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September 2009


Today is the first of the nineteen days I have left, before the life I know is over.

I know it sounds a bit dramatic to identify this upcoming lengthy trip as a new life, but the way I see it the life I’m leaving here is not going to exist when I get back.

If you think about what defines a person’s experience in life, you’ll find it consists mostly of variables. Take the same person, but give them a different job, different routines, different social network and different outlook, and you end up with a different life. The personality at the center of it might stay more or less the same, but it too is evolving. Under different circumstances, certain parts of it will become more active, and other parts more dormant.

For example, if I’m going to be wandering foreign countries alone, my social skillset will need to be more active, and will gradually form a more prominent part of my personality. It’s adaptation, it just happens. The more unfamiliar the environment, the more one naturally adapts.

Just the same, if I find a different line of work, my math and engineering muscles will atrophy and weaken. Woe is me.  Read More


With barely three weeks to go before my trip, it’s time to ditch my apartment. After a lightning-fast ninety days in my new place, my sub-lease is up and I’ll be staying with family for the final three weeks before I go. The summer flew by. At least I know where I’m moving to, this time.

True to my procrastinatory nature, I’ve left myself far too little time to pack and clean up in a calm, relaxed manner and still get my day-to-day rounds done. To top it off, I was only able to arrange a moving vehicle for Friday evening alone. Poor planning strikes again.

So in the interest of being somewhat on top of things before the weekend, I’m not going to publish a normal Thursday article today. Instead, I’ll direct your attention to the brand new Best of Raptitude page.

It lists the ten articles most popular in Raptitude’s first six months, along with my ten favorites. If you haven’t read them all, then pick one and pretend I wrote it last night.

By Monday I will be moved, and back to your regular programming.

Photo by Futureatlas.com



As I mentioned in Thursday’s article, Raptitude is officially six months old.

I’m thrilled with how fast my readership grown, I really never expected this. I want let you know I’m very grateful for your time and attention.

This week my RSS subscriber count hit 700 for the first time, and I know that doesn’t account for the many regular readers who don’t use RSS or even know what it is. This last two months I’ve averaged over 1,500 unique visitors a day.

There is a fairly regular group of commenters (mostly fellow bloggers) whom I’ve come to know through their feedback, and I get emails from fans telling me about themselves and their stories. When I picture my audience, I tend to think of that small group of familiar names and avatars.

But the numbers indicate they are a minority, and there are hundreds of regular readers I know absolutely nothing about. I’ve published 68 articles, each one a mishmash of my own personal stories, opinions, rants and reflections, and there is a sizable group of people who invest some of their day to come here to read them.

I just speak my thoughts into my keyboard, but for the most part I don’t even know who I’m speaking to! Yet they listen. It’s so bizarre. Read More


A recurring theme in Raptitude is that why is a more useful question than what. Why is the mother of all whats, and tells a much more meaningful story.

A 600-foot triangular stack of stones sitting in the Egyptian desert for five thousand years is notable, but it’s the mystery of why someone was compelled to build such a thing that makes it so intriguing. If we only look at events and things, and judge them as if they were isolated entities, we can’t possibly understand them. Everything is both a cause and an effect, so there is no way of knowing what something is if you never look at why it is.

So if that isolated entity is something in your life that you want to change, such as a personal weakness or a lingering dilemma, your efforts to solve it may seem to be in vain. Your plan, at a glance, makes sense, but the problem keeps coming back. Try as you might, ten years later you still haven’t lost the weight, found a better career, or learned to play piano.

Contemporary self-improvement material seems to be concerned simply with what you should do:

To be more productive, start doing this.

To lose weight, eat this and don’t eat that.

An isolated tweak to one troublesome part of a person’s behavior can’t possibly address why they do it. There is a whole lifetime of momentum behind a person’s habits. To change the trajectory of something with as much inertia as an adult human life, we really have to understand the forces that put it into motion in the first place.  Read More


Today’s article is a guest post by Josh Hanagarne from World’s Strongest Librarian. Read this post with reflection; it says much more about humanity than may appear at first glance.


“And I held the hands while she died. Those hands that hit me.”

She had come into the library to check out a book on grieving. As she talked about the passing of her mother, she seemed to forget that I was in the room — or that the room existed at all.

In that one sentence I heard the best and the worst of humanity — all reflected in these amazing tools hanging from the ends of our arms.

She may never think of me again, but I will never forget her. Read More

Post image for The List

As promised, here is what I plan to do before I die. This list is now a permanent addition to Raptitude.com, and the most up-to-date version can be found by clicking “The List” tab on the top of any page.

If you want to make your own list, here is the comprehensive guide to making one that you will honor.

A few notes:

You’ll notice my list is very travel-heavy. One of my major goals in life is to achieve a location-independent income, which will allow me to move around the globe without the constraint of limited vacation days. Without the intention to live this kind of lifestyle, my list would not be realistic to me and I’d probably soon forget about it. I have tried to eliminate redundancies, but some are inevitable. I want to see the Louvre and tour Paris, but it is unlikely I’ll do one and not the other. Still, both are important and I don’t want to leave either off my list. The list is not complete. I cannot be sure I’ve thought of everything that deserves to be on it, but this is a pretty good start.

Here goes.   Read More

surfing at sunset

There is only one success: to be able to spend your life in your own way. ~ Christopher Morley

The principle of the life list is simple. You list all the things you want to do in life, and cross them off as you do them. Try to do them all before you die.

It’s easy and fun to make one, but to create a list of dreams that will actually come true is not quite as simple as merely writing down what you want.

You may have made a life list before. Where is it now? Probably in a landfill, like most life lists. It’s too easy to let life get in the way. You get busy, tied up with more immediate concerns, and your dreams become less and less relevant to your actual life.

But not everyone’s list gets abandoned. John Goddard is known best for living out the ambitious life list he made at age fifteen.

Even though it includes many difficult and humongous items (for example, number 113 is “Become proficient in the use of a plane, motorcycle, tractor, surfboard, rifle, pistol, canoe, microscope, football, basketball, bow and arrow, lariat and boomerang,”) as of today he’s checked off 111 of his 127 goals, and some are partially complete.

Why did that 15 year-old boy’s list go on to define a lifetime of achievement and adventure, while most life lists are eventually forsaken?

Because he really meant it.   Read More


So I get on one wagon and fall off another.

My third official Raptitude experiment, 30 Days Without Drugs, was a resounding success in my eyes. I accomplished my goal and dismantled a persistent problem in my life. I’m now much less inclined to compromise my state of mind with the offhanded use of alcohol and caffeine. Now a month since the experiment ended, my lifestyle seems to be permanently changed for the better.

But during that time, I’ve slipped into an apathetic attitude towards food intake. I find myself eating more, and more often.

My workout routine also fell off the map, as it was already starting to by the end of my slightly less successful kettlebell experiment back in May and June.

As a result, I’ve put on an unappetizing ring of midsection fat. It shrunk while I was working out regularly, but now it’s back, trying to make me its permanent home. I want to get rid of it, which means getting rid of the habit that put it there.  Read More

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