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In Antarctica

The second part of my interview with SEO expert Danny Dover delves further into his personal development and his bucket list. You can read the first part which is about SEO and his career here.

When I spoke to Danny Dover we got off-track early on.  I remember asking him a few questions about his background, and one answer caught my attention:

“When I’m not doing digital marketing things, I am spending a whole lot of time working on a bucket list.  It is a group of about 150 things that I want to do in my life before a specific deadline, and I started with 150 and am now down to 13.  So that’s what I spend most of my free time doing.”

We then spoke a lot about what had driven him to build his bucket list and his reasons for wanting to achieve this.

It sounds like you have been busy then.

I have been busy, yes.  It has been a great journey.

Perfect.  What is the most exciting part of your list?

Well, initially it was just making the leap out of kind of a traditional marketing role — specifically the 9 to 5 at AT&T — and then living a lifestyle similar to yours with a lot of travel, spending time in lots of different countries and experimenting with that.  A lot have been physical challenges such as climbing mountains and running marathons but more have been mental challenges and growth challenges.

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Flying a plane

Out of curiosity, what are the last 13 things on your list?

  • Get a six pack
  • Learn to play chess well (1550 on Glicko-2)
  • Go Olympic lugeing
  • Learn to do a standing backflip
  • Go to Dubai
  • Learn an instrument
  • See Mount Everest
  • See the Taj Mahal
  • Go to air combat school
  • Go to the Tour De France
  • Learn another language
  • Living in the wilderness for a month (going to be the second to last bucket list item)
  • Go to an animal killing and eating ceremony
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Running a marathon

What has driven you to want to live in the wilderness?  It runs counter to what you do for a living today, which is all about technology.

I want to take that alone and with minimal distractions to reflect on my life thus far. Ultimately, I want to write a book about the whole Life List experience.  I want share what other people might be able to take away from my experiences on the list.

I would imagine that once you get a taste of these things, the hunger keeps on growing.  Did you set 150 things and stop there, or you do frequently add more things as you go along?

Let me give you a little more context on this whole experience.

Rewind 4 years ago from now.

I had gotten far professionally, but I was not feeling a lot of fulfillment. I felt completely out of balance and ultimately unhappy. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and did not know how to get better. I was looking for a positive way out and I did not want to just take a bunch of pills and do a lot of therapy.  I wanted to find something else that healed me from the inside out, as opposed to putting the outside in.

I talked to people who seemed genuinely happy with their lives and asked them where that was coming from, or what they attributed that to.  It turned out to be the experiences that they had, the people that they had spent time with, and ideas that they had learned. After realizing that, I realized those are things I could start focusing on doing now.

There is no reason to wait until the end of your life to start doing all the stuff people normally put on bucket lists.

I gave myself a deadline of May 25th, 2017 and I made a rule that I would not add anything to the list until I completed it.

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Danny Participating In A Nascar Race

Do you think you will make it and get to all of them before May 25th 2017?

It looks like yes, assuming that everything continues to go the way that it is.

That sounds amazing.  It must be very fulfilling, not just the experiences themselves but also setting such an ambitious goal and looking like you will reach it.  It sounds like it has been quite a project.

Yes.  It has been by far the most fulfilling thing I have ever done.  I have changed in a lot of different and unexpected ways.  I have grown a whole lot, learned a lot of new skills, and, most importantly, I have met a lot of really, amazing people that I otherwise never would have been able to meet.

Incredible.  Which one of the things you have done so far has surprised you the most positively?

It is actually two. When I first started this journey, I was quite overweight and one of the first big list items that I pursued was training to run a marathon.  There is a lot that goes into that process and I happened to live in Argentina at the time.  Not only was there the language barrier and all the problems associated with that, but there was also a lot of problems trying to get the right information on how to diet and exercise.

Overcoming that hurdle and realizing that, yes, I can do these things even if there are lots of things working against me, surprised me the most.

The other big surprise came from trying to answer the question, how the heck do you pay for these things and be flexible enough, or follow through on your other commitments. This is still a work in progress but just asking the question has been a learning experience.

In Machu Picchu
In Machu Picchu

Do you do this by working as a long distance consultant? Did you find other ways to finance this or did you just do work as you were going along?

It has been a whole bunch of things.  When I first started this list, I was still at Moz.  That was just a normal technology focused job at a start-up. Later, I continued the list when I worked at AT&T.  The consultancy came after that.  And now I make a fair amount of money just writing about the list itself (see http://www.lifelisted.com/).  Hopefully the list will pay for itself someday, although I am not quite at that point.

It sounds at least like a close-to-perfect way of doing things right — setting a list of things to do and then finding a way to get them done.  And of course if you can live off that, that would be amazing.

Yes.  I don’t know if there’s a perfect way to live, but I can tell you that this has been perfect for me.  This has been exactly the challenge and journey that I needed in my life.

Easter Island
Easter Island

I am wondering, what’s your plan? Will you just create a new bucket list once you’re done with the one that you have now?  It sounds a bit like it.

We’ll see.  I’m going to continue traveling and looking for adventure.  That’s something I’ve learned is extremely important to me.  So I never see that stopping.

I know you were based out of Singapore for a time.  What has been your favorite place so far?

My favorite place to live has been Ho Chi Minh City.  I love Vietnam.  I love the community there.  I love the feel of the people.  I love the food.

This is the second part of a two part interview.  The first part is focusing on Danny’s career and SEO in general. You can read it here.

Photos: Danny Dover’s personal images

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