OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time

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




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Nov 11, 2017

So, we’re ready to go ALL IN and make that 100% commitment with super bright lines.


But here’s the deal.

First: We need to make sure we make that jumbo-ALL-IN commitment on ONE thing. Not one HUNDRED things. ONE thing.

You can pick whatever you want. Research says you’d benefit from making sure that you do something you actually want to do. Sounds obvious but this is important to keep in mind. Don’t do something because you think you should do it. Do it because it fires you up.

(What’s your ONE thing?)

And, you may want to consider doing something that would have a really positive benefit in your life. Researchers call this a “keystone habit.” Just like a keystone locks an arch in place and is essential for its strength and integrity, our keystone habits keep us super strong and their benefits cascade into the rest of our lives. (Which, of course, is a very good thing.)

Alright. Let’s pause for a moment.

Any ideas on what your ONE keystone habit that you’re fired up to do might be?

Don’t make it a big deal. For now: What’s the thing that pops up immediately that you’re excited to install?

Got it? Awesome.

Now, let’s get specific on what you’re going to do.

Did you pick exercising? Eating better? Meditating? Sleeping more? Whatever it is, let’s get specific. (Remember that the #1 thing successful people do, according to Heidi Grant Halvorson’s uber-popular Harvard Business Review blog post is that they get SPECIFIC with their goals.)

I, ---Insert your name here--, shall do this: ____________________________.

Perhaps it’s: I will meditate for x minutes per day. Or… I will move my body x minutes every day. Or… I will turn off my electronics x minutes before bed time.


Couple more things:

1. Make it an every day thing. For whatever reason, it’s WAY easier to install a habit when you do it and not every third day or twice a week or whatever. (Think of Jerry Seinfeld’s famous streak of Red X’s.)
2. Make it REALLY easy to do. Like crazy easy. Stephen Guise tells us we want to create “mini habits” that are “too small to fail.”

He offers the brilliant advice that we shouldn’t say we’re going to work out for 30 minutes a day, we should say we’re going to do ONE push up per day. We shouldn’t say we’re going to meditate for 60 minutes per day. We should commit to ONE minute per day. Don’t say you’ll write for an hour per day. Write for a minute per day.

Go M I C R O with your habits.

It may sound silly but it works. Make it REALLY REALLY easy to win. And REALLY REALLY REALLY hard to fail.

Make it so you can win even on the days you feel the worst.

Then you’ll build some momentum which is THE key to having fun installing habits that stick.

So… Pick ONE Thing. Make it a fun, high-leverage Keystone. Go Micro. Do it Daily.

+1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. +1. → Forevers.

Nov 11, 2017

So, as per our last +1, bright lines are super helpful in making deals with ourselves.

Here’s another way to look at the same basic idea.

When you make a commitment to yourself, know that making a 100% commitment is, somewhat surprisingly, WAY easier than a 90% commitment or even a 99.9% commitment.

There’s something about just going absolutely ALL IN on a commitment that saves a ton of energy and makes it way more likely to stick.

Fact is, when we have anything less than a total 100% commitment we’ve left room for that little whiny voice to come in and start negotiating with ourselves right when we can least afford it and most need to ignore it.

Going back to my last example, when I used to eat fast food and had a less than 100% commitment to not doing it, literally every time I’d drive by a Micky D’s I had a conversation with myself about whether I should go or not.

Not wise.

And, of course, I lost the negotiation on the days when I felt worst.


The commitment is, oddly, WAY easier than anything less.

So… To what new habit do you need to make a 100% commitment?

Pick one thing. (Not 100!) And give it 100%.

Nov 10, 2017

I dropped out of law school before a semester was over but I do remember one Big Idea from Contracts class.

Lawyers like to say that a contract is a good one when there are “bright lines”—when it’s super obvious what everyone is agreeing to. Fuzzy lines? Not so good. We want super crisp, obvious, BRIGHT lines.

Research scientists borrowed that phrase to describe one of the key attributes of creating good deals with yourself as you architect your ideal life.

They tell us that when we’re building new habits, we want to have VERY BRIGHT LINES about what is and what is not acceptable behavior.

For example, when I wanted to quit eating fast food over a decade ago, the fuzzy line I had of “Eat at McDonald’s less often” wasn’t particularly helpful. Every time I’d drive by that McDonald’s on the way home I’d have to ask myself, “Is today the day I get to go there?”

And, when did I go? On the days when I was feeling the worst, of course.

Then, one day, I got BRIGHT with my lines. I decided I would NEVER eat at McDonald's again. Period. Now, of course, I broke that commitment a few times before it stuck, but—and this is an important distinction!—at least now I knew I was breaking a contract with myself. Eventually I dialed it in and kicked the fast food habit.

I did the same thing with ESPN and Google News and the iPhone in bed and countless other things. Fuzzy? Didn’t help. 100% bright? Worked like a charm.

So, how about you?

What’s the #1 bad habit you’d like to get rid of?

How can you move from fuzzy to super bright?

Think about that and get on it.

Nov 10, 2017

Related to our magical doubling penny and its demonstration of the power of compounding growth, we have clock time vs. horticultural time.

Short story here: When you plant a seed, do you start your stopwatch and then go into your backyard an hour later to dig it up to see how it’s doing? Or, do you know it takes some time for that seed to germinate and then sprout and then grow and finally to reach its fruit-bearing stage?

Right. Of course you honor the rules of horticultural time and give that little seed the time it needs to naturally move through its required stages of development.

Well, newsflash: Our Optimizing occurs on HORTICULTURAL time, not clock time.

Epictetus comes to mind: “No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

Let’s put our stopwatches away and focus on giving our seeds the right conditions to grow.

+1. +1. +1.

(And… Let’s remember to enjoy the perfection of each phase of our journey!)

Nov 10, 2017

You’ve probably heard the whole “magic of compounding interest as told through the doubling penny” story.


It’s worth hearing again and really absorbing its wisdom as we have fun +1-ing our lives.

So… Here it goes…

I hereby offer you two choices:

1. I’ll give you $2.5m in cash today.


2. I’ll give you a penny and then we’ll double it every day for a month.

Which would you prefer? The $2.5m today or the doubling penny?


Note: You’d be wise to ask, “Which month are we talking about?”

Because if it’s February, you’d be better off with the $2.5m. After 28 days, your doubling penny is worth $1.3m.

But… If we’re talking about a 31-day month then let’s go for the penny!!!

Get this: That penny goes from 1 cent (just a tad less than $2.5m 😃) to 2 cents to 4 cents to 8 to 16 to 32 to 64 to over a buck in 8 days … Then it starts to take off. We arrive at our $1.34m after 28 days and then the magic REALLY begins. We leap from $1.34m to $2.7m on Day 29. Then from $2.7m to $5.4m on Day 30. And then, on that 31st day, we go from $5.4 all the way to $10.8m.

That’s some pretty magical growth.

Moral of the story?

Well, here are two:

As Darren Hardy says in The Compound Effect, we need to remember that it’s ALL ABOUT:

1. “A continuum of mundane, unsexy, unexciting, and sometimes difficult daily disciplines”
2. “compounded over time.”

It’s the tiny, mundane little things that don’t feel significant as you do them that have the most power. All those little +1 choices. The pennies!!! They add up. If we maintain the momentum and GIVE IT TIME!

So… What are YOUR pennies?

How can you +1 your consistency and patience a little more today?

Let’s aggregate and compound all those tiny gains and (echo!) GIVE THEM TIME to work their magic.

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Nov 9, 2017

Ready to get some great things done? Fantastic. Step 1: Identify the great thing. Step 2. Say YES to your wildly important goal! Step 3. Say “No!” to basically everything else. Then know that it starts with energy management then goes to time management, focus, 4.5-hour workdays, the four disciplines of execution, the science of progress and relentless forward motion.

Nov 9, 2017

Alan Cohen tells us to quit being a hardaholic—making everything harder than it needs to be.

(Quick check in: Are YOU a hardaholic?)

One of my favorite questions to deal with this tendency: "What if this was easy?"

Today’s +1 reflection:

What if it was easy to do the thing you keep on telling yourself is so hard? (Yah, that one! The really exciting, awesome goal.)

“What if it was easy to ____________________________.”

(Go on! Take another few seconds and fill in that blank! 😃)

With true confidence we know we'll face obstacles, of course.

But what if it was easy to navigate your life like one big fun obstacle course race?

High fives all the way!!

Nov 9, 2017

Ultimately, what we want to get *really* (!!!) good at is alchemizing any and all challenges into fuel for the bonfire that is our passionate commitment to living a heroic life in service to something bigger than ourselves.

As I’ve mentioned, I chose obstacle course racing as my new sport-hobby because I just LOVE the concept of paying to encounter obstacles that you need to figure out how to go over or under or across or… whatever it takes.

Now, I don’t meet those obstacles with a sour-faced grimace. I PAY to have fun testing my abilities to masterfully navigate the course. And, when I fail, I bang out my burpees and take a mental note of what needs work so I can more skillfully navigate that obstacle in the future.

Joe De Sena, founder of Spartan Race and grit exemplar extraordinaire, tells us that we want to become “immune to obstacles.”

I just love that.

Imagine being IMMUNE to obstacles such that hey have no effect on you.

In fact, let’s take it one step further and notice that obstacles *literally* make us stronger.

Of course, the obstacle course is simply a physical representation of the mental and emotional and creative obstacles we all face every day. We want to get immune to those obstacles. We want to see that they make us stronger. And we want to see that IN THE MOMENT we’re getting our butts kicked!!

Here’s my new mantra to help me internalize this: OMMS.

Obstacles Make Me Stronger.


The hero’s mantra. Chanted with a fierce determination in our souls and a smile on our face, knowing we have what it takes to meet any and every challenge life throws at us.




Nov 9, 2017

We all have areas of our lives we want to Optimize.

Stephen Covey tells us to think about our “Roles and Goals.” Tony Robbins calls it “Categories of Improvement.” The challenge with those is that we can get confused with a near-infinite number of Roles and Categories.

I like to boil it down to my Big 3: Energy + Family + Service.

Energy. For me, it ALL starts with Energy. If I have a tough time getting out of bed in the morning, I’m going to have a tough time living optimally. Therefore, I prioritize making sure my Energy is strong.

Family. Why do I want to feel radiantly alive and energized? First and foremost, I want to be an exemplary husband and father. I’m the only one in the world who can be a great husband to my wife and father to my children. In the midst of striving to do great things and make a difference in the world, it’s easy to forget that it all starts at home.

Service. The other reason I keep my energy strong is to be of service. I want to be, in the words of the French movement philosopher Georges Hébert , “Fit to be useful.”

So, here’s how I like to approach it: First, start by identifying what you at your absolute best would look like in each of those categories. Then capture the benefits you’ll experience when you live from that ideal. Then think of the #1 simple thing you can do to make sure you’re in integrity with that ideal. Then schedule that thing into your Masterpiece Day. And, of course, DO IT.

For me, it looks like this:

Energy: Me at my best: I am a world-class athlete. (Defined as qualifying for the Spartan World Championships at the end of this year. I need to place in the Top 20 in my age group so it’s a JV-version of world-class but it was still a big stretch for me when I set the goal and it has great pull-power.)

The benefits (aka “The Why” a la Nietzsche’s “He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how.”): I am radiantly alive. I am grounded. Powerful. Calm. Confident. Energized.

The #1 thing I will do every day: Sunrise Trail Workout. I'll show up on the mountain and bang out my 1=hour workout. CONSISTENCY of training (obviously oscillating intensity/etc.) is my secret weapon.


Family: Me at my best: I am an exemplary husband and father. I love to work and create. AND I'm committed to being a great husband and father. An exemplar. That standard fires me up.

The benefits: Joy. Presence. Love. Kindness. Patience. Consistency. Celebrating my 50th anniversary with my Love. 😃

The #1 thing I will do every day to make that happen: Quality time one-on-one with my son EVERY day. Defined as at least 30 minutes (target 60 during week and hours on weekend) of just me and him.


Service: Me at my best: I am an exemplary social entrepreneur, philosopher + teacher, and community leader. I am committed to using business as a force for heroic good while continuing to study, embody and teach wisdom I love and making a difference in our Optimize community.

The benefits: The joy of doing what I’m here to do. Flow. Energy. Enthusiasm. Connection. Impact.

The #1 thing I will do every day to make this happen: AM1 Deep Work. Before I go online, I will do my morning rituals and Deep Work. Period.

As I say all the time: You couldn’t pay me to hop online and blow my brain up before doing my creative work. My mind just isn’t quite the same after going online. I’m all about accreting a little more value every day and repeating that every day—allowing the gains to aggregate and compound as the creative power magnifies itself incrementally. It all starts with that first Deep Work slot every morning.


3 + 1 = Magic.

Nov 8, 2017

In our last +1, we talked about matching your mental energy to the right task.

The essence of that? You don’t want to try to do your most important work when your brain is fried.

I like to think of this whole process of matching our task to our energy as Deep Work + Team Work + Monkey Work.

I do my Deep Work first thing every morning. As I’ve said countless times, you couldn’t pay me to go online before crushing it.

After a nice Deep Work time block, I like to check in with the Team quickly before my trail workout. Then breakfast/fam time then back to more Deep Work.

Then in the afternoons when the energy tends to be less than stellar? It’s usually Monkey Work—admin stuff that requires very little mental energy.

Deep Work. Team Work. Monkey Work.

As you craft your Masterpiece Days and match your mental energy to the right task, where do these time blocks fit for you?

Figure it out. Optimize the system.


+1. +1. +1.

Nov 8, 2017

Scott Adams created Dilbert. (Over 10,000 of them by now, actually.) He also wrote a great book called How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

In it, he tells us how he makes sure he gets his Deep Work done every day.

Scott is ALL about systems. Part of his systems for crushing it (again: 10,000 (!!!) Dilberts! ← Think about that for a moment…) is to match his mental energy to the task.

Very simply: He knows his energy is best in the morning. So, that’s when he does his important work. (aka Deep Work!)

His energy kinda sucks midafternoon, so that’s when he does the non-creative stuff like catching up on admin, etc.

That may sound incredibly obvious. And, well, that’s because it IS a super-obvious thing to do.

But, here’s the thing: Knowing what he knows, Scott is ruthless about scheduling his time.

N O T H I N G gets in the way of him doing his most important work first thing in the morning. He’s not blowing up his mind checking email and then dallying around the Internet and then trying to do great work.

He gets up. He hammers it. Repeat.

(x 10,000)

All of that brings us to the point of Today’s +1.

How about YOU?

When are you at your best creatively? Are you using that time to create?

How can you +1 it today?

Nov 8, 2017

Multitasking is a myth.

Our brains aren’t like computers with parallel processors. We can’t actually do multiple things at one time. What we do is not “multi-tasking” per se, it’s more accurately called “task switching.”

Here’s why we should care.

Remember our handy-dandy Deep Work equation from our last +1?

→ High Quality Work Produced = Time Spent x Intensity of Focus

Essentially: If you want to create a high volume of high-quality work without spending your entire life working, you want to jack up the intensity of your focus.

Here’s the deal: If you constantly paper cut your attention by switching from one task to another you’ve gotta know that you’re paying a high cost as you diminish the intensity of your focus.

Researchers can look at this in a lab and see what happens to your performance on tasks when you switch from one thing to another. They’ve discovered that your performance goes down dramatically when you constantly switch.

One of the reasons this happens is that all that task switching creates something called "attention residue"—part of your attention is still hanging on to the last thing you did. There’s a residue of attention from that task you just switched from that’s negatively impacting your ability to crush it right now.

The solution?

Create a Deep Work time block. A period of time in which you focus EXCLUSIVELY on one task. Focus ALL your attention on ONE thing.

Creating that Deep Work time block is today’s +1.

When’s good for you? 😃

Nov 7, 2017

Cal Newport has a very big brain. He got his Ph.D. from MIT and is a professor of Computer Science at Georgetown. He also wrote one of my favorite books: Deep Work.

In it, Cal tells us that we can either do Deep Work or we can do Shallow Work.

Deep Work, he says, is becoming simultaneously more RARE and more VALUABLE. While most people flit around from one Shallow Work task (email/phone call/reactive this or that) to another, very few of us are unplugging from technology and locking ourselves in a bubble of focus where we can do some truly impactful Deep Work. But, that’s where the real magic happens.

How are YOU doing with that?

Cal has an equation that’s worth internalizing:

→ High Quality Work Produced = Time Spent x Intensity of Focus

Want to crank out some GREAT work in a very efficient period of time? Jack up the intensity (!) of your focus. How? Deep Work.

Here’s the +1 for today: Turn everything off. Give yourself a block of time to do nothing but Deep Work. Repeat that tomorrow. And then again. And again. And again.

Drain the Shallows. Go Deep!

Nov 7, 2017

Here’s another simple way to keep your motivation high: Journal.

Sonja Lyubomirsky is one of the world’s leading scientists studying well-being. She tells us that one of the most robust ways to boost our optimism and positive thinking (actually, she says it’s "The most robust" strategy) is to journal daily—reflecting on our hopes and dreams, visualizing our success and reflecting on the steps we will take to make it all happen.

Ten to twenty minutes per day.

Even as little as two minutes has been shown to make people happier and healthier.


What are your hopes and dreams? What steps will you take to make it all happen?

Journal lately?

Might be a good +1 for today. 😃

Nov 7, 2017

As we go ALL IN on Optimizing our lives, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

That’s when the science of Self-Compassion comes in.

The science is unequivocal btw: Shame is super-toxic. It does nothing but erode our ability to function at a high level and enjoy the process. We need to learn how to cultivate self-compassion. Here’s a quick look at how:

According to Kristin Neff—the world’s leading Self-Compassion researcher—we need to embrace three things if we want to cultivate our self-compassion.

First, we need to be nice to ourselves. She calls it “self-kindness.” This is pretty straight-forward but super important to keep in mind. When you’re facing a setback and feel yourself slipping into toxic rumination, talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a dear friend (or child).

In other words: BE NICE!!

Then, we need to embrace what Kristin calls “common humanity.” We need to know that we’re not alone. We ALL experience challenging times. The fact that you’re anxious / upset / stressed / whatever is not about you being you per se. It’s about you being human.

Finally, we need to be mindful. In short, notice the emotion/self-talk that’s arising, simply label it without dropping into the ruminative chaos and move on with living the next moment of your life.


+1 style.

Nov 6, 2017

Hope is one of my top 5 signature strengths. The science of hope is one of my favorite things.

Let’s kick this one off with the simple, technical definition of hope. In essence, when we have hope we simply believe that our future will be better than our present. When we don’t believe that, we are, literally, hopeless. Being hopeless is a one way ticket to depression. Therefore, knowing how to build our hope is a really important skill for Optimizing.

Shane Lopez (one of the leading researchers in the field) tells us that there are THREE key components to Making Hope Happen.

First, we need to know that our future can be better than our present reality and we need to have a clear Goal we’re after. (What’s yours?)

Then we need to believe we have the power to make it so. He calls this “Agency.” (How’s yours?)

And, finally, we need to be willing to do whatever (!) it takes for however long it takes to make it so. He calls this “Pathways.” (You got ‘em?)

Your +1 mission today, should you choose to accept it:

Spend a moment reflecting on these questions:

• What goal is firing you up these days? How will it make your future better than your present?

• Do you believe you can make it a reality?

• Are you willing to go from Plan A to Z in pursuit of making it happen?

Fantastic. Let’s do this!!!

Nov 6, 2017

Here’s another really powerful tool from The Tools guys, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels.

Use this tool whenever you find yourself in one of those not-so-pleasant mental loops about someone who annoyed you.

They call that being stuck in “the Maze.”

Not a good place to be.

The Tool to get out of that Maze is called “Active Love.”

Here’s how to practice it: The first step, as always (!), is to notice that you’re off. (Therefore, btw, you want to get EXCITED about detecting this negativity. Seeing it is a really powerful thing.)

Then take a deep breath and imagine your energy going from your head to your heart.

Smile gently. Take another deep breath to focus your energy into your heart region.

Then think of some awesome things about the person who is currently annoying you. You can also send compassion for the challenges they may be facing.

Then imagine beaming them love—get into it and see energy shining right out of your heart and into the world toward them.

That’s Active Love.

It’s really amazing. Try it the next time you find yourself caught in a mental Maze.


Nov 6, 2017

What do you say to yourself when things don’t go as planned?

It could be in the middle of a big game or creative project or dinner conversation with the family.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to ruminate on the oops and turn a “bad shot” into a really bad game (or season).

Our gold-medal-winning friend Lanny Bassham has a great approach for this. He’s one of the best rifle shooters ever and tells us we need to “re-load” after every shot.

Shoot and hit your target perfectly? Lanny tells us to FEAST on that success. “That’s like me!” he says. (Micro-win? “That’s like me!” Another micro-win? “That’s like me!” All day every day as you build your self-image as a world-class performer.)

Kinda sorta hit your target? That gets an “OK.”

Miss your target completely? Like oops—I just acted like an idiot and really wish I could have that shot back kinda thing? Then we re-load by simply saying to ourselves, “Needs work.”

We DO NOT (I repeat, we DO NOT!) ruminate on all the different ways we screwed up and how much we messed up all hopes for the future.

Nope. A simple, “Needs work.” will do. Then we quickly go back to the moment we erred and think about what we could have done to execute the moment perfectly. We replay THAT moment in our heads.

The benefit? Well, rather than groove the negative outcome into our consciousness over and over, we thwart that negative self-image building and use the opportunity to LEARN something. (Remember: We win or we learn. More on that in a moment.)

I love to use this. First step: Catch myself. Quick, silent, warm neutral “Needs work.” Imagine what I could have done differently. Replay that scene. Done.

How about you? Made any mistakes lately?

Bring your most recent Oops to mind.

Let’s re-load it.

Replay the scene in your mind and think about how you could have pulled it off a little more optimally. Got it? Awesome. Now let it go.

Nice work! We just got a little better today, +1 styles.

Nov 5, 2017

Stephen Covey's seventh habit of Highly Effective People is "Sharpen the Saw."

He tells us about the importance of renewal if we want to stay at our best and shares this parable to bring the point home:

Imagine walking into a forest. You see a guy sawing a tree. He's working and working and working but not getting very far. His blade is clearly dull.

So, you suggest he step back and sharpen the saw a bit.

He says that's simply not possible. He's way too busy to slow down to sharpen anything.

Hmmmm... Really? But with a sharp blade you'd hammer right through that tree!


Which guy are you?


What's one tiny little easy thing you could start doing (today!!) that would help you build a chainsaw?

Let's do that!!

Nov 5, 2017

Vice Admiral James Stockdale was shot down during the Vietnam War. He spent seven and a half years in a brutal prison camp. He spent four of those years in solitary confinement and two years in leg irons. He was tortured fifteen times.

Stockdale heroically embraced his role as the clandestine commanding officer of what became hundreds of prisoners.

In his book Good to Great Jim Collins tells us about what he called “The Stockdale Paradox.”

Stockdale said that naive optimism got you killed in those camps. Some guys thought they’d get out by Christmas. When Christmas came and went they thought they’d get out by Easter. When Easter came and went it was Thanksgiving. Then... Then, they lost hope. And died.

Stockdale told us the ones who survived did something different.

They KNEW (!!!) that they would eventually be free and they KNEW (!!!) it was not going to happen any time soon. Stockdale himself knew it would be at least 5 years. But, he knew the day would come.

The Stockdale Paradox.

Utter confidence in our inevitable success and utter eyes-wide-open humble embrace of reality that it isn’t going to happen immediately and/or be easy.

As Stockdale puts it: “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

That’s the heart and soul of true confidence.

How’s yours?

Nov 5, 2017

What do you do when you’re having a rough day?

Maybe it starts the moment you wake up and you just don’t feel like doing your normal things? Or maybe it kicks in a little later in the day after a disappointment. Things aren’t going your way. What do you do?

Well, here’s a key lesson: We’ve gotta develop our emotional stamina—on those days when we feel the WORST, we need to be the MOST committed to rockin’ our fundamentals.

We’ve talked about this theme quite a bit over the years but I picked up that phrase “emotional stamina” from one of my early coaching sessions with Phil Stutz. He had complimented me on my emotional stamina (thanks, Phil!) and I asked him what he meant.

In short, he said that I bounce back from challenges/setbacks quickly. He told me that we need to say this to ourselves as we cultivate our self-mastery: “I don’t feel good but I’m going to keep up with the protocol. In fact, I am MOST avid about sticking with the protocol when it’s hardest.”

Imagine that.

Imagine that you are MOST committed to doing the little things you know keep you plugged in when you LEAST feel like it.

The worse we feel, the more committed we are to doing the work.


Of course, all of this presupposes that we HAVE a protocol—that we know what we need to do to stay in peak mode.

So, two questions today:

1. What’s YOUR protocol?
2. What do you do when you hit a speed bump in life?

Let’s get really clear on what we need to do to stay ON and let’s remember to be most avid about rocking the protocol when we least feel like it.

Nov 4, 2017

Alison Wood Brooks is a researcher at Harvard Business School. She studies the most effective strategy for dealing with acute stress.

First, a little test: Imagine that you need to give a big presentation in front of a bunch of people. Your heart’s been pounding for days at the mere thought of this talk. Palms are sweaty. All that.

What should you tell yourself? Should you try to calm down or should you try to feel excited?

When Alison asked that question to hundreds of people, the response was nearly unanimous: 91% said they thought the best advice was to try to calm down.


That’s not what her research shows.

Get this: Alison brought people into her lab and gave them a super-stressful test: She made them give an impromptu speech—something that has been proven to do a very good job at eliciting a very high level of stress. 😃

(Recall that people are more afraid of public speaking than death (!), leading Seinfeld to quip that “If you have to go a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” <— Hah!)

So, back to our study. Everyone’s told they have to give a speech. The normal stress response kicks in. She instructs half of them say to themselves, “I am calm.” The other half were instructed to say “I am excited.”

Guess what? The “I am excited!” group way outperformed the group that tried to calm themselves down.

Why is that?

Because anxiety is what scientists call a “high-arousal state” while being calm is a “low-arousal state.” It’s almost impossible to shift from a high-arousal state of fear/anxiety/etc. immediately into a calm state. It’s like cruising at 80 miles an hour and slamming on the brakes. Not a good idea.

Much wiser to take all that fear energy and simply reframe it as excitement—channeling it into a positive, constructive direction and, effectively, pressing go on the accelerator rather than stop.

And, “I am excited!” is a shockingly simple way to make that happen.


What do YOU say to yourself when you’re feeling your heart race before a big event?

Time to get excited?

Try it today.

When you feel your nerves kicking into high gear, think of this +1 and smile—channeling that energy into rocking it.

“I’m excited!”

Nov 4, 2017

In the last couple +1s we talked about the power of Gratitude and Grateful Flow.

(You try them out yet? 😃)

Today, let’s talk about something Barbara Frederickson calls “celebratory love.”

First, quick backstory: Barbara is one of the world’s leading researchers studying well-being. She wrote a book called Love 2.0 where she tells us that, from a scientific perspective, love is really all about “micro-moments of positivity”--moments in our everyday lives in which we connect with someone over a shared positive emotion.

We’ll talk about that more soon.

For now, I want to focus on two different types of love: compassionate love and celebratory love. Compassionate love is when our hearts open up to feel someone’s pain and we wish them a sense of well-being. Celebratory love is, as the name implies, when we see the awesomeness in someone else and CELEBRATE it with them.

Barbara calls celebratory love “gratitude’s generous cousin.” (← I love that.)

We appreciate SOMEONE ELSE’S good fortune when we practice (yes, it’s a practice!) celebratory love.

We can do this all day every day. See someone with a spring in their step and a smile on their face? Take a moment to celebrate their apparent happiness and beam them a silent, virtual high five! Barbara silently says to herself, “May your happiness and good fortune continue!”

And, perhaps most importantly, when a loved one (or friend or colleague or anyone) shares a story about their success with you, CELEBRATE IT!!!

Barbara tells us that most counseling focuses on helping couples and families deal with the challenges in their relationships. But, she tells us, it’s actually WAY more important to get REALLY good at celebrating the POSITIVE stuff!! (If we can’t do that, our relationship is really in trouble.)

Let’s move from theory to practice.

Spend a moment thinking of the three people you love most in the world. Who are they?

1. ___________________________
2. ___________________________
3. ___________________________


Now, what’s one thing you can appreciate about each of them?

Name → Awesomeness

1. ___________________________ → ___________________________
2. ___________________________ → ___________________________
3. ___________________________ → ___________________________


I celebrate you and your awesomeness!

Now, let’s make that a habit!

Nov 4, 2017
In our last +1, we chatted about the scientifically-proven power of gratitude: Simply writing down 5 things you're grateful for can boost your happiness up to 25%. (Wow.) 
Here’s another way to practice the magic of gratitude right in the moment when you need it most.
The Tools guys call it Grateful Flow” and it’s one of their ways to deal with any negative feelings you might be experiencing—overwhelm, depression, that sort of ick sauce.
Here’s the quick take on how to put the tool into practice: The moment you’re aware that a cloud of ick is floating into your day, step back, take a deep breath and simply look around you and notice things you can be grateful for.
For example, right now I’m grateful for the computer I’m working on, the bottle of water I just drank from, my wife and kids, the beautiful mountain out my window, my health, you, and so much more.
That’s Grateful Flow.
Tiny little things in our life that we can either take for granted or appreciate. 
Note: It’s impossible (!) to be in a state of gratitude AND be in a state of misery at the same time. (Don’t believe me? Try it.)
The next time you’re starting to feel a little stressed: Take a deep breath and turn on the Grateful Flow!
How about some practice right now?
What tiny things can you appreciate?
(Let’s live from that place!)
Nov 3, 2017
Gratitude is a very powerful thing. Shockingly so. 
In fact, research shows that something as simple as writing down 5 things you’re grateful for once a week can boost your happiness by up to 25%.
Let’s do the work right now shall we?
5 things you’re grateful for, please!
  1. _________________________________
  2. _________________________________
  3. _________________________________
  4. _________________________________
  5. _________________________________
Count your blessings and watch your happiness go up!
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