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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 optimize.me.)
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OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time
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Aug 18, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we talked about Seneca’s wisdom on the importance of “fortifying our pertinacity” until our will to do the right thing becomes a disposition to doing the right thing.
 
That’s basically EXACTLY what we talked about a little bit ago when we explored the Algorithms Module we recently went through in the Mastery portion of our Optimize Coach program.
 
As you may recall (bonus points and high fives if you’ve already tattooed this line on your Optimizing consciousness), I often say that it’s all about using our Willpower wisely to install Habits that run on autopilot via Algorithms.
 
Here’s a super-quick recap of the basic idea that I think we REALLY want to get. 
 
(btw: I just got goosebumps as I typed that.) 
 
(Yes, as we’ve established by this stage, I’m weird. Things like this get me that fired up.) 
 
So… 
 
Our basal ganglia is an ancient part of our brain. In fact, it’s 500 million (!!!) years old. All mammals have it.
 
Among other things, it basically figures out what behaviors seem important to us (because we do them often) and decides to save us all the effort of having to think about doing them by helping us do them automatically.
 
Thank you, basal ganglia.
 
Now, this is super helpful for the good stuff. My hunch is you don’t need to negotiate with yourself every night when it’s time to brush your teeth. And, you probably just automatically put on your seat belt when you get in a car.
 
Thank you, basal ganglia.
 
Of course, this isn’t so helpful for the sub-optimal behaviors. We’ll save that chat for another time.
 
Today I want to talk about a handy-dandy little framework I developed for our Coaches to help them Master the process of (I repeat!) using their Willpower wisely to install Habits that run on autopilot via Algorithms.
 
I encouraged them to think about a Pilot, Co-Pilot and Autopilot.
 
The Pilot? That’s your Daimon. That (Optimus!) best part of us that basically always knows the right thing to do and is always whispering in our ears. (If we’d only slow down long enough to listen!)
 
The Co-Pilot? That’s you. Our job, as I see it, is to simply PAY ATTENTION to what that Pilot is guiding us to do and then, of course, DO IT more consistently. 
 
The Autopilot? That’s our basal ganglia. It’s WAITING for us to program the optimal behaviors. It’s almost like the basal ganglia is our pre-installed brain “hardware” and our job (as Co-Pilots) is to listen to the Pilot then program the behavioral “software” that gets us doing the right thing more and more consistently.
 
Obviously, part of a longer chat but there ya go.
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Pilot. Co-Pilot. Autopilot.
 
You playing your role well?
 
What little behavioral software upgrade is your Pilot asking you to program these days?
 
Is TODAY a good day to fortify your pertinacity such that the (Optimus!) best you becomes the default you?
 
F A N T A S T I C.
 
Happy Optiflying!!
 
+1. +1. +1.
Aug 13, 2019
Skipping the longer philosophical chat about the ethics of being a conqueror, Today we’re going to chat about Alexander the Great.
 
More specifically, we’re going to talk about him and a knot.
 
The Gordion Knot.
 
You know the story?
 
Wikipedia tells us that legend has it that, once upon a time, the ancient people known as the Phrygians (who lived in what is now modern Turkey) didn’t have a king. 
 
An oracle declared that the next man to enter their capital city driving an ox-cart would become king. (That’s one way to do it, eh? astonished face)
 
So… A peasant farmer drove an ox-cart into town and, lo and behold, became king.
 
His name was Gordias. 
 
In gratitude, his son Midas dedicated the ox-cart to the main Phrygian god (kinda like their version of Zeus) and tied it to a post with a super-intricate knot. 
 
As in, "good luck untying THAT knot” kinda knot.
 
A Roman historian described it as "several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened.”
 
Fast forward.
 
Another oracle declares that whoever can unravel the crazy knot would become the ruler of all of Asia. (That’s one way to do it, eh?)
 
Fast forward.
 
Many men attempt to unravel the knot. No luck.
 
Fast forward.
 
It’s now 333 bce. 
 
Alexander the Great cruises into town. He tries to untie the knot himself and has no luck.
 
So… 
 
Being Great and all, he just decides to pull out his sword and slice the knot in half with a single blow. (That’s one way to do it, eh?
 
And then, of course, he went on to fulfill the prophecy as he conquered Asia.
 
Enter: The Gordion Knot.
 
Back to Wikipedia which tells us: “It is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (untying an impossibly-tangled knot) solved easily by finding an approach to the problem that renders the perceived constraints of the problem moot (‘cutting the Gordian knot’).”
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Got any seemingly impossible knots in your life?
 
How’s the unraveling going? 
 
Is there, perhaps, a more direct and/or forceful approach to resolving the issue than you may have tried so far?
 
Here’s a sword. 
 
Just in case it comes in handy.
Aug 8, 2019
We’re kinda on a roll with the whole envy-squishing theme, so why not one more?
 
In our last +1,  we talked about the fact that if we’re going to compare ourselves to others (please don’t! lol) we might as well do it right—recognizing the fact that EVERYONE experiences ups and downs en route to their particular flavor of awesome.
 
That wisdom reminds me of some parallel wisdom from Alan Stein’s great book Raise Your Game.
 
Here’s what he has to say about envy: “My friend Paul Bioncardi of ESPN loves to say, ‘You will always lose the Comparison Game.’ Why is that? Because it’s rigged. It has no function besides enlarging self-doubt. I’m typing this chapter on board a flight to South Dakota. Among the 250 passengers on this plane, I can quickly find someone better looking, funnier, more successful, taller, more muscular, smarter. It won’t take long to find someone who scores higher than me on almost any metric.”
 
Alan concludes: If I use these people as my measuring stick—to determine my self-worth and value—I will always lose.”
 
The Comparison Game.
 
Want to know who ALWAYS loses that game?
 
You.
 
And me.
 
And everyone who plays it.
 
But only every single time.
 
(Reminds me of Byron Katie’s wisdom: “When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.”)
 
(Also reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wisdom: Envy is ignorance. Imitation is suicide.”)
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Let’s channel our inner Faulkner and play the Optimize Game: “Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
 
P.S. You know who ALWAYS wins the Optimize Game?
 
You.
 
And me.
 
And everyone who plays it.
 
But only every single time. 
 
(Remember: Simply striving to be your best is a pre-win.)
 
+1. +1. +1. FOR THE WIN!!!
Aug 3, 2019
In our last +1, we reflected on the idea that little (and big) oopses provide us with opportunities to appreciate that we’re still alive as we practice gratitude that something much worse didn’t happen. 
 
At least THAT didn’t happen!
 
For me, when I broke my arm, I was grateful I didn’t break my neck. When I tripped and nearly fell the other day, I was grateful I had an abdominal strain and not a trip back to the ER for my arm.
 
Whenever I think of this re-framing exercise, I think of a dear friend of mine we lost in a tragic speed-flying accident. One of the most beautiful, inspiring, energized people I’ve ever met. Went out for a flight off a mountain he’d jumped off countless times. Wings didn’t open the way they should have. BAM. Gone. 
 
I have tears in my eyes as I type that. 
 
I often think how grateful he would be if he had just broken an arm or even his neck. 
 
Then I alchemize that pain into a virtual fist-bump and hug for his daimon and re-commit to savoring this one precious life of ours.
 
All of which makes me think of our Stoic philosopher friends. For multiple reasons.
 
Today we’ll chat about their thoughts on death.
 
We actually already talked about one of their practices in our +1 on Rehearsing Your Death
 
In that one, as you may recall, Seneca tells us: Rehearse death. To say this is to tell a person to rehearse his freedom. A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”
 
Today we’ll let Marcus Aurelius add his perspective.
 
Here’s how he puts it: “Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no other life except the one he loses... This means that the longest life and the shortest amount to the same thing. For the passing minute is every man’s equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours.”
 
He also tells us: “Take it that you have died today, and your life’s story is ended; and henceforward regard what future time may be given you as an uncovenanted surplus, and live it out in harmony with nature.”
 
That’s one way to think about it, eh?
 
And that’s Today’s +1. 
 
If you feel so inspired, let’s actually do the exercise.
 
Imagine this: You just died. 
 
Bam! You’re gone. 
 
And... 
 
You got the good fortune to come back starting... 
 
… Now! 
 
OK. 
 
Now, let’s see if we can live with a fresh appreciation that every (!) moment (!) is a gift. 
 
Here’s to appreciating the uncovenanted surplus” of moments.
 
Today.
Jul 24, 2019
This morning on the Trail I was thinking about Mister Rogers and his challenges creating (recall our “tortures of the damned”!) along with Dr. Seuss and all his creative challenges.
 
Then I was thinking about all the challenges I (and we all) face as I (and we all) strive to do my (and our) life’s work. (And… I was thinking about that gap that pretty much *always* exists between what we see in our mind’s eye and what winds up on our proverbial canvases.)
 
I thought to myself, “Are there any artists truly happy with their work?”
 
At precisely the moment I finished framing that question in my head I glanced down and saw a snail a few feet ahead of me.
 
And I smiled.
 
It was a just a normal, mid-size snail. The kind we see all the time and usually just kinda take for granted and ignore.
 
But this morning I could see just how elegantly perfectly his (or was it her?) shell was designed.
 
I mean, it was a piece of art!!!
 
And then it hit me…
 
The “Guy” (or was it “Gal”? Or was it…?) who created THAT piece of art?
 
He/She/It was definitely happy with His/Her/Its creation.
 
Then I looked around and saw all the other imperfectly perfect art on display—from the trees to the dirt to the rocks and the weeds and the shrubs and the sky and, well, everything.
 
It was kind of an epiphanal moment for me. 
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Let’s celebrate all the art in our lives.
 
And try to emulate the satisfaction of the ultimate Creator as we diligently, patiently, persistently, humbly and JOYFULLY strive to make our lives (and all its creations in it) a masterpiece!
Jul 19, 2019
Continuing our trip through Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky’s brilliant brains and equally brilliant book Make Time, Today we’re going to have fun with a little history lesson combined with a super-simple way to start chipping away at all those twitchy smartphone touches.
 
(I still can’t believe the average person touches their phones 2,617 times per day!!!)
 
Jake and JZ give us a ton of great tactics to rock their four-step process. (Recall: Highlight + Laser + Energize + Reflect! btw: You know YOUR Highlight for Today?)
 
In fact, they  share 87 tips and tricks to Optimize!
 
In the “Laser” section, after teaching us how to create a “distraction-free phone” (hint: clear your home screen, remove email apps, social media and unnecessary notifications) they encourage us to consider getting a simple watch—you know, those things that just tell time. 
 
Here’s the little history lesson.
 
They tell us: “In 1714, the British government offered a £20,000 prize (that’s $5 million in 2018 money), to anyone who could invent a portable clock that could be used aboard ships. It took nearly fifty years and dozens of prototypes until finally, in 1761, John Harrison created the first ‘chronometer.’ It was a technological marvel that changed the world even though it was barely portable—the clock had to be mounted in a special cabinet and stowed belowdecks for its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the HMS Deptford.”
 
Isn’t that awesome?!
 
They continue: Today you can buy a portable clock—that is, a digital quartz wristwatch—for ten bucks. It’s always accurate. It’s lightweight and waterproof. It can wake you up after a nap or remind you to take dinner out of the oven. It’s an amazing piece of technology.”
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Want a super-simple and equally powerful way to reduce our compulsive smartphone usage?
 
Consider getting a portable clock.
 
And…
 
Let’s salute the crew of the HMS Deptford on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic as we appreciate that miraculous moving time piece we can put on our wrist as we remember to appreciate just how awesome our modern lives are—ESPECIALLY when we Optimize how we choose to use all the amazing technology!
Jul 14, 2019
A couple +1s ago, we hung out with Mister Rogers in his barrelful of songs. 
 
Today I want to hop in the pool with him and then do something extra special.
 
First, some more wisdom from The World According to Mister Rogers.
 
Fred tells us: “I like to swim, but there are some days I just don’t feel much like doing it—but I do it anyway! I know it’s good for me and I like to keep my promises. That’s one of my disciplines. And it’s a good feeling after you’ve tried and done something well. Inside you think, ‘I’ve kept at this and I’ve really learned it—not by magic, but by my own work.’”
 
Of course, I LOVE the fact that Fred swims every day. Whether he (insert whiney voice) feels like it or not. He knows it’s good for him and he likes to keep his promises.
 
So…
 
*splash*
 
See ya in the pool!
 
But it’s not his discipline to swim every day that I want to talk about Today.
 
It’s what he does AFTER he gets out of the pool.
 
He steps on the scale.
 
And what does it say?
 
“143.”
 
When did it say that?
 
Basically EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! of his adult life.
 
Do you know WHY he was so enamored with his scale saying “143”? 
 
Well, “I” has 1 letter, “L-O-V-E” has 4 letters and “Y-O-U” has 3 letters. 
 
1-4-3.
 
His ENTIRE LIFE—all the way down to his weight!!—was one big expression of “I love you.”
 
Today’s +1.
 
Makes me wonder: What are YOU committed to? 
 
Is there a way to have fun connecting your weight to that mojo? 
 
+1. +4. +3.
 
P.S. Fred was 6 feet tall. So am I. I weigh a little more than Fred but not that much. 
 
Although I’m currently in the 150’s, I’ve been playing around with different potential combos for my weight. When/if it’s in the 140’s again, I’m thinking 149 might be cool.
 
1 is for our “I’ and 4 is for “L-O-V-E.” 
 
What about the 9? 
 
Let’s go with: “E-U-D-A-I-M-O-N-S.”
 
I love YOU and YOUR eudaimon. 
 
Yes, I do.
Jul 9, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about being the change we want to see in the world.
 
I asked: What change DO you want to see?
 
(Well… What is it?! And… Are you being it?!)
 
That makes me think of another 20th century icon: Mister Fred Rogers.
 
In his great little book The World According to Mister Rogers, we get to immerse ourselves in a collection of wisdom-gems from the great man.
 
Including this one: “The values we care about the deepest, and the movements within society that support those values, command our love. When those things that we care about so deeply become endangered, we become enraged. And what a healthy thing that is! Without it, we would never stand up and speak out for what we believe.”
 
Mister Rogers “enraged”?
 
Yep.
 
You want to see his fierce courage in action?
 
Watch this 6 minute, 50 second video of him testifying before congress. 
 
Note: Please make sure you notice how he channeled that rage into pure love.
 
Notice how pure love broke through the armor of a hitherto harsh foe. (I’ll be surprised if you, like the Senator in that hearing, don’t get goosebumps (and/or tears) FEELING the soul force of Fred Rogers standing up and speaking out for what he believed in and dedicated his life to.)
 
What’s fascinating for me is how similar Fred’s approach is to Gandhi’s. 
 
As we discussed, one of the primary themes of that book is Gandhi’s evolution/transformation in which he learned to alchemize his anger into an unstoppable “soul-force.”
 
He did this via what he called satyagraha.”
 
Satyagraha is a word he coined combining two Sanskrit words. It basically means “holding onto truth” and is the foundation of his (and MLK’s) “nonviolent resistance” to evil.
 
So... What values do YOU care about the deepest? 
 
What movements within society support those values and command your love? 
 
Are those values endangered?
 
If so, let’s become enraged and celebrate the power of that emotion as we alchemize that fierce love into noble action—standing up and speaking out for what we believe.
Jul 4, 2019
Today I’d like to let you know that I officially have a new job. It’s one I’m quite excited about.
 
First, a little context.
 
You know that Ferrari pit crew guy I’ve been obsessing about? You know, the one we watched in this little video
 
(I’m literally getting that picture framed so I can put it up in my office, btw.)
 
As you may recall, his sole job is to yank off the right-front tire while his 21 buddies play their roles as well as they can as they create some poetry in motion.
 
Well, that’s my new job.
 
Only YOU are the Race Car Driver
 
Imagine me poised and ready to yank off your front-right tire so you can get back on track Optimized and ready to rock every day. 
 
Because that’s what I’ll be doing for as long as I’m lucky enough to serve in your crew.
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Have a great Race Day, my friend.
 
Oh! 
 
P.S. Two quick little things.
  1. What’s the most important thing for you to do in your Race Today?
  2. How will YOU swap out someone’s front-right tire Today?
 
That is all.
 
That and LET’S DO THIS!!!
Jun 29, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about Twyla Tharp’s thoughts on reading and thinking.
 
Recall her comment that: “If I stopped reading, I’d stop thinking. It’s that simple.”
 
(Amen!)
 
Today I’d like to talk about HOW she reads.
 
I really like her perspective because it’s pretty much EXACTLY how I read. 
 
And, well, people are always asking me how I read a book so let’s go with this wisdom as a perfect proxy to my process.
 
Twyla tells us: “When I’m reading archeologically, I’m not reading for pleasure. I read the way I scratch for an idea, digging down deep so I can get something out of it and use it in my work. I read transactionally: How can I use this? It’s not enough for me to read a book. I have to ‘own’ it. I scribble in the margins. I circle sentences I like and connect them with arrows to other useful sentences. I draw stars and exclamation points on every good page, to the point where the book is almost unreadable. By writing all over the pages, I transform the author’s work into my book—and mine alone.”
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Here’s a nice bold pen for your archeological reading-digging! 
Jun 19, 2019
Have you ever read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho?
 
It’s amazing. I’ve read it a bunch of times. 
 
Guess how many copies the book has sold since Paulo wrote it over 30 years ago…
 
65 MILLION! (!!!)
 
It’s been translated into 80 (!!) languages (which takes the prize for the most translated book by any living author) and is widely considered one of the ten best books of the twentieth century.
 
But you know what? Before becoming one of the best-selling books of ALL TIME, it was one of the WORST-selling books of all time. (Hah!)
 
In fact, here’s a little story Paulo shares in the foreword to the 25th Anniversary edition of the book (it’s almost as good as the story itself!): 
 
When The Alchemist was first published twenty-five years ago in my native Brazil, no one noticed. A bookseller in the northeast corner of the country told me that only one person purchased a copy the first week of its release. It took another six months for the bookseller to unload a second copy—and that was to the same person who bought the first! And who knows how long it took to sell the third. 
 
By the end of the year, it was clear to everyone that The Alchemist wasn't working. My original publisher decided to cut me loose and cancelled our contract. They wiped their hands of the project and let me take the book with me. I was forty-one and desperate.”
 
Then what?
 
He says: But I never lost faith in the book or ever wavered in my vision. Why? Because it was me in there, all of me, heart and soul. I was living my own metaphor. A man sets out on a journey, dreaming of a beautiful or magical place, in pursuit of some unknown treasure. At the end of his journey, the man realizes the treasure was with him the entire time. 
 
I was following my Personal Legend, and my treasure was my capacity to write. And I wanted to share this treasure with the world.
 
As I wrote in The Alchemist, when you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you. I started knocking on the doors of other publishers. One opened, and the publisher on the other side believed in me and my book and agreed to give The Alchemist a second chance. Slowly, through word of mouth, it finally started to sell—three thousand, then six thousand, ten thousand—book by book, gradually throughout the year.”
 
Fast-forward. 
 
Eight months later an American visiting Brazil picks up a copy of The Alchemist at a local bookstore and asks if he can translate it. One thing leads to another which leads to another which leads to Bill Clinton leaving the White House with a copy of the book and Madonna and Will Smith raving about it.
 
Then it hit the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for more than three hundred weeks.
 
He says: People continue to ask me if I knew The Alchemist would be such a huge success. The answer is no. I had no idea. How could I? When I sat down to write The Alchemist, all I knew is that I wanted to write about my soul. I wanted to write about my quest to find my treasure.”
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Two parts.
 
First: If you’re one of the 17 people on the planet into Optimizing who hasn’t read The Alchemist yet, what are you waiting for?
 
Second: What’s your personal quest? What do you REALLY (!) want?!
 
Remember: “There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth... And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Jun 14, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we’ve had fun (at least I have!) briefly chatting about the first two steps Paul Napper and Anthony Rao encourage us to take in pursuit of cultivating our Agency such that life’s challenges are just nutritious treats fueling our hero’s journeys.
 
Step 1: Control Stimuli.
Step 2: Selectively Associate. 
 
Today we’re going to talk about Step 3: Move.
 
Here’s how Paul and Anthony put it: “Focusing on movement, and on the nutrition and rest necessary to keep you active and in balance, increases mental and physical strength and stamina–essential building blocks to all body and mind functions.”
 
Want a strong sense of personal power?
 
Well, as we discuss ALL.THE.TIME!!, you better ENERGIZE
 
Let’s hear it from their perspective. 
 
They tell us: “We all know what it feels like to sit around like a slug all day, not getting outdoors and moving about. But when we get some real movement in, it is a kind of agency in itself. It primes our minds and our senses to fully engage in the world.”
 
They continue: “When we say Move, we really mean this: Pay attention to your body so that you can provide it with what it requires to be healthy and in balance, because when your body is out of balance, your mind is out of balance. To achieve this, engage in physical movements in multiple ways, rest adequately, and eat nutritious food. Your agency depends on it. Without physical health and balance in your life, everything else will wobble and decline. Flexibility, strength, and stamina are the most obvious things that begin to deteriorate when you’re physically out of balance. But likewise, your motivation, your ability to pay attention, and your ability to delay gratification are adversely affected. Most important to realize, with unhealthy amounts of movement, rest, nutrition, your psychological state–your thinking skills and ability to manage your emotions– deteriorates, and along with it your personal agency.”
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
What’s the one thing you know you could be doing that could most benefit your life if you did it consistently starting Today?
 
Got it? 
 
Now forget it. (Hah.)
 
What’s one TINY (!!!) little thing you could do RIGHT NOW (!) that would be a fun way to demonstrate some mastery and build your agency?
 
Let’s do it. 
 
Together.
 
(Mine? I’m going to take a nice, calming, deep breath in through my nose down into my belly. Then pause for a moment before smiling and exhaling back out through my nose—slightly longer than my inhale—as I relax my body and get ready to give the world some more of what I’ve got!)
Jun 9, 2019
In our last little flurry of +1s, we had some fun with Mel Robbins’s 5 Second Rule.
 
Have you tried it out yet?
 
5… 4… 3… 2… 1… - GO!!!
 
That might be THE most elegantly efficient Tool we’ve discussed to help close the gap between who we’re CAPABLE of being and who we’re ACTUALLY being. (Operationalizing Areté for the win!) 
 
Now, one of the key themes of Mel’s book and reasons why that tool is so powerful is the fact that, in addition to getting us to take action RIGHT NOW on what matters most, her 5 Second Rule also builds something that scientists call “agency.”
 
(Mel actually doesn’t use the word “agency” to describe it; she focuses on a parallel idea called “locus of control.” We’ll save that idea for another time.)
 
Agency
 
It’s a beautiful word. One of my favorites in fact. Science says it’s one of the secret sauces to Optimizing.
 
So, when I fortuitously stumbled upon a book called The Power of Agency on Amazon, I immediately got it and read it. It’s written by Paul Napper and Anthony Rao—two leading consultants and clinicians who have both held academic positions at Harvard Medical School. 
 
In their great book, they define agency as “the ability to act as an effective agent for yourself—reflecting, making creative choices, and constructing a meaningful life.” 
 
In the book, they provide practical, scientifically-grounded wisdom on, as per the sub-title: “The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms.” 
 
We’ll explore a few of the most powerful, practical Ideas on how to BUILD our agency over the next several days.
 
Today I just want to make the connection between DOING WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE and cultivating a strong sense of personal power (aka agency).
 
Well…
 
That and I also want to have a little fun.
 
Imagine that you’re a Secret Agent. 
 
(DoubleO-You perhaps. Short for OptimizingOptimusYOU, of course!)
 
You work for your Daimon. 
 
What mission is he/she asking you to carry out? 
 
Have you chosen to accept it?
 
What’s your next step?
 
Get on that!
 
This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds…
 
5… 4… 3… 2… 1… - GO!
Jun 4, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about our new Optimus launch code: "5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Now what needs to be done?” 
 
Although I didn’t make the second part of the little launch mantra explicit, we connected Mel Robbins’s brilliant 5 Second Rule with David Reynold’s Constructive Living Rule.
 
It’s always awesome to see teachers from such different backgrounds say basically exactly the same thing.
 
As you may recall, Reynolds is a Zen therapist who wrote a great little book called Constructive Living. 
 
He tells us: “Our behavior is controllable in a way that our feelings are not. There is a very special satisfaction for the Artist of Living who works within life’s limits to produce a fine self-portrait. The more control we develop over our actions, the more chance we have of producing a self we can be proud of.”
 
His mantra? 
 
“Now what needs to be done?”
 
(We have a +1 on this already but it’s worth a replay.)
 
Don’t feel like doing something you know you need to do? No problem. 
 
“Now what needs to be done?”
 
Happen again? Fantastic.
 
“Now what needs to be done?”
 
(Laughing.)
 
Repeat. All day. Every day.
 
And, if you’re feeling it, rock the 5 Second Rule with it as well.
 
"5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Now what needs to be done?” 
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
One more time:
 
"5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Now what needs to be done?” 
 
Step forward into growth. Flip the switch
 
Close the gap between who you’re CAPABLE of being and who you’re ACTUALLY being.
 
Again and again and again.
 
5… 4… 3… 2… 1… BLASTOFF!
May 30, 2019
A couple +1s ago, we hung out with a world-class Ferrari pit stop crew and took a moment to celebrate all the people in OUR pit stop crews while committing to stepping up our pit crew games for those we’re blessed to serve.
 
Today I want to talk about WD-40.
 
I’ve actually been meaning to talk about it for awhile and Today seems like a good day. 
 
Of course, I have no idea if pit stop crews use WD-40 (I’m pretty sure the Ferrari guys don’t—lol) but it seems like a good opportunity to slip in a fun story so here we are.
 
WD-40.
 
For those who may not be familiar with the super-lubricating product, Wikipedia tells us that WD-40 is the trademark name of a penetrating oil and water-displacing spray. The spray is manufactured by the WD-40 Company based in San Diego, California.”
 
But that’s not the point of Today’s +1.
 
I want to talk about the origin story for WD-40.
 
Pop quiz: Do you know how they came up with that name?
 
Well, on the company’s web site they tell us: “WD-40® literally stands for Water Displacement, 40th formula. That's the name straight out of the lab book used by the chemist who developed the product back in 1953. The chemist, Norm Larsen, was attempting to concoct a formula to prevent corrosion—a task which is done by displacing water.”
 
That’s a nice way to say that our chemist friend Norm Larsen failed 39 times trying to figure out how to create a solvent to prevent corrosion but then finally figured it out. On attempt #40.
 
And then they figured out thousands of ways to apply his new solvent to everyday challenges.
 
I kinda like that arc.
 
Dozens of failures. Oops.
 
Figured it out. Awesome.
 
Then figured out how to scale the new discovery to solve a ton of other challenges. Even more awesome.
 
Skipping any more unpaid product promotion (lol)… 
 
Today’s +1. 
 
Have you ever failed over and over and over again before finally succeeding? (Of course you have. Let’s celebrate that!!)
 
And… Are you, perhaps, in the middle of another series of experiments to figure out how to master something? (I hope so, heroic one!)
 
Let’s squirt a little WD-Optimizing40 on our challenges and get back to work in the laboratories of our lives as we get a little closer to a fun breakthrough origin story!
May 25, 2019
Way back in the early days of our +1 Optimizing together, we talked about the fact that our limbic systems evolved to deal with a single lion roaring at us at a time. 
 
As we said in that little chat on Lions vs. Jungles, that lion’s roar triggers a fight or flight response. We fight or we flee. And, hopefully, we live to talk about the tale later. 
 
But, the important thing to note is that the stress from that event, although extremely acute, is also extremely short-lived. We respond to the challenge and move on. Our nervous system resets itself, all good.
 
These days, we’re so bombarded with stimuli that it’s as if, to use Alberto Villoldo’s metaphor, the ENTIRE JUNGLE is roaring at us ALL DAY EVERY DAY.
 
Yikes.
 
The result? 
 
A whole lot of enervated anxiety.
 
Today I want to talk about the single best predictor of people’s fear and anxiety. 
 
Pop quiz: Can you guess what it is?
 
We’ll find the answer at the end of this little passage from Kelly McGonigal’s The Upside of Stress
 
She tells us: “Stress caused by the news, as opposed to stress caused by your life, is unique in its ability to trigger a sense of hopelessness. Watching TV news after a natural disaster or terrorist attack has consistently been shown to increase the risk of developing depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. One shocking study found that people who watched six or more hours of news about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing were more likely to develop post-traumatic stress symptoms than people who were actually at the bombing and personally affected by it. It’s not just traditional news programs that instill fear and hopelessness; stories of tragedy, trauma, and threats dominate many forms of media. In fact, a 2014 study of U.S. adults found that the single best predictor of people’s fear and anxiety was how much time they spent watching TV talk shows.”
 
There ya go.
 
“… a 2014 study of U.S. adults found that the single best predictor of people’s fear and anxiety was how much time they spent watching TV talk shows.”
 
Today’s +1.
 
Two quick questions.
  1. How’s your fear and anxiety?
  2. How much time do you spend watching TV talk shows?
Bonus questions: See any connections and/or ways to Optimize?
 
Here’s to dealing with the inevitable stressors of life without introducing unnecessary ones!!
 
+1. +1. +1. via -1. -1. -1.
May 20, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we talked about the art and science of lining up our dominoes in one neat and shiny staircase to moon-heaven. 
 
It all sounds so nice and easy when it’s mapped out like that, eh? (Hah.)
 
But… 
 
Alas, there are a few important asterisks to that little story.
 
As important as it is to have clarity on what’s important and worthy of our life force, nothing is ever quite that straightforward in real heroic living. 
 
And, of course, it’s impossible to line up ALL the dominoes and see them perfectly arrayed before you actually start the journey.
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Embrace the mess.
 
It’s a feature of the Hero’s Journey, not a sign that something's wrong with you and your approach per se.
 
And, remember: The greater the challenge, the greater the need for a protocol to keep our emotional stamina Optimized.
 
That is all.
 
Here’s to joyfully embracing the wonderfully messy process of Optimizing and actualizing. Especially when you don’t feel like it. (Hah!)
 
High fives from me and my daimon to you and yours!
 
P.S. Let’s do this!!
May 15, 2019
The other day I headed to Google to look up the meaning of the phrase “force multiplier.” 
 
Short story: When we initially launched our Optimize Coach certification program, I said that I believed our program could be a catalytic force multiplier in helping people Optimize their lives so we can change the world together.
 
After the first couple of months working with our first class of Coaches, I am more certain of that catalytic power than ever before.
 
Enter: A quick Google search on force multiplier” so I could wrap my brain around the precise definition of that powerful phrase.
 
The best (and first) answer came from PersonalMBA.com. (Thanks, guys! And, thanks Google for connecting us!)
 
Here’s how they put it: “Force Multipliers are tools that help you Amplify your effort to produce more output. A hammer is a force multiplier. Investing in Force Multipliers means that you'll get more done with the same amount of effort.”
 
Brilliant, eh?
 
Would you rather hammer a nail in with your hand or with a hammer? 
 
Same basic swinging motion of effort. But the hammer delivers a lot more output with the same effort, eh? (While, obviously, saving your hand from the ouch! Hammer for the win!)
 
While taking a quick gander at other definitions and examples of force multipliers, I stumbled upon a brilliant blog post about some wisdom from retired four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
 
Here’s how Powell puts it: “In the military, we are always looking for ways to leverage up our forces. Having greater communications and command and control over your forces than your enemy has over his is a force multiplier. Having greater logistics capability than the enemy is a force multiplier. Having better-trained commanders is a force multiplier.
 
Perpetual optimism, believing in yourself, believing in your purpose, believing you will prevail, and demonstrating passion and confidence is a force multiplier. If you believe and have prepared your followers, the followers will believe.”
 
Perpetual optimism.”
 
← Isn’t that a beautiful phrase?
 
Well, it might just be our most powerful force multiplier. 
 
Tomorrow we’ll talk about a little distinction to that wisdom. 
 
Today I’d like to do a quick check in.
 
How’s your belief in yourself? And your belief in your purpose? And your belief that you will prevail?
 
Let’s remember that our passion and confidence are force multipliers. 
 
Our “followers” (be they our kids or our colleagues or our staff or OURSELVES!) are A L W A Y S watching and taking our lead. 
 
So, let’s lead wisely. 
 
Let’s multiply our power via perpetual optimism!!
 
How can you boost your optimism just a little more Today?
May 10, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we’ve had fun exploring some wisdom gems from my recent PhilosophersNotes binge-athon.
 
Today we’re going to talk about another great Idea from another great Note. This one’s on Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life.
 
Quick context: Stephen is the director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living. Kripalu is the largest yoga research institute in the Western world. (And being the director of “Extraordinary Living” may be the coolest job title ever, eh?) 
 
As the Senior Scholar in Residence at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, he has been integrating Eastern contemplative traditions and Western philosophy and psychology for years.
 
In his great book, Stephen brings the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita to life in our modern lives.
 
One of the big themes of the book is the idea of dharma.
 
He tells us: “The yoga tradition is very, very interested in the idea of an inner possibility harbored within every human soul. Yogis insist that every single human being has a unique vocation. They call this dharma. Dharma is a potent Sanskrit word that is packed tight with meaning, like one of those little sponge animals that expands to six times its original size when you add water. Dharma means, variously, ‘path,’ ‘teaching,’ or ‘law.’ For our purposes in this book it will mean primarily, ‘vocation,’ or ‘sacred duty.’ It means, most of all—and in all cases—truth. Yogis believe that our greatest responsibility in life is to this inner possibility—this dharma—and they believe that every human being’s duty is to utterly, fully, and completely embody his own idiosyncratic dharma…”
 
Dharma.
 
I just LOVE that word.
 
And, I love the idea that “every single human being has a unique vocation” and that every human being’s duty is to utterly, fully, and completely embody his own idiosyncratic dharma.”
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
What’s YOUR idiosyncratic dharma?
 
Here’s to honoring our sacred duty as we give the world all we’ve got.
Apr 25, 2019
In our last +1, we explored the relationship between our food rotting and us rotting. Recall: The longer the shelf life of the food we eat, the shorter our lives will be!
 
That wisdom was from Michael Pollan’s Food Rules
 
In fact, it’s Rule #13: “Eat only foods that will eventually rot.”
 
Today we’re going to talk about another Food Rule.
 
Food Rule #57 to be precise.
 
“Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.”
Funny.
 
Here’s how Pollan puts it: “American gas stations now make more money inside selling food (and cigarettes) than they do outside selling gasoline. But consider what kind of food this is: Except perhaps for the milk and water, it’s all highly processed, imperishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened soft drinks in hefty twenty-ounce bottles. Gas stations have become ‘processed corn stations’: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside for you. Don’t eat there.”
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Don’t eat at a gas station. 
 
Ever again.
 
Hah.
 
Seriously.
Apr 20, 2019
Why We Sleep is a life-changing kinda book.
 
We’re going to spend a few more days mining a few more of the many gems from Matthew Walker’s masterpiece.
 
Today we’re going to flip open our virtual Optimize magazine to the kind of ad we’d allow in there.
 
Here it is:
 
AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH!
Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and strokes, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?”
 
← Wow!! I’ll take it! You?
 
Matthew continues: “While it may sound hyperbolic, nothing about this fictitious advertisement would be inaccurate. If this were a drug, many people will be disbelieving. Those who were convinced would pay large sums of money for even the smallest dose. Should clinical trials back up the claims, share prices of the pharmaceutical company that invented the drug would skyrocket.
 
Of course, the ad is not describing some miracle new tincture or a cure-all wonder drug, but rather the proven benefits of a full night of sleep. The evidence supporting these claims have been documented in more than 17,000 well-scrutinized and scientific reports to date. As for the prescription cost, well, there isn’t one. It’s free. Yet all too often, we shun the nightly invitations to receive our full dose of this all natural remedy–with terrible consequences.
Failed by the lack of public education, most of us do not realize how remarkable a panacea sleep truly is.”
 
I always love it when the fundamentals are pitched like a miracle pill.
 
Jonathan Haidt’s similar ad for meditation comes to mind: “Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It’s called meditation.
 
Then there’s John Ratey’s magic from Spark: “I tell people that going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters. It’s a handy metaphor to get the point across, but the deeper explanation is that exercise balances neurotransmitters — along with the rest of the neurochemicals in the brain. And as you’ll see, keeping your brain in balance can change your life.”
 
(btw: After shattering my arm, I couldn’t exercise/sweat for a month. Gah!!! I *really* missed my little daily dose of Ritalin and Prozac and I’m really happy to be popping those metaphorical pills again! Alas, I’m still months away from full burpees but I’ll take what I can get for now!)
 
So, yah. Sleep is a magic pill. So is meditation. And exercise. 
 
The more of those metaphorical pills we pop, the less of the other stuff we’re likely to need, eh?
 
P.S. Actual sleeping pills? Matthew dedicates a chapter to outlining why they are a REALLY bad idea. They don’t help induce real, restorative sleep. Science says CBT-I is a much better option!!
Apr 15, 2019
In our Optimize Coach certification program, we kick the party off by establishing the game we’re playing in Module I: Eudaimon-ology in which we connect ancient wisdom (Aristotle!) to modern science (Seligman!) to establish the fact that it’s all about flourishing/having a “good soul” via living with virtue.
 
Then we move on to get clarity on how to Operationalize Virtue—going from theory to practice to mastery. When? TODAY!!! 
 
After a quick look at Module II: The Big 3 x 2 (aka: Energy + Work + Love x Identity + Virtues + Behaviors), we spend six (!!!) weeks on Module III: #carpediem as we begin systematically architecting our Masterpiece Days to cultivate emotional stamina and consistently express the (Optimus!) best version of ourselves.
 
We remind ourselves of the fact that our day actually begins the night before. As such, the first thing we focus on Optimizing is our PM Bookend. The #1 thing we focus on there is our digital sunset—aka, when we turn off our blue-light emitting devices to allow our brains to simmer down so we can get a good night of sleep so we can wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and energized.
 
All of which gets us one step closer to the point of Today’s +1.
 
During our two hours (!) of Q&A for that session, one of the questions a Coach asked was if it made a difference whether they read via an iPad or a book at night.
 
I gave my thoughts on the subject. Then, literally the next day, I got more clarity on the SCIENCE behind the answer.
 
Enter: Matthew Walker’s brilliant book on the science of Why We Sleep. (Note: If you’re going to read one book on sleep, this is it.)
 
Short story: Bring people into a lab. Have them read a book on an iPad a few hours before going to sleep. Then have the same person read a printed book on a different night. Then measure their melatonin. 
 
Here’s what you’ll find: “Compared to reading a printed book, reading on an iPad suppressed melatonin released by over 50% at night. Indeed, iPad reading delayed the rise of melatonin by up to three hours, relative to the natural rising the same individuals experience when reading a printed book. When reading on the iPad, their melatonin peak, and thus instruction to sleep, did not occur until the early morning hours, rather than before midnight. Unsurprisingly, individuals took longer to fall asleep after iPad reading relative to print-copy reading.”
 
Crazy but true: Reading on your iPad suppresses melatonin production (a key pacing event for great sleep) by a remarkable 50%!! 
 
So... 
 
Today’s +1: Reading tonight?
 
Consider going old school and reading a print book.
 
Your melatonin will thank you.
 
And your future, tomorrow self will thank you for the energy boost as well.
Apr 12, 2019

Mike Erwin joins us as a guest teacher for this class! CEO of The Character Center, co-founder of the Positivity Project, and co-author of the book Lead Yourself First, Mike is passionate about inspiring leaders across the country. His secret sauce to leadership? Solitude! (More specifically, freedom from the input of other minds.) In this class, Mike debunks the assumption that great leaders must always be accessible and uncovers the personal + organizational benefits of leaders who seek out periods of solitude. Want the competitive advantages of clarity, creativity, emotional balance + moral courage? Get your solitude on!

Apr 10, 2019
In our last +1, we did some severe pruning with Steve Chandler and Ralph Waldo Emerson. (How’d that go for you? More specifically: What went for you?)
 
Today we’re going to spend some more time doing creative gardening with Steve. 
 
Now, as we discussed in our +1 on our radish farm (oops!), I’m not much of a gardener. (Hah.) So… I’d never heard of “grow lights” before but I love the way Steve captures their metaphorical power. 
 
Here’s how he puts it in CREATOR: “When an aware person (someone who knows and realizes that they are creative energy itself) notices that the sales of their services have been neglected—resulting in lower income—they simply turn their light (creative energy) toward the sales process.
‘Whatever you give your attention to grows’ is not just some positive slogan—it’s how the world actually works. The more you become aware that you are infinite, creative energy, the more you can see yourself as light.
 
Think of it the way a gardener uses a grow light.’ Sometimes called a ‘plant light,’ grow lights make it easy to grow plants indoors. Grow lights are used for horticulture, indoor gardening, indoor hydroponics, and aquatic plants. Shine a grow light on your indoor plant and you ignite enough photosynthesis for the plant to grow.
 
Creativity is just like that light. You can shine your grow light anywhere. On your business, on relationships, on your exercise routine, on your music, and on your education.”
 
Love it!!!
 
Want to grow something in your life?
 
SHINE THE LIGHT OF YOUR AWARENESS ON IT.
 
Yep. That’s the trick-ticket.
 
Which kinda begs two questions:
  1. What would you like to see more of in your life? And,
  2. How can you shine a little more grow light on it?
 
Today a good day to get on that, my CREATOR friend?!? 
Mar 31, 2019
In our last +1, we had some fun soaking our minds in some epic “To Dare or Not to Dare” wisdom. We kicked that party off with a Søren Kierkegaard gem.
 
This one: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.” 
 
(How’s your daring going?)
 
Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
 
He was also the purveyor of other epically quotable wisdom gems.
 
Including this one: “God has given each of us our ‘marching orders.’ Our purpose here on Earth is to find those orders and carry them out. Those orders acknowledge our special gifts.”
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
God has given each of us our marching orders.
 
What are YOURS?
 
Let’s know that our purpose here on Earth (and why we do all we do together Optimizing!) is to find those orders and carry them out.
 
So… What are your special gifts? How are you/will you give them to the world?
 
One more time: What are your marching orders?
 
Let’s find them and follow them.
 
TODAY!
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