Step Up

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. … A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.”

“Your life is what you make of it” is one of those wise dusty phrases that’s probably existed since the birth of humanity. I know its truth, but I almost don’t want it to be true. If it’s not true then all the crap, frustration, and problems We experience throughout life isn’t our responsibility.

“Ugh. She is so lucky. She gets everything she wants.”

“What does it matter that I lost my job, it’s not like it was my fault?”

“Wow his company is super cool. I would do something like that too if my parents bankrolled it as his parents did.”

I do think luck (and it’s counterpart) exists. But not all good luck is lucky, and not all bad luck is unlucky (Put that on a fortune cookie). Timing the market is lucky (and possibly something we can hone and train). Yet, making does with what you have is luck. It’s subtle, but one is an external event, and the other is an internal one.

We don’t get to choose what life we’ve come into, who our parents are, what our culture looks like—but we do get to choose who we are.

We get to choose who we are.

Every time you step up and take responsibility for your life, you are choosing luck and choosing wisdom.

Step up.

(No—I’m not talking about the hunky Channing Tatum Dance movie called Step Up.)

Own your life. Don’t wallow in complaints, could-have-been’s, and misfortune. At the end of the day, there’s only so much time have here. At the end of the day, after all the emotions and little day to day problems we are dealing with, if we were just to look up we’d see the massive galaxy we are in, in the unfathomable universe. Our problems are important—but they’re also relatively tiny.

So what do we do?

We get up. We get going. We make the most of the day. We work even if we are still a little bit sleepy. We take care of ourselves—because that’s what we need (and that’s what we would tell our best friends to do too). And we own up to our responsibilities, and expect others to do the same. And if we fail… well, we’ll do better the next day.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #983

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Find Out For Yourself

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”

Leonardo da Vinci

One of the best ways to learn is to teach yourself. While having a personal coach or an online course can accelerate learning, it’s hard to beat hands-on experiences.

(Not that these are mutually exclusive—stacking experience on top of mentorship is a fantastic way to learn if you have the opportunity to do so.)

One pattern I’ve noticed (in myself and in others) is how easy it is to watch someone do something, like woodworking, programming, or dancing, for example, or read a great book on a particular skill, but not actually practice the skill yourself. It’s like second-hand learning. We watch a YouTube video of someone making music or handmade pasta, but we never actually get around to doing it ourselves—even though we want too! We’re already on to the next video, next course, or next book.

Lately, I’ve been trying to avoiding doing it, but in the past, I’ve gone through many books back to back without actually testing and applying them in my own life. What’s the point of reading a business book, for example, if you aren’t going to use it or at least try parts of it out? So we can talk big and be more informed? As if.

Better to not read, then read not apply.

Finding things out for yourself is part of the joy that comes from learning new things. Without experience, you lose some of the passion and drive that comes with learning. It’s the classic phrase “Use it or lose it”. Without visceral experience, our new information isn’t all that important to our brains, and will quickly fade out of our noggin’s, replaced by newer and more exciting information.

All that being said, get dirty. Practice what you learn. Test things out yourself. Cut out some paper. Practice some scales. Make it your own.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #981

Recommended Reads:

Hell Yeah or No

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True Yes

“Saying no frees you up to say yes when it matters most.”

Adam Grant

It’s not that loose threads are inherently bad or good—like many things it depends on the context. On the road to success, there will be many opportunities we could say yes or no too.

The problem is, most opportunities look pretty great! How the heck do you know what’s a good opportunity versus a bad opportunity?

Simple (..but far from easy): compare the opportunity to yourself—who you are, what you value, and what kind of life you want to have.

The question is whether it’s leading you towards or against what you’re looking for.

Is this opportunity and/or obligation distracting me from what I actually want to do?

If someone is dangling money or fame In front of you, but it doesn’t align with who you want to be, will you take it or turn it down? Tough call. Knowing what you want, no—discovering what you want through experience and practice will make tough decisions much easier.

Is this yes a true yes or more like an easy/fun distraction?

Of course, in order to answer questions like these, you have to know who you are. And, equally important, you have to learn to act on self-interest. Self-interest isn’t selfish. You can be caring and compassionate about others AND have an opinion and say what you want your life to look like.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #980

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Hell Yeah or No

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Be Impeccable with Your Word

“Words may show a man’s wit but actions his meaning.”

Benjamin Franklin

“The distance between saying you’ll help someone and actually helping them is a gap often created with the best intentions. But when we don’t bridge that gap, accountability suffers throughout the organization. Our desire to help might make it tempting to tell someone we’ll do something, but we should always be impeccable with our word .

Automattic Creed

Have you ever said you would do something, but for whatever reason you ended up not delivering?

Maybe you promised to finish a project but couldn’t keep the deadline or said yes to an event you really didn’t want to go to.

It’s a painful experience when you can’t deliver on something you agreed to. Even with the best intentions, if you can’t back up your words with your actions, then your word will lose all credibility.

It’s better to go with your gut and say no to an opportunity you know isn’t the right fit, rather than try to impress and be sorry you can’t deliver. Delivery is everything.

Don’t talk about what you are going to do, talk about what you are doing.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #973

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Clarity

“Music is powered by ideas. If you don’t have clarity of ideas, you’re just communicating sheer sound.”

Yo-Yo Ma

I often find myself needing to create even though I’m not feeling optimal. Whenever you aren’t feeling your best, there’s a wave reluctance to do, well, anything, and rather fall into the endless abyss of Reddit comments, tv seasons andor personally eat your entire pantry clean. In my experience, this is a mental block caused by physical needs. A good night’s sleep, a couple of more glasses of water, a healthy meal, and a nice long walk and I’m good to go!

But sometimes we need to make use of what we got.

We are rarely as prepared, well-rested, focused, creative, and clear as we wish we were. Yes, we need to learn to take care of ourselves more. But also I think it’s beneficial to learn to train yourself to create at a moment’s notice—despite how you feel. This can only be trained through practice—when reluctance comes over you, do it anyway. This is a very Jocko-esque mindset. Discipline equals freedom.

One insight I’ve discovered (and probably unintentional stole from someone) on my journey so far is—

Practice when the stakes are low so that when the stakes are high, you’ll be more than ready.

And when you are feeling great and full of clarity—use it while you got it! You never know when you’ll have the opportunity again. When an idea strikes you, act on it. When a song, work of art, brilliant idea, or moment of clarity comes bubbling out of you—act on it now! Don’t let it slip from your mind. When inspiration strikes—use it!

To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, Use what you got when you got it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #970

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Confidence Sandwich

“Courage is a mean with regard to fear and confidence.”

Aristotle

I find it quite difficult to jump into something new right away, like a new skill, habit, relationship, or idea.

When we start something new, it’s like we are a beginner all over again.

We’re excited, but we’re also nervous, and our confidence is unsteady.

We’re just starting out, so we’ll likely fail. And low confidence plus potential failure is a combination that usually leads us to throw up our hands and give up.

But not if you have a confidence sandwich. A confidence sandwich, or—if you prefer—a confidence burger, is stacking a low-confidence experience with two high-confidence experiences, one on top and bottom. Think Oreo—strong cookie exterior, soft gooey center.

This allows us to warm up with something that boosts our confidence, which gives us more impetus to try something new/different (aka the goal). And then we end on a high note with another confidence booster.

High confidence
Low confidence
High confidence

Or put another way —

Familiar/comfortable
Unfamiliar/new/uncomfortable
Familiar/comfortable

I use this when I’m practicing music. I’ll start with a song I’m comfortable with and have played many times. Then I’ll experiment and try new things. And I’ll end with another song I’m used to and enjoy playing.

You can use the confidence sandwich for any situation that requires an extra boost of confidence.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #962

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Choose Better

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” Eleanor Roosevelt

I constantly feel pulled by the thousands of ways I should be and should do. The world tells you to be this kind of person, while at the same time telling you to be that kind of person. Oddly enough, both this and that exist simultaneously. 

There are a thousand ways you could create a company, or film, or song, or book. There are a thousand more ways you should dress, live, eat, talk, move, and travel. And 8 billion+ people are living some resemblance of a life out there in the world.

There’s an infinite number of ways you could succeed. Just as there are countless paths you can take in this life. But ultimately, you have to do what works for you.

A thousand ways doesn’t mean a thousand equally beneficial and rewarding options. Some will work better for others—some will work better for you.

That’s the great thing about life—we get to pick and choose what works better for us based on the results we get.

What is anger getting you? Where is creativity driving you? Who do you want to be?

That being said, some universal values tend to succeed no matter what path you take:

Be good (and mean it). Being a decent human being to other human beings, showing that you care about what you do and who you serve will work wonders in your life.

Take responsibility. Own up to your life—good and bad. Don’t ignore what you dislike about yourself. Learn to love yourself, despite your flaws, and challenge yourself to be better.

Lead when the moment arises and follow when the moment arises. Sometimes we just need you to stand up and show us what to do. Other times you’ll need to be humble and follow those who are wiser and more experienced than you.

Work hard. Change when things aren’t working.

And when in doubt—sleep well, eat clean or talk to a friend.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #957

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Limiting Beliefs / Limitless Beliefs

“Expect great things, and great things will come.”

Norman Vincent Peale

“Yeah, I’m late to everything LOLs…”

That’s me. I’ve said a version of the phrase above more times than I can remember. In high school, I was late to first class so much that we (our class) started collecting my tardy slips and taping them to the wall as a joke—like a badge of honor (shame? disbelief? 🙂 to see how many I accumulated.

I try not to be late nowadays—at least when it matters. You get to a point where you realize it’s a sign of respect when you get somewhere on time because you are respecting someone else’s time. I have to fight it because as a multi-disciplinary, I have a tendency to take on too much during the day. (A topic for another day, perhaps.)

Another phrase I’ve said a lot:

“I’m terrible with direction.”

This one you still my catch me saying. I’ve learned a lot—directions aren’t one of them. It’s not that I can’t find my way around—I can tell you which direction is east and which is west—rather, I’m generalizing. The truth is I don’t bother memorizing road names or direction details. I can easily get around if I’ve been to a place before, otherwise, I couldn’t tell ya where were are or give you directions without whipping out my phone and asking my friend GPS.

There’s a huge part of our identity that’s wrapped in negative labels we adopt from others or give to ourselves.

Perhaps you weren’t aware of it until now, but once you know it, you’ll start to hear it from everyone.

“Oh yeah, I suck at math!”

“Yoga?! I’m as stiff as a board. You won’t see me bending like that”

“Cooking? You mean takeout?”

“I’m so unlucky!”

“I”m terrible at finances lol.”

It goes on and on. We wear these labels like a badge of honor, but in reality, we are just holding ourselves back from being a better version of ourselves.

The reason I’m usually bad with directions because I don’t prioritize learning it. In fact, my mindset is an action AND reaction that devalues me from wanting to be good at it.

The same goes for other negative traits we feel about ourselves.

Something bad happens—like we spill coffee on our brand new white pants—and then we mentally tell, no convince, ourselves we are unlucky. At that point, two things occur 1. We become aware of our “unluckiness”. We start seeing out validating reasons why we are unlucky to prove to ourselves we are right. And 2. we view the world through our “unlucky” mindset and start making decisions that lead us to be more unlucky.

The interesting thing is the reverse can happen too—we can convince ourselves that we are the luckiest person in the world—and find ways to validate it and we start taking action that makes it true.

In a word—we are all biased by our “badges of honor”, so to speak.

The real question is who do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be?

By thinking through the limiting believe’s you have, you can slowly begin to convert them to limitless beliefs instead.

What do you believe about yourself that isn’t doing you any favors? What can you replace them with?

What do you believe about yourself that you want to be true? What can you start doing to make that happen?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #941

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Practicing Character

“Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”

J. C. Watts

When you do something nice for others, like donating money to medical causes or treating the checkout clerk like a human being, you’re doing it out of kindness, but you are also doing it for yourself. And I don’t mean selfishly. Rather, our actions are a byproduct of our character. And the same is true said in reverse— our character is spoken through our actions.

Character and action are two way streets. What you do is a reflection of who you are. Not just what you do for a living (although that’s a piece of it) but everything you do (or don’t do).

Which means every decision is an opportunity to practice building our character.

Patience, generosity, sincerity, persistence, optimism, ambition, courage, charm, humility, encouragement— these are all things we can practice in our daily lives.

If we don’t practice them, how else would we except to get good at them? Magic beans?

One simple practice I like to do is whenever I’m leaving the grocery store, I take my cart back to the store’s entrance. It’s so tempting to unload your groceries in your car, and they peel out of the parking lot, leaving your buggy next to where you parked. What the big deal anyway? I don’t have time to bring it back. It’s someones job to gather up all the loose carts anyway. Why should I do their job for them?

Because you are doing it for youself as much as you are doing it for them.

Everything we do not only sends a message about who we are to those around us, but also ourselves.

By leaving your empty cart where you parked and driving away, you are telling yourself that you are lazy. Alternatvely, by taking the cart back to the store’s queue, you are telling yourself you are hard-working and not to mention caring to boot.

The same is true for anything we do. Holding the door for others. Not letting our angry control us when someone cuts us off or someone loses their temper. Cleaning up after ourselves. Following through with a promise or conversation. Staying true to what we value.

It’s like the old saying goes, “How we do anything is how we do everything.” Especially when no one’s around to keep us accountable.

That’s why I adopted a “Do it Now” mentality. Not everything has the same amount of importance and priority, but taking care of things when they need taken care of is a great way to practice character. If there’s a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, I’m going to clean them now, instead of later. Even if that means I have to unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher first before I can put the dirty ones in. If there’s a thing around the house that needs to be taken care of, I jump on it. If I’m in the middle of something, I’ll focus all my efforts on that one thing, before I jump to the next.

These are tiny things, but they make all the difference.

Because your actions are telling yourself that “I’m the type of person that get’s things done.” This isn’t a blame game. Just because someone else isn’t doing it doesn’t mean I get to point a finger at them for being lazy. Because if I did I would only be practicing characteristics I don’t want to be.

I’m far from perfect, of course. Some days I can barely manage to do my nightly routine and don’t have the energy to clean up the house or put away my fresh laundry. So then I double down the next day. But if I do manage to put away my clothes when I don’t feel like it, I know I’m working my character mental muscles and showing myself what I’m made of.

Remember, It matters less what you’ve done and more what you do.

If you want to be strong, practice strength. If you want to be resilient, learn everything you can about how to persevere in chaos and get back up when you fail.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #902

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Self-Assessing Our Biases

“Integrity is the essence of everything successful.”

R. Buckminster Fuller, Multidisciplinary

“A strong intuition is much more powerful than a weal test. Normals teach us rules; outliers teach us laws. For every perfect medical experiment, there is a perfect human bias.”

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Best Selling Author, The Gene, Emperor of All Maladies

Have you ever wondered why a quote’s attribution (quoter) is after the quoted sentence? Sure, it looks nice and organized that way. Or maybe we think it looks better that way because it’s always been that way and we are used to it so switching it up would seem off. Sometime’s you’ll see the opposite it books, where the author mentions the speaker and their titles before going into what they said. I think this minute detail — before or after a quote — hits upon the same idea:

Bias.

When you read a quote before knowing who wrote or said it, your mind is more open to its ideas. Imagine hearing a great turn of phrase but only afterward learn that it was said by Hitler or from a person you distrust. And what about when the tables are turned? What does your mind immediately do but scoff and ignore or dismiss the quote out of principle?

Can you praise the quote but not the attributor? Can you separate the art from the flawed artist? Van Gogh is known for just as much as — if not more than — cutting off his own ear than he is for Starry Night. Obviously, I’m not defending Hitler, nor am I suggesting we cut off our ears in the name of creativity.

I’m suggesting that we all have flaws and lean towards certain perspectives over others (based on our experiences and upbringing). The key is not to judge others so harshly for their views and instead self-assess and work on ourselves instead.

Where am I short-sighted?
Where are my blind spots?
What decisions (actions and reactions) am I making that are going to come back and bite me?

We may not like what someone says or does, but all we can do is work on ourselves and let our actions be an example of wisdom, character, and integrity. And apologize when we make mistakes. Butting heads with our ego might get us success, but it won’t make us friends.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #861

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Related:

Book: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me).