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 an article on outstanding performance.

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. 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.


Bud Bilanich, The Common Sense Guy, is an executive coach, motivational speaker, author and blogger. He is the Official Executive Coaching Guide at He helps his coaching clients succeed by applying their common sense. Dr. Bilanich is Harvard educated but has a no nonsense approach to his work to goes back to his roots in the steel country of Western Pennsylvania. His approach to career and life success is a result of over 35 years of business experience, 10 years of research and ...

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