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!!
Get instant access to hundreds of free Optimize +1s (and unlock the full Optimize experience) at https://Optimize.me
+1 #20: How to Stop Thinking The #1 Tip on How to Master this Important Lost Art (Inspired by Patrick McKeown)
Patrick McKeown is one of the world’s leading experts on optimal breathing.
When I interviewed him recently, he made a very interesting point. He said that we spend all our lives in school learning how to think but that we’re never taught how to STOP thinking.
Fact is, most of our “thinking” isn’t thinking at all. We’re simply looping the same unproductive thought over and over again.
Get this: According to a study done at USC, the average person has 70,000 thoughts per day. And, according to some experts, 80-90% of those thoughts are useless.
That’s crazy. (Literally.)
It’s also really enervating. We waste a ton of energy spinning our mental wheels—creating more stress and anxiety and fatigue while diminishing our performance and well-being. (Not a winning combination.)
So, learning how to STOP thinking is a very important skill.
Patrick’s #1 tip on how to master the art of not thinking?
Specifically, breathe through your nose. Deeply (but lightly!) into your diaphragm.
(One of Patrick’s Big Ideas we’ll talk about more in another +1 is the fact that we all breathe way too much—which, paradoxically, decreases the amount of oxygen released into our cells.)
For now: Breathe through your nose. Deeply. Yet lightly.
Our mind has slowed down. All that wasted energy is recouped.
btw: Two other ways to stop that mental chatter? Put your attention on your body = #2. And the final tip from Patrick? Immerse yourself in the present moment.
Let’s think productively when it’s appropriate to do so. And then get really good at turning the brain off.
Get instant access to hundreds of free Optimize +1s (and unlock the full Optimize experience) at https://Optimize.me
I've been thinking about how I can help you optimize (technically, I'm pretty much *always* obsessing about it) and realized I should probably do some more behind-the-scenes videos to capture my (often messy) thought process about how to take Optimize to the next level and do my life's work while serving you profoundly and creating an exemplary business that scales in the process. This video is the fruits of that. Hope you enjoy!
Optimize with us at https://optimize.me
P.S. Notes on my Top 10 favorite Books
P.P.S. Let's do this!
Michael Gelb is one of the world’s leading creativity teachers. He’s also a qi gong and aikido master who wrote one of my favorite books: “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci.” In this book, he teaches us the art of creating connection. Big Ideas we explore include how to optimize our ability to connect (practice with the little moments!), The Pygmalion Effect (aka the self-fulfilling prophecy), the importance of centering for conflict resolution, and how our addiction to digital devices (ADD) is leading to attention deficit disorder (ADD) which is leading to troubles in connecting and what to do about it.
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.
This is a quick-reading, simple, practical guide to, as the sub-title suggests, “Stop Worrying and Quieten Your Mind—Featuring the Buteyko Breathing Method and Mindfulness.” If you’re looking for a general introduction to the power of Oxygen, I’d recommend you go with Patrick’s more recent and more all-purpose Oxygen Advantage. If you suffer from anxiety and/or panic attacks, this might be a great place to start. Big Ideas we explore: The #1 rule of breathing, the 2 key benefits of putting your attention on your breath, why CO2 is your friend and how to play nice, avoiding rat poison and becoming a good mind gardener.
Patrick McKeown is one of the world’s leading teachers of the Buteyko Breathing Method which was created in the 1950s by a Russian doctor named Dr. Konstantin Buteyko. McKeown suffered from asthma for decades until he found the Buteyko Method. At which point, he reversed his asthma symptoms and then dedicated his life to helping others optimize their breathing. In this book, he extends the Buteyko Method into an approach he calls the Oxygen Advantage. Big Ideas we cover include the #1 obstacle to optimal breathing, Oxygen Delivery 101, the #1 breathing tip, and how to dial in your sleep.
This book is an adaptation of a series of essays Katy created over the last five years in which she unpacks her evolving views on what she calls “movement ecology.” It’s not your typical “do X, Y, and Z” optimal living guidebook. It’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at why—as you can guess by the title—Movement Matters and a challenging look at how our individual and cultural decisions have created a sedentary culture and a significant nature debt that few of us ever stop to think about. Big Ideas: Stacking your life, minimalism vs. maximalism, the tree of your life, and redefining success.
Welcome: Your Heroic Quest + Making it a Reality
Our world needs heroes today more than ever before. We need YOU to be a Hero. We hope you enjoy this video from Friday Night of our weekend immersion workshop: Hero Training 101. Let’s do this!
Watch the entire weekend workshop here:
Do you know why we call our modern marathon a marathon? You may think you know the real story behind the very first marathon, but in this captivating, inspiring tale, Dean Karnazes (named by Men’s Health as one of the 100 Fittest Men of All Time) gives us a deeper look at the man who, 2,500 years ago, ran the first ULTRAmarathon and, in doing so, effectively saved Western civilization. :) Big Ideas we explore: a history lesson The Battle of Marathon, why balance doesn’t lead to happiness (and what does), a 24 Hour Fitness with Harvard profs, heroes are ready and how to play the pain game.
I love Stoicism. In this class we take a quick look at the cast of characters (from founder Zeno to Seneca + Epictetus + Marcus Aurelius) and then dive into the ultimate goal of Stoicism (hint: become bff’s with your inner daimon so you can experience a state of well-being and flourishing) along with the practices that help us apply this wisdom to our lives. We’ll create energized tranquility and equanimity as we have fun becoming our own ideal sages.
Here's what David Allen has to say about Hero Training 101.
James Kouzes and Barry Posner are two of the world’s preeminent researchers on leadership. This is the 25th anniversary, fifth edition version of their best-selling classic that has sold over 2 million copies. One of the things I most like about this book is the fact that it covers the SCIENCE of leadership. Kouzes and Posnar have been conducting empirical research for over three decades. Big Ideas we explore: The 5 Practices (<— key word!) of Exemplary Leaders, the foundation of leadership (= credibility which = …), Law #2: DWYSYWD, and the best-kept secret of leadership = …
A former U.S. Navy SEAL Commander, Mark Divine integrates the ancient warrior traditions with grounded, practical virtue and 21st century get-it-done effectiveness in a way that I find incredibly inspiring. Big Ideas we cover include the power of front-sight focus, how to DIRECT your mind, going Yoda on your commitments and creating micro goals when things are tough.
Here’s another behind-the-scenes look at how I’m thinking about The Big 3: Energy + Family + Service as we raise our standards to heroic levels. Primary questions: What does you at your best look like in each domain? What will you experience/who will you be when you are your best? (Aka: The Why) And, most importantly, what ONE thing will you do every.single.day to make that ideal self a reality? Hope you enjoy! More on Hero Training 101: optimize.me/hero