Bucket List 2017

Delivered on 7/21/17 in Stuart, FL


Close your eyes. I want you to take a moment to reflect with me. First, think about all that you’ve done in the past year. In the past 5 years. The past 10 years. What are you most proud of? What brings you the most joy? Think of a really awesome memory that brings you JOY in being alive. Now think about the next 10 years. The next 5 years. Or even just 2017. What would you like to do that you haven’t done yet? What do you want to accomplish? What memories do you still want to make. [BUCKET LIST]

Open your eyes. Mister toastmaster, fellow members and guests. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your time is running out. In that piece of paper in front of you, I want you to write one thing you’d like to do before you die, before you kick the bucket, as they say. [WAIT] Have you heard the saying “live today like it’s your last day”? It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. That’s how people end up homeless or broke. I’m sorry, but I’m a big fan of having a retirement savings account.

But at the same time, we have to recognize that our time is precious and limited. Life is too short and fragile to make excuses for the things that truly matter. I had that epiphany earlier this year and was motivated to write a list of things I wanted to do before I died. I had some small things (like finally watching the Godfather) and some big dreams (like being the CEO of a hospital). Please fold the piece of paper, where you wrote something you want to do before you die, on and pass it forward. [WAIT]

To avoid getting bogged down in facing my own mortality, I limited the list to things I could realistically do in 2017. And this is what I came up with. [LIST] Notice that Join Toastmasters is an item on the list, and I’m glad I finally did it. We’re halfway through the year and I’m halfway through the list. [HALFWAY] Fellow toastmasters and welcome guests, as I complete this first milestone today, my tenth speech, I want to share with you what I learned thus far.

To tackle this list, you will need to step out of your comfort zone, but you can still do that without putting yourself in harm’s way. Jumping out of a plane, for example, was a calculated risk. [PLANE] Sure, there’s a chance that tiny plane’s engine will give out or the parachute cord will malfunction and I’ll plummet to my inevitable death. I get it. When death is staring you right in the face, it’s hard not to be scared. But I did my research and the facts are clear: it’s a safer to jump out of a plane with a trained professional than to drive on a highway. Don’t let this irrational, paralyzing fear prevent you from getting new perspectives, enjoying beautiful experiences, and achieving what you’ve always wanted to do.

I also learned that you may find a community of people who share your passion or desire to try something new. I signed up to take a 3-day crash course on fire spinning in Miami. [FIRE] My teacher was this guy named Lucky. He used to be in a gang and had the word Lucky tattooed on his knuckles, and that’d be the last word you’d see before he punched you out. But now he’s an artist and performer, and he spins fire all over the world. He showed me his craft and his community. On Thursday night, when full moon was out, he took me to a drum circle on Miami beach with hundreds and hundreds of people mingling, dancing, and performing. There I saw a dozen of the best fire spinners on the East Coast doing tricks, beautiful dances, and dangerous  

You will go where most people have not gone before, and you’ll come back with interesting and valuable stories to tell. Not every item on the list will be a winner -- I drove 3 hours to the gulf coast to visit Florida’s only natural warm springs. [SPRINGS] It sounded good in theory, but when I got there it was a huge pit in the ground, surrounded by slimy rocks, filled with the local communities of retired immigrants from Soviet Russia, and the worst part--it smelled the rotten eggs. This has been my least favorite item on the list, but still---quite a story to tell.

Nothing beats the experience of meeting your potential, finally doing something that proves you were capable all along. Everyone who knows me knows I’m a very picky eater--most of my diet consists of meat and eggs and junk food. So when I went vegan for a month and ate no animal products, it was a difficult challenge. [VEGAN] I had to stretch myself to find adaptations of foods I liked and try options I wouldn’t have otherwise. Let’s just say that the dietary restrictions put me outside of my comfort zone. But like every item on this list, when I completed it, I was overjoyed to know that I had it in me. The sense of accomplishment made me feel more alive than ever. Thomas Edison once said “If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves,” and I think that captures that feeling. [BLACK]

The way I structured this exercise really helped me achieve these wonderful experiences. With the list in front of me, I no longer had any excuses to avoid doing the things I wanted to do. One strategy that worked really well was to spend 30 minutes scheduling some activities ahead of time. Once I knew I wanted to go camping, [CAMPING] I booked the campgrounds, took the week off work ahead of time, and left a box of essentials in the trunk of my car. When the date came, all I had to do is get in the car, drive to the Everglades, and meet my new friends. [GATOR]

Another good reason to have a list ready is how it reminds you of your priorities. Last month, my sister and I were bored with nothing to do. She asked me to come over to her house and play video games. Instead, I asked her to look at my bucket list and pick something fun. It turns out that swimming with dolphins had been one of her dreams, [DOLPHINS] but she never found the time or motivation to do it. It was on my list, so I bought the ticket and we went that same day.

I have in front of me lots of little bucket list items. Fellow toastmasters, the fact that you wrote something down today means you still have dreams to fulfill. There’s something inside of you that wants more out of life, more than what you currently allow yourself. We don’t often tap into that inner motivator---perhaps out of fear? Out of doubt? Or neglect?

But I want you to realize today that there is something in you with great aspirations. Listen to that voice. Don’t let comfort and complacency put out that fire or let that yearning go unfulfilled. Maybe for you this means calling sick into work today and hopping on a plane to Europe for the weekend. Maybe you’re inspired to make a list like mine and go through it over the next year. Maybe there’s really one big thing for you that you want to accomplish, and you just need to realign your priorities to make it happen.

No matter what your bucket list looks like, you’ll be glad you started working on it. Make a commitment to go skydiving, start a business, visit New York City. Don’t cheat yourself out of the life you’ve been given. Make it a point to travel abroad, learn a new language, run a marathon. It’s your list, your life. When it’s time for you to kick the bucket, you can do it laughing. Thank you.