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27 Things To Do Before I Die

September 1, 2008

I’ve been reading the book “Becoming a Resonant Leader” (Harvard Business Press). One of the book’s tenants is that Emotional Intelligence is at the core of effective leadership – and the authors take it a step further into the realm of personal growth and self-awareness. As a launching point, they have a number of exercises to help the reader identify his personal vision and “ideal self” which will thus help him become a more effective leader.

One of their exercises is “27 Things I Want To Do Before I Die.” This struck me, because usually people talk about the one or two things they want to do before they die. Not three, not five, not even ten. But this one asks for 27. Isn’t that being greedy? Usually when reading these kinds of self-help leadership books, I will just skip over the exercises and get to substance of the writing. But this one was far too tempting to pass up, especially given my mid-life existential crisis that came out in the last post.

So off I went to my writing corner, busily scrawling out a list of what would surely become a multitude of interesting and exciting dreams that were so reflective of my dynamic and magnetic personality. One through five were easy. They were all the things I complain about anyways, things that I somehow never get around to. Getting a book published. Taking my wife to an opera production at the Met. Becoming CEO (I’ve managed to make it to the senior officer/executive post for several years, but have not yet taken the chief role). And then there are all those family European travel plans that keep getting put by the wayside.

Six through ten were not so hard either, especially after I gave myself permission to just let go and dream big, even if I didn’t think it was really ever possible. The Family Lodge in the Mountains? Check. The art collection? Check. And yes, I WILL speak fluent German before I die. How hard could that be, if I just put my mind to it?

The ideas started slowing down after #11, so I decided to enroll my wife in the exercise. Not that she would be able to tell me what I wanted to do before I die (although she does seem to know me better than I know myself sometimes), but maybe hearing her share her own ideas on the subject would further stimulate mine. We turned on some opera music, poured a couple glasses of Merlot and started cooking Chicken Cacciatore. That always seems to get the juices flowing.

As we traded dreams and ideas, I sheepishly began to notice how materialistic and ego-driven many of the previous items on my death-to-do list were. This got me focused on generating some more meaningful, spiritual priorities, or opportunities where I could give back, which of course should have been at the top of the list to begin with. Maybe it was the Merlot talking, but here comes the week-long retreat at the monastery.  I have a friend who does this regularly and I always find myself jealous (spiritual jealousy- is that a sin?). Next I thought about the many missions and service works that I have conveniently avoided for many years.  There. That felt better. And by #17, I found myself creating the very admirable but pathetically generic goal of “inspiring people to live better lives.” (But I really do mean it.)

Number 18 was “get a cat.” I am currently prevented from fulfilling that particular dream because my wife and daughter are allergic. If I’m the one dying, then I should get my cat.

That’s all I’ve come up with so far. Eighteen. I have nine more to go. And I don’t want to wimp out by just adding new countries to my list of places I’d like to visit.

I didn’t think this would be so challenging. What does that say about my “ideal self?” Maybe I’m just too comfortable with where I’m at right now. Maybe I don’t think big enough.

How about you? Can you come up with 27 things to do before you die?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2008 11:36 am

    Despite the failure notice I received in my college public speaking class, one thing I wanted to do before I died was to keynote before an audience of 5,000 people.

    So far, I’ve hit the 2k mark.

  2. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    September 3, 2008 7:05 pm

    I am impressed!

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