Your Lucky Number is 14

“One of life’s fundamental truths states, ‘Ask and you shall receive.’ As kids we get used to asking for things, but somehow we lose this ability in adulthood. We come up with all sorts of excuses and reasons to avoid any possibility of criticism or rejection.”

Jack Canfield

Advice is a tricky cookie.

For one thing, giving advice doesn’t necessarily mean they will receive advice.

We can’t force someone to listen, no matter how much we think they need to hear it. (Or turning it around: No one can force me to listen to their advice, if I’m not willing to hear it.)

Advice that’s not asked for usually goes straight to voicemail. Potentially saved for later, but likely deleted posthaste. (Or perhaps a more recent example would be undesired advice is like an unanswered iMessage bubble: “read at 3:13pm”.)

Where the advice comes from matters too. You can give the best advice in the world, but it can easily fall on deaf ears if you don’t live out what you say.

Sometimes people genuinely want you to give them directions on their creative work or problems in life so they can find an effective way forward. Other times people want you to give them directions in life so they can ignore it, or use it as an excuse to why their life is the way it is. It’s hard to tell which is which. The only really way to know is whether or not they actually take it and run with it. It’s worth gut checking ourselves too. When we are looking for advice, are we willing to take it if it’s given?

Advice must be met somewhere in the middle:
—between two parties, one having the desire to give it, and the other having the desire to listen to it.

When I’m looking for advice, my first step is to find someone who has been through something similar I’m going through, or someone who walks the walk. If I have personal access to them I will ask them directly. It’s better to do this succinctly as possible, since time is such a precious commodity. If I don’t have direct access to them I’ll essentially read, watch and listen to everything they’ve outputted to try to gleam potential answers and directions I can take. This doesn’t always work out, but interestingly enough, during the process of seeking advice, you unstuck your thinking and can stumble upon the answer yourself.

The best advice is the advice taken. If you think it could potentially help, and you can’t think of any alternative, they try it. Even if it turns out to not work, the decision to act worth more than not doing anything.

Also, funny enough, the act of looking for an answer can be a just as powerful way of discovery as the answer is itself.

The act of looking becomes the answer to what we were looking for.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #584

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No Excuses

Not managing your time and making excuses are two bad habits. Don’t put them both together by claiming you ‘don’t have the time’.

Bo Bennett

Accepting no excuses might be one of the hardest hurdles we can face when seeking a meaningful life.

Often, it feels like there is an enormous (lava-filled) gap between who we are and who we want to be. (or what we want to be doing). There are so many reasons we will encounter on our journey in the pursuit of creativity and meaning assuring us, without a doubt, that what we want is impossible. Good reasons too.

“I can’t start a business because I don’t have any money”
“I can’t (apply for the job) / (freelance) / (start my idea) because I don’t know enough yet”
Or the classically ambiguous “I’m not ready yet”.

What does being ready even mean?
We’re never really ready to start something. Even if we had all the time, money and skill-sets in the world, we still would likely feel unready and unable to start.

Looking back on my life, I notice a lot of these reasons cropping up, stopping me from doing things I wanted to do. I gave reasons why not in the moment, but didn’t stop to think how flimsy the reasons were. I also didn’t consider the reason why I should.

More often not, the reasons why you should will outweigh the reasons why you shouldn’t do something.

Why should you?

+Because there’s only so much time we have to live on this earth, and the tiny bit of time we do have is anything but assured.

+Because if not now, when?

+Because if you don’t, nothing will get better, nothing will change.

+Because the best time to start is where you are, with what you have.

+Because the very thing you think you need — more time, more money, more skill, more confidence, etc — will be created and honed by doing something.

+And because at the end of the day, what we do defines who we are (which enables what we do).

Would more money help? Absolutely.
Would more skill be better? 100%.

However, dwelling on what you don’t have and can’t control, takes your focus away from what you do have and what you can control. We can’t control our past, nor what got us where we are. But we can control what we do today, and each day going forward.

This is your time, this is your memoir you are building right now.

Any excuse is just that — an excuse. Something allowing to not act.

No excuse is worthy of stopping you.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #583

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Attention and the gooey center

Imagine this scenario:

You are traveling in a new city, and walking down the street. You notice a particularly nice tree, and the sunlight is gliding through it in just such a way to make you stop and look at the nice scene. As your staring up and around like a tourist, someone walking by and says, “Oh! I love your hair! It’s beautiful.” What’s your immediate response?

Something like: “Oh thank you!”
Or more like “It’s a little frizzy today.”

In other words, do you take a complement or write it off?

This is such a small moment, hardly worth remembering, but underneath this compliment is….. a conspiracy! No no, I’m just joshing. (Just making sure you’re still paying attention. 🙂 Within this small interaction highlights a lot about you and what you mentally focus on.

Consider the opposite scenario:

You are traveling in a new city, and you are walking down a street — “the streets are so dirty here!” You think. You notice that you feel particularly sticky and sweaty today. You pull out your phone — missing the nice tree — and check the weather. 49% chance of rain — you’re doomed. As you are looking down at your phone, someone briskly walks by and gives you a look of “Watch where you are going, you tourist. Keep walking around with the face up your phone’s butt and you’ll get hit by a Hyundai one day”.

Again such a small moment, that completely sours your entire day. Did they insult you or did you just make it up in your head? And if they did insult you, why must something as small as a few negative words make you dwell on it all day.

There’s so many small moments like this in life. Involving compliments, criticisms, sunburns and cracked sidewalks. In fact, life is made up of small moments. Small moments in-between a lifetime of small moments.

And throughout it all, in the gooey center is us starring out into the world, giving out our opinions. You might not realize it, or you might not believe it, but how we direct our attention and attitude changes everything.

“Like fingers pointing to the moon, other diverse disciplines from anthropology to education, behavioral economics to family counseling, similarly suggest that the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non of the good like and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience.” — Winifred Gallagher, Rapt

And just to show how serendipitous and clever life can be, as I was writing this, someone backed into my parked Jeep with their minivan. What a perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. I could get mad and give all my attention to being late for work, or all the hours I’ll have to spend getting it fixed. Or I can focus on the good instead of dwelling on the bad. I don’t have the luxury nor desire to waste energy on something that won’t matter a week from now. My time and energy are too important to let ‘being upset’ control me.

Oh course, this can be easier said than done sometimes.

Problems pile up (and high) some days.
And I wake up on the wrong side of the bed more often than I would like.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t change our mind or attitude. Often the solutions are simpler than we think: Have you eaten recently? (Was it something healthy?) Have you taken a break recently? (Need a power nap?) Have you moved your body recently? How much water have you had today (versus how much coffee)? Have you talked to a friend today?

Sometimes simple taking a shower can give our day a reset.
All we need to do is find a way to reset ourselves — today, and focus on shifting our attitude and attention — today. By focusing on each today, we are priming ourselves to to think and act more with an abundance / opportunistic / capable mindset, instead of a negative / hopeless / fruitless one.

Attention is an essential skill to be practiced every day. What we focus our lens on, ultimately becomes who we are. Dwell on the negative side of life, and life becomes all negative. And practically, the more we can narrow our focus on what matters most to us, the more our time and creative output increases.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #582

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What others say about attention:

My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which Inoticeshape my mind” William James on Attention, Multitasking, and the Habit of Mind That Sets Geniuses Apart – Brain Pickings


Time is a continuous battle for me. (I would eat an entire Amazon cardboard box for another day in the week. Saturday. Sunday. Wonday)

Finding, no — making time for your creative pursuits is a part of the creative process.

If you don’t, there’s no creative process. (Or there’s just a sea of unfinished projects you have to swim through to get to your kitchen to make your Wonday paleo pancakes)

But how do we make time?

1. Give up BS time.

How much time can we possibly spend on social media and shopping online? All of it if we are not paying attention. This comes down to prioritizing your goals in the moment. What’s more important: Scrolling on instagram, or working on your dreams?

2. Go to bed early, Get up early

The biggest reason to get up early is the uninterrupted time you have to yourself to make stuff and learn. Uninterrupted time lets you go deep and focus without stretching your mind in too many directions at once. To get up early, you’ve gotta go to bed early, which sucks and is difficult, but the reward is great. (You can try to get up early and stay up late, but that’s unsustainable over the long run, and not limits you creatively compared to a well-rested you.)

3. We can’t.

We can’t unfortunately add an extra day to our week, but we can do everything we can each day to make sure what we do matches what’s important to us and what we love. (Which gives us all the time we need… mostly)

I do my best to live by three things: show up, do what matters, let it go.

Showing up — to your creativity, for your friends and family and your significant other is the best thing you can do to find a meaningful life. When things go wrong — show up. When things go right — show up.

Do what matters. Each day should have the goal of trying to do more of what matters to you and doing less of what doesn’t.

Let it go. Not every day will be perfect. Some days will be nothing days, where nothing you actually wanted to do happened, or you fell down a YouTube rabbit hole all day. That’s okay. Let it go. Make tomorrow better.

Show up. Do what matters. Let go of what doesn’t.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #581

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A Recipe for Frustration

“Well done is better than well said.”

Benjamin Franklin

“I guess I’m just one of these people who, when I decide I’m going to do something, I just do it.”

Tom Ford

Here’s one surefire way to thrive in life: Let your words align with your actions. Don’t just talk — Act. There’s a countless number of factors that go into creating success (including pure chance), however, there’s likely a reason that one of the largest brands in the world has a slogan that says “just do it”.

This is easier said than do, of course. 😉

Talking about something you want to do makes the desire feel more real, and can potential suck the wind out of your sails. It also opens you potentially being criticized or shot down by people around you. Even when people have the best intentions for you and want to see you succeed, sometimes they can say negative or rational reasons why you shouldn’t do it. When this happens, it can be even harder to act when your dreams and ideas have been riddled with bullet holes of people trying to look out for you. We live and die by what we do. There’s a lot standing in the way of what we say and what we do. Fear. Doubt. Uncertainty. Ego. Expectations. Past assumptions and beliefs. Do we really want to limit ourselves more by throwing other people’s opinions in the mix too?

A excellent recipe for frustration in life is to never do anything you say. When your words don’t align with your actions, no one trusts you, no one believes you — including yourself.

“There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

Morpheus, The Matrix

This is corrosive to the community around you, but even more corrosive to how you think about yourself. Your words become untrustworthy to yourself. You no longer believe you can do what you say, and without that believe in yourself you get stuck in life. Your dreams become wishes. Your words become fiction. You become an arm chair quarterback to your own life.

It’s far better to act before speaking or at the very least make sure that when you speak, you’re going to follow through.

Name anyone you admire and I’m sure their actions speak louder than their words. I find this the greatest form of authenticity. Not only being about to speak your truth and be vulnerable in front of others, but to be able to back up your currency with gold.

The great thing is all action takes is a small step forward, and the dedication to keep going. A small step turns “this is what I want to do” to “this is what I’m doing”.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #580

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Updated: 5/30/2019, 8:11PM: Added Morpheus quote 😉

In The Margins

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon

When you go on vacation, are the kind of person who creates an itinerary for every second of the trip, or do you just go with the flow?

I fall somewhere in the middle of the two. I don’t want to waste time, but I also don’t want to have every second planned out, where even bathroom breaks are scheduled out. For example, I don’t just go to a restaurant willy nilly. I check yelp and look at the menu / food photos to check whether or not it’s right for me. (There’s nothing quite as disappointing as wasting time and money on a crap restaurant trip.) However, I do enjoy ‘nothing time’ where nothing is planned (literally planned) and there’s no obligations or todos to be done during that time. (I guess I’m an enigma wrapped in a juxtaposition.)

Why am I writing about this?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how Life’s* plans for you doesn’t always match your plans for Life.

(*replace ‘Life’ with ‘God’ deepening on what you believe.)

(It’s like we’re not the center of the universe or something. Weird.)

The frustratingly cool thing is that often it’s the plans that don’t go our way, that ultimately inform who we are and what we do.

Or put more eloquently, the things that go ‘wrong’ are usually things that go ‘right’. They just so happened to be wrapped in a ‘stress-filled, extra-frustrating, mud-covered’ package. We often expect to take the freeway, but ultimately end up taking the back roads, but come out better for it.

For me, an old neck injury hasn’t ruined my life (like I probably thought when it first happened) but has given me the opportunity to dive headfirst into health and wellness, and taught me the value of pursing health. Without my injury, I don’t know if I would be into health as much as I am today. Without my injury, who would I be?

Life happens in the margins. Expectations only cloud our judgements of the opportunities in the outcomes. Plan, but expect change.

Is everything fair and good that happens to us? No. Sometimes it’s the opposite of unfair. I can’t speak to the struggle and circumstances that happens to others. Sometimes hard things are just plain hard, and it takes a lot to overcome them. But from my own circumstances I’ve found value in there stupid existence. Even if that value is not a resolution, but just a story I have I can share and help others with who have gone through or experienced similar pain.

How we handle what happens to us going forward is likely more important than what happens to us.

All that being said, I’d rather learn from history (and the mistakes of others) rather than experience mistakes I could avoid with a little forethought and planning.

Which means planning more is in my present. (Maybe not on vacation though. I can go to the bathroom whenever I want!)

Plan for the worst, Hope for the best

As the old Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” I’m going to start preparing for future outcomes, instead of just waiting for them.

Perhaps nothing is ultimately in our control, but I choose to believe that every decision we make has to count for something, no matter how small. Every decision we make right now has the opportunity to push the levers in our favor. I think it’s better to increase the probability of a good outcome than just assuming it will happen or negatively assuming it won’t. Either assumption, good or bad isn’t a great way to live.

Maybe this is what growing up and being ‘responsible’ means. Getting health and dental insurance, not because it’s worth it or helpful, but because in two years when you accidentally break your leg, you’re covered. Or when it’s time to buy a house, your past self has already planned for that inevitability and has saved for a down-payment already.

Either way, I want to focus on doing everything I can in the present to be have more freedom and flexibility in the future.

There’s a great entrepreneurial quote that says, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.

I think we could expand this not only to our business, but to our lives as well.

What are the actions, thoughts, habits we can do NOW, that will benefit us later?
What can we plant today, so that in the future our fields will be full of fruit trees?
What are small things that we can do today that will have massive benefits over time?

We can’t change what happens to us, but we can change what happens going forward by moving the needle towards the positive instead of the negative.

Why do tomorrow what you can do today?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #579

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Rule It Out

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

For the past couple of years, I’ve been dealing with a sleep problem. I’m great at falling asleep, and staying asleep. However, the quality of my sleep isn’t great. When I wake up, I’m just as tired as I was when I went to bed. You can see how this can be a real problem. The chronic, low-grade energy from lack of quality rest effects all aspects of my life. Luckily (or unluckily) as humans our bodies are incredibly resilient. We can push and punish our bodies and they will adapt to the new normal. Often this is beneficial. For example, exercising is fantastic for us and necessary for health. And 90% of the benefits of exercising outweigh the downsides of it’s stressors on our system. (An anti-example is overtraining. By training too much, you don’t give your system a chance to recover from the ‘good’ stress, so you reap less and less benefits, and the stress of constantly stressing yourself builds up and can reek havoc on you… eventually)

All that being said, when you don’t sleep well, you get used to the new normal. What else can you do but use the energy you have and continue moving forward? Tired becomes the new normal and you push through. From the outside looking in, nothing is different. You are just you. Which is a weird feeling, to say the least. Everything is normal, but not as effective as you know you could be, but you still have to be on your A game.

This experience has given me the opportunity to dive deep into the world of sleep and sleep optimization. (A few friends have asked me, so I might do a future post on the resources, tools and strategies I’ve discovered about sleep.)

This experience has also taught me the value of thinking and acting systematic when dealing with problems.

Here are five strategies you can use when facing an uncertain problem (in no particular order):

1. Question all assumptions

What are things that we do that are beneficial to us?
What are things that we do and think that are not beneficial to us?

It’s easy to assume that certain habits or actions are beneficial, but without testing those assumptions, we never actually know whether or not they are benefiting us or causing problems. Not everything thing is a net positive, and sometimes negative habits cancel out beneficial habits. Just like a wave can cancel out another wave, the downside of an action or way of thinking can negate the upside to another action or way of thinking. For example, taking a B-12 supplement isn’t really going to move the health needle in our favor if we are also eating ice cream and other delicious crap every day. Not all examples are as easy to spot what the problem is like this one, so it’s good to have a health dose of questioning all that you (think you) know and do, and test all assumptions and how much value they are each adding to your life.

2. Test Each Variables

What are the underlying factors causing the problem?

Donald Rumsfeld once said, “It is easier to get into something than to get out of it. There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint what the problem is without considering all the variables that potentially contribute to the underlying problem.

Sometimes you can’t know all of the variables that go into play, but making a list of the factors you do know can help you uncover what’s good and what’s not. By making a list, and, essentially checking it twice — isolating the variable and seeing how much pull it has on the problem — we can uncover what’s going wrong. Or at the very least, what’ NOT going wrong. (Checking off things that aren’t causing the problem can be just important as the ones that are.)

For sleep, variables such as:

  • Number of hours in bed (How many hours of sleep are you getting?)
  • Staying asleep (How restful are you during sleep?)
  • Going to sleep (How easy is it to fall asleep?)
  • Bed Time (What time are you in bed?)
  • Dinner Time (How many hours between dinner and bedtime?)
  • Stress (Work stress?
  • Screens (Are you looking at screens before bed? If so what time / how long?)
  • Reading (Are you reading before bed?)
  • Blue Lights (Are you exposing yourself to blue light too late from fluorescents etc?)
  • Shower (Do you take a shower / bath before bed?)
  • Cold Thermogenesis? (What does an ice bath or cold shower do before bed?)
  • Mattress (How new is your mattress? High quality?)
  • Pillow (How nice / optimal is your pillow? Especially with an injury)
  • Sheets (How nice are your sheets?)
  • Room Temperature (How cold or hot is your room)
  • Room Darkness (How dark is your room?)
  • Air Quality (Is your air allergy / mold / toxin free?
  • Sound Environment (How quite / noise-free is your sleep environment?)
  • Food (How healthy did you eat today?)
  • Exercise (How much did you move today?)

As you can see, even something as ‘simple’ as sleep can mask a large about of variables that come into play.

When you are tackling a problem, list all the variables you can think of and test each one at a time. You could do the kitchen sink method and try everything at once, which is a much faster (and yet more expensive) approach. But you won’t know what precisely worked for you. By ruling out each variable, your scientifically testing each possibility and determining which factors have the most effect.

3. Think it through.

What’s one thing you can do that solves 90% of the problem?

Not every variable has equal weight. Often, if we tackle on thing, like dominoes the rest will follow. This is a trail and errors game, but we can be smart about how we prioritize and what order we handle problems. What’s an easy win? What’s something you can do right now that will help immediately? (What would Steve Jobs do? 😝) Who’s had this problem before and what did they do to solve it? What’ are the small thing that could possible create a massive outcome? What does your instinct say? Be intentional, think it through.

4. Seek Wisdom from People Smarter than You.

There’s nothing wrong in asking for advice. In fact, if you are not constantly seeking insights from people smarter than you, then you are doing yourself a disservice and holding yourself back from overcoming problems quickly and with the least amount of resistance.

Whenever in doubt: Ask.

Even if it makes you look stupid. Being stupid now is better than always being stupid because you never ask, especially if you are in a position to ask someone you have access to directly.

And when you don’t have direct access to someone who might have an answer for you directly, then read, watch, learn EVERYTHING they’ve put out. A book or podcast by them can be just as powerful as talking to them IRL.

5. Go Easy on Yourself.

This one I had to learn from a friend. Problems can take time to overcome. We’ve got too mentally prepare ourselves for that scenario and play the long game instead of giving up because the circumstance feels hopeless in the present. Keep going, but go easy on yourself. In the end, we’re all just human, struggling and figuring life out as we go. Every obstacle we face is a chance to be better. Every failure is an opportunity for us to learn and be better. Treating ourselves badly only lets the problem win and control us. But focusing on the opportunities and taking things one step at a time puts the ball back in our court.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #578

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‘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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