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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: June, 2019
Jun 29, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about Twyla Tharp’s thoughts on reading and thinking.
 
Recall her comment that: “If I stopped reading, I’d stop thinking. It’s that simple.”
 
(Amen!)
 
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: “When I’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! 
Jun 19, 2019
Have you ever read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho?
 
It’s amazing. I’ve read it a bunch of times. 
 
Guess how many copies the book has sold since Paulo wrote it over 30 years ago…
 
65 MILLION! (!!!)
 
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 Alchemist was 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 Alchemist wasn'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.”
 
Then what?
 
He says: But I 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 Alchemist a 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.”
 
Fast-forward. 
 
Eight months later an American visiting Brazil picks up a copy of The 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 the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for more than three hundred weeks.
 
He says: People continue to ask me if I knew The Alchemist would 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.
 
Two parts.
 
First: If you’re one of the 17 people on the planet into Optimizing who hasn’t read The Alchemist yet, what are you waiting for?
 
Second: What’s your personal quest? What do you REALLY (!) want?!
 
Remember: “There is 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.”
Jun 14, 2019
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 about Step 3: Move.
 
Here’s how Paul and Anthony put it: “Focusing on 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 better ENERGIZE
 
Let’s hear it from their perspective. 
 
They tell us: “We all 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: “When we 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–your thinking 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 you know you could be doing that could most benefit your life if you did it consistently starting Today?
 
Got it? 
 
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. 
 
Together.
 
(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!)
Jun 9, 2019
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 reasons why 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.)
 
Agency
 
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 called The 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 “the ability 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).
 
Well…
 
That and I also want to have a little fun.
 
Imagine that you’re a Secret Agent. 
 
(DoubleO-You perhaps. Short for OptimizingOptimusYOU, of course!)
 
You work for your Daimon. 
 
What mission is he/she asking you to carry out? 
 
Have you chosen to accept it?
 
What’s your next step?
 
Get on that!
 
This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds…
 
5… 4… 3… 2… 1… - GO!
Jun 4, 2019
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’s Constructive 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 called Constructive Living. 
 
He tells us: “Our behavior 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.”
 
His mantra? 
 
“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?”
 
(Laughing.)
 
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.
 
Again and again and again.
 
5… 4… 3… 2… 1… BLASTOFF!
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