When I entered my freshman year of high school I had a dream, it was to earn as a freshman an athletic letter jacket in a sport, any sport, didn’t matter which one. For a little shrimp of guy like me with only modest athletic ability it was a tall order, what Jim Collins in his book Good to Great might refer to as a BHAG, that is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. To compound the challenge I didn’t play football, freshman were not allowed on the varsity basketball squad, and our school did not have a baseball team, which left only one sport – track, and I wasn’t very fast. I did have enough endurance, though, that I could run longer distances such as the mile and half mile races, my only hope. But in spite of my hard work and diligent training I still fell short, never so much as placing in a single race. So it was heartbreaking when at the end of the school year came around my big dream had been a bust.
It was summer, maybe three or four weeks after the end of the school term when one day the doorbell rang. I answered the door and there much to my surprise stood the coach holding a box. “What’s this?” I asked as he presented it to me. “It’s your letter jacket,” he replied. “But, but I didn’t . . . ,” I stammered. “It’s for golf,” he explained before I could finish my sentence. Golf? I had forgotten all about that, didn’t know anyone paid attention to golf or even considered it a sport. “You guys won the district championship in golf, remember? That earned you a letter jacket.” I was speechless! But it was true, we were the first golf team our school ever had and by some miraculous stroke of fate we had won the district championship – and my dream, my BHAG, came true. After the coach left I took my new letter jacket to my room, put my face in it and cried.
Dreams and BHAGs are sometimes fulfilled in unexpected ways. “. . . we shake the apple tree,” as Julia Cameron describes it in her book The Artist’s Way, “and the universe delivers oranges.” The point being, of course, to keep shaking to apple tree – to keep dreaming big dreams and setting BHAGs for ourselves – but don’t be surprised if the payoff comes in unexpected ways, sometimes greater than we ever imagined. Mine did, and I have kept the letter off that jacket to remind me, not about golf which I don’t even play anymore, but about the potential rewards of big dreams, BHAGs, and hard work.