Amplifying Effect

“The first wealth is health.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are many types of skills and knowledge in general that, if learned, can amplify everything that you do.

Improving your ability to communicate, for example. What part of life doesn’t involve some form of written, graphic, or verbal communication? Think about it: blogging, writing emails, tweeting, caption, website copy, speeches, journaling, wit and banter among friends, sharing stories about yourself with relationships, getting your ideas across, job hunting, pitching clients… communication is at the heart of what it means to be human.

Health is another great skill that has reach across your life. Eating well, exercising, and resting can all increase the quality and longevity of your life. How can you put a quantifiable impact on that?

One big part of being multidisciplinary is to cultivate these types of foundational skills.

  • How to learn
  • How to think
  • Health
  • Writing

Even just one of these could improve your life in immeasurable ways.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1060

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Creative Friction

One of the big reasons I’m driven to learn so many skills (besides just being curious about many things) is to remove as many barriers to creativity as I can.

What does that mean?

Think of it like the engine of a minivan versus that of a sports car. A minivan might take dozens of seconds to reach 6o mph, whereas a high-performant sports car can go 0 to 60 in 1.9 seconds.

Humans are naturally innovative. We all have ideas all the time. Usually, we’re hanging out with friends and someone will say “Dude. What if beer cans had handles? Like a beer koozie but with a handle like a mug?” — or something like that. We have ideas, but we rarely act on them. Typically, that’s because we don’t have the skill to make them (or we don’t want to put in the time and other resources to acquire those skills.)

But when you have a skill (for example, you have mad Adobe Premiere and After Effects skills) the barrier from going from idea to reality is less.

Imagine a world where you had all the skills and knowledge to create (in the ways you enjoy creating) at your disposal. You would be ready to create —0 to 60— in a moment’s notice.

This is very doable. But in order to become creatively effective, we need to start where we are.

We just have to start learning the skills and tools now and hone them every day. We might be terrible at it in the beginning, but that doesn’t matter. Lower the steaks. Keep improving.

Even just thirty minutes of writing, or designing, or editing can add up in a tremendous way over time.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1059

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Creative Tinkering

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” Leonardo da Vinci

One of the first toys I remember playing with as a kid was legos. I assumed that LEGO was invented around the 80s or 90s (I’m a 90’s baby) but actually The LEGO Group has been around awhile. It was established in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen in a Danish carpentry workshop.

The original name for the LEGO brick was Automatic Binding Bricks (1951). The bricks where iterated and refined into what we know them as today. Kristiansen’s toy business had many ups and downs. Fires, economic upheaval from a post World War—not to mention WWII and the fallout from it as well. But despite it all, Kristiansen kept creating and tinkering.

One of the worst things about lego sets is that they come with an instruction manual. One of the best things about lego sets is you can break the rules and build whatever you want. Growing up, I would usually building by the instructions first (achievement unlocked) and then I would tear it to pieces and then build things from my imagination.

It’s easy to go through life living by an instruction manual. We live by the expectations of the people around us. Family. School. Society. We conform without always thinking about what we are signing up for.

Sometimes this works really well. Instructions by themselves are bad. It’s nice to know exactly how to fix a tire or how to learn illustrator or how to start an online business. The problem is it’s easy to follow instructions blindly, without completely thinking things through or experiencing things yourself.

A part of being a creative is thinking differently and getting your hands in the mud. Book smart only gets you so far. Hands-on practice and experimentation unlocks a new level of creative ability. There’s knowing something from reading or hearing about it, and then there’s knowing something from hard-earned discovery and tinkering.

How to Learn by Tinkering:

  • Don’t read the instructions.
  • Play first.
  • Try it the wrong way.
  • Make your own rules (add limitations).
  • Approach the world with childlike curiosity.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1058

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If Everything is a Priority…

If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

I’m reminding myself this more than anything. I have so many ideas that I could see becoming something real and magically, but that doesn’t mean a lick of salt if I don’t prioritize one and create it. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, said it best “First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”

The logic is fairly straight forward:

Divide our time into too many “buckets,” and we’ll have a whole lot of unfinished, mostly empty projects. In the immortal words of Jar Jar Binks, “Dissen gonna be bery messy! Me no watchin!”

Or we can choose one project, a few at most, and pour all our time and energy into them until we’ve finished them and then work on the next one.

It’s like wanting passive income or multiple revenue streams. We don’t just start right out the gate with a dozen income streams at once. First, we’ve got to get one thing going super well. Are we creating something valuable? Are we creating something worth buying? Are we sharing what we are doing? Good. Once we find one thing that works, then we start another. 

I’m always tripping on this because I love making things, and there are always new ideas and interesting avenues to take.

You can use a thousand boards of wood to being building a thousand houses, or you could use all the wood to build a single killer house.

Ask yourself: 

  • “Out of all the projects I start, how many do I actually finish?”
  • “What’s one thing I want to prioritize and finish right now?”

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1057

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Being Smart is Not Enough

We also need accountability.

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”George Bernard Shaw

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” — Scott Adams

When I think of the bigger, tentpole mistakes I’ve made over the last ten years, 100% of them come from a lack of forethought and accountability. I don’t give much weight to regret,(because regret doesn’t help us move forward, only keeps us stuck looping our past) but I can’t help but feel that if I had only had another “me,” (someone who sees the world objectively and desires to live intentionally) then the major dum-dum decisions I’ve made would have never happened.

One of my mistakes a few years ago was staying too long at a company that wasn’t the right fit for me. I joined for the wrong reasons and there was miscommunication from the get-go. But I was strung along, and convinced to stay, despite the problems and frustrations it was causing me. But I didn’t see them. I was making the “right” decisions for the wrong reasons. (Which is as unhelpful as making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons.)

Mistakes are thoughtless errors in judgment. By “thoughtless” I don’t mean hurtful or cruel, I mean thought-less —mistakes are decisions we make without stepping back and thinking things through. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury to step back, particularly when decisions get heated and we snap back with anger like a hungry Rottweiler. But that doesn’t mean we can’t train ourselves to make clear decisions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to blame others for my mistakes either. Of course, the mistakes of my past are not something I can change. But, I can use them to better inform and improve my future decisions.

“If only I had another ‘me’ around to help” immediately prompts two questions:

  1. Why do I assume I have to rely on someone else to think objectively? Why not create structures around decisions that help prevent dumb mistakes from happening?
  2. And additionally, who can I surround myself with that I can go to for advice to avoid unforeseen preventable misfortunes?

Plenty of smart people make stupid mistakes. Having a brain doesn’t mean you’re invincible. Mistakes are a part of life—particularly if you are trying to help others and create valuable things. But still. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to avoid any stupid mistake that’s preventable.

Here are 3 Tips for avoiding careless mistakes:

1. Use Preventative Societal Barriers

Sometimes doing what we want isn’t always best for us (We don’t always have our own safety in mind.).
For example, if you’re credit isn’t good enough to get a credit card or buy a new car, then that’s a good thing. Having bad credit sucks, but it’s also a barrier that can prevent you from making a potentially bad financial move. Sure it’s limiting that so-and-so didn’t approve of your application, but what if it’s a good thing?

Some societal barriers need to be broken, others are guardrails that keep us from harming our future selves. Which is which comes back to thinking objectively and having friends you can go to for advice.

2. Give Every Big Decision at least One Night of Sleep.

If you have to make a big decision and you can’t tell which way to go, then sleep on it. Give each important decision a little breathing from so you can listen to your mind and intuition. If someone is forcing you to make a decision in the moment, then say no. Unless it’s life and death, nothing is worth an immediate “yes” or “no”, especially if you are unsure.

3. Cultivate a Thriving Accountability Group

Build a group of life advisers you can goto for when you need the make an important decision. When in doubt, get advice. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help or a second opinion.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1056

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Same Same

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.”

Alfred Adler

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about travel recently (I’m guessing a lot of us are these days). Part of me feels like I’ve seen so little of the world. And the other part of me is grateful for the handful of adventures I’ve had the opportunity to take.

A few years ago I went on a trip across the world to visit Thailand and do some island hopping. My friend Marco had cooked up the trip because at the time he was thinking about starting a co-working business and he wanted to scope out a few places with decent wifi and cheap living.

At the time, I was feeling a little burn out at my software development job, so I jumped at the chance to take a breather, explore, and work from somewhere other than my at-home desk.

Our environment influences us more than we think. I think most of us intuitively know that the people we surround ourselves with, and the content we consume have a big impact on who we are and the life we lead, but our surroundings are just as influential. 

Or maybe we know, but we get so used to it that we take it for granted. 

Take the American South, for example. I grew up in Georgia (about an hour and change away from Atlanta) and a lot of folks in the south have a southern accent. Accents aren’t really something you think about until you run into someone or visit another place where everyone has a different way of speaking. 

People move at different speeds in different places too.

There’s nothing quite like the energy of a New Yorker. Personally, I love their straightforward, get sh*t done, we can handle anything style of living. Energy is something else I think about often. I’d like to surround myself with people who are bursting at the seams with creative and enthusiastic energy. Enthusiasm can move mountains.

There was an expression that you would hear often from native Thailanders (Thai?), typically when you asked the question, “How’s it going?”

They’d say: “Same same.”

To them, tourists like me where how they make a living. I was on my adventure on the other side of the globe—but the folks living they’re where just going about their day to day lives. Mopeds, Elephants, Jungles—everything around them was their *normal*. My unordinary was their ordinary

This is true for all of us. It’s so easy to take for granted things we have in our daily lives (like going out to restaurants).

A gratitude practice is a good way to remind yourself to open your eyes to the little (and big) influences surrounding you. The characteristics of the places we live—The weather, sounds, smells, walkability, nature, choice and so much more —subtle influence our minds and how we create (and why we create it). These are all good things to think about if you’re trying to add more creativity in your life.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1055

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Fun to Be Around

I am a silly person. If there’s an opportunity, I’m always going for a laugh. I’ve asked some friends about me and they told me they like hanging with me because I’m charismatic and interested in who they are and what they do.

I’d agree with that, I am usually the guy in the group asking a lot of questions. I think curiosity needs to be genuine though. I’m curious about others because I want to be, not because I’m forcing myself to listen to other people’s ideas.

I’m not much for small talk. If you’re telling me about a project you’re working on or something you’re learning, I give you my full attention. Your ideas are important to me. I want to see you succeed.

A lot of people see the world through a scarcity lens of “me vs. you vs. them.” If your idea succeeds then my idea fails. But this isn’t true. Everyone can be successful, just not in the same way. Originality is hard, but it pays dividends.

There is a limit of course. I can give someone enthusiasm, but I can’t do their work for them. Your goals in life are that—yours. I can help point you in the right direction, I can help motivate you and encourage you, but it’s still up to each of us to take these dreams and ideas we have in our head and make them a reality. It’s not my job to do your job. Nor is it your job to do mine. We can share, but we still need to individually contribute.

Our reality is a reflection of our mind.

This sounds like a line from a Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercial, but it’s true. I’m not talking about magic. Wishing for a banana to magically appear in your hands or a briefcase full of money to appear under your bed isn’t what I mean. What we think reflects what we do and how we perceive the world around us and by extension our reality changes. Thinking about eating a banana in pets you want a real banana. Does the banana in your mind exist? Not yet. But it correlates.

This kind of thinking can get woo-woo fast. There are just too many variables to predict all the details of what life will throw at you. But whatever comes our way gives us choices that are in our control.

Failure is an opportunity to do better in the next round. Or not.

Setbacks are an opportunity to grow into a better person. Or not.

Negativity, obstacles, toxic environments, unhelpful thoughts, criticism—these are all things that can help us or hold us back. It just depends on how you look at things. This is a very Jocko mindset.

I’m not telling you to enjoy your toxic work environment, for example. I’m saying see it as an opportunity to stand up for yourself and find something better.

Experiencing failure doesn’t mean you are a failure.

Being negative doesn’t mean you have to stay negative.

We may think about our past and envision our future, but we live life moment to moment. Each moment can change for the better if you own it.

A big part of building a thriving life is letting go of what you can’t control (i.e. your past mistake) and aiming for a better future while staying flexible in the present.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1054

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Life is Work (But Work Isn’t Life)

“Without work, all life goes rotten. But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.” — Albert Camus

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” — Rumi

Work means different things to different people. I may enjoy pitching ideas to clients and marketing products to customers, whereas you would rather eat your own left foot than deal with customers directly.

A lot of creative “work” I do doesn’t feel like work at all. Technically I am working and working towards a vision, but it doesn’t feel laborious. Naturally, I get joy and energy when I’m working on things I love. But then again, I’m not just doing one thing I’m juggling a few things throughout the day, so there’s rarely a moment where I feel like I want to stop. 9 AM turns into 3 PM very quickly. Plus, I’m sprinkling in healthy practices and breaks here and there—like meditation or going on a walk—so there’s a lot of factors at play.

One important lesson creative work has taught me is life takes work, but work shouldn’t be your entire life.

It takes work to live an intentional and meaningful life. In fact, it’s likely much easy to live a flippant, unintentional life. It doesn’t take much effort to eat fast food, never exercise, stay up late, work just for a paycheck, drink heavily, and veg out on the weekends.

Living intentionally and pursuing a dream, on the other hand, takes effort. Lots of effort. But the effort is part of the joy.

There’s rarely anything more rewarding than sticking to a goal and being consistent with it.

There are limits, of course. If all you do is work then your life is off balance. Friendships, love, community, mind-body, and spirit are just as important (and rewarding) as what you do for a living.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1053

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Where’s the bottleneck?

“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”

Henry Ford

When you’re feeling stuck, look for the main bottleneck. What’s the one thing preventing you from moving forward? 

The problem is we immobilize ourselves by trying to solve the problems 3 moves in advance first. ‘I’d love to save more money each month, but if I did that I wouldn’t have enough to pay for food and expenses, plus I won’t be able to get those new running shoes and I forgot I need to get my oil changed sometime soon.’

Sometimes we even convince ourselves that before we can fix this current problem, we must fix X Y and Z first. ‘I want to get a new job, but first I need to fix my health, but before that, I should really think about going back to school.’

Instead of dealing with the immediate problem, we’re thinking about a hundred other things on our todo list.

Thinking 3 moves in advance is great. But when it comes to solving problems we need to focus on them one at a time. Fixing the main issue may cause other issues down the line, but don’t worry about that now. Focus on the current priority. 

Put everything aside in your mind for a moment and focus exclusively on the priority at hand.

An alternative approach is to go around the problem and reduce complexity by finding a way to nullify multiple problems in one sweep by solving the underlying issue. (I believe this idea is from Tim Ferriss.)What’s one thing I can focus on/do that will nullify all the other (potential) problems.

What we need is a sense of priority. What’s the most important thing you need to focus on right now? We might have to deal with other things later, but that’s for later. Before is before. Later is later. Now—we are dealing with now.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1052

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I Think You Can

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

Buddha

I think the typical reaction when we hear the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right” is something along the lines of—

“Ooh that’s a good quote”—and then shortly after cut to us immediately doubt ourselves and our abilities. At least that’s how it goes for me.

My definition of a cliche is something you hear so much that it loses all meaning and value in your mind. We know that the majority of the time we need to “Just do it.” Instead, we worry, fear, run away, stress, anguish, complain, blame, and do all manner of loitering—anything but just doing what we know we need to do.

“You think you can’t” is the part that truly holds us back.

I’ll catch myself doing everything I can to convince myself that something’s not possible or that I’m limited in some way. I can’t start a company because of X Y Z A Q B reasons. I can’t write a novel yet because of blah blah blah.

The only thing that’s limiting is my current mindset. Everything else that’s pushing against me, “limiting” me is an opportunity for me to be more creative, more humble, more impactful.

Of course, in order for that to be true, we need to stop holding ourselves back with unhelpful thoughts. The mind is a muscle. Having strong, healthy thoughts takes training just like any other muscle.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1051

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