More to Lose vs. Nothing to Lose

“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be.”

Chuck Palahniuk

The thing about accumulating nice things and expensive tastes is that we have more to lose.

One bad house fire and everything we own turns into firewood. One unfortunately accurate tornado will take everything you own with it. A downturn of the market, or a new technology could make our jobs disappear. Of course, we shouldn’t spend our days worrying about natural disasters and others things that aren’t in our control. The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca once taught, “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” Worry sucks the energy out of our ability to do anything about it. Disasters may come, and all we can do is prepare for risks, prepare for the worst and put the worry away so we can go on with our lives.

Our stuff is so much more than just things too. It’s our memories, our expectations and ideals. It’s our desire to change and be better. Which is fantastic and beautiful, but can also hold us back if we aren’t paying attention.

And that’s the hardest part about losing nice things, we aren’t prepared to let them go.

Not letting things go is another form of worry. It holds us back from doing what we really want to do in life.

I recently read a short Zen Buddhist story about a guy named Badhiya (no idea how to pronounce his name. Bad-hi-ya?). He was a governor of a province wealth beyond imagine — soldiers at his command, money and power —but his friend persuaded him to leave it all behind and was ordained as a monk, with nothing but a mat, one bowl and three robes to his name.

One night Badhiya was meditating at the foot of a tree. Suddenly he uttered, the words, “Oh my happiness, oh my happiness.” It happened that another monk was sitting nearby. The other monk thought that Badhiya regretted having abandoned his position as governor.” The monk reported this to Buddha, thinking Badhiya has a problem, so the Buddha sent his attendant to invite Badhiya to come by. In front of a group of monks Buddha said, “Badhiya, is it true that last night during sitting meditation you pronounced two time the sentence, ‘Oh my happiness, oh my happiness’?” Badhiya said, “Yes, noble teacher, I did pronounce that sentence twice.”
“Could you explain to us why you have pronounced these three words during the night?” the Buddha asked. Badhiya said, “Dear teacher, when I was a governor my palace was guarded by hundreds of soldiers. But I was still very afraid. I was afraid robbers would come and kill me or at least take away all my valuables. So day and night I lived in fear. But last night I realized that now I have nothing to lose. I was sitting out in the forest at the foot of a tree, and never in my life have I felt so safe. Nobody wants to kill me anymore because I have no power, no wealth, and no jewels for anyone to take. I have nothing. Yet I finally have everything. I am touching such a great happiness and freedom. That is why I have pronounced the words, ‘Oh my happiness, oh my happiness.’ If I have disturbed someone, I am sorry.”

By having everything, he was afraid of losing it all. But by having nothing he was free.

Now, I’m not advocating for us to get rid of everything that we own and not enjoy the fruits of our luck and opportunity. I’m just suggesting that it’s unwise to be reliant and beholden to what we own and what tastes we build.

Here’s an example: Can you go even a day without coffee? I couldn’t. A few years ago, I even went on a trip to Thailand and brought mostly coffee supplies with me! I had the works: an electric kettle, a french press… you name it. I wasn’t always into coffee, but now all of a sudden I couldn’t live without it. Until last year. Last year I went off coffee for a full year.

I think it’s healthy to live without the unnecessary things we think we need to be normal and happy. What do you think you can’t live without? Nice clothes? Spotify and Netflix? Expensive wine or cocktails? None of these things are bad per se, but if they are controlling you, especially in negative ways, then they might be.

I still enjoy coffee and tea. I’m not going to forgo drinking it. I love the ritual of making it in the morning and sipping it slowly while reading. But I know now I can stop when I want to and I’ll keep testing what’s good and not good for me for the rest of my life. It reminds me of a quote from Fight Club: “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”

Action Step: What nice but unessential things can you practice living without?

The reason we might have more to lose is because we can end up letting our things own us.

Can we have nice underwear and a new iPhone while also having a ‘nothing to lose ‘ mindset?

Yes, but it requires thoughtful ongoing work. If we can take care of the abundance of things we have around us, while not being afraid to lose them, we can not let the unimportant things hold us back and keep us from living the life and impact we dream of achieving.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #722

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Subtle Maneuvers

“Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers”

Franz Kafka, Novelist

Before I starting writing everyday, there were all types of reasons (excuses) I would tell — no, convince — myself why I couldn’t. I was essentially working two full jobs, spending my 9 to 5 working at a startup and working another business in the evening. I was too tired. I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t have any good ideas. And yet it was still bothering me. I was troubled by the fact that I was doing everything I needed to do, but none the things I wanted to do.

The American novelist Steven Pressfield calls this Resistance. In his book, The War of Art, Resistance is described as the force that will stop us with any means necessary to keep things exactly the way they are. It’s the voice in our heads telling us our work isn’t good enough and that we should even bother with it in the first place. It’s the fear that keeps us from putting our work out there. And it’s the force we must overcome to pursue a creative life.

Everything that can get in the way of your creative work, will get in the way.

There will never be enough time we need. Nor space. Or perhaps you have all the time and space but no ideas.

It doesn’t matter.

No energy? No support? Are you surrounded by negativity and doubt? Is your job keeping you from your dreams? Are you friends and family? No inspiration?

Again, it doesn’t matter. Once you establish a daily habit, you know you’ll do it no matter what. Even if we have to subtle piece it together throughout the day. Or sit down and write while everyone in the house is still sleeping.

A daily habit detoxes us from excuses.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #721

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Resolve to Fight

“Better to fight for something than live for nothing.”

George S. Patton

“The truest wisdom is a resolute determination.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

There will be times in your life where you must fight.

Perhaps not with fists or weapons, but an exchange of blows just as real.

Sometimes, you may have to battle for your intuition and truth. Do you take this job because the money is good, or do you listen to your instincts and pass? Do you partner with this person because his / her idea is great, or do you decline because your gut is telling you?

Sometimes, you may have to battle for your beliefs and freedom. How likely are your convictions wrong? A lot of people believed that slavery was right, but the belief didn’t fly in the face of reality. The belief contradicted itself. Wanting something to be true, and something being true are completely different things. If you discover you are wrong about something, then change. Change for the better. Do like the wisest people from history did — follow virtue in every step. But if your convictions are right, then don’t back down. Stand for character and truth.

Sometimes the battle is negativity and despair. Sometimes the battle is in your mind. Defeat them with hope. Hope is the best weapon. The past may be the past, but that doesn’t make the future determined. Only we can do that with how we decide to think and act today. And, with a little luck, we can make a better future for ourselves and others.

There are so many important battles — keeping great friendships strong… pursuing your dreams… healing from an injury… accepting fate with honor… taking the higher road… choosing life over apathy… finishing what you started… and handling fear, lots of doubt and fear…

Not everything is worth fighting for, but the things that are we’ll be ready for.

At any moment, we have the opportunity to transform into better selves, and do the things we know we need to do.

Take heart.

The fights will be challenging, but that’s part of life too.

In the end, the best things in life worth the challenge.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #720

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It’s Complex

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Leonardo da Vinci

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs

Simple is hard. Trying to go from complex to simple is even harder. Simple is the reason why every time we hear of an amazing idea we think “Oh! why didn’t I think of that!!”

A good idea becomes an extraordinary one when you can hide complexity behind simple understanding. We don’t get rid of the complexity, we just add a layer above it that allows more people to quickly grasp its meaning and take advantage of its insights and use.

Simplicity should level the playing field while also spark curiosity into the hearts of those who crave a little more deeper understanding. It doesn’t take a genius to drive a car, but it does take someone smart to build one, a genius for the car to build itself and a group of geniuses for it to drive itself.

Simplicity is the frontline to imagination and insight. The best work (and teachers) in the world comes from the ability to take complexity and make it exciting and tangible.

You can see this everywhere. Flip to the back of any nonfiction book and see the massive chunk of pages taken up by references and notes used to simplify the central ideas and narrative of the book. Watch an athlete or olympian accomplish an amazing feat and make it look easy (except when you try it yourself and see how difficult it actually is).

Again, easier said than done. In order to create work that is easily understood, we have to go to great lengths to peel back layers and layers of complexity, while also not losing our beginner’s mind, meaning, our ability to take what we know and distill it down into something elegantly simple.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #710

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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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