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100,000 mind mappers... and just getting started

As I sat in a Washington DC conference room for the 3rd day in a row today, somewhere outside in a little corner of the internet, a significant milestone was achieved as the Biggerplate mind mapping community officially welcomed our 100,000th member!

Resisting the urge to jump up and announce the news to 400 delegates (who would have no idea what Biggerplate is, does, or means), I restrained my excitement, and decided to wait for a more appropriate and opportune moment to express myself.

Now sat in a hotel bar, with a non-alcoholic beverage (lie number 1), and an extremely healthy evening meal (lie number 2) in front of me, I have time to pause, reflect, and yes, celebrate just a little.

Around me, there's an accounting conference in town and by the looks of things, it's the first time they've been let out in a while. They just want to celebrate being accountants... who wouldn't? These guys and girls will celebrate by swapping accounting jokes over a few (tax deductable) cocktails. Good on them. I reckon they've earned it. It's accrual world after all. (That's an actual accounting joke... you're welcome).

On one of the four televisions in front of me, there's live coverage of a rodeo on Fox (I'm not even joking). The rodeo guys seem to celebrate staying on, then falling off the bull (I'm not quite sure of the objective) in a different, but consistent way... gingerly hobbling back to a safe place, momentarily looking to the skies and thanking some higher being for sparing them the discomfort of being gored in some uncomfortable manner. Fair enough.

On the other side of the world, in a timezone far away, it is now officially my father's birthday. I won't say what age he is (that would be rude), but I'll just tell you it rhymes with schmixty. He will celebrate by getting up very early, walking an ageing horse up the road to a field, then getting in his car and driving to some far corner of the UK to further the Biggerplate cause. The same as he has done for many days, and many years. Nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it is highly likely that he will go through his entire day without even mentioning his birthday... But as a family we will of course ensure he doesn't get away with that! (Please feel free to leave your birthday wishes here for Graham, and we'll fax them over to him... he's old school that way...)

We all celebrate achievements and milestones in many different ways, and they have varying meaning and significance for different people. For myself, as a Brit, no celebration is complete without a beer. Check. But what to make of the 100,000 milestone, and how to celebrate?

As an individual, I'm a big believer in private victory. Nicely articulated by Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits book, but demonstrated by my father through his actions for many years previously, this is about striving for, and achieving positive things without the need for any external recognition, validation, or praise. This concept struck a chord with me many years ago, and in general (but admittedly not always) I seek and value the quiet voice inside above all others, and it is this voice that carries most weight when it says "you did good".

On the other hand, as the founder of our little adventure at Biggerplate, I have a slightly different outlook. This outlook involves shouting about and celebrating significant achievements whenever and wherever they may occur! This is mainly because achievements at Biggerplate cannot be treated as private victories.

Our milestones, achievements, successes, failures, ups, downs, lefts, rights, dark alleys, dead-ends, false starts, and bright horizons, are in fact collectively owned by the many people around the world who make up our member community. As of today, 100,000 people to be precise. Biggerplate represents many more people than the small number (6 people) who work in our business. As such, we view our achievements as being owned and earned by those who have come with us along part (or all) of the way. You don't reach 100,000 members without first getting 10, then 100, then (eventually) the first 1,000. Where would we be without those early participants, supporters, and contributors who kicked things off? And where would we be without new members bringing energy, enthusiasm, and fresh perspectives into our community each week? Numbers aside, the answer to both questions is simple: Not where we are today. This is not just in terms of a headline membership number, but in terms of learning, insights, enjoyment, connections, and an overall sense of being part of something (slightly quirky) that's bigger than ourselves.

Today, we're very proud to represent a large and wonderfully diverse group of people and organisations from all around the world, and we have been extremely fortunate to engage with so many amazing people over the last few years and benefit from your individual and collective brilliance. A success for Biggerplate is therefore a success for all those who have engaged with us, and all those who continue to do so, whether you're new to our corner of the internet, or one of our many valued veterans!

In an age of website communities made up of millions or even billions, our 100,000 members may seem somewhat insignificant. The small voice inside does not care. It knows that bigger milestones are on the horizon, and will arrive faster than ever before. It knows that the richness of Biggerplate lies not in that headline number but in the individuals that helped to achieve it.

Those who have been an active part of that first 100,000 will hopefully reecognise and appreciate that our focus has always been on the individuals behind the numbers. We take great pride in ignoring vanity metrics, and getting to know our community members individually instead. Mind mapping may be the catalyst for this, but it is by no means the limit of our interest in the people we encounter. We continue to engage, learn, and develop personally and professionally as a result of the amazing people we meet around the world. We are better for it individually, and Biggerplate is better for it as a community and as a resource.

It is therefore difficult to convey to all those who have helped us get here just how grateful we are for your support, encouragement, and energy. Ironically, the most important provider of those three things for the duration of the Biggerplate journey has in fact been my dad. It is fitting that we achieved the 100,000 member milestone only a few hours before he reached his own milestone (rhymes with skaplixsty years old). He is in fact the true foundation upon which the Biggerplate values are built, and remains the entrusted protector of the compass at all times. Our collective milestone is then a timely tribute to someone who has no interest in public recognition, validation, or praise, but who represents at his core the values of engagement, good humour, and genuine human interaction that Biggerplate has come to be.

So... How best to celebrate this moment? It is indeed a milestone, but in reality it can only be viewed as a beginning. In the larger scheme of things, we know there is so much further to go, and so many exciting ups and downs to come. In the end then, I probably end up a bit like the rodeo guys... Thankful to still be here, and thankful that we have not yet received a sharp spike in a sensitive place. Taking a deep breath, enjoying the moment as it is, and getting ready to go again for the next ride.

Privileged to have you all with us on the journey, both inside and outside the Biggerplate company.

Liam

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Liam is the founder of Biggerplate.com, and tries (with varying success) to write about key projects and progress at Biggerplate, as well as the wider world of mind mapping and our place within it.
London, UK Website