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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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OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time
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Now displaying: September, 2018
Sep 27, 2018
A few +1s ago we talked about Stuart Wilde. He’s an old-school self-help teacher who used to lecture with Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay and Deepak Chopra. 
 
He’s really funny. He’s also a fascinating blend of super-esoteric spirituality AND super-intense discipline. (As per our “Dominate Your Life!!” +1!!)
 
Today I want to chat about a practical little exercise I’ve been using from his great book Infinite Self.
 
Short story: The book is, as the title suggests, all about connecting to a power that’s infinitely (!) bigger than us. Call it whatever you want—God, the Universe, the Field, the Force. Doesn’t matter. But, I think we’d all agree that there’s SOMETHING bigger than us that’s beating our hearts and growing our toenails while somehow finding the time to expand the universe at the mind-boggling speed of around 68 kilometers per second per megaparsec
 
So…
 
Stuart tells us that we’d be wise to figure out how to make that infinite power a more conscious, consistent part of our lives. He offers 33 steps. Step 1 is to FEEL the force WITHIN you NOW. It’s not some abstract thing out there. It’s within you. Now. Check out the Notes for more. 
 
For now, the exercise.
 
The next time you feel annoyed by something or someone in your life, step back and imagine yourself as a 250-foot tall version of yourself. You’re so tall that you can basically straddle your city and stand WAY above your little self—barely even seeing the tiny little problem(s) you’re dealing with at the moment.
 
And, if you want to go astronaut-style all in on it, just imagine yourself as a 250,000-MILE tall version of you—so big you can touch the moon with your finger. That should do the trick.
 
From either of those vantage points, look down at your city or our planet and try to find your little self and your little problems that feel so big when you live from such a contracted place.
 
How do things look from THAT perspective?
 
Exactly. Like a non-issue.
 
Guess what? That’s the accurate perspective.
 
All of which leads us to Today’s +1.
 
Anything or anyone annoying you? Say hello to the 250-foot (or 250-mile!) tall version of you. Look at your problems from that vantage point. Smile. Wave. Then do what needs to get done. 
Sep 17, 2018
Continuing our underwater theme for a moment longer, have you ever heard of hagfish?
 
They’re pretty creepy. (I apologize in advance for the visual image here but I think it’s worth it…)
 
Here’s how Steve Chandler describes hagfish in Time Warrior
 
“To really live now there are two things I want to phase out of my life forever: (1) Resentments about the past and (2) Worries about the future.
 
These two activities, strengthened by repeated indulgence, are like hagfish. Hagfish? Many people don’t know what hagfish are, but they are just like worries and resentments.
 
In the real, undersea world, hagfish are blind, slimy, deepwater eel-like creatures that dart into the orifices of their prey and devour them, alive, from the inside.
 
Kill the hagfish in your life. Then you can live now and maybe procrastinate later.”
 
Um. Hmmm… Wow. 
 
That’s a heck of a way to kill your prey, eh? Dart into their orifices and then devour them, alive, from the inside? Yikes.
 
And, well, that’s Today’s +1.
 
Got any hagfish in your life? 
 
Any resentments and/or worries that’re eating you from the inside out?
 
Is now a good time to kill those hagfish before they get you?
 
Fantastic. Good luck with that!
Sep 12, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about W.H. Auden’s (genius) quip that routine, in an intelligent person, is a sign of ambition. (I laugh with joy every time I type that.)
 
Then we did a quick check in on your ambition. And, hopefully, we dialed it up a notch and made sure that your routines were reflecting that strong desire to Optimize and actualize in service to your family, community and world.
 
Today I want to talk about work and play.
 
A lot of people think those two things are separate. 
 
I think you’re doing it wrong if your work ISN’T play.
 
Abraham Maslow would agree. He once said that one of the hallmarks of self-actualizing people is that they get to a place where “apparent dichotomies” are dissolved. In Motivation and Personality, he has a chapter in which he describes the “19 Characteristics of the Self-Actualizer.”
 
Check out the Notes for a super-quick look at all 19 of those self-actualizer characteristics.
 
For now, know this: The 19th characteristic of self-actualizers is their Resolution of Dichotomies.” For example, he tells us: “The dichotomy between selfishness and unselfishness disappears altogether in healthy people because in principle every act is both selfish and unselfish.”
 
Another dichotomy that dissolves for self-actualizers?
 
The dichotomy between work and play.
 
What happens when work IS play? And when play IS work?
 
Well, then you get a statement like this from author James Michener in his autobiography: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both.”
 
That’s the way to roll.
 
Here’s to mastering the art of living.
 
Let’s have fun writing the rules to the game that is our lives and then playing it with all the joy and intensity and excellence we can muster—letting others decide whether we’re working or playing.
 
For us, we’re always doing both.
Sep 7, 2018
A couple +1s ago, while celebrating Yuval Noah Harari’s lack of a smartphone, I mentioned the fact that we don’t need to become smashing Luddites in response to the tsunami of technology that hammers us all day every day.
 
But… We ALSO want to make sure we don’t become addicted users
 
The best solution? Be an Optimizite. Let’s make the best use of technology to sculpt the best possible version of yourself. (Recall that Optimize comes from the Latin optimus which literally means “the best.”)
 
That’s the central theme of Conquering Digital Addiction 101—which might be my favorite master class so far. 
 
Here’s the deal.
 
You know how Facebook and Instagram and Google make money?
 
By, essentially, hacking and then selling your attention.
 
They work REALLY REALLY REALLY (!!!) hard to make sure you spend MORE and MORE and MORE time on their sites and apps.
 
Then they SELL your attention to (literally) the highest bidder.
 
Now, of course, there’s nothing inherently evil about this per se. These companies often provide astonishingly cool and equally valuable services.
 
But the way they’ve set up their business model essentially REQUIRES them to, as this must-see 60 Minutes exposé called “Brain Hacking” puts it: HACK your mind.
 
Now, we often say we watch stuff like that for “free” but, technically, we typically pay for it via xx seconds of your attention (which is sold to a sponsor who shows us their ad).
 
Alternatively, you can upgrade your YouTube account and NOT watch ads—which is a really compelling alternative business model that doesn’t require a company to focus so much on mining your attention.
 
Saving the bigger picture business model discussion for another time, get this: That whole economy is called the attention economy (and could be called the “mind-hacking economy”). 
 
You know how much money is made hacking your mind every year?
 
Some researchers put the number at $7 TRILLION dollars. 
 
S E V E N. 
T R I L L I O N. 
D O L L A R S. 
 
$7,000,000,000,000!!!
 
That’s a lot of zeroes. (12 in fact.)
 
And… That’s a lot of hacking.
 
And… A lot of addicted users.
 
Which brings us to another point of the class and of this +1. Technologists refer to their customers as “users.” You know who else refers to their customers as “users”? Drug dealers. (Hah. And d’oh.)
 
Seeing that our smartphones and emails and apps light up the same addiction centers of our brains as cocaine and alcohol and other drugs, it’s a fitting parallel.
 
It’s also why Bill Maher refers to “social media tycoons” as “tobacco farmers in t-shirts.” Only, he says, the tobacco guys only wanted your lungs. Tech titans want your SOUL.
 
Again. I’m NOT saying we should all go smashing our phones and computers Luddite style.
 
But I AM saying that you’ve gotta wonder why Steve Jobs wouldn’t even let his own kids use the iPad he was so excited about. And why so many tech execs follow his lead and RADICALLY limit their kids’ use of the very products they build.
 
As Adam Alter says in Irresistible: “It seemed as if the people producing tech products were following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply. This is unsettling. Why are the world’s greatest public technocrats also its greatest private technophobes? Can you imagine the outcry if religious leaders refused to let their children practice religion?”
 
All of which leads us to the practical point of Today’s +1.
 
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Not at all! I’m 100% Optimizite, baby!” and 10 being “Oh… yikes! I’m a 10 Addicted User!” where are you on the addicted-user spectrum?
 
1 ----------------------------------------- 10
 
And… Most importantly: How can you take a step or three toward the Optimizite side of that spectrum today?
 
Here’s to wisely unplugging from the $7 trillion mind-hacking economy long enough to become all that we’re capable of being!
Sep 2, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Professor Harari’s two world maps—one before The Scientific Revolution that was all filled in (including areas they knew NOTHING about) and one after that had plenty of empty spaces (accounting for all they things they didn’t know). 
 
Then we talked about YOUR maps. And, hopefully, we all added a good deal more empty space in our maps—especially that space outside our comfort zones that leads to the unknowable zone of our infinite potential.
 
Today I want to chat about the importance of running our own scientific experiments. Of course, admitting our ignorance is an absolutely essential first step to gaining new knowledge. But, then we’ve gotta throw on our lab coats and get to work!
 
Before we go there though, how about another quick little history lesson? 
 
So, we all know that Christopher Columbus “discovered” the continent that became known
as America. But... He refused to believe it. When he landed on the Bahamas he thought he had discovered islands en route to East Asia. As Professor Harari puts it: “He called the people he found there ‘Indians’ because he thought he had landed in the Indies—what we now call the East Indies or the Indonesian archipelago. Columbus stuck to this error for the rest of his life. The idea that he had discovered a completely unknown continent was inconceivable for him and for many of his generation.”
 
Then, get this: America was mistakenly named by map-maker Martin Waldseemüller who thought explorer Amerigo Vespucci discovered it. As Harari says, “There is poetic justice in the fact that a quarter of the world, and two of its seven continents, are named after a little-known Italian whose sole claim to fame is that he had the courage to say, ‘We don’t know.’”
 
Alright. Back to the Scientific Optimizing.
 
Today’s +1. 
 
Let’s throw on our lab coats and goggles and grab our clipboards. It’s time to run some experiments. 
 
In fact, let’s follow Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wisdom and make EVERYTHING an experiment.
 
btw: My hunch is you’re familiar with this quote: All life is an experiment. The more experiments the better.”
 
The full passage is even better. As Ralph says: “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”
 
So, my dear Scientifically-Experimenting-Ignoramus-Optimizer friend: What experiments have YOU run lately?
 
Let’s measure our little (and big) tests as objectively as we can—making the connection between the mundane things like “When I eat that, my nose gets stuffy” and “When I’m online late at night I sleep poorly and that diminishes my energy and optimism which makes me grumpy which slows down my actualization” to... Whatever else you need to shine the light of ignorance on!
 
Then, of course, we need to take that data and APPLY it to our lives. As Harari points out, it’s APPLIED scientific knowledge that leads to power. 
 
We can only gain new power by moving from *theory* to PRACTICE. 
 
So, my dear Scientifically-Experimenting-Ignoramus-Optimizer friend: What data have you gotten from recent experiments and, most importantly, how will you apply that knowledge to your life TODAY?
 
Here’s to your lab coat and clipboard. And don’t forget the goggles.
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