Whenever I get back from a trip – as happened recently upon my return from the Urban Future Conference #uf23 in Stuttgart – someone invariably says: “Oh, you went there? That’s on my bucket list.”
When I gave a TED Talk in Rio de Janeiro a few years ago, same thing. When I spoke at the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 in Oslo, ditto. “On my bucket list.”
Once in a while, someone will ask me: “What’s left on your bucket list?”
Nothing. I never had one.
I never planned to do any of the things I did or that you saw or heard me do. I have lived my life and trusted that life, being much bigger than me, would do with me what it must if I took care of my own business. Part of that business was being deliberate and mindful but not willful.
There are a few other reasons why I don’t have a bucket list.
First, for sure I would get mad and frustrated and probably kick it if I didn’t check off the items. I don’t need any more anger. Nor do I want anything further to “manage.” My life needs to get simpler to be happier.
In my view, it’s just another desire, and I don’t live on the edge of my desires. It’s a great way to go crazy and feel unfulfilled.
Nor do I try to leave anything on the table. If I want to do someone, I usually do it. You’d be amazed what a spontaneous response to life will bring you, especially if gratitude is allowed to follow in tow.
Second, bucket lists usually involve taking bizarre (to me) risks. I don’t have a desire to jump out of airplanes or climb a craggy, desperately high mountain “just because it’s there.” To wrestle alligators or ride broncos seems, well, stupid. I like the ocean, so I guess avoiding shark bites is on my “bucket list.” But it’s more on my wish list.
I have learned to be grateful for what’s in front of me – for where I live and for the people in the community around me. A lot of the time, it’s hard work to be that, and I’m often bad at it. My gratitude is like weather; It runs in streaks good and bad. But it’s where the real happiness is for me. Let it pour. I like cloudy, damp, cool days just as much as the rest.
Third, to borrow from the Cole Porter song, I just happen to love New York, my community. Visiting New York is a bucket list item for people that I often speak with. For me, living here has been the big check off to any presumed list. I always wanted to live here, right in the place I live, even though my neighbor Jonathan shouts loudly in his sleep now and then.
If a bucket list suggests a desire to do something greater than oneself, that’s fine. If that is the case, do you know that there are people living in cities – working for them, running them and promoting them – whose bucket list are for their home to become a place where people come to invest, live and be tourists? To be as content as can be? Looking at two decades’ worth of Intelligent Communities of the Year, I see 23 bucket lists checking themselves off through persistence and that single set of desires.
And there are so many more out there either waiting to happen or that have already blossomed. You need to know about them. ICF is the place, more often than not. I had one of them on my panel in Stuttgart last week at the Urban Future Conference: Bilbao, Spain.
Bilbao was a gritty, industrial city that no one would touch when it came to being an Intelligent Community. But there were people there – including a woman you will hear on my upcoming podcast named Idoia Postigo – who literally turned that Basque Ship around. (By the way, it takes 10 miles to turn a tanker around completely. I learned that fact while preparing for the panel.)
They did a full turn. And it wasn’t just the Guggenheim Museum or that amazing Zubizuri Bridge, two cultural items for which Bilbao became known.
They started with their infrastructure, with two things in particular: connectivity and a metro – “subway” to a New Yorker. And then, block by block, they turned things around. In the first 11 years of their turnaround, more than 20 million visitors – two thirds from abroad – flooded in. It was kind of like Chattanooga, Tennessee, a Top7 Community that went from industrial choking to quality city.
Bilbao has also managed to remain affordable. It is one of the cheapest cities in Europe to visit. It is the ultimate bargain because it is a city that demonstrates exactly what we talk about.
And, if you’ve never been to New York, come in October to the ICF Global Summit. You’ll meet at least 7 cities like us.
And we are working on getting Bilbao there, too. It’s on our bucket list . . .