How to Knock Off 52 Bucket List Items: An Interview with Catherine of Sooner Not Later

I had dreamed of becoming a writer and copyeditor since I was sixteen. I wanted it so badly that when I was asked to interview for a copyeditor position, I wrote out the email to turn it down because I thought it was too soon to really be living my dream. I deleted the email, and the rest is history.

Catherine Smith created Sooner Not Later for people like you and me so we can live our dreams now—not later.

Sooner Not Later is full of inspiring stories of ordinary people chasing and living their dreams. Spunky, smart, and brave, Catherine adds an extra-special touch to the SNL name with her attempts to accomplish 52 bucket list items within the 52 weeks of 2015. And she’s killin’ it! Last week, she crossed off a bucket list item to eat some sweets at Modern Pastry in Boston. She filmed it using Periscope, and my mouth was watering. That's my kind of dream, people.

She supports Curiouser Editing and all its fanciful (yet educational) posts and interviewed me about chasing my dream to become an editor. Today, the tables turn as I interview the one and only Catherine Smith. Read on, because she’s got a big surprise for you guys!

What made you want to cross off 52 bucket list items in one year?

I started Sooner Not Later with the intention of encouraging people to believe in themselves and chase their dreams. Before launching the website on January 1, I was trying to think of a way that I could authentically and vulnerably lead by example and garner attention of the Sooner Not Later message. And out of that desire, the 52 in 52 Weeks Bucket List Challenge was created.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in accomplishing those items?

I’d love to leave this out, but I believe transparency is what encourages others to continue pursuing their dreams, so truth be told, the biggest challenge has been financial.

I quit my full-time job a year ago to pursue my dream. Now I work online part-time and work on Sooner Not Later the rest of the time. Currently, I am making less than I did my first year out of college and at times, that really sucks and this little voice in the back of my head tells me I should quit.

But when I take a step back and look at the bigger picture, I am reminded that I am living a dream right now! In the last year, I’ve traveled to Canada, Bali, Florida, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New Hampshire, Maine, and probably a ton of places I am forgetting. I’ve learned to scuba dive and surf and even climbed a volcano (in the dark) to watch the sunrise.

Okay, we have to ask: did you save up for this bucket list adventure? How can someone else financially prepare to do what you’re doing?

In all honesty, I did not. I only had the idea for this challenge about two months before the launch and at that point, it was Christmas and I was already working part-time. There was no way I was able to save.

So how have I pulled it off? Really careful planning.

Basically, I do everything in reverse. I research everything I might like to do while on a trip (or excursion): where I would like to stay, cost of transportation, food, etc.

I write it all out and then look at how much time I have to save that money and create a plan to reach that goal. If it’s feasible, I go for it. If not, I try adjusting the budget to see if I can work it out (for example: choosing a cheaper hotel or cutting out an activity).  Sometimes, I still have to pass, but that time isn’t wasted because now I have all those notes for the next time I want to try to work on it.

I also consider Groupon, Airbnb, budget airlines (like Frontier), and Priceline’s Name Your Own Price feature to be my secret weapons for saving money!

So in short, my advice is to do your research and get creative!

What are three things you do specifically to help people accomplish their dreams—whether in person or on social media?

  1. I try to lead by example. Whether that’s through the bucket list challenge or just sharing the ups and downs of my own pursuits. I highly value authenticity and earning the right to be heard.

  2. I also love to connect with people in my audience! If they share their stories, dreams, and challenges with me through email or social media, I use it as inspiration when I am writing. I will also respond and offer advice. So anyone looking to pursue a dream, definitely connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  3. And for the dreamers who are really sick of waiting on “someday,” I have a variety of coaching packages. The basic “Go-Getter” package includes an electronic copy of my workbook, Make Someday Today, a brainstorming session and a personalized plan of action to help you get started sooner not later. The other packages build on this offering and include follow-up sessions plus accountability to help you keep focused as you pursue your dream.

Tell us about your coaching packages! What makes yours different? Are there specific people you work with or can anyone use your services?

What makes Sooner Not Later so special is that it’s all about helping you to believe in yourself and recognize you have control over your life. You choose how you spend your time and when, if ever, you will live your dreams. I help people to take ownership of that control, identify their dreams/goals, and break down all the steps required to achieve it into a manageable plan of action.

And this is something that anyone with a dream or goal (man, woman, or child) can benefit from.

If anyone from your community wants to check out a coaching package, I’ve set up a special sales page just for them to access and it has all the packages at a significant discount.

Whoooooa! Did you guys see this? You cannot beat that deal. If you’re serious about kickstarting your dreams, let Catherine coach you. She’s a pro at making dreams come true.

What are your favorite bucket list items that you’ve crossed off so far?

Everything I have done is so amazing that it’s hard to choose. Learning to scuba dive was definitely breathtaking, but so was my road trip to New England last week. For years I have wanted to go to Boston so that entire experience was just a dream come true. I also had someone give me a surfing lesson while I was in New Hampshire. That was so cool! I look forward to continuing to practice that.

Through your adventure this year, there had to be some great stories. What’s the best story you have so far?

There is no way to pick just one! There’s the whole experience with the airline losing my luggage in Bali, then there was the struggle of climbing an active volcano to watch the sunrise. I went to Florida for Phillies Spring Training and had the chance to interview some of the former players and management about their bucket lists. And, of course, when my friends surprised me with tickets to Harry Potter World. That meant so much to me!

What do you believe limits people from achieving their dreams?

Fear and a lack of confidence. Everything stems from that. We’re afraid to be different, afraid to dream, afraid to fail, and afraid to succeed. We don’t believe we’re worth it. So we make excuses.

But if we’re willing to push ourselves out of the comfort zone, amazing things are bound to happen. For those who find this idea intimidating, please get in touch with me! I would love to help you.

Do you have any special plans during this fourth (and final) quarter as you sprint toward the finish line?

I’ve sort of reached that “go big or go home” stage. At this point, I feel like it’s give it everything you’ve got or die trying (I shouldn’t say that since I still have to skydive. EEK!).

As of yesterday, I have completed 39 items. I have another 8–10 in the works (learning Italian, tracing my ancestry, climbing the Statue of Liberty, and visiting the White House in November, skydiving, etc.).  

This weekend, I’m headed to Atlanta because a few of my friends are insisting on helping with some of the list items. It should be a blast!

If I get an influx of money, I will be hopping a plane to Iceland to check that off and see the Northern Lights!

You’ve also been known to interview amazing people. Who has been the most fascinating person you’ve interviewed so far?

Besides you, my absolute favorite was probably Tom Turcich, the man walking the world! He’s had this dream to walk around the world since he was a teenager and this past April, on his 26th birthday, he set out on a five-year journey. We’ve spoken a couple times, and I think he’s just so inspiring. You can check out his interview here.

Are you taking on any more sponsors?

Are you kidding? Of course! I am always willing to receive money and support from people. Especially if they’re awesome!

I view all of my sponsorships as a friendship between our businesses. We believe in each other and we support each other.

Here are a few ways that people can help:

  • Help with a remaining bucket list item
  • Donate a coaching package for someone who can’t afford it
  • Get on board for 2015. I am just starting to plan something big for next year. It’s too early to share here, but anyone interested in sponsorships can definitely shoot me an email

Are you any closer to meeting Johnny Depp or Jimmy Fallon?

Ha! What made you choose those two? Because they’re just adorable. I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t love to meet Jimmy and Johnny?

It really feels like I am not any closer to meeting these people than I was a year ago, but the truth is that just by writing it down and publicizing it, I am closer.

I’ve had friends and followers tweeting out my bucket list with notes to Jane Lynch (because I really want to go on Hollywood Game Night), Jimmy Fallon, Sylvester Stallone, and even President Obama.

I haven’t heard anything back from any of them, but just by making my desires known, I am that much closer. Because one of these days, someone who knows someone will come across it and they’ll be able to help.

Example: I have a friend who went to high school with a very famous comedian (who has been on The Tonight Show). That means I am only two degrees away from Jimmy (which means I am only three degrees from the entire Hollywood universe).

Here’s another example: Monday night I was at a speakeasy in Boston (Bucket List #35) and met a girl who had just got off a plane from Hollywood where she was visiting a very famous friend of hers. Now this girl isn’t on my list, but it just goes to show that we’re not as far removed as it seems.

Any last piece of advice for the dreamers?

Remember that your dream is never as far away as it seems. You simply need to start moving in that direction.

So there you have it, ladies and gents. Catherine is so motivating that she’s convinced me to start my very own bucket list. More information to come later! But I’m super excited about it.

Don’t forget to check out her discounted coaching packages just for Curiouser readers:

Shayla Raquel Bio Photo.jpg

An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. A lifelong lover of books, she has edited over 300 books and has launched several Amazon bestsellers for her clients. Her award-winning blog teaches new and established authors how to write, publish, and market their books. She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist, The Rotting (in Shivers in the Night), and her novel-in-progress, The Suicide Tree. She lives in Oklahoma with her two dogs, Chanel and Wednesday.