The Pragmatic Man’s Bucket List

The Thinking Man

Start 2014 with these 15 ideas, which aren't about traveling, buying, or partying. They're about enjoying life, but in a pragmatic way, which has more to do with learning than anything else.

Work for a month for tips

If you’re middle class, slightly bourgeois and come from a plain old regular family, chances are you’ve never had to work a day in services your whole life. While comfortable, that sort of life experience also comes along with a certain sense of entitlement: you are entitled to have your food delivered now – or else. Try working for tips for a whole month. Wait table, clean them, sing, dance, do whatever feels closer to your current set of skills. Then watch as your entitlement wanes and is replaced by a more profound and humane understanding of the labor market.

Sell all the possessions you don't need

Yes, we live in the age of consumerism. Acknowledge it and own up to the fact that you, too, probably have a hoarding streak – even if it’s in an ever-so-slight degree. Are you going to fix that iPod? No, you’re not. Still need that collection of model boats you started at 13? No, you don’t. Organize a yard sale, socialize with your neighbors, see their faces light up at purchasing items they, too, will most likely not need. And get rid of it all… at least until you start accumulating new junk.

Live at high altitudes for a week.

Climbing a mountain is a worthy achievement in and of itself. Coaxing your body into functioning at high altitudes is an outright feat of endurance, resilience, and bravery. That’s because, when you live high up above, your body needs to adapt to doing more work, with fewer resources. You actually won’t be able to do it, unless you are in physical shape – so get with the program.

Grow your own food.

You don’t have to turn into the world’s next Jamie Oliver. But it’s extremely easy to grow an apartment herb garden these days. Add a tomato patch and a couple of other veggies, nurture them, understand their soil, watering, and lighting needs – then toss them up into a glorious salad. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can also grow your own poultry and see if you’ve got the heart for that fillet for dinner afterward.

Disappear for two weeks, and tell no one where you are.

All right, perhaps ‘no one’ is a harsh term. If you believe your parents would be worried sick, then do let them know where you are, but swear them to secrecy. In a world that’s becoming increasingly connected, disappearing is one of the most difficult things to pull off. Check out Baratunde Thurston’s account of his two weeks offline last year for the holidays to understand the actual challenge of this item on the list.

Volunteer on a regular basis.

It’s been scientifically proven to alleviate the effects of depression. Until recently, most of the research focused on the effects volunteering has on the morale of the elderly, but by now it’s a known fact it can benefit people of all ages.

Live in the great outdoors for a week.

Rough it: it can be at a camping site or in your own backyard. It doesn’t matter, as long as what you see above your head is the stars and the moon, and not a concrete ceiling or roof.

Babysit a small child for a whole day.

This challenge is for those who don’t have families of their own. It doesn’t matter whether you want one or not. You actually can’t know until you’ve spent some time with a kid. They will likely strike an appropriate balance between being totally obnoxious and totally adorable, forcing you to reconsider all the preconceptions you have about kids.

Repay your mortgage in full.

It’s probably one of the many effects of the GFC, but you, too, have probably had someone explain it to you: paying off your entire mortgage is a ‘bad’ financial decision. Usually, such a claim is followed by some long-winded explanation about assets and other terms the person doing the explaining doesn’t really have a grasp of. Yet, as Ask Men contributors rightfully pointed out, some 75% of the men and women who make the Forbes 400 list each year loathe nothing more than debt. So paying off your entire mortgage might not be the most financially savvy thing to do, in some speculative worldview or another. However, it is probably the most commonsensical financial goal you can set for this lifetime – and a far more achievable one than becoming a billionaire or running your own island.

Complete a creative project.

Play guitar, take dance classes, film a movie, write a story – whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be good or particularly innovative. It just has to be you, with your skills, your voice, and your experiences, transmuted into a relatable piece of art. It will give you tremendous insight into what those artists we all criticize daily go through.

Take out life insurance.

Taking out life insurance is costly. It’s also complicated, since you need to make sure you’ve got your financial needs covered for the future, that you’re not under-insured, and that you can afford to keep paying your premium on a monthly basis. You need to understand life insurance and all the different options you have, as explained on this website. It can also be a bit of a drag, in the sense that it reminds you of your own mortality – well, guess what? No one gets to live forever and that also includes you. So why not take the pragmatic, cautious approach and head into the great big unknown future prepared?

Learn to fly a plane.

It’s expensive, but it compares to no other rush in the world, not to riding a motorcycle, not to speeding on the freeway, not to anything else. It requires immense concentration and coordination skills, so it’s a challenge worthy of any man’s attention.

Train for a marathon.

You don’t even have to participate, though we’re pretty sure that if you do go through with the months of training this requires, you’ll be the first one signing up. This challenge is all about being resilient, determined, and focused enough to make it to the finish line, even if you end up last.

Take an army assault course.

Remember the old days, when military service was compulsory? It still is, in a quite a few countries around the world. That experience builds character in a way only war can – and since, of course, we don’t want anyone to go to war, we believe a simulation would be the next best thing.

Meet your favourite celebrity.

Even if he/she turns out to be a total jerk, you will still have a tale to tell. It will also help with self-confidence, particularly if you find yourself being star-struck ever so often.