Many spend their entire lives chasing wealth. When they get it, they find themselves still unhappy because they’re overworked, hate what they do, or lack purpose what they do. It happens all the time in of the millionaire interviews I listen to.
More horrifying than that are people who die with painful regrets, something preventable if they had only studied the mistakes of ancestors and changed their behavior. Enter the bucket list, the supposed solution. But is it?
I’ll show you how to create your bucket list the right way.
What Is A Bucket List?
The movie, Bucket List, starring Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman, popularized this termo. The movie paints the story of two terminally ill men fulfilling all the items they want to do before they die.
A bucket list is a list of all the activities you want to do before you die. When referenced, it often references a plan to achieve these activities before death as well.
I once met a happy-go-lucky girl trying to check items off her bucket list. She wanted to skydive, so she did with her sister. She wanted to visit a local beach, so she did.
Why Start A Bucket List?
There are a few common reasons for starting a bucket list:
Enjoyment and pleasure. The earth has so many amazing experiences, from the natural ecosystems to the games humans invent. The list helps us discover and experience these wonders.
Fulfillment. Some have achieved their goals or don’t have a purpose. The list can provide meaning, engagement, accomplishment, and happiness to your life.
Become more interesting. How many times have we seen dating profiles that have near-identical bios? They usually look like this, “I like Harry Potter. I like to travel but haven’t been anywhere. I like beer and sports.” I have. Having more fun, unique experiences help you stand out, which makes you more attractive, but also improves your own fascination and engagement in life.
Define Your Own Success
Success can mean having enough money to constantly weather any of life’s surprise blows: medical bills, cancer, lawsuits.
Success can also mean being able to buy whatever you want to do what you want. This doesn’t necessarily mean a mansion or Bugatti, it could be a modest home in Florida or restaurant dinners whenever you want. It can mean buying some decent clothes so you look presentable to people without worrying about the bill.
Success can mean fulfilling some of your life goals. This could be something like visiting some of the most exotic, beautiful places in the world in person. This could be something more modest like being able to live comfortably in a big city without being stressed about the bill.
Success can mean having the freedom to never work another day in your life if you didn’t want to because you’ve made so much money. Success can mean sitting there and enjoying the fact that you’re not stressed out to death from overwork.
A lot of Warren Buffett’s managers fit this bill well. Many are so wealthy that they don’t have to work. They come in each day because they love it. Their version of success is much in alignment with Warren’s: doing what he wants to do whenever he wants to do it with the people he wants to do it with and no one else. Quite frankly, not everyone gets there. Many simply wish to get there but they aren’t willing to work harder to get it.
Some shouldn’t get there because their version of success might be very twisted or endanger others. But if you have honest goals that don’t hurt anyone else, let’s see how you can move towards them. Becoming wealthy is one way of getting there. It’s a great way since people can’t tell you what you need to do anymore. What people don’t understand about money is that it’s a slow, steady game. Overnight successes are overhyped and rare.
Also, the average person just doesn’t understand basic personal finance. They don’t save. They spend every dollar they have. If they ever do invest their money into something that makes them more, it’s a poor investment.
You’re not like that. Save smart. Live a bit lower than your means. But by no means sacrifice your dreams or regrets to do so. For example, let’s say you save $5000 a month away. You’ve read some great books on personal finance and investing. You put it away in a nice, safe index fund. But… You have a dream of traveling the world, partying, or dating incredible, beautiful women while you’re still young.
That requires money. And there’s a ticking biological clock to meet that deadline. You either have to spend more or invest it in a way of making a lot more money (through a business or developing your skills somehow). This is because your goals require money and to not regret what you didn’t do, you must find some way to do it.
Think smart. Be creative. Be efficient. Maybe there’s a way of doing things cheaper. Maybe the sacrifice of quality of life isn’t worth it and it’s better for you to find a way of making more.
Don’t let modern society’s materialistic world mess with your head. Don’t let others who have bought into this flashy consumer life to chase things that you know won’t help you much anyways. Define success for yourself. Learn from the mistakes of others. Maybe for you, you’d love to work a 30 hour work week while doing what you love. Success to you is having plenty of time to relax, play video games, take a walk in the park, or do what you want without getting anxious you’re wasting time.
Let the people who work 80 hour weeks show that off. Many of them do it to show off and are inefficient with their time. The ones who don’t enjoy what they work on will hate most moments of it anyways.
By no means do I mean that you shouldn’t be willing to work hard and be patient to obtain that 30 hour work week.
You should be willing to work hard for 60 hours a week to obtain that 30 hour work week one day. And you should move towards finding something you love so that if you ever get the luxury of a 30 hour work week, you still choose to work because you love it.
Leonie Dawson had a family to raise and was forced to work 20 hours a week. She made it as efficient as possible and became a millionaire from that time through her business. Brandon Gaille’s a millionaire who was forced to have less hours to work because of medical issues. He has to sleep 13 hours a day. Jon Morrow, another blogger, has to pay $120,000 a year in medical fees just to stay alive. He’s forced to hustle to make money just to breathe.
There are a few big bloggers online who have a dedicated page that shows all their life goals (however big or small) and if and when they were accomplished. This includes:
- Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness’s Epic Quest List
- Thomas Frank of College Info Geek
- Stefan James of Project Life Mastery Annual Bucket List
- Location Rebel
- Annette White of Bucket List Journey
When they’re accomplished, they update the page and
cross it out to let people know that they finished an item and/or link to proof.
How to Master the Art of Bucket Listing
I’ve been recently inspired most by two groups of individuals who are masters of bucket listing, Yes Theory and The Buried Life. They’re both groups of young men who have accomplished some unbelievable items on their list. They’re a fantastic resource to learn from since they started with nothing, just like us, and have achieved so much.
I broke down what they did and how they did it:
The Buried Life
This group of youngsters has managed to:
- play basketball with Obama
- throw the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game
- delivery a baby
- make the biggest roulette spin in Vegas’ history
- make a TV show
- crash the Playboy Mansion
- streak a stadium
- be on Oprah
- reunite a father and son after 17 years
- make a $300,000 donation to charity
- help a girl find her mother’s grave for the first time
- write a best-selling book
- much more
Based on their article on Tim Ferriss, their success revolves around these principles:
- pain or crisis to spark action: when they started they were depressed, disillusioned, and frustrated
- build momentum with action: the more you cross off, the more you’ll believe you can do anything
- write it down and add a deadline or it’ll stay a dream: By writing it out, you concretely identify your goals and plan to achieve them. This is will increase your chances you’ll take action because you’re more aware and intentional. You’ll find a way to get it done.
- have patience: they started filming themselves for their TV with no connections in Canada with just a goal for it to be on the #1 TV channel at the time, MTV. They took action and hoped the dots would connect one day. Four years later, it did and they got on MTV.
- tell everybody about your goal enthusiastically to leverage the power of networking. And they literally mean everybody. Your cab driver. Your doorman. Your waiter. You never know who has a friend who has an uncle who has a boss who can connect you. They said help usually comes from the most unexpected sources. And make sure you do it enthusiastically because enthusiasm is infectious.
And everybody know somebody that
Know somebody that know somethin’ bout it. -Let’s Go by Trick Daddy
- be persistent: No usually means “Not now.” Don’t nag them. Find clever ways to get their attention that deliver value. They got into the Playboy Mansion by delivering a stripper cake and dressing up as Oompa-Loompa’s. Most people give up too soon.
“The level of competition is highest for realistic goals because most people don’t set high enough goals for themselves.” -The Buried Life
- be ballsy. Have bigger goals.
- help others. They said they’ve gotten the most happiness from helping others.
Weaknesses of Bucket Lists
While it’s inspiring to see how many crazy items people have crossed off their bucket list, the problem with the stereotypical bucket list is that it’s too comprehensive and generalized. The concept and the articles online with 1000 bucket list ideas invites spreading yourself too thin and adding items because others think it’s cool even if you don’t.
I’ve held back from making my own bucket list article because it lacks focus, a key to success. Also, it tempts you to chase a bunch of goals that make you look cool to others, but that you may not care about yourself deep in your heart. I mean, it’d be cool to tell people I threw the first pitch at an MLB game, but frankly, I don’t care about it and it’s not worth the hassle. Usually, this giant list of 100+ items is not sorted by importance, which makes it distracting and overwhelming. It can leave you running around disoriented trying to cross off tasks.
That being said, I still like the concept and it’s help me crystallize some of what I want to do before death. Only choose items that you care about, not what you think others will admire (unless you’re main goal in life is to impress people).
From experience, your family, friends, or strangers will tell you that you should add one item to the list while removing another because of their beliefs about what’s cool, admirable, or of benefit to them. Don’t let them affect you because it’s your list and hinges on your own fulfillment and happiness.
For example, many of these bucket lists online are filled mainly with athletic and travel endeavors. I don’t care about visiting Switzerland, finishing a Tough Mudder, lifting 500 pounds, run with the Bull’s or being able to do ten muscle-up’s. I don’t care about putting myself in danger. I care about tropical travel and maintaining physical health, which doesn’t require all these feats.
Another secret to identifying what you care about is to ask yourself why. If your goal is to lose weight, why is your goal to snatch 200 pounds overhead? There are more efficient ways of losing weight. Do you really want 1,000,000 social media followers? What you really want is the wealth and respect that these people have and there may be better ways of achieving that, like networking and honing marketable skills. Often, I’ve seen people fail to connect the dots because they’ve identify bad goal posts on their way to their main goal.
I’ve been compiling my own list on the site bucketlist.org, which has a database of tens of thousands of goals you can add. I’ve had to use the same process mentioned to restrain myself from adding flashy items that look cool, but I don’t truly care to accomplish.
The sinister danger of those “nice to have but not need to have” goals is that they take away from the chances you’ll achieve your big goals. You have a limited time on earth and without prioritization, those low to medium priority bucket list items will steal your attention and time. For instance, it’s be cool to learn some parkour or ride a horse but I don’t care. I’ve got to restrain myself from adding those items so I don’t end up with a list of 500 random activities.
You can see my bucket list here, which is still a work-in-progress. I want to have less meaningless activities, like sail a boat in Australia, and more impactful ones, like “befriend and gain the respect of Will Smith and Warren Buffett.”
It’s Okay If Your Goals Change (Because They Will)
If you have an item on your bucket list, but years later, you mature and realize that you wouldn’t enjoy pursuing or accomplishing it anymore, feel free to remove it from your list with no shame.
Some people think it’s a cop out if you do so because you have “chickened out” but I think it’s a waste of time to pursue a goal that you no longer have interest in. We have a limited amount of time on Earth and it’s better to spend it pursuing other goals you actually care about.
The Reverse Bucket List
If you want to feel happier, more accomplished, and improve your self esteem, a reverse bucket list is for you. This is a list of everything you’ve already achieved. Bucketlist.org is a great starting point for this. I scrolled through the list of goals on there and quickly started ticking many items off that I’ve already done.
I found that just by living a normal life, you can cross of items others aspire to do. For instance, there’s kiss a girl, experience a white Christmas, see snow, dance in the rain, go camping, visit a beach, and so on. Because some people live in economically different climates, they can’t as easily experience what you take for granted.
A few people have inspired me recently to pursue the art of bucket listing, something I didn’t care about not long ago. Moreover, they’ve inspired me to believe that the unachievable and improbable are possible for me. With the tips mentioned, you can become a master of bucket listing too. As proven by some of the people illustrated, you don’t need anything special that you don’t already have to achieve your dreams.
Part of being a great bucket-lister is defining what matters to you, not anyone else. It’s tricky telling the two apart, but you’ll get better at it with practice and listening to your gut. I struggle myself with this because of the temptations of thousands of possible life goals, such as “rope swing into the water.”
Do I really care about this or is it a “nice to have?” Defining your ultimate goals can steer you away from distractions. One of mine would be “travel at least three months of every year.”
Recommended Further Resources:
- The book, The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau
- Ideal Lifestyle Costing by Tim Ferriss
- The Buried Life bucket list
- Will Smith accepting Yes Theory’s challenge
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