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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 optimize.me.)
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Now displaying: 2020
Sep 13, 2020

I’m grateful for Robert Emmons. He’s dedicated the last three decades of his life to understanding the science of how to boost our well-being. In the process, he’s conducted ground-breaking research on the power of gratitude. In fact, he’s basically THE researcher we have to thank for understanding *just* how powerful gratitude journaling is.(He's also served as editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology.) I consider myself a reasonably grateful guy but this book has opened my eyes to JUST how powerful gratitude is. And, to just how important it is to DELIBERATELY PRACTICE it. Big Ideas we explore include: How to give yourself a 25% (!!!) boost in happiness, the top gratitude practices, the #1 obstacle to gratitude (and its remedy), and using challenges for grateful fuel!

Sep 12, 2020

This is our fourth Note on one of Ryan Holiday’s books. Ryan is one of my absolute favorite writers. 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.” (btw: Cal Newport’s the first testimonial. He says: “Some authors give advice. Ryan Holiday distills wisdom. This book is a must read.”) Penguin Random House sent me an advance copy of this book. As I knew it would be: It’s fantastic. Of course, the book’s packed with Big Ideas and I’m excited to share some of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!

Sep 12, 2020

I’m a big fan of Kelly McGonigal and her ability to help us apply scientific wisdom to our lives. We’ve covered two of her earlier books: The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress. So... When I got this book, knew I’d enjoy it. But, I didn’t anticipate JUST how much I’d love it. We have some great Notes on Movement (Spark, Spartan Up and No Sweat among my favorites), but Kelly’s book will be our new go-to for the science of WHY exercise/movement is so essential to our well-being. It’s PHENOMENAL. Reading about the SCIENCE behind stories of transformation (and how, as per the sub-title of her book: “Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage”) also made me that much more clear on the power of what we’re doing with all of our work and the importance of focusing so much on Energy (especially with our Mastery and Coach programs). Big Ideas we explore include: Hope Molecules (and how to create them), persistence highs (and how to create them), collective effervescence (and why it's so awesome), how we endure (hint: TOGETHER!), and OMMS!!! (Obstacles (literally!) Make Me Stronger!).

Sep 11, 2020

Get instant (free) access to my Notes on those Top 10 books AND 600+ other ones AND all 50 Optimal Living 101 classes AND 1,000+ Optimize +1s as part of our free 2-week trial: http://optimize.me/

Sep 11, 2020
Scott Barry Kaufman is one of the world’s leading positive psychologists.
 
We featured one of his earlier books called Wired to Create. So, when a bunch of our Optimizers recommended his new book called Transcend I was eager to get it. (Thank you!! Keep ‘em coming, please!)
 
It’s FANTASTIC.
 
In short, it’s an update on Abraham Maslow’s thinking—moving us beyond self-actualizing into the ULTIMATE realm of “transcending” ourselves in service to the world. Or, as Scott puts it in the sub-title to the book: “The New Science of Self-Actualization.”
 
It’s an important, wise book. If you’re into the science of Optimizing and Actualizing, I think you’ll love it as much as I did. Check out the Notes, get it, etc.
 
So…
 
I imagine we’ll talk about a number of Big Ideas from that book. Today I want to chat about one in particular. 
 
Have you ever heard of “The Jonah Complex”? I hadn’t before Scott introduced me to it. 
 
We meet Jonah in the Old Testament. God has big plans for him. 
 
But…
 
Jonah isn’t such a big fan of those big plans. 
 
So…
 
He tries to hide from God and avoid his destiny. 
 
Of course, important detail to the story: You can’t hide from God. (Hah!) 
 
So, eventually, Jonah accepts his fate and does what he’s here’s to do. 
 
Scott talks about this in a chapter on “Self-Esteem” in which he walks us through a nuanced discussion about what healthy ambition (and pride) looks like vis-a-vis the less healthy expression of ambition and pride that shows up in what psychologists call "vulnerable” and “grandiose narcissism.”
 
We’ll save that important, nuanced discussion for another time.
 
For now, here’s how Scott frames it in Transcend: “Maslow argued that in order to avoid punishment from society, the person ‘becomes humble, ingratiating, appeasing, even masochistic. In short, due to fear of punishment for being superior, she becomes inferior and throws away some of her possibilities for humanness. For the sake of safety and security, she cripples and stunts herself. . . . That is, she is evading the task for which she was born, so to speak. She is evading her destiny.’ Maslow refers to this as the ‘Jonah Complex,’ a phenomenon described by the historian Frank Manuel. This phrase is based on the biblical tale of Jonah who, out of fear, tries to run from God’s prophecy, but he can find no place to hide. Finally, accepting his fate, he does what he is called to do.”
 
He continues by saying: “So let me state this as clearly as possible: you may not be entitled to shine, but you have a right to shine, because you are a worthy human being. Changing your self-limiting narratives about your worthiness, asserting needs in a healthy way, overcoming your avoidance of fearful experiences, and taking responsibility for your behaviors—these actions strengthen and stabilize the vulnerable self. The great irony is that the less you focus on whether you are worthy and competent, and take that as a given, the greater the chances you will consistently accept your inherent worth.”
 
That’s Today’s +1.
 
Are you being called by God or whatever you call that power that’s bigger than you?
 
If yes, are you answering the call?
 
If not, are you quieting down long enough to hear that quiet voice?
 
As you’ve probably picked up by now, I believe we are ALL being called to shine.
 
So…
 
Let’s humbly yet powerfully answer that call as we overcome our avoidance of fearful experiences, take responsibility for our behaviors and take it as a given that we are worthy. 
 
Then go give our families, communities, and the world all we’ve got. 
 
When?
 
How about TODAY.
Sep 10, 2020

Larry King + James Pawelski interview link: https://the.positivevoices.com/live-audience-yes

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Sep 9, 2020

From Notes on Jim Afremow's Champion's Mind: https://www.optimize.me/philosophers-notes/the-champions-mind-jim-afremow/https://www.optimize.me/philosophers-...

“Take a minute right now to think about your performance when you did not believe a good or respectable outcome was possible but you still found a way to make it happen. There is beauty in being ugly but effective (UBE) or having a good bad day (GBD) while you are not at your finest. Keep your head in the game and grind it out.”

There’s a powerful beauty in being ugly but effective and having good bad days. UBE + GBD. This is big. If we want to cultivate truly intense trust in ourselves, we need to know that we can pull it together when things start falling apart. Jack Nicklaus called it playing poorly well. Afremow tells us Rory McIlroy calls it “scrappy golf.”

Step #1 to making that happen is to KNOW that you will have x bad shots per round. It’s the unhealthy perfectionists among us (*waving to my old self!*) who struggle with this the most— thinking they should be able to get thru the day P.E.R.F.E.C.T.L.Y. (but only every day) and that if they don’t, it’s a sign of something being inherently wrong with them. (Hah.)

We need to hold our high standards of excellence while embracing the constraints of reality that (tragically!) we will *never* be perfect. Then... when the inevitable bad shot comes along, rather than beating ourselves up, we simply say, “Aha! There’s a bad shot. I knew you’d sneak in at some point. No big deal. Back to work.”

So... How’s your ugly? Here’s to being ugly but effective and having good bad days! #UBE + #GBD!

Sep 9, 2020

William B. Irvine is a professor of philosophy at Wright State University. He’s also a fantastic (and prolific) writer. And… Unlike many of his academic, professor-of-philosophy peers, he is a practicing Stoic philosopher. In the words of Donald Robertson (another Stoic author and practitioner; see The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), he is both a librarian AND a warrior of the mind. We featured another one of Professor Irvine’s great books on Stoicism called A Guide to the Good Life. I enjoyed that one quite a bit but I REALLY (!) enjoyed this one. Like, jumbo loved it. In fact, I’m going to put this one right at the top of our growing collection of books on Stoicism—along with the must-read classics by Aurelius (Meditations), Seneca (Letters from a Stoic, On the Shortness of Life), and Epictetus (Discourses, Enchiridion) plus the modern classics like Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is the Way and The Daily Stoic. If you’re looking for “A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More Resilient,” I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Sep 7, 2020

Robert Biswas-Diener is known as the “Indiana Jones of positive psychology.” As per his bio, “his research has taken him to such far-flung places as Greenland, India, Kenya and Israel.” And, important note: “He is afraid of quicksand and snakes.” :) Robert is also the son of one of the leading positive psychology researchers: Ed Diener. We covered a book they wrote together called Happiness. This is basically the ONLY book on science of courage. It's fantastic.

Big Ideas we explore include defining the numerator and denominator of our Courage Quotient (hint: Increase your "willingness to act" and "ability to control fear"), courage's two flavors (general + personal), courage blindness (and how to heal it), the power of playing our roles well (choose a courageous one!), being willing to fail and playing to win.

Sep 6, 2020
Not too long ago, I mentioned the virtual Optimize Local Zoom group I joined. 
 
It was such an epic hangout. 
 
I’m still beaming from the download of Love (and Wisdom + Self-Mastery + Courage + …). 
 
Seriously. It VERY MUCH reminded me of the graduation weekend where I got to hang out with 500+ of our inaugural Optimize Coaches—which will always be a highlight of my life. 
 
There’s just something magical about getting together with people who share your values and are playing the same game with the same intense commitment to play it well. 
 
And, of course, as we’ve discussed many (!) times, the fastest way to Optimize your life ISN’T the Wisdom side of things per se. It’s the COMMUNITY side of things. Join a Community with super-high standards and BOOM!—the best you is more likely to join the party.
 
With COVID-19 taking over the world and creating the need for social distancing, we’ve pressed pause on our offline Optimize Local initiative. But… And I have goosebumps as I type this, we WILL be leaning back into that when the time is right. (I still can’t believe we had Optimizers from over 75 countries and 750 cities around the world who raised their hands to get involved.)
 
For now, you can join one of those virtual Optimize Zoom meetups by cruising over here.
 
But…
 
That’s not quite the point of this +1.
 
Today I want to chat about one of the little things that came up in our chat.
 
One of our beloved Coaches shared how her fundamentals slipped a bit when COVID hit and she felt it. Then her Optimize Buddy challenged her to get her step count back up. So, she re-started her morning walk-hikes. And it changed her life.
 
Then she wound up walking more and more and pretty soon she was, in her Optimize Buddy’s words, kicking his butt—and he loved it!
 
I can’t remember the exact number of steps she said she was getting but I do remember the fact that she shared a WEEKLY stat. I was struck by the fact that you could have fun measuring your steps by both the DAY and the WEEK.
 
Of course, it’s obvious when I type that out but I always thought of my 10,000+ steps per day and never really thought about it on a weekly basis other than looking at the average daily count over the last week that my Suunto watch shares with me.
 
So…
 
10,000 is our “go crush this!” target for our Coaches—which of course, is 70,000 steps/week. 
 
But, what’s a target a little beyond that?
 
I thought: 100,000 steps per week would be a pretty cool goal.
 
Then I wondered: What’s 100,000 divided by 7? 
 
Answer: 14,285.7
 
Suunto tells me that my current 7-day average number of steps is 18,794—which is a) pretty ridiculous (lol) and b) a reflection of just how much I love walking on our new Trail multiple times per day—it’s the PERFECT oscillating reboot.
 
So…
 
100,000.
 
Isn’t that a beautiful, round number?
 
Wanna go to the next level with your step count and movement throughout the day and join me?!
 
No pressure (seriously) as I know we all have different constraints in our realities and different things that fire us up.
 
AND…
 
Let’s remember this wisdom from Kelly McGonigal’s The Joy of Movement and make sure we’re on the right side of these stats: 
 
“In the United States, daily physical activity—as captured by an accelerometer—is correlated with a sense of purpose in life. Real-time tracking also shows that people are happier during moments when they are physically active than when they are sedentary. And on days when people are more active than their usual, they report greater satisfaction with their lives.
 
Other experiments in the U.S. and UK have forced moderately active adults to become sedentary for a period of time, only to watch their well-being wither. Regular exercisers who replace physical activity with a sedentary activity for two weeks become more anxious, tired, and hostile. When adults are randomly assigned to reduce their daily step count, 88 percent become more depressed. Within one week of becoming more sedentary, they report a 31 percent decline in life satisfaction. The average daily step count required to induce feelings of anxiety and depression and decrease satisfaction with life is 5,649. The typical American takes 4,774 steps per day. Across the globe, the average is 4,961.”
 
Here’s to the Wisdom of knowing that movement matters and the Self-Mastery to go out and practice our philosophy when it matters most… 
 
TODAY.
Sep 6, 2020

Donald Robertson is one of the world’s leading thinkers, writers AND practitioners of Stoic philosophy. He’s also a therapist who integrates Stoicism into his work with individuals. This is our second Note on one of his great books. The first Note was on The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in which he connects the philosophical underpinnings of CBT (one of the most empirically-validated, effective modern therapies) to ancient Stoicism. This book is part biography and part philosophy. It’s all awesome. If you want to know how to think like a Roman emperor, start here. I think you’ll enjoy the book as much as I did.

Sep 6, 2020

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Sep 5, 2020

Cal Newport is one of my favorite thinkers. He got his Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT and is now a Professor at Georgetown. He’s also a bestselling author of a number of books. Given the fact that the fastest way to Optimize your life is to STOP doing things that are sub-optimal AND the fact that (for nearly all of us) our use of technology is the #1 thing that “Needs work!,” it’s SUPER important for us to figure out how to best use all the technology available to us WITHOUT becoming lost in a tsunami of inputs. Enter: Our new philosophy of technology use: Digital Minimalism. Enter: My SUPER strong recommendation of the book and my ALL IN commitment to helping create a movement around the ideas in the book. As you know, I rarely say a book is a must read but this book is as close as it gets.

Big Ideas we explore include the fact that your soul is engaged in a lopsided arms race, a definition + overview of digital minimalism, the importance of spending time alone (and the consequences of *not* spending adequate time alone), reclaiming leisure (get active!) and joining the Attention Resistance. Here's to Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World!

Sep 5, 2020

Get first week of Optimize Coach FREE here: https://www.optimize.me/coach-module-o/

Note: 10 more days to join us for Class III!

Sep 4, 2020
Optimize Coach: https://optimize.me/coach (Join 2,000+ Optimizers from 70+ Countries!)
 
Imagine the absolute best wisdom from 600+ PhilosophersNotes, 1,000+ Optimize +1s, and 50 Optimal Living 101 classes distilled into ONE super-practical, 300-day program to help you fundamentally and permanently change your life.
 
That’s what we do in the Optimize Mastery Series + Optimize Coach program.
 
And… September 1st was the first day of Optimize Coach - Class III. (YES!!!)
 
We thought the best way to tell you about it and help you see if it might be a good fit for you was to share the first week’s curriculum and invite you to join in. So… Here’s Module O! Hope you enjoy!!
 
(You can download the beautiful worksheets and watch the Practice video walking through them at https://www.optimize.me/coach-module-o/)
 
Note: Our program is not just for people who want to become Coaches and/or take their Coaching practices to the next level. In fact, out of the 2,000+ people who have already gone through our program (from 70+ countries around the world!), HALF of them do it “just” to more and more consistently express the best version of themselves and give the world all they’ve got.
 
Sep 4, 2020

Trevor Moawad is a mental conditioning coach to elite performers. He is well known for being the mental coach to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and has worked closely with prestigious NCAA football programs and coaches, the US Special Operations community, Major League Baseball, and the NBA. This book is, as per the sub-title, all about “How to Think Neutrally and Gain Control of Your Life.” I loved it and, if you’re also equally fired up by the mental toughness in sports and life genre, I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Big Ideas we explore include neutral thinking (much better than positive or negative), goats and G.O.A.T.s, the law of substitution (focus!), the illusion of choice (if you’re REALLY ALL IN, there is no choice), and drawing a line in the dirt (and getting to it… again and again and again!).

Sep 3, 2020

BJ Fogg founded the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University. He is one of the world’s leading authorities on the science of behavior change. In this book, he introduces us to the core elements of his Fogg Behavior Model as we learn that habit change doesn’t need to be as hard as we make it. As BJ tells us: “We are not the problem. Our approach to change is. It’s a design flaw—not a personal flaw.”

Big Ideas we explore include the three elements that drive behavior (B = MAP!), the ABCs of Tiny Habits (Anchor + (Tiny) Behavior + Celebration!), the power of anchor prompts (After I (ANCHOR), I will (NEW HABIT), and the power of celebration (get your Shine on!).

Sep 2, 2020

Matthew Walker is one of the world’s leading neuroscientists and sleep experts. He’s a professor at UC Berkeley (and former professor at Harvard) who has spent decades studying why we sleep and how to, as per the sub-title of this book, unlock the power of sleep and dreams. As you know if you’ve been following along, I’m a HUGE advocate of Optimizing our sleep as a fundamental practice in Optimizing our lives. This book has made me EVEN MORE bullish about the power of sleep. The consequences of chronically depriving ourselves of the sleep we need? Well, they’re astonishingly devastating—dramatically increasing the odds of having everything from mood disorders to cancer (and everything else we don’t want).

Big Ideas we explore include the fact that you're more likely to get struck by lightning than have the gene that let's you get by on less than the recommended sleep, the universality of sleep (even worms sleep!!), resetting baselines, the iPad effect (did you know how much using one before sleep messes w/your melatonin?), and some tips to Optimize your sleep TONIGHT!!!

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