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










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Now displaying: December, 2019
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.