The First Line of Defense

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
Henry Ford

What’s the one thing that touches everything we say, do and experience?

Our thoughts.

Thoughts flavor everything.

But you are not your thoughts. I learned this from Mo Gawdat’s Solve for Happy book. Mo explains that if you were your thoughts, then how are you able to hear your thoughts?

Reality is reality, but we bend our reality with how we think. If you are continuously looping negativity in your head (or aloud), imagine how that’s affecting your experiences and view of the world.

A glass-half-full and a glass-half-empty is the same thing—a half-glass of water. It just is. But one mindset gives us hope and the other makes us jaded. The question is, which one do you want to cultivate?

“Every moment of your life is neither all good nor all bad. When you clear your thoughts and see beyond the Illusion of Knowledge, you will realize that what Shakespeare wisely said is true: “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
― **Mo Gawdat

A question I like to ask myself is,

How is this thought helping me? (Or plural— how are these thoughts helping me?)

If they aren’t, they are just getting in the way of my happiness and wellbeing—so I let them go. It’s not an easy practice because it’s something that I constantly need to stay vigilant in (especially after this last year) but it’s worth it if it improves the quality of my life (and the lives of those around me) even if it’s only a 5% increase.

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STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1157

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I’m currently surrounded by over a dozen books and a dozen gadgets and gizmos I’m actively using andor could be using right now.

I’m guessing your environment looks similar to mine unless you’ve become a minimalist and sold or donated away your things.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m neither humble-bragging nor complaining about the things surrounding me, I’m just observing how easy it is to overcrowd our spaces—physical and digital—with todos.

The disease (dis-ease) of our time is TMI—too much information.

News is an obvious one. I’ve read (somewhere) that the human mind wasn’t made to hold a worlds worth of bad news.

Another is the work-related todos (that we often put on ourselves) pile around us. Overcrowded schedules. Pulled in a million directions except for the one you want to be focusing on.

So what are we supposed to do about this?

For starters, we can live by the principle “out of sight out of mind.” If we remove the options around us, we can focus in on the priority in front of us. If you’re reading a book, don’t surround yourself with a hundred other books you want / should be reading.

But generally, if you have a task to do, limit your scope to that task and only that task. Everything else should be removed from your site or reach if possible. We’re not banning things, just simply taking away the option of use for the next 30 minutes or so.

If something is bothering you or weighing on you, remove it from your mind temporarily so you can focus on what’s important.

Another thing we can continuously do is ask ourselves, “Is this helpful or unhelpful?

Does having 100+ browser tabs open at one time helpful or unhelpful with what I’m trying to do right now?

Does checking Facebook every 5 minutes improving my life or making it harder. Moderation and minimal-ization are key.

The problem isn’t necessary TMI, but too much information all at once. If we’re trying to focus on a dozen things we end up focusing on nothing.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1115

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Self-fulfilling Prophecy

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”

Zig Ziglar

Does thinking you are lucky make you lucky?

Does having a bit of bad luck increase your chances of more bad luck?

Probably. If you think you’ve got bad luck, then you’ll be more likely to notice little misfortunes and frustration throughout the day. And the more you notice them, the more you’ll reinforce the idea that your luck is terrible.

The connection point here is thinking. We think something is true, and therefore we believe its true and seek experiences to back it up. In psychology, this is called Attentional Bias “Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.“ (Hamlet)

When you think you have bad luck, you blind yourself from seeing the alternatives. Such as just happened to have parked your car under a tree where birds like to poop. Or simply forgetting your umbrella on a rainy day because it wasn’t by the door, instead of thinking the heavens are out to get you.

And it’s not just about luck—all emotions, desires, and thoughts reinforce us one way or another.

Our thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies. We aren’t our thoughts, but the thoughts we allow in the front door of our mind change and influence us.

As the Buddha once said “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” And Marcus Aurelius, “Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.”

Thoughts translate to believes translate to actions translate to reality.

This isn’t one-to-one. There’s magic lost in translation.

Thinking “let there be ice cream!” won’t magically make a cone of ice cream pop into my hand. But it will get me thinking about ice cream. Chocolate… Cookie dough… Pistachio… Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. And suddenly I’ll have an urge to go find some ice cream.

Outcomes are rarely assured. But stacking the deck in your favor (and removing the negative outcomes) makes them more likely.

When a negative/unhelpful thought creeps into your head, replace it with a positive/helpful one instead.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1017

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Thinking Clearly

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein

It’s interesting how easy it is to come up with solutions for other people’s problems, but when it comes to our own problems we can’t figure out what to do.

We get so wrapped up in the stress and the emotions of what’s going on, or focus is so narrow we don’t have a clue about what’s actually going on.

Take a step back. Look at the bigger picture.

It’s impossible to see your own face unless you have something to reflex it, like a photo or mirror.

If your friend was going through X, what would you recommend them to do?

If a complete stranger on the internet was dealing with Y problem, what answers would you suggest?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #955

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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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The Minds Impact on Reality

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”


You could argue that all the friction I was dealing with while traveling to Thailand was through circumstances I created myself.

Where my thoughts of ”this day isn’t going to go well for me” contributing to my seemly random poor luck?

Can you think reality into existence?

I don’t know if I would go that far. But our thoughts do affect our emotional state and our actions. And our decisions established on our thoughts can have massive effects on our lives. So in a way our thoughts do change our reality.

Can I think ice cream to magically appear into existence? No(t yet anyway). But I can focus on ice cream mentally. I can dwell in the cream texture and imagine the taste. And the more I think about it, the more ill try to figure out a way to get it.

Thought correlates to reality.

The more we focus on something, the more we see it, the more we are drawn to it. Sometimes without even realizing it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #857

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Head Games

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Creativity is 90% head games.

Sure, we have to act on our imagination to make it real. But the biggest thing that holds us back (or elevates us higher) is how we think.

Thinking touches every aspect of what we do. Even when we are not actively thinking about it, our brains are thinking about it for us.

What is procrastination but thinking you don’t have what it takes or thinking you’d rather do something else instead? What is a distraction but us thinking and processing the world around us? What is creative fear but mental uneasiness with the unknown and doubt about ourselves?

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Alice Walker

That’s why habits and rituals are so important. They give us the opportunity to get us out of our heads so that we can focus on creating. When you streamline everything around your creative habit, you remove all the head games that can derail you from doing the work.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #806

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Rule It Out

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

For the past couple of years, I’ve been dealing with a sleep problem. I’m great at falling asleep, and staying asleep. However, the quality of my sleep isn’t great. When I wake up, I’m just as tired as I was when I went to bed. You can see how this can be a real problem. The chronic, low-grade energy from lack of quality rest effects all aspects of my life. Luckily (or unluckily) as humans our bodies are incredibly resilient. We can push and punish our bodies and they will adapt to the new normal. Often this is beneficial. For example, exercising is fantastic for us and necessary for health. And 90% of the benefits of exercising outweigh the downsides of it’s stressors on our system. (An anti-example is overtraining. By training too much, you don’t give your system a chance to recover from the ‘good’ stress, so you reap less and less benefits, and the stress of constantly stressing yourself builds up and can reek havoc on you… eventually)

All that being said, when you don’t sleep well, you get used to the new normal. What else can you do but use the energy you have and continue moving forward? Tired becomes the new normal and you push through. From the outside looking in, nothing is different. You are just you. Which is a weird feeling, to say the least. Everything is normal, but not as effective as you know you could be, but you still have to be on your A game.

This experience has given me the opportunity to dive deep into the world of sleep and sleep optimization. (A few friends have asked me, so I might do a future post on the resources, tools and strategies I’ve discovered about sleep.)

This experience has also taught me the value of thinking and acting systematic when dealing with problems.

Here are five strategies you can use when facing an uncertain problem (in no particular order):

1. Question all assumptions

What are things that we do that are beneficial to us?
What are things that we do and think that are not beneficial to us?

It’s easy to assume that certain habits or actions are beneficial, but without testing those assumptions, we never actually know whether or not they are benefiting us or causing problems. Not everything thing is a net positive, and sometimes negative habits cancel out beneficial habits. Just like a wave can cancel out another wave, the downside of an action or way of thinking can negate the upside to another action or way of thinking. For example, taking a B-12 supplement isn’t really going to move the health needle in our favor if we are also eating ice cream and other delicious crap every day. Not all examples are as easy to spot what the problem is like this one, so it’s good to have a health dose of questioning all that you (think you) know and do, and test all assumptions and how much value they are each adding to your life.

2. Test Each Variables

What are the underlying factors causing the problem?

Donald Rumsfeld once said, “It is easier to get into something than to get out of it. 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.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint what the problem is without considering all the variables that potentially contribute to the underlying problem.

Sometimes you can’t know all of the variables that go into play, but making a list of the factors you do know can help you uncover what’s good and what’s not. By making a list, and, essentially checking it twice — isolating the variable and seeing how much pull it has on the problem — we can uncover what’s going wrong. Or at the very least, what’ NOT going wrong. (Checking off things that aren’t causing the problem can be just important as the ones that are.)

For sleep, variables such as:

  • Number of hours in bed (How many hours of sleep are you getting?)
  • Staying asleep (How restful are you during sleep?)
  • Going to sleep (How easy is it to fall asleep?)
  • Bed Time (What time are you in bed?)
  • Dinner Time (How many hours between dinner and bedtime?)
  • Stress (Work stress?
  • Screens (Are you looking at screens before bed? If so what time / how long?)
  • Reading (Are you reading before bed?)
  • Blue Lights (Are you exposing yourself to blue light too late from fluorescents etc?)
  • Shower (Do you take a shower / bath before bed?)
  • Cold Thermogenesis? (What does an ice bath or cold shower do before bed?)
  • Mattress (How new is your mattress? High quality?)
  • Pillow (How nice / optimal is your pillow? Especially with an injury)
  • Sheets (How nice are your sheets?)
  • Room Temperature (How cold or hot is your room)
  • Room Darkness (How dark is your room?)
  • Air Quality (Is your air allergy / mold / toxin free?
  • Sound Environment (How quite / noise-free is your sleep environment?)
  • Food (How healthy did you eat today?)
  • Exercise (How much did you move today?)

As you can see, even something as ‘simple’ as sleep can mask a large about of variables that come into play.

When you are tackling a problem, list all the variables you can think of and test each one at a time. You could do the kitchen sink method and try everything at once, which is a much faster (and yet more expensive) approach. But you won’t know what precisely worked for you. By ruling out each variable, your scientifically testing each possibility and determining which factors have the most effect.

3. Think it through.

What’s one thing you can do that solves 90% of the problem?

Not every variable has equal weight. Often, if we tackle on thing, like dominoes the rest will follow. This is a trail and errors game, but we can be smart about how we prioritize and what order we handle problems. What’s an easy win? What’s something you can do right now that will help immediately? (What would Steve Jobs do? 😝) Who’s had this problem before and what did they do to solve it? What’ are the small thing that could possible create a massive outcome? What does your instinct say? Be intentional, think it through.

4. Seek Wisdom from People Smarter than You.

There’s nothing wrong in asking for advice. In fact, if you are not constantly seeking insights from people smarter than you, then you are doing yourself a disservice and holding yourself back from overcoming problems quickly and with the least amount of resistance.

Whenever in doubt: Ask.

Even if it makes you look stupid. Being stupid now is better than always being stupid because you never ask, especially if you are in a position to ask someone you have access to directly.

And when you don’t have direct access to someone who might have an answer for you directly, then read, watch, learn EVERYTHING they’ve put out. A book or podcast by them can be just as powerful as talking to them IRL.

5. Go Easy on Yourself.

This one I had to learn from a friend. Problems can take time to overcome. We’ve got too mentally prepare ourselves for that scenario and play the long game instead of giving up because the circumstance feels hopeless in the present. Keep going, but go easy on yourself. In the end, we’re all just human, struggling and figuring life out as we go. Every obstacle we face is a chance to be better. Every failure is an opportunity for us to learn and be better. Treating ourselves badly only lets the problem win and control us. But focusing on the opportunities and taking things one step at a time puts the ball back in our court.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #578

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To be brilliant

and therefore, be anything else we desire — 

We must adopt models.

A model is a particular way of thinking and seeing. Systems in place to act upon.

It can be something you create, or something you adapt from someone else.

In fact, people we look up to are models (role models).

Ideally, you have a model for each area you want to be brilliant at,

and to do that, you find models of excellence to test and make into your own.

A model is something you work towards every day — something you continuously iterate and improve —

but it’s worth it because it works for you.

Meaning, you don’t have to start from scratch, you have a framework to build upon.


And if (when) I fail miserably  some days, that’s okay because it’s not one and done —

models are daily practices towards brilliance (and success).



Challenge Accepted: Find Models of Excellence

“In order to grow we must be open to new ideas.. new ways of doing things.. new ways of thinking.” — George Raveling


“If you can’t find a good role model, be one.” — Gale Anne Hurd


“Each person must live their life as a model for others.”  — Rosa Parks



Josh Waggoner

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