Successful People Make No Little Plans

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not be realized. Make big plans. Aim high in hope and work.”

This quote from Daniel Burnham is a perfect to begin a post on outstanding performance, one of the success competencies that is part of my Career Success GPS system and that I discuss in detail in several of my books: Straight Talk for Success, I want YOU…To Succeed, Star Power, Your Success GPS and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  If you want to be an outstanding performer, you need to do three things: 1) become a lifelong learner; 2) set and achieve high goals; and 3) get organized.

If you’re going to set goals, you might as well set big ones.  As Mr. Burnham says, big goals will “stir your blood.”  He ought to know, he designed famous landmarks like the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington DC. 

I agree with Mr. Burnham; many people set their sights too low.  They make little – instead of big – plans.  I think people do this because of a lack of self confidence.  Self confidence is another key to success that is part of my Career Success GPS system.  Facing your fears and acting is one way to become self confident.  Making big plans and setting big goals is one way of facing your fears and acting and in creating your career success.

In Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras suggest that successful companies need to set what they call “BHAGs” – Big Hairy Audacious Goals.  Collins’ follow up book, Good to Great begins with the idea that “good is the enemy of great,” an extension of the BHAG idea.  

The same kind of thinking holds for individuals.  If you set big hairy audacious goals for yourself, you won’t be settling for good, you’ll be planning for great.  One of Henry David Thoreau’s most often repeated quotes, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them,” applies here. 

Don’t take your song to the grave.  Sing it while you are alive.  You can do this if you are willing to dare greatly by setting high goals.  And then doing whatever it takes to achieve them.

I’ve set and achieved some high goals for myself in my life.  As I get older, I’m less worried about failing, so I’ve been setting higher and more difficult goals.  I am making big plans to succeed in the on line world.

As I write this, I’m wearing a T shirt that was a gift from Clark Covington.  It says “Internet Marketing Rock Star.”  I’m not an internet marketing rock star yet, but I will be by the end of 2010.  It is my big hairy audacious goal.

It’s not enough to set high goals.  You have to do the work to achieve them.  I have a framed piece of inspiration hanging by the door to my office.  It’s a quote by Paul J. Meyer…

 “Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon… must inevitably come to pass!”

The key words here are “enthusiastically act upon.”  You have to do the work.  I think this quote is the missing piece of advice in The Secret.  In fact, I’ve often said, that Paul Meyer’s quote is like The Secret on steroids.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are outstanding performers.  Outstanding performers become outstanding performers by setting and achieving high – no, big hairy audacious goals.  Outstanding performers put in the time and effort, the blood sweat and tears necessary to turn their goals into reality.  They don’t settle for good, because they know that good is the enemy of great.  They choose to be great.  They make no little plans.  They make big plans that stir their blood.

That’s what I think about big hairy audacious goals.  What do you think?  Please leave a comment sharing your biggest, hairiest, most audacious goal and what you did to achieve it or what you are going to do to achieve it.  Your story will be an inspiration to us all.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. I have subscribed to get email feeds since last few months..

    Your quotes are great, I love to buzz & twitt it on my account…

    Thanks for sharing this..


  2. Thanks Krunal.

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