Creativity & Ambition

Whenever I go to a concert or festival, I can’t help but feel that I’m on the wrong side of the stage. If you see me there, I’m the weird guy (no, not that weird guy, he’s on another level) who occasionally becomes very still and stops bobbing and dancing. It’s likely because I’m watching what the guitarist or keyboardist hands are doing. I’m picking apart the drums and synths. I’m admiring the singer’s vocal palette and the band’s synchronicity. I’m still enjoying the show, but I’m enjoying it in a different way through an artist’s perspective. If you play an instrument, you’ll likely be able to relate.

I feel the same way when seeing superb broadway or watch a film, or admire good art or outfit, or underline a great word or turn of phrase in a book. I enjoy creativity at a deep level and want to go deeper still. I can see a fuzzy outline of tendrils where different creative and mental outlets weave and interconnect. It’s like discovering a language you aren’t familiar with but have moments of clarity when words of striking similarity to your native tongue pop out and identify themselves to you.

If there’s a Grand Unified Theory of the Universe, surely there’s also a Grand Unified Theory of Creativity.

(Yeah Josh, It’s called Math 🤓 you dumb dumb.)

But what makes someone creative?

Is it a feeling? Is it in our DNA? Is it the act of creating?

What separates those that do versus those that don’t? What’s the difference between a musician who makes it to the stage and a musician who creates at home?

Not that being on a stage is everything. Nor is there anything inherently wrong with only enjoying your art alone. But there is a certain special something — certain gumption — I admire for the creatives and dreamers who put themselves out there. No, I don’t mean starting an Instagram account and slapping a logo together in Canva.

I’m talking about the folks you put in the work. The ones that get down to brass tax and put in the time and effort to pursue their creativity. The ones who go out and build a business around a product or service that means something to them and provides meaning to others. The dancers, writers, poets, bodybuilders, athletes or designers who wake up early and begin their practice.

The word Ambition comes to mind. As does belief. You have to believe in yourself, at least enough to have the courage to try and the courage to breathe out the fear and walk out on the ‘stage’.

And the antithetical ego comes to mind as well. All artists who put themselves out there in some way shape or form think they are unique and have something to offer the world. Including myself! What kind of ego do you need to have a daily blogging practice as well as another dozen practices? (A BIG kahuna.)

But at the same time, at its core, creativity has to come from a place of love. Or at least a desire to be better, to do better. I would continue to play music even if I didn’t make a dime on it. I’d continue to write and practice the craft of writing because I love it for what it is and what it gives me. An outlet. A brush to paint with. A song to sing. A beat to dance. A comic to doodle.

Not because I can create, but because I can’t not do it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #825

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“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

“Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.”

Oscar Wilde

“A man’s worth is no greater than his ambitions.”

Marcus Aurelius

Boxed In

Gabriella has been diving DEEP into the Enneagram. If you are unsullied, it’s a personality type system that characterizes us based on certain traits we have and don’t have. According to the philosophy behind it, each person has a core personality type (a number between 1 and 9 that represent various characteristics.)

I’ve taken a few of the personality tests, but I’m not quite sure how I feel about it all. (At least I’m not head-over-heels about it.) When I first took the test I had like three wings (associations) in addition to my core number. Giving myself a number feels like boxing myself in and I don’t like boxing myself in.

I’d rather look at all the useful/positive traits from each number and adopt them for my own. And get rid of all the unhelpful traits. As Bruce Lee once said, “Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.”

But I’m speaking out of pure ignorance here. (Which is never a phrase you should write and put on the internet.) I’ve only started reading The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, so there’s a lot I don’t know.

Gabriella is using it as a tool for self-discovery and self-love, which I think is fantastic. Anything that can give you better access to who you are and what you want is a worthy pursuit.

For some — like her — having a personality system to help navigate your inner world is quite profound. I feel like I have a good sense of who I am and the kind of person I’m aiming to be. So I suppose I’m more interested in learning how I can apply the Enneagram to better communicate and impact the people around me.

To me, the Enneagram is one tool out of many we can use to better understand ourselves and the world. If you find the Enneagram useful, use it by all means. You’re not limited by what number you are (or aren’t). You are limited (or limitless) by how you apply that information to yourself and your life.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #824

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Work on Yourself

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”

Malcolm X

It’s quite easy to see the flaws in other people. You have a friend that would be killing it… if only they would put in a little more effort. Or you have a parent who would be so much better off if they would stop worrying all the time about everything. Or you strike up a conversation with a randoe person and notice exactly the things they could improve.

It’s harder to see the flaws in ourselves.

We don’t see ourselves from the outside perspective. We don’t know what we don’t know. What’s easy for you to solve might be difficult for me, because we’ve experienced life in different ways through different experiences.

Although, I think people growing up today with social media might have a better sense of it, but not in a good way. Everything is styled and curated. If something’s wrong, they notice. But they don’t use it to try to improve themselves (or learn to accept their flaws as a part of what makes them who they are). Instead, we see waves of self-loathing and anxiety.

It’s alright to be flawed. No one is flawless, even the people that tell/show us they are. We all have things we are great at and things we need to work on.

One insight I found help on my journey is to think about yourself as a work in progress. If you don’t like something about yourself, then change it. If you want to be better, then be better. You are a blank canvas waiting to be painted and repainted. You can change. And you can change your mind over time too.

And if you want to help others, begin by helping yourself. Take the lead. Live the example first. Don’t just shout advice like you have a clue what you are talking about when you don’t. Give advice on what you do know, or examples of who does.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #823

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Book: Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant

Creative DNA

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

Pablo Picasso

Do you think we are born creative or grow into it?

In Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, Hugh Macleod voices “Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.” Picasso would have agreed with Hugh, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

I think it’s a little of both. Something in us feels called to express ourselves and make something. The tools and mediums change over the centuries, but the desire is still there. And we see the world (or dream worlds in our mind) and want to share it.

We look at a rolling landscape or unnoticed object in our home and feel a desire to paint or draw it.

We experience a breathtaking sunset or a particular stranger catches our eye and we can’t help but capture the moment.

Our cars have the curves of animals and insects.

Put a blank page in front of someone and they’ll want to fill it. Give someone an instrument and they’ll start to strum and noodle. The “real” world often beats creativity out of us and convinces us we can’t create and work. Society and culture tell us we’ll get made fun of if you try to draw or dance or sing but suck at it. It’s okay to suck at art and still enjoy it. Being mediocre is a right of passage. Maybe you weren’t bred to be an illustrator or makeup artist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t nurture your interest now that you can think for yourself.

It doesn’t surprise me that we are creative. Problems are a way of life and problems naturally create the opportunity for creative solutions. Problems creative opportunities create problems creatives opportunities. If you need fresh water to the home, someone is going to find a creative way to do it. And someone else is going to creatively iterate on that idea ad infinite. If you’re cold, someone will figure out a way to find warmth. If you’re hungry, someone will discover a clever way to cook/find food.

Problems naturally create an opportunity for creative solutions.

The desire to make stuff and share it with others is in our DNA, but the ability to make good art (as Neil Gaiman would say) and become masters of what we love takes hard work and patience.

If you want to be more creative — go be more creative.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #822

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Born Standing Up: A Comics Life by Steve Martin

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

Get off the Seesaw

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”

Mark Twain

It’s okay to not know what you want. We spend most* of our lives figuring things out as we go.

The same goes for your creative pursuits, business ideas or skills you want to explore. Listen to enough founder stories and you realize the best ideas happen randomly, coincidently or mistakenly. Or they come from a personal need.

It’s okay to not know what you want. It’s not okay to hesitate. Once you know what you want (or have a good idea what you want) go after it. “I’m not ready yet…” “what if it doesn’t work…” “what if I look like a fool”. That’s the thing — you probably aren’t ready yet. It likely won’t work. You gonna look goofy as hell. But that’s okay too. Because you are trying. You are doing what others don’t and going farther than everyone (including yourself) that was possible.

Pursuing something — be it creativity or business idea or relationship or goal — is about being steadfast. Not thickheaded. We’re often more wrong about things than we are right. I’ve found it better to be open to change and mistakes than stuck in ways that don’t work. But being steadfast makes waves. There’s no room for doubt, but there’s plenty of room for experimenting and figuring things out. You are reliably looking forward, confident in your ability to work things out as you go.

So where are you hesitating?
What are you unsure about but are working on figuring it out?
Where do you need to be more steadfast?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #821

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*And the rest of the time we spend sleeping.

Me No Thinky But Happy

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”


I’ve been traveling most of the day and my brain has turned into banana pudding. Instead of trying to squeeze out some pudding-brained insight, I’m going to just write a quick announcement.

I’m excited to officially be joining the Southside Creative team as a full-time developer. I’ve been working with them for the past two months and it’s been a wonderful experience. Southside is a branding and marketing agency based in Chattanooga. The work and clients have been great so far, but the real magic is the team. Everyone is super talented across the board, dedicated to their craft and also extremely thoughtful, which is honestly a breath of fresh air. (Plus they are a bunch of silly coconuts too, especially when you need a good laugh.)

I’m excited about bringing my creativity and strategic thinking to the mix. Personally, I want to elevate my coding and design skills as well as expand into other interesting skillsets.

I’ll be continuing to write and post my daily blog, of course. 😉

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #820

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Big Year

I want to do some BIG things this year. I’ll be turning 30 in October (which is nuts), and my significant other, Gabriella just turned thirty early this month.

I have a few ideas, but I don’t like to kiss and tell. One thought was to do at least 1 big thing each month this year.

Nothing big for big’s sake. I’m looking for challenges and experiences. I want to do/read/see things that change me for the better, or at least add up to something meaningful.

If you have any suggestions, email me at josh (@)renaissancelife dot com or reach out on Twitter or Instagram (

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #819

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Why Do We Work?

“It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.”

Benjamin Franklin

To eat? To buy nice things? To occupy our time? If you didn’t have to work another day in your life, would you able to?

Personally, I would go crazy without work. Even when I’m not working I’m working. I’m learning and making things. I’m dreaming about making other things.

Even when we are on vacation, we work. We work our way through a good book. We work on our tan. We work up an appetite after a workout. We learn and play, which are just other forms of working.

I think most picture ‘work’ as something to hate. Something they have to do to live. I know, because I’ve been there too. There was a point on my journey where I liked what I was work on, but didn’t like where I was doing it and who I was doing it with. But when I refer to ‘work’ I’m talking about the things we enjoy doing.

I think we work because we want to be somebody.

We want to make something special. We want to ‘put a dent in the universe’.

We work to be somebody.

That’s why we’re disappointed when we don’t like our job and find it dull. It’s also why we hesitate to pursue what we love. Because what if we fail? What if we are bad at it? We’d rather stick to a boring job than fail.

Work is part of who we are. It’s not all of what we are, but it’s certain a large part of our lives. Work can make you feel good too. There’s nothing quite like making things with your hands, such as woodwork or putting brush to paper. Sometimes it’s frustrating but more often than not it’s rewarding.

But if you’re working make you feel bad, then you might be climbing the wrong ladder, as they say. It happens to the best of us. You could spend twenty years climbing and only after so much time and effort you realize what you’ve been doing isn’t meant for you. That’s a difficult thing to consider. But that doesn’t mean your time was completely wasted. Some go their entire lives without realizing it. They’ve ignored their dreams in the pursuit of other things — without even noticing! Noticing you’re on the wrong path is a good thing. Catching it earlier is better, but catching it at all is better than not.

Time’s too precious to not pursue what you love. There’s too many occupations, skills and things you could do instead. Don’t waste your time doing something you hate (and/or are doing because it was there.)

Do it because you want to, not because you have too.

Do it because you want to be it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #818

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All In

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

Benjamin Franklin

How often do we neglect what we really want to do — our goals and big dreams — for little day to day tasks and needs?

We want to be more healthy and active, but we don’t.

We want to write that novel, but we haven’t.

We want to work on our business ideas, but we aren’t. 

At least not as well as we could be.

I think I’ve been avoiding my most important task recently, and instead have been playing whack-a-mole with little things I want to do instead. (And things that others want me to do.) 

I often blame my lack of time for not doing what I want to do, but my lack of time is because of me. I’m spending it elsewhere. I’m doing other things. Some of them great, but not all of them are being used where they should be. I’m prioritizing easy over hard and uncomfortable things. I’m prioritizing familiar over challenging. 

It’s hard to sit down and create something. You’ve gotta be all in during those moments. You’ve got to be **on**. It’s easier to clean the house, or watch a movie, or go out for drinks. The worst thing can happen at a movie is we pick the wrong movie and it’s not good, or we eat too much popcorn. Oh well… But there’s high stakes when it comes to creativity. Or, at least it feels like there are. We post online we’re going to train for a marathon — and don’t. We write a novel — and it sucks or worse, nobody reads it. We work on our business ideas and we fail.

But do we fail? What is failure? Rejection? Financial loss? Loss of Reputation? Where does failure begin and end?

As long as we’re still living and breathing, failure is an arbitrary division. A milestone among many. In some cases, even being dead creativity lives on. What matters is that we keep pursing. We wake up, fail and try again. 

Because big dreams are bigger than small failures. 

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #817

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The Enemy is Me

What’s getting in your way?

Perhaps something came to mind for you. But is that the real reason? What’s the why behind the reason? Why do you feel like __ is getting in your way?

I often find myself wrapped in great excuses for why I’m stuck. What is an excuse but a reason to avoid doing things?

What if I’m just scared? Scared of failing. Scared of uncertainty. Scared of rejection and looking like a boob. Well, at least then I’m being honest with myself.

It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to feel lonely or defeated or tired or clumsy or lackluster or jealous. That makes us all human. That’s what allows us to seek others and grow. What’s not okay is letting loneliness, fear. fatigue or despair have the last laugh. At the end of a bad day, all we can really do is wash off our bruises, take care of ourselves the best we can muster, and get up tomorrow and try again.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #816

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