Getting Results

“Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.”

Ernest Shackleton

Baking is a very precise skill. If your math is off, it will likely be noticeable. The classic expression is “cooking is an art, baking is a science”. Honestly, you could argue that both cooking and baking are in some ways an art AND in other ways a science. But I’m not here to mince words. (…pun intentional.)

Decision making is also as much as an art as it is a science. I’d like to say that it’s as simple as actions equal results — if I do x, then y will happen — but life is rarely that binary.

Action is extremely important. Small decisions add up to uncomfortable truths or successful outcomes depending on the decisions we are making (or trending towards) over time. One tragic example is getting in with the wrong crowd and getting busted (often in life-changing ways) even though you technically didn’t do anything wrong. Guilty by association.

But there’s also a lot of other factors at play.

I could be the best painter in the world, but that doesn’t mean my work will sell. Painting is one skill; Selling is another. (Again both have an art and science to them.) There are hundreds of examples of creatives in history who only became renowned after they were long dead and buried. And there are likely a million other examples of unknown creatives who never sold anything and never become known for their work.

Great results are more about probability. The more you do x, the more likely y will occur, but you should never assume y is inevitable.

Q: What can you do to make the outcome you want more likely?

The key is stacking the deck as much as you can in your favor. In Thinking in Bets, Annie Duke, American Professional Poker player breaks down decision making as the result of a great process, and “improving decision quality is about increasing our chances of good outcomes, not guaranteeing them.”

Does that stop luck, (mis)fortune and other people’s decisions from sweeping in and creating a negative outcome? No. Ultimately these things are not in our control. However, by “making better decisions starts with understanding this: uncertainty can work a lot of mischief.” If we expect the unexpected from the get-go, we will be more likely to think quickly on our feels and improv our way through unexpected events.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #865

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Not Doesn’t Mean Can’t

“My dear friend, clear your mind of cant.”

Samuel Johnson

Just because you are not doing something you wish you were doing (like starting a business, training for a marathon. learning to sew. starting a YouTube Channel or getting up early) doesn’t mean you can’t.

I’m a strong believer that anyone can learn anything and become great at it if you want to.

But first, you need to get figure out what’s holding you back from starting. Two likely reasons you aren’t doing what you want to do are 1. Priority and 2. Fear.

Reason # 1: Priority

We all have the same amount of time each day. Where is your time going? And, more Succinctly, what are you prioritizing in your life?

Let’s say we get 8 hours of sleep each night, spend 8 hours working and spend another 3 or 4 eating, commuting and spending time with people closest to us. That’s still 4 hours give or take left in the day. Where are we using them?

Are we doing something nourishing? Or just killing time until tomorrow when groundhog starts over again?

Priority is choosing dreams over comfort. It’s putting in a little effort to be creative even when you don’t feel like it.

It’s uncomfortable to sit down at the end of the day to write a blog post, sketch, and work on music. Not that it’s supposed to feel hard and like work to be worthwhile — but it’s not easy. But you get a helluva lot of joy and fulfillment when you prioritize what matters to you.

Reason #2: Fear

If you’ve got all the time in the world and you’re still not doing what you dream about doing, then fear is likely lurking around.

Fear wears many masks:

  • The mask of being too old.
  • The mask of not being experienced enough yet.
  • The mask of doing it wrong and embarrassing yourself.
  • The mask of past failures.
  • The mask of other people’s opinions.

Maybe you’re wearing the mask of embarrassment, or maybe you’re wearing all the above.

There’s no one path to getting past our fears, but the key is not taking yourself too seriously. When things get too serious, we tend to want to quit. If you grew up taking music lessons or playing a sport, you know exactly what I mean. The moment it starts to become repetitive music scales, endless ball canons and game politics and less about having fun with your friends and playing final fantasy and Taylor Swift on the piano the less we want to do it. All work and no play – immediate desire to quit.

The same applies when we are looping theses unmet dreams over and over in our heads. By the time we actually might take the trap and try, we’ve already psyched ourselves out by being too serious to start.

But if you can make it low pressure and low stakes, the more breathing room you’ll have just to pick up your phone and start recording or throw on your shoes and go for a walk.

That’s why side-business work so well psychologically compared to jumping fully into your venture. There’s less pressure. You aren’t betting the farm if you’re idea cow goes tits up.

Takeaways:

  • Audit your time. Where are you currently spending your free time?
  • Prioritize one thing you want to start doing.
  • Make it something you find fun and fulfilling.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take the pressure of doing it perfectly the first time off the table
  • Learn to enjoy and appreciate trying something new and being a beginner (most don’).
  • Try making it a daily habit. Commit to a little each day, rain or shine.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #864

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The Currency of Knowledge

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”

John Adams

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

Peter Drucker

Money isn’t the only thing that gets you far in life. Although an important component of any entrepreneurial or creative endeavor, you could argue money is the least important resource. (Blasphemy!)

Not to say that money is easier to come by — it takes a lot of work and skill to create money. But there’s no limit to how much you can make (There might be false limits or mental limits that cap you, but technically, if you think about it, you can make as little or as much as you want.)

Time, energy and knowledge, however, are more finite. There’s only so much time and energy we have to give. By the time you’re old enough to read and understand this, you’ve already given decades of your time and energy.

Knowledge has limits as well. There’s only so much we can fit in our brains at once, and the amount of knowledge we can obtain is in sync with our time, energy and finances. Knowledge also ‘has a half-life’. Some things are tried-and-true, but most of what we know will likely be irrelevant a decade or so from now. Real knowledge is the principles and patterns beneath a skill that allow you to learn and relearn to your curious heart’s content.

If you are in school or have a full-time job like me, there are only a precious few hours we have to give.

But here’s the things: knowledge is a powerful currency that we (who are lucky enough) have access too. Knowledge is free. Yes, there’s paywalls and cliques and a dozen other obstacles and distractions (which I’ll get to in a second), but our interconnected lives have leveled the playing field. There are truck-loads of knowledge out there online. A few ads later and you can watch how to build a business on YouTube. Through podcasting and TED talks, you can listen to conversations with the smartest people on the planet. We are all a few clicks away from learning anything we ever wanted to learn.

Knowledge is a powerful currency that levels the playing field.

And that’s me only thinking about individuals. When we create connections with likeminded people and/or build teams dedicated to building something purposeful, our knowledge currency multiples.

But. (And this is a doozie.)

In order to cultivate more knowledge, we have to stay focused and put away our distractions as much as we can. There’s a lot of people out there who are highly skilled at a lot of things that don’t add up too much. Not that being highly skilled is what life’s all about. (Some of the best things in life can’t be created by achieving.) But the question is, are your distractions owning your life?

You have the power to learn anything.

Now you just have to put in the time.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #863

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Time Well Spent

“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

Steve Jobs

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Bertrand Russell

One thing you learn very quickly when pursuing a creative skill — or any skill for that matter — is it takes more time than you think it does.

A skill isn’t just the skill itself, it’s also everything that surrounds it.

Let’s say you’ve grown up on boxed foods your entire life, and one day you decide you want to learn to cook. Great! Cooking is a useful skill to have. Not only can home-cooked food be better for you and taste 10x better than 90% of restaurants and 99% of packages foods, but you’ll also be able to share with other people who are in your life. (Food gatherings = closer family, more connected community.)

But wait, there’s more to cooking than the time it takes to crack a few eggs in a pan and call it dinner (although, some nights are like that). Cooking is multiple things combined:

  • Research
    • What do I want to cook? How do I cook it? What do I cook it with? How long?
  • Experimentation
    • What if I tried paprika? What type of acid flavor do I want to use? What happens if…
  • Pick up
    • Getting to the store, Playing where’s Waldo with each grocery item, waiting in line or waiting for your delivery, Going home from the store.
  • Prep
    • Washing, Chopping, Dicing, Salting, etc.
  • Cooking
    • Getting the oven ready, watching the food cook, etc
  • Eating
  • Cleaning
    • Dishes, Leftovers in the fridge.

All of this is worth the price of admission, but as you can see it’s going to take a lot longer than you think it might. (You can see why meal prep, food delivery, and dinner delivery companies are on the rise.) And it’s not just cooking that requires a lot of time to do it properly. Every skill requires time. There’s a hidden cost to every skill (and everything we do).

This is why the majority of Renaissance people are terrible at managing their time.

I’m bad at this. When I hear about some rad interesting skill I want to jump in immediately and learn it. Now, there’s a time for trying new things and expanding your skillsets, but if you want to master something, you’ve got to prioritize it by giving it your most valuable resource: time.

Time management is essential to finding mastery and living a meaningful life.

Which means we have to be picky about where and who we give our time too.

The best place to start is to figure out where all your time is going.

RescueTime is an automated time tracking app that will show you where you spend your time during your digital life.

Dig around in your iPhone or Android phone settings and you’ll find similar screen time averages.

I’ve also personally be thoroughly using my calendar app to track every minute of my day, so I know how much time I’m spending doing what.

Not knowing where your time is going is letting life steer you, versus your controlling life.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #862

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

How to Avoid Blind Spots

“Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it?

They fall, and falling,
they’re given wings.”

Rumi

“Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often the result of lack of wisdom.”

Terry Pratchett

A blindspot is any place where we don’t have understanding. It’s where our perspective, in a sense, is obstructed. It’s also where we “fill in the gaps” of what we think we know as true-fact or worse — what we try to deliberately ignore.

Deliberate ignorance is a great way to turn little problems into giant scary problems. It can happen it oh so many places without proper care or attention. It’s avoiding a growing tension between a relationship, putting off work or familial responsibilities or hoping a financial problem will go away on its own (or by wishfully thinking a winning lottery ticket will fall from the sky into our hands).

Little problems grow without us noticing. One day they are a speck of sand in an oysters mouth and nothing to gawk over, and the next thing you know it you’ve got a big glaring shiny pearl of a problem on your hands.

Instead of waiting to be crushed by a bigger problem, better to be attentive to the problems at hand while they are still little. I get it, avoiding a problem usually happens because we don’t think we can handle it or do anything about it, but that’s not true. We can at least look at it in the eye. We can start understanding what the problem is on a fundamental level and researching how other people have solved it before. We can ask for help.

Better to be sad or anxious in the present than being steamrolled by the future.

Another type of blindspot is things we don’t know we are missing or doing wrong. Former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said it best —

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.”

Unknown unknowns are a scary thought. Right now you could make a bad decision and not even know it. For better or worse, this is how a lot of life is lived. We go through life making mistakes, and hopefully, learn them (experience) so we can wisely avoid or overcome the same issues later on (or at least tell our story and hope others don’t make our same mistakes).

However, just because we have blind spots, doesn’t mean we have to go through life in the dark. There are quite a few things we can do, or at least try to do to migrate risk and avoid potential blind spots and pitfalls (filled with spikes) beforehand.

  • We can study and learn from the past.
  • We can read biographies of wise people from all walks of life. (Particularly bios from the people who faced trials and tribulations.)
  • We can build up (like we’re building a castle) our network of people who have our back and want to see us succeed in our pursuits.
  • We can craft a life advisor board of people we trust and admire.
  • We can pay close attention to our own needs, desires, emotions, problems and cultivate our self-awareness.

And we can forgive ourselves and go easy on ourselves when we do fall. Life isn’t easy. Putting yourself out there creatively is probably crazy. But that’s part of what makes it special and meaningful. The key is not letting the failures get to you and make you better. And not letting any hard-earned wisdom solidify you into never growing or changing your mind.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #860

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Imagination Comes From Unexpected Places:

  • Moments alone.
  • Boredom.
  • What If…? questions.
  • Problems.
  • Rebellious behavior.
  • Silent Walks.
  • Motion (running).
  • Nature.
  • Nonsense.
  • Unfamiliar spaces.
  • Emotional outlets.

I think the majority of us are bubbling with ideas, we are usually too busy (and stubborn) to hear them. We need space to dream. (And a sprinkle of imagination, for sure. But space to let our minds wander is the main ingredient.) But think about how space-lacking we are. Almost every moment we aren’t communicating we are filling it with sound. We listen to music while we exercise, commute, work, walk, dance, shower… And the rest of the time we aren’t listening to music we are consuming podcasts, audiobooks, movies, and tv. (I’m saying things as someone who loves music and who has his own podcast.)

But the magic happens in the negative spaces. The silence. The wonder. Anything that lets our mind wander and question. Our imagination turns clouds into dragons and shadows into monsters. It turns ordinary and mundane into the extraordinary and novel. It’s seeing what is and turning it on its head. (Or put another way, it’s seeing what isn’t.)

But you need structure and routine to create openness. Daily habits are a great way to wake the mind. A daily walk after work with your dog — but no music. Or maybe it’s sitting on the porch alone with your thoughts. Or noodling an idea while you are driving.

It might sound silly to say, but don’t be so afraid to be alone with yourself!

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #859

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“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Albert Einstein

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Michelangelo

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

Robin Williams

Freedom through Limitation

“Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Feeling stuck is impermanent. It’s here and then it’s gone before you even realize it. But it’s also a sign of opportunity and growth.

Limitations can make you stronger (“no pain no gain”). But only if you don’t give into them and let them take over. Otherwise, limitations become a barrier to strength.

Maybe you feel limited by your level of skill. Or maybe your thoughts are limiting your actions. Or maybe you feel limited by your surroundings. Whatever the case, your limitations are also your strengths and your opportunity to overcome them.

Limitations also become outlets for creativity. What better way to share what you are going through than to paint, sing, play, dance or draw it away.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #858

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“If I get stuck, I look at a book that tells me how someone else did it. I turn the pages, and then I say, ‘Oh, I forgot that bit,’ then close the book and carry on. Finally, after you’ve figured out how to do it, you read how they did it and find out how dumb your solution is and how much more clever and efficient theirs is!”

Richard P. Feynman

“There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest.”

Confucius

Solving Problems Fast

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Albert Einstein

Do you ever wonder why most exams, be it a high school math exam, college English final, or driver test are all timed?

I’m sure one reason is that time is money and not a lot of teachers want to spend three days waiting for students to finish their essays. An exam fits within our precisely timed lives.

But there’s another reason why exams are timed that we can take advantage of:

Tests are designed to ensure that the majority of students finish.

Or in other words, the exams are tested to be doable (Most of them anyway. I’ve experienced some tests that were diabolically designed to be anything but doable.) This isn’t something most of us think about, but it makes sense. What I find interesting is that last part: the majority of students finish. Put a random group of students in a room and most of them will finish within the time given.

Which got me thinking. What if most (or dare I say any) problem I have can be solved if I focus on answering it within a certain amount of time? Or at least come away with a possible solution I can experiment with?

The goal isn’t speed, I don’t care if I finish quickly. The goal is to give 100% of my energy and creativity towards coming up with ideas for a problem I’m facing while the clock counts down.

Just like how we want to fill a room with objects, or fill a closet with clothes (no matter how small or large it is), we also fill in time we have available.

So what would it look like if you only had an hour to think about a particular problem?

What about 30 minutes? Let’s go smaller. What ideas would you come up within 5 minutes?

What if you only gave yourself 90 seconds?

Think of a problem you want to tackle. It could be anything — work, health, productivity, creative — And then set a timer for 90 seconds.

Like:

  • What can I try to cultivate closer friendships?
  • Or if I only had a day to make $1000, what could I do or sell?
  • What bad habits are weighing me down and what good habits can I replace them with?
  • Or something more general, like what’s bothering me right now and why?

What ideas can you sketch out? Don’t leave anything out. Crazy ideas, boring ideas. Go weird.

The more ideas we have, the better chance we’ll come up with a great idea we can use.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #854

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Negativity Attracts Negativity

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.”

Elbert Hubbard

I’ve had my fair share of negative moments. The last decade of my life has been buttered with various difficulties. Health, finances, friendships, betrayal. It’s easy to fall into a negative lull. But one thing you learn quickly (if you’re paying close attention) about being negative is it doesn’t get you anywhere. Feeling negative doesn’t make you feel better. It doesn’t solve your problems. In fact, it doesn’t help you at all. 

All negativity is good for is keeping you exactly where you don’t want to be.

What does negativity get you?

More opportunities?

More friends?

More success?

More like opportunities you don’t want. And negative friends that keep you in a negative bubble.

These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

Let’s look at negativity’s counterpart: positivity. I think people bristle at the idea of positivity because they assume that being positive or optimistic means expecting everything to work out in your favor. But expecting everything to go your way is an unrealistic ego-driven way to live. Of course things won’t go our way. That’s where being positive comes in handy. The value of positivity is when things inevitably don’t work out the way we want. Positivity is a reliable tool for when life beats you up and steals your lunch money.

This bad thing happened. What’s something I can look forward to? What can I do better next time? What’s something good that can come from this.

Good things that come from struggles and unfortunate circumstances are the worst best lessons we can have. *Worst* because if we could change the past we’d likely go back and make sure they don’t happen. *Best* because they are life-altering. They change our life’s trajectory and story. In my case, a chronic injury helped me become interested in health, medicine, and wellness.

Positivity also attracts luck. And abundance. And don’t forget opportunities. There’s a lot of upside to living positivity, but I can’t say the same about being negative.

Related:

“Negativity is the enemy of creativity.”

David Lynch

“The best way of removing negativity is to laugh and be joyous.”

David Icke

“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”

Kobe Bryant

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #852

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