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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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Oct 18, 2018
We’ve been talking a lot about “athletes” lately—from traditional athletes going for the gold to cognitive athletes kicking their digital puffing addiction.
 
Well, I think it’s time we open up our dictionary and look up the word athlete. I’m curious about the ancient etymology of the word. What does the word “athlete” literally mean?
 
Although I originally looked this up in my old-school hardcover dictionary, we’ll go with the Apple dictionary for this one. Flip open the virtual pages via a search and we find that the word athlete is
 
from Greek athlētēs, from athlein ‘compete for a prize’, from athlon ‘prize’.
 
Actually, now that I type that out, I also want to include what my American Heritage dictionary has to say as well. Here’s what we find in there: 
 
from Greek āthlētēs, contestant, from āthlein, to contend, possibly from āthlos, contest.
 
Athlete
 
“A contestant competing for a prize.”
 
I LOVE that.
 
Two things.

1. The idea of being an “athlete” is, from my vantage point, about much more than just sports. LIFE is the ultimate sport. As such, I think we’re ALL athletes.

2. I also think we’re ALL athletes in the more traditional sense of how the word is used today in which it’s defined as “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.” At least, if we’re serious about Optimizing our lives, I think we SHOULD all step more fully into the persona of being an “athlete” as a means to raise our standards and get our Energy where it needs to be to give our best selves to our Work and Love.

 
So… 
 
Today’s +1. Two questions.

1. What prize(s) are you going for in life? 

2. How can you step into your athlete identity a little more? 

High fives, my fellow athlētē. Let’s do this!
Oct 17, 2018
We’ve been talking a lot about how champions maximize minutes—giving everything they’ve got into being the best versions of themselves.
 
Thank you, John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, and Dan Millman for your wisdom. 
 
Today we’e going to invite Gandhi to the party to establish the fact that this isn’t a SPORTS idea, it’s a SPIRITUAL ideal.
 
Here’s how Gandhi puts it: “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.”
 
Full effort is full victory. We do our best, let go of the results and then get back to doing our best. That wisdom is a central theme of Gandhi’s handbook, the Bhagavad Gita.
 
Now, for a fun twist, let’s bring the conversation back to sports.
 
Have you ever heard of The Legend of Bagger Vance? It’s an old-school movie starring Will Smith and Matt Damon. Guess what they’re doing? Playing golf. 
 
Short story: Matt Damon (playing Rannulph Junuh) has lost his mojo on the course. His caddy Will Smith (Bagger Vance) teaches him to trust his swing again.
 
The movie is based on a book written by a guy named Steven Pressfield who, in addition to being a great author, is also a master of the creative process. I consider his trilogy on the creative process must reads. (See Notes on The War of Art, Do the Work and Turning Pro.)
 
But get this: “The Legend of Bagger Vance” is really just the “Bhagavad Gita” on a golf course. (Get it? Bagger Vance Bhagavad Gita…)
 
In the Gita, we have a reluctant warrior named Arjuna (sounds a lot like Rannulph Junuh, eh?). Arjuna is counseled by the mighty Krishna who, basically, tells him to trust his swing and do what he’s here to do. 
 
Take that spiritual wisdom, put it on a golf course, throw two huge stars in there and voila, we have a sports movie delivering some pretty legit wisdom.
 
Which, of course, is why sports are so popular. The super-clearly-defined rules of a given sport give us an opportunity to see life’s bigger challenges play out in a 60-minute game.
 
For now, let’s bring all this wisdom back to our lives via a couple more sources of wisdom.
 
In The War of Art, Pressfield tells us that we need to go from being amateurs” to being “Professionals in our creative lives. One of the key attributes of the professional? 
 
Here’s how he puts it: “The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.” 
 
In other words, full effort is full victory. We do our best, let go of the results and then get back to doing our best.
 
Pressfield got that wisdom from the Gita. Flip open that classic manual on the art of living to find this gem: “The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results.”
 
In other words, full effort is full victory. We do our best, let go of the results and then get back to doing our best.
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Remember: Full effort is full victory. 
 
Let’s do our best, let go of results and then get back to doing our best.
Oct 12, 2018
In our last +1, we continued our chat about the fact that your perfection is already there. It’s just waiting for you to follow Rule #1 and quit doing yourself harm. 
 
I said that that just requires a little more discipline from you. (And me.)
 
Which makes me think about the connection between our ego and the divine within.
 
This is part of a much longer discussion. But here’s the quick take.
 
Most people think we need to “get rid of” our ego or subdue it or tame it or otherwise maim it if we want to tap into the most divinely spiritual within us.
 
I don’t agree with that approach.
 
I prefer to think of it more like Joseph Campbell. And Ken Wilber. And Nathaniel Brandon.
 
Campbell tells us that he doesn’t understand why there’s all this talk about annihilating the ego when, in fact, it’s our egos that keep us in the game. 
 
Then Wilber tells us that it’s not “ego-minus” but “ego-plus.” We need a strong ego that’s plugged into something bigger than ourselves. THAT’s when the magic happens. 
 
Then we have Nathaniel Brandon who tells us that even if we think “letting go of” the ego is either desirable or possible (he and I don’t think it’s either), successfully letting go of your ego would, by definition, require you to have a firm grip on your ego before you could let it go. (Think about it for a second: How can you let go of something you never had hold of?)
 
All of which leads me to how I think we should think about our ego.
 
Of course, there are so many different definitions of what the “ego” is that we can get dizzy trying to keep up. I prefer to think of the ego in a classic Western psychoanalytic frame a la Freud.
 
In that model we have three components: our id,” our “superego” and our “ego.” 
 
Our id is that impulsive part of us that wants everything right.this.second. Doesn’t matter whether it’s good for us or not. Just give it to us. NOW. Say hello to all your addictions—be they digital (“Hi, smartphone!”) or chemical (“Hi sugar and flour and alcohol and…”).
 
Our superego is basically the conditioned part of us that’s constantly judging all those things your id did and wondering what in the world you were thinking. (It also really really really wants people to like us and can lock us into conformity.)
 
Then we have our ego. Our ego is that part of us that keeps our id and superego in check. We NEED a STRONG ego to make sure we don’t spin out of control alternating between a hyper-impulsive/addictive version of ourselves and a hyper-conforming/ashamed version of ourselves.
 
All of which brings us back to where we started: DISCIPLINE.
 
How do you get your ego to be strong enough to deal with the pulls of the id and the superego? You dominate your environment. You cultivate a heightened level of self-awareness to know how to make yourself proud and then you match that self-awareness with an equally high level of self-mastery such that you consciously, joyfully do the right thing moment to moment to moment.
 
You know what happens then?
 
Your golden light shines through. 
 
Your divine spiritual essence (however you want to define it) finally has a stable home in which to hang out and shine forth. 
 
So…
 
Here’s to your ego. Get it strong. 
 
Then plug it into something MUCH bigger than yourself and shine with the radiant enthusiasm only discovered when we live in integrity with what we know to be true.
Oct 7, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the science of social comparison and reiterated the fact that it’s toxic.
 
Remember, as per Sonja Lyubomirsky: “You can’t be envious and happy at the same time. People who pay too much attention to social comparisons find themselves chronically vulnerable, threatened, and insecure.”
 
Plus: “The happier the person, the less attention she pays to how others around her are doing.”
 
Today we’re going to talk about what we can do when we inevitably find ourselves feeling the itch of envy.
 
I love how T Harv Eker puts it in The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. He says: Bless that which you want. If you see a person with a beautiful home, bless that person and bless that home. If you see a person with a beautiful car, bless that person and bless that car. If you see a person with a loving family, bless that person and bless that family. If you see a person with a beautiful body, bless that person and bless their body.”
 
There ya go.
 
That’s Today’s +1. 
 
Feel a little envious? Remember, you can’t be envious and happy at the same time.
 
Notice something you wish you had a little more of in your life? BLESS the people who are blessed to have it.
 
Then get back to living your life as well as you possibly can.
 
You’ll be considerably happier NOW and considerably more likely to experience the same blessings in the future. 
Oct 2, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about my mission to become a Spartan World Champion. 
 
My heart skips a beat just typing that.
 
(Which, btw, is a good reverse indicator” as my Yoda would say. Btw2: When Phil and I chatted about my contemplations about raising my standards and going all in on the Spartan mission, he told me that I MUST go for it or the Universe will fire me from my job. Laughing.)
 
So…
 
The title of that last +1 was “Becoming a Champion.” Today’s it’s called “Being a Champion.”
 
We’re going to talk about another coach of champions: Ben Bergeron. Ever heard of him? 
 
If you don’t know who he is, have you ever heard of CrossFit? If you’re alive and into Optimizing, my hunch is that you almost certainly have. One more question: Ever watch the CrossFit Games where the world’s best CrossFit athletes get together and see who is “The Fittest on Earth”? 
 
Those world-class CrossFit Games athletes are absolute BEASTS. As in: ASTONISHINGLY strong, skilled and tough.
 
Only 40 men and 40 women (and 40 teams) make it through the regional qualifiers to the world championships. Most of the athletes who make it there are just happy to be among the world’s best. 
 
But a select few are there to win it. Those are the athletes Ben Bergeron coaches.
 
In fact, he’s coached his athletes to six world championships. In 2016 he coached BOTH the men’s champion AND the women’s champion. (Which is kinda crazy awesome when you think about it.)
 
All of that to say, Ben wrote a GREAT book called Chasing Excellence in which he shares his approach. We’ll chat about it a bit more in the next few +1s.
 
Today I want to focus on one simple point. 
 
He and his athletes never talked about being champions. They were too focused on ACTING like a Champion NOW.
 
Here’s how two-time champion Katrín Davíðsdóttir puts it: “Though I moved halfway around the world with the goal of making it back to the CrossFit Games, Ben and I never actually talked about the Games. We didn’t talk about qualifying, we didn’t talk about finishing in the top ten, and we certainly didn’t talk about winning. What we did talk about was giving full effort in every single moment of every single day, and becoming the best we could possibly be.”
 
Today’s +1. 
 
You may or may not have aspirations to be an “official” “champion” of anything in your life. Of course, that’s fine. (Although I’d encourage you to think for a moment about what you COULD be the absolute best in the world at Jim Collins Hedgehog Style.)
 
But, if you’re this far into this +1, I’m going with the assumption that you’re at least moderately committed to Optimizing. (Hah.)
 
So, reach over to the virtual stovetop in your mind, turn the heat up to 212 degrees, and think about YOU at your ABSOLUTE (!) BEST.
 
Then be that version of you Today.
 
Moment to moment to moment. 
 
Put your old identity on a permanent vacation and act like a Champion.
Sep 27, 2018
A few +1s ago we talked about Stuart Wilde. He’s an old-school self-help teacher who used to lecture with Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay and Deepak Chopra. 
 
He’s really funny. He’s also a fascinating blend of super-esoteric spirituality AND super-intense discipline. (As per our “Dominate Your Life!!” +1!!)
 
Today I want to chat about a practical little exercise I’ve been using from his great book Infinite Self.
 
Short story: The book is, as the title suggests, all about connecting to a power that’s infinitely (!) bigger than us. Call it whatever you want—God, the Universe, the Field, the Force. Doesn’t matter. But, I think we’d all agree that there’s SOMETHING bigger than us that’s beating our hearts and growing our toenails while somehow finding the time to expand the universe at the mind-boggling speed of around 68 kilometers per second per megaparsec
 
So…
 
Stuart tells us that we’d be wise to figure out how to make that infinite power a more conscious, consistent part of our lives. He offers 33 steps. Step 1 is to FEEL the force WITHIN you NOW. It’s not some abstract thing out there. It’s within you. Now. Check out the Notes for more. 
 
For now, the exercise.
 
The next time you feel annoyed by something or someone in your life, step back and imagine yourself as a 250-foot tall version of yourself. You’re so tall that you can basically straddle your city and stand WAY above your little self—barely even seeing the tiny little problem(s) you’re dealing with at the moment.
 
And, if you want to go astronaut-style all in on it, just imagine yourself as a 250,000-MILE tall version of you—so big you can touch the moon with your finger. That should do the trick.
 
From either of those vantage points, look down at your city or our planet and try to find your little self and your little problems that feel so big when you live from such a contracted place.
 
How do things look from THAT perspective?
 
Exactly. Like a non-issue.
 
Guess what? That’s the accurate perspective.
 
All of which leads us to Today’s +1.
 
Anything or anyone annoying you? Say hello to the 250-foot (or 250-mile!) tall version of you. Look at your problems from that vantage point. Smile. Wave. Then do what needs to get done. 
Sep 17, 2018
Continuing our underwater theme for a moment longer, have you ever heard of hagfish?
 
They’re pretty creepy. (I apologize in advance for the visual image here but I think it’s worth it…)
 
Here’s how Steve Chandler describes hagfish in Time Warrior
 
“To really live now there are two things I want to phase out of my life forever: (1) Resentments about the past and (2) Worries about the future.
 
These two activities, strengthened by repeated indulgence, are like hagfish. Hagfish? Many people don’t know what hagfish are, but they are just like worries and resentments.
 
In the real, undersea world, hagfish are blind, slimy, deepwater eel-like creatures that dart into the orifices of their prey and devour them, alive, from the inside.
 
Kill the hagfish in your life. Then you can live now and maybe procrastinate later.”
 
Um. Hmmm… Wow. 
 
That’s a heck of a way to kill your prey, eh? Dart into their orifices and then devour them, alive, from the inside? Yikes.
 
And, well, that’s Today’s +1.
 
Got any hagfish in your life? 
 
Any resentments and/or worries that’re eating you from the inside out?
 
Is now a good time to kill those hagfish before they get you?
 
Fantastic. Good luck with that!
Sep 12, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about W.H. Auden’s (genius) quip that routine, in an intelligent person, is a sign of ambition. (I laugh with joy every time I type that.)
 
Then we did a quick check in on your ambition. And, hopefully, we dialed it up a notch and made sure that your routines were reflecting that strong desire to Optimize and actualize in service to your family, community and world.
 
Today I want to talk about work and play.
 
A lot of people think those two things are separate. 
 
I think you’re doing it wrong if your work ISN’T play.
 
Abraham Maslow would agree. He once said that one of the hallmarks of self-actualizing people is that they get to a place where “apparent dichotomies” are dissolved. In Motivation and Personality, he has a chapter in which he describes the “19 Characteristics of the Self-Actualizer.”
 
Check out the Notes for a super-quick look at all 19 of those self-actualizer characteristics.
 
For now, know this: The 19th characteristic of self-actualizers is their Resolution of Dichotomies.” For example, he tells us: “The dichotomy between selfishness and unselfishness disappears altogether in healthy people because in principle every act is both selfish and unselfish.”
 
Another dichotomy that dissolves for self-actualizers?
 
The dichotomy between work and play.
 
What happens when work IS play? And when play IS work?
 
Well, then you get a statement like this from author James Michener in his autobiography: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both.”
 
That’s the way to roll.
 
Here’s to mastering the art of living.
 
Let’s have fun writing the rules to the game that is our lives and then playing it with all the joy and intensity and excellence we can muster—letting others decide whether we’re working or playing.
 
For us, we’re always doing both.
Sep 7, 2018
A couple +1s ago, while celebrating Yuval Noah Harari’s lack of a smartphone, I mentioned the fact that we don’t need to become smashing Luddites in response to the tsunami of technology that hammers us all day every day.
 
But… We ALSO want to make sure we don’t become addicted users
 
The best solution? Be an Optimizite. Let’s make the best use of technology to sculpt the best possible version of yourself. (Recall that Optimize comes from the Latin optimus which literally means “the best.”)
 
That’s the central theme of Conquering Digital Addiction 101—which might be my favorite master class so far. 
 
Here’s the deal.
 
You know how Facebook and Instagram and Google make money?
 
By, essentially, hacking and then selling your attention.
 
They work REALLY REALLY REALLY (!!!) hard to make sure you spend MORE and MORE and MORE time on their sites and apps.
 
Then they SELL your attention to (literally) the highest bidder.
 
Now, of course, there’s nothing inherently evil about this per se. These companies often provide astonishingly cool and equally valuable services.
 
But the way they’ve set up their business model essentially REQUIRES them to, as this must-see 60 Minutes exposé called “Brain Hacking” puts it: HACK your mind.
 
Now, we often say we watch stuff like that for “free” but, technically, we typically pay for it via xx seconds of your attention (which is sold to a sponsor who shows us their ad).
 
Alternatively, you can upgrade your YouTube account and NOT watch ads—which is a really compelling alternative business model that doesn’t require a company to focus so much on mining your attention.
 
Saving the bigger picture business model discussion for another time, get this: That whole economy is called the attention economy (and could be called the “mind-hacking economy”). 
 
You know how much money is made hacking your mind every year?
 
Some researchers put the number at $7 TRILLION dollars. 
 
S E V E N. 
T R I L L I O N. 
D O L L A R S. 
 
$7,000,000,000,000!!!
 
That’s a lot of zeroes. (12 in fact.)
 
And… That’s a lot of hacking.
 
And… A lot of addicted users.
 
Which brings us to another point of the class and of this +1. Technologists refer to their customers as “users.” You know who else refers to their customers as “users”? Drug dealers. (Hah. And d’oh.)
 
Seeing that our smartphones and emails and apps light up the same addiction centers of our brains as cocaine and alcohol and other drugs, it’s a fitting parallel.
 
It’s also why Bill Maher refers to “social media tycoons” as “tobacco farmers in t-shirts.” Only, he says, the tobacco guys only wanted your lungs. Tech titans want your SOUL.
 
Again. I’m NOT saying we should all go smashing our phones and computers Luddite style.
 
But I AM saying that you’ve gotta wonder why Steve Jobs wouldn’t even let his own kids use the iPad he was so excited about. And why so many tech execs follow his lead and RADICALLY limit their kids’ use of the very products they build.
 
As Adam Alter says in Irresistible: “It seemed as if the people producing tech products were following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply. This is unsettling. Why are the world’s greatest public technocrats also its greatest private technophobes? Can you imagine the outcry if religious leaders refused to let their children practice religion?”
 
All of which leads us to the practical point of Today’s +1.
 
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Not at all! I’m 100% Optimizite, baby!” and 10 being “Oh… yikes! I’m a 10 Addicted User!” where are you on the addicted-user spectrum?
 
1 ----------------------------------------- 10
 
And… Most importantly: How can you take a step or three toward the Optimizite side of that spectrum today?
 
Here’s to wisely unplugging from the $7 trillion mind-hacking economy long enough to become all that we’re capable of being!
Sep 2, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Professor Harari’s two world maps—one before The Scientific Revolution that was all filled in (including areas they knew NOTHING about) and one after that had plenty of empty spaces (accounting for all they things they didn’t know). 
 
Then we talked about YOUR maps. And, hopefully, we all added a good deal more empty space in our maps—especially that space outside our comfort zones that leads to the unknowable zone of our infinite potential.
 
Today I want to chat about the importance of running our own scientific experiments. Of course, admitting our ignorance is an absolutely essential first step to gaining new knowledge. But, then we’ve gotta throw on our lab coats and get to work!
 
Before we go there though, how about another quick little history lesson? 
 
So, we all know that Christopher Columbus “discovered” the continent that became known
as America. But... He refused to believe it. When he landed on the Bahamas he thought he had discovered islands en route to East Asia. As Professor Harari puts it: “He called the people he found there ‘Indians’ because he thought he had landed in the Indies—what we now call the East Indies or the Indonesian archipelago. Columbus stuck to this error for the rest of his life. The idea that he had discovered a completely unknown continent was inconceivable for him and for many of his generation.”
 
Then, get this: America was mistakenly named by map-maker Martin Waldseemüller who thought explorer Amerigo Vespucci discovered it. As Harari says, “There is poetic justice in the fact that a quarter of the world, and two of its seven continents, are named after a little-known Italian whose sole claim to fame is that he had the courage to say, ‘We don’t know.’”
 
Alright. Back to the Scientific Optimizing.
 
Today’s +1. 
 
Let’s throw on our lab coats and goggles and grab our clipboards. It’s time to run some experiments. 
 
In fact, let’s follow Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wisdom and make EVERYTHING an experiment.
 
btw: My hunch is you’re familiar with this quote: All life is an experiment. The more experiments the better.”
 
The full passage is even better. As Ralph says: “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”
 
So, my dear Scientifically-Experimenting-Ignoramus-Optimizer friend: What experiments have YOU run lately?
 
Let’s measure our little (and big) tests as objectively as we can—making the connection between the mundane things like “When I eat that, my nose gets stuffy” and “When I’m online late at night I sleep poorly and that diminishes my energy and optimism which makes me grumpy which slows down my actualization” to... Whatever else you need to shine the light of ignorance on!
 
Then, of course, we need to take that data and APPLY it to our lives. As Harari points out, it’s APPLIED scientific knowledge that leads to power. 
 
We can only gain new power by moving from *theory* to PRACTICE. 
 
So, my dear Scientifically-Experimenting-Ignoramus-Optimizer friend: What data have you gotten from recent experiments and, most importantly, how will you apply that knowledge to your life TODAY?
 
Here’s to your lab coat and clipboard. And don’t forget the goggles.
Aug 28, 2018
Wallace D. Wattles was an old-school Philosopher-Optimizer who wrote The Science of Getting Rich. He also wrote a little book called The Science of Being Great. (Both of those titles are, of course, finalists for best titles ever.)
 
In The Science of Being Great he has a great line that has been tattooed on my brain since I read it.
 
He said: The world needs demonstration more than it needs instruction.”
 
The world needs DEMONSTRATION more than it needs INSTRUCTION.
 
Isn’t that a powerful statement?!
 
(Kinda makes you wonder what you’re demonstrating, eh?)
 
For example, we know that kids don’t do what they’re told or taught, they do what they SEE. So, it’s pretty obvious we better model the behaviors we want to see in our kids if we want them to grow up to be great humans. 
 
All of which leads us to a little personal story—one from a couple months ago that features me in a (laughably) low moment in my parenting career. 
 
Short story: My dad cursed like a sailor. In fact, he literally WAS a sailor. (Hah.) He enlisted in the Navy when he turned 18 and his language was just astonishingly bad. (So bad he’d literally make my devout Catholic mom cry at times. I can laugh now but it wasn’t funny then.)
 
Anyway… I rarely curse and I’ve been committed to never cursing in front of the kids. So, I was particularly appalled at myself (laughing) when, on an evening when I was particularly tired and Emerson was acting particularly like a (tired) 5 year old, I got so annoyed by the meditation cushion (oh, the irony!) he dropped on my face when I wasn’t looking as I was laying on the ground playing with Eleanor that I got up, walked out of the room and mumbled in a voice considerably louder than I intended: “You’re such a little sh*t!”
 
What happened next?
 
Well, he was at the door and IMMEDIATELY said, “No! YOU’RE such a little s*it!”
 
Again, I can laugh as I type this as a) It’s been awhile and b) He had no idea what the word was and hasn’t repeated it since and c) I got some serious mileage on the "Needs Work! front but…
 
It was a really powerful opportunity for me to remember that the world needs DEMONSTRATION more than it needs INSTRUCTION.
 
All of which leads us to Today’s +1.
 
What are you demonstrating? 
 
Any behaviors that make you wince that you’d like to clean up and throw out? 
 
Let’s do this!
Aug 23, 2018
Today we’re going to talk about walking.
 
Walking is awesome. In fact, it’s so old-school epically awesome in helping thinkers think that our ancient friends even had a Latin phrase to capture its power: Solvitur ambulando. <- "It is solved by walking.”
 
Nietzsche would agree. He said: “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
 
Kierkegaard would agree. He put it this way: “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”
 
Then we have Immanuel Kant. He was so consistent with his daily walks that his neighbors could set their clocks to the time he passed their houses. (They even named a street after him called “Philosopher’s Walk.”) 
 
Then we have Charles Darwin. For nearly FORTY years he followed his schedule with “clockwork” precision. And, you know what made it on the schedule every day? His walk. He was so committed to it that he actually leased his neighbor’s land just so he could do a complete loop on what became known as Sandwalk (although he preferred to call it his “thinking path”).
 
Then there’s Aristotle. He and his followers walked so much as they thought and taught and philosophized that they were known as the “peripatetics”—which literally means “walking up and down.” 
 
Of course, modern scientists have proven just how powerful walking is for creativity. (Especially in nature!)
 
So, yah. Ancient and modern philosophers agree: Walking is pretty powerful. 
 
But, pop quiz!
 
You know what NONE of those philosophers had on their deep-thinking walks?
 
SMARTPHONES.
 
Of course, none of them lived in a world with such a nonstop tsunami of digital distractions but I can assure you that no self-respecting, deep-thinking lover of wisdom would bring a device that would subject them to OTHER people’s thoughts on a walk intended to tap into THEIR own thoughts.
 
… How about you?
 
Today’s +1.
 
Go for a walk. (Ideally somewhere easy to get to yet beautiful.)
 
And leave your smartphone at home. (Or in the car/whatever.)
 
Say hello to your deep thoughts for me.
Aug 18, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that batting .300 over the course of your Major League Baseball career gets you in the Hall of Fame.
 
Today we’re going to continue the baseball metaphor. 
 
Pop quiz for baseball fans: You know how many perfect games have EVER been thrown?! 
 
(For those who may not know, a perfect game is defined by Major League Baseball (via Wikipedia) as “a game in which a pitcher (or combination of pitchers) pitches for a victory [in a game] that lasts a minimum of nine innings in which no opposing player reaches base.”)
 
So… Get this: According to Wikipedia, Major League Baseball has been around for 140 years. Over 210,000 (!) games have been played. And only 23 (!) perfect games have ever been pitched. And… No player has ever thrown more than one perfect game.
 
140 years. 210,000 (!) games. Only 23 perfect games. 
 
And NO pitcher has ever done it twice.
 
Yet you and I want to have perfect lives. (Hahahahahhaha!)
 
I’m also reminded of John Wooden. He was all about GOING for perfection but only doing so KNOWING we’ll never actually get it!
 
Here’s how he puts it: “Perfection is what you are striving for, but perfection is an impossibility. However, striving for perfection is not an impossibility. Do the best you can under the conditions that exist. That is what counts.”
 
(Sounds a lot like our Guiding Stars and Distant Shores, eh?)
 
You know what else Wooden said? This: “When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.”
 
(Sounds a lot like our Optimize +1s, eh?)
 
And, one more Wooden gem (all of these are from his book called Wooden, btw): Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions. The correct question is: Did I make my best effort? That’s what matters. The rest of it just gets in the way.”
 
Today’s +1. 
 
Let’s make our best effort. 
 
Let’s “seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.”
 
+1. +1. +1.
Aug 13, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the science of daydreaming. Quick recap: Stay out of the “poor attention control” and “guilty-dysphoric” realms and in the “positive-constructive” mode.
 
Here’s another way to think about it. (Thanks again to Manoush Zomorodi!)
 
When your mind is wandering and you’re kinda randomly thinking about your life, do you imagine yourself as the CONQUERING HERO of your own story (positive-constructive!) or the SUFFERING MARTYR (guilty-dysphoric) of the story?
 
It’s a big distinction.
 
We want to get REALLY (!) good at noticing when we’re falling into the “woe is me” helpless Victim orientation and SHIFT it into the “Let’s do this!!” Creator orientation.
 
How?
 
Well, again, what do you think we’re doing with all these +1s? 
 
I’m basically trying to give you a super-stocked toolshed/armory of tools and weapons and tips and tricks and hacks you can use THE MOMENT you find yourself losing your connection from the best version of yourself.
 
It all starts with mastering our fundamentals: eat! move! sleep! (Ever notice how the martyr shows up a LOT more when you’re TIRED? Me, too. That’s why Vince Lombardi says that Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”)
 
Let’s actually keep things simple and focus there today.
 
Do you know your #1 Self-Care Habit
 
Is it eating well? Exercising? Sleeping? Meditating? Doing deep work? Helping others? …? …? 
 
What’s the thing that, if you DON’T do it, pretty much guarantees a sub-optimal day? (For me it is, unquestionably, getting a good night of sleep.)
 
You?
 
This is my #1 Self-Care Habit: ______________. 
 
This is the #1 thing I can do to Optimize it Today: ________________.
 
That is all.
 
Here’s to doing the things that help the Conquering Hero show up more and more consistently. 
 
And, here’s to stepping back and looking at the fundamentals whenever we get a little Whiney-Martyr wobbly!
 
+1. +1. +1.
Aug 3, 2018
In our last couple +1s, we’ve talked about your breathing. If you haven’t checked out the full Optimal Breathing 101 master class yet, you might dig it. 
 
For now, how about a quick look at the THREE simple rules of optimal breathing?
 
Here they are:
  1. Breathe through your nose
  2. Into your belly
  3. And exhale slightly longer than you inhaled
1 + 2 + 3 = Magic.
 
How about a quick inventory then a closer look?
 
First, the quick inventory:
  1. You breathing through your nose? (Most people don’t. Go look around and/or in the mirror. Do you see a mouth gaping open?)
  2. Do you breathe deeply (yet calmly) into your belly? (Most people don’t—especially if you breathe through your mouth!)
  3. And, is your exhale slightly longer than your inhale? (This is the fastest way to relax!)
Now, for the closer look:
 
Rule #1. Breathe Through Your Nose (EXCLUSIVELY!)
 
When? All day. Every day. (Including while sleeping and training.)
 
Why? Well, check out the class for a full description (and/or the Notes on The Oxygen Advantage, etc.) but here’s the basic idea. 
  • First: Your nose filters, humidifies and conditions air in ways your mouth simply can’t. 
  • Second: Know that we NEVER used to breathe through our mouths except for the most extreme instances of physical exertion. (Think: Lion chasing you.) 
  • Third: When you breathe through your mouth, you tend to “overbreathe” via short, shallow, fast breaths that disrupt the oxygen to carbon dioxide levels in your body. Although it might sound weird, it’s the CARBON DIOXIDE that actually gets the oxygen out of your red blood cells and into your tissues and organs and you need to slow down your breathing (via your nose!) to get the CO2 right and, as a result, the O2 where you want it. 
 
Rule #2. Breathe into Your Belly
 
Fill up the lower part of your lungs. Flex your most underappreciated and underutilized muscle in your body. Get your diaphragm rocking!!
 
Note: Don’t take “big” breaths via your mouth into your chest. Take nice, mellow, quiet, DEEP breaths into your belly. Repeat. All day. Every day.
 
Rule #3. Exhale Slightly Longer than You Inhale.
 
This is the fastest way to flip the flip the vagal switch and turn on your parasympathetic nervous system and R E L A X.
 
Whenever you think about it: Exhale longer than you inhale. (Finish strong as we like to say at the Johnson house!
 
Squeeze your diaphragm. Get all that air out. Why? Well, did you know that breathing is responsible for 70% (!!!) of your body’s detoxification? Elimination and sweat only take care of 30%. (Kinda surprising, eh?)
 
But, guess what? If you’re not breathing right, you’re not detoxifying fully. And, of course, you’re not fueling your cells properly. 
 
Enter: Compromised vitality and increased potential of getting all the things you don’t want. 
 
Therefore: Nose. Belly. Exhale.
 
Practice. Practice. Practice.
 
Today’s +1.
 
How about a nice, deep, calm breath. In through your nose… Down into your belly… Out through your nose with a nice, long exhale.
 
Ah…
 
Here’s to your Optimal Breathing!
Jul 29, 2018

​​Technology is, obviously, awesome. We’ve been using “tech” tools for 2.5 million years since our protohuman ancestors first picked up a stone and used it as a tool. 1.8 million years ago, “we” figured out how to make an acheulean hand axe which was a pretty epic innovation at the time.
​​
​​So, with the advent of smartphones in what’s known as the “Input Age,” I’m not suggesting we should all become tech-smashing Luddites. But… (And this is a big but!), I also don’t think we should underestimate just how much we play the role of addicted users caught up in the mix of a $7 TRILLION attention economics (/mind-hacking!) industry.
​​
​​The solution: Become Optimizites—use technology wisely to become the BEST you rather than mindlessly let your 1 million-year-old prefrontal cortex get hacked all day every day.
​​
​​In the class, we walk through the costs of addiction, then talk about how to conquer it so we can sculpt our ideal lives.

 

Jul 29, 2018
Since our time with George Leonard exploring his ideas on Mastery, I’ve been thinking about him a lot.
 
I realized that I forgot to share another one of my favorite Ideas from his great little book that has most changed my life. 
 
It’s super simple but equally powerful. 
 
First, the context. 
 
In a section on getting energy for mastery, George tells us: “A human being is the kind of machine that wears out from lack of use. There are limits, of course, and we do need healthful rest and relaxation, but for the most part we gain energy by using energy... It might well be that all of us possess enormous stores of potential energy, more than we could ever hope to use.”
 
Of course, as we discuss often, we need to remember to oscillate and train our recovery, etc. but we’ve also gotta know that human beings GAIN energy by USING energy. We’re the kind of machine that wears out from LACK of use.
 
Which reminds me of super-energized Leonardo da Vinci’s wisdom: “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind. So we must stretch ourselves to the very limits of human possibility. Anything less is a sin against both God and man.”
 
(Cue choir of angels on this one: ”So we must stretch ourselves to the very limits of human possibility. Anything less is a sin against both God and man.”)
 
So…
 
George offers a few tips on how to Optimize our energy for mastery.
 
One of them is to set priorities and make decisions. He tells us: “Indecision leads to inaction, which leads to low energy, depression, despair.” 
 
Another tip is to get on the path of mastery and STAY ON IT. He says: “Much of the world’s depression and discontent... can ultimately be traced to our unused energy, our untapped potential.” 
 
All of which leads us to two questions and then the point of Today’s +1.
 
Question #1: Got any decisions you need to make?
Question #2: Are you using your potential?!
 
And, now to the main event: As an Aikido master, George tells us: “It’s instructive to watch the immediate surge of clarity and energy during training that comes from the simplest act of writing one’s name on a notice.” 
 
I don’t know about you, but after I’ve put my “name on a notice” (aka signed up for a Spartan Trifecta for the year including a 13+ mile race up and down ski slopes at elevation with bonus energy points for racing with the elite age group guys), my energy and clarity and intensity of (and consistency of!) training IMMEDIATELY shifts. 
 
How about YOU? 
 
Has that ever happened to you in the past? 
 
And, most importantly: Got any sign-up forms waiting for you?
 
Yah? What makes you smile (and maybe makes your heart skip a beat) just imagining doing it?
 
A 5k? A triathlon? A Spartan Race? Getting your black belt? 
 
What’ll it be?
 
That’s Today’s +1. If you’re feeling so inspired, go put your name on a notice. Watch the immediate surge of clarity and energy during your training.
Jul 27, 2018

Breathing. It’s easy to take for granted but when you stop to think about it, it quickly becomes obvious just how powerful it is. Get this: You can live for weeks without food and days without water but, of course, only minutes without oxygen. Plus: Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen you consume while breathing is responsible for 70% (!) of your body’s detoxification. Yet… If you’re like most people, you’re probably doing this simple, should-be-easy fundamental wrong. In this class, we’ll look at why CO2 is (somewhat paradoxically!) actually the variable we want to be Optimizing if we want to get the O2 out of our hemoglobin and into our cells. Then we’ll look at the Three Rules for breathing perfectly as we Optimize your breathing for calm, focused energy.

Jul 24, 2018
Continuing our good times with Confucius, here’s one of the gems from his Analects that has tattooed itself on my brain since I read it a decade ago.
 
“The Master said, He does not mind not being in office; all he minds about is whether he has qualities that entitle him to office. He does not mind failing to get recognition; he is too busy doing the things that entitle him to recognition.”
 
How great is THAT?
 
Would you like a little more recognition than you’re getting?
 
OK. That’s fine.
 
Now take a deep breath and get back to work doing whatever it is you think will EARN you that recognition.
 
Repeat that process whenever the desire for (more) recognition arises. 
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Well, that and this passage from James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh—which is also tattooed to my brain along with big chunks of that entire essay.
 
Imagine working tirelessly and then, one day, things just shift.
 
Here’s how Allen poetically puts it: “And you, too, youthful reader, will realize the Vision (not the idle wish) of your heart, be it base or beautiful, or a mixture of both, for you will always gravitate toward that which you secretly most love. Into your hands will be placed the exact results of your own thoughts; you will receive that which you earn; no more, no less. Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your Vision, your Ideal. 
 
You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration: in the beautiful words of Stanton Kirkham Davis, ‘You may be keeping accounts, and presently you shall walk out of the door that for so long has seemed to you the barrier of your ideals, and shall find yourself before an audience - the pen still behind your ear, the ink stains on your fingers - and then and there shall pour out the torrent of your inspiration. You may be driving sheep, and you shall wander to the city - bucolic and open mouthed; shall wander under the intrepid guidance of the spirit into the studio of the master, and after a time he shall say, 'I have nothing more to teach you.' And now you have become the master, who did so recently dream of great things while driving sheep. You shall lay down the saw and the plane to take upon yourself the regeneration of the world.’”
 
Here’s to the ink stains on your fingers when the curtains rise and the world applauds and you say, “Did I win?”
Jul 19, 2018
I can’t resist. One more +1 on Aristotle.
 
So… The Olympic Games started in Olympia (not too far outside of Athens) in 776 BC.
 
A few centuries later, Aristotle told us that you can’t just SHOW UP at the Olympics and look like a great athlete, you have to actually COMPETE.
 
Here’s how he puts it: “Just as at the Olympic Games it is not the best-looking or the strongest men present that are crowned with wreaths, but the competitors (because it is from them that the winners come), so it is those who act that rightly win the honours and rewards in life.”
 
To recap his point: You can’t just KNOW how to live virtuously. You need to actually LIVE with virtue. 
 
I repeat: Theory is rudimentary philosophy. Practice is the advanced work.
 
And, I’m reminded of Donald Robertson’s genius wisdom on the difference between being a warrior of the mind and a mere librarian of the mind. 
 
As we’ve discussed, in The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy he tells us: “The ancients conceived of the ideal philosopher as a veritable warrior of the mind, a spiritual hero akin to Hercules himself, but since the demise of the Hellenistic schools, the philosopher has become something more bookish, not a warrior, but a mere librarian of the mind.”
 
Today’s +1. 
 
Is there a “theory” you need to make a “practice”? 
 
Yah? Which one? And how will you bring it to life today?! 
 
Here’s to leaving the library and heading into the Olympic arena that is our lives. 
Jul 14, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and the fact that his word for “happiness” was VERY different than our word.
 
Eudaimonia, as we discussed, literally means “good soul” and implies a powerful sense of actualizing our potential—succeeding in expressing the best within ourselves.
 
Today we’re going to focus on HOW Aristotle teaches us to create THAT type of “happiness.”
 
Pop quiz: Can you guess?
 
 
Pop answer: In a word: Virtue. 
 
In a Greek word: Areté.
 
Aristotle tells us that the ONLY way to have a “good soul” and experience the deepest sense of well-being and happiness is to, essentially, express the best version of yourself moment to moment to moment. To live with virtue.
 
Here’s how he puts it: But what is happiness? If we consider what the function of man is, we find that happiness is a virtuous activity of the soul.”
 
  • “Virtuous activity of the soul.”
 
Wow. Isn’t that BEAUTIFUL.
 
  • “Virtuous activity of the soul.”
 
Just for a moment… Imagine a culture in which our sense of happiness was grounded in a commitment to “virtuous activity of the soul.” 
 
Then imagine YOUR life in which your happiness was connected to the virtuous activity of your soul.
 
What’s that mean?
 
We’ll talk more about how to hit that target via Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean tomorrow.
 
For now: At a choice point today, just ask yourself, “What would my soul like me to do right now? What would ‘virtuous activity’ of the best within me look like?’”
 
Then, of course, have fun high-fiving your inner soul as you rock it.
Jul 9, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that 25 minutes every day = 2 YEARS of your life. 
 
Did you figure out how you’re wasting time and make some progress eliminating that time wasting activity?
 
If so, high fives.
 
If not, here’s a tip.
 
In Bored and Brilliant, Manoush Zomorodi gives people a 7-Day Challenge to invite more boredom and more brilliance into their lives. Challenge #4 is pretty epic. It’s the fastest way to add two years back to our lives.
 
Here’s how she puts it: “Your instructions for today: Delete it. Delete *that* app. ... You know which one is your albatross. The one you use too much. The one you use to escape—too often, at the expense of other things (including sleep). The one that makes you feel bad about yourself. Delete said time-wasting, bad-habit app. Uninstall it.”
 
Yep. THAT app.
 
Which one is it?
 
Want two years of your life back?
 
Delete it. Now. 
 
I know it’s going to hurt but so is you looking back on your life from your deathbed and wondering why you squandered so much precious time and didn’t go ALL IN on living your greatest life so… 
 
Jim Rohn’s wisdom comes to mind: “We will all experience one pain or the other—the pain of discipline or the pain of regret—but the difference is that the pain of discipline weighs only ounces while the pain of regret weighs tons.
 
Let’s pay in ounces. Delete THAT app.
 
(NOW! Seriously. You’re the Boss, but let’s do this!!)
Jul 4, 2018
George Leonard was an aikido master who wrote a great little book called Mastery
 
It’s a tiny little book packed with a ton of wisdom. I highly recommend it. 
 
There’s one particular passage that’s been tattooed on my mind since I read it over a decade ago. We’re going to talk about that tomorrow. Today, we’re going to take a quick look at how Leonard describes mastery and the other paths that can trip us up.
 
First, pop quiz! When you think of the path of Mastery and the Master who walks that path, what vision comes to mind? How would YOU describe it?
 
Take a moment and noodle that.
 
Alright. 
 
Here’s how Leonard describes mastery. He tells us that “We fail to realize that mastery is not about perfection. It’s about a process, a journey. The master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year. The master is the one who is willing to try, and fail, and try again, for as long as he or she lives.”
 
That’s mastery. It’s a PROCESS. 
 
When we commit to the path of mastery we stay on that path day in and day out. YEAR after YEAR. (Reminds me of Steven Pressfield’s wisdom about Turning Pro—and how your life changes the day you truly flip the switch and go from amateur to Professional.)
 
The alternatives to Mastery? Well, Leonard tells us we can be what he calls a “Dabbler” or a “Hacker” or an “Obsessive."
 
Here’s the quick look.
 
The Dabbler: Gets really into something for awhile and loves the quick results but the moment the newness fades, he or she’s off to the next new thing—rationalizing that it just wasn’t a good fit. Hence, no mastery.
 
The Obsessive: A bottom-line type of person who wants to get the tennis stroke right on the first lesson and, when results start to slow, pushes even harder to make it work, ignoring the fact that plateaus are part of the path of mastery—pushing and pushing mercilessly to create a continuing upward curve. Then? Injury/burnout/etc. Followed by a sharp, sharp decline. Hence, no mastery.
 
The Hacker: After sort of getting the hang of something, the hacker is content to stay at a plateau—never really improving his skills beyond the first basic level. Hacking, hacking, hacking. Hence, no mastery.
 
The Master. The Dabbler. The Obsessive. The Hacker.
 
And YOU.
 
How are you showing up these days?
 
Now… I was going to ask you how you think you can bring a little more mastery to your life but then I realized I should probably give you Leonard’s #1 tip first.
 
Here it is: “How do you best move toward mastery? To put it simply, you practice diligently, but you practice primarily for the sake of the practice itself.”
 
Aha! Practice. Again. 
 
So… Today’s +1. 
 
What’s the most important thing in your life right now?
 
And… What’s your DAILY (!) PRACTICE to Optimize that thing or the Big 3 things? 
 
For me? 
 
  1. Energy = AM Trail (I never miss a day = my commitment to the practice/mastery)
  2. Work = AM Deep Work (Again, I (literally) never miss a day = my commitment to the practice/mastery)
  3. Love = AM Kid Time (I too often miss a day here! lol. Although my shut-down complete is pretty legit this still needs work and is being reinstalled!)
 
You?
 
  1. Energy = __________________
  2. Work = __________________
  3. Love = __________________
 
Here’s to your Mastery and the simple practices that keep us on the path!
Jun 29, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Rule #1 of Nutrition. You remember what it was?
 
Basic idea: It’s not what you start eating that has the most positive impact. It’s what you STOP eating. There aren’t any Fountains of Youth in nature; there ARE poisons. And, you can’t eat enough broccoli to make up for all that pizza.
 
(So, what did you eliminate?)
 
Although I did share his high-level perspective, I didn’t share John Durant’s perspective on what he thinks we should remove as I wanted to make his general advice apply whether you’re Paleo or Vegan or Pegan or whatever.
 
Today we’re going to look at his top recs at what qualifies as “poison” and should, therefore, be removed. 
 
*** Note: I share this with a respectful tip ‘o the hat to the Grain Lovers out there. ***
 
John tells us (and, of course, many others who share his perspective echo this): “Top on this list [of poisons] are industrial foods (sugar, vegetable oils) as well as the seed-based crops they’re made out of (cereal grains, legumes). Think of these as slow-acting poisons when consumed in large quantities.”
 
Very few people are going to argue that sugar is good for us. (And certainly not in the quantities in which we consume it today: 150+ lbs per person per year. The fact that we can consume more sugar in one meal than our ancestors would consume in an entire year = not good.)
 
Then we have veggie oils. We’ve talked about it before, but they’re not good for inflammation. 
(Although, when I was in the hospital waiting room while my brother had his surgery, for some odd reason Dr. Oz dedicated his show to trying to convince us that corn oil is awesome. Hah. We’ll save that for another chat.)
 
Then we have grains and legumes. If you fall into the Paleo-esque camp, you won’t have a tough time agreeing with the statement that we can ”Think of these as slow-acting poisons when consumed in large quantities.”
 
If you enjoy grains and legumes and your digestion and health are perfect then congrats! 
 
If you enjoy those foods and your health and digestion can use some Optimizing, you might want to experiment with a little elimination! 
 
As per the Hartwigs in It Starts with Food (their Whole360 program was super-helpful years ago after my decade-long low-fat-vegan stint): “The marketing from big cereal companies would have you think that cereal grains are highly nutritious—and that if you don’t eat them, you’ll miss out on all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you can get only from grains. That’s simply not true. Grains are not (we repeat, not) nutrient-dense when compared with vegetables and fruit.”
 
Plus: “Another way that a diet high in grains leads to suboptimal nutrition is in terms of opportunity cost: If there are more whole grains on your plate, then there’s probably less of some other food—like vegetables—on your plate. And that lowers the overall micronutrient density in your diet too. In summary: There is not a single health-promoting substance present in grains that you can’t also get from vegetables and fruit.
 
I laugh as I type this given the near-religious fervor with which people approach their nutrition.
 
Again, YOU’re the Boss.
 
Given your nutritional philosophy, are there any foods that you think you might to eliminate?
 
Have fun. That is all!
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