A Better Creative Vocabulary

For the longest time, I mistakenly thought that if I learned music through notation and lessons instead of by ear, I would lose my grip on my ability to think differently.

I was wrong of course.

Learning the rules doesn’t hinder your creativity, it expands your vocabulary.

When you learn the fundamentals, you have a greater understanding of how the game is played.

You can be just as unique and think out of the box as before, but now with more tools in your tool belt and the knowledge to know what each tool does well.

But you must also be willing to play beyond the garden walls’ of music rules.

I think it’s good to start out learning something new through the medium of play.

Forgot the rules, tinker around and have fun making things. Use play as a way to spark love and true interest in a craft.

Then go back to the basics. All work and no fun make a lot of people who have taken piano lessons but don’t know one thing about pianos.

And when you have that curiosity, that spark and desire to master a craft, focus on the fundamentals, and learn the vocabulary to create anything you want, with the skill to back it up too.

Curiosity and imagination create the desire for mastery.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1721

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Connected Through Pain and Experience

Sometimes just letting it all out on the table and talking through things with a friend or loved one is life’s best medicine.

We often feel alone in our experiences (of pain, failure, remorse, etc.) but loneliness evaporates as soon as we speak out about our experiences.

The act of speaking to someone who cares and is listening lightens the load on each person. To love and be loved.

Our experiences are touching stones of connecting and inspiring others.

Perhaps the worst things that happen to you and how you got through them can be shining beacons of hope for those going through similar things.

Perhaps we can pull ourselves off the cliffs of our darkest moments by recognizing that how we handle problems can have a positive influence on others, and having a positive impact is the reason why we have to keep persevering through the dips.

You can be an example of negative change or positive change to everyone in your life. Which will you choose?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1720

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Gotta Have Spunk

Where does that innate rebellious fire inside the downtrodden and lowly come from?

Is it in the water? Is it born? Or do hard circumstances build the spirit within?

And if it is hardship that creates spunk and resilience and creativity, why do some people buckle under struggle, while others thrive?

If I had to guess, I would say the fire within is already there and needs a spark of something we experience that lights us up and wakes us to new possibilities.

Maybe a parent gets sick or a friend dies in a random accident, which shows us how fragile life is.

Maybe someone that looks a lot like us shows us what life can be with a little effort and thinking differently.

Maybe a teacher believes in us.

Maybe someone shows us how NOT to live.

Or maybe we find out the hard way, through injury, failure, ruin and the like.

Whatever the case: There is a fire that burns inside each of us. A fire made of creativity and ideas and originality and heart. All it takes is a match to let it loose.

Feed it right and nothing can stop you. You’ll blaze with energy and capacity.

And in so doing, become an example for the next kid, looking for something different from life.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1719

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Reframe The Problem

I was reviewing one of my notebooks from last year and I came across this open-ended question to myself:

How can I help make this a good thing?

I’m not sure what I was referring to in that moment, but it’s a good question to ask yourself in turbulent times.

Whether it’s weakness, pain, frustration, stress, overwhelm… you name it, there is likely a way to make something good out of it.

Weakness can be your superpower if you let it.

I don’t think I would be so adamant about health and wellness if I had not injured my neck years ago.

It’s often our weaknesses and failures that guide us along the way rather than our strengths or successes.

Failure can become success. Weakness can become strength.

It just depends on where you stop the story and how you think about the life story you want to create.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1718

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Inner Strength

“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius

Our mind is an environment we live in.

The things we think about influence what we do.

Just as much—if not more—as our external environments affect how we think.

If your mind is not in the right head space, meaning if you’re dwelling on the past, on things out of your control or negative events, you’ve set yourself up to lose before you even start*. No bueno.

(* And losing is the opposite of a good time.)

We can’t control all aspects of what goes on in our lives, but we can structure them for our benefit.

We can chose where we work, live, and spend our free time. We can chose who we spend time with, what we do for fun, what we decorate our homes with. We can structure our lives to remind us of our purpose and what brings us the most joy.

But say we can’t do those things. Say everything in our lives is completely out of control. Well, at the very least we can control our mindset. How we think, react, and view the world. Whether we react in the way we want to or not is practice and training.

Every day is an opportunity to train and hone our minds.

I can’t silence my mind, but I can turn down the volume of what brings me trouble and anxiety by training my mind through my actions, my breathing, and the way I treat myself on the instead (and on the out).

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1717

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Keep Going

There’s really only one thing that separates those who succeed in improving a skill and those that fail— they keep doing it.

Guitar, surfing, coding, skating, dancing, running, drawing… you name it.

Talent, luck, and connection are meaningful, but consistency is king.

Skill only takes you halfway (and maybe halfway for you is extraordinary compared to others less talented and fortunate), but drive takes you to your ultimate potential.

Everyone else just stops. They fade away from it. They don’t show up one day and eventually, it becomes something they did.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1716

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What Are Your Defining Values?

It’s easy to mistake who we are for what we do.

I’m an engineer. I’m a dancer. I’m a photographer.

It makes sense. Most of our lives are built around having a job and doing work. We even greet new people with the question, “so what do you do?”

But work is only a fraction of what makes us who we are.

We’re also our interests — what we like (and dislike). It’s our sense of humor. It’s the way we physically move throughout the world. It’s where we live. And who we associate with (that’s a big one), It’s what we enjoy doing in our free time. It’s who we love.

More importantly, we are defined by the values and principles we run our lives by.

Sometimes we absorb these values as we grow up. For better or worse, our experience and surroundings influence us. What we value says a lot about who we are.

Holding the door for someone isn’t a big deal on the surface, but it says a lot about what you value.

• Asking someone if they need a hand.

• Taking your grocery cart back to the store after you’ve unloaded your car.

• Calling a friend and asking them how they are doing.

• Reading books that are above your pay grade (meaning, hard to read).

• Doing what you say.

• Finishing what you start.

Putting in that little extra effort.

The little things we do or don’t do speak loudly about what we care and don’t care about.

All of this is changeable, by the way.

We can choose and hone our values and principles.

If you want to be kinder, then teach yourself to be kinder by doing something like holding the door for others.

If you want to be happier then do something that will make someone else happier today.

If you want to be wiser, spend your time with people smarter than yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1715

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Plateauing…

Every creative journey has moments where we feel like we are making no progress at all.

Plateaus are moments of uncertainty. We’ve used up and leveraged all the ideas and resources we have, but we’ve reached a point of stasis where the results are not as clear as before.

Sometimes this looks like putting in the hard work but not seeing the results we were previously seeing. Plateauing can also be simply a period of time where your ideas aren’t as strong as some of your previous work.

Plateaus are defining moments. They allow us to prove how committed we are. Things have slowed down, and/or your interest has waned— will you keep moving forward or will you give up?

I find it helpful to realize that I’ve plateaued, and through the act of noticing, I can try different things and figure out how to up the ante. I also find it extremely helpful recognizing that Plateaus are a natural part of any creative endeavor.

Plateaus are part of every practice and pursuit towards mastery. You’re putting in the hours, but you’ve reached your current limitation(s).

Sometimes the answer is simply to keep going.

In that case, the plateau is a mind game. We are making progress, but the results are adding up so subtlety we often miss them. We’re walking through a tunnel but haven’t seen the light yet. But if we stay consistent, our small improvements will eventually add up to something noticeable.

If consistently isn’t making any headway, then we need to change our approach. We need challenge. Something that pushes and expands our skills.

We could take on the challenge from a different angle by testing our assumptions and trying new things. Who’s done this before and what habits, traits, questions, and actions did they use to find a way forward?

We could also reproach the fundamentals. We were a beginner when we started, so there’s likely a lot of things we missed the first time. Mastering the basics raises us to a new playing field.

Plateauing is also a great remind yourself of how far you come.

We often know more, and have made more progress than we realize from where we started.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1714

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Longterm Benefits of Good Habits

Some habits are less about the benefits given and more about not dealing with the disadvantages from not doing them.

And how those lack of disadvantages give us more value over time.

Brushing and flossing your teeth might give you a clean and shiny smile, but that’s just a side effects. The advantages to dental hygiene are not having to deal with cavities (and the price tag that follows them) and, more importantly, protecting your teeth in the long run (so you still have them when you’re 70).

The same is true for many things:

  • Stretching and rolling out your muscles before and after working out.
  • Walking everyday
  • Cultivating solid friendships
  • Investing and saving money
  • Saying yes to only the things that matter to you
  • Making your bed

It’s so easy to ignore, because you don’t realize how good you had it until it’s gone.

There’s also the bad habits we have that are being masked by our good habits. Or put differently, are there any bad habits you’re doing that are evening out (or pulling down) your good habits? Eating a box of donuts after working out, for example.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1713

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For The Love Of

To be good at what you do, you’ve gotta do it because you love it.

Money, fame, power, connections… these are all just side effects—possibly even distractions—to your creative work. They enable creative work, but when they are the only goal, they (generally) lead us astray from what we love.

Not that these things are bad, they aren’t—if you know how to use them.

I say this knowing first hand how difficult it is to start something when you don’t money. Money is a creative oil that greases our wings, but it won’t make you a better painter or writer, not even a better marketer.

You are not stuck if you don’t have things like money or connections. You just need to think of clever ways around them.

How would you do it with little to know money?

Who can I get to know that I admire who has a lot of connections?

Everything you think you need to start, you don’t need.

It’ll help you jump the line, but if you don’t have the skills to back it up it won’t matter.

Work hard. Hone your skills every day.

Create because you can’t not do it.

The side effects (money, reknown, etc.), will come from following your creativity.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1712

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