Hands-on Experience

“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”

Paulo Coelho

For the last eight weeks, My sister Hannah and I have been driving down to Atlanta to take a metalsmithing class. I’ve always enjoyed the tactile and clever nature of making things with my hands.

However, besides playing music, I’ve spent the last several years mostly creating in the digital world, so it’s been nice to learn a new skill that requires a lot of physical dexterity. I’m still a baby metalsmith, but even so, it’s been fun so far, and I’ve learned quite a lot.

Learning something new can be intimidating—until you get your hands on it. It’s the period before you begin—before you’ve experienced what it’s like—that is usually the scariest.

Professionals always make it look easy, but they were beginners once too. The path to mastery may never have an ending, but it always has a beginning.

Whenever you feel intimidated by something, it’s better to jump right in and discover things for yourself. It’s the classic FDR phrase he spoke at his first inauguration, “the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.”

This potentially applies to all experiences, not just learning a new skill.

It’s better to be stung by laughter and people calling you are a fool than to fearfully say nothing or do nothing and think yourself a fool.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1026

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Find Out For Yourself

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”

Leonardo da Vinci

One of the best ways to learn is to teach yourself. While having a personal coach or an online course can accelerate learning, it’s hard to beat hands-on experiences.

(Not that these are mutually exclusive—stacking experience on top of mentorship is a fantastic way to learn if you have the opportunity to do so.)

One pattern I’ve noticed (in myself and in others) is how easy it is to watch someone do something, like woodworking, programming, or dancing, for example, or read a great book on a particular skill, but not actually practice the skill yourself. It’s like second-hand learning. We watch a YouTube video of someone making music or handmade pasta, but we never actually get around to doing it ourselves—even though we want too! We’re already on to the next video, next course, or next book.

Lately, I’ve been trying to avoiding doing it, but in the past, I’ve gone through many books back to back without actually testing and applying them in my own life. What’s the point of reading a business book, for example, if you aren’t going to use it or at least try parts of it out? So we can talk big and be more informed? As if.

Better to not read, then read not apply.

Finding things out for yourself is part of the joy that comes from learning new things. Without experience, you lose some of the passion and drive that comes with learning. It’s the classic phrase “Use it or lose it”. Without visceral experience, our new information isn’t all that important to our brains, and will quickly fade out of our noggin’s, replaced by newer and more exciting information.

All that being said, get dirty. Practice what you learn. Test things out yourself. Cut out some paper. Practice some scales. Make it your own.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #981

Recommended Reads:

Hell Yeah or No

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A Skill is Only Useful When You Use It

“Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.”

Leonardo da Vinci

As a developer, one of the easiest traps you can fall into is always learning new programming languages, but never using them to build things. There are over 700+ programming languages out there. What happens is you learn one, hear something exciting about a new language, and you start learning that one instead of using the first. And so we hop from one language to the next, without actually doing the thing they were each made for— to create stuff.

But it’s not just programming, anything we learn can get stuck in “learning mode”. Learning is one important part of the equation — using what you learn is the other part. Both are required. And the order doesn’t necessarily matter. You can act first and learn from those actions, or you can learn and act on what you know.

Is a skill still important if you never use it?

Perhaps. Anyone who knows how to defend themselves in a fight is grateful for their training and skills, and even more grateful if they never have to use them in a real toss-up.

But, in most cases, skills are more important if we use them. Otherwise, why did we spend so much time and energy learning them in the first place?

Knowing how to doing something isn’t enough. We must also do something.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #883

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Read Above Your Pay-grade

“The book you don’t read won’t help.”

Jim Rohn

The first book I enjoyed that was a little above my reading ability was Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Our class read it in middle school, but I don’t remember enjoying it very much. Probably because it was assigned. Written around 1813, it’s language and flows feel thick and difficult to read unless you are familiar with that level of reading comprehension.
But a couple of years later on a family road trip down to Savannah GA, I randomly decided to give it a second read on a whim. And I loved it. It had me at the first line:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Unlike the first time I recall reading it, I understood it. I didn’t feel like I was swimming in banana pudding. Sure, I couldn’t read it as fast as something like Harry Potter. but it felt possible. So I pushed through and ended up loving it.

Reading is a toolbox of skills. There’s a lot of hidden sub-skills you hear but also explicitly taught—vocabulary, muscle movement, speed, comprehension, reason, attention, making connections and memory. The expectation (assumption, perhaps) we will pick it up ourselves, but just because you can read, doesn’t mean you want to read.

Reading is one of the most valuable habits you can cultivate in life. What you read can have a direct impact on the quality of your life. A great book is like a great life mentor—all for around ten bucks.

The key is not to completely overwhelm yourself, but to reach for just a little further than what you are currently comfortable with.

When you think about reading is taught to kids, we don’t just plop Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky into their little laps and force them to understand it. Rather, we meet them on their level. We start with the literal ABC’s. In the early stages, books are more drawings and pictures with a few words here and there. You give them The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Dragons Love Tacos. They work their way up to Green Eggs and Ham, Charolette’s Web and The Little Prince. Maybe you show them Winnie the Pooh and Matilda. Eventually, it’s The Hobbit, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and Coraline. Each book has new words, new worlds, and new challenges. Each book takes you from one level of comprehension to the next.

A lower level isn’t something that is demeaning or less than. It’s just the level they (or we) are currently at. We’re all learning here. If you don’t understand Hemingway yet, that’s okay. But know that building up the ability to comprehend his and others’ work is possible.

If Moby Dick isn’t doing it for ya. Give the Great Gatsby or The Picture of Dorian Grey a try.

If you are befuddled by most of Shakespeare’s work, don’t sweat it— so I’m I!

Find where you are at, and then reach for that next level. and then go a little bit above it after that too.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #878

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Applying Multiple Intelligences

“Creativity begins with an affinity for something. It’s like falling in love.”

Howard Gardner

The first time I came across the idea of Multiple Intelligences (MI) was a Creative Live course I took by Vanessa Van Edwards called Master Your People Skills. Multiple Intelligences is essentially the idea to group intelligence (cognitive power/ability) into separate modalities (particular paths of doing something) instead of seeing intelligence as this generic blob of ‘dang pretty good at stuff’. In the book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner proposed this theory of multiple intelligences and gave eight examples (meaning there could be more) of unique types:

  1. Musical-rhythmic — sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, and music.
  2. Visual-Spatial — ability to visualize things with the mind’s eye.
  3. Verbal-linguistic — storytellers. People who are are great at reading, writing, memorizing.
  4. Logical-mathematical — ability to think logically and abstractly.
  5. Bodily-kinesthetic — dancers. Athletes. Actors. control over your body. Great sense of timing, response, and clear physical action
  6. Interpersonal — conversationalists. A sensitivity to other people’s feelings and moods. The ability to sway others in a particular way.
  7. Intrapersonal — self-aware. A strong understanding of yourself and what makes you, you.
  8. Naturalistic — in-tune with the natural world.

Don’t think of these as separate or fixed silos we fall into. Like the Enneagram, we might gravitate towards one or more intelligence over the others. For example, you might be better in tune with your body’s movement and what it needs, where as I might be able to pick up math class easily, or play songs by ear (but completely deaf to what my body is telling me). 

You could argue (and many have) that this a very subjective way of looking at intelligence and just another way to reframe ability. It doesn’t fit neatly into our educational system, as IQ does. But as a self-learner, I don’t really give a bleep about what my IQ is. I’m seeking new ways to become more knowledgeable and wiser and to fill in the gaps — and potential pitfalls — of my thinking. Can MI help make you and I a better creative? Potentially!

What’s exciting to me about the idea of multiple intelligences, is that it gives us a framework and a more focused definition we can use to learn how to get better in all the sub-modalities of intelligence. (That’s my crazy Renaissance mindset coming out.)

Each ability is highly valuable to not only learning and creativity but to all nooks and crannies of our lives. MI gives us a better vocabulary, or even a checklist to challenge ourselves with and questions to ask ourselves.

  • How can I add music practice into my life?
  • What if I started a visualization practice?
  • What makes a great story? How can I become better at communicating my ideas?
  • How can I approach my problems logically?
  • Where am I ignoring my body?
  • Who can I surround myself with to create the life I want to live?
  • Am I paying attention to myself and my needs? Do I have a good idea of who I am and what I want out of life?
  • Am I spending time in nature?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #869

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All In

Learning never exhausts the mind. Leonardo da Vinci

It’s a misconception that a renaissance human — someone who practices multiple skills — can’t be as good as a specialist who only focuses on only one skill.

Yes, It’s true that the more you divide your focus, the less amount of time and energy you can give to each. And yes, there is a limit to how many things you can pursue at once without scattered yourself in too many (ineffective) directions.

But a multi-disciplinary can be just as great if not more so that single-disciplinary individuals. Divided time doesn’t mean you aren’t putting in the hard work.

Even pursuing one skill, there’s only so much time and energy you can give to something before you need to stop and take a break. For a renaissance type, it just so happens you’re likely going to take a “break” by jumping into another skill. You aren’t reducing work, you are adding in different work.

You can go all-in on multiple things. Not too many — there are only so many hours in the day. Try too many things at once and you won’t be able to go deep enough. (This is the jack/jill of all trades zone.)

While alive, our hearts keep beating. Our minds keep thinking. Even while we sleep our mind and body are still active.

When you are jumping from one skill to another to another, you are feeding your curiosity. The key is to pursue interests that rejuvenate you and keep you doing and learning new things. We get stale when we stay in our comfort zones instead of challenging ourselves. (That goes for both specialists and renaissance humans.)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #868

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Time Well Spent

“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

Steve Jobs

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Bertrand Russell

One thing you learn very quickly when pursuing a creative skill — or any skill for that matter — is it takes more time than you think it does.

A skill isn’t just the skill itself, it’s also everything that surrounds it.

Let’s say you’ve grown up on boxed foods your entire life, and one day you decide you want to learn to cook. Great! Cooking is a useful skill to have. Not only can home-cooked food be better for you and taste 10x better than 90% of restaurants and 99% of packages foods, but you’ll also be able to share with other people who are in your life. (Food gatherings = closer family, more connected community.)

But wait, there’s more to cooking than the time it takes to crack a few eggs in a pan and call it dinner (although, some nights are like that). Cooking is multiple things combined:

  • Research
    • What do I want to cook? How do I cook it? What do I cook it with? How long?
  • Experimentation
    • What if I tried paprika? What type of acid flavor do I want to use? What happens if…
  • Pick up
    • Getting to the store, Playing where’s Waldo with each grocery item, waiting in line or waiting for your delivery, Going home from the store.
  • Prep
    • Washing, Chopping, Dicing, Salting, etc.
  • Cooking
    • Getting the oven ready, watching the food cook, etc
  • Eating
  • Cleaning
    • Dishes, Leftovers in the fridge.

All of this is worth the price of admission, but as you can see it’s going to take a lot longer than you think it might. (You can see why meal prep, food delivery, and dinner delivery companies are on the rise.) And it’s not just cooking that requires a lot of time to do it properly. Every skill requires time. There’s a hidden cost to every skill (and everything we do).

This is why the majority of Renaissance people are terrible at managing their time.

I’m bad at this. When I hear about some rad interesting skill I want to jump in immediately and learn it. Now, there’s a time for trying new things and expanding your skillsets, but if you want to master something, you’ve got to prioritize it by giving it your most valuable resource: time.

Time management is essential to finding mastery and living a meaningful life.

Which means we have to be picky about where and who we give our time too.

The best place to start is to figure out where all your time is going.

RescueTime is an automated time tracking app that will show you where you spend your time during your digital life.

Dig around in your iPhone or Android phone settings and you’ll find similar screen time averages.

I’ve also personally be thoroughly using my calendar app to track every minute of my day, so I know how much time I’m spending doing what.

Not knowing where your time is going is letting life steer you, versus your controlling life.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #862

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Faking It

“Every man should pull a boat over a mountain once in his life.”

Werner Herzog

Faking it until you make it is a mixed bag. On one hand, it gives you the confidence you need to go after something you want. On the other hand, it sets you up for potential failure. I think the people you hear about that became a success from faking it was just super lucky. It’s more likely to get caught being a fake than it is faking it successfully.

You see this across all areas of life and business, but I see it the most in creative or entrepreneurial settings.

Although it might sound great to put photography or product design on your portfolio, just because you can take a couple of good phone photos doesn’t make you a great photographer. I know this because I have a lot of friends who are photographers for a living and their work is incredible compared to an amateur photographer like me. I’ve read a book on photography and I know more than the average schmoseph, but even then I would be faking it if I put a photographer on my website or bios.

Professionals don’t fake it. Professionals don’t have to fake it. They develop the skillsets and learn the tools and then do it. And do it well.

You could argue that ‘faking it’ shows up the most in entrepreneurship.

Business has always been a little about magic. I trade you this paper thing (digital numbers nowadays) for your product or service thing. You use that paper thing to make your product thing better through hard work and then try to sell more of them to more and more people over time. Most products and services are works in progress. Ideally, it’s great now. And if the company continues to perform well, it will get even better.

Most startups are a mash of duck-taped products, shoe-string budget, ego, and underpaid workers, but they look amazing because they have a clean website and their social media is fire.

It takes a massive amount of confidence and faith to build a company. I think where faking it gets you in trouble in business is when you try to sell a product or service that isn’t good or isn’t as good as your selling it to be. That goes for customers, employees and investors alike. If your product isn’t good yet, people are going to notice, aka not buy it. And if they do buy it, but you don’t deliver, they sure as heck won’t buy from you again (and they’ll likely tell all their friends not to buy from you either). Instead, tt’s better to build your company on the foundation of a great product or service people need.

Faking it Pros:

  • Gives you the confidence to start.
  • Can develop your skills fasters.
  • Moves your career, or business forward.

…If it works.

Faking it Cons:

  • It can backfire instantly if your skills/products/services don’t match your confidence.
  • You’re essentially lying about what you can do.
  • Anyone who does the skill your faking will instantly be able to notice that you can’t.
  • Real social and career consequences if you get caught.

We all have to start somewhere, which means we have a vision and dream of who we want to be in our heads. The question is how to get there and make it a reality. Faking it could work, but it’s also inauthentic. In today’s instantly connected, open world, people can smell inauthenticity a world away. Leaning into faking it isn’t the answer. If you do, do it at your own peril.

Get good first.

It’s better to be a work in progress than being shot down in flames. Learn what you need. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try new things. Share what you are learning. Let your work build little by little. If you need to instantly be a professional you’ve already lost. Don’t just say it — do it. Cultivate your skills every day and let your work speak for itself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #848

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Making it Look Easy (Creative Tennis Part 1)

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

Michelangelo

Creativity reminds me of tennis. I played tennis in high school. Double’s was always my favorite. My friend Cameron and I were unstoppable (at least that’s what my memory tells me) with our powers combined. Our secret was we cared enough to have fun but didn’t take ourselves too seriously. I don’t think either one of us was the best when it came to singles. I can play, but I wasn’t putting in the hours of training and practice as some players do. There’s skill involved with tennis and any sport for that matter. From the bleachers, it looks like you’re just smacking a fuzzy yellow ball with an oversized ping pong paddle, but if you know the game there’s a lot going on for the players. Accuracy, speed, agility, coordination, balance, power, cunning, action and reaction, and — of course — the mental gameplay.

The same is true for your creative pursuits. There’s a lot of skill and thought to go on behind the stroke of a pen, the strum of a guitar or the footwork of a dancer. Professionals make their art look much easier than it is. Anytime you hear of an idea so simple you wish you would have thought of it, you are seeing a professional* at work (*most of the time anyway :). Experience is lost to the untrained eye. If you see something that looks easy, it likely isn’t. The same is true when the tables are turned. When your art feels easy, you reached a level of skill and insight that most don’t actually have.

It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come and how much we know about a certain skill or subject. Usually, because we are so engrossed in it on a day-to-day basis, and are surrounded by others who have similar skills. One conversation with someone who doesn’t do what you do will immediately highlight how much you know about what you do. And one conversation (or class) with an expert on what you do and you’ll see how little you actually know about what you do. Art and skill are a continuous spectrum of discovering new things and unlocking wisdom through time and practice. Even the creatives at the top of their game continue to learn and experiment with better ways of creating. We can learn to make it look easy too with a commitment to our craft and longevity in our practice.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #809

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Why be Brilliant?

When you’re brilliant —

Which I equate to Vision + Skill + Wisdom + Action

You’re able to have an idea, see what it could be,

design it, execute it, and refine it.

You understand whether the idea is sound or not, based on what you know, and feedback from early testing.

You know whether the idea is a good fit for you, knowing when to delegate.

And you understand there’s always another idea out there, so you’re not worried, or afraid to toss out a bad one.

Brilliance allows us to be capable of outputting our ideas, whatever the medium, because we have the knowledge to do so, and the mindset you to learn how if we don’t.

It’s having something in your head, and being able to make it real. Idea’s come to life.

I don’t know about you, but I want to make my ideas reality.

Why be Brilliant

Why NOT be? 

Related Wisdom:

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” — Thomas Edison

 

“All big things in this world are done by people who are naive and have an idea that is obviously impossible.” — Charles Hamilton

 

#KeepPursuing,

Josh Waggoner

‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’  Email me (josh@renaissancemanlife.com) your thoughts on this post. Can you reduce the essential idea further?