Completing my 10-year bucket list, shifting focus, and setting a theme for the next decade
It’s this time of year again… time to reflect on the past year, turn a new page, and make new resolutions for 2017.
If you've been following my journey for a while you will know that every year, around the Christmas and New Year period, I pick one primary focus for the upcoming 12 months. This simple yearly ritual allows me to immerse myself in a chosen area and as a result of it, spur more growth.
And this year? Well, we'll get to that in a moment, let's first see how I did with last year's intentions.
2016: My Year of Creativity
“You are too relaxed” said the 84-year old Balinese healer, smiling at my expression of surprise.
“You need to take action. Destiny is not going to come to you, you need to come to it...”
It was December last year and I had just finished 30 days of consecutive Yoga practice in the peaceful island of Bali.
This was not what I had expected, “Too relaxed” - isn’t it a good thing? And what does it mean “I need to come to destiny”?
The questions started to swirl in my head.
The more I thought about it, however, the more it started to make sense.
After a year of so much relaxation, spirituality, peacefulness, and feeling centered in the core of my existence, it was time to shift into expressing my creativity.
At first glance, the two - spirituality and creativity - didn’t seem to gel, but as I looked a little closer, I realized they actually do. To be creative one need to take action, but not from the thinking mind. To truly create and enter a state of flow, the mind needs to be silenced, which is the essence of spirituality.
And with this realization I left peaceful Bali and moved to fast-paced Tel-Aviv with one main intention: to express my creativity to the fullest.
How did I do? Here is the biggest highlight of my year:
2016 Highlight: Completing my 100 Life-Goals List
Of all the highlights and transformations that 2016 brought to me, I will always look back on it as the year that marked the completion of my 100 life goals list, a list I started 10 years ago.
Seven big goals were left on my list and I crossed them off one by one.
1. The first big goal I tackled was the easiest for me. “30 days of expressing gratitude”. By the end of it, it felt like second nature.
Surprisingly (or not), my final gratitude message for the 30-day challenge, wasn’t to a person but to a country - the country I was born in: Israel.
Here is the short letter I wrote:
Hope you don't mind I write in English. You see, I have been living in other countries for the last 12 years and I’m now way more comfortable writing in my non-native language. Who would have guessed…?
Anyway... Every morning I start my day with gratitude for one person - something I had decided on doing at the beginning of the year - and this morning you came up.
Since your early days, you have been struggling with an endless waves of hate, wars, lack of natural resources, droughts...And the list goes on and on.
Today, however, you're leading the world in desalination, agriculture, biotech, medical innovations, and you're second only to the U.S. in terms of the number of start-ups.
Pretty impressive I would say for a young, 68-year-old country that faced so many conflicts since its inception.
And that is what I love about you. You never give up. You have chutzpah, that shameless audacity. You move forward. You keep innovating, growing, thriving.
You inspire me to push forward and keep going despite the challenges life throws at us.
Today, I feel grateful to be born in a country full of courage, vibrancy, and determination. I now know it helped shaped me into who I am today.
I may be a global citizen in the true sense of the word, but in my heart you're always home.
2. The next goal in line was to appear on stage. For this goal, I signed up to a 16-week improv theater course, which very quickly became my favorite part of the week.
On 9th of June, 2016 I stepped up on stage and did close to an hour of improv theater in front of a live audience.
The moment I stepped up on stage, something that I never expected happened: I no longer felt any fear or nervousness. I entered a state of flow and just had fun.
That was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had.
3. A few days later, I checked off another life goal of mine: Learning to play a tribal drum. Not only that, I did so in front of a crowd, a very big crowd.
Close to 10,000 people gathered to watch the burn at the Israeli Burning Man festival. It was the largest fire show that had ever been in the country.
As the flames engulfed the Man, there was choreographed drumming in the inner circle. I was one of 100 drummers selected for the drumming event. In order to play together in perfect synchronicity we used a headset and radio combination to remind us of what rhythm was coming next.
Crazy to believe that only a few months before I had taken my first steps in the new land of drumming...
4. Once I got back from Burning Man, I spent the week recovering in Barcelona and then prepared myself for my next big adventure on the list: 3 weeks of juicing.
Although many go on a juice fast in order to detoxify, cleanse, and lose weight, my main intention with this experiment is a bit different - to see if I can elevate my state of mind and creativity.
The rough guidelines I set for myself:
1. Only liquid. Juice based on fruits, nuts, or vegetables Water and tea (herbal) are allowed. No coffee or alcohol.
2. Daily serving of Plant-Based Protein Powder added to my lunch drink. One Extra Virgin Olive Oil added to my dinner juice
3. Omega-3 supplements
I was a bit scared. I was not sure I was able to survive a liquids-only diet for such a long period. My concerns, however, turned out to be largely unfounded. I was lucky enough to have the support of quite a few people and my willpower remained strong throughout the 3-week challenge.
By day 7 my body adjusted completely. I was not lightheaded anymore and my energy and creativity started to peak. Two weeks later I was eating my first solid food.
First thing I ate after 20 day of only liquid?
An Apple. Red juicy apple. It was SOOOO good that I immediately ate another one!
5. Everything with the next goal on my list, “21 days of wholefood recipes”, went smoothly. It’s pretty easy to cook and eat healthy after juicing for 3 weeks. I tried to be creative but after a while I found myself satisfied with a certain variety of recipes. All in all, goal accomplished.
6. October came and I put the final touches on my first full-length, self-guiding book: One Year to Freedom.
Publishing a full-length book was my biggest goal of the year.
Following Parkinson's Law that says that any job will expand to fill the time you allow for it, I decided to get a bit audacious and set myself even a more immediate deadline.
My full-length book was released to the world, from Chiang Mai, Thailand, on 1st of November.
If you had told me a decade ago I would be writing a 500-page book, I'd think you were crazy. I could hardly construct a few sentences in English.
Anything is possible when you make a big enough commitment and have the right people there to support you.
7. One goal was left - the 100th on the list. The goal: Mixing an electronic song.
One would assume that after a decade of pursuing big goals, the adventure of achieving the 100th goal will be easy breezy.
Well, expectation is one thing, and reality is another thing.
The amount of software tools, courses, and advises was overwhelming. I was pulled into different directions by my expert friends, shiny apps, and the internet and I had lost sight of how to prioritize this project.
Then, on the first weekend of December, I cleared my entire schedule and took it step by step. A week later, I released a short electronic song to the world, called “Relentless Pursuit”.
And with that, my long 10-year project was DONE!
Flipping a Page to 2017
Since the completion of my 100 life goals list, I had been getting the “What's Next?” question from a lot of friends and email subscribers.
Naturally, I had wrestled with the question myself.
For some time, I had toyed with the idea of setting another, more ambitious list, and even started to create one, but something simply did not feel right.
You see, the biggest gratification that comes with completing such a diverse journey is that it enables you to discover who you are on a deeper level.
And when I dug deep and got in touch with my innerself, I realized that it’s time to “buckle down” and center my focus.
Here’s the thing: For more than a decade I poured myself into so many interests and became proficient in much. I build dozens of online businesses. I lived, worked, and traveled in over 50 countries across almost every continent of the globe. It is now time to take one area of life and become invested in every facet of it, engage it deeply, completely.
That does not mean neglecting other areas of life. On the contrary, a rich life is a balanced life. It only means highlighting one theme in my life and let the rest support it.
So instead of travelling to every country in the world (which is something I actually considered at some point), only travel to those countries which support my higher mission.
Instead of training for another Ironman triathlon, get a number of weekly fitness sessions to maintain health and energy.
And instead of building dozens of small businesses, build brands that affirm their position as a premium product.
You get the point.
After 10 years of mastering so many different subject areas, I’ve gotten to know who I am in the highest, most pure sense. I’ve uncovered my big purpose, which I knew of for many years already, but just wasn't fully and completely committing to it.
My New 10-Year Theme
If the primary theme of my last decade was Personal Success, primarily through achievement, then my new theme for the coming decade is going to be Selfless Service, primarily through empowerment. I nowadays believe it's a key ingredient to fulfillment.
If you follow my blog then you already know that empowerment - of self, of others, and of the world at large - is not something foreign to me. I was well aware that it’s one of the main ingredients that make up who I am. However, only in the last year I’ve been investing myself more fully.
This site, for example, was always a small side project. I would write about my experiences and lessons in life but only gave it partial attention. Now that the site attracts close to half a million readers a year and with a relatively large number of email subscribers, it’s a potential platform for large-scale empowerment.
Coaching is another example. Although I always took it seriously, I only coached during periods where time allowed. It wasn't until last year when I finally devoted a big chunk of my time and took committed individuals on a one-year coaching journey with me. The results were so gratifying and affirming that I felt pulled to offer it again.
And the list goes on and on.
Now, as you can imagine, empowerment is a pretty broad word. There are so many ways I can take it - which is not necessarily a bad thing, after all, it’s a theme for a decade.
Yet, I needed a more concrete vision.
So I withdrew into an introspection mode.
My Vipassana Introspection
A few days after completing my 100 goals list, I signed up for a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. No phone, no reading, no talking, no communication of any kind beside sitting down and meditating, all day, every day, from 4:30am - a total withdrawal from the outside world.
Needless to say, after so much time in silence, one goes into a deep introspection mode.
The amount of insights uncovered was staggering, and it feels pointless to detail them all out in this already long blog post.
Perhaps the single most important insight to emerge from my 10-day vipassana was that the biggest obstacle to achieving anything is not time, money or ability, but ourselves: our own held beliefs about ourselves and the world.
Everything starts internally and extends outward. Or, as so many have said before me – It’s you versus YOU.
Therefore, to empower others I must first empower myself. This will be top priority going forward.
Self empowerment can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but especially by purifying the mind, through meditation and through daily practices and rituals.
Another key factor for self empowerment is environment. The people we associate with, the groups we identify with, the community we live in, the place we call home - all have a continual and tremendous influence on our ability to stay centered and on course.
In the 80/20 rule, these factors, if treated right, will affect the 80% of my reality and my ability to have an impact on the world at large.
Which brings me to one of the big visions I want to manifest in the decade to come.
The $1,000,000 Goal
I contemplated hard and long how to create a more concrete vision for my empowerment theme and finally came with a clear goal:
Over the next 9 years (by the end of 2025) I, and whoever wants to join my mission, will empower more than 10,000 entrepreneurs in the developing world through Kiva micro-loans, amounting to a total value of $1,000,000.
* If you haven't heard about Kiva before, it is a platform that enables individuals and teams to microfinance aspiring entrepreneurs around the world - mostly in developing countries.
Why did I choose this goal?
Because it’s encompases almost every objevctive I have and what I want to see happening in the world.
Firstly, it empowers others to empower others. You’ve probably heard the proverb “Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime”. What often happens with charity is that it leads to dependency rather than empowerment. It also tends to make us view people as helpless victims. Furthermore, micro lending takes the whole “Teach a Man To Fish” one level further because it does not assume we know better than the local entrepreneurs. There is no “teaching” involved, just simple empowerment.
Secondly, it reduces inequality, which I believe is the primary reason for wars, violence, and the very slow rate of poverty reduction. There is enough research about this out there. It also helps to create local jobs, which in turn support other local businesses. And as those businesses grow, they support the community (schools, city services, etc) as well. This can create a ripple effect.
Thirdly, it’s international. After travelling to every corner of the world, I realized how all countries, rich and poor, influence one another in our global society. Countries and borders are just artificial constructs, things we make in our mind. We are just temporary residents on this earth and we all share the same responsibility to protect and conserve our precious planet, or better yet, leave it better than before we arrived.
Fourthly, it’s a collaborative effort. For more than a decade I worked individually on most of my goals and while it offered me a lot of freedom and flexibility, I’d like to facilitate more collaboration. The impact, I believe, can be bigger and it places a greater emphasis on community development. In a way, it empowers the “empowerer” for more giving, more sharing, and more unity.
I can continue but then my blog post would turn into a book…
Laying the Groundwork
In the distant past, my first inclination was to pursue my big vision as quickly as possible, but I learned that this approach won't do me any favors.
Big visions are inherently complex. That's just a part of the deal.
Similar to how large buildings require strong foundational structure, my vision requires a strong foundation, too.
That structure includes constructing the basis for collaboration and bringing together all the moving parts.
If I don’t build this foundation, I would move through my weeks like a hamster on a treadmill, running and running, but never getting anywhere. I've seen this all too often, and I don’t want it to happen.
So in 2017, I plan to lay the groundwork needed for my big vision to become a reality.
2017: The Year of Sharing
To construct the basis for collaboration and realizing my vision, I would need to broaden my reach and influence online through new platforms, new products, and a whole new array of new initiatives i plan to introduce to the world.
I have quite a few ideas but rather than list them all, I’ll just share the one I’m most definite about: sharing myself and my message in a more deliberate way.
This means that, in a way, 2017 is going to be a direct continuation of where the last year ended: Taking the key lessons from my 100 life goals journey, assemble them into a powerful message, and share them as widely as possible.
Among other things, this includes releasing a book on Amazon and turning it into a bestseller.
Lots to do in 2017!
Wherever you are, however you're spending it, happy New Year!
Tal Gur is an impact-driven entrepreneur, author, and investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has led him to found Elevate Society and other impact-driven ventures.