Unyielding Gutsiness

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

There will be many occasions when all that separates you and your goals is a gutsy move. Being gutsy is doing what others won’t. Not forcefully. Not stupidly. Just doing it.

It starts with a queasy jittery uncomfortable buzzing feeling that comes from within. Part fear, part anxiety, part excitement. Some people feel it in the pit of their stomach right before they ask someone out. Others feel it when their heart starts to flutter before giving a speech. Whatever flavor you have, it typically shows up before you do something that may fail, or that makes you stand out from the majority. It’s a feeling that doesn’t go away—it’s something you get used to with practice.

What I find most interesting about this feeling is that it happens before we’ve made a move. Like it’s calling us forth, and testing us—are you gonna go through with it, or are you gonna back down?

I’ve backed down many times, and it doesn’t feel good. You know you should have done or said something but you didn’t. Next time though. I can’ t think of one time I regret listening to my intuition and take a gutsy action. Even when it didn’t work out as I wanted it too, I still learned something about myself and was able to work my discomfort zone muscles.

If you are looking for an extraordinary life, think of it as a compass for what you should do. As the Novelist, Chuck Palahniuk has said, “find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.”

Follow what scares you. With every bold action you may take, you are adding a little more originality and resilience to your character. Because it takes guts to think differently.

If you want to be gutsier, you have to practice being gutsy. Feel the fear. Revel in it. Then make your move.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #926

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Creative Plateaus

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”

Epictetus

On your journey in pursuing your dreams, you’ll occasionally experience moments where you feel like you are making no progress at all. You’re keeping up with your practice and you’re putting in the hours, but you’ve reached your current limit.

Plateaus typically occur when we’ve used and leveraged all the resources and ideas that we know and we’ve reached a point of uncertainty. We are putting in the hard work but we are not seeing the results we were previously seeing. How do I get better at what I do? How do I reach that next level? Should I or should I do something else?

Plateaus are defining moments. They allow us to prove how committed we are. Things have slowed down, and/or your interest has waned— will you keep moving forward or will you give up? 

Sometimes all it takes is us to keep going. In this case, the plateau is a mind game. We are making progress, but the results are adding up so subtlety we often miss them. But if we stay consistent, our small improvements will eventually add up to something noticeable.

If consistently isn’t making any headway, then we need to change our approach. We could take on the challenge from a different angle by testing our assumptions and trying new things. Who’s done this before and what habits, traits, questions, and actions did they use to find a way forward? We could also reproach the fundamentals. We were a beginner when we started, so there’s likely a lot of things we missed the first time. Mastering the basics raises us to a new playing field. 

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #925

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Balanced Freedom

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”

Thomas Merton

I think personal freedom most of us want—the flexibility to do whatever we want when we want it—isn’t what truly gives us freedom.

True freedom is a balance between flexibility to create the life you want, and constraint and challenge to do so by our own hands rather than something given or easily bought.

Without challenge, life feels dull. Too much challenge (at once) and life becomes unbearable. Personal freedom lies within those boundaries.

This plays out on the micro-level of life as much as the macro.

I love reading and I think I want an infinite amount of time to read, but I’d probably burn myself out if that’s all I did. 

I love traveling, but if all I did was travel I would eventually feel like a ragdoll.

I desire more wealth, but if all I did was work I would have no life outside of work. 

Like everything in life, too much of anything has diminishing returns and becomes harmful. Absolute freedom leads us to Netflix in chill our way to oblivion. it’s the equivalent of having a diet of only eating ice cream. Not only is this harmful, but its also increasingly satisfying.

All this to say, that a balanced life is more than just work, or more than just your art, or more than just your friends or just your family. 

A life in balance is all these things and more. Failure needs success. Loneliness needs love. Money needs a purpose. Happiness needs contentment. (Yin needs Yang.) And vice versa.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #921

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Test What You Think You Can’t Do

“Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also.”

Marcus Aurelius

“Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness.”

Marshall McLuhan

I’ve never had a good experience by making a decision based on an assumption. Assumptions are guesses, backed only by our own wish for how things should be. 

Assumptions are lazy decisions, or better yet, non-decisions. They are subtle and get us into more trouble than in many ways:

“I assumed you emailed them already.”

“Oh, I assumed you would go to the store to pick up what we needed.”

“I assumed you wouldn’t mind / I assumed you wouldn’t care. /I assumed you already knew.”

And it’s not just assumptions we have about others but assumptions we have about ourselves:

“I’m not confident enough to ask her/him out on a date.”

“I’m too old to learn a new language.”

“I’m too poor to start my own company.”

“I’m not smart enough / talented enough / pretty enough / brave enough … etc.”

But just because we assume something, doesn’t make it the truth. In fact, it’s likely the opposite that’s true.

If you think you can’t do something, there’s only one way to find out for sure —

Test it. 

Experiment. Give it the proper time to make sure. Spend a weekend testing one assumption. Go for a full week. Try a month. Make sure. Because otherwise, you are living your life by jumping from one guess to the next.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #915

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Wishful Thinking

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

George Bernard Shaw

“Some of the worst mistakes of my life have been haircuts.”

Jim Morrison

Reimagining your past is a slippery ledge. We’ve all had those thoughts. “Ah, if only I could go back and not say that…”, “Why did I stay so long at that job (why did I stay so long with that person), now look where I’m at…”, “I wish I could go back, I would relive it so much better than I did.” These types of thoughts keep us stuck in the past and away from the present and future. It’s applying negativity plus 20/20 vision to our imperfect selves.

Of course, just saying “don’t do it” isn’t very helpful. 

Half the time I don’t even realize I’m dwelling in unhelpful thoughts. My mind wanders and I slip into wishing things could have been different. But at the end of the day, they can’t. And sometimes that’s painful. But I can start doing something about it now. I can be better next time.

I find it helpful to remind myself that I’m far from perfect and no one is. Anyone who looks perfect just has a really great social media team behind them photoshopping out the mistakes.

We must learn to look forward and be hopeful, despite what has happened to us, or what is happening to us. I’m not talking about painting the future as all sunshine and happy kitten yawns. (That only applies wishful thinking towards the future.) Rather, knowing things will most likely turn out okay, and knowing that we’ll inevitably make a few more mistakes along the way, and that’s okay too. Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.”

There’s always a way forward, even if you don’t like it. Not liking it doesn’t make it go away; It only keeps you planted where you are. If you don’t like it, find a different way. Just don’t dismiss reality for fantasy. Ground yourself, find a silver lining, and then optimistically pick yourself up and keep going.

”Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.”

Billy Graham

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #908

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Practice #1: Do The Verb

Note: This is a post pulled from my premium monthly email publication, Practices. Practices the sister publication to Considerations. Where Considerations is about creative inputs, Practices is about creative output. If you are looking to up your game, sign up for Practices.


A few years ago, I was fed up with myself. I was constantly droning on and on about wanting to be a writer (likely to the annoyance of everyone around me). My heart was in the right place, but I just wasn’t doing it.

I had recently started a blog, Renaissance Man Life (which is now Renaissance Life) around the goal of writing more and my main goal of being multidisciplinary. The problem was I wasn’t writing.

I would tell myself that once inspiration struck, I would write something worthwhile and post it. But inspiration rarely came—if at all.

I was doing a lot of dreaming, but not a whole lot of doing.

I finally had an epiphany on how to resolve this after I started my podcast around creativity and mastery, and noticed a pattern between some early guests on the show.

Josh Green (@permanentrecorddrums) a musician, mentioned how he improved his skills by creating and filming a daily drum groove for a year.

Travis Knight (@travisknight), illustrator and designer, did something similar by drawing a “creep” monster every day for years.

After hearing their stories (and also being influenced by Seth Godin’s work) I decided to start writing a blog post every day.

Today, I’ve written 900+ consecutive blog posts and counting. Not only am I writing more and honing my writing skills every day, but I also feel like a writer.

Have I written a best-selling book yet? No. But each blog post is a step towards achieving that goal.

It’s impossible to be a writer if you never write.

That goes not just for writing, but for any craft you want to become great at.

Are you a musician if you don’t practice?

Are you a potter if you don’t sculpt clay?

Recently I came across this quote from Austin Kleon that summarizes the essence at what I’m driving at:

“If you want to be the noun, first do the verb”

The noun and the verb – Austin Kleon

Or in other words, if you want to be something, you have to go do it.

Of course, you don’t have to go out and start a daily habit like me. Writing daily is just what works for me personally and helps build momentum. You can just as easily work on your craft on the weekend, or weekdays after hours.

The key is to start.

If you want to be something, go do it.

Reflection: What’s one thing you want to do that you can start doing today?

“Practice yourself, for heaven’s sake in little things, and then proceed to greater.”

Epictetus

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #904

Note: This is a post pulled from my premium monthly email publication, Practices. Practices the sister publication to Considerations. Where Considerations is about creative inputs, Practices is about creative output. If you are looking to up your game, sign up for Practices.

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Thriving in Uncertainty

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

To say there’s a lot of instability and uncertainty going on in the world is a top ten understatement of the decade.

Whether you have been affected directly or are sweating from the sidelines, a lot of what’s happening is outside of our control.

The difficulty of any problem we face is not letting fear and panic control us. Within every problem, there are two things happing simultaneously. There’s the event—your business is hurting, your finances are rocky—and then there’s our mind piling on worry and fear.

One of my favorite quotes by Amelia Earhart hits upon this —

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”

Fears are paper tigers.

Perhaps what you are going through is as bad as you think, or maybe it’s not bad at all but you’re panicking nonetheless. The question you must ask yourself is are my fearful or negative thoughts making it better or worse?

There’s a lot that can stop us, but the biggest culprit is usually ourselves.

The key to thriving in uncertainty is focusing on what in our control, not the things out of our control.

Everything that’s uncertain hasn’t happened. And if we strategize and take necessary precautions, it likely never will happen.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #889

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A Losing Game

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”

Lyndon B. Johnson

Not every loss is a loss. Nor every win a win. Winning in the short term doesn’t assure victory in the long term. Sometimes we get so caught up in succeeding that we don’t realize we are playing a losing game.

Are you winning a losing game?

A place where you feel like you are in too deep to quit? Where you’ve sunk too much time and money to quit now. You are playing a losing game.

A losing game is anything that’s not worth your time and effort. They usually come in shiny packages and promising potentials but at a cost. Trying to win an argument at all costs between a friend or partner, for example. Sure, your words are convincing, but what have you really gained in the process? Respect? Admiration? Not likely. Or how about choosing a safe career over the one you really want. Even if you do well, will you feel satisfied?

Not everything you could do is worth doing.

It’s okay to lose. Losing is part of life. When you lose, keep getting back up.

The key is knowing when to quit and when to keep going.

  • Are you ignoring/dismissing signs that it’s not meant to be?
  • Is your timing off? Are you not seeing traction?

Quit. Try again. Try something different.

  • Is it something worth fighting for?
  • Are you gaining value and experience?
  • Is it worth your time and energy?

Then Keep going.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #889

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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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Don’t Force It

Friction. That’s the word I would describe the feeling I get when I’m trying to solve a problem with force. Another choice could be agitation. I feel agitated when I dealing with an issue that seems to have a mind of its own and doesn’t want to be solved.

The feeling is like being the Kool-aid man and jumping through a brick wall only to find another wall blocking your way. That probably makes zero sense.

Here’s an example, just now—literally as I was typing this post out—my laptop froze and reset. I turned it back on but it looks like my laptop cable is dead. Now I’m using my phone to finish. This is just a tiny example, but a comedically timed one.

Have you experienced this type of problem before? Maybe you’re trying to drop off a package at the post office, but every traffic light conspires to prevent you from getting there. Red light. Red light. Red light. Or maybe you’re working on a project at work and nothing is going your way. Where every obstacle is blocking you from doing what you are trying to do.

The problem itself doesn’t matter, what matters is how we handle it. In my experience, brute forcing it never helps. It just leads you to make irrational decisions that take you nowhere fast.

Expecting things to go our way was our first mistake.

Honestly, sometimes the best solution is to sleep it off if you can. A fresh mind can give you a vastly different perspective and level of energy to handle anything.

If that’s not doable, then taking a break is the next best solution. As they say, time heals all wounds— even the dumb ones. Go for a walk. Go ride your bike or run off the frustrations.

By force, we get more stuck and agitated. But by taking things calmly and focusing less on brute effort and more on presence, the more we flow.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #881

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