful that I couldn’t or not even bothering to try, I wrote them down, I printed them off my computer, and I pinned them to the wall above my desk.
I looked at these goals every single day for the next 10 years.
And things happened.
In 2006 I went abroad to play soccer in Norway - check
In 2009 I won my first MLS Cup - check
In 2010 I was selected to the MLS Best XI - check
Looking back now on my 14-year professional career I have to breathe a sigh of satisfaction. I have achieved 3 of the 7 goals I wrote for myself:
You may be saying, “Nat, you didn’t play in a World Cup, you didn’t win MLS Defender of the Year, and despite your iconic red beard you were never popular enough to play in an MLS All-Star game!”
However, while I didn’t achieve those particular goals in my soccer career, in the audacity of envisioning playing in a World Cup and trying to be an MLS All-Star I played for 2 MLS Cup-winning sides, went abroad to play (which ultimately led to the aforementioned MLS Cups), and won an MLS Best XI.
As I read through these goals I have to pause and ask the question, “If I had never bothered to write down these goals would I have ever achieved them?”
That’s one of those rhetorical questions I guess…but when it comes to achieving great things, it’s a question that we should all ask ourselves.
Big, hairy, audacious goals changed my life. I’m the hairiest walking example of them all!
As we start this New Year what goals do you have written down? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.
Also, if you are looking for inspiration, check out these books:
No Excuses by Brian Tracy
The Magic Of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck