Failure Isn’t Final

There’s been a handful of failures that have helped shaped and define who I am, but the one that stands out is a chronic neck injury that started six years ago.

I would never wish bad health on anyone, but my experiences with injuring my neck have vastly altered my direction and what’s most important in my life. There have been many wise people who have discussed how vital health is to our lives. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The first wealth is health.” But that’s difficult to notice—truly know—until you’ve experienced the downsides of injury or poor health. Or as Thomas Fuller put it, “health is not valued till sickness comes.”

However, there is also opportunity in sickness. When you lose something, you gain the awareness and empathy of those who, like you, have gone through a difficult experience.

My neck injury was a gradual degradation. I didn’t notice anything wrong until it was all-encompassing. In retrospect, Doctors would tell me it was likely brought on by physical trauma I experienced as a child (head-on car collision with my mom, ATV accident with my dad). That plus working behind a desk without proper knowledge about posture combined with the stress of a full schedule was the tipping point to an injury.

One day I was fine, the next I could barely move. The back of my head was pounding. I could feel my pulse radiating from my shoulders up to my face. Sleep was impossible. I spent almost a full week in bed with minimal movement. My parents quickly recommended that I go and do some physical therapy.

This was an extremely difficult time. If you’ve ever broken a bone or injured yourself, not only must you deal with the physical problems but also the mental battles of keep negative and hopelessness at bay. It makes you wish for the days where getting A’s in math courses is all you have to worry about.

I spent a lot of time during this period learning what I could about what was happening to me. I tried many things, like strength, yoga, tai chi, diet, meditation, and other practice to relieve stress. It helped with the pain a little, but it never completely went away. Every day was a constant feeling of pain and discomfort. My sleep was suffering too, because sleeping in a certain position, or subconsciously rolling over from my left side to my right (or vice versa) was painful enough to wake me up.

Injuring myself wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Having to constantly deal with pain taught me how to be incredibly resilient to difficulty and gave me the drive to pursue health and seek out unique solutions to my problems.

It’s also taught me the value of hope. There’s always a way forward, even if you don’t know how or what that specifically looks like. Failure highlights the positive. It allows us, if we choose it, to see beyond our immediate circumstances, think entrepreneurial. find unique solutions to our problems and help others in the process.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1217

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Hard-won Lessons

“A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”

B. F. Skinner

If I had the opportunity to peer into a crystal ball and see my future, I don’t that I would. Because some of my best moments have come from my worst failures. And if I knew how hard I would fall and scrape my knees (metaphorically speaking), I’m not sure I would be strong enough to choose failure.

For me, that was learning how vital health is by dealing with the damage of injuring my neck.

I would never wish misfortune and hard lessons on anyone, but they often are the most rewarding lessons we can experience in life. Well, that is if we humble ourselves enough to bend to their insights. (There are plenty of people out there who fail and fail again but never learn and use their mistakes to their advantage.)

But how to move forward after failure? How to move forward after your life falls apart like a sugar cookie in a zip lock bag being crushed by your grade school bully?

You move forward by starting over and by picking yourself up and trying again. Because that’s what life is—a cycle of “trying agains”. Even success ebbs and flows.

There’s never a moment of “making it.” There’s always the next level. Even Oprah and The Rock are aiming for something. Of course, it’s when you think you’ve made it that you start to un-make it. Casey Neistat has a great vlog on this, My Biggest Failure. The worst thing you can do when you fail (or succeed) is nothing.

Earn your failures by turning them into momentum.

And when you are in the midst of despair, look for the good—shift out the dirt and debris and find the gold in your situation. There are no easy answers in difficult circumstances, only hard-won lessons.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1188

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Overwatering Your Plants

It’s pretty easy to neglect your plants. All you have to do is never water them, never prune them, put them in the wrong sunlight, and then patiently wait for them to die.

Very hands-off

But the most common killer of house plants 🪴 is not neglect but generosity. We overwater them to death. We give them so much water that their roots start to rot from our kindness.

What in your life are you overwatering?

Your business? Your kids? A million ideas?

Everything from design to health to child-rearing does better with a little space and breathing room.

When I try to pack too much into my schedule, not only do my stress-levels elevate, but the quality of what I’m doing diminishes across the board.

Too much of one thing ends up being the opposite of what we were wanting. Too much exercise or long hours at the office and we burnout. Too many hobbies, friends, todos, ideas and we no longer have room for intentionality.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1160

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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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“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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“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.)


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:


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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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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