Never Second-Guess Yourself

“All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it.”

David Bowie

How do you know if you are making a decision for the right reason?

Intuition? It’s almost always the best decision to go with in the moment. (That’s easier said than done of course.) Think of it like a hunch that’s backed by experience—who we are, our values, our culture, our beliefs, our sense of what’s right and wrong, and our likes and dislikes, all rolled up into one “feeling”.

We usually know when we’ve made a bad decision (and certainly know afterward).

“I knew I should have said no to the project, but the money was too good to pass up…”

“I thought he was the one, but my gut was telling me otherwise…”

“I knew college wasn’t right for me, but my family convinced me otherwise.”

Intuition is something that we know is true (personal truth), and yet somehow second-guess and let fear, worry, and vices drive us to ignore it. But intuition isn’t perfect.

In the fascinating book, The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk M.D. explains how our intuition is normally great, but when we experience trauma, we can shut ourselves off from reality: “Our gut feelings signal what is safe, life-sustaining, or threatening, even if we cannot quite explain why we feel a particular way. Our sensory interiority continuously sends us subtle messages about the needs of our organism. Gut feelings also help us to evaluate what is going on around us. They warn us that the guy who is approaching feels creepy, but they also convey that a room with western exposure surrounded by daylilies makes us feel serene. If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations—if you can trust them to give you accurate information—you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self. However, traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become experts at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.”

Bad decisions are hard to recover from. Intuition is our first line of defense for blocking bad decisions and making smart ones. But we need to stack it with second and third defenses.

First, we must never second-guess ourselves. Second, we verify. 

We must surround ourselves with people who have our back and want to see us succeed. The majority of my past mistakes could have likely been avoided if I had someone advising my decision and ideas, telling me “Hey, that’s probably not a great idea, here’s why…”. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking on my part. Perhaps my past self wouldn’t have listened. But that’s why it’s massively important to have a group of “life advisors” (I picked this phrase up from my conversation with Alex Lavidge on The Renaissance Life Podcast) who can help guide you in the right direction.

The third defense is self-examination. Periodically take stock of your life as if it wasn’t your own. If your sister or friend were going through the problem(s) you are facing, what advice would you give to them? When we are dealing with something—like lack of motivation or health problems— it’s hard to come up with solutions because we are so close to the issue (Plus the stress it’s causing us.) When we take ourselves out of the equation it’s much easier to come up with ideas for our problems. 

Have the courage to believe in yourself. But be intentional.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #911

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Going With Your Gut

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs

Saying ‘no’ to opportunities is one of the hardest* things we face in life. (*Relatively speaking. Is it up there with facing cancer or a death in the family? No. But what we say yes and no to ultimately determine our paths in life.) But unbeknownst to most, saying ‘yes’ to EVERY opportunity is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserable. Juggling is fun. Being stretched like a rope in a game of mud tug-of-war is not.

No — as hard as it can be in the moment — should be our default when it comes to giving away our time and resources. This requires sharp instincts and agile decision making skills which we can hone through practice and having clarity in what we want in life. If it’s not something that aligns with your goals, brings value (directly or indirectly) to you and others, or brings you joy and makes you feel alive, then no is the way to go. Sometimes that means making compromises and passing on good things.

But remember why you are saying no. You are passing on good things because you have great things lined up, or currently occupying your focus. (If you don’t, then saying yes to an opportunity that comes your way might be the best option for what you have to work with. Go with your gut.)

Call it what you will — sacrifices, opportunity costs, hedging, mitigation — great things require us to say no to a lot of fun good things.

Great things require us to say no to a lot of fun and good things.

Particularly when the fun / good things distract us from our true passions and goals we ultimately want (and would like) to say yes to.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #663

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You Already Know

Many people will tell you that you can’t. For a lot of reasons. Some of them will make a lot of since. Reasons why not are easy. Doubt doesn’t quit.

But when you look within, what does your intuition say?

Sometimes the simplest answer is the one you already know.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #644

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Get Busy Living (Playing I­t­ Safe)

Playing it safe doesn’t work.

When has putting one foot in, one foot out worked out in the end?

I get it. I catch myself doing it too. I’ve been burned out, injured, broke, overwhelmed, exhausted, and a number of other bad places in my life. I don’t want to end up in those places again but playing I­t­self only leads to a mediocre life.

The idea that I might die without putting my writing, music, art, and creativity out into the world terrifies me much more than taking risks.

Don’t die with your ideas still only in your head.

This is my worse case scenario. (That and losing my hands in a freak accident… which is an odd fear I have)

The question I have is how do you tell the difference between playing it safe and making smart choices?

Usually playing I­t­ safe situations aren’t black and white. They live in the grey zones where we might not even know we are playing I­t­ safe and holding ourselves back.

Risk mitigation, and knowing when to say yes or no is smart. But it’s easy to trick yourself into not taking action when in actuality you scared out of your pants.

Fear is the difference. 

Gut check your intuition: Does pursuing this goal or creative endeavor align with who you are? Are you terrified of embarrassment, or failing? Then say YES. 

 

Playing I­t­ safe is:

Giving into fear of failure, embarrassment, or disbelief, even just a little bit. 

Staying at a job you hate because of the benefits.

Never starting your idea because you ‘don’t know enough’.

Doing what others tell you to do without thinking whether its right for you.

Not asking that person out on a date.

Not asking for help or advice because you don’t want to look weak. 

There are so many things that can keep our potential down, but the biggest one of all is ourselves. The moment you break free of your own chains that you locked yourself up in is the moment where life becomes too precious to give into fear.

Your life is too important to give into fear

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

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Related Insights

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”Leonardo da Vinci

“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” — Eleanor Roosevelt