Going With Your Gut

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs

Saying ‘no’ to opportunities is one of the hardest* things we face in life. (*Relatively speaking. Is it up there with facing cancer or a death in the family? No. But what we say yes and no to ultimately determine our paths in life.) But unbeknownst to most, saying ‘yes’ to EVERY opportunity is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserable. Juggling is fun. Being stretched like a rope in a game of mud tug-of-war is not.

No — as hard as it can be in the moment — should be our default when it comes to giving away our time and resources. This requires sharp instincts and agile decision making skills which we can hone through practice and having clarity in what we want in life. If it’s not something that aligns with your goals, brings value (directly or indirectly) to you and others, or brings you joy and makes you feel alive, then no is the way to go. Sometimes that means making compromises and passing on good things.

But remember why you are saying no. You are passing on good things because you have great things lined up, or currently occupying your focus. (If you don’t, then saying yes to an opportunity that comes your way might be the best option for what you have to work with. Go with your gut.)

Call it what you will — sacrifices, opportunity costs, hedging, mitigation — great things require us to say no to a lot of fun good things.

Great things require us to say no to a lot of fun and good things.

Particularly when the fun / good things distract us from our true passions and goals we ultimately want (and would like) to say yes to.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #663

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The Process

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”

Muhammad Ali

Creativity is hard.

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

But that’s part of it. The creative process is not just our ideas or imagination — it’s acting on our ideas despite life pulling at us from multiple angles, and despite the bad cold we’re getting over, or the break up we are dealing with. Or in other words,

The things that challenge our ability and willingness to create, is a component of the creativity as well.

It’s all apart of the process.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #656

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Worth It

Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.

Norman Vincent Peale

No one ever said pursuing creativity would be easy. It might be the most challenging thing you ever do. That’s why it’s worth it.

Remember, when the bad days, the sick days, the overwhelming days hit, there’s always another side, another chance, another way, another sunrise. Your creative work is a spark of inspiration and hope for when you (and others) need it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #652

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Plantin’ Seeds

Big Redwood Trees
Photo by Josh Carter

If you want to grow a giant redwood, you need to make sure the seeds are ok, nurture the sapling, and work out what might potentially stop it from growing all the way along. Anything that breaks it at any point stops that growth.

Elon Musk

One observation I’ve been appreciating recently is the nuanced, yet powerful force of planting seeds. Our future is built on our past decisions, specifically, all the big and tiny things we agree (or not) during each day.

Everything we do, from how we sit, how we communicate to ourselves, how we eat, to what we read, has a butterflying effect into our future. We are who we are today because of echos from our past, and the echoes from our parents past and beyond.

On the surface, there’s rarely immediacy to planting seeds. They take time, attention, water and sunlight that we could be using elsewhere. And we can’t eat them right away. If we tried, they would be as nutritiously effect to what we are trying to grow.

A conversation here, a habit there… A week goes by and there’s not much to show for it. Progress was made, but it’s often too subtle for us to notice. This is one of the big reasons why most people don’t plant seeds. Growing is slow work. ‘I can’t invest or focus on my future problems, because all of my immediate problems are right now’ — this is something I’ve said others and told myself before.

But immediacy doesn’t equate to priority.

What separates those that do, versus those that don’t is prioritize the future today. A creator creates every day — even if it sucks, because eventually they know their investment will pay off.

Invest in the right things, and the ‘immediate’ things will fade away.

Today is always the best day to do something for tomorrow. Why do tomorrow what you can do today?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #650

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Life Blocks

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Alexander Graham Bell

There are times in life, where everything feels in doubt. Plateaus are inevitable. Ruts are par for the course. But when life punches us, there’s usually multiple blows. What do you do when you feel stuck in all areas of your life? What do we do when your health sucks AND your work sucks AND your relationships could use some work AND on and on it goes.

Take a deep breath. Maybe take three. Then, look at this:

The Universe
sololos/Getty

Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

In Marcus Aurelius day, the universe and its shining glory used to be a daily reminder of how small our problems really are in the grand scheme of things. Nowadays, unless you are in a rural area, only a few of the brightest stars peak out of the night sky to challenge us. But one look at this photo or photos like it can center and ground you to what matters.

The worst part about feeling stuck is how limiting our minds become. Instead of focusing on doing the things we need to do, we spiral in self-pity and waste time feeling bad, overwhelmed and despaired.

“Begin — to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.”

Marcus Aurelius

The quickest solution I’ve found is to focus all your efforts on one thing and check that off. Each time you check off something that’s been bothering you (whether its having coffee with a friend you’ve been meaning to call, eating health today, etc), the mental rain cloud clears ever so slightly. Our problems / obstacles are bad enough on their own, we don’t need to berate ourselves internally too with negativity, hate and harsh criticism on top of it all.

Focus on completing what’s in front of you. Some might pick the easiest thing to complete first, others might go for the most pressing issue. I usually sit down with myself and see which problem I’m facing is effect the other problems.

What’s the one thing I can work on fixing that will alleviate or perhaps even get rid of all the other problems I’m facing?

It doesn’t really matter what you choose to start with, as long as you start with something. I find it’s often the case that my problems turn into monsters, simply by me ignoring them or not actually taking the time to access them. Here’s a weird analogy: It’s like having a sore or cut in your mouth — it feels massive when you run your tongue over it, but when you open wide and look at it threw a mirror, it’s just a tiny little thing. Things in the rear view appear closer than they are. Problems feel bigger until you get a good look at them.

The last thing to remember is to keep going. Through all the ups and downs we will face in life, as long as we keep going and persevering, things will inevitably unblock themselves. It’s good to know that there are both ups and downs, not just downs. Again, the mind can play tricks on us, and we can skew our life only in the down moments and forget the good.

Remember: you are alive. You can think, you can enjoy and you can love. Perhaps tomorrow we won’t be (you never know). All the more important reason to live and be alive today.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #641

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How is Just a Phone Call Away

‘How’ comes from doing. We never know how until we try it for ourselves. We might have an idea of what it means to do something, but until we get our hands dirty, so to speak, we don’t really know first hand.

This goes for a lot of things — starting a company, asking someone out, traveling abroad, being poor / rich, pretty much everything.

Creativity is usually an individualistic act. But collaboration is not too far behind (and sometimes is far ahead). Let’s not forget, at the end of the day, we are creating for someone. Often, that someone we are creating for ourselves — creating just to create and express our voice. But even so, our work is for others as well. Connections like, buy and celebrate your work.

Luckily, we don’t have to learn ‘how’ always on our own. We can learn from other’s example and experiences, through stories (books, talks, conversations, etc) We can build a tight-knit community around us, and gather closer to people who care about us and what we are going through.

If we surround ourselves with generosity (helping others, letting others help us), then ‘how’ becomes a whole lot easier.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #639

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Staying Creatively Fresh

Writer’s block isn’t something I worry too much about. Rather, staying fresh is constantly on my mind when I create (write, draw, song-write etc). In my mind, there’s nothing worse than repeating yourself. In my mind, there’s nothing worse than repeating yourself. (Had to… 😉 The last thing I want is for my work to feel creatively bankrupt or stale. Mmm, smells like bankruptcy. (<- Inside joke from high school that only one person, who isn’t reading this, will understand. Had to… 😉

Stale work is saying the same thing over and over, without improving upon the ideas or having a new resolution.

Letting other creative work inspire you? All day.
Stealing something and putting your own spin on it? Awesome.
Selling your work? Great job.
But repeatedly creating the same thing without improving? No thanks.

There’s no growth. No positive change. No intention behind the repetition. Just the same old same old.

It’s like that friend or relative you have that repeatedly says they are going to do something, but never does (and usually does the opposite). They really want too, but because they don’t, they rarely ever do. (We can easily fall into this rut as well. I know I have.)

Creative staleness can happen on a micro and macro level.

Micro Level

On a micro level, we can easily lean into using familiar tricks and patterns which ultimately can plateau our progress. Writing for example. Lazy writing is using the same words, sentences or structure. One example for me is using ‘—‘ too much to break up a sentence and to give dramatic pause to an idea. (I even had them in this blog post, but edited them out.) Another lazy one I have to watch out for is ending every blog with a “blah blah blah, this is how you can have a meaningful life.” This phrase, “meaningful life”, is a part of my mission statement and tagline for Renaissance Life “The Pursuit of Creativity, Mastery and a Meaningful Life”, so it naturally pops up when I’m writing. Moderation is key here. Adding a line about having a ‘meaningful life’ at the end of every josh dang blog post is sloppy, isn’t winning me any brownie points and quickly detracts from the meaningfulness I’m trying to create.

This happens in all types of creative pursuits, not just writing. Comedy, acting, art, songwriting, lyrics, poems, speeches and more.

Example: Rappers relying on ‘uhh’ or a specific curse too much as filler words.
Example: Speakers saying the word ‘um’ or ‘pretty’ or ‘like’ too much.
Example: Musicians using the same chord, tempo or scale progression in every song they make. Like a continuous thump thump thump thump drum kick in 4/4 on every song.

Good Example: Comedians throwing out there material after they finish their one-hour special. This allows them to focus on new ideas instead of treading on old ideas.
Good Example: Actors or film makers who continuously change themselves by taking on new and different roles and projects.

TAKEAWAY: Observe how you create in your practice. Go granular; Observe the specifics. Avoid repeating yourself too much to keep things fresh and interesting. Try challenge yourself with rules and restrictions (i.g. If you write a word too much, like using the word ‘maybe’, challenge yourself it to not using ‘maybe’ next time — or ever again.)

Macro Level

On a macro level, we can fall into traps of or work retreading on the same old topics and themes without any clear variation or difference. Giving old ideas life by adding new ideas are great, but having the same idea repeatedly? Not so much. This usually happens to me when I’m trying to convince myself to do something. For example, an idea I want to do, like experiment with filmmaking, loops in my head, but I haven’t done it yet so I’ll keep talking about it to convince myself to do it. (Which never works.) I’ll end up repeating myself into the ground trying to convince myself. Eventually, I’ll get tired of hearing myself and I’ll shut up and do it already.

Repetition + growth is what we want.
Repetition + repetition is actually what makes us feel stuck. As Mark Twain has said, “is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results”.

TAKEAWAY: Watch out for too much repetition that ends you in the same place you started.

How to Stay Creatively Fresh

Ideas spark ideas.

Let others influence you into your own ideas.

One great way of staying fresh is surrounding yourself with the ideas of others, anyone who inspires you to create.

Another great way is to also surround yourself with new ideas and topics you would normally not explore.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #638

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For The Hell of It

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”

Michael Jordan

A great sign you are on to something you should be doing every day is whether or not you could live without it.

What’s something creative you just can’t not do?
Something you would do even if you never got a dime (paid) for it in your life.
Something you think about often and talk about enthusiastically.

At the end of your life, what would you regret the most never doing?

This is a question that’s great for finding a driving factor in life.

This is art. This is your creative pursuit.

A creative pursuit is an amazing way to clarify your actions and priorities. Like lightning rod to lightning discovering within yourself work you can’t live without is an obvious answer to what you should spend your time doing.

Perhaps you won’t spend your entire life doing it. We are continuously changing, responding to the world around us and loving new things as we grow. We naturally live multiple lives — or book chapters — as we get older.

However, if we feel a passion for something, we should just add it to our lives first and foremost, instead of trying to fit it in to an already stuffed life.

We have to make the time. No-one is going to do it for us.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #637

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Creative Flow

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Jack Welch

There’s an interesting trend right now in technology (that you will begin to notice everywhere) where some apps and operating systems no longer have large update cycles. Instead of 2.0 to 3.0 massive updates that address problems and add new features in bulk, we are now seeing a steady stream of continuous updates. These updates are instant, and usually happen without notice. Google’s Chrome Browser for example. I don’t remember a single time I’ve had to actively update it. New features, tweaks, bug fixes, they just flow in while we aren’t looking or while we are sleeping. And, with more and more of our gadgets being connected over the Internet. This is a powerful shift in computing. Kevin Kelly calls this trend ‘flowing’.

What if we were to apply the same incremental, continuous approach to our own skills and creativity?

We aren’t computers. I can’t Matrix download Kung Fu into my brain in a couple of minutes (…yet). But there are ways we can learn and improve more optimally in this fast changing world. Daily habits, for example.

I’ve been talking to death about daily habits this year, but they are a great conduit to creating daily steps of improvement.

Habitualizing* our creativity enhances our creativity.

Whether my arguments of practicing daily habits persuades you, adding a ritual, a practice, around your work gives you access to an endless flow of ideas. Instead of creating something every now-and-then when the feeling strikes, you are putting pen to paper (so to speak) every time you practice.

Creative flow is our direct line to a stead stream of ideas, portfolio of work, momentum and community.

Personally, I don’t worry about writers block anymore, because I know that when I sit down (stand up) to write, I’ll have something to say. Because of my daily commitment to the craft, ideas flow.

Tapping into our creative flow also heightens our awareness of the world around us.

Our experience influence our work (and vice versa). By subconsciously / consciously knowing that we are going to create something, our mind seeks out the interesting out of our experiences.

One could argue that our job as creatives is to tell our story through our work. A part of that job is seeing the world as it is, seeing it as it could be, seeing what we like and dislike or find amusing or interesting — seeing the magic in the ordinary — and saying something about our observations with our work. (Or just creating stuff because it’s fun and we can’t not do it 🙂

Continuously creating gives us the abilities of creative flow.

It also elevates our skills faster than otherwise and gives us the freedom to pursue a life of creativity.

*Not sure if this is a word.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #636

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Dedicated

“Success is about dedication. You may not be where you want to be or do what you want to do when you’re on the journey. But you’ve got to be willing to have vision and foresight that leads you to an incredible end.”

Usher

A life of creativity is not without its ups and downs: lack of time or finances, responsibilities, other dreams and desires distracting us from our work, fear, doubts, hangry-ness, mental blocks, health… you name it!

As we work, we go through cycles of excitement and enthusiasm opposed to disinterest and obstructions conspiring to stop you. Plus, haters. Copycats. And the silence of obscurity.

But despite all of the things that can stand in the way, we have a choice — either keep going, or stop.

Commitment to our creativity might be one of the hardest things we’ll face in our endeavors.(Second only too starting.)

Dedication to your craft — especially weekly or even daily dedication — creates progress and momentum that must people only dream about. While others are thinking about what they want and wish they would do, you are out in the world doing it every day.

Sticking to your creative work is the most important thing you can do to ‘succeed’ in your own way.

While everyone is waiting, you are doing.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #635

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