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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Embrace Uncertainty

“You create your life, and you can recreate it, too. In times of economic downturn and uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to look deep inside yourself to fathom the sort of life you really want to lead and the talents and passions that can make that possible.” — Sir Ken Robinson

Pain is an interesting sensation. It hurts, obviously. Even small pains can sting—like burning your hand on a hot pan on the stove, or whacking your funny bone while closing the bathroom door. Sometimes pain lingers, and we are left to pick up the pieces while also continuing to preserve in the face of a feeling that doesn’t know when to leave. But despite the discomfort, pain also is a signal.

A sign that something needs to change. Or a moment of healing. Or a lesson and story that enables us to grow.

Not that I’d wish pain on anyone of course. Nor is all pain an “opportunity” or a good thing. Caveat caveat. But when we are personally facing pain, we have to do something with it. If not healing then what? If not a chance to change or help others change then we just what? Give up? No. It won’t be an overnight change, but gradually we will move forward, day by day until we find a way to use the pain.

One flavor of pain is uncertainty. We try to avoid uncertainty. But forcing uncertainty to be certain is like wearing a two-sizes too small sweater—half of you is still cold, you’re still stressed and uncomfortable and everyone is in on the joke but you.

2020 has been anything but certain. Personally and culturally. But if you’re reading this, you’re still alive. And if you’re still alive there are endless opportunities you can take.

Recently I was not chosen for a job opportunity. I had three rounds of solid interviews and ultimately someone else was chosen. I asked for feedback, but there wasn’t really any. There was no reason I wasn’t chosen—I just wasn’t. There was only room for one. Their intuition choose someone else. Good. I’m happy for that other person. The company is great, so I’m happy for them as well. Again, there are plenty of other opportunities out there. Now I can focus on them.

There’s very little in life that is truly certain. And many things we deem as certain, such as our career or direction in life, are only certain at a surface level. I’m not trying to be pessimistic. Once you realize that the unexpected is normal, then you have room to embrace all aspects of life and let go of the outcomes.

There’s a difference between external and internal certainty. Just because the world is shaky doesn’t mean we have to be.

Are we focused on our personal essentials? Eating clean. Moving and exercising. Surrounding ourselves with good books and good friends. Meditating. Sleeping well.

Are we making intentional decisions? Choosing work because we want to be, not because the money is good. Hanging out with friends that lift us up instead of tearing us down. Standing for our values.

Are we prioritizing what matters to us?

Part of being a creative person is turning uncertainty into something new and different.

Original ideas are built from uncertain outcomes. We can stack the decks in our favor, but it still takes a leap of boldness to pursue a dream.

Ironically embracing uncertainty makes everything certain.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1061

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Creative Crisis

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Winston Churchill

Pressure, responsibilities, and pain can ignite your creative fire. Of course, first, you need to have a creative outlet or two (or three) so that you have something to direct the pain through. All Pain goes somewhere. Sometimes it quickly leaves our mouths through anger and snide comment. Pain can also be let out gently through conversation with a close friend or therapist. The worst kind of pain takes root inside us, and cause damage on the inside.

I find it better to direct pain to create things or move them with muscles. Music, writing, and exercise are some of the habits I use to channel things I’m struggling with or experiencing (Not all bad! Any emotion can become beautiful art.)

It’s not just the pain itself. My goal isn’t to shout from the rooftops just to shout. There are timeless lessons in the mistakes and problems we face.

Too much pain, however, and you’ll dampen your creative fire. No pain and you’re a kid who thinks she/he is invincible. Too much pain and you’re a sad old man yelling at neighbors to get off your lawn. Balance is the key (in all things, really).

How much balance will likely be different for each of us. I suspect this can also be trained like a muscle, but it would be most unpleasant and perhaps unnecessary. A little heartache might make you a better artist. Too much heartache and your art won’t be the only thing you wish would bleed.

Of course, I would never wish or intentionally cause pain towards myself or others, but better to use it when it comes, rather than to let it sit and fester.

If you don’t know where to start, reconnect with your inner childlike spirit. What did you enjoy doing when we’re younger (before the world got in the way)?

Start there. There’s wisdom in being childish (…sometimes. Nobody likes an adult baby).

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1027

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Let Yourself Have It

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Francis of Assisi

It’s been said that the moment you learn to worry is the moment you become an adult. Growing up I was a rambunctious kid.

I bit my tongue and had to get stitches when I was really young. I broke my left leg in an ATV accident with my dad. I fractured my right wrist rollerskating at the skating rink. But I never worried about it. I felt pain, but I never once thought about whether or not I’d be okay.

It wasn’t until much later, when I injured my neck (and am still dealing with today) that I faced worry in a real way. Hello, world. It is something that is a piece of my story, but it doesn’t define me. Well—not completely. It’s similar to a job or a hobby. You may be a photographer but that doesn’t completely describe who you are.

Worry (And it’s friend Anxiety) is the problem. You can work it away. You can play it away. But the only true way to get rid of a worry is to let go of what’s bothering you, or what might/could happen.

What if you suffer an injury you can never recover from? Well, so be it. There’s always hope, but if worst comes to worst, you make do with your new normal.

There is joy to be found if you let yourself have it. If you open up to what you have, what you can do, what you can dream of—instead of being stuck in the past or what you had.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1011

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Cats & Dogs

“My ‘fear’ is my substance, and probably the best part of me.”

Franz Kafka

There are many things in life that seem like one thing, but can actually the other. For example, exercise is fantastic for your health, but if you don’t know what you are doing, you can easily hurt yourself. Without depth and guidance, we can quickly become closed off (and sometimes clotheslined) by our assumptions and generalizations. As the Sociologist, Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980) once quipped, “Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness.”

1. Sometimes advantages are disadvantages and disadvantages are advantageous.

Think of talent. Talent can be a crutch just as it can be a benefit. Being naturally born gifted at sports or music can take us far, but only for a while. Sooner or later practice outraces talent and if we lean to heavy on our gifts without putting in the time, we’ll quickly be left in the dust of less-talented hardworking people. (I learned this from the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.)

Talent is a crutch. Consistent practice and drive lead to mastery.

It takes dedication and work to succeed in a skill. If you don’t have a knack for something (or perhaps even suck at it), but you are so passionate about it, then your “disadvantage” will drive you to seek mastery and achievement. (Nobody puts Baby in the corner.)

2. Fear is a guiding force.

It leads us away from danger, but it also can lead us toward challenge. Distinguishing which is straightforward when you ask the question: “Am I in danger? Is this going to kill me?”

If the answer is yes, then get the heck out of there. But if you’re not in danger, then perhaps your fear is telling you something. Fear of speaking in front of the crowd is understandable (it makes me sweat just thinking about it), but it won’t kill you. In fact, your fear of public speaking is a social fear that’s holding you back. Imagine what you could do in every aspect of your life if you had the confidence of someone who can get up on stage and be the center of attention for a moment. Things would certainly change. Social fears are challenges we can use to improve and become better versions of ourselves.

3. Pain is a (wretched) gift.

I would never wish pain on anyone, but it’s one of the great eye-openers of life. Pain humbles you, removes your ego, and shows you a world you didn’t know existed. Pain can isolate us if we let it, but it can also connect us—to others, to something bigger and to ourselves. It’s difficult to feel the pain someone else has experienced, without feeling the sting of it yourself. Anyone who has injured themselves—a back, neck, or foot injury for example—will know difficult it is to deal with.

We rarely realize how important something is until we’ve lost it.

Pain is a beginning, as much as it is an ending. Your pain may fade, but you’ve changed because of the experience. Or your pain may never go away, but it becomes part of your story and has woken you up to a world of others who have experienced something similar to you. Your story connects and heals us.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1008

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To Feel Known

“Instead of being concerned that you have no office, be concerned to think how you may fit yourself for office. Instead of being concerned that you are not known, seek to be worthy of being known.”

Confucius

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Mark Twain

I think one of the big reasons we are drawn to social media is the desire to be known, and all the associated feelings and desires that come along with it. At a fundamental level, to be known is to be heard. To be someone who matters.

When you are lonely, or in pain or different, the lie we tell ourselves is we don’t matter.

No one is seeing us, therefore we aren’t worth being seen. Some people collapse inward. Others lash out (which can be in a million different ways). But we all tend to be drawn to groups, tribes, communities where we feel heard, or at least feel useful and valuable. People like us. Whatever that looks like for you. Navy SEALs. Entrepreneurs. Artists. Athletes. Dog lovers. Weirdos. Zoom yoga chats. People you just met who like the same jokes you like. We all want to belong and feel a part of something.

Making someone feel like they belong is one of the greatest gifts you can give anyone.

It doesn’t take much. Just let them speak and give your complete attention and interest. Be curious about what they like and don’t like. Don’t worry about what you are going to say. Listen to what they are saying.

But what about yourself? What about me?

To be known is to be yourself. Forget what everyone else is telling you to be.

Forget the 20 habits I find helpful and enjoy doing. Forget the habits and routines of the people you respect and look up to. Instead, build the habits that work for you. Maybe they are similar, but the key is they don’t have to be. It’s up to you to experiment and figure out what works for you and discard the rest. Maybe reading and drawing is what gets me in the right mind space but for you its a morning run. That’s good. Stick to it. Be open and try out mine and see if they work for you too. (The same goes for me with yours) But if drawing or writing every day turns out not to be your thing, that’s perfectly reasonable.

To be yourself when everyone wants you to be them is true strength.

To be known is also to care about yourself. Finding friends and family to share life with is what’s life is about. But you don’t need the approval of others to be known and the be someone who matters. You already are. You matter to yourself. That’s all that matters. Once you realize that, it doesn’t matter if you are alone on a desert island—you love who you are and what your dreams are. And then you have the power to share that with someone else.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #907

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To Feel Known

“Instead of being concerned that you have no office, be concerned to think how you may fit yourself for office. Instead of being concerned that you are not known, seek to be worthy of being known.”

Confucius

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Mark Twain

I think one of the big reasons we are drawn to social media is the desire to be known, and all the associated feelings and desires that come along with it. At a fundamental level, to be known is to be heard. To be someone who matters.

When you are lonely, or in pain or different, the lie we tell ourselves is we don’t matter.

No one is seeing us, therefore we aren’t worth being seen. Some people collapse inward. Others lash out (which can be in a million different ways). But we all tend to be drawn to groups, tribes, communities where we feel heard, or at least feel useful and valuable. People like us. Whatever that looks like for you. Navy SEALs. Entrepreneurs. Artists. Athletes. Dog lovers. Weirdos. Zoom yoga chats. People you just met who like the same jokes you like. We all want to belong and feel a part of something.

Making someone feel like they belong is one of the greatest gifts you can give anyone.

It doesn’t take much. Just let them speak and give your complete attention and interest. Be curious about what they like and don’t like. Don’t worry about what you are going to say. Listen to what they are saying.

But what about yourself? What about me?

To be known is to be yourself. Forget what everyone else is telling you to be.

Forget the 20 habits I find helpful and enjoy doing. Forget the habits and routines of the people you respect and look up to. Instead, build the habits that work for you. Maybe they are similar, but the key is they don’t have to be. It’s up to you to experiment and figure out what works for you and discard the rest. Maybe reading and drawing is what gets me in the right mind space but for you its a morning run. That’s good. Stick to it. Be open and try out mine and see if they work for you too. (The same goes for me with yours) But if drawing or writing every day turns out not to be your thing, that’s perfectly reasonable.

To be yourself when everyone wants you to be them is true strength.

To be known is also to care about yourself. Finding friends and family to share life with is what’s life is about. But you don’t need the approval of others to be known and the be someone who matters. You already are. You matter to yourself. That’s all that matters. Once you realize that, it doesn’t matter if you are alone on a desert island—you love who you are and what your dreams are. And then you have the power to share that with someone else.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #907

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Channeling Pain

Moments of crisis are good for creativity if you can find a way to channel it. One look at an emotionally striking painting or one listen to a sad and heavy song will show you the power of channeling pain through creativity.

The problems and painful experiences we go through can create something positive and impactful.

We’re already there, deep in the rawness of what we are feeling, now all we need to do is express it in as a creative outlet.

And it doesn’t always have to be a painting or a song.

It could be designing a product or service that solves a personal pain-point that could help others.

It could be writing an insightful book you needed to read, but couldn’t find it.

It could be running and training for a marathon.

It could be sculpting an abstract world out of Popsicle sticks.

Art is not just canvas and paint. It’s imagination and expression.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #798

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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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The Gift of Pain

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Helen Keller

The earth continuously spins at a lazy one thousand miles per hour. Roughly every 24 hours, it completes its race and begins a new – the ultimate example that shows steady and slow wins the race.

Is it because of death we feel compelled to hurry up and get things over with? Life is short for each of us. Time ticks on, whether we are working on our dreams or not. Perhaps our patience is at its thinnest when we faced with pain, dislike and fear.

I don’t know a single person who enjoys spending time in wall to wall traffic. But there’s also those of us who, when faced with an uncomfortable reality, want nothing more than to move past it. Like swatting flies out of our food, we want nothing more than to get rid of our circumstances and setbacks.

“Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.”

Aristotle

It depends on how you look at it, but setbacks and pain can be gifts if you let it. As sucky as they are, our circumstances are teaching us hidden lessons on how to live better if we let them. Nobody wants to be in debt up to their noses. Nobody wants to feel the pain of a heartbreak or the ache of an injury. Depression, anxiety, negativity, bitterness, backstabbing, fear, and discouragement aren’t exactly a fun party to be in.

I’d hate to say that setbacks and pain are trying to teach us something important, but maybe they are trying to teach us something important.

Pain, failure and bad circumstances raise our awareness and show us how to live better than we were previously. They stop us, so that we can slow down, think more wisely and go after a life of meaning.

We might have to dig ourselves out of a hole now, but when (not if, when) we finally crawl over the top, we have a new and better way to live and a story to tell.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #648

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