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.
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 canceled 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, 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 taking a road trip with some friends years ago in which 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 to the No. 1 envelope user in the Twin Cities, General Mills. I even put a note in my hat. 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 best-selling author.” That happened with “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” That feeling of accomplishment led me to write seven more books, including my latest from January of this year, “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.