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: March, 2019
Mar 31, 2019
In our last +1, we had some fun soaking our minds in some epic “To Dare or Not to Dare” wisdom. We kicked that party off with a Søren Kierkegaard gem.
This one: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.” 
(How’s your daring going?)
Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
He was also the purveyor of other epically quotable wisdom gems.
Including this one: “God has given each of us our ‘marching orders.’ Our purpose here on Earth is to find those orders and carry them out. Those orders acknowledge our special gifts.”
That’s Today’s +1.
God has given each of us our marching orders.
What are YOURS?
Let’s know that our purpose here on Earth (and why we do all we do together Optimizing!) is to find those orders and carry them out.
So… What are your special gifts? How are you/will you give them to the world?
One more time: What are your marching orders?
Let’s find them and follow them.
Mar 26, 2019
In our last +1 we talked about the fact that, as per legendary tough guy Vince Lombardi, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” 
Then we operationalized a super-simple antidote to cowardice via a super-simple PM Bookend routine. (How’d that go for you?)
I mentioned the fact that we’d connect that fatigue-coward phenomenon to my heart rate monitor. So, let’s.
Not too long ago, I introduced you to my Suunto watch. Love it. Works great. 
… Except when it doesn’t!
Every once in awhile, I’ll be training at a mellow pace and my watch will be telling me that my heart rate is WAY higher than it could possibly be. 
To put it in perspective, my target Maffetone-approved aerobic zone is 131 to 141. I usually train in that zone every other day. On my mellow recovery days, I do the same trail at a slower pace and stay well below that 131.
So, imagine my surprise one day when I’m going at a super mellow pace and look down at my watch to see it telling me that I’m at 160-something. I’m like, “Really? No way. That’s not possible. I’m pretty sure I’m not blowing up right now.” (Hah.)
So… I got my strip detector things a little wet via a little spit. Didn’t help. I took off my heart rate monitor strap. Put it back on. Still didn’t help.
I’m basically standing still and it’s telling me I’m still blowing up.
Hah! D’oh. 
Now… As a Professional Optimizer/Lover of Wisdom, I’m not allowed to waste lemon squeezing opportunities so, after a moment of almost-frustration I carried on with my hike and decided to simply ignore the data.
Which is when the metaphorical learning moment hit me.
That data from the heart rate monitor was, for whatever reason, literally USELESS for me during that workout. 
So I ignored it.
Guess what?
You know that voice in your head that shows up when you’re tired
You know, the voice that says: “Life sucks boo hoo yada yada yada blah blah blah. Etc. Etc. Etc.”
Guess what?
When you’re tired, that “data” your mind throws at you is about as useful as my broken heart rate monitor.
Carry on with your day.
Go build your Emotional Stamina muscles as you execute your protocol and practice having good bad days. Then figure out what “Needs work!” so you can wake up tomorrow feeling WAY better—with a working monitor that gives you good data.
That’s Today’s +1.
Happy Trails!
Mar 23, 2019

Michael J. Gelb is the world’s leading authority on the application of genius thinking to personal and organizational development. He is a pioneer in the fields of creative thinking, accelerated learning, and innovative leadership. Gelb leads seminars for organizations such as DuPont, Merck, Microsoft, Nike, Roche and YPO. He brings more than 35 years of experience as a professional speaker, seminar leader and organizational consultant to his diverse, international clientele. Michael Gelb is the author of 14 books on creativity and innovation including the international best seller How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. (1998) How to Think Like Leonardo has been translated into 25 languages and has appeared on the Washington Post, Amazon, and the New York Times best seller lists.

Mar 21, 2019
Continuing our time with my dear friend Katherine Collins, let’s talk about another micro-moment of Divine wisdom from our recent chat.
Quick context.
As you know if you’ve been following along, I’ve spent half of the last 20 years in Founder/CEO mode and the other half in Philosopher/Lover-of-Wisdom mode.
Although I’m not really into astrological signs (lol), I happen to be a Gemini and that myth happens to describe one of my primary challenges pretty well.
I often feel a pull to be one OR the other. 
A CEO or a Philosopher.
Which recently made me think of the word ambivalence.
Which led to a trip to my 2,084-page American Heritage dictionary.
I flip to page 56. Here’s the definition: “the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.”
Alright. Got it. 
But what I’m really interested in is the etymology of the word.
Get this: ambi means “on both sides of” and valence comes from the same root as valor and valence—it basically means “strength.”
So, I reflect on the idea that ambi-valence basically means to be on both sides of strength and that, from my perspective at the time, the result of that is WEAKNESS. 
Now, let’s head back to my chat with Katherine. I share that little distinction with her.
To which she replies by saying something along the lines of: “Well… We could look at it that way. Or… We could say that you have TWO simultaneously STRONG channels through which you can express your gifts.”
To which I say, “God Bless you, Katherine.” (Hah. Seriously.)
Which leads us to Today’s +1.
Do you feel any ambi-valence in your life?
What if we could reframe that “ambi-valence” into HEROIC-valence”?! 
I wonder… How can we take you and your multi-faceted awesome and channel ALL that awesome into heroic strength?
Get on that. We need you and ALL your gifts.
One more time: Be not afraid. Give us all you’ve got.
(Pretty please.)
Mar 16, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we talked about the 11 virtues that show up on our shiny new Optimus medallions and make an appearance in our Optimus meditation.
Wisdom + Arete + Confidence + Purpose + Self-Awareness + Telos + Energy + Presence + Courage + Love + en*theos
I’ve been playing around with those virtues in my formal meditation practice and while I’m rowing and while I’m training and before I fall asleep and after I wake up and, well, a lot. (Laughing. “That’s like me!”)
I’ll either go through the meditation we walked through in our last +1 (with the I Am [Insert Virtue] on the inhale followed by the power-statement on the exhale) or just pull a virtue out that I think would be useful in the moment and repeat it in my mind—feeling its power flowing through me.
Which makes me think of mantras.
And makes me surprised we’ve done over 700 (!) +1s so far (go us!) and we haven’t talked about one of the most powerful tools to train our mind.
I mean…
Do you know what the word mantra literally means?
It’s a Sanskrit word.
Basically: The man part means “mind” and the tra part means “tool.”
So… A mantra is literally a “tool of the mind.”
Today’s +1.
Want to Optimize your mind?
Mantras are a good place to start.
Pick a word. Or a collection of words. (Virtues perhaps?) 
And get to work on your mind.
Mar 11, 2019
Continuing our exploration of how to endure the pain of walking over burning (psychological) coals in pursuit of the upper limits of our potential, let’s talk about one of Matt Fitzgerald’s recommended “coping strategies” to Optimize our perception of effort and get closer to that wall of our potential.
Today we’re going to talk about The Psychology of Pain. (Cue weird music?)
Short story: Researchers have studied how different people deal with pain and have discovered that some people are MUCH better at dealing with it (and, as a result, perform at a much higher level in the midst of experiencing pain).
Get this: There are basically two ways you can deal with the prospect of experiencing pain. You can accept it. Or you can try to suppress it.
(Which one do you think is more effective?)
Here’s how Matt puts it: “Research on the psychology of pain has produced similar findings. A number of studies have compared the effects of two contrasting anticipatory attitudes—acceptance and suppression— on pain perception. Some people have a natural tendency to look ahead to the repetition of a familiar pain stimulus with acceptance. They tell themselves, ‘This is going to hurt, but no worse than before.’ Other people try to cope with the same situation through suppression, a form of denial. They tell themselves, in effect, ‘I really hope this doesn’t hurt as much as it did the last time.’ Psychologists have generally found that, compared to suppression, acceptance reduces the unpleasantness of pain without reducing the pain itself. For this reason, it is a more effective coping skill. ... In common language, this attitude of acceptance toward an impending disagreeable experience is called ‘bracing yourself.’”
Today’s +1.
How do YOU deal with prospective pain?
Here’s to bracing ourselves, K N O W I N G pain is inevitable on our hero’s journeys and then #OMMSing our way to awesome.
+1. +1. +1.
P.S. Check out our +1 on Kristin Neff’s pain equation for more. Remember: Suffering = Pain x Resistance. 
Mar 6, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about you feasting on your Hero Bars—using memories of your past success as fuel to walk through fear doors today.
(You grab three for Today?)
All of those Cookies and Hero Bars remind me of an idea from former Navy SEAL Alden Mills’ great book Be Unstoppable
I read it years ago and recently re-read it with Emerson.
It’s a fantastic parable about a young captain who meets a wise, older mentor-captain who teaches him how to Optimize and actualize his potential to become a “Master and Commander.”
Emerson and I loved it.
The Master Captain (who goes by Persistent Pete), has eight actions he teaches his young protégé. (One of which reminds me of the Hero Bars! We’ll talk about it tomorrow.) 
The Actions form the acronym UPERSIST.
Emerson can rattle them off.
In fact, let’s invite him in so he can share!
Action #1: Understand Your Why
Action #2: Plan
Action #3: Energize to Execute (Alden may go with “Exercise” to Execute but we expanded it to “Energize” so we can include our other fundies of eating and sleeping!)
Action #4: Recognize Your Reason to Believe in Yourself
Action #5: Survey Your Habits
Action #6: Improvise to Overcome Obstacles
Action #7: Seek Expert Advice
Action #8: Team Up!
Today’s +1.
Let’s do a quick run through:
First: What’s your #1 goal these days? (Seriously. What is it?!)
What’s your why?
How’s your plan?
You energized?
What reasons do you have to believe in yourself? (← Hint: Those are our Hero Bars!)
How are your habits?
You improvising to overcome (inevitable!) obstacles #OMMS style?!
Need to seek advice from any experts?
And… How can you team up a little more today?
There ya go. A super-quick take on how to Be Unstoppable
Mar 1, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about the wonderful little book-gift I received from Cal Newport and we reflected on a particular passage from that book (Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin) that really jumped out and grabbed me.
The essence of that passage?
Our presidential luminaries differed in many ways. But they ALL shared a fierce ambition.”
Of the heroic kind.
Today I’d like to talk about another passage from the book. This one’s from page 106. I actually STARTED reading the book on this page because, in his thoughtful gift note, Cal told me that the wisdom on that particular page made him think of me and of our recent chats.
Here’s how page 106 starts: “What fired in Lincoln this furious and fertile time of self-improvement? The answer lay in his readiness to gaze in the mirror and soberly scrutinize himself. Taking stock, he found himself wanting. From the beginning, young Lincoln aspired to nothing less than to inscribe his name into the book of communal memory. To fulfill what he believed to be his destiny, a different kind of sustained effort and discipline was required, a willingness to confront weakness and imperfection, reflect upon failure, and examine the kind of leader he wanted to be.
The passage continues: “The diligence and studiousness he exhibited during this period of introspection would have been remarkable in a young student; in a man of forty, it was astounding.”
Um. Yah. 
That’s powerful.
(btw: Self-efficacy 101 style, this is one of the reasons reading biographies of great humans is such a wise thing to do—we gain strength in other people’s examples!!)
That passage is from Part II of the book in which we learn about all the EXTRAORDINARY (!) challenges our heroes faced in their quests to fulfill their destinies. 
(Lincoln’s was dramatic. He was so depressed after letting down his constituents in Illinois after his tenure as a state legislator that his friends feared for his life and removed every sharp object from his house.)
Fierce ambition.
Equally huge failure.
Then what?
Then our hero doesn’t feel like a hero.
Then what?
Then he (or she) gets to work. 
As we’ve discussed countless times, this isn’t supposed to be easy. (And, thinking that it should be easy is probably the biggest challenge we face.) 
Echo: We’re not sidestepping lizards en route to our destiny. We’re battling dragons. 
As such, building our heroic strength for two demands a FIERCE commitment to self-improvement (Optimizing!!) to match that fierce ambition to make a difference.
As Lincoln said, I must die or be better.”
Today’s +1.
How about YOU?
How’s your fierce ambition?
How’s your strength-building going?
Here’s to having the audacity to dream big and the heroic humility and self-mastery to do the work we need to do so we can most fully give ourselves to the world.
Starting Today.
Continuing forever. 
+1. +1. +1.