You might recall the popular movie “The Bucket List,” in which two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. The movie is about blue-collar mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) and billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) an unlikely pair who become friends as they undergo their respective treatments.
Carter begins writing a “bucket list,” of things to do before he “kicks the bucket.” After hearing he has less than a year, Carter wads it up and tosses it on the floor. Edward finds it the next morning and urges Carter to do everything on the list (plus a few others like skydiving) and offers to finance the trip.
I recently received an email from a loyal reader asking if I had a bucket list and if I might write a column on the importance of having such a list because “many seniors just live one day at a time with no long-term plan.”
Well I don’t want to be among that group, and I hope you don’t either, no matter what your age. As I like to say, don’t count the years, make the years count. I’m not ready to hang it up yet and doubt that I ever will be. I still have too much to live for. I was about to go on a round-the-world trip with my wife in late March and April, but the trip has since been cancelled due to the Coronavirus. One of my bucket list items was to visit as many countries as I could.
My good friend Lou Holtz told me that years ago he wrote down 107 things that he wanted to do in his life. He wanted to go to the White House, be on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, see the Pope, win a college football national championship and coach at Notre Dame, make a hole-in-one in golf and a lot of other crazy, but achievable things. Once he accomplished all 107 things, what did he do? He wrote down another 100 items, and he’s checking off the items on that list too.
Some people might get turned off by creating a bucket list, thinking it’s a little morbid or by creating a list that is too difficult to achieve. I disagree. I believe having a bucket list keeps you motivated and goal-oriented. If nothing else, it makes you think about what you want to do in your life.
I remember a road trip with some friends years ago when we took turns describing our perfect day. The range of ideas was remarkable, and often not what we would have predicted from each other. Our slogan from that trip became “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
I’m a big believer in writing myself little notes to remind me of my bucket-list items. For example, when I started out working as an envelope salesman, I dreamed of owning a factory. It became a reality for me at age 26. Another bucket list item for me was selling the number one envelope user in the Twin Cities, General Mills. I even put a note in my hat (back when men wore hats). It took a few years, but I knocked that one off too.
When I decided to write my first book, I put a note on my desk that said “Be a New York Times bestselling author.” That happened with “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” That feeling of accomplishment led me to author seven more books, including my latest from January 2020, “You Haven’t Hit Your Peak Yet!” That title came from a note on my bathroom mirror, reminding me that I still have mountains to conquer.
Having a bucket list drastically improves your life. It gives you a sense of purpose. I know it helps my time management because it makes me focus on my goals. I become more productive and efficient.
A lot of times people are too busy plowing through their daily to-do lists and lose track of what they really want to experience. Creating a bucket list can happen at any time in your life – young or old. It’s never too late to create a list of things you want to achieve. And while no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
Mackay’s Moral: Make the rest of your life the best of your life.
Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.
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