It’s a simple question: what have you done that few other people have?
Think about it, but take note: you might start to list your accomplishments or achievements, and that’s a different list. Some of those might make this list as well, but not all. Many things you accomplish are things that other people have done as well. On the other hand, perhaps you’ve done something that isn’t quite an accomplishment per se, but it would be rare to meet someone else who’s had the same experience.
Those are the things that should go on this list.
For my list (below) I focused on things I’ve done that are mostly positive, or at least aren’t overwhelmingly negative. When I was eleven I burned down a house, for example, but thankfully no one was hurt. All’s well that ends well! If it turned out differently, I don’t think I’d remember it so fondly.
So for better or worse, here are a few things I’ve done that few other people have, at least relatively speaking.
My List (Abridged)
- Met a president
- Burned down a house (age 11, no one was harmed)
- Drove for the first time in a stolen car (age 14, a mailbox was harmed)
- Visited every country in the world
- Visited every U.S. state and territory, every province in Canada, and many other unique or unusual places
- Talked with a warlord named General Butt Naked in Liberia
- Successfully avoided real employment from age 19 onwards (20+ years and counting)
- Rejected by Harvard, then guest lectured at Harvard (x3)
- Dropped out of high school but went to college and then grad school
- Started a conference that eventually attracted 10,000 people
- Maintained a daily podcast streak (new episode every day) for 1,600+ days
- Maintained an exercise streak (closing all Apple Watch circles) for 800+ days
- Showered on a plane (x4, all thanks to using points on Emirates Airlines)
- Got deported from a country (Eritrea) in the middle of the night
- Rode a bus for 35 hours from Kampala, Uganda to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
I’m sure there’s more, but I tried to focus on truly unusual experiences. Also, I could add a lot more items in the categories of travel and juvenile delinquency, but at a certain point it would get repetitive.
If you’re thinking about life goals, you tend to picture things that a lot of other people have done. This makes sense, because how could you imagine something that doesn’t exist?
But those things that few other people have done might be more interesting. When you’re looking back at the movie of your life, might the highlight reel include something you did that was highly unusual?
I enjoyed making my list, and it was fun to see what other people came up with when I posted it on social media. Ultimately, however, I’m more interested in thinking about what’s next. Generally I prefer to avoid too much reflection about the past.
What’s on your list—and what are you working on right now?
Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit, The $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. His new book, Born for This, will help you find the work you were meant to do. Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.
Image courtesy of cottonbro.