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15 Little Life Hacks

What’s on your bucket list?

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I don’t know about you, but I never really knew what to say when people asked me what was on my bucket list (if you haven’t heard the phrase before, a “bucket list” is a list of things you want to do before you die).

Common bucket list items:

  • Go skydiving
  • Live in Paris
  • Compete in a triathlon
  • Buy your parents a house
  • Swim with dolphins

All of those sound cool, but today I want to talk about BUCKET LIST vs. REALITY.

How many of us magically wish for something to happen…but do nothing about it?

This is a little politically incorrect, but I’ve promised to always be honest with you:

Your best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So if you’ve lived to be 25, 30, 35, even 45 without doing your bucket list items…

…chances are you never will.

Here, I’ll show you exactly what I mean.

Every so often, I run a contest on my blog where I give away $1,000, or a trip to Hawaii, etc. I ask people to tell me what they’d do if they won, and I get THOUSANDS of comments.

But what happens when people don’t win? Do they figure out a way to do it anyway? Or do they just sit back, sigh, and go on with life? (“Damn, that would have been nice…”)

I decided to follow up with a few people that commented on one of my $1,000 giveaway contests and didn’t win. Watch and see.


Here’s what one reader said he would do:

“I would use the $1,001 to pay for a class on how to get over my shyness”


Even though he didn’t win, did he find a way to take the class anyway?

“I would still love to take an improv class if I could afford it… I bought a book by Neil Strauss that has given me advice on being more social. I still struggle with shyness and am still looking for something that can give me a permanent solution.”

Sadly, no. Let’s try another.

 “I would love to take a hands-on mentoring photography workshop”


Did Gabby do it?

“Not yet, but I do plan on attending a mentoring workshop this year. One of my favorite newborn photographers is thinking about coming to [my city] for a workshop, which would be great since I wouldn’t have to travel…”

Still waiting. Still delaying until something external changes.


Compare those above responses to THESE ones:

“I would take my girlfriend to Denver…we’d check out some of the best rock climbing in the world while out there”


We followed up with Dave to see if he’d done it.

“I/we did make it out to Boulder. Shortly after that post…got an offer in December. Moved to Boulder, CO on Jan. 1, 2013…The company paid for moving expenses, and the job itself came with a 26% raise, care of Ramit’s negotiation course that I bought.

I’m totally going to volunteer a bunch of information (and brag) to show how awesome my life has been since moving here:

  • Became a professionally sponsored rock climber
  • Chosen to be a member of Columbia Sportswear’s social media ambassador program (#OmniTen)
    • Free gear, all expenses paid trip to Park City, UT, all expenses paid trip to the Kingdom of Jordan
  • Website (blog) has taken off, which brought in more opportunities –

And I bought Ramit’s Earn1k the last time he offered it…I will be starting my own business on the side this year…”

Do you see the difference? Dave didn’t NEED to win to take action. It would have been nice, but he didn’t need some outside blessing — he did it himself.

Let’s look at another one from IWT reader “Pete”:

    “I would use the $1,000 to build my side business”


Pete didn’t win, but two years later:

“My photo business has seen tremendous growth since that post. Wow, that seems so long ago. I have expanded my client roster to nearly 30 agents spanning 4 separate real estate agencies here in Green Bay. I have since left my job in marketing to go full time with my photography business, Green Bay Home Tours ( Last year, in my first full year doing photography, full time I averaged 20 homes per month. This year looks even more promising…I did get business cards, I believe shortly after I made the post. They’ve been a big help in growing my business…I am pretty proud of what I’ve built thus far, but have a long way to go.”


Losers wait for the world to give them permission to do something. Winners do it anyway.

Do you see the difference? Life doesn’t happen to you. You MAKE it happen.

Of course it would be nice to get $1,000 free. But if you don’t win, you find a way, any way.

There are so many other examples:

  • “I hope I get into XYZ college, because then, I can really…”
  • “I hope XYZ likes me, because then, I know I’ll…”
  • “I hope I get this promotion, because then, I’ll be able to…”

YOU DO IT ANYWAY. You find a way. “Waa, Ramit, that sounds easy because you went to Stanford, but I don’t have [your eyebrows/your email list/etc].” First of all, never whine to me. I’ve covered over 500 ways to get what you want over the last 10 years on my blog.

More importantly, take an honest look at your past behavior: If you’ve been claiming you want to move to Paris, or learn a new language, and you haven’t taken any action towards it…today is a GREAT day to decide:

  1. I really want to do this. Here’s what I’m going to do to get it.
  2. I actually DON’T want this. Screw it. I’m crossing it off my list (doing this is incredibly freeing)


What’s on your bucket list? It could be anything — traveling to another country, starting your own business, or getting in shape. Leave a comment below: What’s 3 things you’ve always wanted to do? And what’s held you back so far?

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about one way to make them happen.

P.S. Speaking of moving to Paris, one of our IWT employees packed up her entire family and moved to Paris — and she could do it because I support my entire team working remotely.

If you’re interested in working for IWT, I’m hiring for several positions at IWT, including Technical Lead (looking for a senior engineer who understands systems), Senior Data Analyst, Executive Customer Support Rep, and more. See all the details and positions at the IWT careers page.

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  1. My three things I want to always do:
    1. Go to Grad School for psychology
    2. Get in Shape
    3. Go to Aruba

    Things holding me back
    1. I have crippling invisible scripts that says I am not capable of going to grad school, and I have a lot of anxiety when I try to study for my GRE exams. I have dedicated myself to 15 minutes 3 times a week of focused work, and have three different groups out there to hold be accountable to this. It’s exhausting just to do 15 minutes of work, and I am moving slowly, but I am moving farther now than when I was just feeling anxious.
    2. I consistently went to yoga last year 2-3 times a week, but had very little results, so I hired a personal trainer and I am using a cognitive behavioral therapy book to practice good eating habits.
    3. I am accumulating air mileage. After this quarter, I should have enough for one ticket for my husband and I to go.

    • Lily, at Barnes and Noble there are GRE books that train you on how to take the test and pass. I chose this approach over relearning the math skills and it worked really well. I was barely functional with the flu the day I took the GRE but just passed with the score I needed for my grad program due to the training from that book. On math problems I was able to eliminate two of the answers out of four thanks to the book. I forget the name but highly recommend it, I’m sure it’s still sold at Barnes and Noble.

  2. 1. Climb an ice-capped mountain in the Canadian Rockies with my son.
    2. Learn to surf with my daughter off the Monterey coast.
    3. Work to make my business take off so I can do 1 and 2 whenever I want.

  3. I have a rather large bucket list, but I’ve worked hard to consistently cross those things off. Last year at this time I had three things I really wanted to do. I wanted to find a job (or create one) that I absolutely love. I wanted to go SCUBA diving. And I wanted to start a podcast. I have successfully done all three things, though not at once.

    I purchased the Earn1K course in May or June of last year. I went through it and started a relatively successful freelance business for academic editing. Turns out, I hated the work and I hated working by myself. So within three months I stopped doing that work and aggressively networked around town to land a dream job working as a Data Scientist at a startup. It’s awesome and since starting I’ve increased my salary by 10% (using some of Ramit’s tactics).

    This year, my girlfriend and I made SCUBA a priority. We were planning on going to the Grand Cayman’s this month (generous gift from her parents) and we wanted to be certified by then. We picked a place here in town and signed up just to get the ball rolling. Two weeks ago we did our checkout dives and we are now officially Open Water Divers. It’s freaking awesome.

    And lastly, the podcast was a personal thing I wanted to try to see if I liked it. I love listening to podcasts and I consistently felt I could do something like that. I had some Amazon money from birthday and just bought a decent looking microphone about a month ago. I grabbed one of my buddies and we started recording. We have 4 episodes now and later this month I’m going to start releasing them on a new domain I bought.

    Currently, my top three things on my bucket list are 1) to be debt free by the end of the year (looking real good so far. Would have gone faster if we didn’t do the SCUBA, but it was totally worth it). 2) Write, shoot, and edit a short film (progress is being made. I’ve been playing a lot with my GoPro and shot several fun videos – and been contacted by GoPro to license my footage – and am writing more screenplay-esque stuff). 3) Learn to program even better and kick ass as a Data Scientist (so far so good, I know Python pretty well and my JavaScript is improving weekly).

    This is a long comment, but it’s really amazing how far I’ve come with a year of focused effort. Ramit, your site has been a part of the driving force behind that. It’s great having weekly reminders to focus on the big wins and just fucking do it, instead of talking about it all the time. So thanks for that.

  4. 1. I want to open a ranch for abused, neglected and unwanted animals. I want to take animals that shelters turn down because there are too many & foster them until I can re-home them. I want to take any and all animals that need help & then find them happy and loving homes.

    2. I want to buy a new car. I have always had old cars that break down and every time we get a rental I just love being behind the wheel.

    3.I want to visit Egypt. I’ve had a fascination with the culture and the history since I was in the 5th grade.

  5. My bucket list feels a little urgent these days as I am battling breast cancer.The three top things on my list are.
    1.Be a better listener.
    I think in my attempt to feel more connected to humans, I appear to one up people. I am have managed three times in the last day to stop myself when I begin to tell a story of “yes, i had that experience once”., to someone else. I had no idea how difficult it made it for people to feel close to me, instead of becoming closer to people it distanced them from me.
    2. Draw every single day.
    3. Travel. Cancer treatments have made it difficult for me to pay even things like rent and utilities. I worry about my job . Part of me wants to become a good enough portrait artist that I can travel and draw along the way ,making enough money to support myself.

  6. 1. I’d have a party and invite all the people who’ve been so generous to me, plus new people I want to become friends with.
    2. I’d hire an assistant to help me be more productive with my business.
    3. I’d self publish my book.

  7. 1. Learn how to surf.
    2. Become PADI certified.
    3. Visit my cousin in France.

    What’s held me back?

    Myself. I think that we all get these messages in our heads that something grandeur we want is not attainable. I focus on my career and improving myself in multiple ways but then when it comes to really fun things in life, I talk myself out of it. I come up with excuses like… “I want to do that so badly, maybe next summer” or “I just need to practice my French more.” I rarely spend money on myself unless I see an immediate need.

    All 3 of these require money so I’ve decided to set up an account nicknamed “Reward Andie” with money for larger dreams. Then, I will force myself to use it by making plans to travel with friends/family and typing my plan. I have learned that mapping out plans on my computer in which I can refer back to on a daily basis gives me the right amount of drive to act.

    I have barriers in my mind but I can identify and squander them. It is a matter of mustering the courage and energy to do so. One life!

  8. 1. Attain financial freedom by means of getting a job or starting my own business to support my immediate family.
    2. World Tour
    3. Skydiving

    The major thing holding me back is myself. I’ve been altering my habits but its been a slow process.

  9. 1. Get married. I want a partner I can share experiences with throughout my life.
    2. Earn my MFA in Theatre. I want to be smarter. I have a hard time articulating myself and want to have more input in the creative endeavors I’m pursuing.
    3. Visit India. In my heart, I know that will be part of my journey.
    What’s holding me back? Not knowing what’s holding me back. I’ve been going through a tremendous personal/spiritual change lately. I didn’t have the best childhood, no family support, etc. Not to mention I’m an actress by trade, which makes it incredibly hard financially. In fact, I could say that my finances have held me back the majority of the time. That’s why I’m here now, learning how to get out of debt and take control of my life. I’ve been saving everyday. I will have $1000 at the end of this year to start my first IRA. I’ve been paying off student loans and credit card debt and earning extra income with part time jobs.

  10. Bucket List
    1..See every National Park in America. (just a few more to go)
    2..Grow my side business so I can work for myself. (Almost there – its so close…..)
    3..Build my own home in my favorite town in Arizona. (one failed attempt already…But i’ll get there)

    What is holding me back? In one word, my reality.
    1..No vacation at work, and too much work with my side business. It seems like every waking moment is about work.
    2..Financial and Family obligations (two kids with big college dreams… and just me, to make it all work 🙂
    3..See 2..