Don’t Bet on a Maybe

“Truth is confirmed by inspection and delay; falsehood by haste and uncertainty.”

Tacitus

The biggest regrets I have were when I didn’t go with my gut (or didn’t take the time to even listen to my gut) and instead backed an answer on a ‘maybe’. Here’s another way of putting it, I let other people’s opinions and desires outweigh my own. I backed their truth instead of trusting my own truth.

Perhaps you can related to this as well, because you’ve dealt with it outcome the hard way too.

There are so many important decisions we face in life:

  • Should I take this job? …. hmm I’m not sure, the pay is good…
  • Should I go to this school or that school? (should I go to school at all??) … I want to go to this one, but everyone else is telling me to go to that one…
  • Hey bro, do you want to invest in X Y Z? … it sounds like a great idea, but it’s not really what I’m passionate about…
  • Is this the person I want to be with for the rest of my life?
  • Is this the person I want to be for the rest of my life?

When it comes to making decisions, big or small, never bet your future on a maybe.

There’s a massive difference between “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure”.

“I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. It shows that there’s still some more time you need to carve out for yourself to think about the question you are answering.

But If you are not sure, then you are hesitating. Hesitation is another form of ‘maybe’.

Hesitation usually is a sign that you are sure, you know you should say yes (or you know you should say no) but for whatever reason, we over think it and confuse ourselves into making the wrong call.

The problem is, t’s easy for a ‘maybe’ to default into a ‘yes’. But I think it should be the other way around.

I think any type of hesitation or uncertainty around a decision should default to a ‘no’. Particularly if your gut is say ‘no’ and your head is saying ‘yes’.

If someone asks you to make a moment’s notice decision and you are not sure, then just say no. Maybe it’s a bad call. Maybe you’ll miss out on an opportunity. But a possible opportunity you are uncertain about is never worth give your valuable resources to (your time and energy). As they say, opportunities are a dime a dozen. If you miss out on one, another will come soon enough. Hell, we can even create our own opportunity instead!

Life is uncertain, don’t let your decisions be uncertain too.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #690


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Storytelling Power

“Storytelling is the game. It’s what we all do. It’s why Nike is Nike, it’s why Apple is Apple, it’s why Walt Disney built Disney World and it’s why Vince McMahon makes a billion dollars.”

Gary Vee

Every subject can be interesting with the right passion and story behind the telling. Even mud is exciting when someone passionate about mud talked about it.

Passion, curiosity, storytelling and juicy detail makes everything — even what’s deemed boring — interesting. (And if you’re not interested, you know someone out there in the world is.)

Which tells me, if people find you or your work boring, it’s not about what you do, but about how you talk about it. Telling the story behind what you do is an essential part of the skill or knowledge you want to know. It’s embedded into the skill itself. You don’t have to be great at talking about what you do, or like, but those who are and learn to weave passion and clear narrative into talking about their work will go much farther building a community than those don’t.

Storytelling is a meta-skill, meaning a skill that enhances other skills. Instead of dull, monotonous facts and figures, you can combine storytelling with history and you’ve got thrilling adventures. (i.e. Hardcore History) Instead of drool or nap-worth lecture, you can combine passionate curiosity with science and you end up with icons like Richard Feynman.

If you are striving to be a master at what you do, don’t forget to add storytelling to the mix or your repertoire.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #667


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B for Effort

“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.”

Antonio Brown

Yesterday’s blog about comparing your work to others brings up a horrifying almond milk-curdling question:

What if my work is crap?

This is a reality we all must often face on our creative journeys. We live in a hyper-connected world. The internet levels the playing field, which increases the competition. You are a few taps away from a painting, song, business idea, film, photo and more that makes your work look like a baked potato. Now, my goal as a writer is not to beat out all the worlds competition. I want to improve my ability to tell a good story as well as get my ideas across clearly that you and others like us can use and find helpful in their lives. But competition is great because it’s a pressure cooker — it puts us in an environment where we have to improve.

When faced with our work not as good as we want it to be, we are left with two choices:

Give up or get better.

Giving up is easy. But has consequences beyond the obvious once you can think of. Mainly, you have to live with the fact that you didn’t try or didn’t give it your all. That’s a powerfully negative mental rock that you have to carry. (Only to be resolved through strengthening your mind and refusing to give up next time.)

Getting better is hard. But if we want to become masters at what we do, we must face the hard things, plateau, try again, fail, try again and keeping fighting for our dreams.

Will we become the best in the world? Possibly. The potential is always there if we are willing to put in the time and work necessary to do the extraordinary. But even if we don’t, we become better versions of ourselves in the process. Even if you only get to the top 10%, 20% of your craft, that’s infinitely better than giving up your dreams, doing nothing, and not even getting a participation trophy.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #666 👹


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Comparing Notes

“Whatever you put around yourself, you will be the mirror of it. Surround yourself with things you love.”

Marcel Wanders

Comparing your creative work to others is a tricky walnut to crack. On one hand, seeking out and comparing your work to others that are better can help increase your skills and the drive to push yourself to new heights.

However, with the wrong mindset, the other hand can quickly shove you down into deep dark abyss known as ‘self-loathing’ and ‘mental-verbal abuse’.

Let’s follow this thought for a moment. There we lay, on the muddy cave floor, holding ourselves back by spinning stories and convincing ourselves we aren’t good enough and never will be. (That got a little dark Josh…) But this isn’t true. This is just one story out of many we could tell. Negativity, Self-Criticism, Doubt are not the only way to live. Thinking your work sucks and you’ll never get better is just one story you are telling yourself that’s not getting you anywhere you want to go. The key is seeing that when it happens and deciding to tell a new story that enables you and pushes you forward, instead of holding you back.

Mindset has a massive role in everything we do. Thinking it, doesn’t make it reality, but it doesn’t make it possible. Mindset is like water to our bodies. Poor water causes all kinds of problems and parasites. Clean water rejuvenates and makes us capable of being ALIVE.

It’s worth pointing out that everyone feels like their work is no good somewhere along their creative pursuit. We do all this hard work, and then stumble upon someone’s work that is touched by the gods. When this happens, there’s two things we can do:

Deflate and Dismiss

Every excuse in the book isn’t worth stopping. If we come across someone who is better at what we do and feel deflated and down or dismiss them as unnaturally lucky or talented, then our mindset is getting in our way. Reflect, and find ways to change it. Or we can —

Be Inspired and Get Better

Great work is a great motivator. If we come across someone who is better at what we do, then we should feel motivated and driven to get better. Your awesome skills and work should lift my own, and vice versa.

Your skills aren’t worthless. Remember how far you’ve come. If you are an artist, think about someone you know who has never touched a paint brush in their lives. Could they do what you do? Of course not, not without all the time and effort you’ve put in. If you are a musician, could anyone who’s never picked up an instrument (unless you count an imaginary instrument) come close to what you can do? No way. We just get used to our skills and our professionalese and see only how far we have to go, versus how far we’ve come.

Let your progress motivate you to reach for that next level. Celebrate others work and achievements and allow yourself to be inspired to up your skills.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #665


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Short Term Long Term

It’s good to compare the short-term value versus the long-term value of what we say yes (or no) to.

If I say yes to a work opportunity, what’s the short-term value and long-term value, and what’s each half-life? How long does the value last? Trade for example. If I trade a logo design for a food gift card

Short-term and long-term usually comes down to immediacy. If you don’t have any money for food this week, then trading work for a food gift card would be a great idea. But if you’ve got plenty of money for your essential needs, then training your time for food is a debatable value.

Long-term benefits are almost universally more valuable than short-term due to compound interest.

It’s worth noting that consistent short-term actions lead to long-term value. You can’t have a long-term vision without the short-term actions to get you there.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #654

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The Right Stuff

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

There are only 24 hours in a day.

How do we know what’s right to focus our time and other finite resources on?

Right is part personal priority and part luck.

Knowing what’s right to invest in is too general. How do we know which conversation or person we know or will meet will one day help us land that new job, or pick us up when we are down? How do we know what to practice? How do we start? How do we make our dreams happen?

Right depends on the desired outcome. An obvious example, cultivating a daily habit of practicing guitar won’t make you a great gardener. But if your dream is to be a musician, practicing guitar every day is a great way to priorities your time. However, practice alone doesn’t quite get us all the way. ‘Luck’ has a lot to do with it too.

Luck is a vague way of saying there’s a countless number of variables that are pushing and pulling on all of us. For example, luck includes being in the right place, knowing the right people, timing, and even what others are doing (or not doing) around us. There are certain aspects of luck we can control, like who we are friends with, our attitude, or how we treat others. Then there are other things that are far from certain, like other peoples action, that are best left alone. The more we can stack the deck in our favor, the luckier we will tend to be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #651

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Plantin’ Seeds

Big Redwood Trees
Photo by Josh Carter

If you want to grow a giant redwood, you need to make sure the seeds are ok, nurture the sapling, and work out what might potentially stop it from growing all the way along. Anything that breaks it at any point stops that growth.

Elon Musk

One observation I’ve been appreciating recently is the nuanced, yet powerful force of planting seeds. Our future is built on our past decisions, specifically, all the big and tiny things we agree (or not) during each day.

Everything we do, from how we sit, how we communicate to ourselves, how we eat, to what we read, has a butterflying effect into our future. We are who we are today because of echos from our past, and the echoes from our parents past and beyond.

On the surface, there’s rarely immediacy to planting seeds. They take time, attention, water and sunlight that we could be using elsewhere. And we can’t eat them right away. If we tried, they would be as nutritiously effect to what we are trying to grow.

A conversation here, a habit there… A week goes by and there’s not much to show for it. Progress was made, but it’s often too subtle for us to notice. This is one of the big reasons why most people don’t plant seeds. Growing is slow work. ‘I can’t invest or focus on my future problems, because all of my immediate problems are right now’ — this is something I’ve said others and told myself before.

But immediacy doesn’t equate to priority.

What separates those that do, versus those that don’t is prioritize the future today. A creator creates every day — even if it sucks, because eventually they know their investment will pay off.

Invest in the right things, and the ‘immediate’ things will fade away.

Today is always the best day to do something for tomorrow. Why do tomorrow what you can do today?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #650

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Hurry Up and Wait

Yesterday I️ talked about the idea of self-inflicted stress. Stress that we carry around like an orangutan on our back, jonesing for a banana. (…what?) This could be internal stressors we bottle up, such as anger and frustration towards our work or relationships, and this could be external stressors like

comparison (why can’t I️ have what she has?), 

stuff (I️ have too much stuff / I️ don’t have even stuff / I️ don’t have the right stuff), 

Or pursuits (money, happiness, connections, skills).

But usually its all the above, internal stressors, external stressors, twisting around like earbuds in your pocket, eventually forming into one giant life crisis that floors you and feels impossible to untangle.

I️ mentioned that a big self-inflicted stress that I️ carry is being late / hating rushing. I️ HATE rushing. It’s one of my least favorite feeling. (Did I️ say that already?) I️ want to be on time, but I️ fit so much in my day that I️ don’t have a lot of margin in between doing things. (which is an entirely separate topic I️ need to explore…)

I also live on island time 🏝 This is definitely something I️ picked up from my mom. Her parents (my grandparents) were the complete opposite. They would leave a movie before I­t­ was over just to beat the traffic. I️ think she rebelled into the opposite direction, taking her time, not beholden to it, not afraid of showing up late. My dad, on the other hand, is completely opposite from her (Which makes for regularly hilarious entertainment 🍿). He wants to be on time for everything, but when he can’t — usually because of mom — he goes through the 10 stages of grief.

In the army, they have a phrase for this: Hurry up and wait. You’re either 15 minutes early or your late. I️ learned this from gabriella, who, centuries before we met, was in the army. To them, I️ imagine it’s all about being prepared. You want to be where you need to be, at the right time, the right place, with the right structure and gear to be able handle anything.

Which sounds fantastic. I️ want to be in the right time, right place and have everything I️ need to handle anything. That sounds amazing!

Putting that mindset into practice starts with the level of commitment you have on your goal. You can’t be 15 minutes early if you keep hitting snooze. If you are 10 minutes away, you need at least 25 minutes to get there early.

The same is true for entrepreneurship and creativity.

Deadlines are not restriction, they are margins of time that give you (ideally) flexibility and space to be your most creative and effective self. Of course unrealistic deadlines are restriction. They are the equivalent of rushing or cramming. Without structure, work doesn’t get done. Without margin, creativity isn’t at its best. There’s a tight balancing act between island time and chronic panic.

It’s impossible to be creative if you’re not actually in the habit of creating. And it’s hard to be creative with a banana crazy orangutan for a backpack.

How to find this balance all depends on how you want to live. What you do for work, Who you work for, spend time with and surround yourself with, What types of content you consume and what principles and values you hold all add up in a big, and unique way. There is no one way, because there is only one you. I️ can show you how I️ live my life and you can be inspired and challenge by that or not. But trying to be me doesn’t mean that will work for you. Making I­t­ (dreams, passions, experiences etc) work comes from making I­t­ work for you.

The thing to be watchful of is the question: do you feel good about how you act?. When you’re actions don’t align with who you are and your aspirations / intentions / values, then you’re adding stress to the ‘I hate myself’ bucket.

Do you feel good about how you act?

If you do then you’re on the right track. If you don’t it’s time to change how you feel or change how you do things.

Being on time is great, and being late is fine — unless your stressing yourself all the time by carrying around two opposing beliefs: 

I️ should be early, 
I️ am never on time.

Should being the key word here. Our ‘should’s’ are the very core of what our self-inflected stresses are. We should be doing something, but we are not.
we want to be doing something, but we haven’t.  We wish we could, but we are not trying. 

I️ try my best to live my life by the things that I️ do, versus the things that I️ should do.

I️ hardly succeed at it, and easily fall pray to comparing myself to others, but as long as I️ reaching for the goal, I️’m better off than I was.

The more ‘should’s’ you can remove from your life, the greater life you will have.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
And wherever you are, keep smiling 🙂
Josh Waggoner

Feedback: What did you think about today’s blog post? Did it spark any insights for you? Thoughts? Outrage? Email me: josh@renaissancelife.com. Join the Renaissance Email List below for more content on creativity, mastery and life.

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Related Insights

“Your best ideas, those eureka moments that turn the world upside down, seldom come when you’re juggling emails, rushing to meet the 5 P.M. deadline or straining to make your voice heard in a high-stress meeting. They come when you’re walking the dog, soaking in the bath or swinging in a hammock.” — Carl Honore

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein

“A broad margin of leisure is as beautiful in a man’s life as in a book. Haste makes waste, no less in life than in housekeeping. Keep the time, observe the hours of the universe, not of the cars.” — Henry David Thoreau

Book Pairings

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety by Charlie Hoehn

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden

 

Preparation: Rules of the Game

Preparation brings up many emotions for me.

Not Good Enough: Sometimes preparation stops you from starting.

The first thing to note about preparation is to ask yourself, “does this preparation get me where I️ want to go effectively and help me avoid common pitfalls or is this just excuses and laziness in disguise?” Often times, preparation is really just excuses you have to delay yourself from doing something that scares your butts off.

I’ve felt, and I’m sure most of us have, that I️ was unable to take on something new because I️ didn’t know enough yet. “As soon as I️ take this second online course, I’ll start executing my idea.” “As soon as I️ finish school” “As soon as I️ have the right equipment” “As soon as have more $….”

Excuses excuses. 98% of this is BS. A disempowering belief of “I’m not good enough yet” that’s wrapped in a shiny gold ‘someday’ that never comes. I­t­ took me a while to understand, but here’s honest truth: You will never know enough. You will always think you’re not good enough. Even if you know more about music than anyone else you know, you’ll still feel inadequate. Unless you try I­t­ and go after I­t­.

Too Much Info For Your Own Good: Something I­t­ hinders you and muddles your ability to see and think clearly 

The second thing to note about preparation is too much preparation can actually be a bad thing depending on your goal. Ask yourself, “Is this preparation a requirement?”
If you’re studying to be a doctor — you need to prepare. No one in their right mind would let you be their surgeon on your first day of medical school. You can cover a bad tattoo or haircut, but you can’t recover from a bad surgery.

But if you are trying to do something new by piecing together commodity types of thinking, you’re shooting yourself in the foot before you even leave the starting point. No about of reading is going to make you a better public speaker. I­t­ can inform you on certain arts like how to tell a great story, but becoming a great speaker requires you to speak, and get up there and fail.

There have also been people I’ve known who just know too much for their own good. You probably know someone that is so smart and wise, yet they never do anything that they want to do. They know too much about the negative side of what might happen if they try, so they never try at all.

They learn and understand so much — usually narrowly focus in one area — that they’ve completely thrown out everything else about how to live. 

Some of the best programmers in the world would become even better if they also actually knew how to talk to other human beings. Some of the most outgoing and connected people can’t even stand to be by themselves and alone with their thoughts for more than 5 minutes. They’ve learned to be great about connecting. They suck at connecting with themselves. We need both to make a real impact in the world.

Being too narrowly focused makes you top heavy. And one thing leads to another and you find yourself unable to reach higher levels of performance.
Unless you start working on counterbalancing your knowledge.

Life’s emergency kit / Batman’s toolbelt: Sometimes I­t­ takes you higher than you thought was possible.

The third note about preparation I️ want to close with is just the right amount of preparation might be exactly what you need to become great in your endeavors. What’s the right amount? I️ have no idea.

What I️ do know is adopting and creating systems and principles will put you in the right margin of having the right amount of information.

Take applying for a new job, for instance. If you send your resume to a company that you know nothing about, whose employees or values you haven’t gotten around to yet, with a resume you haven’t updated in 2 years, you’re not gonna get that job. Even just 20 minutes of preparation might have shown you that a friend of yours actually knows someone who works there. And reaching out through that channel would have dramatically improved your odds of getting a job, even with an outdated resume. 

Another example is learning. Do you really need to learn the entire worlds knowledge archive about photography, before you even purchase a camera? No! You just need to read a Wirecutter article on which camera to buy. And after you buy a camera, you need to learn how to turn I­t­ on. Then you can learn how to shoot I­t­ automatic mode. Then you can play around with lens. And so on and so on, chipping away at a skill on curious step at a time.

Takeaways:

If it’s an excuse, start immediately.

If you know too much for your own good, start immediately if you’re holding yourself back, while learning other life skills you’ve been neglecting in your thirst for knowledge.

If it’s not an excuse, and you’re looking for ways to avoid common pitfalls and to have the clearest path to your destination, then start seeking systems and principles to keep in your toolbelt. What is a toolbelt, after all, but a set of instruments you curate, for just the right types of needs or emergencies.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

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 The Magic’s in the Micro

Micro isn’t as sexy as macro.

You have this desire to do something big, but in order to make that happen you must live in the micro and act with a granular focus. Which is muddy and labor intensive and comes with a high probability of failure. It’s the equivalent of wanting to big your own TITAN like Elon Musk and build rockets that tear into space and light the atmosphere up like it’s the second coming, but with your current level of knowledge and resources, all you’ve got to work with are bottle rockets.

You want the FLASH but all you’ve got is the fizzle.

It’s like you have Step 1: Learn Japanese, and you have the Last Step: Go to Japan and have fluent conversations with natives, but all the steps to get there are question marks. ???? In fact, you don’t even know what number the last step is! Step 10? 100? And in order to get to step X you have to practice and consistently work towards the unknown question mark each and every day.

Your the kid and all you want to do is fight and protect, but all Mr. Miyagi tells you to do is wax on and wax off. How will doing this, help me do that?

You’re the fat, sick and lovable chub in the group and all you want to do is change and feel and look like your 22, but all you’ve got is questions, discouragement from yourself and everyone around you and a blitzkrieg of conflicting opinions telling you what you ‘should’ do. You know that this green spinach stuff and this thing that ancient Greeks called ‘exercising’ would help, but all your mirror tells you is ‘nothing’s happened.’ (Mirror: hmm… you still look the same fat *ss. Scale: I️ agree with Mirror, would you mind getting off of me? I️ can’t breathe because of your fatness.)

On a micro level, everything is confusing and uncertain. When you’re in the moment, you don’t feel like you are making progress towards success. Everything at best is fuzzy and at worst overwhelming. Your pain is still there. Your problem hasn’t gone away. You still look/feel fat, or skinny, or your bank account is still telling you that you are broke, or your back still aches like you’re wearing a backpack made out of a porcupine, or your relationship is still shattered in pieces on the floor, or your business is still sinking and you’re going down with I­t­…. So you want to avoid the micro, numb the micro, ignore the micro and do everything but the micro, instead of realizing the micro is exactly what you want to be doing.

Success happens in the micro. I­t­ isn’t massive BOLD dream that gets’ you there, it’s your daily actions, decisions and habits that you preserve through consistency and intentionally, day in and day out.

Every next step you decide to do instead of not do is a win.

Even if fail or go the wrong direction and have to turn around, you’re still making progress. You’re doing more for yourself today than most do in a lifetime. The magic is in the micro.

A large life is built one daily stumble towards you goal at a time.

However, no one tells you that. the micro where 80% of us drop out.  We see that work is involved and we opt out. And it’s not just because doing the thing is tough (I­t­ is), there’s also external and internal wars raging on.

My typical internal battle:

Am I️ better today? No.
Am I️ better today? Still no.
Am I️ better today? No stupid your worse.
Am I️ better today? No, but your friend Sam is. She’s killing I­t­. Why can’t you be more like Sam
Am I️ better today? I️ think so! …. but it’s probably just a fluke.

And external battles (which turn into internal skirmishes) are even vaguer. They can sometimes derail you without you knowing it:

“The Kardashian’s do this, so I️ should do this…”
“My teacher says I’ll never be able too…”
“The weather is so bad today, I️ guess I️ won’t exercise…”
“My doctor says I️ can’t…”
“My partner doesn’t believe that I️ can…”
“I’m on vacation so I️ guess I’ll go back to my only eat ice cream diet…”
“I’m working so much and exhausted afterwards. I’ll start when things calm down…”

Takeaway: LIFE NEVER CALMS DOWN FOR YOU

Even if you’re on island time at a beach somewhere, your days are still counting down. Someone somewhere is doing similar things you wish you were doing.

Of course, comparison isn’t the objective here and isn’t going to help you. But I­t­ will open your eyes to yourself. Jealousy won’t bring you happiness, but underneath the surface level of your jealousy, there might be a string you can follow that leads you to a truth you want to live or a better person you want to be, and which doesn’t currently align with the life you currently have. 

Being jealous of someone’s bestselling book is superficial. But underneath that is the truth that maybe you want to be a writer instead of a construction worker. Which leads us back to the micro.

Dream big, yes.
Think moonshots, also yes.
Act bold, always.
Believe you can, even on your worst days.
But in order to achieve your goals, go small.

Go Small.

It’s the little humble micro changes that does. Not the big lofty ideas that should or could.

Small intentional strokes, fell Goliath and bred the Mona Lisa.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
And wherever you are, keep smiling 🙂
— Josh Waggoner

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Related Insights

Book: Own Your Day, Own Your Life — Aubrey Marcus

“The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.” — John C. Maxwell

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” — Mike Murdock

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” — Nhat Hanh