In his book Living Without a Goal, author James Ogilvie wrote, “I have come to believe that a life enslaved to a single goal, no matter how noble, becomes a mechanism rather than an organism, a business plan rather than a biography, a tool rather than a gift.”
No one knows this better than the 86-year-old, world famous anthropologist, adventurer, and La Canada resident John Goddard, who as a 15-year-old, decided not to marry his future to one life dream, but to 127 of them.
During the seven decades since he created his "bucket list," he has traveled to nearly every country in the world, climbed some of the planet’s highest peaks, piloted the fastest jets, befriended members of the most remote tribes, and piloted the wildest rivers and explored the most inhospitable jungles and deserts.
A few of the 111 items that he has been able to check off the list so far, include climbing Kilimanjaro and the Matterhorn; becoming the first man to explore the full lengths of the Nile and Congo Rivers; living with pygmies in Africa and headhunters in Borneo; and retracing the routes of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great.
Simply put, “the most interesting man in the world” is not a pitchman for Dos Equis, but is in fact, John Goddard.
I first learned of him when he presented a lecture at the college I attended in Pasadena in the early 1980s. I had recently arrived on the West Coast from corn country in Indiana. I didn’t have any concrete plans on what I hoped to do in life at the time, apart from a deep-seated desire to travel the world to see what it had to offer up close.
His lecture that day was on exploring Africa’s Congo River. I sat enthralled in the audience, like young Carl in the movie Up. I knew at that moment that the explorer’s life was the one I wanted for myself, and that in John Goddard, I had found a mentor.
At the conclusion of the lecture Goddard encouraged each of us in the audience to go back to our dorms and create our own list of the ten things we most wanted to do in our lives. I did this, but soon found that ten items weren’t enough. Ten became fifty, fifty became one-hundred, and one-hundred morphed into the ridiculous 45-page list of single-spaced goals in four-point font that I currently carry.
A few years ago, my lovely wife Kim and I found ourselves near Goddard’s house in La Canada and decided on a whim to drop by and introduce ourselves. Normally, we’re not the kind of folks who knock on strangers’ doors unannounced, but somehow I knew that we would be welcomed – and welcomed we were.
By the end of our meeting at “Goddard Gables,” as John calls his beautiful home, we felt we were old friends who only just met. John closed that first meeting in the same manner he has used in all of our subsequent partings with the words “To be continued.”
(To use John’s closing, this post is “to be continued” tomorrow.)