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


Ahhgghh! The...grey?... banner of doom!

I'm doing 13 things

How I did it
How to run the 2014 Peachtree Road Race
It took me
1 day
It made me

How to the Big Project: Adopt
It took me
3 years
It made me
supremely happy

How to attend the 2012 Visit by the Dali Lama to Atlanta
It took me
120 days
It made me

See all "How I Did It" stories...

Recent entries
Change the Energy (read all 51 entries…)
7 Kind Letters

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how the science of personal change is being researched, and the conclusions that are being drawn. Among them is the idea that being self critical and being hard on one’s self actually does very little to alter negative behaviors and bad habits. Lots of times, the research says, it actually pushes us towards the things that bring about our failings and disappointments. It has to do with the way our brain is hardwired to deal with stress.

One technique mentioned over and over again is self-compassion. Being kind with one’s self in the face of failure or regret has demonstrated more positive long-term benefits than practically any other technique studied. It does more to reinforce will power, alleviate guilt and self anger, improve performance and create success than harsh self-criticism, even when that criticism is positively motivated.

I’m a hard self-critic. Always have been. It is the way I was brought up, which I suspect is the way a lot of people were brought up. Success and achievement only comes from hard work, sacrifice, discipline, and goddamn character. If you fail, it’s because you are weak or lazy or stupid. This is always a self-directed criticism; I don’t think or feel this way about other people. When they fail I have lots of encouragement and support. I take it easy on them (even when I have to be stern and point out why they are failing), and I tell them to take it easy on themselves. I point out how many times Ford and Edison failed, I point out it is part of the human condition to struggle, I tell them in the big scheme one tiny misstep is not a big deal… get back in the ring… get back on the horse… reach for the next level…. For other people, I have tons of compassion, understanding and support.

But not for myself. And the way I feel about myself when I fail is how anyone would feel if there was an audience there to harangue and deride them, tell them how much they suck and what a waste of time they are. And I push against those thoughts and try to rise above them and set myself back on a path and struggle to succeed again. But the voices are still there, I can even hear them holding their breaths in anticipation of my next cluster-fuck. Ooooo, I want those voices to see how wrong they are. Ooooo, I want to power through and crash forth and succeed against all the obstacles and in defiance of all the rules so I can rub the voices’ noses in it.

And I don’t need a Harvard Health study to show me how ineffective that mentality is.

I’m going to try an experiment. I’m going to treat myself the way I’d treat another person; with compassion and understanding and support. I’m going to write a series of personal letters to myself, pointed and current, but perhaps from a future me. Not like, I’m not writing letters now for myself to read later. This will be a future me that can look back on the struggling me and offer wisdom, understanding, compassion, and advice. I want this to be the voice in my head and heart, a voice of kindness, that begins to replace the voices of self-criticism and hurt.

The letter format is based upon Kelly McGonical’s Neuroscience of Change, and in turn is based upon a study in which the letter writing practice was the only method of self compassion training offered. The participants wrote themselves a self-compassion letter every day for one week, spending about 10 or 15 minutes a day on each letter. This process improved the participants’ happiness and lessened their depression not only for the week they were writing the letters, but all the way through a 6 month follow up (one presumes they were not writing letters every day anymore, perhaps once a week or once a month…). It has also been shown that people who practice self-compassion are actually more successful at reaching their goals. People on diet programs lost more weight than was typical, people trying to quit smoking were more successful.

So, let me change the energy of my efforts from ones that have not been successful to ones that are more likely to succeed (already the voices are at work, “pussy, whimp, softie”, I can hear them muttering). For one week I am going to identify areas in which I am feeling stressed and unhappy about things in my life, then sit down and write a letter to myself. A compassionate letter from a future me, written in the 2nd person, expressing understanding for what I am struggling with, and understanding for how it makes me feel. I’m going to remind myself that no one is perfect, the challenge is part of the trial, and look at Edison and JK Rowling and James Dyson and Churchill. Then I’m going to talk to myself as I would someone else about guidance, solutions, support, and positiveness. And I’m going to do this as if it were a future me. The person writing this letter is someone looking back with wisdom and love on this present person and what he is going through, even expressing gratitude for the struggles and challenges I’m facing now and how they helped me to become the future me that I am (uh-oh, infinity loop of new-self-old-self coming up!).

Anyway, at the end of the week, I want to briefly review and discover if this exercise has done at least 3 things for me:

  1. Am I happier, less stressed, and less depressed about how things are in general in my life? Do I see my failures with more kindness and understanding, vs harshness and condemnation?
  2. Do I have a less myopic view of my life and goals; do I have a better knowledge of what is and what is not under my control? And am I handling those situations in a more positive and proactive way?
  3. (Probably the most significant) Am I behaving in a way that is in concert with my goals? Am I breaking through the barriers and bad habits that I have been struggling against? Am I succeeding instead of failing?

There are a couple of other simple things I’m going to do regarding meditation and affirmations, but the 7 letters will be the core of this experiment.

Get A Few Of My Favorite Things (read all 4 entries…)
A Manly Scent

I don’t wear colognes at work, obviously. And I rarely have occasion, or even give thought to, wearing it when not at work. But I come home so much smelling of garlic and onions and fryer oil that I wanted to to have some high quality choices on hand to improve my air when we do go out or meet up with friends.

From a sample packet I ordered online, I chose to buy a bottle of Juniper Ridge Big Sur Backpacker’s Cologne. It has more subtle fragrances that I can identify, but there is something distinctly masculine and earthy about it. The description includes “Salt air, foggy chaparral, burnt honey, camphor, Bay Laurel, Oak, and Sage”. It is $55/oz, so it is by no means a cheap cologne. But upon dampening my neck and chest with the sample from the kit, I got a lot of great scent, like actually standing in a California forest. I also got a lot of positive feedback from my wife, and not just verbal…

What is cool about the company that produces it, Juniper Ridge, is its history and methodology. Founded in 1998 by a hiker and mushroom forager named Hall Newbegin (cool name, or what?), the company claims to be the world’s only wild fragrance company. From their website:

We’re hikers and backpackers, not fashion or luxury-industry types. We distill colognes and perfumes from real plants, bark, moss, mushrooms, and tree trimmings found hiking the backcountry. A hundred years ago, all perfumes were made this way. Today we’re the only ones who handle every step of the process ourselves, from beginning to end. We make our fragrances throughout the West Coast—on dirt roads and trails, around campfires, and in our Oakland, California workshop. All to capture the quiet beauty of the Mojave Desert at sunrise, or a late-season Sierra trailhead with winter right around the corner. Over the years, Juniper Ridge has grown from a one-man operation into a staff of 15 like-minded hiking enthusiasts who harvest the plants, blend the fragrances, ship the products, and head out on backpacking adventures together.

They certainly have got the marketing dialogue down pat!

It’s fun to have a small batch cologne, whose rich and woodsy scent won’t be available forever. It comes without a sprayer or atomizer (although I guess I could rig one up if I wanted). It comes in an umber glass medicine bottle with an aluminum screw top and a batch number stamped on the label. A small amount in my hands, then a brush over the back of my neck and chest, or onto the collar of my shirt, and it is out of the kitchen and into the woods. I like it.

Read at least 52 books in 2014 (read all 12 entries…)
#12: The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

This is a short book on strategy and martial warfare composed around 1650 by one of Japan’s greatest swordsman. He arranges his schools of thought into micro lessons grouped into books or “rings”, with fundamental treatises on achieving victory in combat.

The books are named for the elements Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind, with “The Book of The Void” serving to kind of summarize and wrap things up.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for years. Now that I have I’m a bit disappointed, as the wisdom is commonplace. The book is full of lines such as “research this well,” “study this thoroughly,” “I cannot elaborate on this in writing” and I’m not sure how these are supposed to evoke any insight in me into anything. Kind of like, “this is so deep, I can’t explain it with words”, and “even after reading the sum total of my knowledge and wisdom, make sure you study and research and learn even more”. While there might be lessons to apply to current life and strategies, they would have to be stretched quite far, and there are, in my opinion, more salient writings that are more useful. The Art of War, The Prince, and The 48 Laws of Power spring immediately to mind. Maybe I will retread it one day with more insight…

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