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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Jul 18, 2020
Admiral William H. McRaven is a Retired U.S. Navy SEAL who served for thirty-seven years and commanded at every level.
As a Four-Star Admiral, his final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. (During this time, he oversaw the covert mission that killed Osama bin Laden.)
In 2014, he gave the commencement address to the graduates of the University of Texas at Austin. Millions of people wound up watching his speech on ten lessons he learned from his Navy SEAL training. (You can watch it on YouTube here.)
He wrote a great little book expanding on those ten lessons. It’s named after the first lesson: Make Your Bed. (Joining 5,000+ 5-star Amazon reviewers, I HIGHLY recommend it. Get a copy here.)
We’ll talk about why that’s his #1 tip soon.
Today we’re going to talk about lesson #4: “Life’s Not Fair—Drive On!” in which we get introduced to the SEAL version of a sugar cookie. 
First, the wisdom. 
McRaven tells us: “It is easy to blame your lot in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe fate is against you. It is easy to think that where you were raised, how your parents treated you, or what school you went to is all that determines your future. Nothing could be further from the truth. The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness: Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, Malala Yousafzai, and—Moki Martin.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, you still end up a sugar cookie. Don’t complain. Don’t blame it on your misfortune. Stand tall, look to the future, and drive on!” 
Each chapter-lesson features some wisdom gained from McRaven’s SEAL training along with some stories to bring the point home.
This lesson features a story about him becoming a sugar cookie.
In case you don’t know what a SEAL sugar cookie recipe looks like, it goes something like this: Run into the pounding surf wearing your boots and gear. Get yourself soaking wet from head to toe. Then roll in the sand until every inch of your body is covered in sand. Then go on with your day cold, wet and sandy as you enjoy that sugar cookie.
McRaven tells us about a time when he was forced to do a sugar cookie. He couldn’t figure out what standard he failed to meet that resulted in the reprimand.
Here’s the dialogue with his instructor:
“‘Mr. Mac, do you have any idea why you are a sugar cookie this morning?’ Martin said in a very calm but questioning manner.’
“‘No, Instructor Martin,’ I dutifully responded.
‘Because, Mr. Mac, life isn’t fair and the sooner you learn that the better off you will be.’”
Imagine that. 
You do everything JUST right.
Bed’s made perfectly. Uniform is nice and crisp. 
You’ve rocked all your fundies and executed your business (or energy or relationship) strategy perfectly.
And, even after doing your best... 
You FAIL. 
Then what? 
Then we remind ourselves of the fact (!) that life’s not fair as we “stand tall, look to the future, and drive on!” 
btw: McRaven’s instructor in that story was a guy named Moki Martin. He was the quintessential super-fit, perfect specimen of a SEAL. Then he got in an accident while training for a triathlon. Paralyzed from the legs down. “For the past thirty-five years, Moki has been in a wheelchair. In all those years, I never once heard him complain about his misfortune in life. Never once did I hear him ask, “Why me?’ Never once did he display an ounce of pity for himself.”
Here’s to embracing the inevitable sugar cookies life serves up as we, one more time: “stand tall, look to the future, and drive on!” 
Jul 13, 2020
Today we’re going to go back to Jim Kwik and his great book Limitless one more time.
One of the key themes of the book is that we all have a unique blend of background and passions and skills.
He echoes the wisdom we talked about in a +1 back in the day featuring wisdom from Ken Robinson in which Ken tells us that the right question isn’t “Are you intelligent?” but… “HOW are you intelligent?
Jim tells us that we’re all unique and that our challenge is to discover our special combination of awesome that makes us shine.
Then he quotes Albert Einstein who once said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.”
And that’s Today’s +1.
Let’s quit asking ourselves whether or not we’re intelligent.
(And so are your kids and colleagues and, well, everyone else you’ll interact with Today.)
The question is: HOW are you intelligent?
How are you intelligent?!
Think about ONE thing you do REALLY well. Perhaps SO WELL that you take it for granted.
Let’s take that gift AS granted and go double down on it.
T O D A Y.
Jul 8, 2020
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that, if we could figure out how to take 30 EXPONENTIAL steps, we’d be able to hop in a rocket and go around the Earth two DOZEN times.
Rather than get 90 feet down the street, we’d get a few BILLION steps further in our joyful jaunt around the Earth.
That’s crazy.
And, well, that’s the power of aggregating and compounding seemingly small changes that can have huge impacts on our lives as we watch the magic exponentially grow.
I LOVE all the metaphors we can use to think about the power of just showing up again and again and again.
We’ve talked about the doubling penny, collecting coins, melting ice cubes, hitting the rock, figuring out combination locks, and rocking marginal gains.
Obviously, the metaphors are just metaphors but they all make the same primary point: It’s all about CONSISTENCY.
We need to show up again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and …
Which is why I was so fired up to make a little distinction while I was preparing for our Mastery Series session on Work in our Module on Carpe Diem.
The basic theme of the class is how to create “Genius Work vs. Mediocre Work.”
(I’ll save the details on that distinction for another +1.)
As I was preparing for the class, I knew I was going to focus on the equation we’ve been talking about lately:
Astonishing Work = Time x (Energy x Focus x What’s Important Now)
or: T x (E x F x W.I.N.)
Then I had a wonderful epiphany.
I added a little C right at the end of that equation.
Like so: T x (E x F x W.I.N.)c
A choir of angels began to sing as I thought through the implications of the new, Optimized equation: Genius Work = Time x (Energy x Focus x What’s Important Now)Consistency
I quickly made some notes.
If your Energy is a 100 and your Focus is a 100 and you’re working on a 100-Level Important thing you’d get 1 million points of awesome. 
That’s 1,000 (!) times more awesome than if your Energy, Focus and WIN was at a 10.
Get this.
If we believe CONSISTENCY is an exponential force multiplier, then we’d be better off plodding along at the lower numbers but at least doing so consistently.
Get this.
Although (100 x 100 x 100) is 1,000,000 points of awesome, we’ve gotta know that if we get a ZERO in the consistency score then (100 x 100 x 100)0 = ZERO.
Whereas, although (10 x 10 x 10) is only 1,000 points of awesome, we’ve gotta know that if we get a ONE HUNDRED in the consistency score then (10 x 10 x 10)100 = a HUGE number. It almost breaks the calculator coming in at 1e+300. ← That’s a 1 followed by THREE HUNDRED Zeros.
Now, here’s the kicker.
What do you think would happen if we were able to get ALL of our variables up to a 100?
Our Energy is a 100.
Our Focus is a 100.
Our W.I.N. is a 100.
Our Consistency is a 100.
What’s 1,000,000 to the power of 100?
Can you guess?
Answer: It’s INFINITY.
And, that’s Today’s +1.
Want to have fun seeing just how Limitless you can go?
Get your Energy Optimized. Get your Focus Optimized. Get your ability to focus on What’s Important Now Optimized.
And then go do it CONSISTENTLY.
Starting Today.
+100 +100 +100 to the 100th power.
Jul 3, 2020
Continuing our brief foray through Jim Qwik’s brain and book, let’s talk about the power of getting into Flow.
Jim tells us that being able to flip the switch and drop into a powerful Flow state is one of the keys to tapping into our (Limitless!!) superpowers.
He quotes Steven Kotler in The Rise of Superman to make his point.
Here’s how Steven puts it: “To put it another way: flow is the telephone booth where Clark Kent changes clothes, the place from where Superman emerges.”
I LOVE that image of Clark Kent stepping into the phone booth of Flow and coming out as Superman.
Reminds me of this +1 on Clark Kent flipping the switch and striking a power pose to get his Superman on.
As I read this passage (and chapter from Limitless), I was reminded of our recent +1 on our new Astonishing Work Equation
Recall, if we want to REALLY crush it, we’d be wise to focus on three variables: 
Astonishing Quality Work = Time x (Energy x Focus x W.I.N.)
I made the point that, math wise, if your Energy is at a 10 and your Focus is at a 10 and you’re working on the 10 What’s Important Now task, you can work ONE hour and still get a 1,000 on the Astonishing Quality Work scale.
If your Energy is at a 1 and your Focus is at a 1 and you’re working on a 1-level What’s Important Now task, you’d have to work 1,000 (!) hours to match your Astonishing Quality Work score.
You know what? That’s actually not even accurate.
The reality is, when we’re REALLY plugged in, we can create at levels that are simply IMPOSSIBLE to create at in any non-awesome state.
As such, I think we should swap out our 1 to 10 scale for a 1 to 100 to make the point even more powerfully.
On a 1 to 100 scale, if your Energy is at a 100 and your Focus is at a 100 and you’re working on the 100 What’s Important Now task, you can work an hour and get 1 MILLION Astonishing Work points.
Drop your Energy to a 10 and your Focus to a 10 and your W.I.N. to a 10 and your 1,000 is 1/1000th of what you could have done.
That’s about right.
Today’s +1.
How’s your SuperFlow Math looking these days?
What’s working Energy + Focus + W.I.N.-wise?
What needs some work?
And what can will you do to Optimize?!
Here’s to stepping into the telephone booth of Flow and tapping into our Superpowers.
Jun 28, 2020
In our last +1, we had some fun playing with Cal Newport’s Deep Work equation. We modified it from: 
  • High Quality Work Produced = Time Spent x Intensity of Focus
  • High Quality Work Produced = Time Spent x Quality of Energy x Intensity of Focus
The basic idea: You can get a TON of high quality work produced when you Focus your best Energy.
Today I want to add one more variable to our equation and then do some quick math to bring the point home.
Let’s go back to that last sentence and drop in another variable.
The basic idea: You can get a TON of high quality work produced when you Focus your best Energy on WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT NOW.
Think about it.
If we have GREAT Energy and we focus that like a laser beam on what’s truly most important right now? 
And then we write some algorithms to make THAT our default so we’re accreting more and more value day in and day out?
We can create at an astonishing level. 
Enter the latest edition of our equation:
  • Astonishing Productivity = Time Spent x (Quality of Energy x Intensity of Focus x W.I.N.!)
Now, let’s do some math to bring the point home.
For the sake of very round numbers while recognizing it’s much more nuanced than this, let’s say your Energy is at a 10. Your Focus is at a 10 and you’re working on a 10-level most important thing.
That part of the equation would be 10 x 10 x 10 = 1,000.
Note: You could spend ONE hour working like that and achieve a 1,000 score on the Astonishing Productivity scale. (Go you!) (Reminds me of our +1 on The 1-Hour Workday. nerd face)
Now, to play with the other side of the spectrum, let’s say your Energy is at a 1, your Focus is at a 1 and you’re working on a 1-level of importance.
That part of the equation would be 1 x 1 x 1 = 1.
Note: You’d have to work 1,000 hours that day to achieve the same level of Astonishing Productivity. (Hah.) 
Again, it’s a bit more nuanced than that and we can tweak the equation to weigh different variables differently, etc.
The point remains.
Get your ENERGY to as high a number as you can. FOCUS that (sun-like) Energy like a laser beam (through a magnifying glass) on THE MOST IMPORTANT THING and… 
Astonishing Productivity.
Do that again and again and again?
And, well, you’ll not just produce at an astonishing level, you’ll enjoy the eudaimonic Flow that comes when you consistently high five your daimon.
Let’s do that.
Jun 23, 2020
Continuing our brief tour through Kate Hefferon’s textbook on Positive Psychology and the Body, let’s flip open to the chapter on “Positive Nutrition.”
I wonder what science has to say about the impact of our diets on our wellbeing…
Guess where Kate starts her discussion? 
With sugar.
She tells us: “Sugar has been a component within western diets since the sixteenth century. While 500 years ago, the average human would be lucky to come across sugar, it is estimated that today the average Westerner consumes 3 lb of sugar a week. Overall, our sugar consumption per year has risen from 5 lb per person, per year in 1700, to 152 lb per person in 2000. Recent research has found evidence that sugar, while not only bad for our waistlines, can have deleterious effects on our brain. Sugar has been found to shrink areas responsible for important functions such as memory and mood regulation, wearing on the hippocampus.
We’ve talked about this before but let’s pause and contemplate that math one more time.
500 years ago? Basically NO SUGAR.
(Pause, reflect on that. Pretty please. With sugar not on top?)
Then, 300 years ago, we were consuming about 5 lbs of sugar.
Today the average Westerner consumes 150 lbs of sugar every year.
Millions of years of evolution. Close to zero consumption of sugar. Now 150 POUNDS of sugar on average EVERY YEAR.
I wonder if that might have any negative consequences?
Back to Kate who tells us that researchers “conducted a cross-national study (Korea, USA, France, Germany, Canada, New Zealand) on the relationship between sugar consumption and incidence of major depression. They found that ‘there was a highly significant correlation between sugar consumption (cal/cap/day) and the annual rate of depression.’ While this study has some major limitations, it highlights the importance of re-assessing the manufacturing of processed food and the role of sugar within our diets.”
Today’s +1.
One more time: It does a mind and body bad.
Not only does it mess with our insulin/metabolism and lead to a lot of the crippling, chronic BODY diseases we’re dealing with as a society, it also wreaks havoc on our MINDS and leads to a lot of the crippling psychological challenges we’re dealing with as a society.
I can’t think of a more powerful lever to Optimize our nutrition than getting really smart on how much sugar we’re consuming and having fun seeing just how much we can eliminate.
How much sugar are YOU consuming these days?
Note: It’s ubiquitous and probably a LOT more than you think…
Here’s to the -1 -1 -1 for the +1 +1 +1 wins.
Jun 18, 2020
In the last couple +1s, we talked about The Shattered Vase (and the power of taking those pieces and making a beautiful new mosaic) then we practiced The Art of Precious Scars (as we chatted about “golden repairs”).
Let’s imagine that art sitting on a desk in our dojo-studio. 
We’ve got the mosaic and that golden-seamed vase.
Right next to those pieces of art, let’s put a snow globe.
A snow globe?
Stephen Joseph actually introduced this metaphor in his book on posttraumatic growth. He used it in the context of being shaken up after a traumatic event and the fact that it takes time for the metaphorical snow to settle in our lives.
When I imagined that snow globe, the first thing I thought of was our minds and what we often do to them right before we go to bed.
Maybe it was because I was prepping for the PM Bookend session of our Carpe Diem module in our Mastery Series.
We’ve talked (many times!) about the fact that your day begins the night before.
Want to create a Masterpiece Day that starts with waking up nice and early (without an alarm!) feeling all refreshed and ready to rock?
Science is unequivocal. 
All that digital stimulation—both the blue light AND the raw inputs—right before you go to bed isn’t helping the Deep (And REM) Sleep cause!!
You know what it’s like?
It’s like shaking a SNOW GLOBE right before you go to bed.
Your brain’s all hyped up right when you want it to be relaxed.
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s leave the snow globe alone—quit shaking it by turning off all your electronic stimulation AT LEAST (!) an hour before you go to bed.
Remember: Sleep. It does a body (VERY!) good.
Let’s Optimize ours.
Jun 13, 2020
Have you ever heard of “hedonic treadmills”?
We talked about them briefly a few years ago in the context of this +1 on the science of hedonic adaptation
Basic idea: We adapt to all the “things” we get in our lives. That shiny new car isn’t so shiny a few months after we get it. Same thing with the new phone or TV or whatever.
Sonja Lyubomirksy is one of the world’s leading researchers on the subject of hedonic adaptation. In The Myths of Happiness she tells us: Indeed, it turns out that we are prone to take for granted pretty much everything positive that happens to us. When we move into a beautiful new loft with a grand view, when we partake of plastic surgery, when we purchase a fancy new automobile or nth-generation smartphone, when we earn the corner office and a raise at work, when we become immersed in a new hobby, and even when we wed, we obtain an immediate boost of happiness from the improved situation; but the thrill only lasts for a short time. Over the coming days, weeks, and months, we find our expectations ramping upward and we begin taking our new improved circumstances for granted. We are left with ‘felicific stagnation.’”
We adapt to the hedonic pleasures in our lives. It’s like we’re on a treadmill. Moving faster and faster but not getting any further in our pursuit of true happiness.
You know what happens when we joyfully commit to using everything as fuel for our growth while living with more Wisdom + Self-Mastery + Courage + Love + Hope + Gratitude + Curiosity + Zest?
We actually get happier.
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s step off the hedonic treadmill and make some real progress in our lives as we focus on practicing our philosophy, high fiving our inner souls and FLOURISHING.
May 29, 2020
In our last +1, we tapped into some wisdom from Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness as we wrote ourselves a permission slip and then hopped on the bus.
Today we’re going to spend some more time with Brené. And, we’ll invite Pema Chodrön to the party.
Brené tells us: “I love Pema Chodrön’s ‘Lousy World’ teaching on this topic. In it, Chodrön uses the lessons of the Indian Buddhist monk Shantideva to make a very powerful analogy about moving through the world constantly pissed off and disappointed. ...
[She says]: ‘‘We’re laughing, but that’s what we all do. That is how we approach things. We think, if we could just get rid of everything and cover it with leather, our pain would go away. Well, sure, because then it wouldn’t be cutting our feet anymore. It’s just logical, isn’t it? But it doesn’t make any sense, really. Shantideva said, ‘But if you simply wrap leather around your feet.’ In other words, if you put on shoes then you could walk across the boiling sand and the cut glass and the horns, and it wouldn’t bother you. So the analogy is, if you work with your mind, instead of trying to change everything on the outside, that’s how your temper will cool down.’”
As you may know, Pema Chodrön is a Buddhist monk and teacher. (We have Notes on two of her great books: When Things Fall Apart and The Places That Scare You.)
You can watch that wonderful 2.5-minute YouTube video of her “Lousy World” teaching here.
Short story: We complain about everything and everyone. All the time. 
It’s too hot. It’s too cold. He smells bad. She’s wearing too much perfume. 
All day every day.
We think the answer is to change the world—to lay leather over all the thorns and rocks in our way. The answer, of course, is to simply wrap a little leather over our feet and voila! 
Problem solved. 
btw: Here’s how Shantideva puts it The Way of the Bodhisattva:
“To cover all the earth with sheets of leather— 
Where could such amounts of skin be found? 
But with the leather soles of just my shoes
It is as though I cover all the earth!”
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s wrap some leather (vegan alternatives available) around our feet (and brains) and joyfully walk through the wilderness of life.
May 24, 2020
In our last +1, we blew up some belly balloons with our kids. 
We breathed in through our noses, down into our bellies (can you make that balloon pop?!) then we breathed back out through our noses (slightly longer than the inhale). 
ESPECIALLY when things start to get a little out of control!!!
Which leads us to another little practice we’ve been playing around with at the Johnson House. 
(Note to self: This is a REALLY effective practice. Do it more!)
You know those times when your kids start to get a little, shall we say, frazzled, which leads to you (and/or your spouse) (in my case: ME!), getting equally, shall we say, frazzled? 
I know that reasonably well. 
Rather than let it all devolve into a circus, when I’m being Mr. Wise and Mindful Philosopher Guy, I remember to do wise and mindful things to smooth out the rough seas.
This practice has proven to be particularly powerful.
Step 1. Emerson and I leave the scene of the chaos by going to a different room in the house.
Step 2. We sit knee to knee in what’s wonderfully known as “hero’s pose.” (To strike this pose: Kneel on the floor and drop your butt on your ankles. Use bolsters if necessary. Check out Yoga Journal for tips.)
Step 3. We sit up nice and tall and look each other in the eye as we pull the thread through our head, breathing in deeply (through our noses) into our bellies, then exhaling (through our noses) slightly longer than our inhale.
In just a few breaths, our nervous systems are calmed down and we’re connected. 
Circus has left town.
It’s actually SHOCKING how powerful this is.
The hard part (as always!) is remembering to do it in the moment we need to do it.
Note to self: Do it more often.
That’s Today’s +1.
Circus come to town?
Try some hero breathing!!!
May 19, 2020
A little over seven and half years ago, Emerson was born at home.
We had an amazing midwife (named Mary Jackson) for both Emerson and Eleanor’s births.
I’ll never forget the very first moments of Emerson’s life.
I had the blessed honor of being the first to officially welcome him into the world. 
RIGHT after he was born (literally a couple seconds after), he looked at me and our eyes met. Then he wrapped his tiny (!) little hand right around my pinky finger. 
We’ve recounted this special moment countless times.
I like to say that we both said, “I LOVE YOU!!!” right when our eyes first connected and he wrapped that tiny hand of his around my pinky.
One of the ways we like to recreate that moment is by holding hands while we’re walking.
That, in itself, will always be one of my favorite things in life.
We like to take it one step further and say “I LOVE YOU!” to each other in our own Top Secret way. 
In fact, we developed our own special language. 
It’s called Squeezy-eze.
It’s super easy to learn. There’s actually only one phrase: “I LOVE YOU.” 
All you have to do is grab someone’s hand and… SQUEEZE IT a few times.
It’s like a Morse Code of awesome.
And, well, that’s Today’s +1.
If you feel so inspired, how about a little squeezy-eze of Love?
Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze. 
I. Love. YOU!!!
May 14, 2020
Continuing our little series on the science of courage, how about some more wisdom from Robert Biswas-Diener?
In The Courage Quotient, he tells us: “Herein lies the intervention related to failure: accept it. We modern people have fallen in love with the idea that we are in control of our lives, and this worldview gives rise to an impulse to resist failure, to fight against the very notion of it. But just like the modern trend to defy age, the battle against failure is a lost cause. Failure is inevitable. We all experience it, in forms large and small. It is in your past and it is in your future. People with a high courage quotient understand that failure is a risk much of the time and unavoidable some of the time. Rather than trying to tiptoe around failure, they simply accept it as part of the process of success.”
That’s from a chapter called “Be Willing to Fail.”
It’s packed with powerful, practical wisdom.
Like this: Failure is a fantastic learning opportunity. Think of every time you have made a mistake and said to yourself, ‘Well, I will never do that again!’ A single instance of failure can serve as a powerful lifelong course correction. Failure also helps us regroup mentally and improve our skills and strategy so that later attempts at goals might be more successful. Where your courage quotient is concerned, here is the tricky part: you do not have to accept that failure feels good, just that it is inevitable and often beneficial. Accepting failure is not synonymous with actively pursuing failure or enjoying failure when it crashes down upon you. The trick is to acknowledge both the positive and the negative aspects of failure. You can tell yourself, ‘This does not feel good and I am very disappointed with myself,’ on the one hand, even as on the other you reassure yourself by saying, This is also a growth opportunity for me. I will learn from this temporary experience and move on.’
And this: “Where the courage quotient is concerned it is instructive to realize that not everyone reacts to failure, or even the prospect of failure, in the same way. Some people—as I have mentioned and as we have all seen—allow failure to overshadow their lives, restricting their decisions and leaving them embarrassed, timid, or withdrawn. Other people appear to take failure in stride and are able to move beyond it after experiencing its temporary psychological sting. Thomas Edison famously said, recalling countless problematic attempts to create a working light bulb, ‘I failed my way to success.’ Winston Churchill too might be among the resilient. He once said, ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.’ Apparently the ability to reframe failure as part of a larger process— learning, say—is instrumental in being able to cope with it.”
And, well, that’s Today’s +1.
Want to Optimize your Courage Quotient?
Be willing to fail.
And, reframe your past failures as fantastic learning opportunities.
Then get out there and give us all the Wisdom + Self-Mastery + Courage + Love you got.
May 9, 2020
In our last +1, we all get issued our magic wand.
It can alchemize any and all challenges into fuel for our growth.
Thank you, Hermes and Epictetus!!
I mentioned the fact that Ward Farnsworth shared that passage in his great book The Practicing Stoic
He shared it in a chapter on how Stoics deal with adversity in which he tells us: “Stoics avoid adversity in the ways that anyone of sense would. But sometimes it comes regardless, and then the Stoic goal is to see the adversity rightly and not let one’s peace of mind be destroyed by its arrival. Indeed, the aim of the Stoic is something more: to accept reversal without shock and to make it grist for the creation of greater things. Nobody wants hardship in any particular case, but it is a necessary element in the formation of worthy people and worthy achievements that, in the long run, we do want. Stoics seek the value in whatever happens.”
As I read that passage and reflected on the fact that some adversity is NECESSARY for our growth, I thought of some wisdom from Robert Emmons and his great book Thanks!
He tells us: “Not only does the experience of tragedy give us an exceptional opportunity for growth, but some sort of suffering is also necessary for a person to achieve maximal psychological growth. In his study of self-actualizers, the paragons of mental wellness, the famed humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow noted that ‘the most important learning lessons... were tragedies, deaths, and trauma... which forced change in the life-outlook of the person and consequently in everything that he did.’”
Facing any adversity, my beloved Hero? 
Let’s wave Hermes’ wand, alchemize it into another opportunity to practice our philosophy as we give ourselves most fully to the world. 
May 4, 2020
In our last +1, we played the “I want to speak with your supervisor!” game.
You play it yet?
If not, try it.
It’s truly awesome.
As you’ll recall, the most important part of the process is to start with the end in mind—knowing that it’ll end with you praising the awesomeness of the rep who helped you. 
(btw: When you chat with the supervisor, tell THEM how great of a job THEY must be doing to have such a great team member. Then you get a double bump of awesome. people with bunny ears )
Today I want to talk about how to get some bonus points as we practice our philosophy and play the game of life well. 
Here it is.
Before you make the call—right before you commit to ending it with the supervisor chat—take a moment to practice a little gratitude.
Presumably, you’re calling the company to get help with a service they provide. 
Well, what service is it?
Recall that we have two options: We can take the service for granted OR we can take it *as* granted.
As Robert Emmons tells us, we can act entitled or we can have the humble perspective to realize that we are so ridiculously blessed it’s astonishing. 
That’s Today’s +1.
Super simple.
Let’s use every opportunity we can to be grateful.
As we practice our philosophy.
Apr 29, 2020
In our last +1, we upgraded our conception of Soul Mates to Soul Mate 2.0.
(At least I did!)
Before we jump into the wisdom for Today’s +1, how about some fun Johnson family history?!
Once upon a time (actually, almost exactly 13 years ago), Alexandra and I met. 
At the time I was running a social networking site called Zaadz that was all about connecting people who wanted to be the change and change the world together.
Long story short, Alexandra was introduced to the site by a friend. She checked it out, found my profile page and said, “I’m going to marry that guy.”
No joke! 
I get misty-eyed just typing that.
We happened to have a mutual friend who happened to introduce us and, well, skipping some fun details, the rest is history. 
One of the reasons we fell in love is that we both loved Leo Buscaglia and his book Love.
In fact, Alexandra was the first woman I ever met who had actually read that book. 
TWICE no less!
Today we’re going to talk about Love. 
More specifically: Leo Buscaglia’s Love
We’ll start with this gem (that captures the thesis of our Love 101 class): “As soon as the love relationship does not lead me to me, as soon as I in a love relationship do not lead another person to himself, this love, even if it seems to be the most secure and ecstatic attachment I have ever experienced, is not true love. For real love is dedicated to continual becoming.”
Then there’s this lesson I’ve been blessed to learn and relearn (!): “One does not fall ‘in’ or ‘out’ of love. One grows in love.”
And: “It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.”
And, finally: “If one wishes to know love, one must live love, in action.”
Let’s live it.
Apr 25, 2020

Mark Divine is a former U.S. Navy SEAL Commander with twenty-five years of experience as an entrepreneur. He's the author of the incredible books The Way of the SEAL, Unbeatable Mind, and Staring Down the Wolf. In this conversation, we explore strategies for navigating challenges (and helping others to do the same), how to be uncommon, why anyone in a leadership position is a "Coach," why training the breath is so important, and more.

Apr 24, 2020
In our last +1, we spent some time with Carlos Castaneda and his Toltec Warrior. Today, we’re going to spend a little more time with this eccentric teacher.
I’ve always found one passage of his to be particularly powerful.
THIS one: “Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore, a warrior must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if he feels that he should not follow it, he must not stay with it under any conditions. His decision to keep on that path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. He must look at every path closely and deliberately. There is a question that a warrior has to ask, mandatorily: ‘Does this path have a heart?’”
  • “Does this path have a heart?”
← Well, that’s a powerful question, eh? 
How do we possibly answer that one?!
Enter, some more Castaneda wisdom: “’But how will I know for sure whether a path has a heart or not?’ Anybody would know that. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path.”
That’s Today’s (confronting) +1.
Your path have a heart?
Of course, there will always be times when a path with heart doesn’t feel quite as heart-centered as it could. Those times often require some re-energizing and micro-adjustments and re-committing and all that.
There are other times when we’re just not on the right path. Those times may require some zero-based thinking and Deep Work to figure out what path IS the right one for us.
In all situations, I believe this is why Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Trust thyself. Every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
Here’s to courageously walking our paths with heart with deeper and deeper authenticity.
Apr 19, 2020
In our last +1, we did some swooping and gliding and hunting with a red-tailed hawk and our bird-watching guide: Carlos Castaneda.
Today I want to chat about that hawk again.
I mentioned the fact that he’s not worried about whether or not he’ll find his prey.
He’s just hunting.
Calmly, 100% focused on the PROCESS.
Letting the outcomes take care of themselves.
He’s not up there flying around thinking to himself, “OMG. My family’s going to starve if I don’t pull it together and find a mouse soon. I’ve been flying around up here for TWO HOURS (!) already and I haven’t seen a single mouse. Where’d they go? OMG. OMG. OMG.” 
Enter: Castaneda and his wisdom: “Once a man worries, he clings to anything out of desperation; and once he clings he is bound to get exhausted or to exhaust whomever or whatever he is clinging to. A warrior-hunter, on the other hand, knows he will lure game into his traps over and over again, so he doesn’t worry.”
To be fair (and to state the obvious), our red-tailed hawk friend doesn’t have the prefrontal cortex to engage in any anxiety-provoking overthinking. (Or, well, any “thinking” for that matter.)
Which reminds me of some parallel wisdom we explored back in the day. 
Remember our +1 on Squirrels, Einstein and You?
As you may recall, that one was inspired by a pre-Trail drive. As I stopped at a stop sign right next to Byron Katie’s little chapel in Ojai, I spotted a squirrel racing across a telephone wire and thought to myself, “I wonder what that guy’s thinking?!” 
Then I reminded myself that he WASN’T THINKING.
Then I thought of some wisdom from Jon Eliot’s Overachievement.
He tells us: “Great performers focus on what they are doing, and nothing else... They are able to engage in a task so completely that there is no room left for self-criticism, judgment, or doubt; to stay loose and supremely, even irrationally, self-confident... They let it happen, let it go. They couldn’t care less about the results.”
That’s Today’s +1.
That red-tailed hawk?
He’s the flying embodiment of great performers.
Let’s be like him a little more.
Apr 14, 2020
In our last couple +1s, we’ve been having fun spending some time with former Navy SEAL Commander and perennial wolf-tamer, Mark Divine.
Most recently, we named our Courage wolf, “Daimon” and our Fear wolf, “Demon.”
(As Dan Siegel and other mindfulness neuroscientists would say: It’s always wise to Name It to Tame It!”)
I mentioned the fact that I made a note on a piece of paper to make sure I included this Idea in our Mastery Series session on How to Create Antifragile Confidence, Heroic Courage and Response-Ability.
I had a bunch of other ideas already on that sheet of paper.
You know what I had written RIGHT ABOVE “The Two Wolves | Name ‘Em!”? 
“Learned Helplessness vs. Learned Optimism.”
The story I’ll tell for THAT wisdom is basically all about Martin Seligman’s research that we discuss in our Notes on Learned Optimism and in this +1 on How to Learn Optimism.
The weird part?
Recall Mark’s description of what happens when we constantly feed the fear wolf: “If you constantly feed fear by thinking about the could-haves, the should-haves, the would-haves, and the can’ts in life—if you allow negative beliefs, attitudes, and conditioned behavior from whatever drama you experienced or stories you adopted—then the fear wolf gets stronger. Eventually he gets so strong that the courage wolf is left cowering, unable to fight back.”
That’s almost a precise description of the “Learned Helplessness” state Seligman induces in his experiments. confused face 
The (very!) good news?
We can Learn Optimism.
Well, that’s pretty much what we’re doing every day with these +1s and why we show up EVERY DAY.
One more time: Let’s feed the Daimon-Courage Wolf. 
Apr 9, 2020
I’m the kinda guy who goes to a movie with a pen and paper ready to take notes.
Well, I’m actually the kinda guy who (aside from when I’m on the Trail) pretty much ALWAYS has a pen and paper ready to take notes.
The other day, I’m that guy in the movie theatre watching the most recent Star Wars installment: The Rise of Skywalker
Luke is chatting with Rey and drops some fantastic Optimizing wisdom that demands a little ink on paper.
If my notes are correct, Luke says: “Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi. Your destiny.”

“Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi. Your destiny.”

<- Isn’t that some solid wisdom? 
Makes you want to silently shout BRING IT ON!!, eh?! 
I go to Google to do a quick search to make sure I got the quote right. 
I find this awesome blog post on a site appropriately called “Star Wars Thoughts.”
In it, our wise guide walks us through the role fear has played throughout the Star Wars saga. He tells us that Luke once told Yoda: “I’m not afraid!” 
You know what Yoda said in response? 
“You will be.” 
← That’s SO good.
And, that’s Today’s +1.
Confronting fear.
It’s the destiny of a Jedi. 
And an Optimizer.
It’s your destiny. 
And mine.
Let’s step into our infinite potential as we exit our comfort zones calmly and confidently and courageously chanting BRING. IT. ON.
P.S. Not too long after Luke dropped his wisdom bomb on Rey, I took my notebook out again to capture some wisdom from Poe who tells us: “We’re not alone. Good people will fight if we lead them.” 
Amen. Let’s do this.
Apr 4, 2020
In our last +1, we talked about making a Purpose upgrade—going from a grand conception of one “big purpose” for life (Purpose 1.0) to finding micro-moments of purpose all day every day (Purpose 2.0).
I promised to chat about HOW to go about doing that Today.
Here we are.
Let’s bring Tom Rath back for some more wisdom from Life’s Great Question.
Tom is a senior scientist at Gallup and shares some FASCINATING research he and his colleagues in the wellbeing-at-work industry have conducted.
Get this.
Tom tells us: “You can begin by connecting your daily efforts to the way they contribute to specific people’s lives—connecting what you do with who your work serves. There are now countless examples of how connecting your work to the meaning it creates for specific people leads to better results, as well as to more enjoyment in and satisfaction from one’s work.”
He continues by saying: “In food service, for example, when a cook or someone preparing food can literally see the people they serve, it increases that customer’s satisfaction with the meal by 10%. If the cook and customer can both see one another, satisfaction with meal quality goes up 17% and service is 13% faster. You see a similar result across other professions.”
And: “When lifeguards read stories of people’s lives being saved, they are more vigilant on the job. When telephone-based fund-raisers hear from the beneficiaries of their work, they are more motivated and raise far more funds for their cause. Even when the only people you serve are internal customers or colleagues, connecting the work you do with the direct contribution it makes has tangible benefits.”
Plus: “In a Harvard study, field workers who harvested tomatoes watched videos of the way their contribution helped colleagues in the factory another step down the supply chain. In comparison to a control group, the workers who watched this short video experienced a 7% increase in productivity, as measured by tons of tomatoes harvested per hour.”
← Pause and reflect on that for a moment longer. That’s nuts! peanuts
Finally, he tells us: My takeaway from all this research is that people experience a far greater sense of belonging and more sustainable wellbeing when they connect their efforts in the moment with a larger influence on others.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Spotlight on YOU.
What do YOU do? 
Who do you SERVE when you do what you do?
Take a moment and actually identify a SPECIFIC person who you KNOW benefits from the day-to-day things you do.
One person.
Could be a colleague. A customer. Whoever.
ONE PERSON you *know* benefits from what you do.
Got it?
Let’s reflect on our contributions often.
Remember: “People experience a far greater sense of belonging and more sustainable wellbeing when they connect their efforts in the moment with a larger influence on others.”
+1 micro-moments of service +1 micro-moments of service +1 micro-moments of service.
All day every day for the Purpose 2.0 meaning-filled life.
Starting TODAY.
Mar 30, 2020
Richard Rohr is one of my new favorite teachers.
Alexandra got me his book called Falling Upward after I told her how much I loved David Brooks’ The Second Mountain. Apparently it’s recommended alongside that book on Amazon. With 1,400+ reviews, Alexandra thought I might like it.
And, well, YES!! Not only did I like the book, I loved it. (Check out those Notes for more.)
And… I fell in love with Richard Rohr.
Father Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest. In fact, he’s been a Franciscan priest for FIVE DECADES. 
This has particular resonance for me. As we’ve discussed, I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school for twelve years. At my elementary school and primary church, our priests were Franciscan. 
Yet... The closest I’ve come to studying an integrated Catholic perspective thus far has been Anthony de Mello—a Jesuit priest. 
So... I found Father Richard’s wisdom particularly resonant for a range of reasons.
Now... When I read a book, I use a blank note card as a bookmark. On that note card, I jot down related books and ideas I want to make sure we cover in our Notes together. After reading chapters in which he connected Odysseus and the Hero’s Journey to Christianity and our modern lives, at the top of the bookmark-card for this book I wrote this description of Father Richard: “If Joseph Campbell was a Franciscan monk.”
I laughed as I typed that but it’s pretty darn close to being a great micro-bio. Throw in a little Ken Wilber and a TON of “elderly” wisdom and voila. We have one of my new favorite spiritual teachers.
But that’s not quite the point of Today’s +1.
Today I want to chat about a fantastic line from the book that comes pretty darn close to capturing the intention behind ALL of our work together.
Here it is: “As Desmond Tutu once told me on a recent trip to Cape Town, ‘We are only the light bulbs, Richard, and our job is just to remain screwed in!’”
How great is THAT?
We’re only the light bulbs. Our job is just to remain screwed in. (Thank you, Bishop Tutu.)
Not only does that line capture the essence of all of our work together, it’s also a great answer to Joseph Campbell’s question: “What am I? Am I the bulb that carries the light, or am I the light of which the bulb is a vehicle?”
Here’s to keeping ourselves screwed in so the Divine Light can shine through us. 
Mar 25, 2020
In our last +1, we talked about being Efficient vs. Effective.
It’s GREAT for managing our time and completing tasks. Not so great for creating EFFECTIVE relationships with people.
We also hammered our “technology is the obstacle to presence!” theme one more time. (I promise to keep coming back to it.)
Today I want to chat about another big relationship idea I’ve been meaning to discuss.
We’re going to talk about the idea of “bids.”
I’m pretty sure I learned about this from Dan Siegel. 
Enter: Search of my Mac for “bids”…
Oh, wait. 
Actually, I learned about this from THE leading researcher on the science of effective marriages: Jon Gottman!
In his GREAT book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman tells us that we need to “Turn Toward” our partners and respond to their “bids.” 
Here’s how he puts it: “Hollywood has distorted our notions of romance and what makes passion sizzle. Watching Humphrey Bogart gather teary-eyed Ingrid Bergman into his arms may make your heart pound, but real-life romance is fueled by far more humdrum scenes. It is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life. In marriage, couples are always making what I call ‘bids’ for each other’s attention, affection, humor, or support. Bids can be as minor as asking for a backrub or as significant as seeking help in carrying the burden when an aging parent is ill. The partner responds to each bid either by turning toward the spouse or turning away. A tendency to turn toward your partner is the basis of trust, emotional connection, passion, and a satisfying sex life. Comical as it may sound, romance is strengthened in the supermarket aisle when your partner asks, ‘Are we out of butter?’ and you answer, ‘I don’t know. Let me go get some just in case,’ instead of shrugging apathetically. It grows when you know your spouse is having a bad day at work and you take a few seconds out of your schedule to send him an encouraging text. In all of these instances, partners are making a choice to turn toward rather than away.”
“Turning toward” our partner instead of away from them. 
Gottman tells us that our partners are always making “bids” for our attention. Whether we accept their invitation to connect or not is one of the greatest predictors of the longevity of our relationship.
Get this: Gottman did a 6-year follow-up study of newlyweds. For those who were still married, the partner’s responded to each other’s bids 86% of the time.
For those who got divorced? They only responded 33% of the time. 
Today’s +1.
How’s YOUR Bid Math?
Let’s pay attention and see if we can notice some more bids and, of course, remember to TURN TOWARD our partners a little more TODAY.
Mar 20, 2020
In our last couple +1s, we flipped through my notes from session number 150-something with my Yoda/spiritual Godfather Phil Stutz.
On page one we had: Success doesn’t matter in this world, commitment does.”
On the middle of page three we had: “Real enthusiasm is passing through the worst and realizing it’s the best.”
Looking at the bottom of page three, we see: “How you react to dramatic things is good. How you react to SMALL things is GREAT! That’s where the power is.”
As I reread my messy writing, I actually remember asking Phil to hold on a second so I could write that down. (Hah. Seriously.)
I repeat: “How you react to dramatic things is good. How you react to SMALL things is GREAT! That’s where the power is.”
As we’ve discussed, Phil (and all great teachers, really) is ALL ABOUT the SMALL THINGS. 
He calls our moment-to-moment experiences (with ourselves and others) “micro transactions.” Although we tend to ignore them and think only the “big” stuff is “really” important, he flips that around and says it’s the TINY things that matter the MOST.
(Of course, by practicing with the small things, we’re well-trained to handle the “big” things when they inevitably arrive.)
One more time: “How you react to dramatic things is good. How you react to SMALL things is GREAT! That’s where the power is.”
David Allen comes to mind.
As we’ve discussed, in our interview years ago, he said that “the sublime comes through the mundane.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s bring our best.
To the small things.
P.S. Fun family fact: Midway through writing this +1, I heard a ferocious banging on my office door. Like jumbo crazy loud. (Laughing.) 
My initial reaction was WTNotFantastic! (Laughing.)
Then I ran my “If… Then…” algorithm and got ready to welcome my little man.
What did I see?
Emerson in his brand-new BRIGHT GREEN (hah) helmet standing next to his sister in her helmet.
“Daddy!!! Look at my new bike!!!”
Yep. His new bike we got last night was downstairs. He cruised down, hopped on it and rode around the house. 
To think I almost ruined that TINY moment by getting upset IN THE MIDDLE of writing this +1… (Laughing yet again.)
Here’s to moving from Theory to Practice.
With the little things. 
And little ones.
Mar 15, 2020
Yes, we’ve been chatting about it quite a bit recently. 
That’s deliberate.
You know how we recently established the (scientifically-validated) Top 2 virtues as Zest + Hope?
Positive psychologists arm wrestle a bit about those top two virtues. 
While Ryan Niemiec (via The Power of Character Strengths) tells us that Zest + Hope are our Top 2, Robert Emmons tells us that Gratitude is even more predictive of well-being than Hope. 
We’ll leave the arm-wrestling debate on the precise order of those Top 2 to our academic friends but let’s shine a BRIGHT LIGHT on the Big 3 Virtues: Zest + Hope + Gratitude.
As I’ve been thinking about it, I actually like the order: Zest + Gratitude + Hope.
We’re Optimizing our Energy-Zest so we can give our best to our Work + Love. (Zest is still the undisputed #1 Virtue—although I’d say it’s technically achieved as a by-product of Wisdom + Self-Mastery/Discipline on the the fundamentals.)
Then… We practice Gratitude for the fact that we’re alive and for everything in our lives. (INCLUDING all the challenges, of course.)
Then… We practice Hope as we see a better future via a specific goal that inspires us, know we can make it happen and make a plan to make it so.
Zest + Gratitude + Hope.
(Note: Throw in Love + Curiosity for the Top 5.)
I love coming back to that and I’m constantly spinning those virtues around in my mind, trying to think about how to help us operationalize them more consistently in our lives. 
That’s not quite what I want to talk about Today.
Today I want to talk about that “What Went Well and Why?” gratitude exercise I referenced not too long ago. It’s one of Robert Emmons’ top recommended practices. 
Here’s how Martin Seligman puts it in Flourish: “Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (‘My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today’), but they can be important (‘My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy’).
Next to each positive event, answer the question ‘Why did this happen?’ For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes’ or ‘because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.’ Or if you write, ‘My sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy,’ you might pick as the cause ‘God was looking out for her’ or ‘She did everything right during her pregnancy.’
Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”
Today’s +1.
Here’s to celebrating many more awesome moments (and clarity on how they came about!) between here and our next +1!
+1. +1. +1. 
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