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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: May, 2020
May 29, 2020
In our last +1, we tapped into some wisdom from Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness as we wrote ourselves a permission slip and then hopped on the bus.
 
Today we’re going to spend some more time with Brené. And, we’ll invite Pema Chodrön to the party.
 
Brené tells us: “I love Pema Chodrön’s ‘Lousy World’ teaching on this topic. In it, Chodrön uses the lessons of the Indian Buddhist monk Shantideva to make a very powerful analogy about moving through the world constantly pissed off and disappointed. ...
 
[She says]: ‘‘We’re laughing, but that’s what we all do. That is how we approach things. We think, if we could just get rid of everything and cover it with leather, our pain would go away. Well, sure, because then it wouldn’t be cutting our feet anymore. It’s just logical, isn’t it? But it doesn’t make any sense, really. Shantideva said, ‘But if you simply wrap leather around your feet.’ In other words, if you put on shoes then you could walk across the boiling sand and the cut glass and the horns, and it wouldn’t bother you. So the analogy is, if you work with your mind, instead of trying to change everything on the outside, that’s how your temper will cool down.’”
 
As you may know, Pema Chodrön is a Buddhist monk and teacher. (We have Notes on two of her great books: When Things Fall Apart and The Places That Scare You.)
 
You can watch that wonderful 2.5-minute YouTube video of her “Lousy World” teaching here.
 
Short story: We complain about everything and everyone. All the time. 
 
It’s too hot. It’s too cold. He smells bad. She’s wearing too much perfume. 
 
All day every day.
 
We think the answer is to change the world—to lay leather over all the thorns and rocks in our way. The answer, of course, is to simply wrap a little leather over our feet and voila! 
 
Problem solved. 
 
btw: Here’s how Shantideva puts it The Way of the Bodhisattva:
 
“To cover all the earth with sheets of leather— 
Where could such amounts of skin be found? 
But with the leather soles of just my shoes
It is as though I cover all the earth!”
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Let’s wrap some leather (vegan alternatives available) around our feet (and brains) and joyfully walk through the wilderness of life.
 
TODAY!!!
May 24, 2020
In our last +1, we blew up some belly balloons with our kids. 
 
We breathed in through our noses, down into our bellies (can you make that balloon pop?!) then we breathed back out through our noses (slightly longer than the inhale). 
 
Ah…
 
Repeat.
 
ESPECIALLY when things start to get a little out of control!!!
 
Which leads us to another little practice we’ve been playing around with at the Johnson House. 
 
(Note to self: This is a REALLY effective practice. Do it more!)
 
So…
 
You know those times when your kids start to get a little, shall we say, frazzled, which leads to you (and/or your spouse) (in my case: ME!), getting equally, shall we say, frazzled? 
 
Ahem.
 
I know that reasonably well. 
 
Hah.
 
So…
 
Rather than let it all devolve into a circus, when I’m being Mr. Wise and Mindful Philosopher Guy, I remember to do wise and mindful things to smooth out the rough seas.
 
This practice has proven to be particularly powerful.
 
Step 1. Emerson and I leave the scene of the chaos by going to a different room in the house.
 
Step 2. We sit knee to knee in what’s wonderfully known as “hero’s pose.” (To strike this pose: Kneel on the floor and drop your butt on your ankles. Use bolsters if necessary. Check out Yoga Journal for tips.)
 
Step 3. We sit up nice and tall and look each other in the eye as we pull the thread through our head, breathing in deeply (through our noses) into our bellies, then exhaling (through our noses) slightly longer than our inhale.
 
Repeat.
 
In just a few breaths, our nervous systems are calmed down and we’re connected. 
 
Circus has left town.
 
It’s actually SHOCKING how powerful this is.
 
The hard part (as always!) is remembering to do it in the moment we need to do it.
 
Note to self: Do it more often.
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Circus come to town?
 
Try some hero breathing!!!
 
T
O
D
A
Y
!!!
May 19, 2020
A little over seven and half years ago, Emerson was born at home.
 
We had an amazing midwife (named Mary Jackson) for both Emerson and Eleanor’s births.
 
I’ll never forget the very first moments of Emerson’s life.
 
I had the blessed honor of being the first to officially welcome him into the world. 
 
RIGHT after he was born (literally a couple seconds after), he looked at me and our eyes met. Then he wrapped his tiny (!) little hand right around my pinky finger. 
 
(MISTY!!!)
 
We’ve recounted this special moment countless times.
 
I like to say that we both said, “I LOVE YOU!!!” right when our eyes first connected and he wrapped that tiny hand of his around my pinky.
 
So…
 
One of the ways we like to recreate that moment is by holding hands while we’re walking.
 
That, in itself, will always be one of my favorite things in life.
 
But…
 
We like to take it one step further and say “I LOVE YOU!” to each other in our own Top Secret way. 
 
In fact, we developed our own special language. 
 
It’s called Squeezy-eze.
 
It’s super easy to learn. There’s actually only one phrase: “I LOVE YOU.” 
 
All you have to do is grab someone’s hand and… SQUEEZE IT a few times.
 
Squeeze. 
Squeeze. 
Squeeze.
 
I. 
LOVE. 
YOU.
 
It’s like a Morse Code of awesome.
 
And, well, that’s Today’s +1.
 
If you feel so inspired, how about a little squeezy-eze of Love?
 
Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze. 
 
I. Love. YOU!!!
May 14, 2020
Continuing our little series on the science of courage, how about some more wisdom from Robert Biswas-Diener?
 
In The Courage Quotient, he tells us: “Herein lies the intervention related to failure: accept it. We modern people have fallen in love with the idea that we are in control of our lives, and this worldview gives rise to an impulse to resist failure, to fight against the very notion of it. But just like the modern trend to defy age, the battle against failure is a lost cause. Failure is inevitable. We all experience it, in forms large and small. It is in your past and it is in your future. People with a high courage quotient understand that failure is a risk much of the time and unavoidable some of the time. Rather than trying to tiptoe around failure, they simply accept it as part of the process of success.”
 
That’s from a chapter called “Be Willing to Fail.”
 
It’s packed with powerful, practical wisdom.
 
Like this: Failure is a fantastic learning opportunity. Think of every time you have made a mistake and said to yourself, ‘Well, I will never do that again!’ A single instance of failure can serve as a powerful lifelong course correction. Failure also helps us regroup mentally and improve our skills and strategy so that later attempts at goals might be more successful. Where your courage quotient is concerned, here is the tricky part: you do not have to accept that failure feels good, just that it is inevitable and often beneficial. Accepting failure is not synonymous with actively pursuing failure or enjoying failure when it crashes down upon you. The trick is to acknowledge both the positive and the negative aspects of failure. You can tell yourself, ‘This does not feel good and I am very disappointed with myself,’ on the one hand, even as on the other you reassure yourself by saying, This is also a growth opportunity for me. I will learn from this temporary experience and move on.’
 
And this: “Where the courage quotient is concerned it is instructive to realize that not everyone reacts to failure, or even the prospect of failure, in the same way. Some people—as I have mentioned and as we have all seen—allow failure to overshadow their lives, restricting their decisions and leaving them embarrassed, timid, or withdrawn. Other people appear to take failure in stride and are able to move beyond it after experiencing its temporary psychological sting. Thomas Edison famously said, recalling countless problematic attempts to create a working light bulb, ‘I failed my way to success.’ Winston Churchill too might be among the resilient. He once said, ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.’ Apparently the ability to reframe failure as part of a larger process— learning, say—is instrumental in being able to cope with it.”
 
And, well, that’s Today’s +1.
 
Want to Optimize your Courage Quotient?
 
Be willing to fail.
 
And, reframe your past failures as fantastic learning opportunities.
 
Then get out there and give us all the Wisdom + Self-Mastery + Courage + Love you got.
 
TODAY.
May 9, 2020
In our last +1, we all get issued our magic wand.
 
It can alchemize any and all challenges into fuel for our growth.
 
Thank you, Hermes and Epictetus!!
 
I mentioned the fact that Ward Farnsworth shared that passage in his great book The Practicing Stoic
 
He shared it in a chapter on how Stoics deal with adversity in which he tells us: “Stoics avoid adversity in the ways that anyone of sense would. But sometimes it comes regardless, and then the Stoic goal is to see the adversity rightly and not let one’s peace of mind be destroyed by its arrival. Indeed, the aim of the Stoic is something more: to accept reversal without shock and to make it grist for the creation of greater things. Nobody wants hardship in any particular case, but it is a necessary element in the formation of worthy people and worthy achievements that, in the long run, we do want. Stoics seek the value in whatever happens.”
 
As I read that passage and reflected on the fact that some adversity is NECESSARY for our growth, I thought of some wisdom from Robert Emmons and his great book Thanks!
 
He tells us: “Not only does the experience of tragedy give us an exceptional opportunity for growth, but some sort of suffering is also necessary for a person to achieve maximal psychological growth. In his study of self-actualizers, the paragons of mental wellness, the famed humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow noted that ‘the most important learning lessons... were tragedies, deaths, and trauma... which forced change in the life-outlook of the person and consequently in everything that he did.’”
 
So... 
 
Facing any adversity, my beloved Hero? 
 
Let’s wave Hermes’ wand, alchemize it into another opportunity to practice our philosophy as we give ourselves most fully to the world. 
 
TODAY.
May 4, 2020
In our last +1, we played the “I want to speak with your supervisor!” game.
 
You play it yet?
 
If not, try it.
 
It’s truly awesome.
 
As you’ll recall, the most important part of the process is to start with the end in mind—knowing that it’ll end with you praising the awesomeness of the rep who helped you. 
 
(btw: When you chat with the supervisor, tell THEM how great of a job THEY must be doing to have such a great team member. Then you get a double bump of awesome. people with bunny ears )
 
So…
 
Today I want to talk about how to get some bonus points as we practice our philosophy and play the game of life well. 
 
Here it is.
 
Before you make the call—right before you commit to ending it with the supervisor chat—take a moment to practice a little gratitude.
 
Presumably, you’re calling the company to get help with a service they provide. 
 
Well, what service is it?
 
Recall that we have two options: We can take the service for granted OR we can take it *as* granted.
 
As Robert Emmons tells us, we can act entitled or we can have the humble perspective to realize that we are so ridiculously blessed it’s astonishing. 
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Super simple.
 
Let’s use every opportunity we can to be grateful.
 
As we practice our philosophy.
 
TODAY.
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