Heroic with Brian Johnson | Activate Your Best. Every Day.

Heroic with Brian Johnson features the best big ideas from life-changing books and practical tools to help you move from Theory to Practice to Mastery and flourish in Energy, Work, and Love. Get more wisdom in less time so you can activate your best, every day—so that we can change the world, one person at a time, together, starting with you and me and us, today! (Learn more at
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Dec 31, 2019
This is Optimize +1 #1,000.
I don’t really know how to best start this one other than by saying: 
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Seriously. I am so honored to be a part of your life—whether that’s occasionally or every day. And I’m deeply grateful to have your support so I can do what I do.
Thank you.
Today I want to celebrate YOU.
I want to shine a special light of awesome on all of you heroically gritty Optimizers who have actually been with us for ALL 1,000 Optimize +1s. 
We’ve actually created a little virtual Hall of Fame. It’s time to induct our first wave of honorees. (If we missed you, sorry! Please let us know and we’ll retroactively add you!)
Ahem. Here we go…
charles agrusa
Kay Garkusha
Peggy Rakas
Nat Barcellini
Tricia Nelson
Jaya Chauhan
Hussein Jinnah
Jordan Bernard
Angèle Verrier
Judi Wearing
Khaled Sultan
Georgina Ingram
Hal Simonson
Angela Stokes
Gianni Bergandi
Solène Hyordey
Esther Ratsch
Abhay Gulmire
Ajay Panackal
Riccardo Gelmini
Soraia Kutby
Jason Simmonds
Bogdan Petrutescu
Matt Willcocks
Michael J Smith
Kippy Jo Berry
Candace Pollock
Sidney Hutter
Dennis Schvejda
Tony Vito
Ana Pichardo
Matt Ramsey
Steve Mortimer
Travis Thomas
Zack Feeney
Cheree Simons
Shane Starke
Deb Kronsberg
Shelly Auld
Stephen Stohler
Paulo Oliveira
Stephanie Martinez
Caron MacLane
Betsy Newlon
Dawn Hoffmann
Nancy Stahl
Candace Pollock
Mark Fischer
Kristie Kuehnast
Gieta Beckmann
Kat Bloom
Derrick Wulf
Luke Gilson
Daniel Keller
Pattie Beaven
Dennis Miller
Tim Brown
David Newman
Wendy Holt
Michael Balchan
Tara Bogdon
Dushan Bosotov
Carl Brenner
Bharat Singh
Lisa LaMont
Josée Boutin
Michele Herkimer
Katherine Long
Henry Mason
Cath Cooney
Kevin Stallmo
Ryan Phillips
Virginie Kidwell
Patrick Köhn
Jaya Chauhan
Catherine  Cullen 
Antonis Katsarakis
David Lee Jr 
Bud  Search
Brendan Malloy
Bruce Ollis
Helen Thorgalsen
Marta Ribas
Aygemang Clay
Geoff Downey
Kyle Abel
Win Callender
Arvind Gopal
Susie Berman
Jericho Robles
Lori Lang
Joe Goryl
Fernando Orta
Cheryl Wheeler
Aneesh Ghosh
João Alves
Ernest Wassmann
Stephanie Scott
Cathy Dodd
Kay Garkusha
Pam Holzapfel
Yohanse Manzanarez
Stephanie Criner
Susan  Benson
Genevieve  Jones 
Anne Dwane
Bill Turner
Andy Moriarity
Jonathan Schreter
Glen McNiel
Laurie Struck
Emmanuel Ryckeboer
Hayley  Schmidtke
Louise Soifer
Wendy Holt
Tania May
Summer  Teixeira
Randall Grayson
Blaine Hart
Jamie Erwine
Grace Christensen
Jill Young
Scott Miller
James Abney
Marie Anne Patenaude-Alexandre
Steve Medland
Tirth Pat
Alma-Jade Chanter
Julie Beck
Jeffry Myers
Ben Robins
Jason Deppen
Mark Davis
Carl Blackburn
Michael Metcalf
Mari Lynch
Laura Larsen-Strecker
Scott Miller
Mike Lange
Pamela Castillo
Diane Martin
Dec 26, 2019
In our last +1, we hung out with my two favorite Joes: Scholar of the Hero’s Journey (and Grandpa in my spiritual family tree) Joseph Campbell, and gritty heroic exemplar (and soul brother), Joe De Sena.
Today I want to spend a little more time with Joe De Sena.
Let’s open up his latest book The Spartan Way. Page 14.
He tells us: Through work and endurance racing I have come to know many people. Some of them were unforgettable. These great ones all shared the same core qualities. I call them the Spartan Core Virtues. Combine these qualities into one person and you have the ideal boss, the valuable employee, the perfect business partner, or comrade in any endeavor. Here’s a short description of each of the Spartan Core Virtues.
Self-Awareness: Know who you are and who you are not. If you don’t, you’ll be confused daily. 
Commitment: Stick to it because the world is filled with people who don’t. You’re better than
Passion: If you’re not passionate about what you do, you’re not going to be great at it. Take things seriously and learn to be passionate.
Discipline: Set your rules and stick to them. Be disciplined about it. 
Prioritization: Deal with the important things—important being what you define as
Grit: Get gritty. Break out of your comfort zone. Do the hard, scary shit. Find your passion and persevere.
Courage: This is the ability to stay focused and work relentlessly with both intensity and passion through virtually anything, especially through failure.
Optimism: See the world as you want it to be, not as it is. Be ever hopeful. 
Integrity: If you’re not honest with yourself and others, then what are you? 
Wholeness: Live the life of a complete and whole Spartan.”
There ya go. The Ten Spartan Core Virtues.
Repetition is the essence of mastery, so let’s go through them again. This time, if you feel so inspired and didn’t already do a quick inventory on how you’re doing with each, please do.
Self-Awareness + Commitment + Passion + Discipline + Prioritization + Grit + Courage + Optimism + Integrity + Wholeness.
So... What’s awesome? 
What needs work? 
What can (and will!) you start doing differently? 
Let’s remember: It’s ALL (!!!) about OPERATIONALIZING VIRTUE.
+1. +1. +1.
P.S. One of the things Joe and I joke about is that I’m his brother from Athens. (Hah.)
Embodying those Spartan virtues? 
Well… That, of course, is what Aristotle taught us when he said that the summum bonum (the highest good!) is to live with eudaimonia—to flourish by having a “good soul.” 
How do we do that? LIVE VIRTUOUSLY!! 
(Again, echo, the one-word summation of ALL of our work together? Areté. Express the best version of yourself moment to moment to moment and voila! Enter: Eudaimonia + a deep sense of flourishing.)
More on all that soon (and forever)…
Dec 21, 2019
Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness have written a couple great books together. First, they gave us Peak Performance. Then The Passion Paradox.
Today we’re going to talk about one of the central themes of The Passion Paradox. (Tomorrow we’ll chat about some goodness from Peak Performance.)
Except when it isn’t.
Enter: The Passion Paradox.
As Brad and Steve put it: “Mindlessly living with a passion can be extremely harmful and destructive. Mindfully living with a passion can be the key to a life well lived.”
They tell us that psychologists differentiate two types of passion by calling the unhealthy kind Obsessive Passion” and the healthy kind “Harmonious Passion.”
Obsessive Passion is toxic. It has two primary facets: 1. Focusing too much on extrinsic results (like fame, wealth, achievement, etc.); 2. Being too worried about failure.
Harmonious Passion, on the other hand, gives us a deep sense of joy. Whereas the toxic passion is focused on the pursuit of extrinsic rewards, the healthy passion is focused on intrinsic drivers.
As Brad and Steve put it: Enter harmonious passion: a feeling that emerges when you are wrapped up in something primarily for the joy of the activity, when your engagement is not merely a means to an end but rather an end in itself. Harmonious passion manifests mainly from activities that are freely chosen without contingencies; when you do something because you enjoy it, not because it offers potential rewards, and not to avoid negative repercussions. 
Not every moment of harmonious passion is necessarily pleasing, but overall, it is deeply fulfilling. It aligns closely with the ancient Greek notion of eudaimonia, or a kind of happiness that results not from overwhelming pleasure but from striving to meet one’s full potential by engaging in activities that one considers meaningful. 
In the 1970s, the late psychologist and humanist philosopher Erich Fromm wrote of something similar, which he called productive activity, where happiness isn’t related to the attainment of possession or rewards but rather to ‘the process of ever growing aliveness . . . for living as fully as one can is so satisfactory that concern for what one might or might not attain has little chance to develop.’ 
The great paradox, however, is that although external achievement is never a primary goal of harmonious passion, when you become completely immersed in what you’re doing for the joy of the activity itself, it is often a by-product. Those who focus most on success are least likely to achieve it. Those who focus least on success, and focus on the process of engaging in their craft instead, are most likely to achieve it.”
That’s Today’s +1.
First: Shout out for eudaimonia. :)
Second: Pop quiz: How’s YOUR passion?
Here’s to the Harmonious variety in which we seek mastery and experience the joys of mindfully embracing our passion—while letting the outcomes take care of themselves.
Dec 16, 2019
In our last +1, we did our best Boss impersonation as we reinterpreted our sweaty palms and racing hearts as a sign we’re EXCITED and READY TO GO rather than as a sign that something’s wrong.
When I read that passage in Marie’s book, I immediately thought of some parallel wisdom from Jon Eliot’s Overachievement.
Recall that Eliot is the guy who told us that we want to keep our V-12 engines and learn how to manage all that power rather than swap it out for a lawnmower engine. And, he told us that we want to be more like squirrels than Einstein when we get ready to perform.  
Here’s the passage I thought of as I read about the Boss’s Bossness.
Eliot tells us: “The physical symptoms of fight-or-flight are what the human body has learned over thousands of years to operate more efficiently and at the highest level. Anxiety is a cognitive interpretation of that physical response.”
That energy we feel when we’re about to perform? 
Eliot tells us we need to remember two more things: 
"1.   Everything that your body does to you when the pressure is on is good for performance...
  1. Pressure is different from anxiety; nervousness is different from worry.”
One more time: Everything is inherently empty of meaning. We get to CHOOSE the meaning we give to any and everything that’s happening to us. (Period!)
So, might as well choose the optimal response.
Excited about anything Today?
Me, too.
Let’s do this!
Dec 11, 2019
A few +1s ago, we had fun chatting about the starting and finish lines of my first business, eteamz. 
I mentioned that it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and we briefly discussed the fact that I’ve failed WAY MORE times than I’ve succeeded.
(btw. As a recovering fixed-mindset perfectionist, it was therapeutic for me to type that. Hah. Seriously.)
Today we’re going to remind ourselves to embrace the mis-takes and failures of life that INEVITABLY (and NECESSARILY!!) occur as we strive to do great things in pursuit of mastering ourselves in service to the world.
This gem is pretty epic and worth contemplating: “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”
Then there’s Adam Grant’s wisdom from Originals where he quotes Randy Komisar—one of the best entrepreneurs/investors alive: “Whether you’re generating or evaluating new ideas the best you can do is measure success on the kind of yardstick that batters use in baseball. As Randy Komisar puts it, ‘If I’m hitting .300, I’m a genius. That’s because the future cannot be predicted. The sooner you learn it, the sooner you can be good at it.’”
And… There’s Michael Jordan’s wisdom via Carol Dweck’s Mindset (one more time!): “Michael Jordan embraced his failures. In fact, in one of his favorite ads for Nike, he says: “I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots. I’ve lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed.” You can be sure that each time, he went back and practiced the shot a hundred times.”
As we look forward to 2020 and commit to making it the best year of our lives (and the start of the best DECADE of our lives!!) let’s reframe our mis-takes and failures as foundation-building fuel for our heroic quests.
Capitalize all those mistakes. Use the data wisely.
And, one more time: Give us all you’ve got.
Dec 6, 2019
We talk a lot about the futility of arguing with reality.
As Byron Katie so perfectly says, “When I argue with reality I lose. But only 100% of the time.” (Hah.)
Today we’re going to take another look at that wisdom from a slightly different angle.
We’ll invite a couple of modern Zen Masters to the party: Joko Beck and Phil Jackson.
We’ll start with legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson’s wisdom. In his book Sacred Hoops, he tells us: “In Zen it is said that the gap between accepting things the way they are and wishing them to be otherwise is ‘the tenth of an inch of difference between heaven and hell.’ If we can accept whatever we’ve been dealt—no matter how unwelcome—the way to proceed eventually becomes clear. This is what is meant by right action: the capacity to observe what’s happening and act appropriately, without being distracted by self-centered thoughts. If we rage and resist, our angry, fearful minds have trouble quieting down sufficiently to allow us to act in the most beneficial way for ourselves and others.”
Thank you, Phil.
Now for Joko Beck. In Everyday Zen, she tells us: “If we require that life be a certain way, inevitably we suffer—since life is always the way it is, and not always fair, not always pleasant. Life is not particularly the way we want it to be, it is just the way it is. And that need not prevent our enjoyment of it, our appreciation, our gratitude.”
That’s Today’s +1.
When/if we find ourselves a little (or a lot annoyed) Today—whether that’s with our kids or our colleagues or ourselves—let’s see if we can step back and notice the gap between what’s happening in the moment and what we want to be happening in the moment.
That tenth of an inch?
Let’s close it.
-1. -1. -1. for the +1 win!
P.S. If you’re getting all crazy-ragey? Well, you just fell into a mile-long chasm between reality and your fantasy of what should be happening. Good news? Just snap your fingers, love what it is and that gap magically vanishes.
Nov 26, 2019
In our last +1, we spent some time with Todd Herman, Batman, Dora the Explorer and YOUR most heroic self.
Today we’re going to connect all that goodness to wisdom from the classic peak-performance book The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey.
Here’s how he puts it: “‘Asking for qualities’ describes the other kind of role-playing. When introducing this idea, I usually say something like this: ‘Imagine that I am the director of a television series. Knowing that you are an actor that plays tennis, I ask if you would like to do a bit part as a top-flight tennis player. I assure you that you needn’t worry about hitting the ball out or into the net because the camera will only be focused on you and will not follow the ball. What I’m mainly interested in is that you adopt professional mannerisms, and that you swing your racket with super self-assurance. Above all, your face must express no self-doubt. You should look as if you are hitting every ball exactly where you want to. Really get into the role, hit as hard as you like and ignore where the ball is actually going.”
“Asking for qualities.”
That’s one of Gallwey’s three practices for communicating with what he calls Self 2—which is basically your Optimus-best self that innately knows how to crush it if we’d simply get out of our own way. 
(The other two practices? Letting go of judgments and the art of creating images of the outcomes you want to see.)
Today we’re going to walk onto the set of the movie that is our lives.
You’re the star. (Go you!)
(Well, technically, we’re ALL just bit players in the game of life so perhaps we should adopt that view, eh?)
What roles are you playing these days? 
(Perhaps you can use the Big 3 Identities for Energy + Work + Love.)
How would you show up in your life if you acted like a top-flight pro in your given field, adopted professional mannerisms and did your thing with super self-assurance—with no doubt and pure confidence?
How would you walk, talk, breathe and be if you were acting like the best possible version of yourself? 
Be that.
And let’s watch our performance (and enjoyment) soar.
Nov 21, 2019
In our last +1, we revisited Ellen Langer at her “Psychology of Possibility” lab at Harvard to learn that words matter. 
As you may recall, simply priming people with words associated with old age (via a crossword puzzle!) will cause them to walk more slowly to the elevator than those who weren’t primed with those words.
*rubs eyes*
One more time: Astonishing, eh? 
One more time: WORDS MATTER. A lot.
Langer shares that study and wisdom in her book Counterclockwise in a section in which she also talks about “placebos” and other truly fascinating studies.
Here’s how she puts it: “When we see mind and body as parts of a single entity, the research on placebos takes on new meaning and suggests we can not only control much of our disease experience, but we may also be able to extend our ability to gain, recover, or enhance our health.
Placebos often come in the form of a single word that captures a richer mindset. In one study I conducted with my students, we explored the mindset most of us have regarding excellent vision air force pilots have. All participants were given a vision test. One group of participants were then encouraged to role-play ‘air force pilots.’ They dressed the part and, in uniform, sat in a flight simulator. They were asked to read the letters on the wing of a nearby plane, which were actually part of an eye chart. Those participants who adopted the ‘pilot’ mindset, primed to have excellent vision, showed improved vision over those who were simulating being in the simulator and simply asked to read an eye chart from the same distance.”
Just having people pretend that they’re air force pilots can improve their vision?
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s YOUR “single word that captures a richer mindset”?
Let’s pop that mantra-placebo word all day Today.
And, if you feel so inspired, why not even dress the part as well?
Nov 16, 2019
Geoff Colvin’s Talent Is Overrated is a great book.
It falls into the “Effort Counts Twice” / Deliberate Practice bucket of how to reach our Peak via Grit, etc.
It’s packed with great stories about, as per the sub-title of the book: “What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.”
(Here’s a short hint to the answer: “No matter who they were, or what explanation of their performance was being advanced, it always took them many years to become excellent, and if a person achieves elite status only after many years of toil, assigning the principal role in that success to innate gifts becomes problematic, to say the least.”)
(Note: That doesn’t mean Talent Is IRRELEVANT, just OVERRATED when compared to extraordinarily hard work. Again: See Effort Counts Twice for Angela Duckworth’s math on the subject!)
Today I want to share one of my favorite stories from that book.
Here it is.
Colvin tells us: “A study of figure skaters found that sub-elite skaters spent lots of time working on the jumps they could already do, while skaters at the highest levels spent more time on the jumps they couldn’t do, the kind that ultimately win Olympic medals and that involve lots of falling down before they’re mastered.”
(Aha! Stretching out of our comfort zones into our stretch zones (but not into our panic zones!) for the win!)
Colvin then tells the story of Shizuka Arakawa, who won the gold medal in figure skating at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. 
As you may know, she rocked some crazy move called “a layback Ina Bauer” — which basically required her to bend backward “almost double with the feet pointing in opposite directions — leading into a three-jump combination.”
You can watch her gold-medal winning performance here
(Note1: The move we’re talking about occurs at the 1:45 mark.)
(Note2: If you aren’t moved to tears of joy as you watch such a beautiful expression of human excellence then…. well… I don’t know what to say other than rewatch it?!)
Now…. When most of us watch something like that it simply looks IMPOSSIBLE to do. (And, for most of us, it pretty much is.
But… As we watch that performance in AWE, we would be wise to remember that Shizuka, who won the gold at twenty-four, had been training for NINETEEN years. 
NINETEEN years!! 
Consistently pushing her edges. 
Falling down again and again and again...
In fact, Colvin calculated the number of times she probably fell and says: “Landing on your butt twenty thousand times is where great performance comes from.”
And… That’s Today’s +1.
Ineffably elegant grace?
It’s the by-product of being willing to inelegantly fall on your butt (on cold ice, no less!) 20,000 (!!) times.
Olympic cameras back on you.
Let’s cruise back into our respective metaphorical ice-skating rinks to train like world-class performers as we wear our falls like medals and remember this parting wisdom from Colvin: The evidence offers no easy assurances. It shows that the price of top-level achievement is extraordinarily high. Perhaps it’s inevitable that not many people will choose to pay it. But the evidence shows also that by understanding how a few become great, anyone can become better. Above all, what the evidence shouts most loudly is striking, liberating news: that great performance is not reserved for the pre-ordained few. It is available to you and to everyone.”
Nov 11, 2019
The other day I found myself re-reading our Notes on Christopher McDougall’s great book Natural Born Heroes.
Although we’ve talked (many times) about the fact that the ancient word for hero literally meant “protector,” I realized that (somehow!) I’ve never shared McDougall’s brilliant wisdom that catalyzed my emphasis on the whole idea of all of us becoming modern heroes.
Let’s take a quick look at how McDougall so wisely puts it.
He tells us: And what Plutarch taught them is this: Heroes care. True heroism, as the ancients understood, isn’t about strength, or boldness, or even courage. It’s about compassion.
When the Greeks created the heroic ideal, they didn’t choose a word that mean ‘Dies Trying’ or ‘Massacres Bad Guy.’ They went with hērōs—‘protector.’ Heroes aren’t perfect; with a god as one parent and a mortal as the other, they’re perpetually teetering between two destinies. What tips them toward greatness is a sidekick, a human connection who helps turn the spigot on the power of compassion. Empathy, the Greeks believed, was a source of strength, not softness; the more you recognized yourself in others and connected with their distress, the more endurance, wisdom, cunning, and determination you could tap into.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Heroes care.
It’s that simple.
As aspiring modern heroes, we demonstrate that love and compassion by building the strength for two.
For whom do YOU aspire to have strength?
How will you build just a little more strength Today?
How can you use the strength you have in service to the world just a little more Today?
Modern Hērōs unite!!
Let’s do this.
Nov 6, 2019
As we’ve discussed, a mantra is literally “a tool of the mind.”
By repeating a mantra over and over and over again (spiritual teachers say!), it takes hold in our subconscious and subtly shapes our mind.
Eknath Easwaran is a huge fan and advocate of mantras. He sold me on their power years ago and I’ve experimented with many but I haven’t really found one that stuck. 
Until now…
I think I might have found my new go-to mantra.
Here it is: Thank you.”
As in: “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”
Followed by: “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”
Followed up by: “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”
Especially when you find yourself triggered by something (or someone).
“Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”
“Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”
“Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”
It’s kinda weird what happens when I do that.
I go from feeling stressed/annoyed/whatever to feeling truly GRATEFUL.
I don’t even have to do anything other than kickstart the mantra. After a few reps, my mind comes up with things for which I can be grateful in the midst of whatever might be challenging me.
Gratitude just kinda bubbles up. 
Bubbles of gratitude like: “Thank you for the challenge itself—which is giving me the opportunity to actually practice these ideas.” “Thank you for all the amazing things you have done for me, o’ person who is currently pushing my buttons.” Etc. Etc. Etc.
It’s almost weird how powerful it is. 
Perhaps that’s why Meister Eckhart once said: “If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Nov 1, 2019
Not too long ago, we talked about Sleep Curfews. Five of them, to be precise. 
One for Caffeine. Another for Exercise. Plus Eating. Plus Screens. Plus Work.
As you may recall, Caffeine has a half-life of 5 to 6 hours so try to cut back on that by around noon or 2 or whatever you find works best for you. 
Exercise late in the day gets your core temperature all jacked up when it should be mellowing out, so aim for at least 3 hours before bedtime. (And, remember that exercise also gives you a 12-hour mood boost so might as well pop a happy pill early in the day, eh?)
Eating was a fun one. The standard advice is to eat at least 2 hours before bedtime. (And def don’t snack right before/in the middle of the night.) Want to go gonzo with the glymph? Eat at least 4 (FOUR!) hours before bedtime. 
Then we have Screens. Again, turn off the screens AT LEAST an hour before bed. More if you’re feeling it.
Finally, we had a Work “shut-down complete” target. We left that one up to you and I said mine was no later than 5:00 pm.
Today I want to add a new curfew. Let’s call it the Stress Curfew.”
I violated this one the other day and, as I found myself wide awake (over)thinking in the middle of the night, I vowed to use the data as wisely as possible to recommit to some bright lines as I Optimized. (I almost gave myself a mistake-learner’s high I was so buzzing.) (Almost.) (lol)
Technically, you could say I violated BOTH my digital sunset Screen Curfew AND my shut-down complete Work Curfew when I was using Alexandra’s phone to work on a (somewhat intense) business issue way past my normal 5:00 pm curfews. 
Now, it was only 6:45 pm when I put down the phone but that’s an hour before I usually go to bed (laughing at myself; who does that?) and a couple/few hours later than I usually do that kind of work so my brain was hopping WAY (!) more than it usually is that late in the day.
Enter: That poor night of sleep and a poor Oura readiness score to show for it. 
Good news: I rebounded from the 83 readiness score to back-to-back 95’s with an even deeper appreciation for just how much the seemingly little things matter. (Marginal gains!!)
The lesson for me: There are VERY few things that are that important that they can’t wait until the next day to be addressed. And… I’m MUCH more likely to be able to solve them wisely when I’m well-rested. THEREFORE, honor your curfews, yo!
That’s Today’s +1.
Do YOU have a Stress Curfew?
(Should you?)
Oct 31, 2019

Agency. It’s one of my favorite words and psychological concepts (and a cornerstone of our Optimize Coach program). So, when I saw this book I immediately got it and read it and here we are. Paul Napper and Anthony Rao are leading consultants and clinicians (who have both held academic positions at Harvard Medical School). In their great book, they define agency as “the ability to act as an effective agent for yourself—reflecting, making creative choices, and constructing a meaningful life.” Then they provide practical, scientifically-grounded wisdom on, as per the sub-title of the book: “The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms.” In this Note, we take a quick look at the 7 principles and shine a spotlight on the first 3 with a focus on how we can Optimize our agency TODAY!!

Oct 27, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about A World Without Heroes and the fact that A hero sacrifices for the greater good. A hero is true to his or her conscience. In short, heroism means doing the right thing regardless of the consequences.”
Then we challenged ourselves to choose THIS DAY (!) to be one of them.
Today we’re going to talk about some more brilliant metaphorical wisdom from Brandon Mull’s wonderful storytelling mind.
Quick context: In Beyonders, our main characters gets transported to another world. In that world, an evil Emperor reigns. Few people have chosen to stand up to the Emperor. Those who look like they might be significant threats are harassed and, if they’re lucky, get invited to a place called Harthenham to enjoy the “Eternal Feast.”
Basically, this is a place where you have ZERO issues. A place where you can enjoy all the most indulgent foods and pleasures you can imagine—where you have no worries at all and can literally live better than a king who has to worry about his kingdom.
When presented with an invitation to Harthenham, many heroes give up their quest and cash in their ticket to the Eternal Feast—where they proceed to waste away the rest of their lives.
I’ll save the spoiler alert about what happens with our young hero. Today we’ll focus on the brilliant metaphorical representation of OUR desires to get to a place where WE have no further toil or challenges. 
The Eternal Feast.
(Doesn’t that sound scrumptiously inviting?!)
We have a word for that. 
(Thanks, Phil + Barry!)
Wouldn’t it be so amazing to no longer have to work so.darn.hard?
No more bills to pay. Kids to feed. Laundry to fold.
No more (often) overwhelming creative challenges. Or health issues. Or, well, ANY problems at all?
Wouldn’t that be SO NICE?!
Insert: Laughter.
Plus: More laughter.
Reminder: We will NEVER (!) be exonerated from challenges.
And, the sooner we get that fact (and remember it when we forget it) the faster we’ll reduce the “Resistance” part of the “Suffering = Pain x Resistance” equation as we get back to practicing the ancient art of acquiescence and the modern art of loving what is.
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s reject our invitation to the Eternal Feast.
And get back to serving the greater good.
(And tomorrow. And…)
Oct 25, 2019

Ryan is one of my absolute favorite writers and I'm excited to sit down with him to chat about his latest book, Stillness is the Key. One of the testimonials in the front of the book perfectly captures my sentiment. Screenwriter and director Brian Koppelman (Rounders, Ocean’s Thirteen and Billions) puts it this way: “I don’t have many rules in life, but one I never break is: If Ryan Holiday writes a book, I read it as soon as I can get my hands on it.”

Oct 22, 2019
Not too long ago we talked about the fact that the word prosperity literally means “to go forward with hope.” 
Then, as you may recall, I challenged us to take some time to create a prospectus that inspires us to invest in the project that is our masterpiece lives such that we consistently MOVE FORWARD WITH HOPE.
I realized that this is pretty much exactly what we’re trying to do with our Coaches on a daily, micro-prospectus level via something we’re calling “Carpe Diem” journaling. 
Carpe Diem
Seize the day!! 
Create a micro-prospectus. 
Well, one way is via The Big 3 (x 2): Energy + Work + Love (x Identity + Virtues + Behaviors).
In (very) short: 
Identity: Who are you at your Optimus best Energy + Work + Love-wise? 
Virtues: What virtues do you embody as you express your best in each of those Identities? 
Behaviors: What’s ONE thing that best version of you would do TODAY Energy + Work + Love-wise? 
That’s it. #carpediem
You can do the whole thing in a minute by writing 9 words. Or, you can spend a few more minutes if you feel so inspired.
Super simple micro-prospectus.
Today. Tomorrow. The day after that. 
Stoke the fire of hope.
(btw: We’ll be unpacking this whole process a LOT more in our upcoming Mastery Series. For now, here’s a little one-page journal sheet you can play with. And, here’s Michael showing you how to rock it.)
Oct 18, 2019

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

Oct 17, 2019
One of the core themes of our work together (in these +1s and in our Coach program, etc.) is the power of constantly (!) experimenting as we find little ways to Optimize. 
All day. Every day. 
(Again.) (And again.) (And again!)
All done with a big eudaimonically joyful smile—as if we’re playing the greatest game ever created. (Which, of course, we are.)
We’ve called it a bunch of things. 
In a business environment, the whole idea of kaizen is super popular. (Kaizen is Japanese for “improvement.” … Synonymous with “Optimize”?)
While Tony Robbins calls it “CANI!” (As in “Constant And Never-ending Improvement.”)
I’m riffing on that basic theme during our fundies session on Sleep—reminding us all of the power of chipping away and looking for marginal gains as we have fun with the whole CANI thing.
Only, I suggested we swap out the “I” for “E” and make it “Constant And Never-ending EXPERIMENTING” (rather than “Improving”).
I then made the (weak) suggestion that perhaps we could pronounce it: CAN-EE! 
To which Michael Balchan (my right-hand guy with our Coach program) playfully suggested we call it “CANOE!” (short for “Constant And Never-ending Optimizing Experimentation”) as he made some side-to-side canoeing motions.
To which I said, “PERFECT!”
Constant And Never-ending Optimizing Experimentation.
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s one little experiment YOU can run Today?
Let’s grab our CANOEs and hop in the Optimizing River of Flexibility
Oct 12, 2019
In one of our very first Notes, we took a quick look at Brendan Brazier’s The Thrive Diet
I read the book when it came out nearly a dozen years ago. Loved it. Then Brendan and I met at an event, became friends, etc.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to be a high-performance plant-based athlete/human, I think you’ll enjoy Brenden and his work. He’s a former professional endurance athlete and the formulator (and cofounder) of the Vega nutrition brand.
Today we’re going to chat about one of my favorite Ideas from his book.
It popped into my head during the Q&A with our Coaches after our session on Sleep as we discussed having curfews on our caffeine while remembering the fact that when we routinely get less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep we DOUBLE (!) our risk for cancer. 
First, here’s the wisdom from Brendan: “I consider coffee drinking an uncomplementary stress. I view it as a form of credit, similar to shopping with a credit card. You get energy now that you don’t actually have, but you pay for it later—when the ‘bill,’ or fatigue, hits. (Simply drinking more coffee to put off the inevitable is like paying off one credit card with another: It will catch up with you sooner or later.) You’ll most likely pay a high interest rate as well, needing more time to recover than if that energy had not been borrowed in the first place. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle.”
Let’s call that “Borrowed Energy.”
Now, let’s connect that to the Matthew Walker gem we keep on talking about: “Two thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep. I doubt you’re surprised by this fact, but you may be surprised by the consequences. Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer.” 
You know what MOST of those two-thirds of adults who aren’t getting enough sleep do to make up for the fatigue they almost certainly feel most days?
They (of course) BORROW ENERGY.
In the form of caffeine via coffee, sodas, tea, etc. And/or sugar, etc. 
It would be GREAT if we actually had a running tab on all the energy we’ve borrowed. Some super simple energy budgeting App like Mint for Energy. 
One glance and we can see how much more energy we borrowed Today and how high our interest rates are, etc.
Unfortunately (and this is TRULY unfortunate), we don’t.
Instead, we go on borrowing more and more and more energy. Day in and day out. Week in and week out. Month in and month out. Year in and year out. Decade in and decade out.
And then…
We don’t just continue to feel fatigue…
We double our risk of getting cancer and make ourselves unnecessarily vulnerable to all the other chronic illnesses we don’t want. 
Our debt is due.
And we run a vey high risk of paying a VERY steep price in the form of one of those dreaded chronic diseases that are currently plaguing our modern society.
Let’s remember that the vast majority of chronic diseases could be prevented with a few simple (fundamental!) lifestyle changes.
I repeat myself (yet again): One of the biggest levers we can pull?
Get a good night of sleep.
Stop borrowing so much Energy.
Pay down your Energy debt. Start building your Energy wealth portfolio.
(How will you +1 it, my Energized friend?!)
Oct 2, 2019
Today is, of course, October 2nd, 2019. 
Let’s hop in a time machine. 
Destination: 150 years ago: 1869. 
Cars don’t exist yet. Neither do phones. (Let alone a smartphone.) 
Imagine me sending this to you via telegram as we appreciate all the marvels of modern life.
150 years ago Today a great soul was born: Mohandas Gandhi.
Let’s celebrate by taking a moment to reflect on his iconic “Be the change you want to see” wisdom.
We’ll let another great soul who spent her life in India lead our reflection today.
As you may know, Mother Teresa once said: “If each of us would only sweep our own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.”
That’s about right, eh?
What change do YOU want to see in the world?
Are you BEING it?
Here’s to sweeping our front porches as we do our little part in making the whole world clean.
Sep 27, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we’ve been hanging out in our guts. (Good times!)
Surprisingly, that’s where we discovered 90% (!) of our serotonin and 70-80% (!!) of our immune systems.
Crazy, eh?
Today we’re going to spend another moment on the subject.
Get this: Although modern medicine pretty much ignores the gut as its standard of care focuses on alleviating symptoms rather than Optimizing systems, the idea that our guts play a central role in our well-being isn’t a new idea.
Let’s jump into a time machine and rewind the clock about 2,400 years. 
Destination: Ancient Greece. 
It’s time to meet the father of medicine: Hippocrates.
You know what he said? “All disease begins in the gut.”
Dr. Gundry echoes that wisdom and adds a little bonus gem (via The Longevity Paradox) where he tells us: “As Hippocrates famously and wisely said, ‘All disease begins in the gut.’ The good news is that all disease can be stopped there as well.”
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s ONE thing you KNOW you could be doing to Optimize your nutrition?
Is TODAY a good day to make that happen?
High fives.
Low fives.
Mid fives. (Right around the gut!)
Let’s do this!!!
Sep 17, 2019
Dr. Steven Gundry is Tony Robbins’ doctor. He’s a former world-class heart surgeon. These days he focuses on longevity.
His new book is called The Longevity Paradox. Sub-title: “How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age.” 
It’s fantastic. I highly recommend it. 
The main theme of the book is that our longevity, paradoxically, is driven by the most ancient parts of us—the bacteria and other “foreign” stuff living in our guts (and on our bodies). 
Today, I want to focus on one of the practical ideas from that book that might wind up being one of the most significant Optimizing levers I’ve pulled. (Ever.) (Seriously.)
It’s called Brain Washing.”
Short story. 
I’ve known for awhile that I should have my last meal earlier than I’ve been having it. Dr. Gundry finally sold me on why I should at least test what would happen if I ate my last meal FOUR hours before going to bed. 
Yes, four (!) hours before I go to bed. Now, I go to bed as early as 7:30 PM so that means I’m eating my last meal around 3:00 or so. 
It sounded absurd to me as well when I first contemplated it.
The data coming in so far is almost even more absurd. We’ll talk about that more in our next +1.
For now, let’s talk about glymph.
Ever heard of it?
Here’s how Dr. G puts it: “A few years ago, researchers discovered a system that allows cerebrospinal fluid (that clear fluid we tap when we stick a needle into your spine) to flow through the brain, cleaning out the spaces in between cells, just as lymphatic fluid does in the rest of your body. This is called the glymphatic system. To make room for the fluid to wash out your brain, your cells actually shrink in size when you are in deep sleep. This allows the full ‘brain wash’ process to go twenty times as fast when you are in deep sleep as when you are awake and helps explain why a good night’s sleep is so restorative. When you get an adequate amount of deep sleep, you literally wake up with a refreshed and rejuvenated mind that has been swept clean of junk and debris.”
We’ve all heard of our lymphatic system.
It’s an essential part of our immune system featuring a clear fluid called “lymph” that helps rid our bodies of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.
But... What about our glymphatic system?
I never really paid attention to it until I read this book. It’s a BIG deal.
Want to keep your brain all squeaky clean?
Well... It’s the glymph in our GLYMPHATIC system that’s responsible for getting rid of all the toxins, waste and other unwanted materials from our BRAINS.
Which kinda begs the question: How do we Optimize THAT process?
Back to Dr. G. He tells us: “The glymphatic system is most active during the specific stage of deep sleep that happens very early in the sleep cycle. And the glymphatic system, just like your digestive system, requires a great deal of blood flow. This means that if you eat too soon before going to bed, your blood will all flow to your gut to aid in digestion and will not be able to reach your brain to complete the all-important brain wash.”
He tells us that this “brain wash cycle” is probably the “single most overlooked and misunderstood aspect of neurodegenerative diseases.”
He also tells us that, luckily, there’s a simple solution: “Leaving as big a gap as possible between your last meal of the day and your bedtime.”
His specific recommendation? Again: Eat your last meal at least FOUR hours before you go to bed.
That’s Today’s +1.
Got glymph?
What time was YOUR last meal last night?
How can you Optimize that a little more Today?
-1. -1. -1. -1. 
Glymph for the win!
Sep 12, 2019
This morning I was doing my normal thing. In the process, I came up with a little insight I’m excited to share. 
First, the quick recap of what led to the insight.
Of course, my day started yesterday when I shutdown early the day before (4:00 PM; right after my every-Monday coaching call), hung out with the fam then went to bed super early (7:30 PM) and deliberately spent 10 hours in bed (getting 9 hours of sleep including 1 hour 24 min of REM sleep and 2 hours 23 min of deep sleep). Then I was up at 5:30 AM (I’m sleeping in these days, folks! lol) with an Oura readiness score of 95 (having fun gaming it). 20-min Meditation, 5-min Movement then AM1 Deep Work.
I started the Deep Work with our quick “Carpe Diem” journaling session—noting my Identities + Virtues + Behaviors for Energy + Work + Love. (Note: This practice is a cornerstone of our Mastery Series/Optimize Coach program. Aspiring Coaches need to log 200 days of Optimize Carpe Diem journaling as one of the requirements to get certified.)
Then I spent some time doing some strategic planning for 2020 and beyond.
That journaling looked something like this.
At the top I wrote Philosopher” (technically, I drew the Φ symbol to represent Philosopher). Then I wrote “Soul Force” then “Elegant Simplicity” then “Focus” then “Flow.”
(Note1: Every (!) time I write down “10,000” in the +1 column in 25 years, I imagine the 70-year-old version of me smiling and waving and saying, “Hi, this is Brian. Welcome back to another Optimize +1!” (That actually gets me misty just typing that, imagining the potential of us hanging out for that long.
Note2: If all goes as currently planned, we’ll share that +1 exactly 3 months after I turn 70 on August 22, 2044.)
Below that Body of Work goodness, I sketched out the three primary components of our biz as I currently see them.
These include what I call “Core Wisdom” which is basically the +1s, PNs, and 101s as articulated above in the Body of Work chart. I draw an arrow to infinity to represent my (current) plans to do those forever as the foundation of our work together. (And, so I can be like this guy.)
Then I draw a big “greater than” symbol (>) to represent the fact that all that “Core Wisdom” is going to be distilled into what I’m calling a “Mastery Series.” Imagine my absolute best stuff distilled into a “this will change your life” program that will, well, change your life. (lol)
Then I draw a “less than” symbol (<) to represent that all THAT energy goes into “Optimize Coach” to represent the fact that a select group of people will go through the Mastery Series and not only master the wisdom for themselves but use our Optimize protocol to Coach others on how to Optimize their lives. 
Ultimately, my sketch looks kinda like this:


But none of that is really the point of Today’s +1. (Although I do like sharing my thought process and I hope you enjoy it as well. I feel like we’re creating something together and I think it’s important to share my (often messy!) creative process as we have fun creating something awesome together.)
Below all THAT, I reminded myself of my/our Mission.
Change the world.
One person at a time. Together.
Starting with you and me.
Then I wrote down: “Elegant Simplicity” + “Fierce Consistency” + “Energized Tranquility” + “Operationalizing Virtue.”
I drew two venn circles. 
Next to the one on the left I wrote “ELEGANT SIMPLICITY.”
Next to the one on the right I wrote “PROFOUND SERVICE.”
And all THAT gets us to the point of Today’s +1.
After writing “PROFOUND SERVICE” I got up and cruised over to the dictionary. I was curious what profound” literally meant.
Do you know what the word means?
Apple Dictionary tells us that profound is an adjective that has a couple definitions:
1 (of a state, quality, or emotion) very great or intense: profound feelings of disquiet | profound social changes
2 (of a person or statement) having or showing great knowledge or insight: a profound philosopher
Those are interesting, but what I really wanted was the etymology of the word. It’s from the Latin profundus—which means “deep” and is made up of two little words: pro (before) + fundus (bottom). 
I literally laughed when I read that.
Profound. It means DEEP. As in “right before the bottom.”
The best part? 
I have a chat with Cal Newport scheduled for this afternoon. I can’t wait to tell him that Deep (PROFOUND!) Work is what allows us to engage in Deep (PROFOUND!) Service.
And THAT, my friend, is Today’s +1.
Let’s serve profoundly.
Sep 7, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about the Fundies and how (ahem) fundamental they are to our Optimizing and Actualizing. 
Be Present!
As I said, if I could whisper one thing in my younger self’s ear, I think it would be to MASTER those guys as I’m firmly convinced that when we get our PHYSIOLOGY properly Optimized, the rest tends to follow pretty smoothly via the super-strong connection we’ve created between our “normal” selves and our eudaimonic, Optimus-best selves.
Today I want to talk about another Idea from the Big Picture lecture on the subject.
Remember the Spinny Fingers we talked about back in the day?
Basic recap: Find a safe place to spin around and get yourself dizzy. Then do one of two things. 
First: After getting yourself nice and dizzy, stop spinning and start looking aimlessly around the room. Up over there. Down there. All around.
What happens when you have no central point to ground yourself? You get DIZZIER.
Shake that off. Then, if you feel so inspired, get yourself nice and dizzy again. 
Only this time, rather than aimlessly looking around, press your palms and fingers together in front of your face (like you’re praying) and STARE intently right at your fingertips.
What happens when you have a central point in which you can ground yourself? You IMMEDIATELY get balanced. Dizzy begone.
(Try it. It’s pretty cool.)
All of that brings us to the point of Today’s +1.
The next time you find yourself getting all dizzy by life, consider pausing and asking yourself three simple questions.
  1. What’s my #1 self-care habit? Am I honoring it or have I let it slip?
  2. What’s the #1 thing I could START doing that would have the most positive impact in my life?
  3. What’s the #1 thing I could STOP doing that would have the most positive impact in my life?
The #1s x 3
#1 Self-Care = ________________.
#1+ = ________________.
#1- = ________________.
I call those “Equanimity Anchors.”
How are yours?
Sep 2, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about lint on the projector’s lens and the fact that, as per Byron Katie, every perceived problem appearing ‘out there’ is really nothing more than a misperception within your own thinking.” 
As I imagined us all busting out a nice little cloth to clean up our own lens rather than trying to change things “out there,” I thought of another great spiritual teacher.
He lived a couple thousand years ago. In the land of Galilea. His name was Jesus.
You know what he said?
Well, in our Note on The Jefferson Bible, we flip open to the Bible, Matthew 7:3 where we find this eternally epic wisdom gem: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerst not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite! First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
That’s precisely it.
And, that’s Today’s +1.
See any “mote” in thy brother’s (or sister’s or spouse’s or child’s or colleague’s or…) eye?
Settle down. 
Look in the mirror.
Work on the beam in your own eye. 
(btw: For curious souls, a “mote” is “a tiny piece of a substance.” Think: Sawdust. A beam? It’s much bigger. Focus on that big thing in your own eye.)
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