Stimulating Books

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

Francis Bacon

I read to learn new skills and experience new imaginative worlds, but I also am constantly seeking books that will expand my mind. I want to think deeply and broadly about things. I want to see and understand how disciplines (and the universe) connects.

Reading—fiction and nonfiction—is a fantastic way to expand your thinking and creativity.

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.”

Rene Descartes

You’ve likely come across a book or two before that is waaaaay over your head. Perhaps it was written in a different era, such as Hamlet written by William Shakespeare, or a different land from your own, like Rumi’s poetry or stories of the Wild American West.

It’s a fine balance, but the best kind of mind-expanding books are once that are just a little over your head, while not being too hard to read to be off-putting. These are the kind of books that reward you on revisits. The first time I read Lord of The Rings or Pride and Prejudice, I could get through it, but I didn’t fully grok it. I enjoyed them, but I was just too inexperienced to fully appreciate them. It wasn’t until I read them later that something clicked and I began to fall in love with older books. Now I try to read at least one (usually more) older book in my reading stack.

It does us no good to just read the latest and greatest books. We need to dig deeper and find the sources too.

Books are like people—you are the sum of the books you surround yourself with the most. If all you read are the latest business bestsellers, then how much do you truly know about business and the values and principles that it takes to succeed in business? What’s its history look like? What makes it work? What does a great business look like? Who were the greatest business leaders of all time?

And speaking of people, Biographies are a great starting point to finding books that stimulate you.

Here are a few to get you going:

Leonardo da Vinci: Walter Isaacson

The Gene: An Intimate History: Siddhartha Mukherjee

Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix: Charles R. Cross

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #958

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Just One More Book…

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

Benjamin Franklin

I love reading. If you looked at my home office space right now, you’d know that’s an understatement. I’ve got books coming out of books. There are books on, underneath, adjacent and near my desk. I read both fiction and nonfiction (I find there’s value in both in different ways).

But.

Did you sense the but coming?

But, reading isn’t everything. Books can make you smart and open your mind to ideas you never thought of. They can take you to imaginative worlds and spin thrilling tales where you can’t turn away. They can give you the knowledge (answers and questions) you seek and say your time and heartache by avoiding hard lessons learned by others. And they can become the mentors you need for $10 or so bucks when you can’t find the advice you are looking for. All from authors, entrepreneurs, artists, thinkers, warriors and more from all of human history and civilization. (Wisdom of the ages, as they say.)

But books won’t do the work for you.

Reading is sometimes insightful and sometimes a cheap distraction for something you know you need to do. “I need to start working on my business idea, but I don’t know enough yet. Maybe I’ll read another book first…”, or “One day I’ll be a great programmer, but for now I need to read *another* coding book…” No, you probably don’t. What you need to do is start *programming*. Insert your desired skill here.

Books are a great way to learn, but they don’t supplement action. 

“A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”

Henry David Thoreau

I’m telling myself this more than anyone, by the way. Books aren’t the only thing that can distract us. Maybe your thing is TV instead. Or film. Or cleaning. Or (only) hanging with friends. Or spending all your time drinking. No shame here. No shade. 

The question we need to ask ourselves is are we doing this (watching tv, eating, etc) to enjoy it or are we doing it to distract ourselves and avoid doing what we really want (and sometimes need) to do.

When it seems like you can do anything BUT what you need or want to do, then you are likely avoiding it for some reason. 

Fear can do it sometimes. fear of messing up and looking like a boob. 

Laziness too. But laziness is a delay tactic to avoid change and avoid negative or undesired life outcomes. 

But neither fear or laziness will make it — or your life — any better.

Learning is great. Reading is one of my favorite things I do. But if all we do is learn and never apply, what’s the point in the first place?

But some times you just need to put the book down, bookmark your place to come back to later, and then get out there and do something.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #866

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Why Read Fiction Books?

I’m a fan of both fiction and nonfiction.

I know a lot of people who skip fiction and only read nonfiction. I think the main motivator behind this is the perception that there’s no value in reading fiction. Nonfiction is about providing insights and experience about a particular thing, such as starting a business, but what fiction does? It’s just a movie with words, right?

Not really. I find fiction valuable for many reasons.

Fiction is an excellent way to impart wisdom through storytelling. It’s also a great way to experience the world (or different. worlds) through the lens of characters different from ourselves. Not that fiction has to be valuable in order to be useful. It’s also just a fun way to turn on our imagination.

Beyond the books that are just pure adventure and romp, which I do enjoy, fiction books elicit curiosity, imagination, and possibility. They open your mind up to words and worlds you would never dream of.

Now, I enjoy a good movie as much as the next guy or gal. But when we read fiction, say a sci-fi opera or a fantasy adventure, we are translating scribbles (words) on a page into characters, worlds, and tales in our minds. Pure imagination. The book creates the scaffolding, but our imaginations are filling in the details.

If you are on the fence about fiction or haven’t read a fiction book since your sixth-grade English assignment to read Pride and Prejudice, then maybe it’s time to revisit it. And remember — you don’t always have to choose a literary novel set in a normal place. They are thousands of unique and weird genres out there to choose from.

I’m also going to making a push to talk more about books in 2020. If you aren’t a big reader but are book curious, or if you love reading and want book recommendations and reviews, sign up for my future Bookaholics Newsletter: A curated list of recommend books (nonfiction + fiction) for book lovers looking for their next read.

If there are any books you would like to recommend or any book related things you want to talk about, email me: josh at renaissance life dot com.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #781


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So Many Books.

“So many books, so little time.”

Frank Zappa

130 Million Books have been published. Another million-plus have been self-published.

The median number of books read by an adult is around 5 books per year.

Bookaholics, like myself, read around 80+ books a year.

Let’s make it easy and say we only read 10 books a year. If you were to live another seventy years, you would have read around 700 books. If we bump that up to 50 books a year, then by the end of your life you would have read around 3500 books.

700 out of 130,000,000!!

 3500 out of 130,000,000!!

That’s practically a rounding error!

Of course, not all 130 million books out there are equal in value. Some can potentially change your life and open you up to new ways of thinking about the world. Some will entertain while expanding your imagination. And I’m sure there’s a hefty amount of books out there that just plain suck.

To me, the number of books read is not as valuable as the books we absorb, digest and apply them to our lives.

And the number of books we read doesn’t matter as much as the quality of books we read.

“A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”

Henry David Thoreau

If you only read three books in your life, but those books had a massive impact on your health, wealth, happiness, meaning, business and community, would it matter that you didn’t read the other 199,999,997 books?

Before Gutenberg invented the printing press, how many people only read the Bible or other ancient texts?

I read both nonfiction and fiction, but to keep this post single-minded, let’s focus on nonfiction. The key to great nonfiction books is the knowledge and wisdom bound inside their covers. A book is essentially a mentor and friend who you don’t have direct access too. Books allow us to not only explore the greatest minds of today but the greatest minds throughout history. Very few are alive who were around to witness the mind and work ethic of Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Alan Watts and more. For a small fee (around $10 bucks) we can have access to any advice we are looking for. Want to be an inventor? How about picking up the Wright Brothers Biography? Want to get better at marketing? How about a Seth Godin book. Want to explore the history of medicine? Read The Emperor of All Maladies or The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

A book is a small price to pay to gain a window into the greatest thinkers, philosophers, entrepreneurs, and activists of humankind.

The problem now, and forever going forward will be knowing what books to read and what not to read. With only so many books we can read over a lifetime, we must filter out the bad ones and focus on the good.

The solution I’ve found is to curate your reading list by finding avid readers who have similar tastes and principles you do.

Here are two excellent sources to get you started:

Ryan Holiday

Maria Popova

I’m also going to making a push to talk more about books in 2020. If you aren’t a big reader but are book curious, or if you love reading and want book recommendations and reviews, sign up for my future Bookaholics Newsletter: A curated list of recommend books (nonfiction + fiction) for book lovers looking for their next read.

If there are any books you would like to recommend or any book related things you want to talk about, email me: josh at renaissance life dot com.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #780


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Shortcuts to Life’s Biggest Problems.

Books are my go-to when I’m facing difficult problems.

(Well… and books are my go-to for fun too.)

(Heck, they’re just my go-to.)

Learning and reading are shortcuts to life’s biggest problems.

What would you rather do: lose all your money, or read a book about someone losing all their money and how to NOT do that. Sure there’s nothing like learning from your own practical experiences, but there’s also nothing like learning to avoid pitfalls we all can make when we’re stumbling towards a dream.

Starting a business is great. But what about starting a business testing a personal MBA you’ve developed by learning from the books of the greatest entrepreneurs in history?  Better.

Books teach you how to think well.

Books won’t necessarily give you the answers to the test (aka life), but they will give you a more capable understanding of the questions. When you read a book, you’re not just learning the content, your learning how the writer thinks. And if a book resonates with you, you’re absorbing ways to think about the world the way the author does.

When I’m facing a career change or a health issue, money anxiety, happiness, and fulfillment problem, I seek books or lessons from people who have been there done that and come out thriving and better than they were.

We are as only as capable as we think we are. 

Having a more meaningful, inspirational, financial free life will be ours when we adopt a more capable way of thinking and taking actions.

Learn from the best. Absorb lessons from their wins and loses.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Insights

“Change is the end result of all true learning.” Leo Buscaglia

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Looking for the perfect life in Barnes & Nobles

Gabriella and I did something fun tonight.

… No not that, get your mind out of the gutter.

We went rollerskating!

The Skate Place was my jam back in the middle school days.

Tricks. Pizza basically made out of cardboard. Trucking and Jamming.
Aka living the dream.

I bought a pair of skates for Gabriella for Christmas 🎄 so we went to go try them out.

The place hadn’t changed an ounce. The only thing that has changed was me. I had grown wiser yet also more anxious about my world. (Also taller, I’ve gained a few inches since middle school. I was definitely the tallest person there and I’m only 6 ft)

Before we went, we grabbed some dinner and hopped into Barnes and Nobles for a bit.

We always have fun in booklandia. (Well… aren’t you the life of the party Josh)

I wanted to find a book that will change my life, help me simplify and handle overwhelm better.

I asked Gabriella to help me find some and as we were looking she wisely said,

“If you’re looking for the perfect life in Barnes & Nobles, you’re in the wrong place”.

She’s right of course.

If you’re looking for the perfect life in Barnes & Nobles, you’re in the wrong place.

Books are windows into mastery and wisdom.

Books can give you the insights and answers you seek. But there comes a time where books aren’t going to work for you. To change your life you must do the work. You must make the hard decisions and take action towards the life you dream of. Same goes for talking, daydreaming, complaining, wishing — eventually you must decide whether you are just going to talk the talk for the rest of your life or also walk the walk.

The difference between those who have and those who don’t is consistent, persistent actions towards the life they want. Dreams don’t fall from a book, or plow into you as you go around the skating rink; Dreams happen through Bold actions.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Insights

“When you have a dream, you’ve got to grab it and never let go.” — Carol Burnett

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Norman Vincent Peale

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” — Maya Angelou

Lost In Books

Oftentimes, I find myself reading books, watching courses or videos on YouTube, and listening to podcast interviews without absorbing the lessons. I’ll move from one book to the next  (sometimes even before I finish the current book!) without testing/implementing what’s said.

What gives?
Why learn at all if you’re not going to use what you’re learning or grow into a better person?

The problem is you can learn until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t put into practice what you’re (spending all of your time) learning, then you might as well be mindlessly watching TV.

The hard part of it all is that if I do put my practice into action, I might fail. No one might show up. I might be laughed off the stage. I might embarrass myself or others. Yet, might is a such a small word to hang your hat on. Are you going to live your life behind a coulda woulda shoulda? 

Look beyond the failure and see the results of a life well lived.

Practice what you learn, act before you speak and test all assumptions. These are the tools for making dreams reality.

When you read, read to implement. 
When you watch a video or listen to a podcast you are trying to learn how to improve your life, give your complete focus and attention on it. Take notes, list action steps and questions you can reflect on.  And when you learn, practice.

Don’t clean the kitchen while you’re listening to a podcast on how to start a podcast. Focus In. Leave the cleaning and commuting to entertainment instead of mastery.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Wisdom

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” — Mary Tyler Moore, American Actress.

“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.”Anton Chekhov, Russian Playwright

My Favorite Books In 2017

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” 
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

When I started my Renaissance Life Journey, I picked up a book.

Reading is a direct connection to wisdom and how to improve your life. I read to challenge my thinking and expand whats possible. Reading will pull you out of your worst setbacks, and raise you up to your highest potential.

(Alright alright, enough. This blog post ad is brought to you by, reading.)

My Favorite Books in 2017:

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

An examination of Winnie the Pooh from the perspective of Taoism.

Total Focus by Brandon Webb

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Total Focus and Deep Work’s insights are showing me how unfocused I’ve become and how much I need to learn the art of when to say no, and when to say yes. This is a work in progress.

Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson

Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Two excellent biographies from the Master biographer himself. Required readings for anyone seeking to be a Renaissance Man / Woman and a Renaissance Life.

Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss

The definitive guide to life from high performers in a variety of fields. If you’re looking for advice, it’s probably in here. It will also give you 1000!! other books to add to your to-read list.

I­t­ All Matters by Paul Cummings

An action plan on how to create the life of your dreams. Paul’s life lessons stick with you and his action plans show you how to amplify what you do.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

A little too ‘man’ focused, since that was his main audience at the time in 1937, but push past that and you’ll find a wealth of insights into the mind and how our thoughts and subconscious effects our reality.

The Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn (Audible)

This one hit me at just the right time during one of my worst setbacks in life to date. I would get up early and walk him Jim to inspire and put earworms in my head on how I could climb up from my pain and setbacks. (earworms…. gross)

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Elon’s ability to create ideas, execute ideas and mitigate risks is astounding. I will be re-reading this one.

Masks of Masculinity by Lewis Howes

Lewis reinforced me on how important vulnerability is and how easy it is to hide behind masks that seem to get you far in life, but in actuality hold you back. Here’s to taking off your masks. 

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

A Masterpiece of Spartan Theater.

What were your favorite reads this year?

Happy Reading!

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing, 

— Josh Waggoner

 

 

Aha! Books

There are moments in your life when you pick up a book that rocks your (socks) mind and being to its foundations. I’m sure there are many names for these types of mind openings moments. I like to call these aha! books. Any book that stops you in your tracks (aha!) and opens you up to new possibilities, opportunities and ways of seeing and thinking about your life and the world. 

Aha! moments are addicting.
I read because I love learning and experiencing new places and imaginative ideas, but the reason you’ll always find me with a book (or four) is that I’m seeking more aha! moments in my life. 

My first aha book moment was with regards to food. I don’t know what drove me to pick up Gary Taubles book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, but I’m glad I did. I­t­ opened me up to a world I had known nothing about. The idea that what we eat directly effects how we look (and ultimately how we feel) was a completely foreign concept to me. It and other impactful ones (The Four Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss, Foodist by Darya Pino Rose) change my life for the better.

I’m looking at my bookshelves right now as I’m writing this post. I don’t like to keep books that haven’t impacted me in some way (or I hope they will in the future), but if I were to choose my biggest aha books I­t­ would be:

Live Your Truth by Kamal Ravikant

The Crossroads and of Should and Must by Elle Luna

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield 

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff 

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

Meditation by Marcus Aurelius 

Resilience by Eric Greitens

The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz

Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss 

Crush I­t­! by Gary Vaynerchuk

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Mastery by Robert Greene

My hope (and goal) is that in the future  my books will be on someone’s aha! book list too.

What’s on your aha! book list?
What are your aha moments?

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

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I Am a Perfectionist (And You Are Probably One Too)

I am not a perfectionist.

At least that’s what I thought.

If you asked me about it, I would have told you something clever (smart🌜ssy) like, ‘I’m not a perfectionist. I’m an exceptionalist’ or ‘I’m after excellence, not perfection’.  But if I’m being honest with myself, is there a big difference between the two?

It’s easy for Perfectionism to mask itself as many things, including excellence and fear. Without a clear definition of what excellence means to you, Perfectionism can turn your good intentions into impossible goals.

 

Perfectionism masked as excellence:

‘Oh, sure, I’m working on a music album, but right now my songs still need a little polish..’

 

Perfectionism masked as Fear:

‘Oh I can’t start a _________ (business, app, blog, book, ) I don’t know enough yet..’

 

Perfectionism masked as Indecisiveness:

‘Yeah right now I’m writing a book, but it needs a lot of work, so hopefully, I’ll have it finished within a year or so..’

 

Perfectionism masked as Distraction:

‘I bet I can write 1 blog a day, release three podcast episodes a week, work on my novel, exercise, practice guitar every day, pishh no problem’

I could go on and on. Perfectionism can disguise itself and become a substitute for what we actually want.

Perfectionism isn’t something we are, its something we do.

It’s a habit we fall into that distracts, befuddles, and limits us from our goals.

 

In his new book Finish, Jon Acuff talks about how goals tend to grow into perfection monsters. Our goals get bigger, complicated and have impossible timeless. All in the name of hustle, right?

You don’t  just want to run a 5K, You’ve gotta go big and run a marathon. (Even when you haven’t run a day in your life!) Sure you could write a book, but what if you wrote a five-book part series instead, wouldn’t that be better.

The problem, of course, isn’t the lofty goals, but our expectation attached to those goals. We expect to do more, and when we don’t have immediate results, we get bummed out and quit.

This insight really hit home with me. I tend to create huge goals and have big dreams for myself, but when days, weeks, months go by, and it seems like I’m still thousands of miles away from where I want to be, I feel discouraged.

One solution Jon suggests is to cut your goals in half.

I know myself — I’m always going to think BOLD and go after the biggest, baddest goals I can dream up. But instead of focusing on the entire goal all at once, why not cut the goal in half and focus in on a small portion that I can do without feeling overwhelmed.

Cutting your goals in half gives you perspective on what you can do next.

A goal like ‘I will writing a book’ has no edges you can grasp onto. It’s infinite, timeless, and impossible to completely wrap your head around. ‘I will write one crappy page a day’ has edges and it’s easy to grasp. You know what you have to do and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Tim Ferriss and Neil Strauss have talked about something similar. Focus on a small goal for the day that seems tackle-able.

Write one blog post, or fix one bug. Once you blow past that goal, you’ll be ready to hit another. Don’t just floss — aim to floss only one tooth. It’s so ridiculously small to do, that you’ll go and floss all your teeth anyway.

 

Q: How can you take your goals and cut them in half into bite-sized executable tasks?

— Keep Pursuing,

Josh Waggoner

Note: This post was intentional written imperfectly. 🙂

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