The Regular Guy’s List of BHAGs

I first discovered the acronym BHAG, (pronounced Bee-Hag:  Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goals) when I read Jim Collins’ book “Built to Last:  Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.”  Collins asserts that BHAGs are generally 10 to 30 years in length.  “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.”

I can say that I am very big on goal setting, check lists and achievement of milestones.   I thought I would dedicate this post to defining my personal list of BHAGs that I hope to achieve during the remainder of my life.  This list is pretty substantial and may take 25 years to complete.  Just to be clear before I begin, I have many other professional, spiritual, family and financial goals.  To keep with the context of my blog, I am going to concentrate on my top 5 adventure related BHAGs.

  1. The National Parks:  As most of you know, my wife and I are in the midst of trying to visit all 59 National Parks.  It was about 6 weeks ago, I was shopping at our local REI store and saw a large roll-out map depicting the United States and all 59 parks.   As you can see in my featured image above, I had the map matted to a foam backer board.   I then bought some pre-finished door casing at Lowe’s and built the frame for it.  I hung it up prominently in the foyer of our home.  I then bought some yellow push pins and pinned the 16 parks that we have visited to date.   I love visual reminders to help keep goals in front of me.   This also serves as a geography lesson for the kids and hopefully they catch my “sickness” for National Park collecting.
  2. The John Muir Trail.  As a student of the National Parks, you can’t help but to admire John Muir and all he did to help establish many of our parks.  There is a trail in California named after him that spans 215 miles from the Yosemite valley to Mt. Whitney.   I hope to carve out 2+ weeks of vacation and hike this entire trail at some point in the future.
  3. The Lewis and Clark Trail.   I just recently read the book, “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose.   It’s the account of Lewis & Clarks expedition up the Missouri River to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean.   These type of historical accounts just fascinate me.   I just imagine these men making this arduous journey without water filters, backpacking meals, sleeping bags, Gortex, Thinsulate, mosquito spray or any of the other modern technology we enjoy today.   There are outfitters  where you can canoe much of the same river system that Lewis and Clark did.   The link above is just one of those outfitters.   I hope to canoe some excerpt of the river system they paddled.
  4. The Bob Marshall Wilderness.   As an avid fly fisherman, there is no more remote, pristine area to catch wild Cutthroat trout than “The Bob.”  One of my good friends has gone there twice.   He reported traveling 10 or 12 hours on pack horses into The Bob to finally arrive at a primitive camp.   They stay in large canvas tents, eat chuck wagon type meals and catch cutthroat trout till your arms are tired.
  5. The Appalachian Trail.   This one is pretty self explanatory.   Most people have heard of this 14 State, 2,190 mile trek.   I hiked a small portion of it while visiting Shenandoah Valley National Park.   I guess that leaves me with about 2,187 miles to go.

In summary, I hope to someday cross all five of these finish lines.  I don’t know if I will get all of these done but I see no problem with setting BHAGs for myself.   My secondary point in writing this post is to challenge each of you.  I would be interested in reading your list of BHAGs and if you don’t have a list, maybe this will prompt you to reflect on your own life and dream BIG!

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9 thoughts on “The Regular Guy’s List of BHAGs

  1. What a great map board! Lol, thanks for introducing me to the BHAGs acronym! You definitely have some good ones (#2 sounds great!). I have a big binder full of info for places I want to visit, my bucket list if you will. Not exactly BHAGs, but it gets me excited about exploring. Good luck with your BHAGs!

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    1. I would love to read what you have in your binder. I find that once I make public a list of things I want to get done, I have extra incentive to complete them since I told people about it.

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  2. I remember you mentioning your framed map a while back–it’s even better than I’d imagined! Such a great visual reminder (also, in awe of your DIY skills! :-D). Love all of the goals on your BHAG list, but #1 and 2 are especially close to my heart as these are on my list, too. Cheering you on all the way!

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  3. Haven’t read the Collins book, although I’ve heard the buzz about BHAGs. Maybe he addresses this, but what about smaller objectives that would fit into a BHAG? Companies I have worked for have used the SMART acronym (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). BHAGs can seem overwhelming, but SMART goals are manageable and still make progress toward BHAGs. Curious what your SMART goals would be in this regard.

    For us, with two kids in college our travel funds are extremely limited. Given that constraint, our short-term goal is to visit all of the National Parks in Utah, which are within a day’s drive for us. Then we can add other states/regions as we go, hoping that someday we can get around to the ones that are more distant.

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    1. JD, you raise a great question. I have worked in the corporate world for over 20 years and am familiar with SMART goals. To me, smart goals could be a subset of an overall BHAG. I have 3 kids – one graduating college, one set to graduate high school and then our youngest in 8th grade. We are busy with activities, sports and life. I know that it will likely take 15 – 20 years to complete the National Park tour. So I break this down into one big National Park vacation per year. When I take that one trip, how can I work in multiple parks? My map with the pins in it help me break it down and allow me to see progress. In essence, my annual trips could be meeting a smart goals.
      Sounds like you are setting attainable goals by starting with the parks in Utah first. We are both in a similar season of life. Once our kids are grown, we may be able to accelerate our pace of park visitation. I’m not sure I helped you or not, but those are my thoughts off the top of my head.

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