There is No Try

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”Mark Van Doren

Part of our jobs as creatives is figuring things out. Discovery and uncertainty are two sides of the same pancake. There’s rarely comfort in uncertainty, but there is excitement. The excitement from learning something new. The thrill of being resourceful or doing something yourself.

It’s one thing to be taught the idea of something, it’s another thing to come to it with your own eyes, ears and hands.

True understanding comes from hands-on experience. There’s a level of wisdom you can’t gain unless you tinker, play, explore and experiment yourself.

That’s true with design and business and coding and well—everything. Of course, it’s not about doing it all yourself, rather using DIY as an approach to learn a skill at a deeper level of compression.

It’s hard to completely get that from a book or tutorial. Teaching is a guide. It opens the door for us, but we are the ones that have to take the extra step and make the connections.

A course might save us time and shortcut our path to understanding and success, but until we get our hands dirty, so to speak, we won’t be at the level of mastery we seek yet.

Ask big questions. Observe the world.

Throw things at the wall. And try things out yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1202

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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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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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Human Spirit

What drives us to create? To innovate?

Do we have a chip on our shoulder the size of that which we want to put a dent in the Universe?

Maybe some of us are driven by a singular massive goal, like curing cancer or colonizing Mars. Or maybe you’re driven by the massive personal goal of freedom—freedom from debt, freedom from pain.

My guess is human spirit comes down to a combination of hope and curiosity.

Hope for a better tomorrow—for ourselves, for our kids, for humanity.

Hope for a meaningful and joyful life.

Hope for great friends, good health, and a memorable experience.

Curiosity for simple desiring to tinker and figure out how things work.

Curiosity for being playful and letting your life grow out of play.

Curiosity to turn over rocks, shake presents, and do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.

These are my kind of people.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1106

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The Courage to Try

“What would life be like if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

Vincent van Gogh

Most of our decisions (and the decisions of people around us) are made from a place of fear. Fear of failing. Fear of succeeding (and losing everything to do it / or fear of succeeding and still not being satisfied.) Fear of looking like an idiot. Fear of wasting our time / life / money / etc.

The problem is we often don’t realize we are making fearful decisions in the moment. No, we just avoid it. We avoid being uncomfortable. We avoid starting (because of x y or z reason) and never have the chance to potentially fail or succeed. We avoid wasting our time by doing nothing—aka wasting our time.

But if you replace the word fear with courage, the entire story changes—

We have the courage to fail—and let that failure become a stepping stone, a lesson, a story for our next act of courage.

We have the courage to succeed—because we put in the hard work, helped and improved others’ lives, and enjoyed the process.

We have the courage to look like an idiot—because embarrassing ourselves is a part of challenging yourself to be more, to be original, to stand out, and to do what others won’t.

Have the courage to look like an idiot.

We have the courage to spend our time/money wisely on the things we care about, and not dwell too harshly on our past selves decisions/time we can no longer get back.

We have the courage to say yes to what’s important to us and no to everything else.

Because at the end of the day, doing nothing gets us nothing, fear gets us more fear, negativity attracts more negativity. It is only through trying can we hope to achieve.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1101

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Better Now Than Never

I have a rule for myself, where if anything that takes me less than five minutes to do, I’ll do it immediately.

If I’m making lunch, I don’t leave the dirty dishes in the sink, I eat and then immediately clean them (sometimes I managed to clean before I eat.) there’s nothing worse than having a full day of work and then coming home to a mountain of todos.

Not just dishes, but all the little “chores” and habits we tend to ignore or put off because of not feeling like it.

I like to think of it as a gift to my future self. In a way, it’s also a gift to my present self too, because I’m trading a few minutes of my time for feelings of accomplishment.

Just because I don’t feel like doing something, doesn’t mean I should give in to that feeling.

Often success is the accumulation of small actions and key decisive moments done well.

A “Do It Now” is a great habit to get you there.

It’s one thing to want to do or be something, it’s another to be able to do it when it counts.

This can also improve the lives (and attitudes) of the people around you. When your significant other asks you to do something, doing it immediately will not only make them happy and cared for, it will help you build the discipline to make sh*t happen.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1088

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Maxing Out Your Creative Expression

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”Bruce Lee

One creative goal I’m obsessed with is to have a collective skillset to create any idea. Put another way, the ability to go from idea to reality with minimal to no friction.

Imagine, for a moment, you are a professional musician. A good one too. You know how to play multiple instruments—guitar, piano, drums, cello—you also can sing and create lyrics. And to top it off, you’ve honed your recording, mixing, and mastering skills too.

When you are at this level of creative mastery, then you can go from idea to reality very quickly and at a premium level of quality.

You can take a simple hum you start singing in the shower, to a full song published on Spotify and Apple Music at an astonishing speed.

You can see this kind of creative expression everywhere—entrepreneurship, podcasting, painting, app development…

This ability is accessible to anyone. We just have to put in the time to practice, learn, and hone our creative skills.

We all have ideas, but not all of us take the steps to create them. There are many reasons for this, but the one that stands out to me is friction—just because you have an idea, doesn’t mean you currently have the skills to make it. You could learn how, but that would take time to figure out. And if you’re a self-starter like me, maybe you do figure it out! You have an idea, and you “just in time” learn what you need to make it.

But most people don’t. There’s too much of a gap between their idea and how to make it real. They mentally get in their own way and psych themselves out from trying.

What I’m after is the ability to create any idea. (Very humble, I know.) Part of this goal is fantasy—I can’t learn every skill—but simply by aiming for it, I can become a much more capable artist the longer I stick to it.

I love the idea of having an idea for a painting, and then just painting it. Or have an idea for a business and then doing it—creating a prototype, validating it, spinning up a website, creating a marketing campaign, and then selling it.

Not to say that I’m waiting for perfection in order to create.

Having greater creative expression is an ongoing, iterative process. We don’t just go from version 1.0 artist to version 7.5. We iterate and grow little by little. Daily work. Consistent effort. Until suddenly our creative arsenal starts looking like Batman’s toolbelt.

The goal isn’t to collect skills just for the sake of collecting them, nor to take on 50 jobs at once.

The goal is to be the best josh-dang creative I can be because I love making things and I desire to keep getting better and better at it.

Why? Because it’s fun, it’s inspiring and I can’t not do it.

Plus who doesn’t want to look like Batman?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1067

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Giving a Damn

Some days all we need to do is show up. And some days showing up is the hardest thing to do.

But showing up on the hard days is everything. Every action we take ripples out into our corner of the world, but more importantly, it also informs ourselves about what kind of person we are.

Our actions point inward and as much as they direct outward.

For example, if I start acting lazy—avoiding my work, mentally checking out wherever I get the chance—then I start becoming lazy. My actions convince myself that I am a lazy person. Which feedbacks in on itself and causes me to continuously act lazier.

The same is true for practically everything, good and bad.

Do something tells the world and our inner world what kind of person we are.

That’s why we need to show up and give a damn on days when we don’t feel like it. We are training ourselves into being the kind of person that shows up no matter what.

There are simple ways we can practice this:

• Hold the door for someone else.

• Take back your grocery cart to the store after you’ve unloaded your car.

• Give a generous tip to a good server.

• Return a smile with a smile (or if you’re wearing masks—a nod with a nod).

• Be on time when you’re planning to meet someone (This is a hard one for me).

• Stand up to a-holes.

• Reach out to friends first.

Do something, not because you have too, but because that’s the kind of person you want to be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1064

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Testing Dependencies

“Success is dependent on effort.”

Sophocles

I’ve written before about how it’s easier to acquire tastes than it is to get rid of them. Something normally that’s exotic or saved for special occasions can quickly become our new normals. Instead of saving that delicious Italian restaurant for your birthday, you start having it once a week.

For me, that’s amplified with a personal tendency to overdo it. A cheat “meal” turns into a cheat “weekend”. Or instead of one newsletter, I make three.

But do we really need our “needs”?

I don’t consider myself a minimalist. I related to some of the core values of minimalism, but I wouldn’t label myself as a minimalist. I’m more of a… “essentialist” “practicalist” “intentionalist” something along those lines (semantics, to be sure, but still).

It’s helpful to put things in perspective. In five years, all of the technology you and I use will be obsolete. Five years is generous. There’s a lot of new and exciting gadgets coming out right now. It’s more likely every piece of tech we own will be obsolete in a few months.

It’s good to test your dependencies regularly.

For example, taking a break from social media or swearing off coffee for a year.

Dependency aren’t evil. But they do make us reliant on them. Once you get used to having a certain quality of something, it’s hard to go back. I think that’s why people in third world countries are so happy with very little. It’s not the stuff that they have or don’t have, it’s the knowledge that something “better” is out there. 

This feeling is what I want to resist. I love luxury, but I don’t want to *need* it to be happy. I want to test my dependencies because you never know what fate my take of you. I’d rather be happy and healthy than rich. But if I can be happy, healthy, and rich that would be great too 😉. As long as that money isn’t controlling me.

What are other things we are reliant on? What are your crutches? 

Clothes? New technology? Habits?

Action: Make a list of things you need and use every day. If you forced yourself to give them up for a month, or six or a year, could you?

To live an unconventional life we must do unconforming things.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1062

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Amplifying Effect

“The first wealth is health.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are many types of skills and knowledge in general that, if learned, can amplify everything that you do.

Improving your ability to communicate, for example. What part of life doesn’t involve some form of written, graphic, or verbal communication? Think about it: blogging, writing emails, tweeting, caption, website copy, speeches, journaling, wit and banter among friends, sharing stories about yourself with relationships, getting your ideas across, job hunting, pitching clients… communication is at the heart of what it means to be human.

Health is another great skill that has reach across your life. Eating well, exercising, and resting can all increase the quality and longevity of your life. How can you put a quantifiable impact on that?

One big part of being multidisciplinary is to cultivate these types of foundational skills.

  • How to learn
  • How to think
  • Health
  • Writing

Even just one of these could improve your life in immeasurable ways.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1060

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