Playing B-Ball with Obama: 6 Steps to Crossing Anything Off Your Bucket List

This article was originally posted on Tim Ferris’s blog, Experiments in Lifestyle Design.  This is definitely one worth reading.  Completing your personal goals is a formulaic process, not a preordained one.  

Let us start with a quote, often misattributed to Goethe:

“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

– William Hutchinson Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951)

If you want a lesson in boldness, and to cross things off of your bucket list, there is no better teacher than Ben Nemtin.

His story, and that of the entire Buried Life team, is amazing.

It started with a list of 100 things and a planned two-week roadtrip. Along the way, Ben has somehow managed to play basketball with Obama, throw the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game, delivery a baby (not his), make the biggest roulette spin in Vegas’ history, and much more.

Most recently, they crossed off #19: Write a bestselling book. Their debut, What Do You Want To Do Before You Die?, just hit #1 on The New York Times, which will be announced officially April 15th. To celebrate? They’re sending a copy of the book into space.

It all seems unbelievable, which is exactly why I love this guest post from Ben.

This original content covers his 6 steps for crossing anything off of your personal bucket list. There is a method. Everyone needs a kick in the ass sometimes, and this did it for me.

Enter Ben

If there’s one thing I’m proud of, it’s being able to tell good stories.

Not because I’m a particularly good storyteller, but because I’ve been able to accumulate some amazing experiences in the last 5 and a half years.

It was 2006 when I first hit the road with my next-door neighbor, his younger brother, and a kid I knew from high school to accomplish a list we had created of 100 things to do before we died. We made a promise that for every item we crossed off, we’d help a total stranger do something they wanted to do before they died. To date, we’ve accomplished 81 items on our list and helped over 81 people.

In addition to those Tim mentioned in the intro, and among others, I’ve made a TV show, crashed the Playboy Mansion, streaked a stadium, been on Oprah, reunited a father and son after 17 years, made a $300,000 donation to charity, helped a girl find her mother’s grave for the first time, and am trying to help a college freshman find a new kidney (Need your help on this one: info here)…

Remember: 5 and a half years ago, I couldn’t tell any of these stories.

Our mission was supposed to be a two-week road trip. The four of us never expected it to be much more, and we certainly didn’t expect to be living it five years later. In the beginning, we didn’t tell our friends what we were doing because we didn’t know how to explain it. What we shared was really just a feeling: we were fed up and wanted something different. We decided to move forward without a real plan. A mechanic told us that the RV we’d borrowed wasn’t going to make it home; I had fabricated a wedding to get time off of work; and we pretended we owned a production company to raise money for a camera and gas for the RV. The only thing we knew for sure was that we would be taking two weeks off before going back to college. The plan: to try and accomplish as many items on our list as possible and help some people. We didn’t have a name for the project until Jonnie was assigned a poem in English 102 called “The Buried Life.” It was written 150 years ago but spoke to the same feeling we were having at the time: the desire to unbury our lives and do the things that were important to us, not what was expected of us. There were four lines that stood out from the rest:

But often, in the world’s most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;

When I think back to this time now, I remember sitting on the curb beside our RV the night before we were supposed to leave. We were arguing about whether or not to cancel the trip, because if the camper broke down, we didn’t have enough money to tow it home. Five years later, I guess it’s safe to say we’ve gotten pretty good at accomplishing our dreams. I’d like to say that there’s something unique about us that makes us able to do these things, but the truth is the opposite. There is a formula and it’s simple.

The more items we cross off our list, the more we become convinced that anyone can do anything. The formula comes down to these six steps:

Finish reading on Tim Ferris’s blog, Experiment’s in Lifestyle Design.

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