A Million Ideas

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”

Steve Jobs

No matter how many good ideas we may have, we’re still limited by how much time we can give to each of them. Limited might be the wrong word. It’s more like deciding what not to do is an opportunity to choose what truly matters to us, so that we can focus our efforts on it, and temporarily shelf—or even let go of—the rest.

Making one idea become something special is hard at best. And trying to juggle multiple ideas can quickly become too much to handle.

We need to let some of our ideas go so that the more important ones have a better chance of succeeding.

Or in other words, we need to “kill our darlings” as the expression goes.

It’s a lot like planting trees. If trees are growing too close to one another, they will crowd each other out and won’t have as much nourishment they need to thrive. (Learned that little insightful nugget from Animal Crossing.)

Ideas need space to breathe. Try to grow too many ideas at once and you’ll split your time, energy, and attention to the point where none of them are getting what they need to succeed.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #997

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Lost in Translation

“What is lost in the good or excellent translation is precisely the best.”

Friedrich Schlegel

There’s an incredible amount of knowledge and information out there nowadays. (And it’s only increasing.)

Everything we know, everything we could learn has been built up over time. But not everything is easily understandable. Even if we were stuck in a time-loop and had all the time in the Universe, some things take repetition, multiple perspectives, and deep thought to really grok something.

Think about classic books for example. The language in books are of their own time.

Pick up a book from Shakespeare and it’s immediately apparent it’s from another era.

Same thing with The Odyssey, or Great Gatsby, or Pride and Prejudice or Walden, etc. Each book captures a different way of speaking and thinking about the world. This reflects the author, for sure, but also the culture and times they lived in.

The same is true for most mediums. Art, Movies, Music, Technology… Ideas are a reflection of their time. Some ideas are universal and translate well throughout history. Some ideas are evergreen, easily taught, and understood. But most ideas are lost in translation as time expands.

That’s where we come in. We can, if we choose, carry the torch by uncovering lost ideas (or overlooked or obscure) and bring them to a new generation.

Some ideas get old. Old ideas get lost to new generations.

Ideas are recycled. They are never the same the second and proceeding times around. As time passes perspectives change.

Each new generation—each individual—can rediscover and become inspired by ideas that we translate. By simply understanding them ourselves, we can make them unique by putting them in our own words and combining them with other ideas we have.

Who knows how many fabulous ideas exist out there in the world that exist in stuffy old books or forgot insights waiting to be remembered.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #992

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Attuned to ideas

“The good ideas will survive.”

Quentin Tarantino

Ideas float in the air like radio and cellular waves. They exist in the buzz of our times, where cultures, information, technologies, and voices swirl together like a nice broth waiting to be sipped. That’s why two people on two completely different continents can come to the same idea simultaneously.

Everything around us that has been built by others has accumulated to what we have and are dealing with now. I wouldn’t be surprised if you discover an idea that’s been floating around the air for centuries.

Not to say that your ideas aren’t original. By choosing an idea and putting in the time and effort to create it, you’ve naturally made it unique by the fact that you are uniquely you.

If you don’t choose it, someone else will. Like a tomato on a vine, you can pluck it and take it with you, or not. (You can also pick a tomato that’s not ripe or too ripe, but that’s an idea for another day.) But don’t worry, ideas are limitless. They are exponential. Just like how each answer creates a new question, each idea creates at least one more idea, usually a dozen more.

If you feel like you you don’t have any good ideas, then perhaps you aren’t listening to them.

You have to be open fork an idea to come at you from anywhere and anytime.

A great place to start is to recycle someone else’s idea. (The further back in obscurity you go, the more original it will seem.) By borrowing someone else’s idea, or borrowing multiple people’s ideas and combining them, you can then add your own originality and flavor and transform an old idea into a new one. (Don’t forget your sources.)

Ideas are basically a universal human right. Anyone can be attuned to them and come up with something great that benefits others and improves their lives.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #991

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Lost in the Weeds

“A lot of times, people have something that they’re afraid of. They’ve got a client that’s mad at them. They’ve got a project that’s due. And they let that stress hang over their head. I don’t let that happen.”

Jocko Willink

Projects start clear and exciting, but once you are in the thick of it, it’s easy to get lost in things that don’t matter or get sidetracked by newer, more recently exciting ideas. A shiny idea is always going to look more appealing than the muddy middle you are currently in, but finishing what you start will be more meaningful than start yet another project.

An idea tends to grow and become more complex over time. A simple idea can quickly turn into an unconquerable beast if you let it.

That’s why its good to schedule periodic moments of pause and reflection on what you are working on, reassess your goals, and how they compare. Even when your deadline is tight, taking a moment to think things through and be intentional about what you’re doing could pay dividends.

  • Is there a better way I could do X?
  • Is this essential? Does this keep the message clear?
  • What’s working and what needs to be improved?

Reassess why you are doing what you are doing. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.

If you would start a project even if you never made a single dollar off of it, would you still do it? If the answer is yes, then, you’re on the right track. Most of my regrets in life are decisions based on money alone. Money is motivating, but not so much when you are in facing moments of struggle and challenge. Doing something for the right reasons, out of passion, impact, curiosity, and expression is much more motivating (and often lead to wealth) than just money alone.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #927

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Get it Done

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”

Bruce Lee

Ideas last longer when you work on them before you talk to them.

It’s not that your ideas will get stolen.
It’s not that sharing your ideas with others is bad.

It’s because talking about an idea before do it takes away its momentum. You lose the drive to act upon it because talking about it feels like you’ve already done it.

There’s a great insight from Marcus Aurelius that hits on this idea nicely, “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

Your idea is awesome! Now go work on it some. Test it out with customers. Make the first draft and then discuss it with friends and colleagues.

I’m saying this to myself as much as I am to you, my friend. I’ve had countless ideas in the past that I never did because I lost the motivation and momentum after talking about it but never put it into action.

No more. Now I do my best to only discuss what I’m actively working on, and save the discussion of ideas I haven’t started until I’ve put pen to paper, so to speak.

In my mind, the best ideas are the ones that get done.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #923

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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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Imagination Comes From Unexpected Places:

  • Moments alone.
  • Boredom.
  • What If…? questions.
  • Problems.
  • Rebellious behavior.
  • Silent Walks.
  • Motion (running).
  • Nature.
  • Nonsense.
  • Unfamiliar spaces.
  • Emotional outlets.

I think the majority of us are bubbling with ideas, we are usually too busy (and stubborn) to hear them. We need space to dream. (And a sprinkle of imagination, for sure. But space to let our minds wander is the main ingredient.) But think about how space-lacking we are. Almost every moment we aren’t communicating we are filling it with sound. We listen to music while we exercise, commute, work, walk, dance, shower… And the rest of the time we aren’t listening to music we are consuming podcasts, audiobooks, movies, and tv. (I’m saying things as someone who loves music and who has his own podcast.)

But the magic happens in the negative spaces. The silence. The wonder. Anything that lets our mind wander and question. Our imagination turns clouds into dragons and shadows into monsters. It turns ordinary and mundane into the extraordinary and novel. It’s seeing what is and turning it on its head. (Or put another way, it’s seeing what isn’t.)

But you need structure and routine to create openness. Daily habits are a great way to wake the mind. A daily walk after work with your dog — but no music. Or maybe it’s sitting on the porch alone with your thoughts. Or noodling an idea while you are driving.

It might sound silly to say, but don’t be so afraid to be alone with yourself!

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #859

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Related:

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Albert Einstein

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Michelangelo

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

Robin Williams

Give & Take (Creative Tennis Part 2)

“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Another way tennis reminds me of creativity is how the game is played. The game has a give and take. You hit the ball across the court and your opponent hits it back on your side of the court.

Creativity is a give and take. If all we do is pump out content without also consuming other creative work, our ideas will inevitably become stale.

If creativity is a furnace, experience and inspiration is the coal. By experiencing life firsthand, you will notice and be inspired by your journey. That’s why travel is so impactful — it allows you to get out of your life and experience other life outside your normal.

And by surrounding yourself with creative ideas and different ways of thinking, pieces of those ideas will inspire you to new ideas.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #810

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How to Have Better Ideas

“A solid routine saves you from giving up.”

John Updike

Before I started writing every day, I would inevitably do it sporadically. I intended to write when inspiration struck — which I assumed would be frequently — but in reality, I rarely put pen to paper. Perhaps I squeezed out a handful (tops) of mediocre blog posts in a year. The interesting thing about inspiration is doesn’t find us, we have to go out and seek it. It wasn’t until I committed to writing daily that I started having better ideas.

You would think habit would stifle creativity, but it does the opposite. Creating a daily routine gives us structure and our imagination breathing room to run wild. It’s the foundation we need to create consistently.

Not that quantity of work is what I’m after, however, the quantity of work typically leads to quality.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Maya Angelou

Quantity leads to quality.

The more we do something, the better we get at it (as long as we aren’t phoning it in of course) and the more ideas we have. It’s a number’s game. One great idea out of ten so-so ideas might seem like a poor average, but if you keep creating them then those great ideas start adding up. Digging up nine stumps isn’t so bad if the ten trees grow into a massive orange tree of impact and wealth (and not just financially).

Of course, we’re not trying to grow stumps. We’re trying to grow trees. So the more we practice the better we will be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #800 ✨

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Staying Creatively Fresh

Writer’s block isn’t something I worry too much about. Rather, staying fresh is constantly on my mind when I create (write, draw, song-write etc). In my mind, there’s nothing worse than repeating yourself. In my mind, there’s nothing worse than repeating yourself. (Had to… 😉 The last thing I want is for my work to feel creatively bankrupt or stale. Mmm, smells like bankruptcy. (<- Inside joke from high school that only one person, who isn’t reading this, will understand. Had to… 😉

Stale work is saying the same thing over and over, without improving upon the ideas or having a new resolution.

Letting other creative work inspire you? All day.
Stealing something and putting your own spin on it? Awesome.
Selling your work? Great job.
But repeatedly creating the same thing without improving? No thanks.

There’s no growth. No positive change. No intention behind the repetition. Just the same old same old.

It’s like that friend or relative you have that repeatedly says they are going to do something, but never does (and usually does the opposite). They really want too, but because they don’t, they rarely ever do. (We can easily fall into this rut as well. I know I have.)

Creative staleness can happen on a micro and macro level.

Micro Level

On a micro level, we can easily lean into using familiar tricks and patterns which ultimately can plateau our progress. Writing for example. Lazy writing is using the same words, sentences or structure. One example for me is using ‘—‘ too much to break up a sentence and to give dramatic pause to an idea. (I even had them in this blog post, but edited them out.) Another lazy one I have to watch out for is ending every blog with a “blah blah blah, this is how you can have a meaningful life.” This phrase, “meaningful life”, is a part of my mission statement and tagline for Renaissance Life “The Pursuit of Creativity, Mastery and a Meaningful Life”, so it naturally pops up when I’m writing. Moderation is key here. Adding a line about having a ‘meaningful life’ at the end of every josh dang blog post is sloppy, isn’t winning me any brownie points and quickly detracts from the meaningfulness I’m trying to create.

This happens in all types of creative pursuits, not just writing. Comedy, acting, art, songwriting, lyrics, poems, speeches and more.

Example: Rappers relying on ‘uhh’ or a specific curse too much as filler words.
Example: Speakers saying the word ‘um’ or ‘pretty’ or ‘like’ too much.
Example: Musicians using the same chord, tempo or scale progression in every song they make. Like a continuous thump thump thump thump drum kick in 4/4 on every song.

Good Example: Comedians throwing out there material after they finish their one-hour special. This allows them to focus on new ideas instead of treading on old ideas.
Good Example: Actors or film makers who continuously change themselves by taking on new and different roles and projects.

TAKEAWAY: Observe how you create in your practice. Go granular; Observe the specifics. Avoid repeating yourself too much to keep things fresh and interesting. Try challenge yourself with rules and restrictions (i.g. If you write a word too much, like using the word ‘maybe’, challenge yourself it to not using ‘maybe’ next time — or ever again.)

Macro Level

On a macro level, we can fall into traps of or work retreading on the same old topics and themes without any clear variation or difference. Giving old ideas life by adding new ideas are great, but having the same idea repeatedly? Not so much. This usually happens to me when I’m trying to convince myself to do something. For example, an idea I want to do, like experiment with filmmaking, loops in my head, but I haven’t done it yet so I’ll keep talking about it to convince myself to do it. (Which never works.) I’ll end up repeating myself into the ground trying to convince myself. Eventually, I’ll get tired of hearing myself and I’ll shut up and do it already.

Repetition + growth is what we want.
Repetition + repetition is actually what makes us feel stuck. As Mark Twain has said, “is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results”.

TAKEAWAY: Watch out for too much repetition that ends you in the same place you started.

How to Stay Creatively Fresh

Ideas spark ideas.

Let others influence you into your own ideas.

One great way of staying fresh is surrounding yourself with the ideas of others, anyone who inspires you to create.

Another great way is to also surround yourself with new ideas and topics you would normally not explore.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #638

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