Embrace Uncertainty

“You create your life, and you can recreate it, too. In times of economic downturn and uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to look deep inside yourself to fathom the sort of life you really want to lead and the talents and passions that can make that possible.” — Sir Ken Robinson

Pain is an interesting sensation. It hurts, obviously. Even small pains can sting—like burning your hand on a hot pan on the stove, or whacking your funny bone while closing the bathroom door. Sometimes pain lingers, and we are left to pick up the pieces while also continuing to preserve in the face of a feeling that doesn’t know when to leave. But despite the discomfort, pain also is a signal.

A sign that something needs to change. Or a moment of healing. Or a lesson and story that enables us to grow.

Not that I’d wish pain on anyone of course. Nor is all pain an “opportunity” or a good thing. Caveat caveat. But when we are personally facing pain, we have to do something with it. If not healing then what? If not a chance to change or help others change then we just what? Give up? No. It won’t be an overnight change, but gradually we will move forward, day by day until we find a way to use the pain.

One flavor of pain is uncertainty. We try to avoid uncertainty. But forcing uncertainty to be certain is like wearing a two-sizes too small sweater—half of you is still cold, you’re still stressed and uncomfortable and everyone is in on the joke but you.

2020 has been anything but certain. Personally and culturally. But if you’re reading this, you’re still alive. And if you’re still alive there are endless opportunities you can take.

Recently I was not chosen for a job opportunity. I had three rounds of solid interviews and ultimately someone else was chosen. I asked for feedback, but there wasn’t really any. There was no reason I wasn’t chosen—I just wasn’t. There was only room for one. Their intuition choose someone else. Good. I’m happy for that other person. The company is great, so I’m happy for them as well. Again, there are plenty of other opportunities out there. Now I can focus on them.

There’s very little in life that is truly certain. And many things we deem as certain, such as our career or direction in life, are only certain at a surface level. I’m not trying to be pessimistic. Once you realize that the unexpected is normal, then you have room to embrace all aspects of life and let go of the outcomes.

There’s a difference between external and internal certainty. Just because the world is shaky doesn’t mean we have to be.

Are we focused on our personal essentials? Eating clean. Moving and exercising. Surrounding ourselves with good books and good friends. Meditating. Sleeping well.

Are we making intentional decisions? Choosing work because we want to be, not because the money is good. Hanging out with friends that lift us up instead of tearing us down. Standing for our values.

Are we prioritizing what matters to us?

Part of being a creative person is turning uncertainty into something new and different.

Original ideas are built from uncertain outcomes. We can stack the decks in our favor, but it still takes a leap of boldness to pursue a dream.

Ironically embracing uncertainty makes everything certain.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1061

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Channeling Pain

Moments of crisis are good for creativity if you can find a way to channel it. One look at an emotionally striking painting or one listen to a sad and heavy song will show you the power of channeling pain through creativity.

The problems and painful experiences we go through can create something positive and impactful.

We’re already there, deep in the rawness of what we are feeling, now all we need to do is express it in as a creative outlet.

And it doesn’t always have to be a painting or a song.

It could be designing a product or service that solves a personal pain-point that could help others.

It could be writing an insightful book you needed to read, but couldn’t find it.

It could be running and training for a marathon.

It could be sculpting an abstract world out of Popsicle sticks.

Art is not just canvas and paint. It’s imagination and expression.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #798

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Untangling the Spider’s Web

“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.”

Bob Dylan

“Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.”

Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Pain has a strong tendency to inflict more pain. The more pain you experience, the more pain you want to release from yourself. Sometimes that means lashing out to your co-workers and sometimes that means picking a meaningless fight with your significant other.

You can see this in families, each passing on unique generational pain to the next. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. You can see this in relationships. We can easily cast blame, criticism, and frustrations on others around us, usually because we are tired and scared and disappointed in ourselves. Likely the worst victim is pain and self-loathing we inflict on ourselves. We can internalize painful moments we experience and hold it in, ricocheting like bullet fragments within our psyche.

The problem is, even if there is clearly someone we can point the finger too, blame and dwelling on mistakes and what’s wrong don’t heal the pain. Rather, dwelling on past mistakes or unfortunate circumstances only roots us in deeper into loss and regret.

But if we take our lives into our own hands through responsibility and ownership over what’s in our control, we can find a way forward that breaks the cycle and untangles the web of pain we (and others) weave.

Pain can sometimes make us better. Not all pain, but some. The hardest experience in my life has defined who I am more than anything else. I am who I am because of the pain I’ve experienced and the path’s pain has lead me on. It didn’t always start positive — I didn’t enjoy the pain when it happened. But with the right open perspective and surrounding myself with knowledgeable people and books, I found the good in the difficult. There’s beauty in that, in a somewhat sideways half-glance sort of way.

We all feel moments of disappointment, anxious, sad, regretful, bitter, fearful, uncertain, broken-hearted, lonely, hopeless, melancholy and meek at some point. The key to living well is to not let those tiny moments become you.

We all feel moments of disappointment, anxious, sad, regretful, bitter, fearful, uncertain, broken hearted, lonely, hopeless, melancholy and meek at some point. The key to living well is to not let those tiny moments become you.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #773

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Creativity is the Medicine for the Soul

“Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order.”

Virginia Woolf

“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.”


Why do we create? To express ourselves, sure. To be somebody. To highlight something important to the world. And yet, creativity goes much deeper than that.

The act of creating doesn’t just work outwardly, it’s also an act that works within us.

Creativity is an outlet of inner work and outer work. By expressing ourselves through our art, we learn and nurture our own selves.

There are moments in our lives where everything feels like a struggle. Moment where we feel stuck in the same old same old we find ourselves in again. Broken bones, childhood trauma’s, disappointment, broken hearts, loneliness, pain, injury, fear, uncertainty, apathy, burnout, brokenness, bitterness, anger… Sometimes life can be overwhelming. Creating is a great way to work through our thoughts and emotions. Because

Creativity is the Medicine for the Soul.

Why else would some of the greatest songs, books, films, poems, dances, and works of art come from sadness and pain. It’s a form of self-therapy* that releases pent-up energy. Creating something — whatever it is for you — is like a pressure valve release on our minds, bodies and souls. The more we create, the more capable we become. Creativity comes from happy places too. Happy moments need creative expressions just as much as the difficult moments do.

Whatever you are feeling, whatever you are going though. Creating something is an excellent tool in the toolkit.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #740

*that being said, always talk to a professional first if you need it.

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The High-road of Pain

“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.”


Pain is a two-sided story. Pain can close you off and make you focus only on yourself and your struggles. Or, pain can open you up to the pain we all experience and connect you through that shared experience.

Pain is a curse and a gift. It shows you that something is wrong and yet also motivates you to work towards something better.

It’s a sharp blade that allows us to cut to the essence of life. An injury for example. You don’t realize how important your back is until you can’t use it anymore. You don’t realize how much you need an arm or collar bone or knee until you break it.

Pain can either drive us to cope (with food, drinking, risk, etc) or drive us to live fully and deeply. (And unfortunately sometime we end up destroying ourselves to ultimately find ourselves.)

Suffering is an easy choice, but it’s not the only choice.

All this to say, you are not alone in your struggles. Everyone is going through something, we just don’t often see it or know how to handle it.

But if we first learn to look to helping others instead of only helping ourselves, and if we seek out connections of experience, we will inevitably also learn how to help ourselves as well.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #731

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The Gift of Pain

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Helen Keller

The earth continuously spins at a lazy one thousand miles per hour. Roughly every 24 hours, it completes its race and begins a new – the ultimate example that shows steady and slow wins the race.

Is it because of death we feel compelled to hurry up and get things over with? Life is short for each of us. Time ticks on, whether we are working on our dreams or not. Perhaps our patience is at its thinnest when we faced with pain, dislike and fear.

I don’t know a single person who enjoys spending time in wall to wall traffic. But there’s also those of us who, when faced with an uncomfortable reality, want nothing more than to move past it. Like swatting flies out of our food, we want nothing more than to get rid of our circumstances and setbacks.

“Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.”


It depends on how you look at it, but setbacks and pain can be gifts if you let it. As sucky as they are, our circumstances are teaching us hidden lessons on how to live better if we let them. Nobody wants to be in debt up to their noses. Nobody wants to feel the pain of a heartbreak or the ache of an injury. Depression, anxiety, negativity, bitterness, backstabbing, fear, and discouragement aren’t exactly a fun party to be in.

I’d hate to say that setbacks and pain are trying to teach us something important, but maybe they are trying to teach us something important.

Pain, failure and bad circumstances raise our awareness and show us how to live better than we were previously. They stop us, so that we can slow down, think more wisely and go after a life of meaning.

We might have to dig ourselves out of a hole now, but when (not if, when) we finally crawl over the top, we have a new and better way to live and a story to tell.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #648

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Backpacks Full of Rocks & Helping Hands: Late Night Musings on SeEking Advice

In the last couple of days, I started reading Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

After watching her exceptional TED Talk, I immediately picked up her book after being drawn into her story and level of boldness.

I’m only a few chapters in, but every time I pass my kitchen table and see the book sitting there, I feel driven to go out there and do something and seek advice. (Love books that can do that.)

I often think about setbacks I’m dealing with as my problem. This is my burden to bare. This is my problem to solve.

My my my.  

I treat problems like I treat my kitchen table — something that’s mine. Problems are something I have to deal with (which is true), but I also clinging to the assumption that I have to deal with it alone (which is not true).

And so I’ll fight, and fight, get overwhelmed and discouraged, pick myself up and fight and fight etc. All the while, if you took one look at me, you probably wouldn’t even notice anything going wrong. Perhaps if you got really close, you could start to see the cracks in the mask, but beyond that, everything would look normal. However, if you could take a ride inside my brain — like you’re in a magic school bus — you would see multiple internal battles taking place. 

I have a strong feeling most of us live like this.

We internalize our struggles, pain, stress, worry, frustration and basically either fix it, mask it, and or live with it.

These internal battles manifest in millions of ways: 

Overeating, self-sabotage, anger, addictions, apathy, hard work, reckless abandon, success, sometimes even violence. 

And as much as our problems are ours to solve and to *own* — who else is going to care about resolving them most than the person experiencing them firsthand? — our problems are not our burden to bare alone. In fact, problems are meant to be shared.

The fundamental core value of friendship, family and belief in a high power is relying on something other than just yourself, and finding peace through the collective human condition of being apart of something bigger..

The moment I focus on helping others, my pain vanishes from my mind. Is the pain still there? Of course. But by focusing on the care and concern of someone else, you’re not dwelling on your own struggles — you’ve taken that weight off your shoulders — rather, lifting someone else up from there own.

Personal pain is the equivalent of carrying a large backpack full of rocks. The more you think about it, the heavier the bag feels. The more you try to move, the more resistance you encounter. Helping others up is as if you are reaching out your hand and picking and dusting them off from the ground. From your perspective, you really didn’t do much. But to them, you did something life changing. What cost you next to nothing completely altered the course of someone’s life. Do it enough times and you forget all about your backpack full of rocks. You might even not realize that with each step of the way, the person you helped took a rock out and cast it away.

And when you need help yourself: Ask it.

Seek advice, seek insights, seek experience. There’s is nothing shameful or embarrassing about asking for help. The only embarrassing thing is that you didn’t ask sooner.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner 

Pain is Story

I imagine there was blood everywhere.

I️ bit the tip of my tongue in half when I️ was really little.

I️ have no recollection of the memory, only the tiny scar to prove I­t­. Just even thinking about that happening makes me cringe and want to VOM all over this keyboard. I️ imagine a diaper wearing, curly blonde haired baby version of me, running around the house, playing like a pro, completely unaware of the large step ahead leading into another room. (Large step for a curly headed baby anyway.)

I️ also have a tiny scar on my left side of my abdomen, from when I️ has holstering a tree branch, walking around my parent’s old house, pretending to be a noble knight, and, of course, my stick was my shining blade of steel. I️ don’t remember what I️ was fighting, but I’m sure I­t­ was EPIC.

These are just two small, but resonating stories of pain from hundreds of moments of pain, setbacks, loss, injury, discomfort and despair that I️ have been through, and the thousands more I️ will hopefully get through. When you hear my stories or the stories of other people, you can’t help but put yourself in our shoes. Our entire humanity is built on stories. Stories of struggle, and exploration and pain. 

Pain is a part of being human. From small moments of stumbling up the steps to unimaginable moments of disease or worse, we all experience bad moments. What you decide to do with your pain each and every day will determine whether you live an ordinary life or extraordinary life of Renaissance

You see, pain flipped on its head can actually be a good thing. Pain makes us better. I’m not talking about a ‘No Pain, No Gain’ type of mentally. No, that’s like swimming with sharks holding a bag of steaks. A lot of risk; very little reward. Never seek pain, but always be ready for I­t­, or ready to unmask pain that you are holding inside.

Pain makes us better because I­t­ gives us the opportunity to learn and become a better version of ourselves.

Which sucks and is awesome at the same time. It’s almost the equivalent to having the worst sandwich of your life… until you realize it wasn’t a sandwich, it was actually a bowl of fruit. (Almost the same.) Fruit can be great when you are expecting fruit, but if you’re ordering a sandwich and get fruit, you don’t immediately see how good and fresh the fruit is in the moment. Pain and opportunity are the same things. Some only see pain, others see a chance to use the pain for a greater purpose.

Sometimes, when my day to day life and pain is really wearing me down, I️ feel broken and overwhelmed by what’s going on with me. Pain can do that. I­t­ can add up and morph into a giant spider web you feel like you can’t get out of. And when all you do is focus on the feelings and regret of pain, you amplify the pains effects and hold on you. All you want to do is complain and share and get someone to listen to you. But complaining about the weather doesn’t make I­t­ go away. And complaining doesn’t make a great story. 

Maybe I️ am broken, maybe we all are. But letting that part of me control my life is no story I️ want to tell. ‘This is the story of a man who laid in bed, and never got up again.’  That’s no story I️ want to tell. There’s always a way to turn pain into challenge and inspiration for others.

Pain is one of those things in life that I️ would never wish upon anyone, but if you are going through hell, it’s the best / worst thing you can experience in your life. This is part of your hero’s journey. This is your call to arms, your challenge of a lifetime. Pain is your story to tell. It’s the tale of how you fell into the dragons din, found the silver lining, discovered a new world, challenged the status quo, and journey back to us to tell us your story.

A journey or challenge is a much different story you live, instead of giving into the pain, doing nothing and accepting your fate. Most, unfortunately, fail to see the value in pain, the ones that do are usually the ones that become inspiration stories for generations. Pain is a perspective. A cold dip into the icy waters you didn’t ask for, but will you be grateful and remember the experience for the rest of your life? Maybe. 

All that matters with pain is how you see I­t­, which ultimately leads to what you are going to do about I­t­.

My pain is my story to tell. I’m the one who gets to share my stories with you, and hopefully impacts you and inspires you to see your struggles and pain as a challenge too.

Pain can also well up inside you. Pain that you ignore, or aren’t even aware it’s there. It speaks to you through small chinks in your armor, injuries and problems you can’t explain, or constantly feeling sick or not yourself. Your current way of life has become incompatible with yourself, and your body knows I­t­.

These types of bottled pain are perfect opportunities for stories. This is your chance to bleed on the page your thoughts and experiences you’ve gone through or are going through. Writing and telling your story is like squeezing your pain into a bottle like a sponge, and sending I­t­ out into the sea. You don’t have to tell your story (some stories are meant to be kept for yourself) but I️ would bet you a hundred pushups that if you were to tell your story, thousands of people would resonate and find I­t­ beneficially for what they are going through.

I wonder sometimes, 

Would there be life without death? Would there be happiness without despair? Friendship without loneliness? Exhilaration without fear? Pleasure without pain? Energy without fatigue? Love without longing? 

And does I­t­ have to be the ones who know pain firsthand, who understand how valuable life, really is?

I️ didn’t know how vital having energy is, until I️ experienced chronic fatigue first hand.

I️ would like to believe stories help capture insights and lessons that will help us avoid pitfalls and painful experiences ourselves, but first, you must be really open to I­t­.

If you are going through something impossibly difficult, it’s time to write your story. And the fact that you are holding the pen means you get to write how and where your story ends.

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

IG: @Renaissance.Life

Related Insights

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”Eckhart Tolle

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Kevyn Aucoin

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

Book Pairings:

The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Pain is Your Teacher

Pain either really sucks or it really sucks and you see it as a chance to improve and learn something.

Both options, not so fun. But the first keeps you focused on your pain, and the other focuses you on finding solutions to solve it.

When I first injured my neck, all I saw was pain. The excruciating tension and ache was one thing, but there was also the pain of loss and despair, of what I couldn’t do or be because of it. By mentally focusing on only your pain in a discouraging way, you are amplifying its power over you. Hell is a place of hopeless pain.  It’s the feeling that things will never be the same (which is true) and that your life is over (which is not true).

Life as you know it is over, but your new life has begun. The nice thing about pain is that it gives you a chance for a Renaissance. A rebirth of who you are. The opportunity to reinvent and challenge who you were, and find a better possible future for yourself and your story. Whether or not you take on the challenge or let the pain rule you, is your choice. It took me a while to understand this. I didn’t make the choice when I first injured myself. All I did was focus on the pain and think ‘why!? Why me?’ to myself.  Pain masks your ability to see the other options and choices you have in from of you.

And it’s not just one decision. Victory doesn’t happen automatically. It’s a decision you have to decide to make every day.

You’ve got two choices:

1. Live how you are living — in some sort of twilight zone / black mirror land where you are suck in your pain won’t seem to go away no matter how much you wish it would. Keep your head down. Resign to your fate.

Or —

2. Decide to do something about it.
Which isn’t about healing yourself; It’s about deciding to heal yourself. Doing something about it is a vow to yourself to try to find a resolution. A choice to find a better you. A lesson that gives you the opportunity to change and prove to yourself that you can.

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