Practice What You Want To Be Good At

“If you really want to be world class – to be the best you can be – it comes down to preparation and practice.”

Robin S. Sharma

After 3+ years of writing a blog each day, I can officially say that my writing has improved. Am I the best writer in the world? Heeeeeeeell Nah. But I’m better than I was 3 years ago. I’ve also gotten better at knowing what’s good work versus bad. Reading helps, surround yourself with great prose and eventually you’ll absorb some of the magic.

What’s eye-opening is what consistent practice can give you. I have a long way to go before I can earn the title of “pretty great writer” but that’s part of the journey. Not to say that improvement is inevitable on its own. We have to work and challenge ourselves every day in order to discover mastery.

As long as we keep consistently practicing, then it’s inevitable that our skills will improve.

If something is important to you, be it a skill or something that brings you joy (like hiking or listening to music or staying connected with friends) then you need to make it into a practice. What your practice will look like is up to you. It doesn’t have to be daily. It just needs to be integrated into your life.

The same goes for things we want to change.

For example, there’s something I’ve noticed about myself that I’m not happy about—

I suck at talking about myself and articulating my ideas.

I know to get my ideas across with words on paper or a screen, but when it comes to words flopping out of my mouth, I’m a joke. Not always. But a noticeable amount. I’d like to blame it on being tired or stressed, but those are just excuses.

The reason for this is pretty obvious:

I’m not practicing speaking. I’m not practicing communicating.

We only get better at what we practice.

It’s a simple idea, but one that’s easily overlooked.

I don’t expect my golf swing to improve by working on my dance moves. Why should I expect otherwise with writing and talking?

Writing is to talking as learning the piano is to learning drums. They’re in the same category of skills, but they have their own unique sub-skills.

Writing has improved my thinking, but it hasn’t improved my articulation.

The only thing that can do that is practice.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1036

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Can You Be Too Ambitious? (Ambition Part 2)

“Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretch her fingers to touch the heavens.”

Lao Tzu

Ambition is the inner spark that drives us to pursue our dreams, despite how crazy and uncertain they may be, and to live life with the courage that most others avoid.

But can there be such a thing as too much ambition? Yes, like most things in life, Ambition needs balance. Too much ambition can wreak you.

The classic example of this is the story of Icarus. The Greek myth of Icarus is the tale of complacency and ego. Daedalus and his son Icarus were locked in a tower by King Minos. Daedalus was an architect, you see, and he had built a labyrinth for the king, but was rewarded by being imprisoned because he and his son were the only ones who knew how to navigate the maze. After much time and plotting, Daedalus finally came to the idea of crafting wings out of bird feathers and wax so that they could escape. Daedalus was worried about his boy, however. He “forbade Icarus to fly too close to the sun for that would melt the wax, or to fly to close to the sea for that would dampen the feathers.” But of course, in the moment of flight Icarus forgot “with the exhilaration of flying, he flew too high and too close to the sun. The intense heat melted the wax on the wings, the feathers came loose.” And he was swallowed by the sea.

Not being ambitious enough and complacency will dampen your feathers…

Be too ambitious and the sun might melt the wax holding your wings together…

A modern expression of this is a line you’re probably familiar with, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Unfortunately (perhaps fortunately?) I’ve experienced this personally. I’m a person who has lots of ideas and genuinely loves creating and learning new things. Many people see that spark and want it for themselves. Let me rephrase, they’ve lost their spark and haven’t learned to rekindle their flame, so they want me to apply my spark to their own dreams. And in the past, I have trusted the wrong people to carry my torch. Lessons learned.

Most of the time giving and being generous is good. As Adam Grant has written about, sometimes you need to give before you can take. “From a motivation perspective, helping others enriches the meaning and purpose of our own lives, showing us that our contributions matter and energizing us to work harder, longer, and smarter.” But not completely. Not forever.

Building someone else’s dreams and ignoring/abandoning your own, or doing work you find unfulfilling, will eventually burn you out.

Burnout is caused by being overworked and stressed out. This isn’t the only cause of burnout, but I’d bet my horse on its a large percentage. Put another way, it’s not the lazy and complacent people who will burnout out but the overly ambitious.

It doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail—overworked is overworked.

Ironically, being ambitious burnout makes you the opposite of ambitious—complacent, stuck, tired, jaded, etc.

If you’re burnout, don’t lose hope. There’s always a road back, but it won’t be easy. You’ll need to put an enormous amount of time to doing things that energize and fulfill you. You’ll need to refocus on the fundamentals—healthy food, good sleep, fun, nature, exercise, financial stability. And slowly but surely your drive will come back. You will come back.

All that being said, don’t be scared of being ambitious. Just be cautious. Keep an eye out for how high or low you are flying. And remember to continuously ask yourself: Am I doing this for the right reasons?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1035

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Are You Ambitious Enough? (Ambition Part 1)

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

Marcus Aurelius

I can usually tell if someone is ambitious. It’s not necessarily how they speak, or what they wear or who they are—it’s their eyes that give it away. There’s a glimmer of energy and fire in the eyes of ambitious people. Their actions speaking loudly too, of course. More specifically, how their actions compare to their words. Are they living out what they philosophize?

Ambition is a lot of things—following your dream to become a professional athlete, achieving your goal to publish a novel, starting your own clothing brand, etc.

But at its core —

Ambition is the willingness and the drive to change—especially when change is difficult. 

Let’s look at the opposite—If someone hates something about themselves or their lives, but they don’t do anything about it (or they don’t even give it a college try) then they lack ambition.

Ambition isn’t binary—it’s not that we either have it or we don’t—rather, it’s a muscle we cultivate. If you want to start your own company but don’t, you’ve got weak ambition. Time to “pump some iron” and work your ambitious muscles.

How to be Ambitious

1. Start doing things that scare the 💩 out of you.

Change starts with the knowledge of knowing that you want to change. After that comes the hard part of making it happen. This can occasionally happen overnight, but 99% percent of the time it happens incrementally, on a day-to-day basis. If you’re not challenging yourself and doing something that scares you every day—even just in a small way—you aren’t working your ambition muscle.

2. See Failure as Feedback and Use it to Get Better

Failure sucks—but it’s part of the process of pursuing mastery and achieving goals. I would never actively seek out failure, but when I do fail, I try to use it as an opportunity to learn something I’ve been neglecting or didn’t know. This isn’t easy because failure can be very emotional. It’s not like we’re failing in a vacuum. Failure happens in the middle of our lives and can have far-reaching ramifications—but again, that part of what it means to live. Avoiding that is avoiding living.

Plenty of people failure and never learn from their mistakes. But not us. Failure is a precious, albeit painful chance for us to learn and rapidly improve.

3. Do What Others Won’t

Jerry Rice, three-time Super Bowls champion with the 49ers, has a great quote— “Today I will do what other’s won’t, so tomorrow I will do what others can’t.”

It’s uncomfortable to be unconventional. Going against the grain is never easy. There will be times when nothing is working and you question why you even keep doing what you’re doing. But that’s what makes it unconventional and ambitious in the first place. Stepping out. Raising your hand. Standing for what’s right. Apologizing and changing when you’re wrong. Being an example to others. 

We do what others won’t and maybe one day our drive and ambition will inspire others to do the same.

Q: Do your words align with your actions?

Q: Are you living according to your own dreams or towards someone else ideas for your life?

Q: What’s one thing you can do today that scares you?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1034

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Starting Over

Begin – to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.

Marcus Aurelius

What’s so fascinating and frustrating and great about life is that you’re constantly starting over, all the time, and I love that.

Billy Crystal

When we become good, even great at something, we can easily fall into the pattern of holding onto what we’ve got instead of putting down what’s not working and learning to leap into the something better for us.

Most of the time, we learn something, and then we stop there. We don’t stay up-to-date. We don’t want to try new things. And we eventually become complacent with our skills and inevitability grow rusty and obsolete.

But getting good at multiple skills requires us to be comfortable with starting over.

A Beginners Mind is learning to enjoy starting over. It’s not only the willingness to start again, but the drive to continuously learn and relearn what you know.

Starting over isn’t a bad thing. It’s a blank slate. It’s our chance to reinvent ourselves and take in knowledge with a fresh and deeper understanding.

Whatever skills we cultivate, we should always be reapproaching the fundamentals and what we think we know. Just because we think we know something doesn’t mean we actually do.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing — Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1339

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Leaving Things Unsaid

“As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.”

Benjamin Franklin

In my mind, silence has two meanings: silence of thought and silence of words.

Silence of thought, or more accurately, silence of external thoughts, is good for us. This is the kind of quiet and peace you can find when you are alone in nature or sometimes even at home alone in the stillness of early mornings or late evenings. You still have your own thoughts, but even that can be tuned out with practice. In this environment, our senses are heightened. We can hear the wind swaying the trees. We can watch the water flowing down the stream. We can hear the crunch of the forest beneath our feet.

There are quite a few people out there that can’t stand being alone. Blaise Pascal once wrote, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” It’s easy to ignore that you dislike yourself—or at least dislike aspects of your life—when you are constantly surrounded by other people. But when you are alone, it’s just you, yourself, and the Universe. In a way, this is leaving things unsaid. Not to others, but yourself.

We can’t change anything if we choose to ignore the fact we need to.

Spending alone time with yourself lets you see where the cracks are, and what needs mending. It’s not all bad, mind you. Spending time with yourself also gives you a chance to heighten your senses to who you are and what you want out of work, love, friendship—life.

The second kind of silence is a silence of words. Words left unsaid to people in our lives. Sometimes these unspoken words can be small, like not having the courage to ask if a woman needs a hand when some random guy is harassing them. Or not giving a compliment to a stranger, even though it popped into your mind to do so. Or not voicing your opinion out of fear of embarrassment. All these little silent words tugging at us. No bummers, of course. Nobody likes negative, complain-y, ugly words. It’s one thing to voice your opinion, and another to voice hate.

Sometimes words left unsaid are bigger. I’ve always found it powerful to speak less rather than jabber on and on endlessly. I always thought I was like this until I become friends with someone who is incredible at this. He’s soft-spoken and could be mistaken for being a quiet person, but when he speaks—people listen.

There is an art to saying just enough that needs to be said. Of course, there is a balance too.

Speaking less says more, but not speaking up says nothing.

Said differently, in my experience, miscommunication stems from not saying enough, versus saying too much. Again this isn’t about hurting people. This is about not hurting yourself (and not regretting decisions) by keeping important words inside. We do this to protect the ones we love—we don’t want to hurt their feelings—but by keeping things bottled up we un-intentionally hurt ourselves.

Like anything, it’s all about how we say speak, not what we say.

When in doubt, speak.

Q: Is this hurtful? No.
Q: Would I regret not saying it? Yes. Go for it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1032

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Learning Through Experience

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.

Bruce Lee

Books are a powerful learning tool. A book can buy you an author’s lifetime of knowledge and experience at the price of ten-is bucks. In terms of return on investment, a good book can 10x what you put in.

That being said, books aren’t everything. They can give us a taste of experience, but reading a book about dancing, for example, versus getting off the coach and learning to dance yourself is completely different. Books can teach us the steps, but they can’t teach us to move. (That line feels dad-joke cheesy, but I’m going with it.)

For one thing, it’s easy to read a book about something, but never actually try it. By the time we’re finished with one book, we’re already on to the next without properly digesting it and testing things out for ourselves.

You never know until you experience it yourself. Second-hand knowledge is great and can get you far, but it doesn’t replace experience.

But experience alone doesn’t cut it either. We can’t experience everything. We aren’t omnipresent and-or omnipotent. Books, videos, and other media allow us to put ourselves in other people’s shoes (today and across the history of humanity) and experience a world through a different lens. Bruce Lee is no longer alive today, but there’s an ocean of insights in his writing and work I can study and be influenced by.

It’s better to combine both experience and books as tools to improve your life, business, and place in the world. Why tie your hands and only lean on one?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1031

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With a Little Hope

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hope is a fledgling thing. It doesn’t take much to rekindle. When all feels lost and cast in shadow, a little spark of hope can bring life to your eyes. Even if you’re still flailing about in the dark, hope adjusts your vision to see clearly.

But don’t let me just wax poetically like some armchair philosopher. Let’s think of some solid examples.

Losing your job can easily feel like a hopeless situation. You didn’t see it coming (or you did but you were trying to ignore the possibility). You have a moment of pure freedom the first couple of weeks without a job, but then reality sets in. What are you going to do? You send in dozens and dozens of resumes and CV’s and don’t hear back from anyone. You’re dealing with your livelihood, so things are stressful. But then you land an interview—a spark of hope. Or a friend of a friend has an in at a company you admire and you land a job. Or your job loss leads you to start your own company.

Losing your health is another hopeless/hopeful situation. Again, it’s one of those that can blindside you if you aren’t paying attention. Health is one of those things we often don’t think enough about until after we lose it. One day we’re fine, and another we’re chubby and winded walking up a flight of stairs. One day we’re disease-free, and the next… But from the loss of health, also comes a greater awareness of ourselves and others. An experience we were closed off too suddenly becomes our experience too. Health issues allow us to walk in others’ shoes and gather into communities to support each other. They also allow us to rise up and do something bigger with our lives.

There’s nothing quite like the fear of death that can push us to be alive.

“All human wisdom is summed up in two words; wait and hope.”

Alexandre Dumas

When things are bleak, when your mind is dwelling on unhelpful thoughts, takes some time to step out of your immediate problem and find a little bit of hope to help guide you forward. Because hope gives us strength and energy when we need it most. Start journaling. Seek out a friend. Talk to a professional. Start something. Learn something new for the sheer fun of it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1030

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Mental Distractions

“One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.”

Daniel Goleman, author and science journalist

How many apps do you have on your phone? How many of them do you actually use? (Sidebar: If you’re interested in specifics, you can look this up in your phone settings.) How many email addresses do you have? What does your desktop or file folders look like? What websites do you check frequently? How many tabs do you have open right now on your computer???

Tabs are my embarrassing weakness. On any given day, I’ve got elevendy-billion tabs open. I love when the browser inevitably buckles under the weight of too many tabs and it finally crashes and I can start fresh. (Ahhhh.)

Digital clutter affects us just as much as physical clutter.

One thing I’ve been thinking quite a lot about lately is how everything has it’s own gravitation force that pulls on us. Some things pull on all of us—like the subtle tug of the closest star, Alpha Centauri A. Or more relevantly, this latest pandemic we’ve all been facing. Other things influence personally—like the people we surround ourselves with, our experiences, and how we spend our time.

The more we think/surround ourselves with someone (or something), the more influence and priority it has on us. Bringing it back to our phones, we’ll more likely open the apps on our home screen more than we would open an app five pages deep.

Digital, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—everything has a gravitational pull on us.

Which also means, it’s easy to become distracted, now more than ever.

Let’s define distraction as anything that keeps us from our most important things.

If family and fast cars are what’s important to you, like it is for the fast & furious crew, then anything that takes you away from that is distracting you from your greater purpose.

Not only can distractions take our tim, they can also take our energy.

Anything thing you want or wish you would do, or maybe-someday-ought-todo’s are just as mentally distracting as a stack of unread books or dancing gorilla.

The tricky thing is that it’s usually opportunities or interesting shiny things that distract us from our purpose. Great opportunities! …that happen to be in the opposite direction we wanted to go. Distractions can come in little or big sizes.

First, you need to know what you want in life (which is huge). Then the key is asking yourself—

  • Is this helping me, or distracting me?
  • Am I doing my job as a _________?
    • (ex: Am I doing my job as a writer? Am I doing my job as a dog-owner?)
  • What distraction can easily remove/get rid of?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1029

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Be Human

Don’t try to compete with computers. They make crash and need updates every so often, but they never tire or get bored. Just because you can burn the candle at both ends, doesn’t mean you should—especially consistently.

You are not a machine. Do what you do best. Make connections. Be creative and clever. Do things only you can do.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1028

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Creative Crisis

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Winston Churchill

Pressure, responsibilities, and pain can ignite your creative fire. Of course, first, you need to have a creative outlet or two (or three) so that you have something to direct the pain through. All Pain goes somewhere. Sometimes it quickly leaves our mouths through anger and snide comment. Pain can also be let out gently through conversation with a close friend or therapist. The worst kind of pain takes root inside us, and cause damage on the inside.

I find it better to direct pain to create things or move them with muscles. Music, writing, and exercise are some of the habits I use to channel things I’m struggling with or experiencing (Not all bad! Any emotion can become beautiful art.)

It’s not just the pain itself. My goal isn’t to shout from the rooftops just to shout. There are timeless lessons in the mistakes and problems we face.

Too much pain, however, and you’ll dampen your creative fire. No pain and you’re a kid who thinks she/he is invincible. Too much pain and you’re a sad old man yelling at neighbors to get off your lawn. Balance is the key (in all things, really).

How much balance will likely be different for each of us. I suspect this can also be trained like a muscle, but it would be most unpleasant and perhaps unnecessary. A little heartache might make you a better artist. Too much heartache and your art won’t be the only thing you wish would bleed.

Of course, I would never wish or intentionally cause pain towards myself or others, but better to use it when it comes, rather than to let it sit and fester.

If you don’t know where to start, reconnect with your inner childlike spirit. What did you enjoy doing when we’re younger (before the world got in the way)?

Start there. There’s wisdom in being childish (…sometimes. Nobody likes an adult baby).

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1027

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