I was thinking about goals and New Year’s resolutions when I came upon the story of John Goddard—an adventurer, lecturer, and perhaps “the world’s greatest goal achiever.”
If you’ve ever read the book Chicken Soup for the Soul, you might be familiar with Goddard’s name. (His story was included in the book.) But in case you don’t know who he is, prepare to be amazed. He was the first man in history to explore the entire length of the Nile. Still thirsty for more, he also was the first man to ever explore the length of the Congo. He’s climbed the Matterhorn, lived among native tribes in Brazil, Borneo, and New Guinea (among others), and somehow found the time to learn how to fence, fly a jet, and play the violin.
How did he manage to do all these things?
It all started like this. One rainy afternoon, when he was 15 years old, he sat down at his kitchen table and wrote three words:
“My Life List”
His list consisted of 127 goals: Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Fuji, and Vesuvius. Visit every country in the world. (He made it to all but 30.) Photograph Victoria Falls in Rhodesia (where he was chased by a warthog). Dive underwater to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Visit everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Taj Mahal, and 119 other goals in between.
Goddard died in 2013 at the age of 88, but not before completing 111 of the goals on his amazing list. You can see the entire list, and which he achieved, by visiting his website at www.johngoddard.info/life_list.htm. Or, just Google his name.
Looking at his list, I’m struck by how it mixes the grandiose (explore the Amazon) to the romantic (swim in Lake Victoria) to, well ... the normal. Goddard didn’t just want to travel, he wanted to accomplish. That’s why he set (and met) goals like “Become an Eagle Scout,” “Type 50 words a minute,” “Learn to play Clair de Lune on the piano,” or “Teach a college course.”
It goes without saying that Goddard is inspiring, but I think he’s a great example as well. While not all of us may “study native medicines,” like he did, or even want to, we all can sit down and decide what we really want in life. There are two things about Goddard that I think contribute to his success:
• He wrote down his goals and kept that list with him. His original list still exists today.
I think writing your goals down is important. If it’s just in your head, it’s a fantasy. But if it exists on paper, it’s a plan. You can always have it with you to look at, so at any given moment you can study your list and decide if what you’re doing is really what you want … or if you’re giving up what you want the most for what you only want right now.
• Once he wrote his list, he stuck to it.
Often when we set our New Year’s resolutions, or any goals for that matter, we change them before we ever meet them. Maybe that’s because we too often choose goals we think we should achieve, rather than ones we actually care about. Goddard wrote down goals that actually meant something to him. Maybe some were small, or even a bit eccentric (“light a match with a .22 rifle”), but he wrote them down because he wanted them. Not because he needed them. That way, achieving his goals was never work.
This year, I think it would be good to look at John Goddard’s amazing list, and then write your own. The list doesn’t have to be long, but it should be yours. The dreams of your childhood self. A Christmas List for life. Because if your New Year’s resolutions consist of what you truly want, well…
Why wouldn’t you achieve them?
So start today. Grab a yellow pad and write the words, “My Life List.” Then fill it up. And as you go through life, whether you’re nine or ninety, remember:
Don’t give up the things you want most for the things you only want right now.
Finally, remember that part of my job as a financial advisor is to help people achieve the things they want in life. So if you have any doubts as to whether you have the financial means to achieve your goals, or if you want to create a plan that will help you achieve them (which I strongly recommend), please give me a call at (707) 935-1124. Together, we can discuss how to finance your New Year’s resolutions. That way, you’ll no longer have to worry about paying for the life you want. Instead, you can spend your time actually living it.
Happy New Year! Happy Living!