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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Where’s the bottleneck?

“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”

Henry Ford

When you’re feeling stuck, look for the main bottleneck. What’s the one thing preventing you from moving forward? 

The problem is we immobilize ourselves by trying to solve the problems 3 moves in advance first. ‘I’d love to save more money each month, but if I did that I wouldn’t have enough to pay for food and expenses, plus I won’t be able to get those new running shoes and I forgot I need to get my oil changed sometime soon.’

Sometimes we even convince ourselves that before we can fix this current problem, we must fix X Y and Z first. ‘I want to get a new job, but first I need to fix my health, but before that, I should really think about going back to school.’

Instead of dealing with the immediate problem, we’re thinking about a hundred other things on our todo list.

Thinking 3 moves in advance is great. But when it comes to solving problems we need to focus on them one at a time. Fixing the main issue may cause other issues down the line, but don’t worry about that now. Focus on the current priority. 

Put everything aside in your mind for a moment and focus exclusively on the priority at hand.

An alternative approach is to go around the problem and reduce complexity by finding a way to nullify multiple problems in one sweep by solving the underlying issue. (I believe this idea is from Tim Ferriss.)What’s one thing I can focus on/do that will nullify all the other (potential) problems.

What we need is a sense of priority. What’s the most important thing you need to focus on right now? We might have to deal with other things later, but that’s for later. Before is before. Later is later. Now—we are dealing with now.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1052

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Tiny Problems

“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”

Henry Ford

My Jeep was broken into early this year. I rarely leave anything valuable in it, because it has a soft top, which is pathetically easy to get into. The thief clearly wasn’t a Jeep person, because they took a knife to the left soft top window, instead of using the big zipper that was an inch away.

Embarrassing sidebar: I’ve locked myself out of my Jeep at least a dozen times. In my defense, the doors are heavy and tend to want to close on there own. But still, I’ll sometimes lock the door manually and forget to grab the keys from the seat. Occasionally I’ve even locked myself out with the keys in the ignition! And of course, this usually happens in the most public and busiest places possible. Luckily with a soft top, I can just zip zip and crawl in through the back like an animal so I can unlock the door and turn off the car.

Where was I? Oh yes, the break-in. Nothing was stolen (there was nothing to steal). But the window was ruined.

I would call this a tiny problem, especially in the grand scheme of things. It’s not fun paying cash for something you didn’t cause, but it’s better to deal with problems early, than wait and let them grow into bigger problems.

Tiny problems are the ones you want to look out for. Big problems you are dealing with now, are likely the result of tiny things left untreated.

Saving money, for example. Not saving a small percentage of your pay isn’t a problem—until it is. Saving money isn’t for you—it’s for your future self. It’s like a shot of CBD for a future worry. When you’re dog steps on your iPad and breaks the screen, when your car has a flat tire on a road trip, when your 5-year-old bed starts hurting your back—you’ve got yourself cover. No anxiety or worries are necessary. Sh💩t happens. Better to plan for it instead of waiting for it to surprise us when we least need it.

Here are some other tiny problems:

  • Miscommunication and-or small conflicts left unresolved.
  • Ignoring our health. Not exercising. Not paying enough attention to our tense muscles.
  • Changing the oil in your car.
  • Staying up late every night. “Burning the candle at both ends.”
  • Negative thoughts.

These things are nothing in the short term, but cause a world of problems in the long term left unresolved. The goal isn’t to worry about all the little things that can cause us to trip, but take care of things (and ourselves) in the moment, instead of pushing them off.

Q: What are some small problems I’ve been neglecting I can start resolving today?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1041

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The Quiet Solution

“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

Albert Einstein

When I’m looking for answers to problems, I usually seek out a book or find someone who’s had a similar experience. But that’s not always the way to go. More input isn’t necessarily beneficial.

Sometimes all we need is to sit alone in a room with ourselves, or out in the woods to find the answer we need.

As Thomas Edison once said, “The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil.”

We might already have the answer we are looking for, we just can’t see it because we are too caught up in issue and the day to day business life.

Go talk a walk outside without your phone.

Sit in a silent room with some paper and a pen.

Find a quiet place to gather your thoughts and intentionally think and feel things through.

And it’s not just problems that solitude can cure. Some of my best ideas came from sitting alone in a room—reading, writing, thinking through my experiences.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #931

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Assess What’s Working

If what you are doing isn’t working, then something has to change.

What should you change?

Anything. Your habits. Your routines. Your perspective. Your assumptions—definitely your assumptions. Assess everything you are doing (or not doing) and understand why. Are you running from Paper Tigers? Are you avoiding your passions?

It’s okay if you don’t like what you find. But now what are you going to do about it? What you need is momentum. A little step towards progress and success, and then another and another.

Smarter people have said it better than me —

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Mark Twain

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Maya Angelou

It doesn’t matter what problem you are dealing with—use it. Make it a part of your story. Flip it on its head and make it something you are proud of.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #890

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How to Avoid Blind Spots

“Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it?

They fall, and falling,
they’re given wings.”

Rumi

“Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often the result of lack of wisdom.”

Terry Pratchett

A blindspot is any place where we don’t have understanding. It’s where our perspective, in a sense, is obstructed. It’s also where we “fill in the gaps” of what we think we know as true-fact or worse — what we try to deliberately ignore.

Deliberate ignorance is a great way to turn little problems into giant scary problems. It can happen it oh so many places without proper care or attention. It’s avoiding a growing tension between a relationship, putting off work or familial responsibilities or hoping a financial problem will go away on its own (or by wishfully thinking a winning lottery ticket will fall from the sky into our hands).

Little problems grow without us noticing. One day they are a speck of sand in an oysters mouth and nothing to gawk over, and the next thing you know it you’ve got a big glaring shiny pearl of a problem on your hands.

Instead of waiting to be crushed by a bigger problem, better to be attentive to the problems at hand while they are still little. I get it, avoiding a problem usually happens because we don’t think we can handle it or do anything about it, but that’s not true. We can at least look at it in the eye. We can start understanding what the problem is on a fundamental level and researching how other people have solved it before. We can ask for help.

Better to be sad or anxious in the present than being steamrolled by the future.

Another type of blindspot is things we don’t know we are missing or doing wrong. Former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said it best —

“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. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.”

Unknown unknowns are a scary thought. Right now you could make a bad decision and not even know it. For better or worse, this is how a lot of life is lived. We go through life making mistakes, and hopefully, learn them (experience) so we can wisely avoid or overcome the same issues later on (or at least tell our story and hope others don’t make our same mistakes).

However, just because we have blind spots, doesn’t mean we have to go through life in the dark. There are quite a few things we can do, or at least try to do to migrate risk and avoid potential blind spots and pitfalls (filled with spikes) beforehand.

  • We can study and learn from the past.
  • We can read biographies of wise people from all walks of life. (Particularly bios from the people who faced trials and tribulations.)
  • We can build up (like we’re building a castle) our network of people who have our back and want to see us succeed in our pursuits.
  • We can craft a life advisor board of people we trust and admire.
  • We can pay close attention to our own needs, desires, emotions, problems and cultivate our self-awareness.

And we can forgive ourselves and go easy on ourselves when we do fall. Life isn’t easy. Putting yourself out there creatively is probably crazy. But that’s part of what makes it special and meaningful. The key is not letting the failures get to you and make you better. And not letting any hard-earned wisdom solidify you into never growing or changing your mind.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #860

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No More Snoozing

“Those who have compared our life to a dream were right… we were sleeping wake, and waking sleep.”

Michel de Montaigne

“I’ve stopped drinking, but only while I’m asleep.”

George Best

We all have problems in life — eventually. The thing about big problems is that 80% of the time they aren’t that way. I’m not trying to be cynical, honest. I’ve just seen firsthand how easy little problem acorns can grow into giant problem trees. Problems usually start where they are too short to ride the rollercoaster, so to speak.

All of the bigger problems I’m facing — the ones I currently have as of writing this anyway — are the accumulation of little things that have grown over my lifetime. Things like spending too much of my day sitting. Falling prey to a midnight sweet (cooooookies🍪 ) that messes up my sleep quality. Pushing off a silly medical bill, hoping it will go away.

Certain things we can’t control and shouldn’t stress over. If you fall because you’re walking in a dark room with no access to a light source to see, is it really your fault for tripping. But other things like neglect, we can control as long as we stay on top of the little things yet important things in life.

Neglect can come from anywhere. Small bills you weren’t aware of that have been growing over time. Bad habits, like walking a certain way, or abusing a component of your body (like your back, neck or feet), which leads to painful problems down the line. Friends you want to keep in touch with but just never found the time to do so. Neglect usually comes with hard lessons of humility that show us a better way to live.

Humility is one of those friends that tells it like it is. While most people compliment you what a good job you’re doing, humility is backhanding you in the face with things/realties you’re not seeing. But not because Humility is out to get you or wants to see you fail. Humility is there to show you where you had blinders on.

Remember, the biggest problems we face in life are usually not big problems at all — there an amalgamation of tiny subtle problems we didn’t notice or kept hitting the snooze button on.

No more snooze button.

Ignoring the problem doesn’t mean we are handing the problem. When we ignore a problem we’re actually just feeding the monster baby. If we keep ignoring it, soon enough that monster baby isn’t going to be a baby any longer.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #837

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Inner Work

“This is not your responsibility, but it is your problem.”
— Cheryl Strayed

We don’t get to choose what kind of problems we face in life. Big or small. Maybe if we were able to catch the problem* before it bit us in the ⓐss we could have found a way around it. But that type of wishful thinking about making our past flubs and distress better is exactly what leads to more problems in the first place.

My problems are part of my story. Even if I wasn’t the cause of them happening. (‘not my responsibility’) I can try to deny it. I can wish for different problems. I can try to cope it away through over-shopping or over-working. I can blame the world. But they are still my problems and mine to solve. I’m the one suffering because of them.

Our problems are part of our story.

Taking ownership is our responsibility. And how we react to a problem is also our problem too. I think we all know that getting angry or sad or lost in our problems is like us throwing fuel on the fire. It’s hard to enjoy a campfire when it’s catching everything around it on fire too. We have to find to take responsibility for how we react too. Therapy. Creative outlets. Communication. Positive Habits. Small steps towards healing. Whatever moves us to the next leg of our personal hero’s journey.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #834

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*I have been interested lately in figuring out ways to build a more accountable network of friends and community around me so that I can spot potential pitfalls and problems before they accumulating 💩 buckets and tip over. A community of mutually constructive feedback. I’ll write more about this soon.

A Problem Half Solved

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein

A Problem isn’t just a problem itself. It’s also the baggage we stack onto the problem. How we think, perceive and what we believe changes how the problem looks. (If a problem was like a sweater we wear, our thoughts, beliefs about the problem would be us wearing 10+ extra sweaters on top.)

Depending on how much stuff we pile on top of our problems, the heavier it becomes. (Think of it like an exponential: Problem^x)

But by stripping away everything but the original issue, we can more easily tackle it and not let it get the best of us.

Getting to the essence of a problem starts with understanding it. Asking questions is a great way to do this. It’s difficult to see something when you don’t have a full picture of what it is. Questions get to the heart of the issue.

Is the problem something within my control? Can I do something about it? (Sometimes problems are bigger than we are (i.e. changing the weather) and are better let go.)

What is the problem exactly? How many pages can I write about the problem? Can I describe it in a few sentences? Can I describe it in the size of a tweet? Can I describe the essence of the issue in one sentence?

What’s contributing to the problem? Is something else I’m doing (or not doing) making the problem (seem/become) bigger than it should be?

Who can help me with this problem? Who has found a way past this trouble before? Are there any books or resources I can use to solve this? (Help can come from anywhere, not just people we know.)

How can I use this problem to my advantage?

We can also look out for is negative or unhelpful feedback loops. Meaning situations where I can’t do X because of Y I can’t do Y because of Z and I can’t do z because of X. We’ve thought ourselves into a corner. Nothing useful happens when you are stuck sitting in the negative corner. To break the cycle, we need to find a different way to approach the issue. The best way I’ve found to do this is to ask a friend — ideally someone who you admire or you consider smarter than you. If we’re trapped in our perspective, then we can seek someone else’s (or multiple people).

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #828

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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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