How would you see this world if everyone just had their own 100 goals, put them down in a list and went to get them done? How would you see the world changing?
Goals, Travels, Happiness and Day of the Dead.
Back in 2009, during a fascinating trip on Day of the Dead to Oaxaca City in Mexico, my path crossed with the only man I know of who has sold his whole life on an eBay auction. His name is Ian Usher, the man who took on the project of achieving 100 goals in 100 weeks across the world.
I achieved a total of 93 goals from a list of 100, none of which was particularly easy. This was achieved in a period of less than two years, on a fairly limited budget.Ian Usher, in my interview with him in 2011.
The day I met Ian for the first time, him and I were in Oaxaca, Mexico, and he was about to acomplish his Goal #63: “Día de Muertos” (Day of the Dead).
You are welcome to watch my interview with Ian in the video below on this post. Hope you enjoy it and, if you happen to be in Oaxaca on November 1st, I know you will enjoy that for sure! – Right, Gary?
Make sure to let me know down in the comments how this conversation with Ian intersects with your own path in finding your tribe, or perhaps with something else.
P.S. IF you’d prefer… the text version of this interview is available further down below.
[Versión parcialmente subtitulada/doblada al español disponible aquí .]
Be sure to also visit The Noble Peace Tribe Channel on Vimeo.
Interview with Ian Usher Goals, Trips, Happiness and Day of the Dead
Nicosia, Cyprus, Saturday, September 10th, 2011
via Skype to Colorado, USA.
by Jorge Zubieta
Hola, Ian. I’m really excited about this project!
When Ian Usher announced he was going to sell his life… – on eBay!!!– he wrote (and I quote): “I am excited about the future, and really having no idea where events might lead me. I love the adventurous nature of the project, and am excited about a new start.”
After hearing this, I would dare to say the majority of the world’s population would consider this to be somewhat of an extremely right-side-of-the brain, no-safety-net and out-of-the-box life choice. Wouldn’t you say? Nonetheless, it came to have a very structured action plan; with very specific types of goals attached to a set timeline.
Absolutely – it was all quite unplanned. I really had no idea where the life-for-sale adventure would take me. But I guess this was in response to an event (my wife leaving me) which was completely unexpected. I think that in many cases any feeling of control that we have over our lives is merely illusion. At any time life can step up and simply make a huge uninvited change to anyone’s plans.
Ian, in your experience, do you feel that your project would have been easier if you’d had a clear vision of the outcome right from the start? If so, in which areas would it have made the biggest difference?
I guess it would have been easier to plan in advance if I had more idea of where things were going to go, but that isn’t how I have ever really lived my life, I don’t think. I still have a feeling of “making it up as I go along” now, and often enjoy that feeling of not knowing what the future might bring.
In terms of the 100 goals, and the set timeframe, it was a fairly rigid structure, but within that, there was a lot of planning on the fly, and I was only ever losely planned for the following six months at the most.
If I had the chance to do anything differently, for the sake of sanity and finances, I would remove the 100 week time challenge. So many times I had to move on from somewhere that I was really enjoying before I was ready to do so, as there were new goals to be tackled. It would have also meant that I could have stayed on one continent to tackle all goals there before moving on. I often had to jump from continent to continent to make it to events and festivals – a very expensive way of doing things.
Did you experience any feelings of fear by not having that vision in the beginning, and/or did you believe that it would take shape along the way?
I always wondered where the sale might lead, but was never particularly worried. The 100 goals plan did not come about until halfway through the build-up to the auction. My plan originally was just to sell everything and go somewhere new – that would be the end of the publicity and adventure, I thought.
When and how did you organize your action plan (timelines, budget, final list of 100 goals, goal types, logistics…)?
This was always an on-going project. When the idea first came about I started with the list of 100 goals. I only had a full month or so to plan for the first six months of travel, in which I planned to achieve around 30 goals. After that I had no plan. When I arrived back in Australia after that first journey I started planning the next section. There was always a huge amount of flexibility to change plans, which I did on several occasions. After all, I always maintained that the adventure was more important than the actual goals.
Do you believe happiness is related to setting and accomplishing goals? If so, how?
Not really. These two factors are important, for sure, but for me, the people around me are much more important for my happiness. This is something I discussed in the book a couple of times as the adventure developed.
What did happiness mean to you before you sold your life and what does it mean to you today?
As above, happiness is very much about enjoying the company of the people around me. This was so when I was with my wife, was so when traveling and meeting new people, and now too, as I settle down a bit more. There was always an open public invite for anyone to join in with any of the goals at any time.
How would you imagine the world would look like if every human being on earth knew which goals they wanted to accomplish and went for it?
I imagine it would be a much more productive place. Knowing what you want to achieve certainly focusses the attention, and as my two years showed, I think, it is incredible what can be achieved when you set your mind to it.
Would you say that anyone could accomplish a project like 100 goals in a 100 weeks? Which are the most important skills and strengths needed to succeed?
I think everyone would be able to achieve at whatever level they set their sights. Maybe 100 goals is a bit of a big start point though! Main skills are organization, communication, persistence and resilience.
Which were the goals you, Ian, had as a teenager? Who were your heroes (role models) and are they still your heroes today? Which role model do you consider your biggest inspiration today?
Running with the bulls was one of them, which was achieved as part of the 100 goals. A big ski jump, like the olympics. Facing a gorilla charge. These have changed a little over time, but some of the goals on the list of 100 were quite similar. A couple of popstars stand out as role models from my childhood – some current ones are still fascinating – it must be a very different life to be up on stage performing in front of thousands. My dad was always a role model – there is plenty about him in the book too.
Richard Branson has been a bit of a hero for a long time, and I was lucky enough to meet him to achieve one of my goals.
Which audience would you say, is the most interested and most positively affected by the story of your life-changing adventures? i.e. Life/Work coaches, MBA graduates, Elementary school students, people in personal crisis…?
Almost certainly people who have had their own personal challenges. I get a lot of email from people who have experienced something similar to my failed relationship.
If someone states that Ian Usher is nowadays the leading expert on setting goals and accomplishing them, what most significant facts could they use to back it up?
I don’t know that I am the leading expert, but I have certainly “walked the walk”. I achieved a total of 93 goals from a list of 100, none of which was particularly easy. This was achieved in a period of less than two years, on a fairly limited budget. I went from being a truck driver in a mine, to being a published author of an extraordinary tale, with a potential movie deal into the bargain.
Out of the 100 goals, please share with us the most meaningful ones; the ones that are constant reminders to you of what life is really all about.
There are many high points from the two years of travel. In terms or incredible experience, it is hard to top swimming with a mother whale and her calf in Japan. Riding a bike on the Wall of Death was a huge achievement, and the people who helped me achieve that were wonderful. I have a fantastic group of friends that I met while at the bull running festival in Pamplona. But perhaps the best experience, in terms of being reminded about what life is really all about was when I tried to get to the Taj Mahal.
From “A LIFE SOLD”….
Goal 84 – Taj Mahal
Monday, 28th April 2010
Well, where do I start with this goal? What an unusual, and incredibly full day and a half. This has been one of the most trying and difficult goals to arrange, and I have had many problems to overcome. Ultimately the achievement was a long way from being satisfactory, but the experience of trying to make it happen was quite extraordinary.
Yesterday morning I caught a taxi at 6am to Kathmandu airport, arriving just before 7. My flight wasn’t until 9:30, and I was hoping that by being early, I might avoid the chaos that I had seen a couple of days earlier. There was already a huge line just to get into the airport, and at the door a few surly security officers were checking passports and tickets. Fortunately I had a paper print-out of my ticket, otherwise I would have been required to get the laptop out and show them my confirmation email!
Inside, I was one of the first in line for the Jet Airways check-in. I met one guy there who was on his third visit to the airport to try to get out, as every flight is so overbooked with passengers who have been delayed by the Icelandic volcano problems. Being early was looking like a good idea. I was eventually issued a seat number and a boarding pass.
The waiting room was packed, and incredibly unorganised, and at 9:30 there was still no sign of being able to board. Eventually we got on the plane, but were still on the tarmac at 11am. We were finally in the air over an hour and a half late, which meant I landed more than an hour behind schedule in Delhi.
Time in India was going to be incredibly tight! With only 24 hours available, public transport was never going to get me to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, and back to Delhi in time for my London flight. I had no intention of missing that, as another flight would be hard to organise, and a further financial disaster. Avhi at Himalayan Encounters in Nepal had arranged for a car and driver to meet me at the airport, to whisk me straight to Agra. It certainly wasn’t a cheap option, but was about the only way I was going to get to achieve my goal. My alternative was simply to sit around at the airport for a day and a night, and give up on the goal.
As I emerged into the sweltering Delhi heat, I was met by Johari, who had a sign with my name on it, and we were on our way. Unfortunately the trip by car takes about five hours, and with the late arrival we only had an estimated fifty percent chance of getting to the Taj before closing time, depending upon the traffic.
The journey was quite an eye-opener! I had thought Kathmandu seemed chaotic, dirty and disorganised, but India has it beaten hands down! The roads are packed with cars, buses and trucks, and weaving through them are thousands of motorbikes, scooters and bicycles. Thrown into the mixture are hundreds of tuk-tuks coughing black fumes, rickshaws, tractors, and carts being pulled by horses, bulls, or camels. People walk through this speeding chaos to cross the road, and bus passengers climb up and down off bus roofs in the middle of busy intersections. Every second vehicle has a huge reminder painted on the back to use your horn, and every driver does so at every possible opportunity. It is so non-stop noisy!
Johari did his best in the crazy Indian traffic. For a while we thought we might just make it, but we hit Agra pretty much at rush hour, and the sun was only about half an hour from setting, which was when the Taj Mahal would close. Eventually we had to admit that we weren’t going to get in. Johari suggested we detour to another point across the river, where we would have a wonderful view just as the sun was setting. I suggested that if we weren’t going in, maybe a couple of beers might be in order, and we bought six monster bottles on the way.
The Taj Mahal was very impressive, even from a distance. It is huge, and the people visible across the river, outside the building, gave the place some scale – it really is quite breath-taking. The view was only slightly marred by the razor-wire fence in front of us, barring us from getting any nearer.
As the sky darkened and the full moon rose, Johari pointed out a temple across the river where bodies were being cremated, their ashes due to go into the holy river in front of us. We could see three fires burning. It was very quiet and atmospheric.
But we only had about 20 minutes before darkness fell, and I felt a little disappointed that I was achieving this goal in relatively poor fashion. For possibly the first time on my travels, it felt a little as if I was simply coming to look at something, so I can tick it off as seen on a list. The feeling was strengthened by the fact that afterwards we simply turned around to head back to Delhi, another five-hour drive through chaotic traffic, this time seeming even more dangerous in the dark.
It was on the journey back, however, that I really began to appreciate the uniqueness of the whole experience. It had cooled a little, and we drove with the windows wide open. Everywhere was packed with people, and on the outskirts of Agra the poverty was very apparent, some people obviously just living under tarps by the roadside, or in tiny mud huts.
Everywhere there were street carts cooking food, and selling all sorts of everything. The smells were wonderful, and basking in the warm glow of a couple of big Indian beers, I hung my head out of the window, and tried to absorb the whole atmosphere. I laughed with Johari, telling him I felt like a dog must feel, head out of the window sniffing at all the unusual smells. I imagine my tongue maybe lolled out a bit too. I had only had two bags of crisps since the tiny breakfast on the plane from Nepal.
I had nowhere planned to stay for the night, and asked Johari if he had any cheap hotel suggestions, somewhere that would still be open after midnight when we got back to Delhi. Otherwise, it was back to the airport for a night on the floor there, I told him. No need, he replied. We had got on really well on the journey, and he had already spoken to his wife. He had told her he was bringing a guest home for the night. We wouldn’t be stopping for food either, dinner would be ready when we got to his house. I was very flattered.
Johari lives with his wife Indra, and two sons Pritesh and Nilesh. Their tiny one room house serves as bedroom, living room, dining room and kitchen all in one. There is a little bathroom too. Also visiting and staying the night was Johari’s brother and his son. Indra made us a fantastic meal of several different curries and sauces, along with hot chapattis, and we finished the remaining beers. My bed for the night was on a small sofa at the end of the bed, and seven of us slept scattered around the small room.
Indra made us omelette for breakfast, and I tried to find the words to express my thanks to her and Johari for their wonderful hospitality. I truly felt so honoured to be taken in by them, a complete stranger breezing through, and to be so well looked after.
Johari came with me first by rickshaw to the metro, and from there to the bus station, where he put me on the right bus for the airport. Once again I tried to express my gratitude, and we said our goodbyes.
Gazing out the window of the bus I thought long and hard about the previous 24 hours, and was so grateful that I had decided to make the journey. As it turned out, the day had little to do with visiting the last remaining seventh wonder that I hadn’t yet seen. It was about meeting a new friend, and learning something of the true meaning of hospitality.
And, as is often the case with travels, it is the tough times that stand out as the most memorable, and in retrospect, the most entertaining tales to tell. Here is one such time, again from “A LIFE SOLD:-
After the literal and emotional high peaks reached in the previous week, I discovered once again that when the low points come, they can be very low. Once again, I found out how quickly things can go from being well planned and running smoothly on course, to all going horribly and disastrously wrong.
I had been back in Kathmandu for over four days. While I had enjoyed relaxing with little to do, other than work on upcoming plans, I could think of much nicer places to be stuck for a few days. With a permanent supply of electricity I could have managed to do so much more, but because of very low water supplies in the reservoirs that powered the country’s hydro-electric systems, power was cut to the city for around twelve hours each day. I would have welcomed the time to get on with some writing, or even watching a few movies, but long periods without electric meant either sleeping, or wandering the noisy, chaotic streets. I did enjoy this, but had been in Kathmandu long enough, and felt ready to move on.
I had to be pretty careful with my money, as I had spent a little more on the trek than my original budget had allowed for. I wanted to get through these final days, changing the least amount of extra money as possible.
It was with a feeling of relief that I finally headed for the airport, just four more days of third-world chaos ahead in India, before looking forward to the calm oasis of a couple of weeks in England.
I joined the line to check in at the Jet counter. After half an hour, I got to the front, only to be told, “No, you are booked on Jet Airways, that line over there. This line is for Jet flights.”
I looked up at the board above me. “Right, so Jet and Jet Airways are two different companies?”
“Oh yes sir,” I was happily told, and I had to join the end of the most enormous check-in line I have ever seen. An hour later I made it to the front, and was asked “Where is your visa?” I pointed out my Nepal entry visa confidently, knowing I was leaving well inside the allotted 30 days. “No, where is your Indian visa, sir?”
“I’ll just get that at the border,” I answered hopefully, my heart beginning to sink. Apparently that wasn’t possible. I suggested I would simply use my UK passport rather than my Australian one – after all, India used to be part of the Empire – surely a British passport still has some advantages there?
Not at all. India, it would appear, requires that all visitors have a visa in advance. I was not going to be allowed on the plane. I tried explaining that I had an onward ticket from Delhi to London, and would simply transit through instead, hoping to resolve the issue on arrival there. Since my London ticket was booked for four days later, I would be sent back to Kathmandu, I was informed, as a transit departure has to be within 24 hours of arrival.
What could I do, I asked? I was told my only option was to go to the Indian Embassy here in Kathmandu and get a visa first. What about my flight leaving in a couple of hours? All I got was the address of the Jet Airways (not Jet!) office in Kathmandu, and an uncaring “Good luck!”
It all felt very reminiscent of the LAN airlines fiasco in South America. However, I did appreciate that I had no one to blame but myself, and what was particularly frustrating was that I’d had four empty days when I could so easily have resolved this. In almost two years of traveling, only one other country has been awkward enough to require a visa sorted out at an embassy in advance – China. I had travelled through Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Africa. In every place I had been, I had either not needed a visa, or had paid the requisite amount of dollars, and simply got a visa at the border. Why would I expect India to be any different, especially with a British passport in my pocket?
With the last dregs of Nepali rupees in my pocket, I negotiated with the owner of the dodgiest looking taxi outside the airport. At the Jet Airways (not Jet!) counter, I had been informed that the embassy would be open until 5pm, and from 9 until 12 the next day, which was a Sunday. In the taxi, as we sped through dirty back streets, I still harboured optimistic visions of a quick visa issue, and a dash back to the airport just in time to catch my flight.
At the embassy it was obvious that this was not how it was going to be. It actually didn’t open at all on Saturday or Sunday, so it was going to be almost two days until I could even get in there on Monday morning! That was going to make it extremely tight to get from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, and then back to Delhi to get my flight to London on the Wednesday.
Despondently, I got the taxi to take me to the Jet Airways (not Jet!) offices. Ah, but of course, it was Saturday afternoon and they had just closed at 2pm. Completely at a loss, and with no Nepali cash at all on me, I got the taxi driver to take me back to Thamel, the touristy area at the heart of the city. I changed one of my last US$10 notes and paid him his 100 Rupees. With my bags I wandered back to my cheapie hotel, and booked back in for the night, unsure of what to do next.
I had a chat with the owner, who offered some helpful advice, but basically there was nothing at all I could do about a visa until Monday. The process of issuing the visa could take some time, Shailu informed me. I had to sort out a new flight, but didn’t dare do this until I had the visa in hand. Time was against me, and a goal as simple as seeing the Taj Mahal looked like it may now be slipping out of reach.
I went out for a cup of coffee, and then back at the hotel, found the electricity off again. I decided that there was little that I could do for the next six or seven hours. I considered brushing my teeth, and turned the tap on in the bathroom. The water that came out of it was as dark as a strong cup of tea. I just stared in disbelief. I felt like I had just reached one of the lowest points of my whole journey.
I gave up on the idea of brushing my teeth, and simply crawled into bed, my mind shying away from trying to resolve my problems. I closed my eyes, just wishing for the world to go away for a while!
I had taken a photo of the tea-coloured water coming out of the tap, with my toothbrush held hopefully nearby, but destined to remain dry. Even as I looked in dismay at the brown flow, I had thought, “I must get a picture of this, because one day I will laugh about this moment.”
Travelling is interesting, in that it is often the toughest times, the worst situations, the injuries and near misses, which become the fondest memories, the stories that are told and re-told. I knew that this low point would be something that I would be very entertained by, once time had worked its magic, and turned the incredibly frustrating events into a grand adventure.
Does thinking about legacy and how you will be remembered play an important role in setting your most meaningful goals?
Not really! I am just trying to enjoy my life in the best way I know how. I am not particularly bothered about what others think of what I do.
Have you created a new 100 goals list? If so, would you share some that you most look forward to accomplishing?
No. For now I’ve had enough of goals! I do have many other travel destinations that I would like to visit, and a few other goals, but nothing specifically listed, as such. I have just bought some property in Panama, and my next goal is to build a house there.
Thank you so much for your time and willingness to participate in this project, Ian.
Thank you. Great set of questions. I could write a lot more, but much of it would be repeating what I have already written in the book.
I hope these answers have enough detail.
Let me know when you make any use of this, would love to read the article.
Reply to Ian from Jorge: Hey Ian! It is finally published!January 18, 2019
To find out more about Ian’s story you can visit his websites:
He wrote a book about his whole story which is avalible on amazon and is called:
A LIFE SOLD.
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