57 Things to Do Before You Die

bucket listBusiness and life collide at every intersection whether we like it or not. As a result, our list of Shouldas, Couldas and Wouldas tends to pile up as we’re busy doing what we think is living. Living’s about dealing with the important stuff. Shit that matters. Earth-shattering movements of epic proportions designed to make the world take notice of who we are, help them understand the true enormity of the colossal balls we are burdened with carrying around and help the Universe understand that fucking with us is anything but what it should be doing.

But the shit that matters is anything but all of that.

The things I’ve come to realize matter the most over the course of my 38 years aren’t the massive material things or quakes we set loose on an unsuspecting humanity. They’re…well, they’re emotions. The things we feel and the feelings we remember. Your first kiss. The day your very first client paid you and the check was in the name of your business. The first lost deal (followed by the next one won). I can’t sit here an apply an emotion to those situations because I have my own memories as you do yours. But what I can do is pay a bit more attention to my bucket list of things I never want to forget and yearn to experience. While we’ll never have everything ticked off the list the day we die, I know the best I can hope for is to have made a goddamned college try at having my emotions run the gamut.

So this is my list. Maybe some of the things on it are yours. Some of the things I’ve done – many I have not. But I’ll tell you that my best memories come from things I’ve read, seen or heard about and the subsequent cry from my soul tells me that they belonged on the list. Feel free to add yours, share your tick list experiences. It’s people like you that inspire the twisted like of me and maybe some of you will find inspiration here to do the tough things, easy things and everything in between and refine your list for living well and running a damn fine race across the emotional gauntlet of human existence.

  1. Climb a mountain because you can – or more importantly, because you think you can’t.
  2. Skip rocks on a pond.
  3. Jump in a pile of leaves wearing incredibly nice clothing.
  4. Let the dogs on the bed/sofa and fall asleep with them.
  5. Travel somewhere you don’t speak the language and figure it out.
  6. Forgive someone you never thought you were capable of forgiving.
  7. Trek across Nepal
  8. Climb the Khumbu Ice Falls
  9. Travel with a single suitcase for a month and see how much you can truly live without.
  10. Never leave an opportunity to say I love you unsaid – you never know if you’ll get another chance.
  11. Be kinder to yourself with each passing day, as we’re our own worst critics.
  12. Learn to fence – swordplay is fun.
  13. After the age of 30, ride on the handlebars of someone’s bike.
  14. Know when to wear your seatbelt and put on a life preserver, but discover the feeling of working without a net.
  15. Take your parents on their dream vacation.
  16. Give someone that change in your car console instead of worrying about paying the parking meter.
  17. Make “thank you” a permanent staple in your vocabulary.
  18. Look at a member of the same sex and find their beauty without feeling “gay.”
  19. Make a conscious effort to stop at summertime lemonade stands, even if the drinks suck. Overpay if possible.
  20. Hold the hand of someone who’s dying and give then every ounce of love you possess.
  21. Cry more often.
  22. Let people see your cry more often.
  23. Smile at the loud kid in the shopping cart behind you in line more often than you wish that they’d spontaneously combust.
  24. Take the middle seat on the airplane – we’re all getting there at the same time.
  25. Skip the hotel and discover the beauty of sleeping under a blanket of stars – bug bites, stiff necks and all.
  26. Walk more than you drive.
  27. Take six months and one backpack or suitcase and travel. Anywhere.
  28. Allow someone to take the credit for something you did – just to see them shine.
  29. Every time you want to shop online, make a donation to charity instead.
  30. Talk to one stranger every day.
  31. Learn to sail.
  32. See how many days in a row you can go without spending a dime.
  33. Apologize. Lots.
  34. Ride a horse so fast that you don’t know if you’re going to laugh, cry, die – or all three.
  35. Answer less email. Pick up the phone more often.
  36. Know the difference in the way the sand feels on a beach in Japan and a beach in Florida.
  37. Take a river trip in a canoe with a cooler that contains only water and booze and six boxes of Cheezits.
  38. Touch a penguin (not an euphemism).
  39. See as many concerts as you can – it’s the opportunity to see people who are living their passion for your benefit.
  40. Stand in Times Square at midnight on New Year’s.
  41. Learn to fish.
  42. Find a charity you believe in and give all you can and in every way possible.
  43. Find something new to potentially fail at every week – because among the failures, you’ll find pearls of enormous success.
  44. Talk openly and often to the people you’ve lost – they’re somewhere, can hear you and appreciate the conversation.
  45. Learn to fall. The best ways I’ve found so far are through rock and ice climbing. There’s an art to it.
  46. Reach out to friends you’ve lost touch with, even if they never answer you back.
  47. Have more conversations with kids – they’re so fucking smart, it’s scary.
  48. Get up on stage in front of hundreds of people – even if it’s only as a tech to turn on the microphone. The view and perspective are astounding.
  49. Sit in a car under a streetlight with someone you love, hold them longer than is comfortable and watch the rain drip on the windshield.
  50. Make a list of three things that scare the living shit out of you and try each one. And it’s okay if you find that they still scare the living shit out of you.
  51. Ride a bike with coaster breaks after the age of 35.
  52. Ride a bike with no brakes at all.
  53. Stop being afraid of food and try as many kinds as you can.
  54. Commit to having people in your life who are honest and interested in you living an incredible life – and commit yourself to them in return. Others? They just don’t have a place.
  55. Spell dirty words with your alphabet soup.
  56. Plant flowers. Take care of them. Be sad when they die.
  57. Take a risk with your business and stop playing it safe – no great reward was ever achieved without equally great risk. And do this repeatedly and as a matter of course. If you don’t scare the shit out of yourself every day, what kind of business are you building?

More important than the list of things above is the pure act of doing something. While there is solace in the status quo, “quo” never gets anyone anywhere. I’m lucky to have people in my life who Do and inspire me to Do every day. If you find yourself lacking here, maybe it’s time for new people. Add that one to your bucket list:

get new people.

39 comments
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rac speal
rac speal

#52- did when I was in seventh grade, down a heck of a steep hill that culminated in a four way intersection.  I'm happy it served some purpose other than peeling off half the skin on my shoulder...

Tom
Tom

It is...and yes...I am a Smartass.

Tom
Tom

#41...Take your own advice

Brian Tomlinson
Brian Tomlinson

Awesome list. There's nothing like embracing life and living it to its fullest. Never thought of #7 but sounds awesome. Will have to add it to my own list. Thanks for sharing.

The Travel Chica
The Travel Chica

I'm doing #27 right now (and am now 8 months in), and this experience has allowed me to check off several other items from your list as well as my own personal list.

Forrest Schaeffer
Forrest Schaeffer

6 was an experience I've learned so much from, 10 I need to work on, 30 is a favorite of mine as well, as is 39. 45, once you get used to it, it's such a liberating feeling. 53 is going to make me fat...

Kellie J. Walker
Kellie J. Walker

1. Climb a mountain because you can – or more importantly, because you think you can’t. < Haven't done this literally. But, have done it emotionally. I think that was scarier. But, I also think it was more rewarding (for me).2. Skip rocks on a pond. < Did this a lot in my youth. Very worthy of this list. Highly recommend it.3. Jump in a pile of leaves wearing incredibly nice clothing. < Also did this a lot in my youth. Envigorating!4. Let the dogs on the bed/sofa and fall asleep with them. < Every night. Best nights' sleep I ever get.5. Travel somewhere you don’t speak the language and figure it out. <Took a long cab ride in France with a cabby who spoke very little English. We had lots of fun 'figuring it out'.6. Forgive someone you never thought you were capable of forgiving. < This was part of #1 for me. Have done it more than once. More difficult than I expected 'cause it had to start with forgiving myself.7. Trek across Nepal < Not yet.8. Climb the Khumbu Ice Falls < Not yet. Maybe never. Heights terrify me!9. Travel with a single suitcase for a month and see how much you can truly live without. < Took a practice run. IMMEDIATELY after arriving in ATL airport from a day trip to New Jersey, bought a ticket and flew to Vegas. Spent the weekend there with nothing but the suit on my back and my briefcase. That's living!10. Never leave an opportunity to say I love you unsaid – you never know if you’ll get another chance. < Words I live by.11. Be kinder to yourself with each passing day, as we’re our own worst critics. < On my daily 'to do' list. Do my best to teach others to do the same.12. Learn to fence – swordplay is fun. < Ooooh! Hadn't thought of this one. Fun!13. After the age of 30, ride on the handlebars of someone’s bike. < Hmmm. Don't think I've done this one yet.14. Know when to wear your seatbelt and put on a life preserver, but discover the feeling of working without a net. < Amen. Excitement and fear are the same emotion, but with different outlooks/expectations.15. Take your parents on their dream vacation. < Done. Mom spent 3 weeks in Australia with me. A trip neither of us will ever forget.16. Give someone that change in your car console instead of worrying about paying the parking meter. < Done. But, should do more often.17. Make “thank you” a permanent staple in your vocabulary. < Amen!18. Look at a member of the same sex and find their beauty without feeling “gay.” < Beauty has no gender.19. Make a conscious effort to stop at summertime lemonade stands, even if the drinks suck. Overpay if possible. < This one made me smile. 20. Hold the hand of someone who’s dying and give then every ounce of love you possess. < Heartbreaking and fulfilling. Am too young to have done this, but have.21. Cry more often. < Laughing. Not sure this is possible! :-)22. Let people see your cry more often. < Tough lesson to learn. But, I did it and have been amazed over the last 10 years how healing it is - for both parties.23. Smile at the loud kid in the shopping cart behind you in line more often than you wish that they’d spontaneously combust. < I love doing this. It catches the caretaker off guard in the best possible way.24. Take the middle seat on the airplane – we’re all getting there at the same time. < Hey! I just did that on my flight last weekend. 25. Skip the hotel and discover the beauty of sleeping under a blanket of stars – bug bites, stiff necks and all. < 7 days camping in the mountains in Montana. Best. Vacation. Ever.26. Walk more than you drive. < Oooh. Gotta' work on this one.27. Take six months and one backpack or suitcase and travel. Anywhere. < Hmmm.28. Allow someone to take the credit for something you did – just to see them shine. < I did this a lot in my corporate job. It's the best way to manage a team.29. Every time you want to shop online, make a donation to charity instead. < Yummy!30. Talk to one stranger every day. < I love this! Such fun & a great way to meet people.31. Learn to sail. < Does watching someone else man the riggers count? ;-)32. See how many days in a row you can go without spending a dime. < Had tons of practice doing this in college. Would love to try it again 20-some years later.33. Apologize. Lots. < This is right up there with #10.34. Ride a horse so fast that you don’t know if you’re going to laugh, cry, die – or all three. < Did this, inadvertently, as part of #25... but, not on purpose. It'll get the juices flowing!35. Answer less email. Pick up the phone more often. < Same for texting!36. Know the difference in the way the sand feels on a beach in Japan and a beach in Florida. < Me likey!37. Take a river trip in a canoe with a cooler that contains only water and booze and six boxes of Cheezits. < If you swap inner-tubes for canoe, done it!38. Touch a penguin (not an euphemism). < Sweet.39. See as many concerts as you can – it’s the opportunity to see people who are living their passion for your benefit. < Nothing better than watching someone doing what they love, no matter what it is.40. Stand in Times Square at midnight on New Year’s. < Yikes!41. Learn to fish. < Also part of #25. We caught dinner!42. Find a charity you believe in and give all you can and in every way possible. < Doing so right now with Cath Duncan's Kidney Raffle. 43. Find something new to potentially fail at every week – because among the failures, you’ll find pearls of enormous success. < Love!44. Talk openly and often to the people you’ve lost – they’re somewhere, can hear you and appreciate the conversation. < Brought tears to my eyes, 'cause it's true. Did that this past weekend during a wedding ceremony.45. Learn to fall. The best ways I’ve found so far are through rock and ice climbing. There’s an art to it. < Had fun learning this (and helping others learn this) in my karate class.46. Reach out to friends you’ve lost touch with, even if they never answer you back. < Spent 2 days last weekend with a friend I hadn't seen in 15 years. Spent 5 hours with a friend I hadn't seen in 23 years. All in the same week. There's nothing like it.47. Have more conversations with kids – they’re so fucking smart, it’s scary. < Sing it, sista!48. Get up on stage in front of hundreds of people – even if it’s only as a tech to turn on the microphone. The view and perspective are astounding. < Done and done!49. Sit in a car under a streetlight with someone you love, hold them longer than is comfortable and watch the rain drip on the windshield. < Can I do this one every week?50. Make a list of three things that scare the living shit out of you and try each one. And it’s okay if you find that they still scare the living shit out of you. < My oldest, dearest friend did that on her honeymoon. Faced fear of heights by going to top of Sears Tower. Faced fear of water by going sailing. On the same day.51. Ride a bike with coaster breaks after the age of 35. < Done! And, have the scars to prove it.52. Ride a bike with no brakes at all. < Done! 53. Stop being afraid of food and try as many kinds as you can.54. Commit to having people in your life who are honest and interested in you living an incredible life – and commit yourself to them in return. Others? They just don’t have a place. < A-fing-men.55. Spell dirty words with your alphabet soup. < Giggling.56. Plant flowers. Take care of them. Be sad when they die. < Done.57. Take a risk with your business and stop playing it safe. < Don

Cab
Cab

#49- because there is nothing better than experiencing love and rain together. #52- because brakes just slow you down. And, I heart bikes. #58- Go on a hike by yourself, sit down in the middle of nowhere and just be. Then, learn to do that anywhere, anytime.

Bob Thompson
Bob Thompson

I like #5.  Consider giving Tour d'Indochine another try.

Alamedapr
Alamedapr

Accept oneself, why is it so hard to do?

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika, #58 Have at least one piece of music that absolutely transports you. Mine is the Louis Armstrong's solo on "Alligator Crawl." That's all. Regards Leon

Brandon Yanofsky
Brandon Yanofsky

Erika, once again you've inspired me. I'm going to go out and try and fail a bit more. Become comfortable with failing.

Amy
Amy

This is my new favorite bucket list item: Every time you want to shop online, make a donation to charity instead. Thank you. :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Wait...again --- they're not the same?! GOD DAMMIT ALL TO HELL. YOU'RE BLOWING MY MIND HERE.

The Redhead
The Redhead

The Ice Falls remain on a must-do and scare-the-shit-out-of-me list simultaneously!

Annie Sisk
Annie Sisk

As always, you've hit it out of the park. I love #57, honestly. 

Steve Rice
Steve Rice

I loved the touch the penguin! :)  Your whole list is inspiring...but I especially appreciate the emphasis on letting go of the people who hold you back.  It's hard to do, but so necessary.  Now I need to go write my own list.

Brad Holland
Brad Holland

#58 - After the age of 30, ride on the handlebars of someone’s bike with no brakes at all.

Michelle Mangen
Michelle Mangen

Amazing list and about 1/2 of them are on my personal list.  #9 is one I'd like to implement into my life "just because". Every time I move (this week being most recent) I swear I'm going to own even less.  #36 - I don't have a desire to visit Japan so I will probably never know what the sand there feels like. On the flip side I can tell you first hand that the sand on Siesta Key Beach in FL is way different than the sand on the East Coast of FL. #46 - another one that really hits home for me...probably because it was just recently the anniversary of the death of a very close friend.  I could keep going but I'm sure there is a character limit for the comments. 

Kipp
Kipp

Well-said. I'm partial to #45. But that's because I'm someone who's fallen more times than I can count (in one way or another). And now I've found a way to make a living doing it. Falling's not so bad. It happens to everybody - particularly those who reach for something higher. And it's the recovery that's the true mark of a person.

MegCarpen
MegCarpen

Wow, lots of great ideas here, some I've done (the sad ones it seems) and others I really want to do. Especially the last un-numbered one, adding new people to inspire me. A few in my life are keepers, but having a day that is putting a lot of things into perspective. Between that and this post, I'm gonna go do #21, because tears wash away the crap if you let them. 

Phyllis Nichols
Phyllis Nichols

I'm going to do number 46 today.  I've missed some (former?) friends.  I've wanted to reach out but have been afraid that they might not reciprocate.   Know what? That's okay - I can do what i want and they can decide and do what they want.  Khumbu Ice falls? - that one is on my list of what would scare me the most! Yikes. 

The Redhead
The Redhead

Wait - you're not supposed to wear business suits in pools? *note to self* BALLS!

JohnLusher
JohnLusher

This is an incredible, life long to-do list!  LOVE it but it's too damn hard to pick a favorite!  On my first ready, #47 is my favorite, but I may change my mind.  We should all do these things or develop our own list; do things you don't think you can do, take risks, get scared and love it!  Great post Erika!!

Chris Tucker
Chris Tucker

#54 is one of my favorite principles in life - still learning to be a great friend myself.  #39 is a great suggestion! I can get choked up even watching dance recitals - you can somehow feel their tension, joy and fear at the same time.Love the list! Hope you experience every one!

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