Failure Isn’t Final

There’s been a handful of failures that have helped shaped and define who I am, but the one that stands out is a chronic neck injury that started six years ago.

I would never wish bad health on anyone, but my experiences with injuring my neck have vastly altered my direction and what’s most important in my life. There have been many wise people who have discussed how vital health is to our lives. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The first wealth is health.” But that’s difficult to notice—truly know—until you’ve experienced the downsides of injury or poor health. Or as Thomas Fuller put it, “health is not valued till sickness comes.”

However, there is also opportunity in sickness. When you lose something, you gain the awareness and empathy of those who, like you, have gone through a difficult experience.

My neck injury was a gradual degradation. I didn’t notice anything wrong until it was all-encompassing. In retrospect, Doctors would tell me it was likely brought on by physical trauma I experienced as a child (head-on car collision with my mom, ATV accident with my dad). That plus working behind a desk without proper knowledge about posture combined with the stress of a full schedule was the tipping point to an injury.

One day I was fine, the next I could barely move. The back of my head was pounding. I could feel my pulse radiating from my shoulders up to my face. Sleep was impossible. I spent almost a full week in bed with minimal movement. My parents quickly recommended that I go and do some physical therapy.

This was an extremely difficult time. If you’ve ever broken a bone or injured yourself, not only must you deal with the physical problems but also the mental battles of keep negative and hopelessness at bay. It makes you wish for the days where getting A’s in math courses is all you have to worry about.

I spent a lot of time during this period learning what I could about what was happening to me. I tried many things, like strength, yoga, tai chi, diet, meditation, and other practice to relieve stress. It helped with the pain a little, but it never completely went away. Every day was a constant feeling of pain and discomfort. My sleep was suffering too, because sleeping in a certain position, or subconsciously rolling over from my left side to my right (or vice versa) was painful enough to wake me up.

Injuring myself wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Having to constantly deal with pain taught me how to be incredibly resilient to difficulty and gave me the drive to pursue health and seek out unique solutions to my problems.

It’s also taught me the value of hope. There’s always a way forward, even if you don’t know how or what that specifically looks like. Failure highlights the positive. It allows us, if we choose it, to see beyond our immediate circumstances, think entrepreneurial. find unique solutions to our problems and help others in the process.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1217

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Start Again

“Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.”

Malcolm Forbes

“You will fall. And when you fall, the winner always gets up, and the loser stays down.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Failure is temporary. What happens after we fail? Time continues forward. Change gives way to something new. Because it was necessary. Because what we were doing wasn’t working.

Of course there’s always the choice to give up and dwell in the past and things we can’t change.

Life isn’t about success or failure, i’s about the attempt. To be fearless is to be willing to keep going after failure. Reframe failure as an opportunity. It sucks at the moment, but it won’t suck forever.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1203

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Hard-won Lessons

“A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”

B. F. Skinner

If I had the opportunity to peer into a crystal ball and see my future, I don’t that I would. Because some of my best moments have come from my worst failures. And if I knew how hard I would fall and scrape my knees (metaphorically speaking), I’m not sure I would be strong enough to choose failure.

For me, that was learning how vital health is by dealing with the damage of injuring my neck.

I would never wish misfortune and hard lessons on anyone, but they often are the most rewarding lessons we can experience in life. Well, that is if we humble ourselves enough to bend to their insights. (There are plenty of people out there who fail and fail again but never learn and use their mistakes to their advantage.)

But how to move forward after failure? How to move forward after your life falls apart like a sugar cookie in a zip lock bag being crushed by your grade school bully?

You move forward by starting over and by picking yourself up and trying again. Because that’s what life is—a cycle of “trying agains”. Even success ebbs and flows.

There’s never a moment of “making it.” There’s always the next level. Even Oprah and The Rock are aiming for something. Of course, it’s when you think you’ve made it that you start to un-make it. Casey Neistat has a great vlog on this, My Biggest Failure. The worst thing you can do when you fail (or succeed) is nothing.

Earn your failures by turning them into momentum.

And when you are in the midst of despair, look for the good—shift out the dirt and debris and find the gold in your situation. There are no easy answers in difficult circumstances, only hard-won lessons.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1188

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Failure to Launch

Isn’t it funny (ironic, tragic, silly) that often the very thing we need is the thing we won’t give ourselves permission to do. And because we won’t do it, we end up stuck in a place we don’t want to be.

We want it, but don’t think we can have it (or aren’t willing to go after it) because X, Y, Z reason.

We want to (finally) eat healthily and lose weight (or fix a health issue that’s constantly bothering us) but we never actually do it (or quit as soon as we glance at a piece of cake).

Or we have the desire to be an entrepreneur, but we sideline ourselves by convincing ourselves that we don’t know enough yet or we don’t have a good idea yet.

And because we don’t do it, we are dissatisfied and judgment to ourselves, stuck in a loop of wanting something we won’t give ourselves!

Why?

Because trying something new or going after a dream is scary and it might not work.

Because it’s easier to play it safe and not get what we want than to do something hard or that might fail.

But honestly, all we are doing is failing and mentally blocking ourselves before we even try.

Ask yourself—what am I convincing myself of that is “impossible” or that I “can’t do”?

If we’re already failures for not trying, then why not try anyway and keep trying?

What do we have to lose?

Failure is a part of learning. It’s painful and messy and uncomfortable, but it can also make us better if we allow ourselves to learn and grow from the experience.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1156

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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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