Overstuffed Oreos

It’s easy to add more to your life—

More todos. More habits. More meetings. More projects. More books. More hours. More possessions.

Sooner or later, your life looks like an overstuffed Oreo—tasty after the first round, but consecutively less fulfilling the more you eat.

It’s difficult to take away.

It means choosing one good thing over another good thing. It means saying no more than saying yes. It means paring down to the essentials and removing the nice-to-haves (aka distractions).

It means restricting your options, but ultimately giving you the freedom and quality of life you are looking for.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1018

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Self-fulfilling Prophecy

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”

Zig Ziglar

Does thinking you are lucky make you lucky?

Does having a bit of bad luck increase your chances of more bad luck?

Probably. If you think you’ve got bad luck, then you’ll be more likely to notice little misfortunes and frustration throughout the day. And the more you notice them, the more you’ll reinforce the idea that your luck is terrible.

The connection point here is thinking. We think something is true, and therefore we believe its true and seek experiences to back it up. In psychology, this is called Attentional Bias “Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.“ (Hamlet)

When you think you have bad luck, you blind yourself from seeing the alternatives. Such as just happened to have parked your car under a tree where birds like to poop. Or simply forgetting your umbrella on a rainy day because it wasn’t by the door, instead of thinking the heavens are out to get you.

And it’s not just about luck—all emotions, desires, and thoughts reinforce us one way or another.

Our thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies. We aren’t our thoughts, but the thoughts we allow in the front door of our mind change and influence us.

As the Buddha once said “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” And Marcus Aurelius, “Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.”

Thoughts translate to believes translate to actions translate to reality.

This isn’t one-to-one. There’s magic lost in translation.

Thinking “let there be ice cream!” won’t magically make a cone of ice cream pop into my hand. But it will get me thinking about ice cream. Chocolate… Cookie dough… Pistachio… Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. And suddenly I’ll have an urge to go find some ice cream.

Outcomes are rarely assured. But stacking the deck in your favor (and removing the negative outcomes) makes them more likely.

When a negative/unhelpful thought creeps into your head, replace it with a positive/helpful one instead.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1017

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Complacency

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

Bruce Lee

Fear is an excellent motivator. Our natural response to fear or discomfort is to run the other way. We seek comforting things. Nostalgia. Hot comfort food. Smells. Familiar places. Routines. A consistent routine is a godsend to hectic times. But comfort isn’t always our friend.

Comfort is often the gateway emotion to complacency.

Complacency is a short path to ruin. The world never stops moving, but you do.

Essentially, complacency is feeling naively satisfied with your life and with yourself, despite all the red flags and warning fires dancing in your periphery. Funny enough, I believe complacency can come from both success and failure.

Success Complacency comes from achieving a goal and-or reaching the top of a mountain and telling yourself that you’ve “made it”. You reach the top (or at least what you think is the top) and you stop. You root.

You build a successful business but stop innovating. You make a hit song and you fold in the towel. You find the love of your dreams, get married, and stop trying.

We retire from creating. We stop improving. We coast. We smug (to use that word incorrectly as a verb). And while we’re goofing off— our skills and ideas rusting away—everyone around us is still in the game—improving, achieving and, more importantly, trying.

And suddenly we find ourselves at the bottom. The mountain moved beneath us while we were sleeping.

Failure Complacency is the opposite of Success Complacency. Not only have you not succeeded, you’re perpetually dissatisfied with how things are. You’ve tried, usually, you’ve tried extremely hard, but nothing has worked out.

Failure complacency is accepting a mediocre life or giving up after failing and resigning yourself to being a miserable sad sack. You fall into patterns of comfort and safety—or at least the little “comfort” and “safety” you have. For example, you hate your job but don’t do anything about it. It sucks, but the pay is decent, so why quit? Or you attach yourself to a certain lifestyle and despite hating yourself, you don’t want to give it up.

Psychologists might have better names for success and failure complacency. (These are just ideas I’ve observed in my own life and through the lives of others.) I want to do more research on this idea.

I do know that both success and failure complacency are difficult to overcome in their own ways. I would guess that the majority of us deal more with failure complacency than success complacency, but I could be biased.

The only way forward is to seek change and momentum.

We must challenge ourselves and learn to become comfortable with discomfort. Not for discomfort’s sake, but so that we are always moving. Even when we are resting and doing nothing, our minds and bodies are in continuous flow. Clouds dance. Nature bends to the wind. The world beneath our feet is rotating and walking through space. Life is motion.

Seeking challenge is our way forward.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1016

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Seeking Challenge

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”

Joseph Campbell

Whenever I’m feeling nervous about something, I know it’s a good sign that I need to be doing it. Singing, for example. It’s something I’ve been learning for the past couple of years. It feels natural singing and playing guitar by myself, or with friends. But I know I’m still in the beginning stages, so I always feel a little discomfort in the pit of my stomach and my heart starts fluttering when I sing for others.

If something is easy, it means we aren’t challenging ourselves enough.

It’s not difficult we want, rather challenge. Hard, not for hard sake. Hard because we want to feel uncomfortable. Well, we don’t want to bu uncomfortable, but that’s where improvement and growth build from.

Discomfort is how we grow. When we step out of our cozy slippers and step into a new and unfamiliar place, we push ourselves to grow.

There are many ways we can challenge ourselves. We can challenge ourselves by doing more. By doing less. By doing something different. By doing something that scares us. By doing something that is unfamiliar. By mimicking others.

We push ourselves to fail. Again, not intentionally, but because dancing on the edge between failure and success is where the magic is.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1015

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Trying Times

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein

I loved making Rube Goldberg machines when I was growing up (because of The Goonies and Back to The Future, of course). If you’re not familiar, it’s where you create a “machine” or series of eclectic bits-and-bobs lying around the house to perform a simple task unexpectedly and ridiculously.

Mine were never as intricate as this amazing thing—I mostly just used legos, but it was still loads of fun.

A domino effect is “the cumulative effect produced when one event sets off a chain of similar events.” It’s a chain where A leads to B leads D and G, and so on.

I don’t know if you’ve looked at the news lately (😝) but there’s quite a lot of things going on right now. (Understatement of the century, perhaps?) Life was moving quickly before the pandemic, but now it feels like we’ve been kicked into high gear. Many stressors are being tossed at as a once, some within our control, some out of our control, but no matter what life throws our way, it does us no good to lose our wit and give in to chaos or unhelpful thoughts.

When faced with multiple problems, when dealing with trying times, the best we can do is focus our efforts on one thing at a time. Fretting over a giant list of todo’s or bouncing around (like a beachball at a Nickelback concert) from one problem to the next wastes our time and energy. By focusing our efforts on one problem, one task at a time, we can stress less over the other things we need to do, and instead, give our full immediate attention to the thing in front of us.

Better yet, we can prioritize our next action to be something that eliminates or checks off other future actions.

What’s one problem you can do focus on this very moment, that will solve/prevent multiple other problems in advance?

as Henry Ford once said, “There are no big problems, there are just a lot of little problems.”

The best thing we can do is to catch problems before they happen. The next best thing is to solve them with they are small and manageable. And if a problem is already massive, then we have to break it into smaller and smaller parts until we again can tackle each small problem one at a time. This won’t always be neat and proper. Sometimes we might have to do this on the fly by the seat of our pants.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1014

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Planning to Fail

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

Lao Tzu

Whenever I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it’s usually because either A) I’m trying too many things at once, B) I’ve said ‘yes’ to something I should have said ‘no’ to, C) My intention/direction is vague and-or D) All the above.

A. Doing too many things at once is something I’m constantly rebalancing. Curiosity can lead you down to thousands of wonderful (and occasionally bizarre) places. This can spark a countless number of ideas and opportunities, but if you let curiosity run on a rampage all the time, you’ll wake up a week later after being lost in a deep Reddit or YouTube rabbit hole.

The important thing is to have a firm grasp on the few major things that are important to you, so you can pare back when you become aware that you’re a few hundred pounds over your elevator capacity, so to speak.

B. This one is similar to A. Saying yes is easy. It’s nice when someone asks you to do something for you. But too many of these, and you’ll end up doing everyone’s work except your own. It’s hard to say no, but it’s essential if you want to still have the time and energy to focus on what’s most important to you.

C. If there’s a centralized theme to this observation, it’s that only having a vague idea of what you want can easily lead you off into a direction you may or may not have wanted to go.

Sometimes vagueness is what you want. You want the surprise and spontaneity that an unknown direction will bring. Traveling (remember traveling?) to a new place, for example. It’s a delight when you can discover an unknown (to you) restaurant that is divine in a city you’ve never been to before. Movie spoilers is another one. If there’s a movie or tv show I’m interested in seeing, I don’t want to know anything about it. Don’t give me the plot. I don’t want any details. I want to be surprised (and hopefully delighted) which I wouldn’t be if I knew what was going to happen beforehand.

But what about when you’ve got a problem you need to fix or when hazy ideas are holding you back?

When in doubt, make a plan.

The method can be simple. Grab some paper and a pen and start writing. Make a todo list. Ask yourself questions. Get specific. Dig. Come up with some potential action steps.

The true benefit of planning is clarity. We’ll rarely actually reach the exact goal we set out to achieve, but taking time to understand our next steps will move us in the right direction.

If we only have a vague sense of what we’re after, how can we possibly know what we can do to get there?

Planning gives us specific actions to take. No—it gives the next action we need to take. Our destination might be completely different after we finish that action, but by then we are ready for the next one.

Planning is about playing the chessboard. The next move is critical, but only when combined with the next several moves and countermoves in the future. The idea isn’t just to have one fixed thing we’re after. We’re thinking about all the potential outcomes—worst-case and best-case scenarios. We’re trying to nudge the outcome in a particular direction, but if it doesn’t work at least we have an idea of what a bad scenario looks like and what we can do to handle it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1013

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‘No’ is Better Than ‘Maybe’

—And that goes both ways (you saying no, or someone else telling you no).

The question is, which is scarier?

Getting a no, or never knowing because you never asked?

At least with a no, you can move on. You can try something new and different.

With a maybe, you don’t know what you need, and you feel stuck and overwhelmed. With a no, you understand where you stand and what you can do going forward.

To take charge of your life, you must fear maybe’s more than you fear no’s.

You must fear inaction — or lack of change — more than you fear action — what you might experience with action, such as failure, embarrassment, rejection, and criticism.

Otherwise where will you end up?

Exactly where you are and have been. Nowhere you want to be.

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

John F. Kennedy

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1012

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Let Yourself Have It

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Francis of Assisi

It’s been said that the moment you learn to worry is the moment you become an adult. Growing up I was a rambunctious kid.

I bit my tongue and had to get stitches when I was really young. I broke my left leg in an ATV accident with my dad. I fractured my right wrist rollerskating at the skating rink. But I never worried about it. I felt pain, but I never once thought about whether or not I’d be okay.

It wasn’t until much later, when I injured my neck (and am still dealing with today) that I faced worry in a real way. Hello, world. It is something that is a piece of my story, but it doesn’t define me. Well—not completely. It’s similar to a job or a hobby. You may be a photographer but that doesn’t completely describe who you are.

Worry (And it’s friend Anxiety) is the problem. You can work it away. You can play it away. But the only true way to get rid of a worry is to let go of what’s bothering you, or what might/could happen.

What if you suffer an injury you can never recover from? Well, so be it. There’s always hope, but if worst comes to worst, you make do with your new normal.

There is joy to be found if you let yourself have it. If you open up to what you have, what you can do, what you can dream of—instead of being stuck in the past or what you had.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1011

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Joyful

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”

Michael Jordan

In order to thrive, we need stability. In order to have stability, we need to thrive. A catch-22. (Or perhaps an ouroboros.)

And yet, maybe not. What is stability? What does thriving mean? Is it something external? Free from harm? A hot meal and a warm bed?

Anyone who has started their own company knows that the stability of a job is abstracted away from the business’s finances. An employee at a company that’s doing well is secure. And an employee at a company doing poorly is also secure. The employee at the thriving company will more likely keep her job than the other employee, but both could end up unemployed if something goes unexpectedly wrong.

A job is an external thing. It provides for our basic needs, but it’s not what gives us stability or the ability to thrive. That comes from within. If we cultivate our minds and learn to let go in the face of uncertainty and things that aren’t in our control, no amount of instability will hold us back from long.

Thriving starts is in the mind.

You can see it radiating out of people into their lives, but it starts with the thought of knowing that despite everything challenging going on, you’ll be okay. The sun will rise. The birds will sing. And we can begin anew, wherever we are and use what we’ve got as an opportunity to do great things and keep on living.

The happiest people in the world aren’t happy because of all the things they own, or because of their success and accomplishments. They are happy—no, joyful—because they decided to be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1010

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Missing a Day

“Right discipline consists, not in external compulsion, but in the habits of mind which lead spontaneously to desirable rather than undesirable activities.”

Bertrand Russell

It’s a sad day when you break a daily habit streak. The other day, I was on day 240 of sketching every day, but I flubbed it. I could give you a million reasons why I forgot, but that doesn’t change the fact that I broke my streak. It happens to the best of us. 

Practicing a habit always has its ups and downs. Doing anything worthwhile is never easy. The two most difficult moments of keeping a habit are: 

1. The first couple of weeks of starting a new habit:

A new habit isn’t sticky when you are just beginning. There’s nothing really pulling you forward beyond the excitement and motivation of trying something new. That’s why I find daily streaks so powerful. 3 days in a row is cool, but no one would feel remorse for missing day 4. But what about day 30? Day 100? Day 300? When day 301 rolls around, you better believe you’ll do whatever you can to make it happen.

2. The day after you miss:

Missing a day can be crushing. There’s a million reasons, obstructions, and excuses that can prevent us from practicing. It’s easy to feel demoralized and unmotivated to start over. But here’s the thing—

A habit is a means to an end.

Practicing daily is fantastic, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. Drawing every day will improve your artistic abilities—which is a great reason why to do it—but there needs to be a goal beyond that. It goes down to the core of why you want to learn and become great at something in the first place. Practicing music everything day will improve your song muscles which can flourish into you becoming a musician and writing songs people love.

Missing a day sucks, but so be it. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t change our passions. It doesn’t change the goal. If it happens—it happens. The only thing we can do is look forward and think of it as a fresh start. We know what we have to do. There’s no time to sulk. Our daily streak may be back to Day #1, but that’s just a tool that keeps us accountable to our dreams. The daily count doesn’t matter—what matters is what we do with the skills we are cultivating.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1009

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