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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Now displaying: July, 2018
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.”)
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.
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!)
  1. Energy = __________________
  2. Work = __________________
  3. Love = __________________
Here’s to your Mastery and the simple practices that keep us on the path!