12 Oct

My wife and I live in a small house, compared to many in my neighborhood and city. Our space is limited and the things we put in this space are quite purposely selected.

I was looking around the house at things displayed: family photos, hand-painted brass plates from a small shop in Turkey, hobby books, some knick-knacks from places we've visited, a large canvas photo of fall colors, and a small assortment of other items scattered on shelves and tables.

In my office I have a framed document with private hand-written messages from people I served with during my last assignment in the Air Force. I also have my university degree and PMP certification hanging alongside each other. Next to that is a certificate of my completion of the Colorado Trail that I had hiked several years ago.

Each of these carefully chosen items on display has significant meaning to us and each has a story worth telling. These stories are about a good memory, proud accomplishment, or a sentimental attachment. Collectively they resemble our history. It's the story of us.

I also noticed what was not displayed. For instance, we have nothing that conjures up bad memories, regrets, failures, or the insignificant. And why would we? How depressing would that be? Some of those negative things are psychologically corrosive; things we would rather forget. They distract. They cause resistance along the path of whatever good we are to become. So, of course, these things are not on display.

However, we are quite aware that some of these negative experiences or failures, in fact, do hold value. Mistakes and failures shape every person. Some of us learn and make corrections to become better. Some of us don't or won't learn and can't move on to greater things.

Due to my many years in technology, I am reminded of Thomas Edison every time I flip the switch to turn on a light, listen to a vinyl record, watch a movie, or admire the strength of a concrete building. He was a grossly successful inventor, accumulating 1093 patent credits over his lifetime. However, he very candidly admitted that he had far more failures than successes. But we never hear about his failures. We don't know much about the 999 failed lightbulbs; we have only the one that worked. Although each iteration of his inventions produced something better, he didn't hold on to them for very long. He wasn't finished. He learned from them and made something better until it was the best it could be.

And such is our lives. We have many setbacks and failed attempts. Although we may acknowledge the contribution of these failures, we don't honor them as we do the finished product. In all noble endeavors, that seems like the right thing to do.

I took approximately 1.3 million steps to complete my hike of the Colorado Trail (587 miles). There were days I wanted to give up. Not every step felt like a victory. But, regardless of any failure or discouragement along the way, I moved on because I knew that most of the challenge was between my ears. Physically, I could take another step. The weather wasn't great every day, but even on the worst day it was endurable. There were murmurings of how tough it was from other hikers, but I couldn't allow their mental challenges to be mine. Then on the day I finished, all the negatives faded away. I was actually a bit sad that it had ended; the trail had become part of me.

The fullness of a completed task is the reward. It consumes all the hardship and doubt experienced along the way. It owns the moment. To say "it is finished" means there is nothing left to do; we have quite literally arrived.

What's on display in your house, in your life? What's your story? Are you delighted and encouraged by what you see? If not, change it. Do what you need to do. Know that your road won't always be paved and that difficult things are worth doing. Set your mind to overcome whatever obstacles may stand in your way. And when you do succeed, celebrate it. Say "it is finished" and be full.

Then find the next thing.

Happy Trails!

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