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BHAG This-A-Way, BHAG That-A-Way

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

By Paul Willgoss

This is an unapologetic endurance athlete-type blog, which is why I’m starting off recalling an HR conference in deepest Yorkshire.

I had the pleasure of seeing a business guru do his guru-thing to an audience of suited women and men. Although most of what the presenter, Jim Collins, was saying went the way of much guru-isms, he did come out with something that made me think.

The BHAG: Big Hairy Audacious Goal

Here it is in “management speak”:

A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.
—Collins and Porras, 1996

For me a BHAG can be stated more simply—it’s what gets me up at 5:30 in the morning to go to the gym; gets me running in the wet, the wind and even the snow; makes the weekends away from home worthwhile.

So here’s my BHAG for running the Nottingham Ultramarathon this year—31 miles, 50 km in one go.

Big: Make a statement—a marathon does that, an ultramarathon hopefully does that more. What statement? That an ACHDer/GUCH can try to go up to and beyond 26.2 miles. And if the legs fail, that it’s OK to dream that you might be able to!

Hairy: We’re in an unusual position as a condition group; we’re rare enough to be uncommon but not so rare that we can (normally) be called the magic PR figure of “1 in a million.” That means awareness-raising normally has to be tagged on something other than just our conditions. That makes awareness-raising difficult, and there’s an awful lot of runners out there.

Audacious: Be bold. And slightly terrified, but bold. If someone had said 10, even five years ago, that I’d be doing marathons, or even going beyond the standard I’d have laughed at them. Now, I’m on countdown to do two marathons by the summer and then move on… and on… and on.

Goal: Eight hours or under. My average marathon time is 6 hours. An extra five miles shouldn’t take two hours, but I’m being slightly conservative because I don’t know the course, and won’t know for a couple of months how my body will take the training.

My BHAGs are only part of the story, though. I need to see others BHAGs (even if they probably don’t think of them as BHAGs) to inspire me—and to help me get out of bed in the morning!

There’s ACHA’s own Nels Matson—what he’s planning to do would be anyone’s BHAG! As a dedicated non-swimmer the first bit is beyond belief (and as a biologist, there are these things called alligators!), the bike ride has my backside wincing and my calves crying, and the run… oh deary me, I shudder.

Thank you Nels for BHAGing, for believing, for trying and I hope excelling!

There’s also the entire GUCH Walking Club—for going out and trying. Some of them have never got this, so I’ll say it again: It doesn’t matter if you get to the top, or stay at the bottom, there are plenty who’d not put their boots on and stand on the mud. There’s many a way of seeing a superb view and we will always find one (weather permitting; seriously even I can’t control the British weather).

And finally, there’s the newest club in my life—the Ironheart Racing Team. They’re in madness terms (I tried to think of a less pejorative term, but it sums too much up) up there with any of the above. Plus, it’s one of the few places where I don’t feel unusual; they’ve been there, done that, and stood on starting lines around the world with that same mix of excitement, terror and hope.

Oh, the one thing I didn’t mention—you can have more than BHAG at a time! I know mine, what are yours?

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