Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

Written by on June 12, 2009 in Learning Tips - 3 Comments

stockxpertcom_hairy-creatureWant to bring your learning to the next level? It may be time to set a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.

It’s easy to come up with small, overly-realistic goals. But, these lack the passion that draws people out of their comfort zones to take on serious risk. True learning occurs when you do things that are unfamiliar and face the possibility of failure. A Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal should be something that inspires you and scares you at the same time.

What does a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal look like? Consider these examples:

  • The Think Big Manifesto shares the story of an activist who spread the word by creating an extremely popular YouTube video and a hedge-fund manager who gave up the business world to become an organic cattle farmer.
  • Homeschooling mom Julie Bogart encouraged her kids to come up with their own Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. Her 11-year-old daughter wanted to hold a Jane Austen-style ball as a prom alternative. With the goal in mind, her daughter took vintage dance lessons, held classes teaching the dances to her peers, and learned to sew in order to create costumes for the event.
  • Now an assistant editor at Harper’s Magazine, Chris Beha dealt with setbacks in his young adulthood by setting a goal to read the entire set of Harvard Classics in just a year. His readings gave him new insight and his experiences were recently published as The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else.
  • Google’s company mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Although Google is a for-profit organization, their Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal has produced some amazing resources for self-learners, including virtual access to academic articles, scans of books, and a handful of no-cost software programs.
  • Temp worker Julie Powell decided to learn the art of French cooking by completing every single recipe in Julia Child’s famed book in just one year (quite the undertaking if you’ve seen the recipes). Not only did she become an excellent cook, her endeavor landed her a major book deal and she now combines her love of cooking with her lifelong dream of becoming an author.

All of these people and organizations had set backs along the way. But, by focusing on their Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, they were able to accomplish some rather amazing things and learn more than they ever could by keeping their thinking “in the box.” film Power Rangers

Thinking Big

When deciding to set a goal of this magnitude, you must believe in your ability to be successful. It’s okay to have doubts. But, if you start of by saying “this probably won’t happen,” then it probably won’t.

By thinking that you can accomplish something significant, you start acting in a way that can actually get the job done.

In The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz puts it this way:

“In these modern times, belief is doing much bigger things than moving mountains. The most important element – in fact, the essential element – in our space explorations today is the belief that space can be mastered. Without firm, unwavering belief that man can travel space, our scientists would not have the courage, interest, and enthusiasm to proceed. Belief that cancer can be cured will ultimately produce cures for cancer.”

Cultivating belief in your ability to make something happen is just the first step. But, without it you’re not likely to get anywhere.

Be a Kid Again

When I was growing up, it was easy to try new things and set big goals. I sat for hours painting family members, dug a hole hoping to make it to China, and opened up a neighborhood preschool for toddlers when I was just nine (Only years later did I realize that their parents were paying because they knew my mom was supervising the whole time. But, she indulged my entrepreneurial spirit and helped me plan lessons while driving me to the store for goldfish crackers).

Then, something happened. I started to become aware of how goofy I looked in some of these endeavors. Additionally, people started commenting negatively when I tried new things. When a kid draws a poor picture or stumbles around in ballet class, we humor him because he’s young. But, when an adult tries these same things, naysayers often make comments about how the learner is too old, how it’s too late, and what a waste of time it is.

The truth is that you are probably going to struggle when working on your Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. People will probably say some not-so-encouraging things or try to get you to do something more “normal.” Ignore them. Instead, try to embrace a child-like spirit. People often learn the most in their childhoods because kids aren’t afraid to take a spill on their bikes, get dirty pouring vinegar over baking soda, or ask a million questions about the world. Realize that mistake-making, awkwardness, and the state of confusion are a part of the experience of learning. Then, go for the goal anyway.

How to Get There

Getting to work on a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal can be overwhelming. But, the key to making this goal a reality is the same technique used in getting anything done: take baby steps.

Break your big goal into smaller, more manageable goals that can be measured from week to week. Review your progress regularly while always keeping the big picture in mind. Soon, you’ll begin to see your dream taking shape.

See Also: Have You Outgrown Your Shell? The Importance of Risk-Taking

3 Comments on "Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals"

  1. JeremyOLED June 12, 2009 at 2:42 am · Reply

    It’s this mindset which has made the past year the best and most successful year of my life. I was always told that you have to start small, that you have to follow the path, do things as they have always been done. But by just figuring out a plan for myself, and aiming for beyond what is just achievable, I’ve accomplished a lot more than my peers thought I would. Now I proudly tell people about my ridiculous and audacious goals. Hey, if I fail I would probably still have achieved and learned more than if I my goals were itty-bitty and ‘realistic.’

  2. Tod Birdsall June 15, 2009 at 8:38 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Jamie June 16, 2009 at 9:34 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the comments, JeremyOLED and Tod.

    Also, congrats on a successful year Jeremy. It’s inspiring to see the results of such a mindset.

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