Life is Work (But Work Isn’t Life)

“Without work, all life goes rotten. But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.” — Albert Camus

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” — Rumi

Work means different things to different people. I may enjoy pitching ideas to clients and marketing products to customers, whereas you would rather eat your own left foot than deal with customers directly.

A lot of creative “work” I do doesn’t feel like work at all. Technically I am working and working towards a vision, but it doesn’t feel laborious. Naturally, I get joy and energy when I’m working on things I love. But then again, I’m not just doing one thing I’m juggling a few things throughout the day, so there’s rarely a moment where I feel like I want to stop. 9 AM turns into 3 PM very quickly. Plus, I’m sprinkling in healthy practices and breaks here and there—like meditation or going on a walk—so there’s a lot of factors at play.

One important lesson creative work has taught me is life takes work, but work shouldn’t be your entire life.

It takes work to live an intentional and meaningful life. In fact, it’s likely much easy to live a flippant, unintentional life. It doesn’t take much effort to eat fast food, never exercise, stay up late, work just for a paycheck, drink heavily, and veg out on the weekends.

Living intentionally and pursuing a dream, on the other hand, takes effort. Lots of effort. But the effort is part of the joy.

There’s rarely anything more rewarding than sticking to a goal and being consistent with it.

There are limits, of course. If all you do is work then your life is off balance. Friendships, love, community, mind-body, and spirit are just as important (and rewarding) as what you do for a living.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1053

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Applying Your Curiosity

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

Oprah Winfrey

What I wrote about ambition also applies to passion, curiosity, and skill. Passion expands to more passions.

Questions lead to partial answers, and partial answers lead to more questions.

And the more I learn about something, the deeper I desire to go. And not only that, learning a skill usually leads to discovering other interesting skills. If you are driven by genuine curiosity, your interests will go deep and wide.

There’s a catch though—our time is limited. Our interests might be abundant but our time isn’t. Which means we have to choose what’s most important to us.

If you could do anything in the universe, what would you do?

Think bigger than a vacation at the beach—which is my immediate response. 🙂 If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?

Would you start your own business?

Would you spend more time with your family?

Would you (finally) learn piano like you’ve been wanting to for the past forever?

That’s where you should apply your passion, skill, and curiosity. Even if you have to do it on the side, or only on weekends. Life is too short for us to ignore and postpone what we really want to do.

Maybe going full-time on your own tech company isn’t possible right now. Okay, so what’s the next best thing? You could work on your hard and soft skills, like web apps and leadership to cultivate yourself into the person that could run a successful company. You could work on your network of creatives and entrepreneurs. You could take 10-15% of your paycheck that you would normally spend on whatever-whatever’s and save it for when the time is right to leap.

Now is the time to take a step.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #948

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Ambition Expands

“Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.”

Oscar Wilde

Ambition—the drive to work hard and dream big—naturally has its advantages. It makes us challenge ourselves. It’s a forcing function for continuous growth and change. It prevents us from being complacent. It helps us build momentum and keep going when difficulty arises. 

But ambition has its disadvantages too. It keeps us up late past a healthy bedtime. It pushes us to overwork and stress ourselves out. It keeps our mind focused on the future versus enjoying the present.

We need a healthy amount of ambition to make things happen, but if we become too ambitious, we can over overextended ourselves. 

It’s the classic Icarus story. The Greek myth spins the tale of Daedalus and Icarus. Locked away on an island, Daedalus built two pairs of wings, made out of bird feathers and wax, so that he and his son Icarus could escape. When the time to fly arrived, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, but of course Icarus didn’t listen and the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea.

Everything in moderation. Left unchecked, our ambition never stops expanding. We say yes too many times. We take on one too many projects. We adopt too many good habits at once. Basically, at a certain point, we become too big for our breeches. And the original goal collapse. 

The key to a healthy balance of ambition by adopting a similar mindset we typically have when buying things. We generally put purchases into two categories: needs and wants. We need food and we want the latest and greatest phone and gear. 

When you have a great idea, ask yourself—

Is this a need or a want? Do I need to do this, —as in I feel called to do this and will give my time, energy, and money to try—or do I just want to do this—because it sounds cool.

Watch out—sometimes a want is disguised as a need or vise versa:

  • A need is a want that we give priority too.
  • A need that’s not necessary or not possible right now is a want
  • Needs can be disguised as wants by the fear we have of doing them.
  • A need can often come from someone else’s wants.
  • A want that you feel called to do, or no one but you can do might be a need.
  • A need is really a want when it has ulterior motives, like fame and fortune.
  • * A want can be a short term solution to a hidden need we aren’t aware of or we are ignoring.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #947

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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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Keeping Your Word

“All you have in business is your reputation – so it’s very important that you keep your word.”

Richard Branson

Over-promise, underdeliver—it’s easy to do in our fast past world. The almost funny thing (the kind of funny that makes you want to cry too) is that the majority of people that over-promise and underwhelm are one who genuinely wants to do good work and make an impact, but in so doing lean too far forward and say yes to too many things or exaggerate their abilities.

Perhaps it’s because, deep down, we all want to be someone— somebody who matters. And because of that we rush forward before we are ready and make a decision before we think them through.

But rushing never brings you the quality of results you are looking for.

It takes time to hone your skills. It takes experience to earn success. It takes hard work to make your move. There are ways we can improve faster and more effectively, but it takes consistency and dedication to bring value to the world around you.

At the end of the day, what do we have but our word and the actions tied to them?

Deliver when you can, apologize and make it right when you can’t. Otherwise, you’ll dilute your power to help others (and yourself for that matter).

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #942

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Lost in the Weeds

“A lot of times, people have something that they’re afraid of. They’ve got a client that’s mad at them. They’ve got a project that’s due. And they let that stress hang over their head. I don’t let that happen.”

Jocko Willink

Projects start clear and exciting, but once you are in the thick of it, it’s easy to get lost in things that don’t matter or get sidetracked by newer, more recently exciting ideas. A shiny idea is always going to look more appealing than the muddy middle you are currently in, but finishing what you start will be more meaningful than start yet another project.

An idea tends to grow and become more complex over time. A simple idea can quickly turn into an unconquerable beast if you let it.

That’s why its good to schedule periodic moments of pause and reflection on what you are working on, reassess your goals, and how they compare. Even when your deadline is tight, taking a moment to think things through and be intentional about what you’re doing could pay dividends.

  • Is there a better way I could do X?
  • Is this essential? Does this keep the message clear?
  • What’s working and what needs to be improved?

Reassess why you are doing what you are doing. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.

If you would start a project even if you never made a single dollar off of it, would you still do it? If the answer is yes, then, you’re on the right track. Most of my regrets in life are decisions based on money alone. Money is motivating, but not so much when you are in facing moments of struggle and challenge. Doing something for the right reasons, out of passion, impact, curiosity, and expression is much more motivating (and often lead to wealth) than just money alone.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #927

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Value for Value

“Takers believe in a zero-sum world, and they end up creating one where bosses, colleagues and clients don’t trust them. Givers build deeper and broader relationships – people are rooting for them instead of gunning for them.” — Adam Grant

Clients, like any relationship, are two-way streets. It’s a give-give relationship. Even if the work you are giving is free of charge, and the value the client giving is only experience.

Value for value. Trust for trust. Respect for respect.

when the balance leans too much towards one side or the other the client relationship eroded and starts to become unbalanced and un-valuable.

I’ve been both a client and a freelancer, so I’ve been on both sides of the seesaw, and have experienced every good, bad, and crazy situation you can think of.

As a freelancer, you have to put in the work. The quality has to be the highest you can give, every project you get. Be smart. Time actually is money (and more important than money). But if you are taking shortcuts that compromise your work, you won’t make the client happy nor will you improve your skills. Procrastination. Shortcuts. Half-*ssed work. Poor communication. No communication. This is how you can disrespect (intentionally or not) your client. You’ve got to put in the time and effort to make your client shine. Otherwise, your work will fall flat and won’t lead to more work or referrals.

As a client, you don’t own who you hire. They are a partner whose job is to do great work in their area of expertise—not to do whatever you tell them.

Unrealistic deadlines. Last-minute changes. Underpaying. Paying late or refusing to pay, Revisions upon revisions based on personal taste versus thinking of your customers. These are just a few ways you can disrespect your hired worker (again, intentional or not) and make yourself look unprofessional. Whether it’s a logo, or video, or business consulting or marketing strategy, 99% of the time, when you hire someone, they want to create success for you. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they know what they are doing and have the expertise you are looking for to improve your business. Trust that. Have an opinion of course. But be open to trusting their guidance.

You may be their client, but they are your client too. Or put another way, reputation goes both ways.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #922

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Why Do We Work?

“It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.”

Benjamin Franklin

To eat? To buy nice things? To occupy our time? If you didn’t have to work another day in your life, would you able to?

Personally, I would go crazy without work. Even when I’m not working I’m working. I’m learning and making things. I’m dreaming about making other things.

Even when we are on vacation, we work. We work our way through a good book. We work on our tan. We work up an appetite after a workout. We learn and play, which are just other forms of working.

I think most picture ‘work’ as something to hate. Something they have to do to live. I know, because I’ve been there too. There was a point on my journey where I liked what I was work on, but didn’t like where I was doing it and who I was doing it with. But when I refer to ‘work’ I’m talking about the things we enjoy doing.

I think we work because we want to be somebody.

We want to make something special. We want to ‘put a dent in the universe’.

We work to be somebody.

That’s why we’re disappointed when we don’t like our job and find it dull. It’s also why we hesitate to pursue what we love. Because what if we fail? What if we are bad at it? We’d rather stick to a boring job than fail.

Work is part of who we are. It’s not all of what we are, but it’s certain a large part of our lives. Work can make you feel good too. There’s nothing quite like making things with your hands, such as woodwork or putting brush to paper. Sometimes it’s frustrating but more often than not it’s rewarding.

But if you’re working make you feel bad, then you might be climbing the wrong ladder, as they say. It happens to the best of us. You could spend twenty years climbing and only after so much time and effort you realize what you’ve been doing isn’t meant for you. That’s a difficult thing to consider. But that doesn’t mean your time was completely wasted. Some go their entire lives without realizing it. They’ve ignored their dreams in the pursuit of other things — without even noticing! Noticing you’re on the wrong path is a good thing. Catching it earlier is better, but catching it at all is better than not.

Time’s too precious to not pursue what you love. There’s too many occupations, skills and things you could do instead. Don’t waste your time doing something you hate (and/or are doing because it was there.)

Do it because you want to, not because you have too.

Do it because you want to be it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #818

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But What’s My Motivation?

Some years ago, I made several poor work decisions based in the need of money. Money wasn’t the desired outcome, rather, money was the resource I needed to use to help heal health issues I was facing.

Motivator(s) <—> Decision

Health problem > knowledge/expertise/healing > $ > work for money instead of value and meaning. 

Scratch that. It’s not just motivators that drive us to make decision, but motivators seen from the lens of our perspectives and mental/emotional states that lead down certain paths.

Motivator(s) <—> Perception <—> Decision 

I pushed a lot of important things aside in the desire to become healthy and whole again. I found out the hard way that doing something just for money alone is rarely a good idea. It’s often as the opposite effect you we’re looking for. I don’t blame myself for making poor work decisions. But in hindsight, I was not thinking clearly about why I was feeling like I needed to make certain decisions.

Every decision we make has driving factors or a motivator behind it. Before making any rash decision in a moment of anxiety that go against who we are, it’s health to take some time to think about why you want something.

What is motivating this decision?

What are the driving force behind this action?

What are the potential downsides to this?

This is good to do before small tactical decisions and large strategic decisions. When you feel like a certain decision is your only option, its good to pause and consider everything and open yourself to other potential opportunities. There’s always another possibility. 

Why do I want to go pound some ice cream and what will happen if I do? Why do I want to take X job? Why do I want to go to Y school? If I buy Z, what are the potential downsides?

Why do I want to go pound some ice cream and what will happen if I do? Why do I want to take X job? Why do I want to go to Y school? If I buy Z, what are the potential downsides?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #772


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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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