I travelled back to my hometown for Christmas this year and took the time while I was there to enjoy the company of old friends over drinks in familiar pubs. I spent one such night with a former colleague and great friend whom had always provided me with a sounding board and personal “level” during our time together in banking.
As we sat alternating rounds at one of our old haunts, he described to me a renewed outlook he had developed over the past several months of particularly long hours at work. He had come to the realization that in addition to professional success, personal zest for life was an equal contributing factor to one’s happiness. Accordingly, he resolved to inject some life back into his waking hours, and that began with a definition of what living meant.
When he sat down to define the things that make us happy, it became apparent that so many of us think that happiness is defined by “having”. That is to say having a 56″ TV, having a nice car, having an arbitrarily high account balance. What my friend realized is that “having” is a poor substitute for “doing”. Thinking back, I realized he was right. The happiest times in my life have not stemmed from things I had, but from things I did. The state championship my senior year of high school. The spontaneous overnight drive with roommates to Florida for a weekend in college. A wild weekend in New York City with my brother and a close friend. Experiences pay dividends far richer than possessions.
So, rather than medicating with shiny toys, we resolved to spend money “having” remarkable experiences with friends. We sat down to write out 30 things we each wanted to experience while we are still young and relatively unencumbered by family, mortgage, and age. We made plans to accomplish at least three of them in 2010 together. My list is titled “30 by 30”, and these are the things I wrote down.
- Travel to Las Vegas and witness a title fight from the good seats. DONE
- Learn guitar well enough to play cover songs for tips one night in a bar.
- Ski the back bowls at Vail without falling. DONE
- Headline the local paper just once, for something positive.
- Get lost for a summer weekend in the Rockies with only a tent, sleeping bag and camping stove. DONE
- Chop down a tree for firewood. DONE
- Soak up the tropical weather and several mojitos in Miami. DONE
- Learn mixed martial arts.
- See the Sox play at Fenway, curse at visiting team with local Bostonians.
- Travel through Europe for several weeks without a defined itinerary. DONE
- Become “first name basis” friendly with a celebrity I admire.
- Climb to the peak of a mountain tall enough to be an accomplishment (more than a day hike). DONE
- Attend a Hollywood party – with an invitation.
- Pick up a girl who is way out of my league. DONE
- Rent a Ferrari and drive the Northern California coast.
- Learn to snowboard. DONE
- Live like a king for a week in Buenos Aires.
- Become a recognized expert in a topic of my choosing, however narrow. DONE
- Grow a real, outdoorsman-caliber beard. DONE
- Sail for a week in the Bahamas, on a rented boat, without a guide.
- Become a good enough sailor to achieve #20. DONE
- Attend a party at a rooftop bar with a view in New York City. DONE
- Climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower. DONE
- Experience the neon and culture shock in Tokyo.
- Become a regular at a local bar. Enjoy free drinks. DONE
- Beat one of the old men in the park at chess.
- See Billy Joel in concert. DONE
- See Journey in concert.
- See John Mayer in concert. DONE
- See The Goo Goo Dolls in concert. DONE
An ambitious list for sure, and one that will probably not end up fully marked off by my 30th birthday. However, if even half of the items do get accomplished, they should provide some excellent fodder for reminiscing next time we share a pint at Christmas. To those following along at home – what things would you put on your “30 by 30” list? If you’re over 30, what are some things you still want to experience before retirement (i.e. things you don’t want to put off)?
Also, if this is a topic that interests you, make sure to read Paul Graham’s essay “Stuff” which discusses the “over-stuffing” of America. Take the money you would spend on “stuff” and spend it on something that’s actually going to increase your happiness level – life experience.