I’m not big on holidays. They seem fabricated — an excuse to sell stuff. Thanksgiving is a big exception. So too are birthdays. I think everyone should celebrate birthdays in a big way.

For me this year, that means commandeering Get Rich Slowly to go a little off topic. I’m not writing about money today. I’m writing about personal goals and self-improvement.

Success Junkie
I’m obsessed with self-improvement. For good or ill, all my life I’ve been on a constant quest to become a better person. (And yes, there are downsides to this.)

Last month, Megan dropped me a line:

After reading yesterday’s post, I connected to The Road to Wealth is Paved with Goals, and then 101 Things in 1001 Days, the big list of goals you set for your 38th birthday. I know your project should have ended in 2009, but I never saw an update. I’ve since become obsessed with coming up with my own 100 goals, so I’d love for you to revisit this in a post and let us know how it turned out and why or why not it worked for you!

Ah, yes. My h-u-g-e list of h-u-g-e goals. I remember that. My last progress update to this list of goals was on 10 July 2009, 839 days into the project. At that time, I’d completed 37 of my 101 goals, including all of my financial goals. (Unsurprisingly, when you build your life around something, you tend to do well at it.)

In the four years since I drafted the list:

  • I met 46 of my 101 goals.
  • I’ve come close to meeting four others.
  • Sixteen of the goals are no longer important to me. (People change, and so do their priorities.)
  • Thus, 35 of my goals were left unfinished.

I suppose if I were to grade myself by school standards, I’d get an F. But you know what? I don’t feel like a failure for what I’ve accomplished. Far from it! When I look at what I’ve done in the past four years, I’m actually a little amazed. I’ve come a long way. There’s still a lot for me to do, but I’m proud of what I’ve done — especially in the past two years.

Ad Astra Per Aspera
42 Seamless Textures of Life, the Universe, and EverythingBut there are more things I’d like to do. Because I’m getting old, the idea of accomplishing 101 things in 100 days just isn’t that appealing. In fact, as regular readers know, I’ve moved from trying to tackle large lists of goals to focusing on just a handful of unrelated goals at any one time. I find I’m more successful this way. If I tackle one fitness goal, one financial goal, one household goal, and so on, then I don’t get overwhelmed. Still, because I’m always introspective this time of year, I decided to draw up another large list of goals.

As a compromise between ambition and moderation — and to celebrate my 42nd birthday — here’s a list of 42 goals I’d like to accomplish in the next 42 months. (Deadline: 25 September 2014.)


Financial Goals

  1. Develop an investment policy statement, and use this to guide my investing. On a related note…
  2. Rebalance my portfolio every year. I know it’s important to rebalance — but I never do it. (I’m putting the “passive” in passive investment!) I want to change that. Using my investment policy statement (which will set out my target asset allocation), I want to rebalance after tax season every year.
  3. Become semi-retired, by which I mean have enough saved that I can work only part-time while using the rest of my time to travel and attend to other projects.
  4. Avoid deficit spending. This should be easy. I’ve trained myself to spend less than I earn. It’s a habit. All the same, I want this to be an overt goal — something that I’m constantly striving for. If I continue to avoid deficit spending (as I have for six or seven years now), then everything else should take care of itself, right?

Fitness Goals

  1. Run a marathon. (I walked in 2009.)
  2. Run a 21-minute 5k. Ambitious. I ran my first 5k in 24:07 two weeks ago.
  3. Weigh 160# by 30 June 2011 — and remain at or below this weight forever. (I started at 213# on 01 January 2010, and weigh 171# now.)
  4. Reach “advanced” level for Crossfit Total. I can’t believe I have a weight-lifting goal. But I do. I want my combined shoulder press, back squat, and deadlift to reach a certain level. This is very, very ambitious. I’ll reach “novice” level tomorrow.
  5. Qualify for the regional Crossfit Games. Again, this is ambitious, but doable. In theory. I’ve been doing Crossfit for a year. My trainer and I have talked. In 2014, I’ll be 45, putting me in the Masters division. That gives me three years to get ready.
  6. Complete a one-mile swim.
  7. Get a second colonoscopy. Men in my family die young (before the age of 50) from cancer, so my present to myself on my 40th birthday was a colonoscopy. Whee! My doctor wants me to get one every five years.

Household Goals

  1. Purge all of the Stuff from the workshop and garage. I’ve made progress in my war on Stuff, but some of that just means I’ve shifted the battlefront from the house to the outbuildings. I need to dedicate a week to selling and donating the last of the Stuff. I just want it gone.
  2. Build an outdoor area for summer. First I wanted a patio. Then I wanted a hideaway tucked in the shrubs. Now I don’t care. I just want a designated place that’s shady and cool for us to gather with friends when it’s nice outside.
  3. Finish building the horseshoe pit. Five years ago, I started building a place for us to pitch horseshoes. Five years later, nothing’s changed. It’s embarrassing.
  4. Add new spigots outside. We have one outside faucet. It’s centrally-located, which is good, but we need more. I’d like to install two additional hose bibs — one near Kris’s flower garden, and one near the vegetable garden.
  5. Erect a hammock. I love to nap outside on a summer day.
  6. Organize my comic book collection. Have I mentioned that I’m messy? Have I mentioned that I collect comic books? Can you imagine what happens when these two qualities collide?
  7. Take off my shoes. Kris really, really, really would like me to take my shoes off when I come in the house. I do this most of the time — but not always. I’m not sure why it’s such a big deal to her, but it is. And I should try to respect that. Thus the goal.

Professional Goals

  1. Reach 100,000 RSS subscribers at Get Rich Slowly.
  2. Get 1,000,000 visitors to Get Rich Slowly in one month. This should be easy. The top month was 879,000. The top 30-day window is something like 938,000.
  3. Reduce my involvement in Get Rich Slowly. Yes, it’s true. I love this site, and I love the community. But I’m ready to work on other projects. I feel the need to grow. Does that make sense? So, I want to keep this site moving toward a multi-author format, as it has been for the past two years.
  4. Move all of my online non-financial writing to jdroth.com. I have stuff scattered across the web. I want to consolidate it under one roof. (Or onto one server, as the case may be.)
  5. Launch my New Blog. Last fall I wrote about having to give up the perfect domain name because somebody was parked on it and wanted too much money. I’ve had five months to think about this project, and remain just as passionate about the idea — even more so. Well, I caved. I bought the domain. My new site may never make money, but that’s okay. It’ll be awesome.
  6. Write another book. Writing Your Money: The Missing Manual was a learning experience. I’m proud of the book, and love hearing that it’s helped people get their finances in order. But it wasn’t the J.D. Book. Now that I know how to do this, I want to write Get Rich Slowly: The Book — or a book based on the new site I mentioned above.

Adventure Goals

  1. Go sky-diving. Tentatively planned for May. (This scares the crap out of me!)
  2. Go white-water rafting. I did this one summer in high school. It was awesome.
  3. Ride in a hot-air balloon. Apparently, there’s a Rick Steves tour in Europe (Croatia? Turkey?) that does this, and it’s amazing. I’ll settle for doing it here in Portland.
  4. Learn to shoot a gun. Kris — the anti-gun zealot — beat me to this, and it ticks me off.
  5. Journey to Patagonia. After watching last Spring’s installment of The Amazing Race, I’ve been dying to visit Chile and Argentina. Especially Puerto Varas.
  6. Journey to southeast Asia. Kris and I have decided that we need to travel to “difficult” countries while we’re young. We can do Germany and Australia when we’re 80. Southeast Asia would bring new elements to our travel.
  7. Do an extended volunteer/humanitarian project. I get a lot of grief — deservedly so — for not donating more to charity. Those who have been nagging me may be pleased to know that after our trip to Africa, I found a couple of causes I can get behind. Trent wants me to support Jump for Joel, while Chris G. (and Justin B.!) is pitching Charity: Water. But you know what? I want to learn more about Room to Read. In fact, if the organization is as great as it looks, I’d like to do some work for them.

Personal Goals

  1. Hold a gourmet potluck. Why is this still on the list four years later? I have friends. My friends like to cook. They like to eat. This one should be easy. on a related note…
  2. Compile a Friends Cookbook. I have friends. My friends like to cook. Most cook very well. I think a cookbook of our favorite recipes would be awesome. (I’ll provide the clam chowder recipe.)
  3. Complete (and maintain) the Indispensable Comic Strip Reprint Library. Not sure why I haven’t done this one, either.
  4. Learn Spanish. Kris is learning French. We agree that I should have a language, too. To meet this goal, I want to take at least one (preferably more) Spanish class, as well as complete the first three levels of the Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons.
  5. Take a yoga class. “You’re as flexible as a two-by-four,” my doctor told me in 2008. My trainer at the gym says I’d do much better, but I have no mobility. Yoga will help improve that.
  6. Work with Jolie to create two posters. I want to create posters featuring food rules and Crossfit’s world-class fitness in 100 words.
  7. Digitize all photos. And collect them in one place.
  8. Digitize all writing. And collect it in one place.
  9. Create a systematic archive of all my data. In addition to my writing and photos, I have maybe a terabyte of movies, music, and more. (I’ve been ripping my DVDs to hard drive.) I’ve started to gather this all into one place. I need to finish that process, including multiple backups.
  10. Go car-free for one month. I’m convinced that I can live without a car. I love my Mini Cooper, but I feel like there are just too many compelling reasons to give it up. I’d like to pick one month — probably in summer because, after all, this is Portland — to put my keys in the safe and just bike, walk, or bus everywhere…
  11. Kiss Kris. Last but not least, I want to be better at showing my wife that I love her. Because I do!

Now that I’ve made my list, it’s time to get started. The key, I think, is not to get overwhelmed, to focus on one thing at a time. And you know what? Maybe I can use some affirmations to help me get things done. (I kid, Sierra, I kid.)

Photo by Partick Hoesly.

This article is about Odds and Ends, Self-Improvement