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[How-to] The 4 Commandments of Reading for Self-Education

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Photo credit: swamibu (from flickr.com)

Note: I'm not a big fan of trashy link bait names.  That being said, calling these the 4 commandments of reading for self-education is, while opinionated, not a stretch for me.  Forgive the self-aggrandizing title and if you think there needs to be an addition, let me know in the comments!

During the four years I was in college, I read definitely one, maybe two books– total (excluding schoolwork).  Now, I read definitely one, maybe two books every week.  I’ve only been doing this for a year and a half, so it’s not like I’ve read every book on the planet– but for just about every book I used to think wow, I should read that, I actually have.  And it’s pretty cool to be able to say that.

I’m not trying to chug through a list of supposed classics or something.  My aim here (trite as it sounds now) is wisdom– knowing how best to act in any situation.  As I see it, that’s the reason why anyone would try to educate themselves in the first place.

And that’s the aim I’m presuming you have too.  Reading only for entertainment is a bit saccharine, and if that’s what you want to do, you won’t find many tips in this essay to help you.  I don’t talk about how to speed read, and I don’t talk much about making time to read.  I liked The Hunger Games as much as the next person, but I’m much more excited about changing the way I live because of ideas I find.  Consequently, these commandments apply mostly for non-fiction (though a few fiction books really have changed my outlook on life).

I hope you have a pile of books you are dying to read.  I want you to devour them, highlighting and notating some and reading 3 chapters of others that you just toss away incomplete.  I want you not to say “I wanna read that!” but “I have read that, and a few of its sources.  Here are my favorite ideas.  I disagree with this part.  Here’s where I think the field is headed next.”

I submit this set of guidelines for going in that direction.

The 4 Commandments of Reading for Self-Education

  1. A book is only as good as what you remember from it
  2. Actually reading is more important than reading fast Read More

Bucket List Update: Mountaineering, Marathons, and Lýðveldið Ísland

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Lest you think I just sit around and read productivity books all day (cf. this and that), I figure I should post some of progress on my own life goals list every once and a while.  Since I got back from Africa, here are the goals I’ve been working towards– the ones that I’m most excited about right now.

 

21.) Climb Mt. Rainier

I am hard pressed to think of a family vacation growing up that didn’t involve either the open water or mountains.  It seemed like my dad’s definition of a relaxing time necessarily involved covering vast changes in elevation on foot.

And while I’ve wanted to climb mountains for years, after Kilimanjaro, I got the bug bad.  Something about staring down on the sunrise over the savanna maybe ;)

I’ve started training for Rainier– training referring more to learning mountaineering skills than, say, spinning classes.  That doesn’t mean you don’t need to be in shape for Rainier– at 14,400, it’s nothing to scoff at.  But an unhurried ascent, good body temperature monitoring, and plenty of water are more important than an olympian circulatory system.

A few weeks ago, I made my first technical climb– Humpback Mountain in the Cascades.  While it’s only a few minutes off I-90, the summit is a lot closer to the moon than it is to Seattle.

On the summit of Humpback Mountain

Next up is snow camping and glacier travel.

A friend of mine is a mountaineering instructor and he’s guiding me through the learning process here.  This is really ideal.  The small group we’ll climb Rainier with will ultimately be more flexible, more fun, and way cheaper than the guided mountaineering tours.

Tracking towards July 2012.

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It’s Friday Night. What’s Your Thing?

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Bucket list masters The Buried Life (photo credit: MTV)

Unless you are working at your dream job, the weekend is your the most time you will consistently have to work on your goals.  Unless you’re self-employed and living the 4-hour workweek, it’s

  1. Nights
  2. Weekends
  3. Vacation

That’s it.  That’s all there is.  And it’s really easy to let it slip by.

Wanna be a black belt in jiu-jitsu?  Want to learn Mandarin?  Or how to cook Indian food?  Those are weeknight things.  You don’t accomplish these goals by working on them once a week.

Want to visit every state?  Or start a business on the side?  Maybe you want to do a solo skydive.  These goals are weekend tasks.  They take big investments of time, but they can be done in 2.5 day stretches.

Your 9 to 5 is great and I hope it’s what you always dream of, but I hope it’s not all you dream of.  All your other dreams are for your 5 to 9.  How well are you using yours?

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Pick one thing on your bucket list that you will make progress towards this weekend.

Yes, I know, you may have dozens.  I’ve seen lists with hundreds of items.

But you don’t accomplish something by thinking of a 100-item list.  You accomplish it by thinking of one thing and working towards that.

So for this weekend, pick one item off that list– or make the list if you haven’t already– and start working towards that thing.  It was only because I started tonight that I’ve done anything on my list.  Now, a year and a half later, I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, read the Bible cover to cover, started a small business (we’ll see where that goes), and launched this blog, among other things.

What are you going to start tonight?

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For a bit more inspiration, check out The Buried Life.  These four guys started with nothing but a bucket list and an old van five and a half years ago.  To date, they’ve done 81 of the things on their bucket list, including:

  • 1.) Open the 6 o’clock news
  • 8.) Ride a bull
  • 25.) Capture a fugitive
  • 41.) Make a toast at a stranger’s wedding
  • 74.) Deliver a baby

It turns out they have a show on MTV too.  Check out their very first trailer.

These guys mean business.  Want to hear more?  Check out their YouTube channel (to see one of them ask out Megan Fox, among other things) or buy their book ”What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?”.

Absolutely sick.

It’s Friday night.  What are you doing this weekend?

 

Experiments in Productivity: Zen to Done

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Photo credit: Josefe aka Hipnosapo (flickr: josefeliciano)

During the months of February, March, and April 2012, I will try out a new productivity system each month. After each month is over, I'll record my experiences on this blog. In March 2012, I used Leo Babauta's "Zen to Done" as described here.  This is my review. Last month's review on Scott Belsky's "Action Method" is here.

My original intent for this month was to review the most famous productivity system in the world– David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”.  I bought the e-book, set aside a few hours to plan out how I would use Getting Things Done (GTD) in the next month, and started reading.

Four hours later, I closed the book frustrated, disappointed, and very aware of the irony that I’d just wasted my entire evening.  I simply could not wrap my head around the system as a whole, and there was no one place where it was explained clearly at a high level.

So I decided to check out a little productivity method I had heard a friend rave about a few years ago– not Getting Things Done, but Zen to Done (ZTD).

 Zen to Done Explained

If you’re like me, when someone says you should try a funny-sounding program called zen-something-something, you’d be all too happy to let it slide.  And if you feel that way now, I mean to convince you otherwise.  ZTD is a wonderfully useful productivity system.  Despite the name, it has nothing to do with satori and everything to do with worldly effectiveness.

It was initially conceived by blogger Leo Babauta as a reaction to some of the main problems people had with Getting Things Done– which means I stumbled upon to it at a very fortunate time.  ZTD is composed not of a flowchart of actions for handling any incoming tasks, but a series of 10 straightforward “habits”, which are to be adopted one at a time (which is easier than adopting all 10 habits at once, the thinking goes).

Here are the 10 Habits of ZTD as far as I understand them.

  1. Collect.  Ubiquitous capture.  Carry a notebook, index cards, smartphone, or something on which you can write any idea, task, or tidbit for future action.  Don’t rely on your memory for this.
  2. Process.  Do not let things fester in your inboxes.  Make quick decisions on things in your inbox and figure out the next action they require (if any) upon looking at for the first time. Read More

[Profiles] Steve Jobs: History’s Best CEO

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Steve Jobs with the only furniture he found fit to purchase.

Steve Jobs with the only furniture he found fit for purchase.

When I was growing up, it was popular to say that a kid destined for success would be “the next Bill Gates”. But they aren’t going to say that anymore.  The best of the rising generation will be prophesied as “the next Steve Jobs”.

From a discalced and fruititarian kid-CEO to the father and savior of the world’s most valuable company, it’s hard to say whether he will be remembered more as an uncannily intuitive businessman whose every other opinion turned into millions of dollars or as an artisan who, more than anyone, infused soul into the cold and boxy tech world.

The purpose of this blog is to spur, inspire, and assist you to do amazing things. Steve Jobs did some amazing things. I’m floored by him, and I want to convey some of this to you. If you have dreams of business greatness or using art and design to change your part of the world, this piece is especially for you. It is a collection of the strange and wonderful stories and impressions of him that have stuck with me.

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Steve Jobs was never normal, per se. Even as a teen, he was a featherweight from constant fasting– or any number of his diets where he’d eat nothing but a single vegetable for weeks on end. Read More