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
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Nov 14, 2018

Jordan Peterson is one of the world's leading intellectuals. He's a Canadian clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto. (Before that, he taught at Harvard.) He’s published over 100 scientific articles and he’s super-popular on YouTube. This book is wonderfully intense and equally thoughtful. Peterson’s integration of everything from evolutionary psychology, politics, religion and morality is astounding. After taking a super-quick look at all 12 Rules, Big Ideas we cover include the importance of mastering the flow or Order + Chaos (and why RULES are so important), Rule #1 (stand up straight, shoulders back! Remember lobsters...), Rule #2 (Treat yourself better! Remember pets...), Rule #6: Clean up your life (remember to start stopping...), and the fact that your Being is in your Becoming (which is connected to Rule #4...).

Nov 11, 2018
Continuing our theme of wisdom gleaned from Zen Optimize in the Art of Spartan Racing, let’s talk about spiritual obstacle course racer, Sri Swami Satchidananda.
Sri Swami Satchidananda was an obstacle course racer? 
Well, yah!
Satchidananda was one of the most revered Yoga Masters of the 20th century. He wrote a great book called The Golden Present. It’s one of those books that has a chapter for each day of the year so you can work through the wisdom and create your greatest year ever.
Guess what wisdom he shared in Chapter #1, January 1st? 
… What wisdom do you think he thought was most important to kick off your year strong? 
Quick answer: How to see life as one big obstacle course.
Longer answer, in his words: “Life must be a challenge. Only then is it exciting. In an obstacle race, you are forced to surmount all the obstacles: to jump over the hurdles, go through the barrels, crawl under the rugs, climb over walls.
What would happen if, to avoid all that, you went around all the obstacles and asked for the winner’s cup? Would they give it to you? No. They would say, ‘You must go back and face all the obstacles.’
... Make your life as exciting as possible, but always think of it as fun. The adversities as well
as the harmony should be enjoyable. Don’t become sober and morose and have a castor oil
face in the name of spirituality. Just be happy. Jump with joy. Even if you make a mistake, say, ‘Hey, I did this? Great! What a wonderful lesson I learned!’ If you really want to, you can make everything fun.”
Amen and high fives, Swami!!!
That’s PRECISELY why my sport-hobby involves me PAYING to go over and under and through obstacles so I really get the sports-metaphor that so perfectly captures the essence of life.
Today’s +1.
Two key things. 
  1. Make your life as exciting (and challenging!) as possible.
  2. And always think of it as FUN!!!
Friendly Optimizing reminder: Life is one big, preciously brief game. 
As India.Arie says
If you create the game then you create the rules
And if you just be you
There's no way you can lose
Get out there and have fun. 
Jump with joy—right over any and all obstacles you face today!
Nov 8, 2018

Here are 5 of my favorite Big Ideas from "Lead Yourself First" by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin. Hope you enjoy!

Nov 6, 2018

Here are 5 of my favorite Big Ideas from "The Nicomachean Ethics" by Aristotle. Hope you enjoy! Aristotle's writings have been extraordinarily influential since ancient times. This treatise is named after his son and is a collection of his lecture notes--imagining attending his Lyceum and listening to him teach 2,300 years ago! Of course, it's packed with culture-changing Big Ideas. Some of my favorites we cover include the ultimate end: eudaimonic happiness (vs. "happiness" as most of us think about it!), how to achieve that eudaimonia (hint: "virtuous activity of the soul" aka areté), how to win the Olympic Games (hint: you can't just show up; you need to ACT!), the doctrine of the mean (and the vice of deficiency + excess) and the virtue of magnanimity: meet YOUR great soul.

Nov 6, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Zen in the Art of Spartan Spear Throwing and the recent installation of a spear throw setup in our backyard, complete with bails of hay, etc. (Yes, we’re ALL IN at the Johnson house.)
How about YOU? Do you have a deep commitment to mastery in your life? 
Remember: Even the most mundane practices can be a portal into enlightenOptimizement. 
I’m in my backyard throwing my spear and thinking about Steven Pressfield’s wisdom. As I had fun walking back and forth covering the 30 feet between the hay bales and my starting point, I was also thinking about some Lanny and Troy Bassham wisdom.
As we’ve discussed, Lanny wrote a book called With Winning in Mind. Troy wrote a book called Attainment. We briefly talked about some of their wisdom on how average vs. elite performers practice in our +1 on why Buddha kept on meditating after his enlightenment
Short story: Lanny and Troy tell us that AVERAGE performers practice something until they can get it right. ELITE performers, on the other hand, practice until they CAN’T GET IT WRONG.
That’s how to roll. 
And that’s worth a repeat: AVERAGE performers practice something until they can get it right. ELITE performers, on the other hand, practice until they CAN’T GET IT WRONG.
So… Today’s +1.
How are YOU approaching your life and the most salient aspects of it?
Trying to get it right? Or working so hard you can’t get it wrong?
Let’s avoid the “Meh, I’m good enough” zone of competence as we chase excellence.
Let’s go from average to elite to our optimus best.
Then let’s keep going.
Nov 1, 2018

Here are 5 of my favorite Big Ideas from "Reinventing Yourself" by Steve Chandler. Hope you enjoy! I got this book years ago when I first started working with Steve Chandler. At the time, I read and listened to a ton of his stuff. Steve and I worked together one-on-one for a couple years. This is our sixth Note on his books. It was super fun to reread this book and dive back into Steve’s down-to-earth and empowering wisdom. I love his short, to-the-point, funny style. Big Ideas we explore include the difference between being a Victim vs. an Owner (this is the #1 key on "How to Become the Person You've Always Wanted to Be), lifting real weights not the Styrofoam stuff (but only if you want to get strong!), the fact that Yes lives in the land of No, 10 things you'd do if you had no fear (pick one and go!), and campfires (they're a lot like human spirit--ya gotta re-create one every day!).

Nov 1, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that Americans check their phones 8 BILLION times every day. (Wow.) 
We also talked about the fact that (at least 5 billion of) those 8 billion checks are essentially kryptonite for the love in your life.
Today I want to talk about some more wisdom from Yuval Noah Harari’s new book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
But first, let’s talk about horses.
I live in a small town in Southern California called Ojai. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the very few places in the world where people ride their horses next to Teslas. (Hah.)
Now, of course, no one in town is getting around primarily via horses, but it’s always fun to see a few people on horseback cruising through town or to see a few horses “parked” outside the local cafe.
So… The other day I saw a fresh horseshoe print on my Trail. For whatever reason, I thought of Elon Musk’s talk to governors. 
Note: I pretty much never watch YouTube videos or TED Talks. I read books. Period. (Hah.) But, a good friend of mine (thank you, Michael!) strongly encouraged me to watch this talk. So, I did. And, I’m glad I did. I highly recommend it for a fascinating look at one man’s vision of the future. (Check it out here.)
So… In this discussion, Elon talks about the future of cars. Long story short, he tells us that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, ALL cars will be self-driving. It’s not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN.
To make his point, he tells us that just as some people still ride horses for fun, none of us ride horses as a primary means of transportation these days. Likewise, some people will have fun driving a car around in the future, but that won’t be the primary means of transportation in x years.
That, my friends, is what I thought of when I saw a horseshoe print in the dust of my Trail. (Hah.)
Well, that and a passage from Harari’s new book. 
In a chapter on “Work” he talks about the HUGE shifts in our global economy that will result from the advances in artificial technology.
He tells us: “The benefits for human society are likely to be immense. AI doctors could provide far better and cheaper healthcare for billions of people, particularly for those who currently receive no healthcare at all. Thanks to learning algorithms and biometric sensors, a poor villager in an underdeveloped country might come to enjoy far better healthcare via her smartphone than the richest person in the world gets today from the most advanced urban hospital.
Similarly, self-driving vehicles could provide people with much better transportation services, and in particular reduce mortality from traffic accidents. Today close to 1.25 million people are killed annually in traffic accidents (twice the number killed by war, crime, and terrorism combined). More than 90 percent of those accidents are caused by human errors: somebody drinking alcohol and driving, somebody texting a message while driving, somebody falling asleep at the wheel, somebody daydreaming instead of paying attention to the road. … Self-driving vehicles will never do any of those things. Though they suffer from their own problems and limitations, and though some accidents are inevitable, replacing all human drivers by computers is expected to reduce deaths and injuries on the road by about 90 percent. In other words, switching to autonomous vehicles is likely to save the lives of one million people every year.
It would therefore be madness to block automation in fields such as transport and healthcare just in order to protect human jobs. After all, what we ultimately ought to protect is humans—not jobs. Displaced drivers and doctors will just have to find something else to do.”
Of course, the long-term economic ramifications of all this are beyond the scope of Today’s +1. 
Two things I want to focus on.
First: Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how quickly our world is changing and that a lot of the things we take for granted as the peak of sophistication will be viewed, in the not-so-distant future, as a bit like riding a horse. 
Second: You know what Harari tells us is the most important quality for us to cultivate (and to teach our children) to prepare for such a rapidly changing world? 
Well, he says that “for every dollar and ever minute we invest in improving artificial intelligence, it would be wise to invest a dollar and a minute in advancing human consciousness.”
In short, we need to Optimize.
Oct 31, 2018

We’re going to have a hard time actualizing our potential if we have a hard time getting out of bed. Energy is SUPER important. In fact, it’s the engine for our actualization. In this class, we’ll integrate a lot of the most essential aspects of eating, moving, and sleeping. But first, we’ll start by stepping back and recognizing just how important it is that we flip the switch in our minds—raising our standards and TRULY committing to being our best, most energized selves so we can change the world together, one person at a time, starting with YOU and me.

Oct 27, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about my quest to be a Spartan champion in 2025 and how that’s resulted in a lot of WINing TODAY. (How’re your goals-systems?!)
Today I want to talk about being a Champ Champ Champ. 
← I laugh as I type that. 
Note: This +1 is a bit ridiculous. 
Quick context: After one of the best mixed martial arts coaches in the world (Firas Zahabi, owner of Tristar gym and Georges St Pierre’s coach) became an Optimizer then sent a note telling me how much he loved the PhilosophersNotes (thanks, Firas!), I learned more about Firas and his mastery of his craft and, in the process, paid more attention to the UFC.
In the process, I stumbled across Conor McGregor before he was the superstar he is today. It’s cliché to say that I could see that he had a spark of something different about him but, well, he did. And, he does.
While embracing Maslow’s wisdom that there are no perfect human beings, I’ve enjoyed watching his entertaining, charismatic rise to superstardom.
Short story for those who may not know: Conor McGregor is an Irish mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter who is the first person in the premier “league” of MMA (the UFC) to win championships in TWO weight classes. It’s a pretty impressive feat. It’s especially impressive and inspiring because he went from being an apprentice plumber to a kid with a dream receiving welfare checks to winning those two world championships and making something like $100 million in his first professional boxing match against one of the all-time greats.
Now, in addition to being a great fighter, Conor is also a great promoter. 
All of which brings us closer to Today’s +1.
After winning the two championships, he took to calling himself “Champ Champ.” I laugh as I type that as it’s so wonderfully ridiculous. “Champ Champ.” (Hah.)
As I’ve been stepping up my athlētē game, I’ve been having fun with different mantras during my meditation, during training and during everyday life. Optimus is one of my favorite ways to focus my energy on being my best. I also like “World-Class.” And, as the bar has moved up, “World-Champion” might have been getting some airtime in my head.
Of course, my athletic goals are really just a means to Optimize my Energy which is really just a means to Optimize my Work and my Love so I’ve been having fun playing with different ways to capture all Big 3 commitments in one mantra.
That’s when Champ Champ Champ” popped into my head.
← I laugh as I type that and I laughed when it first appeared in my head. (Which I take as a very good sign.)
Yep. That’s the standard. A World-Class → World-Champion Athlētē AND a World-Class → “World-Champion” Husband and Father AND a World-Class → “World-Champion” Philosopher-Teacher-Leader.
That’s like me.
Champ Champ Champ.
How about you?
What’s the best version of YOU look like Energy + Work + Love-wise?!
Any fun ways to bring your commitments to life?
Oct 26, 2018

Here’s a quick look at our next class: Energy 101! 

(You can get instant access to dozens of archived classes, hundreds of PhilosophersNotes and Optimize +1s and this class when we release it by becoming an Optimize member: )

Oct 23, 2018

I created this class after my friend Matt McCall (who helps run the Pritzker Group Venture Capital fund) asked me to do a talk for 60 of their portfolio CEOs. He was thinking “Optimizing for Supheroes 101.” I loved that idea and decided it would be the perfect context to share my absolute best stuff and here we are.

In this extra-long class, we start by connecting “Optimizing” and “Hērō” to their ancient Greek philosophical roots then we proceed to walk thru how to go about integrating ancient wisdom, modern science and practical tools to harness our soul force to build strength for two such that we can create our best, most heroic lives.


Oct 17, 2018
We’ve been talking a lot about how champions maximize minutes—giving everything they’ve got into being the best versions of themselves.
Thank you, John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, and Dan Millman for your wisdom. 
Today we’e going to invite Gandhi to the party to establish the fact that this isn’t a SPORTS idea, it’s a SPIRITUAL ideal.
Here’s how Gandhi puts it: “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.”
Full effort is full victory. We do our best, let go of the results and then get back to doing our best. That wisdom is a central theme of Gandhi’s handbook, the Bhagavad Gita.
Now, for a fun twist, let’s bring the conversation back to sports.
Have you ever heard of The Legend of Bagger Vance? It’s an old-school movie starring Will Smith and Matt Damon. Guess what they’re doing? Playing golf. 
Short story: Matt Damon (playing Rannulph Junuh) has lost his mojo on the course. His caddy Will Smith (Bagger Vance) teaches him to trust his swing again.
The movie is based on a book written by a guy named Steven Pressfield who, in addition to being a great author, is also a master of the creative process. I consider his trilogy on the creative process must reads. (See Notes on The War of Art, Do the Work and Turning Pro.)
But get this: “The Legend of Bagger Vance” is really just the “Bhagavad Gita” on a golf course. (Get it? Bagger Vance Bhagavad Gita…)
In the Gita, we have a reluctant warrior named Arjuna (sounds a lot like Rannulph Junuh, eh?). Arjuna is counseled by the mighty Krishna who, basically, tells him to trust his swing and do what he’s here to do. 
Take that spiritual wisdom, put it on a golf course, throw two huge stars in there and voila, we have a sports movie delivering some pretty legit wisdom.
Which, of course, is why sports are so popular. The super-clearly-defined rules of a given sport give us an opportunity to see life’s bigger challenges play out in a 60-minute game.
For now, let’s bring all this wisdom back to our lives via a couple more sources of wisdom.
In The War of Art, Pressfield tells us that we need to go from being amateurs” to being “Professionals in our creative lives. One of the key attributes of the professional? 
Here’s how he puts it: “The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.” 
In other words, full effort is full victory. We do our best, let go of the results and then get back to doing our best.
Pressfield got that wisdom from the Gita. Flip open that classic manual on the art of living to find this gem: “The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results.”
In other words, full effort is full victory. We do our best, let go of the results and then get back to doing our best.
That’s Today’s +1.
Remember: Full effort is full victory. 
Let’s do our best, let go of results and then get back to doing our best.
Oct 12, 2018
In our last +1, we continued our chat about the fact that your perfection is already there. It’s just waiting for you to follow Rule #1 and quit doing yourself harm. 
I said that that just requires a little more discipline from you. (And me.)
Which makes me think about the connection between our ego and the divine within.
This is part of a much longer discussion. But here’s the quick take.
Most people think we need to “get rid of” our ego or subdue it or tame it or otherwise maim it if we want to tap into the most divinely spiritual within us.
I don’t agree with that approach.
I prefer to think of it more like Joseph Campbell. And Ken Wilber. And Nathaniel Brandon.
Campbell tells us that he doesn’t understand why there’s all this talk about annihilating the ego when, in fact, it’s our egos that keep us in the game. 
Then Wilber tells us that it’s not “ego-minus” but “ego-plus.” We need a strong ego that’s plugged into something bigger than ourselves. THAT’s when the magic happens. 
Then we have Nathaniel Brandon who tells us that even if we think “letting go of” the ego is either desirable or possible (he and I don’t think it’s either), successfully letting go of your ego would, by definition, require you to have a firm grip on your ego before you could let it go. (Think about it for a second: How can you let go of something you never had hold of?)
All of which leads me to how I think we should think about our ego.
Of course, there are so many different definitions of what the “ego” is that we can get dizzy trying to keep up. I prefer to think of the ego in a classic Western psychoanalytic frame a la Freud.
In that model we have three components: our id,” our “superego” and our “ego.” 
Our id is that impulsive part of us that wants everything right.this.second. Doesn’t matter whether it’s good for us or not. Just give it to us. NOW. Say hello to all your addictions—be they digital (“Hi, smartphone!”) or chemical (“Hi sugar and flour and alcohol and…”).
Our superego is basically the conditioned part of us that’s constantly judging all those things your id did and wondering what in the world you were thinking. (It also really really really wants people to like us and can lock us into conformity.)
Then we have our ego. Our ego is that part of us that keeps our id and superego in check. We NEED a STRONG ego to make sure we don’t spin out of control alternating between a hyper-impulsive/addictive version of ourselves and a hyper-conforming/ashamed version of ourselves.
All of which brings us back to where we started: DISCIPLINE.
How do you get your ego to be strong enough to deal with the pulls of the id and the superego? You dominate your environment. You cultivate a heightened level of self-awareness to know how to make yourself proud and then you match that self-awareness with an equally high level of self-mastery such that you consciously, joyfully do the right thing moment to moment to moment.
You know what happens then?
Your golden light shines through. 
Your divine spiritual essence (however you want to define it) finally has a stable home in which to hang out and shine forth. 
Here’s to your ego. Get it strong. 
Then plug it into something MUCH bigger than yourself and shine with the radiant enthusiasm only discovered when we live in integrity with what we know to be true.
Oct 7, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the science of social comparison and reiterated the fact that it’s toxic.
Remember, as per Sonja Lyubomirsky: “You can’t be envious and happy at the same time. People who pay too much attention to social comparisons find themselves chronically vulnerable, threatened, and insecure.”
Plus: “The happier the person, the less attention she pays to how others around her are doing.”
Today we’re going to talk about what we can do when we inevitably find ourselves feeling the itch of envy.
I love how T Harv Eker puts it in The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. He says: Bless that which you want. If you see a person with a beautiful home, bless that person and bless that home. If you see a person with a beautiful car, bless that person and bless that car. If you see a person with a loving family, bless that person and bless that family. If you see a person with a beautiful body, bless that person and bless their body.”
There ya go.
That’s Today’s +1. 
Feel a little envious? Remember, you can’t be envious and happy at the same time.
Notice something you wish you had a little more of in your life? BLESS the people who are blessed to have it.
Then get back to living your life as well as you possibly can.
You’ll be considerably happier NOW and considerably more likely to experience the same blessings in the future. 
Oct 7, 2018

Alexandra joins us as a guest teacher for this class! Learn how to activate your superpowers, increase your mojo & have more fun.

Oct 2, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about my mission to become a Spartan World Champion. 
My heart skips a beat just typing that.
(Which, btw, is a good reverse indicator” as my Yoda would say. Btw2: When Phil and I chatted about my contemplations about raising my standards and going all in on the Spartan mission, he told me that I MUST go for it or the Universe will fire me from my job. Laughing.)
The title of that last +1 was “Becoming a Champion.” Today’s it’s called “Being a Champion.”
We’re going to talk about another coach of champions: Ben Bergeron. Ever heard of him? 
If you don’t know who he is, have you ever heard of CrossFit? If you’re alive and into Optimizing, my hunch is that you almost certainly have. One more question: Ever watch the CrossFit Games where the world’s best CrossFit athletes get together and see who is “The Fittest on Earth”? 
Those world-class CrossFit Games athletes are absolute BEASTS. As in: ASTONISHINGLY strong, skilled and tough.
Only 40 men and 40 women (and 40 teams) make it through the regional qualifiers to the world championships. Most of the athletes who make it there are just happy to be among the world’s best. 
But a select few are there to win it. Those are the athletes Ben Bergeron coaches.
In fact, he’s coached his athletes to six world championships. In 2016 he coached BOTH the men’s champion AND the women’s champion. (Which is kinda crazy awesome when you think about it.)
All of that to say, Ben wrote a GREAT book called Chasing Excellence in which he shares his approach. We’ll chat about it a bit more in the next few +1s.
Today I want to focus on one simple point. 
He and his athletes never talked about being champions. They were too focused on ACTING like a Champion NOW.
Here’s how two-time champion Katrín Davíðsdóttir puts it: “Though I moved halfway around the world with the goal of making it back to the CrossFit Games, Ben and I never actually talked about the Games. We didn’t talk about qualifying, we didn’t talk about finishing in the top ten, and we certainly didn’t talk about winning. What we did talk about was giving full effort in every single moment of every single day, and becoming the best we could possibly be.”
Today’s +1. 
You may or may not have aspirations to be an “official” “champion” of anything in your life. Of course, that’s fine. (Although I’d encourage you to think for a moment about what you COULD be the absolute best in the world at Jim Collins Hedgehog Style.)
But, if you’re this far into this +1, I’m going with the assumption that you’re at least moderately committed to Optimizing. (Hah.)
So, reach over to the virtual stovetop in your mind, turn the heat up to 212 degrees, and think about YOU at your ABSOLUTE (!) BEST.
Then be that version of you Today.
Moment to moment to moment. 
Put your old identity on a permanent vacation and act like a Champion.
Sep 27, 2018
A few +1s ago we talked about Stuart Wilde. He’s an old-school self-help teacher who used to lecture with Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay and Deepak Chopra. 
He’s really funny. He’s also a fascinating blend of super-esoteric spirituality AND super-intense discipline. (As per our “Dominate Your Life!!” +1!!)
Today I want to chat about a practical little exercise I’ve been using from his great book Infinite Self.
Short story: The book is, as the title suggests, all about connecting to a power that’s infinitely (!) bigger than us. Call it whatever you want—God, the Universe, the Field, the Force. Doesn’t matter. But, I think we’d all agree that there’s SOMETHING bigger than us that’s beating our hearts and growing our toenails while somehow finding the time to expand the universe at the mind-boggling speed of around 68 kilometers per second per megaparsec
Stuart tells us that we’d be wise to figure out how to make that infinite power a more conscious, consistent part of our lives. He offers 33 steps. Step 1 is to FEEL the force WITHIN you NOW. It’s not some abstract thing out there. It’s within you. Now. Check out the Notes for more. 
For now, the exercise.
The next time you feel annoyed by something or someone in your life, step back and imagine yourself as a 250-foot tall version of yourself. You’re so tall that you can basically straddle your city and stand WAY above your little self—barely even seeing the tiny little problem(s) you’re dealing with at the moment.
And, if you want to go astronaut-style all in on it, just imagine yourself as a 250,000-MILE tall version of you—so big you can touch the moon with your finger. That should do the trick.
From either of those vantage points, look down at your city or our planet and try to find your little self and your little problems that feel so big when you live from such a contracted place.
How do things look from THAT perspective?
Exactly. Like a non-issue.
Guess what? That’s the accurate perspective.
All of which leads us to Today’s +1.
Anything or anyone annoying you? Say hello to the 250-foot (or 250-mile!) tall version of you. Look at your problems from that vantage point. Smile. Wave. Then do what needs to get done. 
Sep 17, 2018
Continuing our underwater theme for a moment longer, have you ever heard of hagfish?
They’re pretty creepy. (I apologize in advance for the visual image here but I think it’s worth it…)
Here’s how Steve Chandler describes hagfish in Time Warrior
“To really live now there are two things I want to phase out of my life forever: (1) Resentments about the past and (2) Worries about the future.
These two activities, strengthened by repeated indulgence, are like hagfish. Hagfish? Many people don’t know what hagfish are, but they are just like worries and resentments.
In the real, undersea world, hagfish are blind, slimy, deepwater eel-like creatures that dart into the orifices of their prey and devour them, alive, from the inside.
Kill the hagfish in your life. Then you can live now and maybe procrastinate later.”
Um. Hmmm… Wow. 
That’s a heck of a way to kill your prey, eh? Dart into their orifices and then devour them, alive, from the inside? Yikes.
And, well, that’s Today’s +1.
Got any hagfish in your life? 
Any resentments and/or worries that’re eating you from the inside out?
Is now a good time to kill those hagfish before they get you?
Fantastic. Good luck with that!
Sep 12, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about W.H. Auden’s (genius) quip that routine, in an intelligent person, is a sign of ambition. (I laugh with joy every time I type that.)
Then we did a quick check in on your ambition. And, hopefully, we dialed it up a notch and made sure that your routines were reflecting that strong desire to Optimize and actualize in service to your family, community and world.
Today I want to talk about work and play.
A lot of people think those two things are separate. 
I think you’re doing it wrong if your work ISN’T play.
Abraham Maslow would agree. He once said that one of the hallmarks of self-actualizing people is that they get to a place where “apparent dichotomies” are dissolved. In Motivation and Personality, he has a chapter in which he describes the “19 Characteristics of the Self-Actualizer.”
Check out the Notes for a super-quick look at all 19 of those self-actualizer characteristics.
For now, know this: The 19th characteristic of self-actualizers is their Resolution of Dichotomies.” For example, he tells us: “The dichotomy between selfishness and unselfishness disappears altogether in healthy people because in principle every act is both selfish and unselfish.”
Another dichotomy that dissolves for self-actualizers?
The dichotomy between work and play.
What happens when work IS play? And when play IS work?
Well, then you get a statement like this from author James Michener in his autobiography: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both.”
That’s the way to roll.
Here’s to mastering the art of living.
Let’s have fun writing the rules to the game that is our lives and then playing it with all the joy and intensity and excellence we can muster—letting others decide whether we’re working or playing.
For us, we’re always doing both.
Sep 7, 2018
A couple +1s ago, while celebrating Yuval Noah Harari’s lack of a smartphone, I mentioned the fact that we don’t need to become smashing Luddites in response to the tsunami of technology that hammers us all day every day.
But… We ALSO want to make sure we don’t become addicted users
The best solution? Be an Optimizite. Let’s make the best use of technology to sculpt the best possible version of yourself. (Recall that Optimize comes from the Latin optimus which literally means “the best.”)
That’s the central theme of Conquering Digital Addiction 101—which might be my favorite master class so far. 
Here’s the deal.
You know how Facebook and Instagram and Google make money?
By, essentially, hacking and then selling your attention.
They work REALLY REALLY REALLY (!!!) hard to make sure you spend MORE and MORE and MORE time on their sites and apps.
Then they SELL your attention to (literally) the highest bidder.
Now, of course, there’s nothing inherently evil about this per se. These companies often provide astonishingly cool and equally valuable services.
But the way they’ve set up their business model essentially REQUIRES them to, as this must-see 60 Minutes exposé called “Brain Hacking” puts it: HACK your mind.
Now, we often say we watch stuff like that for “free” but, technically, we typically pay for it via xx seconds of your attention (which is sold to a sponsor who shows us their ad).
Alternatively, you can upgrade your YouTube account and NOT watch ads—which is a really compelling alternative business model that doesn’t require a company to focus so much on mining your attention.
Saving the bigger picture business model discussion for another time, get this: That whole economy is called the attention economy (and could be called the “mind-hacking economy”). 
You know how much money is made hacking your mind every year?
Some researchers put the number at $7 TRILLION dollars. 
S E V E N. 
T R I L L I O N. 
D O L L A R S. 
That’s a lot of zeroes. (12 in fact.)
And… That’s a lot of hacking.
And… A lot of addicted users.
Which brings us to another point of the class and of this +1. Technologists refer to their customers as “users.” You know who else refers to their customers as “users”? Drug dealers. (Hah. And d’oh.)
Seeing that our smartphones and emails and apps light up the same addiction centers of our brains as cocaine and alcohol and other drugs, it’s a fitting parallel.
It’s also why Bill Maher refers to “social media tycoons” as “tobacco farmers in t-shirts.” Only, he says, the tobacco guys only wanted your lungs. Tech titans want your SOUL.
Again. I’m NOT saying we should all go smashing our phones and computers Luddite style.
But I AM saying that you’ve gotta wonder why Steve Jobs wouldn’t even let his own kids use the iPad he was so excited about. And why so many tech execs follow his lead and RADICALLY limit their kids’ use of the very products they build.
As Adam Alter says in Irresistible: “It seemed as if the people producing tech products were following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply. This is unsettling. Why are the world’s greatest public technocrats also its greatest private technophobes? Can you imagine the outcry if religious leaders refused to let their children practice religion?”
All of which leads us to the practical point of Today’s +1.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Not at all! I’m 100% Optimizite, baby!” and 10 being “Oh… yikes! I’m a 10 Addicted User!” where are you on the addicted-user spectrum?
1 ----------------------------------------- 10
And… Most importantly: How can you take a step or three toward the Optimizite side of that spectrum today?
Here’s to wisely unplugging from the $7 trillion mind-hacking economy long enough to become all that we’re capable of being!
Sep 2, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Professor Harari’s two world maps—one before The Scientific Revolution that was all filled in (including areas they knew NOTHING about) and one after that had plenty of empty spaces (accounting for all they things they didn’t know). 
Then we talked about YOUR maps. And, hopefully, we all added a good deal more empty space in our maps—especially that space outside our comfort zones that leads to the unknowable zone of our infinite potential.
Today I want to chat about the importance of running our own scientific experiments. Of course, admitting our ignorance is an absolutely essential first step to gaining new knowledge. But, then we’ve gotta throw on our lab coats and get to work!
Before we go there though, how about another quick little history lesson? 
So, we all know that Christopher Columbus “discovered” the continent that became known
as America. But... He refused to believe it. When he landed on the Bahamas he thought he had discovered islands en route to East Asia. As Professor Harari puts it: “He called the people he found there ‘Indians’ because he thought he had landed in the Indies—what we now call the East Indies or the Indonesian archipelago. Columbus stuck to this error for the rest of his life. The idea that he had discovered a completely unknown continent was inconceivable for him and for many of his generation.”
Then, get this: America was mistakenly named by map-maker Martin Waldseemüller who thought explorer Amerigo Vespucci discovered it. As Harari says, “There is poetic justice in the fact that a quarter of the world, and two of its seven continents, are named after a little-known Italian whose sole claim to fame is that he had the courage to say, ‘We don’t know.’”
Alright. Back to the Scientific Optimizing.
Today’s +1. 
Let’s throw on our lab coats and goggles and grab our clipboards. It’s time to run some experiments. 
In fact, let’s follow Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wisdom and make EVERYTHING an experiment.
btw: My hunch is you’re familiar with this quote: All life is an experiment. The more experiments the better.”
The full passage is even better. As Ralph says: “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”
So, my dear Scientifically-Experimenting-Ignoramus-Optimizer friend: What experiments have YOU run lately?
Let’s measure our little (and big) tests as objectively as we can—making the connection between the mundane things like “When I eat that, my nose gets stuffy” and “When I’m online late at night I sleep poorly and that diminishes my energy and optimism which makes me grumpy which slows down my actualization” to... Whatever else you need to shine the light of ignorance on!
Then, of course, we need to take that data and APPLY it to our lives. As Harari points out, it’s APPLIED scientific knowledge that leads to power. 
We can only gain new power by moving from *theory* to PRACTICE. 
So, my dear Scientifically-Experimenting-Ignoramus-Optimizer friend: What data have you gotten from recent experiments and, most importantly, how will you apply that knowledge to your life TODAY?
Here’s to your lab coat and clipboard. And don’t forget the goggles.
Aug 28, 2018
Wallace D. Wattles was an old-school Philosopher-Optimizer who wrote The Science of Getting Rich. He also wrote a little book called The Science of Being Great. (Both of those titles are, of course, finalists for best titles ever.)
In The Science of Being Great he has a great line that has been tattooed on my brain since I read it.
He said: The world needs demonstration more than it needs instruction.”
The world needs DEMONSTRATION more than it needs INSTRUCTION.
Isn’t that a powerful statement?!
(Kinda makes you wonder what you’re demonstrating, eh?)
For example, we know that kids don’t do what they’re told or taught, they do what they SEE. So, it’s pretty obvious we better model the behaviors we want to see in our kids if we want them to grow up to be great humans. 
All of which leads us to a little personal story—one from a couple months ago that features me in a (laughably) low moment in my parenting career. 
Short story: My dad cursed like a sailor. In fact, he literally WAS a sailor. (Hah.) He enlisted in the Navy when he turned 18 and his language was just astonishingly bad. (So bad he’d literally make my devout Catholic mom cry at times. I can laugh now but it wasn’t funny then.)
Anyway… I rarely curse and I’ve been committed to never cursing in front of the kids. So, I was particularly appalled at myself (laughing) when, on an evening when I was particularly tired and Emerson was acting particularly like a (tired) 5 year old, I got so annoyed by the meditation cushion (oh, the irony!) he dropped on my face when I wasn’t looking as I was laying on the ground playing with Eleanor that I got up, walked out of the room and mumbled in a voice considerably louder than I intended: “You’re such a little sh*t!”
What happened next?
Well, he was at the door and IMMEDIATELY said, “No! YOU’RE such a little s*it!”
Again, I can laugh as I type this as a) It’s been awhile and b) He had no idea what the word was and hasn’t repeated it since and c) I got some serious mileage on the "Needs Work! front but…
It was a really powerful opportunity for me to remember that the world needs DEMONSTRATION more than it needs INSTRUCTION.
All of which leads us to Today’s +1.
What are you demonstrating? 
Any behaviors that make you wince that you’d like to clean up and throw out? 
Let’s do this!
Aug 23, 2018
Today we’re going to talk about walking.
Walking is awesome. In fact, it’s so old-school epically awesome in helping thinkers think that our ancient friends even had a Latin phrase to capture its power: Solvitur ambulando. <- "It is solved by walking.”
Nietzsche would agree. He said: “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
Kierkegaard would agree. He put it this way: “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”
Then we have Immanuel Kant. He was so consistent with his daily walks that his neighbors could set their clocks to the time he passed their houses. (They even named a street after him called “Philosopher’s Walk.”) 
Then we have Charles Darwin. For nearly FORTY years he followed his schedule with “clockwork” precision. And, you know what made it on the schedule every day? His walk. He was so committed to it that he actually leased his neighbor’s land just so he could do a complete loop on what became known as Sandwalk (although he preferred to call it his “thinking path”).
Then there’s Aristotle. He and his followers walked so much as they thought and taught and philosophized that they were known as the “peripatetics”—which literally means “walking up and down.” 
Of course, modern scientists have proven just how powerful walking is for creativity. (Especially in nature!)
So, yah. Ancient and modern philosophers agree: Walking is pretty powerful. 
But, pop quiz!
You know what NONE of those philosophers had on their deep-thinking walks?
Of course, none of them lived in a world with such a nonstop tsunami of digital distractions but I can assure you that no self-respecting, deep-thinking lover of wisdom would bring a device that would subject them to OTHER people’s thoughts on a walk intended to tap into THEIR own thoughts.
… How about you?
Today’s +1.
Go for a walk. (Ideally somewhere easy to get to yet beautiful.)
And leave your smartphone at home. (Or in the car/whatever.)
Say hello to your deep thoughts for me.
Aug 18, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that batting .300 over the course of your Major League Baseball career gets you in the Hall of Fame.
Today we’re going to continue the baseball metaphor. 
Pop quiz for baseball fans: You know how many perfect games have EVER been thrown?! 
(For those who may not know, a perfect game is defined by Major League Baseball (via Wikipedia) as “a game in which a pitcher (or combination of pitchers) pitches for a victory [in a game] that lasts a minimum of nine innings in which no opposing player reaches base.”)
So… Get this: According to Wikipedia, Major League Baseball has been around for 140 years. Over 210,000 (!) games have been played. And only 23 (!) perfect games have ever been pitched. And… No player has ever thrown more than one perfect game.
140 years. 210,000 (!) games. Only 23 perfect games. 
And NO pitcher has ever done it twice.
Yet you and I want to have perfect lives. (Hahahahahhaha!)
I’m also reminded of John Wooden. He was all about GOING for perfection but only doing so KNOWING we’ll never actually get it!
Here’s how he puts it: “Perfection is what you are striving for, but perfection is an impossibility. However, striving for perfection is not an impossibility. Do the best you can under the conditions that exist. That is what counts.”
(Sounds a lot like our Guiding Stars and Distant Shores, eh?)
You know what else Wooden said? This: “When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.”
(Sounds a lot like our Optimize +1s, eh?)
And, one more Wooden gem (all of these are from his book called Wooden, btw): Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions. The correct question is: Did I make my best effort? That’s what matters. The rest of it just gets in the way.”
Today’s +1. 
Let’s make our best effort. 
Let’s “seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.”
+1. +1. +1.
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