Creativity & Ambition

Whenever I go to a concert or festival, I can’t help but feel that I’m on the wrong side of the stage. If you see me there, I’m the weird guy (no, not that weird guy, he’s on another level) who occasionally becomes very still and stops bobbing and dancing. It’s likely because I’m watching what the guitarist or keyboardist hands are doing. I’m picking apart the drums and synths. I’m admiring the singer’s vocal palette and the band’s synchronicity. I’m still enjoying the show, but I’m enjoying it in a different way through an artist’s perspective. If you play an instrument, you’ll likely be able to relate.

I feel the same way when seeing superb broadway or watch a film, or admire good art or outfit, or underline a great word or turn of phrase in a book. I enjoy creativity at a deep level and want to go deeper still. I can see a fuzzy outline of tendrils where different creative and mental outlets weave and interconnect. It’s like discovering a language you aren’t familiar with but have moments of clarity when words of striking similarity to your native tongue pop out and identify themselves to you.

If there’s a Grand Unified Theory of the Universe, surely there’s also a Grand Unified Theory of Creativity.

(Yeah Josh, It’s called Math 🤓 you dumb dumb.)

But what makes someone creative?

Is it a feeling? Is it in our DNA? Is it the act of creating?

What separates those that do versus those that don’t? What’s the difference between a musician who makes it to the stage and a musician who creates at home?

Not that being on a stage is everything. Nor is there anything inherently wrong with only enjoying your art alone. But there is a certain special something — certain gumption — I admire for the creatives and dreamers who put themselves out there. No, I don’t mean starting an Instagram account and slapping a logo together in Canva.

I’m talking about the folks you put in the work. The ones that get down to brass tax and put in the time and effort to pursue their creativity. The ones who go out and build a business around a product or service that means something to them and provides meaning to others. The dancers, writers, poets, bodybuilders, athletes or designers who wake up early and begin their practice.

The word Ambition comes to mind. As does belief. You have to believe in yourself, at least enough to have the courage to try and the courage to breathe out the fear and walk out on the ‘stage’.

And the antithetical ego comes to mind as well. All artists who put themselves out there in some way shape or form think they are unique and have something to offer the world. Including myself! What kind of ego do you need to have a daily blogging practice as well as another dozen practices? (A BIG kahuna.)

But at the same time, at its core, creativity has to come from a place of love. Or at least a desire to be better, to do better. I would continue to play music even if I didn’t make a dime on it. I’d continue to write and practice the craft of writing because I love it for what it is and what it gives me. An outlet. A brush to paint with. A song to sing. A beat to dance. A comic to doodle.

Not because I can create, but because I can’t not do it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #825

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“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

“Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.”

Oscar Wilde

“A man’s worth is no greater than his ambitions.”

Marcus Aurelius

Work on Yourself

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”

Malcolm X

It’s quite easy to see the flaws in other people. You have a friend that would be killing it… if only they would put in a little more effort. Or you have a parent who would be so much better off if they would stop worrying all the time about everything. Or you strike up a conversation with a randoe person and notice exactly the things they could improve.

It’s harder to see the flaws in ourselves.

We don’t see ourselves from the outside perspective. We don’t know what we don’t know. What’s easy for you to solve might be difficult for me, because we’ve experienced life in different ways through different experiences.

Although, I think people growing up today with social media might have a better sense of it, but not in a good way. Everything is styled and curated. If something’s wrong, they notice. But they don’t use it to try to improve themselves (or learn to accept their flaws as a part of what makes them who they are). Instead, we see waves of self-loathing and anxiety.

It’s alright to be flawed. No one is flawless, even the people that tell/show us they are. We all have things we are great at and things we need to work on.

One insight I found help on my journey is to think about yourself as a work in progress. If you don’t like something about yourself, then change it. If you want to be better, then be better. You are a blank canvas waiting to be painted and repainted. You can change. And you can change your mind over time too.

And if you want to help others, begin by helping yourself. Take the lead. Live the example first. Don’t just shout advice like you have a clue what you are talking about when you don’t. Give advice on what you do know, or examples of who does.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #823

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Book: Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant

Creative DNA

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

Pablo Picasso

Do you think we are born creative or grow into it?

In Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, Hugh Macleod voices “Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.” Picasso would have agreed with Hugh, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

I think it’s a little of both. Something in us feels called to express ourselves and make something. The tools and mediums change over the centuries, but the desire is still there. And we see the world (or dream worlds in our mind) and want to share it.

We look at a rolling landscape or unnoticed object in our home and feel a desire to paint or draw it.

We experience a breathtaking sunset or a particular stranger catches our eye and we can’t help but capture the moment.

Our cars have the curves of animals and insects.

Put a blank page in front of someone and they’ll want to fill it. Give someone an instrument and they’ll start to strum and noodle. The “real” world often beats creativity out of us and convinces us we can’t create and work. Society and culture tell us we’ll get made fun of if you try to draw or dance or sing but suck at it. It’s okay to suck at art and still enjoy it. Being mediocre is a right of passage. Maybe you weren’t bred to be an illustrator or makeup artist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t nurture your interest now that you can think for yourself.

It doesn’t surprise me that we are creative. Problems are a way of life and problems naturally create the opportunity for creative solutions. Problems creative opportunities create problems creatives opportunities. If you need fresh water to the home, someone is going to find a creative way to do it. And someone else is going to creatively iterate on that idea ad infinite. If you’re cold, someone will figure out a way to find warmth. If you’re hungry, someone will discover a clever way to cook/find food.

Problems naturally create an opportunity for creative solutions.

The desire to make stuff and share it with others is in our DNA, but the ability to make good art (as Neil Gaiman would say) and become masters of what we love takes hard work and patience.

If you want to be more creative — go be more creative.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #822

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Born Standing Up: A Comics Life by Steve Martin

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

Why Do We Work?

“It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.”

Benjamin Franklin

To eat? To buy nice things? To occupy our time? If you didn’t have to work another day in your life, would you able to?

Personally, I would go crazy without work. Even when I’m not working I’m working. I’m learning and making things. I’m dreaming about making other things.

Even when we are on vacation, we work. We work our way through a good book. We work on our tan. We work up an appetite after a workout. We learn and play, which are just other forms of working.

I think most picture ‘work’ as something to hate. Something they have to do to live. I know, because I’ve been there too. There was a point on my journey where I liked what I was work on, but didn’t like where I was doing it and who I was doing it with. But when I refer to ‘work’ I’m talking about the things we enjoy doing.

I think we work because we want to be somebody.

We want to make something special. We want to ‘put a dent in the universe’.

We work to be somebody.

That’s why we’re disappointed when we don’t like our job and find it dull. It’s also why we hesitate to pursue what we love. Because what if we fail? What if we are bad at it? We’d rather stick to a boring job than fail.

Work is part of who we are. It’s not all of what we are, but it’s certain a large part of our lives. Work can make you feel good too. There’s nothing quite like making things with your hands, such as woodwork or putting brush to paper. Sometimes it’s frustrating but more often than not it’s rewarding.

But if you’re working make you feel bad, then you might be climbing the wrong ladder, as they say. It happens to the best of us. You could spend twenty years climbing and only after so much time and effort you realize what you’ve been doing isn’t meant for you. That’s a difficult thing to consider. But that doesn’t mean your time was completely wasted. Some go their entire lives without realizing it. They’ve ignored their dreams in the pursuit of other things — without even noticing! Noticing you’re on the wrong path is a good thing. Catching it earlier is better, but catching it at all is better than not.

Time’s too precious to not pursue what you love. There’s too many occupations, skills and things you could do instead. Don’t waste your time doing something you hate (and/or are doing because it was there.)

Do it because you want to, not because you have too.

Do it because you want to be it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #818

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All In

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

Benjamin Franklin

How often do we neglect what we really want to do — our goals and big dreams — for little day to day tasks and needs?

We want to be more healthy and active, but we don’t.

We want to write that novel, but we haven’t.

We want to work on our business ideas, but we aren’t. 

At least not as well as we could be.

I think I’ve been avoiding my most important task recently, and instead have been playing whack-a-mole with little things I want to do instead. (And things that others want me to do.) 

I often blame my lack of time for not doing what I want to do, but my lack of time is because of me. I’m spending it elsewhere. I’m doing other things. Some of them great, but not all of them are being used where they should be. I’m prioritizing easy over hard and uncomfortable things. I’m prioritizing familiar over challenging. 

It’s hard to sit down and create something. You’ve gotta be all in during those moments. You’ve got to be **on**. It’s easier to clean the house, or watch a movie, or go out for drinks. The worst thing can happen at a movie is we pick the wrong movie and it’s not good, or we eat too much popcorn. Oh well… But there’s high stakes when it comes to creativity. Or, at least it feels like there are. We post online we’re going to train for a marathon — and don’t. We write a novel — and it sucks or worse, nobody reads it. We work on our business ideas and we fail.

But do we fail? What is failure? Rejection? Financial loss? Loss of Reputation? Where does failure begin and end?

As long as we’re still living and breathing, failure is an arbitrary division. A milestone among many. In some cases, even being dead creativity lives on. What matters is that we keep pursing. We wake up, fail and try again. 

Because big dreams are bigger than small failures. 

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #817

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Magic Pill

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

Anne Lamott

I think we are all, in some shape or form, looking for a magic pill that will finally fix us. A quick releasing capsule washed down with a glass of water to fix our skin problems. Or to fix our confidence (or lack thereof). Or to fix our gut. Or to fix our financial meltdown.

We feel as though something — something we can’t quite put our finger on — is holding us back from a better life, a better version of ourselves. It’s likely we are not even looking for a quick dose of magic. (Although if you can do it by 5pm that would be splendid thanks.) What we want is certainty. We want to know it’s possible to change. We want to know if we are doing the right thing at the right time.

But is there a right thing? Sure, we have a good sense of what’s right and wrong. But what about when something that’s right for me ends up bad for you (or vice versa)? What happens when someone else gets the job you wanted? They’re in a good place, but are you?

It’s often the case that bad things that happen to us eventually become good over time with a little more perspective. For example, you’re lost in heartache and pain over a breakup, but a few years later you meet the love of your life. Or maybe you are in pain over a breakup and you channel that pain into a work of art, like an emotionally moving song. Would you have come up with that idea if you hadn’t been through that stressful period? Who’s to say.

Hard moments can be soul-crushing. But they can also be a positive forcing function to becoming better versions of ourselves. Good things — things we think are good for us — can just as easily become un-beneficial. In, the end even the best of us are still just figuring things out as we go.

All we can really do is life. We can love like we want to be loved. We can learn from dumb things we inevitably do and grow from our decisions. We can surround ourselves with knowledge and people who are looking out for us. We can think bigger than ourselves. And as long as we get back up when we fall, we can find a way forward. It might not be quick, but it is forward.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #815

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Too Much of a Good Thing

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

Albert Einstein

Have you ever enjoyed something too much?

I’m not talking about the bad things we enjoy. Too much of a bad thing is easy. ‘Bad’ in this case, I mean unhealthy when taken to the extreme. (Alcohol for example, which is fun socially, sure, but terrible for your health and sleep, to say the least.)

But what about too much of a good thing?

If I won the lottery tomorrow and didn’t have to work, I’d probably spend all my time reading. But is that actually beneficial? Reading is a massive enhancement on your life (and livelihood) but would spending all of my time reading amount to anything? What about exercising or building businesses or traveling or drawing or communicating or school?

Extremes are the traits you want to watch out for and adjust. I think it’s safe to say too much of anything has a diminishing value. If you find yourself repeatedly only doing one thing over and over again, perhaps it’s time to find another good habit to balance it out with.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #814

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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:


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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