OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time

OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson features the best Big Ideas from the best optimal living books. More wisdom in less time to help you live your greatest life. (Learn more at
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OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time




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Nov 19, 2017

In our last +1 we chatted about the fact that, as Campbell tells us, when we go for bliss on our hero’s journey we need to remember that there's always the chance for a fiasco. (Hah!)

Yep. Always.

That’s part of the deal and why we need to get really good at embracing the fear and tolerating the ambiguity and possibility of “failure.”

Here’s one way to alchemize that.

Paulo Coelho has a great line. He tells us we need to wear our scars like medals.

Think about that for a moment.

Most of us try to hide all those scars. But not the heroic among us. The heroes KNOW that you can't go out fighting dragons for a living and not get all clawed up on occasion.

The heroic among us (and all of us at our heroic best) don't shamefully hide those scars. They (and we) proudly show them off.

“Yep. Got that one fighting that huge, mean dragon in the Andes.”

“Oh, that one? Hah. Yah. Wow. That was a BEAST! Should have seen it. Almost took me out.”

“Oh, man. Yah. That was another crazy one…”

Those scars? They are the hero’s MEDALS—badges of honor that prove they've been willing to step up and go for it again and again.

Today’s +1 practical question(s): You have any scars you've been hiding?

Is now a good time to redefine them as medals earned as part of your Hero Training?!

(Yah? Which one(s)?)

Nov 19, 2017

You know those times when you need to initiate a tough conversation and you're kinda sorta dreading it and avoiding it?

One of my old mentors once told me that you just need to move through what he called “sweaty five-minute conversations” to get to the other side of clarity and resolution.

Most of us avoid the challenging conversations because we aren’t willing to endure those few minutes of discomfort. I definitely used to avoid them. Now, I remember that Speed Is a Force then I WOOP it, chant “Bring it on!” + “I’m excited!” and jump in.

It’s become a really powerful practice for me as I've mastered it over the years.

But here’s the funny thing. Once upon a time, I needed to have one of those “sweaty conversations” with that mentor of mine.

Guess how it turned out?

It was, by far, LITERALLY, the worst conversation I’ve ever had in my life. HAH. Seriously.

I kid you not.

As Campbell said, when you dare to go after bliss, there's always the chance for a fiasco. :)

Here’s how Campbell puts it: “The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly. What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco.

But there’s also the possibility of bliss.”

So, today’s mission, should you choose to accept it: The next time you find yourself avoiding a challenging conversation, see if you can recognize the fear and then get to work on it with one (or more) of our growing array of tools.

Perhaps you can remember that your infinite potential exists on the other side of that fear and chant “Bring it on!!” to yourself.

Maybe you can practice Active Love on the person who's currently stressing you out.

I’d definitely recommend you WOOP it! Wave the wand. Create your Wish. See it going perfectly. Experience the benefits. Then anticipate the obstacles and make your plan to deal with them.

Then, if you feel that now’s the time, jump in and move through those few seconds/minutes of sweaty palms and make it happen.

You’ll win or you'll learn. :)

P.S. I know for a fact that if I had that challenging conversation of a decade ago today it would have ended so much better. But I never would have gotten to where I am without the pain of that fiasco. And so it is. 😃

Nov 18, 2017

In our last +1, we talked about doing what you say you will do.


Super important if you want to establish a foundation of credibility and trust.


Sometimes life happens and data presents itself between the time you made a commitment and the time you intended to deliver on it.

In those situations when it no longer makes sense to follow through with our commitments, what do we do?

First, we step back and make sure that when we make a commitment we’re REALLY committed to following through. We don't want our default to be constantly breaking commitments. We want to discipline ourselves to only say we’re going to do something if we’re really committed to actually doing it.

With that practice of consistently doing what we say we will do in place, we’re in a better position to change things up when the situation calls for it.

In those moments? We get clear on what our new commitment will be and we communicate that change to whoever is involved.



Easier said than done, of course. We’ll talk more about how to go about doing that in our next +1.

For now, Today’s +1: Do you have any commitments you need to follow through on? Any that need to be renegotiated with a new set of commitments?

What’s one little thing you can do today to move toward a deeper level of integrity?

Nov 18, 2017

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner are two of the world’s leading academic researchers on the science of leadership.

They offer us a few Leadership Laws.

Here’s their First Law of Leadership: “If you don’t believe the messenger, you won’t believe the message.”

In short, people follow people they TRUST. Earning the trust and loyalty of those you aspire to lead is the absolute first step in leadership. You do that by building a credible foundation.

Which leads us to their Second Law of Leadership—the way we actually earn that trust.

It’s very simple.

Shockingly simple, in fact.

Here it is: Do What You Say You Will Do.

DWYSYWD for short.

Today’s question: Do YOU do what you say you will do?

Notice how often you say you’ll do things that you don’t actually do (and perhaps never intended to do). Focus on the big things and the little things. When you say you’ll get back to someone in 5 minutes or tomorrow, GET BACK TO THEM in 5 minutes or tomorrow. When you say you’ll take your son to the park, take your son to the park. (← Note to self! 😃) When you say you’ll show up and meditate tomorrow morning, show up and meditate tomorrow morning.

Little things matter if we want the credibility to lead.

Today’s work: DWYSYWD.

Do what you say you will do.

We’re never going to be perfect. But here's to +1. +1. +1.

Nov 18, 2017

In his great book Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar tells us that we have all the wisdom we will ever need—as evidenced by individuals who undergo a traumatic life experience and then radically transform their lives.

He gives us a fun, powerful way to access our innate wisdom. Here’s my take on it.

Let’s imagine that NASA (or, more likely Elon Musk and his team), has invented a time traveling machine. (YES!!)

This machine can magically take you into the future where you can meet the 110-year-old version of you.

Let’s hop in. Close the door. Get comfortable. (Please keep your hands and body parts inside the time traveling vehicle at all times.)



We’re there.

Imagine the 110-year-old version of you standing in front of you. Radiating a grace and beauty and love and wisdom and presence that makes your heart open.

Ask them to share the most important lesson they’ve learned and give you a little perspective on your current life and its challenges and opportunities.

What do they say?

Take notes.

That’s Today’s +1.

Nov 17, 2017

I’m a HUGE fan of Phil and Barry's first book, The Tools. Coming Alive is kinda like The Tools Part 2. In this book, we get four new tools to go along with the original five tools. Big Ideas we explore include how to connect to our Life Force, defeat Part X (their name for that part of each of us that gets in the way), build our confidence and learn to see problems as gifts as we live a GREAT life.

Nov 17, 2017

Our last +1 was about a modern-day warrior, Georges St-Pierre.

Let’s talk about old-school philosophical warriors for a moment.

In his great book about the philosophical roots of modern cognitive behavioral therapy, Donald Robertson tells us that the ancient philosophers weren’t interested in merely understanding how to live optimally, they were committed to actually LIVING optimally.

(In fact, he tells us that those ancient philosophers wouldn’t even recognize the modern philosopher lost in ideas in the comforts of their ivory towers.)

The old-school philosophers knew it was really hard to live in integrity with our highest ideals. They told us we needed to be WARRIORS of the mind, not mere librarians of the mind.

Important point: All of these +1s aren’t ideas to be catalogued in the libraries of our minds. These are ideas to be LIVED in the moment-to-moment experiences that determine our destiny.

Today’s +1 work: What’s one Idea you’ve merely catalogued in your mind that you need to take into the arena of your life?

Let’s do that.

P.S. The metaphor of the warrior winning the battle between his higher and lower selves is present throughout the ancient traditions.

Socrates put it this way: “I desire only to know the truth, and to live as well as I can... And, to the utmost of my power, I exhort all other men to do the same... I exhort you also to take part in the great combat, which is the combat of life, and greater than every other earthly conflict.”

Buddha tells us: “One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand men on the battlefield.”

And Rumi offers: “The lion who breaks the enemy’s ranks is a minor hero compared to the lion who overcomes himself.”

And even Gandhi’s Handbook, the Bhagavad Gita, was set on a battlefield and features the greatest warrior of that era receiving counsel from a Divine charioteer—encouraging him to live heroically in the midst of doubt and fear.

Let’s be heroic warriors.

Nov 17, 2017

George St-Pierre is one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the world. Ever.

Of course, he wasn’t always one of the greatest. At one point, he was just a young guy working as a garbage man who DECIDED he was going to be the best in the world.

People around him thought he was crazy. (Of course they did. Who says stuff like that? Hint: People who have a shot at making it happen.)

So, when GSP decided (!) he would be the best in the world at what he wanted to do, he also decided what he WASN’T going to do.

“Train instead of party. Work instead of play. Perfect practice instead of casual repetition.”

ALL of his energy went into achieving his goal and making his dream a reality. (You should see the consistency in his schedule. Astonishing.)

In his great book The Way of the Fight, GSP makes the important distinction that all those things he was no longer going to do weren’t sacrifices. They were decisions.

Sacrifices vs. Decisions.

There’s a huge difference between the two.

One comes with a little whiney voice. The other comes with the calm confidence and grounded, authentic power of a committed person.

Today’s +1 practical application: Who have you DECIDED to be?

What decisions do you need to make to focus your energy?

P.S. Remember: The Latin root of the word decide literally means “to cut off.” When we make a true decision, we CUT OFF all other options and go ALL IN. Let’s do that.

Nov 17, 2017

Grant Cardone wrote a great book called The 10X Rule.

In it, he tells us that we got the whole Tortoise and the Hare story wrong. Of course, in the classic fable we have the tortoise who slowly but persistently plods along and beats the hare who dashes out from the starting line but then peters out.

Grant’s question: What if you combined the best qualities of both into one new animal? That guy—with the speed of the hare and the persistence of the tortoise—would SMOKE both of them!

He tells us the fable would then be called Smoked. (Hah.)

That new fictional animal with the speed of the hare and the persistence of the tortoise? I like to call him Smokeybot. (Hah.)

Smokeybot H U S T L E S. He has the lightning speed of the hare.


Smokeybot knows how to stay in the game for the long run. He knows how to oscillate his energy to make sure he doesn’t burn himself out.

Do you?

+1 for today: Are you more like the tortoise or the hare?

Appreciate your great qualities and see how you can +1 a little more on both sides!

#highfives, Smokeybot!

Nov 16, 2017

In our last +1 we had fun cultivating a strong Self-Image via “That’s like me!” imprints.

Quick recap: All the elite performers agree: 90% of our performance is mental. (90%!!!) Yet very few of us dedicate an appropriate amount of our time to Optimizing our mental game.

One key way to do that is to Optimize our Self-Image. As Lanny says, our Self-Image is what “makes you act like you.” A poor Self-Image drives poor performance. Therefore, we need to dial it in.

One key way to do that is to affirm “That’s like me!!!” when you’re on.

“That’s like me to do what I say I’m going to do.”
“That’s like me to have fun shutting down the electronics early so I can get a great night of sleep.”
“That’s like me to get up and move around every 15 minutes so I’m not active and sedentary.”

“That’s like me!!”
“That’s like me!!”
“That’s like me!!”

All day every day.

Another thing to practice?

“That’s NOT like me!”

You do something lame. Oops.

Play the “Needs work!” loop in your head and then maybe sprinkle a warm neutral, “That’s not like me.” Then move on.

Right before you’re going to do something lame (always the best time to notice) say:

“That’s NOT like me!”

“That might have been like the old Self-Image-driven me. But it’s not like the new me.”

Then… What do you say to yourself when you step in between the stimulus and your old, habitual, sub-optimal response and choose the optimal thing to do in that micro-moment that determines your destiny?

Ahhh… Yep.

“That’s like me!”

Nov 16, 2017

Whether you’re an athlete, entrepreneur, teacher, parent, manager, or --- fill in the blank here ---, what percentage of your game do you think is mental?

I think ____% is mental.

When Lanny Bassham, our Olympic gold-medal-winning friend (who wrote With Winning in Mind) asks elite performers that question, they all say that elite performance is 90% mental.


Then he asks them what % of their training time and money they spend on their mental game.

The answer? Their answer is almost always very little—nothing or less than 10%.

As Lanny says: That makes no sense.

So, we need to be mentally tough. Got it. How?

Well, here’s our +1 for today.

Lanny tells us that one of the key variables to peak performance is fine-tuning our Self-Image. He tells us that how we behave will always be inline with how we see ourselves. Our Self-Image is what “makes you act like you.” If we have a poor Self-Image, we will never consistently perform better than that Self-Image.

The good news: We can Optimize our Self-Image.

And, Lanny tells us, we MUST Optimize our Self-Image if we want to reach elite levels of performance.

He tells us that our current Self-Image has been formed by countless (!) “imprints.” Therefore, if we want to change it, we need to bombard ourselves with a constant diet of positive imprints—removing the negative internal chit-chat and never talking about things we don’t want to see in our lives while affirming all the things we do want to see come to fruition in our lives.

We want to rehearse our optimal performances and, each time we perform at our best—from the rehearsed visualized moments to the most mundane real moments—we want to affirm “That’s like me!!!”

“That’s like me to nail that presentation.”
“That’s like me to meditate for another day in a row.”
“That’s like me to show up and crush a workout even when I didn’t feel like it.”

"That's like me!!"
"That's like me!!"
"That's like me!!”

+1 after +1, we aggregate and compound small win after small win as we carve our new Self-Image.

That’s like you to rock it +1 style.

Nov 16, 2017

Marcus Aurelius once wrote to himself in the journal he never intended to publish that we now know as Meditations that “The impediment to action advances the action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Ryan Holiday wrote a book inspired by that wisdom called The Obstacle Is the Way.

It’s brilliant. I highly recommend it. (And, if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about Stoicism and were wondering where to start: Start with Ryan’s The Daily Stoic. Might be my favorite book ever as Ryan brilliantly brings to life fresh translations of Seneca, Epictetus and Aurelius.)

So, The Obstacle Is the Way.

The impediment to action ADVANCES the action. What stands in the way BECOMES the way.

We’re always trying to make problems or “obstacles” go away. But what if we just let them BE the way? What if we trained ourselves to immediately accept and love what it is as we rub our hands together at the opportunity to create a better plan using this new variable as a catalyst and going from there?

In The Inner Citadel (a book about Aurelius recommended by Ryan written by the great French philosopher Pierre Hadot), we learn about “the paradox of fire”—”which grows stronger the more things are brought to it which could smother it, or at least present an obstacle to it.”

All of which brings us to Today’s +1:

What’s the #1 obstacle that’s currently in your way?

How can you turn it into an essential part of the way?

Fuel the fire.

Nov 15, 2017

Have you ever made a mistake?



(I’ve made a mistake or 3 million as well.)

Here’s the deal: When we approach it with the right mindset (that would be a growth, experimental mindset), we come to realize that those mistakes are P R E C I O U S.

The data we get on what DOESN’T WORK is priceless.

Therefore, never (!) beat yourself up about a mis-take.

Simply remind yourself that we either win or we learn and that no movie was ever shot from start to finish without a ton of re-takes. Then say to yourself “Needs work!” as you rewind your game film, see yourself executing the oopsed scene perfectly and then get back at it.




Practical Reflection Time:

What was your last mistake?

What did you learn?

Run it through our little Mis-take process above and +1 it.

Nov 15, 2017

Imagine yourself as the Director of a movie.

Huge budget. You have an amazing crew. Best actors in the world and an impeccable script.

Question: Do you think you’re going to film the whole movie in one long, perfect take?

Even with decades of experience and the best of everything you know that’s ABSURD!!!

Of course you’re going to have to re-do most scenes. Some over and over and over again until you get them right.

Those are all just mis-takes.

No big deal.

All part of the process, right?

Well, guess what? Same rules apply to that life of yours you’re Directing.

You WILL need to re-shoot some scenes. A lot of them. Some A TON of times.

Those mistakes you’re making? They’re really just “mis-takes.”

Not a big deal. Just step back and take another shot at it. You’ve got this!

Your +1 for today: Go break a leg.

Nov 15, 2017

One more +1 on the fundamentals theme to finish our trifecta following Greatness = Consistency on the Fundamentals and Coach Wooden teaching us How to Put on Our Life-Socks.

Question: If you wanted to see how tall a building is going to be and you couldn’t look at the architect’s plans or ask anyone about it, what’s the best way to find out in the first phase of construction?

Answer: Look at how deeply they’re digging the foundation.

A single story house? No big deal. A shallow foundation will do.

A skyscraper with a hundred plus floors? They’re digging very, very deep.

How about YOU?

How high do you want to rise?

You digging deep?

Let’s master our fundamentals.

+1. +1. +1.

Nov 14, 2017

John Wooden’s UCLA basketball teams won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, including an 88-game winning streak. (Go Bruins!)

ESPN says that Wooden was the greatest coach of the 20th century. That makes him, arguably, the greatest coach ever.

Couple things to note here:

First, quick question: You know how many years Wooden coached before he won his first championship?

Answer: He was at UCLA for 16 (!!!) seasons before he won his first title. And, he coached for a number of years before even showing up at UCLA.

As Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carrol points out in Win Forever, it took Wooden quite awhile to figure it out but, once he did, he could “win forever.”

Keep that in mind when you think about Wooden’s awesomeness. He wasn’t born a great coach. He MADE himself a great coach, one incrementally Optimized Masterpiece Day aggregated and compounded over an extended period of time, growth-mindset style all the way.

Second, another quick question: You know what Wooden did in the very first practice before he’d even let his players take the court?

He’d teach them how to put on their socks.

Imagine the absolute (!) best players in the country coming to the absolute (!) best program in the country and their coach won’t even let them touch a basketball until they learned how to properly roll a sock over their foot and pull it up all tight-like.

Why’d Coach do that?

Because he knew that championships are built on a solid foundation. And there’s nothing more fundamental for a basketball player than putting on your socks right. If you can’t slow down long enough to do that right, you’re in trouble.

Gotta make sure those wrinkles were out of the socks lest we might get a blister in practice. Get a blister and our performance in games will suffer. Therefore, put your socks on right, son!!!

… All that to arrive here: What are your “socks”?

You know, those super simple, mundane, unsexy “easies” that are too easy to overlook.

Which 1 are you going to +1 Optimize today?

Here’s to figuring it out, mastering the fundamentals and winning forever!

Nov 14, 2017

Robin Sharma tells us that greatness is all about consistency on the fundamentals.

Look at any great performer and that’s what you’ll see.

Of course, a world-class artist will have different fundamentals than an athlete who will have different fundamentals than an entrepreneur who will have different fundamentals than a parent but the same rule applies in each case: mastery of the mundane.

Which, of course, begs the question: What are YOUR fundamentals?

I like to think of our fundamentals on two different levels: the universal and the specific.

We ALL share the need for mastery around the basics: Eat. Move. Sleep. Breathe. Focus. If we don’t have those universal fundamentals dialed in there’s simply no way we’ll have a shot at our highest potential.

Then we have our specific fundamentals. The things that are unique to each of us and our particular crafts. For example, as a lover of wisdom and teacher, I need to commit to Deep Work blocks packed with thinking and writing and reading.


Our +1 for today is simple. Think about your fundamentals and think about how you can get just a little bit better with a universal and a specific.

This Universal fundamental could use some love: _____ --- fill in the blank --- _____.
This is what I’m going to do to +1 it: ________________________________________________________.

This Specific fundamental could use some love: ____________________________.
This is what I’m going to do to +1 it: ___________________________________________________.


Nov 14, 2017

In our last +1, we talked about the fact that Speed Is a Force.

Jim Rohn said the same thing a little differently. He told us about the “Law of Diminishing Intent.”

The basic idea: The likelihood of doing something diminishes the further away you get from the initial moment of inspiration.

So true.

And your confidence erodes as well. Not a winning combination.

Jim Rohn’s protégé, Tony Robbins, echoes this wisdom as well. He tells us that we must never leave the moment of inspiration without taking action. Then we need to follow that up with sustained, MASSIVE action.

That's powerful.

Remember: Don’t let your intention to do something great diminish. Seize the opportunity. Take massive, sustained action.

Speed is a Force. Stay grounded. And use it wisely.

(Got anything in your life that could use some energy?)

Nov 13, 2017

The very first thing Phil Stutz taught me in our very first session together was the fact that Speed Is a Force.

He told me that the longer we wait between feeling inspired to do something and actually doing it, the more our confidence and self-respect erodes.

Obviously every idea isn’t worth pursuing with speed, but…

Today’s +1 Question: Do you let gaps creep in between the moment of inspiration and taking action?

Pay attention.

Close the gap.

Speed Is a Force.

Most importantly: What do you need to take action on RIGHT NOW?

#highfives to that +1.

Nov 13, 2017

One of my favorite gems from the Buddha is this wisdom: “Little by little one becomes evil, as a water pot is filled with water. Little by little one becomes good, as a water pot is filled with water.”

The optimal way to Optimize?

Drop by drop by drop.

+1. +1. +1.

Back in the day, I used to get all fired up and want to change EVERYTHING once and for all (!!!) and RIGHT NOW!! (Technically, I wanted it yesterday but you get the idea. 😃)

You ever have that feeling? You go to a weekend workshop (or read a book or whatever) and you’re like, “It’s on. I’m snapping my fingers and changing it all. Check me out!!”

Then a week later you wonder what happened.

Rather than patiently add another +1 drop to my Optimizing pot, I used to turn on the fire hydrant and send the pot flying around the room. (Nearly breaking it in the process.)

Not good.


Now I love those little drops.


Let’s Optimize how we’re filling up our water pots.

Little by little. Drop by drop.

+1. +1. +1.

Nov 13, 2017

We’ve established the fact that our brains don’t have parallel processors like a computer. As much as we'd like to think that we can multitask, we can't.

What we really do is called “task-switching” where our very finite attentional resources quickly go from one thing to the next.

So, today's +1.

Can you guess what the most dangerous thing you can do while “multitasking” is?

It’s a rather mundane thing and odds are that you've done it more than once.

What’s your guess?

The answer: Texting while driving.

My hunch is you don't drive around drunk and/or appreciate those who do. (Thank you, Cap’n Obvious.)

But get this: Research says that texting while driving is WAY more dangerous than driving while drunk.

Our (very limited) attention gets sucked into the vortex of our tiny screen and BAM!!


Put the phone in airplane mode in a bag in your trunk. (That's what a leading motivational researcher named Tim Pychyl told me he does to fight the urge to use his phone while driving!)

Focus on the road today.


Nov 12, 2017

Jim Rohn tells us that our success in life is all about the two easies. It’s all about consistently doing the tiny (!) fundamentals that are simultaneously super easy to do and super easy not to do.

For example, it’s super easy for me to turn off the wi-fi and my phone when I’m done for the day. It’s not particularly hard to reach over and unplug the power strip turning off the Internet nor is it particularly hard to hold down the power button and swipe my phone off for the evening.

Doing those things is SUPER easy. And, they are a huge part of my #1 fundamental of getting a great night of sleep.


And this is a big BUT…

It’s also REALLY easy NOT to do those things.

Same thing with choosing NOT to turn that Internet back on in the morning until AFTER I’ve done my Deep Work. It’s easy to sit down and start writing when my mind is clear. Making that choice literally (!) determines my creative destiny. If I get up and go online immediately (also easy!) there’s NO WAY I will fulfill my creative potential. Period.

Easy to do.

Easy not to do.

Two easies.

Our destiny is formed by choosing wisely.

So, practical time: What are YOUR easy fundies?

Think of the two easies the next time you’re at a choice point today.

P.S. Here’s how Jim Rohn puts it: “It all comes down to a philosophical phrase: the things that are easy to do are also easy not to do. That’s the difference between success and failure, between daydreams and ambitions.

Here’s the key formula for success: a few disciplines practiced every day. Those disciplines have to be well-thought out. What should you spend your time doing? You don’t want to waste your time on things that aren’t going to matter. But a few simple disciplines can change your whole economic future. A few simple disciplines can change your future with your family, your business, your enterprise, your career. Success is a few simple habits—good habits—repeated every day. ...

You’ve got the choice right now of one of two ‘easies.’ Easy to do, or easy not to do. I can tell you in one sentence how I got rich by the time I was thirty-one: I did not neglect to do the easy things I could do for six years. That’s the key. I found something easy I could do that led to fortune, and I did not neglect to do it.”

Nov 12, 2017

Speaking of perfectionism, let’s look at the essence of Tal Ben-Shahar’s great book The Pursuit of Perfect.

Tal is one of the world’s leading positive psychologists. He taught the largest class in Harvard’s history: Positive Psychology 101.

He tells us that there are two distinct forms of perfectionism—one of them is actually adaptive and the other is not. He tells us they are so different that they need different names.

There’s the unhealthy perfectionist who suffers from all the things you’d expect from perfectionism: anxiety, depression, etc. He calls them a “Perfectionist.”

Then, there’s the healthy, high-functioning perfectionist who uses those high standards to fuel their growth. He calls them an “Optimalist.”

Perfectionist vs. Optimalist.

Here’s the primary difference between the two: The (unhealthy) Perfectionist fails to embrace reality. They actually think they can work for 16 hours a day in pursuit of their great work while staying super healthy and being a great spouse and parent and being super active in the community and a great friend to dozens and... (I get stressed just typing that.)

The source of their misery is the fact that they fail to embrace the constraints of reality. They simply CAN’T do all of those things. So, when they inevitably fall short of their expectations, they beat themselves up mercilessly and experience all the negative effects of unhealthy perfectionism.

The (healthy) Optimalist?

They have really high standards and want to be a great creator, spouse, parent, friend and vital human but they rub their vision up against reality. They see only so many hours in a day and construct their optimal life within the boundaries of those healthy constraints.

Note: The word “optimal” is derived from the Latin optimus which means the “best”--not the “perfect.” The best. The best within the constraints of our individual realities.

Do you tend to be a Perfectionist or an Optimalist?

How can you hold your high standards AND embrace the constraints of reality just a little more today?


Nov 12, 2017

Stephen Guise wrote a great little book called How to Be an Imperfectionist. As a still-recovering perfectionist, I found it very useful.

One of my favorite Ideas in there inspired this +1.

Most of us with high standards set very aggressive goals. Now, this is a VERY good thing as having high standards in life is a key aspect to living an extraordinary life.


Those high standards can quickly work against us (and paralyze us) if we aren’t careful.


Here’s how to deal with it: We want to have our “everything-goes-perfectly” goals AND we want to have a basic, “let’s-just-make-sure-we-hit-this-target” goals.

Stephen calls that having a “floor” and a “ceiling.”

You have your basic, let’s make sure this happens floor. And then you have your let’s CRUSH it and do this ceiling.

You live happily between the two of those.

But… If your floor EQUALS your ceiling you’re kinda screwed. I mean, where do you live in there?

You don’t.

You get suffocated by do-or-die standards and run the risk of falling into the perfectionist’s procrastination trap of not doing ANYTHING.

Floors and ceilings.

How are yours?

Practical reflection time: Take a moment and think of your most important goal right now.

What is it?

What’s your ceiling?

And what’s your floor?

Live between them. Happily.

(P.S. Ultimately, we want to use those goals as targets and then get REALLY fired up about the systems that will make them a natural by-product of you crushing it. Then we take the unhealthy/ineffective obsession on outcomes and use that energy on the day-to-day processes of showing up and creating a string of Masterpiece Days—which is always wise.

And, of course, we floor/ceiling our process goals as well to make sure we don't drive ourselves nuts. :)

Nov 11, 2017

Let’s say you’re building a new habit a la the Quick How to on Habits +1.

We talked about the importance of picking something that fires you up, going Keystone on it, making it Micro and doing it every day.

Let’s focus on the every day part in this +1.

For whatever reason, it’s a LOT easier to decide to meditate every day than it is to do it 3 times per week or every other day. It’s just how our brains work. The more consistent we are, the easier it is.

Now, let’s say you have a little streak going. 5 days. 10 days. 15 days. A W E S O M E.

Your little habit seed is taking shape.

Friendly Optimizer Travel Warning: WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T SKIP A DAY!!!

And, if you happen to miss a day (it happens!), then DEFINITELY (!!!) don’t miss two days.

In his great little book Superhuman by Habit, Tynan calls missing two days in a row “habit suicide.”

If you miss a day (again, it happens), make getting your habit back on track your #1 priority for the following day. Schedule it. Rock it.

Fact is, if you miss that second day in a row, you’re in trouble and if you miss three days in a row you run the very (!!!) strong risk of losing all the hard work you’ve done installing it and will basically need to re-start from Ground 0.

(Don’t believe me? How many times have you let a day slip “just because” and then another day and then another and then BAM! Habit begone?)

So, point of this Idea (beyond the above): When you’re tempted to skip a day, remember this wisdom: “It’s OK to suck. It’s not OK to skip.”

Even if you have a TERRIBLE meditation or workout or writing session or whatever, it’s WAY better to suck than to skip.

Seriously. Way better.

What habit can you put this tip into practice on?

Get on that!

(And, remember the Micro-Habit principle: Make it silly easy to do so you can easily keep the streak alive!!)

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