Amplifying Effect

“The first wealth is health.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are many types of skills and knowledge in general that, if learned, can amplify everything that you do.

Improving your ability to communicate, for example. What part of life doesn’t involve some form of written, graphic, or verbal communication? Think about it: blogging, writing emails, tweeting, caption, website copy, speeches, journaling, wit and banter among friends, sharing stories about yourself with relationships, getting your ideas across, job hunting, pitching clients… communication is at the heart of what it means to be human.

Health is another great skill that has reach across your life. Eating well, exercising, and resting can all increase the quality and longevity of your life. How can you put a quantifiable impact on that?

One big part of being multidisciplinary is to cultivate these types of foundational skills.

  • How to learn
  • How to think
  • Health
  • Writing

Even just one of these could improve your life in immeasurable ways.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1060

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, consider buying me a coffee ☕️.

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Read Above Your Pay-grade

“The book you don’t read won’t help.”

Jim Rohn

The first book I enjoyed that was a little above my reading ability was Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Our class read it in middle school, but I don’t remember enjoying it very much. Probably because it was assigned. Written around 1813, it’s language and flows feel thick and difficult to read unless you are familiar with that level of reading comprehension.
But a couple of years later on a family road trip down to Savannah GA, I randomly decided to give it a second read on a whim. And I loved it. It had me at the first line:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Unlike the first time I recall reading it, I understood it. I didn’t feel like I was swimming in banana pudding. Sure, I couldn’t read it as fast as something like Harry Potter. but it felt possible. So I pushed through and ended up loving it.

Reading is a toolbox of skills. There’s a lot of hidden sub-skills you hear but also explicitly taught—vocabulary, muscle movement, speed, comprehension, reason, attention, making connections and memory. The expectation (assumption, perhaps) we will pick it up ourselves, but just because you can read, doesn’t mean you want to read.

Reading is one of the most valuable habits you can cultivate in life. What you read can have a direct impact on the quality of your life. A great book is like a great life mentor—all for around ten bucks.

The key is not to completely overwhelm yourself, but to reach for just a little further than what you are currently comfortable with.

When you think about reading is taught to kids, we don’t just plop Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky into their little laps and force them to understand it. Rather, we meet them on their level. We start with the literal ABC’s. In the early stages, books are more drawings and pictures with a few words here and there. You give them The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Dragons Love Tacos. They work their way up to Green Eggs and Ham, Charolette’s Web and The Little Prince. Maybe you show them Winnie the Pooh and Matilda. Eventually, it’s The Hobbit, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and Coraline. Each book has new words, new worlds, and new challenges. Each book takes you from one level of comprehension to the next.

A lower level isn’t something that is demeaning or less than. It’s just the level they (or we) are currently at. We’re all learning here. If you don’t understand Hemingway yet, that’s okay. But know that building up the ability to comprehend his and others’ work is possible.

If Moby Dick isn’t doing it for ya. Give the Great Gatsby or The Picture of Dorian Grey a try.

If you are befuddled by most of Shakespeare’s work, don’t sweat it— so I’m I!

Find where you are at, and then reach for that next level. and then go a little bit above it after that too.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #878

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Time Well Spent

“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

Steve Jobs

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Bertrand Russell

One thing you learn very quickly when pursuing a creative skill — or any skill for that matter — is it takes more time than you think it does.

A skill isn’t just the skill itself, it’s also everything that surrounds it.

Let’s say you’ve grown up on boxed foods your entire life, and one day you decide you want to learn to cook. Great! Cooking is a useful skill to have. Not only can home-cooked food be better for you and taste 10x better than 90% of restaurants and 99% of packages foods, but you’ll also be able to share with other people who are in your life. (Food gatherings = closer family, more connected community.)

But wait, there’s more to cooking than the time it takes to crack a few eggs in a pan and call it dinner (although, some nights are like that). Cooking is multiple things combined:

  • Research
    • What do I want to cook? How do I cook it? What do I cook it with? How long?
  • Experimentation
    • What if I tried paprika? What type of acid flavor do I want to use? What happens if…
  • Pick up
    • Getting to the store, Playing where’s Waldo with each grocery item, waiting in line or waiting for your delivery, Going home from the store.
  • Prep
    • Washing, Chopping, Dicing, Salting, etc.
  • Cooking
    • Getting the oven ready, watching the food cook, etc
  • Eating
  • Cleaning
    • Dishes, Leftovers in the fridge.

All of this is worth the price of admission, but as you can see it’s going to take a lot longer than you think it might. (You can see why meal prep, food delivery, and dinner delivery companies are on the rise.) And it’s not just cooking that requires a lot of time to do it properly. Every skill requires time. There’s a hidden cost to every skill (and everything we do).

This is why the majority of Renaissance people are terrible at managing their time.

I’m bad at this. When I hear about some rad interesting skill I want to jump in immediately and learn it. Now, there’s a time for trying new things and expanding your skillsets, but if you want to master something, you’ve got to prioritize it by giving it your most valuable resource: time.

Time management is essential to finding mastery and living a meaningful life.

Which means we have to be picky about where and who we give our time too.

The best place to start is to figure out where all your time is going.

RescueTime is an automated time tracking app that will show you where you spend your time during your digital life.

Dig around in your iPhone or Android phone settings and you’ll find similar screen time averages.

I’ve also personally be thoroughly using my calendar app to track every minute of my day, so I know how much time I’m spending doing what.

Not knowing where your time is going is letting life steer you, versus your controlling life.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #862

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Life Skills: Force Multipliers that Improve Your Life

In my research of people who live in the Renaissance Human / Polymath / Multi-hyphenated category — people who are masters of multiple things — I’ve come across interesting traits that could be argued as a contributed factor to their prestige and creativity.

I’ll define these as ‘Life Skills’.

Life Skills are force multipliers. As the old economic aphorism goes, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’, Life Skills are skills that elevate all areas of your life.

Sometimes the improvements create direct effects, but most of the time Life skills improve adjacent areas that we might not even notice unless we are looking. Let me explain with a classic example of a Life Skill: public speaking.

Public speaking is one of the infamous skills that most of us fear, and all dream of being great at. Naturally becoming great at public speaking enables you to improve in a lot of things you would expect: communication, captivating an audience, storytelling, selling, marketing etc.

But it also improves adjacent skills you might not consider: confidence, clear and concise thinking, respect and influence, charisma, and fear.

Imagine the impact on your life if you were more confident and had better control of fear. What would your business look like if you were more able to sell your ideas and had the respect of a public speaker? How would clear and concise thinking measure on your goals in life?

Public speaking is just one Life Skill. There are others with less barrier to entry, reading, for example.

Reading is the cheapest, direct source to the greatest minds that have ever lived. Learning to have to ability to read well and often can completely change your life. Think about that: a few words have a massive impact on who you are, what you do, how you think, where you live, who you know, how you communicate and more. Plus, you can do it all in your underwear in the comfort of your home, no stage required.

Another way to think about Life Skills is they are skills that improve character.

If character traits are the foundation of who we are and the quality of life we experience, then Life Skills are the practices we can challenge ourselves with to reach that potential.

And the more Life Skills you master, the more you can elevate your life.

The nice thing too is that some Life Skills overlap, and new ones are constantly popping up and evolving through technology over time. Maybe you have no desire to get up on a stage to give a speech. But what about a podcast? Or how about starting a YouTube channel? Both are great options that lead to improving your ability to think and communicate (as well as other skills that don’t overlap with public speaking, like being comfortable on camera).

The nice thing about podcasting (and YouTube) is, even if the only views you get are from your mom, you’re still improving your ability to communicate, connect, think and tell stories. And any skill you learn you can take with you to the next thing you do. which means life skills are lifetime.

Life Skills are lifetime. Learning them, even from a failed experience, means you can use them wherever you are, whatever you do.

What are some other Life Skills out there (in no particular order):

  • Money: Imagine being great at money. What would an extra $1000+ a month do for your life?
  • Travel
  • Health
  • Fitness
  • Reading
  • Thinking
  • Decision Making
  • Habits
  • Patience
  • Breathing
  • Sleep
  • Happiness
  • Friendship
  • Selling
  • Marketing
  • Design
  • Coding
  • Writing
  • Physics
  • Electronics
  • Observing
  • Listening
  • Making / Building
  • Self-awareness
  • Discipline
  • Learning
  • Teaching
  • Resilience
  • Creativity
  • Drawing
  • Music
  • Acting
  • Foraging
  • Gardening
  • Cooking

Mastering even 1 of these can improve your life in innumerable ways.

Life Skills are something I would like to focus more on here at Renaissance Life.

Let me know your thoughts, and reach out and email me other Life Skills that I’ve missed!

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #555

IG@Renaissance.Life

Master the Fundamentals — Life Principle #22

Learning the fundamentals of any skill requires practice and repetition. We know this. But the question is why? Why learn scales when you can’t just jump on YouTube and learn every song imaginable? Why learn to draw when I️ can just jump straight into illustrator? Why learn

Because the basics reinforce your creative abilities. The better you are at the fundamentals, the better at acquiring a higher level of skill and a greater ability of expression.

Life Principle #22: Master the fundamentals.

Building from the foundations up.

A skill is essentially a collection of micro skills. (Or meta-skills)
For every skill, there is a subset of smaller skills that add up to the greater sum. Most people don’t really think about them when their learning, which is one reason why the majority of people don’t reach mastery in their crafts. 

Design, for example, could be broken down into:

Understanding color
Typography
Spacing
Lighting
Designer Eye
Branding
Marketing
Layering & Repurposing
Aesthetics
Drawing
Logos
.. (and so on)

As well as the tools you use to design (Illustrator, InDesign, Sketch, etc)
    
Sure, the fundamentals might be rout, dry, boring, and monotonous, but they are essential. To become a high performer at what we do, we must master the fundamentals. Fundamentals become less boring when you realize the why behind them. When you understand how powerful they are at raising your game, you no longer feel bored, you feel like you have an unfair advantage.

Fundamentals make you razor sharp. (And fast too) There’s a huge difference between the work of someone jumps right into the deep end, and someone who has a mastery over the fundamentals. You’re lightning. You’ve ingrained the movements deep into your body and mind where you don’t have to think about what your doing, you just do I­t­, and make I­t­ look natural.

Fundamentals builds the foundations for high performance. If you want to be in the top percentile of your field, building up a toolbox of micro skills will get you further than you thought possible.

And having a grasp on the fundamentals allows you to break the fundamentals and create something new and exciting.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

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Related Insights

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.” — Jim Rohn

“When I was young, I had to learn the fundamentals of basketball. You can have all the physical ability in the world, but you still have to know the fundamentals.” — Michael Jordan

“The book is there for inspiration and as a foundation, the fundamentals on which to build.” Thomas Keller

Learning Playbook: Resources on How to Master Learning — Part 1

Yesterday I made a list of the micro-skills of mastery, skills that if mastered will create massive improvements in all areas of our lives.

Tonight I want to talk about learning. My aim here is to start building a master learning playbook to teach myself (and anyone like me) how to master the art of learning. Why learn how to learn? Because learning is a universal skill that affects all aspects of our lives. By becoming a more effective learner, you will be able to develop any skill, trait or habit you desire.

Questions I have:

Q: How can we teach ourselves to learn? (Learning how to learn — or meta-learning if you want to get fancy pants-y)

Q: What are the books, blogs, courses, tools and other resources we can add to our learning playbook?

Q: Who are Masters of Learning that we can learn from? How makes learning look easy?
    What resources do they recommend?
    What questions do they ask?
    What habits do they have?
    Who do they learn from?

Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Books baby, booooooks:

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin 

Learning How to Learn by Joseph D. Novak and D. Bob Gowin

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown and Henry L. Roediger II

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! by Josh Kaufman

The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life by Timothy Ferriss (A learning book disguised as a cookbook)

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less by Richard Koch

Teaching Smart People How to Learn (Harvard Business Review Classics by Chris Argyris

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle

Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live by Tony Schwartz

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge

Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows and Diana Wright

 Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations by Joseph D. Novak

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

Mind Mapping: Improve Memory, Concentration, Communication, Organization, Creativity, and Time Management by Kam Knight

15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

 

I’ve started reading Be Excellent at Anything, and have read The Art of Learning and I’ll be diving into these in the coming months so expect full reviews here on the Renaissance Life.

Did I miss any books? Let me know.

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Fundamental Skills of Mastery

Q: What are the foundational skills that affect all areas of our lives? What are the micro skills that other skills/pursuits are built upon? (design, entrepreneurship, writing, public speaking, etc)

Or perhaps a better question: If I learned how to ________ would it completely change my life?

The ones I can think of at the moment are:

  • Learning: Going from A to Z on a topic.
  • Understanding: Absorbing what you learn for use.
  • Reading: Reading to learn; Learning to read.
  • Thinking: Connecting ideas, analyzing, memorization, remembering, applying and questioning everything.
  • Health & Wellness: Understanding how your body, mind, emotions, and spirit works. Knowing what foods work for you and how to use them well.
  • Moving / Exercising: Knowing how the body moves. Knowing how to move your body.
  • Teaching: Restructuring what you understand and have learned for others to understand.
  • Psychology: Knowing how humans think. Knowing how you think.
  • Mindset: Positivity, affirmations, belief. Vision, power, confidence determination, resilence.
  • Talking: communicating your thoughts and ideas eloquently. witty, thoughtful, clever, agreeable.
  • Connecting: relating with others. Building community.
  • Hearing: Listening, feeling music and soul. Intuition.
  • Dancing: Expression through music and moving. 
  • Seeing: Observing others and yourself. Seeing what others don’t. Making interesting connection.
  • Acting: Charisma. Facial and Body Expression.
  • Playing: Letting lose. Having fun. Knowing what you like. Washing away anxiety and friction.
  • Applying: Taking action, executing, taking calculated risks, minimizing fear.
  • Creativity: Imagination. Expressing your ideas and mind. Seeing, making connections and applying them in new and interesting ways.
  • Ideation: Creating, brainstorming, making connections with other ideas, or from observations yet to be seen.
  • Pattern Recognition: Seeing and connecting ideas that make up larger themes about how the system/world works.
  • Numbers: talking and seeing with mathematics. Understanding probabilities. 

I’m sure I’ve missed some. What’s interesting is the interconnection between these skills. By improving and mastering the fundamentals, we can apply it anything we want to learn going forward.

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Wisdom:

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”Bruce Lee

“I can’t say it enough that learning how to learn is one of the greatest skills anyone can have. It’s why I advocate that everyone go to college.”Mark Cuban

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”Ernest Hemingway