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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Loving Uncertainty

Facing the unknown is uncomfortable.

No one said it would be easy to start your own business, or finish your book idea, or lose weight.

That feeling of not knowing what to do, or how to do it, or what decisions will lead to success is part of the creative process.

Going to school, smart decisions, honing our skills, and asking for wise counsel can set our course (and give us a better chance to succeed), but we’re still the ones who have to figure out how to climb the mountain(s) we are facing.

Even if we have someone guiding us all the way through, the path will be different, because the timing is different, and we’re different and our purpose is different.

This is not a lonely course, because everyone who is pursuing creative work outside the norm has to experience this.

Most people won’t choose this.

They would rather have someone else choose their path for them. Is this a bad thing? Who am I to say.

For me, it comes down to doing things that fulfill me and help others.

Does this thing I want to do light me up with joy and add a spark to my eye?

Is this person I want to be someone whom I would admire?

Am I helping others with my gifts?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1152

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Practice is Free (Effort Sold Separately)

Music is one of those hobbies where there’s always something more you can buy.

If I were to count them up, there are at least 50 items of music equipment (synth’s, instruments, DAW plug-ins, and sounds—so many plug-ins—recording gear, etc.) in my wishlist right now.

Most of them I’d label as ‘wants’ and a few are legitimate ‘needs’ that would help me learn to become a professional musician and music producer.

But I shouldn’t let what I don’t have stop me from utilizing what I do have. If I were to wait to have all the right equipment before I worked on my music skills, I would never have any songs or skills for that matter.

Right this very moment, practice is freely in our grasp.

What we’ve got to work with might be subpar and less than what we imagine fit to be, but it doesn’t change the fact we can skill be honing our skills right now, every day.

The ability to practice is within your means right now.

All it costs is our time and our effort.

Put a quarter in a gumball machine, get a piece of gum.

Put in the time, dedication, and relentless hard work into your passions and you’ll get a truckload of gumballs. Or something like that.

It’s not a negative thing that you don’t have all the equipment you think you need—that’s all in your head.

Even things like learning computer science. Imagine trying to learn to code with a computer to do it. How could you do it? Learn from a book or YouTube and write code on a piece of paper, of course! Not ideal, but possible.

You have what you need.

Step up to the plate.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1140

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Focus on the Problem—Not the Adjacent

We often try to solve a problem by focusing on other (unrelated) problems.

This tendency reminds me of the story of a police officer noticing a drunk man who is searching aimlessly for his lost keys under a streetlight. After a few minutes of watching him, the police officer asks if he’s sure that he lost them there, and the drunk replies, ‘no, I lost them in the park.’

We find it easier to solve other (usually smaller) problems than spend time on finding a solution for what’s actually bothering us.

You see this in many aspects of our lives, big and small.

Instead of working on a looming project, you organize your email inbox, clean your house and start (yet another) new business idea.

Instead of working on your art—the thing you want to do—you do a dozen other things with your time instead. We wait until the very last second to do it (if at all.)

Doing the dishes isn’t going to fix your marriage (—that is, unless your significant other despises dirty dishes and you said that you would do it.) But confronting the real problem will.

We need to focus on (solving) the problem—not the adjacent problems, todos and hullabaloos.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1138

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Clean Slate Method

Often the obstacles in our way are not (just) the problem(s) we are facing, rather how we are dealing with them.

Basically, we lose our sh🙈t. We worry and loop our problems and mistakes over and over again. We stress ourselves so much we drain all the energy we have (and could have used to solve it.) We’re not thinking about this of course (myself included), we’re too busy dovetailing into the abyss.

At least, that’s how I feel when I have too much on my plate or when I’ve unintentionally said yes to too many things I should have said no to.

But I have found a silly method that has helped me out in times of distress, like when I have stacks of todos and a negative amount of time to do them.

I mentally drop everything.

I pull the tablecloth and swipe away clean everything on it.

I sink all the battleships.

And all I’m left with is a clean slate.

No obligations. Nothing I need to get done. No outside pressures. (And now no inside pressures either!)

Not in reality, just in my mind. I think of it as a factory reset for my brain.

If you’re into paper products (like me) then think of it as a fresh, new sheet of paper, or a blank calendar, unblemished.

As I sit in this mind space, I slowly begin to ask myself questions like:

  • If you could drop everything from your life, what would you want to keep/pick back up?
  • What do you really want to do?
  • If something is holding you back from doing that, what immediate actions are you able to take to open that blockade?

The clean state method is a tool to get you in a better headspace to solve problems and focus on what matters.

Obviously, we can’t actually can’t set everything on fire and start over, but we can stop mentally getting in our way by overwhelming ourselves with the past and our expectations of the future.

Clearing your head gives you much more room to focus on the immediate priority, and tackle things head-on—just not all at once.

It’s had to make anything happen if you’ve psyched yourself out before you’ve even be

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1136

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Getting in Tune

Anything is hard—until you know it.

It sounds obvious, but it’s true.

Not everything we try is going to be a piece of pie on the first attempt. Failure is more likely.

When I was first learning to program, I didn’t grok it at all. My mind wasn’t in tune with how thinking in terms of code works. It took me a while to figure out how to use it. But eventually, I did. Now it’s a matter of improving those skills every day so that I stay in tune.

If you are passionate about learning something, then stick with it as long as you need. If it doesn’t click right away, keep at it. Not being good at something (yet) doesn’t mean you can’t do it—you working towards doing it every time you step up and try.

You don’t have to like something to be good at it.

Which can be bad if you really don’t like doing it, but keep doing it because that’s all you know or that’s all you (or others) think you’re good for. But that’s not true. It’s seeing that and then putting in the time to be good at it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1134

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Creative Barriers: Meanwhile… (Part 6)

Intro
Preflight Check
Starting
Continuing
Finishing

It takes a tremendous amount of courage and effort to do creative work and share that work with others. And I’ve touched on some of the potential barriers and bottlenecks we’ll have to overcome at various stages of our creative journey.

But there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned yet because it can be such a messy and complex thing.

Our creative work is only a small piece of our lives.

While we’re at our desk or in the shop working and honing our skills, life is flowing around us. The majority of us aren’t sitting in solitude in a cabin in the woods working on our novel. We’re surrounded by responsibilities and news, and email, and opinions, and all the things that make up the components of our environment and lives.

Our creative work isn’t isolated—it’s part of an ecosystem of ecosystems.

Some good—like your significant other, your pet, your friends, etc.
Some bad—bills, past mistakes, information overload, traffic, etc.

Plus we have to balance making time for loved ones, friends, work, health, rest, happiness, spirituality, while not neglecting our creativity either.

There’s a lot of things that aren’t ultimately in our control.

You’re learning animation and working on a short film—meanwhile, your back start’s killing you from all the hours leaning over a table.

You’re choreographing a new dance—meanwhile, you’ve just broken up with your girlfriend and you’re dealing with the emotional aftermath.

You’ve finally started exercising and cooking healthily means—meanwhile your friends are inviting you out to pizza and drinks and egging you on for not joining.

One of the biggest creative barriers we’ll face on our journey is the opinions and expectations of others on what you should or shouldn’t do. There are a thousand and one reasons for it (a topic for another day). Ultimately, while you’re working on your art, you’ll also likely experience pushback from people around you.

Push back is different than feedback. Feedback is you asking someone for advice—potentially harsh advice—so that you can improve. Push back is you stepping up for yourself and making the decision to change and do something new/different with your life and then others around you trying to rubber-band you back to where you were.

But is that what you want?

There’s a reason you’re passionate about programming or music or typography.

Are you following your gut/instinct/intuition or following someone else’s desires and fears?

The solution is clear, but never easy to do:

  • Let your life inspire your creativity.
  • Don’t let your creativity be the only thing you have.
  • Say yes to what matters to you—not what others are expecting of you.

Life is bigger than you’re creativity, but that doesn’t diminish your need to do it. If you’re not choosing what makes thrive and feel alive, then what are you choosing instead?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1128

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Creative Barriers: Finishing (Part 5)

Finishing might be the most challenging stage in the creative process. Not because starting or continuing isn’t difficult (they are) but they’re a walk in the virtual park compared to finishing.

It’s easier to start something than end it.

That’s true with creativity and life in general.

Finishing has stakes. As Seth Godin writes, when you shipping your work, there’s a big chance that it won’t succeed.

Anyone can start (with enthusiasm) a new idea, very few can finish the idea and make it a reality.

The problem is, as time goes on, the works finish line starts to get fuzzy. Feature creep pops up. Not to mention perfection shows up at the party and tries to take over.

Suddenly a solid deadline disappears into the fog of inflated desires and expectations.

As they say in software development—Ship early, ship often. There’s a reason why we set deadlines—to give ourselves the initiative to finish what we start. Otherwise, we’d be tweaking, improving, changing, and adding things ad infinite.

Failure is another big reason why it’s hard to finish things. What if we do all this work and nobody cares? What if we launch our product and it belly-flops?

It’s true that your work might not work. But what does that mean, exactly? A boat-load of money? A nod of approval from your parents? Acclaim and party invites?

If you’re creating something just for the rewards, then you might not be spending your time on the right thing. There’s got to be more than money and fame driving you.

The best part about creativity isn’t the end goal, but the process to get there. Hard work and fun aren’t mutually exclusive. Plenty of people work incredibly hard and have a hell of a fun time doing it too. What’s that look like for you?

And if it fails, it fails. Did you give it you’re all? Did you make the best decisions you could with the information you had? Did you seek out counsel and listen to your gut? Then if it still failed, it wasn’t the right time or the right place.

Part of finishing is knowing when to close an idea and move on to the next thing. That includes moving on from failures and successes.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1127

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Creative Barriers: Continuing (Part 4)

So you’ve started something new. You’ve broken down doors that were keeping you from starting. Now you have to navigate the world of Continuing.

The three main barriers in this stage are:

1. How to stay motivated

2. How to stay focused

3. What to do when you get derailed

But what’s my motivation?

My motivation on any given day looks like a rollercoaster. One day I’m super tired, the next my neck is hurting worse than usual, another day and loved ones seem to be particularly hangry. It’s up and down and ultimately unreliable.

Luckily I don’t rely on motivation to keep me going. I lean on habits and daily practices.

When you start the day knowing you’ve got something to do, no matter what, it’s much easier to get it done—even if you don’t feel like it. Once you get a habit up and running, you expect it.

It’s helpful to expect and plan for rainy days too. Most days won’t be perfect, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend time on your creative pursuits. Even if you occasionally have to get up super early, or stay up a little later, it’s much better than the alternative—not following your dreams. Feeling stuck. Wishing you would do something.

Focus

Staying focused is similar to staying motivated. If you’re not staying focused, then there’s probably a good reason for it. Remember your goals. Visualize why you are doing what you are doing.

I notice I start getting more distracted when I try to do too many things at the same time. When I’m reading 40 books, taking 15 online courses, working on 5 business ideas and 10 creative projects, I’ve obviously taken on too much at once.

Trying to do everything at once is the same as doing nothing.

0One thing at a time.

The key to continuing is **consistency**.

When you look at the work of people you admire, no matter the discipline, one thing that stands out most is their continuous dedication to their craft. You can see it in their output. It’s easy to mistake someone’s huge library of work as instantaneous—as if they pulled a couple of all nighter’s over the weekend and made everything you see. But really what you’re seeing when you’re looking at someone’s successes is little pieces and individual projects added up over time.

It’s like this plus symbol: +

For each creative project we do, we start to accumulate another +

+

++

++

++

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Before you know it, you’ve got years of work behind you. Sure some of it you’d rather set on fire than showcase them, but even the flubs and bad work helped push you to a more meaningful and experienced place.

Success stems from consistency. Often we fail because we don’t stick to it long enough to succeed. Not that we have to permanently stick to every habit we try—just the ones we love and find valuable.

Even when we fail and get derailed, as long as we get back up in the saddle we have a chance of success.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1126

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