What’s Your BHAG This Year? There’s Still Plenty of Time for 2019 to be Effing Amazing
As I write this (for later publication, I’ll get to that momentarily) the sun is glancing off a few bird feeders on my coach’s deck. We’re in the high country just south of Boulder, Colorado. I think we had a miscue on our coaching session. He’s not here. I am. No problem. It happens. Meanwhile I get to gaze across the lovely meadow and appreciate the lower hills of the Rockies.
We’re working on my third book. In the middle of all this I am retooling a life. That’s what the book is about, which is why it’s so much fun. I’m living what I am writing about in all the messy, tangled, fouled-up fishwire that is what happens when we throw everything out and start over again.
The process may be familiar territory but it is never easy. Nor is a complete makeover easier at 66 than it was thirty years ago.
Scattered in the detritus that used to be my beloved living room are huge gear bags. About a month before I head to the hinterlands (one of the other BHAGs this year) I start this process. Long, long lists of gear to take. I always and forever compulsively pack too much clothing. Then I heft the bags, shout HOLY SHIT, then rip everything open and start cutting back. Happens every single time.
Those of you who have ever taken off on a gap year know the drill: We nearly always pack three times the clothes and half the money we need. If your parents are helping out they get the stuff you shipped back, and end up firing you more funds.
The first BHAG after the book is looming large. I leave for British Columbia on June 15th to spend four weeks in the middle of some 70 million square miles of Canadian wilderness. The only thing we’ll have up there is a satphone.
I can’t wait. Part of that is a sheep dip in silence, nature and the glory of having griz as your next door neighbors.
Tenting every night. Packing in all our food. Cooking for others.
Right. Up. My. Alley. I’ll be breaking a brand new Nemo tent and sleeping bag.
My next BHAG is Mongolia, leaving September 5th. Five weeks as the winter settles in. Life in homestays, learning to live like the locals, picking up the language. Heading out to see the Eagle Festival before it starts- to watch how folks prepare, see the practices. The stuff others don’t write about. Cold as hell. Possibly horses, camels. My guide, Jen, from Zavkhan Travel, sent me an itinerary for comment. I rode with her in Kazakhstan. She’s immensely competent, early thirties, smart, funny. I really hope she’ll be there.
Then, I took another leap, if you will. A client fired me an email and confirmed- I’m headed back to Africa in early February. Riding on safari in Kenya, then scuba diving Mafia Island. Plenty of work to do in Tanzania where he’s based.
What is your BHAG for 2019?
If this sounds like an enviable life, let’s be clear. I am neither rich nor do I have a big bank account. I make a bit of money on Medium and live off my VA disability. I am able to set these BHAGs because earlier in life I set in motion other BHAGs- becoming a writer that people wanted to hire. Learning consulting skills that people found valuable. Putting in my own time and dime into adventure travel so that when I offered my services to those in the industry, I had both knowledge and experience.
Consider that my second degree. I had to pay to play, develop the skills, and earn the right to sell myself to people who could use what I had to offer.
How to Set Things in Motion
Each of us has an internal set of signposts, as my friend Terri Ducay likes to call them. Sometimes as we enter the workforce- because when in Rome, if you will- we HAVE to, those signposts can get buried. These could be something you deeply cared about in your youth, or if you’re still in your twenties, something that speaks to you that doesn’t seem to be a reasonable opportunity right now. Bookmark those. They may reappear later, particularly when you stumble through inevitable Big Life Changes.
I would call these the baby birds in your chest. They sometimes have to wait decades to hatch. For some, they never do. The question is whether or not you and I are willing to ask the right questions. When we can step aside from our habits, the routine, the drudgery (all lives have that) the boredom that one study claims plagues us some 131 days out of the year.
I have to ask, isn’t there another way to spend that time rather than be bored and scrolling through your emails?
Waking up the baby birds is what a BHAG is all about. Those birds want to be fed. They want to sing. That book you want to write. That trip you want to take. Or, that job you really want. The year being a digital nomad in Ubud. Becoming a professional speaker. Van life. Raising Rottweilers.
Does it matter?
What puts the bird in your chest?
People say to me all the time that I’m so lucky that I GET to do what I do. Others who lead similar lives (like my Medium peep Terri Ducay, who is going to be featured in my book) hear the same thing.
To do what we do takes enormous sacrifice. Time. Energy. Trade-offs. Preparation. For example, to ensure my presence on Medium I have to write at least 15–20 stories, like this one, scheduled for regular publication, in the midst of everything else that’s going on. For each trip. Do the math. I have to train hard, take care of everyday business, run a life, pack my house, handle medical appointments, write articles regularly because I need the money and I also need to keep honing my skills.
It never stops.
And on top of that I have a coach ( who still hasn’t shown up 50 minutes later) who is pushing me hard to get this book done. There’s nothing easy or effortless about any of it.
What works however, is that I get to do what I love. Have always loved. Will like always live. Ride horses, do good work, make a difference, write, explore, kayak cold waters, all that.
I had to set BHAGs a long time ago- write books, learn skills, get in shape. Every single one has led me to this years’ BHAGs.
Nothing that I do today would be possible if I hadn’t set BHAGs thirty, forty years ago.
My coaching session is over. And I finished my article, set for publication in late June when I will be in the high, high Rockies (well, I hope so anyway). I could have spent that entire hour on the Internet, scrolling.
Instead I set a small goal, get the article done in an hour.
Done. Just like you can set one right here, right now. One that feeds those baby birds in your chest.
Because they really do want to sing.