Sometimes people do things in life that are significant for numerous reasons. Yet they are so busy or distracted they lose sight of how a powerful completion can mark the beginning of a whole new chapter. Fifteen years ago I set out to visit all 50 states before turning 50 years old, which I will do in December this year. The U.S. is an amazing and diverse country and definitely deserved my attention. On Sunday, October 12th 2015 at 12:30PM Central Daylight Time, I accomplished the goal, visiting Fargo, North Dakota for the first time. My 50th state visit was complete.
Sure this may be meaningless or trivial to some, but for me it was the end of an era and clears the way for something bigger and better. Here are the ways I make the most of such accomplishments so that they have lasting impact.
1. Share with friends.
I was sharing my story of state travel with one of my closest friends, Merced. When I told her I had one more state to go she yelled: "I'M IN!" She and her husband, Scott, happily flew from LA to join my wife and me on this expedition to Fargo. No Frances McDormand or wood-chipper sightings occurred, but we saw Prairie Home Companion at its home, met Garrison Keillor, and all got to see fantastic fall foliage in the Midwest. We ate, drank and enjoyed each other's company on a weekend we will all remember for the rest of our lives. My friends are now inspired to start counting their state visits as well. Accomplishments are meant to be shared for maximum impact.
2. Learn something.
I have to say that technology adds a whole new dimension to geographic exploration. We had a four-hour drive to Fargo from Minneapolis. We looked up so many trivia on the states around us using Google and state info apps that we were all feeling like experts by the time we arrived. The city folk got to see how the country and farming folk live and work, which gave us appreciation for the diversity of this country. Additionally our friend Scott is an amateur music expert and, thanks to XM Radio, gave us a master class in soul and rock history. Learning something new adds richness and depth to any achievement.
3. Acknowledge those who helped.
Before I embarked on this trip, I used LinkedIn to find contacts in the area. Happily one of my column followers, Julie Brown, heads up hospitality for a Ramada group in the North Dakota region. She generously connected me with the amazing Monte Jones, who not only fed us with a wonderful brunch at the Ramada Plaza, Fargo, but also personally toured, entertained and enlightened us on Fargo, which is one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial regions in America today. Gazelles coach Jeff Redmon and his wife Cindy were incredible hosts in Wisconsin, taking us horseback riding and filling us with Polish food. These are just a few of the fantastic people who have helped in my 50 state travel. My heart swells with pride and gratitude every time I think of these experiences and all the people who helped make it all happen. Thank you to everyone involved.
Humility has its benefits, but when you hit a real milestone, don't hold back. This is the time to party. You are entitled to happiness. You are entitled to be proud of your accomplishments. Spend the day with a smile. Share the joy and for one day or one weekend, let it be about you. You can go back to being selfless and quiet on Monday. Accomplishments, particularly those that involve many are happiness markers for those involved. Don't let them pass without notice.
5. Write about it.
Part of the fun of an accomplishment is in the details. There are memories of this trip I can easily recall. Merced asked me questions about many of the states I visited and luckily I still have distinct recollection of nearly every visit. But my most vivid memories and learning came from those that I recorded in notes or emails. I am not one for journaling beyond this column, but some may find value in chronicling the path to an accomplishment. Someday, your child, grandchild or protege may find value in how you came to achieve this feat.
For 15 years I have lived with the thought that someday I would cross the border into the 50th state. Now that it's done, I, on one hand, feel closure and contentment. On the other hand, there is part of me that knows it's time to redirect that energy to someplace new. I won't replace this goal right away. Instead I will take a few months to enjoy and think about this accomplishment. Then I will sit down and look forward to my preferred future so I can go to work on the next achievement. Any accomplished goal deserves a respectful amount of reflection so you can grow and advance.