Do You Have A BHAG?

This is not some special rare breed of dog reserved for a select few.

No, everyone should have a BHAG.

And what an especially auspicious time of year to think about getting one!

A BHAG is a big hairy audacious goal.

If you don’t have a BHAG, you should get busy now.

You see, a true-bred BHAG lights up our life, sets us on fire; it’s one of those things that gets us up in the morning and drives us forward. A well-fed BHAG gives shape and meaning to our lives.

Everyone, yes everyone, needs a BHAG.

A BHAG can change the world:

  • Martin’s dream was a BHAG;
  • JFK’s moon program was a BHAG;
  • Edison’s light bulb was a BHAG;
  • Salk’s vaccine was a BHAG;
  • Mandela’s vision was a BHAG.

Abraham Lincoln had a big-assed BHAG; Mother Theresa had a BHAG; the Dalai Lama has a BHAG.

Thank god, for BHAGs, huh?

But BHAGs can be much more personal too, like:

  • Writing a book – that’s a BHAG;
  • Running a marathon;
  • Launching a business;
  • Composing a song;
  • Getting a job;
  • Staring a family;
  • Healing a wound

Anything with a grand arc, a big palette; anything that requires us to move and stretch beyond our comfort zones qualifies as a BHAG.

Get quiet; get still. Set aside some good quality time to think about your BHAGs for the year to come. Journal them out, write them down. Make a vision board, a mind map. Brainstorm with your accountability partner, your mastermind group, your coach, your buddy, your friend. Move it outside yourself. Make it real. Commit to it. Set a deadline. Put it in motion. Now’s the time.

Without our BHAGs, our horizons become flat; our existences vanilla.

BHAGs build muscle and resiliency. They bring us face to face with frustration and failure. They bring us tears and laughter; sadness, joy and exaltation. They change the face of who we are. And like ripples in a pond, touch distant shores in ways we cannot comprehend.

BHAGs require nothing less than the full dimension of our humanity. Indeed, they are the very essence of who we are.

Sure, some BHAGs can be messy like those special breeds of dogs. But every life needs a BHAG.

And the world is waiting. So, don’t wait another minute – find yours now.









This BHAG, climbing Denali, Mt. McKinley, occupied my imagination for more than three decades. If you need help bringing shape to yours, inquire about our coaching. It will change your life!










It’s A Dead End. And That’s OK.

They looked liked ants, even through the high-powered spotting scope.  Two tiny dots on the 6000′ sheer, icy face of Mt. Hunter.

They had been there for days, working to pioneer the new line. Up narrow runnels they would climb. Swinging their axes into the ice. Moving slowly, arduously in the arctic cold. For hours on end.

Then an impasse. A dead end. The route would go no further. The obstacle insurmountable. Retreat the only possibility. Back to the place of beginning. Back to start it all again.

The next effort sometimes would go better. And sometimes not.  Sometimes they would advance a few pitches closer to their summit. And sometimes, every route they choose would thwart them.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

In our businesses, our creative endeavors, our athletic pursuits,  our relationships, indeed, in all of life, obstacles abound. Sometimes we can muscle through them, forge the way. Sometimes not.

Sometimes it’s a dead end. Turn around we must.

And that’s ok.

To stand indecisive on an icy ledge is to invite catastrophe. The same is true in life.

We need to move. Even when we don’t know the way.

Perhaps especially when we don’t know the way.

We need to try. We need to act. We need to overcome.

We can choose to stand in indecisive terror. Or we can forge ahead.

Every way that doesn’t work is a lesson, a key to understanding a way that might.

Every way that doesn’t work is one step closer to the way that will.

The dead ends force us to face our fears and our frustrations.

Our darkest demons meet us there

Yet the dead ends make us stronger, wiser. More discerning.  More tolerant and patient.

And, often, what looks like a dead end is really a doorway into an new dimension of our lives. New opportunities. New possibilities.

We are called to practice what Jim Collins in Good to Great calls “The Stockdale Paradox”: Great leaders acknowledge the current realities and don’t pull any punches. But at the same time, they have an unwavering belief that they will ultimately prevail.

It’s curious to me that in the mountains, the dead ends are often just part of the grand adventure. Gathered later ’round the fire, they glow with epic valor and gallantry in the re-telling. Desperate measures taken. Dragons slain. Challenges met and overcome. Fresh courage hewn to meet the dawn to come.

Perhaps we need the dead ends in our lives as well, even though it doesn’t really feel that way.

As we watched our comrades through the scope, we so often wanted to cry out, “No! Not there! A waste of time! Turn back now! Go the other way!”

Of course they couldn’t hear us. But even if they could, would they have listened?


Ya Just Gotta Start

Sometimes when we think about a goal, an objective, a new project, we hesitate to begin. We think: conditions aren’t right; we’re not fully prepared; we don’t have all the information; we haven’t raised enough money; we don’t have all the resources we need; there’s not enough time.

But here’s the scoop. It’s never exactly the right time to begin. Conditions are never exactly right.

What you need to do is to start out and see what happens.

I’ve discovered this lesson in the mountains more times than I can count. A day that starts out looking like a storm day so often turns into something grand and glorious.

Other projects too: a run that starts out gruesomely begins to flow; a photo project that seems to be going nowhere turns into a gallery show; a chapter that lacks any form or substance suddenly takes shape; a work project that seems flat and dull unexpectedly transforms a life.

How it looks in the beginning is not how it will be.

Starting creates the magic. Starting creates the momentum. Staring tells the Universe that you’re ready.

Start now.

Start out and see what happens.


Get your copy of “Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters.”  Click HERE!


Dream Catcher

This post first appeared on July 15, 2010. What are your hopes and dreams and aspirations for the New Year? Get busy!

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

– Joel 2:28


The  word has a bad rep.  It connotes laziness. Distraction. Fuzziness.  Idealism.

To dream suggests that we are not fully present, that we are somehow disconnected from reality.

“Get real,” we tell dreamers.

And some dreams can be pretty damn weird.

But many are visions, hopes, and aspirations that reside in the recesses of our minds. They may represent things we want to do, to achieve, to have, to be. They can form a mosaic of our lives made whole.

Our dreams are our own silent visitors from an unconscious world that inspire us to create; that urge us up in the morning; that drive us forward.  They are the engines of our heart.

Climbing Denali was a dream for me. Ever since I was a boy, I wanted to climb The High One: the one that rose up out of the plains with the highest uplift in the world, the one with the coldest temperatures and the highest winds, the epic storied one that has always challenged mountaineers from around the globe. Inspired by a book my father gave me, I dreamed of being an explorer, of walking on Denali’s glaciers, climbing through Denali Pass, traversing beneath the Archdeacon’s Tower and standing on its summit. And I did.

It was a somewhat curious dream. Not terribly practical. Some would say downright inconvenient (my wife), especially as a contemplated a third attempt in eighteen years.

But dreams aren’t always logical.  Many don’t make sense to other people.

But they don’t have to.  Our dreams belong to us.

Dreams are sometimes vivid, sometimes not, sometimes odd, always elusive.

But many whisper to us.  Of  joy, of hope, of possibility. Of life fulfilled.

I love the symbol of the dreamcatcher.  Woven in webs with sinew, The Chippewas believed that by sleeping beneath these hoops, they could sift out the “bad” dreams and capture the good.

Too few of us capture and pursue our dreams. And time is not our friend. “Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time, ” wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  ”Now the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.”

Time will rob us if we let it. The clock will run out.

Tony Robbins says:  ”We’re so caught up in all we have to do – be sure to take the time to stop, be silent.  Listen to the whispers of Destiny… guidance is waiting.”

The Carmelite mystic William McNamara admonishes us: take long, loving leisurely looks at the real.

We must take the time to touch our dreams, to cradle them, to nurture them, to bring them to life. (No one else will.)

Reclaim Your Dreams is the title of Jonathan Mead’s excellent e-book.

I hear so many of my contemporaries talk of being “too busy,” “too out of shape,” “too old” to do what they otherwise might do. That the time for fulfilling the dreams they once had has passed.

That’s bullshit.

“The best is yet to come,” Sinatra crooned.

“Your car goes where your eye goes,” writes Garth Stein in his beautifully crafted bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Your heart goes if you will but follow.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined,” wrote Thoreau.

Denali was my dream.  (There are more, of course!)

What are yours?


Every Which Way Is Right

It wasn’t a bitter argument.  We’d known each other far too long for there to be rancor.

It was more of a spirited disagreement.  It was the place really that made the conversation unpleasant.

The wind blew a constant thirty.  The gusts drove the rain and sleet up underneath our jackets. We were soaked and shivering.

Hunkered between two rocks, we debated which way to go.  Sam said the route went east.  I was sure it went west.

We had climbed the Armadillo Buttress on Mt. Katahdin, a stunningly beautiful 5.8 ridge rising 1000 feet above the glacial cirque at Chimney Pond.   What had begun as a picture perfect late fall day had taken a nasty turn as we had ascended into the clouds, the dense fog and rime ice leaving us feeling a bit unhinged.

The Buttress joins the Knife Edge between Baxter Peak and Pamola Peak.  We knew that we had topped out.  We just couldn’t quite figure out which direction we needed to go to get down.

Sam said left.  I said right.

After nearly 20 minutes of “spirited” dialogue, a lone figure appeared in the mist. Another climber. One who knew.

Turns out, either direction would have worked.  Both ways were “right.”

A truth in so many of our Journeys.

We struggle so to get it “right.” And so often, it really doesn’t matter.

As our youngest, a high school junior, approaches the threshold of the college process, I watch as the seniors (and their parents!) struggle with where to go. Where’s the “right” place to spend the next four years? What’s the “right” choice?

Turns out, it doesn’t really matter.

My oldest refused to go to college.  Ten years later, she’s finishing her freshman year with a near perfect GPA.  Her brother went to two colleges in six years. Tenaciously striving to succeed after nearly flunking out, he was just hired in one of the toughest job markets in history as a project engineer.  Their father made all the wrong choices and went to three colleges in four years. Seems he got into a decent graduate program though.  And turned out ok.

There’s no “right” path.  There’s no wrong way.

Every path will get us there.  Each with its own obstacles and challenges.  Each with its own opportunities and majesty and beauty.

I am reminded of the scene early on in the old classic The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy comes to a fork in the road.  She’s not sure which fork to take to get to the Emerald City.  She asks the Scarecrow who points her in one direction.  Then immediately points her in the other direction. And then crosses his arms and points her in both directions.

She finds her way to Oz.  Most of us do.

But we are all so inculcated with the notion that there is only one right way; and so filled with fear that we will chose wrong.

What if we embraced that every path was our path?  What if we believed that we couldn’t make a wrong choice?  What it we trusted that no experience was wasted?

How freeing that would be.

Susan Jeffers says it this way:  “Start thinking about yourself as a lifetime student at a large university.  Your curriculum is your total relationship with the world you live in, from the moment you’re born to the moment you die.  Each experience is a valuable lesson to be learned. If you chose Path A, you will learn one set of lessons. If you chose Path B, you will learn a different set of lessons.  Geology or geometry – just a different teacher and different books to read, different homework to do, different exams to take. It doesn’t really matter… . ”

There is opportunity to grow, to learn, to love, to experience, to find joy, regardless of the path we chose.

And if we don’t like the path, we get to change it.  We can always correct our route finding along the way.

I was fascinated to learn that an airplane flying thousands of miles to a distant destination can be off course 90 percent of the time and still arrive in the right place and on time guided by its internal inertial guidance system. Through constant course correction.

We all have an inertial guidance system.

Every path is an adventure. Every which way is right.