Focus Pocus

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

Mark Twain

Focus looks a lot like this:

  ><

Focusing in. > and getting distracted by something. <

> We get super excited about a new idea or something new we are trying…

< And then we lose focus. the ‘new car’ feeling fades. Other ideas pop up. Birthdays, parties…. Wednesdays get in the way. And the cycle repeats. We jump to something else to focus on. > And then we lose interest.  <

But what if we tried a different approach next time? It’s natural to lose focus on a goal after a while. It’s okay to lose your steam. It happens to us all. The way forward is to recognize that being focused and unfocused is a part of learning and creating. 

Once you see it, you can take a breather — go for a walk, grab lunch with a friend, do something else you love — and then refocus back to the goal at hand. 

The best kind of focus looks like this:

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STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #813

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Wandering Every Direction

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Thomas A. Edison

Distractions are everywhere — in ever-increasing quantity no less. (As the Universe expands, so does distractions.) Anything that can pull you away from your creative pursuit, will.

Of course, not everything that pulls you away from your art is a distraction per se. Anything that nourishes your creativity, for example, gives you the motivation to do better and inspires you to new ideas. Time with your significant other, friends or pet isn’t distractions either. Spending time with people you love is what life is about. It rejuvenates the spirit. Creativity is important but more important than love? I don’t think so. Building an empire is not worth it if you are doing alone, for yourself.

The question you need to reflect on is where is the majority of your time going?

Do you spend every spare second of your time filling it with watching something, social media or even reading? Are you spending ALL your time with your friends? Are you hanging out with people 24/7 just to procrastinate your art?

It’s okay to become complacent through distractions. It happens to the best of us. The key is seeing when you’re distracted and reining your focus back in.

If we don’t make time for the things that we love, who will?

No-one is going to write your book for you. No one wants to make your album. No one will pick up your camera and do the work on your behalf — you have to do it yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #812

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Creative Nourishment

“Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

C.E.M. Joad

Whenever I go on vacation, I can’t wait to pig out. I try not to make the entire trip about eating, but time off quickly degrades to pizza and ice cream feasts. However, by the time vacation is over, I’m craving greens. Just feed me a plate full of broccoli, please. 

Why is that? It isn’t because of the taste, although I enjoy the taste of high quality, well-cooked healthy food. The reason I’m craving healthy food after days of debauchery is that I know what it feels like to be healthy. You feel good on a whole foods diet. You have more energy, more confidence, and more clarity.

I think the same principles apply to creativity.

A lack of new ideas is a sign of creative malnutrition. A lack of good ideas is a sign of atrophied creative muscles. 

A lack of new ideas is a sign of creative malnutrition.

Look at what only eating chips and soda does to your mind and body — you never hear anyone call someone a couch broccoli, just a couch potato. Eating only fast food quickly depletes our body’s ability to create optimal energy. Because we don’t eat right or move right, we don’t feel right.

Consuming only creative ‘junk-food’ does the same thing — it quickly drys up all your ideas, or at least your ability to find great ones. 

I’m not saying you can’t enjoy creative ‘popcorn’. We all have our guilty pleasures (or just pleasures) that we like to enjoy. But only enjoying popcorn isn’t good for your creativity.

Surround yourself with a variety of creative ideas. Study history. Read poetry. Learn to dance. Fall down the rabbit hole of inspiring biographies. Learn what negative space is in architecture. Learn what psychologists think about happiness. Start a company. Start a band. Study David Lynch films. There is so much fantastic creative energy out there. And it’s waiting for you to discover it and be inspired by it.

Eat your veggies.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #811

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Give & Take (Creative Tennis Part 2)

“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Another way tennis reminds me of creativity is how the game is played. The game has a give and take. You hit the ball across the court and your opponent hits it back on your side of the court.

Creativity is a give and take. If all we do is pump out content without also consuming other creative work, our ideas will inevitably become stale.

If creativity is a furnace, experience and inspiration is the coal. By experiencing life firsthand, you will notice and be inspired by your journey. That’s why travel is so impactful — it allows you to get out of your life and experience other life outside your normal.

And by surrounding yourself with creative ideas and different ways of thinking, pieces of those ideas will inspire you to new ideas.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #810

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Making it Look Easy (Creative Tennis Part 1)

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

Michelangelo

Creativity reminds me of tennis. I played tennis in high school. Double’s was always my favorite. My friend Cameron and I were unstoppable (at least that’s what my memory tells me) with our powers combined. Our secret was we cared enough to have fun but didn’t take ourselves too seriously. I don’t think either one of us was the best when it came to singles. I can play, but I wasn’t putting in the hours of training and practice as some players do. There’s skill involved with tennis and any sport for that matter. From the bleachers, it looks like you’re just smacking a fuzzy yellow ball with an oversized ping pong paddle, but if you know the game there’s a lot going on for the players. Accuracy, speed, agility, coordination, balance, power, cunning, action and reaction, and — of course — the mental gameplay.

The same is true for your creative pursuits. There’s a lot of skill and thought to go on behind the stroke of a pen, the strum of a guitar or the footwork of a dancer. Professionals make their art look much easier than it is. Anytime you hear of an idea so simple you wish you would have thought of it, you are seeing a professional* at work (*most of the time anyway :). Experience is lost to the untrained eye. If you see something that looks easy, it likely isn’t. The same is true when the tables are turned. When your art feels easy, you reached a level of skill and insight that most don’t actually have.

It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come and how much we know about a certain skill or subject. Usually, because we are so engrossed in it on a day-to-day basis, and are surrounded by others who have similar skills. One conversation with someone who doesn’t do what you do will immediately highlight how much you know about what you do. And one conversation (or class) with an expert on what you do and you’ll see how little you actually know about what you do. Art and skill are a continuous spectrum of discovering new things and unlocking wisdom through time and practice. Even the creatives at the top of their game continue to learn and experiment with better ways of creating. We can learn to make it look easy too with a commitment to our craft and longevity in our practice.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #809

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Even Your Heroes Make Mistakes

“Everyone is flailing through this life without an owner’s manual, with whatever modicum of grace and good humor we can manage.”

Anne Lamott

“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.”

Aristotle

Imagine if you woke up tomorrow rich and famous. If you need a backstory why — one day, you were shopping at an antique store. you were rifling through a stack of dusty books when a gleam caught your eye. In a bowl on a thick wooden desk, a ring stood out among the rest. Something about it was mesmerizing. Maybe it was the way that one blue jewel of three seemed to flicker in the right light. You try it on and it surprising (not so surprisingly) fits perfectly. A from the corner of your mind comes to a voice that reminds you of hot summer days and the scent of fresh air. “Hello, my friend. I have one wish left to give to be set free. What do you desire?”

Backstory aside — imagine if you woke up tomorrow and everything was exactly the same, but you were rich and famous.

Think about your life up until now. The little mistakes you made while growing up. Things you did without knowing any better. Things you tried because you thought you’d be able to get away with it. Think about what you’re good at, what you’re bad at (or what are works in progress).

I’d likely be just as flawed and mistaken-ridden as any other famous person is.

Money and status amplify who we are. They put us in front of more opportunities (opportunity creates opportunity) but they also give us the chance to make some very public mistakes and expose us to a lot of people who want we have. Money solves a lot of problems, but it also creates more. I say this as a normal, non-rich (yet), non-famous person.

Hero’s make mistakes. Just like we make mistakes. Does that justify or condone their actions? No. In fact, because they’re in the spotlight, they have more responsibility to uphold higher values and own up to mistakes when they inevitably happen. Most of us have a right to a little grace. (Not too much grace, but some. 🙂

What makes a human is not the mistakes they make, but what they do after they make them. A great leader owns up to their flaws, failures, and foibles, and commits to getting better every day going forward.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #808 can you feel that b.a.s.s.

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Slow Regard

‘Josh, have you ever written about the same thing?’

More than likely. My intention with this daily blog is to continuously push myself to new ideas and hone my ability to think about write. But… after 800+ blog posts (what a brag, man) I’m sure I’ve touched on similar topics and rewritten things without knowing it.

The interesting thing about having a daily practice is you meet each day as a new person. Every time I sit down and write, I don’t feel like a new person, but I am. When I think back to my life 800+ days ago, everything has changed.

It’s hard to see ourselves change because it’s usually happening to subtlety for us to notice.

Even when I’m intentionally writing about the same thing over and over again, I’m not wasting my time. Ideas can be raw. Some ideas take time to chisel out of the clay into something worthwhile. I like to think that ever time when I hit ‘publish’ on a post, I’m sharing the first version of an idea. Some of them won’t last. Others might stick around and evolve into a more refined version.

Everytime you practice your craft, you are chiseling away your block of clay.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #807

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Note: The title was inspired by Patrick Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

Head Games

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Creativity is 90% head games.

Sure, we have to act on our imagination to make it real. But the biggest thing that holds us back (or elevates us higher) is how we think.

Thinking touches every aspect of what we do. Even when we are not actively thinking about it, our brains are thinking about it for us.

What is procrastination but thinking you don’t have what it takes or thinking you’d rather do something else instead? What is a distraction but us thinking and processing the world around us? What is creative fear but mental uneasiness with the unknown and doubt about ourselves?

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Alice Walker

That’s why habits and rituals are so important. They give us the opportunity to get us out of our heads so that we can focus on creating. When you streamline everything around your creative habit, you remove all the head games that can derail you from doing the work.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #806

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Focus is a Sharp Blade

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

The more things you focus on, the more dull you’re focus gets. Imagine how impactful and effective your actions would be if you were to focus all your creativity on one thing.

This is something I often struggle with because I interested in so many things.

focusing all of my time and energy on just one thing feels (for me personally) only cutting bell peppers with my blade and nothing else. I’d get really good at cutting and eating peppers, but I sure would be bored out of my mind.

A healthy balance of creative pursuits is the best answer I have at the moment. Taking on a handful of key interests and ideas, but also not doing too many at the same time. Trying to do all things is a fine way of doing nothing.

It’s okay to put things on hiatus or even sunset projects if they aren’t providing enough value or joy in your life. In fact, every time you do, you’re sharpening the blade.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #805

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One TBSP of Luck, Please

“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”

J. K. Rowling

I find it funny how some things in life just snap — together easily, like a rubber band desiring its original shape, and other things in life only come together (if at all) after many hours of beating your head up against them.

One day you’re having the best day of your life — creativity flowing, success at work, upgraded to VIP. And the next day you’re having the worst day ever — spilling coffee on your new shirt, food poison, traffic, lots of traffic, crying yourself to sleep with an empty tub of ice cream in your hands.

Maybe funny is the wrong word. Funny is the word we use when we are far into the future, thinking fondly about how great — or how terrible — that day (or time) in our life was. Another word that comes to mind is ‘luck’.

What is luck?
Is luck a good night’s sleep?
Is it something we do or not do?
Is it the alignment of celestial bodies in the galaxy?

Luck is the word we use to describe a thing we can’t quite describe.

If you asked me to draw ‘luck’, I couldn’t.
If you looked at luck under a microscope, its boundaries would be muddled, it’s picture hazy.

I can give you a thousand examples of what luck is, and yet still not have a definitive definition. This is the best I can do —

Luck is in our minds. When things go our way, we call it being lucky, and when things go against us, we call it being unlucky. Luck is confidence mixed with charm mixed with timing mixed with charisma mixed with magic moon dust.

One type of luck we think about in the digital age of media is something going ‘viral’. What makes something a video go viral? Hard work? Perfect timing? Zeitgeist / relevancy? It’s likely all the above plus a little extra something we can’t quite put our finger on.

I don’t think it’s binary either — luck isn’t on or off. Luck exists on a spectrum (a rainbow of charms, if you will). Certain things we do, think and surround ourselves with add a little more luck to our luck thermometer. And certain other things reduce our luck.

Here’s the cheese: it likely comes down to belief and perspective. Believe in yourself isn’t going to make you successful at everything you touch. But believing in yourself will move the needle. Confidence (and finding the things that make us. feel confident) makes us feel more capable. It makes good things shine and makes bad things easier to handle.

So if you want to be luckier, start believing that you can be. Start acting lucky.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #804

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