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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Now displaying: October, 2017
Oct 31, 2017
Gold-medal-winning mental toughness coach and author Lanny Bassham is all about focusing on the PROCESS of goal achievement. He tells a great story about one of his clients—a pro golfer. 
Now, this professional golfer was struggling a bit. He was setting his goals for the year and Lanny told him not to think about winning tournaments but to put all of his attention on mastering the process of playing well—identifying the key components of a successful shot and then taking it, literally, one shot at a time. 
So, this golfer embraces the wisdom. Early in the season, he's out on the 18th green in the final round of a big tournament. He's lining up his putt, following the process he and Lanny established. He makes the putt. 
His playing partner shakes his hand and congratulates him. 
Then he realizes something must be up when his wife runs on to the green cheering. 
"Did I win?" he asks. 
Yah. You just won the tournament and 1 million dollars. 
Imagine that. Imagine being so focused on executing the next baby in your process that you don't even know you're sinking a million dollar putt. 
And guess what? 
You are (of course) much more likely to sink the putt when every ounce of your creative energy is focused on doing your best and not leaking out in concerns about doing well enough. 
Process vs. Outcome.
Where’s your focus? 
Oct 31, 2017
In Spartan Up!, Joe De Sena (founder of Spartan Race) tells the ridiculous story of Göran Kropp.
Imagine your friend inviting you on an adventure.
He tells you, Hey! I have this idea. Let’s hop on our bikes from our homes in Sweden, ride to the base of Mount Everest, then hop off, ascend to the summit without oxygen or a sherpa and then come back down and ride back home!!! You in?!”
If you’re like me, you’d probably say, Dude. That’s crazy!!”
You might even be tempted to say that’s impossible.
But it’s not impossible
There’s a huge difference between the two. 
Really hard vs. Impossible.
Do you have any impossible” dreams that need to be redefined as simply really (really!) hard? 
Yah? Which one?
What one big thing would you dare to dream (and do) if you knew you couldn’t fail?
Think about it. Dream about it. Get fired up about it. Then go WOOP it and do it!
P.S. Remember Seneca’s wisdom: "It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”
Oct 31, 2017
Jack Nicklaus once said that the real key to being a great golfer was playing badly well.” 
It’s one thing to play well when everything’s rolling.
It’s an entirely different thing to be able to play well when things aren’t rolling smoothly.
Jim Afremow, one of the world’s leading mental toughness coaches and author of The Champion’s Mind calls it being ugly but effective” and having good bad days.”
We need to master the art of having good bad days.
The trick?
Well, first, expect to have some rough days and to do silly things on occasion. 
I forget what golfer said it but they expected to have x bad shots in any given round so when they had the inevitable bad shot they didn’t lose it. They just said, Yep. There’s one!” And then they moved on.
We need to do the same thing.
Expect mistakes. Rough patches when we’re not as connected as we’d like. That’s the first step. Then we don’t fall into a destructive cycle of wondering what’s wrong with us. We just acknowledge we’re not at our best and take the next baby step. (No big deal.)
What we DON’T want to do are all the stupid things we tend to do when we’re stressed. 
You know what I’m talking about.
I call those habits kryptonite.” The stuff that, for whatever reason, we tend to gravitate toward when we can least afford to be seduced by them.
What are they for you?
They’re different for each of us. You know those sirens who tempted Odysseus and his sailors—making them crash into the rocks? Did you know that they sang a different song for each of the different sailors? Yep.
What’s your song—the one that leads you on a path that results in you crashing into rocks and turning what could have been a good bad day into a really bad day?
Expect the challenges. Know your bad habits. Steer clear of the rocks.
Oct 30, 2017
Once upon a time (1938 to be precise) there was a pistol shooter. He was incredibly good. Hoped to be the very best, in fact.
Unfortunately, our Hero has his right hand blown off by a faulty grenade during combat training. (Gah.) That was his shooting hand. (Double gah.) All hopes are lost.
Or are they?
After a depressing month in the hospital, our Hero decides that he will simply learn how to shoot just as well with his left hand. He starts secretly training. 
He trains and trains and trains. He's now very good. He shows up at the 1939 World Championships. Everyone’s shocked to see him there. They’re even more shocked  when he wins.
His Olympic dreams are back on track. 
Enter: World War II. The 1940 and 1944 Olympics are canceled. 
He waits. 
He shows up at the next Olympics. He's now 38. 
The world champion asks him what he's doing there. Our Hero tells him he's there to learn. 
He wins. 
His name is Karoly Takacs.
The moral of the story?
Keep shooting. 
(Any targets you need to re-aim at?)
Oct 30, 2017
Dan Siegel is one of the world’s leading mindfulness / neuroscience / interpersonal neurobiology experts. 
Dan tells us that the healthy human being is psychologically flexible. He says we need to be kinda like a river flowing between two banks—on one side we have structure and on the other we have spontaneity.
Now, the trick to maintaining flexibility is to make sure we don’t flood one side or the other. We want to have just the right amount of structure—too much and you get rigid. Not good. On the other side of our river of flexibility we have spontaneity. Again, we need a certain amount but not too much. If we go over the top on spontaneity we can flood that side and wind up with chaos. Eek.
Again: The healthy human being is like the river of flexibility that runs between the banks of structure and spontaneity.
Structure + spontaneity = flexibility.
How’s your river? 
You flooding one side or the other?
What’s one little thing you can do to Optimize today?
Oct 30, 2017
In his great book Antifragile, Nassim Taleb walks us through the fact that there’s a big difference between being fragile, being resilient, and being ANTIfragile.
In short:
If you’re fragile and life hits you hard, you break.
If you’re resilient and life hits you hard, you withstand more and… eventually…  you break.
If you’re ANTIFRAGILE, when life hits you hard you actually get stronger.
Think about that. 
The more you get kicked around and challenged by life, the S T R O N G E R you get. 
Wouldn’t that be awesome?
As Nassim tells us and we would be wise to remember: A wind extinguishes a candle but fuels a fire.”
Let’s build a bonfire.
(On that note, how about this gem from Rumi: I am burning. If anyone lacks tinder, let him set his rubbish ablaze with my fire.”)
Oct 29, 2017
Have you ever heard of activation energy”? 
It’s a chemistry thing. The dictionary tells us that it’s the minimum quantity of energy that the reacting species must possess in order to undergo a specified reaction.”
Mundane examples: Water only boils once it reaches its activation energy point of 212 degrees. 100 degrees certainly won’t do it. 200 degrees won’t do it. Not even 210 degrees will do it. Simmering but not boiling.
Want to boil? Gotta get the heat all the way up to 212. Then you’ll undergo the specified reaction” and boil.
Same rules apply with fire. 451 degrees is the magic ticket there. Rub two sticks together and get to 400 degrees? Nothing. 449? Nothing. 450? Nope. Nothing. 
BAM! Let there be light. 
Activation energy.
All of which is to arrive at this question: Are you simmering or are you boiling?
Because if you’re not willing to flip the switch and go ALL IN, you won’t hit the necessary activation energy required to undergo the specified reaction of stepping into your truly heroic potential.
Btw. This isn’t a new idea. (No great wisdom is.) Socrates used to tell his students they needed to approach life with the same intensity of a man whose face is underwater struggles for oxygen. Eastern mystics have used the same basic metaphor—telling us that we need to approach this whole process of enlightened living like a man whose hair is on fire approaches a pond.
Let’s do that.
Oct 29, 2017
Yesterday we talked about our motivation equation. You know: Motivation = Value x Expectancy / Impulsivity x Delay
Quick re-cap: Our motivation will always be driven by how fired up we are about getting something (Value) and how confident we are that we can have it (Expectancy). To the extent we REALLY REALLY want something and REALLY REALLY know we can get it, we’re more likely to show up and work hard.
Then we need to make sure we don’t dissipate that motivation by being distracted by all the shiny push notifications, etc. (Impulsivity) and that we keep micro goals in front of us so we’re always making progress (Delay).
All of that is super powerful. Throw your current Motivation into that equation and look at the data to see where you can Optimize.
Here’s what that equation should *really* be:
Motivation = ENERGY x (Value x Expectancy / Impulsivity x Delay)
Fact is, if your energy sucks, the whole equation falls apart. When you’re tired, you just don’t *see* the world the same way. Literally. (Did you know sleep deprived people have bad memories for good stuff but good memories for bad stuff? It’s true.)
Hence, our #1 priority: Optimize your energy. If you have a hard time getting out of bed, you’re going to have a hard time reaching your potential.
So... What’s the #1 thing you’re going to START doing to Eat/Move/Sleep/Breathe/Focus better and the #1 thing you’re going to STOP doing?
Let’s +1 your energy today!!
Oct 29, 2017
Piers Steele is a leading research scientist. After analyzing hundreds of studies on motivation, he came up with a little equation to capture the essence of motivation. It’s a little abstract on first blush but worth internalizing and using as one of our tools. I recommend keeping this ready at hand and using it often to see where your motivation may be waning and how to keep it strong.
The equation: M = E x V / I x D
Motivation = Expectancy times Value divided by Impulsivity times Delay.
First thing to notice for non-math majors: If you want a big Motivation, you better have a really big numerator and a really small denominator. In other words, we need to jack up our Expectancy and Value while driving down our Impulsivity and Delay.
Expectancy. That’s an awkward word for Confidence. You have to expect that you can bring your goal to life. You have to KNOW (!!!) that you can do it. 
Now,  you may or may not actually achieve your goal, but you have to know in your soul that it’s not only possible but that you think you can do it. If you don’t feel that, then you either need to simplify your goal until you can or build up your confidence so you can.
Value. If I were writing this equation, I’d start here. Before we ask ourselves whether or not we really think we can have it, we need to ask ourselves whether we really (!) want it. 
Our DESIRE needs to be extremely high. Napoleon Hill called this a burning desire” back in the day.
So, quick pause. 
What do you want to achieve in your life? Like really really want?
Is your motivation high?
If it isn’t, check in. Are you going after something you REALLY want? And, if so, do you REALLY believe you can have it? If not, science and my experience says (test it!!) that your motivation will be weak.
Tweak those two variables so they are through the roof and you have a shot at a very high level of sustainable motivation.
Now for the things that erode motivation.
Impulsivity. Can you focus your attention on what’s most important? Or, do you find yourself constantly distracted by the latest push notification or email alert or other shiny object? 
The higher your level of impulsivity, the lower your level of motivation. We need to get really good at reducing/eliminating all distractions and doing the Deep Work that will move us forward. Period.
Delay. Another great way to erode motivation is to make the goal super far down the road. That delay doesn’t help. 
Solution? Create micro goals (today!) that give you the chance to create a constant stream of micro wins. PERFECT way to fuel the fire as you crush it day in and day out.
Again, that formula might sound too abstract to be useful but, in my experience, it’s incredibly powerful. When my motivation wanes, I love to bust out a piece of paper and write down the equation—looking for little ways to optimize each variable to jack up my motivation. It works.
Oct 28, 2017
Gabrielle Oettingen is a world-class researcher who has spent her career studying the science of making your dreams come to life. 
In her book Rethinking Positive Thinking, she tells us that it’s simply not enough to visualize our ideal life vision-board style. Although it’s very important to start with a vision of our ideal lives, we then need to rub it up against reality.”
She created something called WOOP” to help us make our dreams a reality. Here’s the quick take:
W is for Wish
O is for Outcome (or benefits—kinda like the why”)
O is for Obstacles
P is for Plan
So, start with the Wish. What do you want in life? If you could wave a wand and create anything (in general or specific to particular goal/project) what would you see?
Seriously. Do that right now. Think of the most important goal in your life right now. What is it?
Wave a wand. Everything goes perfectly. What do you achieve? Capture that in a few words. That’s your wish.
Now, think about the Outcome you will experience when that Wish is present. (Technically, I think Benefits” would be a better word here but WBOP isn’t quite as cool as WOOP, eh?)
Think of all the benefits achieving that wish will bring to you. See it. FEEL IT. It’s super important to get really fired up about it. 
Once we’ve got that dialed in, it’s time to rub that vision up against reality. 
What Obstacles will you face? You’ve gotta KNOW you’re going to face obstacles and KNOW you have what it takes to get over/under/across/thru/whatever them. Embrace reality so you can properly prepare for it and create the reality you want.
Once we’ve identified the Obstacles we need to create our Plan
The heart of this is something called implementation intentions”--which are a genius way to anticipate challenges and deal with them in advance. If x happens, then I will do y.
What’s your plan to deal with the obstacles so you can experience the benefits of bringing your wish to life?
I WOOP everything. 
From big goals to the next meeting I have.
Science says: WOOP! There it is.
Oct 28, 2017
At this point, most of us know that Roger Bannister was the first person to break the 4-minute mile. Very smart people of his era said that it was impossible. Period. End of story. He, of course, wasn’t so sure.
But here’s what’s awesome: Do you know how Roger trained to do the impossible? 
Hint: He broke down his goal into bite-sized pieces.
Here’s how: First, he trained until he could run a quarter mile in a minute. (Nice job!) Then he trained until he could run half a mile in two minutes. (Well done!) Then he trained until he could run three-quarters of a mile in three minutes. (Sweet!) Then he trained until he thought he could run the full mile in less than four minutes.
And, voila!
On May 6, 1954 at Iffley Road Track in Oxford, England, the time keeper looked down and saw these magic numbers: 3:59.4.
Roger achieved the impossible by breaking his impossible” goal into little bite-size, do-able pieces—which is always a very good idea. (As Henry Ford once said, Nothing is particularly hard if you break it into enough small pieces.”)
How about you?
What’s your jumbo-big exciting goal? You know, the thing you would do if you weren't afraid?
Yah. That one. 
Write it down in a few words. 
Now, let's chunk it down and give you your next bite-size doable target.
What's the very next micro-goal you need to hit en route to that big goal?! The thing that, once you achieve, will make it possible to hit the next target?
Got it? Awesome. 
Now… What’s your next baby step?
And, most importantly: Is now a good time to take it?
Oct 28, 2017
Phil Stutz and Barry Michels wrote a great book called The Tools. There are five Tools in the book and we may chat about others later but I want to focus on the first for now.
Phil and Barry tell us that most people like to live within their comfort zones
Why is that?
Well, what does it feel like outside of our comfort zones? By definition, it’s uncomfortable.
And, most people hate feeling any level of discomfort so they pretty much do everything they can to avoid the pain of being outside their comfort zone.
Now, that’s great if being mediocre is your goal, but not so great if you’re serious about stepping up into your heroic potential.
Here’s the deal: Your INFINITE (!!!) potential exists just on the other side of your comfort zone. Every single great thing you’re capable of exists OUTSIDE of your current comfort zone. 
And what does the barrier between your comfort zone and your infinite potential zone feel like? 
Pain. Fear. Doubt. Anxiety. Fill in the blank with your favorite negative emotion.
Ok. So, knowing that your infinite potential exists on the other side of your comfort zone and that we feel pain/discomfort/etc. when we exit our comfort zone en route to our infinite potential, if we’re serious about optimizing our lives and reaching our heroic potential, we need to REVERSE OUR DESIRE—rather than try to avoid pain, we need to learn to love it. We need to see those moments when our heart skips a beat and our palms start to sweat as the gifts that they are—tickets to our destiny. 
The Tool? It’s simple. The next time you feel even an inkling of fear/doubt/etc., practice saying to yourself (more precisely, Phil and Barry tell us to SCREAM to yourself), BRING IT ON!!!!!!!” 
Continue the chant by saying I LOVE PAIN!! PAIN SETS ME FREE!!”
Try it. It works. 
See you in your Infinite Potential Zone!
Oct 27, 2017

To the extent that there’s a gap between who you’re capable of being in any given moment and who are actually being in that moment, you will experience a level of discontent. Regret. Anxiety. Depression.

As per our last +1, a bad-daimon.

aka: Unhappiness.

The trick to closing the gap between who you’re capable of being and who you’re actually being so you can enjoy the mental and emotional well-being of eudaimonia?

The Greeks had a word for that, too. And, if I had to summarize my entire philosophy in one word, it would be that word: areté.

The word areté directly translates as "virtue” or “excellence,” but it has a deeper meaning—something closer to “expressing the highest version of yourself moment to moment to moment.”

When we do that, there’s simply no room for the regret or anxiety or disillusionment.

When you’re at a choice point today, think areté.

High five your inner daimon and experience the joy of flourishing.

Oct 27, 2017
Imagine your ideal self.
Smiling and waving at you. 
See em?!
(Seriously. Take a deep breath/10 seconds and bring that epically awesome you to life in your mind.)
Here’s the deal: That ideal version of you is pretty much watching you all day every day. The Stoic philosophers called this the Other.” Modern theologians would call it your conscience.
Back in the day, another name for that highest version of yourself was daimon”—a sort of inner soul and guiding spirit that exists within each of us. 
The old-school philosophers considered your relationship with this inner soul THE most important thing in life. They said that if you want to be happy you need to be on really good terms with your daimon.
In fact, their word for happiness was eudaimōn which literally means good soul.”
All of which begs the question: How’s your relationship with your inner soul?
And, the most important question for today (and everyday): What’s one little thing you can do to +1 that relationship today?
Oct 27, 2017
In our last +1, we had fun applying Rumi’s wisdom that God turns us from one feeling to another so we have two wings to fly and not one.
Today, we’ll look at another one of my favorite gems from Rumi.
He tells us: If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?”
Think about that.
If you want to be polished (aka Optimized!!), how do you expect to get there if you’re irritated by every little rub of life?
Guess what?
It’s those rubs” (aka challenges!) that are MAKING YOU SO SHINY!!!
Rumi also tells us: This discipline and rough treatment are a furnace to extract the silver from the dross. This testing purifies the gold by boiling the scum away.”
That’s the ticket.
We need to embrace all the little rubs antifragile-style as we step into the furnace so we can burn the scum away. 
That’s Today’s +1.
Got any challenges these days?
Can you see how the ONLY way you’ve grown in the past is by overcoming challenges?
And that the challenges you’re facing today are simply opportunities for you to actually APPLY all these tools to get a little shinier?
Rub rub rub.
+1. +1. +1.
Oct 20, 2017

Here’s a quick look behind the scenes for one of our next classes: Journaling 101: How to Use a Pen and Paper to Create Clarity, Confidence, and Consistency. I hope you enjoy this overview of the class (and my process in creating it)! P.S. Optimize with us:

Oct 3, 2017

I've been thinking about how I can help you optimize (technically, I'm pretty much *always* obsessing about it) and realized I should probably do some more behind-the-scenes videos to capture my (often messy) thought process about how to take Optimize to the next level and do my life's work while serving you profoundly and creating an exemplary business that scales in the process. This video is the fruits of that. Hope you enjoy!

Optimize with us at

P.S. Notes on my Top 10 favorite Books

P.P.S. Let's do this!