Focus Pocus

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

Mark Twain

Focus looks a lot like this:

  ><

Focusing in. > and getting distracted by something. <

> We get super excited about a new idea or something new we are trying…

< And then we lose focus. the ‘new car’ feeling fades. Other ideas pop up. Birthdays, parties…. Wednesdays get in the way. And the cycle repeats. We jump to something else to focus on. > And then we lose interest.  <

But what if we tried a different approach next time? It’s natural to lose focus on a goal after a while. It’s okay to lose your steam. It happens to us all. The way forward is to recognize that being focused and unfocused is a part of learning and creating. 

Once you see it, you can take a breather — go for a walk, grab lunch with a friend, do something else you love — and then refocus back to the goal at hand. 

The best kind of focus looks like this:

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STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #813

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Wandering Every Direction

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Thomas A. Edison

Distractions are everywhere — in ever-increasing quantity no less. (As the Universe expands, so does distractions.) Anything that can pull you away from your creative pursuit, will.

Of course, not everything that pulls you away from your art is a distraction per se. Anything that nourishes your creativity, for example, gives you the motivation to do better and inspires you to new ideas. Time with your significant other, friends or pet isn’t distractions either. Spending time with people you love is what life is about. It rejuvenates the spirit. Creativity is important but more important than love? I don’t think so. Building an empire is not worth it if you are doing alone, for yourself.

The question you need to reflect on is where is the majority of your time going?

Do you spend every spare second of your time filling it with watching something, social media or even reading? Are you spending ALL your time with your friends? Are you hanging out with people 24/7 just to procrastinate your art?

It’s okay to become complacent through distractions. It happens to the best of us. The key is seeing when you’re distracted and reining your focus back in.

If we don’t make time for the things that we love, who will?

No-one is going to write your book for you. No one wants to make your album. No one will pick up your camera and do the work on your behalf — you have to do it yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #812

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Creative Nourishment

“Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

C.E.M. Joad

Whenever I go on vacation, I can’t wait to pig out. I try not to make the entire trip about eating, but time off quickly degrades to pizza and ice cream feasts. However, by the time vacation is over, I’m craving greens. Just feed me a plate full of broccoli, please. 

Why is that? It isn’t because of the taste, although I enjoy the taste of high quality, well-cooked healthy food. The reason I’m craving healthy food after days of debauchery is that I know what it feels like to be healthy. You feel good on a whole foods diet. You have more energy, more confidence, and more clarity.

I think the same principles apply to creativity.

A lack of new ideas is a sign of creative malnutrition. A lack of good ideas is a sign of atrophied creative muscles. 

A lack of new ideas is a sign of creative malnutrition.

Look at what only eating chips and soda does to your mind and body — you never hear anyone call someone a couch broccoli, just a couch potato. Eating only fast food quickly depletes our body’s ability to create optimal energy. Because we don’t eat right or move right, we don’t feel right.

Consuming only creative ‘junk-food’ does the same thing — it quickly drys up all your ideas, or at least your ability to find great ones. 

I’m not saying you can’t enjoy creative ‘popcorn’. We all have our guilty pleasures (or just pleasures) that we like to enjoy. But only enjoying popcorn isn’t good for your creativity.

Surround yourself with a variety of creative ideas. Study history. Read poetry. Learn to dance. Fall down the rabbit hole of inspiring biographies. Learn what negative space is in architecture. Learn what psychologists think about happiness. Start a company. Start a band. Study David Lynch films. There is so much fantastic creative energy out there. And it’s waiting for you to discover it and be inspired by it.

Eat your veggies.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #811

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Give & Take (Creative Tennis Part 2)

“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Another way tennis reminds me of creativity is how the game is played. The game has a give and take. You hit the ball across the court and your opponent hits it back on your side of the court.

Creativity is a give and take. If all we do is pump out content without also consuming other creative work, our ideas will inevitably become stale.

If creativity is a furnace, experience and inspiration is the coal. By experiencing life firsthand, you will notice and be inspired by your journey. That’s why travel is so impactful — it allows you to get out of your life and experience other life outside your normal.

And by surrounding yourself with creative ideas and different ways of thinking, pieces of those ideas will inspire you to new ideas.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #810

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Making it Look Easy (Creative Tennis Part 1)

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

Michelangelo

Creativity reminds me of tennis. I played tennis in high school. Double’s was always my favorite. My friend Cameron and I were unstoppable (at least that’s what my memory tells me) with our powers combined. Our secret was we cared enough to have fun but didn’t take ourselves too seriously. I don’t think either one of us was the best when it came to singles. I can play, but I wasn’t putting in the hours of training and practice as some players do. There’s skill involved with tennis and any sport for that matter. From the bleachers, it looks like you’re just smacking a fuzzy yellow ball with an oversized ping pong paddle, but if you know the game there’s a lot going on for the players. Accuracy, speed, agility, coordination, balance, power, cunning, action and reaction, and — of course — the mental gameplay.

The same is true for your creative pursuits. There’s a lot of skill and thought to go on behind the stroke of a pen, the strum of a guitar or the footwork of a dancer. Professionals make their art look much easier than it is. Anytime you hear of an idea so simple you wish you would have thought of it, you are seeing a professional* at work (*most of the time anyway :). Experience is lost to the untrained eye. If you see something that looks easy, it likely isn’t. The same is true when the tables are turned. When your art feels easy, you reached a level of skill and insight that most don’t actually have.

It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come and how much we know about a certain skill or subject. Usually, because we are so engrossed in it on a day-to-day basis, and are surrounded by others who have similar skills. One conversation with someone who doesn’t do what you do will immediately highlight how much you know about what you do. And one conversation (or class) with an expert on what you do and you’ll see how little you actually know about what you do. Art and skill are a continuous spectrum of discovering new things and unlocking wisdom through time and practice. Even the creatives at the top of their game continue to learn and experiment with better ways of creating. We can learn to make it look easy too with a commitment to our craft and longevity in our practice.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #809

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Head Games

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Creativity is 90% head games.

Sure, we have to act on our imagination to make it real. But the biggest thing that holds us back (or elevates us higher) is how we think.

Thinking touches every aspect of what we do. Even when we are not actively thinking about it, our brains are thinking about it for us.

What is procrastination but thinking you don’t have what it takes or thinking you’d rather do something else instead? What is a distraction but us thinking and processing the world around us? What is creative fear but mental uneasiness with the unknown and doubt about ourselves?

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Alice Walker

That’s why habits and rituals are so important. They give us the opportunity to get us out of our heads so that we can focus on creating. When you streamline everything around your creative habit, you remove all the head games that can derail you from doing the work.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #806

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Focus is a Sharp Blade

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

The more things you focus on, the more dull you’re focus gets. Imagine how impactful and effective your actions would be if you were to focus all your creativity on one thing.

This is something I often struggle with because I interested in so many things.

focusing all of my time and energy on just one thing feels (for me personally) only cutting bell peppers with my blade and nothing else. I’d get really good at cutting and eating peppers, but I sure would be bored out of my mind.

A healthy balance of creative pursuits is the best answer I have at the moment. Taking on a handful of key interests and ideas, but also not doing too many at the same time. Trying to do all things is a fine way of doing nothing.

It’s okay to put things on hiatus or even sunset projects if they aren’t providing enough value or joy in your life. In fact, every time you do, you’re sharpening the blade.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #805

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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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How to Have Better Ideas

“A solid routine saves you from giving up.”

John Updike

Before I started writing every day, I would inevitably do it sporadically. I intended to write when inspiration struck — which I assumed would be frequently — but in reality, I rarely put pen to paper. Perhaps I squeezed out a handful (tops) of mediocre blog posts in a year. The interesting thing about inspiration is doesn’t find us, we have to go out and seek it. It wasn’t until I committed to writing daily that I started having better ideas.

You would think habit would stifle creativity, but it does the opposite. Creating a daily routine gives us structure and our imagination breathing room to run wild. It’s the foundation we need to create consistently.

Not that quantity of work is what I’m after, however, the quantity of work typically leads to quality.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Maya Angelou

Quantity leads to quality.

The more we do something, the better we get at it (as long as we aren’t phoning it in of course) and the more ideas we have. It’s a number’s game. One great idea out of ten so-so ideas might seem like a poor average, but if you keep creating them then those great ideas start adding up. Digging up nine stumps isn’t so bad if the ten trees grow into a massive orange tree of impact and wealth (and not just financially).

Of course, we’re not trying to grow stumps. We’re trying to grow trees. So the more we practice the better we will be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #800 ✨

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Perfection’s Lie

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”

George Orwell

“Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time.”

Voltaire

Perfection is one of the biggest lies we can follow when it comes to creativity. Not only does it stifle our curiosity and desire to create, it also hinders our originality.

We want our work to stand out and be special. Even when we are starting, we want to create good art. But in the beginning, our tastes often don’t match reality. Most people feel down or even quit when they see someone do something better than they can. Or when their work is criticized. But sucking is part of the process to getter better at what we do. Seeing your work evolve and grow over time is a special part of pursuing creativity (whatever medium of creativity that may be).

Imperfections make creativity unique.

Imperfection shows how difficult it is to master a skill. It shows us the human behind the work. It shows us how players on top of their game make it look ‘easy.’

And criticism is part of the experience too. The key is knowing when the critic’s words are intended to tear you down, or build you up.

And criticism is part of the experience too. The key is knowing when the critic’s words are intended to tear you down, or build you up.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #799

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