Failure Isn’t Final

There’s been a handful of failures that have helped shaped and define who I am, but the one that stands out is a chronic neck injury that started six years ago.

I would never wish bad health on anyone, but my experiences with injuring my neck have vastly altered my direction and what’s most important in my life. There have been many wise people who have discussed how vital health is to our lives. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The first wealth is health.” But that’s difficult to notice—truly know—until you’ve experienced the downsides of injury or poor health. Or as Thomas Fuller put it, “health is not valued till sickness comes.”

However, there is also opportunity in sickness. When you lose something, you gain the awareness and empathy of those who, like you, have gone through a difficult experience.

My neck injury was a gradual degradation. I didn’t notice anything wrong until it was all-encompassing. In retrospect, Doctors would tell me it was likely brought on by physical trauma I experienced as a child (head-on car collision with my mom, ATV accident with my dad). That plus working behind a desk without proper knowledge about posture combined with the stress of a full schedule was the tipping point to an injury.

One day I was fine, the next I could barely move. The back of my head was pounding. I could feel my pulse radiating from my shoulders up to my face. Sleep was impossible. I spent almost a full week in bed with minimal movement. My parents quickly recommended that I go and do some physical therapy.

This was an extremely difficult time. If you’ve ever broken a bone or injured yourself, not only must you deal with the physical problems but also the mental battles of keep negative and hopelessness at bay. It makes you wish for the days where getting A’s in math courses is all you have to worry about.

I spent a lot of time during this period learning what I could about what was happening to me. I tried many things, like strength, yoga, tai chi, diet, meditation, and other practice to relieve stress. It helped with the pain a little, but it never completely went away. Every day was a constant feeling of pain and discomfort. My sleep was suffering too, because sleeping in a certain position, or subconsciously rolling over from my left side to my right (or vice versa) was painful enough to wake me up.

Injuring myself wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Having to constantly deal with pain taught me how to be incredibly resilient to difficulty and gave me the drive to pursue health and seek out unique solutions to my problems.

It’s also taught me the value of hope. There’s always a way forward, even if you don’t know how or what that specifically looks like. Failure highlights the positive. It allows us, if we choose it, to see beyond our immediate circumstances, think entrepreneurial. find unique solutions to our problems and help others in the process.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1217

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The First Line of Defense

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
Henry Ford

What’s the one thing that touches everything we say, do and experience?

Our thoughts.

Thoughts flavor everything.

But you are not your thoughts. I learned this from Mo Gawdat’s Solve for Happy book. Mo explains that if you were your thoughts, then how are you able to hear your thoughts?

Reality is reality, but we bend our reality with how we think. If you are continuously looping negativity in your head (or aloud), imagine how that’s affecting your experiences and view of the world.

A glass-half-full and a glass-half-empty is the same thing—a half-glass of water. It just is. But one mindset gives us hope and the other makes us jaded. The question is, which one do you want to cultivate?

“Every moment of your life is neither all good nor all bad. When you clear your thoughts and see beyond the Illusion of Knowledge, you will realize that what Shakespeare wisely said is true: “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
― **Mo Gawdat

A question I like to ask myself is,

How is this thought helping me? (Or plural— how are these thoughts helping me?)

If they aren’t, they are just getting in the way of my happiness and wellbeing—so I let them go. It’s not an easy practice because it’s something that I constantly need to stay vigilant in (especially after this last year) but it’s worth it if it improves the quality of my life (and the lives of those around me) even if it’s only a 5% increase.

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STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1157

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Naive-like Mind

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” — Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes more knowledge isn’t what we need.

Would you have ever built your company if you knew how hard it was going to be?

Would you have ever learned photography if you knew how many hours it would take for things to start working?

Sometimes all we need is a little faith in our current abilities, and enough chutzpah to do something that might not work.

Sometimes being naive is exactly what we need to be. Not stupid or gullible—I don’t think anyone grows up hoping they will become an idiot when they’re older. We can be smart and naive at the same time. Just like we can be an adult but have a childlike mind.

Being naive is like being a blank canvas or piece of paper. While everyone else is marked by fears and preconceptions about how things are “supposed” to work. You, on the other hand, don’t know any better and end up creating something no one has thought of.

The goal isn’t for us to give up knowledge—learning is an essential part of life—The goal is for us to be bold enough to try new things without holding ourselves back.

Q: How have you been holding yourself back lately? What’s something you think you can’t do because of X Y Z reason? Explore that.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1069

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Creativity and Chaos

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”Carl Jung

“Chaos is a friend of mine.”Bob Dylan

I wonder how many songs or other forms of art will be created from the strange times of staying at home because of the 2020 Pandemic? Leon Bridges and John Mayer’s Inside Friend. Jaden’s Cabin Fever. Little Things. Exile.

I feel oddly peaceful today, despite the chaos happening in the world and the personal anxieties surrounding me. Perhaps God is shining a little ray of hope on me. Perhaps its because I’m not letting my thoughts control me today.

Looping negative or discouraging thoughts in my head is far from helpful, and adds more weight to my troubles. Despite knowing this intellectually, it’s still difficult to keep my mind running away from itself.

Presence helps. I’m walking underneath an extremely large and old tree, watching the lights sparkle through the shadows of its leaves. I wish I knew what type of tree it was. By focusing on what’s around me, I can lose all sense of my self-centered problems.

Creating helps. I feel ten times better when I push past resistance and prioritize creativity first and put in the work on my passions. Depending on the day, I might only get a chance to write in the last thirty minutes to an hour before bed. But when I actively take the time to write early in the day, lifts my mood and energy. “Actively” being the keyword here. It is almost tragic how much effort it takes to get around to working on the things you truly wish to work on. Secret dreams. Side projects. But when you finally do it’s like a weight has lifted. Why am I not doing more of this? It still takes energy, there’s still a sense of fatigue at the end of the day, but its a calming fatigue. A daily well-lived.

Taking breaks helps. It’s easy to forget that we aren’t robots. It’s not smart trying to compete with a computer. Computers never sleep, never get hangry, and never get bored. But they do crash every so often 😉 We, on the other hand, have human needs, but we also have a greater advantage of being more creative and thinking.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1002

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Limiting Beliefs / Limitless Beliefs

“Expect great things, and great things will come.”

Norman Vincent Peale

“Yeah, I’m late to everything LOLs…”

That’s me. I’ve said a version of the phrase above more times than I can remember. In high school, I was late to first class so much that we (our class) started collecting my tardy slips and taping them to the wall as a joke—like a badge of honor (shame? disbelief? 🙂 to see how many I accumulated.

I try not to be late nowadays—at least when it matters. You get to a point where you realize it’s a sign of respect when you get somewhere on time because you are respecting someone else’s time. I have to fight it because as a multi-disciplinary, I have a tendency to take on too much during the day. (A topic for another day, perhaps.)

Another phrase I’ve said a lot:

“I’m terrible with direction.”

This one you still my catch me saying. I’ve learned a lot—directions aren’t one of them. It’s not that I can’t find my way around—I can tell you which direction is east and which is west—rather, I’m generalizing. The truth is I don’t bother memorizing road names or direction details. I can easily get around if I’ve been to a place before, otherwise, I couldn’t tell ya where were are or give you directions without whipping out my phone and asking my friend GPS.

There’s a huge part of our identity that’s wrapped in negative labels we adopt from others or give to ourselves.

Perhaps you weren’t aware of it until now, but once you know it, you’ll start to hear it from everyone.

“Oh yeah, I suck at math!”

“Yoga?! I’m as stiff as a board. You won’t see me bending like that”

“Cooking? You mean takeout?”

“I’m so unlucky!”

“I”m terrible at finances lol.”

It goes on and on. We wear these labels like a badge of honor, but in reality, we are just holding ourselves back from being a better version of ourselves.

The reason I’m usually bad with directions because I don’t prioritize learning it. In fact, my mindset is an action AND reaction that devalues me from wanting to be good at it.

The same goes for other negative traits we feel about ourselves.

Something bad happens—like we spill coffee on our brand new white pants—and then we mentally tell, no convince, ourselves we are unlucky. At that point, two things occur 1. We become aware of our “unluckiness”. We start seeing out validating reasons why we are unlucky to prove to ourselves we are right. And 2. we view the world through our “unlucky” mindset and start making decisions that lead us to be more unlucky.

The interesting thing is the reverse can happen too—we can convince ourselves that we are the luckiest person in the world—and find ways to validate it and we start taking action that makes it true.

In a word—we are all biased by our “badges of honor”, so to speak.

The real question is who do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be?

By thinking through the limiting believe’s you have, you can slowly begin to convert them to limitless beliefs instead.

What do you believe about yourself that isn’t doing you any favors? What can you replace them with?

What do you believe about yourself that you want to be true? What can you start doing to make that happen?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #941

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Intentional Joy

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.”

Thomas A. Edison

It’s late. I’m extremely tired, but the good kind of tired that you feel after a hard day of working with your hands. 

From what, you ask, dear reader? Painting a room. Which, might not seem like much, but you would be mistaken. First you have to move everything out of the space, then use tape around anything you don’t want to have paint on it. Next you prime the walls, edge the trim, and another coat of paint to trim and then roller out two layers of paint over the walls. In our case, it was more difficult because we were going from a dark navy color to light green, so it took much longer to cover up. 

I’ve never been particularly fond of painting rooms. I love painting ideas on canvas, but painting rooms can suck it. 

But like most things in life, it depends on how you do it, and who you do it with. (In my case I spent the day painting with Gabriella, so despite not enjoying the work, I enjoyed the company. 🙂

Any task can be accomplished in dozens or more of ways, but not all of them bring the same amount of joy. What we bring to the table matters immensely on the outcome of the work.

Take any given task—mowing the lawn, data entry, customer service, house-cleaning, etc—and you’ll find someone out there that will complain all week about having to do it, but you’ll also find someone who loves doing it.

The same goes for any task we do. You could hate your job, love your job, or be somewhere in between, and that mindset alone will determine how well you do, how much you value your time, and how happy you are because of doing it.

I can dislike painting rooms and still find joy out of it. If I can’t find joy from the task itself, then there’s likely another layer or two—like a good podcast, great music, fun conversations—that I can add on top of the task to add joy to an otherwise boring labor-intensive task.

There are exceptions too, I think.

I would be miserable mowing lawns because I’m allergic to grass. That’s something I need to say no to and give it / pay for someone else to do it. There’s joy in that too.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #939

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All I Know is that I Know Nothing

“To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.”

Socrates

The realization that you don’t know much as you think you do is a humbling and important experience.

There’s a great line by Richard Williams, Director of Animation for Who Framed Roger Rabbit that encapsulates this feeling perfectly. He was finishing up his first animated film, The Little Island, and around that time Disney’s Bambi came out in theaters. “… I saw Bambi again and almost crawled out of the theatre on my hands and knees. ‘How did they ever do that?’ I’d learned just enough to realize that I really didn’t know anything!”

You have to be a little naive and arrogant in the beginning when you are just starting out on a new venture (be it a business, project, prototyping an idea, learning a new skill, etc). Otherwise, you’ll know too much to start and overwhelm yourself.

Knowing what you know now, would you have started if you knew how hard it would be to get where you are?

You have to be naive and inexperienced enough to try new things.

Zen Buddhists describe this is having a beginner’s mind. A beginner’s mind is open and ready to learn.

Eventually, you learn a thing or two about your craft. You start making things, designing things, selling things, and get good enough to move things forward. Product sales role in. Your design clients like your work. Your art gets praise. Your song gets applause.

But then you see a professional at work. You see someone who does what you do, but a hundred times better. Heck, you didn’t even realize your guitar could do that. For example, take one look at some of the designs on Dribbble and you’ll realize your designs are garbage designs. “Are they using the same app I’m using?? How do they even make colors and shapes look like that??” The same is true for any skill, venture, or activity. And you realize that—

There’s a lot of incredible creatives and entrepreneurs out there.

It’s painful when you realize you aren’t as good as you want to be.

(It’s also painful when you see someone doing things worse than you are, but they are getting all the praise and attention—Topic for another day.)

But this is a great place to be in. This is another one of those pesky turning points that separate those that succeed and fail. You could stop. You could let someone’s brilliant work make you feel down about yourself and lead you to quit. Or—

You can let it lift you up and inspire you to do better.

Knowing that there’s a lot you don’t know is a great mindset to be in. You’ll learn must faster and more effectively. Humility leads to growth. Once you get past the initial ego-sting of realizing you aren’t the best, you can use the brilliance of others as an experience to seek out advice and to get better.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #913

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The Minds Impact on Reality

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

Buddha

You could argue that all the friction I was dealing with while traveling to Thailand was through circumstances I created myself.

Where my thoughts of ”this day isn’t going to go well for me” contributing to my seemly random poor luck?

Can you think reality into existence?

I don’t know if I would go that far. But our thoughts do affect our emotional state and our actions. And our decisions established on our thoughts can have massive effects on our lives. So in a way our thoughts do change our reality.

Can I think ice cream to magically appear into existence? No(t yet anyway). But I can focus on ice cream mentally. I can dwell in the cream texture and imagine the taste. And the more I think about it, the more ill try to figure out a way to get it.

Thought correlates to reality.

The more we focus on something, the more we see it, the more we are drawn to it. Sometimes without even realizing it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #857

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Head Games

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Creativity is 90% head games.

Sure, we have to act on our imagination to make it real. But the biggest thing that holds us back (or elevates us higher) is how we think.

Thinking touches every aspect of what we do. Even when we are not actively thinking about it, our brains are thinking about it for us.

What is procrastination but thinking you don’t have what it takes or thinking you’d rather do something else instead? What is a distraction but us thinking and processing the world around us? What is creative fear but mental uneasiness with the unknown and doubt about ourselves?

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Alice Walker

That’s why habits and rituals are so important. They give us the opportunity to get us out of our heads so that we can focus on creating. When you streamline everything around your creative habit, you remove all the head games that can derail you from doing the work.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #806

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I Need a Tune Up

“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can’t find who it’s originally attributed to, but there’s a great quote from the show Justified where the protagonist, Rayland, is bringing in a drug dealer or something and says “If you run into an *sshole in the morning, you ran into an *sshole. If you run into *ssholes all day, you’re the *sshole.”

Personally, I’ve noticed that when I’m in a bad or discouraging mood, every little things seems to be against me. I wake up late, feeling tired. Everyone I come into contact is in a bad mood. My car is out of gas. There’s construction and traffic on my way to work. I trip and rip my pants.

The real problem isn’t the traffic, the problem is me. (It’s not you, it’s me.) And more specifically its my mental state.

When I’m feeling great mentally, everything is great! Traffic seems much lighter today than normal! Wow, I’m literally getting all green lights. Who cares that I tripped and ripped my pants. It was time to get new ones anyway.

I wonder if our mindset works on the same wavelength of music frequency.

We tune instruments, such as a guitar or piano, to be in tune to a particular harmony. Does ‘tuning’ our minds to a more optimistic mindset create more harmony in our lives?

It’s more likely that having an optimistic view of our life, in good or bad circumstances, changes how we perceive what happens to us. So when setbacks happen, our optimistic mindset become a mental firewall to self-criticism and despair, which makes us more resilient to negative circumstances.

All when need to do is figure out how to turn the guitar tuning pegs, so to speak, and align our mental strings to the correct note.

First, we must become aware of our mental states. It’s hard to stop being a crabby patty if you don’t know you are acting like one. This requires us to make regular mental pit stops to check in with ourselves and make sure we are acting from the mindset we want to be in. Am I grumpy? Do I feel agitated or annoyed by things that normally aren’t? Am I hangry?

Second, we need to cover our bases. Did I get enough sleep last night? Do I need a nap? When was the last time I took a break? When was the last time I had water or ate something? It’s the little things that we are neglecting that cause us the most trouble.

It’s the little things that we are neglecting that cause us the most trouble.

And lastly, we need to find a way to reset. Easier said than done, but taking time for ourselves helps. Go for a walk. Take a break and pick up a good book. Read a blog post or two. Go play a pickup basketball game with a friend. Run up some hills. Breathe. Do whatever you need to do to reset your mental state.

When we are in tune, and acting from a mental state of possibility and opportunity, life is electric. Setbacks become moments to practice resilience. Failure becomes lessons. And all the good things become joy.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #671

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