Loose Threads

“It is the loose ends with which men hang themselves.”

Zelda Fitzgerald

There’s this concept of loose threads (or loose ends) in film (and muuurder?) where certain details are left unfinished or unresolved. Loose threads could happen in the film’s story (i.e. We have some loose ends we need to cut) or the film itself, where there are storylines that feel unbuttoned and left hanging.

These unresolved/unfinished happen in our own lives too—good and bad.

Let’s start with good threads.

Good threads:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Steve Jobs

A good thread is what I call anything you put out into the world that’s positive, good-natured, or could become an opportunity (for you andor for others). The classic example is good karma. Things like anonymously donating to a charity, leaving a tip for a podcaster you enjoy, helping an old lady change her flat tire, etc. Good threads can also be investments you put out into the world that could bloom. Content, monetary investments, relationships, optimism, ideas, etc.

You never know when something you do or something you create will have a massive impact on your life or the lives of others.

That’s why it’s good to try to always be on our A-game and give one hundred percent with whipped cream on top of everything we say and do.

But what about bad threads?

Bad threads:

“I know the sag of the unfinished poem. And I know the release of the poem that is finished.”

Mary Oliver

Bad threads are unresolved sentiments live. Todos left undone. Things we said (sometimes even bragged about) but never did. Abandoned or sidetracked dreams. Projects unfinished. There are some bad threads that you can’t pick back up. Bridges burned, reputations tarnished.

Other bad threads are things we leave unfinished and yet still think about often. In Practice you’ve moved on to something else, in mind, you have unfinished business rummaging around in your head that pops up. These can be super harmful because they can zap our energy—in what we are currently doing AND from what we aren’t doing but wish we were. And they add up over the years. One thread unravels to two, then three…

I find it good to take some time to think and list out (if any) threads I’ve left open unresolved. After that, it’s a question of if it’s something I need to finish, something I really want to do or something I should let go of.

What are some projects or ideas left open that I need to resolve?

What are some asks/favors/tasks/opportunities I need to say no to?

What are some things I need to let go of?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #976

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Use What You’ve Got

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Theodore Roosevelt

According to a quick google search, the top two most sold ice cream flavors are vanilla and chocolate. Out of the thousands of favors and options out there in the world, the humble vanilla and chocolate are still the most popular.

You have everything you need to create what you need. Everything you can and will eventually add to the mix (experiences, higher quality gear, knowledge, the latest gadgets, and gizmos, etc) are extra flavor to your toolkit.

But for now, you have what you have—so make do. Think of it as a creative limitation, something that gives you the opportunity to think differently and come up with a clever solution.

More tools doesn’t equal more creativity or originality.

There’s no sense in waiting for the right tools and gear. Nor for right time for that matter.

Be resourceful. Make do with what you have and make it shine.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #963

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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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Encouragement

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s souls.”

Daniel Burnham

There will always be ups and downs on every creative journey. Moments of doubt. A day where all you want to do is quit. And on that day when you are teetering on the edge of giving up your dream, you have a choice—keep going or give in. There will be many days like this. This is an inflection point. This is what separates those that succeed and those who give up and go on to and doing something else.

Success isn’t assured. Even if you do everything right, there’s still the chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that doesn’t mean you are destined to fail either. Perhaps the right place at the right time is in your future if you push through the difficulty and have the courage to continue forward. No one said pursuing a creative life would be easy. But if you love what you do, and you really want it, then you need to find the encouragement to keep pursuing.

Remind yourself why you are doing this.

Collect memories of encouragement and compliments to help you preserve on difficult days. (See Tim Ferris’s Jar of Awesome)

Remember that your work has the power to encourage and lift others. (Which also means other people’s work has the power to encourage you too.)

Related:

BOOK: Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

“A good director creates an environment, which gives the actor the encouragement to fly.”

Kevin Bacon

“I’ve always thrived on the encouragement of others.”

Patti Smith

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #912

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Creative Refresh

“When you are creating to the magnitude that I try to create, your brain is like a computer, and you need to refresh.”

Missy Elliott, Musician

“Rest until you feel like playing, then play until you feel like resting, period. Never do anything else.”

Martha Beck, Author

Sometimes, we just need to sit down and work on our craft. As much as learning and seeking inspiration can help us come up with our own ideas, they also be distracting and take away time from putting pen to paper (literally and metaphorically speaking).

No conversations. No books. No twitter. No inputs—just pure focus on creating. Without effort, there is no output, just ideas, and dreams.

But on the flip side too much work back-to-back and we’ll deplete our energy and stamina, which also slows and stops great ideas from coming.

There have been many times where I’ve been go-go-going and I’m seeming to make progress, but in reality, I’m treading water. Or I’m working on good things, but I’m agitated, my neck is yelling at me and I’m not present with what I’m doing so my work suffers.

All work and no play makes Josh a dull boy.

We need both creative input and creative output to make great things and enjoy making them.

It’s good to take stand up and walk away for a while. Space and time are great creative palette cleansers. Go for a walk. Draw something. Workout. Write a poem. Work on some unrelated craft or project. Read a good book. Sleep on it. And then come back with fresh eyes.

Fresh eyes create fresh ideas.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #909

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Zero Motivation: Part 3

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

Lao Tzu

Note: You can read this motivation series in any order, but if the thought of reading something out of order makes your teeth hurt from clenching your jaw in rage, here’s Zero Motivation Part 1 & Part 2.

If you’ve been reading some of my blogs this past year, then you likely know I’m a massive fan of daily practices.

Cultivating a daily creative practice has an interesting side effect: you don’t need to rely on motivation to create. Once you get started and have built up a little bit of momentum, you are letting disciple drive you, not motivation.

There are a few psychological reasons why daily practices are effective:

1. Autopilot. Building the up the habit makes it a thousand times easier to sit down and write or paint or play guitar or whatever it is you want to do. Momentum carries you forward. Once you put in the practice enough times, you expect yourself to practice.

2. Micro-Immersion. You don’t have to put your life on hold to learn something or practice. A daily practice lets you fit it in and around your life, instead of completely resetting your life. It allows you to immerse yourself where you are, with what you have. Instead of waiting for the right time or place to create, you can carve out a little time each day to work on yourself—your skills or your art.

3. Streaks. Doing something daily is a quick way to build discipline into your art. The first day is the most difficult, but that’s why it’s important to start small. But after the first day, you’ve already begun to build up a running streak. Now you’re on the second day in a row. And soon enough once the next week rolls around, you’ve been practicing for seven consecutive days in a row. Your streak is starting to get a little more powerful. After seven days in a row, do you really want to miss day eight? No! Day eight is as good as done. Now imagine a month passes. Then two. Now you’re up to sixty days in a row. Are you going to miss day sixty-one? H to the LL no. Not even if you’re sick or had a terrible day. And that’s what’s most powerful about daily practices, the more days you do them, the less you will want to stop.

There’s a key insight here though — you want to make sure you keep track of how many days you’ve practiced consecutively. Use a calendar, mark it in a notebook, do what you need to do to keep track of your daily number.

Solution #3: Go Daily

“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.”

Stephen Covey

Going daily isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth experimenting to see if its right for you. The essence is simple —

Start doing something you want to do every day. How many practices? It doesn’t matter. But seriously, how much practice? If you need a starting point, I’d recommend thirty minutes. If you have time to eat three meals a day, get on Instagram for hours a day and rewatch six episodes of Community, then you have time for a thirty-minute creative session.  

If you can, it’s easier to do in the morning, because our minds are most recently refreshed from sleeping. But it doesn’t matter when you do it. If you’ve got a job, kids, chores, and other responsibilities, then fit it in wherever you’ve can. Once you build up your daily streak, it doesn’t matter if you do it in the morning or if you have to do it 11:58 PM while everyone is sleeping. Don’t sleep deprive yourself, of course. Just know that you can make it work within your schedule. And, honestly, if you can’t make it work, then your priorities are misaligned. 

Remember — you are doing this for yourself. Structure aside, the reason you are trying to motivate yourself to create its because deep down this is something you want to do. You are trying to add a creative practice because it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, or you feel driven to do, but for a million reason can’t find the motivation to do it.

Going daily cuts away any excuse. 

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #897

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Creativity & Uncertainty

“There is no science in creativity. If you don’t give yourself room to fail, you won’t innovate.”

Bob Iger

It’s okay if you have no idea what you are doing —

No one truly does. We’re all making decisions based on the best guesses we can give based on our experiences, knowledge, and information we have to go on. Even the people who have ‘made it’ aren’t immune to uncertainty.

I have no idea what I’m doing either. But that doesn’t matter. As long as I’m doing my best and not compromising on who I am and what I want, then defeat can’t touch me. Sure, I’ll fail—likely I’ll have some epic failures—but failure is just one moment.

  • Your business sets on fire so then you start another one.
  • You realize your art is not as good as you think it is, so then you get better.
  • Your friends disappear when you need them the most, so then you find more caring friends.

Uncertainty isn’t the enemy.

As Richard P. Feynman once said, “I think that when we know that we actually do live in uncertainty, then we ought to admit it; it is of great value to realize that we do not know the answers to different questions. This attitude of mind – this attitude of uncertainty – is vital to the scientist, and it is this attitude of mind which the student must first acquire.”

We fear uncertainty because it might go against our plans (…Or kill us. That happens sometimes too). But again, our plans are just guesses about the lives we think we should have. In actuality, the things we didn’t see coming could show us a better way to live, if we take the opportunity to do so.

Uncertainty generates curiosity. It gives us the opportunity to look at a blank page, screen, canvas or out into the stars and ponder, “What If…?” And that leads to creativity.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #891

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Creative Soul

“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.”

Walt Disney

I honestly haven’t figured out yet why I enjoy creating so much. There’s a sense of wonder and joy I get every time I create something. There’s a great quote by John Lennon (from the Beatles duh) in a Rolling Stones interview that goes, “I’m an artist, man. Give me a tuba, and I’ll get you something out of it.” Perhaps creativity is built into our DNA. Does everyone have it? Probably. But it needs to be nourished.

Creativity comes in many shapes and colors, but at the heart of all true creative work is the joy of making stuff. It’s taking an idea and making it a reality. It’s following your curiosity, where it may lead.

To be creative is to be someone who lives to make stuff. Forget money, forget fame—those are only tools (and sometimes hinders) to live a life where you can create more.

I have a full-time job. I don’t have to write and work on this blog. I don’t have to play music. But then again, I have to do it. I would feel stale and less happy if I stopped. Creating isn’t all of who I am, but it’s a part of me. Some people ask why I do so many things. Why not stick to one thing and focus all your effort on that? It’s true. That does work for some. It’s not a bad idea. But that’s not me. I would be giving pieces of myself away. Pursuing multiple things takes much more effort. But the rewards outpace the effort. Idea’s cross-pollinate between the different crafts you are learning. You start to see and think differently. You start to see how things are all connected. Ideas create more ideas. Which gives you more opportunities to learn and make stuff.

You having a creative soul when you:

  • Live to makes stuff.
  • Can’t not create.
  • Find meaning and joy in creativity.
  • Always experimenting and challenging yourself.
  • Are relentlessly curious.

Curiosity is what feeds the creative soul.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #877

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You Need A Practice

It took me a long time to realize how very little of life is in our control. We go through life feeling like we are in control—until we aren’t. Something happens that shakes us. A broken arm or health issue that shows us we are not invincible. A random circumstance that knocks the wind out of us. A realization that changes how we think about the world. These are turning points that can either keep us scared or lift us to a new level of understanding.

At its fundamental level, control means having power or influence over something. With just one hand, I could count how many things I have controller over:

  1. My thoughts.
  2. My actions and reactions.
  3. What I prioritize, focus on and/or value.
  4. Where I spend my time (and other resources).

In a way, what’s in our control are all related to one another. Thoughts lead to actions, and actions show what we prioritize our time on. These give us a credible amount of agency over our lives, but at the same time we are are in the midst of things outside of our control—an island in the middle of an untamable sea. But chaos doesn’t mean we are powerless. By focusing and honing what we do control, we can handle any life circumstances that come our way.

One great way to channel what’s in our control is to start a practice. Having a practice grounds you when everything else is up in the air.

Having a practice grounds you when everything else is up in the air.

What practice(s) you do is up to you. It could be something creative, like writing, dance, pottery, painting, drawing, making youtube videos, calligraphy, guitar, etc. It could be something nourishing, like yoga, mediation, cooking, running, swimming, etc.

What matters is making it intentional. And, ideally, it’s something you put into practice daily. But I’m not yo mama. I’m not going to tell you how you should live your life. We each have our own choice here. We could go about life rocking with the ship and whatever wave hits us. Or we could learn how to sail.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #876

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Related:

Having A Practice – Steven Pressfield

Creative Soil

“If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.”

Epictetus

I recently learned that dirt and soil are not the same things. Dirt is essential dead. It’s like a grumpy college kid who only eats package ramen noodles and bagel bites — over-fertilized, under-nourished and can’t hold it’s water. Soil, on the other hand, is ALIVE. Soil is full of minerals and organic matter.

Plants that grow in soil are more nutrient-rich. Dirt can also grow plants, of course, but it takes larger and larger amounts of fertilizer and the plants have fewer nutrients.

You wonder if the same thing could be applied to us.

Where are your roots growing?
Do you feel creatively nourished?

  • Are you feeding your creative soul with good inputs (books, art, music, ideas, etc)
  • Are you challenging yourself with new experiments and skills?
  • Are you surrounding yourself with smart (cough smarter than yourself cough) creatives who are doing amazing work and want to see you succeed?
  • Are you living a life true to yourself?

The othering interesting (relevant) thing to note is dirt can be revitalized. By adding a little compost (organic matter) back to dirt, it can begin to regenerate and thrive again. 🌱

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #873

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Inspiration From:

The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: 366 Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul and Grow Your Business by John Jantsch