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“Tonight’s assignment is to make two lists,” Robert con-
Dueling New
tinued. “The first is a list of all the New Year’s resolutions you
want to keep, and the second is a list of all the New Year’s
resolutions you will keep. Write the want list first, and when
you have exhausted all of your ideas, then write the second
Year’s Lists
list on another sheet of paper.”
That night I went home and spent some time working on
the two lists. The want list felt overwhelming at first, but after
a while I got into writing all the things I had always wanted
to do if the burdens of life hadn’t gotten in the way. After
by Scott Blum
nearly an hour, the list swelled to fill the entire page and con-
tained nearly all of my ideas of an ideal life.
was fortunate to spend time with an enigmatic man
The second list was much easier. I was able
named Robert during a very special period of my
to quickly commit 10 practical resolutions
life. Robert taught me many things dur-
to paper that I felt would be both realistic
ing our days together, and this time of year
and helpful.
reminds me of one particular interaction
The next day, I met Robert in
we had.
front of the local food co-op, where we
“Now that you are becoming more
seemed to have most of our enlightening
aware,” Robert said, “you need to begin
conversations. “Tell me about your two lists,”
to set goals for yourself, so you don’t lose
Robert said, as the familiar smirk crept onto his face.
the momentum you have built.”
“The first list contains all the things I should do if I
“Like New Year’s resolutions?” I asked.
completely changed my life to be the person I always
“That’s an interesting idea,” he
wanted to be. The second list contains all the things I could
smirked. “Let’s do that.”
do, by accepting my current life and taking realistic steps
By then, I was used to his cryptic responses, so I knew
towards the life I want to lead.”
something was up because of the way his eyes sparkled as he
“Let me see the second list,” he said.
let out an impish laugh.
I handed him the second list, and without even looking
at it, he ripped the paper into tiny pieces and threw it in the
nearby garbage can. His disregard for the effort I had put into
the list annoyed me at first, but after I calmed down, I began
to think about the first list in a different light. In my heart, I
knew the second list was a cop out, and the first list was the
only one that really mattered.
“Now, the first list,” Robert said, bowing his head and
holding out both of his hands.
I purposefully handed him the first list and held his gaze
for several seconds, waiting for him to begin reading the
page. After an unusually long silence, he began to crumple
the paper into a ball and once again tossed it into the can
without looking at it.
“What did you do that for?!” I couldn’t hide my anger
any longer.
Robert began to speak in a quiet and assured
voice. “What you should or could do with your life no longer
matters. The only thing that matters, from this day forward, is
what you must do.”
He then drew a folded piece of paper from his back
pocket and handed it to me. I opened it carefully, and found
a single word floating in the middle of the white page:
Scott Blum is an author and co-founder of,
a source of nondenominational inspirational content and
courses by luminaries in their fields. For more information,
also visit
38 Oakland, Macomb, Livingston & St. Clair, MI
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