30 Days to a Better Man Day 12: Create Your Bucket List

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 11, 2009 · 19 comments

in 30 Days to a Better Man

Back in May, Art of Manliness’ resident adventurer Chris Hutcheson wrote a great piece on writing your bucket list. After the article published, my wife asked me, “What’s on your bucket list, Brett?” To be honest, I had never given much thought to what would be on my bucket list. Consequently, I could only think of two things. At that moment I realized: 1) I’m pretty pathetic if I could only think of two things I wanted to do before I die and 2) creating a bucket list actually takes a lot more thought than I thought it would. And so here it is more than a month later, and I still haven’t completed the task.

I’m sure I’m not the only man out there who hasn’t given much thought to all the exciting and fulfilling things he wants to do before he kicks the bucket. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who found Chris’ post really interesting, and then proceeded to do nothing about it. So today’s task is to turn our good intentions into something concrete by creating a bucket list and taking the first steps towards actually completing one of the items on the list.

Why Have a Bucket List?

As Chris pointed out in his post, when we were kids, we all had dreams of cool and exciting stuff we wanted to do when we grew up. I remember dreaming about going to Japan and learning karate. But something happens when we become adults. We become more cynical and start thinking big adventures aren’t prudent or reasonable. We think we’re too busy to do anything extraordinary. And we’re surrounded by ordinary people who aren’t doing anything special either. So we settle and stick with doing what’s safe.

Of course, no matter how deeply we bury our dreams, regret over their demise will still come bubbling to the surface. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back on my life wishing I would have done x, y, and z when I had the chance. I am convinced that all men are made for adventure. And when there’s no adventure in our lives, a little part of us dies.

If you feel like you’ve been in a rut or that you’ve become too boring, creating a bucket list is the first step to adding a little more excitement back into your life. A bucket list can act as a road map to a life of adventure and fulfillment.

Creating the Bucket List

Creating a bucket list is pretty easy. It’s just a matter of taking the time to actually do it.  But if you’re like me, it’s just one of those things that you never get around to and you keep living your life one dull day at a time. Today we’re going to change that.

Today’s task is to create your bucket list. Set aside about 30 minutes of your day and think about all the things you’ve always wanted to do. Then write them down. Writing creates a contract with yourself and makes you more likely to follow through with your dreams. The goal is to come up with at least 10 items for your bucket list. If you’re like me, this could take a lot longer than you think.

Don’t put down things just because you feel like you’re supposed to want to do them. If you’re not really excited about the idea of skydiving, then don’t put it down. People might tell you that everyone should backpack across Europe, but if you’re honestly not a person who enjoys travel, then don’t add it to your list. Really think about stuff that you yourself have dreamed of doing. The stuff that makes you happy just thinking about it. Think about where you want to be in 10, 20, and 50 years. Think about sitting in a nursing home at age 90 and looking back over your life. What is that old man wishing he had done?

If you’re having trouble coming up with items for your list, it might help to create categories such as these:

  • Travel
  • Relationships
  • Career
  • Financial
  • Entertainment
  • Education
  • Health

After you come up with the categories,  think of something for each that you would like to accomplish. For example:

  • Travel: Visit Greece
  • Relationships: Propose marriage to my girlfriend on top of a mountain
  • Career: Find a job where I can work at home
  • Financial: Become a millionaire by age 35
  • Entertainment: See Jimmy Eat World in concert
  • Education: Take a course in basic carpentry skills
  • Health: Lose 20 pounds

Pick One Item on Your Bucket List and Do Something to Set It in Motion

Now that you’ve created your bucket list, look it over and pick one goal as the one you next plan to accomplish. Pick the one that you can most reasonably complete this year. Then, come up with a plan on how you’re going to to accomplish this goal. Think through and make a list of everything you would need to do to make it happen. Then pick one task from the list and do it in the next 24 hours. For example, if your goal was to visit Greece this summer, you would make a plan like this:

  • Request time off from work
  • Buy travel book about Greece
  • Get passport
  • Figure out a way to make more money to pay for the trip
  • Start researching prices of airline tickets

You then might choose “buy travel book about Greece” as your first task, and head down to the bookstore to pick one up. The important thing is to do at least one single task that will move you closer to your goal.

Remember, a little bit of adventure is in the reach of every man. It doesn’t have to mean spending all your money or giving up your responsibilities. You can live like a happily ordinary guy 362 days a year, but just leave 3 days for doing something extraordinary, something that reminds you that you’re alive.

After you come up with your list, be sure to share it with us in the Community page.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Clay June 12, 2009 at 4:48 am

Brett, good stuff as always.

The ABA Journal (it might have been the Solo and Small Firm one) had a similar article.

It was titled something like “100 things.” The rationale is that your need to write down at least 100 things instead of just the typical dozen or so that everyone wants to do. The bigger list looked like a good idea because it forces you to think of a lot of small things too.

2 Kevin June 12, 2009 at 5:31 am

I decided against making a bucket list because I have no clue if I will die this year, in 20 years, or in 50 years. Instead I decided to make my lists based on decades. I have started with a list of 30 things I would like to do, accomplish or experience by the time a turn 30. You can find my list as well as follow along on my adventure here: http://30thingsby30.wordpress.com/descriptions/
Once I have reached 30, I will work on 40 things things to do by the time I turn 40 and have already started thinking of things to put on there.
I totally agree with making a list of some sort because goals are important for functional living. A bucket list definitely is a fun way to reach goals and by writing it down, your friends can see it and participate in a few of them with you.

3 Josh June 12, 2009 at 6:13 am

This is something that I have been wanting to do for a while. However, up to this point, I knew that I didn’t have the resources to do anything on the list and daily seeing a list of unattainable dreams would have depressed me. However, I am well on my way to having the resources now.. So I think I will finally start working on my list.

4 Brett June 12, 2009 at 6:48 am


I think writing down goals, even when you know you don’t currently have the resources to attain them, can bum you out a little, but it can also give you extra motivation and desire to acquire the necessary resources.

5 Josh June 12, 2009 at 6:58 am

I started writing my list and it turned into something of a sporadic journal as well. Feel free to read it if it all fits in this message.

1) Adventure: Something I have always wanted to do is throw everything to the wind and go somewhere. No preparation, no planning; I don’t even care where I go. Just pack a bag, choose a direction, and go until I want to come back.

2) Learn to repair automobiles: My dad was a good mechanic but, like most parents of my generation, my parents were exceedingly over protective. Rather than teaching me how to fix my car, he would insist on fixing it himself and not let me near it. This was a terrible blow to my self confidence. To this day, I don’t even know how to change my oil.

3) Achieve financial independence: I came from a dirt poor family. I have been working since the age of 12, first helping my family make ends meet, then trying to keep myself from going under. I put myself through college on loans and working 36 hours a week, and now the loans have come back to bite me in the ass. Though, unlike my parents, I can afford to, eventually, pay off my debt with only a little hardship on my part.

4) Sail to the Bahamas: My grandfather taught me to sail and, ever since I first stepped on a sailboat, I have wanted to sail for a distance. The Bahamas have many beautiful islands that still only have the islanders living on them. No restaurants, no casinos, nothing. Just relaxation and simplicity.

5) Earn the respect of my future in-laws: My fiancé’s parents are multi-millionaires. Her dad is the CFO and senior vice president of an insurance company, her mom only works part time and, yet, still makes far more than I do working full time. Ever since they first met me they have thought little of me, because of my family. Since then I have put myself through college and found a fine job, and yet I still sense that they have no respect for me. Perhaps they just see me as less than them and always will. I’d still like to rub my success in their faces.

6) Lose weight: When I was 16 I weighed 220 pounds. I decided to lose weight and gain muscle because I was planning to join the Marine Corps. I did just this, dropping down to 180 pounds of solid muscle, but I never joined the Corps because everyone I knew and cared about was so against it. Instead I went to college. I was 20 when I started and had kept the weight off until then. I spent three years there and gained all of that and more back. I now weigh 270 pounds. I live in shame and that shame keeps me from losing the weight. I need to suck it up and get rid of it.

7) Learn to fly: I have a driver’s license, a captain’s license, a hunting license, and a fishing license. All that’s left now is to achieve another dream of mine: To get my pilot’s license.

8) Reconcile with my brother: My brother and I never got along as children. We’re just too different. He was outgoing and handsome and I was a fat introvert who could barely keep up with the other children. As we aged, we grew further and further apart. Now we barely speak unless we are forced together by circumstance and even then it’s something of a “Hi”, “Bye” while we pointedly avoid looking at each other. He treated me terribly when we were children and, while it bothered me for a while, I am over it. I’d like to reconcile with him and let him know that I forgive him, so that we can be as brothers should be.

9) Ask my grandfather and my father about their lives: My family is not the most open family. I don’t even know my dad’s dad’s name. (He died before I was born) I know little to nothing of my father’s childhood or his hopes and dreams for himself. We have never been close and have never spoken much because he was always drunk when I was a kid and I resented him greatly until recently. My grandfather was always so caught up in work and personal projects that I never really got to know him either. I’d like to. I missed my chance with my great-grandfather, who was a WWII veteran. I always wanted to talk to him about it, as I am something of a WWII buff, but I never did. It was always, “I’ll ask him next time I see him” or “He probably doesn’t want to talk about it.” Then, one day, it was too late. I lost my chance and I don’t want that to happen with those who I still have a chance with.

10) Give my children an easier life than I had, while still not spoiling them: By now, if you have been reading everything I wrote, you will see that I didn’t have an easy childhood, and what is written here is only a miniscule portion of it. I think that the difficulty I had in growing up is what gave me the strength to succeed. However, I wouldn’t want to put my worst enemy through all the pain and suffering that was required in my childhood and adolescence, least of all my own children. I want to give them self confidence and keep them happy, but not give them everything they could ever want. I don’t want to them to have to work to support the family when they are 12, but I want to teach them the value of work and, yes, even hard physical labor. I have no intentions of paying their way through college. I will help, but they will hold down jobs and they won’t leave without some debt. Paying for it yourself really makes it worth something, rather than being an extended childhood with no supervision.

Of all of the goals I have listed here, I think this last one may be the hardest. I don’t even have children yet and I already want to protect them from life. But I need to force myself not to, or they may never grow up.

6 Jonathan Thomas June 12, 2009 at 8:19 am

I’m curious, how do you factor in the wife factor? Should the list be things you do with your wife? Or focused on things you want to do on your own.

One of the biggest problems my wife and I have is aligning each other’s dreams.

I think my bucket list would have things that are MY dreams but also incorporate things I’d like to do with my wife.

7 DMD June 13, 2009 at 2:52 pm

There’s a blog meme I’m fond of, “101 Things in 1001 Days.” It’s kind of like a bucket list. Basically, you think of 101 bucket-list type things to do in the next 1001 days (just under 3 years). Your items range from easy to extremely difficult. But since pretty much anything can be done in 3 years, you’re supposed to push yourself. See the “official” web site: http://www.dayzeroproject.com/

8 James June 25, 2009 at 10:42 am

I just recently came across this site and seeing the article 30 Days to being a better man I decided to start at day 1 and read them all. Most of them have motivated me but this one just frankly has me stumped.
I had never even heard of a Bucket List until that movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson came out that one year, and at the time I thought it was an odd idea at best.

I’ve spent hours trying to find anything that would fit on my bucket list until I realized I have nothing. I’ve never particularly wanted to go anywhere or do anything special.

So I fear this is one exercise I will have to skip entirely.

9 Jon Hachey October 10, 2009 at 7:32 pm

I really like this exercise. Made me think about my life a lot. This year I will ride the Dragon Descent, my 7-year old can do it! And I will take dancing lessons with my wife after we are both done school.

10 Parad E. Makewater October 14, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Well, I have put my first goal into my bucket list, does anyone know how I can get a hold of Natalie Portman? lol Just kidding! This is a great idea, and as soon as I find a job, ha, actually, that’ll be the first thing that goes in.

11 Kham May 5, 2010 at 2:15 am

Here is a great site to create,manage and share your bucket list.


check it out.

12 Ian December 23, 2012 at 3:01 am

- I wish I could spend more time with mom.
- I wish I could travel to Israel.
- I wish I could stay in Rishikesh (India) longer.
- I wish I could write couple more books.
- I wish I could get my body ripped like a male porn star for even just once.
- I wish I could levitate better in my yoga practice.
- I wish I could visit my brothers and my older sister even a little bit more.
- I wish I could influence just a little bit more people to the positive.
- I wish my life could be even a little bit more simplier and a little bit more happier.

13 Alexander Connell February 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I’m really quite proud of myself for sticking with this program for a whole 12 days. That’s better than I usually manage with things like this.

Anyway, today’s was comparatively easy as I’ve had a bucket list since before the term was in use. I revisit it every year or so and occasionally add or remove an item. I find there are some things I wanted to do when I was in my twenties that now, I’m just not too bothered about. And there are other things I’ve thought of since.

Most of my remaining “to do” items revolve around travel. I’ve been to a lot of the places on the original list but not yet all. Need to get a move on.

14 Tiancheng April 23, 2013 at 8:23 am


Bring mum to the States one day, and hopefully bring dad to Europe. Three kids, ideally two boys and one girl. Two of them ought to attend a brilliant liberal arts college, studying humanity subjects, and wish to exert a lasting impact in Chinese social transformation. An artist, or a real engineer thinking in a mathematician way can definitely add flavor into the family.


Tripoints and quadripoints on earth are of my great interests – beyond a common wish of traveling to all of world’s countries and regions, I hope to gain a genuine understanding of peripheral cultures. Those cultures may not be popular, economies may not be strong, but they have indeed achieved connections and inspired great migrations that significantly redirect our history. Hindu Kush, Kashmir, Altay, Caucasus, the Balkans, Alsace-Lorraine, Kurdistan… to name a few.

Specifically I would love to explore the target areas in different means, flight, ferry, railway, motorbike, bicycle, automobiles, and on foot. Each grants a fresh understanding of distances and level of difficulty for cultures to spread and merge.


Ideally I could focus on environmental preservation (sustainable development and aspiration to human-nature harmony) and education, especially liberal arts and civil rights education, in China. Skill set, essential network, and a strong financial background are to be established, hopefully before age of 35.

Life-long learning:

Of my significant interest are subjects – (1) Gateway to nature and universe: mathematics (esp. chaos and topology), quantum theory, system theory, cybernetics and information theory. (2) Looking physically into ourselves: biology, ecology (earth natural habitats and the careful balance) (3) Looking mentally into ourselves: philosophy, history, religions, linguistics and acquisition of various languages, sociology, and developmental psychology (esp. its biological evidences and chemistry connections). Besides those non-fictional disciplines, great books, performing arts of all kinds (esp. music, theater plays and arts design) will also fulfill to a very significant portion of my inner self.

In terms of what I have gotten going today – I watched TedTalks inspirational videos and attended online open course on Chinese Zhuang Zi philosophy.

15 Ryan August 27, 2013 at 7:33 pm

The first thing I did when I became interested in travel was to create a bucket list. I filled it with everything I saw that made me go “ooh ahh” on Stumbleupon. When it finally came to travel, I barely completed any of them, instead doing things I found more enjoyable. And looking back on it, I can’t even remember some of the places I listed on there and why!

Typically, people create bucket lists and never cross them out.

So I created a Micro Bucket List, and a guide as well, in case you want to check that out!


16 Kamil Stolarski September 5, 2013 at 5:52 am

Bucketlists are important, everyone got to have one. Its not that we all will complete all thats on the list – but eventually these wishes inspire us to do all that we should in our life.

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