Missing a Day

“Right discipline consists, not in external compulsion, but in the habits of mind which lead spontaneously to desirable rather than undesirable activities.”

Bertrand Russell

It’s a sad day when you break a daily habit streak. The other day, I was on day 240 of sketching every day, but I flubbed it. I could give you a million reasons why I forgot, but that doesn’t change the fact that I broke my streak. It happens to the best of us. 

Practicing a habit always has its ups and downs. Doing anything worthwhile is never easy. The two most difficult moments of keeping a habit are: 

1. The first couple of weeks of starting a new habit:

A new habit isn’t sticky when you are just beginning. There’s nothing really pulling you forward beyond the excitement and motivation of trying something new. That’s why I find daily streaks so powerful. 3 days in a row is cool, but no one would feel remorse for missing day 4. But what about day 30? Day 100? Day 300? When day 301 rolls around, you better believe you’ll do whatever you can to make it happen.

2. The day after you miss:

Missing a day can be crushing. There’s a million reasons, obstructions, and excuses that can prevent us from practicing. It’s easy to feel demoralized and unmotivated to start over. But here’s the thing—

A habit is a means to an end.

Practicing daily is fantastic, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. Drawing every day will improve your artistic abilities—which is a great reason why to do it—but there needs to be a goal beyond that. It goes down to the core of why you want to learn and become great at something in the first place. Practicing music everything day will improve your song muscles which can flourish into you becoming a musician and writing songs people love.

Missing a day sucks, but so be it. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t change our passions. It doesn’t change the goal. If it happens—it happens. The only thing we can do is look forward and think of it as a fresh start. We know what we have to do. There’s no time to sulk. Our daily streak may be back to Day #1, but that’s just a tool that keeps us accountable to our dreams. The daily count doesn’t matter—what matters is what we do with the skills we are cultivating.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1009

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Day 1000

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

Bruce Lee

I started writing daily out of ambitious desperation. You see, I wanted to write, to be a writer (among other things), but I wasn’t writing. I’d squeeze out a blog post every month or so, and jot down lots of ideas, but I was doing more non-writing than writing. I made the mistake of waiting for inspiration to come, instead of seeking inspiration out through motion.

Before:

I knew something needed to change, but I wasn’t quite sure what that was yet.

Seth Godin was a big inspiration. Somewhere around this time, I was reading his book, Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck? A compendium of blog posts from his daily blog organized into centralized ideas. It was a thick-baby, coming in at 605 pages. I had read a few other books from Seth and would read his blog every so often. I think what drew me to the book was the fun and silly book cover with rubber duckies and the title. (I’ve always been drawn to ducks and birds, but that’s a story for another day).

It was inspiring to see how a writing practice could add up to something bigger and deeper than its individual parts.

Around the same time, I was also inspired by a couple of people I knew who had challenged themselves to draw every day for a year and make a drumbeat every day for a year.

At this point, I had what you could call an epiphany (aka the obvious thing that keeps smacking you in the face trying to get your attention).

If I were to write every day for, say a hundred days, that would be like writing a one-hundred-page book. Or a full year would be three-hundred and sixty-five pages.

With a daily habit, I could quickly go from being a “wannabe writer” to a “writer”.

This isn’t exactly an original thought. Plenty of people do this in their own craft (whether they have a name for it or not). But it was original to me. Going daily planted the seed for something much greater than myself.

During:

Ideas come from Momentum

When it comes to wanting to do something (wanting to be something) it’s all about momentum. Taking a yoga class once is a fun exercise. Doing yoga every weekday is a practice. One is a pastime, the other is taking you somewhere. Where you are going depends on the habit you are cultivating. But whatever it is, you are going somewhere. That goes for good habits and bad habits. Building momentum comes from being consistent and intentional. Phoning it in is almost like standing still. You have to pour your heart and energy into something in order to make it become something alive and special. Some days, all you have to give is phoning it in. If that’s all you got today, then that’s all you got. But that just means you have to get up the next day and try harder.

One thing I noticed fairly quickly as I had no shortage of ideas, almost as if having a creative outlet gave my mind permission to open myself up to my life and let ideas flow in. I’ve noticed this before when I write songs.

Sometimes the music comes first and then inspires lyrics, other times coming up with lyrics naturally gives way to musical ideas. Regardless, the songs that come are a reflection of what I’m feeling, observing and-or experience at the moment.

Creativity needs an outlet, whatever that is for you. It’s not enough to want to be a dancer or want to be an Entrepreneur. You have to go out and live it. Your creative outlets are like lightning rods to ideas. But if you aren’t in motion ideas come much more slowly (if at all).

Another observation was that a writing idea could come from anywhere. A conversation. A new book. An old book. A walk in the park. Frustration. Anxiety. Anger. Random objects. Writing made me more observant of the world around me. I would have to pick and choose which writing idea I wanted to grab onto for the day.

Creativity is a mixture of conscious and subconscious influences. I can have a writing idea—call it a prompt or a question—in the morning, go about my workday without thinking about it, and have an answer to it by the evening when I sat down to write.

Of course, not every idea will be a masterpiece. But each day gave me the chance to work on my skills and hone my ideas. For every six decent to bad ideas, there was bound to be one good idea worth more than the rest combined.

Mistakes Lessons Learned

Mistake #1 Not Sharing Enough

One thing that took me an embarrassingly long time to do was to write one day in advance. Early on, I would could up with an idea, write, edit, upload, publish, and share all on the same day. This works but takes up a lot of mental space and the work doesn’t come out as nicely as I would like. Probably about a year in I took the initiative and wrote two posts in one day so that I schedule a post to go out in the morning instead of publishing it in the morning. If I were to go back and start over again, I would have done this from the beginning (people are more likely to read your work in the morning than in the evening). Writing the post that would go out the next day also gave each one a little room to breathe. I more time an idea has to stew, the more I could hone the message into a succinct idea.

Now I’m working on writing multiple posts in advance so that I can give each of them more time and attention. I’m still writing and editing every day, I’m just building on top of my craft and experimenting with ways to improve my skills, have better ideas, and provide more impactful and meaningful work.

Mistake #2 Not Leading with Story

Another thing I would do differently (and am working on improving now) is adding more storytelling to my blog posts. Storytelling is one of (if not the) most powerful ways to teach or get a message across to others. When we listen to a story, whether fantasy or reality, we put ourselves into the equation and are much more willing to listen and discover the knowledge and wisdom buried in the tale. A lot of my blogs are just straight up insights or observations. This type of writing has its place, but if you want to make people feel and care about what you have to say, you have to tell it in a way that they will want to listen.

Mistake #3 Dropping the Ball

The last thing I’ll mention is if I could go back and improve things, I would have kept up with my newsletter and podcast. I had a tiny newsletter even before I started daily blogging, but I just couldn’t stay consistent with it. And the same goes for my podcast. My life was in turmoil at the time, and those were the things that I had to give. But I’m kicking myself because they are powerful ways to connect with likeminded people and ways to share what you doing.

I’ve more recently reworked both my podcast and have started a few newsletters. My plan is to double, triple down on both of them.

Streaks are a powerful motivator

I’m not sure what the exact number is—it’s likely different for each of us—but perhaps around thirty days of doing something in a row, you build up a streak that you don’t want to break. Take walking for example. Walk today, and you might not think of anything if you didn’t walk tomorrow. It gets interesting when the day starts adding up. Walk six days in a row and you’ll likely want to walk on day seven. But what about thirty days? Ninety days in a row? A full year? You better believe that when day three-hundred and sixty-six rolls around you’ll do anything and everything to make sure you don’t miss it.

Here’s what one day of a habit looks like in star emojis:
⭐️

Here’s a full week:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A year:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

And here’s one thousand days:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Days add up. Whatever it is you want to do, whatever you want to be good at—make them work for you. It’s not easy, but if you stick to it it’s worthwhile.

After:

Daily blog has been a guiding force in my life for the last year plus years. Just as a daily habit can be your too if you take up the challenge. What better way to prove to yourself that you have ideas worth sharing and that you can help others by sharing your story.

You Have Ideas Worth Sharing.

Hitting a thousand days in a row doesn’t make me want to quit—in fact just the opposite. I want to do more, help more, connect more, tell better stories, and challenge myself to make The Renaissance Life something truly special.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1000 🎉

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Simple Habits

“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

Aristotle

Simple habits often make the biggest impact. They are small, misunderstood, and often overlooked things we almost dismiss as being too basic to do anything, but end up having a huge impact—good or bad. Reading a little every day, for example. Reading opens you up to new ideas and new worlds. It lets you explore not only the minds living across the world but also the minds spanning history. If you wanted, you can read the thoughts of the last great Roman emperor, A book from a reluctant businessman, and a tale of dragons all at the same time.

Journaling is another simple habit that can have a big impact if done consistently.

Often our heads are full of other people’s thoughts and ideas. We are chatting online with friends, reading other people’s thoughts in the form of books, articles, posts, captions, hearing the opinions of others around us. It’s enough to drown out your own voice and your own ideas.

A moment of solitude and a good pen and notebook will open up a whole new world of who you are. It doesn’t matter if you suck at writing. Great writing isn’t the point. The idea is to have a conversation with yourself and discover things you might be missing because you haven’t been listening. Like perhaps the low-grade anxiety you feel is because of not liking your job. You don’t know what you aren’t listening too. Your future self will also thank you for your journaling habit, because she/he will be able to see your growth over the years and what you were thinking at each stage in life.

Walking, Drinking more water, brushing your teeth, getting a full night’s sleep, gratitude practice, breathing exercises, play…

Simple habits are, well, simple, but they are far from useless.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #993

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Contingency Plans

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”

Alan Lakein

What are the common things that can derails our routines and habits the most? And, more importantly, what can we do about them?

Injury is a big one. There’s nothing like the loss of progress than a painful injury that leaves us lying in bed, sitting on the sidelines, and mentally challenging us with helplessness and negativity.

The ironic thing about injuring yourself is it’s often the people who are trying the *hardest* who end up injuring themselves. That is my story. I injured my neck, not out of laziness, but out of working too hard at the gym and at work. It’s not that working hard is bad per se, it’s hard work plus not having the awareness of what our body, mind, and spirit needs. Just going out and running hard without the proper knowledge and gear is a great way to ruin your knees. Hitting the weights at the gym without knowing what you’re doing is a short path towards hurting yourself.

Big Life changes is another common thing that can derail us. For example, moving across the country (or even across town). Talk about messing up your daily routine. You have to rush out in the morning to get everything packed and loaded—aka no coffee and reading routine. And by the end of the day, you’re exhausted and can barely move your arms.

Stress is the silent killer. Problems at work, family, friends, relationship—with ourselves (things we are doing and-or not doing). Stress can hit us on all sides (and usually all at once). There’s nothing like a stressful day to make you want to roll up to Chick-fil-a or Shake Shack and grab a large milkshake. Or Buy-click to your heart’s content on Amazon. Or just be plain lazy after work and do nothing but watch stuff and lallygag around on the internet.

Mindset. We are often our own worst enemies. If it seems like we aren’t making progress, or if we mess up once and “accidentally” eat a gallon of ice cream, we beat ourselves up about it and spiral even further away from our goals.

Many things can derail us. Avoiding them is ideal, but that’s not always possible or in our control. What we need is a game plan for when they inevitably come up. We need to create a playbook we can go to in times of pain and stress. Think of it like our personal DEFCON system—different levels of readiness and strategy depending on what’s happening to us.

If I get injured I’ll do X Y Z. When I’m moving to a new apartment, I’ll hit the “Moving Plan” button.

Here’s an example for a Big Life Change:

What do you do when you lose your job?

  1. Close the book, so to speak. Write down a list of everything you learned and enjoyed, and write down a list of why it didn’t work out or what you want to be improved at your next venture.
  2. Write down three things you want to see or accomplish in your next venture.
  3. Reach out to all your friends. Ask them if they’ve heard any opportunities and if they have any helpful connections.
  4. Reach out to a design friend, or hire a designer to help you with your resume and portfolio
  5. If #2 and #3 don’t pan out, find a job recruiter to help you find a job.

Having a go-to list takes the pressure off of us at the moment. It allows us to put aside the pain and problems that we are dealing with and focus—one item at a time—on the things we can do about what’s happening.

Note to self: Make a contingency plan for everything.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #953

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Expensive Habits

“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”

Benjamin Franklin

An expensive habit is anything we routinely do that gives us some instant value in the short-term but cost us in the long run.

Here’s a small example: choosing to sign up for a monthly membership service—like website hosting, or an online learning platform—over a yearly membership (—or not signing up at all). 

We same money in the short term (ex/ $18 instead of $150) but after 12 months of $18, we’re actually paying $216.

Another low hanging fruit (pun intended) is food. It’s soooo much more cheap and convenient to grab a pizza to go or whip it into the fast-food line instead of planning and prepping nutritious food. Junk food is cheaper, taster, and quicker—but you’ll pay for it tenfold in the end with fat, health issues, low energy, and pain. 

Expensive habits borrow from our future to give us convince and satisfaction in the present.

The other issue with expensive habits is how short there satisfaction really is. Buying another pair of shoes will make you feel great in the short term, but after 6 months of use, they’ll start to look worn and stale.

Think about everything you do as a form of investment. You might not see an immediate return on investment if you focus on nutrition and exercise, or spend money on personal development or work daily on a new skill, but you will eventually start seeing a return.

Good habits bring joy and benefit in the future, which means if we keep investing in them they will cycle down to the present as well. Investing in your health will not only give you longevity, once you get into the swing of things it will also give you energy and other benefits in the present.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #952

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Bad Habits x 2

“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”

Benjamin Franklin

Bad habits define us as much (if not more than) our good habits.

They also double-dip: we get the downsides of doing them plus the negative effect of not doing the good alternatives instead.

For example, eating junky food not only has the downsides of upping your sweatpants from a large to a double xl, it also reduces your energy and abilities by not giving you the nutrients you need. The downsides of the bad and the lack of upsides from the good.

Same goods for all habits. A good habit provides benefits that lead to more opportunities for benefits—a bad habit produces side effects while taking away the benefits you would have received from doing the better opposite.

This can stack up in all sorts of unfortunate or fortunate ways.

This is the underlying pattern of why having money gives you more opportunities to create more money. And why your environment and the people you surround yourself with is so important to your overall wellbeing and success.

The key is replacing all of your bad habits with good ones before your bad habits take your lunch AND eat it too.

Make a list of all your habits. Big, small, conscious, subconscious—whatever you can think of.

Then, mark the ones you think are negatively impacting you. It’s okay if you aren’t one hundred percent sure.

Start with a win. What’s a low hanging fruit you can easily pick and feel good about?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #936

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Repotting

“Plant and your spouse plants with you; weed and you weed alone.” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.” — Mitch Hedberg

I was never really a plant guy until I met Gabriella (now my fiancée). I thought indoor plants were pleasing, but I doubt even one thought crossed my mind about buying a plant for myself. That’s one of the subtle ways having a significant other can change you. You start picking up some of their interests and tastes, and vice versa. That’s why when you look at a couple who have been together for a long time look and wear almost identical clothing.

We pick up the habits, idiosyncrasies, style, speech, likes, and dislikes and characters of the people around us. This happens whether or not we are trying too.

If your older brother likes Led Zeppelin, you’ll (eventually) like Led Zeppelin too.

If your friends like to drink often, if you want to hang out with them, you’ll likely drink often too.

If your parents have anger problems, you’ll likely have problems too.

These aren’t 100% definitive statements. Just because you’re significant other likes Metal bands doesn’t *always* mean you will. We all have our own things that are uniquely ours. But when you are surrounded by something, the natural inclination is to be pulled by that something. Good or bad. Parents that worry about everything is a gravitational force that pulls on your own perspectives. Just as parents that are smart with money will subtly change how you handle your own money.

There will be times in your life when you find yourself in situations or habits and mannerisms you don’t like about yourself. For example, maybe you want to eat more healthy foods and exercise more frequently, but you’ve got in the bad habit of eating whatever garbage you have laying around the house or the bad habit of getting off work and vegging out in front of the TV until 1 AM.

When you find yourself in circumstances or bad habits you don’t like, it’s time to repot yourself.

Repot? No, I don’t mean buy more weed. (Hey-o!)

I mean repot like you do for plants.

There comes a time in a plant’s life where they’ve grown too big for their pot. Their root system becomes crowded and can start to degrade and eventually die because it doesn’t have the room to get to the nutrients it needs. Sometimes plants need to be repotted because their in the wrong pot too. Poor or old soil is another reason why a plant may need to be repotted, which can also lead to damaging the plant. (Welcome to my new plant-based blog, where I only write blog posts about plants.) So you need to dig up the plant, break up its root ball to give it more breathing room to grow, and plant it in a new, slightly larger pot.

We need the same thing.

If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you’re gonna eventually get stuck.

There will be times you get in a rut or when your habits—which started out helpful—are now actually harmful and holding you back. It’s good to break the routine every so often and try new things. 

No, I’m not telling you to dye your hair pink, move across the country, or break up with your friends. (Do that if you want, but don’t say you got the idea from me!) Rather, I suggesting to try something you normally don’t do or even actively dislike doing.

Break things up. If you dislike reading (or think you are bad at it) then try reading every day for a week. If all you do is read, try having a conversation with friends over the phone. Try talking to one new person on social media a week. If all you do is lay around and watch YouTube or TicTok, try banning the apps for a week. You can also go back to them next week if you must. Disrupt your routine. Repot yourself. 

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #914

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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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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

Live It Out

We all have people in our lives that talk more than the walk.
They know everything about a subject, but don’t actually live it out themselves. Or their list of things they want to do runs laps around their list of things they actually do. In short, they are really good at doing everything BUT what they say.

Did I say people?
I really meant us. We do this too, more that we would care to admit. In fact, we do it so much we don’t even notice it anymore that we are doing it. Instead, we just see what everyone else is saying and not doing, versus what we are saying and not doing ourselves. (Harsh josh, but true…)

I can see three fundamental reasons behind this:

  1. Fear — We want to do it, but we are terrified of trying, failing, succeeding and / or looking bad.
  2. Belief — We don’t think we can because we don’t have enough time, resources, abilities, motivation, trust in ourselves etc.
  3. Uncertainty — We want to do everything, so we end up doing nothing because we aren’t sure what’s best and what will give us the most bang for our buck.

Luckily daily habits addresses all three of these reasons.

Daily habits give you a practice, something to work at and improve each day. If todays practice sucks, no problem. Tomorrow’s practice will be even better. If I can focus only on today’s work, the fear and uncertainty is small and the belief in myself grows and accumulates each day. There is no tomorrow, just today. There is no uncertainty, just the task in front of me. And the fear is smaller, because it’s down to a single action. I just need to do this one thing, that’s it and I’ll be better for it, even if I fail or look bad today.

Daily habits give you a practice, something to work at and improve each day.

My impetus [driving force] for writing at RenaissanceLife every day (and ultimately discovering the power of daily habits,) was that I was fed up.

I was fed up with wanting to write but not have the time. I was fed up with wanting to be more, but not being more. I was sick of just saying what I wanted to be, rather than actually being it.

Instead of having to say ‘I want to be a writer’, I am able to say ‘I am a writer’.

And it wasn’t just writing. It was music and exercising and art, and all the other little things that have been found to elevate our lives in little ways, such as making our bed, flossing, walking every day, solitude and community. All the things we never have time for.

Or at least, all the things we never think we have time for.

Like magic, once you start your daily habit, time for it appears.

You could also equate it to money. Say you decide to invest one hundred dollars a month in a retirement fund. At first you might think that’s impossible, because you need every dime to live on and can’t afford to lose the hundred dollars. But if you did it anyway, you’re spending adjusts. You still pay for everything you need (gas, bills, food, etc) but you subtly don’t spend the extra hundred dollars on things you want. It’s so subtle you don’t even notice you didn’t buy an extra shirt the other day, or you watched Netflix instead of buying a movie on iTunes. You’re finances adjust to the new reality.

It’s the same with doing something daily. You adjust your day to fit your practice. Whether that means getting up early, staying up late, doing it during lunch time, or just not spending time elsewhere, your life adjusts. Just like how deadlines are a good idea for projects because they give us a window of time to work in or otherwise we would work or procrastinate ad infinite, so too does our day give us time to work on our practice. It might mean that we are doing it at 11 pm at night on a hectic day, but we still find a space to fit it in somehow.

Life adjusts to change

Combine that with the power of streaks and accountability, and there always seems to be time for our practice.

Every day I ask:

How can I challenge myself today?
How can I get uncomfortable today?
How can I improve today?

Have I written a book yet? Have I recorded an album yet?
Nope. But I’m working on it every day. I’m working towards those goals.

And that’s the real secret of daily habits.

Daily habits give you a reason to wake up early and pursue something meaningful

It gives you something meaningful to work towards and wake up for. Even if your life is crap, you have your practice, you have a vision of your life you are working towards every single (josh d*mn) day. And you become the kind of person who doesn’t just talk.

How many can say that?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #574

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