Own It

The only things we are entitled to are:

  • Our problems
  • Our actions (or put another way, our right to change)
  • And our freedom (of speech, beliefs… at least in the US)

Everything else must be earned.

Let’s start with the last and most important. In the US, we are entitled to freedom, but that doesn’t diminish the effort and resistance from those who have fought for us to have our freedom. People laid down their lives for us, we should do our part to remember and respect that.

I”m a white dude in his late twenties, living in America. This is my baseline — I didn’t choose any of this. Compared to the rest of the world (and the subtle / not-so-subtle persecution other people have to deal with) — I’ve got it made in the shade.

Everything on top of that, any financial, work, relationship, mindset, time-mismanagement, bad habit, setbacks and injuries are mine to own.

To fix my problems, to create a meaningful life, I’ve got to own it.

There’s no way forward but to own it.

That also secondarily includes everyone’s else problems that I surround myself with too. For example, if my good friend is in debt, I’m secondarily also in debt to his / her mindset and choices. Their problems are theirs to own, but by the very nature of being around them makes them effect me too. Just like on an airplane, in case of an emergency, you are supposed to put on your air mask first. The problems of the people around me shouldn’t come before my own.

I have the right to solve my own problems. It’s a responsibility, but also a privilege. We get the opportunity to change our circumstances and tell our own story through our trials and triumphs.

  • Did your parents pay for your college education?
  • Did your parents buy you a car?
  • Is your health not great?
  • Did your startup fail?
  • Are you talking more than your walking?

No one owes us anything. Generosity is a gift, but not assured, either. The choice we continuously have to make in life when setbacks and bad things inevitably happen is either:

A. We don’t accept it, we dwell on it and use it as an excuse to stay stuck where we are, or

B. We own it, and go to work, just like all the greatest people of today and yesterday have done.

Own it and get to work.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #589

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New Normals

I find it profound how quickly we humans can adapt to change and new surroundings — good and bad. Smoking is a great bad type of adaptation. Even though the damage happens every time you smoke, our bodies can overcome years of pummeling your lungs with cigarettes before you usually have seriously harmful effects. Let’s look at an example on the good adaptation side of life: working out.

Working out after a long stint away is typically a disaster. (Or if you’ve never worked out in your life) Your breathing is heavy, like it’s a hot summer day you just ate a bag full of donuts. Your clothes sticking, everywhere. Everything hurts — before, during and after. And afterwards, you get so hungry you immediately want to go through the Chick-fil-A drive thru and pound an order of 48-count nugget meal with a cookies and cream milkshake. (No?)

I’m exaggerating, of course, but it is challenging to get back into the swing of things and exercise. But then,

you adapt. You keep working out again and again. You stop breathing like an elephant (no offense to any elephants out there). Working out becomes your new normal.

Adaptation is a gift and a curse. (Mostly a gift).

In some cases, we can adapt to bad situations and environments that we shouldn’t be in, or don’t want to be in — bad relationships, financial, work or even family circumstances. It’s great when we can handle and adapt to life’s hard punches. But when the hard punches become our new normal, we get stuck in believes that life will always be this way, and always knock us down, but in reality this is just where we are in life, right now. Nothing is permanent. Roads must be repaired and kept up. Paintings crack. Building crumble. We die. But in that impermanence comes hope: change is always happening, change is limitless and if we learn to view change in the right light, we can adapt and even create change we want to see. In impermanence becomes malleability. We can envision the life and world we want to see, and go out and make it, and fight for it.

Adaption is also a gift, because it allows us to push boundaries and go to places we never thought we could go. Every time you put in the work, put in the practice, put in the effort in your craft or pursuit, you grow. You get a little better. You adapt to a new normal, and then you think, ‘what’s next?’ No on thought it was possible to break a four-minute mile, until Roger Bannister did. Now thousands of people have. Normals are meant to be broken.

Think of areas in your life where you want to improve or challenge yourself. What’s your normal right now? Where would you like to see yourself tomorrow, next week, 6 months from now? What can you do right now to get started challenge your current normal?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #588

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“Quality over Quantity”

:How quality and quantity can be combined to increase our creativity and progress.

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

Steve Jobs

I think there is time (and room) for quality and quantity, but there’s one interesting thing about quality:

Quality gets you both

The more hard work, heart and spirit you put into your work, the more it will resonate with others. In an un-intuitive way (but in a way that makes sense when you think about it) quality creates quantity automatically by being a breath of fresh air that a lot of people want and are looking for. This is a very Steve Martin “so good they can’t ignore you” approach to creativity and work.

Quality won’t get you overnight success, but it will put you on a path towards success. Personally, it makes me much happier too. I feel 100x better when I put the time and effort into high quality work versus when I don’t put in the time it needs and phone it in.

Cheap work doesn’t last long. Cheap can potential be a powerful tool to iterate towards quality, but why not reach for quality from the get-go? However, it also leaves us open to taking shortcuts (aka lazy-cuts) and put in the bare minimum. Quantity gets you speed —which is great — but what is the cost of going faster? More backtracking? More time refactoring and redoing? It’s all about balance, of course. What do we need to do to ensure quality without being a perfectionist, and produce quantity through quality, without sacrificing quality from our work.

But how do you know what’s quality and what’s not?

Tricky question.

I think it’s part doing the best you can, pushing your capacity to its max on what you are doing, while constantly learning and consuming other people’s great work. Great work sets the bar. It’s our job to push past the bar, or even break the bar with our creativity and originality. You need both — doing and learning. Otherwise, you can easily fall into the trap of comparing how great everyone else’s work is and how poor your is (or how little you are doing comparatively). Great work says, “This is where I am, now what are you going to do? and you say, “keep creating, keep learning, keep pushing boundaries and keep getting better every day”.

All that said, in order to have quality, you also need a little quantity on your actions. By narrowing your focus on what matters, and consistently coming back to that focus, day in and day out, you can expedite or even compound your creativity. Just as Aristotle once wrote “Quality is not an act, it’s a habit”. Quality is the focus; Quantity (as in consistency) is the means.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #587

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Compound Your Creativity

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”
―Albert Einstein

Compounding exponential increases value over time.
The classic example is money, of course.

But really any type of time-bound commitment can be compounded.

Skills — By deliberately practicing every day, your skills increase over time.
Relationships — The more you invest in a relationship, the greater the value you each get out it
Content — Not all content is created equal, but great content content lasts and provides value long after you hit publish.
Wine — 😉

Of course not everything returns exponential value equally. (Not even money. Sticking your money in your mattress isn’t going to have the same return as an index fund, for example)

Regardless, investing your time into what you love and want to grow and be great at will reap rewards ten fold.

Invest in what you want to be great at.

If you want to be an incredible dancer, then invest in it every day.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, same same.

You might not seem to improve at all today.
Or tomorrow.
Or the next day.

However, bit by bit you’re improving, you’re making progress and momentum.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #586

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No Lists (Daily Habits Series)

“Saying no frees you up to say yes when it matters most.”

Adam Grant

A No List is likely even more important than a Yes List.

Meaning, what you say no to could arguably be more important than what you say yes to.

There’s a lot of half-hearted, mediocre things you could say yes to in life.

For me, creating an actual list ahead of time for things I’m going to say no too is essential. Otherwise I can get caught off guard in the moment and end up saying yes to what I should have said no too.

At the end the day, every decision we make, every habit we cultivate uses our most precious resource: time. As we’ve all heard some point in our lives, time is our most valuable asset.

I read recently that “The average person has approximately 25,000 days to live in their adult life. Wait But Why creator, Tim Urban, has a great depiction of how little time we have to give in the grand scheme of things.

No is essential. Without no, we are saying yes to what everyone else wants for our lives, instead of what we want for our lives. Derek Sivers says it best. When you feel over-committed or overwhelmed, consider:

“If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’ about something, say ‘no’.”

What do you want to say no to? What’s on your No List?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #585

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Your Lucky Number is 14

“One of life’s fundamental truths states, ‘Ask and you shall receive.’ As kids we get used to asking for things, but somehow we lose this ability in adulthood. We come up with all sorts of excuses and reasons to avoid any possibility of criticism or rejection.”

Jack Canfield

Advice is a tricky cookie.

For one thing, giving advice doesn’t necessarily mean they will receive advice.

We can’t force someone to listen, no matter how much we think they need to hear it. (Or turning it around: No one can force me to listen to their advice, if I’m not willing to hear it.)

Advice that’s not asked for usually goes straight to voicemail. Potentially saved for later, but likely deleted posthaste. (Or perhaps a more recent example would be undesired advice is like an unanswered iMessage bubble: “read at 3:13pm”.)

Where the advice comes from matters too. You can give the best advice in the world, but it can easily fall on deaf ears if you don’t live out what you say.

Sometimes people genuinely want you to give them directions on their creative work or problems in life so they can find an effective way forward. Other times people want you to give them directions in life so they can ignore it, or use it as an excuse to why their life is the way it is. It’s hard to tell which is which. The only really way to know is whether or not they actually take it and run with it. It’s worth gut checking ourselves too. When we are looking for advice, are we willing to take it if it’s given?

Advice must be met somewhere in the middle:
—between two parties, one having the desire to give it, and the other having the desire to listen to it.

When I’m looking for advice, my first step is to find someone who has been through something similar I’m going through, or someone who walks the walk. If I have personal access to them I will ask them directly. It’s better to do this succinctly as possible, since time is such a precious commodity. If I don’t have direct access to them I’ll essentially read, watch and listen to everything they’ve outputted to try to gleam potential answers and directions I can take. This doesn’t always work out, but interestingly enough, during the process of seeking advice, you unstuck your thinking and can stumble upon the answer yourself.

The best advice is the advice taken. If you think it could potentially help, and you can’t think of any alternative, they try it. Even if it turns out to not work, the decision to act worth more than not doing anything.

Also, funny enough, the act of looking for an answer can be a just as powerful way of discovery as the answer is itself.

The act of looking becomes the answer to what we were looking for.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #584

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No Excuses

Not managing your time and making excuses are two bad habits. Don’t put them both together by claiming you ‘don’t have the time’.

Bo Bennett

Accepting no excuses might be one of the hardest hurdles we can face when seeking a meaningful life.

Often, it feels like there is an enormous (lava-filled) gap between who we are and who we want to be. (or what we want to be doing). There are so many reasons we will encounter on our journey in the pursuit of creativity and meaning assuring us, without a doubt, that what we want is impossible. Good reasons too.

“I can’t start a business because I don’t have any money”
“I can’t (apply for the job) / (freelance) / (start my idea) because I don’t know enough yet”
Or the classically ambiguous “I’m not ready yet”.

What does being ready even mean?
We’re never really ready to start something. Even if we had all the time, money and skill-sets in the world, we still would likely feel unready and unable to start.

Looking back on my life, I notice a lot of these reasons cropping up, stopping me from doing things I wanted to do. I gave reasons why not in the moment, but didn’t stop to think how flimsy the reasons were. I also didn’t consider the reason why I should.

More often not, the reasons why you should will outweigh the reasons why you shouldn’t do something.

Why should you?

+Because there’s only so much time we have to live on this earth, and the tiny bit of time we do have is anything but assured.

+Because if not now, when?

+Because if you don’t, nothing will get better, nothing will change.

+Because the best time to start is where you are, with what you have.

+Because the very thing you think you need — more time, more money, more skill, more confidence, etc — will be created and honed by doing something.

+And because at the end of the day, what we do defines who we are (which enables what we do).

Would more money help? Absolutely.
Would more skill be better? 100%.

However, dwelling on what you don’t have and can’t control, takes your focus away from what you do have and what you can control. We can’t control our past, nor what got us where we are. But we can control what we do today, and each day going forward.

This is your time, this is your memoir you are building right now.

Any excuse is just that — an excuse. Something allowing to not act.

No excuse is worthy of stopping you.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #583

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Attention and the gooey center

Imagine this scenario:

You are traveling in a new city, and walking down the street. You notice a particularly nice tree, and the sunlight is gliding through it in just such a way to make you stop and look at the nice scene. As your staring up and around like a tourist, someone walking by and says, “Oh! I love your hair! It’s beautiful.” What’s your immediate response?

Something like: “Oh thank you!”
Or more like “It’s a little frizzy today.”

In other words, do you take a complement or write it off?

This is such a small moment, hardly worth remembering, but underneath this compliment is….. a conspiracy! No no, I’m just joshing. (Just making sure you’re still paying attention. 🙂 Within this small interaction highlights a lot about you and what you mentally focus on.

Consider the opposite scenario:

You are traveling in a new city, and you are walking down a street — “the streets are so dirty here!” You think. You notice that you feel particularly sticky and sweaty today. You pull out your phone — missing the nice tree — and check the weather. 49% chance of rain — you’re doomed. As you are looking down at your phone, someone briskly walks by and gives you a look of “Watch where you are going, you tourist. Keep walking around with the face up your phone’s butt and you’ll get hit by a Hyundai one day”.

Again such a small moment, that completely sours your entire day. Did they insult you or did you just make it up in your head? And if they did insult you, why must something as small as a few negative words make you dwell on it all day.

There’s so many small moments like this in life. Involving compliments, criticisms, sunburns and cracked sidewalks. In fact, life is made up of small moments. Small moments in-between a lifetime of small moments.

And throughout it all, in the gooey center is us starring out into the world, giving out our opinions. You might not realize it, or you might not believe it, but how we direct our attention and attitude changes everything.

“Like fingers pointing to the moon, other diverse disciplines from anthropology to education, behavioral economics to family counseling, similarly suggest that the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non of the good like and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience.” — Winifred Gallagher, Rapt

And just to show how serendipitous and clever life can be, as I was writing this, someone backed into my parked Jeep with their minivan. What a perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. I could get mad and give all my attention to being late for work, or all the hours I’ll have to spend getting it fixed. Or I can focus on the good instead of dwelling on the bad. I don’t have the luxury nor desire to waste energy on something that won’t matter a week from now. My time and energy are too important to let ‘being upset’ control me.

Oh course, this can be easier said than done sometimes.

Problems pile up (and high) some days.
And I wake up on the wrong side of the bed more often than I would like.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t change our mind or attitude. Often the solutions are simpler than we think: Have you eaten recently? (Was it something healthy?) Have you taken a break recently? (Need a power nap?) Have you moved your body recently? How much water have you had today (versus how much coffee)? Have you talked to a friend today?

Sometimes simple taking a shower can give our day a reset.
All we need to do is find a way to reset ourselves — today, and focus on shifting our attitude and attention — today. By focusing on each today, we are priming ourselves to to think and act more with an abundance / opportunistic / capable mindset, instead of a negative / hopeless / fruitless one.

Attention is an essential skill to be practiced every day. What we focus our lens on, ultimately becomes who we are. Dwell on the negative side of life, and life becomes all negative. And practically, the more we can narrow our focus on what matters most to us, the more our time and creative output increases.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #582

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What others say about attention:

My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which Inoticeshape my mind” William James on Attention, Multitasking, and the Habit of Mind That Sets Geniuses Apart – Brain Pickings

24/8

Time is a continuous battle for me. (I would eat an entire Amazon cardboard box for another day in the week. Saturday. Sunday. Wonday)

Finding, no — making time for your creative pursuits is a part of the creative process.

If you don’t, there’s no creative process. (Or there’s just a sea of unfinished projects you have to swim through to get to your kitchen to make your Wonday paleo pancakes)

But how do we make time?

1. Give up BS time.

How much time can we possibly spend on social media and shopping online? All of it if we are not paying attention. This comes down to prioritizing your goals in the moment. What’s more important: Scrolling on instagram, or working on your dreams?

2. Go to bed early, Get up early

The biggest reason to get up early is the uninterrupted time you have to yourself to make stuff and learn. Uninterrupted time lets you go deep and focus without stretching your mind in too many directions at once. To get up early, you’ve gotta go to bed early, which sucks and is difficult, but the reward is great. (You can try to get up early and stay up late, but that’s unsustainable over the long run, and not limits you creatively compared to a well-rested you.)

3. We can’t.

We can’t unfortunately add an extra day to our week, but we can do everything we can each day to make sure what we do matches what’s important to us and what we love. (Which gives us all the time we need… mostly)

I do my best to live by three things: show up, do what matters, let it go.

Showing up — to your creativity, for your friends and family and your significant other is the best thing you can do to find a meaningful life. When things go wrong — show up. When things go right — show up.

Do what matters. Each day should have the goal of trying to do more of what matters to you and doing less of what doesn’t.

Let it go. Not every day will be perfect. Some days will be nothing days, where nothing you actually wanted to do happened, or you fell down a YouTube rabbit hole all day. That’s okay. Let it go. Make tomorrow better.

Show up. Do what matters. Let go of what doesn’t.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #581

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