Art Isn’t Made in a Vacuum

Isolation — keeping yourself apart from others — gives you the space to create, but it doesn’t give you the creative juice. Creative sparks come from all around us. Nature. Work that inspires you, Songs you sing and hear. Books you read.

Past and present all swirling around into a spark of insight.

I crave isolation. I crave having more time and space to sit (or stand) with myself and work on all the ideas running through my head. But if I stopped reading, if I stopped listening to music and podcasts. And, more broadly, if I stopped observing the world around me, and instead only focused on output — cranking out my own stuff — my ideas would dry up quickly.

Art is a two way street. It influences both ways. It connects, at least in passing. Your art has the potential to influence thousands of others, and mine has that same potential too. If your work speaks to me, then sprinkles of it’s influence can be seen in my own work.

Influence begets influence begets influence. On and on.
And at each turn we make each other better.

That’s why consuming great work might just be as important as creating your own work.

You need both. Learning and doing. Otherwise, you are just always consuming, or always focusing on yourself.

Surround yourself with people doing amazing work. Read books above your paygrade. Watch classic films. Heed the advice of people smarter than you (who are walking the walk). Then go out and make something.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #614

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Saying Yes to What Matters

Remember the last time you agreed to doing a favor or gig that was a few months out?

It sounded fun in the moment, but when the day arrives you wish you were doing anything but what you signed up for.

YES is like an iceberg.

In the moment, saying yes doesn’t look like much.

Sure, I’ll help you with your project. Sure, I’ll start a new hobby. Sure, I can travel for the job.
Small moments. Usually genuine yes’s. Of course you want to help a friend out, or travel to give a free speech, or start another new business. However, saying ‘yes’ is only scratching the surface of what you are committing to. Underneath the genuine impulsive yes, what you’ve just agreed to adds up to a lot more. Time and energy and bandwidth, being the biggest resources given to a ‘yes’. Most likely, we agreed to do something on the spot and hadn’t had time to process what saying yes actually means. We feel this especially when the commit is further out and not immediate.

A great way to handle this is to set a rule for yourself to never agree to something that’s X months away. (One month, three months, whatever feels right to you.)

Another great option is to think about the time required if you agree to it. I probably stole this from someone smarter than me, but imagine what you are agreeing to was happening today or this week. Would you say yes if you had to immediately drop everything to do it? Would you say yes if you had to do it in a few days?

Fundamentally, saying ‘yes’ means saying ‘no’ to something else, whether you wanted to or not. Often, our immediate mediocre yes’s crowd out our ability to say yes to what we actually want.

Even when you say yes to something you want, you are inevitably saying no to something else you want.

Ah, sweet sweet opportunity costs. How I hate thee.

At the end of the day, we only have so much time here on this earth. What are the few things that you want to say yes to more than anything? Do those. Say no to everything else.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #613

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Shakespearean-Yoda Advice

“If the CEO does not follow the cultural norms of the company then the cultural norms won’t happen.”

Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, from the Distributed Podcast

Why do we take the advice of some, but dismiss the advice of others?

The tone matters, of course. If someone is giving me advice and their tone says “you’re dumb, why are you (not) doing XYZ…”, I’m likely not going to take them up on it. The same is true if the advice is unsolicited or un-actionable. Even if the advice is sound, if all I’m getting is negative criticism I’m not going to listen.

I think the biggest contributing factor in whether or not advice is taken is if the advice giver has or is living out what they are saying. In essence —

Is this person following their own advice or not?

If not, then proceed to throw it in the trash.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen someone close gives great advice (to me or people around me), but because they don’t eat their own dog food, so it’s not taken. And then, you hear the exact same advice from someone who lives it out— typically someone in the public sphere, an Author, YouTuber, Entrepreneur… — and suddenly the advice is the best idea you’ve ever heard.

The same holds true to giving advice. If you want to be able to help others and give advice that’s taken, you’ve got to listen and act on your own advice. “You should put 20% of your monthly income into an investment fund, like a ROTH IRA or Index fund” “You should spend your time more wisely” “You should focus on email marketing to gain more sales” Okay. Cool. Are you doing it yourself? If not, then you better start.

Follow your own recommendations

The same holds true in art and work.
Talking about doing something is not the same as doing it.

As much as I love coming up with ideas, if they are never executed, then they don’t matter.
Impressing people and inspiring people are two completely different things.

If you want to be creative, find your true fans and make a living doing it, you’ve got to create.

To take it back to middle school english class (I still suck at grammar):

’Creative’ is a noun.
‘Create’ is a verb.

To be a creative, you must create.

And share it with the world.

As Author Jeff Goins discovered on his journey of becoming a writer, “You are a writer. You just need to write”.

To be, you must do. (Wow, so Shakespearean-Yoda of you Josh)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #612

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The phrase, “Eating Your Own Dog Food”

Live like you mean it.

Travel is an excellent way to shake the cobwebs off life and find what matters most to you and find things that need to be changed.

We tend to nest into our own lives when we are at home. We get used to living a certain way, even if we don’t like it (or hate it) but choose to put up with it or don’t notice what’s misaligned.

Travel is the snowglobe to your life — it can shake everything up and swirl your life around.

If you let it. Hunkering in your hotel room watching RomComs is not going to change much 🙂

The only thing normal about travel is that nothing is normal. Whether you’re just hoping to a nearby or visiting a new country on the other side of the world, everything is different. (At least to you it’s different — to everyone else it’s normal.)

As much as I may try, routines are thrown out the window as soon as you arrive at your destination. Sometimes everything just sings without a hitch — the entire trip is amazing, start to finish. Other times everything that can go wrong, does. Almost enough to make you wonder if some tv show is pulling an elaborate prank on you. (One trip I went on, literally everything went sour. Delays. Overnight layovers. Frozen bank account. Even my belt broke in the airport. 🤦‍♂️)

Travel has its ups and downs, but through it all, one thing that remains is YOU. By stripping away what’s normal — work, routines, friends, comfort, frustrations, environments — you are left with yourself: who you are and who you want to be.

And you might not like what you see.

But now you have the chance to change it. To be better.

Otherwise, you might have gone your entire life without knowing you were deviating and heading towards the wrong path. (Tangent: And to those that feel old, you are not dead yet. Change is not reserved for just the youth. As long as you’re still breathing you are capable of change.)

Step outside of your life regularly. Even if it’s just a weekend road trip. Observe what’s working and what’s not. Be better. Live like you mean it.

Live like you mean it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #611

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Endless Wonder

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.” 

 J.R.R. Tolkien

Do you think Frodo and Sam would have made it (or even left the Shire) if they knew the journey to Mordor that was before them?

There’s no end to learning.

As an amateur seeking mastering, I’m always trying to push myself just beyond my capability to that next level. I get jazzed when I can add another book to my To Read stack or Amazon wishlist, or when I find another level to the skills I’ve been cultivating.

The moment you think you’ve reached the depths of a skill, is the moment you realize how deep the cave goes. Read one book, ten more will appear. There’s an endless web of resources connecting other resources connecting other resources.

This does not diminish the progress you’ve made as a wee beginner on your way towards mastery, but it does highlight something important: Mastery doesn’t end. Even the masters are still learning new things every day. They are learning at a higher state of knowing, but learning nonetheless.

If you are a beginner, there’s a fine balance between inspiration and ignorance. It’s great to find people or creative work that inspires you to want to take on that skill yourself, while also being blissfully unaware of how long and hard your journey will be. Be weary of sinkholes. Too much information right out of the gate can paralyze or even shutdown your want and ability to learn.

The opposite is arguably true as well. If you can stare into the depths of the skill-sinkhole unfazed, (even delighted as you toss in a torch to see how far down it goes,) then perhaps that skill is exactly what you need to be doing.

The classic example are entry college courses that are intentionally hard to weed out unenthusiastic students. Any student left is either cheating or super into the subject.

There’s nothing like knowing a skill will take you a lifetime (and more) to master to show you what path you should take in life 🙂

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #610

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F is for Friends

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is totally lame.
I know this is lame.
I’m a lame-wad for writing it.

I really miss the days of goofing off and hanging out with my friends in high school.

It seems like the usual consensus for most people is they disliked high school but loved college.

I’m an anomaly there. I commuted to a local college and hated it, and then switched to another college that I found intellectually disappointing and then — unfortunately — injured my neck in a extremely bad way. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t an amazing experience. But not all for nothing.

Negative experience teach you just as much as (if not more than) positive experiences do.

My negative experiences taught me valuable lessons that have made me into I am today. For example, I don’t know if I would be into health and wellness as much as I am right now if it was for the cold, hard lesson of an injury to teach me the value of knowing about the body and how to treat it right.

I’ve also become more in tune with who I am and what I want in life. I know when things are off and can proactively spot them and adjust, versus ignoring them or pushing through the suck and leading to negative outcomes to contend with.

I bring up my longing for “the good ol’ days” of high-school because it preemptively highlights some warning signs are flashing (danger Will Robinson).

I’m not putting in enough time and energy into cultivating my friends and community. I don’t feel isolated, but I do feel like I could be doing better in this arena.

If I were to deconstruct what I valued about high-school (without knowing it at the time) it would be —

  • Conversations around interests / new things
  • Play and movement
  • Growing up with friends
  • Consistency
  • Jokes — lots of jokes.

Now, the question is, how can I begin to incorporate these more into my life?

And — of course — I’m going to start by reading a few books on the subject 😝:

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #609

Street Cred

The internet has removed most (if not all) barriers and gatekeepers of creativity.

It’s created new arena’s to test your merit in.

Ten plus years ago, if you wanted to make a movie, you’d likely have to go to film school. You would need equipment and a camera crew. You would need lots of money to shoot, edit and market your film.

Nowadays, If you want to be a filmmaker, or actor, you can just start a YouTube channel, record on your phone, edit with free software, and instantly upload your work.

The same applies across the creative spectrum.

If you want to be a designer, fashion curator, app developer, industrial engineer, photographer — you name it — you can. All you need is the willingness to put in the time and effort to do it.

Of course, since there are no barriers, everyone’s on an even playing field. In order to stand out, you’ve got to be good, I mean, really good. (Or stand out by growing online — learning as you go.)

Learn it. Do it. Share it. Improve it. Master it.

One observation I’ve had is street cred can be an excellent accelerator to help you stand out.

You see it all the time with Folks who are killing it online. For example:

Rich Roll: Being a Vegan and Runner backs up his podcastsand books.
Vanessa Van Edwards: Human Psychology backs up her books, speaking and courses.
Jocko Willink: Navy SEAL, combat, training, leadership, discipline backs up his podcasts, books and business.

The thing you want to be creative at, has a thing — a category / scene / group — behind it.

I’m not saying that you need to be a best-selling author or marathon runner first before you can make a living with your art online.

The key insight here is we need to plant our flag and stand for something. What that something is — whether it’s being into health and wellness or painting or makeup artistry — is up to you.

But you gotta go all in.

You’ve got to live and breathe in that community.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #608

Living to the fullest

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

Albert Einstein

How much time do you spend each week doing things you don’t like or wasting it on things that aren’t meaningful?

We tend to equate time as money, but time is also happiness and pursuit.

It’s not that time must have a bottom line. Time enjoyed is time well spent. If going for a hiking or having dinner with friends or seeing a movie gets you jazzed, then by all means — go enjoy it!

But if you don’t enjoy it, why are you doing it? If it sucks the life out of you why are you letting it stress you out. Your time is precious and should be treated as such.

Every second we get to live should be spent with intent.

Intentional living is about loving life. My time is too important to let fear or stress or anger or jealousy or anxiety to control me for longer than it needs to be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #607

Ideas: A Dime a Dozen

“Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation… even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Ideas are easy. Execution is hard.

Execution requires (limited) resources like our time and energy.
It requires consistency and the willingness to fail and still get up.

Think of it like money: Ideas are paper. Execution is gold. If you don’t have both, its like having a bike with no wheels. I could come up with a hundred ideas on the spot but none of them would amount to anything without action to back them up. Without the work to make it happen, an idea is just a daydream.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #606

Slacking off

“Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.”

LL Cool J

Last night, Gabriella and I drove to ATL to go see Jon Bellion in concert. It was incredible! And totally worth it. But I’m definitely feeling the late night today. (What an old man). I feel reluctant to do anything today. All I want to do is cancel band practice, give up on all my habits, ignore work and Netflix and chill. But I’m not going to. I may be just going through the motions today, but I’m still going to do what I need to do, what my past self has set out todo. Because giving into reluctance and laziness is a habit, just like any other habit.

Note: I’m not suggesting to sacrifice your health and rest for accomplishment or work. Rest is equally important as work. Get the rest you need. But don’t let reluctance or short term decisions keep you from your dreams.

Sometimes, dreams die because we let them — fear and inaction, sidelining them for immediate problems and needs, or even by choice (for other dreams).

Most dreams die because of inconsistency.

We give up in the moment — for a brief symptom relief.

To continue forward, despite all the reasons and nonsense that gets in the way, puts you in a league where most people don’t reach.

Do you really want to be another person in a sea of people who let their dreams slide because they were inconsistent and slacked off when they should have been doubling down?

I know I don’t.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #605

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