Dump Your Bucket List for Your Passion List!

Bucket lists are life lists about what one should do before they die. This concept of a bucket list was introduced into our cultural landscape in the movie, “‘The Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. In the movie, two terminally-ill cancer patients go on a world-wide tour of life experiences before they ‘kick the bucket.”

Bucket lists are not meant to be sustainable nor are they enduring. Personally, I don’t see this as a very fulfilling activity…to jump from one unconnected thrill to the next before I die. Similarly, Jerry Seinfeld has no appreciation for the idea of a bucket list as he joked “change the B to an F and be done with it.”

I believe you should create a passion list instead! A passion list is a list of activities that you love, activities that you get excited about, that turn you on and light a fire within you. Activities that you might want to learn, get better at and master.

How does one determine what your passions are in order to create a passion list? One of my passions is music. Playing music, listening to music, going to concerts and mastering the guitar. You may want to go back to your childhood and remember all the activities you did for fun, things you do without thinking about them. Was it riding bikes, playing sports or reading great novels? Whatever it was you did things because you enjoyed them. Look back at your adolescent years. Did your passions change? Did you find a new passion? What were the triggers that ignited that spark? How long did you do this activity? Did you explore it deeper and deeper? You may have a passion that you haven’t experienced in a long time. These are activities or hobbies that for any number of reasons, we stopped doing. We might not pick them back up for a long time or perhaps never.

I urge you to create Your passion list. It doesn’t need to be a long list. It could be only one thing! Write down all the things you are passionate about. Those things that you would do for free, all the time because you get some intrinsic value from it.

Passion is what fuels our energy and behavior every day, not some event to look forward to in the future. It’s about living in the moment and enjoying the process — being present. Passions help keep us connected to what boils our blood. Why is it important to be passionate about what you do? There are many reasons. The first and most important is that when times get rough or you’re distracted by life’s inevitable twists and turns, your passions will pull you through. If it’s not a passion it can be real hard to stay motivated, focused and to have fun!

Passion also drives mastery. What does it take to master something? A popular thesis is that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master something. A Princeton study revealed that practice was not as important as we first thought. What else then, accounts for how one masters something? I’ll summarize it in my pursuit of mastering the guitar. I love music and always have. As I reflect on my childhood, I vividly remember sitting in 7th grade music class. The teacher let us bring in albums to listen to. One “rebel” kid brought in the album “Machine Head” by the band Deep Purple. The kid wanted the teacher to play the popular song on the album, but instead he played “Highway Star”, a progressive hard-driving rock song with several classic structures and charging instrumentals. As the song unfolded it captured my entire soul. I had one thought. I want to do that!

As I continued my musical pursuits I found myself in music school in college. I remember having to sight sing musical scores in class. This is a terrifying activity especially when you can’t read music…or sing. Needless to say, I did not do well. The professor, a classically trained pianist, publicly ostracized me several times throughout the course. He even told me I would never be a musician! This is a classic fixed mindset. His thinking was likely along the lines of’, “He must have been born with a lack of musical talent, thus, he’ll never be a musician!” I even had a music teacher tell me that if I couldn’t bend my fingers a certain way that I could never be a guitarist! Really?

A fixed mindset assumes that we are born with our talents and intelligence that we can’t move beyond this given capacity. Had I bought into the beliefs of my music professor, and sometimes parents or friends, I would never have continued. Not without passion and a growth mindset! If we work hard, focus on overcoming problems and practice, we can learn anything.

I believe that there are more efficient ways of learning. Exponential learning can speed the rate at which we learn as your passion drives a desire to learn even more. This accelerated learning effect strengthens and widens the cognitive connections in our brains. These conceptual connections expand our minds and our passions!

Finally, you should not be alone in your passion pursuits. Find people that share your passions, mentors that can guide your path. Feedback is a gift. Use it to guide your learning. Feedback will tell you where your learning spots are…places where you need to work on the problem. Remember to approach problems with both divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking applies creativity to find several, plausible solutions to the same problem. Convergent thinking forces you to zero in on the solution.

Dump your bucket list for your passion list. Don’t focus on those few things in your bucket before you die! Live a life of passion and you will be the best you can be every day. To that nameless music professor, here is my version of “Highway Star.”

Passions List

Be the best dad everyday

Hack education

Everything music

Love people

Love my work

Learn constantly

Play “Highway Star”

Play beach volleyball

Hike with friends