Where You End The Story

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” — Oscar Wilde

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” — Carl Jung

Sooner or later, you learn that you aren’t the center of the Universe with a capital ‘U’ but you are the center of your life. Life happens at you, for you, around you, against you, through you, adjacent to you, and stays with you, present, past, and future. But how we view things decides a lot about how happy and full we are.

Our attitude and perception is a window to reality.

The more we think a certain way, the more that attitude reflects on our reality.

But if we look past ourselves, interesting ideas emerge.

Mistakes become moments of grace. Weaknesses become strengths. Decisions become separate from outcomes. Luck becomes neither good nor bad—just another verse in our story.

Yeah, a couple of bad decisions might have led you where you are today, or a little bit of good (or bad) luck played a big role in who you are, but that’s just the story so far. In a certain light, every ending becomes the start of something new (I’m probably stealing that line from somewhere).

A good life is not about removing all bad days, rather, having an better average of good days over the bad, and not letting the bad days erase the good ones.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1230

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What to do When you Get Derailed

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”Winston Churchill

It’s really hard to get back on top of things when you get derailed.

You build up all this momentum—finally working out consistently again, or making progress on an idea, or two weeks of taking an online coding class—then something gets in the way and whoosh—you face plant.

I find it helpful to think of failing and being inconsistent with a habit (or goal) as part of the process. It reminds me of meditation. The goal isn’t to remove your thoughts, but be aware that you are thinking them, and then going back to your breath.

The goal of any habit isn’t to do it perfectly, the goal is to stick to it, no matter what. (Including messing up or missing a day.)

Actually the goal of any habit isn’t the habit at all, it’s what the habit does for us. Every habit, good or bad, creates an outcome. Journaling every day has it’s day-to-day benefits, but the true benefit is having years worth of your own thoughts and ideas you can look back on and let guide you forward.

Getting lazy (or more likely overbooked) and skipping a week of working out or practicing your code isn’t going to do you any favors, but it’s not a dead end either. Fail, get back up. Fail, try again.

The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to keep going.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1215

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Forever Young

I’ve been recently trying to learn Japanese. I love the language and Japanese culture, but it’s quite difficult to learn so far. Words and foreign symbols slip quickly from my mind.

It’s fun to learn something entirely new. Something you don’t have a clue about, let alone how to go about doing it.

It’s also frustrating, but it’s a good frustration. The kind of frustration that lights your brain and challenges you to think differently.

It’s so easy to get stuck performing the small skills, at the same level of knowledge, without desiring to learn new things.

Part of seeking mastery is the discipline of sticking to something long to see it grow.

Being young is separate from aging. It’s possible to be old and yet full of life.

But most are aged and old.

I think many people grow old mentally as they age because of their unwillingness to learn new things. They get stuck in their ways, and because they are stuck they lose their sense of wonder and curiosity that makes us youthful.

That’s why it’s vital for us to always be seeking out new skills in addition to improving in our tried and true skills.

No one wants to be the old curmudgeon yelling at the neighborhood kids to quit playing in his yard and complaining about everything plus the rain.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1196

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Analysis Paralysis

It’s so easy to build something up in your mind.

You loop a possible negative scenario in your head so much that you start to believe it (before it happens.) You create an entire business empire around an idea before you even put pen to paper.

This ability to think long-term and dream up the future is one of the reasons why humans are so imaginative and innovative.

Aimed the wrong way, we can get stuck in our head, too overwhelmed to start.

But if we want to make something of ourselves, then we can’t get stuck on the starting line.

Remind yourself—

  • Everything big starts small. From a tiny sapling to an idea.
  • Over-preparing is only beneficial if you put your knowledge into practice.
  • A nothing-burger can’t be eaten—an idea can’t be useful unless it’s built. Most ideas start off as “good enough” or even “mediocre” ideas until they are honed and iterated on over time. Or put another way, it’s better to shoot your shot than to get caught holding the ball when the buzzer goes off.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1194

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Hard-won Lessons

“A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”

B. F. Skinner

If I had the opportunity to peer into a crystal ball and see my future, I don’t that I would. Because some of my best moments have come from my worst failures. And if I knew how hard I would fall and scrape my knees (metaphorically speaking), I’m not sure I would be strong enough to choose failure.

For me, that was learning how vital health is by dealing with the damage of injuring my neck.

I would never wish misfortune and hard lessons on anyone, but they often are the most rewarding lessons we can experience in life. Well, that is if we humble ourselves enough to bend to their insights. (There are plenty of people out there who fail and fail again but never learn and use their mistakes to their advantage.)

But how to move forward after failure? How to move forward after your life falls apart like a sugar cookie in a zip lock bag being crushed by your grade school bully?

You move forward by starting over and by picking yourself up and trying again. Because that’s what life is—a cycle of “trying agains”. Even success ebbs and flows.

There’s never a moment of “making it.” There’s always the next level. Even Oprah and The Rock are aiming for something. Of course, it’s when you think you’ve made it that you start to un-make it. Casey Neistat has a great vlog on this, My Biggest Failure. The worst thing you can do when you fail (or succeed) is nothing.

Earn your failures by turning them into momentum.

And when you are in the midst of despair, look for the good—shift out the dirt and debris and find the gold in your situation. There are no easy answers in difficult circumstances, only hard-won lessons.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1188

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Transitioning

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Viktor E. Frankl

Although it may not feel like it (especially when you are stuck at home every day) change is continuously flowing around us.

Often the last thing to change is our realization (or awareness) that is has.

We experience life in daily rhythms, and remember life in packaged seasons and defining moments.

Change reminds me of time, it’s not quite tangible but it’s something that has its hooks in everything. It’s relative to the idea of the observer.

To me, high school feels like three lifetimes ago, and yet also it feels like it was yesterday.

That’s how change is. It’s slow and yet also instantaneous.

One minute you are one person, and the next minute you are someone different.

Personal change starts in the mind.

Earlier last year, I was in a mental funk. It happens from time to time (usually when I’m tired and/or overwhelmed). I spent a full two weeks in a negative/critical mood. Not really toward others, but towards my self, my own circumstances. But that changed instantly when I decided to flip my mindset on its head and seek out the good of my circumstances. Nothing had changed. My reality was the same. I was likely just as tired and overwhelmed that day. And yet everything shifted. Because my mind had shifted.

Embracing change is embracing your present moment. It’s letting go of your past mistakes and creating a better future by making better decisions today.

It takes time to make true personal change happen—we often have to overcome years of effort in the wrong direction and poor habits—but it also happens immediately when we decide to do it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1184

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Staying in Tune

“Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded.”

Jimi Hendrix

I started playing guitar in middle school. “Playing” is a generous way to put it. I owned a guitar and would mess around. I picked up a few things from a friend and my grandfather. But I was just a guy who owned a cheap guitar. I even took a lesson… once. Maybe twice.

It wasn’t until high school, where I started really falling in love with playing piano when my interest in guitar became more than a passing fancy. I still didn’t really know any of the theory, but I trained up my hand dexterity, ears, and overall feel for the guitar to come up with interesting rhythms and tunes.

One thing about guitars is they never stay in tune. The newer the strings, the more quickly they’ll un-tune themselves. Tuning is a ritual you always need to be cognizant of and constantly check on. Otherwise, the sound will be off and the strings won’t work well together sonically.

It’s also worth noting that there’s more than one way to tune a guitar. Standard Tuning (EADGBE) is just one among of many.

I find this
Tuning is a great metaphor for a lot of things in our lives.

Ambition. Learning new skills. Competition. Priority. Interest. Relationships. Love. Values. Work.

Each aspect of our lives has a certain frequency that works for us. Sometimes we are in tune and sometimes we are out of tune.

For example, when we are learning a new skill, we start with a mountain of enthusiasm and energy. We see people who have mastered a craft and want to be good at it too. As we begin our journey, and time goes on, our enthusiasm waxes and wanes from excitement to boredom, or from having fun to overworked.

The same is true for love. In the beginning, everything is butterflies. But as time goes on, things go from learning about each other to growing and experiencing life together.

And, like everything else, things can get out of tune if you aren’t checking in on it.

We stop learning a new skill because we get distracted by another one, or our goal—our reason for learning—gets unclear and out of tune. Our relationships become repetitive. Our drive to compete diminishes because of losing or lack of motivation.

But just like a guitar, all we need to do is retune.

We do that through genuine intention, action, and care.

You must constantly periodically return to yourself. Your values. your vision. your priorities.

Reaffirm what’s important to you.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1176

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Markable

For over eighty percent of my life (I’m currently thirty) I wouldn’t dare think of writing or underlining in a book. I even loathed opening a book to wide, hating the idea of messing up its pristine structure. Folding a book halfway was blasphemous. I know, I was weird (aren’t we all).

I honestly don’t know where this quirk came from. I just really had the desire to take care of my stuff, and treat my books like they were brand new.

Now I’m the opposite. My younger self would feel whiplashed from the amount of underlining and writing I do in my books. The flip was a gradual process, but there were three defining moments shot me out of the canon.

One was a simple thought: there are thousands—sometimes even millions—of copies of books. My scribbling in a hardback now-and-again isn’t going to marginal have much of a difference.

The second defining moment was learning about the marginalia libraries of grand figures, such as Isaac Newton and Oscar Wilde.

And this leads us to the final defining thought: writing, highlighting, and underlining is like a time capsule of your mind and life at a particular time. And every time you revisit a book, you are layering in another version of who you are in a given moment. By writing out thoughts and underlining passages that stand out to you, you are leaving a lasting impression of who you are for your future self.

Does that mean I’m going to scribble in my signed copy of The Name of the Wind? No! Of course not. But I am going to use the books I own and get the most meaning out of them as I can.

Marking up your books is a small thing, but it highlights (pun intended) a big idea:

Making your mark doesn’t require permission.

Perhaps it used to, before the internet age. But now, anyone can pursue an idea or passion and share it with the world. Of course, being able to share doesn’t mean everything is high-quality. Put it does give us a direction to setting higher standards for ourselves and going after big ambitions.

If there’s something you dream about doing, what’s stopping you?

Are you stopping yourself?

What if you got out of the way?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1167

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On Being Better

Better is the tension between being okay with accepting where you are and yet driven to live up to a higher calling and ideal code.

But live up to what, exactly?

That depends on what you value and gravitate towards.

For example, perhaps let’s say you value simplicity and clean design.

Then it’s looking at breaking down every single little piece of thing into it’s smallest components and removing the inessential pieces. In this case, Better, in this case, is creating something simple, but not over-simple, clean, but not devoid of it’s intent.

Let’s say you value communication and want to be better at community and connecting with others. Then learning storytelling, emotional intelligence, social skills, humor, and (last but not least) listening are important skills to hone to be a better communicator.

Pretty much Everything is a skill that can be improved. The first step to becoming better at anything is believing that you can. After that, it’s putting in the work, turning over every rock and discovering what works, what doesn’t, and doing it because you love it.

The hardest part of pursuing better is accepting where you are. Acceptance isn’t defeat, it’s humility. And humility gives us room to grow.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1162

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Reacting to Lemons

Every year I like to buy a nice big calendar poster to keep track of my focuses and daily habits.

Last year I had just got my freshly crisp, 2020 calendar in the mail. I gently took it out of its tube and rolled it out on my bed. Brand new. Clean. Not a mark out of place. And then all of a sudden my dog comes rushing at me, excited to see me, and, of course, jumps on the bed and rips a paw print through my new calendar.

I could have been angry. I had barely looked at the thing, let alone used it! Or more likely, I could have been frustrated and let it ruin my whole day.

But I didn’t.

I had recently been reading a lot of Ryan Holiday’s work and Stoic philosophers, such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.

In that perfect moment to practice being a better person, a quote from Epictetus came to mind—

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

So instead, I rolled the calendar up, played with my pup, and later playfully labeled the holes as paw prints, hung it up, and went on with my day.

This is such a small moment, but it highlights our reactions can influence, and make-or-break the circumstances we find ourselves in.

I don’t also react well to what life throws at me, but each time I do I mark it as one more step to being the person I want to be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1147

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