What Do You Want to Do Before You Die? How The Buried Life Changed Everything

Never take no for an answer.

I can remember vividly the moment I stumbled across a show that changed everything. Four guys, a video camera and a Bucket list. Actually The Buried Life list. Dave, Ben, Duncan and Jonnie had an impact on so many people, but I’m betting they didn’t bank on it changing a teaching career and any unsuspecting kid that wound up on that roster. Sounds crazy right? You have no idea.

At a turning point in their young lives, these guys took a risk on adventure with a twist. With a list of 100 things to do before they died, they set out to start crossing things off. Plot twist: for every item on their list, they helped a stranger cross off something on theirs. Some items may have been easier than others. The challenges running anywhere from getting a tattoo, to crashing a party at the Playboy Mansion, to battling in a Krump competition in South Central LA (Tight Eyez is their mentor?!). My personal favorite was playing pick up basketball with President Obama. The only tools they brought to the game were creativity and a refusal to take no for an answer.

The Buried Life

Why would this change a Senior English class? In a world where test scores determine your value, I felt these four guys represented everything the world needs right now. Embracing challenges, a sense of wonder, problem solving,  the importance of empathy and giving to others, and a great sense of humor along the way. So we watched the show and made lists. We talked about the value of never giving up. Of using your strengths to accomplish goals and leaning on others to fill in where you fall short.

The Obama episode captured it perfectly. They started by asking people on the street how they could make a pick up game happen, and were laughed at. Reasonable reaction. But then someone had an idea and the networking began. They got all the way to Reggie Love, the President’s personal assistant before Secret Service shut it down. Ultimately it did happen, just not on camera. Still, they did it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you your idea is foolish.

Duncan Penn Buried Life

The Buried Life IRL

 In 2011, they went on tour to a series of college campuses, one of which was Arizona State University. A few of my students, who had been on this Buried Life journey with me were able to attend the lecture, warning me to have my phone close by as they had a plan. I got to check an item off my own Buried Life List that night as my phone rang with Duncan Penn on the other end. Ben Nemtin too (he got my number, nbd). They were as kind as you would imagine.

Why tell the story? Because they’re still at it, 7 years after the show premiered, 10 after they came up with a crazy idea. They’re still making the world a better place, helping people cross of their items. On mine was wanting to make a difference in people’s lives somehow. For awhile it was in a classroom, with Buried Life lists and philosophy projects, and twitter campaigns to bring them to our school (that didn’t work out, but excellent effort was made). Now it’s Metiza. The point is, follow the crazy dream and share some love along the way. It’s worth the risk.

Images via The Buried Life. Seasons 1&2 are available in iTunes.


Co-Founder & Editor in Chief of Metiza. Talk a bit too much, laugh a...