“I press on toward the goal to win the prize . . .” Philippians 3:14
When I entered my freshman year of high school I had a dream. That dream was to earn, as a freshman, a varsity 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, or what Jim Collins refers to in his book Good to Great as a BHAG, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. To compound the challenge I didn’t play football, freshmen were relegated to the junior varsity basketball squad, and our school did not have a baseball team at the time, which left only one sport – track, and I wasn’t very fast. I did have, though, enough endurance to run long distance races, which was my only hope. But despite my hard work and diligent training I still fell short, never so much as even placing in a single race. So, by the end of my freshman year my big dream became a bust, and I was heartbroken.
Then one day during summer break the doorbell rang. I answered the door and there to my surprise stood Coach Higdon 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 with a smile 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 varsity 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, had come true after all. After the coach left I carried my new letter jacket into my room where, all alone, I buried my face in it and wept.
Dreams and BHAGs are sometimes fulfilled in unexpected ways. “We shake the apple tree,” Julia Cameron says in her book The Artist’s Way, “but sometimes the universe delivers oranges.” The point being, of course, to keep shaking the 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 in ways we never imagined. Mine did, and I have kept the letter from that jacket to remind me, not about golf which I don’t even play anymore, but the importance to “press on toward the goal to win the prize”.