Do you see that milestone?

Milestones are archaic in reality… the true meaning of a milestone is from the early days of vehicular travel, when city and county planners would set large stones as mile markers… before signs, before GPS units, before even maps, for travelers to know where they were, and how long it would take them to get where they were going.

Back when I started this blog, I thought 10,000 visits would take forever. Now, eight months later, I have passed that “milestone.”

So thanks for visiting. Thanks for coming back. And thanks for getting to know what goes on inside my sometimes clouded head. 🙂

What did YOU do this weekend?
… he asked the readers, knowingly and with that teasing tone…

Well I was in sunny and beautiful Madison, WI all weekend. So there.

OK that isn’t exotic. Or warm. Or particularly beautiful.

But it was fun.

As a matter of fact, this particular trip to Madison is a yearly trek for me; one I have been making since March of 1990. That’s right… 15 years.

15 years ago, I was just starting college, freshly graduated from high school. Because I was kind of lazy (imagine that), I had not done what needed to be done to get myself accepted at a 4-year university. So I found my only option to be a Techincal college. I chose Marketing as my major, and soon after I started, I joined the “Marketing Club” on campus, which was affiliated with DECA, which stands for Distributive Educational Clubs of America. DECA has a very strong presence in high schools, but also has a division devoted to college students, called Delta Epsilon Chi, which this group was affiliated with.

I joined the Kenosha chapter and quickly got “the bug”… I competed at the state and national level, winning first place in such categories as “Sales Promotion Plan,” “Management Decision Making” and “Sales Representative.” I also ran for various student offices, starting at the chapter level and then at the state level, including, in my last year, State President.

This group, to make a long story short, changed my life. Before I joined, I was a floundering student, not sure of what direction I was going to take in life. After joining, I found a purpose for myself– a future career path to take, and friends who I could share the experiences with.

After graduation in 1994, I joined the Alumni association and remained active until about two years ago. Changes in my life, where I lived, and what was important to me, and what I could dedicate myself to, seemed to neccesitate my backing away from the group. I just needed some time away.

This year, I decided to go back to the State Conference, which is held every March in Madison. It is at this conference that students from all over the state of Wisconsin come together and compete in their chosen areas. They present case studies and prepared presentations in front of judges taken from matching areas of the business world.

This weekend, I was one of those judges.

On Friday, I was asked to judge the Website Development event. This was a relatively new event (only two years old), so I was excited to judge it. Students were to create websites on imaginary or real companies before coming to the conference and present them to the judges (me), with their rationale for why they did what they did, why they chose the color schemes, design layouts, fonts, etc. There were five presentations – two of them were teams.

I was blown away by how much time and effort these students had put into developing imaginary websites for this presentation, and how much knowledge they had about what they were doing. I was also impressed by how enthusiastically they presented themselves. I wish they had this event when I was a student! There were definite standouts, and a couple people that could use a lot of improvement… and as judge it was my responsibility to counsel them on what they could have done better. The great thing about these events is, these kids are NERVOUS as hell… but you are there to help them, not hurt them. I felt like a teacher… guiding their hand and helping them improve themselves to become better at what they want to be doing.

On Saturday, I was asked to judge the finals for Retail Merchandising. I was part of a team of 4 judges, and there were 23 students to judge. TWENTY-THREE STUDENTS. This event was a case study event, so each person that we saw had the exact same case and had to present their solution. Let me tell you… after the first 10, we had already heard that case ten too many times. But we had to be fair… after all, there were still 13 more to go!

But the best part of all was reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in a while– some of whom I haven’t seen in 5-6 years. It was like a reunion. We laughed a lot, went to dinner, shared stories, many showed off their new kids, and reminisced about old times. It was very, very special.

I’m so glad I went. I went up there not really knowing what to expect. The last time I went up there, I came home early because there were so few people that I knew there. Now I feel confident that I will be back for many years to come. It’s truly something that I feel that I have to give back to as much as I can.

Like I said before, the experiences I had changed my life for the better. If I can be a part of a young student’s experience that matches mine, and change THEIR life for the better, then I definitely want to be a part of it.

So it was a weekend of milestones. 10,000 hits. 15 years. A rebirth of enthusiasm for something I hold very dear to my heart. And a reconnection with lifelong friends. Yeah, I see those milestones, and I can’t wait for the next ones.