Waste of Time

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live a meaningful and intentional lifestyle. The details would look different for each of us (depending on what’s important to us) but there’s gotta be some overarching principles for a meaningful life.

Let’s look at the opposite of a meaningful life—wasted time.

If our life is made up of time (our most valuable resource) then wasting our time leads us down a path of regret and unhappiness.

But what does wasted time look like?

Again, not so easily answered universally. We all value certain things over others.

Here are some questions to reflect on whether or not you are using your time wisely:

Q: Am I spending my time or investing my time?

Entertainment is incredible. But it’s also about balance. Enjoy the things you love, but not let your love of short term pleasure and experience crowd out the long term benefits of investing your time more wisely. Ask yourself, “Am I enjoying this? Am I gaining some value from this experience?”

Q: Will I care about this a month from now? How about a year? 3 years?

If not, then it’s likely a waste of valuable resources. For example, if you’re angry about something critical or hateful someone said to you, are you really going to care about it a year from now? Not really—you likely won’t even remember the mean spirited comment. Then, it’s not worth the time to dwell on it! Easier said than done, of course. But even knowing that it’s a waste of time is a helpful way to reset yourself and give yourself the space to move on from it.

Q: Is this part of my current environment’s lifestyle? Or, put more generally, is this something in my immediate control or not?

If you live in New York, then taking the subway, walking long distances, paying for a taxi or a Lyft, and/or paying top dollar for parking is a way of life. In this case, commuting isn’t a waste of time, because it’s a necessity for living in the city. That’s not easily changeable. But the upsides of living in a thriving city might be worth it for you. Otherwise, why are you there?

If so, then I should either stop stressing or regretting the cost or change my environment that aligns better with what a meaningful life looks like for me.

Q: What can I learn from this experience?

There’s always going to be moments in our lives where we cave or unintentionally waste our time. We aren’t perfect. Mistakes will be made. But failure isn’t a waste of time unless we stubbornly refuse to learn from our mistakes and misfortunes.

Wasted time is only wasted time if we refuse to learn from it.

This requires our ego to take a knee and humble itself enough to be open to change, to moving forward, to emotion, to uncomfortable conversations and hope for a better version of ourselves going forward. But if we loop our wasted time over and over again in our heads, not only are we not learning from the past, we aren’t moving forward (aka we’re wasting even more precious time.)

Am I running on default or am I living intentionally?

Default is:

  • Doing things other people tell you without regard to why.
  • Not making decisions (allow other people to make them for you.

Living intentionally is having an active say in who you want to be and how you want to live.

A meaningful life is a well-invested life.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1117

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A Million Ideas

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”

Steve Jobs

No matter how many good ideas we may have, we’re still limited by how much time we can give to each of them. Limited might be the wrong word. It’s more like deciding what not to do is an opportunity to choose what truly matters to us, so that we can focus our efforts on it, and temporarily shelf—or even let go of—the rest.

Making one idea become something special is hard at best. And trying to juggle multiple ideas can quickly become too much to handle.

We need to let some of our ideas go so that the more important ones have a better chance of succeeding.

Or in other words, we need to “kill our darlings” as the expression goes.

It’s a lot like planting trees. If trees are growing too close to one another, they will crowd each other out and won’t have as much nourishment they need to thrive. (Learned that little insightful nugget from Animal Crossing.)

Ideas need space to breathe. Try to grow too many ideas at once and you’ll split your time, energy, and attention to the point where none of them are getting what they need to succeed.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #997

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Choose Better

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” Eleanor Roosevelt

I constantly feel pulled by the thousands of ways I should be and should do. The world tells you to be this kind of person, while at the same time telling you to be that kind of person. Oddly enough, both this and that exist simultaneously. 

There are a thousand ways you could create a company, or film, or song, or book. There are a thousand more ways you should dress, live, eat, talk, move, and travel. And 8 billion+ people are living some resemblance of a life out there in the world.

There’s an infinite number of ways you could succeed. Just as there are countless paths you can take in this life. But ultimately, you have to do what works for you.

A thousand ways doesn’t mean a thousand equally beneficial and rewarding options. Some will work better for others—some will work better for you.

That’s the great thing about life—we get to pick and choose what works better for us based on the results we get.

What is anger getting you? Where is creativity driving you? Who do you want to be?

That being said, some universal values tend to succeed no matter what path you take:

Be good (and mean it). Being a decent human being to other human beings, showing that you care about what you do and who you serve will work wonders in your life.

Take responsibility. Own up to your life—good and bad. Don’t ignore what you dislike about yourself. Learn to love yourself, despite your flaws, and challenge yourself to be better.

Lead when the moment arises and follow when the moment arises. Sometimes we just need you to stand up and show us what to do. Other times you’ll need to be humble and follow those who are wiser and more experienced than you.

Work hard. Change when things aren’t working.

And when in doubt—sleep well, eat clean or talk to a friend.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #957

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Breakout

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston Churchill

There’s a great phrase from the author Chris Guillebeau from one of his early manifestos that goes—

”279 Days to Overnight Success.”

Chris’s work is something I go in and out of following (Honestly, I really should read more of his stuff more frequently) but this quote has stuck with me over the years. It’s become a mantra of mine, of sorts.

It takes a lot of hard, unseen work to become successful. Anything that looks easy is far from it. To them, hard work has become instinct.

It’s quite a special thing, when we can watch from the crowd on an athlete, artist, musician, dancer, coach or entrepreneur, and think “I could do that”.

This feeling is part inspiration, part admiration, and one hundred percent naive. The dedication and commitment to a craft—really, to a dream—can only truly be appreciated by stepping into the arena yourself.

It takes time, intention, and perseverance to become great at something. Most folks don’t see it through. But you can. I can. We can break out of the bad habits and things we dislike about ourselves and build up good habits and values we want to live by. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. All we have to do is commit to today. Forget about yesterday and tomorrow. Focus on the task in front of you. Prioritize and give time to what you value. Say no to everything else.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #930

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Encouragement

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s souls.”

Daniel Burnham

There will always be ups and downs on every creative journey. Moments of doubt. A day where all you want to do is quit. And on that day when you are teetering on the edge of giving up your dream, you have a choice—keep going or give in. There will be many days like this. This is an inflection point. This is what separates those that succeed and those who give up and go on to and doing something else.

Success isn’t assured. Even if you do everything right, there’s still the chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that doesn’t mean you are destined to fail either. Perhaps the right place at the right time is in your future if you push through the difficulty and have the courage to continue forward. No one said pursuing a creative life would be easy. But if you love what you do, and you really want it, then you need to find the encouragement to keep pursuing.

Remind yourself why you are doing this.

Collect memories of encouragement and compliments to help you preserve on difficult days. (See Tim Ferris’s Jar of Awesome)

Remember that your work has the power to encourage and lift others. (Which also means other people’s work has the power to encourage you too.)

Related:

BOOK: Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

“A good director creates an environment, which gives the actor the encouragement to fly.”

Kevin Bacon

“I’ve always thrived on the encouragement of others.”

Patti Smith

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #912

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Self-Assessing Our Biases

“Integrity is the essence of everything successful.”

R. Buckminster Fuller, Multidisciplinary

“A strong intuition is much more powerful than a weal test. Normals teach us rules; outliers teach us laws. For every perfect medical experiment, there is a perfect human bias.”

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Best Selling Author, The Gene, Emperor of All Maladies

Have you ever wondered why a quote’s attribution (quoter) is after the quoted sentence? Sure, it looks nice and organized that way. Or maybe we think it looks better that way because it’s always been that way and we are used to it so switching it up would seem off. Sometime’s you’ll see the opposite it books, where the author mentions the speaker and their titles before going into what they said. I think this minute detail — before or after a quote — hits upon the same idea:

Bias.

When you read a quote before knowing who wrote or said it, your mind is more open to its ideas. Imagine hearing a great turn of phrase but only afterward learn that it was said by Hitler or from a person you distrust. And what about when the tables are turned? What does your mind immediately do but scoff and ignore or dismiss the quote out of principle?

Can you praise the quote but not the attributor? Can you separate the art from the flawed artist? Van Gogh is known for just as much as — if not more than — cutting off his own ear than he is for Starry Night. Obviously, I’m not defending Hitler, nor am I suggesting we cut off our ears in the name of creativity.

I’m suggesting that we all have flaws and lean towards certain perspectives over others (based on our experiences and upbringing). The key is not to judge others so harshly for their views and instead self-assess and work on ourselves instead.

Where am I short-sighted?
Where are my blind spots?
What decisions (actions and reactions) am I making that are going to come back and bite me?

We may not like what someone says or does, but all we can do is work on ourselves and let our actions be an example of wisdom, character, and integrity. And apologize when we make mistakes. Butting heads with our ego might get us success, but it won’t make us friends.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #861

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Related:

Book: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me).

One Success

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

Henry Ford

The biggest hurdle to any habit or skill you are learning is an overloaded system. It’s often that we fail because we are trying too hard and too much at once, not because we aren’t trying enough.

Not trying enough is a pitfall that can keep you from starting.

If you ever find yourself never quite being able to get started or find yourself consuming a ton of books, courses, and videos but never putting them in practice, then you have a problem starting. Maybe it’s fear of failure or repeating past mistakes or not living up to your own exceptions of yourself. Whatever the case, put all your strength into taking a step forward, however small. Starting is a physics problem. Things at rest tend to stay at rest. What we need is something that pushes us forward, even just a tiny bit, that gets the ball rolling. Start and build momentum.

It’s often that we fail because we are trying too hard and too much at once, not because we aren’t trying enough.

But if you’re trying but making no headway at all, then you’re likely trying too hard or trying too many things at once. Getting results requires focused energy. You can’t reliably half-*ss success (unreliable success is called luck). We need a strategy that gets us to the end goal 90% of the time and on the right track (or at least somewhere interesting) the other 10%. That starts with limiting your focus.

I can’t tell you how many times I unintentionally derailed myself because I attempted too many things at once. There are only so many things we can do at once (…I’m mostly in permanent denial about this). Even if I had all the energy and money in the world, I’d still run out of time at the end of the day. Focus and priority are our best friends here.

The thing we need to remember is success and opportunity stacks. Neither is assured, but both success and opportunity tend to build upon one another. One success leads to more opportunity leads to more (potential) success etc.

So where do you want to succeed?

What’s a problem you are struggling with that would wipe out most of your other problems if you were to solve it?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #826

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Beginner’s Creative Advantage

Most people default to mimicking what a successful person does, and that moves the needle, but it doesn’t get us to originality.

Original ideas come from following our curiosity and playfulness.

Your creative advantage is that you haven’t succeeded at the level you want to succeed at yet. When you are in the spotlight (however modicum or huge your success is), you are beholden to your success. Expectations seem high. Self-expectations are usually through the ceiling. Sure, you’ve got the money and clout, but you are internally and externally capping yourself. Because you succeed in a particular way, you want to keep following that success. Known success is chosen over unknown originality and potential failure.

By not being successful yet, you have the creative freedom to experiment and find your own way of doing things. You might not have the financial freedom to do whatever you want, but you have more room to fail with less risk. (The higher you climb, the longer the fall if you fail.)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #792

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Life Blocks

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Alexander Graham Bell

There are times in life, where everything feels in doubt. Plateaus are inevitable. Ruts are par for the course. But when life punches us, there’s usually multiple blows. What do you do when you feel stuck in all areas of your life? What do we do when your health sucks AND your work sucks AND your relationships could use some work AND on and on it goes.

Take a deep breath. Maybe take three. Then, look at this:

The Universe
sololos/Getty

Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

In Marcus Aurelius day, the universe and its shining glory used to be a daily reminder of how small our problems really are in the grand scheme of things. Nowadays, unless you are in a rural area, only a few of the brightest stars peak out of the night sky to challenge us. But one look at this photo or photos like it can center and ground you to what matters.

The worst part about feeling stuck is how limiting our minds become. Instead of focusing on doing the things we need to do, we spiral in self-pity and waste time feeling bad, overwhelmed and despaired.

“Begin — to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.”

Marcus Aurelius

The quickest solution I’ve found is to focus all your efforts on one thing and check that off. Each time you check off something that’s been bothering you (whether its having coffee with a friend you’ve been meaning to call, eating health today, etc), the mental rain cloud clears ever so slightly. Our problems / obstacles are bad enough on their own, we don’t need to berate ourselves internally too with negativity, hate and harsh criticism on top of it all.

Focus on completing what’s in front of you. Some might pick the easiest thing to complete first, others might go for the most pressing issue. I usually sit down with myself and see which problem I’m facing is effect the other problems.

What’s the one thing I can work on fixing that will alleviate or perhaps even get rid of all the other problems I’m facing?

It doesn’t really matter what you choose to start with, as long as you start with something. I find it’s often the case that my problems turn into monsters, simply by me ignoring them or not actually taking the time to access them. Here’s a weird analogy: It’s like having a sore or cut in your mouth — it feels massive when you run your tongue over it, but when you open wide and look at it threw a mirror, it’s just a tiny little thing. Things in the rear view appear closer than they are. Problems feel bigger until you get a good look at them.

The last thing to remember is to keep going. Through all the ups and downs we will face in life, as long as we keep going and persevering, things will inevitably unblock themselves. It’s good to know that there are both ups and downs, not just downs. Again, the mind can play tricks on us, and we can skew our life only in the down moments and forget the good.

Remember: you are alive. You can think, you can enjoy and you can love. Perhaps tomorrow we won’t be (you never know). All the more important reason to live and be alive today.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #641

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Dedicated

“Success is about dedication. You may not be where you want to be or do what you want to do when you’re on the journey. But you’ve got to be willing to have vision and foresight that leads you to an incredible end.”

Usher

A life of creativity is not without its ups and downs: lack of time or finances, responsibilities, other dreams and desires distracting us from our work, fear, doubts, hangry-ness, mental blocks, health… you name it!

As we work, we go through cycles of excitement and enthusiasm opposed to disinterest and obstructions conspiring to stop you. Plus, haters. Copycats. And the silence of obscurity.

But despite all of the things that can stand in the way, we have a choice — either keep going, or stop.

Commitment to our creativity might be one of the hardest things we’ll face in our endeavors.(Second only too starting.)

Dedication to your craft — especially weekly or even daily dedication — creates progress and momentum that must people only dream about. While others are thinking about what they want and wish they would do, you are out in the world doing it every day.

Sticking to your creative work is the most important thing you can do to ‘succeed’ in your own way.

While everyone is waiting, you are doing.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #635

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