Don’t Forget Your Goals When Things Go Wrong

Livestock crossing was not on the itinerary

Suddenly, I saw the keys sitting on the counter in my mind as the door slammed.

This Memorial Day weekend trip was off to a roaring start. I stood outside of our travel trailer, befuddled. The objective had been to pick up our trailer from storage, take it home, and start packing for our weekend.

Sometimes the best of times starts with a misstep. I was hoping this was a sign of good things to come.

Your reaction to a situation plays a prominent role in how things will turn out. Lose your focus on the goal — have fun — and achieve the opposite.

Good news! No keys are required to tow a trailer.

It took some time to realize the situation with the locked door wasn’t bad. In fact, I started driving home to get another key when I realized that I didn’t need the key to tow the trailer home.

I seem to come to simple solutions to problems on walks or on quiet drives. The freedom to think in these situations is the source of most of the best ideas I’ve had to solve issues at work or write something creative.

I went inside the trailer to turn the power on and ensure things were stowed correctly for the ride home. Both tasks were complete.

When I returned to the trailer, the tongue jack worked, and I hitched up our house on wheels. I pulled the trailer home with a smile on my face instead of tension and frustration from locking myself out.

All shined up.

Since the fall, our trailer had been sitting in storage and needed a bath. My son has been into detailing cars for a while, and I asked him for advice when the dirt was pesky.

He and I worked together to get that trailer nice and shiny. It didn’t take long. My son impresses me with his car detailing knowledge. And I cherish moments when we can do things together.

He graduated from high school a week before, and I don’t know how many more opportunities we’ll have to work together on projects like this.

I moved thousands of miles from home when I graduated from high school. I’ve never lived closer than 500 miles from my parents. We visit and enjoy our time together. But it’s limited because we don’t live close.

I secretly hope that my son doesn’t move far away.

I know I forgot something.

It’s inevitable that at least something isn’t going to get packed, especially on the first trip of the year. I had the feeling all day that I had forgotten something or other.

Trip after trip from the basement to the trailer. Load after load of gear, I still felt like something was missing.

After years of travels in our trailer, I’ve learned that something will always be left behind. There have been times that I let myself get frustrated when that happened.

One time we left our pillows at home. We happened to be camping with a friend that literally brings the kitchen sink with her. Sure enough, she has spare pillows. We learned to leave pillows in the trailer and camp more with our friends.

On this trip, we forgot several items. These included food items, a few pieces of clothing, a skillet, and perhaps something else we hadn’t realized yet.

Despite forgetting items, we are out for a long weekend with friends. We’ll survive just fine without those items. And we’ll have memories of the weekend with our friends forever.

You can’t discount that you are achieving your goal, even when you make mistakes.

Maybe listen to Google Maps.

We’ve been camping in this same place at least a half dozen times. I should know how to get here. I was very confident. So confident, I muted Google Maps.

My wife soon observes that the estimated time of arrival on the map display is increasing.

Wow, I missed a turn I’ve made many times, and we are on our way to Nebraska. I reenabled the sound, and Google instructed me to take the next exit — ten miles away.

The next step in our journey brought my favorite John Muir quote to mind:

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

Google sent me down five miles of dirt road to backtrack toward our destination. I watched as my shiny trailer turned into a dust mop in the mirror.

Times like these are make-or-break situations in life. I could have let my blood boil with frustration, blown up, or acted out in some other negative way.

Instead, my wife and I joked and laughed.

The cows crossing the road were icing on the cake. We were on a backroad adventure with livestock — more than we bargained for, but not something that would ruin our trip.

After a 30-mile adventure, we pulled up to our campsite right as our kitchen sink friends arrived. What amazing timing.


Life is full of missteps. When you let those mistakes replace the focus of your goals, you fail.

It’s taken most of my 49 years to understand that correlation. I was quick to get frustrated in my past. I don’t claim to be perfect here. However, I have learned that I am more likely to achieve my goal when I can brush myself off and get back on track.

We’ll be enjoying this Memorial Day weekend trip with our friends. A few missing items, extra miles driven, and a dirty trailer aren’t going to rain on our parade.