Fooling Ourselves

“A degree of self-awareness is extremely valuable… I hope I have that going forward.”

Nick McDonell

It’s refreshing to have at least one person around you tell it like it is. When everyone around you agrees or compliments what you are doing, you start to believe your own hype (aka BS).

This is a dangerous position to be in, because you don’t know if what you doing is working in your favor or against you.

Ideally we would be self-aware enough to watch assess ourselves and “pick up what we’re putting down” as they say, and call ourselves out when we notice ourselves cutting corners or making bad choices. But as the American physicist and brilliant thinker Richard Feynman once said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Self-awareness is all the rage nowadays. But if you strip away the woo-woo and boil the idea down to its essence, self-awareness essential means knowing yourself. Knowing what you like, dislike. Knowing your goals and desires. And more importantly, knowing where your blindspots are, what your bad habits are, and where you tend to get upset (and how you cope with those emotions).

It might sound silly to say, but it’s difficult to know what you don’t know. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If we have a rough idea where our blindspots are, we can try to prepare for them in advance or avoid the triggers that lead to them so we can completely go around them.

Having a friend that’s honest and realistic, but is doing so because they want to see you be better and succeed is a great way to avoid unforeseen problems.

It can’t just be any person that can be our smart decision thermometer. Respect is essential to that kind of relationship. If there’s isn’t mutual appreciation or if you don’t look up to the person who is giving you honest feedback, then you’ll never actually listen to them and take their advice for truth. Without mutual respect and appreciation, they are the equivalent to the random Youtube comment troll who’s only goal is to criticize and take you down. Authority is also essential. If your friend is giving you advice on things they don’t do themselves (or never have done) then the advice will fall flat. If your words don’t align with your actions or experience, no amount of brutal honesty will convince you to change course.

These types of friendships are hard to come by, so when you do find one, do your best to cultivate the relationship and keep it strong.

Seek out groups of likeminded individuals or create a group yourself. Look for people who are lifelong learners and who are always doing new things and trying to be the best version of themselves.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #855

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Loneliness and Solitude

“In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“When from our better selves we have too long been parted by the hurrying world, and droop. Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, how gracious, how benign is solitude.”

William Wordsworth

We often know what we need, before we think we need it. Let me put that another way. We often know what decision we need to make, way before we decide to take the steps to make it. It’s like our heart (soul/spirit / inner-self ) knows exactly what we need to do instantly, while our outer, overly critical overly thinking self needs to warm up to it.

Sometimes we need space. Sometimes we need connection. Life is a mixture of both.

I have this tendency to check out whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, anxious or under the weather. All I want to do is crawl away from all the noise and find somewhere quiet to be with myself. Vegging out is a tempting mistress (and I find myself marathoning random shows more than I care to admit) but what I’m really seeking is a silent place to be alone with myself. I’m not checking out of myself, I’m checking out of the world. I’m checking out of the external and checking into the internal.

So, I’ll avoid responding to texts. I’ll be more reluctant to answer email, and more reclusive to going to events or friendly invitations. Even if it’s something I’d normally love doing, I’ll avoid it. Because what I know I really need is space and breathing room to be alone with myself. (Note: better to let your friends know you need some solitude, versus ignore them for days.)

Ask yourself, when was the last time you were alone with yourself? No phone. No tv. No distractions. Just you and you. (And maybe a notebook and pen.)

Whether we know it or not. We all need solitude. Our best ideas come from giving ourselves space. That’s why all great ideas happen when you are driving alone in your car, going on an early walk, or standing in the shower as the sound of water drowns out the outer world.

There are other occasions, usually, when things are tough or sour, where all we want to avoid people (particularly the prying people closest to us), and yet we know (and try to ignore) we need help and the only way we are gonna get that help is to be around people (again, particularly the prying people closest to us). We don’t want to show that we are hurting. We don’t want to show our weakness. And yet we all know that’s exactly what we need to do.

Better to rip the bandage and reveal our wounds early, otherwise, they might fester and become worse. Sharing our weaknesses and scars is a part of what being a human being is about. I think it’s a component of storytelling that’s built into our DNA. Your story connects to my story and vice versa.

You might not always get the reaction you were hoping, but you at least likely won’t get the reaction you are expecting.

The difference between needing space and needing people is subtle. It takes some time (and a lot of patience) to be able to listen to yourself and figure out which you need. I think what we are seeking is similar — a level of clearheadedness or balance — but what drives each comes from different things. Whatever you think you need, it’s usually the opposite. Unless you are extremely in tune with your emotional wellbeing. If you are like the rest of us emotionally unintelligent work’s in progress(es), there are road signs you can watch out for —

Loneliness. Isolation. Feeling like you need to do and take care of everything yourself. These are signs that you need to be around people. Ideally, people that are smarter than you, care about you, and what to help and see you succeed.

Overwhelm. Overstimulated. Grumpy and feeling like everyone in the world is an idiot or out to get you. These are signs that you need to be alone with yourself. Ideally in nature. Or in a quiet place, you won’t be interrupted.

Ignore these signs at your own peril.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #841

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Genuine Relationships

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The best relationships happen over time. They are cultivated through connection, camaraderie and shared experience. And they are grown day by day. It’s a wonderful feeling when someone can understand you for who you are, who you’re not and who you want to be.

New friends (especially friends who you feel an instant connection with) are worth every ounce of time and energy you put into cultivating a connection with them. But old friends are priceless.

Old friends keep coming back — no matter how much you change, improve, even regress and no matter how much time in-between has waned. At least the best ones do.

But like all good things in life, relationships have to be nurtured. No matter how long you’ve known somebody, you still have to care.

You have to care.

And so do they.

Care first. Care completely. But if after that they don’t care about what you do, what you dream about and. what you struggle with, then they aren’t worth your time anymore. Unless they decide to learn to care again. But that’s on them, not you. Relationships are a two way street. If you are the only one giving, then in the end, its something you should walk away from.

Life happens. I get it, likely more than most. You reach a certain age and some people you care about move away, other find love, get married and have kids. Other’s start their own company or become a doctor and work themselves into being a busybody. Or perhaps all the above. This makes it more challenging to stay connected. But if you give what you can, when you can, it’s worth it in the end.

When you care, the room lights up. When we all care, the world lights up.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #725

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All my friends are busybodies. I’m not sure when it happened. When our society tipped over into always being busy. When our jobs became jam packed. When our days become a rush and our responses go something like “I’m been so busy lately…” “Yeah, I’m good, this weeks been crazy…”. Or maybe this hustle and bustle has always been here and I’m getting old enough to see it. Dang. Or maybe it is being amplified by the internet and social media. Regardless, everyone is a busybody and I am too.

There’s a great quote by Mark Twain that goes, “don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” I think the same kind of mental framework can be applied to our relationships, work and life:

Don’t let the unimportant interfere with the important.

Easier said than lived, but the effort is worth its weight in gold.

There will always be more work to do. There will always be more email in our inboxes. There will always be new and exciting projects ready for our attention.

But there won’t always be more time. Each of us only have a finite amount of time to give and live. That’s why the important needs to come before the unimportant. That’s why love and friendship matter more than power and success.

Is this an either or situation? Do I have to choose between work and friends?
Slow down, family (w0)man. Not necessarily. Life and work is a balance and counterbalance. We shouldn’t spend all our time working and we probably shouldn’t spend all our time hanging out with friends either. (My friends would probably go crazy if they had to spend 100% of their time with me 🙂

Priority is essential, and is often overlooked or unregarded.

Cultivate strong friendships and become a friend of yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #724

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The best part about asking for advice from a trusted friend or mentor is the objectivity.

When you are facing down the barrel of a problem (or problemS with a fat capital Ssssss) you’re usually too close what’s going on to see the issue for what it is and find opportunities to solve it — without losing your shhhirt about it.

Asking for help can be terrifying, mostly because it shows you are vulnerable like everyone else. You spend all this time fortifying yourself for battle, handling problems by yourself, steeling your nerves. All the while, you’re on edge and crying on the inside, as your foundation crumble from all the battles.You wish you had help, but in order to get it you have to lower your defenses to let help through, leaving you open…

Objective advice allows you to see things for what they are, rather than what you think they are.

It’s an emotionless spark of insight on what’s going on. However emotionless doesn’t mean soulless. Trusted advice has care and concern behind it. It doesn’t come with expectations of what you should do or pity for what you can’t do, rather, it says ‘here’s something you might haven’t seen or thought about the problem.’

Advice gives you the chance to find different angles and perspectives to the problem and redefine what the your dealing with. 

A problem isn’t just a problem, it’s amplified by what we think and believe about it.

A negative hopeless problem is a lion roaring on your chest while you lay on the ground yelling, ‘why me?!’ An objective problem is recognizing that the lion is actually the size of an iPhone, and you can pick up the lion by its tiny tail and you can get up off the ground and show that baby iPhone-sized lion your teeth and strength.

When in doubt, ask a trusted confidant.

How do you know if you can trust someone? Ask yourself, ‘does this persons advice help me, or does it help them / does it make them feel better about themselves?’

Does this person’s advice help me, or just them?

And when you don’t feel like you have someone to trust, find an expert such as a therapist, or even better, someone who has been through what you’re going through.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursing,
— Josh Waggoner


Related Insights

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.” — Elon Musk

Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” — Benjamin Franklin

What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”  ― Maya Angelou

Good Book Pairings

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Find Those Few

You need someone to talk to.
Someone who will listen — really listen to you and your ideas.
Someone willing to help you, vouch for you and push you higher.

It doesn’t have to be 100 people.
Find those few.

Find those few friends rooting for you to win (and vice-versa)

There are some people I know I wish I could talk to more, but they would want me to be more like them and less like me.

Good or bad, friends fade with the phases of life, but the type of people you surround yourself will always determine the kind of person you are.

Your goal — and mine certainly — is to surround yourself with incredible people pursuing their own thing(s). You could be really into web development and be friends with someone really into major league baseball. Or love photography and be friends with an entrepreneur. The glue to the relationship is the pursuit of greatness and mastery.

When you surround yourself with greatness, you to want to strive to be great. Build a community to push each other forward, working in camaraderie towards excellence.

The moment you start looking for your few, they will randomly pop up one day out of the woodwork.

And when you find those few (in due time),

Cherish them.

Hold them close. Be the kind of friend that they need, because they need you too.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

IG: @Renaissance.Life

Related Insights

“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” — Euripides

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” — Jim Morrison