Who Influences the Influencer?

My accent is very uncharacteristic neutral. American, yes, but different from where I’m from.

I grew up in the south, where the southern drawl is so thick you need a machete to cut your way through it. My parents have it. Their parents definitely had some twang going on. But for me, not so much. My best guess why I don’t is TV and film. Growing up with 90s cartoons, and a world slowly coming online gives you a broader perspective of what people sound like across the world.

I was also constantly mimicking voices, so unconsciously I noticed that how people speak is a skill and aesthetics that can be changed.

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of “influence”. Not influencers, per se, but how we pick up values, personality traits, interests, and lifestyles from people we surround ourselves with.

Do you really like punk rock? Or do you like it because a cool friend from middle school liked it? Does it matter?

Do you really dislike country music or are you just rebelling against your parents?

Does it matter where our influences come from?

It’s a big question to ask, with lots of nuances.

My answer right now is—

Mostly. Absolutely. Probably. Definitely.

I have an old friend who’s never like reading. Ever since I’ve known him, I’ve never heard him talk about a book he’s liked. In school, he would read a book from cover to cover—meaning the front cover and the back cover and nothing in between. I get it, he’s a people guy. He’d rather have a conversation or watch a show then read. And school reading assignments obviously left a bad taste in his mouth. But I love reading! Half of what I know is from books. I can’t imagine who I would be if I wasn’t voraciously passionate about books.

Small things can influence us in a big way. Little decisions that set us on a certain path. It doesn’t take much to push us down a path that leads us to places we don’t want to be. And on the other hand, a random whim or chance encounters can lead to open doors and wonderful opportunities. Friend of a kind of situation. Stumbling into someone at a coffee shop or bar that leads to your life calling. Or—just leads to your next oat milk latte.

There’s certainly a heavy sprinkle of chance when it comes to influencing.

However, that doesn’t me we are helpless to its power.

Instead of thinking of ourselves like a leaf on the wind, aimlessly spinning around, following wherever the wind takes us, think of it like you’re an origami paper airplane. You can cut, follow, and weave through the wind. You can change yourself, and therefore have a hand in where you’re going.

Not the best analogy, but you get the idea.

It comes down to willingness.

Be open to change and possibility. Try things before you judge them or write them off. Curate your influences. Surround yourself with a higher quality of influences. And examine and question why you do what you do.

Are you making a decision out of curiosity or good admirations, or are you doing it everyone around you is?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1145

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Being Smart is Not Enough

We also need accountability.

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”George Bernard Shaw

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” — Scott Adams

When I think of the bigger, tentpole mistakes I’ve made over the last ten years, 100% of them come from a lack of forethought and accountability. I don’t give much weight to regret,(because regret doesn’t help us move forward, only keeps us stuck looping our past) but I can’t help but feel that if I had only had another “me,” (someone who sees the world objectively and desires to live intentionally) then the major dum-dum decisions I’ve made would have never happened.

One of my mistakes a few years ago was staying too long at a company that wasn’t the right fit for me. I joined for the wrong reasons and there was miscommunication from the get-go. But I was strung along, and convinced to stay, despite the problems and frustrations it was causing me. But I didn’t see them. I was making the “right” decisions for the wrong reasons. (Which is as unhelpful as making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons.)

Mistakes are thoughtless errors in judgment. By “thoughtless” I don’t mean hurtful or cruel, I mean thought-less —mistakes are decisions we make without stepping back and thinking things through. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury to step back, particularly when decisions get heated and we snap back with anger like a hungry Rottweiler. But that doesn’t mean we can’t train ourselves to make clear decisions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to blame others for my mistakes either. Of course, the mistakes of my past are not something I can change. But, I can use them to better inform and improve my future decisions.

“If only I had another ‘me’ around to help” immediately prompts two questions:

  1. Why do I assume I have to rely on someone else to think objectively? Why not create structures around decisions that help prevent dumb mistakes from happening?
  2. And additionally, who can I surround myself with that I can go to for advice to avoid unforeseen preventable misfortunes?

Plenty of smart people make stupid mistakes. Having a brain doesn’t mean you’re invincible. Mistakes are a part of life—particularly if you are trying to help others and create valuable things. But still. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to avoid any stupid mistake that’s preventable.

Here are 3 Tips for avoiding careless mistakes:

1. Use Preventative Societal Barriers

Sometimes doing what we want isn’t always best for us (We don’t always have our own safety in mind.).
For example, if you’re credit isn’t good enough to get a credit card or buy a new car, then that’s a good thing. Having bad credit sucks, but it’s also a barrier that can prevent you from making a potentially bad financial move. Sure it’s limiting that so-and-so didn’t approve of your application, but what if it’s a good thing?

Some societal barriers need to be broken, others are guardrails that keep us from harming our future selves. Which is which comes back to thinking objectively and having friends you can go to for advice.

2. Give Every Big Decision at least One Night of Sleep.

If you have to make a big decision and you can’t tell which way to go, then sleep on it. Give each important decision a little breathing from so you can listen to your mind and intuition. If someone is forcing you to make a decision in the moment, then say no. Unless it’s life and death, nothing is worth an immediate “yes” or “no”, especially if you are unsure.

3. Cultivate a Thriving Accountability Group

Build a group of life advisers you can goto for when you need the make an important decision. When in doubt, get advice. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help or a second opinion.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1056

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Seeking Challenge

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”

Joseph Campbell

Whenever I’m feeling nervous about something, I know it’s a good sign that I need to be doing it. Singing, for example. It’s something I’ve been learning for the past couple of years. It feels natural singing and playing guitar by myself, or with friends. But I know I’m still in the beginning stages, so I always feel a little discomfort in the pit of my stomach and my heart starts fluttering when I sing for others.

If something is easy, it means we aren’t challenging ourselves enough.

It’s not difficult we want, rather challenge. Hard, not for hard sake. Hard because we want to feel uncomfortable. Well, we don’t want to bu uncomfortable, but that’s where improvement and growth build from.

Discomfort is how we grow. When we step out of our cozy slippers and step into a new and unfamiliar place, we push ourselves to grow.

There are many ways we can challenge ourselves. We can challenge ourselves by doing more. By doing less. By doing something different. By doing something that scares us. By doing something that is unfamiliar. By mimicking others.

We push ourselves to fail. Again, not intentionally, but because dancing on the edge between failure and success is where the magic is.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1015

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Low Hanging Vegetables

When I was younger, I remember the first time I heard the expression “low-hanging fruits” I mistakenly thought of it as a bad thing. Why would you want to go after all these droopy fruits when all those good ones are up higher in the tree?

But, of course, the insight the expression is telling us to focus on the easiest and simplest tasks first before taking on the hard ones.

It’s easy to get lost in the romance of a new idea or creative project and become unaware of the fact that you haven’t actually started it yet. Ideas take work. Focus too much on the ideal way work “should” look and you might find yourself stuck right at the beginning. Or focus too much on the end goal and you’ll flub the opportunity before it even begins.

Do the hundred dollar tasks first, don’t worry about the pennies. Focus on the things that matter first then get the details right seconds. Don’t give me wrong, the pennies matter and add up after a while, but when you’re just starting a project the pennies aren’t going to matter if they keeping you from launching.

There are a process and procedure for any work. I think we can often get stuck when we are focusing too much on the nitty-gritty and instead of narrowing our effort towards what’s going to give us the most momentum.

Not everything is worth the same amount of priority.

For example,

When writing a story, we don’t concern ourselves with the grammar first. Grammar is important, and obvious when we miss it, but first, we must write and put words on the page before we can start editing and thinking about grammar.

The key with any idea is to work your way up to it and focus on the things in front of you.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #979

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“There are no shortcuts to true excellence.”

Angela Duckworth

Shortcuts rarely work out in our favor and usually lead to the opposite of what we were looking for.

Even if you succeed and the shortcut works out, there’s a dissatisfied aftertaste. It’s a “got what I want, but not what I need” feeling.

The easiest way to any succeed is the hard way. Hard because it takes work to make your dreams happen. Hard doesn’t equal misery though. Unlike shortcuts, there’s a rewarding satisfaction creating with your own hands.

It takes time and practice to master a skill.

It takes dedication to build a company or work up your career.

And it takes a lot of heart and sweat to build a impactful life.

So why not learn to enjoy it? Enjoy the work. Enjoy the rise. Find the good in the difficult days. Be the type of person who doesn’t take the easy way out.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #978

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“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.”

William Pollard

It’s late—11:15 PM. It’s been a stressful week (I know it’s only just started!) but I just got back from practicing music with some good friends. I’ve got a little bit of a happy buzz—not from alcohol, rather, the feeling you get when you do something you love. I’m also incredibly tired and feel a little loopy so if a FISH random word pops in this blog post you’ll understand why.

My blogs have been regressing in quality the last week. There are good ideas there, but the execution needs some reworking and improvement. I’ve been writing later and later too (big fat correlation).

I’ve been working overtime on a project at work. Plus working on music. Plus working on an odd assortment of side projects. Plus a million other things that are going on.

But I’m not here to make excuses.

I don’t want to make excuses. I just want to keep improving.

Whenever regression occurs, it’s time to reassess what you are doing, why you are doing it, what what you are going to change going forward.

Regression is inevitable. Our enthusiasm for a skill or for work we love—no matter how much we love it—will ebb and flow as time goes on. You could be super into cooking right now, but in a year from now, not feel so charmed by it as you once were. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you should stop—especially if it’s something you love and want to continue doing.

Regression is a sign that something needs to be changed. It’s time to spice things up. It’s time to challenge yourself with something big and new. Everything has its seasons, including creativity.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #975

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“You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Put blinders on and plow right ahead.”

George Lucas

Getting derailed is inevitable. It doesn’t matter what you are trying to do—eat clean, save money each month, take an online business course, walk every day, be positive, etc—eventually, something will put a rake in your path for your to step on.

The question afterward is what are you going to do about it?

What are you going to do when you miss a day on your daily drawing challenge? What are you going to do when you sprain your ankle and can’t go out for a run? What are you going to do with life beats you up and all you want to do is complain and be negative? What are you going to do when you mess up and two pizza’s “accidentally” fall into your mouth?

Derailment is what makes or breaks a good habit.

The worst thing to do when your habit gets derailed is to give up. And giving up isn’t just stopping cold. A more subtle form of giving up is pushing things off until tomorrow. “Oh, I’m not feeling up to it today, I’ll start fresh tomorrow…” No! Start now!

The best thing you can do when you get derailed is to start back up immediately without hesitation. It’s okay that you missed a day. It’s okay that you messed up, but don’t let that prevent you from continuing and benefit from all the work you’ve been putting in.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #972

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“Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

I generally am going nonstop doing something most days. And as much as I try to keep a healthy balance between creating and nourishing, I don’t always succeed, and the scale tips towards too much go-go-going.

I often have to remind myself — there’s more to life than finishing todo lists.

There’s time for friends. There are days off. There are fiction books (and not just business books). There’s nature. There’s rest — sleep is required/around for a reason.

It’s easy to forget that you are a human being, not a computer.

Don’t forget to pause throughout the day and take care of yourself. Eat well. Breathe well. Stand up and move more. Take a break and have an interesting conversation. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit and you’ll be much more creative and capable (and less hangry) than you would be otherwise.

Don’t just think—feel.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #969

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Class Periods

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

Albert Einstein

I don’t know what it’s like in other cultures, but schools in the states have class periods that divide the day into small chunks of time. How many periods depend on the whims of the school, but in my case, I experienced class in 7 periods in middle and high school.

At its best, a school’s goal is to create a group of well-balanced individuals. Naturally, time is divided into a balanced-diet of topics: History, Mathematics, science, English, Foreign Language, Art, and (usually) a study period or two.

You would think this system would be effective, but I think it misses the mark (not always, but) most of the time. The problem isn’t the division of time, but the implementation. Before I explain—caveat caveat caveat, I’m not here to criticize, I’m simply making an observation and suggestion potential solutions.

That being said—I think one possible reason school doesn’t always work is some (if not most) kids don’t understand why they are there in the first place. Why do my parents take me to this place? Why am I here? What’s the point? I think this is exasperated by everything literally being graded. There has to be a way to evaluate how your students are doing and how effective the school is. Plus students are young and naive—I know I was at least—there’s plenty of other wiz-bang things they could be doing instead. And somewhere along the way school loses its meaning. To a student, it becomes a place to hang out, make decent grades, and play sports. And to a teacher, it becomes a job to teach what you specialize in. And the parents are so busy, they mostly use school to delegate away from teaching their kids essential life skills. (Now that I’ve insulted everyone including myself…)

With a little tweaking, you could argue that class periods are a perfect way to also cultivate multi-disciplinaries. Schools don’t set out to create multi-disciplinaries, but if you think about it—and if you wanted to—school, and class periods, could be a perfect opportunity to pump out little renaissance hellions out into the world.

First off, I’d recommend each class period to deemphasize facts and focus on the fun, creative, and messy aspects of each subject. For some odd reason, “why” tends to be missing from class. Why learn math? Why learn history? Why learn how science works? Because they are each awesome! But despite going to a great high school, I’ve mostly discovered that on my own. Take math for example. Math is the language of nature. It’s how the world works. It’s how the Universe works. Look at anything—music, art, muscle movement, video games—and you’ll find math underneath the hood. Math is also super interesting when it’s combined with the personalities and stories of those who invented and used it.

Every subject has an interesting story. Every skill has a heart of history that breadcrumbs us to what we know today. Teach through story and every subject instantly becomes more interesting.

My final recommendations are to swap study periods, with (at least) three challenging but fun classes:

  1. Connection class(working title): Create a class that’s taught by someone who has a multidisciplinary mindset. Someone who is well-round in lots of different things and can teach how they are intertwined. And from that, how to think, create ideas, and solve problems.
  2. Curiosity class: Create a class dedicated to asking questions and cultivate observational skills. It’d be part about finding answers, but mostly about asking good questions and trying to figure things out. Why is the sky blue? How do birds fly? What is concrete and what are all the ways you can use it? I don’t know! Let’s figure it out!
  3. Make stuff class: A class where you build things with your hands throughout the year. You could take this class in many directions, but to keep it simple, perhaps it’d be project-oriented. Build a robot. Learn design. Grow a garden. Start a company. You name it.

If I were a kid in this school, I would have a bleeping field day.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #968

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Closing Threads

“Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.”

John D. Rockefeller

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I have a mental/journaling exercise I do where I imagine if I dropped everything on my todo list.

Every task, obligation, book, responsibility, dream, possession, need—I pretend that I lit a match and set all the boats on fire.

Imagine it—you have nothing required of you and your slate is empty.

After picturing it in my mind I’ll begin to feel a weight lifted off of me. We tend to put so much pressure on ourselves. The pressure to perform, the pressure to succeed, the pressure to win. And when we can’t match all of our expectations we pull on even more weight. And it’s not just the work that creates pressure but the added mental weight of our expectations that really buckle our knees.

In fact, how we think about things adds 100x the power to our actions.

Trying to do too much at once is one thing, attempting to do too much while expecting we can do it all adds 100x the weight to our shoulders.

But when you let all the expectations and mental chatter go you will feel free. The weight is gone.

After mentally removing everything from my calendar, I then ask myself two important questions:

What do I actually want to do? (Or put another way, what am I willing to carry?)

And, out of all of my needs and responsibilities, what’s one thing I can focus my efforts on RIGHT NOW that would make me feel better (not overwhelmed) and accomplished?

Overwhelm is solved by not saying yes to everything (especially if you actually want to say no) and by prioritizing and focusing all your efforts on one task and one task only. Yes, your todo list might be a mile long, but that doesn’t matter right now—all that matters is the task at hand.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #944

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