What’s Your BHAG?

If you lim­it your choic­es only to what seems pos­si­ble or rea­son­able, you dis­con­nect your­self from what you tru­ly want, and all that is left is a compromise.
–Robert Fritz

That ties in to today’s Word Spy phrase. I love that newslet­ter. What’s your BHAG?

BHAG (BEE.hag) acronym.

An ambi­tious or dif­fi­cult plan or goal.

Exam­ple Citation
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So each June, Leland stands before his high­ly dec­o­rat­ed coach­es and presents his BHAGs. He also reviews the BHAGs from the pre­vi­ous year, dis­cussing both the suc­cess­es and the short­com­ings. If the prob­lems are admin­is­tra­tive, he read­i­ly accepts responsibility.

”He sits there in front of every­body with his goals, and he’s kind of naked,” Gould said. ”And then he has the guts to say, ‘I let you down here.’ It’s tremendous.”

Whether he’s in a group or an indi­vid­ual set­ting, Leland’s deliv­ery has just the right volt­age. Too lit­tle, and the BHAGs would ring hol­low. Too much, and they would seem threatening.–Jon Wilner, “Crys­tal-clear vision,” San Jose Mer­cury News, June 11, 2003

Back­grounder
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BHAG is an acronym for the great phrase “big, hairy, auda­cious goal.” It was coined by Stan­ford pro­fes­sors Jim Collins and Jer­ry Por­ras. They used it in their book Built to Last, which was pub­lished in Octo­ber 1994, but as the ear­li­est cita­tion shows, Collins was using the acronym and phrase as ear­ly as 1992.

Ear­li­est Citation
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There are two basic parts of an effec­tive vision: First is a “Guid­ing Philosophy”—a set of core val­ues and prin­ci­ples like the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence. Sec­ond is a bold mis­sion, or what I like to call a BHAG—a big, hairy, auda­cious goal—like our nation­al goal in the ’60s to go to the moon by the end of the decade. [If a com­pa­ny says] “Our BHAG is to rev­o­lu­tion­ize telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­o­gy on the earth,” then that com­pa­ny has some way to deter­mine up and down the line whether peo­ple are doing things con­sis­tent with that vision. Is every­one align­ing with it by set­ting goals in accord with the BHAG? Are they com­mit­ting their resources to it? Are they putting most of their efforts in that direction?
–Jim Collins, inter­view with Tom Brown, “On the edge with Jim Collins,” Indus­try Week, Octo­ber 5, 1992

See Also
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brag­gables

self-hand­i­cap­ping

stop-doing list

Words About Words
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Until we learn the use of liv­ing words we shall con­tin­ue to be wax­works inhab­it­ed by gramophones.
–Wal­ter de la Mare, Eng­lish poet and nov­el­ist, The Observ­er, May 12, 1929

Mis­cel­lanea
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For more Word Spy words, see the Word Spy Archives

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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