If Everything is a Priority…

If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

I’m reminding myself this more than anything. I have so many ideas that I could see becoming something real and magically, but that doesn’t mean a lick of salt if I don’t prioritize one and create it. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, said it best “First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”

The logic is fairly straight forward:

Divide our time into too many “buckets,” and we’ll have a whole lot of unfinished, mostly empty projects. In the immortal words of Jar Jar Binks, “Dissen gonna be bery messy! Me no watchin!”

Or we can choose one project, a few at most, and pour all our time and energy into them until we’ve finished them and then work on the next one.

It’s like wanting passive income or multiple revenue streams. We don’t just start right out the gate with a dozen income streams at once. First, we’ve got to get one thing going super well. Are we creating something valuable? Are we creating something worth buying? Are we sharing what we are doing? Good. Once we find one thing that works, then we start another. 

I’m always tripping on this because I love making things, and there are always new ideas and interesting avenues to take.

You can use a thousand boards of wood to being building a thousand houses, or you could use all the wood to build a single killer house.

Ask yourself: 

  • “Out of all the projects I start, how many do I actually finish?”
  • “What’s one thing I want to prioritize and finish right now?”

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1057

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Keep Practicing

“Practice is the best of all instructors.”

Publilius Syrus

There’s only one thing that’s between you and your dreams:

Practice.

Of course, everything will try to stop you from practicing.

Boredom. The Rain. School. Sleepiness. Newer and shinier dreams. Overtime. Bad internet. Family. Friends. Enemies. Frienemies. Anyone. Even yourself.

In fact, the biggest barrier we often face is ourselves. We may start with enthusiasm, but past a certain point, things start to get stale. We hit plateaus and have to keep going, despite it seeming like we aren’t making any progress at all. This is what stops most from their dreams—they give up. They hit a tough spot and talk themselves out of going forward.

Dips, obstacles, ruts, heartaches, pain, and failure happen to us all. But that doesn’t matter.

All we have to do is keep practicing and keep getting better. If it’s important to us, then continuous, consistent, and challenging practice will get us there. It’s the crazy ones that keep going, despite all odds.

I don’t know about you but I’d rather be crazy than complacent. I’d rather be crazy than always complaining about how things didn’t work out.

You can do it. Keep practicing. And if something stops you—well, pick it right back up and keep going.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #954

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The Downsides of a Multidisciplinary Life

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Stephen Covey

There are many benefits to pursuing a multidisciplinary life, as an endless supply of curiosity and ideas, but there are also plenty of downsides. If you’re not careful, you can —

  • be less focused
  • get less done
  • be less potent (less deep / more shallow)
  • be more scattered
  • become distracted by new ideas or things you want to learn

And you’ll likely be late for everything. 😉

There’s also the chance that people don’t believe that you are doing all multiple things. Some will think you are cutting corners, but really you are just adding more time to your day by cutting away the nonessential things most people spend all their time on.

As you can see, the majority of the downsides are all related to spreading yourself too thin and spending your time like it’s an infinite resource. 

Because our most valuable resources—time, energy, attention—are all spent on one thing, dividing up our time between various skills naturally cuts our time shorter than if we were focused on only one thing.

While you’re trying to learn 10 things at once, Jane Doe over there is giving 100% of her time and effort on learning design. (Not that comparing yourself to Jane is the smartest thing to do.)

But wait. Is this really true? Aren’t we all overbooked—despite whether we enjoy doing many things or just one thing? Aren’t we all busybodies nowadays, running around with too much on our todo lists and spending our free time vegging out in front of the TV and or our phones?

We (humans) all have to choose what we do with our time, whether or not we are pursuing a multi-disciplinary life or a one discipline life.

The first thing you must decide is what type of life do you want to lead. Are you going to go all-in on dancing? Or are you going to divide your time between dancing and microbiology? Or are you going to find a way to thread the needle between dancing, microbiology, music, painting, and pottery?

Once you have a good idea of what type of life you want, then you must prioritize what’s most important. 

If you decide to pursue multiple disciplines, know your limits. Don’t try to do everything. Rather focus on a handful of things. The less amount, the more time and focus you’ll have for each.

The last thing we want to do is spin a lot of plates but not accomplish anything we set out to do. Without consistency and discipline, we could easily jump from one shiny object to the next and never actually finish a project, or fully learn a craft. 

The key is to not try to do everything at once. Even if you are pursuing multiple things, whichever one you are focusing on right now, give it 100% of your attention and effort. As the inventor Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #906

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You Need A Practice

It took me a long time to realize how very little of life is in our control. We go through life feeling like we are in control—until we aren’t. Something happens that shakes us. A broken arm or health issue that shows us we are not invincible. A random circumstance that knocks the wind out of us. A realization that changes how we think about the world. These are turning points that can either keep us scared or lift us to a new level of understanding.

At its fundamental level, control means having power or influence over something. With just one hand, I could count how many things I have controller over:

  1. My thoughts.
  2. My actions and reactions.
  3. What I prioritize, focus on and/or value.
  4. Where I spend my time (and other resources).

In a way, what’s in our control are all related to one another. Thoughts lead to actions, and actions show what we prioritize our time on. These give us a credible amount of agency over our lives, but at the same time we are are in the midst of things outside of our control—an island in the middle of an untamable sea. But chaos doesn’t mean we are powerless. By focusing and honing what we do control, we can handle any life circumstances that come our way.

One great way to channel what’s in our control is to start a practice. Having a practice grounds you when everything else is up in the air.

Having a practice grounds you when everything else is up in the air.

What practice(s) you do is up to you. It could be something creative, like writing, dance, pottery, painting, drawing, making youtube videos, calligraphy, guitar, etc. It could be something nourishing, like yoga, mediation, cooking, running, swimming, etc.

What matters is making it intentional. And, ideally, it’s something you put into practice daily. But I’m not yo mama. I’m not going to tell you how you should live your life. We each have our own choice here. We could go about life rocking with the ship and whatever wave hits us. Or we could learn how to sail.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #876

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Related:

Having A Practice – Steven Pressfield

Worth it

Essential should take priority over immediate. And yet, we often allow ourselves and feel driven to do the opposite. There’s many reasons we could point to — we didn’t sleep well last night, we are distracted by pain or distracted by shiny things, etc.

What’s easier: answering a few emails and clearing out your inbox or working on your app?

What’s more appealing: watching Netflix or sweating at the gym?

What’s more exciting: going out for drinks or putting butt in seat and writing?

Essential over immediate.

The essential takes more time, energy and intention. No wonder we struggle to get anything important done! We trade short-term pleasures for long-term success and happiness. Not that we have to give up happiness in the present in order to have it in the future. Rather, happiness comes from the process of spending our time and energy in ways that we love and find meaningful. Even an ounce of effort spent on what we love creates massive returns on the rest of our effort (which we might have to give to our other responsibilities, such as working to afford food for our family).

There’s another big reason that the important things tend to get benched:

The important things become too important. Or in other words, the essential things we want to do are so important that we end up not doing them. We idealize and fantasize them into a undefeatable monster in our minds. We (consciously or subconsciously) delay, avoid, distract, procrastinate and psych ourselves out from doing them. And eventually we end up filling our time and energy with everything BUT the things we want to do.

I’m making it seem clear and cut-and-dry, but it’s usually anything but. In reality the tradeoffs are so subtle. We hardly even notice we are selling ourselves short and are feeding the wrong things. We trade what we really want to do, for second or third-best options because we think that’s all we desire or are capable of doing.

Because what if we fail?
What if we waste all this time and energy for nothing?
What if we succeed and are still unhappy?

Ultimately it comes down to giving yourself some space and asking yourself is it worth it or not.

Is this worth my finite amount of time and energy?
Is this going to add value to my life AND the lives around me?
Is this going to provide me meaning and happiness in the present, regardless if I fail or succeed in the end?

Failing at something you love is better than succeed at something you hate or find mediocre.

Because failure is recoverable. But we can’t get back wasted time on things that don’t matter.

The road to mediocrity is born from hesitation and feeding ‘what you are supposed to do’ instead of what you feel called to do.

What do you feel called to do in this life?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #734


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Plantin’ Seeds

Big Redwood Trees
Photo by Josh Carter

If you want to grow a giant redwood, you need to make sure the seeds are ok, nurture the sapling, and work out what might potentially stop it from growing all the way along. Anything that breaks it at any point stops that growth.

Elon Musk

One observation I’ve been appreciating recently is the nuanced, yet powerful force of planting seeds. Our future is built on our past decisions, specifically, all the big and tiny things we agree (or not) during each day.

Everything we do, from how we sit, how we communicate to ourselves, how we eat, to what we read, has a butterflying effect into our future. We are who we are today because of echos from our past, and the echoes from our parents past and beyond.

On the surface, there’s rarely immediacy to planting seeds. They take time, attention, water and sunlight that we could be using elsewhere. And we can’t eat them right away. If we tried, they would be as nutritiously effect to what we are trying to grow.

A conversation here, a habit there… A week goes by and there’s not much to show for it. Progress was made, but it’s often too subtle for us to notice. This is one of the big reasons why most people don’t plant seeds. Growing is slow work. ‘I can’t invest or focus on my future problems, because all of my immediate problems are right now’ — this is something I’ve said others and told myself before.

But immediacy doesn’t equate to priority.

What separates those that do, versus those that don’t is prioritize the future today. A creator creates every day — even if it sucks, because eventually they know their investment will pay off.

Invest in the right things, and the ‘immediate’ things will fade away.

Today is always the best day to do something for tomorrow. Why do tomorrow what you can do today?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #650

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Dealing with Overwhelm

Whenever I feel overwhelmed (like today) I do my best to throw everything out— deadlines, todos, wishes, hopes, expectations, etc — and focus on one thing: the task in front of me.

When there’s nothing but one priority in front of you, then you can disappear in the work and the overwhelm fades away.

First, I clear out my physical space. I tend to believe that ‘a cluttered space is a cluttered mind’ for me personally. When I’m surrounded by distraction and desires of my own making, everything becomes a todo: something I could / should be doing. A stack of books on the desk. A guitar that needs to be restrung. An app that needs to be built. But when I stop and clear my physical space, I begin to feel much better and I can focus on what’s in front of me.

Second, I pick either the simplest task or the highest priority task to focus on. If you’re really feeling overwhelmed, start with the simplest task. Check something off your list. (Even if that todo is ‘make a list’. It counts.) Starting simple allows you to get the cogs turning and wheels moving in the right direction. If you are feeling perky, go for the highest priority task. Ask yourself, “If there was only one thing I could work on today, what todo would make me feel the most accomplished?”

When everything becomes priority, nothing is a priority.

In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown talks about the history of the word priority and how ‘priority’, meaning, singular, has come to mean ‘priorities’ plural:

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years.
Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.
People and companies routinely try to do just that. One leader told me of this experience in a company that talked of “Pri-1, Pri-2, Pri-3, Pri-4, and Pri-5.” This gave the impression of many things being the priority but actually meant nothing was.”

Lastly, if you finish one thing today, congratulations. You are facing overwhelm head on. Now, pick another task. Focus all of your efforts on this one now. Don’t add two new priorities — just one.

One and done — repeat.

This works really well within the task you’re focusing on too. Break your work into the smallest pieces possible and focus on getting each piece done separately, one at a time. If email is making you go bald, focus on one email at a time, not the 10,000+ emails in your inbox. If writing is overwhelming you, write one word. Now write two. Now ten. Work, errands, art — one and done.

And if none of that works, I call it and give myself a break. Walk away for a while. Go move your body. Exercise. Get some sun. Go meet a friend. Don’t let overwhelm win and paint you into a cage for the entire day. If you can’t get anything done today, fine. There’s always tomorrow. At least go have some fun. You are in control here. Go prove it to yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #626

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Attention Span of a Dog

Today, while Gabriella and I were recording a podcast, our dog Ren was playing in the kitchen. She had literally all of her toys out. The half-eaten toys were scattered around her like a war-torn battlefield (cotton guts everywhere).

She was having a ball (literally and figuratively … 🌈 dad joke #1 🌈 ) and I couldn’t help but relate to her to my own life. She would jump from one toy to the next, without being able to decide to play with just one. 

“She’s doing what I do with ideas.” 

I have so many things I want to do and accomplish, and so many ideas I want to actualize that I tend to choose too much at once, overwhelm myself and make no progress on anything.

When it comes to working and reaching for goals and building a better life for yourself, it’s easy to never get anything done because you never prioritize what’s important to you. 

You pick up one squeaker toy after another without realizing it nor making in progress on anything.

But to make true progress happen in life, to turn your dream into reality,  you have to learn when to say yes and when to say no.

The greatest figures in our history achieved greatness by focusing on one thing until proficient before moving on to something else.

What gets prioritized gets accomplished.

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

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Related Insights

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” — Stephen Covey

On The Rise: A Mantra for a Meaningful Life

Pssst. Here’s a Link to the Audio Version

On The Rise

Up before the morning rays,

coffee in hand,

salutations and praise,

gratitude for another day — 

On The Rise.

 

Mind right,

path is straight —›

Action this day says

small steps lead to big change —

On The Rise.

 

Shoulders of giants, 

the less you’ll mistake

failure is bad

when it stops you in place —

On The Rise.

 

Better together,

words, wit and stone

cherish your tribe

you get what you sow —

On The Rise.

 

Mastery in momentum,

habit is a verb

how you do the small

defines it all —

On The Rise.

 

Focus in to begin

Think sideways to win,

Rome was built one moment at a time

Thoughts are your direction —

On The Rise.

 

Master of all,

jack nothin’ agrees.

Master of few,

one, two, then three.

Priority of mind is a renaissance life — 

On The Rise.

 

Reflect on the good,

learn from the rest

checkin daily, monthly at best 

what gets measured is put to the test —

On The Rise.

 

Rest is equally important,

but the easiest to neglect.

Investment in health

is a long-young road of success —

On The Rise.

 

Are you living or just doing?

Are you challenging and pursing?

Are you asking? Are you improving?

Questions are lightning rods to achievement —

On The Rise. On The Rise.

 

Etch this in heart, mind and soul,

sing, share and wear it,

make it better, make it your own

Life is about creating — 

On The Rise, On The Rise, On The Rise.

 

#KeepPursuing — Josh Waggoner, Feb 7th 2017

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Priority of Mind Leads to Mastery

You gotta commit

In everything you do and love, make sure you commit.

From all facets of your life. Friends, Family, Love, Community, Mind, Body, Spirit..

From the few outlets you have decided to pursue,  out of the many you could have done.

Commit.

You are not your job, but you are the priorities you uphold.

And most importantly,

commit to being you +

To who you are and what you stand for.

We master time by mastering priority, And through priority we begin to master life +

But if committing to your current life seems overwhelming —

Then commit to this dayDo what you can to make it a well lived one, and deal with tomorrow tomorrow.

Tomorrow is tomorrow. Today is today. Make it a good one. 

Put some Elbow Grease’ on it — Josh Waggoner

related wisdom

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” — Vince Lombardi

 

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” — Napoleon Hill

 

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” — Winston Churchill