Laugh It Off

“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.”

Langston Hughes

The Martian is one of my favorite sci-fi movies. With a great cast (Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Kristen Wiig, Mackenzie Davis, etc.) and directed by Ridley Scott, you know you’re in for a good time. I won’t go into too many details (no spoilers) but the plot is essential Mark Watney (aka Matt Damon) gets stranded alone on Mars and has to figure out a way to survive.

What I love about it most is Mark’s ingenuity and spirit throughout despite the fear and overwhelming odds of being the only person alive on the hostile red planet. His astronaut training keeps him calm and collected, but he’s not an emotionless robot either. He expresses the full range of human emotions—anger, sadness, happiness, pride, despair, and loneliness (of course. But he doesn’t let things linger and get him down for too long. Deliberate thinking. Movement. Problem Solving. And a good witty attitude.

When your back’s against the wall, and you’re surrounded by problems, what do you do?

Sometimes when you are facing a huge problem or a volley of problems, the best thing you can do is laugh and make dumb jokes. Using humor can take out the “piss and vinegar” of the situation. You’re not belittling the situation, but you’re not letting it break you either. By taking things seriously, but not too seriously, you can get out of your head and focus on creating momentum.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1078

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Joyful

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”

Michael Jordan

In order to thrive, we need stability. In order to have stability, we need to thrive. A catch-22. (Or perhaps an ouroboros.)

And yet, maybe not. What is stability? What does thriving mean? Is it something external? Free from harm? A hot meal and a warm bed?

Anyone who has started their own company knows that the stability of a job is abstracted away from the business’s finances. An employee at a company that’s doing well is secure. And an employee at a company doing poorly is also secure. The employee at the thriving company will more likely keep her job than the other employee, but both could end up unemployed if something goes unexpectedly wrong.

A job is an external thing. It provides for our basic needs, but it’s not what gives us stability or the ability to thrive. That comes from within. If we cultivate our minds and learn to let go in the face of uncertainty and things that aren’t in our control, no amount of instability will hold us back from long.

Thriving starts is in the mind.

You can see it radiating out of people into their lives, but it starts with the thought of knowing that despite everything challenging going on, you’ll be okay. The sun will rise. The birds will sing. And we can begin anew, wherever we are and use what we’ve got as an opportunity to do great things and keep on living.

The happiest people in the world aren’t happy because of all the things they own, or because of their success and accomplishments. They are happy—no, joyful—because they decided to be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1010

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Limitations Spark Creativity

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.

Rumi

Creativity is, in part, about facing our limitations and finding ways to turn them into opportunities.

Things will try to stop you:

  • There will always be a better gadget or tool you could have.
  • There’s too many books (over 130 million, give or take) out there in the world to read them all (I know, I’ve tried — and will die trying :).
  • There will always be sometime you need to learn.

People will try to stop you:

  • They will tell you that you are not good enough.
  • They will tell you to stay in your lane.
  • They will point out all your flaws.
  • They will try to force you to quit.

Life will try to stop you:

  • Work will get in the way.
  • Time won’t be on your side.
  • Mixers and birthday parties will always — coincidentally — fall on the same date and time you were going to work on your art.

And worse of all — you will try to stop you:

  • Fear.
  • Doubt.
  • Worry.
  • Uncertainty.
  • Pain.
  • Negative, discouraging and depressed mindsets.
  • Past Trauma, Present concerns and Future anxiety.
  • Poor sleep, hangry feelings, and couch sweatpants calling your name.

However, show me a brilliant song that wasn’t influenced by limitation.
Show me a work of art that didn’t have to trudge through doubt and uncertainty.
Show me a bestselling novel that doesn’t tell a story where the hero faces challenge and difficult, or a nonfiction book that doesn’t try to show us how to be better versions of ourselves.

Limitation is in our DNA.
That’s what makes our creativity even more special. To make something, despite our limitations (or because of our limitations), is a powerful way to add value and create change in the world.

Take your limitations and infuse them into your story. See them for what they are — opportunities to help others, and to help yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #672

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Dedicated

“Success is about dedication. You may not be where you want to be or do what you want to do when you’re on the journey. But you’ve got to be willing to have vision and foresight that leads you to an incredible end.”

Usher

A life of creativity is not without its ups and downs: lack of time or finances, responsibilities, other dreams and desires distracting us from our work, fear, doubts, hangry-ness, mental blocks, health… you name it!

As we work, we go through cycles of excitement and enthusiasm opposed to disinterest and obstructions conspiring to stop you. Plus, haters. Copycats. And the silence of obscurity.

But despite all of the things that can stand in the way, we have a choice — either keep going, or stop.

Commitment to our creativity might be one of the hardest things we’ll face in our endeavors.(Second only too starting.)

Dedication to your craft — especially weekly or even daily dedication — creates progress and momentum that must people only dream about. While others are thinking about what they want and wish they would do, you are out in the world doing it every day.

Sticking to your creative work is the most important thing you can do to ‘succeed’ in your own way.

While everyone is waiting, you are doing.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #635

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In The Margins

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon

When you go on vacation, are the kind of person who creates an itinerary for every second of the trip, or do you just go with the flow?

I fall somewhere in the middle of the two. I don’t want to waste time, but I also don’t want to have every second planned out, where even bathroom breaks are scheduled out. For example, I don’t just go to a restaurant willy nilly. I check yelp and look at the menu / food photos to check whether or not it’s right for me. (There’s nothing quite as disappointing as wasting time and money on a crap restaurant trip.) However, I do enjoy ‘nothing time’ where nothing is planned (literally planned) and there’s no obligations or todos to be done during that time. (I guess I’m an enigma wrapped in a juxtaposition.)

Why am I writing about this?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how Life’s* plans for you doesn’t always match your plans for Life.

(*replace ‘Life’ with ‘God’ deepening on what you believe.)

(It’s like we’re not the center of the universe or something. Weird.)

The frustratingly cool thing is that often it’s the plans that don’t go our way, that ultimately inform who we are and what we do.

Or put more eloquently, the things that go ‘wrong’ are usually things that go ‘right’. They just so happened to be wrapped in a ‘stress-filled, extra-frustrating, mud-covered’ package. We often expect to take the freeway, but ultimately end up taking the back roads, but come out better for it.

For me, an old neck injury hasn’t ruined my life (like I probably thought when it first happened) but has given me the opportunity to dive headfirst into health and wellness, and taught me the value of pursing health. Without my injury, I don’t know if I would be into health as much as I am today. Without my injury, who would I be?

Life happens in the margins. Expectations only cloud our judgements of the opportunities in the outcomes. Plan, but expect change.

Is everything fair and good that happens to us? No. Sometimes it’s the opposite of unfair. I can’t speak to the struggle and circumstances that happens to others. Sometimes hard things are just plain hard, and it takes a lot to overcome them. But from my own circumstances I’ve found value in there stupid existence. Even if that value is not a resolution, but just a story I have I can share and help others with who have gone through or experienced similar pain.

How we handle what happens to us going forward is likely more important than what happens to us.

All that being said, I’d rather learn from history (and the mistakes of others) rather than experience mistakes I could avoid with a little forethought and planning.

Which means planning more is in my present. (Maybe not on vacation though. I can go to the bathroom whenever I want!)

Plan for the worst, Hope for the best

As the old Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” I’m going to start preparing for future outcomes, instead of just waiting for them.

Perhaps nothing is ultimately in our control, but I choose to believe that every decision we make has to count for something, no matter how small. Every decision we make right now has the opportunity to push the levers in our favor. I think it’s better to increase the probability of a good outcome than just assuming it will happen or negatively assuming it won’t. Either assumption, good or bad isn’t a great way to live.

Maybe this is what growing up and being ‘responsible’ means. Getting health and dental insurance, not because it’s worth it or helpful, but because in two years when you accidentally break your leg, you’re covered. Or when it’s time to buy a house, your past self has already planned for that inevitability and has saved for a down-payment already.

Either way, I want to focus on doing everything I can in the present to be have more freedom and flexibility in the future.

There’s a great entrepreneurial quote that says, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.

I think we could expand this not only to our business, but to our lives as well.

What are the actions, thoughts, habits we can do NOW, that will benefit us later?
What can we plant today, so that in the future our fields will be full of fruit trees?
What are small things that we can do today that will have massive benefits over time?

We can’t change what happens to us, but we can change what happens going forward by moving the needle towards the positive instead of the negative.

Why do tomorrow what you can do today?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #579

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Rule It Out

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

For the past couple of years, I’ve been dealing with a sleep problem. I’m great at falling asleep, and staying asleep. However, the quality of my sleep isn’t great. When I wake up, I’m just as tired as I was when I went to bed. You can see how this can be a real problem. The chronic, low-grade energy from lack of quality rest effects all aspects of my life. Luckily (or unluckily) as humans our bodies are incredibly resilient. We can push and punish our bodies and they will adapt to the new normal. Often this is beneficial. For example, exercising is fantastic for us and necessary for health. And 90% of the benefits of exercising outweigh the downsides of it’s stressors on our system. (An anti-example is overtraining. By training too much, you don’t give your system a chance to recover from the ‘good’ stress, so you reap less and less benefits, and the stress of constantly stressing yourself builds up and can reek havoc on you… eventually)

All that being said, when you don’t sleep well, you get used to the new normal. What else can you do but use the energy you have and continue moving forward? Tired becomes the new normal and you push through. From the outside looking in, nothing is different. You are just you. Which is a weird feeling, to say the least. Everything is normal, but not as effective as you know you could be, but you still have to be on your A game.

This experience has given me the opportunity to dive deep into the world of sleep and sleep optimization. (A few friends have asked me, so I might do a future post on the resources, tools and strategies I’ve discovered about sleep.)

This experience has also taught me the value of thinking and acting systematic when dealing with problems.

Here are five strategies you can use when facing an uncertain problem (in no particular order):

1. Question all assumptions

What are things that we do that are beneficial to us?
What are things that we do and think that are not beneficial to us?

It’s easy to assume that certain habits or actions are beneficial, but without testing those assumptions, we never actually know whether or not they are benefiting us or causing problems. Not everything thing is a net positive, and sometimes negative habits cancel out beneficial habits. Just like a wave can cancel out another wave, the downside of an action or way of thinking can negate the upside to another action or way of thinking. For example, taking a B-12 supplement isn’t really going to move the health needle in our favor if we are also eating ice cream and other delicious crap every day. Not all examples are as easy to spot what the problem is like this one, so it’s good to have a health dose of questioning all that you (think you) know and do, and test all assumptions and how much value they are each adding to your life.

2. Test Each Variables

What are the underlying factors causing the problem?

Donald Rumsfeld once said, “It is easier to get into something than to get out of it. There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint what the problem is without considering all the variables that potentially contribute to the underlying problem.

Sometimes you can’t know all of the variables that go into play, but making a list of the factors you do know can help you uncover what’s good and what’s not. By making a list, and, essentially checking it twice — isolating the variable and seeing how much pull it has on the problem — we can uncover what’s going wrong. Or at the very least, what’ NOT going wrong. (Checking off things that aren’t causing the problem can be just important as the ones that are.)

For sleep, variables such as:

  • Number of hours in bed (How many hours of sleep are you getting?)
  • Staying asleep (How restful are you during sleep?)
  • Going to sleep (How easy is it to fall asleep?)
  • Bed Time (What time are you in bed?)
  • Dinner Time (How many hours between dinner and bedtime?)
  • Stress (Work stress?
  • Screens (Are you looking at screens before bed? If so what time / how long?)
  • Reading (Are you reading before bed?)
  • Blue Lights (Are you exposing yourself to blue light too late from fluorescents etc?)
  • Shower (Do you take a shower / bath before bed?)
  • Cold Thermogenesis? (What does an ice bath or cold shower do before bed?)
  • Mattress (How new is your mattress? High quality?)
  • Pillow (How nice / optimal is your pillow? Especially with an injury)
  • Sheets (How nice are your sheets?)
  • Room Temperature (How cold or hot is your room)
  • Room Darkness (How dark is your room?)
  • Air Quality (Is your air allergy / mold / toxin free?
  • Sound Environment (How quite / noise-free is your sleep environment?)
  • Food (How healthy did you eat today?)
  • Exercise (How much did you move today?)

As you can see, even something as ‘simple’ as sleep can mask a large about of variables that come into play.

When you are tackling a problem, list all the variables you can think of and test each one at a time. You could do the kitchen sink method and try everything at once, which is a much faster (and yet more expensive) approach. But you won’t know what precisely worked for you. By ruling out each variable, your scientifically testing each possibility and determining which factors have the most effect.

3. Think it through.

What’s one thing you can do that solves 90% of the problem?

Not every variable has equal weight. Often, if we tackle on thing, like dominoes the rest will follow. This is a trail and errors game, but we can be smart about how we prioritize and what order we handle problems. What’s an easy win? What’s something you can do right now that will help immediately? (What would Steve Jobs do? 😝) Who’s had this problem before and what did they do to solve it? What’ are the small thing that could possible create a massive outcome? What does your instinct say? Be intentional, think it through.

4. Seek Wisdom from People Smarter than You.

There’s nothing wrong in asking for advice. In fact, if you are not constantly seeking insights from people smarter than you, then you are doing yourself a disservice and holding yourself back from overcoming problems quickly and with the least amount of resistance.

Whenever in doubt: Ask.

Even if it makes you look stupid. Being stupid now is better than always being stupid because you never ask, especially if you are in a position to ask someone you have access to directly.

And when you don’t have direct access to someone who might have an answer for you directly, then read, watch, learn EVERYTHING they’ve put out. A book or podcast by them can be just as powerful as talking to them IRL.

5. Go Easy on Yourself.

This one I had to learn from a friend. Problems can take time to overcome. We’ve got too mentally prepare ourselves for that scenario and play the long game instead of giving up because the circumstance feels hopeless in the present. Keep going, but go easy on yourself. In the end, we’re all just human, struggling and figuring life out as we go. Every obstacle we face is a chance to be better. Every failure is an opportunity for us to learn and be better. Treating ourselves badly only lets the problem win and control us. But focusing on the opportunities and taking things one step at a time puts the ball back in our court.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #578

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Introducing Antidotes — Cures For The Everyday Strive

Like mine,

Your story is unique — 

but we all face similar hardships in life.

Our story is our own — but life is universal.

 

Pain, frustration, fears, dreams, hopes,

desires, failures, a search for meaning and purpose,

conflict, despair, overwhelm, barriers, loss, choices,

joy, misfortune, depression, happiness, injury, challenge,

obstacles, trials, triumphs..

 

Antidotes, is a new series from the Renaissance Life,

focusing on cures for the everyday strive we all face.

The goal is to forge ancient virtues in our life, specifically resilience —

so that we may fight for what we believe, and have an extraordinary life.

To not only withstand hardships, but to thrive in them — and ultimately,

turn them into victories.

#KeepPursing,

Josh Waggoner

Conquer Your Dreams

Let’s face it —

most of us can’t give 100% of our time and energy

towards our dreams — We have obligations (be that financially and/or socially).

Fine then

We’ll just have to be smarter if we want to conquer our dreams.

(aka we’ll have to be brilliant)

To succeed, We’ll need —

Priority  — We need to make time to make our dreams happen.

Intention — We must know what we want, and what the end goal looks like.

Focus — during the time we make, we need to give 100% focus on the task. No distractions, no interruptions — just focus.

Consistencyas in Daily Action Steps — clearly defined next steps we can take. Small actions allowing us to chip away at dreams.

Small Actions lead to big change.

Steadfast — It’s a long road to overnight success. Perseverance is key.

We must be relentless in our pursuits.

related:

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” — Confucius

 

“If you can dream it you can do it.” — Walt Disney

#KeepPursuing,
xoxo Josh Waggoner

‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’  Email me your thoughts on this post. Can you reduce the essential idea further?

Tell Your Story

We are all storytellers, (Once upon a time)

because we are all experiencers.

What we’re experiencing RIGHT NOW is a story we get to tell.

We may be living on cloud 11, or —

We may be crawling through some mud,

facing obstacles that seem impossible —

but not only can we persevere, we can thrive

remember,

Our life is our story; we write it how we wish,

through the actions we take. 

There will always be factors out of our control, battles to face, and failure to learn from,

but this is just spice to our story — trials and triumphs.

Besides, what’s life without a little CHALLENGE?

And the greatest part is stories are meant to be shared.

Your story affects my story, and vice versa.

What story will you tell?

related:

The Obstacle is the Way — Ryan Holiday

“Because storytelling, and visual storytelling was put in the hands of everybody, and we have all now become storytellers.” — Levar Burton

“Those who tell the stories rule society.” — Plato

“In the end, we’ll all become stories.” — Margaret Atwood

#KeepPursuing,
xoxo Josh Waggoner

‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’  Email me your thoughts on this post. Can you reduce the essential idea further?