Stop me if you’ve lived this before.
My personal bucket list is insanely full. I feel like Roy Scheider in the movie Jaws when he told Robert Shaw, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Like the shark hunters, I tend to take on a whole lot more than I can actually do.
But then, that’s part of this creativity thing. I want to do everything, and in more than one discipline.
Some of the items on my bucket list (2013 version) are more viable than others, and some are pure fantasy:
- Write and self-publish some fiction.
- Pitch and land some freelance magazine work.
- Be in a position where I can phase out my relatively low-paying Web content writing.
- Land some local (or not) freelance clients.
- Start a podcast based on the principles laid out in creative&dangerous.
- Start coaching, again based on this blog.
- Start a mastermind group, again based on the same idea as the last two items.
- Build a telecourse, another creative&dangerous-based project.
- Get the ebook writing on a reliable paying basis, enough to cover my simple financial needs all by themselves.
- Assemble a new, custom Linux system from scratch, built from my own specifications.
- Record a full-length album built from my own musical ideas.
- Learn and master the tenor saxophone.
- Through-hike the Appalachian Trail.
- Make a four-corners trip around the United States, driving and camping my way across, stopping at any place that sounds interesting.
- Pee in all 50 states. (For the record, I’m about halfway there.)
- Tame my bipolar illness to the point I’m almost functional most of the time.
Wow. That’s a lot of stuff.
No wonder I feel so overwhelmed, and I bring that on myself.
But here’s the thing. God willing and the crick don’t rise, I have time. Based on my age, health and heredity, I’ll have about 20 years to do this. I don’t expect to start losing my marbles until I’m about 75 or so (just shut up).
Batting averages and the Mendoza Line
But this bucket list is extensive to the point where I’ve stopped sharing these ambitions with my parents. In fact, I hope they’re not reading this now. They’ll think I’m even more dysfunctional than I already am.
See, of these 16 items, I’ve accomplished none of them. If this was baseball, I’m batting .000.
However, I’m close enough to accomplishing two of them. Close enough to call it soup yet. Batting average: .125, well below the Mendoza Line.
I’ve actually started two others, for a batting average of .250. That’s enough to land me a seat on the bench even though I’ll get splinters in my butt.
OK, that’s the stuff I’ve started. Of the rest, I’ve done enough to get my feet wet on three and roughed out a game plan on another six.
But these don’t count. These nine are still in the dreaming phase, though it’s a little more fine-tuned. I haven’t committed anything, though. With those nine I’m still taking my brains out and playing with them, or whatever metaphor you choose to insert here.
Improvement breeds improvement
To be honest, it hasn’t been but a year or so that I actually got around to completing stuff. To wit: Completing an ebook, starting a blog that has an actual theme, taking a short hike on the Appalachian Trail, finishing a first draft on some fiction without getting so disgusted with my work that I burn the manuscript in a trash barrel.
If you asked me if I intentionally completed anything before that, I’d have to sit down and think about it real hard.
That’s an improvement anyway. Baby steps, man. Baby steps.
I mentioned the four items I’ve actually started and the fact I’m close enough to completion on two of them to almost call them done.
Maybe in the last couple of years I’ve sprouted a sufficient enough pair (don’t ask) to actually see things through.
But still, most of this bucket list is still dreaming.
The power of just starting
OK, I’m almost done with the self-absorbed crap. I’ve wasted about 675 words on that.
Here’s the thing. Assuming I’m at least reasonably functional, a major key to realizing any of these dreams is in taking action.
That’s it. Just starting.
Plus, realizing that whatever I do isn’t going to be perfect no matter how long I tinker with it, but that’s another post for another day.
- Just. Start.
- Develop some realism of what I can and can’t do, and what dreams are serious enough for me to expend some effort to complete them.
- Don’t try to start everything at once or nothing will get done. Stick some aside in a queue, revisit them once a year, finish one action item at a time and holler next.
- Have maybe two active items from the bucket list, one in the works and one on deck. Two, not four like I’m doing now, and just plain start. I’ve got time.
The last few principles are kind of like the Dave Ramsey method of wiping out your debts. Start with the smallest, easiest one, build your confidence and momentum, and work from there. While I like giant steps as much as the next fella, save those for when you can smell the finish line. You’ll need them then because those last few steps can get pretty hairy. Until then, baby steps are sufficient.
That idea of just starting isn’t exactly new, but it’s important nonetheless. David Allen, he of Getting Things Done, teaches this. For each project in your system, designate something — anything — as a Next Action. It could be as insignificant as making a phone call, but let’s get this thing rolling. Start on your Next Action.
Starting is the biggest part of the battle.
Maybe my time frame still lacks some realism, but by just starting — and completing — an arbitrary two in a year it won’t take long to nail this list.
Don’t want to put too much pressure on, though. None of these are exactly time sensitive, and even if they were, blowing a deadline won’t kill me. I mean, in another 50 years I’m not gonna notice the difference anyway.
With very few exceptions, these listed items are for fun. I can only see one that’s an absolute must-do and it’s started and ongoing. Because it’s ongoing and more a process than a goal, I didn’t include that on my two-per-year list. I may have one or two others that are almost must-dos, but they’re probably not as crucial as I try to make them.
Maybe that’s another key to finishing stuff. It’s supposed to be fun and/or profitable. Preferably both.
Sometimes you have to let something go
Just for grins, let’s add one more principle:
- I mentioned revisiting the list every year or so. If an item has been sitting there way too long, it probably means I don’t have enough fire in my belly to start or finish it. Either start today and ship it, or let it go. Something about getting off the pot.
Maybe pick it up later if I still have any desire for it, but get it out of the queue. Right now. But that’s hard. To my (warped) way of thinking, abandoning something is tantamount to quitting, of admitting defeat. I’m just not wired that way. Real men don’t quit. If you think finishing something is hard, try letting it go. You’ll see what I mean.
On my list, one sat there for 40 years. Fortunately, it’s one of the two that’s nearing completion. Five others were on the list for a decade, but a couple are still doable and/or worth doing. Three more sat on the list five years ago. OK, so maybe I’m not real good at eating my own dog food, but you get the idea.
Save the unformed dreams for later. Barring the unforeseen, there’s still time.
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What say you? How are you on starting stuff? How about finishing once you start? Can you take unrealistic dreams out of your bucket without feeling like a quitter? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.