‘Use it or Lose it’

“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”

Dwayne Johnson

Have you ever had the bizarre experience (that could only contribute to the fact that we are all getting older) where you’ve basically completely forget something you’ve learned in the past? Sometimes in the very recent past.

For me that’s music theory. I’ve taken a college class on music theory, but the class was focused more on the ‘theory’ portion versus applying what we learn and how it transfers into playing on a piano (or guitar). Certain things have stuck (Every Good Boy Does Fine, etc), but for the most part I’ve lost a lot of it, even though I love the subject.

Unless you have perfect recall, not everything we store in memory is memorable. (And if we are cramming for a test on a subject we don’t really care about, obviously it will likely go through one ear and out the other. Whooosh) Memory fades quickly. What you were great at one year ago can easily be forgotten and feel fuzzy if you stop using it.

There are ways we can train ourselves to be better at memorization. Certain systems and strategies for short term and long term memory. Memory Palaces and Mnemonics and such. But one simple thing we can do is use the power of daily habits.

One of the more interesting insights about doing something every single day is that you never really have an opportunity to ‘lose it’, because, well, you’re always ‘using it’.

If you never stop, your skills never dull.

By prioritizing what you care about most by doing it every day, rain or shine, you’re always on the top of your game.

The skills you do every day become ingrained in your system. The habit become just a normal part of your life.

If you want to be great at something, never stop. If you keep actively pursuing it, your skills stay sharp and agile. There is no ‘used to’, there’s only now. And by staying consistent and mentally consider this as a lifelong goal, you’ll reach a peak that the majority gave up somewhere along the path.

Prioritize what you love into your every day routine.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #577

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Notes: Hindsight: & All the Things I Can’t See in Front of Me by Justin Timberlake

Hindsight: & All the Things I Can’t See in Front of Me by Justin Timberlake

tiny review: 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 (10/10)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

I really enjoyed JT’s book, Hindsight. If you are a musician, someone wanting to be a musician, or pursuing a creative pursuit, definitely buy this book. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book. The book has a fantastic style and full of great imagery, so if reading any of the notes below gets you jazzed, grab the book and read them there instead. (And, if you can swing it, the hardback is gorgeous.)

Note: bolded sentence, (thoughts in parentheses) and headers by me (Josh Waggoner).


“Ten years ago, I couldn’t have written this book. Ten years ago, everything was about forward movement. About taking risks. About trying new things. I didn’t look behind me. I didn’t care about what was behind me. I care only about what lay ahead.”

“What I understand now is that there isn’t just one thing that I am. There isn’t just one thing that I will become.”

“Every time I make an album, I always want it to sound at least slightly different from the last.”

“The mystery of loving is God’s sweetest secret.”

Jalal al-Din Rumi, from “Desire and the Importance of Failing”, thirteenth century

“Connections are all around us, and they are inside of us. They inspire and they illuminate. They show us who we are and who we want to be. That’s why we make art and that’s why we go see it. When we watch, when we listen, we’re not getting away from the world. We’re actually digging in.”

That feeling of being different really what makes us the same.

“You don’t have to be related to relate.”

“The older I get the more I understand that so many people live in circumstances they can’t control, or in places that just don’t feel right to them. That feeling of being different is really what makes us the same. We have our own struggles, yet we want the same things. We want human connection, a place to feel at home, and pizza.
Even if people seem guarded or bashful, more than anything, they want to relate.”

Continue reading “Notes: Hindsight: & All the Things I Can’t See in Front of Me by Justin Timberlake”

A Master of Some

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”

Robert Green, Mastery

I know myself well enough to know I could never just do one thing in life. And if you’re anything like me, I don’t think we should try boxing ourselves into that type of person.

‘You’re either a specialist or a generalist’

In a meta sense, there really isn’t a ‘type’ of person. We just label ourselves (and everything else) to try to grasp complexity and understand it by simplifying it down to a word or two. And just like solar rays from the sun, it’s all on a spectrum. Who we are is somewhere on the spectrum, and knowing what type we are close-ish too helps us define how we think and act on a day to day basis (but I digress).

Being a specialist or being a generalist are both great. There’s nothing more ’right’ or ‘wrong’ about either of them, they are just a type of preferred way of working and living. A special-ist has special skill in one thing. A general-ist has general knowledge in many things. Some people love to dive deep into a subject and all its nuances, and that’s what they feel called to and dedicate their life to. Whereas others love knowing about a lot of different things and be good at them. Will they reach the level of a specialist? Will a person who loves typography and fashion design and woodworking and metalwork and community ever be as great as someone who specializes in just typography? Possibly, but probably not. However the generalist has the power to combine all of their skills into an interesting mixture filled with other opportunities and creative insights.

I don’t fit neatly into either of these two categories. I want to push the boundaries of opportunity costs and go breadth and deep in a handful of areas. I would personally be bored out of my gourd if I only did one thing but I also want to go beyond the surface of knowledge and skill like a generalist, and instead reach mastery.

Somewhere in the middle between being a generalist and a specialist there exists an exceptionalist (aka renaissance man / woman). Someone who is a master of a few things. This gives you the best of both worlds: you have the know how close or equivalent to a specialist, but the power of a generalist who is able to combine their knowledge and skill into interesting ways. And nowadays, as technology and society moves at break-neck speed, being an exceptionalist helps you to generate ideas unlike most and gives you an advantage over the crowd.

There are downsides of course. Mastering one things is incredible hard. The degree of nuance in any give skill is infinite. (Which I find exciting, and it’s likely you do too if you think of yourself as an exceptionalist or specialist.) That’s why you often here people in there 60’s and on who have been working at their craft for decades saying they still have a lot to learn.

Mastering more than one thing is crazy. It requires double, triple, quadruple the time and effort to do so. Luckily, time can be on our side if we take advantage of compound interest through daily habits. Deciding to master multiple things means you have to discover and become very clear on what it is you want to master and what you don’t. Even with putting effort towards masters each day, there’s only so much energy and time we have to give.

Think about it in a physical sense. There’s only so many rooms in a house, and you can only fit so many things in each room. You don’t want to try and cram your entire house full of things there’s no room for. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to get around and enjoy it. You wouldn’t be able to find your bed. How would you navigate to the shower if you have all this crap piling up everywhere? There’s only so many hours in a day. We can push our effort to the limit, but anything past our limit has the opposite result that we want and only makes us miserable. When you rush from one skill to the next to the next to the next to the next… are you really learning each well? And more importantly, are you even enjoying each?

Choosing which skills you want to master is a big consideration. You don’t have to do it all right now. You can discover them over time. And you don’t have to keep doing it if you hate it.

Choose the few things you love and want to be better at and keep doing them.

Mastery is a life pursuit.

It’s often the folks who can stick with something they love (despite the frustrations and pain they sometimes face) that reach a level of success and mastery that most only dream about.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that YOU are the one who chooses where you fall on the spectrum and what your journey points towards — not someone else. Life and circumstances will help you narrow and guide you on your path, but ultimately you are the one who gets to choose who you want to be.

Where on the spectrum do you put yourself?

What do you want to master?

How can you incorporate them into your daily life?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #576

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A Little Tenacity

“If you hang around long enough, they think you’re good. It’s either my tenacity or stupidity – I’m not sure which.”

Adam West

We can get a little too close to our business or creative endeavors sometimes. It’s understandable of course. After all, we are the ones spending, day in and day out, trying to make something happen and real. But when all you can see is weeds and none of the flowers and herbs, your garden starts to look like an uncontrollable slop. You know you are working hard and the small, daily improvements are adding up to something… eventually, but right now it looks like nothing is working, nothing is effective. ‘Why am I even doing this anyway?’

It’s tempting to give up on the spot under the duress of thoughts such as this, or to give up subtly by putting less effort and less attention into your work, until eventually you stop all together.

I experienced this early on in my freelance career.

One of the hardest parts about freelancing is learning to balance the need to find new clients with the need to finish the work of your current clients. Current clients give you work now and have already paid (or partially paid) and sustained you up until this point and the near future. New clients enable you to keep your business going past the near future. Both needs demand all of your time and both can stress you out if your not careful.

When you are working for a company, you typically only have one thing on your plate: the current work. You might have an idea what you will do next after you finish what you are working on, but the demands of finding new clients is delegated by someone else and abstracted into a paycheck you get each month. The abstraction of a paycheck gives you peace of mind and a drip of money beyond the immediate needs. (Whether or not a paycheck is actually a safety net, or just an illusion of one as long as the company or sales people getting new clients continues is up for debate.)

Of course, early on in my freelance career, I didn’t know any of this. I was stressed out to the max, because I was not only dealing with this, I was also facing health issues and my expenses felt overwhelming. Which led me to the number one killer of freelancing: worry.

Worrying about where the next check will come from. Worrying about lack of time. Worry worry worry. And if you let the worry continue and consume you, it becomes a second full time job. By exhausting yourself with worrying over where your next client will come from, you push away the work you have in front of you and begin to feel incapable of doing it. You hit a wall, no energy left to find clients OR do the work in front of you. Which alienates yourself from what you need to do and also alienates you from your current clients.

To skip over the bloody details, early on, I dropped the ball. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a lesson that’s helped me later on. In hindsight, by letting worrying become my second job, I clouded my judgement and mindset on what I need to do and how to move forward.

What matters most is the work that’s in front of you — that’s #1. Go above and beyond with the work you have, and the next gig will follow. Everything else will handle itself. Research new clients, set up new meetings. But don’t let those distract you or suck away all your time from what truly matters: the work.

This lesson highlights two important questions:

What can I learn from the mistakes of others, and plan ahead / mitigate the risk of falling into the same traps?

Personal mistakes sting the most, and are hard-won lessons. But it’s better to learn from the mistakes of others if you can recognize the value and heaviness of the lessons someone else has learned through trial and error, without actually having to feel the weight yourself.

Hard lessons are inevitable, eventually. But avoiding as many as we possible can is the smartest move we can do to avoid derailment and roadblocks on our journey. Obstacles don’t prevent us from freedom, unless we allow them too. Ultimately, they give us stories to tell (like this one) and give us the opportunity to help others on their own journey.

How do we keep going after failure?

Dropping the ball sucks. But it’s not the end of the world. There’s always a way forward. But if you hold onto failure to tightly, there’s no wiggle room to move forward. And if you hold onto a certain outcome to tightly as well, everything feels like failure, like weeds blocking your garden, unless that single outcome occurs, (an outcome blinded by lack of clear certainty and knowledge) versus the potential outcomes and opportunities that exist that we can’t see clearly yet.

We all need a goal, something to reach for, something to drive our actions. But the goal is the aim, not what gets us there. The aim is important, because it gives a ballpark direction. What gets us their is meeting each day by giving it the work and energy it requires.

The best way to holding drum sticks is to have a firm but soft grip between your index finger and thumb in the lower middle of the sticks, while the rest of your fingers lightly rest on the space underneath. This allows you to keep hold of the sticks without they flying out of your hands, but also give you moment and control in creating the sounds you want to create.

We must firmly grip the life we want to create, while not grasping to firmly to prevent our movement and ability to change when we need to change.

In many ways, life is fluid, not fixed.

Acting as though it is fixed only makes us brittle and resentful when we break or when things don’t go our way.

We must also adopt fluidity to create a life of meaning and worth.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #575

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Live It Out

We all have people in our lives that talk more than the walk.
They know everything about a subject, but don’t actually live it out themselves. Or their list of things they want to do runs laps around their list of things they actually do. In short, they are really good at doing everything BUT what they say.

Did I say people?
I really meant us. We do this too, more that we would care to admit. In fact, we do it so much we don’t even notice it anymore that we are doing it. Instead, we just see what everyone else is saying and not doing, versus what we are saying and not doing ourselves. (Harsh josh, but true…)

I can see three fundamental reasons behind this:

  1. Fear — We want to do it, but we are terrified of trying, failing, succeeding and / or looking bad.
  2. Belief — We don’t think we can because we don’t have enough time, resources, abilities, motivation, trust in ourselves etc.
  3. Uncertainty — We want to do everything, so we end up doing nothing because we aren’t sure what’s best and what will give us the most bang for our buck.

Luckily daily habits addresses all three of these reasons.

Daily habits give you a practice, something to work at and improve each day. If todays practice sucks, no problem. Tomorrow’s practice will be even better. If I can focus only on today’s work, the fear and uncertainty is small and the belief in myself grows and accumulates each day. There is no tomorrow, just today. There is no uncertainty, just the task in front of me. And the fear is smaller, because it’s down to a single action. I just need to do this one thing, that’s it and I’ll be better for it, even if I fail or look bad today.

Daily habits give you a practice, something to work at and improve each day.

My impetus [driving force] for writing at RenaissanceLife every day (and ultimately discovering the power of daily habits,) was that I was fed up.

I was fed up with wanting to write but not have the time. I was fed up with wanting to be more, but not being more. I was sick of just saying what I wanted to be, rather than actually being it.

Instead of having to say ‘I want to be a writer’, I am able to say ‘I am a writer’.

And it wasn’t just writing. It was music and exercising and art, and all the other little things that have been found to elevate our lives in little ways, such as making our bed, flossing, walking every day, solitude and community. All the things we never have time for.

Or at least, all the things we never think we have time for.

Like magic, once you start your daily habit, time for it appears.

You could also equate it to money. Say you decide to invest one hundred dollars a month in a retirement fund. At first you might think that’s impossible, because you need every dime to live on and can’t afford to lose the hundred dollars. But if you did it anyway, you’re spending adjusts. You still pay for everything you need (gas, bills, food, etc) but you subtly don’t spend the extra hundred dollars on things you want. It’s so subtle you don’t even notice you didn’t buy an extra shirt the other day, or you watched Netflix instead of buying a movie on iTunes. You’re finances adjust to the new reality.

It’s the same with doing something daily. You adjust your day to fit your practice. Whether that means getting up early, staying up late, doing it during lunch time, or just not spending time elsewhere, your life adjusts. Just like how deadlines are a good idea for projects because they give us a window of time to work in or otherwise we would work or procrastinate ad infinite, so too does our day give us time to work on our practice. It might mean that we are doing it at 11 pm at night on a hectic day, but we still find a space to fit it in somehow.

Life adjusts to change

Combine that with the power of streaks and accountability, and there always seems to be time for our practice.

Every day I ask:

How can I challenge myself today?
How can I get uncomfortable today?
How can I improve today?

Have I written a book yet? Have I recorded an album yet?
Nope. But I’m working on it every day. I’m working towards those goals.

And that’s the real secret of daily habits.

Daily habits give you a reason to wake up early and pursue something meaningful

It gives you something meaningful to work towards and wake up for. Even if your life is crap, you have your practice, you have a vision of your life you are working towards every single (josh d*mn) day. And you become the kind of person who doesn’t just talk.

How many can say that?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #574

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‘Someday’

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

Malcolm X

Daily habits allows us to focus on the now, versus the someday.

There is no such thing as ‘someday’. Someday is a myth. Someday turns into years, which turns into never. And unfortunately, someday usually turns into regrets.

Don’t take me wrong. We can’t do it all now. I’m not giving you (or me) the thumbs to do everything all at once now. And we don’t want our ‘somedays’ clouding us up in the moment. We still need to prioritize what’s more important in our lives, which requires opportunity costs. But if we really want something to happen, or we really want to get be great at something, what better way than to work towards it each and every day?

We may not be doing as much as we would like each day, but at least we are doing something. Something meaningful that adds up. Something meaningful today.

We can’t control whether or not a misfortune or random accident happens. We could randomly get hit by a metro bus tomorrow (knock on wood) and there goes our ‘someday’.

Hone your skills today.
Work on your business today.
Work on your dreams today.
Start eating healthy today.
Start taking care of yourself today.

Give meaning to your life today.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #573

IG@Renaissance.Life

Means

Daily habits are a means to an end.

They help keep our skills sharp and stay sharp.

When you do something daily, you take away ‘I used to do X’ because there’s no ‘used to’ left, just ‘I do X’.

We all at some point wish we could get better now. We wait on doing what we love as if we are expecting a Will Smith genie to pop up out of our coffee mugs and grant us mastery.

10 Minutes is 100% better than 0 minutes. Would 30 minutes be better? Sure. Absolutely. But if you can only give 10 minutes because your time is limited, give 10. Even if you are only putting in 10 minutes on a particular skill, as long as its a focused and deliberate practice, 10 minutes will add up over time. That’s the power of daily habits.

Daily habits make the long term goals happen.

While we are ‘waiting’ for an opportunity to present itself, we are taking initiate and spending a little bit of time each day on what matters most to us.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #572

IG@Renaissance.Life

Available

We need space to create.
Cramming your life full of activity and todos leaves yourself unavailable for creativity (or at least the creative potential you could generate).

My best work comes from a place of stillness, where there’s nothing required of me to do, except what is in front of me. Sometimes that nothing space needs to be scheduled and placed in the midst of a hectic day. But from adding in that space breathed new life to your creativity.

In order to create — whatever that means to you — we must be available and open for business. Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, so we need to be tuned in to that channel and have the space available to express it.

Often, that means having time to just mess around and play.

How we express our ideas is based on what we want to do and who we are. For you, that might mean writing or dancing. For another, that might mean rapping or giving a speech. There’s no right way, of course. That would be too easy.

‘But I don’t have any good ideas’

Are you open to them?
Are you giving enough time and space to listen to them?

Take more breaks. Schedule create time. Consider the spaces with the spaces of your life.

Give to the art of creativity what it needs to thrive, and it will give back in return.’

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #571

IG@Renaissance.Life

Break the Cement

There’s a mutual relationship between fear and any creative endeavor.

We fear what we want to do, even though we love and feel called to do it.

We fear succeeding at it almost as much, if not the same as much as we fear failing at it.

Because both outcomes comes uncertainty.

What happens after I do this?

Often this uncertainty keeps us from moving. We feel cemented in our tracks, unable to move forward.

But this is us standing still. Look at any stagnant pond and compare it to a body of moving water. The pond is grimy, stuck, undrinkable, un-alive, where as the river is filled with energy and aliveness. Which would you prefer to be?

I don’t want to be stuck. I want to be alive.

We must move forward, despite the fear and uncertainty, so that we can create movement and energy in our lives.

Moving forward doesn’t have to be massive changes, although it can be if we are ready. It can be small decisions each day, small thoughts different and looking optimistically forward towards our possibilities, small acts that eventually add to something meaningful.

A river ebbs and flows and builds momentum over time, and so must we.

And overtime, there is no more cement, just wind beneath our feet. Uncertainty and fear are there, but they are like old friends, once again showing us that we are doing something we love and something worth doing.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #570

IG@Renaissance.Life

Luck (part 2)

I wrote a short blog post about luck.

The idea behind it was that what we call luck is rarely what we think it is: chance.
Luck is chance of course. Things happen without need or want of our consent.

….However, we can stack chance in our favor. But don’t make my word for it:

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Paulo Coelho

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”

Benjamin Franklin

“Luck is not chance, it’s toil; fortune’s expensive smile is earned.”

Emily Dickinson

“I don’t rely on feng shui. I believe hard work brings us good luck and success.”

John Gokongwei

“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The only good luck many great men ever had was being born with the ability and determination to overcome bad luck.”

Channing Pollock

“I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.”

Oprah Winfrey

“Luck? I don’t know anything about luck. I’ve never banked on it and I’m afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work – and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t.”

Lucille Ball

“When it comes to luck, you make your own.”

Bruce Springsteen

“The world is like a reverse casino. In a casino, if you gamble long enough, you’re certainly going to lose. But in the real world, where the only thing you’re gambling is, say, your time or your embarrassment, then the more stuff you do, the more you give luck a chance to find you.”

Scott Adams

“I believe life is a series of near misses. A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It’s seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It’s seeing what other people don’t see And pursuing that vision.”

Howard Schultz

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #569

IG@Renaissance.Life