Where’s the bottleneck?

“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”

Henry Ford

When you’re feeling stuck, look for the main bottleneck. What’s the one thing preventing you from moving forward? 

The problem is we immobilize ourselves by trying to solve the problems 3 moves in advance first. ‘I’d love to save more money each month, but if I did that I wouldn’t have enough to pay for food and expenses, plus I won’t be able to get those new running shoes and I forgot I need to get my oil changed sometime soon.’

Sometimes we even convince ourselves that before we can fix this current problem, we must fix X Y and Z first. ‘I want to get a new job, but first I need to fix my health, but before that, I should really think about going back to school.’

Instead of dealing with the immediate problem, we’re thinking about a hundred other things on our todo list.

Thinking 3 moves in advance is great. But when it comes to solving problems we need to focus on them one at a time. Fixing the main issue may cause other issues down the line, but don’t worry about that now. Focus on the current priority. 

Put everything aside in your mind for a moment and focus exclusively on the priority at hand.

An alternative approach is to go around the problem and reduce complexity by finding a way to nullify multiple problems in one sweep by solving the underlying issue. (I believe this idea is from Tim Ferriss.)What’s one thing I can focus on/do that will nullify all the other (potential) problems.

What we need is a sense of priority. What’s the most important thing you need to focus on right now? We might have to deal with other things later, but that’s for later. Before is before. Later is later. Now—we are dealing with now.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1052

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, consider buying me a coffee ☕️.

Join the Renaissance:

NewslettersConsiderations | Practices |  Bookaholics

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

2,000,000 Distractions

“What I’ve learned in these 11 years is you just got to stay focused and believe in yourself and trust your own ability and judgment.”

Mark Cuban

Remove The Unessential to Make Space for Essential

I’m not surprised that a lot of us (including myself) struggle with good posture. Making sure my head stays straight and vertical is something I have to remind myself every day to work at. We sit and lean over books in school and for leisure. We hunch over screens as we work. Almost everything we do is forward—we walk, drive, watch tv, eat, talk, play, and work looking forward. No wonder we look like shriveled ogres when we are older! Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for it. I don’t know how I’d feel about having eyes on the back of my head where at any moment I could look down as see my entire ✨ss.

Looking forward is almost poetic, in a way. It’s like our bodies were made to focus. Sure we rub our belly and pat our head, but in many ways, we are one-task minded. Focus is a currency.

Of course, there are a countless number of things trying to take our attention and distract us from our intentions.

I’ll be working on one thing, editing a podcast episode or working a writing idea and suddenly 2 million distractions pop into my head. Other projects I need to work on. Another thing I should be doing. Social media rabbit holes to fall into. And suddenly I’ve sent an hour not working on what I was trying to work on.

There’s always going to be something else you could be doing instead of the current work you’re pursuing.

There’s always going to be:

  • More books to read
  • More ideas to create
  • More projects to try
  • More shows to watch
  • More things to learn before you are “ready”

But none of those new and shiny things are more important than the things you have in front of you*.

The book you’re currently reading is more important than the others in your Amazon wishlist.

The ideas you’re making right now are more important than the hundred other ones that could be taking up your time.

I’m generalizing here, but hopefully, I’m getting my point across.

It doesn’t matter what we want to do, it only matters what we do. We don’t get brownie points for failing to complete 7 projects. It only counts if we follow through.

That’s why it’s vital for us to find and remove anything that’s distracting us from our mission.

Having many interests and tons of new ideas is great, but don’t let them distract you from what you are currently trying to accomplish.

At the end of our lives, we are remembered for what we do, not for what we wish we would have done. “Here lies Josh, he had a lot of potentials and wished for a lot of things… Alright everybody let’s go grab some lunch!”

Ask yourself: “Does this take me away from my purpose? Is this something I really want to do, or is this just something that would be cool to have done?

All of those ideas we could be doing, all of those experiences we could be having and all of those other things we could be learning can be considered later. But now, we remove all distractions from our view and focus on what’s in front of us.

*unless we don’t like what we are working towards. In that case, we stop, drop, and roll on to something better. (That was a solid A+ Dad Joke if I do say so myself)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1040

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, consider buying me a coffee .

Join the Renaissance:

NewslettersConsiderations | Practices |  Bookaholics

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Doing What’s Necessary

“Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.”

Bruce Lee

Like many of us today, I’ve been having to make a lot of decisions out of necessity. Health, work, community, institutions, goals… everything is changing quickly.

In some ways, this can make you feel small like you’re compromising and giving up a little of who you are because of the realities you face. No, that isn’t precisely true. When we make decisions out of necessity, we aren’t giving ourselves away, we are holding on tightly to expectations and wants. Our expectations take hold of the reins and say “why me?”

We feel compromised because we refuse to give up our expectations of how our lives should look.

But when we let all of that go, we free ourselves up to move forward.

We aren’t suffering, we’re doing what’s necessary. We may not like it, but at least we are making moves that can lead us to better decisions.

There are three main types of decisions available to us. We can make decisions out of

  • Joy
  • Necessity
  • Or Pain

Joyful decisions are always the happiest because we’re doing them because we want to and we find them fulfilling. Accepting our dream college or dream job. Finding your partner. Building a successful business. Working on your health. Spending your money wisely. Anything that brings Joy into the world.

Necessary Decisions can be tough, but they are usually the most rewarding. This is where we take punches but get grow from the experience. They are sometimes even more rewarding that Joyful decisions because they can make us strong and capable when we lean into them and learn to be uncomfortable. Doing what’s necessary feels like a hard day’s work that fun enough feels good and gives you quality nights of sleep. Whereas Joyful decisions are not always appreciated until much later and can be easily taken for granted if we are paying close enough.

Painful decisions are the worst and should be avoided when possible. This is where hard and painful lessons live. This is where we are so stressed we aren’t pausing to think things through. So we end up making a bad decision or a decision that doesn’t align with us. It’s when we are given the choice between A and B, and forget that we don’t have to choose either because we can do C instead. Or D.

The best thing to do about a painful decision is to step away from the immediacy and intensity and find a calm(er) place to figure out how to rework the problem until it becomes a necessary decision instead.

When left with two bad decisions, come up with a better option. And if that doesn’t work choose neither. Especially if both options are trying to coerce you into something you aren’t. And if nothing works then do what’s necessary and keep an eye out for a better opportunity comes along.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1039

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, consider buying me a coffee ☕️.

Join the Renaissance:

NewslettersConsiderations | Practices |  Bookaholics

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Can You Be Too Ambitious? (Ambition Part 2)

“Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretch her fingers to touch the heavens.”

Lao Tzu

Ambition is the inner spark that drives us to pursue our dreams, despite how crazy and uncertain they may be, and to live life with the courage that most others avoid.

But can there be such a thing as too much ambition? Yes, like most things in life, Ambition needs balance. Too much ambition can wreak you.

The classic example of this is the story of Icarus. The Greek myth of Icarus is the tale of complacency and ego. Daedalus and his son Icarus were locked in a tower by King Minos. Daedalus was an architect, you see, and he had built a labyrinth for the king, but was rewarded by being imprisoned because he and his son were the only ones who knew how to navigate the maze. After much time and plotting, Daedalus finally came to the idea of crafting wings out of bird feathers and wax so that they could escape. Daedalus was worried about his boy, however. He “forbade Icarus to fly too close to the sun for that would melt the wax, or to fly to close to the sea for that would dampen the feathers.” But of course, in the moment of flight Icarus forgot “with the exhilaration of flying, he flew too high and too close to the sun. The intense heat melted the wax on the wings, the feathers came loose.” And he was swallowed by the sea.

Not being ambitious enough and complacency will dampen your feathers…

Be too ambitious and the sun might melt the wax holding your wings together…

A modern expression of this is a line you’re probably familiar with, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Unfortunately (perhaps fortunately?) I’ve experienced this personally. I’m a person who has lots of ideas and genuinely loves creating and learning new things. Many people see that spark and want it for themselves. Let me rephrase, they’ve lost their spark and haven’t learned to rekindle their flame, so they want me to apply my spark to their own dreams. And in the past, I have trusted the wrong people to carry my torch. Lessons learned.

Most of the time giving and being generous is good. As Adam Grant has written about, sometimes you need to give before you can take. “From a motivation perspective, helping others enriches the meaning and purpose of our own lives, showing us that our contributions matter and energizing us to work harder, longer, and smarter.” But not completely. Not forever.

Building someone else’s dreams and ignoring/abandoning your own, or doing work you find unfulfilling, will eventually burn you out.

Burnout is caused by being overworked and stressed out. This isn’t the only cause of burnout, but I’d bet my horse on its a large percentage. Put another way, it’s not the lazy and complacent people who will burnout out but the overly ambitious.

It doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail—overworked is overworked.

Ironically, being ambitious burnout makes you the opposite of ambitious—complacent, stuck, tired, jaded, etc.

If you’re burnout, don’t lose hope. There’s always a road back, but it won’t be easy. You’ll need to put an enormous amount of time to doing things that energize and fulfill you. You’ll need to refocus on the fundamentals—healthy food, good sleep, fun, nature, exercise, financial stability. And slowly but surely your drive will come back. You will come back.

All that being said, don’t be scared of being ambitious. Just be cautious. Keep an eye out for how high or low you are flying. And remember to continuously ask yourself: Am I doing this for the right reasons?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1035

Join the Renaissance:

NewslettersConsiderations | Practices |  Bookaholics

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Mental Distractions

“One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.”

Daniel Goleman, author and science journalist

How many apps do you have on your phone? How many of them do you actually use? (Sidebar: If you’re interested in specifics, you can look this up in your phone settings.) How many email addresses do you have? What does your desktop or file folders look like? What websites do you check frequently? How many tabs do you have open right now on your computer???

Tabs are my embarrassing weakness. On any given day, I’ve got elevendy-billion tabs open. I love when the browser inevitably buckles under the weight of too many tabs and it finally crashes and I can start fresh. (Ahhhh.)

Digital clutter affects us just as much as physical clutter.

One thing I’ve been thinking quite a lot about lately is how everything has it’s own gravitation force that pulls on us. Some things pull on all of us—like the subtle tug of the closest star, Alpha Centauri A. Or more relevantly, this latest pandemic we’ve all been facing. Other things influence personally—like the people we surround ourselves with, our experiences, and how we spend our time.

The more we think/surround ourselves with someone (or something), the more influence and priority it has on us. Bringing it back to our phones, we’ll more likely open the apps on our home screen more than we would open an app five pages deep.

Digital, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—everything has a gravitational pull on us.

Which also means, it’s easy to become distracted, now more than ever.

Let’s define distraction as anything that keeps us from our most important things.

If family and fast cars are what’s important to you, like it is for the fast & furious crew, then anything that takes you away from that is distracting you from your greater purpose.

Not only can distractions take our tim, they can also take our energy.

Anything thing you want or wish you would do, or maybe-someday-ought-todo’s are just as mentally distracting as a stack of unread books or dancing gorilla.

The tricky thing is that it’s usually opportunities or interesting shiny things that distract us from our purpose. Great opportunities! …that happen to be in the opposite direction we wanted to go. Distractions can come in little or big sizes.

First, you need to know what you want in life (which is huge). Then the key is asking yourself—

  • Is this helping me, or distracting me?
  • Am I doing my job as a _________?
    • (ex: Am I doing my job as a writer? Am I doing my job as a dog-owner?)
  • What distraction can easily remove/get rid of?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1029

Join the Renaissance:

NewslettersConsiderations | Practices |  Bookaholics

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Faking It

“Every man should pull a boat over a mountain once in his life.”

Werner Herzog

Faking it until you make it is a mixed bag. On one hand, it gives you the confidence you need to go after something you want. On the other hand, it sets you up for potential failure. I think the people you hear about that became a success from faking it was just super lucky. It’s more likely to get caught being a fake than it is faking it successfully.

You see this across all areas of life and business, but I see it the most in creative or entrepreneurial settings.

Although it might sound great to put photography or product design on your portfolio, just because you can take a couple of good phone photos doesn’t make you a great photographer. I know this because I have a lot of friends who are photographers for a living and their work is incredible compared to an amateur photographer like me. I’ve read a book on photography and I know more than the average schmoseph, but even then I would be faking it if I put a photographer on my website or bios.

Professionals don’t fake it. Professionals don’t have to fake it. They develop the skillsets and learn the tools and then do it. And do it well.

You could argue that ‘faking it’ shows up the most in entrepreneurship.

Business has always been a little about magic. I trade you this paper thing (digital numbers nowadays) for your product or service thing. You use that paper thing to make your product thing better through hard work and then try to sell more of them to more and more people over time. Most products and services are works in progress. Ideally, it’s great now. And if the company continues to perform well, it will get even better.

Most startups are a mash of duck-taped products, shoe-string budget, ego, and underpaid workers, but they look amazing because they have a clean website and their social media is fire.

It takes a massive amount of confidence and faith to build a company. I think where faking it gets you in trouble in business is when you try to sell a product or service that isn’t good or isn’t as good as your selling it to be. That goes for customers, employees and investors alike. If your product isn’t good yet, people are going to notice, aka not buy it. And if they do buy it, but you don’t deliver, they sure as heck won’t buy from you again (and they’ll likely tell all their friends not to buy from you either). Instead, tt’s better to build your company on the foundation of a great product or service people need.

Faking it Pros:

  • Gives you the confidence to start.
  • Can develop your skills fasters.
  • Moves your career, or business forward.

…If it works.

Faking it Cons:

  • It can backfire instantly if your skills/products/services don’t match your confidence.
  • You’re essentially lying about what you can do.
  • Anyone who does the skill your faking will instantly be able to notice that you can’t.
  • Real social and career consequences if you get caught.

We all have to start somewhere, which means we have a vision and dream of who we want to be in our heads. The question is how to get there and make it a reality. Faking it could work, but it’s also inauthentic. In today’s instantly connected, open world, people can smell inauthenticity a world away. Leaning into faking it isn’t the answer. If you do, do it at your own peril.

Get good first.

It’s better to be a work in progress than being shot down in flames. Learn what you need. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try new things. Share what you are learning. Let your work build little by little. If you need to instantly be a professional you’ve already lost. Don’t just say it — do it. Cultivate your skills every day and let your work speak for itself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #848

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Creativity & Ambition

Whenever I go to a concert or festival, I can’t help but feel that I’m on the wrong side of the stage. If you see me there, I’m the weird guy (no, not that weird guy, he’s on another level) who occasionally becomes very still and stops bobbing and dancing. It’s likely because I’m watching what the guitarist or keyboardist hands are doing. I’m picking apart the drums and synths. I’m admiring the singer’s vocal palette and the band’s synchronicity. I’m still enjoying the show, but I’m enjoying it in a different way through an artist’s perspective. If you play an instrument, you’ll likely be able to relate.

I feel the same way when seeing superb broadway or watch a film, or admire good art or outfit, or underline a great word or turn of phrase in a book. I enjoy creativity at a deep level and want to go deeper still. I can see a fuzzy outline of tendrils where different creative and mental outlets weave and interconnect. It’s like discovering a language you aren’t familiar with but have moments of clarity when words of striking similarity to your native tongue pop out and identify themselves to you.

If there’s a Grand Unified Theory of the Universe, surely there’s also a Grand Unified Theory of Creativity.

(Yeah Josh, It’s called Math 🤓 you dumb dumb.)

But what makes someone creative?

Is it a feeling? Is it in our DNA? Is it the act of creating?

What separates those that do versus those that don’t? What’s the difference between a musician who makes it to the stage and a musician who creates at home?

Not that being on a stage is everything. Nor is there anything inherently wrong with only enjoying your art alone. But there is a certain special something — certain gumption — I admire for the creatives and dreamers who put themselves out there. No, I don’t mean starting an Instagram account and slapping a logo together in Canva.

I’m talking about the folks you put in the work. The ones that get down to brass tax and put in the time and effort to pursue their creativity. The ones who go out and build a business around a product or service that means something to them and provides meaning to others. The dancers, writers, poets, bodybuilders, athletes or designers who wake up early and begin their practice.

The word Ambition comes to mind. As does belief. You have to believe in yourself, at least enough to have the courage to try and the courage to breathe out the fear and walk out on the ‘stage’.

And the antithetical ego comes to mind as well. All artists who put themselves out there in some way shape or form think they are unique and have something to offer the world. Including myself! What kind of ego do you need to have a daily blogging practice as well as another dozen practices? (A BIG kahuna.)

But at the same time, at its core, creativity has to come from a place of love. Or at least a desire to be better, to do better. I would continue to play music even if I didn’t make a dime on it. I’d continue to write and practice the craft of writing because I love it for what it is and what it gives me. An outlet. A brush to paint with. A song to sing. A beat to dance. A comic to doodle.

Not because I can create, but because I can’t not do it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #825

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Related:

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

“Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.”

Oscar Wilde

“A man’s worth is no greater than his ambitions.”

Marcus Aurelius

Stop Waiting

“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?”

Buddha

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

Pablo Picasso

There’s mean reasons why you should wait on your idea (business, passion, dream, etc). It might not work. You may need more skills and experience to do it. You need to get your money right first. All these reasons are likely true.

But I would argue the reasons you shouldn’t wait far outweigh anything that’s stopping you. What if you go your entire life without doing the things you feel called to do?

It might not work — but who cares? What if it does? What if it doesn’t and it actually leads you to something better than you were originally aiming for? The future is far from assured. Now might be the only time you’ve got.

Skills come from experience. Skills come from doing. In order to create the skills you need to do the things you want to do, you have to first do the things you want to do in order to cultivate the skills you need. That sounds more complicated than it is. All you’ve got to do is just try. Experience and skill will grow as you do.

Money is not an either or option. You don’t have to choose your passion over money — you can choose both. Work on your idea on the side. Go part-time and work on it on the weekend. Take the time you have, and figure out how you can optimally squeeze out more quality in your hours.

Stop waiting.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #729


Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

When to Give Up and When to Keep Going

As much as you want something to work, you’ve got to ask yourself,

Is this right for me?
Is this right for my customers?
Do I even know who my customers are or what they want?

It’s hard to sell popcorn to an empty theater.

Sometimes we grow out of our work. Just because you’ve done something for years doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it for the rest of your life. If your answer to ‘Is this right for me?’ is no, then it’s time to take a step towards change. 

A ‘business plan’ looks good on paper, but in actuality, business doesn’t typically don’t work out so neatly. If the work is right for you, but the strategy doesn’t fly, then it’s time for a new strategy. The most successful people out there in the world learned how to constantly iterate their approach based on real-time feedback of what’s working or not, and continuously pursue their craft until they found a strategy that worked.

Give up easily, when it’s not right for you. Never give up when you haven’t found a to make what you love work yet. Develop the self-awareness to know the difference between the two for yourself.

These are the characteristics of champions.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

IG: @Renaissance.Life

https://forms.convertkit.com/273691?v=6

Related Insights

“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” — Jack Ma

“Never give up, and be confident in what you do. There may be tough times, but the difficulties which you face will make you more determined to achieve your objectives and to win against all the odds.” — Marta

“Do not let the roles you play in life make you forget who you are.” ― Roy T. Bennett

Staying Sharp

Look at any entrepreneurial or creative venture, and you’ll see that it was built on the backs of very sleepy people.

I­t­ seems like sleep deprivation is a badge of honor nowadays. Does creating success mean we need to have unhealthy habits to make I­t­ happen?

What about anger? Pain, injury, heartache, negative bank accounts, fear, frustration…

Are the emotions and setbacks that make us sharp necessary to be successful?

In her excellent book, The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington implores us to take back our lives and sanity by loving sleep again. Working on Huffington Post, Arianna literally stumbled upon our culture’s sleep deprivation problems when she collapsed and blacked out on the floor after consecutively pushing past her body and mind telling her to sleep.

I 100% agree with Arianna’s assessment:  sleep makes us better at what we do, not worse.
However, at the same time, I️ wonder, would I­t­ have been possible for her to create the massively popular Huff-Post without all the late nights working? 

It’s an unfair question because it’s impossible to know. I️ don’t want to pick on Arianna. I️ could name dozens of influential people who used their borderline unhealthy work ethic to create successful companies and freedom lifestyles, where they could mitigate and recover from the damage I­t­ created.

How many ideas of the Huff-Post caliber are crushed by lack ambition and putting in the work?

Is there a way of being rested AND successful?

I honestly don’t know. (Hopefully, someone smarter, or my future self can tell me).

The answer might come down to *everything in moderation.*

Oversleeping is just as bad sleep deprivation.
Too much-uncontrolled anger will eventually kill you. But a small amount of controlled anger? Now that might push you in the right direction to make change happen.

Change is the key factor.

Does this emotion / state / experiences / action fuel me towards changing? Does I­t­ help me create a life of meaning and worth? Is I­t­ a benefit or a detriment?

If it’s a detriment, we need to cast I­t­ out. If it’s a benefit, then perhaps the benefits outweigh the side effects they incur.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Say hello on Insta @Renaissance.Life

https://forms.convertkit.com/273691?v=6

Related Insights

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” — Homer

“One of the metaphors that I use for start-ups is, you throw yourself off a cliff and assemble your airplane on the way down. If you don’t solve the right problem at the right time, that’s the end. Mortality puts priorities into sharp focus.” — Reid Hoffman

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” — Vince Lombardi