The Life List Kickoff — 100 things to do before you go

I’m currently flying back to DC from my first business trip in Denver. It’s a relatively short flight (4hrs), and it will be accompanied by an even shorter train ride. But it’s giving me some much needed introspection time. I need it because I’m having to contemplate my whole life.

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22: | touching ground in #DC as #POTUS @barackobama delivers his last #SOTU …8 years ago today I had yet to graduate high school — to experience hope and change transcend the limits of thought barely touches the surface for why I’m able to stand today as a proud American 

As I draft this post, I just finished reading the book Americanah by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi and President Obama is delivering his final State of the Union. Why does this matter you may wonder? I don’t fully know (ha), but those are the facts and it’s a moment in time I’m feeling strongly vulnerable yet very much daring. I’ve been dizzying myself with doubts, despite the many indicators that point to resilience and progress yet I wonder if and when I will truly be free, when I fully allow myself to be spun into being, so I take up a particular exercise which has me go through: making a Life List.

In practical terms, a Life List is similar to a bucket list, only less morbid. In it, you outline things you want to accomplish in life, but there are particular parameters around Life Lists that make them special. Parameters like it can’t contain any guilt-driven things (“Lose 10 pounds.”) It has to be fun.

And the list shouldn’t be set in stone – it’s a living, breathing constitution for your life goals. If in a few years things change, and one doesn’t seem right anymore, strike it with no guilt.

Of course I have seen others make such a list, and was familiar with the concept. But I had never gone through the exercise myself. Here and now, on a plane flying somewhere over Phoenix for all I know, as President Obama delivers his final State of the Union, I’m doing it. I’m writing down everything I’ve ever wanted to do in life. It’s simultaneously scary and exhilarating.

So far, I’ve put down a little over 50 items on my list (the goal is 100). Here’s what I’m working with so far, in no particular order. And I ask you to withhold your judgements about both how lofty and how simple some of them are:

  • Fight in a kickboxing match
  • Learn to speak conversational French + Spanish + Portuguese
  • Bungee jump
  • Visit the Great Wall
  • Scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Drive a convertible down Route 66
  • Restore an old muscle car
  • Write a memoir
  • Write a novel
  • Hike down the Grand Canyon (and back up)
  • Invent something
  • Run a Tough Mudder
  • Compete in a triathlon
  • Be invited to the White House
  • Pilot a plane
  • Sky dive
  • Own my own art studio
  • Do a studio photography shoot
  • Design my own menswear line
  • Travel back to Kinshasa, DRC
  • Own a family business (with food)
  • Become a CEO
  • Pick grapes in Tuscany
  • Go on an African safari
  • Go on a silent retreat
  • Speak at a TED conference
  • Visit Robben Island
  • Meet Desmond Tutu
  • Meet Kofi Anan
  • Visit all 50 states
  • Visit all 7 continents
  • Hunt for my food
  • Take a yearlong sabbatical
  • Paint a beautiful painting
  • Learn to sail
  • Fall in love and build an empire
  • Marry and have children
  • Organize a sold out art mixer
  • Release an album
  • Own a coffeehouse
  • Be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • See Mount Rushmore
  • Attend a Hollywood movie premier
  • Act in a movie
  • See the Pyramids
  • See Stone Hinge
  • Run a verified account on Twitter
  • Bet on a winning horse
  • Hold political office
  • Sail around the Tierra del Fuego
  • Be a featured LinkedIn Influencer
  • Teach a college class
  • Learn to cook
  • Write for the New Yorker
  • Be on a Gimlet media podcast
  • Tell a story for This American Life
  • Earn a PHD
  • Start a million dollar company

One thing this exercise has done that I wasn’t expecting was to help me realize how much I didn’t have to put on the list. I’ve already stepped foot inside the White House. I’ve already earned a Master’s degree. I’ve experienced international travel and study abroad. I’ve visited several Museums in DC, New York and other intercontinental U.S. cities. In short, I think I’ve done a damn good job with my non-written Life List so far. Now thanks to the mighty certified Life List, I can just make the rest “official.”

And you know what, who says I can’t do this stuff? The more I wrote down, the more ridiculous it felt. But at the same time, I thought, Why not? Why can’t this kid from a semi-underdeveloped Congo town accomplish most if not all of this stuff? I’m not expecting to do it all, but I’d rather lean towards Yes, I will do this rather than I could never do that.

What would be on your list? I bet you could think of five things off the top of your head, just like I did. The things that always linger towards the surface, gnawing at you. What’s something scary that you haven’t wanted to voice?

About the Author
Mariel Kanene is CEO and Founder of and lead storyteller who loves building things, photography, company cultures, and all things design. His passion for storytelling was born in Kinshasa, Congo, groomed in Dallas, Texas, and cultivated in Washington, DC where he now resides. By day, Mariel spends his days slowly trying to change the world—one meaningful interaction at a time. He loves reading factual-fiction, good podcasts, traveling, health and fitness, foreign languages and good conversations over good coffee and even better cognac. He hates talking about himself in third person.He hates talking about himself in third person.Thanks for stopping by. Always appreciated. Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin | Website.

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