Pressure is Necessary

“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”

Kobe Bryant

Unless you happen to be an Astronaut and you are reading this blog from space, you are experiencing the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere is around 60 miles thick. It’s a relatively thin sheet of air, but it keeps us warm and alive. Atmospheric Pressure is due to gravity and the thickness and density of atmospheric gas. How much pressure depends on where you are standing. At sea-level, the standard amount of pressure is around 14.70 pounds (per square inch) which—for you lovely math nerds out there—is 101.325 kilopascals.

It’s interesting that we hardly notice the pressure we are under. Unless you traveled to higher altitudes like Denver or Nepal (or Mars—610 pascals give or take, less than 1% of the Earth’s value) or experience the pressurized cabin of an airplane, you’d likely never notice.

(Or maybe you keenly familiar with pressure because you are a super-nerd like me and remember those Gravity Chamber’s Goku and Vegeta trained in to get stronger in Dragon Ball Z 😉.)

Gravity isn’t the only type of pressure we face in life.

Finding a mate, figuring out what you want to do in life, doing your taxes, making money and the day to day stresses of pursuing creativity and living are all pressures we face.

Pressure is necessary for creativity and growth.

Not too much or you’ll be crushed under the weight.
Not too little or you might not feel the need to act or even fall complacent.
What we need is pasta “al dente”—not too soft; firm to bite.

The question is how to find a good balance of pressure and what to do when we feel too over-pressured?

Too much pressure for too long and we over-cook our broccoli.

When you are under a tremendous amount of stress, for example, financial stress, it’s difficult to think about anything other than that need/pressure. The problem is when we are under too much stress—and how much depends on your personal tolerance level— we focus too much on the problem instead of finding a clear solution. We’re like a person panicking in the water who can’t swim. Panic is what’s drowning us, not our lack of swimming skills. (I don’t mean to take this scenario lightly. In the moment it’s difficult to see how our panic is causing us harm and losing ourselves to fear can happen to any of us.) What we need is a way to kick us out of our stress so we can take a breath and think objectively.

We need a lifeboat. Something or someone that can save us from ourselves. Maybe for you, that’s your daily meditation or yoga practice. Or perhaps journaling in the morning clears your mind off any worries or fears that are bothering you. Whatever we choose, as long as we stick to it and double down whenever we are under lots of pressure, we can make it through.

Creatively we need to challenge ourselves to get better at what we do. Writing the same type of story or headline over and over again isn’t going to make you a better writer. Taking the same style of photos—the ones you are most comfortable with—isn’t going to make you a better photographer. Playing the same three chords—G…D…C— the same way isn’t going to make you a better guitarist.

But pushing your boundaries, seeking out knowledge, trying new things, experimenting with discomfort will make you better.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #888

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A Skill is Only Useful When You Use It

“Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.”

Leonardo da Vinci

As a developer, one of the easiest traps you can fall into is always learning new programming languages, but never using them to build things. There are over 700+ programming languages out there. What happens is you learn one, hear something exciting about a new language, and you start learning that one instead of using the first. And so we hop from one language to the next, without actually doing the thing they were each made for— to create stuff.

But it’s not just programming, anything we learn can get stuck in “learning mode”. Learning is one important part of the equation — using what you learn is the other part. Both are required. And the order doesn’t necessarily matter. You can act first and learn from those actions, or you can learn and act on what you know.

Is a skill still important if you never use it?

Perhaps. Anyone who knows how to defend themselves in a fight is grateful for their training and skills, and even more grateful if they never have to use them in a real toss-up.

But, in most cases, skills are more important if we use them. Otherwise, why did we spend so much time and energy learning them in the first place?

Knowing how to doing something isn’t enough. We must also do something.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #883

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Creative Soul

“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.”

Walt Disney

I honestly haven’t figured out yet why I enjoy creating so much. There’s a sense of wonder and joy I get every time I create something. There’s a great quote by John Lennon (from the Beatles duh) in a Rolling Stones interview that goes, “I’m an artist, man. Give me a tuba, and I’ll get you something out of it.” Perhaps creativity is built into our DNA. Does everyone have it? Probably. But it needs to be nourished.

Creativity comes in many shapes and colors, but at the heart of all true creative work is the joy of making stuff. It’s taking an idea and making it a reality. It’s following your curiosity, where it may lead.

To be creative is to be someone who lives to make stuff. Forget money, forget fame—those are only tools (and sometimes hinders) to live a life where you can create more.

I have a full-time job. I don’t have to write and work on this blog. I don’t have to play music. But then again, I have to do it. I would feel stale and less happy if I stopped. Creating isn’t all of who I am, but it’s a part of me. Some people ask why I do so many things. Why not stick to one thing and focus all your effort on that? It’s true. That does work for some. It’s not a bad idea. But that’s not me. I would be giving pieces of myself away. Pursuing multiple things takes much more effort. But the rewards outpace the effort. Idea’s cross-pollinate between the different crafts you are learning. You start to see and think differently. You start to see how things are all connected. Ideas create more ideas. Which gives you more opportunities to learn and make stuff.

You having a creative soul when you:

  • Live to makes stuff.
  • Can’t not create.
  • Find meaning and joy in creativity.
  • Always experimenting and challenging yourself.
  • Are relentlessly curious.

Curiosity is what feeds the creative soul.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #877

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You Need A Practice

It took me a long time to realize how very little of life is in our control. We go through life feeling like we are in control—until we aren’t. Something happens that shakes us. A broken arm or health issue that shows us we are not invincible. A random circumstance that knocks the wind out of us. A realization that changes how we think about the world. These are turning points that can either keep us scared or lift us to a new level of understanding.

At its fundamental level, control means having power or influence over something. With just one hand, I could count how many things I have controller over:

  1. My thoughts.
  2. My actions and reactions.
  3. What I prioritize, focus on and/or value.
  4. Where I spend my time (and other resources).

In a way, what’s in our control are all related to one another. Thoughts lead to actions, and actions show what we prioritize our time on. These give us a credible amount of agency over our lives, but at the same time we are are in the midst of things outside of our control—an island in the middle of an untamable sea. But chaos doesn’t mean we are powerless. By focusing and honing what we do control, we can handle any life circumstances that come our way.

One great way to channel what’s in our control is to start a practice. Having a practice grounds you when everything else is up in the air.

Having a practice grounds you when everything else is up in the air.

What practice(s) you do is up to you. It could be something creative, like writing, dance, pottery, painting, drawing, making youtube videos, calligraphy, guitar, etc. It could be something nourishing, like yoga, mediation, cooking, running, swimming, etc.

What matters is making it intentional. And, ideally, it’s something you put into practice daily. But I’m not yo mama. I’m not going to tell you how you should live your life. We each have our own choice here. We could go about life rocking with the ship and whatever wave hits us. Or we could learn how to sail.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #876

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Having A Practice – Steven Pressfield

Yes Yes Yes No No No

When is an idea or decision worth saying yes to? I can think of 6 ways a decision can go:

1. Yes—I would love to do this.

For the majority of the time, these are the easiest decisions to say yes to. These are the decision’s we should say yes too, but there are quite a few situations that often make saying yes to what we love extremely difficult.

The first reason is bad timing, luck or lack of self-awareness — which I’ll discuss as #4.
The second reason being fear—which I’ll discuss as #5.

2. Yes — but you want to say no.

There are our most innocent and humbling decisions. Whether out of love, force, pity or magic, we agree, but would rather say no. As innocent as they appear, these types of decisions can quickly take over our entire lives. This the number one regret of the dying, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” It’s great to help others, but if you are only living your life by the expectations of what others want for you, you aren’t making decisions for yourself or living at all.

Sometimes we say yes, but don’t know we should have said no. This is tricky because now we’ve said yes and are beholden to that choice. If there’s an opportunity to get out of it, do it. There’s no sense wasting our time on something we clearly don’t want to do. But if you’ve backed a yes with your word and reputation, see it through. We never want to waste our time, but we also want to make sure our actions also align with our words.

There’s a version of this type of yes that I’ve personally experienced. (Well, I’ve experience all 6 of these types of decisions, but this one was a real doozie.) Sometimes when you say yes, but you don’t want to (or you eventually figure out you don’t) AND then you keep doing it anyway—out of fear or obligation etc.—then you are on a short unfortunate path to burnout. There are many flavors of burnout, but one of the surest ways to burn yourself out is to continuously do something you don’t want to do.

Eventually you hit a wall and you’re body forces you to stop. That’s what happened to me anyway. My body’s response was—“Oh, I see. You’re going to keep working at this even though you know we don’t want to? The Nerve of this guy. He think’s he’s the boss. We’ll show him whose the real boss around hear.” Don’t let yourself be steamrolled by a decision you don’t even like doing.

3. Yes — but your future self won’t.

These’s are also painful decisions, usually based around an event, agreement or project in the future. It sounds so lovely (and distant), but when the moment arrives you completely dread it to your core. Ugh! Why did I agree to this?!

The key is asking yourself what your future self would want to do. “If this thing (that I’m about to agree to) was tomorrow, would I still want to do it?

It’s great to plan for the future, but keep decision locked in the immediate.

4. No — but you want to say yes.

In essence, you wish you could say yes, but the timing isn’t right or you’ve already committed and said yes to another earlier opportunity. Decisions like these aren’t worth your time dwelling over. Stick with what’s in front of you, and keep learning about yourself and your dreams. The better we know ourselves, the more accurate we can be in our decision making.

5. No — not right now.

This is a slight variation of the last decision (#4) and again comes down to timing. There’s only so many things we can say yes too. There’s only so much time to go around. If the timing isn’t right, it’s better to say No—not right now. And try to revisit it later.

For me, there’s a million-billion things I want to learn and experiment on, but if I tried doing them all at the same time, I’d make no progress on anything (and likely go insane). This idea is often called your “not right now list”. A list of things you want to do or see, but right now you are prioritizing other things instead.

6. No — I’d rather get dirt.

Knowing when to say no might be the hardest decision of them all. But saying no is also the most exhilarating and uplifting decisions we can make. It’s easy to say yes. It’s easy to say yes to things we want to do AND don’t want to do. But it takes training and discipline to say no.

No free’s up our time.

No gives us room to think, dream and play.

No opens up more opportunities.

In a backwards, up is down, left is right sort of way, by pursuing less, we end up gaining more.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #875

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Related:

No “yes.” Either “HELL YEAH!” or “no.” | Derek Sivers

8 Ways to Say No Without Hurting Your Image | Adam Grant

Creative Soil

“If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.”

Epictetus

I recently learned that dirt and soil are not the same things. Dirt is essential dead. It’s like a grumpy college kid who only eats package ramen noodles and bagel bites — over-fertilized, under-nourished and can’t hold it’s water. Soil, on the other hand, is ALIVE. Soil is full of minerals and organic matter.

Plants that grow in soil are more nutrient-rich. Dirt can also grow plants, of course, but it takes larger and larger amounts of fertilizer and the plants have fewer nutrients.

You wonder if the same thing could be applied to us.

Where are your roots growing?
Do you feel creatively nourished?

  • Are you feeding your creative soul with good inputs (books, art, music, ideas, etc)
  • Are you challenging yourself with new experiments and skills?
  • Are you surrounding yourself with smart (cough smarter than yourself cough) creatives who are doing amazing work and want to see you succeed?
  • Are you living a life true to yourself?

The othering interesting (relevant) thing to note is dirt can be revitalized. By adding a little compost (organic matter) back to dirt, it can begin to regenerate and thrive again. 🌱

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #873

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Inspiration From:

The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: 366 Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul and Grow Your Business by John Jantsch

Squaring the Hole — How to Think Longterm in Life’s Fragility

“Youth is something I never wanna take for granted. I just want to smile and live life.”

Tyler, The Creator

I write a lot about daily habits. Doing something daily or consistently allows you to take advantage of the compounding benefit of time. We divide a year into 365 days (or 366 days on a leap year). 10 to 30 minutes of practice times 365 days = 3650 to 10950 minutes of practice. An hour is double that. As you can see, a little time invested can go a long way.

But what about if tomorrow doesn’t come? As Logic says in his song Fade Away, “Everybody gonna die, gonna go one day, maybe it’ll happen on a Monday. Driving to work and get hit by a Hyundai, f* it, let it all go one day.” Tomorrow, For all we know we could get hit by a Hyundai, of all things, and never get our chance to do and be all that we want to be.

It’s hard to say where life will take you. Usually where you would never expect, and yet somehow makes since when you back on things and line up the pieces. Most of it is out of our control. The more we can learn to accept that, roll with it and find opportunities no matter what comes our way, the happier and better off we will be.

Our thoughts and decisions are in our control. And while we can’t control everything that goes on outside of our own minds and actions, how we think and what we do place a big part in how our lives shape up.

There’s a lot of things I’d like to accomplish and experience in life. But having a vision or dream for your life doesn’t assure that it will happen. Having a dream is the first step. And making it happen is the second step. But somewhere in that undisclosed middle, a lot can happen.

1. We let fear control us.

“The whole point is to live life and be – to use all the colors in the crayon box.”

RuPaul

We act out of fear. We breathe and sweat fear and failure. We do the wrong thing for the right reasons or the right thing for the wrong reasons. We avoid our dreams because there’s “always tomorrow” or because there’s always something that seems to get in the way.

2. We live by other people’s dreams instead of our own.

“Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.”

Benjamin Franklin

We live a shadow dream, as Steven Pressfield calls it in Turn Pro. It looks similar to what we want, but in reality, we’re just avoiding what we really want to do out of fear or embarrassment or not being good enough or any number of other things we convince ourselves of — all with thoughts that are supposed to be in our control.

3. Or we even chase after our dreams so hard and far that we forget to be present and enjoy our lives in the process.

“Confine yourself to the present.”

Marcus Aurelius

We get everything we want, but forget to spend time with the people we love and forget to enjoy the process towards success while we are building it. Or worse — we don’t get what we want, and we still miss out on the time and experience spent with our love ones.

But luckily, all there’s are in our domain of control — our thoughts and our actions. We can learn and train ourselves not to act out of fear, but out of abundance and beginner’s mind.

There’s room in life to enjoy the present, while also preparing and building for the future.

By living life to the fullest each day.
By taking things as they are, not as they could or should be.
By not letting fear win.
By choosing our own path.
By not letting our dreams consume us.
And by living a little when we remember too.

“What really matters is what you do with what you have.”

H. G. Wells

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #872

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Applying Multiple Intelligences

“Creativity begins with an affinity for something. It’s like falling in love.”

Howard Gardner

The first time I came across the idea of Multiple Intelligences (MI) was a Creative Live course I took by Vanessa Van Edwards called Master Your People Skills. Multiple Intelligences is essentially the idea to group intelligence (cognitive power/ability) into separate modalities (particular paths of doing something) instead of seeing intelligence as this generic blob of ‘dang pretty good at stuff’. In the book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner proposed this theory of multiple intelligences and gave eight examples (meaning there could be more) of unique types:

  1. Musical-rhythmic — sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, and music.
  2. Visual-Spatial — ability to visualize things with the mind’s eye.
  3. Verbal-linguistic — storytellers. People who are are great at reading, writing, memorizing.
  4. Logical-mathematical — ability to think logically and abstractly.
  5. Bodily-kinesthetic — dancers. Athletes. Actors. control over your body. Great sense of timing, response, and clear physical action
  6. Interpersonal — conversationalists. A sensitivity to other people’s feelings and moods. The ability to sway others in a particular way.
  7. Intrapersonal — self-aware. A strong understanding of yourself and what makes you, you.
  8. Naturalistic — in-tune with the natural world.

Don’t think of these as separate or fixed silos we fall into. Like the Enneagram, we might gravitate towards one or more intelligence over the others. For example, you might be better in tune with your body’s movement and what it needs, where as I might be able to pick up math class easily, or play songs by ear (but completely deaf to what my body is telling me). 

You could argue (and many have) that this a very subjective way of looking at intelligence and just another way to reframe ability. It doesn’t fit neatly into our educational system, as IQ does. But as a self-learner, I don’t really give a bleep about what my IQ is. I’m seeking new ways to become more knowledgeable and wiser and to fill in the gaps — and potential pitfalls — of my thinking. Can MI help make you and I a better creative? Potentially!

What’s exciting to me about the idea of multiple intelligences, is that it gives us a framework and a more focused definition we can use to learn how to get better in all the sub-modalities of intelligence. (That’s my crazy Renaissance mindset coming out.)

Each ability is highly valuable to not only learning and creativity but to all nooks and crannies of our lives. MI gives us a better vocabulary, or even a checklist to challenge ourselves with and questions to ask ourselves.

  • How can I add music practice into my life?
  • What if I started a visualization practice?
  • What makes a great story? How can I become better at communicating my ideas?
  • How can I approach my problems logically?
  • Where am I ignoring my body?
  • Who can I surround myself with to create the life I want to live?
  • Am I paying attention to myself and my needs? Do I have a good idea of who I am and what I want out of life?
  • Am I spending time in nature?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #869

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All In

Learning never exhausts the mind. Leonardo da Vinci

It’s a misconception that a renaissance human — someone who practices multiple skills — can’t be as good as a specialist who only focuses on only one skill.

Yes, It’s true that the more you divide your focus, the less amount of time and energy you can give to each. And yes, there is a limit to how many things you can pursue at once without scattered yourself in too many (ineffective) directions.

But a multi-disciplinary can be just as great if not more so that single-disciplinary individuals. Divided time doesn’t mean you aren’t putting in the hard work.

Even pursuing one skill, there’s only so much time and energy you can give to something before you need to stop and take a break. For a renaissance type, it just so happens you’re likely going to take a “break” by jumping into another skill. You aren’t reducing work, you are adding in different work.

You can go all-in on multiple things. Not too many — there are only so many hours in the day. Try too many things at once and you won’t be able to go deep enough. (This is the jack/jill of all trades zone.)

While alive, our hearts keep beating. Our minds keep thinking. Even while we sleep our mind and body are still active.

When you are jumping from one skill to another to another, you are feeding your curiosity. The key is to pursue interests that rejuvenate you and keep you doing and learning new things. We get stale when we stay in our comfort zones instead of challenging ourselves. (That goes for both specialists and renaissance humans.)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #868

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Thinking for Yourself

“The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.”

Albert Einstein

Toothpaste — as we know it today — is a relatively modern invention. Marketed toothpaste products only became popular around WWI. Before that, you had tooth powder, usually homemade chalk, salt, charcoal or baking-soda mix. And before that Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Iraqi’s and the Japanese all had their own variations of powders. I’m sure if you knew your way around the forests or had your own garden you likely chewed on some mint leaves or neem-tree twigs now and then. But for the most part, I’m guessing beyond the lucky knowledgable few, bad teeth were a part of life. (Depending on where you lived and what your diet consisted of.)

First off: Gross.

Second: Interesting.

Of course, people weren’t exactly chugging soda and pounding processed sweets. (Sugar was only introduced to western Europeans in the 11th century.) So I imagine cavities weren’t as easy to come by as it is today, but still.

What’s interesting to me is it’s never something I really thought about, but now that I know it’s hard not to think about it. Was Alexander the Great toothless? Did Leonardo da Vinci have bad teeth? Did Amerigo Vespucci travel to the New World with a set of chompers that looked like a craggy coast?

Did anyone care? There were no cameras. Glass mirrors weren’t invented until 1835. I suppose people did what they could, dealt with a bad tooth when they had too, and considered it a fact of life.

What’s really eye-opening is when you think about what we for granted or consider normal today.

What are things we assume are facts of life, but only our current reality?

What do we consider normal that could be improved? What are problems so normal everyone assumes they also have and also will be there?

Ideas build on top of ideas that have come before.

But ideas also come from thinking outside of what’s normal.

I think it’s safe to say to never assume anything.

Thinking for yourself requires you to test all assumptions. Is up really up? Is down below us or above? What if up is both down and up at the same time?

By the time we come into our own, we are taught a lot of facts about the world we live in. Our family, friends, culture, and environment all have an influence on us. This influence is not inherently good nor bad. In some ways, it’s both. We take on the ideas of others. We take on the beliefs of others. We are shaped by what happens to us. Again, none of this is necessarily bad.

But if we want to be our own person. We need to start thinking and feeling our way through life for ourselves. Thinking for yourself is choosing to believe what you believe because you decide to believe it. It’s choosing to intention to think things through. It’s working out conclusions, It’s deriving equations and looking at the source material for yourself, instead of just memorizing the facts. It’s a curiosity for the world and for who you are.

This is the path of great thinkers.

Learning to think for ourselves is the beginning of exceptional work.

Bad teeth or clean.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #867

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