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Things That P*ss Me Off: Bucket Lists

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Nothing contributes to one's own sense of entitlement quite like having a serious bucket list.

Nothing contributes to one's own sense of entitlement quite like having a serious bucket list.

Barely a week goes by without a book proposal coming in that is some version of the whole “bucket list” phenomenon. The bucket list, for those of you who don’t know, is that list people maintain (usually in their minds) of all the things they want to do before they die — like skydiving or a threesome or whatever.

Our culture encourages bucket lists because our culture encourages the culture of ME. You see it in books all the time — especially in the personal growth genre — the idea that you are special and important and a child of the universe (possibly true, but the universe is a philandering bastard who has many children with billions of mothers and doesn’t even know your name). Whether it’s the whole “Eat, Pray, Love” thing or something else, we are raised to serve ourselves and our needs, and the bucket list is the ultimate symbol of unwarranted and unearned self-importance.

Here’s a better idea: help someone else do something they have always wanted to do but is far more modest than most things on your bucket list. Whereas you may have always wanted to swim with the dolphins in some exotic locale, there is someone else who has always just wanted to enjoy a real pedicure and manicure, a nice meal in a nice restaurant, or just have one pair of shoes that didn’t come from the thrift store or Payless. These desires may seem incredibly unsophisticated or lacking in aspiration to you, but they are very real to others — as real as any of yours.

Realize that many of the things you take for granted are the items in some other people’s bucket list. You are their bucket list. I can guarantee you that the satisfaction you’ll receive from helping others will far exceed your giddy dolphin endorphin rush.