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