Gear Doesn’t Make The Artist

You don’t need the latest and greatest gear to become an exceptional creative.

A $3000 guitar will certainly sound better than a $50 one you bought at Walmart, but buying I­t­ won’t make you a better guitarist. 

An $8000 Leica camera over a beat up iPhone 6 won’t make you the next Chase Jarvis if you don’t even know the fundamentals of photography.

Equipment is expensive (especially if you are like me and want to learn EVERYTHING) and I­t­ adds up. And don’t forget about the lifestyle that is attached to each item. The maintenance, the accessories, and other costs to entry. While I️ love a shiny new instrument as much as the next Shmoesph, I️ don’t need I­t­ to play brilliantly. The equipment doesn’t make the creative. A well-made instrument will enhance the creator’s ability, however, it’s still a reflection of their hard work and time they’ve put in.

To be a better creator, we must hone and practice our passions. Over and over again, until they­ become instinct. 

Focus on what you have, instead of what you don’t.
Work with what you can afford right now, versus waiting to express your creativity when riches fall from the sky into your bosoms.

Be the person who sets the stage on fire with a crappy beat up instrument rather than a ten thousand dollar one with no skills to back up the luxury.

Essentially, what I’m saying is 

Don’t let your gear be better than you are.

Own your beat up gear with pride. And don’t let lack of resources stop you from pursuing your art. Get creative, find ways around it. Make lack of resources a part of your art form.

As long as I­t­ works, you’ve got what you need. In the meantime, hone your passion and save up for something beautiful and elegant, worthy of all your hard work.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing
— Josh Waggoner

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I Wont Stop

When something goes wrong, I️ tend to default to being discouraged. If someone reprimands me or tells me I️ can’t do something (you can’t accomplish x, you’ll never be able to do Y), its easy to fall for their point of view or, at the very least, let I­t­ effect my mental performance. But this is not a successful mindset.

Complaints, criticism, disbelief, or hate towards you is inevitable when you’re doing something out of the status quo. (Something the hater wishes they would do themselves) 

The status quo is the collective agreement of the way things are, from the people and culture that surrounds you. The funny thing about status quo’s is that they are different depending on who you surround yourself with. What’s normal and expected from your typical college student is wildly different from what’s normal and expected from billionaires changing the world. What’s abnormal for your circle when you break the status quo can be natural to another groups point of view. Reading, for example. If you are surrounded by people who hate reading or saying something like ‘what’s the point of reading when you have a TV?’, you’re going to be shamed into the same mindset. And if you start reading they’re going to give you hell for I­t­. But on the opposite spectrum, point out to me any billionaire who doesn’t have a massive library and are constantly soaking up knowledge.

Once you realize that status quo’s are not all created equal, you can begin to take BOLD actions and create massive improvements in your life.

Instead of being discouraged, a successful mindset takes what the person says and turns I­t­ into fuel. Coal to the fire. It’s an “I won’t stop” or “I’ll prove you wrong” mentality. Although you’re not doing I­t­ for them — you’re doing I­t­ for you. I️ won’t stop — no matter how hard or scary I­t­ gets — because I️ know that I️ am capable of achieving my goals with enough time, effort, and intent.

By thinking this way, not even pain can stop you.
By adopting the mindset of the type of person you want to become, your dreams are inevitable.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing

— Josh Waggoner

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Related Insights

“I like criticism. It makes you strong.” —  LeBron James

“In criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me.” — Edgar Allan Poe

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” — Elbert Hubbard

Small Ways to Reset

Falling off the treadmill is inevitable. Someone’s bound to bring in a box of donuts 🍩 to work. You’ll inevitably miss a day of writing (insert your own pursuit here) because you were sick or traveling. But jumping off the boat doesn’t mean you should say in the water. In fact, getting into the habit of reinforcing your passion and reason why you are making habits and going after goals in the first place is key to achieving them.

I used to have a binge mindset. Dang, I ate a cookie… oh well might as well eat 100 more. I told myself I wasn’t going to watch TV today… oh well, guess I’ll watch THE ENTIRE CATALOG on Netflix. But just because I mes up shouldn’t give me permission to go crazy. What if I messed up every day this week? What would that do to my health or long-term progress? If I binged watch shows an entire week I would end up being a vegetable, unable to do anything my heart desires.

Missteps are a part of the learning progress. Mastery comes to those who fail and yet keep going anyway. 

When you catch yourself doing bad habits that don’t build your long-term dreams, here are small, practical ways you can reset yourself:

MOVE: Reset your physical state by going for a run, swim, sprint (name your poison). It doesn’t have to be long, even 5 minutes of moving can reset your mental state.

Cold exposure: Reset your physical state splashing water on your face. (Or more hardcore: take a cold shower or ice bath)

Check yourself: Are you hungry? When’s the last time you took a mental break? Take time to rejuvenate yourself.

Small actions: Doing a small incremental action can reset your mind to do the bigger tasks. Win small to win big. 

Change your location: Moving your body to another place (think coffee shops, outside etc) can shift your mindset as well. 

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

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Next Level Pursuits

“Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one ‘s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

Midnight in Paris

Sometimes it can be frustrating to do so much, yet feel so far away from where you want to be.

Wherever you are, whatever you are aiming to do, there’s always going to be that next level. 

A place where you’re smarter, better, more connected…
more ______  than you already are. And the more you do, the more there is to do.

There’s always a level up you can climb and a level down you can atrophy. That goes for every aspect of your life too:

Money:
Working at Starbucks for minimum wage > working at a 9 to 5 for 10k a year > 50k > 100k > Becoming a millionaire, Billionaire >

Connections:
Having no friends > having a friend > groups of friends > online following > deeper friends > nationwide connection > global network > super-connector >

Business:
Bootstrapping a startup > Getting your first client/customer> Making a profit > Growing your team > Exiting or IPO > Becoming the next Amazon, Google or Apple >

Loving the process

The next level is a lifelong pursuit. Striving for greatness is a fine balance between being good with where you are while pursuing a better you (and life). In our connected world of follows, downloads, likes, and shares, you have to have the right intentions — personal growth, helping others, making deep connections etc.— behind your actions. Pursuit, with the right intentions, can be a fun process of striving for the next level of performance. However with wrong intentions — for personal gain (money, power, attention) — will be a nightmare and leave you in a cycle for wanting more more more and being miserably unhappy. Growth vs. Greed. Passion vs. Dissatisfaction. Happiness vs. Longing

So the question is where will you plant your flag?

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Insights I’m Thinking About:

“Excellence is being able to perform at a high level over and over again. You can hit a half-court shot once. That’s just the luck of the draw. If you consistently do it… that’s excellence.” — Jay-Z

Learning Playbook: Resources on How to Master Learning — Part 1

Yesterday I made a list of the micro-skills of mastery, skills that if mastered will create massive improvements in all areas of our lives.

Tonight I want to talk about learning. My aim here is to start building a master learning playbook to teach myself (and anyone like me) how to master the art of learning. Why learn how to learn? Because learning is a universal skill that affects all aspects of our lives. By becoming a more effective learner, you will be able to develop any skill, trait or habit you desire.

Questions I have:

Q: How can we teach ourselves to learn? (Learning how to learn — or meta-learning if you want to get fancy pants-y)

Q: What are the books, blogs, courses, tools and other resources we can add to our learning playbook?

Q: Who are Masters of Learning that we can learn from? How makes learning look easy?
    What resources do they recommend?
    What questions do they ask?
    What habits do they have?
    Who do they learn from?

Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Books baby, booooooks:

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin 

Learning How to Learn by Joseph D. Novak and D. Bob Gowin

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown and Henry L. Roediger II

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! by Josh Kaufman

The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life by Timothy Ferriss (A learning book disguised as a cookbook)

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less by Richard Koch

Teaching Smart People How to Learn (Harvard Business Review Classics by Chris Argyris

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle

Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live by Tony Schwartz

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge

Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows and Diana Wright

 Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations by Joseph D. Novak

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

Mind Mapping: Improve Memory, Concentration, Communication, Organization, Creativity, and Time Management by Kam Knight

15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

 

I’ve started reading Be Excellent at Anything, and have read The Art of Learning and I’ll be diving into these in the coming months so expect full reviews here on the Renaissance Life.

Did I miss any books? Let me know.

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Fundamental Skills of Mastery

Q: What are the foundational skills that affect all areas of our lives? What are the micro skills that other skills/pursuits are built upon? (design, entrepreneurship, writing, public speaking, etc)

Or perhaps a better question: If I learned how to ________ would it completely change my life?

The ones I can think of at the moment are:

  • Learning: Going from A to Z on a topic.
  • Understanding: Absorbing what you learn for use.
  • Reading: Reading to learn; Learning to read.
  • Thinking: Connecting ideas, analyzing, memorization, remembering, applying and questioning everything.
  • Health & Wellness: Understanding how your body, mind, emotions, and spirit works. Knowing what foods work for you and how to use them well.
  • Moving / Exercising: Knowing how the body moves. Knowing how to move your body.
  • Teaching: Restructuring what you understand and have learned for others to understand.
  • Psychology: Knowing how humans think. Knowing how you think.
  • Mindset: Positivity, affirmations, belief. Vision, power, confidence determination, resilence.
  • Talking: communicating your thoughts and ideas eloquently. witty, thoughtful, clever, agreeable.
  • Connecting: relating with others. Building community.
  • Hearing: Listening, feeling music and soul. Intuition.
  • Dancing: Expression through music and moving. 
  • Seeing: Observing others and yourself. Seeing what others don’t. Making interesting connection.
  • Acting: Charisma. Facial and Body Expression.
  • Playing: Letting lose. Having fun. Knowing what you like. Washing away anxiety and friction.
  • Applying: Taking action, executing, taking calculated risks, minimizing fear.
  • Creativity: Imagination. Expressing your ideas and mind. Seeing, making connections and applying them in new and interesting ways.
  • Ideation: Creating, brainstorming, making connections with other ideas, or from observations yet to be seen.
  • Pattern Recognition: Seeing and connecting ideas that make up larger themes about how the system/world works.
  • Numbers: talking and seeing with mathematics. Understanding probabilities. 

I’m sure I’ve missed some. What’s interesting is the interconnection between these skills. By improving and mastering the fundamentals, we can apply it anything we want to learn going forward.

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Wisdom:

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”Bruce Lee

“I can’t say it enough that learning how to learn is one of the greatest skills anyone can have. It’s why I advocate that everyone go to college.”Mark Cuban

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”Ernest Hemingway

Origami Life

I want to get to the end of my life and be like a piece of origami paper.

Worn, folded, and forged from a thousand lives lived.

A lifetime of learning, pursuit, and adventure. A life of meaning and worth. A life filled with friendships, creativity and boldness.

Otherwise what was I living for?

Sometimes we have to take a good hard look and ask ourselves, ‘Am I ALIVE or am I just existing?’

Complacency is insidious. It creeps into our lives through comfort and success.

I’m not telling you to throw out your blankets and sleep on a pile of hard candy. I’m saying make sure what you give your time to — what you do on a day-to-day basis — aligns with the vision of the life you want to have. And if you don’t have a vision for your life there’s no better time like the present. It’s hard to see the macro when you’re living in the micro, but our lives are the sum each day we have on this earth. What does your day look like? If you’re going through setbacks — keep going. If you fear something — do it. If you’re experiencing pain or failure — Reset your mind, body, and focus. Start living for the extraordinary.

 

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Action Question:

  • Am I ALIVE or am I just here?
  • If I was an origami shape, what would I be?

Related Wisdom:

“If I’m not saying ‘Hell Yeah!’ to something, then I say no.” — Derek Sivers

“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.”Carol Burnett

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”Marcus Aurelius

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”  — Reba McEntire

How to Turn Your Worst Setbacks Into Your Greatest Triumphs

For the Last 8 Months, I’ve been sleeping on my parent’s couch. (Hard to say, but it’s true)

But in all honesty, life couldn’t be better.

Okay, you might be wondering how have I adopted this mindset?

My life imploded into oblivion after my health continuously became worse.

Here’s what happened:

I sprained my neck about 3 years ago. The first year was hell and it put a lot of things in my life on hold.

I burnt myself out at a job where I was barely making enough to pay rent let alone anything else.

I was unintentionally exposed to bad mold from my apartment which led to weird health issues that were hard to pin down.

Every day I felt more tired than the last. When you go to bed tired and wake up tired you know something is wrong. (But the question is what?) Continuous Signs of Fatigue, Do I have CTF? The worst part is not knowing what’s wrong.

I attempted to make my side-business more than a side-business at the worst possible time. It worked at first, but after having some bad-egg clients, things got worse. (And cue financial problems.) My girlfriend was also having job issues, so I was helping her as much as I could.

I kept talking (complaining *cough cough*) circles around fatigue, ache, money, and other problems that made me and everyone else blue in the face. I started identifying who I was with the problems I had.

I felt isolated and alone. Unable to keep up with my friends, be that energetically or financially.

It’s difficult to be yourself, your whole self, when you’re tired, broken, broke, despairing and on the verge of tears.

All of these setbacks were a one, two, PUNCH on my psyche and on my desire to be the best version of myself I can be.

But here’s the punch line:

I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned the past few years, it’s
Your greatest triumphs come from your worse setbacks.

What separates those who use setbacks to their advantage and use them to surpass where they were, versus those who give up and never recover? (And how do we become the former rather than the latter?)

You are not your problems.

Having an injury or bad job, or health issue, or anxiety, or ______ (insert pain-point here) doesn’t me you are that experience. Everyone has issues, even the larger than life characters we look up to, but that doesn’t mean that’s your identity. Pain is a shared human experience. It’s not meant to be bottled up instead. It’s meant to be shared and relieved by the hands of others. Pain is a touching point to guide, inspire, and related to others through there own pain.

Every moment in my life where I’ve been broken down and beaten to a pulp by failure and setbacks, Has been the path to my greatest success and growth. As much as I️ would rather not feel the anxiety, frustration, pain, illness and all the negative outcomes of facing setbacks, I️ now see the value and blessing of going through hard times. Once you see the blessings in disguise, you having something to focus on besides the pain itself. Knowing there is a kernel of truth in pain and that truth will help you achieve your wildest dreams is how we can take advantage our worst experiences and allow us to build an extraordinary life.

There are hard-earned lessons in pain. (It’s hard to see this during, and might be impossible to really know what I’m talking about unless you’ve gone through your own share of setbacks) There are also opportunities and abundance in pain too. 

Where am I today?

I’ve got a new apartment, one that I’ve always dreamed of. I’ve got a great job working on Pass It Down and working with Paul Cummings. My business started to thrive when I️ made it my side business again. My relationship with Gabriella and my family has improved. And best of all, I’m thinking less about me and more about you and how I️ can make an impact on your life and on the lives of others everywhere.

How did I get here? What do you do when you are facing down the barrel of a setback?

I️ asked for help. I️ reached out to friends to see if they knew of any work available I️ could take on.
I️ said yes to opportunities that came my way, big or small. I took chances. I created challenges for myself.
I pitched ideas to others to collaborate. Not all of them said yes, but one, two, three yeses are better than none. One yes is all you need to get going.
I️ invested money in going to the doctor and have started to unlock the solutions to my health and energy problems.

I’m still working on my health, my friendships, finances, spirit, creative pursuits (like this blog) and other areas of my life. But as long as I️ focus on improving in each area every day, and remember the lessons learned from my experiences, I️ know any setback I️ face I️ will be able to turn it into my greatest triumphs. And you can too with yours.

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Action Steps:

  • Share your pain
  • Look for opportunity and truth when you are facing down the barrel of a setback.

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Related Wisdom:

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.” Rumi

“The struggle of my life created empathy – I could relate to pain, being abandoned, having people not love me.”Oprah

“A lot of what is most beautiful about the world arises from struggle.”Malcolm Gladwell

“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.”Henry Ford

Me Me Me! Over Here!

In a world of Me Me Me, what if I did the opposite?

What if I️ lifted other people up instead of me?

Of course, I want Renaissance Life to be huge. I want to create a massive tribe of friends pursuing mastery and living life to the fullest. But is pushing out one more social media post really going to do it for me? 

Binge reading Ryan Holiday’s blog has shown me how timeless our work can be. I’m reading his thoughts from over a decade ago, and yet there they are — fresh as the day they were conceived. What stands out most to me is not the insights (although there are a bunch of them) but the connections he made along the way. And the same goes for us.

My writing is important, but it’s the connections I make that matter.

That’s why I’ve started interviewing Creatives Like Me on the blog.
I want to create deep and lasting bonds with likeminded humans.
I want to surround myself with charismatic and energetic people who are striving to make the world a better place.

Action Steps: Focus on the we culture, not the me culture. Focus on lifting others first.

Who knows what kind of friends we’ll have if we do?

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

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Related Wisdom:

“What tribes are, is a very simple concept that goes back 50 million years. It’s about leading and connecting people and ideas. And it’s something that people have wanted forever.” — Seth Godin

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” — Steve Jobs