No Regrets: Renaissance Living and a Bucket List

[photo credit to Mandi Mara]

When I was 15, all the adults I knew seemed to complain, ‘Oh, if only I’d done this or that when I was younger.’ That they had let life slip by them. I was sure that if I planned for it, I could have a life of excitement and fun and knowledge.”

On an ordinary day in 1940, John Goddard, age 15, scribbled 127 bona fide and passionate goals onto a ratty pad of yellow paper. Visit eight world-class rivers. See every country in the world. Climb 16 of the tallest mountains. Ride a blimp, glider and balloon. Teach a college course. The list goes on. By 1972, Life magazine, in an article titled “One Man’s Life of No Regrets,” revealed that Goddard had achieved 103 of his original dreams. Still alive, he’s currently deemed the “world’s greatest goal achiever.” To an idealistic (optimistically naive?)  20-something like myself, Goddard is a legend. I only hope that my life is as adventurous and fulfilling as his. Reading his goals, thinking about my own future, I’m inspired to dare great, to live a life of adventure and purpose. To become a modern-day Renaissance man. While I can’t say what I’ll be doing 5, 10 or 40 years from now, I do know that these (constantly evolving list of) goals will help steer me in the right direction:

Alan’s Life List

1. Visit 100 countries and all seven continents.
2. Complete the three legs of an Iron Man triathlon, separately:
a) Swim 2.4 miles.
b) Bike 112 miles. [2 October 2010 / Boston, MA / 10 hr, 20 min]
c) Run a marathon.
3. Learn to name all 192 (or 197?) countries without using a map. [25 April 2011 / Boston, MA — video clip]
4. Go to a Jai alai match.
5. Take a Parkour class.
6. Spend at least two consecutive weeks living out of a tent.
7. Complete a full P90x series.
8. Learn to do a “tree flip.
9. Take three cooking classes. [taken 1/3]
10. Climb an 8000m peak.
11. Drink Yerba Maté. [20 April 2011 / Boston, MA]
12. Organize at least 100 fellow bloggers to do something engaging and informative.
13. Attend a Toastmasters International session. [June 2012]
14. Learn Adobe Photoshop.
15. Speak conversational Spanish.
16. Jump off an 80-foot cliff.
17. Build a “beverage can” stove.
18. Climb Mt. McKinley.
19. Go sandboarding. [16 August 2010 / Swakopmund, Namibia]
20. Photograph the Northern Lights.
21. Complete a 5000-piece puzzle.
22. Take a vow of silence for at least one week.
23. Write a $10,000 anonymous check to charity.
24. Build a low-impact and sustainable business that generates an average monthly revenue of at least $1000.
25. Start a scholarship.
26. Become a certified skydiver.
27. Become a certified scuba diver.
28. Write a book.
29. Cook at least 50 recipes from foodgawker. [cooked 5/50]
30. Eat at the world’s largest restaurant.
31. Take a survival class.
32. Hear a TED presentation in person.
33. Climb Mt. Kiliminjaro.
34. Go to North Korea. [8 May 2011 / DMZ tour in Seoul, South Korea]
35. Read the Bible. The Torah. The Qur’an.
36. Go vegetarian for an entire month.
37. Bake my own bread. [24 April 2011 / Boston, MA]
38. Give blood.

Further Reading

How to Write a Life List, by Chris Guillebeau
10 Tips for Creating a Useful Bucket List, by Sean Ogle.
How to Create and Manage Your “Bucket List” Before You Kick, from Stepcase Lifehack

A few other bucket lists: Monkey Brewster, Nate Damm, Sean Ogle, Heath Tulley, Kirsty Henderson

What are your life goals?


37 thoughts on “No Regrets: Renaissance Living and a Bucket List”

  1. Thanks for the mention and I love your list.I don’t think I could accomplish the vow of silence, not in my current lifestyle, without getting fired that is. Yet, I think that one would be the most rewarding, and I would keep pushing the length. I had trouble doing it for just one day for an annual event for victims of crimes who’ve had their voice stolen from them.

  2. I was using 43Things for a while. I just deleted my account about a month ago, though. I had set up e-mail reminders to remind me to “improve my handwriting” and “wake up when the alarm clock goes off” but I was failing & didn’t need the reminder of failure once a week!

    Could’ve turned off the reminder, but I was purging my e-mail at the time (another 43 things goal, actually).

    Either way, I second Colin. 43Things has got it’s uses!

  3. I am up for Mt Kilimanjaro too. I like wildlife and have been blessed to see all four different types of new world monkey, a tapir, an echidna, elephants, lions, leopards there are still plenty of animals and birds I’d like to spot like orangutan, tiger and the komodo dragon. 23 is good but adding a few more zeros would be even better:)
    .-= Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot´s last blog ..3 Ways to Inject New Life Into Your Life or Blog =-.

  4. AWESOME list! That should keep you busy for a while 🙂

    I just finished reading Planet Walker by John Francis and it inspired me to take a vow of silence (which I will add to my list) so it was great to see that on here.

    I’m really looking forward to reading about your progress as you conquer each of these.
    .-= Nate´s last blog ..look up =-.

  5. Great list! I have one over on my blog and it’s something that keeps me inspired although it always seems to change too. I like reading other people’s lists because I always get some fantastic ideas for my own. Great stuff!
    .-= Kirsty´s last blog ..March Earnings Report =-.

  6. The vow of silence is the hard one for me, too. A couple of my friends take regular silent meditation retreats, and I’m always fascinated by this. One day I’ll do it, too.

    For some reason your bucket list resonated with me more than most, probably because of the story about John Goddard and how he used his to enrich his life, not check off a list. It just sounds more appealing that way. Good luck!
    .-= Betsy Talbot´s last blog ..How we sold our house quickly in a down market =-.

  7. Thanks for the inspiration! I’ve now made a bucket list for DC and a lifelong bucket list thanks to your post. Gotta run, I have lots to do!!

  8. I have never been a big advocate of making lists, but I have now seen the light. I feel it could be kinda fun putting together a list of 100 things I want to do and working my way through them.

    I really want to nail this stunning looking Jamaican girl that works in the local cafe. I have my first goal. It looks like this list thing could be fun.
    .-= William K Wallace´s last blog .. =-.

  9. Hey Alan! Hit up Phil for the P90x DVDs and get that one out of the way. My brother gave him a set of them last time we were in Utah.

  10. Alan — John Goddard has been a big influence in my life. I first read about him in the early 1990’s and his story prompted me to make my own life list.

    I was fairly young at the time I made the list, so there was no big hurry to start accomplishing my goals. As time went on, it became more and more easy to put off my goals until a later date.

    In 2003 I found out I had cancer. The cancer was advanced and the prognosis was not good. Going through the treatments was one of the darkest times of my life. Focusing on my “Goddard List” helped to give me focus and strength during that difficult time. I was declared cancer free in 2005.

    Unfortunately, I fell back into my procrastinating ways. I started to let everyday life get in the way of accomplishing my goals. Months and months would go by without me even looking at my “Goddard List.”

    Then in November 2009 I got the news that I have cancer again. This time, the cancer was caught early and my prognosis is good. The treatment is also fairly hassle free.

    I don’t need any more wake up calls. My Goddard list is being referred to constantly and I’m working on accomplishing each item on the list. The rest of my life is being dedicted to accomplishing my goals.

    Don’t wait, Alan. I regret not getting started sooner. Every day I let slip by is one less day I have to live my life on my terms, accomplishing the goals that are important to me. Don’t fall into the same trap. You don’t want to wake up one day and realize that you could have done so much more with your life (Sorry if I sound preachy. I don’t mean to.).

  11. Thanks for chiming in everyone! I enjoy reading the comments, your emails, Twitter messages, etc. Let me know what you’re up to!

    @Lou: You’re a modern-day John Goddard. Thanks for taking the time to share your story, and your advice. Happy to hear you’re back on track with your list and that you’re in good health! Cheers to perseverance.

    Curiously, what are you working on? Any goals you’d recommend?

  12. Alan — Thanks for the response. For this year, I’m working on three specific goals. First, I’ll be kayaking through the Everglades later this year. I’ve put this off for years for no good reason. I even lived in Florida for 10 years, but didn’t get it done then. This year I’ll get it done.

    I’ve also begun a 4-5 year quest to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In case you’re not familar with the race, it is a 24 hour endurance race for sports cars held every year in Daytona, FL. It’s a high profile, professional race, so I have some work to do to get ready for it.

    Finally, I am a big believer in adoption, so my wife and I are taking steps this year to adopt a child (or two). We already have two of our own and would like to welcome another child (or two) into our lives.

    I don’t have any good recommendations for you other than do what you love. Do what is important to you. We live in a great big wonderful world full of fantastic opportunities. Pick out the ones you want to take advantage of and get started.

  13. Big list fan myself – I think I’m going to do a bucket list for my my blog for my first adventure and NOT COME HOME until it is complete! I hope I can keep myself to it. Get Married? Wouldn’t be on my list! Anyways, more planning to do… I’ll keep checking back.

  14. making bucket lists are fun! i have some similar things on my list as well 🙂 and have done a couple on your list (11, 14, 36). i’m living in a monastery for 3 more months so i might as well try that week vow of silence. i already did one full day. hmm..
    .-= floreta´s last blog ..Sitting Meditation =-.

  15. Damn, all the cool kids have these lists…I’m beginning to think I should get around to putting thoughts down to paper. Mostly because I voraciously read through everyone else’s.

    It’s interesting what a person’s loftiest “goals” say about the person. For example, I am smiling broadly at the goals you have that are completely devoted to helping others. Shows a person who, when asked to imagine the best parts of life, looks to the people in the world rather than exclusively their place in it.

  16. Hi Alan! If you want to drink yerba mate add to your list Argentina! here we can invite you some “mates”. Saludos desde buenos aires!! Caro “)

  17. The worst words in the world are “what if I had”. Nothing worse than living with regret. In some ways it took me a long time to realize this, in other ways I have been living this all my life.
    My life goals are actually simple. Financial freedom. Travel. Contribute. Now to break those down into specific actionable goals.
    Thanks for the link to the article on Goddard. What an interesting life!

  18. – For number 5 – here’s an idea! ‎
    – William Sonoma has free cooking classes, and others that are not free but I’ve heard well worth the money!

    I enjoyed reading your list more than most! Very interesting ideas! Thank you for number 29,, YUM! Thank you for the background on John Goddard, what an inspiration. I enjoy the TED talks as well! I have DO a TED talk on my list!

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