Eric Barker is the creator of the blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree, which “presents science-based answers and expert insight on how to be awesome at life.” This is a REALLY engaging, well-written, compelling book. Eric takes us on a fun adventure through the science of what *really* works. And, as the sub-title suggests: How most of what you *think* works, is either a LOT more nuanced than you may have been led to believe or is just plain wrong. Big Ideas we explore include why valedictorians don’t typically top the success charts, how to get more willpower, why managing your energy is so key, the power of mentors (and how to get one), and the #1 thing to remember for success.
Travis Macy is best known as the record-setting champion of Leadman—“a sort of six-week Grand Prix of Ultra Endurance” that consists of a jaw-dropping number of challenges. This book is a fun look at the eight principles that make up the Ultra Mindset Travis uses to do extraordinary things. Big Ideas we explore include: Your new mantra, what to do when you don’t feel like it, thinking about thinking, making the choice to give up choice, and never quitting… except when you should quit (w/a great litmus test for when you should/shouldn’t quit).
The Plant Paradox. In a nutshell: The plants that nourish us can also hurt us. Dr. Steven Gundry is a renowned cardiologist and heart surgeon. He’s a former professor at Loma Linda University and has authored 300+ peer-reviewed articles on using diet and supplements to eliminate a bunch of diseases. And, to put it in perspective: He’s Tony Robbins’s doctor. Big Ideas we explore include Rule #1 of nutrition (and life) (hint: STOP eating/doing stuff that doesn’t work for you), the little edible enemies that are taking you down, the vagus nerve and it’s communication from your gut to your brain, how fruit might as well be candy and 90% new you in 90 days.
Once upon a time, no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France. Over 100 years of trying, and, precisely, zero wins.
Then a guy named Sir David Brailsford stepped in and created Team Sky. He said that a British cyclist would win the Tour within five years. People thought he was crazy.
Until they won it in two years.
Then, for good measure, they won four of the next five races as well.
How’d he do it?
He looked for all the tiny little places where he could Optimize.
Things like making sure the riders uniforms were always washed in the same skin-friendly detergent for a little more comfort.
Things like making sure the riders always slept on the same exact mattresses every night to give them the best shot at a good night of sleep.
Things like making sure the hotel rooms were always properly vacuumed to reduce potential infections.
TINY little things.
Any one gain wouldn’t do a whole lot, of course.
But, as we know, when you aggregate and compound enough of those tiny little incremental optimizations MAGIC happens.
In this case, Tour de France victories.
As Brailsford puts it (via Matthew Syed in Black Box Thinking): “I realized early on that having a grand strategy was futile on its own. You also have to look at the smaller level, figure out what is working and what isn’t. Each step may be small, but the aggregation can be huge.”
The same rules apply to our lives. A grand strategy, although important, is futile on its own. We need to go granular and figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
So… Today’s +1.
What’s working for you? Do more of it.
What’s NOT working for you? Do less of it.
Specifically: Do you have a better day when you begin your day in a certain way? Do you have more energy when you eat less of x and more of y? Do you feel better when you exercise or go to bed by a certain time? What other data can you collect?
TEST!!! Get feedback. Look honestly at what’s working and at what’s not and dial it in.
FIND THE MARGINAL GAINS.
Not complicated. Easy to overlook. But super powerful.
Echo: When we aggregate and compound marginal gains over an extended period of time we get EXTRAORDINARY gains.
In cycling, that’s what separates you from the pack and leads to Tour de France victories.
In life, that’s what separates us from our old selves so we can actualize our potential.
Here’s to marginal gains!
+1. +1. +1.
Legend has it that when Michelangelo stepped up to a block of marble, he could see the finished statue in his mind’s eye.
His job was simple: Get rid of what was in the way.
That’s a pretty powerful image. Let’s apply it to our lives.
Step back from your current life for a moment. Fast-forward 5-10 years. Look within the block of marble that is you and your potential.
SEE the best version of you sitting within that block of marble.
Can you see it? You at your best.
What’s in the way of you expressing that heroic version of you more and more consistently?
What little habits do we need to chip away at to reveal the most beautiful version of you hidden within that marble?
And, what’s the one little habit we’re going to let go of today to reveal just a little more of the awesome?
Fantastic. Here’s a chisel. Let’s do this!
How? +1. +1. +1.
William Shakespeare once told us (via Polonius in Hamlet): “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
For some reason, as a 15-year old in high school, I decided THAT would be the very first quote I ever wrote down and committed to memory.
I can still vaguely see my handwriting on a little index card in my mind’s eye. I laugh with joy as I think of that awesome younger version of me thinking that was a quote worthy of my attention.
“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
To thine own self be true…
Emerson echoed this wisdom centuries later when he said: “Trust thyself. Every heart vibrates to that iron string!”
Today’s +1. Let’s live the wise words of our dear friends Will and Ralph just a little more today.
Want this year to be the greatest year of your life? Here's how to go about making that happen. We’ll start with a quick inventory of what’s awesome. And, what needs work. Then we’ll move on to imagine THE (!) best version of you in 10 years and 25+ years (eulogy you!) while reflecting on how to make the prior best version of you your new baseline. Then… It’s all about being that version of you NOW. We’ll revisit the fundies and your Big 3 while creating Masterpiece Days, avoiding the pickles and kryptonite dust, WOOPing everything and playing the game that is our lives as well as we can.
Pierre Hadot was one of the most influential historians of ancient philosophy. In this book, he gives us an incredible look at Marcus Aurelius and his classic Meditations. You can feel Hadot’s incredible intellectual rigor and equally incredible passion for engaged philosophy. It’s inspiring. Big Ideas we explore include spiritual exercises, your inner citadel, your daimōn, amor fate, turning obstacles upside down and carpe areté.
Got problems with your soul? These days, you’d see a psychotherapist. But, back in the day, it was the philosopher who’d help you optimize—they were the preferred physician of the soul. This book is about the philosophical roots of modern psychotherapy. Specifically, it outlines the connection between cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Stoicism. Big Ideas we explore include being a warrior of the mind vs. a librarian of the mind, your highest human purpose, getting on good terms with your inner daimon, practicing the reserve clause and modeling your ideal sage.
This book combines two of my favorite things: Stoicism + Ryan Holiday’s wisdom. Stoicism was one of the most influential philosophy of the Roman world and has continued to influence many of history’s greatest minds. As Ryan says: It’s time to bring it back as a powerful tool “in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom.” This is one of the my favorite books ever. Big Ideas we explore: the #1 thing to know about Stoicism, how to create tranquility, a good answer to “What’s the latest and greatest?!,” the 2 essential tasks in life and the art of acquiescence (aka amor fati).
In one of my coaching sessions with Phil Stutz he told me to write something down. (He often does that. 😃)
He said, “Draw a horizontal line. Above that line, put ‘Thinking Space.’ Below the line, put ‘Work Space.’”
Then he asked me, “You know what the ‘Thinking Space’ is good for?”
I didn’t have a very good answer.
He said, “NOTHING. Nothing happens in the Thinking Space.”
Obviously, stepping back and thinking about things is a vital skill but the fact is, nothing actually HAPPENS until we take action, use the tools and get to work on and in our lives. (And, as we’ve discussed numerous times, most of us don’t actually THINK, we ruminate—which, we know, is not good. At all.(https://www.optimize.me/plus-one/rumination/)
Phil says we all tend to live in the Thinking Space. He says we need to force ourselves DOWN—out of (over)thinking and into the Work Space. How? Use one of our +1 tools, get to work, do ANYTHING but overthink (or indulge in our Kryptonites).
He tells us that it’s kinda like a beach ball in water. You press it down and what does it want to do? Pop back up.
Well, we want to get REALLY good at keeping that ball down.
Today’s +1: Do you (like me and most people on the planet), have a default tendency to spend too much time thinking about things and not enough time actually DOING things?
Remember the beach ball.
Push it down every time it pops back up.
Do you know how caffeine actually works?
Most of us think that caffeine gives us energy. But what it actually does is mask our fatigue—making us feel more energized than we actually are.
Here’s the quick story on what’s going on behind the scenes.
One of the by-products of being awake and having your neurons fire is a neurotransmitter called adenosine. As adenosine accumulates in your brain, you get tired—cueing you to go to sleep to recover.
Caffeine is structurally very similar to adenosine. So similar, in fact, that it can actually sneak into those little adenosine receptors and block the adenosine from doing its job of letting us know we’re tired.
You feel energized.
Obviously, that’s pretty cool. (Hah.)
Today’s +1: Two things we want to consider as we optimize our caffeine intake.
1. We want to know that when we use caffeine we’re “borrowing” energy. Therefore, we’d be wise to use caffeine strategically rather than habitually.
If we need caffeine to get going in the morning, what we really need is more rest, not more caffeine.
2. We also want to know that caffeine has a half-life of 5-8 hours—which means that if you have a coffee with 200 mg of caffeine at 2 pm, half of that (or 100 mg) is still in your system as late as 10 pm. (That’s a lot!)
Bottom line: If you’re going to use caffeine, do it strategically and do it earlier in the day. Have a “caffeine curfew” to make sure you get a good night of sleep. Experts say no later than 2 pm and earlier if you’re really serious about allowing your body to recover.
How’s YOUR caffeine intake?
How can you +1 it?