Excuses Excuses

“All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.”

Pope Paul VI

There’s always a great excuse not to do something.

I can give one-thousand justifications why I can’t, why something didn’t work out, why something didn’t go the way I expected to. However, at the end of the day, the only questions that matter are:

Did I put the work in?
Am I doing what I said I’m doing?
Am I doing what I want to do?

If not, I’ve got some work to do.

Kevin Hart once said, “Everybody wants to be famous, but nobody wants to do the work. I live by that. You grind hard so you can play hard. At the end of the day, you put all the work in, and eventually it’ll pay off. It could be in a year, it could be in 30 years. Eventually, your hard work will pay off.”

Let’s suppose that hard work doesn’t pay off. You put all this work in to make your business, art, band, acting — whatever — happen and years go by without results. When you put in the hard work, at least you know you gave it your all. You were too early, or too late or the fit wasn’t right. That’s okay. Nothing done well is without its takeaways. Hard work doesn’t leave you with nothing. Now you have developed more and better skills, you’ve connected with more people, you learned and grown from your experience. And now you can take those experiences with you to the next thing. The key is never losing your enthusiasm.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Winston Churchill

There’s a lot of excuse that can stop us from achieving our dreams. Tell me, what do you want more — excuses or your dreams?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #630

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Not Enough Time

“Clarity affords focus.”

Thomas Leonard

The last two weeks have blown by.

I’ve enjoyed them but I can’t help feeling anxious about how little time I have to work on the things I need to work on.

This — too much to do, not enough time — is a great sign that my priorities are out of alignment and I’m saying yes too much. Or, more likely, my priorities are too fuzzy.

I’ll have to carve out some time this week for self-reflection.

It’s difficult to realize the vision of your dreams and desires without having a clear definition of where you want to be. Without clarity, every shiny distraction that crosses your desk will get in the way of what you want.

Clarity gives you understanding when to say yes and when to say no.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #629

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Giving up Success

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

Dwayne Johnson

Success and giving up start on very similar paths.

Step 1: Awareness.

You discover where you are on your path. When you know where you are, sometimes you find yourself on track, other times you realize you are further than you think. You can, unfortunately, discover you’ve been going the wrong direction.

Step 2: Acceptance.

This is where the paths seem to be going in the same direction, but are actually starting to diverge. This is where a deciding factor determines your course. Now that you are aware of and accept where you are, what are you going to do about it?

Lastly, step 3: Deciding

The road towards giving up is accepting where you are and decide to do nothing. In the act of doing nothing, acceptance becomes defeat. We cope. We blame. We write off our dreams. We avoid. We do everything but the thing we need to do: something.

The road to success is accepting where you are and decide to do something about it. Sometimes that means going back to the drawing board or folding the cards this round. Sometimes that means you pushing on, living each day better than the last. But the key here is you keep going. Despite the pain, frustration, anxiety, fear and doubt. You keep going, because doing anything else would mean defeat.

When all seems lost, there’s always a road back to success. Even in defeat, there’s a chance to do something about it. 

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #628

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Embrace Change

There is nothing permanent except change.

Heraclitus

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. (Likely because Gabriella and have been watching DARK recently. 🙂

It’s interesting to me how quickly we can change, but also how stuck we can feel sometimes in the present. I’m in a completely different place than I was last year, but there’s also a lot that feels the same.

I wonder if this is because the present is slow but the past is fast. The present moves at the speed we live — one second at a time. The past moves as quickly or as slowly as we want. We skim past (pun intended) certain moments, misremember others and pick and choose how to remember. The past influences the present and the present influences the past.

Last year was incredibly stressful, for multiple reasons. But was it worth it? Today, do are any of those reasons even relevant anymore?

Some, perhaps. But mostly no.

In a year from now, are you going to even remember why you are stressing yourself out over x, y or z?

Will it even be relevant a year for now? Or will change wash it away.

Time is our companion — someone who stays with us our entire lives. (And out lives us all.) And just like time, we are all constantly changing and becoming something new each and every day that passes. We can change what we become tomorrow by focusing on getting there today. It’s slow and sometimes its painfully uncertain, but its universal.

We survive and we change. We thrive and we change. We get stuck and we get un-stuck. Storms come, and they pass. The only thing that’s constant is everything is always changing.

That’s why I try to embrace change. If today sucks, tomorrow is my chance to try again. If I don’t like where my life is heading, today’s the day to change it.

We heal our lives by embracing change and slowly becoming someone we love and care for a little bit each day.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #627

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Dealing with Overwhelm

Whenever I feel overwhelmed (like today) I do my best to throw everything out— deadlines, todos, wishes, hopes, expectations, etc — and focus on one thing: the task in front of me.

When there’s nothing but one priority in front of you, then you can disappear in the work and the overwhelm fades away.

First, I clear out my physical space. I tend to believe that ‘a cluttered space is a cluttered mind’ for me personally. When I’m surrounded by distraction and desires of my own making, everything becomes a todo: something I could / should be doing. A stack of books on the desk. A guitar that needs to be restrung. An app that needs to be built. But when I stop and clear my physical space, I begin to feel much better and I can focus on what’s in front of me.

Second, I pick either the simplest task or the highest priority task to focus on. If you’re really feeling overwhelmed, start with the simplest task. Check something off your list. (Even if that todo is ‘make a list’. It counts.) Starting simple allows you to get the cogs turning and wheels moving in the right direction. If you are feeling perky, go for the highest priority task. Ask yourself, “If there was only one thing I could work on today, what todo would make me feel the most accomplished?”

When everything becomes priority, nothing is a priority.

In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown talks about the history of the word priority and how ‘priority’, meaning, singular, has come to mean ‘priorities’ plural:

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years.
Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.
People and companies routinely try to do just that. One leader told me of this experience in a company that talked of “Pri-1, Pri-2, Pri-3, Pri-4, and Pri-5.” This gave the impression of many things being the priority but actually meant nothing was.”

Lastly, if you finish one thing today, congratulations. You are facing overwhelm head on. Now, pick another task. Focus all of your efforts on this one now. Don’t add two new priorities — just one.

One and done — repeat.

This works really well within the task you’re focusing on too. Break your work into the smallest pieces possible and focus on getting each piece done separately, one at a time. If email is making you go bald, focus on one email at a time, not the 10,000+ emails in your inbox. If writing is overwhelming you, write one word. Now write two. Now ten. Work, errands, art — one and done.

And if none of that works, I call it and give myself a break. Walk away for a while. Go move your body. Exercise. Get some sun. Go meet a friend. Don’t let overwhelm win and paint you into a cage for the entire day. If you can’t get anything done today, fine. There’s always tomorrow. At least go have some fun. You are in control here. Go prove it to yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #626

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Do first; How second

“Your best chance to grow us to do something you don’t know how to do.”

Michael Bierut

‘How’ is also wears many disguises:

‘How’ trips early and it trips often.

“I’d love to be a photographer, but I don’t know how.”

“I don’t know enough yet. I’ll start when _.”

“I’d love to, but I don’t have a lot of time between the full time job and my other blah blah.”

“I know how, but I don’t have enough money, y z…” (False illusions of how.)

And the many faces of fear, of course.

I’ve battled ‘how’ over the years myself. I’ll apply to that job when I’m better at what I do. I’ll write a novel when I know how to build characters and great dialogue. On and on it goes — I’ve let not knowing ‘how’ dictate my life. I’ve come to the conclusion that knowing ‘how’ is just a distraction (and a justification not to start). The people that know ‘how’ are the ones who’ve already done the work themselves. Knowing how comes from doing.

‘How is a bi-product of action’. Do something enough and you’ll figure out how soon enough.

Sure, if you want to scuba-dive, it might be smart to learn how first before you try. But in exceptions like these you already have your ‘how’ — a guide. An experienced instructor will show you the ropes, and in ya go. Sometimes the how is part of the doing. The scuba-diver instructor isn’t just going to teach you on land and that’s that. No, he / she will expect you to try it after the lesson. You are learning by doing.

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

Aristotle

Doing is another form of learning. It’s learning on wheels. You’re moving and learning as you go— slow and unsteady but moving nonetheless.

There will be trial and error, but there’s always trail and error — that’s part of the journey.

“The best way to learn a thing was to do it, he had found; sails or scrolls, it made no matter.”

George R.R. Martin

How comes from joy. When you enjoy doing something, how (and how to do it better) will come the more you do it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #625

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‘Mens sana in corpore sano’

“I believe it to be a primary principle of success;mens sana in corpore sano — a sound mind in a sound body. The mind in a weak body produces weak ideas; a strong body gives strength to the thought of the mind. Ill health is due to man’s artificiality of living. He lives indoors. He becomes, as it were, a hothouse plant. Such a plant is never as successful as a hardy garden plant is. An outdoor life is necessary to health and success, especially in a youth.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Health is everything. It has hooks in everything we do.*

Want to write a book? Want to start a business? Trying to be a top-tier designer or developer? Want to have kids? Need to learn something quickly? Feeling stuck?

Good health amplifies your abilities to have great ideas, deal with setbacks and take action when you need it. Sure, you can get by without it. You can achieve success on a crappy diet and no exercise.

But imagine what you could do if you were optimally firing in all cylinders.

The tricky thing is are bodies are incredible at adapting to our environment. The way we feel is so subjective and unmeasured. Poor health gradually becomes the new normal — and we don’t even noticed that we are feeling tired or slow anymore.

One dumb way to experiment with this yourself to understand how fundamental health is to our creative work is do the opposite: Eat only junk for a month. Sleep less than 5 hours a night for a while. Don’t move your body at all. How do you feel? Now experiment with good health: Eat clean (no sugar, no breads, no over-processed ‘foods’). Walk a little every day. Take a course that makes you move your body. Get enough sleep. How do you feel now in good health compared to how you felt in bad health?

For me, even just a few nights of poor sleep can make me feel off my game. I’ll go through the motions of the day and try to get things done, but feel incapable of what’s in front of me. I know this intuitively now, because the moment I get a great nights sleep I feel incredible.

Of course, we know health is good for us. But it usually doesn’t become essential until we face problems of bad health.

“With age comes the understanding and appreciation of your most important asset, your health.”

Oprah Winfrey

It doesn’t take much — just a step towards good health each day.

Note: Not a Doctor. If you are looking for medical Advice, go talk to a Doctor.

*It’s worth saying that the reverse is also true: Health affects everything and everything affects health. If you hate your work, or suppress your inner creative spark, it can manifest in odd health issues like stomach pain or fatigue. Is it the cause or just a symptom? Hard to say.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #624

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Seeing in 4K

The more I learn about the skills I want to master, the more hot garage my previous work becomes. This sounds like a negative, but I mean it in a positive sense. By seeing what great work looks like, I can learn to elevate my skills to match through practice.

If you’re any type of an artist, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Look at any of your art from ten, five, even one year ago and you might feel slightly appalled at the quality. That’s good — it means you are improving.

I equate this into seeing in higher and higher resolution.

First, you start out in black and white boob-tube. You kind of have an idea of what good work looks like, but you know you are not there yet. You have the basic outline of what you want to make, but you don’t know how to make it.

Then, you move to color. You read a book or take a classy. Or you just start fumbling around. You don’t know how to make it, but you are trying anyway. You take a step. Next, standard definition. You think your work is good. Others around you might think it’s good too. In fact, it is good… for just starting out. You stay in standard land for a while. You start with a 4:3 aspect ratio, but the more you work, the wider your view is getting.

Finally, one day you start seeing your work in High Def (aka HD). You have a greater understand of what you are doing and what you are capable of. You vision matches your work. Everything you did before HD looks a little bit weird and off. You can clearly see the seams of your abilities.

Somewhere in the middle of seeing in HD you come to realize that the resolution increase never ends. There’s always a next level. 4K. 8K. 16K… And just like resolution in real life, the quality is certainly noticeable, but it’s also subtle. Anyone who doesn’t do what you do might not even notice, or they might notice and prefer it, but they don’t have the vocabulary or ability to see what it is they are seeing.

Mastery is the constant act of seeing just beyond your abilities and figuring how to do it. Taste, talent and work.

Work is what get’s us there.

“The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work.”

This quote is from a fantastic interview by Ira Glass.

I’ll close with a film by storytelling Daniel Sax that illustrates Glass’s insights:

Film by Daniel Sax

I included the film last because it’s impossible to follow that up with better words.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #623

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Related:

The Annoying Gap Between Theory…and Practice – This American Life

The Taste Gap: Ira Glass on the Secret of Creative Success, Animated in Living Typography – Brain Pickings

The Bleeding Heart of an Amateur

I think you have to be a little bit of an idiot with everything you are trying to learn.
Otherwise, you know too much and things can get daunting / overwhelming very quickly.

The original meaning of the french word naiveté (which I always forget how to spell) was being “innocent or natural”. Another way I would interpret ‘innocent’ or ‘natural’ would be ‘childlike’.

When you approach learning with a childlike quality, you are more likely to look past how difficult the journey to mastery will actually be. On the road to mastery, here ‘ther be many dragons. The iconic photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt) had a saying, “Once the amateur’s naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur.” (He also said “keep it simple.” 🙂

We all need a little amateur’s naive spirit on our path towards learning. Too much and we might fall off a cliff’s edge we didn’t see coming, too little and we might be too smart for our own good to start.

“I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress.”

Daniel Boorstin, American Historian

An amateurs naivetè can give you superpowers:

  • The ability to ask dumb questions without knowing or caring that they are dumb.
  • Endless curiosity — the ability to ask a million questions and only stop because it’s bedtime.
  • Endless imagination — When everything is unknown, everything is possible.
  • Fearless — the ability to start things, without the fear that starting new things usually brings.
  • The ability to fail towards success — sometimes without even knowing your ‘failing’.
  • And the ability to look stupid and not care.

If you can tackle any endeavor with an amateurs heart AND the wisdom to be aware of and avoid pitfalls, you just might become one the best at what you love to do.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #622

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Watching the Rain

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”

Bertrand Russell

There’s a phenomenon, known as the Hawthorne effect, were we modify our behavior in we know we are being observed. Anecdotally, I’ve experienced this to be true. I’m much more likely to keep a habit, such as sticking to healthy food, when I know friends are watching (especially when those friends are super healthy themselves.) You also see this everywhere online and on social media. Online, anonymity can (not always) allow one to vent their discontentment through negativity and ugliness. On social apps like Instagram, people (including myself) naturally want to curate their lives into a perfect collage of photos and funny videos.

But what about when we are observing our own behaviors?

One of the strongest benefits of having a daily ‘observational’ habit — journaling, blogging, vlogging, podcasting — is being able to look at your life daily with a perspective eye.

Instead of mindlessly channel-surfing / scrolling through life, you become much more aware with who you are and you become more in tune with what you want out of life.

Daily blogging has been a big fat magnifying glass to my thoughts and beliefs. And, more importantly, it’s an immediate feedback loop for what I need to improve and work harder on. Instead of blaming life (and everything under the sun except myself) for my problems and shortcomings, I can immediately see what’s working or not working and act on it.

Observing yourself gives you no excuses not to improve.

What am I doing that’s interesting?
What do I spend my time on?
How am I pushing yourself and my abilities to new heights?
Why am I doing what you’re doing?
And why am I doing it this why?

Questions like these intuitively pop up in your mind. Patterns emerge. Things you like, things you dislike. Instead of just going through the motions of life, you can see and then experiment your way towards a desirable outcome.

Life moves fast, like a summer rain — one second it’s there the next second its not.

It’s difficult to change when you don’t know what you need to change.

I highly recommend starting a daily observational habit, even if it’s just for yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #621

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