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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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Sep 26, 2020
In our last +1, we hung out with some scientists and doctors who decided to test whether or not FOOD prescriptions would be more cost-effective (and health-boosting effective) than just normal prescriptions for medicine.
 
(We might have also talked about the green spray paint prescription our nutty gardener recommended we apply to our brown leaves!)
 
I promised to share some of the details on that research.
 
And…
 
My apologies for not honoring that commitment but I’m going to need to push that back to tomorrow.
 
Today I need to chat about what happened right after I drafted that last +1.
 
So…
 
I created that +1 during my AM1 Deep Work Time Block. 
 
I needed to find the Food Fix book—which I was pretty sure I gave to Alexandra so she could read. I headed out to the kitchen to ask her where it was. She and the kids were eating breakfast. We started chatting about what I was working on.
 
Then I paused and started explaining the idea to Emerson.
 
I said: “Hey buddy. Imagine we have a tree and the green leaves are turning brown. We’re not sure what’s going on, we just know something’s not quite right. So, we call in an expert gardener to see what he thinks we should do.”
 
He nods his head.
 
I continue: “So, this guy shows up, looks at the brown leaves then reaches into his bag and pulls out a can of green spray paint.”
 
Pause. Emerson’s eyes are widening.
 
“Then you know what he does? He paints the brown leaves green and tells you that should do the trick. Then he writes down the type of green spray paint we should get from Home Depot and tells us all we need to do is spray just a little bit on the leaves every day and we’ll be fine.”
 
Pause. Emerson is looking at me in disbelief.
 
Then I continue by asking: “What would you say to that guy?”
 
To which Emerson immediately replies with a laugh: “I’d tell him we want the tree to be ALIVE not DEAD!”
 
To which I laugh and say, “Right?” (Hah.)
 
He continues: “I mean, that might make it LOOK GOOD but it’s still not going to live.”
 
What could I say other than: “Exactly, buddy. Exactly.”
 
Then I asked him what he thinks would help. He thought taking care of the soil and watering it and giving good nutrients would help. I agreed.
 
Then we had a conversation about the parallel wisdom with our health and the importance of getting to the ROOT CAUSES of our ailments rather than prescribing proverbial spray paint.
 
And, well, that’s Today’s +1.
 
Root causes and childlike wisdom for the win!
 
If you feel so inspired, perhaps you can explain this to a 5 or 7 or 11 (or 16 or 21 or 35 or 52 or 70 year old).
 
And, most importantly, let’s put the Theory to Practice as we write ourselves some empowering, life-enhancing prescriptions.
 
TODAY.
Sep 26, 2020

My wife Alexandra has been a huge fan of Marie’s for a long time. I knew she was awesome. But... As I told Alexandra: “I had no idea Marie was THAT awesome!!!” My excuse: I’ve been in hermit-mode and have done nothing but read books for 5 years (no blogs/videos/etc.) so I wasn’t able to get the full sense of Marie’s heroically brilliant and grounded and HILARIOUS power until this book came out. I’ve read and created PhilosophersNotes on well over 500 books. This is one of my ABSOLUTE (!) favorites of all time. I HIGHLY (!!!) recommend it. It’s in the same league as some of my other favorites like Deep Work Atomic Habits and The 5 Second Rule. (In fact, on my chalkboard right now, I actually have “EVERYTHING IS FIGUREOUTABLE” right above “5-4-3-2-1-GO!” <- Winning combo!) The book is PACKED (!) with Big Ideas and I’m excited to share a few of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!

Sep 25, 2020
Today we have fun with my (re-)new(ed) identity: Philosopher + CEO and some Handbook +1s. As always: Get instant (free) access to all 600+ PhilosophersNotes AND all 50 Optimal Living 101 classes AND 1,000+ Optimize +1s as part of our free 2-week trial: http://optimize.me/
Sep 24, 2020

Today we take a sneak peek at v1 of the OPTIMIZE Handbook cover and look at some Oura data on a good bad night saved by an algorithm! As always: Get instant (free) access to all 600+ PhilosophersNotes AND all 50 Optimal Living 101 classes AND 1,000+ Optimize +1s as part of our free 2-week trial: http://optimize.me/

Sep 23, 2020

Today we chat about missing the ol' mark on the 3:00 last-input target. And simply recommitting. And... Finished Phase I of the Handbook construction process. Scaffolding is in place. Fired up. (Just noticed this is #50. Time flies when you're having fun!) As always:

Get instant (free) access to all 600+ PhilosophersNotes AND all 50 Optimal Living 101 classes AND 1,000+ Optimize +1s as part of our free 2-week trial: http://optimize.me/

Sep 23, 2020

"Positive Psychology and the Body." Unfortunately, those two subjects are rarely connected--which is why I was so excited to get this book when I saw the title. It's actually a *textbook* not a normal book. It provides an overview of research on a range of subjects including: “Positive Psychophysiology,” “Positive Neuroscience,” “Positive Sexuality” and “Positive Nutrition.” Big Ideas we explore include a quick look at Martin Seligman's PERMA approach to eudaimonic (vis-a-vis hedonic) happiness, your nervous system (flip the switch!), longevity and positive emotion (some astonishing stats), diet and wellbeing/depression (sugar begone!), and physical activity (science says: it does a body good!).

Sep 22, 2020

Did you know there are 101 days left in 2020. Yep. Time to finish strong. I share a little on how I'm going to do that with the Handbook, etc. How about YOU?

Sep 22, 2020

Afternoon edition of our #1 post 6 hours of DEEP Work on the Handbook. We chat about some creative systems and do the quick Oura review.

Sep 22, 2020

I’ve been eagerly awaiting for my dear friend Pilar Gerasimo to write a book that captures her wisdom on how to Optimize our lives and give the world all we’ve got. And... The wait is over! Pilar is one of the wisest people I know. Among many other things, she created Experience Life magazine (which currently reaches over 3 million people per year) and is the co-host of the Living Experiment podcast with Dallas Hartwig (co-founder of Whole30). The lead quote for this book perfectly captures the thesis of the book. It’s from Jiddu Krishnamurti. He tells us: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Yep. That’s about right. In a society in which the VAST majority of us are sick and tired and anxious and depressed and, well, blah... IT IS NO MEASURE OF HEALTH TO BE WELL ADJUSTED TO THAT SICK SOCIETY. (Right?) Enter: The Healthy Deviant. This “Rule Breaker’s Guide" is packed with Big Ideas on how we can "Be Healthy in an Unhealthy World.”

Sep 21, 2020
In our last +1, we got our inner Freak on as we spent some time with Dav!d Rendall and learned to embrace constraints as we reminded ourselves to approach this whole game of life as Optimalists rather than Perfectionists—using our ideals as GUIDING STARS not distant shores.
 
We explored the value of constraints on a high level. 
 
I promised to talk about the idea in a little more detail in terms of choosing what we want to do with our lives AND in the day-to-day of actually making things happen.
 
So…
 
Dav!d kicks off the chapter on the power of limiting our options with a quote from Seth Godin who tells us: “You really can’t try to do everything, especially if you intend to be the best in the world.” 
 
Amen.
 
And, as I read this chapter I thought of chats I had back in the day with Steve Chandler when he and I worked 1-on-1. 
 
He loved Alan Watts’s wisdom that tennis is more fun with a court (constraints!) and Igor Stravinsky’s wisdom that “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision in the execution.”
 
As I searched the ol’ database of 600+ Notes on my Mac to find that Stravinsky quote, I found this parallel wisdom from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist.
 
He tells us: “In this age of information abundance and overload, those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out, so they can concentrate on what’s really important to them. Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities.
 
The idea that you can do anything is absolutely terrifying. The way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself. It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom... The right constraints can lead to your very best work. My favorite example? Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat with only 236 different words, so his editor bet him he couldn’t write a book with only 50 different words. Dr. Seuss came back and won the bet with Green Eggs and Ham, one of the bestselling children’s books of all time.”
 
(btw: As I reread that, I thought of our Note on the brilliant biography Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel where we talk about those exact same constraints. Check it out!)
 
As I chat about in our Notes on Steal Like an Artist, I LOVE constraints. 
 
They are my friend (when I remember them). 
 
Obvious constraints I use creatively include: Each PhilosophersNote is SIX pages long. Not 3 or 8 or 12 or... SIX. 
 
The +1s are short and sweet not crazy long. (Except for the rare +11. lol) 
 
The Optimal Living 101 classes and Mastery Series sessions? They’re each 10 Ideas and around an hour. Not 3 or 7 or 14 or 22. TEN! (Hah.)
 
Today’s +1.
 
Back to YOU. 
 
What limitations can you impose on yourself? 
 
How can you CONSTRAIN your options more so you can enjoy your life more?
 
Remember the Paradox of Choice. And The Illusion of Choice.
 
Simplify. Go all in. On being your best.
 
TODAY.
Sep 21, 2020

Mark Hyman, MD, is head of strategy for the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and board president for the Institute for Functional Medicine. He is also the bestselling author of a number of books, including Eat Fat, Get Thin. This is a very important and equally sobering book. As Mark says: "If we were to identify one big lever to pull to improve global health, create economic abundance, reduce social injustice and mental illness, restore environmental health, and reverse climate change, it would be transforming our entire food system. That is the most important work of our time—work that must begin now.” In the Note we take a quick look at the dysfunction of the food system and how to fix it while talking about the #1 thing YOU can do TODAY to address it. We also chat about the fact that your food label may be lying to you, the ENORMOUS amount of money the junk food industry spends on junk science (think: $12 BILLION) and the social justice issues of food.

Sep 20, 2020

Today we tap into some insights after a good night of sleep, chat briefly about Surveillance Capitalism (and Digital Minimalism) before I share the first steps in my new book: OPTIMIZE - A Handbook for the Modern Hero.

Sep 19, 2020

Today we have fun meeting the new Optimize (Hero) (Virtue) Compass and I share some interesting HRV and RHR data over last three days looking at effects of last meal, ice baths, etc.

Sep 19, 2020

I’m a big fan of Tom Rath and his work. And... I’m not alone. His 10 books have sold over 10 million copies. Dan Pink (author of Drive and When) calls him “One of the most successful nonfiction writers of his generation.” We featured two of his earlier books: Eat Move Sleep and Are You Fully Charged? Plus: His children’s book called The Rechargeables remains one of my all-time favorites. “Life’s Great Question” that beckons all of us (“What can I contribute?”) is beautifully framed by the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote that kicks off the book: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” This book is a field manual to help us go about answering that question so we can, as per the subtitle of the book: “Discover How You Contribute to the World.” Big Ideas we explore include creating a sense of urgency in life, Purpose 2.0, connecting what we do to those we serve, undivided attention (our new secret weapon), and creating the energy to be our best.

Sep 18, 2020

After a very brief retirement, I'm back. lol. Missed you. Let's goooo! As always: Get instant (free) access to all 600+ PhilosophersNotes AND all 50 Optimal Living 101

Sep 17, 2020

I got this book immediately after finishing Admiral McRaven’s first book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life... And Maybe the World. That one’s a quick-reading little book on the ten lessons McRaven learned in his SEAL training that we can all apply to our modern lives. It was fantastic. I had a strong feeling this memoir on his “Life in Special Operations” would be just as good. It is. As per the back cover, “Admiral William H. McRaven is a part of American military history, having been involved in some of the most famous missions in recent memory, including the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, and the raid to kill Osama bin Laden.” McRaven is a brilliant story teller with, as you can imagine, an incredible array of stories to tell. But that’s not why I loved this book so much. I loved it because reading it made me want to be a better human being. If you enjoy autobiographies and appreciate the military heroes who serve our country as much as I do, I think you’ll love the book as much as I did.

Sep 17, 2020
In our last couple +1s, we’ve been chatting about Trevor Moawad’s wisdom on what he calls “neutral thinking.”
 
We started by hanging out with Russell Wilson en route to winning a Super Bowl. Then we visited the Johnson Ranch to discuss my relationship with our new chickens and their poop.
 
(Yes, I can’t get enough of those emojis…)
 
So…
 
The morning after that chat I had with Emerson about how to approach the chicken situation either negatively, positively, or neutrally, we were doing our family workout—which currently features me chasing the kids on their bikes as we have fun going around the 1/2-mile Trail-loop we created around our property. 
 
Only…
 
This morning, Emerson’s bike had a flat tire. 
 
He immediately started crying—super bummed he wouldn’t be able to ride his epic lime green (lol) bike around the Trail as planned.
 
So…
 
I cruised over and said, “Buddy! Your tire’s flat. That’s a bummer. I get it. And.. Remember that chat we had last night about neutral thinking?” 
 
Emerson: “Yah.”
 
Me: “Well…. Let’s get neutral! WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
 
He said, “To ride my bike.” 
 
I said, “Exactly. So what can we do to make that happen?” 
 
He said, “Get the bike pump and fill up the tire.” 
 
I said, “Exactly.” 
 
We cruised into the barn, found it. Pumped up the tire. The air surprisingly held. 
 
<- Boom. Done.
 
Tire was filled. He was off to the Trail races.
 
And, that’s Today’s +1.
 
Got any metaphorical flat tires in your life?
 
(Echo: Of course you do. You’re human!)
 
How are you reacting? 
 
Negatively? Positively? Neutrally?
 
Back to Trevor: “That’s neutral. Staying in the moment, giving each moment its own history, and reacting to events as they unfold. It takes away emotion and replaces it with behaviors. Instead of asking, ‘How do I feel?’ you should be asking yourself, ‘What do I do?’”
 
You can develop these skills if you’re willing to let go of a few things. Negative, cynical thinking doesn’t make you more realistic. It just makes you negative and cynical. Biased thinking doesn’t help you either. You need to steer clear of your feelings and make an honest assessment of each situation you face. Don’t worry about what you feel. Rely on what you know.”
 
Back to you.
 
NEUTRAL thinking. 
 
It works.
 
Try it.
 
TODAY.
Sep 16, 2020

Today we hit the pause button on the ol' #1s as it's taking a little more Energy + Focus than I'm willing to give it vis-a-vis my truly What's Important Now targets. I think I'll be back with these near the end of the year to make sure we're wrapping up 2020 with antifragile ferocity and getting ready to make 2021 THE Greatest Year of our Lives.

In the meantime, PNTVs every day thru end of year. And Top 3 kicking off October 1st. LET'S! DO!! THIS!!!

As always: Get instant (free) access to all 600+ PhilosophersNotes AND all 50 Optimal Living 101 classes AND 1,000+ Optimize +1s as part of our free 2-week trial: http://optimize.me/

Sep 16, 2020
In our last +1, we spent some more time with Trevor Moawad and explored some more wisdom from his great book, It Takes What It Takes.
 
As you may recall, we chatted about neutral thinking.
 
As Trevor says: “No matter where I work, the same truth keeps emerging. Neutral thinking is the key to unlocking a set of behaviors that can turn also-rans into champions and champions into legends.”
 
Today I want to bring that wisdom to life with a little personal example from the Johnson Ranch here outside Austin. 
 
So…
 
As I was reading the book, I took a break and explained this idea to Emerson. 
 
Here’s the example I used: Our chickens. And their poop. 
 
Quick context: As we’ve discussed, we just moved to the country. We got some chickens because we thought they’d be awesome. They are. The kids love them, etc. 
 
And... 
 
Those gals (and guy) sure know how to poop! And, they seem to especially love to do their work under our beautiful back patio where I often meditate in the morning as the sun’s rising.
 
Let’s just say that the meditation scene is slightly less idyllic with the chicken poop wafting up. (Hah.)
 
So…
 
Back to the book.
 
I told Emerson that the guy who wrote the book had a dad who was really into all this stuff and taught him a bunch when he was a kid. I smiled and rubbed his awesome little head as I imagined what HE might have to say in a few decades.
 
Then we talked about the difference between negative thinking, positive thinking and neutral thinking.
 
I gave him an example of my own negative thinking as it related to those chickens and their poop. (Note: That’s always one of the best ways to deliver a message. Start with our own shortcomings—don’t start with someone else’s!)
 
My negative thinking went something like this: “Those chickens!!! Their poop STINKS!! Why do they need to hang out under the porch and then poop where they hang out? I think we might want to find them a new home.”
 
(He might have heard me say something along those lines more than once in my less-enlightened moments, so the example was quickly understood. lol)
 
Then I told him that the “positive” thinking would go something like this: “It’s not so bad and the chickens are so great.”
 
He immediately knew that that simply wasn’t honest and true and wouldn’t be the optimal approach.
 
Then I told him that neither of those approaches was as effective as NEUTRAL thinking.
 
Neutral thinking would go something like this: “The chickens are pooping under the patio. It stinks. The kids love them and we need a better solution. So, let’s limit their access to that location and figure out a poop control protocol. Next step: Order some chicken wire for the bottom of the patio and install it.”
 
<- Boom. Done. 
 
Emerson got it immediately. 
 
And, he still has his chickens. 
 
Today’s +1.
 
Got any chicken poop in your life? 
 
If you feel so inspired, let’s run it through a quick analysis.
 
What’s the negative thinking you might be running on it?
 
How about the positive thinking?
 
And what about the neutral thinking?
 
All of which leads us back to Trevor’s dad. You know what he taught him as a kid?
 
To get rid of the “stinkin’ thinkin’.”
 
Let’s do that.
 
TODAY.
 
(And, please wish me luck with the chickens. lol)
Sep 16, 2020

Admiral William H. McRaven is a Retired U.S. Navy SEAL who served for thirty-seven years and commanded at every level. As a Four-Star Admiral, his final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. (During this time, he oversaw the covert mission that killed Osama bin Laden.) In 2014, he gave the commencement address to the graduates of the University of Texas at Austin. Millions of people wound up watching his speech on ten lessons he learned from his Navy SEAL training. This book takes a deeper look at those ten lessons. It’s a super-quick read—packed with simple, yet profound wisdom along with moving stories of moral exemplars. It's FANTASTIC.

Sep 16, 2020

Admiral William H. McRaven is a Retired U.S. Navy SEAL who served for thirty-seven years and commanded at every level. As a Four-Star Admiral, his final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. (During this time, he oversaw the covert mission that killed Osama bin Laden.) In 2014, he gave the commencement address to the graduates of the University of Texas at Austin. Millions of people wound up watching his speech on ten lessons he learned from his Navy SEAL training. This book takes a deeper look at those ten lessons. It’s a super-quick read—packed with simple, yet profound wisdom along with moving stories of moral exemplars. It's FANTASTIC.

Sep 15, 2020

Today we visit the barn-studio to hang out with 500+ of my favorite books as we check out the studio set up for the upcoming Top 3 Most Life-Changing Book series! :)

Sep 15, 2020

Mel Robbins is funny, witty and wise. Her TEDx Talk (called How to stop screwing yourself over) is one of the most popular of all time, with more than 18 million views. This book is also super popular—with over 1,000 Amazon reviews. It’s pretty awesome. Actually, the book is REALLY (!) good. In fact, Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule might just be one of THE most elegantly efficient Tools we can use to close the gap between who we’re CAPABLE of being and who we’re ACTUALLY being. (Seriously.) Big Ideas we explore include The 5 Second Rule (and how/when to rock it), how to win the game of life (hint: start, stay in, for the long game!), excitement + anxiety (and how they feel the same in the body), managing distractions (today a good day?), and changing your life with one moment of everyday courage.

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