Smile It Away

“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”

Phyllis Diller

“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.”

Lord Byron

I knew the day wasn’t going to be easy when at around 6 am I was unable to check-in and board my flight because I had missed the check-in window by mere minutes. Actually, I knew it wasn’t going to be my day when I spilled coffee on my notebook and new book I was reading (and loving no less). Scratch that. The night before I had a feeling it was going to be a bumpy ride when my weeks worth of luggage wasn’t fitting and was getting the zipper caught. (Probably because I was trying to lug my entire bulletproof coffee kit — kettle, butter and all — on a flight across the world to Thailand)

Regardless, sitting there in the airport, coffee stains all over me, waiting for the next flight, I had a feeling today wasn’t going to be my day. And oh what a day it was. Flight cancellation in New York. My small-town bank froze me out of my account. And when I finally arrived in Beijing, as I was wandering the airport at Lord knows what time or how long this godforsaken day has been, as I was wondering the empty airport, my belt broke.

Even my belt broke. And you know what I did?

Hold that thought.

When things don’t go our way, our usual reaction is to brute force it.

Brute force essential means trying to accomplish something with pure strength without any strategy or tactics behind it. It’s pure muscle power.

Okay, maybe you aren’t holding your pants up with one hand while pushing your luggage around a foreign airport like I was four years ago. Nevertheless, there are many occasions where brute force seems like a good idea.

Maybe something breaks at work and you spend hours and hours gritting your teeth and trying to push a square peg into that round hole.

Or maybe you have kids and for no reason at all they have decided to completely meltdown today and refuse to do anything you say.

Or maybe a bird craps on your favorite shirt, or the parking authority gives you a ticket or your fun gets rained out or you trip on a broken sidewalk or you choke in front of an audience or you fail completely today.

There’s only two choices we make:

  1. We can give into the friction and wallow away the entire day. Or —
  2. We can ground ourselves in the insignificance of a little moment of failure and bad luck, and smile it away.

Because time is short and every second wasted adds up.

Because anger’s half-life is short* and nothing is permanent except change.

Because life is bigger than us.

And because one day in the future, if we’re lucky, we’ll be laughing it off and telling the story as if the memory was an old friend.

You know what I did as I was standing in an airport, holding my pants up?

I laughed. I smiled it away. I realized how silly and unlikely this story sounded. And I took a deep breath and went on to enjoy my week in Thailand with some friends.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #856

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Fooling Ourselves

“A degree of self-awareness is extremely valuable… I hope I have that going forward.”

Nick McDonell

It’s refreshing to have at least one person around you tell it like it is. When everyone around you agrees or compliments what you are doing, you start to believe your own hype (aka BS).

This is a dangerous position to be in, because you don’t know if what you doing is working in your favor or against you.

Ideally we would be self-aware enough to watch assess ourselves and “pick up what we’re putting down” as they say, and call ourselves out when we notice ourselves cutting corners or making bad choices. But as the American physicist and brilliant thinker Richard Feynman once said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Self-awareness is all the rage nowadays. But if you strip away the woo-woo and boil the idea down to its essence, self-awareness essential means knowing yourself. Knowing what you like, dislike. Knowing your goals and desires. And more importantly, knowing where your blindspots are, what your bad habits are, and where you tend to get upset (and how you cope with those emotions).

It might sound silly to say, but it’s difficult to know what you don’t know. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If we have a rough idea where our blindspots are, we can try to prepare for them in advance or avoid the triggers that lead to them so we can completely go around them.

Having a friend that’s honest and realistic, but is doing so because they want to see you be better and succeed is a great way to avoid unforeseen problems.

It can’t just be any person that can be our smart decision thermometer. Respect is essential to that kind of relationship. If there’s isn’t mutual appreciation or if you don’t look up to the person who is giving you honest feedback, then you’ll never actually listen to them and take their advice for truth. Without mutual respect and appreciation, they are the equivalent to the random Youtube comment troll who’s only goal is to criticize and take you down. Authority is also essential. If your friend is giving you advice on things they don’t do themselves (or never have done) then the advice will fall flat. If your words don’t align with your actions or experience, no amount of brutal honesty will convince you to change course.

These types of friendships are hard to come by, so when you do find one, do your best to cultivate the relationship and keep it strong.

Seek out groups of likeminded individuals or create a group yourself. Look for people who are lifelong learners and who are always doing new things and trying to be the best version of themselves.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #855

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Convincing Others to Change

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Mahatma Gandhi

It’s easy to suggest or recommended change, but it’s massively harder to convince someone to do it. Just like it’s hard for us to make a change in our own life.

It takes work to change. Particularly if you’re going 80 mph in the wrong/opposite direction and are trying to turn around. It’s work and then some. A cherry on top, if you will.

Think about how hard it is to get yourself to do something. Be it going off gluten for a month, or exercising consistently every week, or getting up early. Remind yourself the feeling of difficulty it is to make change happen. Now apply it to people you’re suggesting a change to, or wishing they would break a bad habit or do what they say they want to do. It’s tough, right?

I think one of the best ways to enable change in other people’s lives is to live by example yourself. Let your enthusiasm and success influence and rub off on them. When a friend, loved one or colleague see’s your results, they’ll want it too.

Of course, don’t hide the hard parts either. Nothing turns people off of doing something then seeing others succeed in some form and thinking they are invincible or a machine.

Change is difficult, but it can look easy (emphasis on ‘look’) after a lot of intentional practice and routine.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #845

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To Be (or Not)

“How many emperors and how many princes have lived and died and no record of them remains, and they only sought to gain dominions and riches in order that their fame might be ever-lasting.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Ask any kid today what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll likely get a similar answer:

Youtube Famous.

Forget astronauts. Forget presidents. Forget rock stars. Internet Famous. 

Heck, ask anyone fifty and under who’s even slightly internet savvy and they’d likely trade their job to be Youtube famous. I think it’s likely because being Youtube, Instagram, TikTok or whatever famous looks like you make money while playing all day, doing what you love and hanging out with fun people. I haven’t tried Youtube (yet) but I think it deceptively much harder to do than it looks. There’s an art and skill to everything. Just because it looks easy doesn’t mean it didn’t take a massive amount of time and effort to make it happen.

But why does everyone want to be famous?

I think 99% of us don’t want to be famous (even if we say we do). I think what we really want is to be known and to feel known. (Plus the perks that usually — but not always — that come with fame: money, access, resources, etc)

We all want a place to belong.

We want our voice to matter.

We want our work and life to be meaningful.

But we don’t need fame to have those things. In fact, fame might be detrimental to belonging. (Besides, pursuing fame never gives you fame, fame is a by-product of the love and cares you put into your craft and relationships.)

Connection, helping others, loving ourselves, standing up for our values and principles, cultivating our skills, going all-in on community… this is where meaning and belong flow.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #843

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Wah Wah Wah

“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”

Robert Frost

I find it’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate, particularly when it comes to creative work.

When you unintentionally leave a client in the dark about what you are doing or thinking, they tend to panic. Perhaps they don’t want to know all the itty bitty details on how the vegan-sausage is made, but they do want to know if you’re on the same page as them.

Better to be annoying and over-communicative than silent and allow imaginations to run wild.

This applies to life as much as it is to work. Think about how powerful the silent treatment is when you’re mad at someone. It’s horrible. We stress ourselves out until the conflict is resolved.

We all want to feel safe and feel like we belong with the people we surround ourselves with. Direct and open communication is a breath of fresh air.

Brevity might be the soul of wit, but open communication is how great relationships are made.

Now, this isn’t permission for us to drone on and bore everyone to death. Listening is the greatest communication tool we have. However, effective communication is one of the most important components of any job or relationship. It’s hard to build an idea (or relationship) without being about to communicate it to others.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #801

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Giving and Taking Advice

“The best advice comes from people who don’t give advice.”

Matthew McConaughey

Unsolicited advice always shoots through one ear and out the other without the slightest remorse.

The best advice given is the advice asked for.

The problem is we are too stubborn and obvious to ask for it. We’d rather go down with the ship then tell others our ship is leaking.

Some days I feel like half my problems would dissipate if I asked the right person for some advice. (The right person being the one who has experience a similar problem or knows someone who has)

So how do we give advice to someone too stubborn to take it? and how do we ask for advice when we really need it instead of holding our breath trying to solve our problems ourselves?

We do it subtly and from a place of honesty and trust.

When it comes to giving advice, we have to meet people where they are. Sometimes, that means being there for them when they need help and they are struggling. We have to wait for them to be ready for help. This starts by simply saying that you are there them if they need any help or guidance. Open up the kimono first — show them what you are struggling with. Vulnerability is relatability. And don’t forget to lead by example.

How do we ask advice when we need it ourselves?

First, find someone who has been through something similar to what you are going through. And if you can’t find that, then the next best thing is to seek advice from someone you know that you admire.

There’s no shame in asking for help. In fact, being vulnerable and seeking council will make the person like you and want to help you even more. Again, vulnerability is relatability.

If you feel like you’ve got no one around you that can help, hit the books. Seek the wisdom and insights from people of today and from history who’ve experienced life in its fullest spectrum. Books, videos, courses, podcast… half the battle is being aware of that fact that you could use some advice, from there, finding the advice will come much more easily. If that doesn’t work, maybe you’re the one who will find an answer and help others from your insights.

And when in doubt, seek a professional. (Verses some random person like me, with a blog.)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #718

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“Do What I Don’t”

“You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.”

John Steinbeck

Advice is a tricky business. Unless you can back up your advice with personal experience, hardly anyone will listen to you.

It sucks because their advice might be sound but because it’s not backed by anything, we won’t take it. Because what if it’s bad advice?

Armchair quarterbacking doesn’t inspire anyone. Well, not with positivity anyway. It might inspire you to do the opposite of what the person is saying.

Even if you are older, or in a position of higher authority, if you’re talk doesn’t match your walk, people will notice and won’t do it.

“The advice of the elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

If I were to pin it down to one reason why, I’d say it’s because advice that’s given without experience to back it up feels hollow and judgmental.

Humans have been giving each other unwanted advice to each other for millennia. The hunter-gather takes one look at his buddies fire and says ‘you should build a fire over here instead of there, bro’.

The bible has some similar insights on this: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. … Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Sometimes, we’re the ones doing the armchair life coaching. We’re giving all this great advice but not taking it ourselves. Crap. (…you hypocrite!) The only way to resolve this is to heed our own advice. Giving advice means taking advice yourself.

Unless you can back up your advice with personal experience, no one is going to listen.

To be in a position to help others, you have to align your worlds with your actions. Back your advice with gold.

In essence, to change others, you have to be will and able to change yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #717

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A Good Companion

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

They say a dog is a humans best friend. Being an owner of a dog, I completely agree. It’s hard to get a more loyal and happy companion than a your little furry friend 🐶.

However, I find it a little sad though. Because you would think, of all the people who would we our best friend, it would be ourselves. Shouldn’t we be our own best friend. Who is in better alignment with our dreams, thoughts, feelings, and emotions than ourselves? Shouldn’t we have the most sympathy and loyalty to ourselves?

And yet, we are usually our own worst critic. We don’t believe in our abilities. We think we can change, but never actually do. We hate who we are. We wear ourselves out with negativity, worry, regret, indecision and fear. And we even tend to go behind our own back without knowing!

How can we resolve this?

How do we become our own best friend?

First, we must learn who we are. It’s difficult to like someone who you don’t know anything about.

To do that, we have to be alone with ourselves.

Nature helps. Go be on the water or out in the woods. Rent a kayak, go for a hike or take a walk in the park. Motion helps too. A silent car ride on your way to work, or a road trip to the next town over. A morning bike ride or run. Do what you have to do to get yourself alone without technology or others.

Breathe. Be weird for a moment. Ask yourself questions. Listen for answers. Care about who you are. How would a friend treat you? What would a dog do? (W.W.D.D.?)

Second, we must learn to keep our past in the past. The past can cut us up daily. Maybe you’re not proud of a decision or moment in your past. Maybe a regret haunts you to this day. And, most of all, maybe you’re mad or resentful or envious about decisions someone else made to you or for you. How often do you let the past – something out of our control – rule over your day? One bad egg shouldn’t ruin the bunch. A head in the past has no bite in the present and no ambition for the future. Let. It. Go. Light a prayer lantern. Do a seance. Dance naked under the moon (please don’t do this). But serious, seek advice, seek council, find help. Let go of who you were, so you can be who are are.

Seek out ways to let go of your ghosts. They’ve gotten you this far, but you don’t need them any longer.

List out all the benefits you can think of for a difficult moment in your past has helped you. List all the downsides of it not happening.

Third, we also must learn who we want to be, and let go of any shortcomings or flaws we have and struggle with on our way towards our ideal self.

The goal is to be okay with who we are and what we’ve got to work with, while at the same time continuously pursuing a better version of our selfs.

I know, It’s a weird balance. There’s a lot of pitfalls that can get us stuck. The key is understanding that the ideal self is the goal, but never the end goal. The point isn’t to make our best self the end all be all. The point is to try with all of our might. The value is in the act of pursuit, not reaching a moment. The top of the mountain is fleeting. The top of the second mountain isn’t any more satisfying. The joy comes from the climb up. The pursuit of meaning is what matters.

If we can master these three things, AND have a dog — we’ll practically be unstoppable*.

(* until we die anyway)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #707

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Being self-made is overrated

“Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.”

Paul Ryan

The problem, or perhaps the privilege, of being born is that we come into this world with a mental blank slate. Sure, we’ve got our innate basic instincts, our DNA and our own unique character traits. But we don’t know what we got ourselves into being by born.

We don’t come out of the womb knowing how to use a spoon, or drive a car, or how to look up questions on Google. Which means every kid born today (just like we did) has to start from scratch to learn the ABC’s of life. With so much going on nowadays, it’s easy for me to forget that in one point in my life I didn’t know how to tie my shoes, and riding a bike was a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

There’s a small bit of pride we should take from coming so far in life. Not that knowing how to use a spoon makes us unique, but our capacity to learn, and learn a lot relatively* quickly is a powerful thing and interesting to think about. (*human to humans anyway. Computers have us beat.)

Knowledge is passed down to new generations through teaching (verbally or written). To make things more complicated, knowledge is not distributed equally. Natural silos obscure and diffuse information from being easily accessed. Why weren’t we all taught how to eat healthy or how to invest in the stock market? Well, because not all of those who came before us (some being our parents) knew how to do those. Some did, some didn’t. (That would be a great one sentence history book of humanity: Some did, some didn’t.)

A wealthy family might know, but perhaps you weren’t born into a wealthy family. Or a grandmother might be able ‘to teach you a thing or two about nutrition’… the problem is she wasn’t your grandma, she was someone else’s. Essentially: We have to RELEARN EVERYTHING for ourselves.

There’s great value for learning and doing things yourself. Initiative is hard to teach. You’ve gotta want the vision for your life so badly that you’d give all your time, energy and attention towards achieving it.

Being self-made is rewarding, but it’s also lonely. It gives you creativity, clever thinking skills and resiliency, but without friends to share it with, what’s the point? I think we can have it both ways. We can pursue the things we love, be independent while also be willing to work better with others.

Be self-made, together.

We can go much further with like minded individuals who got our backs and want us to succeed then we can go it alone.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #691

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How to Help Someone (And Ultimately Help Yourself in the Process)

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard P. Feynman

There’s a funny, slightly insulting quote you’ve likely heard, from the author and dramatist George Bernard Shaw, that goes “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches”. And perhaps, an even funnier follow-up quote by Woody Allen, saying “Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

Now that I’ve insulted every teacher and, specifically, gym teacher reading this, I’d like to discuss a somewhat related idea (that might be a bit more helpful to us than criticizing our doing and teaching abilities):

If you can’t help yourself, try helping others.

When we hear about other people’s problems, Why do we think they are so much easier to solve than our own?

Because we can usually see their — our friend, family member, coworker, boss, etc —problem with a clear mind and come up with linear ideas and strategies to solve it. Our problems are too close to us because we are the ones dealing with them (and at the same time trying not to have a panic attack and emotionally eating an entire cake). And it’s the same both ways. They might see your problems and think they are easy to solve, just like you think the same about theirs. In reality, most problems are messy and hard to deal with. But we make them harder by weighing them down with fear and blindly try to fix things without clarifying the problems first. Clarity is key.

Clarity is what we can give to others. And clarity is what we need for our own problems. We need to see all the visible cards on the table and think through (and gut feel) our way through the cards we don’t know about.

How do you help someone gain clarity about their problems? Have a conversation with them. And more importantly, listen to them. Be a sounding-board first; A helper second. Sometimes all we need is to hear ourselves speak aloud about our problem. Having a person in front of us who is giving us eye contact, nodding their heads every so often, and allowing us to talk is a great way to do that and really hear what we need to hear.

After, listening, giving actionable advice and ideas is another way we can help someone. I believe advice needs to come from a neutral place. The point of helping is not to tell them what you think is best for them. You need to think about the advice that is best for who they are and what their goals are. Remember, we’re not trying to make clones of ourselves. We’re trying to help others be the best version of themselves they can be. Not the best versions of us they can be.

Of course, sometimes people don’t know what they need. Use your best judgment. Some skills and piece of advice are universal. For example, building a better community and support group around you who all want you to succeed is always a great idea. (Or at least, I’ve never heard or read anyone giving the opposite advice — ‘don’t be friends with anyone. support groups will get you nowhere’ 😜)

However, there’s a caveat I would be remiss if I didn’t say: we first need to make sure that the person (or people) we are trying to help actually want our help. If we’re just telling them what to do and giving them a dozen ideas to try that they don’t want and didn’t ask for, the help isn’t going to work. And related, it’s always good if you can back up your advice with experience. If you haven’t taken your own advice, very few people are actually going to listen. Help works where it’s needed, not where it’s assumed to be needed.

By putting our energy towards helping others, we end up helping others and helping ourselves. Not only do we do a good thing by lifting someone up when their down and teaching them something valuable, we also begin to feel better about our own circumstances and problems because we are no longer are wasting so much energy into doubt, fear and worry about ourselves. By channeling our energy towards others, we’ve taken away energy that we would be giving to fearing our own issues.

Giving a helping hand doesn’t have to be just people we know too. We can also help others online or in our local community that we haven’t met. We could even put energy towards helping a group of people, like the homeless, or a type of need, like clean water.

In a roundabout way, helping others usually helps ourselves in the process. We gain motion through the act of helping others, and in the process gain the confidence and momentum we need to help ourselves.

How can you leverage your skills, connections and extra resources to help others?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #684

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“Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

“It’s also selfish because it makes you feel good when you help others. I’ve been helped by acts of kindness from strangers. That’s why we’re here, after all, to help others.”

Carol Burnett