Find Out For Yourself

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

Leonardo da Vinci

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

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

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

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

Better to not read, then read not apply.

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

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

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

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True Yes

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

Adam Grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Loose Threads

“It is the loose ends with which men hang themselves.”

Zelda Fitzgerald

There’s this concept of loose threads (or loose ends) in film (and muuurder?) where certain details are left unfinished or unresolved. Loose threads could happen in the film’s story (i.e. We have some loose ends we need to cut) or the film itself, where there are storylines that feel unbuttoned and left hanging.

These unresolved/unfinished happen in our own lives too—good and bad.

Let’s start with good threads.

Good threads:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Steve Jobs

A good thread is what I call anything you put out into the world that’s positive, good-natured, or could become an opportunity (for you andor for others). The classic example is good karma. Things like anonymously donating to a charity, leaving a tip for a podcaster you enjoy, helping an old lady change her flat tire, etc. Good threads can also be investments you put out into the world that could bloom. Content, monetary investments, relationships, optimism, ideas, etc.

You never know when something you do or something you create will have a massive impact on your life or the lives of others.

That’s why it’s good to try to always be on our A-game and give one hundred percent with whipped cream on top of everything we say and do.

But what about bad threads?

Bad threads:

“I know the sag of the unfinished poem. And I know the release of the poem that is finished.”

Mary Oliver

Bad threads are unresolved sentiments live. Todos left undone. Things we said (sometimes even bragged about) but never did. Abandoned or sidetracked dreams. Projects unfinished. There are some bad threads that you can’t pick back up. Bridges burned, reputations tarnished.

Other bad threads are things we leave unfinished and yet still think about often. In Practice you’ve moved on to something else, in mind, you have unfinished business rummaging around in your head that pops up. These can be super harmful because they can zap our energy—in what we are currently doing AND from what we aren’t doing but wish we were. And they add up over the years. One thread unravels to two, then three…

I find it good to take some time to think and list out (if any) threads I’ve left open unresolved. After that, it’s a question of if it’s something I need to finish, something I really want to do or something I should let go of.

What are some projects or ideas left open that I need to resolve?

What are some asks/favors/tasks/opportunities I need to say no to?

What are some things I need to let go of?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #976

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Half Measures

“The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.”

Keanu Reeves

Whether you are aiming for a multi-disciplinary life or focusing your efforts on one thing instead, one thing is for sure—giving only a partial amount of attention and energy won’t work.

Another way of describing it is like “dipping a toe in the water”, or “dabbling”.

The question you must ask yourself is “Am I being careful/cautious, or am I making decisions based on fear?”

There’s no room for timidness when pursuing your dreams—only tenacity. Dabbling is fine for trying out new interests, perhaps. But when you know what you want to do, only giving a half-measured effort won’t bring the results you are looking for. Whatever you are going after in this life, you have to go all in.

How can you go all-in when you are going after multiple things? By going all-in on what’s in front of you and making sure the task at hand has the most priority. There’s multitasking and then there’s something I call multi-focusing (to make up a word that’s a mouthful—like a hamster eating carrots).

If multitasking is attempting to do multiple things at once, multi-focusing is giving all your focus on one thing, and one thing well, and when you are ready, switching to the next thing and, again, giving all your focus to it now.

While your consciousness is focused on what’s in front of you, your subconscious is still mulling over the previous focus, coming up with new ideas, inspirations, and connections. You are splitting your time, but not your attention. Your attention is at 100%. This allows you to learn multiple skills, or achieve multiple goals at the same time. Not as quickly if you would focus on one thing, but still quicker than your average joe/jane.

The key to success in anything in life is to give it you’re all.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #916

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All I Know is that I Know Nothing

“To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.”

Socrates

The realization that you don’t know much as you think you do is a humbling and important experience.

There’s a great line by Richard Williams, Director of Animation for Who Framed Roger Rabbit that encapsulates this feeling perfectly. He was finishing up his first animated film, The Little Island, and around that time Disney’s Bambi came out in theaters. “… I saw Bambi again and almost crawled out of the theatre on my hands and knees. ‘How did they ever do that?’ I’d learned just enough to realize that I really didn’t know anything!”

You have to be a little naive and arrogant in the beginning when you are just starting out on a new venture (be it a business, project, prototyping an idea, learning a new skill, etc). Otherwise, you’ll know too much to start and overwhelm yourself.

Knowing what you know now, would you have started if you knew how hard it would be to get where you are?

You have to be naive and inexperienced enough to try new things.

Zen Buddhists describe this is having a beginner’s mind. A beginner’s mind is open and ready to learn.

Eventually, you learn a thing or two about your craft. You start making things, designing things, selling things, and get good enough to move things forward. Product sales role in. Your design clients like your work. Your art gets praise. Your song gets applause.

But then you see a professional at work. You see someone who does what you do, but a hundred times better. Heck, you didn’t even realize your guitar could do that. For example, take one look at some of the designs on Dribbble and you’ll realize your designs are garbage designs. “Are they using the same app I’m using?? How do they even make colors and shapes look like that??” The same is true for any skill, venture, or activity. And you realize that—

There’s a lot of incredible creatives and entrepreneurs out there.

It’s painful when you realize you aren’t as good as you want to be.

(It’s also painful when you see someone doing things worse than you are, but they are getting all the praise and attention—Topic for another day.)

But this is a great place to be in. This is another one of those pesky turning points that separate those that succeed and fail. You could stop. You could let someone’s brilliant work make you feel down about yourself and lead you to quit. Or—

You can let it lift you up and inspire you to do better.

Knowing that there’s a lot you don’t know is a great mindset to be in. You’ll learn must faster and more effectively. Humility leads to growth. Once you get past the initial ego-sting of realizing you aren’t the best, you can use the brilliance of others as an experience to seek out advice and to get better.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #913

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Applying Multiple Intelligences

“Creativity begins with an affinity for something. It’s like falling in love.”

Howard Gardner

The first time I came across the idea of Multiple Intelligences (MI) was a Creative Live course I took by Vanessa Van Edwards called Master Your People Skills. Multiple Intelligences is essentially the idea to group intelligence (cognitive power/ability) into separate modalities (particular paths of doing something) instead of seeing intelligence as this generic blob of ‘dang pretty good at stuff’. In the book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner proposed this theory of multiple intelligences and gave eight examples (meaning there could be more) of unique types:

  1. Musical-rhythmic — sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, and music.
  2. Visual-Spatial — ability to visualize things with the mind’s eye.
  3. Verbal-linguistic — storytellers. People who are are great at reading, writing, memorizing.
  4. Logical-mathematical — ability to think logically and abstractly.
  5. Bodily-kinesthetic — dancers. Athletes. Actors. control over your body. Great sense of timing, response, and clear physical action
  6. Interpersonal — conversationalists. A sensitivity to other people’s feelings and moods. The ability to sway others in a particular way.
  7. Intrapersonal — self-aware. A strong understanding of yourself and what makes you, you.
  8. Naturalistic — in-tune with the natural world.

Don’t think of these as separate or fixed silos we fall into. Like the Enneagram, we might gravitate towards one or more intelligence over the others. For example, you might be better in tune with your body’s movement and what it needs, where as I might be able to pick up math class easily, or play songs by ear (but completely deaf to what my body is telling me). 

You could argue (and many have) that this a very subjective way of looking at intelligence and just another way to reframe ability. It doesn’t fit neatly into our educational system, as IQ does. But as a self-learner, I don’t really give a bleep about what my IQ is. I’m seeking new ways to become more knowledgeable and wiser and to fill in the gaps — and potential pitfalls — of my thinking. Can MI help make you and I a better creative? Potentially!

What’s exciting to me about the idea of multiple intelligences, is that it gives us a framework and a more focused definition we can use to learn how to get better in all the sub-modalities of intelligence. (That’s my crazy Renaissance mindset coming out.)

Each ability is highly valuable to not only learning and creativity but to all nooks and crannies of our lives. MI gives us a better vocabulary, or even a checklist to challenge ourselves with and questions to ask ourselves.

  • How can I add music practice into my life?
  • What if I started a visualization practice?
  • What makes a great story? How can I become better at communicating my ideas?
  • How can I approach my problems logically?
  • Where am I ignoring my body?
  • Who can I surround myself with to create the life I want to live?
  • Am I paying attention to myself and my needs? Do I have a good idea of who I am and what I want out of life?
  • Am I spending time in nature?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #869

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All In

Learning never exhausts the mind. Leonardo da Vinci

It’s a misconception that a renaissance human — someone who practices multiple skills — can’t be as good as a specialist who only focuses on only one skill.

Yes, It’s true that the more you divide your focus, the less amount of time and energy you can give to each. And yes, there is a limit to how many things you can pursue at once without scattered yourself in too many (ineffective) directions.

But a multi-disciplinary can be just as great if not more so that single-disciplinary individuals. Divided time doesn’t mean you aren’t putting in the hard work.

Even pursuing one skill, there’s only so much time and energy you can give to something before you need to stop and take a break. For a renaissance type, it just so happens you’re likely going to take a “break” by jumping into another skill. You aren’t reducing work, you are adding in different work.

You can go all-in on multiple things. Not too many — there are only so many hours in the day. Try too many things at once and you won’t be able to go deep enough. (This is the jack/jill of all trades zone.)

While alive, our hearts keep beating. Our minds keep thinking. Even while we sleep our mind and body are still active.

When you are jumping from one skill to another to another, you are feeding your curiosity. The key is to pursue interests that rejuvenate you and keep you doing and learning new things. We get stale when we stay in our comfort zones instead of challenging ourselves. (That goes for both specialists and renaissance humans.)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #868

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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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Is it Possible to be a Multidisciplinary in Today’s Age?

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

Michelangelo

Is it possible to reach Leonardo da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin’s level breadth of skills and knowledge in today’s world?

Yes. But there’s a difference between today and as time goes forward (assuming there’s no apocalyptic zombie outbreak).

There’s a lot more choice today than in the past. For example, Leonardo, although an I legitimate son, had more access to paper than most growing up because his father was a notary and landlord. That’s like me growing up without a cellphone versus kids today growing up with phones, tablets TVs and other screens aplenty! For most, paper was not cheap. To think and draw and write was quite a luxury.

Think about how plentiful our access to paper is today. The same is true for everything in our modern world.

Even the poorest of us have more choices than in the past.

To be multidisciplinary, we must be extremely cautious with what we give our time too. Every skill and industry, be it woodcraft, design, dance, artificial intelligence, or medicine has multiple multiple sub-skills and paths we could take.

To reach a level of mastery of any trade is difficult. Most don’t get there. To reach mastery in multiple trades takes discipline, creativity, and dedication.

It’s possible, certainty. But it means we have to choose. We must prioritize our essential few over the plethora (and ever-expanding) options.

There’s room for trying new things and experimenting of course. But there’s not much room for idleness and complacency.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #847

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