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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: August, 2019
Aug 28, 2019
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 of The 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.)
 
So…
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
How to make FIRE.
 
1 + 2 + 3.
Aug 23, 2019
At this stage, most people have heard of Dale Carnegie’s uber-bestselling book How 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 on Time 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.
 
This is.
 
Did you know Dale wrote another book a dozen years later called How 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: “George Bernard Shaw was right. He summed it all up when he said: ‘The secret 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…
 
Yep.
 
That’s about right.
 
As George Bernard Shaw says: “The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.”
 
And, as Dale Carnegie says: 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.”
 
* 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.
 
Today.
Aug 18, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we talked about Seneca’s wisdom on the importance of “fortifying our pertinacity” until our will to do the right thing becomes a disposition to doing the right thing.
 
That’s basically EXACTLY what we 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 about using 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 me that fired up.) 
 
So… 
 
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, this isn’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 a Pilot, Co-Pilot and Autopilot.
 
The Pilot? That’s your Daimon. That (Optimus!) best part of us that basically always knows the right thing to do and is always whispering in our ears. (If we’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 (as Co-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.
 
Pilot. Co-Pilot. Autopilot.
 
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 the default you?
 
F A N T A S T I C.
 
Happy Optiflying!!
 
+1. +1. +1.
Aug 13, 2019
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? astonished face)
 
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 "several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened.”
 
Fast forward.
 
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?)
 
Fast forward.
 
Many men attempt to unravel the knot. No luck.
 
Fast forward.
 
It’s now 333 bce. 
 
Alexander the Great cruises into town. He tries to untie the knot himself and has no luck.
 
So… 
 
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: “It is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (untying an impossibly-tangled knot) solved easily by finding an approach to the problem that renders the perceived constraints of the problem moot (‘cutting the 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?
 
Here’s a sword. 
 
Just in case it comes in handy.
Aug 8, 2019
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 book Raise Your Game.
 
Here’s what he has to say about envy: “My friend Paul Bioncardi of ESPN loves to say, ‘You will 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: If I 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?
 
You.
 
And me.
 
And everyone who plays it.
 
But only every single time.
 
(Reminds me of Byron Katie’s wisdom: “When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.”)
 
(Also reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wisdom: Envy is ignorance. Imitation is suicide.”)
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Let’s channel our inner Faulkner and play the Optimize Game: “Don’t bother 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?
 
You.
 
And me.
 
And everyone who plays it.
 
But only every single time. 
 
(Remember: Simply striving to be your best is a pre-win.)
 
+1. +1. +1. FOR THE WIN!!!
Aug 3, 2019
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: Rehearse death. 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: “Were you 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: “Take it 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. 
 
And... 
 
You got the good fortune to come back starting... 
 
… Now! 
 
OK. 
 
Now, let’s see if we can live with a fresh appreciation that every (!) moment (!) is a gift. 
 
Here’s to appreciating the uncovenanted surplus” of moments.
 
Today.
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