My bucket list
While the concept of compiling a list of things you’d like to achieve before you die — or kick the bucket, as they say — is hardly new, it wasn’t until screenwriter Justin Zackham coined the term ‘Bucket List’ in his screenplay for the 2007 hit movie that it really became a thing.
Do you have one?
I do. In fact, I’ve been asked so many times over the years what’s on mine that I thought I’d share it with the goal of challenging myself to actually accomplish everything on it. Social pressure can be quite the motivator…
My list has evolved, of course — as they’re prone to do — so I figured I’d include both my still-to-do’s and already-done’s. In the interests of full disclosure, let it be said that some items on my bucket list have been awaiting completion for over 25 years. Others, I’ve managed to tick off in a fortnight. (By the way, the age range represents when an item was first added and then when it was completed).
✅ Age 5 to 6: To be the best student in school so my father would gift me a computer 📚. I’d become obsessed with a screen and a keyboard after a brief but mind-bendingly awesome meeting with a Commodore 64. At the Instituto Militar Antonio Ricaurte in Bogotá, Colombia, I kept my side of the bargain. My father, who had abandoned us as a family some years before, chose not to. (In case you’re wondering: yes, I have daddy issues).
✅ Age 6 to 15: Actually owning a computer 💾. It took me nine years to get there and I had to become an entrepreneur in the process. Curious about the whole backstory? You’ll find it here.
✅ Age 15 to 17: Buy a car 🚗. My first car was a 1993 Chevrolet [Suzuki] Swift 1.0. I’m now glad it didn’t have a bigger engine that would have allowed it to go faster. I’d have killed myself speeding. At 17, I was an adrenaline junkie.
✅ Age 16 to 22: Mutually fall in love 💘. I was smitten with girls on several occasions but it was never reciprocal, so heartbreak was inevitable. It took me years to realize that love has to be a two-way street! Fortunately, when I was 22, I met the love of my life, Tania Zapata — and our relationship remains inspiringly reciprocal. 20 years later and counting.
🔲 Age 16 to ??: Build brain-computer interfaces 🧠. This is the oldest item on my bucket list that hasn’t been completed. Even worse, I haven’t gotten started. I’ve been intrigued by this topic for a long time. Sure, Elon Musk beat me to the starting grid but there’s a great deal of room for revolutionary innovations. If you’re interested, let’s talk.
✅ Age 17 to 43: Become a racing driver 🏎. No, seriously — like I said, it started with the Chevy. However, it took me 26 years to do it! As soon as I learned about car racing clubs, I joined one. I'm now a frequent car racer in several Northern California racing series, including Spec Miata and Porsche series.
✅ Age 17 to 21: Buy a BMW Z3 😎. The moment I saw that car in the movie GoldenEye, I fell in love with it. I lived in Colombia back then and owning one wasn’t much more than a crazy dream. Little did I know that four years later I’d be living in Miami and driving one of my own…
✅ Age 18 to 19: Move to a country with internet innovation 🇺🇸. When I discovered the Internet, I quickly realized I wanted to be one of the people building it. After coming to the US as a tourist and then hopping through the entire alphabet of visas offered here, I became a legal resident in 2002.
✅ Age 20 to 25: To be able to support my mother financially 💰. I owe my upbringing and education to my mother, Katia Monroy, and my grandmother, Maria Emma Torrenegra. Unfortunately, my grandma passed away when I was 18.
✅ Age 21 to 25: Build a successful tech company 🤓. After Tania and I got married, we moved to New York. There, we founded our first company together: Voice123 — the first and largest online platform for casting voice actors. We bootstrapped it to $100M+ in projects and then sold it to Backstage. Here’s the story.
✅ Age 23 to 34: Travel the world 🌍. For Colombians, it used to be very difficult to travel overseas (even as a resident of the US) because of the visa limitations imposed by most countries. Why? Colombian drug trafficking. Unsurprisingly, as soon as I got my US citizenship, I started traveling all over the place.
🔲 Age 23 to ??: Travel to space 🚀. Ideally, a week-long trip to the moon. I may settle for a weekend trip to the International Space Station, though. Got tickets?
✅ Age 27 to 38: Build a highly scalable tech business 📈. Voice123 is a wonderful business, but its growth is limited by the size of the voice over industry. In 2008, I founded LetMeGo. My goal was to bring reverse auctions to the lodging industry. Hotels, vacation rentals, and the like would compete in real-time for the itinerary of travelers. It failed. I lost $2M of my own money, or — as I like to think of it — I invested $2M in my how-not-to-do-things education. In 2011, we moved to San Francisco and created a new company: Bunny Studio — mission-critical creative outsourcing. Using AI, Bunny Studio assembles remote creative teams in real-time to work on projects from enterprise clients that can last from a few minutes to a few days. It not only scaled, but I’ve also just pitched it to you, dear reader 😜.
✅ 36: Have a second child 👨👩👧👦. For years, I didn’t want to have kids. I was so wrong! Soon after the birth of our daughter, Azul, I became obsessed with the idea of having a second child. After years of trying and finally thanks to invitro, our son Nova joined us.
🔲 37 to ?? : Positively impact one billion people 🌐. Attending Davos in 2016 (I was privileged to have been chosen as a Young Global Leader) broadened my mind considerably. It also made me dream a lot bigger. I figured it was time to pursue my motto in life: putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think any conscious entity can ever hope to do (Yes, I borrowed my motto from HAL 9000). So, I started Torre. We’re building a new professional network that humanizes and automates recruiting as well as finding full-time and flexible work. Our goal is to make work fulfilling for everyone. Would you like to join us? Simultaneously, and with the same goal, I co-founded Emma’s startup studio. Tribe and Torrenegra Accelerator came out of it.
🔲 Age 37 to ??: Reinvent democracy 🗳. I lobbied both in the United States and in Colombia. In the US for immigration reform. In Colombia for tech innovation. I quickly got tired of corruption, big money influencing our laws, and stupid political discourse. Democracy must be honest and efficient but the system is broken. One day, I’d like to be a member of the movement that upgrades the way our laws are created. Interested? Let me know.
✅ Age 38: To be a shark on Shark Tank🦈. I never took the program seriously, but when I was invited to become one of the sharks, it became an instant addition to my bucket list. Apparently, the producers were in a rush to find someone and settled on me — a relatively unknown investor — in 15 days. Here is a recap.
🔲 Age 39 to ??: Merge Latin America into one nation 🌎. “No one else in the world takes this immense land full of sadness seriously. They smile when they see that it has twenty-something little flags, each more than proud of their sovereignty. Oh, what foolishness! To divide is to weaken!” — Los Prisioneros. And while it may be improbable, uniting LatAm is worth the shot. So, shall we?