YOLO aka You only live once.
Once you uncover your core values, your strengths, the things that excite you, the ones that you're most passionate about; things that energize you and awakens your inner curious child - when you start doing those things on a consistent basis, you start to live everyday.
The fact of the matter is - you only die once.
Along the same lines as YOLO, there is this thing called as bucket list which I think are for wanna be's. I used to be one of them.
But today I stick to my legacy list instead.
Let me explain.
First of all, what's a bucket list?
A list of things you do before you die.
2 things that are concerning here -
→ 'You' makes it selfish,
→ 'die' makes one to worry that they have to do or have or experience a list of certain things to feel they lived a happy life
Both are flawed.
When I first came to the US back in 2012, I had a bucket list. Nothing extravagant, but a list of things that involved traveling around the country, seeing the historic landmarks, having fun experiences, Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, etc.
But then at the end of 2013, I had a weird experience.
I had aggressively checked off a lot of things off of my bucket list. As an immigrant student, I had already walked across 21 US States.
People would get surprised. I just thought, traveling was super fun and it taught me to become a better person.
I got to witness my favorite bands live in concert - Metallica, Iron Maiden, RHCP, Lamb of God, Bullet for my Valentine, Avenged Sevenfold, and more.
I felt terrific at the moment I would cross off the thing on my list.
Only moments later, to realize that I had now lost the thing that gave me purpose and direction.
Instead of being grateful for the experiences I got to live, I was beating myself up over not spending the 2013 New Years Eve in Puerto Rico.
But this was not enough to teach me a lesson.
So in 2014, my bucket list got monstrous.
→ Travel to one foreign country each year
→ Launch 1 profitable business by end of year
→ Write and self-publish a book
→ Ship my PhD research in 3 years (failed miserably here)
Instead of inspiring me, the items on my bucket list were doing quite the opposite.
Not that they were bad things to do or have, but they ended up being counter-productive and caused me more worries and anxiety.
I was high in the rush of how to strike things off today, this year and then would get frustrated for not being able to cross them off.
Miseries and sufferings would come give me a hug.
But then during the 'A Drive To Inspire' campaign, while I was driving around the US, doing pushups and raising awareness about the obesity epidemic, I had a breakthrough moment.
When I reached Portland and my host and I drove up to Mt. Rocky Butte to do my set of pushups for Portland, he asked me -
"Ankur, what's your biggest fear while you're on the road driving?"
After letting the questions sink in, I replied back - "I have a message I want to share with the world. If I die before sharing it, then I'd feel my life didn't create much value."
My answer sounded all heroic right?
But then, Roy said something to me that helped me shift my psychology for the good.
He said - "Ankur, look at it this way. What you're doing right now is giving you meaning and is fulfilling to you. Now even if you end up dying, let's say in a road accident, then you'd end up dying having lived a fulfilled life. Because the thing that you're doing right now is bringing out the best within you. Not many people get to experience this."
I left Portland with that new paradigm shift and then finished the 24 day campaign to directly jump on to my first real estate business that bombed hard.
Fast forward 8 months, in April 2015, when I found myself homeless for a week in an abandoned building, I gave this thing a shot.
I ditched the bucket list i.e. the list of things/goals that I absolutely had to do that year and switched to incorporating systems in my life that made me a smarter, faster, and a better human being.
I became a person who -
→ Did pushups everyday
→ Took daily action on his physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being
→ Traveled for meaning rather than to gain pleasure
2015 was an year of redemption for me. The idea of living my life based on empowering systems rather than on a hedonistic rush to take things off the list made sense.
So I entered 2016 with the mindset of habits, routines, and systems of happiness, health, and wealth.
Surprisingly, once when I was traveling in Mexico for my startup, I discovered an interesting reality.
There were these backpackers from around the world, who had quit their jobs, saved up a few thousand bucks and were now traveling their way around their world.
Looking at their Instagram page, you'd never pick up that these folks were depressed.
See, here's the thing.
We tend to crave and want the things we don't have, instead of wanting the things we already have.
When I was traveling, my friends thought - "Dude is living the American dream."
But little did they know that - "I was running away from a reality. That I hated my graduate school research work and used a false narrative to build my startup."
But then things came to closure when in Mexico, I ended up saying 'No' to the invitations from my hostel mates who would go check out the landmarks in and around Oaxaca.
I was there to connect and document the stories of local artisans and found out later that it was this thing that gave me meaning during my travels.
Everything else became secondary.
After I came back to the US, I thought how can I create meaning in everything I do such that I don't have to worry about traveling across 192 countries or make a million dollars by 2020.
That's when it dawned on me that I've had the answer all this time.
"To live inspired and live to inspire others is my purpose in life." I had come up with this during 'A Drive to Inspire' campaign.
But the thing I didn't do was start practicing this in everything I do.
The moment I shifted my psychology to begin pursuing my purpose every day, meaning and fulfillment became a thing that was now in my control.
As I reflected back on my period of redemption, I had figured out a way how to add meaning to the work I did - whether it was working at the liquor store for 6 bucks an hour or cleaning the trash out of the houses I'd find on Craigslist. This was during the peak time of my hustle.
It was not the job itself that kept me going but the hope for a better future and the meaningful human connections I was making, the books I was learning - these were some of the things that made me come and feel alive.
Today, there are no more bucket lists.
I've come up with my idea of having a legacy list instead.
A legacy lives on after you're long gone.
What's a legacy list?
A few things that you want to leave as a legacy that is going to make this world a better place even after you're dead - no matter how small the contribution.
Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy is his 'I have a dream' speech and his contribution during the Civil rights movement.
Steve Jobs is remembered for what people associate Apple Inc with today.
Jeff Bezos-Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg-Facebook, Brian Chesky-Airbnb, while they have just gotten started, their work will live on long after they're gone.
That's the beauty of legacy.
So I came up with my own legacy list -
→ Any tasks, projects, experiences, or actions that I take on while I'm alive, I must strive my best to inspire others because that's how I end up inspiring myself.
This is what helps me to keep moving forward every single day while staying energized, excited, curious, hopeful, determined, passionate, authentic, optimistic, happy, and fulfilled.
That's it. Nothing more. No 2nd item on the list. The shorter the list, the more focused one can be.
Marriage, kids, money, travel - these are all actions that are connected to a higher purpose. For me, that is - to live inspired and live to inspire others.
BTW I haven't figured it all.
But today I wrote this. I feel inspired.
How do you feel?
What would your legacy list look like?
Still reading this? Thanks!
BTW I also send out a weekly newsletter, called the Sunday Dispatches. Smart professionals, just like you, enjoy reading it.
"I eagerly wait for Ankur's newsletter every Sunday because it is making me a better dad, a kickass team player at work, and an overall amazing person."
JOEL TURNBULL, Sr. Application Engineer @ Flowspace
"Ankur's newsletter challenges my current beliefs that helps to create necessary paradigm shifts. Plus his tactical strategies helps me with continuous self-improvement."
ARIEL TRAVIS, Project Specialist @ GE