My blog posts have been trending towards self-helpy, motivation pieces lately. Mostly because I’m writing things I need to hear myself.
I like writing content that helps motivate and nudges you to improve and change, but I’d rather not be another “self-help guy.”
The self-help I find worth reading is always ground in practical application.
You can tell me “you can be successful if you put your mind to it” but I find that less appealing and impactful compared to if you show me how and back it up with your own experiences.
I admire great writers and thinkers like Adam Grant and Maria Popova (there are so many, but those are the two that come to mind) who can take an idea or a connection of ideas and combine them with personality, research, and history.
I’d like to go beyond my personal observations and take Renaissance Life to the next level. What that looks like precisely is still out of focus, but it’s something I’m going to be continuing to put some time and energy toward. It’s also another reason why I’m doubling down on podcasting and having good conversations with people smarter than me.
If you have ideas for what you would like to see from me and the Renaissance Life, shoot me an email: Josh [at] RenaissanceLife [dot] com.
“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”
Whenever I’m feeling nervous about something, I know it’s a good sign that I need to be doing it. Singing, for example. It’s something I’ve been learning for the past couple of years. It feels natural singing and playing guitar by myself, or with friends. But I know I’m still in the beginning stages, so I always feel a little discomfort in the pit of my stomach and my heart starts fluttering when I sing for others.
If something is easy, it means we aren’t challenging ourselves enough.
It’s not difficult we want, rather challenge. Hard, not for hard sake. Hard because we want to feel uncomfortable. Well, we don’t want to bu uncomfortable, but that’s where improvement and growth build from.
Discomfort is how we grow. When we step out of our cozy slippers and step into a new and unfamiliar place, we push ourselves to grow.
There are many ways we can challenge ourselves. We can challenge ourselves by doing more. By doing less. By doing something different. By doing something that scares us. By doing something that is unfamiliar. By mimicking others.
We push ourselves to fail. Again, not intentionally, but because dancing on the edge between failure and success is where the magic is.
“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
On your journey in pursuing your dreams, you’ll occasionally experience moments where you feel like you are making no progress at all. You’re keeping up with your practice and you’re putting in the hours, but you’ve reached your current limit.
Plateaus typically occur when we’ve used and leveraged all the resources and ideas that we know and we’ve reached a point of uncertainty. We are putting in the hard work but we are not seeing the results we were previously seeing. How do I get better at what I do? How do I reach that next level? Should I or should I do something else?
Plateaus are defining moments. They allow us to prove how committed we are. Things have slowed down, and/or your interest has waned— will you keep moving forward or will you give up?
Sometimes all it takes is us to keep going. In this case, the plateau is a mind game. We are making progress, but the results are adding up so subtlety we often miss them. But if we stay consistent, our small improvements will eventually add up to something noticeable.
If consistently isn’t making any headway, then we need to change our approach. We could take on the challenge from a different angle by testing our assumptions and trying new things. Who’s done this before and what habits, traits, questions, and actions did they use to find a way forward? We could also reproach the fundamentals. We were a beginner when we started, so there’s likely a lot of things we missed the first time. Mastering the basics raises us to a new playing field.
“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”
Unless you happen to be an Astronaut and you are reading this blog from space, you are experiencing the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere is around 60 miles thick. It’s a relatively thin sheet of air, but it keeps us warm and alive. Atmospheric Pressure is due to gravity and the thickness and density of atmospheric gas. How much pressure depends on where you are standing. At sea-level, the standard amount of pressure is around 14.70 pounds (per square inch) which—for you lovely math nerds out there—is 101.325 kilopascals.
It’s interesting that we hardly notice the pressure we are under. Unless you traveled to higher altitudes like Denver or Nepal (or Mars—610 pascals give or take, less than 1% of the Earth’s value) or experience the pressurized cabin of an airplane, you’d likely never notice.
(Or maybe you keenly familiar with pressure because you are a super-nerd like me and remember those Gravity Chamber’s Goku and Vegeta trained in to get stronger in Dragon Ball Z 😉.)
Gravity isn’t the only type of pressure we face in life.
Finding a mate, figuring out what you want to do in life, doing your taxes, making money and the day to day stresses of pursuing creativity and living are all pressures we face.
Pressure is necessary for creativity and growth.
Not too much or you’ll be crushed under the weight. Not too little or you might not feel the need to act or even fall complacent. What we need is pasta “al dente”—not too soft; firm to bite.
The question is how to find a good balance of pressure and what to do when we feel too over-pressured?
Too much pressure for too long and we over-cook our broccoli.
When you are under a tremendous amount of stress, for example, financial stress, it’s difficult to think about anything other than that need/pressure. The problem is when we are under too much stress—and how much depends on your personal tolerance level— we focus too much on the problem instead of finding a clear solution. We’re like a person panicking in the water who can’t swim. Panic is what’s drowning us, not our lack of swimming skills. (I don’t mean to take this scenario lightly. In the moment it’s difficult to see how our panic is causing us harm and losing ourselves to fear can happen to any of us.) What we need is a way to kick us out of our stress so we can take a breath and think objectively.
We need a lifeboat. Something or someone that can save us from ourselves. Maybe for you, that’s your daily meditation or yoga practice. Or perhaps journaling in the morning clears your mind off any worries or fears that are bothering you. Whatever we choose, as long as we stick to it and double down whenever we are under lots of pressure, we can make it through.
Creatively we need to challenge ourselves to get better at what we do. Writing the same type of story or headline over and over again isn’t going to make you a better writer. Taking the same style of photos—the ones you are most comfortable with—isn’t going to make you a better photographer. Playing the same three chords—G…D…C— the same way isn’t going to make you a better guitarist.
But pushing your boundaries, seeking out knowledge, trying new things, experimenting with discomfort will make you better.
“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”
It’s quite easy to see the flaws in other people. You have a friend that would be killing it… if only they would put in a little more effort. Or you have a parent who would be so much better off if they would stop worrying all the time about everything. Or you strike up a conversation with a randoe person and notice exactly the things they could improve.
It’s harder to see the flaws in ourselves.
We don’t see ourselves from the outside perspective. We don’t know what we don’t know. What’s easy for you to solve might be difficult for me, because we’ve experienced life in different ways through different experiences.
Although, I think people growing up today with social media might have a better sense of it, but not in a good way. Everything is styled and curated. If something’s wrong, they notice. But they don’t use it to try to improve themselves (or learn to accept their flaws as a part of what makes them who they are). Instead, we see waves of self-loathing and anxiety.
It’s alright to be flawed. No one is flawless, even the people that tell/show us they are. We all have things we are great at and things we need to work on.
One insight I found help on my journey is to think about yourself as a work in progress. If you don’t like something about yourself, then change it. If you want to be better, then be better. You are a blank canvas waiting to be painted and repainted. You can change. And you can change your mind over time too.
And if you want to help others, begin by helping yourself. Take the lead. Live the example first. Don’t just shout advice like you have a clue what you are talking about when you don’t. Give advice on what you do know, or examples of who does.
This is a reality we all must often face on our creative journeys. We live in a hyper-connected world. The internet levels the playing field, which increases the competition. You are a few taps away from a painting, song, business idea, film, photo and more that makes your work look like a baked potato. Now, my goal as a writer is not to beat out all the worlds competition. I want to improve my ability to tell a good story as well as get my ideas across clearly that you and others like us can use and find helpful in their lives. But competition is great because it’s a pressure cooker — it puts us in an environment where we have to improve.
When faced with our work not as good as we want it to be, we are left with two choices:
Give up or get better.
Giving up is easy. But has consequences beyond the obvious once you can think of. Mainly, you have to live with the fact that you didn’t try or didn’t give it your all. That’s a powerfully negative mental rock that you have to carry. (Only to be resolved through strengthening your mind and refusing to give up next time.)
Getting better is hard. But if we want to become masters at what we do, we must face the hard things, plateau, try again, fail, try again and keeping fighting for our dreams.
Will we become the best in the world? Possibly. The potential is always there if we are willing to put in the time and work necessary to do the extraordinary. But even if we don’t, we become better versions of ourselves in the process. Even if you only get to the top 10%, 20% of your craft, that’s infinitely better than giving up your dreams, doing nothing, and not even getting a participation trophy.
Q. If you could have a dinner party with anyone in the world (or in history) who would you invite?
Cleopatra, John F. Kennedy, Dave Ramsey, and Tony Robbins.
Q. What are the most important things you bought in the last few months? (Best money investment. Can be anything, big or small)
Website, business cards, and books. A LOT of books.
Q. What advice would you give to someone pursuing creative work?
Find that place that puts you in the zone and go there every day until the ideas start keeping you up at night.
Q. And what advice would you give someone going through creative struggle right now?
Don’t quit. Keep thinking and listening. It may take 500 mistakes and failures, but it just takes one idea to catch fire. After that, it’s on.
Q. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stay alert. Don’t let anything distract you. Be a disciplined autodidact.
Q. Who inspires you and why?
My parents, Patrick Bet-David, Apple team, Porsche team, and whenever I see someone going through a struggle but is pushing past it.
Q. In one word, how would your best friend describe you?
Q. What’s something challenging you faced recently and how did you handle it?
Figuring out how to run a business has been a huge learning experience. I have a lot of CEOs and bosses to pull ‘how to’s’ from. I handle setbacks as a business owner with strategic problem solving and a mindset of it always coming out successful.
Q. What does success mean to you?
Success to me is being able to inspire thousands of people using my words and actions to do more for the person next to them.*
Q. If someone gave you 10 million dollars, what would you do with it?
5 million to my mom, 2 million to my baby sister, $500,000 to my grandma, and the rest will be split between investing and giving back.*
* That’s very specific ha. Have you thought of this Q before?
Q. Are there any quotes / phrases that follow you wherever you go?
“Every day is a challenge. Accept it.” -EMD
“The secret to living is giving.” -Tony Robbins
“Nothing is ever hard unless you say it is. Believe it is easy and it will be.” – My grandma
Q. Do you have a mentor? If so describe them and what you’ve learned that’s brought you the most value.
I have about 4 that are CEOs and Presidents that I’ve worked for or with. They keep me on track with putting myself in the best possible position to succeed.
Q. One thing you liked about last year, and one thing you want to improve this year?
Haha, I like that 2016 taught me a laundry list of lessons. I want to improve on every aspect of my brain functionality this year. Making my brain stronger, faster, and healthier is my goal. That will undoubtedly lead to success.
Q. What are some impactful books you’ve read recently and why?
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” — Henry Ford
The Renaissance Life is not a solo endeavor.
Sure, if we wish to create change in our lives and the lives of others, we must be self-reliantand take continuous action with our own hands.
Being an Individualist doesn’t mean being alone.
We are more capable together than we are by our lonesome.
We become our best selves by connecting with others. We are better together.
And thus, a new segment on the RL called We the People: highlighting creatives who are a part of the Renaissance Tribe and represent our Ethos.
I ask you questions, you give us insights from your own life.
Enter Bonny Jean.
(bold’s and styling by yours truly — Josh Wags 🙂
Q 1. What are the best lessons your mom and dad taught you? (Or siblings)
“It’s okay if you’re not okay” – My little sister Suzannah. She told me that two years ago in the depths of my depression. I’ve learned that over and over again these past couple of years: It’s okay to be broken, to admit brokenness, to lean on friends and family who love you, and then do art, run, dance, sing, be outside… do something to work through your pain, but never ever ignore it. Your pain brings you closer to a truer version of yourself, but you have to face it and feel it to let it shape you into who you are meant to be. The first step, for me, was hearing “It’s okay if you’re not okay”.
Q 2. What’s your favorite travel experience?
Living on a hospital ship off of the coast of West Africa: My roommates from that time are still my best friends. It was definitely a life changing experience.
Q 3. What are some decisions you’ve made that have made you into who you are today?
Traveling after high-school and college and most recently moving to San Clemente- up rooting my life, starting over. I was once told “Travel trims the fat off the soul” by John Stember, a man I met while camping in the Grand Tetons. It’s true! Being around people with completely different childhoods and belief systems tests you. It reveals who you truly are deep down under all that comfort we’re surrounded by in our daily lives.
Probably the most profound decision I ever made was to live.
I found myself with bleeding wrists on the bathroom floor, hysterical, crying, rocking, wanting to die, when suddenly a profound calmness poured over me. I looked at myself in the mirror and said “NO. there is more life to live, people to meet, places to see, laughter to be had. You will not kill yourself” So I bandaged my wrists, wiped my face, and started being honest with myself and others.
Being honest means disagreeing with people.The decision to listen to my still small voice has been a big change for me. disagreeing with people is hard, but learning to exist and observe the world around me from an island within myself has been life changing. If you can live from a place of solitude (read: Henri Nouwen’s “reaching out”) you can love others more and appreciate and respect their beliefs and ideas.
Q 4. What songs do you sing when you are alone? And what new bands are you digging recently?
I sing “Day Dreamer” by Adele a lot… it’s just in a good key for me.
Q 5. What advice would you give to someone pursuing creative work?
Do something that scares you and you think you’ll hate. Turn off your brain and create, even if you think it won’t make any sense. Sometimes I paint something, then I write a bunch of stupid stuff all over it to ruin it and then I paint over it again… just don’t put boundaries on yourself. There are no rules!
Q 6. What or who inspires you and why?
Nature– being outside fuels my creativity. It’s big and fathomless and beautiful. We could never come close to creating something as magnificent, simple, and complex as a blade of grass.
Q 7. In one word, how would your best friend describe you?
Q 8. What’s something challenging you faced recently and how did you handle it?
It’s been a challenging year, to be honest, but the best thing I have learned to do is to make a list. One side is a list of things I know I want to do but aren’t good for me (think drink, reach out to certain people that aren’t good for me, rely on certain relationships too much) and on the other side is a list of things that give me life and bring me joy (think yoga, running, tea, safe friendships). I make rules for myself that I try to follow and then I breathe and do the next right thing for however long it takes to come out of the cloud I’m in. Sometimes that’s a day and sometimes it’s three months. I claim grace days. Where, if i got out of bed, put on clothes, and went to work, I am very proud of myself. “Should” doesn’t exist in my dictionary during these times and if I slip up and do something on my “not good for me” list I breathe, forgive myself, and remember that all that exists is today and I can do my best with what I have in this moment.
Q 9. What’s your mission in life? (Or mission right now)
To be present
Q 10. If someone gave you 10 million dollars, what would you do with it?
Invest in small businesses in 3rd world countries.
Q 11. One thing you liked about last year, and one thing you want to improve this year?
I learned to laugh again. I want to be more consistent.
Thank you Bonny Jean for your vulnerability, advice and words of encouragement.
If you want to give yours on the Renaissance Life, email me @: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: We The People. Tell me who you are, why your a good fit for the Renaissance Tribe and link your social media’s.
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