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Why Focus on the Numbers?

I've heard the question in various forms over the past couple of years: Why not just travel around the world without trying to go everywhere—in other words, why focus on the numbers?

My answer is that the numbers give you a goal—something to keep in mind as you go through a challenging process. The numbers can't be your sole motivation or identity, but they can be a big help.

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The Final Fifty

Greetings from Terminal 1 in Singapore's Changi Airport—or perhaps HKG, or NRT, or en route to LAX depending on when you read this. I'm on the way home from my latest global adventure. A long time ago—five years, to be precise—I had an idea to visit every country in the world. I like travel, I like big goals. Smash the two together and you get: 192 official countries, plus a bunch of other places. Read More

Mountain Climbing, Motivations, and The Deep-Seated Fear of Failure

When I first started doing media interviews in 2008, I noticed that one question would almost always come up: “Why are you so obsessed with travel?” (I learned to call it the mountain-climbing question, because it's the same one climbers are asked about Everest and K2: “Why?”) The question bewildered me until I got used to it. For a long time, I didn't know how to answer; the quest to see the whole world was just something that made sense to me intuitively. I like travel, I like goal-setting, so why not put the two together?

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How to Write a Life List

Rerouted-Stream What if we could come to the end of our lives with true fulfillment, looking back on a rich history of experiences, relationships, and accomplishments?

Either metaphorically or literally, we could point to a list of steadily-pursued dreams that turned into accomplished goals as we moved through different phases of life.

The sad alternative, of course, is to come to the end of life unfulfilled – something best phrased in this intense quote from Thoreau I’ve been pondering a lot recently:

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still in them.

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The First Day of Your Life

legacy-sunrise
Image of East Beach, Norfolk by shoebappa

Here’s something to consider:

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

You’ve heard that before, right? Maybe it’s like Time Is Money – something we nod our heads to before we get back to all the stuff we have to do.

Hearing that today is a new, unique day at the beginning of a new week naturally implies both good news and bad news. In the spirit of realistic optimism, we’ll take the bad news first.

Bad News: You’ll never get today back. Once it’s gone, that’s it. On to tomorrow.

Good News: Right now, the day (and the whole week) is ahead of you. The choice is up to you: spend your time doing things that are unimportant or uninteresting to you, or spend it on things that move you closer to who and where you want to be.

It’s not much more complicated than that, although the actual implementation can sidetrack the best visionary or GTD guru. What can be done about this?

Today, the Beginning of Your New Life

On one hand, we have obligations and responsibilities. Not all of these bad – we have obligations to our loved ones, for example, that we would not want to break. The problem is that we tend to look at all obligations as non-negotiable requirements, when in fact many of them are unnecessary. We take them on because we like to be busy, we like to be needed, or because we’re not actually certain what we should be doing every day.

Instead of being completely mandatory, I’ve found that most plans can be canceled. Most obligations can be deferred without the world coming to an end. You really don’t have to do what other people expect you to all the time.

Some people think these kinds of metaphors are silly. I say, use whatever works for you. If motivation comes your way, take it. Don’t ask questions. There are enough skeptics out there already.

What if you know you’re on the wrong track?

I have one suggestion: change course as quickly as you can. Don’t wait. Someone said in the comments last week that complacency is like the “slow dying of the soul.” I couldn’t put it better myself. If the job is dead-end, if the college track isn’t working out, if you don’t like where you’re living, change it as quickly as possible.

Assuming you are on the right course, then the danger is more that you’ll be distracted by all the obligations and unrelated tasks that crop up along the way.

To combat this kind of resistance, answer these questions:

  • Is there one thing you can do today that goes beyond your regular to-do list?
  • Is there one thing you can do this week to work towards your 5-year goals?

  • Is there one way you can help someone that no one else is able to do?

If so, I suggest that’s how you spend your time this week. It rarely works out to 100% efficiency, but the two steps forward, one step back approach gets us to the finish line eventually. The power of a single action, or a single action for each question above, should not be underestimated.

And when you get there, you’ll have done more than fulfill obligations. You’ll have more than money, and more than a well-stamped time card. You’ll be able to say that today was the beginning, and this week was an exceptional seven days.

Are you ready?

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