“Those who have compared our life to a dream were right… we were sleeping wake, and waking sleep.”
Michel de Montaigne
“I’ve stopped drinking, but only while I’m asleep.”
We all have problems in life — eventually. The thing about big problems is that 80% of the time they aren’t that way. I’m not trying to be cynical, honest. I’ve just seen firsthand how easy little problem acorns can grow into giant problem trees. Problems usually start where they are too short to ride the rollercoaster, so to speak.
All of the bigger problems I’m facing — the ones I currently have as of writing this anyway — are the accumulation of little things that have grown over my lifetime. Things like spending too much of my day sitting. Falling prey to a midnight sweet (cooooookies🍪 ) that messes up my sleep quality. Pushing off a silly medical bill, hoping it will go away.
Certain things we can’t control and shouldn’t stress over. If you fall because you’re walking in a dark room with no access to a light source to see, is it really your fault for tripping. But other things like neglect, we can control as long as we stay on top of the little things yet important things in life.
Neglect can come from anywhere. Small bills you weren’t aware of that have been growing over time. Bad habits, like walking a certain way, or abusing a component of your body (like your back, neck or feet), which leads to painful problems down the line. Friends you want to keep in touch with but just never found the time to do so. Neglect usually comes with hard lessons of humility that show us a better way to live.
Humility is one of those friends that tells it like it is. While most people compliment you what a good job you’re doing, humility is backhanding you in the face with things/realties you’re not seeing. But not because Humility is out to get you or wants to see you fail. Humility is there to show you where you had blinders on.
Remember, the biggest problems we face in life are usually not big problems at all — there an amalgamation of tiny subtle problems we didn’t notice or kept hitting the snooze button on.
No more snooze button.
Ignoring the problem doesn’t mean we are handing the problem. When we ignore a problem we’re actually just feeding the monster baby. If we keep ignoring it, soon enough that monster baby isn’t going to be a baby any longer.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
William Arthur Ward
Unfortunately-fortunately, the change that endures isn’t always the change that we want. Sometimes change means ‘fewer clients’ and periods of financial angst and shower-crying sessions. Sometimes change means some fool not paying attention and slamming into the back of your car while you are running late.
And other times, changes looks like buying a dog, a new season of your favorite show, a new Drake album, dyeing our hair pink or moving to a new city.
Yet, when change enviable knocks on our door, we don’t always know if its good or bad. And as time goes on, change changes on us. (The nerve of it.)
It’s easy to desire change we think benefits us, and hard to accept change we think harms us, but it’s not always so cut and dry.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to turn every negative into a positive. Some moments in our lives really do suck. Health issues that don’t go away… Someone taking advantage of us …
And yet, even when the nonsense stuff happens to us, we still need to find a way to resolve it and move past it.
We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can do the best we can do to seek the change that creates abundance in our lives, and learn to be steadfast when change pushes us around.
When I think back on my life so far, it’s often the short term, immediate pain, setbacks, failures and negative events that have blossomed into long term benefits and drivers. As painful as they may be in the moment, setbacks can change us for the better if we let them. It wasn’t long into my health and renaissance journey that I injured my neck in a bad way. It wasn’t the start of my health journey, but it was the catalyst that made me seek out health and wellness even more.
Change shows us what we have been neglecting. It shows us what’s important and what matters to us.
An injury that changes your trajectory in life.
A critique that drives you to get better.
A failure that forces you to start over.
I don’t wish ill of anyone, but I do hope you experience wonderful change in your life.
Life without change would become stagnant. Change, even the negative kind, can be a force we can use to create a positive impact on our lives.
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.
— Josh Waggoner
Share your pain
Look for opportunity and truth when you are facing down the barrel of a setback.
“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
“Failure will never overtake thee if thy determination to succeed is strong enough” — Og Mandino
Ugh not another blog Post about failure!!
I’ve come to appreciate the humor of failure and setbacks.
You can read more about my story on a recent post, My Three-headed Demon, but suffice it to say, failure loses it’s bite when it keeps happening to you again and again.. “Oh, that’s on fire now? Haha okay. Ah, well… where was I..” When you lose your health, or when a big bad wolf comes knocking, everything after becomes minor quibbles and hilarious. The word ‘success’ has been run into the ground and lost its meaning, but in my mind a successful life begins when you change your perspective about what it means to fail. To those who have made it (whatever it may be for them), failure is feedback — humorous quibbles. palm to face moments. Bumps on your journey to look back fondly on. Decision points in the road, whether to continue, apologize, try again, or give up.
Think of failure not as something you are, rather something that happens to you.
Failure is a force that overwhelms us.
It’s something outside of our desires and intentions that wants nothing more than for things to stay the same. Think of failure like a brisk wind — from the wrong perspective, it will steamroll you and knock you down; from the right perspective it’s a force that can propel you forward, an updraft that your outspread wings can catch.
Perhaps your intentions were incorrect. You had high hopes for the project but things just didn’t work out like you wanted. Or perhaps you were right, yet butting up against circumstances outside of your control. Regardless of the fact, what are you going to do about it now?
Action Step: failure happens. Now what are you going to do about it?
If we (and the world) are malleable, open to change, then failure is the yin to that yang. It’s the doubt smiling in your ear, saying ‘you can’t do this, why even try?’. And when you do try yet fail, there it is again, ‘you might as well give up’.
Failure is the enemy, but should not be hated. As painful as it may be, once you see begin to see failure as feedback, it becomes less fatal and more of a pivot point. Your story goes from, ‘I’ll never make money’, to ‘What I’m doing isn’t working. What can I change / experiment with next?’ or ‘why do I suck so bad?’ to ‘everyone sucks in the beginning. I just need to keep pursuing’.
See failure as the enemy of your enemy, and use it to your advantage. ‘That sucked big, now what can I do next?’ Because the real enemy is complacency.
Unless my failure equals death, my failure isn’t fatal, its an overreaction. I can keep persisting.When we fail and give up, we are giving into a negative outcome. However, there’s always a way to flip failure into a positive outcome. The hard part is getting your mind to accept that, and letting go of the upsetting fact that you failed in the first place.
— Josh Waggoner
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“Few of our failures are fatal.” — Tim Harford, author of Adapt.
“I want this so bad that I’m going to keep going UNTIL it works. Other people are doing it, so I can to. I just need to keep going until it works.” — Jeremy Frandsen, from Internet Business Mastery
For as long as I can recall, I’ve always tried to live by example —
I would define living by example as the principle ‘what you say and value is what you practice.’
Living this way has given me a certain calming effect on those around me. I stand strong for myself, for my sisters, friends, and tribes. Even when the s is hitting the fan, you probably won’t see me losing my marbles over it, at least not externally. Naturally, people ask me for help and advice all the time. (which is rad, and one of the main reasons I started The Renaissance Life)
Tranquility in a sea of turmoil can be like a campfire on a moonless night.
Everyone (including myself) has some internal battle going on which they seek comfort and connection for. And the battles become louder and more fierce when you are pursing creative work.
Recently, a life-changing question was brought to my attention,
‘Josh, you stand so strong for everyone else, but do you have someone strong that stands for you?’
And that brought to the brink of tears. I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say…
Perhaps that is why I’ve had such a difficult time these last couple of years.
It’s felt as though I’ve had no one to go to for advice, or at least advice that wouldn’t be sandwiched with that persons own expectations for me.
It’s not easy admitting your weaknesses and failures to the world (or yourself.)
The truth is my life’s been one setback after another recently, all blobbing together into one monstrous dragon of frustration and overwhelm. What happened? Did I get hit with the unlucky stick? At this point so many bad outcomes have happened to me it’s hilarious now. But as difficult as things may be, I’m learning to be okay with setbacks.
Because no one ever said pursuing a life in creativity was going to be a piece of cheesecake.
When you feel as if you are at your lowest point, your way up is being open. Strength is found in Vulnerability.
Open to new ideas, beliefs and ways of thinking.
Open to asking for help
Open to change and spontaneous opportunity.
Difficultly should never be swept under the rug. (It’s not like you’ve gotten rid of it… now it’s just under a rug.) No, difficult should be out in the open. Especially when your giving your all in to climb the mountain to make your dreams your reality (e.g. building up a renaissance tribe and inspiring likeminded creatives.) In the dark, setbacks are pain and loneliness, but in the open they are ways to connect and inspire.
If you are not open with your tribe, how can you expect them to be open with you?
And even more so, If you are not open with yourself, how do you think you can possibly overcome your circumstances?
How to be Vulnerable
Vulnerable is being okay with where you are, even if where you are is not where you want to be.
It’s acknowledging unwanted emotions. Fear, anger, failure, lack of confidence, stress, loneliness… theses are all things we feel, and the cycle of fear that comes from feeling them.
Unwanted emotions are okay to have. They highlight areas we need to improve and tell us when something doesn’t align with our truth.
Vulnerability creates possibility for opportunity.
People know when you are hurting, they can see it in your eyes and feel it on you, even if you don’t notice it yourself. Sometimes hurt is like food stuck on your face. The only one who doesn’t know about it is you.
It may seem counterintuitive, but you can become stronger than you ever have, by being open and vulnerable.
The more vulnerable you are, the stronger you become.
Difficultly is part of your life’s story.
Instead of hiding your setbacks why not use them? Turn your difficulties into a story you can inspire and connect with.
And that has been my journey this past few years and my journey going forward.
Enter the three-headed beast.
My Three-headed Demon
They say never let them see you bleed, but I believe the opposite is true. Bleeding together is how your create incredible relationships and a cult following.
This is me being as vulnerable with you as possible:
I am not okay, and that’s okay.
Three setbacks that are feeding each other. Injury, Health & Finances
1. A Pain in the Neck
A few years ago, I injured my neck in a bad way. I’ll talk more on my experience later, but it was a hell-of-an experience. The first two weeks I could barely move. I went through some dark days early on, but I couldn’t live like that forever. And thus my journey into mobility practices, posture, mental strength and dancing.
Now I’ve reduced it down to a mild ache in the front of my neck right beneath the collarbone, but even still, a constant nagging frustration.
2. Chronic Fatigue
My health sucks right now. I’ve been fatigued for over 12 months and in the dark as to why. I’ve tried every sleep, health and wellness hack I can get my hands on, all the while questioning myself if its only a mental thing. Is this just in my head? Waking up tired and going to bed tired, rinse repeat gets to you after a while.
Finally I’ve begun to receive some clarity in what’s wrong. I’m allergic to half the things in the Universe! We’re still in the dark about the underlying cause, and cutting out foods I love is stupid, but worth it all if it gives me my energy back. Energy to create and live a Vibrant life.
3. Financial Meltdown
My finances are worse than my health right now. As my energy depleted so to did my financial health. Add that to increasing expenses and bad clients and you have me in full on panic mode. Can you say, cue crap your pants in french?
I am not okay, but I am okay with the challenges handed to me.
Because setbacks are something we all experience and creativity is something we all strive for.
And through my own, I can be in a greater position to connect and inspire you and others like me.
I want to show that my setbacks have made me a better me. Just as yours will make you a better you.
Setbacks don’t define you, but how you deal with them do. We become our best-selves from the challenges we take on. Not only are they your responsibility, they are path to the life you desire.
If there is one takeaway from my life, and theme of The Renaissance Life represents is capability.
You are capable.
You are capable of overcoming your situations.
You are capable of having a wonderful life of worth.
You are capable of living true to yourself, and being apart of something bigger.
My three-headed monster may be zapping my energy to do and be more than I am, it may even grow more ugly heads, but it won’t stop me from living and pursing a meaningful life, nor cherishing those who are important to me.
Don’t let your problems stop you, let them challenge you, and make you into a better you.
Thank you for your time,
Keep Pursuing — Josh Waggoner.
Let me know if this resonates in the comment below or @: email@example.com
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