Blood, Sweat, and Tears

“Take no thought of who is right or wrong or who is better than. Be not for or against.” — Bruce Lee

If you could go back in time and change your past would you? I reflexively think I would, but if I pause and dig a little deeper, I’m not so sure. If I changed things—rewrote mistakes and make a different decision—then the me I am now wouldn’t exist. (Now I have a sudden urge to rewatch Back to the Future, I wonder why?)

As much as I dislike some of the mistakes from my past, they’ve helped shape me into who I am.

Failure is an inflection point—a chance for us to change who we are.

Sometimes our mistakes can lead us to a better path.

Not always—a few too many wrongs turns and wrong crowds and we could easily be living life behind bars. And not always right away. But they do take our self-centeredness and giant egos down a few decibels and point us towards change.

It’s like the quote from the American actor Orson Welles, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

Perhaps you’re in the thick of it. Perhaps mistakes in your past are biting you right now. Well, dwelling on them won’t change anything. You may not be able to change your past, but you can change your future. Not immediately, but soon enough.

Imagine your life in a year. Who do you want to be? What does it look, sound, taste, smell, and feel like? Reverse engineering your way to that goal. Don’t aim for perfect—aim for better.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1068

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Regression

“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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Picking up the Pieces

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

Bill Gates

“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

Abraham Lincoln

In life, failure is inevitable. (And if you don’t think so you haven’t experienced it yet.) But not all failure is fatal. In fact, the only failure that you can’t build yourself back from is death. Death is pretty fatal.

Let me ask you a question:

At what moment do we fail?

Is it when we lose the game? Is it when we made a bad decision and end up running our company into the ground? Is it when our ego ruins our opportunity? Is it when we let others down? Is it when we become someone we dislike? Is it when we manipulate and drive everyone away? Is there a line we can cross that’s unredeemable?

We certainly fail when we give up—while knowing we should keep going.

There are many mistakes we can make that aren’t recoverable. When you and your former partner are dragged through the mud of anger and divorce, recovering is unlikely. When you ruin your reputation by lying, or being flaky or saying something overwhelmingly offensive, it’s going to take a lot of convincing to get back to square one. When you dig yourself into debt the size of a Mars crater, it’s going to be a lot of hard work to get back to zero. But even so, we’re still alive. We are still breathing. The show must go on!

When our failure burns out and leaves ashes in its wake, we still have the chance to rise up, pieces together our life and change into something better than we were. (And make it a part of our story and a lesson to share with others.)

But not if we give up. Not if we give in to despair forever. Not if we drown our sorrows in ice cream and beer. Numbing the pain and failure doesn’t take away the pain and failure.

Failing and being unable to recover doesn’t mean that it’s over for us. It just means that the unbalanced, and unstable life we were living is officially over. Now we have to find a new one—a better way of living. A life that makes us better and helps make others better too.

There’s always away forward.

Picking up the pieces is far from fun. But it does give us something. Something to do with our hands. A past life to let go of. A way forward towards something new. And as scary as new can be, it can also be exciting and lead us to unexpected places.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #924

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Zero Motivation Part 7: Resources

Note: You can read this motivation series in any order, but this is the last post (7 out of 7), so you might want to read some of the others first:

“No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.”

John Locke

I talk a big game, but I only know what I’ve personally experienced and seen work in my life.

I still feel fear, sweaty palms and fluttering stomach, any time I try something new and step out of my comfort zone. I’m excited, but I’m also nervous. I still worry about looking like a failure or embarrassing myself. But I’ve found ways forward, past the fear and worry. Because life’s too short to sit on your dreams.

Besides, embarrassment and failure are a part of life. Only my ego thinks otherwise.

Maybe you have a very good reason not to do what you wish you would do. But then why do you keep thinking about it? Why do you keep wishing you would?

There are times when we have to put a dream down so that we can pick up another dream.

And there are other times when we need to see the situation for it truly is: we are scared. And that little bit of fear is holding us back.

My hope that this series will help you shake off some of the shackles that fear has on you. I hope you find you find the strength to pursue the life you dream of, despite the life you may have.

Remember, it’s not zero-sum. The pursuit of your dream exists on a spectrum. Even a piece of it is better than never trying. (This is getting a little too self-help-y, so I’ll stop there.)

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”

Amelia Earhart

Here are some great resources from smarter people than I:

Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual by Jocko Willink

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win by Jeff Haden

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #901

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Squaring the Hole — How to Think Longterm in Life’s Fragility

“Youth is something I never wanna take for granted. I just want to smile and live life.”

Tyler, The Creator

I write a lot about daily habits. Doing something daily or consistently allows you to take advantage of the compounding benefit of time. We divide a year into 365 days (or 366 days on a leap year). 10 to 30 minutes of practice times 365 days = 3650 to 10950 minutes of practice. An hour is double that. As you can see, a little time invested can go a long way.

But what about if tomorrow doesn’t come? As Logic says in his song Fade Away, “Everybody gonna die, gonna go one day, maybe it’ll happen on a Monday. Driving to work and get hit by a Hyundai, f* it, let it all go one day.” Tomorrow, For all we know we could get hit by a Hyundai, of all things, and never get our chance to do and be all that we want to be.

It’s hard to say where life will take you. Usually where you would never expect, and yet somehow makes since when you back on things and line up the pieces. Most of it is out of our control. The more we can learn to accept that, roll with it and find opportunities no matter what comes our way, the happier and better off we will be.

Our thoughts and decisions are in our control. And while we can’t control everything that goes on outside of our own minds and actions, how we think and what we do place a big part in how our lives shape up.

There’s a lot of things I’d like to accomplish and experience in life. But having a vision or dream for your life doesn’t assure that it will happen. Having a dream is the first step. And making it happen is the second step. But somewhere in that undisclosed middle, a lot can happen.

1. We let fear control us.

“The whole point is to live life and be – to use all the colors in the crayon box.”

RuPaul

We act out of fear. We breathe and sweat fear and failure. We do the wrong thing for the right reasons or the right thing for the wrong reasons. We avoid our dreams because there’s “always tomorrow” or because there’s always something that seems to get in the way.

2. We live by other people’s dreams instead of our own.

“Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.”

Benjamin Franklin

We live a shadow dream, as Steven Pressfield calls it in Turn Pro. It looks similar to what we want, but in reality, we’re just avoiding what we really want to do out of fear or embarrassment or not being good enough or any number of other things we convince ourselves of — all with thoughts that are supposed to be in our control.

3. Or we even chase after our dreams so hard and far that we forget to be present and enjoy our lives in the process.

“Confine yourself to the present.”

Marcus Aurelius

We get everything we want, but forget to spend time with the people we love and forget to enjoy the process towards success while we are building it. Or worse — we don’t get what we want, and we still miss out on the time and experience spent with our love ones.

But luckily, all there’s are in our domain of control — our thoughts and our actions. We can learn and train ourselves not to act out of fear, but out of abundance and beginner’s mind.

There’s room in life to enjoy the present, while also preparing and building for the future.

By living life to the fullest each day.
By taking things as they are, not as they could or should be.
By not letting fear win.
By choosing our own path.
By not letting our dreams consume us.
And by living a little when we remember too.

“What really matters is what you do with what you have.”

H. G. Wells

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #872

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Smile It Away

“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”

Phyllis Diller

“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.”

Lord Byron

I knew the day wasn’t going to be easy when at around 6 am I was unable to check-in and board my flight because I had missed the check-in window by mere minutes. Actually, I knew it wasn’t going to be my day when I spilled coffee on my notebook and new book I was reading (and loving no less). Scratch that. The night before I had a feeling it was going to be a bumpy ride when my weeks worth of luggage wasn’t fitting and was getting the zipper caught. (Probably because I was trying to lug my entire bulletproof coffee kit — kettle, butter and all — on a flight across the world to Thailand)

Regardless, sitting there in the airport, coffee stains all over me, waiting for the next flight, I had a feeling today wasn’t going to be my day. And oh what a day it was. Flight cancellation in New York. My small-town bank froze me out of my account. And when I finally arrived in Beijing, as I was wandering the airport at Lord knows what time or how long this godforsaken day has been, as I was wondering the empty airport, my belt broke.

Even my belt broke. And you know what I did?

Hold that thought.

When things don’t go our way, our usual reaction is to brute force it.

Brute force essential means trying to accomplish something with pure strength without any strategy or tactics behind it. It’s pure muscle power.

Okay, maybe you aren’t holding your pants up with one hand while pushing your luggage around a foreign airport like I was four years ago. Nevertheless, there are many occasions where brute force seems like a good idea.

Maybe something breaks at work and you spend hours and hours gritting your teeth and trying to push a square peg into that round hole.

Or maybe you have kids and for no reason at all they have decided to completely meltdown today and refuse to do anything you say.

Or maybe a bird craps on your favorite shirt, or the parking authority gives you a ticket or your fun gets rained out or you trip on a broken sidewalk or you choke in front of an audience or you fail completely today.

There’s only two choices we make:

  1. We can give into the friction and wallow away the entire day. Or —
  2. We can ground ourselves in the insignificance of a little moment of failure and bad luck, and smile it away.

Because time is short and every second wasted adds up.

Because anger’s half-life is short* and nothing is permanent except change.

Because life is bigger than us.

And because one day in the future, if we’re lucky, we’ll be laughing it off and telling the story as if the memory was an old friend.

You know what I did as I was standing in an airport, holding my pants up?

I laughed. I smiled it away. I realized how silly and unlikely this story sounded. And I took a deep breath and went on to enjoy my week in Thailand with some friends.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #856

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Even Your Heroes Make Mistakes

“Everyone is flailing through this life without an owner’s manual, with whatever modicum of grace and good humor we can manage.”

Anne Lamott

“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.”

Aristotle

Imagine if you woke up tomorrow rich and famous. If you need a backstory why — one day, you were shopping at an antique store. you were rifling through a stack of dusty books when a gleam caught your eye. In a bowl on a thick wooden desk, a ring stood out among the rest. Something about it was mesmerizing. Maybe it was the way that one blue jewel of three seemed to flicker in the right light. You try it on and it surprising (not so surprisingly) fits perfectly. A from the corner of your mind comes to a voice that reminds you of hot summer days and the scent of fresh air. “Hello, my friend. I have one wish left to give to be set free. What do you desire?”

Backstory aside — imagine if you woke up tomorrow and everything was exactly the same, but you were rich and famous.

Think about your life up until now. The little mistakes you made while growing up. Things you did without knowing any better. Things you tried because you thought you’d be able to get away with it. Think about what you’re good at, what you’re bad at (or what are works in progress).

I’d likely be just as flawed and mistaken-ridden as any other famous person is.

Money and status amplify who we are. They put us in front of more opportunities (opportunity creates opportunity) but they also give us the chance to make some very public mistakes and expose us to a lot of people who want we have. Money solves a lot of problems, but it also creates more. I say this as a normal, non-rich (yet), non-famous person.

Hero’s make mistakes. Just like we make mistakes. Does that justify or condone their actions? No. In fact, because they’re in the spotlight, they have more responsibility to uphold higher values and own up to mistakes when they inevitably happen. Most of us have a right to a little grace. (Not too much grace, but some. 🙂

What makes a human is not the mistakes they make, but what they do after they make them. A great leader owns up to their flaws, failures, and foibles, and commits to getting better every day going forward.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #808 can you feel that b.a.s.s.

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Head Games

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Creativity is 90% head games.

Sure, we have to act on our imagination to make it real. But the biggest thing that holds us back (or elevates us higher) is how we think.

Thinking touches every aspect of what we do. Even when we are not actively thinking about it, our brains are thinking about it for us.

What is procrastination but thinking you don’t have what it takes or thinking you’d rather do something else instead? What is a distraction but us thinking and processing the world around us? What is creative fear but mental uneasiness with the unknown and doubt about ourselves?

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Alice Walker

That’s why habits and rituals are so important. They give us the opportunity to get us out of our heads so that we can focus on creating. When you streamline everything around your creative habit, you remove all the head games that can derail you from doing the work.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #806

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Why Failure is (Mostly) Good

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

Johnny Cash

Let’s be honest — failure sucks. Most of us would rather eat our right pinky finger than fail.

But failure is also good because it teach us (the hard way) to grow. Everyone loves a good failure to success story, where our hero hits rock bottom and a few montage scenes later finds his or her way back from defeat. But for every success story, how many untold stories of people who failed, hit rock bottom and gave up?

The worst part about failure is that giving up is always on the table. In fact, giving up is the easiest choice. Giving up requires nothing from us. But giving up gives us nothing in return. We love success stories because we see ourselves as the hero in our own story that overcomes adversity and failure. The goal isn’t to fail, but to learn to succeed after we fail.

“Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”

Failure is our chance to learn something we didn’t know (our something we were neglecting) and get back up.

Sometimes that requires us to take a break and rest.
— or go back to the drawing board.
— or change our perspective or how we think.
— or become less ego-driven.
— or realign our priorities and/or expectations.

And whatever else we need to do to reset ourselves, find resolve to move forward, and work up the nerve to try again.

Because we know we can.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #695


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The Gift of Pain

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Helen Keller

The earth continuously spins at a lazy one thousand miles per hour. Roughly every 24 hours, it completes its race and begins a new – the ultimate example that shows steady and slow wins the race.

Is it because of death we feel compelled to hurry up and get things over with? Life is short for each of us. Time ticks on, whether we are working on our dreams or not. Perhaps our patience is at its thinnest when we faced with pain, dislike and fear.

I don’t know a single person who enjoys spending time in wall to wall traffic. But there’s also those of us who, when faced with an uncomfortable reality, want nothing more than to move past it. Like swatting flies out of our food, we want nothing more than to get rid of our circumstances and setbacks.

“Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.”

Aristotle

It depends on how you look at it, but setbacks and pain can be gifts if you let it. As sucky as they are, our circumstances are teaching us hidden lessons on how to live better if we let them. Nobody wants to be in debt up to their noses. Nobody wants to feel the pain of a heartbreak or the ache of an injury. Depression, anxiety, negativity, bitterness, backstabbing, fear, and discouragement aren’t exactly a fun party to be in.

I’d hate to say that setbacks and pain are trying to teach us something important, but maybe they are trying to teach us something important.

Pain, failure and bad circumstances raise our awareness and show us how to live better than we were previously. They stop us, so that we can slow down, think more wisely and go after a life of meaning.

We might have to dig ourselves out of a hole now, but when (not if, when) we finally crawl over the top, we have a new and better way to live and a story to tell.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #648

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