Same Same

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.”

Alfred Adler

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about travel recently (I’m guessing a lot of us are these days). Part of me feels like I’ve seen so little of the world. And the other part of me is grateful for the handful of adventures I’ve had the opportunity to take.

A few years ago I went on a trip across the world to visit Thailand and do some island hopping. My friend Marco had cooked up the trip because at the time he was thinking about starting a co-working business and he wanted to scope out a few places with decent wifi and cheap living.

At the time, I was feeling a little burn out at my software development job, so I jumped at the chance to take a breather, explore, and work from somewhere other than my at-home desk.

Our environment influences us more than we think. I think most of us intuitively know that the people we surround ourselves with, and the content we consume have a big impact on who we are and the life we lead, but our surroundings are just as influential. 

Or maybe we know, but we get so used to it that we take it for granted. 

Take the American South, for example. I grew up in Georgia (about an hour and change away from Atlanta) and a lot of folks in the south have a southern accent. Accents aren’t really something you think about until you run into someone or visit another place where everyone has a different way of speaking. 

People move at different speeds in different places too.

There’s nothing quite like the energy of a New Yorker. Personally, I love their straightforward, get sh*t done, we can handle anything style of living. Energy is something else I think about often. I’d like to surround myself with people who are bursting at the seams with creative and enthusiastic energy. Enthusiasm can move mountains.

There was an expression that you would hear often from native Thailanders (Thai?), typically when you asked the question, “How’s it going?”

They’d say: “Same same.”

To them, tourists like me where how they make a living. I was on my adventure on the other side of the globe—but the folks living they’re where just going about their day to day lives. Mopeds, Elephants, Jungles—everything around them was their *normal*. My unordinary was their ordinary

This is true for all of us. It’s so easy to take for granted things we have in our daily lives (like going out to restaurants).

A gratitude practice is a good way to remind yourself to open your eyes to the little (and big) influences surrounding you. The characteristics of the places we live—The weather, sounds, smells, walkability, nature, choice and so much more —subtle influence our minds and how we create (and why we create it). These are all good things to think about if you’re trying to add more creativity in your life.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1055

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Fun to Be Around

I am a silly person. If there’s an opportunity, I’m always going for a laugh. I’ve asked some friends about me and they told me they like hanging with me because I’m charismatic and interested in who they are and what they do.

I’d agree with that, I am usually the guy in the group asking a lot of questions. I think curiosity needs to be genuine though. I’m curious about others because I want to be, not because I’m forcing myself to listen to other people’s ideas.

I’m not much for small talk. If you’re telling me about a project you’re working on or something you’re learning, I give you my full attention. Your ideas are important to me. I want to see you succeed.

A lot of people see the world through a scarcity lens of “me vs. you vs. them.” If your idea succeeds then my idea fails. But this isn’t true. Everyone can be successful, just not in the same way. Originality is hard, but it pays dividends.

There is a limit of course. I can give someone enthusiasm, but I can’t do their work for them. Your goals in life are that—yours. I can help point you in the right direction, I can help motivate you and encourage you, but it’s still up to each of us to take these dreams and ideas we have in our head and make them a reality. It’s not my job to do your job. Nor is it your job to do mine. We can share, but we still need to individually contribute.

Our reality is a reflection of our mind.

This sounds like a line from a Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercial, but it’s true. I’m not talking about magic. Wishing for a banana to magically appear in your hands or a briefcase full of money to appear under your bed isn’t what I mean. What we think reflects what we do and how we perceive the world around us and by extension our reality changes. Thinking about eating a banana in pets you want a real banana. Does the banana in your mind exist? Not yet. But it correlates.

This kind of thinking can get woo-woo fast. There are just too many variables to predict all the details of what life will throw at you. But whatever comes our way gives us choices that are in our control.

Failure is an opportunity to do better in the next round. Or not.

Setbacks are an opportunity to grow into a better person. Or not.

Negativity, obstacles, toxic environments, unhelpful thoughts, criticism—these are all things that can help us or hold us back. It just depends on how you look at things. This is a very Jocko mindset.

I’m not telling you to enjoy your toxic work environment, for example. I’m saying see it as an opportunity to stand up for yourself and find something better.

Experiencing failure doesn’t mean you are a failure.

Being negative doesn’t mean you have to stay negative.

We may think about our past and envision our future, but we live life moment to moment. Each moment can change for the better if you own it.

A big part of building a thriving life is letting go of what you can’t control (i.e. your past mistake) and aiming for a better future while staying flexible in the present.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1054

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Life is Work (But Work Isn’t Life)

“Without work, all life goes rotten. But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.” — Albert Camus

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” — Rumi

Work means different things to different people. I may enjoy pitching ideas to clients and marketing products to customers, whereas you would rather eat your own left foot than deal with customers directly.

A lot of creative “work” I do doesn’t feel like work at all. Technically I am working and working towards a vision, but it doesn’t feel laborious. Naturally, I get joy and energy when I’m working on things I love. But then again, I’m not just doing one thing I’m juggling a few things throughout the day, so there’s rarely a moment where I feel like I want to stop. 9 AM turns into 3 PM very quickly. Plus, I’m sprinkling in healthy practices and breaks here and there—like meditation or going on a walk—so there’s a lot of factors at play.

One important lesson creative work has taught me is life takes work, but work shouldn’t be your entire life.

It takes work to live an intentional and meaningful life. In fact, it’s likely much easy to live a flippant, unintentional life. It doesn’t take much effort to eat fast food, never exercise, stay up late, work just for a paycheck, drink heavily, and veg out on the weekends.

Living intentionally and pursuing a dream, on the other hand, takes effort. Lots of effort. But the effort is part of the joy.

There’s rarely anything more rewarding than sticking to a goal and being consistent with it.

There are limits, of course. If all you do is work then your life is off balance. Friendships, love, community, mind-body, and spirit are just as important (and rewarding) as what you do for a living.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1053

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Where’s the bottleneck?

“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”

Henry Ford

When you’re feeling stuck, look for the main bottleneck. What’s the one thing preventing you from moving forward? 

The problem is we immobilize ourselves by trying to solve the problems 3 moves in advance first. ‘I’d love to save more money each month, but if I did that I wouldn’t have enough to pay for food and expenses, plus I won’t be able to get those new running shoes and I forgot I need to get my oil changed sometime soon.’

Sometimes we even convince ourselves that before we can fix this current problem, we must fix X Y and Z first. ‘I want to get a new job, but first I need to fix my health, but before that, I should really think about going back to school.’

Instead of dealing with the immediate problem, we’re thinking about a hundred other things on our todo list.

Thinking 3 moves in advance is great. But when it comes to solving problems we need to focus on them one at a time. Fixing the main issue may cause other issues down the line, but don’t worry about that now. Focus on the current priority. 

Put everything aside in your mind for a moment and focus exclusively on the priority at hand.

An alternative approach is to go around the problem and reduce complexity by finding a way to nullify multiple problems in one sweep by solving the underlying issue. (I believe this idea is from Tim Ferriss.)What’s one thing I can focus on/do that will nullify all the other (potential) problems.

What we need is a sense of priority. What’s the most important thing you need to focus on right now? We might have to deal with other things later, but that’s for later. Before is before. Later is later. Now—we are dealing with now.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1052

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I Think You Can

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

Buddha

I think the typical reaction when we hear the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right” is something along the lines of—

“Ooh that’s a good quote”—and then shortly after cut to us immediately doubt ourselves and our abilities. At least that’s how it goes for me.

My definition of a cliche is something you hear so much that it loses all meaning and value in your mind. We know that the majority of the time we need to “Just do it.” Instead, we worry, fear, run away, stress, anguish, complain, blame, and do all manner of loitering—anything but just doing what we know we need to do.

“You think you can’t” is the part that truly holds us back.

I’ll catch myself doing everything I can to convince myself that something’s not possible or that I’m limited in some way. I can’t start a company because of X Y Z A Q B reasons. I can’t write a novel yet because of blah blah blah.

The only thing that’s limiting is my current mindset. Everything else that’s pushing against me, “limiting” me is an opportunity for me to be more creative, more humble, more impactful.

Of course, in order for that to be true, we need to stop holding ourselves back with unhelpful thoughts. The mind is a muscle. Having strong, healthy thoughts takes training just like any other muscle.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1051

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Regret-free Decisions

Plenty of folks would look at my plate (interests/projects/dreams) and say that I say yes to too many things.

I’ve always been someone who has been interested in many subjects. Art, music, sports, exercise, technology, learning, etc. I also occasionally feel slightly envious of the people who can stick in one lane for most of their lives (for example, just graphic design). But I enjoy too many things to be that kind of person.

But you can’t do everything (at least not all at once 😜). So there’s always a matter of which pursuits to spend your time on.

I try to say yes to as much as I can tolerate without sacrificing health or quality. And if I walk outside of that tolerance range I rebalance.

Right now I’m less concerned about quantity and more about quality. Meaning, how can I say yes more to the right things (and no to the wrong things) instead of saying yes to things that don’t matter?

Ultimately what we decide is worth our time comes down to each of us. A question I ask myself is what I’ve found helpful is “would I regret not doing this in a year (or five years) from now?” Or said the opposite way, “would I regret saying yes to this after a year has passed?”

Pay attention to where you’re answers are coming from. Make sure they are coming from the heart and not from your wallet or from someone else’s mouth. Not that there is anything wrong with making money or following the path of another great leader—quite the contrary. And yet still. When it comes to making important decisions, make sure you know why or why not you’re saying yes.

Think of a decision like it’s not yours but a close friend making them. What would you advise them? Would you give them the same advice that you are giving yourself?

Consider all sides. And at the end of the day, if it turned out to be a bad call, then learn from it. Mistakes are scars earned. They can be something we try to hide and ignore, or something we learn from and wear like a badge that tells a story for others.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1050

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What Kind of Friend are You?

“We’re all just walking each other home.”

Ram Dass

One of my favorite categories of friends is the type that no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them, you pick up right where you’ve left off. Time has passed. You both have changed in hundreds of ways, but the friendship hasn’t.

I went hiking yesterday with some friends I’ve known since middle school and high school. Two whom I’m close to and see practically every week. And two I hadn’t seen in a while (for no other reason than life coming between us). We hung out, made dumb jokes, waxed poetically, swam in a creek, and got caught in torrential rain. It was great fun.

Some people crisscross through your life like planes trailing in the sky. Teaching you lessons (some good, some bad). Influencing your tastes in music and how you spend your time. Informing you more about yourself.

Some people fade out of choice. A difference in values. Crossroads. Convenient “friends” who peace out ✌️ when you’re going through a rough spell.

Some people exist in different stages of life. High school. College. Marriage. Big moves and changes.

Some people stick around and become daily companions. You see each other grow, but you often overlooked it because day to day change is happening so slow you miss it.

I want to be the kind of friend who is genuine and who can pick things up right where we left off, no matter how long it’s been. And I want to be the kind of friend who you see frequently, (maybe not every day) but even if it’s been a while you know you can call and I’ve got your back.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1049

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Late Night Ramblings on Learning

“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

My go-to methods for learning these days are reading books, podcasting, and daily habits. But I’d like to get out of my comfort zone and experiment with other forms of skill acquisition.

There’s nothing wrong with reading (and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!) Read a few great books on a subject and you’ll be 80% of the way towards competency. But there’s only so much you can pick up from a book. There also needs to be hands-on learning and experimentation.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of jumping from one book to the next without properly considering how to apply and test what you read to your own life. It’s easy because there are so many flipping books!

As for daily habits, I find it a fantastic way to add practices to your life (even if you don’t think you have a lot of time to spare) add a consistent, momentum to practice what you want to master.

But there’s only so many daily habits you can add to your day. If you have a full-time job and you sleep the healthy recommend 8 hours a night and you add in time to eat, you’ve got about roughly 6 hours left in the day. That 6 hours is powerful and can add up over time, but there’s only so many times you can slice that 6 hours down. So after maxing out your daily habits, then what?

What are some additional alternatives to learning?

How can we increase our ability and capacity to learn?

How did renaissance humans—polymaths/universal minds—from history become so exceptional in multiple skills?

These are a few of the questions I’ve been pondering.

I want to experiment. Turn over every rock and see what others find most effective and see if they work for me too. Weekend challenges. Bootcamps. Thirty-day challenges.

Effective is the word. I’m not necessary after learning more faster for speed’s sake, or quantity just to have more skills—I’m after potency.

I want to unlock the doors to wisdom. This sounds dramatic, but it’s true. What makes someone wise? How can we make better decisions in the moment? How can we live a life true to ourselves? How can we stop holding ourselves back with fear and uncertainty?

We’ll have to figure that out ourselves.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1048

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UnLearning

“If your mind is empty, it is ready for anything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

Half the battle with learning is not getting in your own way. It’s often not what we don’t know, but what we think we know that’s holding us back.

A part of becoming skillful at something is to be continuously working on your knowledge base and re-approaching the fundamentals.

Mastery in your craft is as much about relearning (reinforcing) the fundamentals and unlearning bad (or outdated) habits than learning new things.

“It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Mark Twain

In the beginning, learning the fundamentals can be boring (especially when it’s not paired with fun). Take learning the piano, for example. Practicing scales. Learning music notation. Chords. Working the muscle memory in your hands. Practicing playing notes with the left and right hand simultaneously. All of this is great and will enhance your abilities to play anything, but it is also tedious hard work. When you are just starting out, it’s better to take a stab at learning a few songs you love, or mess around and make your own songs first. Once you have a couple of wins, go back to and learn the fundamentals. I love scales now. I don’t find them boring at all, because I know that getting better at them will increase my ability to play across the board.

When we re-approach the fundamentals, we are coming from a more experienced mind. Things we couldn’t see at first becomes more clear each time we look at things from a fresh perspective. We couldn’t see, not because we were bad or dumb, but because we are inexperienced and didn’t know what to look at.

Things can become outdated quickly. Every year (more like every time we turn around) some new piece of knowledge, technology, or idea comes out and changes how the world works.

The problem is we can easily dismiss new knowledge for things we already know. This can work, for a little while anyway. But if we hold on to outdated or false information we eventually become stale. Alternatively, we can adopt a “strong convictions loosely held” mindset. I learned this idea from one of my favorite podcasts, The Drive, with Petter Attia. Strong “Convictions Loosely Held” roughly means holding on to your knowledge, values, and what you believe to be true, but being open to change and always testing your assumptions about what you think you know to be true and accurate.

Needing to relearn or unlearn things doesn’t mean we’ve wasted our time, or that what we know is irrelevant. Everything we learn builds on something that came before. We do need to stay up to date as much as we can (especially if your skills are in a fast-growing environment, like technology or medicine). This can be overwhelming (because of the firehose of information) but trying to learn everything at once is not an effective way to be skilled. One small thing at a time. One small actionable lesson adding to the next.

As long as we are willing to be life-long learners and continuously try to improve ourselves, then we are in the right mind space.

The only ones who become irrelevant are the ones who refuse to let go of bad habits and stop learning.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1047

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Reduce Remove Rebalance

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Sometimes living within your means living without your “needs”.

“Needs” can easily be “wants” in disguise.

What are the things we absolutely 100% need?

Water. Food. Shelter. Love. Purpose. Care.

Anyone of these can be warped by wants.

Water becomes: Coffee. Coffee creamer. Soda. Wine. Whiskey. Gin. Sparkling water.

Food becomes: Dessert. Fast food. Fancy dinners. Chocolate Croissants. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Snacks.

Shelter becomes: An apartment. New cars. A TV. Streaming subscriptions. A couch. A coffee table. WiFi routers A better TV.

Most of these things are fantastic! Unless they control you. “The things you own end up owning you.” (Chuck Palahniuk)

I’m not saying we should give up all our stuff. I’m saying we should always be testing ourselves by removing the inessentials so that our essentials matter more.

Focus only on your needs and the needs of others and you will discover personal freedom.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1046

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