“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.”
Leonardo da Vinci
I think it’s natural to be interested in many different things, or fall in love with a particular skill and become obsessed.
Look closely at any entrepreneur, creative or deep thinker from history (Copernicus, Galilei, Kepler, Da Vinci, Descartes, etc) and you’ll see a wide variety of interests and pursuits.
Artist, mathematician, writer, philosopher, poet, composer… the list goes on and on.
You could argue that the world was simpler and slower then, before the age of the internet and the constant change expanding around us. But I’m sure people have always felt the world-changing too quickly around them.
Leonardo da Vinci lived in the dawn of the printing press, for example.
Churchill was always on the move—experiencing both WW1, WW2, and all of the technological advances that came about in that era—and yet still managed to write at least 43 books and paint over 500 paintings.
All that to say, curiosity drives creativity.
Don’t feel like you have to only learn one field and one field alone because everyone says so. Specialization is a relatively new idea. It has its upsides, of course. And information and knowledge are only expanding. But don’t let that stop you from letting your curiosity drive you. If you have the urge to learn to paint—learn to paint! If you want to learn music production—do it!
The only boundaries that exist are the ones we put on ourselves. Sometimes you need to learn something new and exciting just for the hell of it. Forget ROIs. Forget money. Do it to have fun and to be inquiring.
Who knows what great ideas you will come up with and connect by expanding your interests wide.
There are dangerous lands on the road towards a Renaissance Life (aka a life of creativity, mastering and meaning). Namely, when you decide to pursue multiple things, you are also deciding to split your resources. Where a ‘one thing’ kind of person has the power to prioritize all their resources to a single focus, we have to divvy our resources into multiple.
A Specialist becomes really good at one thing and aspires to be a master of one. A Generalist becomes really good at a bunch of things, and aspires a jack (or jill) of all. A Multiplist* (Renaissance Human, Polymath, Multi-hyphenate) becomes really good at a handful of things and aspires to master the chosen few and connect them in interesting ways.
Our time, attention, energy and money all have to be carefully given, otherwise we can stretch ourselves too thin and dilute our ability to make progress. Even if you have all the money on the planet, you still will be limited by how much time you give to your pursuits within the span of a day.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Guard Your Resources
Like a mamma bird protecting her young, we need to guard our finite resources with care.
Ultimately, every resources used comes down to what we say yes and no too.
It’s difficult in the moment, but t he more we say no, the more we can say yes to what we really want to say yes to.
Knowing what you want to master is a great way of what you should say yes or no to. If the opportunity doesn’t align with your pursuits, it’s a no. If it does then its a yes. This balance of yes’s and no’s is a continuous process. It’s like mowing grass —you have to keep doing it. Of course, saying yes to the wrong things has a bit more consequence than a tall, messy lawn.
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger
“I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself.” — Emma Watson
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” — Amelia Earhart
What do you do when something isn’t working? What do you do when you run into a dead end? What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
Life Principle #21: Let It Go.
Let Go of Holding Yourself Back
More often than not, I️ find that I️ am ultimately the one that holds myself back. Little moments of fear or setbacks slowly keep me back from doing what I️ want to do. A little piece of me thinks that I’m not good enough, I’m not _________ (successful, happy, connected etc ) enough yet, but really that type of thinking is just getting in my way forward. Success, happiness, and friendship is a state of meaning. That’s one reason why the happiest people in the world are in a third world country. They’ve naturally detached themselves from chasing happiness because they already are happy.
We decide what we perspective we want to live in.
You are as ready as you’ll ever be to START your dream right now. Experience will come through time and practice.
Let Go of Being Cool
Being embarrassed isn’t fun, but also helps you grow into a better you. Vulnerability is relatable.
Let Go of What You Can’t Control
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius
Let Go of Trying to do Everything at Once
Nothing good ever comes from spreading yourself too thin. I’ve burned myself out before and let me tell you, it’s not a happy place to be in. Burning yourself out is a sure fire way for you to not get anything do, not make a lasting impact, nor have any energy to do what you love to do.
Let Go of Expectations
Expectations is another word for perception. It’s perceiving a future value in the outcome. Put in a different light, it’s like saying, ‘I can’t be happy unless this happens.’
Perhaps the old adage, ‘expect the worst, hope for the best’ is actually wise. Low expectations are not about living based on negative attitude toward life, it’s about fundamentally understanding that anything can happen to us — good or ill — and what really matters if we stay true to who we are.
In essence, high esteem could be believing that no matter what happens, I’m still complete. My life is still worthy and full (worthful?) It’s saying I️ have this vision of what I️ want to look like, and knowing that no matter what happens, If I️ stay true to me, trust those I️ look up to, consistent in my actions and pursue my life with fire and gusto everything will turn out okay in the end. (No matter the setback or failure I️ may face).
At a very young age, we go to school and have the opportunity to ask the teachers any question we might have about their class. When you’re younger, you don’t care — you’ll shoot up your hand and ask anything. ‘Why is the sky not purple?’ ‘What’s inside a ballon?’ ‘What’s a huckleberry?’
But somewhere along the way, most of us stop asking. Whether it’s not wanting to be embarrassed or bullied or not wanting to be labeled as a nerd, we stop asking and begin to fear asking.
If you think about It, most schools are designed for answers, not questions, unfortunately.
After school, most of us take this fear into our adulthood. We fear standing out, yet desperately want to. We fear asking, but can’t think of anything else. We fear trying, because what if we fail?
But what has anyone gotten from not trying? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing.
Questions are our North Star towards a meaningful life.Questioners rule the world. Become someone who asks great questions, and you’ll become someone who reaches mastery and creates an extraordinary life for themselves.
Life isn’t a solo adventure and won’t always be butterflies and apple pies. That’s why questions and asking are vitally important. When you learn how to ask for It — whatever It is — you take control of your life into your own hands.
Life Principle #19: ASK
You probably have something that comes to mind that you’ve been wanting to ask someone about, but haven’t quite got the nerve yet.
Do It right now. Don’t let fear win again.
Let me ask you this, what do you get when you decide not to ask? What do you get when you let fear win?
The exact same thing you’ve got now — nothing. A bag of pennies and a fountain full of dreams. The worst they can do is ignore you or say no.
A ‘no’ is always better than a ‘what if’.
And if they do say no, GREAT! You’re building your asking muscle. But if they say yes, that changes everything doesn’t It? It puts the power of change into your hands.
Making asking a daily practice in your life.
Practice asking for what you want. Ask for help. Ask questions. Ask for career advice. Ask someone out on a date. Ask for a raise. Ask for knowledge. Ask for a break. Ask for directions. Be curious. Like the old phrase goes, Ask and you’ll receive.
I️ think it’s the fact that I’ve been working so much this past year that any time remaining is incredibly precious to me. It’s ironic that I️ had to give up the majority of my time to work, to understand how precious time really is.
When someone asks me if I️ want to go hiking, grab some sushi, or whatever on the spot, I️ stammer and mumble out a no and lame excuse more often than not. It’s not that I️ don’t want to go hiking, it’s just that I️ already have a mental checklist of things I️ want to do (or have to do). My expectations of what I️ could be doing get in the way of what I️ am doing. It’s kind of a lose lose. I️ could get sushi, but I️ would also like to write. Or the other way around! Okay, I’ll say yes to sushi, but then be thinking about all the great writing I️ could be doing!
I️ don’t want to let others define what I️ do with my time. … But I️ also don’t want to be a tightwad.
There’s a fine balance between making time for priorities and actually living a little.
Which bring me to the next Renaissance Life Principle:
Life Principle #18: Live a Little (For Josh’s Sake)
It’s good to be responsible and intentional about our goals and habits, but don’t let It sideline you from actually living. Focusing on today is how you make tomorrow brighter, but take yourself too seriously and you’ll create the opposite result.
Being responsible shouldn’t also mean ‘Up your own butt’.
Take your shoes off and stay awhile. Learn to live in the hectic moments, and learn to enjoy the silent moments too.
The key to a meaningful life is not cramming your calendar with so much stuff. Minimalism can apply to not only things we own but things we do. (This is sometime I️ still need to learn and apply.) Trying to add 48 hours worth of work into 24 hours will leave you exhausted and not very excited about what you’re doing, even If it’s enjoyable to you.
The quality of your time means everything, but spend too much time focused on yourself and your own goals and aspirations and you’ll end up doing a lot but not really living.
How to Live a Little
Create room each day for negative space — time in which you do nothing. No podcasts, no music, just enjoy the silence and reflect on the moment. It could be 20 minutes, It could be 1 minute — whatever you have to give.
Practice intentionality. The more intentional we are about how we live, the more we can squeeze out happiness in every moment (even the sucky ones). Go for a walk weekly or daily, with the mindset of practicing being intentional. From the small blades of grass to the buildings around you — focus on the world around you. Look at the sky, feel the wind, see and smile at the people you come across.
Plan Spontaneity. If you’re sometimes a tightwad (like me), plan to be spontaneous at least once a week. I️ know, planning spontaneity is not very spontaneous… but it’s a step in the right direction. When someone asks if you want to do something, be open to It if It sounds enjoyable to you. Get yourself ready for someone to ask you to be spontaneous. Steel yourself up. Make time to live a little.
Prioritize. Ask yourself, “Am I️ trying to fit a week’s worth of work into one day?” If you are, take a step back and reprioritize. We create the life we live with the decisions we make with what we have to go on. Reinvention is just one action away from reality.
Go on that hike, grab that sushi. Whatever you need to do, It can probably wait. But if It can’t, don’t fret about It. Do what you have to do and grab sushi next time.
“Youth is something I never wanna take for granted. I just want to smile and live life.” — Tyler, The Creator
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” — Steve Jobs
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” — Dale Carnegie
I tend to create high expectations for myself when It comes to goals and visions of who I want to be and how I want to live. (Who doesn’t?)
Actually, scratch that. I tend to have high expectations for myself about EVERYTHANG. I’m not seeking perfection, but I don’t want to live my life at 11.
High expectations can backfire.
One big problem I need some improvement in is having huge expectations of how much I can take on at once, and how much I can fit in a day. Sometimes packing your day in with 30 – 50 different things work, but you’re not left with a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day. You feel tired and empty like a container of squeezed toothpaste. And on the days where things do NOT work, everything sets on fire. (AHHHHHH!)
When I expect more for myself, and I don’t reach that expectation I’m a ball of anxiety, frustration, and discouragement (probably a little hungry too). All that these negative emotions give me is the exact opposite of what I wanted and why I had high expectations in the first place.
Clearly high expectations don’t work for me.
If a sound vision and specific goals and sticking with it make the dream happen, what do we do with our expectations during the rollercoaster ride on the way?
What if low expectations + high self-esteem is the winning formula for happiness and achievement?
Here’s a small example: I’m a big superhero fan. When the movie Man of Steel came out, I was pumped. After the string of great and good Marvel movies, and the Dark Knight movies by Nolan, I was expecting this D.C. movie would be killer. I wanted It to be good, but the more I watched the more disappointment I was. Cut to this year past year, I had low expectations for Wonder Woman and Justice League. Yet Wonder Woman was fantastic! And Justice League — all be It, not the greatest thing in the world — was a fun ride too! Now, I’m not saying the quality of these movies was determined by my expectations (You still have to create excellent work), I do think that our perception of a result/outcome we have in our head can skew how we paint the world.
Expectations is another word for perception. It’s perceiving a future value in the outcome.
Expectation is another word for perception. It’s perceiving a future value in the outcome.
Putting in a different light, it’s like saying, ‘I can’t be happy unless X happens.’
Perhaps the old adage, ‘expect the worst, hope for the best’ is actually wise. Low expectations are not about living based on negative attitude toward life, it’s about fundamentally understanding that anything can happen to us, good or ill, and what really matters if we stay true to who we are.
In essence, high self-esteem could be believing that no matter what happens, I’m still complete. I’m still me. My life is still worthy and full. (worthful?) It’s saying I have this vision of what I want to look like, and knowing that no matter what happens, If I stay true to me, trust those I look up to, consistent in my actions and pursue my life with fire and gusto everything will turn out okay in the end. (No matter the setback or failure I may face).
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” — Steve Jobs
“The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” — Confucius
“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” — Bruce Lee
In a world of Me Me Me, what if I did the opposite?
What if I️ lifted other people up instead of me?
Of course, I want Renaissance Life to be huge. I want to create a massive tribe of friends pursuing mastery and living life to the fullest. But is pushing out one more social media post really going to do it for me?
Binge reading Ryan Holiday’s blog has shown me how timeless our work can be. I’m reading his thoughts from over a decade ago, and yet there they are — fresh as the day they were conceived. What stands out most to me is not the insights (although there are a bunch of them) but the connections he made along the way. And the same goes for us.
My writing is important, but it’s the connections I make that matter.
That’s why I’ve started interviewing Creatives Like Me on the blog. I want to create deep and lasting bonds with likeminded humans. I want to surround myself with charismatic and energetic people who are striving to make the world a better place.
Action Steps: Focus on the weculture, not the me culture. Focus on lifting others first.
Who knows what kind of friends we’ll have if we do?
I’ve been reading Total Focus. From the beginning, Brandon Webb talks about the idea of One Thing.
“If you can’t pour yourself 100 percent into an idea when you start it, then you’re starting it half-assed, and you’ll never have more than a half-baked plan. When you have a half-baked plan, you can’t expect any more than a half-baked outcome.”
“By nature, most entrepreneurs have some form of attention deficit disorder.. ‘Yeah, I’ve got three startups going,’ and I don’t need to hear any more, because I already know how that story ends. You may think you’re going to do three of four things at once and keep that up until one of them shows itself to be the winner — but you’re kidding yourself. All you’re doing is shortchanging all three or four projects. You need to choose one. Not two. One.”
I’ve heard about this before in the book The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. (Really on the nose with that title aren’t we, Gary?)
And he’s right.
There’s only so much you to go around. No matter how much you say or desire to do, there’s only so much time, and energy you can give to each pursuit you have. It’s the classic opportunity cost scenario. The more you give into one thing, the less time you have to give into another.
What Brandon and Gary are telling us is that it’s not that we can’t or shouldn’t do multiple things, it’s that without other resources to help counterbalance the time need to do something right, we’re going to end up doing something less than our best.
The only analogy I can think of at the moment is juggling. When you’re juggling 4 or 5 different objects, you’re really only touching one at a time and passing it on. You’re focusing on one object at hand while being situationally aware of everything else in front of you. And when you have the financial capability to delegate someone else’s time and energy to the mission, you can give your full attention to more things. Two jugglers, four hands.
Goals can be compatible with one another, but they also have to compatible with what you have to offer (time, energy and money)
The biggest problem I’ve been butting up against this past year is money. With multiple disciplines and goals, I only have so much capital to go around. Am I going to purchase a new amp and equipment for my guitar, or am I going to buy a new mixer for podcasting? I want both but I would need to increase my finances for that to happen or save over time (which requires more time and energy put into my business).
You can see the benefit of focusing on one thing, and how multi-disciplines can get hairy quickly. (Like a great time travel movie)
And here lies Brandon’s conclusion:
“If I had to pick a single core principle for success in business, it would be this: choose one thing, focus on that one thing, and execute it to the absolute limit of your abilities. Focus on your career, invest in yourself, and learn how to say no to everything else.”
“Once you reach the point where you have the financial capacity to hire out or partner with the talent and team power to manage a range of different areas, you can start adding additional projects to your portfolio… maybe.“
If you want to have a Renaissance Life, be a Master of multiple disciplines and an extraordinary life, start with one thing. Focus in one area that is meaningful to you. Give it all of your attention until you master it. Once you do that, expand your circle with an additional focus, rinse and repeat.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” — Henry Ford
The Renaissance Life is not a solo endeavor.
Sure, if we wish to create change in our lives and the lives of others, we must be self-reliantand take continuous action with our own hands.
Being an Individualist doesn’t mean being alone.
We are more capable together than we are by our lonesome.
We become our best selves by connecting with others. We are better together.
And thus, a new segment on the RL called We the People: highlighting creatives who are a part of the Renaissance Tribe and represent our Ethos.
I ask you questions, you give us insights from your own life.
Enter Bonny Jean.
(bold’s and styling by yours truly — Josh Wags 🙂
Q 1. What are the best lessons your mom and dad taught you? (Or siblings)
“It’s okay if you’re not okay” – My little sister Suzannah. She told me that two years ago in the depths of my depression. I’ve learned that over and over again these past couple of years: It’s okay to be broken, to admit brokenness, to lean on friends and family who love you, and then do art, run, dance, sing, be outside… do something to work through your pain, but never ever ignore it. Your pain brings you closer to a truer version of yourself, but you have to face it and feel it to let it shape you into who you are meant to be. The first step, for me, was hearing “It’s okay if you’re not okay”.
Q 2. What’s your favorite travel experience?
Living on a hospital ship off of the coast of West Africa: My roommates from that time are still my best friends. It was definitely a life changing experience.
Q 3. What are some decisions you’ve made that have made you into who you are today?
Traveling after high-school and college and most recently moving to San Clemente- up rooting my life, starting over. I was once told “Travel trims the fat off the soul” by John Stember, a man I met while camping in the Grand Tetons. It’s true! Being around people with completely different childhoods and belief systems tests you. It reveals who you truly are deep down under all that comfort we’re surrounded by in our daily lives.
Probably the most profound decision I ever made was to live.
I found myself with bleeding wrists on the bathroom floor, hysterical, crying, rocking, wanting to die, when suddenly a profound calmness poured over me. I looked at myself in the mirror and said “NO. there is more life to live, people to meet, places to see, laughter to be had. You will not kill yourself” So I bandaged my wrists, wiped my face, and started being honest with myself and others.
Being honest means disagreeing with people.The decision to listen to my still small voice has been a big change for me. disagreeing with people is hard, but learning to exist and observe the world around me from an island within myself has been life changing. If you can live from a place of solitude (read: Henri Nouwen’s “reaching out”) you can love others more and appreciate and respect their beliefs and ideas.
Q 4. What songs do you sing when you are alone? And what new bands are you digging recently?
I sing “Day Dreamer” by Adele a lot… it’s just in a good key for me.
Q 5. What advice would you give to someone pursuing creative work?
Do something that scares you and you think you’ll hate. Turn off your brain and create, even if you think it won’t make any sense. Sometimes I paint something, then I write a bunch of stupid stuff all over it to ruin it and then I paint over it again… just don’t put boundaries on yourself. There are no rules!
Q 6. What or who inspires you and why?
Nature– being outside fuels my creativity. It’s big and fathomless and beautiful. We could never come close to creating something as magnificent, simple, and complex as a blade of grass.
Q 7. In one word, how would your best friend describe you?
Q 8. What’s something challenging you faced recently and how did you handle it?
It’s been a challenging year, to be honest, but the best thing I have learned to do is to make a list. One side is a list of things I know I want to do but aren’t good for me (think drink, reach out to certain people that aren’t good for me, rely on certain relationships too much) and on the other side is a list of things that give me life and bring me joy (think yoga, running, tea, safe friendships). I make rules for myself that I try to follow and then I breathe and do the next right thing for however long it takes to come out of the cloud I’m in. Sometimes that’s a day and sometimes it’s three months. I claim grace days. Where, if i got out of bed, put on clothes, and went to work, I am very proud of myself. “Should” doesn’t exist in my dictionary during these times and if I slip up and do something on my “not good for me” list I breathe, forgive myself, and remember that all that exists is today and I can do my best with what I have in this moment.
Q 9. What’s your mission in life? (Or mission right now)
To be present
Q 10. If someone gave you 10 million dollars, what would you do with it?
Invest in small businesses in 3rd world countries.
Q 11. One thing you liked about last year, and one thing you want to improve this year?
I learned to laugh again. I want to be more consistent.
Thank you Bonny Jean for your vulnerability, advice and words of encouragement.
If you want to give yours on the Renaissance Life, email me @: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: We The People. Tell me who you are, why your a good fit for the Renaissance Tribe and link your social media’s.
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