Sergeant Tony's Blog

The Journey of a Thousand Miles — Sgt. Tony Ludlow’s post for 2/3/2018

Saturday, Feb. 3rd 2018 2:31 PM

“What’s on your bucket-list?”

That’s a common question, isn’t it?

Sometimes you see this question on an online dating profile.

A buddy of mine, a fellow outdoorsman, said that he was hopeful when he read a lady’s profile and it said that she liked to camp. On their first, and only, date, he asked her about her love for camping. She believed that “camping” was living out of your suitcase in a 5-star hotel. She’d never actually spent a night in a tent. Yes, I know men make similar claims on those profiles too. One female friend said that she met a guy for drinks who’d claimed on his profile that he was “in between opportunities” career-wise. Turns out he hadn’t worked in two years since he got “laid off from Radio Shack.”

But the question remains, and is a good one: “What things would you like to do, or see, or experience before you ‘kick the bucket’?” (That’s where the “bucket” comes from for the list.) Back in high school, I put together a list like that. I don’t have that list anymore, lost somewhere along the way, I’m sure. But I remember the major items on it. Since those teenage days, I’ve checked off a lot of things on that list. (Become a Marine, earn my college degree, learn a foreign language, live in Japan …). I’ve also revised it.

Over the years, I’ve added to that list as my view of the world has expanded and life has been piled upon life, and the hard taskmaster of experience has altered my views and maturity has adjusted for reality. Your list has probably undergone similar amendments, no doubt. It seems that sort of editing would be normal for most people, to have an expanding list as a person’s world-view widens and their understanding of life matures.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about future plans and aspirations a little differently, approaching the list process from a different perspective with a different set of assumptions.

Not really sure what else to add to my list a few years ago, I started imagining things I would never do, and then thinking about those things to see if I’m ok with never doing them. Does it fill me with some sense of regret that makes me sad if I don’t do those things? A sense of regret that I could use as fuel to actually DO those things?

For example, I wrote, “I will never go to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.”

Turns out, I’m OK with that. Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower is not something I’m too interested in doing.

Things I’ve done lately are things that made it to my list after going through that kind of odd process. I started a PhD studies in the mid-90s but withdrew after a year for a variety of significant reasons. Three or four years ago, almost 20 years later, I asked myself if I was OK with not finishing my doctorate. Turns out, I wasn’t.

Stephen Covey, in his wonderfully practical book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” suggests that we “begin with the end in mind.” When you begin a task or a project, what do you hope the end result will be? When all is said and done, at the end of days, what would you regret not doing? What would you be proud to have accomplished? In his book, Dr. Covey asks the reader to imagine being present at your own funeral and hearing the eulogy. “What do you hope is said about you?” is the question Covey wants the reader to consider.

Recently, a friend was in a terrible accident and suffered a head injury that essentially wiped her memory clean, as if her brain had been a computer hard drive that had been erased. She had to relearn, and is still relearning, things that she once took for granted. She’s even having to relearn people in her life. I’m happy to report that she’s making great progress and she’s got a terrific attitude and sense of humor about it. So, I sent her a message to “reintroduce myself” to her, sort of as a joke. I said that I was “Tony Ludlow, award winning author, adventurer, and 6-time recipient of People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive award!” She wrote back assuring me that she was fully aware that two of those things were fake!

But afterwards it got me thinking.

Did I, in the process of making a joke, actually reveal something about myself that I wish I was or want to be? Not the People Magazine thing, but the others. (I’m willing to concede the magazine award!) And since I’ve worn out 2 Passports and am now on my 3rd one, I’m pretty OK with the “adventurer” part being somewhat true. At least I hope so. I know I intend to make it more and more true as time goes on. But did I subconsciously want to write an “award winning” book? The great American novel? Was that line, one that I wrote as a joke, subconsciously something I wanted my own eulogy to include?

If you were writing to such a friend as mine, to “reintroduce” yourself … or if you were writing an online dating profile, what kind of attributes would you want to include about yourself that were not yet true in your life and experience?

A good place to start this process might be to consider all of the things that are popular with others. This brainstorming method should be one of complete freedom, but not ridiculous. For example: “Write a book” isn’t ridiculous, but “Play football for Notre Dame” is. At least it is for me!

You might remember SMART goals when you think of this. Goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic (relevant, reasonable, results-oriented), and Time sensitive.

Once you’ve managed to accumulate things on your list-the things you’d be filled with regret if you didn’t do them-then you break them up into smaller things that you can achieve.

What is the most depressing day of a new semester in school? The first day.

The first day, when we get the syllabus, is the worst. In that moment, we read all of the things we’ll have to do over the course of the semester. All of the demands, all of the papers, all of the reading, all of the tests, all of the outside reading, the mid-terms, and the final. You walk out of that first class shell-shocked and overcome. Then you stumble to your next class and the same thing happens there. And then the next class. And the next. And you repeat this until every professor, who will treat you as if you are ONLY taking THEIR class, has loaded you up with assignments and responsibilities that make you question your sanity. You want to sit down and cry and throw in the towel. In that moment, you forget the old adage: “How do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time.” You forget, looking at the syllabus, that you’ll break those big tasks down into smaller more manageable ones. “Life is a cinch by the inch, but hard by the yard,” as one of my professors was fond of saying.

If you were listening to your own eulogy, what would you want the speaker to say about you, your personality, your accomplishments, your passions, your achieved goals, the love you shared, the people you helped, the impact you made, the obstacles you overcame, the sacrifices you made, the adventures you took, the legacy you left, the example you set?

If our life is an hourglass, turned over at birth, there have never been fewer grains of sand left to fall than there are now.

The time left is too precious not to invest!

–30-

Many of you who don’t do social media have expressed a desire to know what’s going on. Specifically, a change in venue, called snow days, or any changes in schedule. Things I ordinarily post on Facebook.

Toward that end, I’ve chosen to use the “Remind” app for messaging. It’s free and private. Just go to:
remind.com/join/usmcfi
and sign up. I promise not to bombard you with unnecessary texts and information.

Have a GREAT rest of the weekend! See you Monday on the Quarterdeck!

Sgt. Tony

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