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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: June, 2018
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!
Jun 24, 2018
Nathaniel Branden was a fascinating guy. As a teenager he wrote a fan letter to Ayn Rand—which she ignored. Then he wrote another letter a little later which led to an intimate relationship and collaboration. 
 
We’ll save the details of that relationship for another discussion. For now, let’s look at some wisdom from The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem where Nathaniel tells us about a little self-awareness exercise called “sentence completion.”
 
Here’s how he puts it: “Sentence-completion work is a deceptively simple yet uniquely powerful tool for raising self-understanding, self-esteem, and personal effectiveness. It rests on the premise that all of us have more knowledge than we normally are aware of—more wisdom than we use, more potentials than typically show up in our behavior. Sentence completion is a tool for accessing and activating these ‘hidden resources.’”
 
How’s it work?
 
Like this.
 
Take a sentence stem (like: “Living consciously to me means...”) and create 6-10 completions of that sentence. Only rule is that each ending needs to create a grammatical sentence. Write quickly, don’t stop to “think” and, as Nathaniel says: “Any ending is fine, just keep going.”
 
Let’s try it out on this sentence stem: 
 
If I bring 5 percent more awareness to my activities today…
 
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Here’s to tapping into the wisdom that’s always right there waiting for us!
Jun 19, 2018
We’ve talked about how exercise is kinda like taking a little bit of Ritalin and a little bit of Prozac, but somehow we’ve gotten this far into our +1 series without talking about the fact that exercise is as effective as Zoloft in reducing depression.
 
Get this.
 
In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirksy walks us through a little experiment. 
 
Bring clinically depressed individuals into a lab. Split them into three groups. The first group is assigned to four months of aerobic exercise while the second group gets an antidepressant medication (in this case Zoloft) and the third group gets both. 
 
The exercise group does three, forty-five minute sessions per week of cycling or walking/jogging at a moderate to high intensity.
 
Fast-forward four months.
 
As Sonja says: "Remarkably, by the end of the four-month intervention period, all three groups had experienced their depressions lift and reported fewer dysfunctional attitudes and increased happiness and self-esteem. Aerobic exercise was just as effective at treating depression as was Zoloft, or as a combination of exercise and Zoloft. Yet exercise is a lot less expensive, usually with no side effects apart from soreness. Perhaps even more remarkably, six months later, participants who had ‘remitted’ (recovered) from their depressions were less likely to relapse if they had been in the exercise group (six months ago!) than if they had been in the medication group.” 
 
She continues by saying: “No one in our society needs to be told that exercise is good for us. Whether you are overweight or have a chronic illness or are a slim couch potato, you’ve probably heard or read this dictum countless times throughout your life. But has anyone told you— indeed, guaranteed you—that regular physical activity will make you happier? I swear by it.”
 
Any time one of the leading, conservative scientists in the field guarantees (!) ANYTHING I sit up straight and pay attention.
 
And, in this case, I put on my shoes and hit the trail.
Jun 14, 2018
In Self-Image 101, we talked about how to create the most heroically awesome version of yourself by integrating the Optimus you and the “en*theos” you into the “Hērōs” you.
 
We also talked about Other Image 101—aka: How do you see OTHERS?
 
Walt Whitman helped us out with this idea. 
 
He once said: “In the faces of men and women, I see God.”
 
Which begs the question: When you look in the faces of men and women, what do YOU see?
 
That’s actually Today’s +1.
 
When you’re out and about today (and, perhaps even more importantly: when you’re in and hanging out with your family today!), take a moment to step back and SEE the absolute best, most divinely awesome essence of the people with whom you’re interacting.
 
And, remember: It’s hard to see in others what we’re not seeing in ourselves. 
 
Therefore… 
 
Let’s make sure the first person in whom we see God this morning is that person looking back at us in the mirror. 
 
Here’s to bowing to the divine within yourself and to the divine within all those you meet today!
 
+1. +1. +1. 
Jun 9, 2018
Here's another little gem from Dan Pink’s To Sell Is Human. (The man is a brilliant writer and a treasure-trove of goodness.)
 
He tells us that, according to research from McKinsey: “the typical American hears or reads more than one hundred thousand words every day.”
 
Think about that for a moment.
 
100,000 words. EVERY DAY.
 
When I think about that, I immediately think of a few things: A Lion, a King, and a Monk
 
Specifically, I think about Alberto Villoldo’s wisdom that we are now exposed to more stimuli in ONE WEEK than our ancient ancestors were exposed to in their ENTIRE LIFETIMES. 
 
As he says, we evolved to deal with one lion roaring at us at a time. Now, with 24/7/365-global news, it’s as if the entire jungle is roaring at us all day every day. (Which, btw, is one of the reasons why obsessive news and talk show consumption is correlated with anxiety, depression, etc.)
 
(Another btw: Here’s a crazy stat from Nasha Winters in The Metabolic Approach to Cancer. She tells us: “We can slug down more sugar in thirty minutes than our ancestors would consume in an entire year.” <- Yikes. And we wonder why we're all so sick…)
 
That’s our Lion. (Side note: Emerson and I just read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and are now working our way through the Chronicles of Narnia. Love it.)
 
Then there’s our King. Stephen King to be precise.
 
In On Writing, King says that the hardest part of his creative journey was when he was a full-time high school teacher trying to make it as a writer. Although he loved the kids, at the end of the week he felt like his brain had been attached to jumper cables (!) and it was REALLY hard to simmer down and write anything worth reading.
 
Then there’s our Monk: Thich Nhat Hanh.
 
He tells us that everything we are exposed to is a “nutriment” that needs to be “digested.” Those 100,000 words we hear and read every day? Your brain has to process them and digest them just like all the food you eat (and that sugar you might be consuming!).
 
All of that to say… 
 
To put it very directly: If you’re the “typical” American, jamming your consciousness so full of words (and stimulation) all day every day, you probably have a VERY hard time ever coming up with an original thought. (Laughing. Sorry to break the news…)
 
At least that’s MY experience when I open the tap a bit too much to news—I find myself waking up in the morning thinking about what’s going on in the world vs. what I want to CREATE in the world.
 
Of course, as with everything, there’s a balance. 
 
How’s yours?
 
btw: This is also why I very rarely have any music on (and never any talk shows) when I’m driving (that’s my silent time to decompress and think and integrate!) and why I NEVER (!!!) bring any technology with me when I’m in nature hiking (that’s my silent time to decompress and think and integrate!).
 
Again, we all need to find our path and our optimal balance.
 
How’s yours?
 
To the extent we’re committed to being more CREATIVE than REACTIVE, I say we trim that 100,0000-word count down and remember Mark Twain’s quip that anytime he finds himself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect. And, of course, there’s Krishnamurti’s genius line that being well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society is no measure of health.
 
Let’s break away from the noise and make some noise in the world!
Jun 4, 2018
Emerson is learning how to read and I’m the lucky guy who gets to teach him.
 
The other day Emerson wrote his first word: “mom.” Then he busted out “dad.” Then he was able to write his name by himself. (I get a little misty just typing that.)
 
I don’t hang on to much “stuff” but those first, handwritten words are now my most prized possessions.
 
Philosophically, it’s amazing to see how something that is super hard — like, for example, Emerson writing an “a” — suddenly becomes “easy.”
 
Of course, I might take more than a moment to celebrate the now awesome “a” and remind Emerson that there was a time when that was really hard. 
 
And, we often quickly roll through the other things that were hard before they became super easy. If you were a fly on the wall of the Johnson house you might here something like this:
 
“Remember how you used to poop in your pants!” (We both get a kick out of that one.) “And, now it’s super easy to go in the toilet!”
 
“And, remember how you used to suck your thumb and it was super hard to stop? But then you decided to and BAM! Now it’s easy!”
 
“Remember when writing that ‘a’ was hard?! And NOW look at it! You make it look easy! WOW.” 
 
Then we like to connect the dots between hard and easy.
 
Me: “How’d you get so good at doing that ‘a’?!”
 
E: “Practice.”
 
Me: “Yep. That’s how you get good at anything, huh?”
 
Together: Practice. Practice. Practice.”
 
Me: “You can pretty much do ANYTHING you want, buddy, with enough practice!”
 
I have mist in my eyes as I type that.
 
And, I say the same thing to you (and, of course, to myself): You can pretty much do ANYTHING you want, buddy, with enough practice!
 
Only question is: What do you want? (Seriously. What do you really want in your life?!)
 
Ready to pay the price?
 
Here’s to pooping in the toilet and remembering that everything is hard before it’s easy.
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