What do you think is the most important, underappreciated muscle in your body?
Think about that for a moment.
What’s your guess?
I think this is the most underappreciated muscle in my body: ___________________________.
Well, get this: Breathing experts tell us that the award for the most underappreciated muscle in the human body goes to… your diaphragm—that little, SUPER (!) important muscle down there right below your lungs.
Recall: You can live for weeks without food, days without water, and only minutes without oxygen—which makes breathing pretty important, eh?
Yet, how often do you think about it?
And, do you specifically train your breathing to make sure it’s optimized?
If you’re like most people, the answer to the above questions is: “Never.” And, “No.”
Today’s +1: Let’s hit the diaphragm gym.
The simplest way to practice some “resistance” breathing? Breathe through your nose. All the time. Period. If you’re a mouth breather you’ll notice that breathing through your nose takes a little more work. That’s a good thing.
Through your nose. Deep but light. Nice and slow.
One rep after another.
Let’s get that diaphragm in shape!!
Teresa Amabile is the Director of Research at Harvard Business School. It’s pretty much impossible to read a book on business, creativity, or happiness at work and not run into her research. She wrote this book with her husband, leading developmental psychologist Steven Kramer. In it, we learn the secret of joy, engagement and creativity at work. Hint: Small wins! On (important distinction) meaningful stuff. Big Ideas we explore include the power of our “inner work life,” the 3 key influences to optimizing it (progress, catalysts, nourishers) and how to get on the progress loop and stay on it!
First: Welcome to our 100th +1. It’s a special milestone. Kinda excited about it. 😃
Let’s celebrate it with one of my favorite words ever: euthymia.
Seneca talks about the power of euthymia in his classic essays. He tells us that euthymia is all about knowing yourself and having the courage to walk your own authentic path.
The English translation of that beautiful word?
It’s the feeling we have when we truly TRUST ourselves. When we know we’re headed in the right direction and we’re able to quit comparing ourselves to everyone else and stop second guessing ourselves every 5 seconds.
Which leads us to today’s +1 reflection:
How’s YOUR tranquility?
Here’s one way to energize it.
In Ego Is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday riffs on Seneca’s perspective on euthymia and tells us: “So why do you do what you do? That’s the question you need to answer. Stare at it until you can. Only then will you understand what matters and what doesn’t. Only then can you say no, can you opt out of stupid races that don’t matter, or even exist. Only then is it easy to ignore ‘successful’ people, because most of the time they aren’t—at least relative to you, and often even to themselves. Only then can you develop that quiet confidence Seneca talked about.”
Why do YOU do what you do?
That’s the question. Stare at it. Answer it. Say yes to your path. And say no to all the other silly distractions.
+1 all the way to energized tranquility.
Peter Drucker is considered the father of modern management. This book was originally published in 1967. It’s *remarkably* well written and lucid. And, of course, packed with Big Ideas on how to optimize our effectiveness. We cover the 5 key practices/habits of the effective executive: time (first things first; second things never!), contribution (what can you contribute?), strengths (make yours productive; make weaknesses irrelevant), concentration (the secret to effectiveness), decisions (boundary conditions help).
In our last few +1s, we’ve been chatting about reaching the Peak of our potential.
What’s the alternative?
Well, did you know that the Latin root of the word mediocre LITERALLY means to get stuck in the middle of a rugged mountain?
Medius = “middle.”
Ocris = “rugged mountain.”
That’s not where we want to get stuck. 😃
How do we make it through that mid-way point and summit the peak of our potential?
Let’s open up our Thesaurus for some clues.
We’ll start with synonyms for mediocre: “ordinary, average, middling, middle-of-the-road, uninspired, undistinguished, indifferent, unexceptional, unexciting, unremarkable, run-of-the-mill, pedestrian, prosaic, lackluster, forgettable, amateur, amateurish.”
Those are all great ways to get stuck.
There’s one antonym for mediocre. Can you guess what it is?
Yep. That’s the ticket. EXCELLENCE. When we hit those inevitable tough spots on the rugged mountain that is our heroic quest, we need to show up with excellence. We need to do our best.
You may recall the Greeks had a word for that.
It’s the best way to high five your inner daimon as you joyfully summit. (https://www.optimize.me/plus-one/how-to-high-five-your-inner-daimon/)
Let’s do that.
One step at a time. Right up to the peak of that rugged mountain.
+1. +1. +1.
For those of you in the States celebrating today, Happy Independence Day. For everyone else around the world, Happy 4th of July! 😃
The 4th of July.
Of course, today we’re celebrating Independence Day.
But it’s important to note that we’re not celebrating the day we *won* our independence.
We’re celebrating the day we DECLARED our independence.
Of course, there was SEVEN YEAR’S worth of blood, sweat, and tears that went into the Revolutionary War to back up that declaration (!!), but that’s a pretty cool distinction when you think about it for a moment.
So, Today’s +1.
First, let’s celebrate all the little Independence Days of our lives. Those moments when we declared our Independence from the bad habits that were tyrannizing our lives.
With that in mind: What are three bad habits from which you’ve won your independence?
Fantastic. High fives. Fireworks!
Now, it’s time to make a new Declaration of Independence.
From which keystone bad habit will you Declare your Independence from this day forward?
I think the preamble to your Declaration goes something like this:
“When in the Course of an individual’s life it becomes necessary for that person to dissolve the bands which have connected them with bad habits and to assume among the powers of the earth, the self-mastery and virtue to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the scientific wisdom of the ages requires that they should WOOP their plans to win their Revolutionary War within themselves.
As such, I [ INSERT NAME ], hereby declare my Independence from THIS bad habit: _____________________________.
I hereby WOOP the successful Revolutionary War against said habit.
This is my Wish: _____________________________
This is my Outcome; I shall experience these Benefits: _____________________________
These are my Obstacles: _____________________________
This is my Plan to deal with those Obstacles: _________________________.”
Enter: A powerful “necessity to act.”
Here’s to winning that Revolutionary War and honoring your Declaration of Independence!
I planned to read this book since Cal Newport referenced it in Deep Work. I finally did so in preparation to teach Productivity 101. It’s fantastic. If you’re a business leader or entrepreneur I think you’ll particularly enjoy it. Big Ideas we cover include the 4DX, the whirlwind, your Wildly Important Goals, Lag vs. Lead measures, the power of keeping score, and avoiding the blackhole of the magnificently trivial.
Imagine this: It’s your first day of art class. You signed up for an intro class on pottery. (Nice! Go you!)
The teacher does something a little weird.
He points to one half of the class and says, “On the last day of class I’m going to bring in a bathroom scale. You guys will get an ‘A’ if you produce 50 pounds of pots. A ‘B’ for 40 pounds. 30 pounds gets you a ‘C.’”
Then he points to the other half of the class and says, “You guys? You’ll get an ‘A’ for creating an amazing pot. I just need one pot from you. Make it awesome and you get the ‘A.’”
Fast-forward to the end of the semester and who do you think created the best-looking pots?
Answer: The group that produced the 50 pounds of stuff to get an “A.”
Why is that?
Well, as the authors of Art & Fear put it: “It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the ‘quality’ group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”
So, question: How do YOU approach your creativity?
Are you trying to create the “perfect pot”? Or, are you willing to lean in and produce a TON of stuff—learning from your mistakes and, eventually, getting better and better?
Today’s +1: Go create a bunch of pots.
Remember: 50 pounds and you’ll get an “A.”
P.S. Maslow comes to mind. He tells us: “It seems that the necessary thing to do is not to fear mistakes, to plunge in, to do the best that one can, hoping to learn enough from blunders to correct them eventually.”
Brad Stulberg is a writer focused on health and the science of human performance. (Amy Cuddy calls him her favorite health and science writer.) Steve Magness is a coach to some of the top distance runners in the world. Together, they’ve written a super-engaging, quick-reading book on how to pursue growth in a healthy, sustainable way—aka, without burning out. Big Ideas we explore include the secret equation of sustainable awesome (Stress + Rest = Growth), just-manageable challenges, the iPhone Effect Part 3 (aka how to decrease your productivity in one step!), the optimal work/rest ratio, and the paradoxical twist of fulfillment.
Continuing our theme of making TODAY (and every day!) a Masterpiece Day, let's take a quick look at Time Blocks.
Gary Keller wrote The ONE Thing. He also created the largest real estate agency in the world. In his great little book, he tells us how important it is to ruthlessly focus on what’s most important—the key activities that drive the real results.
He takes the 80/20 principle to the extreme and has you continue drilling down on the most important things until you get to the ONE Thing that drives the whole show.
And then he has you ruthlessly focus on what you need to do TODAY to make that ONE Thing a reality—knocking over the next domino in a chain of dominoes that inevitably leads to the outcome you’re looking for.
Just figuring out what your ONE Thing is (over the long run and today) obviously takes a lot of Deep Work.
Gary tells us we need to create “Time Blocks” during our day. He calls them the #1 “power tool” of time management.
You turn off ALL distractions for a set amount of time and you focus on whatever you decided is the most important thing.
Then we make a habit of doing that. Every. Single. Day.
For me, my #1 creative thing is a ruthless consistency on what I call my AM1 Deep Work time block. It's the time after I get up before the family gets up that I use to do that day’s most important work.
In fact, I'm working on this +1 at 5:51 AM while the family sleeps. We're on a mini vacation. I can hear the ocean waves as I type away on my iPhone.
I’m excited for the family to get up and have another great day—feeling complete that I've already crushed it today.
(Yes, that's just another way I'm weird. I'm in good company though. In On Writing, Stephen King tells us he never misses a day of writing. Something magical about it…)
I LOVE my Deep Work time blocks.
When’s your best time to go Deep? Schedule it. Shut the doors. Turn off all distractions. Make it a sacred ritual. Then aggregate and compound those tiny little gains over an extended period of time +1 style!
Josh Waitzkin is an extraordinary human. Ever heard of the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer? That’s the story of Josh life. Literally. After a childhood and young adulthood spent dominating chess, Josh then went on to master Tai Chi and became a World Champion. But what he REALLY became was a master of learning and peak performance. Big Ideas we explore include the two approaches to leaning, the downward spiral (what it is and how to avoid it), honoring your unique disposition, investing in loss, knowing your goal (decent, good, great, among best!), the power of stress and recovery and the ultimate secret of mastery.
In our last +1 we talked about Spinny Fingers and how to quickly regain our equanimity when life spins us around.
Here’s another way.
Mark Divine is a former Commander in the Navy SEALs. He tells us that in the chaos of war, elite SEALs are taught to “simplify the battlefield.”
When the fog of battle rolls in and things are nowhere near as clear as they were a moment before, it's absolutely essential that we simplify everything.
Commander Divine tells us that we need to identify THE next most important target and then put ALL of our energy into successfully executing that micro-mission as we maintain what he calls “front-sight” focus.
Simplify. Identify next target. Focus. Execute that micro-mission. Repeat.
That’s an incredibly effective way to roll. ESPECIALLY when things are most challenging.
That’s today’s +1.
How can you simplify the battlefield of your life? What's THE most important thing right now? Give it your front-sight focus.
P.S. The last four digits of my phone number are 5320. Mark tells me that “5320” just so happens to be the call signal for a junior SEAL. It's become a fun game to sign off my text messages to the Commander with -5320. 😃
You know those times when you need to initiate a tough conversation and you're kinda sorta dreading it and avoiding it?
One of my old mentors once told me that you just need to move through what he called “sweaty five-minute conversations” to get to the other side of clarity and resolution.
Most of us avoid the challenging conversations because we aren’t willing to endure those few minutes of discomfort. I definitely used to avoid them. Now, I remember that Speed Is a Force then I WOOP it, chant “Bring it on!” + “I’m excited!” and jump in.
It’s become a really powerful practice for me as I've mastered it over the years.
But here’s the funny thing. Once upon a time, I needed to have one of those “sweaty conversations” with that mentor of mine.
Guess how it turned out?
It was, by far, LITERALLY, the worst conversation I’ve ever had in my life. HAH. Seriously.
I kid you not.
As Campbell said, when you dare to go after bliss, there's always the chance for a fiasco. :)
Here’s how Campbell puts it: “The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly. What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco.
But there’s also the possibility of bliss.”
So, today’s mission, should you choose to accept it: The next time you find yourself avoiding a challenging conversation, see if you can recognize the fear and then get to work on it with one (or more) of our growing array of tools.
Perhaps you can remember that your infinite potential exists on the other side of that fear and chant “Bring it on!!” to yourself.
Maybe you can practice Active Love on the person who's currently stressing you out.
I’d definitely recommend you WOOP it! Wave the wand. Create your Wish. See it going perfectly. Experience the benefits. Then anticipate the obstacles and make your plan to deal with them.
Then, if you feel that now’s the time, jump in and move through those few seconds/minutes of sweaty palms and make it happen.
You’ll win or you'll learn. :)
P.S. I know for a fact that if I had that challenging conversation of a decade ago today it would have ended so much better. But I never would have gotten to where I am without the pain of that fiasco. And so it is. 😃
I’m a HUGE fan of Phil and Barry's first book, The Tools. Coming Alive is kinda like The Tools Part 2. In this book, we get four new tools to go along with the original five tools. Big Ideas we explore include how to connect to our Life Force, defeat Part X (their name for that part of each of us that gets in the way), build our confidence and learn to see problems as gifts as we live a GREAT life.
George St-Pierre is one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the world. Ever.
Of course, he wasn’t always one of the greatest. At one point, he was just a young guy working as a garbage man who DECIDED he was going to be the best in the world.
People around him thought he was crazy. (Of course they did. Who says stuff like that? Hint: People who have a shot at making it happen.)
So, when GSP decided (!) he would be the best in the world at what he wanted to do, he also decided what he WASN’T going to do.
“Train instead of party. Work instead of play. Perfect practice instead of casual repetition.”
ALL of his energy went into achieving his goal and making his dream a reality. (You should see the consistency in his schedule. Astonishing.)
In his great book The Way of the Fight, GSP makes the important distinction that all those things he was no longer going to do weren’t sacrifices. They were decisions.
Sacrifices vs. Decisions.
There’s a huge difference between the two.
One comes with a little whiney voice. The other comes with the calm confidence and grounded, authentic power of a committed person.
Today’s +1 practical application: Who have you DECIDED to be?
What decisions do you need to make to focus your energy?
P.S. Remember: The Latin root of the word decide literally means “to cut off.” When we make a true decision, we CUT OFF all other options and go ALL IN. Let’s do that.
Have you ever made a mistake?
(I’ve made a mistake or 3 million as well.)
Here’s the deal: When we approach it with the right mindset (that would be a growth, experimental mindset), we come to realize that those mistakes are P R E C I O U S.
The data we get on what DOESN’T WORK is priceless.
Therefore, never (!) beat yourself up about a mis-take.
Simply remind yourself that we either win or we learn and that no movie was ever shot from start to finish without a ton of re-takes. Then say to yourself “Needs work!” as you rewind your game film, see yourself executing the oopsed scene perfectly and then get back at it.
Practical Reflection Time:
What was your last mistake?
What did you learn?
Run it through our little Mis-take process above and +1 it.
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that Speed Is a Force.
Jim Rohn said the same thing a little differently. He told us about the “Law of Diminishing Intent.”
The basic idea: The likelihood of doing something diminishes the further away you get from the initial moment of inspiration.
And your confidence erodes as well. Not a winning combination.
Jim Rohn’s protégé, Tony Robbins, echoes this wisdom as well. He tells us that we must never leave the moment of inspiration without taking action. Then we need to follow that up with sustained, MASSIVE action.
Remember: Don’t let your intention to do something great diminish. Seize the opportunity. Take massive, sustained action.
Speed is a Force. Stay grounded. And use it wisely.
(Got anything in your life that could use some energy?)
Speaking of perfectionism, let’s look at the essence of Tal Ben-Shahar’s great book The Pursuit of Perfect.
Tal is one of the world’s leading positive psychologists. He taught the largest class in Harvard’s history: Positive Psychology 101.
He tells us that there are two distinct forms of perfectionism—one of them is actually adaptive and the other is not. He tells us they are so different that they need different names.
There’s the unhealthy perfectionist who suffers from all the things you’d expect from perfectionism: anxiety, depression, etc. He calls them a “Perfectionist.”
Then, there’s the healthy, high-functioning perfectionist who uses those high standards to fuel their growth. He calls them an “Optimalist.”
Perfectionist vs. Optimalist.
Here’s the primary difference between the two: The (unhealthy) Perfectionist fails to embrace reality. They actually think they can work for 16 hours a day in pursuit of their great work while staying super healthy and being a great spouse and parent and being super active in the community and a great friend to dozens and... (I get stressed just typing that.)
The source of their misery is the fact that they fail to embrace the constraints of reality. They simply CAN’T do all of those things. So, when they inevitably fall short of their expectations, they beat themselves up mercilessly and experience all the negative effects of unhealthy perfectionism.
The (healthy) Optimalist?
They have really high standards and want to be a great creator, spouse, parent, friend and vital human but they rub their vision up against reality. They see only so many hours in a day and construct their optimal life within the boundaries of those healthy constraints.
Note: The word “optimal” is derived from the Latin optimus which means the “best”--not the “perfect.” The best. The best within the constraints of our individual realities.
Do you tend to be a Perfectionist or an Optimalist?
How can you hold your high standards AND embrace the constraints of reality just a little more today?
I dropped out of law school before a semester was over but I do remember one Big Idea from Contracts class.
Lawyers like to say that a contract is a good one when there are “bright lines”—when it’s super obvious what everyone is agreeing to. Fuzzy lines? Not so good. We want super crisp, obvious, BRIGHT lines.
Research scientists borrowed that phrase to describe one of the key attributes of creating good deals with yourself as you architect your ideal life.
They tell us that when we’re building new habits, we want to have VERY BRIGHT LINES about what is and what is not acceptable behavior.
For example, when I wanted to quit eating fast food over a decade ago, the fuzzy line I had of “Eat at McDonald’s less often” wasn’t particularly helpful. Every time I’d drive by that McDonald’s on the way home I’d have to ask myself, “Is today the day I get to go there?”
And, when did I go? On the days when I was feeling the worst, of course.
Then, one day, I got BRIGHT with my lines. I decided I would NEVER eat at McDonald's again. Period. Now, of course, I broke that commitment a few times before it stuck, but—and this is an important distinction!—at least now I knew I was breaking a contract with myself. Eventually I dialed it in and kicked the fast food habit.
I did the same thing with ESPN and Google News and the iPhone in bed and countless other things. Fuzzy? Didn’t help. 100% bright? Worked like a charm.
So, how about you?
What’s the #1 bad habit you’d like to get rid of?
How can you move from fuzzy to super bright?
Think about that and get on it.
We all have areas of our lives we want to Optimize.
Stephen Covey tells us to think about our “Roles and Goals.” Tony Robbins calls it “Categories of Improvement.” The challenge with those is that we can get confused with a near-infinite number of Roles and Categories.
I like to boil it down to my Big 3: Energy + Family + Service.
Energy. For me, it ALL starts with Energy. If I have a tough time getting out of bed in the morning, I’m going to have a tough time living optimally. Therefore, I prioritize making sure my Energy is strong.
Family. Why do I want to feel radiantly alive and energized? First and foremost, I want to be an exemplary husband and father. I’m the only one in the world who can be a great husband to my wife and father to my children. In the midst of striving to do great things and make a difference in the world, it’s easy to forget that it all starts at home.
Service. The other reason I keep my energy strong is to be of service. I want to be, in the words of the French movement philosopher Georges Hébert , “Fit to be useful.”
So, here’s how I like to approach it: First, start by identifying what you at your absolute best would look like in each of those categories. Then capture the benefits you’ll experience when you live from that ideal. Then think of the #1 simple thing you can do every.single.day to make sure you’re in integrity with that ideal. Then schedule that thing into your Masterpiece Day. And, of course, DO IT.
For me, it looks like this:
Energy: Me at my best: I am a world-class athlete. (Defined as qualifying for the Spartan World Championships at the end of this year. I need to place in the Top 20 in my age group so it’s a JV-version of world-class but it was still a big stretch for me when I set the goal and it has great pull-power.)
The benefits (aka “The Why” a la Nietzsche’s “He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how.”): I am radiantly alive. I am grounded. Powerful. Calm. Confident. Energized.
The #1 thing I will do every day: Sunrise Trail Workout. I'll show up on the mountain and bang out my 1=hour workout. CONSISTENCY of training (obviously oscillating intensity/etc.) is my secret weapon.
Family: Me at my best: I am an exemplary husband and father. I love to work and create. AND I'm committed to being a great husband and father. An exemplar. That standard fires me up.
The benefits: Joy. Presence. Love. Kindness. Patience. Consistency. Celebrating my 50th anniversary with my Love. 😃
The #1 thing I will do every day to make that happen: Quality time one-on-one with my son EVERY day. Defined as at least 30 minutes (target 60 during week and hours on weekend) of just me and him.
Service: Me at my best: I am an exemplary social entrepreneur, philosopher + teacher, and community leader. I am committed to using business as a force for heroic good while continuing to study, embody and teach wisdom I love and making a difference in our Optimize community.
The benefits: The joy of doing what I’m here to do. Flow. Energy. Enthusiasm. Connection. Impact.
The #1 thing I will do every day to make this happen: AM1 Deep Work. Before I go online, I will do my morning rituals and Deep Work. Period.
As I say all the time: You couldn’t pay me to hop online and blow my brain up before doing my creative work. My mind just isn’t quite the same after going online. I’m all about accreting a little more value every day and repeating that every day—allowing the gains to aggregate and compound as the creative power magnifies itself incrementally. It all starts with that first Deep Work slot every morning.
3 + 1 = Magic.
Here’s another simple way to keep your motivation high: Journal.
Sonja Lyubomirsky is one of the world’s leading scientists studying well-being. She tells us that one of the most robust ways to boost our optimism and positive thinking (actually, she says it’s "The most robust" strategy) is to journal daily—reflecting on our hopes and dreams, visualizing our success and reflecting on the steps we will take to make it all happen.
Ten to twenty minutes per day.
Even as little as two minutes has been shown to make people happier and healthier.
What are your hopes and dreams? What steps will you take to make it all happen?
Might be a good +1 for today. 😃
Stephen Covey's seventh habit of Highly Effective People is "Sharpen the Saw."
He tells us about the importance of renewal if we want to stay at our best and shares this parable to bring the point home:
Imagine walking into a forest. You see a guy sawing a tree. He's working and working and working but not getting very far. His blade is clearly dull.
So, you suggest he step back and sharpen the saw a bit.
He says that's simply not possible. He's way too busy to slow down to sharpen anything.
Hmmmm... Really? But with a sharp blade you'd hammer right through that tree!
Which guy are you?
What's one tiny little easy thing you could start doing (today!!) that would help you build a chainsaw?
Let's do that!!