Info

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.)
RSS Feed Subscribe in Apple Podcasts
OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time
2019
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2018
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
November
October
September
May
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2015
December
November
October
September
August


Categories

All Episodes
Archives
Categories
Now displaying: November, 2018
Nov 29, 2018

This is Steven Pressfield’s 19th book. It’s the 10th book of his I’ve read and it’s the 4th book on which I’ve done a Note. As with all of his books, this one is written in his inimitable, pithy style. (In fact, as I consulted my dictionary for the precise definition of the word pithy, I realized just how much his style epitomizes that word. Pithy means “concise and forcefully expressive.”) Big Ideas we explore include defining the artist's journey (vis-a-vis the hero's journey; note: we all live both journeys!!), our #1 job (say hello to your muse), the superconsciousness (shuttle back and forth!), destiny acorns (daimon meet genius), how to let your soul shine (hint: SHOW UP!), Jay-Z in his studio (enter: 10,000 micro hero's journeys), and: Ready or not (you're called!!).

Nov 27, 2018

Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney are both academic researchers and professors who have been studying sports nutrition, ketogenic diets and peak performance for decades. To put it in perspective, Dr. Stephen Phinney (with his MD from Stanford and PhD from MIT) coined the phrase “keto-adapted” in 1980. Big Ideas we explore include: the accepted dogma (vs. compelling data), two fuel tanks (you want to go hours or days?), veto-adaptation (how to), protein (necessary but in moderation), fat (your most important fuel; the good and bad!), and the macro breakdown (here it is!).

Nov 26, 2018
In our last couple +1s, we talked about the lead-up to a recent keynote talk I gave and some wisdom gleaned in the process—including practicing the “Bring it on!” and “I’m excited!” tools THE MOMENT I experienced doubt/fear/etc. and… Hanging towels over mirrors to reduce the ol' self-consciousness.
 
Today I want to talk about being a ballet dancer. (Hah.)
 
Well, actually, I want to talk about some of my favorite feedback from the event. I had some great conversations with the people at the event but one nice little comment really stuck.
 
Short story: While I was holding Eleanor while Alexandra and Emerson were enjoying a quick little hot tub session at the hotel on Friday night, a woman who attended the event strolled by. We had a nice little Love 2.0 moment. 
 
She told me that she was trained in Russian ballet and that one of the first things she noticed when I started talking was my posture. 
 
She said that in her ballet training, she was taught to simultaneously go up AND go down. And that, apparently, I did that really well. 
 
She said I looked like I could be a ballet dancer. I said, “That’s AWESOME. Thank you!”
 
But, as awesome as that is (lol), that’s not quite the point of Today’s +1.
 
Today I want to talk about three things: Head Threads + Power Poses + Thor’s Hammer.
 
I take my posture/gait kinda seriously. (I think it was Phil Maffetone who says that how we hold ourselves (how we stand/walk/etc.) is, essentially, the sum total of our overall well-being and communicates to everyone around us.)
 
So… During my meditation this morning, the essence of this +1 bubbled up and I actually got up to capture the ideas (which is a very rare thing for me to do).
 
There are three essential things I think we want to have in mind posture-wise.
 
First, Head Threads. Quick recap: As per the Alexander Technique training I did on a tiny little island in Greece back in the day, imagine having a thread that runs from the top of your head down through your spine. Gently pull it up—lengthening (and widening) your spine. When you sit. When you stand. When you walk. All day every day. Experts in that method say that’s one of the keys to grace and poise.
 
Then we have Power Poses: I also like to think of Amy Cuddy’s research on the power of our posture. As it turns out, Amy was actually a ballet dancer as well. Recall her research on how to cultivate Presence. One of her big things, of course, is to strike a power pose. Channel your inner Superman or Wonder Woman. When you sit. When you stand. When you walk. All day every day. Experts in this field of research say this is one of the most effective ways to cultivate our presence and power.
 
Finally we have Thor’s Hammer: Eric Goodman is one of the world’s leading biomechanic experts. He wrote a book called True to Form. You know who wrote the foreword to his book? Thor!! Well, technically, it was Chris Helmsworth but he attributes his superpowers to Eric’s wisdom. The key tip from Eric I have in my mind often throughout the day? “Chest up. Chin down.” Try it. Chest up. Chin down. All day. Every day. Thor says: It does a body good.
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Let’s (literally!) embody the idea of buoyancy by simultaneously having levity AND gravity.
 
Remember: Head Threads. Power Poses. Thor’s Hammer.
 
Simultaneously UP and DOWN.
 
And, most importantly: Let’s dance!
Nov 22, 2018

Tim Grover was Michael Jordan’s trainer and, basically, his mental toughness coach. Kobe Bryant’s as well. And Dwayne Wade’s. And... Well, a ton of other elite athletes. He’s one of the world’s top mental toughness coaches and this book is, as per the sub-title, a manual on how to go “From Good to Great to Unstoppable.” Big Ideas we explore include: relentless commitment (vs. "Meh, good enough"), Do. The. Work (eat frogs and dominate), Pressure (pressure, pressure! BRING IT ON!), the source of true confidence, greatness math (remember: effort counts twice; just ask Michael Jordan and Jerry Rice), and turning your dreams into reality (ready?).

Nov 21, 2018
We’ve been talking a fair amount about the idea that some of history’s greatest creators didn’t work all that much. To be clear, they worked hard and (very importantly!) CONSISTENTLY, but the fact is that it’s really hard to put in any more than 4 to 6 hours of really high-quality work.
 
Of course, we all have our own idiosyncratic professional responsibilities. And, in addition to Deep Work, we all have (and, for the record, all of history’s greatest creators had!) some Team Work and some Monkey Work to do. (Even hermits like me can’t get all that to zero—as hard as I may try! lol)
 
But I get the fact that, for a lot of people, the idea that we can structure our lives such that we’re basically hammering out four hours of deep work and then calling it a day feels a bit impossible. 
 
Fair enough. 
 
Maybe we can’t currently (or ever!) wave our wands and instantly manifest our ideal Masterpiece Days. 
 
But…
 
a) Have you actually stepped back and REALLY thought about how you COULD structure your life so you more consistently execute a pretty epically masterpiece day?
 
b) What about just ONE hour of Deep Work hammer time per day? If four hours feels like an “impossible” stretch, can you carve out ONE hour to go DEEP on what REALLY matters most to you before jumping into the whirlwind of other people’s priorities?
 
Perhaps part of that Deep Work time can be dedicated to mapping out how you create four hours of sheer awesome such that you can consistently accumulate twenty hours of REALLY solid Deep Work per week?! (And, the “impossible” becomes “what’s for breakfast” as per a recent +1?)
 
You know how much four hours of Deep Work per day/twenty hours of Deep Work per week adds up to in a year?
 
1,000 hours. 
 
You know how many hours that adds up to in a decade?
 
10,000 hours. 
 
You know who you would be if you logged in 10,000 (!!!) hours of REALLY Deep Work?
 
Of course you don’t. That, as Ellen Langer would say, is UNKNOWABLE. 
 
But… You know what? I’m super-curious to know what it could look like.
 
How about YOU?
 
That’s Today’s +1. 
 
If you’re struggling to find your Deep Work rhythms, how about an hour of awesome today?
 
Let’s run the math on that as well…
 
You know how much one hour of Deep Work per day or five hours of Deep Work per week adds up to in a year?
 
250 hours. 
 
You know many hours that adds up to in a decade?
 
2,500 hours. 
 
You know who you would be if you logged in 2,500 (!!!) hours of REALLY Deep Work?
 
(… Echo…) Of course you don’t. That, as Ellen Langer would say, is UNKNOWABLE. 
 
But… You know what? I’m super-curious to know what it could look like.
 
How about YOU?
 
Here’s to your 1-Hour (Deep)Workday!
Nov 20, 2018

Here are 5 of my favorite Big Ideas from "Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Hope you enjoy!

Ralph Waldo Emerson. He’s the great-great-grandfather in my spiritual family tree. We named our son Emerson after this great 19th century philosopher and when I imagine the heroes whose qualities I want to emulate, he’s on the top of the list. Big Ideas we explore include: Trust thyself (every heart vibrates to that iron string!), nonconformity (and the integrity of your own mind), what must you do? (vs. what will they think?), Hobgoblins (begone), your voyage (of a thousand zigs and zags), and the Royal You (act like that now!).

Nov 16, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that we need to train our recovery the same way we train our Deep Work. We want to create nice, rhythmic waves in our lives and prioritize rest. One great way to do that? Deep Play.
 
I briefly mentioned the fact that, as Alex Pang tells us in his great book Rest, when we look closely at the routines of some of history’s greatest, most creative and most prolific creators what we find is that they don’t actually work that much.
 
Here’s how he puts it: “Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the results of endless hours of toil. Their towering creative achievements result from modest ‘working’ hours. …
 
If some of history’s greatest figures didn’t put in immensely long hours, maybe the key to unlocking the secret of their creativity lies in understanding not just how they labored but how they rested, and how the two relate.”
 
That again, is from a chapter he calls “4 Hours.”
 
As in, the greatest creators tend to work only 4 hours a day. 
 
But, they put first things first and GO DEEP.
 
Then, they recover.
 
The 4-Hour Workday. ← That would be an epic book.
 
btw: For those paying close attention, you may recall that we actually had a very similar +1 not too long ago featuring wisdom from Anders Ericsson and Tony Schwartz. We called that one The 4.5-Hour Workday
 
I love how we come back to the same wisdom again and again (and again!!). As Tony Robbins says, repetition is the mother of skill; or, in our case, repetition is the mother of wise Optimizing. 
 
(One more aside: I’m reminded of a recent philosophical ping-pong chat with Cal Newport. We talked about the fact that all great traditions come back to the same themes and I remarked that Optimizing by integrating ancient wisdom + modern science + practical tools like we do is kinda like looking at all the facets of a gem from different angles so you can appreciate its full beauty.)
 
One more little facet of the Today’s gem then we’ll get back to our 4-Hour Workday.
 
We’ve talked a lot about Scott Adams and Stephen King. Alex talks about their daily rhythms and tells us: “Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, works about four hours a day on the strip and other writing; as he points out, ‘My value is based on my best ideas in any given day, not the number of hours I work.’ Stephen King describes four to six hours of reading and writing as a ‘strenuous’ day.”
 
There ya go. 
 
Get clear on what matters. GO DEEP. Daily. Accrete value in your most important work. Recover. Deeply. Repeat.
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Now, go enjoy your 4-Hour Workday!
Nov 15, 2018

Here are 5 of my favorite Big Ideas from "How Champion's Think" by Bob Rotella. Hope you enjoy!

Dr. Bob Rotella is widely recognized as the world’s leading sports psychologist. He’s coached everyone from basketball stars like LeBron James to rock stars like Seal. The golfers he’s coached (including greats like Rory McIlroy) have won an astonishing 80+ major championships. Want to know how champions think in both sports AND life? Well, here you go. Big Ideas we explore include the importance of going for "exceptionalism" (by definition, to be reat/a champion you need to be an "exception" to the norm so...), a message from God (key takeaway: focus on the process, results are all good), train it and trust it, enthusiasm (it's the catalyst of champions), how to create your own reality (hint: don't do what average people do), and how to win the ultimate game of life.

Get the PN HERE: https://www.optimize.me/philosophers-notes/how-champions-think-bob-rotella/

Get the book on Amazon HERE: https://www.amazon.com/How-Champions-Think-Sports-Life/dp/1476788642

Nov 14, 2018

Jordan Peterson is one of the world's leading intellectuals. He's a Canadian clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto. (Before that, he taught at Harvard.) He’s published over 100 scientific articles and he’s super-popular on YouTube. This book is wonderfully intense and equally thoughtful. Peterson’s integration of everything from evolutionary psychology, politics, religion and morality is astounding. After taking a super-quick look at all 12 Rules, Big Ideas we cover include the importance of mastering the flow or Order + Chaos (and why RULES are so important), Rule #1 (stand up straight, shoulders back! Remember lobsters...), Rule #2 (Treat yourself better! Remember pets...), Rule #6: Clean up your life (remember to start stopping...), and the fact that your Being is in your Becoming (which is connected to Rule #4...).

Nov 13, 2018

Here are 5 of my favorite Big Ideas from "Chasing Excellence" by Ben Bergeron. Hope you enjoy!

If you’ve ever worked out at a CrossFit gym and/or watched the Reebok CrossFit Games, you know that the absolute best CrossFit athletes are absolute beasts. Well, Ben Bergeron has been the coach behind six world championships. This book is his inspirational, wisdom-packed (!!!) look at how he coaches greatness told through the lens of the 2016 Games in which his athletes (Mat Fraser and Katrín Davíðsdóttir) BOTH won. (Think about that... He coached BOTH the men’s and the women’s champions. <- That’s amazing.) My copy of the book is r i d i c u l o u s l y marked up. The book is OUTSTANDING. Big Ideas we explore include: Committing to excellence (vs. "Meh, I'm good enough."), the 12 character traits of a champion, grit (how's yours?), positivity (selection attention + confirmation bias), embracing adversity (overload and get stronger!), and acting like a champion NOW.

Get the PN HERE: https://www.optimize.me/philosophers-notes/chasing-excellence-ben-bergeron/

Get the book on Amazon HERE: https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Excellence-Building-Fittest-Athletes/dp/1619617277/

Nov 11, 2018
Continuing our theme of wisdom gleaned from Zen Optimize in the Art of Spartan Racing, let’s talk about spiritual obstacle course racer, Sri Swami Satchidananda.
 
Sri Swami Satchidananda was an obstacle course racer? 
 
Well, yah!
 
Satchidananda was one of the most revered Yoga Masters of the 20th century. He wrote a great book called The Golden Present. It’s one of those books that has a chapter for each day of the year so you can work through the wisdom and create your greatest year ever.
 
Guess what wisdom he shared in Chapter #1, January 1st? 
 
… What wisdom do you think he thought was most important to kick off your year strong? 
 
Quick answer: How to see life as one big obstacle course.
 
Longer answer, in his words: “Life must be a challenge. Only then is it exciting. In an obstacle race, you are forced to surmount all the obstacles: to jump over the hurdles, go through the barrels, crawl under the rugs, climb over walls.
 
What would happen if, to avoid all that, you went around all the obstacles and asked for the winner’s cup? Would they give it to you? No. They would say, ‘You must go back and face all the obstacles.’
 
... Make your life as exciting as possible, but always think of it as fun. The adversities as well
as the harmony should be enjoyable. Don’t become sober and morose and have a castor oil
face in the name of spirituality. Just be happy. Jump with joy. Even if you make a mistake, say, ‘Hey, I did this? Great! What a wonderful lesson I learned!’ If you really want to, you can make everything fun.”
 
Amen and high fives, Swami!!!
 
That’s PRECISELY why my sport-hobby involves me PAYING to go over and under and through obstacles so I really get the sports-metaphor that so perfectly captures the essence of life.
 
So… 
 
Today’s +1.
 
Two key things. 
 
  1. Make your life as exciting (and challenging!) as possible.
  2. And always think of it as FUN!!!
 
Friendly Optimizing reminder: Life is one big, preciously brief game. 
 
As India.Arie says
 
If you create the game then you create the rules
And if you just be you
There's no way you can lose
 
So…
 
Get out there and have fun. 
 
Jump with joy—right over any and all obstacles you face today!
Nov 8, 2018

Here are 5 of my favorite Big Ideas from "Lead Yourself First" by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin. Hope you enjoy!

Nov 6, 2018

Here are 5 of my favorite Big Ideas from "The Nicomachean Ethics" by Aristotle. Hope you enjoy! Aristotle's writings have been extraordinarily influential since ancient times. This treatise is named after his son and is a collection of his lecture notes--imagining attending his Lyceum and listening to him teach 2,300 years ago! Of course, it's packed with culture-changing Big Ideas. Some of my favorites we cover include the ultimate end: eudaimonic happiness (vs. "happiness" as most of us think about it!), how to achieve that eudaimonia (hint: "virtuous activity of the soul" aka areté), how to win the Olympic Games (hint: you can't just show up; you need to ACT!), the doctrine of the mean (and the vice of deficiency + excess) and the virtue of magnanimity: meet YOUR great soul.

Nov 6, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Zen in the Art of Spartan Spear Throwing and the recent installation of a spear throw setup in our backyard, complete with bails of hay, etc. (Yes, we’re ALL IN at the Johnson house.)
 
How about YOU? Do you have a deep commitment to mastery in your life? 
 
Remember: Even the most mundane practices can be a portal into enlightenOptimizement. 
 
So… 
 
I’m in my backyard throwing my spear and thinking about Steven Pressfield’s wisdom. As I had fun walking back and forth covering the 30 feet between the hay bales and my starting point, I was also thinking about some Lanny and Troy Bassham wisdom.
 
As we’ve discussed, Lanny wrote a book called With Winning in Mind. Troy wrote a book called Attainment. We briefly talked about some of their wisdom on how average vs. elite performers practice in our +1 on why Buddha kept on meditating after his enlightenment
 
Short story: Lanny and Troy tell us that AVERAGE performers practice something until they can get it right. ELITE performers, on the other hand, practice until they CAN’T GET IT WRONG.
 
That’s how to roll. 
 
And that’s worth a repeat: AVERAGE performers practice something until they can get it right. ELITE performers, on the other hand, practice until they CAN’T GET IT WRONG.
 
So… Today’s +1.
 
How are YOU approaching your life and the most salient aspects of it?
 
Trying to get it right? Or working so hard you can’t get it wrong?
 
Let’s avoid the “Meh, I’m good enough” zone of competence as we chase excellence.
 
Let’s go from average to elite to our optimus best.
 
Then let’s keep going.
Nov 1, 2018

Here are 5 of my favorite Big Ideas from "Reinventing Yourself" by Steve Chandler. Hope you enjoy! I got this book years ago when I first started working with Steve Chandler. At the time, I read and listened to a ton of his stuff. Steve and I worked together one-on-one for a couple years. This is our sixth Note on his books. It was super fun to reread this book and dive back into Steve’s down-to-earth and empowering wisdom. I love his short, to-the-point, funny style. Big Ideas we explore include the difference between being a Victim vs. an Owner (this is the #1 key on "How to Become the Person You've Always Wanted to Be), lifting real weights not the Styrofoam stuff (but only if you want to get strong!), the fact that Yes lives in the land of No, 10 things you'd do if you had no fear (pick one and go!), and campfires (they're a lot like human spirit--ya gotta re-create one every day!).

Nov 1, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that Americans check their phones 8 BILLION times every day. (Wow.) 
 
We also talked about the fact that (at least 5 billion of) those 8 billion checks are essentially kryptonite for the love in your life.
 
Today I want to talk about some more wisdom from Yuval Noah Harari’s new book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
 
But first, let’s talk about horses.
 
I live in a small town in Southern California called Ojai. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the very few places in the world where people ride their horses next to Teslas. (Hah.)
 
Now, of course, no one in town is getting around primarily via horses, but it’s always fun to see a few people on horseback cruising through town or to see a few horses “parked” outside the local cafe.
 
So… The other day I saw a fresh horseshoe print on my Trail. For whatever reason, I thought of Elon Musk’s talk to governors. 
 
Note: I pretty much never watch YouTube videos or TED Talks. I read books. Period. (Hah.) But, a good friend of mine (thank you, Michael!) strongly encouraged me to watch this talk. So, I did. And, I’m glad I did. I highly recommend it for a fascinating look at one man’s vision of the future. (Check it out here.)
 
So… In this discussion, Elon talks about the future of cars. Long story short, he tells us that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, ALL cars will be self-driving. It’s not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN.
 
To make his point, he tells us that just as some people still ride horses for fun, none of us ride horses as a primary means of transportation these days. Likewise, some people will have fun driving a car around in the future, but that won’t be the primary means of transportation in x years.
 
That, my friends, is what I thought of when I saw a horseshoe print in the dust of my Trail. (Hah.)
 
Well, that and a passage from Harari’s new book. 
 
In a chapter on “Work” he talks about the HUGE shifts in our global economy that will result from the advances in artificial technology.
 
He tells us: “The benefits for human society are likely to be immense. AI doctors could provide far better and cheaper healthcare for billions of people, particularly for those who currently receive no healthcare at all. Thanks to learning algorithms and biometric sensors, a poor villager in an underdeveloped country might come to enjoy far better healthcare via her smartphone than the richest person in the world gets today from the most advanced urban hospital.
 
Similarly, self-driving vehicles could provide people with much better transportation services, and in particular reduce mortality from traffic accidents. Today close to 1.25 million people are killed annually in traffic accidents (twice the number killed by war, crime, and terrorism combined). More than 90 percent of those accidents are caused by human errors: somebody drinking alcohol and driving, somebody texting a message while driving, somebody falling asleep at the wheel, somebody daydreaming instead of paying attention to the road. … Self-driving vehicles will never do any of those things. Though they suffer from their own problems and limitations, and though some accidents are inevitable, replacing all human drivers by computers is expected to reduce deaths and injuries on the road by about 90 percent. In other words, switching to autonomous vehicles is likely to save the lives of one million people every year.
 
It would therefore be madness to block automation in fields such as transport and healthcare just in order to protect human jobs. After all, what we ultimately ought to protect is humans—not jobs. Displaced drivers and doctors will just have to find something else to do.”
 
Of course, the long-term economic ramifications of all this are beyond the scope of Today’s +1. 
 
Two things I want to focus on.
 
First: Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how quickly our world is changing and that a lot of the things we take for granted as the peak of sophistication will be viewed, in the not-so-distant future, as a bit like riding a horse. 
 
Second: You know what Harari tells us is the most important quality for us to cultivate (and to teach our children) to prepare for such a rapidly changing world? 
 
Well, he says that “for every dollar and ever minute we invest in improving artificial intelligence, it would be wise to invest a dollar and a minute in advancing human consciousness.”
 
In short, we need to Optimize.
 
Let’s.
1