Tell Better Stories

“The marble not yet carved can hold the form of every thought the greatest artist has.”


Today is a new day. It might not feel like much and you might not feel like a new person, but it is—and you are.

Yes, you have your memories—everything that’s happened up until you read this, the good and the bad. But does that matter?

In a way, memories are just stories. Real, imaginary, somewhat fuzzy stories we’ve experienced. Some stories are currently defining us. Our current and past tastes in music. Our fashion sense. Our past work and vacation experience. Take your stories from high school or college, for example. Even just mentioning the words might bring a flood of stories to mind from your own experiences during those periods of your life.

Memories are just stories.

Some of the stories in our past are currently holding us back. These are the ones we need to rewrite if we have even a slight hope of doing something more with our lives.

It’s difficult to live in the moment if you are allowing your past mistakes to haunt you.*

But luckily mistakes are also just flavors of memory and stories. Why not tell better stories? Why not turn a mistake into a humorous, insightful lesson you can remind yourself and tell others going forward?

Think about people you admire and the stories they tell. Aren’t some of the most hilarious, laugh out loud stories you heard from them moments where they experience dips or failure or stupidity, and weave it into this fun and insightful narrative.)

Take some time to think about your stories and what stories you tell yourself.

What are stories you loop in your head over and over again but aren’t actually helpful?

How can you tell them differently?

Sit down and write out the new spin on each story. Say it aloud. Tell a friend.

This isn’t about falsely creating a better past. This is about finding the good from the tragic and telling a better story so that we can live a better today and have a better tomorrow.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1104

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*Sometimes this is from trauma, like PTSD flashbacks from war. In cases like these, rewriting stories needs to be more than a thought exercise. Talk to a therapist. Etc.

Thirty, Flirty and Thriving (part 1)

Yesterday was my 30th birthday.

I’m feeling good about it (not panicking, promise) and excited about the future—but it’s still crazy to think that I’m 30.

For the last couple of years, instead of doing New Years Resolutions at the end of the year, I do them on my birthday. (That will be in part 2).

“Resolutions” has such a bad wrap and follow-through, so I rarely think of it in those terms. I think of it as more like specific, tangible goals and a lifestyle I want to aim for.

30 goals for my 30th year.

My idea is to add one more goal each year until I’m 57 and then start counting backward. 50 goals when I’m 50. (Which is a lot!) 56 goals when I’m 58—down to 1 goal when I’m 115 (keep breathing).

Of course, I don’t exactly know my expiration date, so this is more of a fun way to reflect on where I’ve been and where I want to be.

Today I want to talk about my twenties.

I’m not gonna lie, my twenties were tough. Health, work, community, finances—you name it. But it’s so easy to focus on the negative things and lose track of all the good.

Instead of being negative, or the opposite—annoying positive, I want to highlight great experiences and lessons learned from difficult experiences.

Great things that happened in my 20s:

  • I started eating healthily and exercising.
  • I met Gabriella (now my Fiancée.)
  • We adopted Ren—the best dog I didn’t know I needed.
  • I met a lot of new people and made some great friends.
  • I started taking writing seriously and have written every day for 1000+ days in a row.
  • I started a podcast.
  • I taught myself design, marketing, entrepreneurship, cooking, yoga, and so much more.
  • I picked music back up.
  • I found my voice and started learning how to sing.
  • I traveled to LA, Austin, Thailand, New York, London, and Ireland.
  • I went to the beach a million times with my family.
  • I freelanced, worked at a couple of startups, and worked at a creative agency.
  • I started a YouTube channel.

Lessons Learned From my Twenties:

  • Health needs to be your number one priority. (Don’t wait until something is broken to take care of it.)
  • Not knowing what you want to do is part of the process.
  • Don’t Half-Ass anything, (especially decisions).
  • Don’t let fear keep you from doing what you want.
  • Get it in writing.
  • Compound Interest works for more than just money.
  • Reach out first. Jump on the dance floor first. (If everyone is waiting for someone else to go first, then no one will.)
  • Surround yourself with people who’ve got your back.
  • Aim for something big: it’s impossible to create a meaningful life you want by staying where you are.
  • Speak up. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand. Embarrass yourself. Because it’s such a small thing in the grand scheme of things.
  • Think through big decisions. (Just because you want something new, doesn’t mean you need it.)

It’s okay to wish you to go back and change things. It’s a sign that your heads on a little straighter than it was and that you are learning and growing.

Just don’t your mistakes keep you stuck in the past.

Allow your mistakes to improve your decisions and priorities going forward.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1090

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Criticizing Yourself

“To my younger self, I would say unless you’re literally in danger, ask forgiveness instead of asking permission.” — Jonathan Van Ness

You don’t know what you don’t know. That sounds like an obvious statement, but it’s true. Making mistakes from a place of ignorance sucks, but we shouldn’t harass ourselves about it.

There are only three things we can do:

  1. Learn from it and do better next time.
  2. Prioritize knowledge and wisdom so that we are more capable, going forward.
  3. Surround ourselves with wise and thoughtful people who have our backs.

Blaming our younger selves for their dump mistakes doesn’t help us now, nor gets us where we want to go.

Don’t be too critical to your younger self.

You didn’t know what you know now.

He/she didn’t know what he/she was getting into. Even if you’re still paying for it (in dividends) now, you can’t change what happened.

When you criticize yourself, you are just getting in your own way.

Forgiveness starts with forgiving yourself. Give your younger self a get out of jail free card and move forward.

Everyone thinks they are invincible until they fall. That’s when the real journey begins.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1081 ☕️

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Picking up the Pieces

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

Bill Gates

“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

Abraham Lincoln

In life, failure is inevitable. (And if you don’t think so you haven’t experienced it yet.) But not all failure is fatal. In fact, the only failure that you can’t build yourself back from is death. Death is pretty fatal.

Let me ask you a question:

At what moment do we fail?

Is it when we lose the game? Is it when we made a bad decision and end up running our company into the ground? Is it when our ego ruins our opportunity? Is it when we let others down? Is it when we become someone we dislike? Is it when we manipulate and drive everyone away? Is there a line we can cross that’s unredeemable?

We certainly fail when we give up—while knowing we should keep going.

There are many mistakes we can make that aren’t recoverable. When you and your former partner are dragged through the mud of anger and divorce, recovering is unlikely. When you ruin your reputation by lying, or being flaky or saying something overwhelmingly offensive, it’s going to take a lot of convincing to get back to square one. When you dig yourself into debt the size of a Mars crater, it’s going to be a lot of hard work to get back to zero. But even so, we’re still alive. We are still breathing. The show must go on!

When our failure burns out and leaves ashes in its wake, we still have the chance to rise up, pieces together our life and change into something better than we were. (And make it a part of our story and a lesson to share with others.)

But not if we give up. Not if we give in to despair forever. Not if we drown our sorrows in ice cream and beer. Numbing the pain and failure doesn’t take away the pain and failure.

Failing and being unable to recover doesn’t mean that it’s over for us. It just means that the unbalanced, and unstable life we were living is officially over. Now we have to find a new one—a better way of living. A life that makes us better and helps make others better too.

There’s always away forward.

Picking up the pieces is far from fun. But it does give us something. Something to do with our hands. A past life to let go of. A way forward towards something new. And as scary as new can be, it can also be exciting and lead us to unexpected places.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #924

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Informed vs. Ignored

Part of our circumstances is other people’s mistakes. This is particularly tough when they’re mistakes from people we admire and love. Intentional or not, you were hurt by someone else’s lack.

This too is part of our story. And out of our control.

Can you change what happened to you? No.

Can you do your best to make it better for yourself and others going forward? Absolutely.

Should you forgive them? Maybe. It depends on the situation. I’d like to be forgiven when I make stupid mistakes. We’re all human after all.

Better that than bottling everything up or ignoring what you don’t want to see. We can’t control everything that comes our way, but how we react is in our control, and that’s on us.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #853

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Even Your Heroes Make Mistakes

“Everyone is flailing through this life without an owner’s manual, with whatever modicum of grace and good humor we can manage.”

Anne Lamott

“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.”


Imagine if you woke up tomorrow rich and famous. If you need a backstory why — one day, you were shopping at an antique store. you were rifling through a stack of dusty books when a gleam caught your eye. In a bowl on a thick wooden desk, a ring stood out among the rest. Something about it was mesmerizing. Maybe it was the way that one blue jewel of three seemed to flicker in the right light. You try it on and it surprising (not so surprisingly) fits perfectly. A from the corner of your mind comes to a voice that reminds you of hot summer days and the scent of fresh air. “Hello, my friend. I have one wish left to give to be set free. What do you desire?”

Backstory aside — imagine if you woke up tomorrow and everything was exactly the same, but you were rich and famous.

Think about your life up until now. The little mistakes you made while growing up. Things you did without knowing any better. Things you tried because you thought you’d be able to get away with it. Think about what you’re good at, what you’re bad at (or what are works in progress).

I’d likely be just as flawed and mistaken-ridden as any other famous person is.

Money and status amplify who we are. They put us in front of more opportunities (opportunity creates opportunity) but they also give us the chance to make some very public mistakes and expose us to a lot of people who want we have. Money solves a lot of problems, but it also creates more. I say this as a normal, non-rich (yet), non-famous person.

Hero’s make mistakes. Just like we make mistakes. Does that justify or condone their actions? No. In fact, because they’re in the spotlight, they have more responsibility to uphold higher values and own up to mistakes when they inevitably happen. Most of us have a right to a little grace. (Not too much grace, but some. 🙂

What makes a human is not the mistakes they make, but what they do after they make them. A great leader owns up to their flaws, failures, and foibles, and commits to getting better every day going forward.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #808 can you feel that b.a.s.s.

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I Made a Mistake, Now What?

Antidote: #0007: What to Do with Mistakes

It’s okay if you make a bad decision. 

No one can fault us for being human.

We all make thousands of decisions a day, and some of them are bound to be mistakes.

Our decisions, and therefore our mistakes, make us who we are.

Mistakes, as stupid as they are, make us better.
And when we are better, the world can become better.

Actually this isn’t quite true. Mistakes we act on make us better.

A mistake squirreled away and ignored weighs us down. We become better versions of ourselves when we do something about them going forward. 

And forget about perfection.

Perfection is for the birds. (And not part of the Renaissance Ethos)

There’s always room to make amends.
There’s always room to reach out, or be reached out to.
If you’re still breathing, there’s room.

If it feels too late. If amends have been made but the opportunity is gone, and the bridge is burned — at least make amends to yourself.

Make amends to yourself.

Mistakes need to be learned from, and then let go, into space.
Carrying around a mistake will be a stone in your gut.
They will fester and burden your new decisions.

If you believe in God, He forgives you. He know’s you, in and out.

If you don’t, forgiveness is at your fingertips. It’s waiting to unburden you.

Bad decision want to control all of your future decisions. They say, ‘look at what you did, you don’t desire anything good.’
This is a lie. 
Bad decision’s fear good ones, because They know it means They’ll be erased.

Release your mistakes.
You don’t need permission to.
But if you want it, I’ll give you permission.
Be free of your mistakes.

Go make the world a better place.

— Josh Waggoner,  Renaissance Life: Antidotes, Cures for the common strife.

related wisdom 

“To help yourself, you must be yourself. Be the best that you can be. When you make a mistake, learn from it, pick yourself up and move on.” — Dave Pelzer


“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” — Edmund Burke


“Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.” — Henry Ford


“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” — Albert Einstein