Dear 43 Things Users,

10 years after introducing 43 Things to the world, we have decided we have met our last goal: completing the incredible experience that has been 43 Things. Please join us in giving one last cheer to all the folks who have shared their goals with the world, as well as all the people who have worked at The Robot Co-op to build this incredible website. We won a Webby Award, published a book, and brought happiness to a lot of people.

Starting today, 43 Things users can export their goals and entries from the site. Starting August 15, we will make the site “read only”. 43 Things users will still be able to view the site and export their content, but we won’t be taking any new content from users. We hope to leave the site up for folks to see and download their content until the end of the year. Ending on New Year’s Eve takes us full circle.

It has been a long ride (one of our original goals was to "build a company that lasts at least 2 years” - we beat that one!) While we wish the site could live on, it has suffered from a number of challenges - changes in how people use the site, the advertising industry, and how search engines view the site. We wish the outcome was different – but we’ve always been realistic about when our goals are met and when they aren't.

As of today, you will be able to download your goals and entries. See more about that on the FAQ page. Thanks for 10 great years of goal-setting and achieving.

- The Robots.

Export My Content

Forester321 is doing 15 things including…

To be more self-possessed

51 cheers


Forester321 has written 10 entries about this goal

I hope I'm doing the right thing

The group at work that I supervise consists of about a dozen people spread out over a few sites. One of our staff had mentioned to me a couple of times that her sister has terminal cancer. She is a very private person, who has not said much and I’ve not been one to pry. I’ve also not heard her discuss this with anyone else. Last night she called to tell me her sister was not expected to live through the night. This morning, she let me know her sister had passed away.

The usual thing at the office when a death occurs is that there is some sort of communication to everyone and there are many supportive gestures as are appropriate to the circumstances. The people at work are generally very supportive of one another. The problem is that for this individual this level of social interaction on such an emotional topic would be torturous. She was in tears both last night and this morning on the phone with me and is not someone who will cope well with people offering their condolences, because she will just start crying and feeling badly about that. She came into the office today to process a bunch of paperwork, so that she can be away for a few days with minimal impact.

After some discussion with her and thinking things over, I asked her if she would prefer that I not notify anyone in our group. Arrangements are being made by the family and I’ve offered that I will just tell people she needed a few days off with short notice and apologize for any disruption it causes. She can then let people know if/when and in the manner she sees fit. She said that she would prefer to handle it in this manner. My supervisor may ask me more about it, but I’m sure she will honor this woman’s wishes. The other’s may be irritated and even angry should they eventually find out. (I’m fairly confident this employee will disclose what happened when she is in a better place emotionally to do so.) The truth is that it is up to this person to share what she wants to share of herself. Our work does not dictate that they have a right to know. I also hope that they understand that whenever possible, I will maintain this same level of discretion for them should they ever need it.

Tuning the Rig

Last year, my career was in a bit of turmoil. It was most definitely NOT a period of being self-possessed. This led me to question whether or not to stay in my job. While I was trying to find the “right” path to follow, concerned with the uncertainty that each choice offered, I came across the following passage in Harvey Oxenhorn’s book Tuning the Rig. It helped me to understand that there is no “right” answer and to follow what I love. It was also something of which I thought recently before turning down an offer to do something “bigger” for more money. Recent messages and comments from other members of our community were the impetus for my sharing this with all of you.

Its author, Harvey Oxenhorn was a college professor who chose to spend a summer on a tall ship, the Regina Maris, crewed by a group of college students sailing up into the Arctic Circle to study humpback whales. Tuning the Rig is his account of that voyage. This passage occurs near the end of the book. What initially sounded like a voyage full of adventure and romance, has been somewhat tempered by living in cramped quarters and the discomforts that life on a tall ship can bring. In this passage, the author recounts his approaching the ship’s captain, George Nichols, trying to understand why he gave up a successful medical career to found and run the Ocean Research and Education Society to teach oceanography, marine mammal science and seamanship aboard the Regina Maris. At one point in the passage, they are joined by another member of the crew, Pat, who is concerned about an approaching freighter:

I wondered what leads a man to give up his own research, and a deanship at Harvard Medical School to spend so much time at sea aboard Regina in cramped quarters in the company of students. “What’s the allure?” I asked.

“The allure of life at sea, I suppose, is its simplicity. On shore – especially in institutions-things are dependent on so many factors that the end results of what you do are nearly always out of your control. Nothing is ever quite completed. This life has its own discomforts and frustrations, to be sure. But the way things turn our here is a direct result of what you do, your own skill and judgment. And there’s a way to gauge each day’s success; you can mark it off with a pencil on a chart, as progress toward a goal.”

You mean there’s objectivity.”

“That”-he jabbed his finger at the sea-“is real. It’s there. It will fascinate you. It can feed or kill you. But there’s nothing mean about it, nothing wasteful.”

“What about it translates to our life on shore?”


Pat interrupted. We are back in commercial shipping lanes; he had the watch and was concerned about a freighter that seemed to be bearing down. “I’ve been keeping an eye on them, “George said. “It’s OK. They just want a closer view.”

“Do you know the expression nitchevo?” he asked, once Pat had gone. “It’s a Russian word. Means ‘What the hell!” I shot him a dubious look.

“Well, more or less. Anyhoo, it describes an attitude toward life. You’ve got it. So do most of the kids on board. I suspect it’s what most of that bunch in Cambridge whom you run with-or sometimes think you run with-lack. They’ve got it all planned out: lifestyles, careers. If they could, they would abolish weather. But they are missing something, Harvey. Nitchevo! They never learned how to go out on a limb. They’re afraid to make mistakes.“

A lighthouse loomed off the starboard box. Cabot Island, Bonavista, Baccaliue…This one was Cape St. Francis. Every point’s now labeled; we are nearing home.

“Are you taking about work of play?” I asked

“It’s interesting that you should say that. You remind me of something my father once said and when I was about your age that made a big difference in my life as I got older. He said that a lot of folks spend most of their lives doing one thing in order to be able to do another. They are always trying to get through what they are doing to ‘make time’ for something else, and they wind up resenting both things.

“But life doesn’t work like that. The only way not to resent the expenditure of time and effort is to devote yourself to the one activity you don’t want to get through. You should choose as your life’s work whatever feels most like play.”

Just thinking about this goal

I’ve not written much about this goal, though it is the one about which I spend the most time contemplating. Its genesis comes from my work. I have a job that can at times be dynamic and challenging. It is work that I consider to be important. The problem lies in the interpersonal part of my work. I’m a middle manager, which by definition puts me in the middle between what the leaders of our group need/want and what our staff can produce. When things do not go as envisioned, both can express it in unhealthy ways, mostly attaching more affect to it than is really appropriate. Sometimes, I try to be proactive and head off such conflict, but that is not always effective. You can’t see everything coming. Ultimately, I end up on the receiving end of a great deal of such affect; and unfortunately occasionally such emotion can generate the same in me, no matter how I try not to let it.

If I were to give an honest appraisal of my skills in maintaining a level of being self-possessed in my current job, I don’t think I would say that I do a bad job. But it could be better. And I recognize that nobody is perfect.

I’m starting to think about what I realistically want to achieve with this goal.

Breaking the vicious cycle at work.

A week ago, I wrote an entry after having two days at work in which I worked faster and faster without seeming to get ahead and making a ton of mistakes.

Looking back, it was a vicious circle. Trying to keep up with the influx of requests and e-mails, I resorted to trying to fit them in or to take a break from my current task to address a new task (just to get it out of the way). This just fragmented my focus even more. Without focus, there were errors. Then, the errors had to be fixed. As a result, not only was there the original work to do, plus additional requests, but also errors to fix. You can see how it would spiral out of control.

The worst part is that I should know not to do this; I’m smarter than this. But every once in a while, when we think we know how to deal with a problem, we forget to do so. That’s what happened last week.

This week could have been the same. Yesterday and today, I had a schedule that was really unforgiving. But I was prepared.

Instead of just show up, I came in with a plan. Yes, it meant spending an hour or two on Sunday figuring out priorities and schedules, but better that than chaos. I also cleared out some e-mails so they would not hound me on Monday morning.

Throughout the last two days, I worked my plan. I tried to complete tasks before starting new ones. While not completely successful, it was better than last week. Most tasks can wait.

When requests for additional works or e-mails arrived, I acknowledged their presence but did not let them be a distraction by trying to accomplish them. Requests for additional work were added to my “to-do” list. The list grew several times before it shrank, but knowing that Wednesday was a “catch-up” day helped me to maintain perspective. E-mail was more manageable if I only checked it periodically, when there was actually time to respond.

Hopefully, I stay smart and remember to use the skills I have to manage hectic days.

P.S. I am still going to work on mindfulness :-)

It’s hard to be self-possessed when...

It’s hard to be self-possessed when you are going a million miles a minute. It’s hard to be self-possessed when you are multi-tasking. It’s hard to be self-possessed when you just want to be able to say “this job is done” and move on to the next. Your work looks rushed. The quality is low. It is rife with errors. You’re curt with others and seem harried.

It may seem like the workload is so big as to be laughable, but there is really nothing funny about it. It does not feel funny.
This has been my week.

I need to get back to the basics. I need to be present. Doing a task while thinking all the time about the next task to be done just does not work. I need to slow down. One of the keys to being self-possessed is to slow things down; to not rush your speech or reaction, but to be thoughtful. I need to avoid thinking “If only I can get this task done, it will be off my plate.” It may be off your plate, but more often than not it is done so quickly as to come back for corrections. Or else, the person for whom you did it wants more. Show that the work is effortful.

Maybe the second half of the week will be better.


This would be so much easier if I could figure out the people/situations that “push my buttons” and how to respond.

The self-Possessed Corollary to Dale Carnegie's Principle

Dale Carnegie wrote about the important people skill of taking an interest in other people. Asking them about them selves and not always focusing on “I”, no matter how fascinating you perceive yourself to be.

The self-possessed corollary of this is not talking if others are not taking interest. That would seem straightforward, but taking interest in others is a skill that sometimes seems in short supply. It means that increasingly people don’t really pay attention to you. That means really paying attention to the verbal cues of others. Are they actively listening and asking you questions? You have to know who even wants to hear what you have to say vs. just focusing on themselves. In the age of sound-bites, it means keeping communications brief.

Keep'em guessing

Being more self possessed definitely keeps others guessing. When I did not react to my bosses e-mail, others were rather shocked. They thought perhaps I did not receive it. I calmly explained I did but did not see how we could do the project. They had already reached the same conclusion


Today is one of those days that I am really trying to live up to this goal but finding it just that “trying.” My boss has my schedule full managing three projects. Yesterday he sent e-mails out about one new initiative. Today, he is sending out e-mails about starting another whole project without any existing infrastructure.

A part of me wants to send out an emotionally charged e-mail saying that this is ridiculous. A part of me wants to just sit here and go through the want ads. I’m going to opt to bide my time and see how the others respond. I am fairly confident that one colleague will point out the lacking infrastructure. If necessary, I will ask who he sees leading this project.


in full control of one’s faculties, and having a firm belief in one’s abilities; confident, assured and poised (Wiktionary)

Forester321 has gotten 51 cheers on this goal.


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