Make It Count

“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” Elbert Hubbard

I read a great quote recently by Alexis Ohanian, entrepreneur, investor, co-founder of Reddit—

“Lives Remaining: Zero”

On any given normal day, life feels infinite. It feels like we have all the time in the world to do and be who we want. And so we often push off the important things (things that usually require hard work and discomfort) in favor of entertainment and nothing burgers.

The significance of our time really only shows up in moments of difficult or life and death situations. If you’ve survived 2020, then you know the feeling of how quickly time passes. Getting older does it too. Time seems to speed up in our brains.

Have you ever heard given the response, “Just killing time until…such and such.”

But do we really have time to waste or kill time?

Whether or not you believe in live after this one—this is the only life you’ve got right now.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes by the poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

This is it. Better make the most of it.

Better make it count.

“You’ve got zero lives remaining, don’t squander this one.”

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1111

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Self-Helpy Nonsense

My blog posts have been trending towards self-helpy, motivation pieces lately. Mostly because I’m writing things I need to hear myself.

I like writing content that helps motivate and nudges you to improve and change, but I’d rather not be another “self-help guy.”

The self-help I find worth reading is always ground in practical application.

You can tell me “you can be successful if you put your mind to it” but I find that less appealing and impactful compared to if you show me how and back it up with your own experiences.

I admire great writers and thinkers like Adam Grant and Maria Popova (there are so many, but those are the two that come to mind) who can take an idea or a connection of ideas and combine them with personality, research, and history.

I’d like to go beyond my personal observations and take Renaissance Life to the next level. What that looks like precisely is still out of focus, but it’s something I’m going to be continuing to put some time and energy toward. It’s also another reason why I’m doubling down on podcasting and having good conversations with people smarter than me.

If you have ideas for what you would like to see from me and the Renaissance Life, shoot me an email: Josh [at] RenaissanceLife [dot] com.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1074

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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

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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

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Analysis Paralysis

“Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.”

Blaise Pascal

Momentum requires movement. Think of a fire—a spark is nothing and everything. A spark can keep you warm, it can take out a house, a forest, even cities. It doesn’t take much, but a little is enough.

The hardest parts are:

  1. Starting
  2. Restarting (another form of starting)

Starting something new can feel like quicksand, particularly when we are scared or worried. But once you get moving, fear turns into excitement. Water starts to flow. Ideas pour out. Dust and cobwebs start to clear. Muscles warm up in anticipation.

Restarting is similar to starting, but harder. Whenever you stop doing something, like a diet or journaling, or an online design course, not only you lose momentum, you also add weight to your shoulders. How many times have you thought of the past when things about your life— your health, happiness, finances—were better? We pine after the “good old days” and whenever we attempt to restart our habits we fail because we put too much pressure on ourselves.

The key to starting is starting fresh. Don’t focus on what you had and what you’ve lost. Focus on what you can do right now and the potential of where you can be once you begin again.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1004

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Confidence Sandwich

“Courage is a mean with regard to fear and confidence.”

Aristotle

I find it quite difficult to jump into something new right away, like a new skill, habit, relationship, or idea.

When we start something new, it’s like we are a beginner all over again.

We’re excited, but we’re also nervous, and our confidence is unsteady.

We’re just starting out, so we’ll likely fail. And low confidence plus potential failure is a combination that usually leads us to throw up our hands and give up.

But not if you have a confidence sandwich. A confidence sandwich, or—if you prefer—a confidence burger, is stacking a low-confidence experience with two high-confidence experiences, one on top and bottom. Think Oreo—strong cookie exterior, soft gooey center.

This allows us to warm up with something that boosts our confidence, which gives us more impetus to try something new/different (aka the goal). And then we end on a high note with another confidence booster.

High confidence
Low confidence
High confidence

Or put another way —

Familiar/comfortable
Unfamiliar/new/uncomfortable
Familiar/comfortable

I use this when I’m practicing music. I’ll start with a song I’m comfortable with and have played many times. Then I’ll experiment and try new things. And I’ll end with another song I’m used to and enjoy playing.

You can use the confidence sandwich for any situation that requires an extra boost of confidence.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #962

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Fool’s Errand

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Richard P. Feynman

Don’t mistake action for progress. Movement is good, but if you’re going in circles you’re not going to see the results you are looking for.

For example, no amount of programming you do will make you a better guitarist. It might give you ideas, but it won’t make you better at songwriting—only practicing guitar can do that.

Here’s a subtle one—posting and commenting on social media for your business or client. Will it get you likes? Sure. Will those likes turn into sales or true fans? Maybe a few. But it won’t make your product better. That takes work and customer research.

Progress is doing the right things on the stuff that matters to you.

Everything else is either play or a waste of your time.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #949

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What’s Your Motivating Factor?

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.”

Bruce Lee

Motivation can come from a lot of places. Pain, for example, is a great motivating monkey wrench. I wouldn’t wish pain on anyone, but it can be an annoying nagging friend that puts a spotlight on something out of alignment with your life.

Growing up, we think we are invincible. But if you are the parent in this equation, you know that your child is anything BUT invincible (—Try telling that to them though). It’s not until they skid their knees falling off a bike, break an arm rollerskating, or get emotionally bullied at school when they realize that pain is real as anything else.

This isn’t necessarily always a bad thing if it inspires/motivates you allow it to lift you up and make you better and forge a different path that you wouldn’t have otherwise taken. There’s nothing like a taste of death—like a heart attack or a bout with cancer, or chronic issue—that can motivate you to be more intentional and your health and how you live. Is this easy? No. But it is insightful.

Curiosity is another excellent motivator. The drive to seek answers beyond the surface of things, and unlock the secrets of the universe can motivate you to wake up and get going with enthusiasm each day. There is energy and agelessness in the joy of finding out how things work and why.

Some motivations happen to us—like pain, shame, circumstances, etc—and some motivations we can choose to cultivate—like curiosity, resiliency, success. One key aspect of a good life is to not let the bad motivations keep us down and instead allow them to teach us an uncomfortable lesson we can use and pass on to others through our story.

Questions: What’s motivating you? Is it a positive motivation (something that gives you energy vs. drains you?)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #940

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Zero Motivation Part 7: Resources

Note: You can read this motivation series in any order, but this is the last post (7 out of 7), so you might want to read some of the others first:

“No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.”

John Locke

I talk a big game, but I only know what I’ve personally experienced and seen work in my life.

I still feel fear, sweaty palms and fluttering stomach, any time I try something new and step out of my comfort zone. I’m excited, but I’m also nervous. I still worry about looking like a failure or embarrassing myself. But I’ve found ways forward, past the fear and worry. Because life’s too short to sit on your dreams.

Besides, embarrassment and failure are a part of life. Only my ego thinks otherwise.

Maybe you have a very good reason not to do what you wish you would do. But then why do you keep thinking about it? Why do you keep wishing you would?

There are times when we have to put a dream down so that we can pick up another dream.

And there are other times when we need to see the situation for it truly is: we are scared. And that little bit of fear is holding us back.

My hope that this series will help you shake off some of the shackles that fear has on you. I hope you find you find the strength to pursue the life you dream of, despite the life you may have.

Remember, it’s not zero-sum. The pursuit of your dream exists on a spectrum. Even a piece of it is better than never trying. (This is getting a little too self-help-y, so I’ll stop there.)

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”

Amelia Earhart

Here are some great resources from smarter people than I:

Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual by Jocko Willink

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win by Jeff Haden

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #901

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Zero Motivation Part 6: Build Discipline

Note: You can read this motivation series in any order, but if the thought of reading something out of order makes you want to tear off your shirt hulk style and run naked in the streets, then here’s are links to the others in order:

Motivation Part 6: Build Discipline

“Right discipline consists, not in external compulsion, but in the habits of mind which lead spontaneously to desirable rather than undesirable activities.”

Bertrand Russell

If I were to boil down this motivation series to one thing—when you think about it, motivation isn’t very useful on its own.

If motivation was a tool in our toolbox, it wouldn’t be very good at its job.

It’s like using a flat head screwdriver (—) to screw in a Phillips screw (+)—it will do the job (…eventually,) but we’ll waste a lot of energy doing it. 

Or maybe it’s like using a dull bandsaw when what we really need is a chainsaw. 

What we need is discipline.

Discipline is a chainsaw to creativity and making our dreams happen.

Why rely on motivation when you can have the discipline to practice your craft at any time, no matter how you feel nor what’s going on in your life?

Ever since I started eating healthier and pursuing a Renaissance Life, friends and family have occasionally commented on how disciplined I am. ‘Josh, you are so disciplined, I don’t see how you do it…’

I’m not sure if there’s a “secret” behind having discipline. 

Pain could be one. When we experience pain (like from a breakup or loss or, in my case, injury) we have the opportunity to practice and hone our discipline. We *could* sit in the sadness or numbness, and sometimes we do in the beginning. But usually, we sleep it off and eventually pick ourselves up out from the misfortune and find the strength to carry on and live our best lives we can muster.

Taking Action could also be one component behind discipline. Movement takes us away from letting our worrisome and negative thoughts cloud our judgments.

I had discipline, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to what discipline meant or what it was until I listened to Jocko Willink, retired Navy SEAL on The Tim Ferris Show and eventually read his book, Discipline Equals Freedom.

If you are looking for a go-to primer on how to have discipline, I would highly recommend this book and his podcast.

Discipline is doing what needs to be done, what you know that needs to be done, despite how you are feeling at any given moment. 

As Jocko says,

“Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline.”

“Is this what I want to be? This? Is this all I’ve got—is this everything I can give? Is this going to be my life? Do I accept that?”

“Question yourself every day. Ask yourself: Who am I? What have I learned? What have I created? What forward progress have I made? Who have I helped? What am I doing to improve myself—today? To get better, faster, stronger, healthier, smarter?”

We don’t need motivation to do something. We just need a plan that gets us going, removes temptations to be lazy and complacent and allows us to show up every day with the discipline we need to create the life that we want to live.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #900 🎉

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