How do you eat an elephant?

A Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) often seems like a daunting task.  I find it helpful to think of accomplishing a BHAG like eating an elephant.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  How do you accomplish a BHAG?  One part at a time.  One thing I’ve discovered is that the bites/parts are not equal pieces. I am training to run 56 miles to celebrate my 56th birthday.  A couple of weeks ago I ran a 50-mile training run. Fifty miles on foot is tough to comprehend.  I broke it down into the following segments.

Part 1 = Attack

I started running at about 2 a.m. from a central location.  I was meeting a running partner at about 7 a.m. and knew I needed to have finished more than 22 miles by the time we met.  I wanted to run in a familiar territory and get a lot of the task accomplished early.  Why?  When you attack a big project, you want to accomplish as much as you can as quickly as you can so it will build momentum toward the completion of the task.

Part 2 = Encourage

After meeting my running partner, we headed to the original oldest part of town.  Beginning early on Saturday mornings, this part of town is alive with walkers, runners and cyclists.  Early morning runners are outgoing and greet each other with a wave or verbal encouragement.  There is a feeling of mutual respect for what the other runner is doing. At 25 to 30 miles, as the body starts tiring, I need encouragement. 

This is true of any major undertaking.  At some point the “new” wears off.  Obstacles appear; you lose focus; you realize this is harder than you thought.  It’s really important to know discouragement will occur and to surround yourself with positive encouraging people.  Actively seek these encouragers and distance yourself from discouragers.  Remember, encouragers will not seek you out.  Only discouragers will go out of their way to “rain on your dream”.

Part 3 = Stretch

We completed about 10 miles in the second leg.  That gave me about 32 total miles completed.  I was more than halfway to my goal.  I had survived the discouragement.  I was excited because I could see the finish line.  I left on the next leg running alone in an area of town I had never run in.  I will run this area of town during my personal BHAG and I wanted to be confident with the terrain and my ability to navigate this area.  Gaining this confidence required that I stretch and go somewhere I’d never been before.

To grow in business requires a stretch.  It is very easy to stay with the familiar, comfortable area we know.  Whether it is tackling a large curtain-wall project, buying a new fleet of trucks or hiring more people, we have to stretch.  Once we stretch, we gain confidence to do it again.  Once we stretch, we will not return to the old familiar comforts we once knew.

Part 4 = Conquer

I met another running partner and we left on the last leg.  By now, I had completed more than 40 miles.  This last leg was my shortest.  This was intentional because I knew even though I was very tired that I could still run a “short” distance.  I had planned this in advance because I knew I could mentally comprehend a single digit at this stage of the run.  I also knew that my running form could not get sloppy or I would not finish.  On this leg, I was running toward my house.  It was a very familiar part of town. I knew the mile markers at every turn on every street.

When you look at a BHAG, you want to start with the familiar and end with the familiar.  When we reach this stage, we’re tired.  It’s easy to get sloppy.  We all need to know the small mile-markers at the end to help complete the task.  True professionals realize they only have to get to the next marker.  True professionals conquer the BHAG by taking small steps and not getting sloppy.

Part 5 = Celebrate

Do not withhold any celebration when you reach your BHAG! 

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 —Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville   

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.


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