You Are What You Want to Be

“What I have is a malevolent curiosity. That’s what drives my need to write and what probably leads me to look at things a little askew. I do tend to take a different perspective from most people.”

David Bowie

What makes you you?

Is it your likes and dislikes? Is it your culture or your heritage? Is it where you go to school or what you do for a living? What about your taste in podcasts or your ironic mug collection? Is it your fashion style (or lack thereof)? 

There’s a lot that goes into making a person. Sure, you’ve got your blood, muscles, and bones, but there’s a lot that we naturally absorb as we live our lives. We absorb what’s around us and either accept, ignore, or reject everything in millions of ways. 

Music plays a large part in our foundational makeup. We identify who we are by the music we are interested in. Lack of music defines us too. Every so often I’ll run into someone who doesn’t like music, or at the very least doesn’t listen to it. To me, this is baffling (This emoji sums my reaction up nicely: 😧) — how can someone not like music?! But it’s true, and that’s a piece of what makes them who they are. 

I wouldn’t say that I grew up in a musical household per-sé. My first concert was likely a Christian pop or rock band like the Newsboys or Audio Adrenaline… I definitely got my taste in the 60s, 70s music from my parents. Creedence, Thin Lizzy, The Bee Gees, and AC/DC — from my dad. Prince, Tears for Fears, The Beatles, Michael… — from my mom.

Friends and other people I looked up are a huge influence on my taste in music. One key influence was from my friend Jake Lemons. (Hey Jake 👋) Being a killer guitarist, he’s the one who lit the spark for my interest in learning to play music (him and my grandfather). He’s also the one that helped me find Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and Ozzy — the kind of people who take music to a whole new level. (Def Leppard: Pour Some Sugar On Me — Jimi Hendrix: “…Hold my beer”)

It’s funny how a single person, a small moment, or a passing conversation can have a massive impact on your trajectory in life.

A spark is the best analogy I can think of at the moment. Influences are like little threads that lead us down a path towards who we are. One second we are seeing in low-resolution standard definition, and the next second we are seeing in 1080p. We’re not quite at 8k HDR yet, but if we keep searching we’ll get there before we know it. 

And at the heart of it all— music tastes, personality, dreams, etc— is discovery. I discovered who I was by taking an interest in things. 

Or put another way —

You are what you want to be.

Curiosity makes us who we are. *Deciding* to do, like, or be a certain person makes us who we are. Allowing ourselves to be influenced by the people around us makes us who we are. Most of the time this isn’t a conscious decision we make. Rather, something we just do and notice (or not) afterward. Oh, wow. It looks like I just ate the weight of a triceratops in ice cream — again.

Invisible scripts run a lot of our lives. But not if we decide to do something about it. If there’s something you don’t like about yourself, or how your life looks, you can change it. Depending on what it is, it might not be easy — but it’s possible. You have the power to own your life. And it starts with seeking it out.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #935

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Growing Well

“Wisdom is the one thing that makes growing old worth it.” — Jiraiya, Naruto: Shippuden 

I’m in that weird age of not being old, but not being young either. In my head, I picture myself like I’m college young, but I’m definitely no longer in that demographic. In fact, my younger sister just graduated from school with a photo-media degree, and when I look at who is in college right now and I’m like—Nah bro. You old.

Age is not something I ever think about. Mentally, I’ve always felt like an old man. someone who can talk to anybody, no matter how old or young they are. And someone who would prefer a good book or deep conversation than a night out drinking or hitting the town.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having fun and playing. But my play looks different than most muggles. I get kicks off creating things, learning, and trying new things and exercises.

Each year of our lives brings something new. (Each second, really.) It’s up to each of us to make it mean something.

Do you know who you want to be when you grow old? Because the things we do now have a big impact on us later on. How we move, eat, what we watch, what we do for work, who we hang out with, what we do in our free time, etc.

I’d like to be some who grows wiser each day, and learns to say no to what doesn’t matter to me, and say yes to what does. I’d like to be the kind of person who stands up for what we believe and apologizes for when he’s wrong.

Wanting it—that’s the first step towards being a better version of ourselves.

The next step is figuring it out to the best of our abilities as we go.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #934

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The Struggle

“I really try to put myself in uncomfortable situations. Complacency is my enemy.”

Trent Reznor

Complacency can creep up on you at any stage of your journey. Beginning, middle, and end.

  • When you think you have nothing and feel hopeless—you can become complacent to the life you dislike but tolerate.
  • When you are finally starting to make progress—but then you let the fear of failure (or success) lead you to procrastinate and avoid what you need/want to do.
  • When you’ve succeeded beyond your wildest dreams (or your family has succeeded before you, and has accrued wealth and/or status) — you can become complacent to a life of luxury. Your immediate needs are fulfilled, but you can’t help but wonder, “Is this all there is?”

Complacency also lives somewhere in the middle of not failure and success. A not-not world. A negative space. That pesky in-between state where nothing seems to be happening to us. We are working harder than we ever have, but we’re not making progress towards our goals. Or we aren’t trying hard enough to tip over into something better, but we aren’t getting worse either.

The word ‘struggle’ gets a bad rap, but it’s through the continuous drive to learn and improve, and the love of the craft that we can find meaning within our lives.

There’s a paradox here though— momentum creates both meaning and struggle. In fact, the struggle to be someone, or the struggle to create something worthwhile gives us the energy to stand out and make an impact.

Joy is found in motion. Work. Rest. Work Rest. Forward. Change. Towards somethings. Without that things can feel lost and distant. Luckily, there’s purpose waiting around every corner, you just have to put one foot in front of the other to see it.

The struggle isn’t the problem. The struggle is the solution. Let go of trying to rid yourself of struggle and embrace what comes, no matter if you like it or not.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #933

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Be a Class Act

“An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm of arrogance. It interferes with a person’s main task in life – becoming a better person.”

Leo Tolstoy

Some hard lessons must be learned on your own. Telling me to avoid bad clients, for example, is great advice but difficult to follow until I’ve felt the personal sting of working for a bad egg.

A bad client is a bad client. No amount of money is worth the time and frustration spent dealing with someone who will never be satisfied with your work—not even if it was blessed by the pope and lightly kissed by Ryan Gosling.

Eventually they will turn against you. Again, it’s hard to know that until you felt it.

The same is true for a lot of things that can happen to us— broken bones, lost love, failed classes, empty pockets, nights on the bathroom floor, fights with strangers and flights with people we love, etc. Everything we experience—good or bad—is a chance to learn and improve ourselves.

There are lessons in every problem and misfortune— we just have to be willing to hear them.

Painful lessons are not meant to close us off and harden us from ourselves and others—they aren’t meant to open us up to better ways of living.

It takes a lot of courage to do that.

And it’s still worth giving advice when asked because even if it’s not listened to now, it will inevitably be remembered and (ideally) reinforced later.

Not all advice is created equal, of course. It does matter who is giving it. Not everyone you meet will have your back. When the challenges come, you’ll find out quickly who your true friends are. (\Another hard lesson worth learning.)

Sometimes we are too close to someone for them to give us advice that we’d actually listen too.

Sometimes we might have to detach the advice from the person saying it because they don’t live it themselves, but it still could be a good insight (a lesson they learned the hard way but never found the strength to recover from). This type of advice is worth considering (with a little salt 🧂).

Some pieces of “advice” are just broken rules waited to be tested and improved.

No matter what advice we may receive, it’s still up to us to act on it. Good advice is useless if it’s not taken. Pause and think things through. What kind of life do you want? What kind of person do you want to be?

Remember— “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”Epictetus

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #932

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The Quiet Solution

“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

Albert Einstein

When I’m looking for answers to problems, I usually seek out a book or find someone who’s had a similar experience. But that’s not always the way to go. More input isn’t necessarily beneficial.

Sometimes all we need is to sit alone in a room with ourselves, or out in the woods to find the answer we need.

As Thomas Edison once said, “The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil.”

We might already have the answer we are looking for, we just can’t see it because we are too caught up in issue and the day to day business life.

Go talk a walk outside without your phone.

Sit in a silent room with some paper and a pen.

Find a quiet place to gather your thoughts and intentionally think and feel things through.

And it’s not just problems that solitude can cure. Some of my best ideas came from sitting alone in a room—reading, writing, thinking through my experiences.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #931

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Breakout

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston Churchill

There’s a great phrase from the author Chris Guillebeau from one of his early manifestos that goes—

”279 Days to Overnight Success.”

Chris’s work is something I go in and out of following (Honestly, I really should read more of his stuff more frequently) but this quote has stuck with me over the years. It’s become a mantra of mine, of sorts.

It takes a lot of hard, unseen work to become successful. Anything that looks easy is far from it. To them, hard work has become instinct.

It’s quite a special thing, when we can watch from the crowd on an athlete, artist, musician, dancer, coach or entrepreneur, and think “I could do that”.

This feeling is part inspiration, part admiration, and one hundred percent naive. The dedication and commitment to a craft—really, to a dream—can only truly be appreciated by stepping into the arena yourself.

It takes time, intention, and perseverance to become great at something. Most folks don’t see it through. But you can. I can. We can break out of the bad habits and things we dislike about ourselves and build up good habits and values we want to live by. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. All we have to do is commit to today. Forget about yesterday and tomorrow. Focus on the task in front of you. Prioritize and give time to what you value. Say no to everything else.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #930

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Fortitude

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m always torn between staying up later to have a little more time to learn and work on my passion projects, versus going to bed on time so that future josh will feel fresh in the morning.

Should I grit my teeth and push a little bit more, or do I let go and rejuvenate?

I’ve read Dr. Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep, I understand how vital good sleep is—not just for creativity— but for everything. Yet still, I’m torn. I don’t know what my future looks like. Would future Josh wish that past Josh tried harder or does he wish that past Me didn’t focus so much energy on doing more?

More doesn’t always bring you the results you are seeking.

As Seneca once wrote, “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”

I suppose it doesn’t matter as long as I’m living a life true to myself. My dreams in life aren’t going to realize themselves. There’s a reason most people don’t do what they want to do—they convince themselves it’s not possible. As long as we are making decisions for the right reasons—based on value, connection, joy, love, meaning, passion, curiosity, etc— it doesn’t really matter how long it takes for my day to come, or even if it does. Because if you live true to yourself, and treat yourself and others with respect and care, then the life that we end up living will be 10x as meaningful, compared to a life spent in fear, doubt, and by someone else’s rules.

It’s a simple idea, but it’s far from easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. It takes strength and perseverance to surrender to the moment while also never wavering on who you are and who you want to be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #929

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Creative Clutter

“Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that’s a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That’s not simple.”

Jonathan Ive

Clutter is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s organization is another person’s junk. What matters, of course, is what works best for each of us. Different places can inspire/offer different ideas.

What makes you feel the most creative in your environment?

Is it having everything exactly in its right place?
Is it having everything stacked in piles?
Is it having a thread-bare room with nothing in it except the task at hand?

For me, I feel the most creative when my tools are easily accessible, within reach and ready to go.

Personally, nothing kills a moment of inspiration more than a guitar closed off in its case. Paper needs to be ready. Pens, notecards, post-its, and other supplies are all on stand-by. Instruments are out and plugged in. When an idea strikes, all I want to do is flip a switch and start creating. It may sound silly, but it’s true. Anything between the idea/feeling and the act of creating is friction that could lead to reluctance or inaction.

Am I just being lazy? Perhaps. I think of it more as being ridiculously practical. Do what works for you. Your home, your office, your desk, your garage—whatever you have access to—this is something you can change and control.

You want to set up your environment for success. If you find yourself unmotivated to work on your art, then there’s something behind the scenes causing that feeling.

The things that we surround ourselves with can either enable or distract us from our calling.

Think of it like putting a plate of cookies in front of you and then telling yourself not to eat them. You’re either going to be thinking about cookies all day (and wasting time and energy) or you’re going to be eating cookies even though that wasn’t what you wanted. Neither of which— cookies, no cookies— was the work you were hoping to do.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #928

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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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Unyielding Gutsiness

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

There will be many occasions when all that separates you and your goals is a gutsy move. Being gutsy is doing what others won’t. Not forcefully. Not stupidly. Just doing it.

It starts with a queasy jittery uncomfortable buzzing feeling that comes from within. Part fear, part anxiety, part excitement. Some people feel it in the pit of their stomach right before they ask someone out. Others feel it when their heart starts to flutter before giving a speech. Whatever flavor you have, it typically shows up before you do something that may fail, or that makes you stand out from the majority. It’s a feeling that doesn’t go away—it’s something you get used to with practice.

What I find most interesting about this feeling is that it happens before we’ve made a move. Like it’s calling us forth, and testing us—are you gonna go through with it, or are you gonna back down?

I’ve backed down many times, and it doesn’t feel good. You know you should have done or said something but you didn’t. Next time though. I can’ t think of one time I regret listening to my intuition and take a gutsy action. Even when it didn’t work out as I wanted it too, I still learned something about myself and was able to work my discomfort zone muscles.

If you are looking for an extraordinary life, think of it as a compass for what you should do. As the Novelist, Chuck Palahniuk has said, “find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.”

Follow what scares you. With every bold action you may take, you are adding a little more originality and resilience to your character. Because it takes guts to think differently.

If you want to be gutsier, you have to practice being gutsy. Feel the fear. Revel in it. Then make your move.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #926

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