“The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.”
Comedian Lily Tomlin's words are more sobering than funny, when you ponder them. Realistically though, how easy is it to ditch the race and instead become the cat who gets the cream?
It stopped me and everyone else I knew in our tracks. One question that stuck in my head was whether, given another chance, Chris would've changed the way he lived his life. I turned that on myself
Sydneysider Seb Terry has done just that. The Manly native is part of a momentum-gathering phenomenon of men eschewing the corporate life to tick off items on their 'bucket list' – the grim phrase for the exciting must-do activities before you kick the proverbial bucket.
Seb says: “My bucket list of '100 Things' started as a personal journey but over three-and-a-half years, my journey has accidentally resonated with thousands worldwide. My website now caters for a growing community of people all sharing their lists online.”
At 31, it seems that men like Seb are getting too impatient to wait until retirement before they fulfill their ultimate dreams.
Before leaving his job setting up inflatable movie screens, Seb was “following the blueprint of life without questioning whether I was happy”. Then something happened that changed everything.
“I was called in the middle of the night: a good friend, Chris, had passed away overnight. He was 24. It stopped me and everyone else I knew in our tracks. One question that stuck in my head was whether, given another chance, Chris would've changed the way he lived his life. I turned that on myself, grabbed a pen, and so began my '100 Things' journey.”
Seb's bucket list of 100 Things has so far included chasing a tornado; visiting a death row inmate; a stand-up comedy routine; saying yes to everything for one week; ministering a wedding; one week's silence; being a TV game show contestant; walking across a country; skydiving naked; and throwing a dart at a map and visiting the country it lands on.
The things he is yet to do is still a formidable list: feature in a Bollywood movie; make a Beefeater laugh; cross a desert; invent something; and raise $100,000 for Camp Quality, the children's cancer charity (he's currently at $71,000).The last one makes the more frivolous items on his list all the more meaningful, and he's auctioning off his last five items as a fundraiser for the charity.
Seb says: “I wanted to fundraise for a charity which reflected the optimistic nature of 100 Things – so Camp Quality, which creates optimism for children and their families living with cancer – was the perfect fit.”
Meanwhile, Sebastian Robertson, 27, from Bondi, elected to ditch the private sector after completing the Financial Management Graduate Program at General Electric. Rather than setting himself 100 bucket list items, Sebastian had just one – and it was simple: “I wanted my role to resonate with my passion.”
Sebastian took the plunge and set up his own charity, Batyr, named after an elephant celebrated for being able to speak 20 human phrases. The charity 'gives voice to the elephant in the room' – youth mental health stigma. It connects students with young speakers with experience of mental health issues.
Now one of the not-for-profit sector's youngest CEOs, Sebastian describes the exhilaration he felt for following his dream, after having experience of mental health issues himself: “It was tough leaving [my job at General Electric]. But it was probably the first time I simply backed myself and said, 'Give it a shot, because even if it fails, at least I'll have a good story'.”
At the other end of the scale is Philip Hesketh, 59, who splits his time between Yorkshire in the UK and Australia. The managing partner of an $80m UK advertising agency, he left to pursue four items on his bucket list: “To change the weather in February; to be the best speaker on the planet; to write a best-selling book; to play live with Ralph McTell.”
The book and the weather are both ticked. Philip is now a professional speaker, sharing what he has learnt from his journey in motivational speaking events (in warm Australia in February). As for playing live with folk singer-songwriter McTell: “I've met Ralph's next door neighbour and did him a big favour. I'm hopeful the debt will be repaid.”
Would any of these men return to the corporate rat race? Robertson hasn't ruled it out: “I'd happily return, but I'd need an employer that supported staff being involved in social causes outside of work.” Hesketh is less keen: “Why would I go back when I work less than 200 hours a year and every time I work people clap me three times?”
But Seb Terry's two word answer is the most definitive, and perhaps the most revealing: “No. Simple.”
Ten bucket list items to consider
1. Go part time
Philip Hesketh says: “Don't get to the end of your time and wish you'd spent more time with your children/friends.”
Take advantage of the government's recent move to strengthen flexible working arrangements.
2. Become a philanthropist
Sebastian Robertson says: “Find a cause, then find the social entrepreneur with the same vision. Buy them a beer/coffee. Hear what they need. Get involved.”
Camp Quality, the children's cancer charity Seb Terry is fundraising for, is currently short on volunteer male companions for young boys living with cancer at their camps. Sign up.
3. Audition …
…for that amateur drama play or rock band. Don't let your fear of becoming a cliché prevent you from doing what you really want.
4. Find yourself in India
Home of spiritual bliss and ultimate self-realisation. Do a two-week holiday or a three-month sabbatical.
5. Write a book
Getting it published is a bonus – but you never know until you try.
6. Fly into space
Virgin Galactic is offering trips into space for a snip at $200,000.
7. Pick your own 7 wonders of the world
There are 7 wonders of the old, new, natural and man-made worlds. Visit your 7.
8. Marry a stranger in Vegas
Britney did it. Seb Terry lists it in the top 5 of his 100 Things highlights. You should do it – if only for the story.
9. Go on that road trip
It might be the outback on your doorstep. It might be the traditional American road trip. It might be around Europe. It might never happen unless you stop reading this and just book it.
10. Run that marathon
There are three things every man has in him: a prostate, a novel and a marathon. Get one out of your system. The Medibank Melbourne Marathon is on October 14 – enough time for you to squeeze in the training, if you start tonight.