Focus is a Sharp Blade

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

The more things you focus on, the more dull you’re focus gets. Imagine how impactful and effective your actions would be if you were to focus all your creativity on one thing.

This is something I often struggle with because I interested in so many things.

focusing all of my time and energy on just one thing feels (for me personally) only cutting bell peppers with my blade and nothing else. I’d get really good at cutting and eating peppers, but I sure would be bored out of my mind.

A healthy balance of creative pursuits is the best answer I have at the moment. Taking on a handful of key interests and ideas, but also not doing too many at the same time. Trying to do all things is a fine way of doing nothing.

It’s okay to put things on hiatus or even sunset projects if they aren’t providing enough value or joy in your life. In fact, every time you do, you’re sharpening the blade.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #805

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One and Done.

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Question: If you could only do one thing next year, what would it be?

Of course, there are hundreds of things we want to do, become and experience, but trying to do it all at once is a surefire way to end up doing nothing.

Focus on one thing first, then start the second if you finish the first.

What’s one thing you want to do that will make your life better than before?

And don’t wait until tomorrow, if you can. Start immediately. Jan. 1st feels like a nice clean slate, but honestly, we can start at any moment. Why not this one?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #794

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Cutting the Unessential

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Find a way forward. The best way to cut through the nonsense is to keep going. Sometimes it will look like you’re going in circles, and sometimes you have to go back to the beginning. But we never really go back to the start. We have our hard earned experiences to guide us, and our open mind to see what matters to us and what doesn’t.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #790

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Always Aim for Higher Quality

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

Steve Jobs

Quality speaks loudly to what we care about. That goes for things we create and the things we enjoy as consumers.

Even movies that are ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ are only so-bad-it’s-good because of the amount of dedication and care put in them. Pretty much everyone can smell inauthenticity like a rank sewer.

Of course, there’s a lot of low-quality things we can buy, like cheap jeans or a mattress from a “going out of business” sale, but that’s more about large companies making things affordable to the masses. These things are designed to be cheap and replaced frequently. It’s wasteful, but it’s not necessarily low quality.

The big contributor to low quality is lack of care. Meaning, not caring in general (because you prioritize other things) or lack of motivation to care in moments when you are called too.

But in order to create something worthwhile and impactful, we have to give a d🎄mn about what we are doing and have a continuous desire to learn and improve as we do it.

The ‘what’ and the ‘why’ will look different from each of us, but the ‘how’ flourishes in giving our creative work everything we’ve got in the moment.

Care comes from:

  • Genuine interest.
  • Time given.
  • Attention given.
  • Curiosity given.
  • Playfulness.
  • And a desire to see it through.

Sometimes that means just trying a little bit more than you normally would (or think you could).

Usually, that means saying no to a lot of things, so you can say yes to this right thing.

And high quality always means caring about what you put your name on.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #786

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Playing by the Rules

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Pablo Picasso

“Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule. Nevertheless one had better know the rules, for they sometimes guide in doubtful cases, though not often.”


Do you have to play by the rules in order to play by your own rules?


Sometimes rules are there for a reason. If you are a Surgeon, washing your hands before surgery to prevent infection is a good rule to have. So is washing your hands if your a chef / cook too.

Not using your phone during a movie premiere is a great rule. No, dear sir, I do not want to watch you scroll on your twitter feed at full eye-melting brightness while I’m trying to watch a new movie. Good day sir. (I said good day.)

Some rules keep us from harms way and become guardrails from stupid decisions. They usually suck when they get in the way of something we want, but they are usually (not always, but usually) there from a reason. Credit, for example. Bad credit will prevent you from buying a new car, which blows when you want a new car, but might be good if you honestly can’t afford a car payment, but are trying to fool yourself into believing you can.

There’s also rules of thumb that hid nuggets of a meaningful life if we take the time to parse out the action steps hidden beneath their overused, fluffy cookie shell.

‘Treat others as you would want to be treated.’

‘Well done is better than well said.’

‘Don’t bite off more than you can chew.’

Pretty much any Benjamin Franklin quote.

Rules keep us safe, but they can also sometimes hold us back. Sometimes it’s good to play the rules to learn what rules are worth keeping and what rules are worth bending and breaking when needed. Some rules are just too dumb not to break. These are the ‘do first, apologize later’ kind-of-rules.

The best rules are the ones that we create for ourselves. The ones that increase our happiness, fulfillment, creativity, meaning, belonging and wellbeing in life. These are mostly found through trial and error (lots and lots of errors), but we can also pick up life rules from people we respect and admire.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #755

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Naming Ideas

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

William Shakespeare

Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.

Oscar Wilde

When you think of the word ‘apple’, what comes to mind?

Perhaps you are picturing a red fuji or granny smith fruit we call an ‘apple’. Or, if you are tech nerd like me, maybe the first thing that pops in your head is a sleek glass and metal iPhone or MacBook pro made by the company called ‘Apple’, which makes you wonder when that new gadget that’s been rumored to come out soon will be launched.

Naming is likely the first thing humanity did with words. Is a thing really a thing without a name? Likely not, or at least collectively we call it ‘undiscovered’. (You can see this taking shape with our online persona’s we create today on social media and the web. Are you really a person or business if you don’t have an Instagram presence or a website or search results? Crazy. But I digress, that’s a topic for another day.)

When learning a language, we associate a word with a picture of what that word represents. It’s crazy to me that a few simple shapes on a paper or device screen can instantly become an associate of an imaginative idea or idea that exists in reality. This is something you learn early on when studying design, specifically brand design. An brand identity isn’t just a name or logo of a brand, like Nike, Moleskine or Topo Chico, its a feeling, a mission, traits — the whole caboodle.

Think about the brand name ‘Disney’. Before Walt started his dream of an animated studio, ‘Disney’ was just a last name: ‘Hi, I’m Walt Disney’ (albeit a great last name). It’s difficult for me to even grasp what Disney meant before Disney was Disney. It’s like us having the name Jane Chimbee (made that up) and calling our company Chimbee. It means something to us (aka what our PE teacher would call us) but it doesn’t mean anything to the world yet. Disney has a vastly different identity, emotion and motivation than just a last name now.

Give your idea a name.

An name starts as a singular idea, morphs into the passion and purpose and characteristics behind the name and becomes a collective identify in the minds of people everywhere, sometimes even around the globe.

Giving an idea a name is a powerful way to make it more real in our minds.

In the beginning, an idea is just a silly thing that lives inside our imagination / head. It’s potentially quite a long path towards taking an idea and making it something real and tangible, but that starts with giving it a name.

Names aren’t permanent, they are constantly evolving (in words and in meaning), so don’t feel stuck if you aren’t sure if the name you come up with is the right name for your idea. You can always change it later as the idea is honed.

Names give us direction.

Giving ideas names is one of my favorite things to do. (…wow, get a life josh). At the very least, naming infuses a little magic into your idea and makes it a step closer towards something real. Of course, we still have to make the idea real (we aren’t done yet with just a name alone) but its a step in the direction we want. Naming our ideas also helps us define what an idea is, and likely more importantly, what an idea isn’t. For example, I knew that I had a passion for learning many things, but it wasn’t until I learned that a person that is a master of multiple things is called a ‘Renaissance Man’ (Renaissance Human) or ‘Polymath’ that I finally had the ability to express what I wanted and find insights on how to achieve it. By naming an idea, we being to discover what the idea is and means.

Names are one of the first steps towards giving your idea an identity.

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

Robin Williams

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #741

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Worth it

Essential should take priority over immediate. And yet, we often allow ourselves and feel driven to do the opposite. There’s many reasons we could point to — we didn’t sleep well last night, we are distracted by pain or distracted by shiny things, etc.

What’s easier: answering a few emails and clearing out your inbox or working on your app?

What’s more appealing: watching Netflix or sweating at the gym?

What’s more exciting: going out for drinks or putting butt in seat and writing?

Essential over immediate.

The essential takes more time, energy and intention. No wonder we struggle to get anything important done! We trade short-term pleasures for long-term success and happiness. Not that we have to give up happiness in the present in order to have it in the future. Rather, happiness comes from the process of spending our time and energy in ways that we love and find meaningful. Even an ounce of effort spent on what we love creates massive returns on the rest of our effort (which we might have to give to our other responsibilities, such as working to afford food for our family).

There’s another big reason that the important things tend to get benched:

The important things become too important. Or in other words, the essential things we want to do are so important that we end up not doing them. We idealize and fantasize them into a undefeatable monster in our minds. We (consciously or subconsciously) delay, avoid, distract, procrastinate and psych ourselves out from doing them. And eventually we end up filling our time and energy with everything BUT the things we want to do.

I’m making it seem clear and cut-and-dry, but it’s usually anything but. In reality the tradeoffs are so subtle. We hardly even notice we are selling ourselves short and are feeding the wrong things. We trade what we really want to do, for second or third-best options because we think that’s all we desire or are capable of doing.

Because what if we fail?
What if we waste all this time and energy for nothing?
What if we succeed and are still unhappy?

Ultimately it comes down to giving yourself some space and asking yourself is it worth it or not.

Is this worth my finite amount of time and energy?
Is this going to add value to my life AND the lives around me?
Is this going to provide me meaning and happiness in the present, regardless if I fail or succeed in the end?

Failing at something you love is better than succeed at something you hate or find mediocre.

Because failure is recoverable. But we can’t get back wasted time on things that don’t matter.

The road to mediocrity is born from hesitation and feeding ‘what you are supposed to do’ instead of what you feel called to do.

What do you feel called to do in this life?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #734

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Finding Renaissance

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

Mary Oliver, The Summer Day, Pulitzer Prize winning poet.

Life is a series of awakenings and revivals. Sometimes awakenings happen inactively without our input. The loss of innocence for example. The multidisciplinary, Neri Oxman, describes the feeling as ‘discovering innocence at the moment you lose it’. Born in Haifa Israel, for her, it was her experiences in served in the Israeli Armed Forces as a teenager that opened her eye’s to the harsher sides of life.

Awakenings can also happen actively from our own curiosity and discovery too. The moment you think you have things figured out, an idea, a quote, a change, a friend or an influence rocks your foundation of who you are and what you think about the world. For me, health was a big one.

Growing up, I didn’t know a thing about health and wellness. (Neither did my parents.) Being a 90’s baby, I practically lived off fast-food, soda, refined bread and lucky charms. I was constantly catching colds and having sinus problems, but I didn’t know that was not normal. I had no frame of reference to compare my health to. It honestly never occurred to me until much later that food changed how you look and feel. I had no idea how impactful food, exercise and sleep could be on the quality of your life. It was until much later after high school when I read a few books on health and exercise and discovered the impact of health. The crazy thing is I know I’m not the only one who was asleep to the ideas of health. Perhaps this blog post is the first time you are waking up to the importance of health yourself.

A more common word for awakenings we experience is change. Life is continuously changing.

The historical Renaissance (14th – 16th century) was a time of innovation in art and human potential based on the revitalization of Roman and Greek thinking. To put simply: It was an age of discovery, creativity and pursuit. Today, life and technology moves at breakneck speeds. So must we if we are going to take advantage of our brief and precious life. Because life is moving so fast and becoming more connected, things can easily feel overwhelming at times. It’s easy to default to living a life of someone else’s dreams, instead of one you decide on yourself.

Today we face a new renaissance — A personal renaissance. And a renaissance of like-minded individuals like us all seeking a different and more meaningful way to live. We must become more resilient, adaptable and creative to be who we want to be and to do what we want to do. Dreams of a lifetime don’t happen with wishes. We must create them happen.

‘Renaissance’ comes from the combination of the French verb ‘renaitre’ — ‘to revive’ and the noun ‘naissance’.

Your renaissance life is your own, but it begins the moment you decide you want to seek out change and recreate yourself into the best you possible. The more we can learn about ourselves — who we are, what we like, what we stand for — the better we will get at reaching for the ideal. The renaissance life isn’t about perfection, it’s about pursuit. It’s about pursuing intentional changing and being lifelong learner in the skills and characteristics we want to master.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #733

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More to Lose vs. Nothing to Lose

“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be.”

Chuck Palahniuk

The thing about accumulating nice things and expensive tastes is that we have more to lose.

One bad house fire and everything we own turns into firewood. One unfortunately accurate tornado will take everything you own with it. A downturn of the market, or a new technology could make our jobs disappear. Of course, we shouldn’t spend our days worrying about natural disasters and others things that aren’t in our control. The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca once taught, “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” Worry sucks the energy out of our ability to do anything about it. Disasters may come, and all we can do is prepare for risks, prepare for the worst and put the worry away so we can go on with our lives.

Our stuff is so much more than just things too. It’s our memories, our expectations and ideals. It’s our desire to change and be better. Which is fantastic and beautiful, but can also hold us back if we aren’t paying attention.

And that’s the hardest part about losing nice things, we aren’t prepared to let them go.

Not letting things go is another form of worry. It holds us back from doing what we really want to do in life.

I recently read a short Zen Buddhist story about a guy named Badhiya (no idea how to pronounce his name. Bad-hi-ya?). He was a governor of a province wealth beyond imagine — soldiers at his command, money and power —but his friend persuaded him to leave it all behind and was ordained as a monk, with nothing but a mat, one bowl and three robes to his name.

One night Badhiya was meditating at the foot of a tree. Suddenly he uttered, the words, “Oh my happiness, oh my happiness.” It happened that another monk was sitting nearby. The other monk thought that Badhiya regretted having abandoned his position as governor.” The monk reported this to Buddha, thinking Badhiya has a problem, so the Buddha sent his attendant to invite Badhiya to come by. In front of a group of monks Buddha said, “Badhiya, is it true that last night during sitting meditation you pronounced two time the sentence, ‘Oh my happiness, oh my happiness’?” Badhiya said, “Yes, noble teacher, I did pronounce that sentence twice.”
“Could you explain to us why you have pronounced these three words during the night?” the Buddha asked. Badhiya said, “Dear teacher, when I was a governor my palace was guarded by hundreds of soldiers. But I was still very afraid. I was afraid robbers would come and kill me or at least take away all my valuables. So day and night I lived in fear. But last night I realized that now I have nothing to lose. I was sitting out in the forest at the foot of a tree, and never in my life have I felt so safe. Nobody wants to kill me anymore because I have no power, no wealth, and no jewels for anyone to take. I have nothing. Yet I finally have everything. I am touching such a great happiness and freedom. That is why I have pronounced the words, ‘Oh my happiness, oh my happiness.’ If I have disturbed someone, I am sorry.”

By having everything, he was afraid of losing it all. But by having nothing he was free.

Now, I’m not advocating for us to get rid of everything that we own and not enjoy the fruits of our luck and opportunity. I’m just suggesting that it’s unwise to be reliant and beholden to what we own and what tastes we build.

Here’s an example: Can you go even a day without coffee? I couldn’t. A few years ago, I even went on a trip to Thailand and brought mostly coffee supplies with me! I had the works: an electric kettle, a french press… you name it. I wasn’t always into coffee, but now all of a sudden I couldn’t live without it. Until last year. Last year I went off coffee for a full year.

I think it’s healthy to live without the unnecessary things we think we need to be normal and happy. What do you think you can’t live without? Nice clothes? Spotify and Netflix? Expensive wine or cocktails? None of these things are bad per se, but if they are controlling you, especially in negative ways, then they might be.

I still enjoy coffee and tea. I’m not going to forgo drinking it. I love the ritual of making it in the morning and sipping it slowly while reading. But I know now I can stop when I want to and I’ll keep testing what’s good and not good for me for the rest of my life. It reminds me of a quote from Fight Club: “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”

Action Step: What nice but unessential things can you practice living without?

The reason we might have more to lose is because we can end up letting our things own us.

Can we have nice underwear and a new iPhone while also having a ‘nothing to lose ‘ mindset?

Yes, but it requires thoughtful ongoing work. If we can take care of the abundance of things we have around us, while not being afraid to lose them, we can not let the unimportant things hold us back and keep us from living the life and impact we dream of achieving.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #722

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“Do What I Don’t”

“You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.”

John Steinbeck

Advice is a tricky business. Unless you can back up your advice with personal experience, hardly anyone will listen to you.

It sucks because their advice might be sound but because it’s not backed by anything, we won’t take it. Because what if it’s bad advice?

Armchair quarterbacking doesn’t inspire anyone. Well, not with positivity anyway. It might inspire you to do the opposite of what the person is saying.

Even if you are older, or in a position of higher authority, if you’re talk doesn’t match your walk, people will notice and won’t do it.

“The advice of the elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

If I were to pin it down to one reason why, I’d say it’s because advice that’s given without experience to back it up feels hollow and judgmental.

Humans have been giving each other unwanted advice to each other for millennia. The hunter-gather takes one look at his buddies fire and says ‘you should build a fire over here instead of there, bro’.

The bible has some similar insights on this: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. … Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Sometimes, we’re the ones doing the armchair life coaching. We’re giving all this great advice but not taking it ourselves. Crap. (…you hypocrite!) The only way to resolve this is to heed our own advice. Giving advice means taking advice yourself.

Unless you can back up your advice with personal experience, no one is going to listen.

To be in a position to help others, you have to align your worlds with your actions. Back your advice with gold.

In essence, to change others, you have to be will and able to change yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #717

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