A couple years ago, we chatted aboutAristotle’s Virtuous Mean. Then, a year ago, we dusted off that wisdom and approached it from a slightly different angle in a+1 called Aristotle’s Doctrine of the(Virtuous)Mean.
Today we’re going to dust off that gem one more time and then take Aristotle and his wisdom to a yoga class with us.
First, quick context.
In our Optimize Coach session on Movement (coming to a Mastery Series program near you in 2020!), we chatted about the fact that TOO much of a good thing is, in fact, NOT a good thing.
I actually read a passage from Aristotle’sEthics to make the point.
He tells us:“First,then, we must consider this fact: that it is in the nature of moral qualities that they are destroyed by deficiency and excess, just as we can see(sincewe have to use the evidence of visible facts to throw light on those that are invisible) in the case of health and strength. For both excessive and insufficient exercise destroy one’s strength, and both eating and drinking too much or too little destroy health, whereas the right quantity produces, increases and preserves it. So it is the same with temperance, courage and the other virtues.”
Proper amount of exercise? Awesome.
Too little? Too much? Not so awesome.
The question is: Where are YOU on the spectrum of awesome?
That leads us to the yoga.
As we take aim at that nice, centered, virtuous mean, let’s remember that SOME of us need to bend ONE way whileothers need to bend a different way.
Back toAristotle: “Wemust notice the errors into which we ourselves are liable to fall(becausewe all have different natural tendencies...), and we must drag ourselves in the other direction; for we shall arrive at the mean by pressing well away from our failing—just like somebody straightening out a piece of wood.”
One of the core themes of our work together (in these +1s and in our Coach program, etc.) is the power ofconstantly (!) experimenting as we find little ways to Optimize.
All day. Every day.
(Again.) (And again.) (And again!)
All done with a big eudaimonically joyful smile—as if we’re playing the greatest game ever created. (Which, of course, we are.)
We’ve called it a bunch of things.
In a business environment, the whole idea ofkaizenis super popular.(Kaizenis Japanese for“improvement.”… Synonymous with“Optimize”?)
While Tony Robbins calls it“CANI!”(Asin“ConstantAnd Never-ending Improvement.”)
I’m riffing on that basic theme during our fundies session on Sleep—reminding us all of the power ofchipping away and looking formarginal gains as we have fun with the whole CANI thing.
Only, I suggested we swap out the “I” for “E” and make it “Constant And Never-ending EXPERIMENTING” (rather than “Improving”).
I then made the (weak) suggestion that perhaps we could pronounce it: CAN-EE!
To which Michael Balchan (my right-hand guy with our Coach program) playfully suggested we call it “CANOE!” (short for “Constant And Never-ending Optimizing Experimentation”) as he made some side-to-side canoeing motions.
To which I said, “PERFECT!”
Constant And Never-ending Optimizing Experimentation.
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s one little experiment YOU can run Today?
Let’s grab our CANOEs and hop in the OptimizingRiver of Flexibility.
In one of our very first Notes, we took a quick look at Brendan Brazier’s The Thrive Diet.
I read the book when it came out nearly a dozen years ago. Loved it. Then Brendan and I met at an event, became friends, etc.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to be a high-performance plant-based athlete/human, I think you’ll enjoy Brenden and his work. He’s a former professional endurance athlete and the formulator (and cofounder) of the Vega nutrition brand.
Today we’re going to chat about one of my favorite Ideas from his book.
It popped into my head during the Q&A with our Coaches after our session on Sleep as we discussed having curfews on our caffeine while remembering the fact that when we routinely get less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep we DOUBLE (!) our risk for cancer.
First, here’s the wisdom fromBrendan:“Iconsider coffee drinking an uncomplementary stress. I view it as a form of credit, similar to shopping with a credit card. You get energy now that you don’t actually have, but you pay for it later—when the‘bill,’or fatigue, hits.(Simplydrinking more coffee to put off the inevitable is like paying off one credit card with another: It will catch up with you sooner or later.) You’ll most likely pay a high interest rate as well, needing more time to recover than if that energy had not been borrowed in the first place. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle.”
Let’s call that “Borrowed Energy.”
Now, let’s connect that to the Matthew Walker gem we keep on talkingabout:“Twothirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep. I doubt you’re surprised by this fact, but you may be surprised by the consequences. Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer.”
You know what MOST of those two-thirds of adults who aren’t getting enough sleep do to make up for the fatigue they almost certainly feel most days?
They (of course)BORROW ENERGY.
In the form of caffeine via coffee, sodas, tea, etc. And/or sugar, etc.
It would be GREAT if we actually had a running tab on all the energy we’ve borrowed. Some super simple energy budgeting App like Mint for Energy.
One glance and we can see how much more energy we borrowed Today and how high our interest rates are, etc.
Unfortunately (and this is TRULY unfortunate), we don’t.
Instead, we go on borrowing more and more and more energy. Day in and day out. Week in and week out. Month in and month out. Year in and year out. Decade in and decade out.
We don’t just continue to feel fatigue…
We double our risk of getting cancer and make ourselves unnecessarily vulnerable to all the other chronic illnesses we don’t want.
Our debt is due.
And we run a vey high risk of paying a VERY steep price in the form of one of those dreaded chronic diseases that are currently plaguing our modern society.
Let’s remember that the vast majority of chronic diseases could be prevented with a few simple (fundamental!) lifestyle changes.
I repeat myself (yet again): One of the biggest levers we can pull?
Get a good night of sleep.
Stop borrowing so much Energy.
Pay down your Energy debt. Start building your Energy wealth portfolio.
In our last couple +1s, we’ve been hanging out in our guts. (Good times!)
Surprisingly, that’s where we discovered 90% (!) of our serotonin and 70-80% (!!) of our immune systems.
Today we’re going to spend another moment on the subject.
Get this: Although modern medicine pretty much ignores the gut as its standard of care focuses on alleviatingsymptoms rather than Optimizingsystems, the idea that our guts play a central role in our well-being isn’t a new idea.
Let’s jump into a time machine and rewind the clock about 2,400 years.
Destination: Ancient Greece.
It’s time to meet the father of medicine:Hippocrates.
You know what he said?“Alldisease begins in the gut.”
Dr. Gundry echoes that wisdom and adds a little bonus gem (viaThe Longevity Paradox) where he tells us:“AsHippocrates famously and wisely said,‘Alldisease begins in the gut.’ The good news is that all disease can be stopped there as well.”
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s ONE thing you KNOW you could be doing to Optimize your nutrition?
Dr. Steven Gundry is Tony Robbins’ doctor. He’s a former world-class heart surgeon. These days he focuses on longevity.
His new book is calledThe Longevity Paradox. Sub-title: “How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age.”
It’s fantastic. I highly recommend it.
The main theme of the book is that our longevity, paradoxically, is driven by the most ancient parts of us—the bacteria and other “foreign” stuff living in our guts (and on our bodies).
Today, I want to focus on one of the practical ideas from that book that might wind up being one of the most significant Optimizing levers I’ve pulled. (Ever.) (Seriously.)
It’s called “BrainWashing.”
I’ve known for awhile that I should have my last meal earlier than I’ve been having it. Dr. Gundry finally sold me on why I should at leasttest what would happen if Iate my last meal FOUR hours before going to bed.
Yes,four(!)hours before I go to bed. Now, I go to bed as early as 7:30 PM so that means I’m eating my last meal around 3:00 or so.
It sounded absurd to me as well when I first contemplated it.
The data coming in so far is almost even more absurd. We’ll talk about that more in our next +1.
For now, let’s talk aboutglymph.
Ever heard of it?
Here’s how Dr. G puts it:“Afew years ago, researchers discovered a system that allows cerebrospinal fluid(thatclear fluid we tap when we stick a needle into your spine) to flow through the brain, cleaning out the spaces in between cells, just as lymphatic fluid does in the rest of your body. This is called the glymphatic system. To make room for the fluid to wash out your brain, your cells actually shrink in size when you are in deep sleep. This allows the full‘brainwash’ process to go twenty times as fast when you are in deep sleep as when you are awake and helps explain why a good night’s sleep is so restorative. When you get an adequate amount of deep sleep, you literally wake up with a refreshed and rejuvenated mind that has been swept clean of junk and debris.”
We’ve all heard of ourlymphatic system.
It’s an essential part of our immune system featuring a clear fluid called “lymph” that helps rid our bodies of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.
But... What about ourglymphaticsystem?
I never really paid attention to it until I read this book. It’s a BIG deal.
Want to keep your brain all squeaky clean?
Well... It’s theglymph in our GLYMPHATIC system that’s responsible for getting rid of all the toxins, waste and other unwanted materials from our BRAINS.
Which kinda begs the question: How do we Optimize THAT process?
Back to Dr. G. He tells us:“Theglymphatic system is most active during the specific stage of deep sleep that happens very early in the sleep cycle. And theglymphatic system, just like your digestive system, requires a great deal of blood flow. This means that if you eat too soon before going to bed, your blood will all flow to your gut to aid in digestion and will not be able to reach your brain to complete the all-important brain wash.”
He tells us that this “brain wash cycle” is probably the“singlemost overlooked and misunderstood aspect of neurodegenerative diseases.”
He also tells us that, luckily, there’s a simple solution:“Leavingas big a gap as possible between your last meal of the day and your bedtime.”
His specific recommendation? Again: Eat your last meal at least FOUR hours before you go to bed.
This morning I was doing my normal thing. In the process, I came up with a little insight I’m excited to share.
First, the quick recap of what led to the insight.
Of course, my day started yesterday when I shutdown early the day before (4:00 PM; right after my every-Monday coaching call), hung out with the fam then went to bed super early (7:30 PM) and deliberately spent 10 hours in bed (getting 9 hours of sleep including 1 hour 24 min of REM sleep and 2 hours 23 min of deep sleep). Then I was up at 5:30 AM (I’m sleeping in these days, folks! lol) with an Oura readiness score of 95 (having fun gaming it). 20-min Meditation, 5-min Movement then AM1 Deep Work.
I started the Deep Work with our quick “Carpe Diem” journaling session—noting my Identities + Virtues + Behaviors for Energy + Work + Love. (Note: This practice is a cornerstone of our Mastery Series/Optimize Coach program. Aspiring Coaches need to log 200 days of Optimize Carpe Diem journaling as one of the requirements to get certified.)
Then I spent some time doing some strategic planning for 2020 and beyond.
That journaling looked something like this.
At the top I wrote “Philosopher”(technically,I drew the Φ symbol to represent Philosopher). Then I wrote“SoulForce” then“ElegantSimplicity” then“Focus”then“Flow.”
(Note1: Every (!) time I write down “10,000” in the +1 column in 25 years, I imagine the 70-year-old version of me smiling and waving and saying, “Hi, this is Brian. Welcome back to another Optimize +1!” (That actually gets me misty just typing that, imagining the potential of us hanging out for that long.)
Note2: If all goes as currently planned, we’ll share that +1 exactly 3 months after I turn 70 on August 22, 2044.)
Below that Body of Work goodness, I sketched out the three primary components of our biz as I currently see them.
These include what I call “Core Wisdom” which is basically the +1s, PNs, and 101s as articulated above in the Body of Work chart. I draw an arrow to infinity to represent my (current) plans to do those forever as the foundation of our work together. (And, so I can be likethis guy.)
Then I draw a big “greater than” symbol (>) to represent the fact that all that “Core Wisdom” is going to be distilled into what I’m calling a “Mastery Series.” Imagine my absolute best stuff distilled into a “this will change your life” program that will, well, change your life. (lol)
Then I draw a “less than” symbol (<) to represent that all THAT energy goes into “Optimize Coach” to represent the fact that a select group of people will go through the Mastery Series and not only master the wisdom for themselves but use our Optimize protocol to Coach others on how to Optimizetheir lives.
Ultimately, my sketch looks kinda like this:
CORE WISDOM > MASTERY SERIES < OPTIMIZE COACH
But none of that is really the point of Today’s +1. (Although I do like sharing my thought process and I hope you enjoy it as well. I feel like we’re creating something together and I think it’s important to share my (oftenmessy!) creative process as we have fun creating something awesome together.)
Below all THAT, I reminded myself of my/our Mission.
Change the world.
One person at a time. Together.
Starting with you and me.
Then I wrote down: “Elegant Simplicity” + “Fierce Consistency” + “Energized Tranquility” + “Operationalizing Virtue.”
I drew two venn circles.
Next to the one on the left I wrote “ELEGANT SIMPLICITY.”
Next to the one on the right I wrote “PROFOUND SERVICE.”
And all THAT gets us to the point of Today’s +1.
After writing “PROFOUND SERVICE” I got up and cruised over to the dictionary. I was curious what “profound”literally meant.
Do you know what the word means?
Apple Dictionary tells us thatprofoundis an adjective that has a couple definitions:
1(ofa state, quality, or emotion) very great or intense:profound feelings of disquiet|profound social changes.
2(ofa person or statement) having or showing great knowledge or insight:a profound philosopher.
Those are interesting, but what I really wanted was the etymology of the word. It’s from the Latinprofundus—which means“deep”and is made up of two little words:pro(before)+fundus(bottom).
I literally laughed when I read that.
Profound. It means DEEP. As in “right before the bottom.”
The best part?
I have a chat with Cal Newport scheduled for this afternoon. I can’t wait to tell him that Deep (PROFOUND!) Work is what allows us to engage in Deep (PROFOUND!) Service.
In our last +1, we talked about the Fundies and how (ahem) fundamental they are to our Optimizing and Actualizing.
As I said, if I could whisper one thing in my younger self’s ear, I think it would be to MASTERthose guys as I’m firmly convinced that when we get our PHYSIOLOGY properly Optimized, the rest tends to follow pretty smoothly via the super-strong connection we’ve created between our “normal” selves and our eudaimonic, Optimus-best selves.
Today I want to talk about another Idea from the Big Picture lecture on the subject.
Remember theSpinny Fingers we talked about back in the day?
Basic recap: Find a safe place to spin around and get yourself dizzy. Then do one of two things.
First: After getting yourself nice and dizzy, stop spinning and start looking aimlessly around the room. Up over there. Down there.All around.
What happens when you have no central point to ground yourself? You get DIZZIER.
Shake that off. Then, if you feel so inspired, get yourself nice and dizzy again.
Only this time, rather than aimlessly looking around, press your palms and fingers together in front of your face(likeyou’re praying) and STARE intently right at your fingertips.
What happens when you have a central point in which you can ground yourself? You IMMEDIATELY get balanced. Dizzy begone.
(Try it. It’s pretty cool.)
All of that brings us to the point of Today’s +1.
The next time you find yourself getting all dizzy by life, consider pausing and asking yourself three simple questions.
What’s my#1 self-care habit? Am I honoring it or have I let it slip?
What’s the #1 thing I could START doing that would have the most positive impact in my life?
What’s the #1 thing I could STOP doing that would have the most positive impact in my life?
In our last +1, we talked about lint on the projector’s lens and the fact that, as per Byron Katie, “everyperceived problem appearing‘outthere’ is really nothing more than a misperception within your own thinking.”
As I imagined us all busting out a nice little cloth to clean up our own lens rather than trying to change things “out there,” I thought of another great spiritual teacher.
He lived a couple thousand years ago. In the land of Galilea. His name was Jesus.
You know what he said?
Well, in our Note on The Jefferson Bible, we flip open to the Bible, Matthew 7:3 where we find this eternally epic wisdom gem:“Andwhy beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerst not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite! First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
And, that’s Today’s +1.
See any“mote”in thy brother’s(orsister’s or spouse’s or child’s or colleague’s or…) eye?
Look in the mirror.
Work on the beam in your own eye.
(btw: For curious souls, a “mote” is “a tiny piece of a substance.” Think: Sawdust. A beam? It’s much bigger. Focus on that big thing in your own eye.)
Continuing our series on how to build a bonFIRE, today we’re going to chat about The Big 3 of creating Financial Independence (and Interdependence) as we win the ultimate game of life, Realizing Eudaimonia.
Let’s flip open our copies ofThe Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins for this wisdom-love.
As we briefly discussed in our last +1, JL is a tough-love, lovable Uncle kinda guy. He originally shared his “simple path to wealth” via a series of letters he wrote for his daughter. Those letters became a blog series.
Obviously check out the book and JL’s site for the deep dive (and, I’m a lover of wisdom not a financial planner so…), but here’s The Big 3 in a tiny nutshell.
1. Avoid debt.
2. Spend (WAY) less than you make.
3. Invest the rest.
That’s it. Do that. Give it time. And… Voila.
Well, obviously there’s a LOT more to it than that.
But, as they say, the NUMBERS are simple. It’s the LIFESTYLE changes that are hard.
One more time:
1. Avoid debt.
Like the plague. Seriously. Debt is TOXIC to your freedom. Think: Shackles.
2. Spend (WAY!!!) less than you make.
JL and the FIRE Co. tell us to save AT LEAST 50% of total earnings savings rate. ← Yes, you read that right. Spend AT LEAST 50% less than you make. Want to buy freedom? It’s not cheap. But it’s a lot more shiny than that shiny stuff.
Although no longer cool, it’s as wise as ever: LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS. Way below. (But only if you want what really matters: The eudaimonic happiness that freedom helps us buy.)
3. Invest the savings.
More specifically: In Index funds. More specifically, in Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund.
This is kinda what JL is known for. He tells us we should all consider Jack Bogle a hero. Bogle founded The Vanguard Group (and invented index funds) forty years ago. JL provides some very (!) compelling arguments for why Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund is the secret sauce. (Warren Buffett pretty much agrees, btw.)
At this stage, most people have heard of Dale Carnegie’s uber-bestselling bookHow to Win Friends and Influence People. It was originally published in 1936 and has sold 15 million copies.
It helped kicked off the whole self-development movement and is one of the bestselling self-help book of all time. (It was #19 onTime magazines list of all-time most influential books.)
Having said that, I actually avoided reading it for over 20 years.
I just couldn’t get past what appeared to be a pretty shallow, transactional view of human relationships so…
Alas, a couple years ago I finally submitted to the pressure of countless requests to do a Note on it (hah) and really enjoyed it.
But that’s not quite the point of Today’s +1.
Did you know Dale wrote another book a dozen years later calledHow to Stop Worrying and Start Living? It’s true. And, it’s AWESOME.
Quick question: You ever worry?
* Insert laughter here *
Once again: Of course you do. You’re human.
Want a quick tip on how to stop worrying and start living?
Dale offers a bunch of practical wisdom but this is one of my favorites:“GeorgeBernard Shaw was right. He summed it all up when he said:‘Thesecret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.’ So don’t bother to think about it! Spit on your hands and get busy. Your blood will start circulating; your mind will start ticking—and pretty soon this whole positive upsurge of life in your body will drive worry from your mind.Get busy. Keep busy. It’s the cheapest kind of medicine there is on this earth—and one of the best.”
Obviously, it’s a bit more nuanced than that but…
That’s about right.
As George Bernard Shaw says:“Thesecret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.”
And, as Dale Carnegie says: “Spiton your hands and get busy. Your blood will start circulating; your mind will start ticking—and pretty soon this whole positive upsurge of life in your body will drive worry from your mind. Get busy. Keep busy. It’s the cheapest kind of medicine there is on this earth—and one of the best.”
* Insert spit on your hands *
Let’s get busy.
And stay busy.
While, of course, properly oscillating and shutting down completely when the time’s right.
In our last couple +1s, we talked about Seneca’s wisdom on the importance of “fortifying our pertinacity” until ourwill to do the right thing becomes adisposition to doing the right thing.
That’s basically EXACTLY whatwe talked about a little bit ago when we explored the Algorithms Module we recently went through in the Mastery portion of our Optimize Coach program.
As you may recall (bonus points and high fives if you’ve already tattooed this line on your Optimizing consciousness), I often say that it’s all aboutusing our Willpower wisely to install Habits that run on autopilot via Algorithms.
Here’s a super-quick recap of the basic idea that I think we REALLY want to get.
(btw: I just got goosebumps as I typed that.)
(Yes, as we’ve established by this stage, I’m weird. Things like this get methat fired up.)
Our basal ganglia is an ancient part of our brain. In fact, it’s 500 million (!!!) years old. All mammals have it.
Among other things, it basically figures out what behaviors seem important to us (because we do them often) and decides to save us all the effort of having to think about doing them by helping us do them automatically.
Thank you, basal ganglia.
Now, this is super helpful for the good stuff. My hunch is you don’t need to negotiate with yourself every night when it’s time to brush your teeth. And, you probably just automatically put on your seat belt when you get in a car.
Thank you, basal ganglia.
Of course, thisisn’t so helpful for the sub-optimal behaviors. We’ll save that chat for another time.
Today I want to talk about a handy-dandy little framework I developed for our Coaches to help them Master the process of (I repeat!) using their Willpower wisely to install Habits that run on autopilot via Algorithms.
I encouraged them to think about aPilot, Co-Pilot and Autopilot.
The Pilot? That’s your Daimon. That(Optimus!)best part of us that basicallyalwaysknows the right thing to do and is always whispering in our ears.(Ifwe’d only slow down long enough to listen!)
The Co-Pilot? That’s you. Our job, as I see it, is to simply PAY ATTENTION to what that Pilot is guiding us to do and then, of course, DO IT more consistently.
The Autopilot? That’s our basal ganglia. It’s WAITING for us to program the optimal behaviors. It’s almost like the basal ganglia is our pre-installed brain“hardware”and our job(asCo-Pilots) is to listen to the Pilot then program the behavioral“software”that gets us doing the right thing more and more consistently.
Obviously, part of a longer chat but there ya go.
That’s Today’s +1.
You playing your role well?
What little behavioral software upgrade is your Pilot asking you to program these days?
Is TODAY a good day to fortify your pertinacity such that the (Optimus!)best you becomes thedefault you?
Skipping the longer philosophical chat about the ethics of being a conqueror, Today we’re going to chat about Alexander the Great.
More specifically, we’re going to talk about him and a knot.
The Gordion Knot.
You know the story?
Wikipedia tells us that legend has it that, once upon a time, the ancient people known as the Phrygians (who lived in what is now modern Turkey) didn’t have a king.
An oracle declared that the next man to enter their capital city driving an ox-cart would become king. (That’s one way to do it, eh?)
So… A peasant farmer drove an ox-cart into town and, lo and behold, became king.
His name was Gordias.
In gratitude, his son Midas dedicated the ox-cart to the main Phrygian god (kinda like their version of Zeus) and tied it to a post with a super-intricate knot.
As in, "good luck untying THAT knot” kinda knot.
A Roman historian described it as"severalknots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened.”
Another oracle declares that whoever can unravel the crazy knot would become the ruler of all of Asia. (That’s one way to do it, eh?)
Many men attempt to unravel the knot. No luck.
It’s now 333 bce.
Alexander the Great cruises into town. He tries to untie the knot himself and has no luck.
Being Great and all, he just decides to pull out his sword and slice the knot in half with a single blow. (That’s one way to do it, eh?)
And then, of course, he went on to fulfill the prophecy as he conquered Asia.
Enter: The Gordion Knot.
Back to Wikipedia which tells us:“Itis often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem(untyingan impossibly-tangled knot) solved easily by finding an approach to the problem that renders the perceived constraints of the problem moot(‘cuttingthe Gordian knot’).”
That’s Today’s +1.
Got any seemingly impossible knots in your life?
How’s the unraveling going?
Is there, perhaps, a more direct and/or forceful approach to resolving the issue than you may have tried so far?
We’re kinda on a roll with the whole envy-squishing theme, so why not one more?
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that if we’re going to compare ourselves to others (please don’t! lol) we might as well do it right—recognizing the fact that EVERYONE experiences ups and downs en route to their particular flavor of awesome.
That wisdom reminds me of some parallel wisdom from Alan Stein’s great bookRaise Your Game.
Here’s what he has to say about envy:“Myfriend Paul Bioncardi of ESPN loves to say,‘Youwill always lose the Comparison Game.’ Why is that? Because it’s rigged. It has no function besides enlarging self-doubt. I’m typing this chapter on board a flight to South Dakota. Among the 250 passengers on this plane, I can quickly find someone better looking, funnier, more successful, taller, more muscular, smarter. It won’t take long to find someone who scores higher than me on almost any metric.”
Alan concludes: “IfI use these people as my measuring stick—to determine my self-worth and value—I will always lose.”
The Comparison Game.
Want to know who ALWAYS loses that game?
And everyone who plays it.
But only every single time.
(Reminds me of Byron Katie’s wisdom:“WhenI argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.”)
(Also reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wisdom: “Envyis ignorance. Imitation is suicide.”)
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s channel our inner Faulkner and play the Optimize Game:“Don’tbother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
P.S. You know who ALWAYS wins the Optimize Game?
And everyone who plays it.
But only every single time.
(Remember: Simplystriving to be your best is apre-win.)
In our last +1, we reflected on the idea that little (and big) oopses provide us with opportunities to appreciate that we’re still alive as we practice gratitude that something much worse didn’t happen.
“At least THAT didn’t happen!”
For me, when I broke my arm, I was grateful I didn’t break my neck. When I tripped and nearly fell the other day, I was grateful I had an abdominal strain and not a trip back to the ER for my arm.
Whenever I think of this re-framing exercise, I think of a dear friend of mine we lost in a tragic speed-flying accident. One of the most beautiful, inspiring, energized people I’ve ever met. Went out for a flight off a mountain he’d jumped off countless times. Wings didn’t open the way they should have. BAM. Gone.
I have tears in my eyes as I type that.
I often think how grateful he would be if he had just broken an arm or even his neck.
Then I alchemize that pain into a virtual fist-bump and hug for his daimon and re-commit to savoring this one precious life of ours.
All of which makes me think of our Stoic philosopher friends. For multiple reasons.
Today we’ll chat about their thoughts on death.
We actually already talked about one of their practices in our+1 on Rehearsing Your Death.
In that one, as you may recall, Seneca tells us:“Rehearsedeath. To say this is to tell a person to rehearse his freedom. A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”
Today we’ll let Marcus Aurelius add his perspective.
Here’s how he puts it:“Wereyou to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no other life except the one he loses... This means that the longest life and the shortest amount to the same thing. For the passing minute is every man’s equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours.”
He also tells us:“Takeit that you have died today, and your life’s story is ended; and henceforward regard what future time may be given you as an uncovenanted surplus, and live it out in harmony with nature.”
That’s one way to think about it, eh?
And that’s Today’s +1.
If you feel so inspired, let’s actually do the exercise.
Imagine this:You just died.
Bam! You’re gone.
You got the good fortune to come back starting...
Now, let’s see if we can live witha fresh appreciation that every (!) moment (!) is a gift.
Here’s to appreciating the “uncovenantedsurplus” of moments.
This morning on the Trail I was thinking about Mister Rogers and his challenges creating (recall our“torturesof the damned”!) along with Dr. Seuss and all his creative challenges.
Then I was thinking about all the challenges I (and we all) face as I (and we all) strive to do my (and our) life’s work. (And… I was thinking about that gap that pretty much *always* exists between what we see in our mind’s eye and what winds up on our proverbial canvases.)
I thought to myself,“Arethere any artists truly happy with their work?”
At precisely the moment I finished framing that question in my head I glanced down and saw asnail a few feet ahead of me.
And I smiled.
It was a just a normal, mid-size snail. The kind we see all the time and usually just kinda take for granted and ignore.
But this morning I could see just how elegantly perfectly his (or was it her?) shell was designed.
I mean, it was a piece of art!!!
And then it hit me…
The “Guy” (or was it “Gal”? Or was it…?) who created THAT piece of art?
He/She/It was definitely happy with His/Her/Its creation.
Then I looked around and saw all the other imperfectly perfect art on display—from the trees to the dirt to the rocks and the weeds and the shrubs and the sky and, well, everything.
It was kind of an epiphanal moment for me.
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s celebrate all the art in our lives.
And try to emulate the satisfaction of the ultimate Creator as we diligently, patiently, persistently, humbly and JOYFULLY strive to make our lives (and all its creations in it) a masterpiece!
Continuing our trip through Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky’s brilliant brains and equally brilliant bookMake Time, Today we’re going to have fun with a little history lesson combined with a super-simple way to start chipping away at all those twitchy smartphone touches.
(I still can’t believe the average person touches their phones 2,617 times per day!!!)
Jake and JZ give us a ton of great tactics to rock their four-step process. (Recall:Highlight+Laser+Energize+Reflect! btw: You know YOUR Highlight for Today?)
In fact, they share 87 tips and tricks to Optimize!
In the “Laser” section, after teaching us how to create a “distraction-free phone” (hint: clear your home screen, remove email apps, social media and unnecessary notifications) they encourage us to consider getting a simple watch—you know, those things that just tell time.
Here’s the little history lesson.
They tell us:“In1714, the British government offered a £20,000 prize(that’s$5 million in 2018 money), to anyone who could invent a portable clock that could be used aboard ships. It took nearly fifty years and dozens of prototypes until finally, in 1761,John Harrisoncreated the first‘chronometer.’It was a technological marvel that changed the world even though it was barely portable—the clock had to be mounted in a special cabinet and stowed belowdecks for its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the HMS Deptford.”
Isn’t that awesome?!
They continue: “Todayyou can buy aportable clock—that is, a digital quartz wristwatch—for ten bucks. It’s always accurate. It’s lightweight and waterproof. It can wake you up after a nap or remind you to take dinner out of the oven. It’s an amazing piece of technology.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Want a super-simple and equally powerful way to reduce our compulsive smartphone usage?
Consider getting a portable clock.
Let’s salute the crew of theHMS Deptford on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic as we appreciate that miraculous moving time piece we can put on our wrist as we remember to appreciate just how awesome our modern lives are—ESPECIALLY when we Optimize how we choose to use all the amazing technology!
A couple +1s ago, we hung out with Mister Rogers in his barrelful of songs.
Today I want to hop in the pool with him and then do something extra special.
First, some more wisdom fromThe World According to Mister Rogers.
Fred tells us:“Ilike to swim, but there are some days I just don’t feel much like doing it—but I do it anyway! I know it’s good for me and I like to keep my promises. That’s one of my disciplines. And it’s a good feeling after you’ve tried and done something well. Inside you think,‘I’vekept at this and I’ve really learned it—not by magic, but by my own work.’”
Of course, I LOVE the fact that Fred swims every day. Whether he (insert whiney voice)feels like it or not. He knows it’s good for him and he likes to keep his promises.
See ya in the pool!
But it’s not his discipline to swim every day that I want to talk about Today.
It’s what he does AFTER he gets out of the pool.
He steps on the scale.
And what does it say?
When did it say that?
Basically EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! of his adult life.
Do you know WHY he was so enamored with his scale saying“143”?
In our last +1, we talked about being the change we want to see in the world.
I asked: What change DO you want to see?
(Well… What is it?! And… Are you being it?!)
That makes me think of another 20th century icon: Mister Fred Rogers.
In his great little bookThe World According to Mister Rogers, we get to immerse ourselves in a collection of wisdom-gems from the great man.
Including this one:“Thevalues we care about the deepest, and the movements within society that support those values, command our love. When those things that we care about so deeply become endangered, we become enraged. And what a healthy thing that is! Without it, we would never stand up and speak out for what we believe.”
Note: Please make sure you notice how he channeled that rage into pure love.
Notice how pure love broke through the armor of a hitherto harsh foe. (I’ll be surprised if you, like the Senator in that hearing, don’t get goosebumps (and/or tears) FEELING the soul force of Fred Rogers standing up and speaking out for what he believed in and dedicated his life to.)
What’s fascinating for me is how similar Fred’s approach is to Gandhi’s.
As we discussed, one of the primary themes of that book is Gandhi’s evolution/transformation in which he learned to alchemize his anger into an unstoppable “soul-force.”
He did this via what he called “satyagraha.”
Satyagraha is a word he coined combining two Sanskrit words. It basically means “holding onto truth” and is the foundation of his (and MLK’s) “nonviolent resistance” to evil.
So...What values do YOU care about the deepest?
What movements within society support those values and command your love?
Are those values endangered?
If so, let’s become enraged and celebrate the power of that emotion as we alchemize that fierce love into noble action—standing up and speaking out for what we believe.
In our last +1, we talked about Twyla Tharp’s thoughts on reading and thinking.
Recall her comment that:“IfI stopped reading, I’d stop thinking. It’s that simple.”
Today I’d like to talk about HOW she reads.
I really like her perspective because it’s pretty much EXACTLY how I read.
And, well, people are always asking me how I read a book so let’s go with this wisdom as a perfect proxy to my process.
Twyla tells us:“WhenI’m reading archeologically, I’m not reading for pleasure. I read the way I scratch for an idea, digging down deep so I can get something out of it and use it in my work. I read transactionally: How can I use this? It’s not enough for me to read a book. I have to‘own’it.I scribble in the margins. I circle sentences I like and connect them with arrows to other useful sentences. I draw stars and exclamation points on every good page, to the point where the book is almost unreadable. By writing all over the pages, I transform the author’s work into my book—and mine alone.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Here’s a nice bold pen for your archeological reading-digging!
Guess how many copies the book has sold since Paulo wrote it over 30 years ago…
It’s been translated into 80(!!)languages(which takes the prize for the most translated book by any living author) and is widely considered one of the ten best books of the twentieth century.
But you know what? Before becoming one of the best-selling books of ALL TIME, it was one of the WORST-selling books of all time. (Hah!)
In fact, here’s a little story Paulo shares in the foreword to the 25th Anniversary edition of the book (it’s almost as good as the story itself!):
“When The Alchemistwas first published twenty-five years ago in my native Brazil, no one noticed. A bookseller in the northeast corner of the country told me that only one person purchased a copy the first week of its release. It took another six months for the bookseller to unload a second copy—and that was to the same person who bought the first! And who knows how long it took to sell the third.
By the end of the year, it was clear to everyone that The Alchemistwasn't working. My original publisher decided to cut me loose and cancelled our contract. They wiped their hands of the project and let me take the book with me. I was forty-one and desperate.”
He says: “ButI never lost faith in the book or ever wavered in my vision. Why? Because it was me in there, all of me, heart and soul. I was living my own metaphor. A man sets out on a journey, dreaming of a beautiful or magical place, in pursuit of some unknown treasure. At the end of his journey, the man realizes the treasure was with him the entire time.
I was following my Personal Legend, and my treasure was my capacity to write. And I wanted to share this treasure with the world.
As I wrote in The Alchemist, when you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you. I started knocking on the doors of other publishers. One opened, and the publisher on the other side believed in me and my book and agreed to give The Alchemista second chance. Slowly, through word of mouth, it finally started to sell—three thousand, then six thousand, ten thousand—book by book, gradually throughout the year.”
Eight months later an American visiting Brazil picks up a copy ofThe Alchemist at a local bookstore and asks if he can translate it. One thing leads to another which leads to another which leads to Bill Clinton leaving the White House with a copy of the book and Madonna and Will Smith raving about it.
Then it hit theNew York Times bestseller list and stayed there for more than three hundredweeks.
He says: “Peoplecontinue to ask me if I knew The Alchemistwould be such a huge success. The answer is no. I had no idea. How could I? When I sat down to write The Alchemist, all I knew is that I wanted to write about my soul. I wanted to write about my quest to find my treasure.”
That’s Today’s +1.
First: If you’re one of the 17 people on the planet into Optimizing who hasn’t readThe Alchemist yet, what are you waiting for?
Second:What’s your personal quest? What do you REALLY(!)want?!
Remember:“Thereis one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth... And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
In our last couple +1s, we’ve had fun (at least I have!) briefly chatting about the first two steps Paul Napper and Anthony Rao encourage us to take in pursuit of cultivating our Agency such that life’s challenges are just nutritious treats fueling our hero’s journeys.
Step 1: Control Stimuli.
Step 2: Selectively Associate.
Today we’re going to talk aboutStep 3: Move.
Here’s how Paul and Anthony put it:“Focusingon movement, and on the nutrition and rest necessary to keep you active and in balance, increases mental and physical strength and stamina–essential building blocks to all body and mind functions.”
Want a strong sense of personal power?
Well, as we discuss ALL.THE.TIME!!, you betterENERGIZE.
Let’s hear it from their perspective.
They tell us:“Weall know what it feels like to sit around like a slug all day, not getting outdoors and moving about. But when we get some real movement in, it is a kind of agency in itself. It primes our minds and our senses to fully engage in the world.”
They continue:“Whenwe say Move, we really mean this: Pay attention to your body so that you can provide it with what it requires to be healthy and in balance, because when your body is out of balance, your mind is out of balance. To achieve this,engage in physical movements in multiple ways, rest adequately, and eat nutritious food.Your agency depends on it. Without physical health and balance in your life, everything else will wobble and decline. Flexibility, strength, and stamina are the most obvious things that begin to deteriorate when you’re physically out of balance. But likewise, your motivation, your ability to pay attention, and your ability to delay gratification are adversely affected. Most important to realize, with unhealthy amounts of movement, rest, nutrition, your psychological state–yourthinking skills and ability to manage your emotions– deteriorates, and along with it your personal agency.”
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s the one thing youknow you could be doing that couldmost benefit your life if you did it consistently starting Today?
Now forget it. (Hah.)
What’s one TINY (!!!) little thing you could do RIGHT NOW (!) that would be a fun way to demonstrate some mastery and build your agency?
Let’s do it.
(Mine? I’m going to take a nice, calming, deep breath in through my nose down into my belly. Then pause for a moment before smiling and exhaling back out through my nose—slightly longer than my inhale—as I relax my body and get ready to give the world some more of what I’ve got!)
In our last little flurry of +1s, we had some fun with Mel Robbins’s 5 Second Rule.
Have you tried it out yet?
5… 4… 3… 2… 1… - GO!!!
That might be THE most elegantly efficient Tool we’ve discussed to help close the gap between who we’re CAPABLE of being and who we’re ACTUALLY being. (Operationalizing Areté for the win!)
Now, one of the key themes of Mel’s book and reasonswhy that tool is so powerful is the fact that, in addition to getting us to take action RIGHT NOW on what matters most, her 5 Second Rule also builds something that scientists call “agency.”
(Mel actually doesn’t use the word “agency” to describe it; she focuses on a parallel idea called “locus of control.” We’ll save that idea for another time.)
It’s a beautiful word. One of my favorites in fact. Science says it’s one of the secret sauces to Optimizing.
So, when I fortuitously stumbled upon a book calledThe Power of Agency on Amazon, I immediately got it and read it. It’s written by Paul Napper and Anthony Rao—two leading consultants and clinicians who have both held academic positions at Harvard Medical School.
In their great book, they define agency as“theability to act as an effective agent for yourself—reflecting, making creative choices, and constructing a meaningful life.”
In the book, they provide practical, scientifically-grounded wisdom on, as per the sub-title: “The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms.”
We’ll explore a few of the most powerful, practical Ideas on how to BUILD our agency over the next several days.
Today I just want to make the connection between DOING WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE and cultivating a strong sense of personal power (aka agency).
That and I also want to have a little fun.
Imagine that you’re aSecret Agent.
(DoubleO-You perhaps. Short for OptimizingOptimusYOU, of course!)
In our last +1, we talked about our new Optimus launch code:"5…4… 3… 2… 1… Now what needs to be done?”
Although I didn’t make the second part of the little launch mantra explicit, we connected Mel Robbins’s brilliant 5 Second Rule with David Reynold’sConstructive Living Rule.
It’s always awesome to see teachers from such different backgrounds say basically exactly the same thing.
As you may recall, Reynolds is a Zen therapist who wrote a great little book calledConstructive Living.
He tells us:“Ourbehavior is controllable in a way that our feelings are not. There is a very special satisfaction for the Artist of Living who works within life’s limits to produce a fine self-portrait. The more control we develop over our actions, the more chance we have of producing a self we can be proud of.”
“Now what needs to be done?”
(We have a +1 on this already but it’s worth a replay.)
Don’t feel like doing something you know you need to do? No problem.
“Now what needs to be done?”
Happen again? Fantastic.
“Now what needs to be done?”
Repeat. All day. Every day.
And, if you’re feeling it, rock the 5 Second Rule with it as well.
"5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Now what needs to be done?”
That’s Today’s +1.
One more time:
"5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Now what needs to be done?”
Step forward into growth.Flip the switch.
Close the gap between who you’re CAPABLE of being and who you’re ACTUALLY being.