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Video: Bucket-list crew fulfill strangers’ dreams

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    >>> do before you die? a group of friends decided to take their bucket list one step further by fulfilling not only their own dreams but the dreams of strangers, as well. they chronicled their adventures in the mtv series "the buried life." take a look.

    >> we want to go out there. some of our dreams. fix it up and hit the road. the goal was simple, our list. everywhere we went we asked the question, what do you want to do before you die?

    >> i'd love to qualify for a supercross.

    >> i think to say i love you to my mom.

    >> to everybody who doesn't have a pair of shoes in america, i want to put a pair of shoes on them. why? because i want to be the sole of america.

    >> we risk our lives to define us, to bring us together, and we share a dream, of our inner most desires.

    >> i want to show that i can do something that's bigger than the world.

    >> sometimes all we need to make them real.

    >> there's nothing in the world --

    >> is a little help.

    >> johnny duncan , dave and ben. i was going to practice that. 19 off their slist called write a best-selling book. good morning, gentlemen.

    >> good morning.

    >> great to have you here. so listen at an age when many people don't even think about their mortality, what was it that caused the father of you to do so.

    >> i think young people experience, or everybody experiences, there's so much going on in life, that you kind of want to figure out who you are. you know, you're exposed to so many things. we call this the buried list because we felt we were buried by all these experiences. we wanted to push it aside and find our true selves underneath the mess.

    >> so what you did was made a list of 100 things you want to accomplish before you died. and you have checked off 80 of them. and you're hoping to check off one more with this book. things like, playing basketball with president obama .

    >> yeah.

    >> how was that? by the way, did you ask him what he wanted to do before he died?

    >> we did. he actually surprised us on the courts at the white house and we asked him, and he said, be an announcer on sportscenter for a day.

    >> ah-ha. hopefully now that that's out that will eventually happen. i think that maybe that could happen. some of the crazy things that you guys have done have been -- we should probably talk about that really quickly. you've gone what, bull riding .

    >> yeah, we've ridden bulls, streaked soccer stadiums. we delivered a baby. yeah. it was an exciting time.

    >> you certainly are not going to bore your grandkids.

    >> absolutely not.

    >> but what has it done for you to have made this list and to now be able to say that you've done the crazy things like this?

    >> well, you know, for us when we started this we're all going through different things, you know. some of us were kind of depressed and some of us -- john was really mad at our generation for not protesting. we were all going through different things and felt inspired for some reason. and we felt that we could do anything. you know? and really, this book, we wanted to recreate that feeling for other people. that you could do whatever you want if you just put your mind to it.

    >> thinking about other people is a real theme in this. because for every turn you can check something off your list you want to check off someone's wish for someone else .

    >> yeah.

    >> including you have this experience at this school in louisiana. you want to tell us about it?

    >> well, yeah, we were in -- we were actually in l.a. and we found out, we asked the teacher what he wanted to do before he died and he said he wanted to get computers for his classroom, they didn't have any computers. so we actually raised enough money for three new computers, and gave them to the school as a surprise. that's been the coolest part. for everything we do we try to help someone else out. that's actually like in all the elements that we do, for the book, for every book that we sell, a. we talk with a lot of kids around the country. that's like a major theme kids are going through. it's very important for us to talk about that and try to support it.

    >> giving voice to your own wishes but also to others is a theme in this book. you have people writing you on twitter and facebook. one writes i want to do a handstand at the south pole so i can say i held up the world. you've got that on one hand. on the other hand a mother writing two years ago my son was diagnosed with severe autism. i want nothing more than to have my son be treated as an equal. before i die i want to hear him say, i love you, mom. how has being so open, opening up your arms, to the true wishes of yourselves, and the wishes of others, in this kind of raw way, changed who you are?

    >> well, i think it's made us feel whole. you know, when we started this we felt so directionless, kind of purposeless. we were just drifting. to be able to delve into other people's lives and experience what they struggle with, or what keeps them down, it's kind of given us a camaraderie.

    >> it's really ultimately all about that question, what do you want to do before you die? and it really cuts through, you know, the -- it cuts through all the bad --

    >> you can say crap. you can say it.

    >> cuts through all the crap and really gets to what's important. what are the things? everyone's got these lists. everyone has these things they want to do before they die. it's about answering that question honestly.

    >> it's about living purposefully and not being at the end of your life and saying oh, i wish i had.

    >> yeah. i think it's about being curious, too. you know, like we -- you can never know everything. why not ask someone else about their life? see what they want to do before they die. see if you can learn from them.

    >> the book is called what you want to do before you die. thanks a lot, men.

TODAY books
updated 3/26/2012 8:27:14 AM ET 2012-03-26T12:27:14

Do you have a list of what you want to do before you die? These four friends made their list,  decided to stop waiting and start crossing things off their list and the lists of strangers. Here's an excerpt.

I still couldn’t believe what we were about to do. It had taken ten thousand miles, two twelve-hundred-pound bulls, three funerals, a week in America’s hottest desert, and an encyclopedia’s worth of life lessons to get here, but “#66: Walk the Red Carpet” was finally within sight. Every bone in my body was dancing a jig.

Fifteen months earlier, in a small sea town in western Canada, Vegas seemed a world away. Hosed by the infamous post-high-school “Where do I go now?” years, my brother, best friend, next-door neighbor, and I hatched a plan to hit the open road and attempt to live out one hundred of our wildest dreams. For each item we accomplished, we agreed to help a total stranger do something they had always dreamed about doing.

Artisan Books

It was a harebrained scheme, hatched from a potent mix of ambition, disillusionment, and raw fury over where the world was heading. Each of us had our own reasons for enlisting and our own hurdles to overcome.

Video: Bucket-list crew fulfill strangers’ dreams (on this page)

I sought independence. In the spring of 2003 my world was torn apart by the divorce of my parents. I arrived home from school one day to find my mom crying at the top of the stairs. We were an old-fashioned family, and the thought of divorce was not something that had ever crossed my mind. For the next two years the most basic aspects of my life were painfully deconstructed and examined. Then came college and a shot at reinvention. It felt natural to want to build something of my own.

Duncan needed purpose. He had been away from our family during the divorce (we’re brothers) and had sought relief in a backpacking trip around Europe between semesters at business school in Montreal. None came. Growing up, he had spent his time building go-carts and double-decker tree forts and shooting movies in our backyard. Now manhood was upon him, and the old escapes weren’t satisfying anymore. He needed something bigger.

How to harness your potential via 'The Power of Habit'

Ben, our neighbor, was fed up. A lifetime of rugby and high marks had made him aggressively ambitious, sometimes painfully so. In his highs he was unstoppable, crushing every beer, chick, and challenge in his way. In his lows he disappeared from the world under the weight of an overactive imagination, sometimes spending days alone in his room. He wanted to change the world, but he lacked the equations to know just how.

Dave needed a boost. After five years of making his high school buddies laugh, he moved to a small farming town in Alberta to attend college. Five years of competitive break dancing had him hooked on wild people and wild times—few of which could be found in his new home. Determined to kick his joint-a-day habit, he turned to food, quickly packing on 50 pounds of ribs, steak, and macaroni from the school cafeteria. When he finally hit 210 pounds, he knew it was time to change.

Jeffrey Scher

The calls began in February 2006. The four of us — connected through a chance conversation between Duncan and Ben at a bar — met every Monday night on Skype to chat about life, responsibilities, and how our generation stacked up to those before it. Soon we were meeting twice, sometimes three times a week.

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No secret club is without its principles. These were ours: The pace and superficiality of modern life were robbing us of a healthy level of ambition; we were settling for mediocrity because no alternatives seemed feasible. Boy bands were our music, reality television our entertainment, and George W. Bush our president. Mediocrity was all we knew.

Obviously this was ridiculous. Everyone around us wanted more out of life, and they weren’t afraid to work for it. The tricky part was knowing where to look. Our search for spiritual salvation was clouded by round-the-clock news, advertising overload, and the switch of community from real world to online. Where the heck were we supposed to look?

It was Duncan who first suggested the list. “We can’t just talk about the things we want to do. We have to actually do these things,” he cracked. “Let’s test this. If nothing in the world were impossible, what would you do? Even if it is impossible, what do you want to do before you die?”

We arrived at the next week’s meeting with our answers.

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“If anything were possible,” I began, “I would open the six o’clock news, kiss Rachel McAdams, lead a parade, let someone else have a chance I missed.” The list went on. Dave’s list included riding a bull. Ben wanted to sing the national anthem to a packed stadium and make a toast at a stranger’s wedding. Duncan wanted to play guitar with Jack Johnson and live as close as he could to Hunter S. Thompson.

Each meeting pushed our ambitions further. Our conversations became like drugs. The thrill of mortality was a high I’d never had before. By April we had agreed on a list of one hundred mutual dreams and managed to book two weeks off from work in August to go after them. For each item we knocked off our list we promised to help a stranger experience something that they had long dreamed of — fair payback for any help we got along the way. All we needed was a name.

For weeks we laughed about the idea of being knights on a quest and stupid ways of naming ourselves accordingly. Then I was assigned to read Matthew Arnold’s 1852 lament “The Buried Life” for English 102. There were four lines that articulated what we could hardly describe to one another after months of meetings:


That was it! We were buried. Lost. Detached from the promise of growing up. Ill prepared for adulthood, without even the vocabulary to express it. We burned to know more. How did this happen? Did others feel this way? Is this just how the world works?

Our intensity swelled. I bet my life savings on eBay to buy a secondhand video camera. Dave picked up an extra job bartending, and Ben combed the phone book to petition companies for their support.

“#43: Become a Knight for a Day” would be the first item we checked off. Three days later we were on a roll. The local newspaper had put Ben and his suit of armor on the front page (#40 on the list), and strangers from across the country began to join in. We’ve since managed to cross off “#53: Make a TV Show” and “#95: Play Ball with the President.” We’ve been on Oprah and formed a quirky million+-member community on Facebook (join in: www.facebook.com/tbl). The show has been seen in over a hundred countries in multiple languages. Next up: completing the list and taking The Buried Life into the new era. And “#100: Go to Space,” of course.

Kyle Jewell

Sometimes we hate going after our dreams. They seem too hard or too far away to accomplish. All too often we expect a second go or another shot at the chances we didn’t take the first time around. “Next time,” we say. “I’ll ask her out next time.”

Life doesn’t work perfectly, and it never will. It could work better, sure, but don’t bank on happiness as a prize so far down the road that you forget the joy of right now. This is your “one wild and precious life,” and it’s up to you to decide what to do with it. Nothing should be out of reach. The shoulders of greatness are there for the standing on.

If four punks from Victoria, British Columbia, could make it this far, imagine what we could all do together. Imagine another world beyond the worn promise of boomerism. Our classrooms, careers, and culture await reinvention. Together we can make adulthood a destination, not a curse. If we held ourselves to a higher standard, we’d see that democracy could be improved, human welfare could be improved...everything can be improved if we work together.

It makes me wonder: What do you want to do before you die?

—Jonnie Penn

Excerpted from WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE? by The Buried Life, Ben Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, Duncan Penn, and Jonnie Penn. Copyright © 2012 by The Buried Life, Ben Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, Duncan Penn, and Jonnie Penn.. Excerpted with permission by Artisan Books.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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