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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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Now displaying: April, 2018
Apr 30, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about our 80/20 180 phase in which we implemented a number of high-leverage lifestyle changes.
 
After that stabilization and Optimizing process, we went deep into what research shows to be a REALLY powerful targeted therapy for cancer: a ketogenic diet.
 
In fact, we hired the woman who literally wrote the book on it.
 
That book is called Keto for Cancer. Its author, Miriam Kalamian has been my brother’s day-to-day nutritionist for the last x weeks. She and her book are AMAZING.
 
If you’re wondering what nutritional approach we’re following, THAT’s it.
 
I’m laughing as I type this but my brother went from pretty much eating whatever he wanted whenever he wanted in whatever quantity he wanted to following a nutritional plan with the precision of an Olympic athlete such that he knows, in his words, whether or not he can have a couple more walnuts with lunch. (HAH!)
 
All of which begs a few questions.
 
First, you may wonder: What’s a ketogenic diet? And, why is it relevant?
 
Well, a therapeutic ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate, adequate protein, high healthy-fat, nutrient-dense diet that shifts your body’s primary source of energy metabolism from glucose to what’s known as “ketones.” 
 
The ketones produced in a therapeutic ketogenic diet are relevant because THIS is how we strike cancer where it’s weak.
 
Here’s the deal. Remember our chat about the fact that “cancer loves sugar”? Well, cancer cells don’t just love sugar, cancer cells pretty much literally (!!!) can’t live without sugar. (I have goosebumps as I type that.)
 
Know this: You don’t need to rewind that far in our 1.5-million-year evolutionary history to arrive at a time when the next meal wasn’t guaranteed (let alone arriving as “edible foodlike substances” that was made in a factory and available in your fridge all day every day — all consumed with basically no effort, etc.). 
 
Know this: We evolved to not just survive during times of food scarcity but to THRIVE.
 
This fact required what’s known as metabolic flexibility.” Healthy cells had to be able to burn either glucose or ketones for fuel. 
 
(Side note: Here’s a little known fact that all dieticians know but nearly all keep secret: We can function just fine with ZERO carbs. We NEED fats and proteins. We do NOT NEED carbs.)
 
But…
 
And might just be THE most important point in our entire discussion about how to conquer cancer so let’s pay attention here:
 
CANCER CELLS ARE METABOLICALLY INFLEXIBLE.
 
Which means that cancer cells can’t make the switch from using glucose for fuel to using ketones. (Whereas healthy cells easily can.)
 
And THAT is how you checkmate the seemingly immortal cells and their out-of-control growth.
 
Leverage their metabolic inflexibility. Cut off their fuel source. Step on their Achilles heel. 
 
Practically speaking, what that means is we need to drastically reduce carb intake (in the range of around 20 net carbs per day). When done with precision (ideally with the guidance of a nutrition pro) within the healthy fat, adequate protein, nutrient-dense parameters Miriam maps out in her book, you radically change your energy metabolism — nourishing your healthy cells with ketones while starving your cancer cells of glucose. 
 
This is why my brother measures his glucose and ketones all day every day. 
 
He’s driven the glucose down: now in the 80s — which, again, is an epically awesome drop from the 145 diabetic, cancer-feasting-on-glucose zone to the optimal, “where’s the glucose?!” cancer cell starvation diet zone WHILE driving his ketone levels up. Again, nourishing the metabolically flexible healthy cells while exploiting the metabolically INflexible cancer cell’s Achilles.
 
THAT is how we use targeted nutritional therapy to win the war on cancer. 
Apr 28, 2018

We’ve had a lot of people ask for a class on Public Speaking. It tends to freak a lot of people out which is why Idea #1 features Jerry Seinfeld’s quip that most people are so afraid of public speaking that they’d prefer to *receive* a eulogy than give one. (Hah.) Alas, if you have any fears over speaking in public, you’re not alone. Enter: Common humanity. And, enter my own stories about my fears and my favorite ways to alchemize that energy. (“I’m excited!” + “Bring it on!” + threat vs. challenge, etc.) Other Ideas include Rule #0 (aka, it’s not about you), Rule #1 (aka BE you—amplified!), systematically organize (and overprepare!), plus Optimizing your pre-shot routine before letting it rip!

Apr 25, 2018
So, on one hand, as per our last +1, science shows that genes play a surprisingly small role in the cause of cancer.
 
Yet…
 
Guess where nearly all of that $100 billion of research money has has been spent?
 
Yep.
 
We’ve spent $100 billion dollars on research and we spend $100 billion dollars on cancer medications every year operating under the assumption that cancer is, primarily, a genetic issue.
 
To put it directly, that appears to be the essence of why we’ve failed to win the war on cancer. We’ve been looking at it from the wrong perspective. 
 
Result: No improvements in the real death rates since the 1950s.
 
Here’s the short story on the two conflicting theories regarding the origin of cancer: 
 
The dominant theoretical orientation within Western medicine is something called the somatic mutation theory (or “SMT”) of cancer.
 
It basically says that cancer is CAUSED by genetic mutations. 
 
Now, there’s no question that cancer cells are pretty wacky genetically. In fact, the sheer complexity of mutations that exist even within one individual with cancer (let alone across individuals with various types of cancers) is why it’s so hard to treat cancer from this paradigm. 
 
But the question we need to ask is: Is cancer CAUSED by genetic mutations, or are those mutations a downstream EFFECT of some other cause?
 
Thankfully, researchers have been asking this question.
 
Enter: The metabolic theory of cancer.
 
The METABOLIC theory of cancer (vs. the genetic theory of cancer) says it’s dysfunctional ENERGY METABOLISM that precedes the genetic instability (and all the other hallmarks of cancer).
 
And, guess what?
 
That’s a HUGE distinction.
 
Why?
 
Because your theory drives your therapy. Get the theory wrong and you get the therapy wrong.
 
You just might spend an awful lot of money on research and treatment and get no real improvements.
 
To put it directly: When a loved one’s life is on the line, that’s no longer an abstract statistic. It’s a matter of life and death. 
 
 
P.S. Did you know that some cancer medications cost $100,000 for a year’s worth of treatment that only extends life by three months? That’s (shockingly) true. There has to be a better way, eh? Yes. And… The good news: There is a better way. 
 
P.P.S. Thomas Seyfried is one of the world’s leading researchers who is persuasively arguing for the metabolic theory of cancer. His 15-page (+ 7 pages of references) peer-reviewed article in the scientific journal Nutrition & Metabolism called Cancer as a metabolic disease” is a MUST READ. 
 
Print it out, read it. Bring a copy with you to your next appointment with your oncologist and team, etc. This is the scientific foundation for the theoretical framework we will be using to inform our metabolic approach to therapy. 
 
P.P.P.S. It’s essential that we understand the fact that what we’re talking about here is not a “cleanse” or a “detox” or anything along those lines. Although many inspiring anecdotal stories exist out there on the Internet about various juicing/cleansing/detoxing protocols, that’s NOT what we’re talking about here and, with blessings to all those who have benefited from and swear by them, I would never bet my life (or my brother’s life or your life) on those approaches. 
 
What we’re talking about here is a scientifically-grounded look at an alternative theory of cancer supported by a growing body of peer-reviewed, empirically sound data. There’s a BIG difference between that and the “cancer cures” we can find on the Internet. And, that’s one of the reasons why most primary care physicians and oncologists freak out when they hear you’re doing something other than traditional approaches.
 
We’ve shared all this research with our traditional team. And, we’ve gotten smart about how to communicate our approach. Which (along with the astonishing (!) therapeutic benefits my brother has experienced thus far) has led our oncologist to say to my brother, “If I were diagnosed with what you have (stage IIB pancreatic cancer), I’d do what you’re doing.”
 
Why would he say that? Because, pancreatic cancer is notoriously hard to treat from a traditional (read: genetic origin!) perspective.
 
And, you know when he said that? It wasn’t in our first meeting. In that initial meeting when he delivered the prognosis he literally didn’t look at my brother once. He had the very difficult job of communicating a very heavy prognosis and all my brother could see from the table was the side of his doctor’s face as he described what was going on to Rick’s wife, Kristin. It wasn’t a good day to say the least.
 
He changed his tone after he looked at my brother’s PET scan that showed NO SIGNS of cancer—after 5 weeks of SUPER intense nutritional and lifestyle therapeutic intervention that we’ll discuss. (Although we didn’t have a “before” PET scan to compare it to, that’s not supposed to happen with stage IIB pancreatic.) He and the other doctor who reviewed the PET + CT scans said, “If we didn’t know you had cancer, we wouldn’t know you had cancer after looking at those scans.”  
 
Now, there are a lot of variables at play and, again, we didn’t have a baseline to compare it to, and this is a sample size of one and we have a long way to go in our Optimizing journey, etc. etc. etc. but I am extremely confident that our metabolic approach to my brother’s cancer helped halt his cancer’s growth. And, I know we’re not alone as there are so many exemplars with similar results following a similar approach out there. 
 
I’m excited to share some of the practical steps we’ve taken in line with the metabolic approach to cancer. But, first, I want to spend a little more time establishing the theoretical framework as it’s important we get it on a high level.
 
Which we’ll do in our next +1…
Apr 21, 2018

What You Can Do on a Daily Basis to Optimize Your Nutrition in an Easy and Practical Way.

Apr 20, 2018
In our last couple +1s, we had some fun at the hospital with our Stoic friends Seneca and Epictetus. 
 
Recall Epictetus’ wisdom that sometimes good philosophy feels more like a trip to the hospital than a spa. (Ouch!)
 
Seneca echoes this wisdom in Letters from a Stoic where he says, Be harsh with yourself at times.”
 
Now, of course, this does NOT mean that we need to go around like that albino monk from The da Vinci Code mutilating ourselves. (Yowsers!)
 
But… 
 
It DOES mean that, at times, with a base of (and, ultimately, OUT OF a deep sense of) self-compassion, we need to give ourselves a Zen stick to the head and wake up from the bad habits that might be dragging us down.
 
As with the virtuous mean chat we had awhile ago, there’s a virtuous mean here. 
 
TOO MUCH harshness is destructive — we’ll develop a sense of self-loathing that Aristotle would consider a vice of excess
 
TOO LITTLE harshness on the other hand, and we run the risk of being a bit too self-contented. That would be a vice of deficiency.
 
The virtuous mean rests right there in the middle path — where we’re appropriately correcting our weaknesses WITHOUT self-criticism per se, just a nice firm needs work” look in the eye as we embody more and more of our ideals.
 
The great Sufi philosopher Rumi comes to mind. He tells us: This discipline and rough treatment are a furnace to extract the silver from the dross. This testing purifies the gold by boiling the scum away.”
 
In other words, be harsh with yourself at times. Check yourself into the hospital for the surgery. Throw yourself into the furnace.
 
Let’s extract the silver from the dross. Purify the gold within by boiling away the scum.
 
When?
 
Now. And again and again and again.
 
How?
 
With a knowing, joyful, Stoic-Sufi-Optimizing smile.
Apr 15, 2018
Once upon a time in a land far away, there was an old farmer.
 
This man had a horse.
 
Then, one day, his horse ran away. 
 
All the neighbors said, Gah!! That’s such a bummer. What bad luck.”
 
The man said, Maybe. It is what is.”
 
Then, one day, the horse returned!! And, lo and behold, the horse brought along a bunch of wild stallions with him!
 
All the neighbors said, Wow!! That’s incredible. What good luck!”
 
The man said, Maybe. It is what it is.”
 
At this point in the story, I should mention that the man also had a son. This son was pretty excited about the new horses. Especially one particularly wild stallion he wanted to ride.
 
So, he hops up on the horse and, WHAM! He gets slammed to the ground and breaks his leg.
 
All the neighbors said, Ohhhhhhhhh, man! What bad luck. I can’t believe that happened. Now your son can’t work the fields. That’s really bad.”
 
The man said, Maybe. It is what it is.”
 
Then one day, the army came marching into the small village. There was a war and the king demanded that all able-bodied young men join them in their battle. Our man’s son with the broken leg was spared.
 
All the neighbors said, Wow. Your son has been saved! What good luck.”
 
The man said… 
 
Well, at this stage you know what the man said.
 
Today’s +1. How do YOU respond to life’s events?
 
Is it all either good” or bad”?
 
Or, perhaps, is it just what it is? 
 
P.S. Shakespeare must have had this Zen story in mind when he had Hamlet say that there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Apr 10, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Phil Stutz’ great phrase: Endlessly evolving process.”
 
Phil likes to draw upward spiraling loops to describe the flow of evolving into the best version of ourselves.
 
In fact, his spiraling loops are almost identical to Ray Dalio’s spiraling loops. Remember his? We unpacked his 5-Steps to Success model not too long ago.
 
The super-quick recap: You start with an audacious goal. Then you fail. Then you figure out why you failed. Then you design a better solution to your challenge. Then you get to work on the solution. 
 
Then you spiral up and repeat that process of evolving into a slightly better version of you. (For how long? E N D L E S S L Y.)
 
Now, Dalio tells us that it’s REALLY important to fall in love with that process. ESPECIALLY (!) the part most people shy away from — that whole failing part.
 
“But can’t I just evolve without all those mistakes?”
 
(Insert laughter from all philosophers ever.)
 
(Still laughing.)
 
“No. You can’t.”
 
Therefore, the wisest among us (with Dalio in the lead on this one) tell us that we want to so fall in love with the process of making mistakes and then getting a little better that we’re kinda like a runner who hits a certain point during his or her run where the pain goes away and the runner’s high” takes over.
 
Dalio calls this the mistake-learner’s high.”
 
You’re so engaged in the dynamic process of Optimizing that you L O V E the mistakes — knowing that they’re just part of the process of going after something audacious and the perfect data/fuel to Optimize just a little more today.
 
And, we all know that it’s all about aggregating and compounding those tiny little gains over an extended period of time, right?
 
So…
 
Today’s +1. Made any mistakes lately? 
 
Can you see how those mistakes are an ESSENTIAL part of your (endlessly evolving) process of achieving your audacious goals?!
 
Fantastic. Keep that in mind today.
 
And tomorrow. And the day after that.
 
Enjoy your mistake-learner’s high!
Apr 5, 2018
Please extend your pointer finger and shake it as if you’re lecturing someone — saying something like, You shouldn’t do this, this and this! Do that, that and that!”
 
Thank you.
 
Now, look at your hand and count how many fingers are pointing at the person you’re lecturing and how many fingers are pointing back at you.
 
Unless you’re missing a digit, you should see one finger pointing at the lucky recipient of your lecture and THREE fingers pointing back at you.
 
You may want to pay attention to that the next time you’re lecturing someone.
 
Debbie Ford tells us that this practices is a really handy way to notice our shadow” — the stuff we haven’t integrated in our own lives that, unfortunately, we tend to project onto others.
 
She tells us to attend our own lectures” because, more often than not, whatever lecture we’re giving someone else is the one WE desperately need to attend.
 
Today’s +1. The next time you start telling someone all the things you think they need to start doing more of or less of or whatever, imagine you’re a student diligently taking notes on the lecture you’re giving.
 
You might just find that the lecture you’re giving *them* is what YOU most need to hear!
 
(And, btw, the sooner you actually do the stuff you’re lecturing other people about, the sooner you’ll stop lecturing them about it. ;)
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