Iron Will

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Iron is a malleable metal. It’s not too soft to be directionless and not to ridged to be brittle. But it takes heat to form it into what you need.

I know, it is a very cheesy self-help things to write, but it’s true.

Nobody like to be knocked on their *ss, but everyone loves an underdog.

Resistance is a natural part of reaching for success. Whatever that success is for you, things are going to get in your way.

Bad luck, circumstances, setbacks and failure may not be our fault, or maybe they are, but it doesn’t matter. Either way, they are our responsibility. They are our opportunity to get stronger and more capable.

Difficult moments will try to break you, and they can if you let them turn you ridged and bitter. Anger and resentment held to long seeps into the bones and poisons our capacity to act if we aren’t careful.

However, difficult moments can’t hurt an iron will.

Let the past go. Forget the future for now. Focus on the here and now. Rest. Take a moment. Do what you need to do to reset. Then get up and find a way forward.

But don’t take my word for it. Instead, listen to the insights of all the strong willed people who said it cooler than me:

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”

Bruce Lee

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”

Eleanor Roosevelt

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

Mahatma Gandhi

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

Marcus Aurelius

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #706


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Don’t Stop

“Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation… even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”

Leonardo da Vinci

There’s an expression, ‘two steps forward, one step back’, that’s difficult to feel the depths of until you’ve felt the frustration being one step back.

Some days my goals feel like a plane strapped to my shoulders and I’m shoving with all my might to make a few steps forward.

It’s worth asking yourself, when you are metaphorically (or physically) pulling, lifting and otherwise maneuvering a heavy object, whether or not you actually want too in the first place.

Not every goal we have is our own. Some come from our culture, like buying a new car. Some come from our parents or our childhood, like meeting an expectation that they never could themselves. And some even come from other people, who pitch their goals so well you want in too. Not only if these are bad. Inspiration can lead us to new directions and a life we never dreamed of. But we need to make sure it’s something we want for ourselves (and ultimately the world) too.

Pulling a goal is hard; Pulling one you don’t even like is worse. Because what if you succeed and don’t like where you end up?

Pulling a goal that yours though is worth every drop of blood, tears and sweat though.

Any doubt in yourself and you stop moving. Negative thoughts are always try to get in the way. If it’s your goal – truly your goal – then it’s worth it. The only way forward is to not stop. If we stop, we rust. An inch one day. Nothing the next. A slight turn that felt impossible. A step backwards the next. Every effort counts. It all adds up to your story and your impact on my story.

The people who make it furthest in life with their dreams and pursuits are the ones who don’t stop. (Or maybe the ones too dumb to stop. :P)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #705


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Ripple Effect

“There is real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.”

Norman Vincent Peale

Every decision and every action we make can expand across our lives in impactful ways. (The same applies to non-decisions and non-actions too.)

No pressure, right?

This can be frightening if we let the ripples carry us to place we don’t want to go. However, we can also take advantage of this insight and use it to carry us to places in life we do want to go.

By making shifts in our daily actions, we can accumulate change we want to see.

Most of the time, ripples are subtle.

Decisions are difficult to observe, because you have to balance the net-positives and net-negatives of our daily decisions equate to. If all our habits, decisions and actions were a type of soup, they would be a quickly thrown together stew.You’re not quite sure what’s in there, but some flavors are canceling each other out, and others are overpowering the entire dish.

This is an odd juxtaposition between short-term and long-term effects that I’m honestly still trying to wrap my head around.

For example, Perhaps you can get away with a poor diet because you exercise a lot. For now, the benefits of your exercise cancel’s out the downsides of your fast food and cookies. Now toss in a stressful job in the mix. What is that doing to your health and fulfillment? If it’s feeding something you love to do and are passionate about, then maybe its worth it.

Which good habits are giving you a positive outcome?
Which bad habits are zapping you from being able to benefit from your good habits?

Which of the decisions and daily drivers you are making helping you to or hindering you from where you want to be?

Sometimes, ripples are not-so-subtly smacking you in the face.

For example, negativity isn’t doing anyone any favors. Not only are they making themselves miserable, they are also making everyone around them miserable too.

The best way I’ve discovered to handle these types of ripples is honing your observationally skills to be able to see the character traits, habits, decisions and actions that are hindering you, and finding a tool (or toolkit) from life, history or other smart people who have been in similar shoes you are in.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #704


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Watching the Rain

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

Helen Keller

If you don’t mind, I’d like to get uncomfortably vulnerable in this post:

My failures and poor decisions of the past couple years have been weighing on my mind the last few weeks. I’ve been in a discouraging, pitiful headspace. You likely wouldn’t be able to notice if we grabbed some coffee or ran into each other on the street. It’s likely because some of my habits, such as meditation, yoga, walking and writing keep me sane. But I know that I am more stressed and too serious than I normally am. It’s hard to describe. It’s similar to a toothache — you know something’s off, but you are not quite sure what or why.

How do you cope? We all have things we are going through, and we all have coping mechanisms which help us emotionally deal with them in the short term. Coping mechanisms come in all shapes and sizes, and they are usually hidden in plain sight. Worry, reclusiveness, silence… even anger can help us deal with life. Sometimes they might even be good things, like health and exercise, just taken to an borderline abusive extreme.

We may not consider anger a coping mechanism, but it’s an excellent emotion that can forcefully moves things forward… for better or worse. There’s a lot of Type A people out in the world who use anger to create success — and usually burn bridges and raise their blood pressure and self-loathing in the process. I know many people like this. They brute force their way towards what they want and burn themselves out in the process.

My coping method, on the other hand, tends to be numbing myself out. When things get extremely difficult, my mind falls into a black hole space-time reality. It’s an unfortunate after-effect I picked up after badly injuring my neck over 5 years ago. Numbing myself doesn’t require any substance to start, my mind provides all the chemicals required to get it going.

I used to hate the fact that my mind would numb myself out (…if that makes sense). In the past, I’ve been envious of the people who can face setbacks or misfortunes and use anger to defy them. But I don’t feel this way anymore. We all deal with trauma and misfortune some point in our lives. Sometimes that requires different coping mechanisms to make it through.

The key is appreciating (even being grateful for ) what has helped you to get where you are, and becoming aware of when an emotion, habit or coping method isn’t working for you anymore and finding a healthy alternative. Numbing myself helped me get through the pain of my injury, but I have no use for it anymore.

Suffering and pain reminds me of rain.

Rain comes and goes. Sometimes it’s torrential rain that almost picks us off our feet and whips us around. Other times its light and distant. But it always clears eventually. (Even Seattle gets a few days off. 🙂 If we can learn to watch for the signs of rain on the horizon, then we can preemptively give ourselves what we need to prepare for it.

My goal is not to stop it from raining, but to appreciate it while it’s here (and maybe even learn to enjoy it). Because there’s grow in rain. There’s lessons to be learned. We can connect more deeply with others by experiencing rain.

Here are a few insights I remind myself when it starts to rain:

Focus on Opportunity Instead of Negativity

It’s so easy for to make ourselves feel stuck by focusing only on the problems in our lives. But, for every problem there’s an opportunity we could be putting our energy into instead. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Focus on the good versus the negative.

Focus on Possibility

Every great story, be it fiction or real, has its ups and downs, trials and triumphs. Each problem and setback we face becomes a part of our own story. Use it. Build deeper connections by sharing your story. We want to be the big hero, but if we have to be the underdog, or the friendly neighborhood hero, then so be it! Every disadvantage is actually an advantage in disguise.

And Give Yourself as Much Self-Care as Possible.

We usually know what we really need when we need it. We’re usually just too stubborn to allow ourselves to have it. When I say self care, I’m not talking about treating yo’ self to a new pair of shoes, inhaling a bucket of ice cream or any of the other bad habits we lean on when we are feeling low. Self-care is giving yourself solitude and when you need space, or reaching out to friends when you need community. It’s giving therapy a go. It’s taking breaks from work when you feel overworked. It’s prioritizing things that don’t feel like an obligation or things that don’t have a deadline attacked to them. Self-care is giving yourself the health, happiness, connection and meaning you’ve been missing or neglecting.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #703


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Connection is Currency

Specialization allows us to go deep. Adam Smith once wrote “It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.”

To summarize in today’s lingo: take a bunch of people who are each really good at one thing, combine them into a big stew we call ‘society’ a you’ve wealthy economy that everyone benefits from, bro.

It was a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ kind of idea.As we each start to specialize in a narrow but deep skill, everyone combined creates a wealthier society.

This idea hit home during the industrial era, where workers became a gear, contributing to the larger success of the machine. Think of the classic image of a Henry Ford manufacturing line, where each person has a specific role to play.

But is this true in the digital age?

Today, AI rules specialization. Even disciplines like driving, medicine, music, acting and art are slowly being encroached by powerful machines accessing and receiving information at blazing speeds. Eventually, it seems like the only reason you’d want one of us humans to specialize in something is for the cute flaws and imperfections we would create. (I’m exaggerating a bit here; there will *likely* always be a need for some specialization. 🙂

But not all is lost. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to become multi-disciplinary.

Once you start pursuing mastery in multi skills, an interesting thing happens: you come up with new and unique ideas by combining them.

Connection is the new currency. How can we connect one discipline to another to create interesting ideas? Or how can we apply one disciplines way of thinking to another?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #702


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Mental Handcuffs

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”

Marcus Aurelius

“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.”

Swami Vivekananda

One thing meditation, aka intentionally breathing and observing your thoughts, teaches you is that we are not our thoughts.

Thoughts are more like a handbag we carry with us.

In his fantastic book, Solve for Happy, Mo Gawdat writes about how we are the outside observer to our own thoughts. Otherwise, how can we both be our thoughts and listen to our thoughts at the same time? And yet, how often do we let our thoughts get in our way?

In a way, untrained thoughts are amplifiers to our primal fears and feelings.

How many times a day do you mentally scold yourself with remarks like, ‘I suck’, ‘I hate myself’, ‘I’m not good at this’, ‘I’m an idiot’… etc.

Like a sound machine for sleeping, We wash over our minds with negativity and self-loathing and allow our thoughts to control us. Our thoughts subtly (or not so subtly) lead to how we feel and act. And how we act change how we live and the kind of life we are capable of.

Our thoughts are our first line of defense and offense. How we think effects how we act, and how we act again effects how we think, and so on. By learning to train our mind, we can begin to better grip on ourselves, and how we handle ourselves.

So when bad times come, we are mental prepared and trained to handle them, or even thrive in them. And when life is great, we have the mental capacity to keep our ego in check, and keep the boat sailing in the right direction.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #701


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What You Are Like

“Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

We strive to create meaningful work.

But our work is only a part of our story.

We also have our live outside of our work. We have friends, family, likes, dislikes, skills, hobbies, characteristics and flaws.

Outside of what you do, the question is do people like you?

I would argue creating amazing work is slightly diminished if people around you think you are a jerk.

You can be a jerk and put out great work, but you being a jerk isn’t a prerequisite.

Anger, negativity, frustration, jealousy, worry… we all feel these emotions a one point or another, but we don’t have to let them control us.

What do people say about us when we aren’t around? How do we want to be remembered when we are gone?

We can be the kind of person who works on his or her character, and not just on our status or bank account. We build character, not to please or appease others, but to be a better version of ourselves.

Character + brilliant work is a powerful combination.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #700 ✨


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The Default Option

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Theodore Roosevelt

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”

Chauncey Depew

Decisions are never easy. Even the ones we have certainty and conviction on can still leave us with doubt and uncertain in the back of our mind. ‘Is this a good idea?’ ‘Should I really do this?’ ‘But what if I fail?’ There’s very little certainty in creativity and life.

But there is one thing I’m certain about: The default option is never a great idea.

Defaulting is deciding not to decide. It’s meeting a fork in the road and deciding to do nothing. Sometimes, deciding to do nothing can work out in our favor. Being Switzerland (neutral) and not taking a side in other people’s conflicts has its benefits. However, when it comes to decisions that will personally affect our lives, staying inactive is not a great idea.

Doing nothing is also a decision. It leaves the outcome to chance, or worse — other people’s desire for what our life should be, without considering what we personally want our life to be. There’s little upside to non-decisions in life. The cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action and potential failure.

Do we want to do nothing and get nowhere, or do we want to try something and possibly fail or embarrass ourselves? I think I’d rather embarrass myself than hold myself back from who I am or the dreams I’m pursuing.

Default is an option we can make. The question is do we really want to live our life in default mode?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #699


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Some Strings Attached

“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

Fight Club

Why is it that the people in this world who have nothing tend to be the most happiest of us all? My guess is that its because the things we own (or things we do) take up space in our lives — physically and emotionally. Or in other words, we are tied down (or lifted) by the stuff and thoughts we have, and the actions we take. Everything around us has strings attached. Monetarily, sure. But also time, location, energy, creativity, flexibility and freedom.

A book is not just bound sheets of paper. It’s someone else’s knowledge, ideas and experiences. It’s a purchase or gift attached with a desire for us to change and be better. It’s our guide. It’s a todo on our massive todo lists. It’s a reminder of who we are, who we aren’t, and who we want to be. It’s all of these things and more. A book on community is our desire to connect with others and find success through those connections. A book on programming is our desire or hope to learn something useful and something that expands our abilities. And that’s just a few books. How many books do we own? How much stuff do we own? How many dreams do we own?

Stuff is fleeting. Don’t get me wrong, I love nice things as much as the next guy or gal. I’m just as jazzed about the latest iPhone or Pixel phone as the next nerd across the coffee shop. Of course I want some white Nikes’ and another backpack. But I also know that in a year from now, most of these things will be outdated and worn.

But I’m more interested in the things and habits that will help me grow my creativity and wisdom. And, in so doing, my ability to help others more. The more (or less) things that allows me to be free, the more capable I become.

It’s not what you have or don’t have that matters. It’s what you allow yourself to have influence over you.

What’s having negative influence over you?
What’s having positive influence over you?

Get rid of the former; Cultivate the latter.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #698


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One Kick, Ten Thousand Times

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Bruce Lee

It takes an enormous amount of effort to reach mastery. In order to get there, we must come attack it from all sides and every nook and cranny (You know, I have no idea what a cranny is… a cranky granny?).

Not all of us have the luxury to hone our crafts all day. (If you do, cherish it, don’t waste it.) Some of us have full-time jobs, and other responsibilities to do that can easily get in the way of our passions and goals. But all is not lost. We may not be able to practice ’10,000 kicks’ at once, but we can practice a 1+ kicks consistently overtime.

All we need to do is cultivate a daily practice.

A daily practice can fit into even the busiest schedule. We could bookend our days with a morning practice or evening practice. (Or, if we’re feeling crazy, a morning and evening practice.) How many little moments of time do we waste on any given day? If our practice is portable — for example a daily writing practice — we can fit it into the pockets of our day where we aren’t doing anything. Instead of worrying about being late on our way to work, we can focus our energy elsewhere on our practice. Instead of fuming with rage at the stupidity of the person in front of us trying to self-checkout at the grocery store, we can let it go and think about our practice. Even non-mobile practices have mobile components we can mentally noodle on. Maybe we can’t practice yoga in line at the DMV, but we can mentally go through our practice, or memorize a few Sanskrit words, or watch a YouTube video on a new move we can test out later.

Find the pieces of your craft you can take with you anywhere and practice.

And always bring a notebook with you wherever you go.

One day of playing piano isn’t going to do much for you.
But what about ten days? Hundred days? One thousand days?

The older we get, the quicker time seems to pass. We could complain about that, or we could use it to our advantage.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #697


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