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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Aug 13, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the science of daydreaming. Quick recap: Stay out of the “poor attention control” and “guilty-dysphoric” realms and in the “positive-constructive” mode.
Here’s another way to think about it. (Thanks again to Manoush Zomorodi!)
When your mind is wandering and you’re kinda randomly thinking about your life, do you imagine yourself as the CONQUERING HERO of your own story (positive-constructive!) or the SUFFERING MARTYR (guilty-dysphoric) of the story?
It’s a big distinction.
We want to get REALLY (!) good at noticing when we’re falling into the “woe is me” helpless Victim orientation and SHIFT it into the “Let’s do this!!” Creator orientation.
Well, again, what do you think we’re doing with all these +1s? 
I’m basically trying to give you a super-stocked toolshed/armory of tools and weapons and tips and tricks and hacks you can use THE MOMENT you find yourself losing your connection from the best version of yourself.
It all starts with mastering our fundamentals: eat! move! sleep! (Ever notice how the martyr shows up a LOT more when you’re TIRED? Me, too. That’s why Vince Lombardi says that Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”)
Let’s actually keep things simple and focus there today.
Do you know your #1 Self-Care Habit
Is it eating well? Exercising? Sleeping? Meditating? Doing deep work? Helping others? …? …? 
What’s the thing that, if you DON’T do it, pretty much guarantees a sub-optimal day? (For me it is, unquestionably, getting a good night of sleep.)
This is my #1 Self-Care Habit: ______________. 
This is the #1 thing I can do to Optimize it Today: ________________.
That is all.
Here’s to doing the things that help the Conquering Hero show up more and more consistently. 
And, here’s to stepping back and looking at the fundamentals whenever we get a little Whiney-Martyr wobbly!
+1. +1. +1.
Aug 3, 2018
In our last couple +1s, we’ve talked about your breathing. If you haven’t checked out the full Optimal Breathing 101 master class yet, you might dig it. 
For now, how about a quick look at the THREE simple rules of optimal breathing?
Here they are:
  1. Breathe through your nose
  2. Into your belly
  3. And exhale slightly longer than you inhaled
1 + 2 + 3 = Magic.
How about a quick inventory then a closer look?
First, the quick inventory:
  1. You breathing through your nose? (Most people don’t. Go look around and/or in the mirror. Do you see a mouth gaping open?)
  2. Do you breathe deeply (yet calmly) into your belly? (Most people don’t—especially if you breathe through your mouth!)
  3. And, is your exhale slightly longer than your inhale? (This is the fastest way to relax!)
Now, for the closer look:
Rule #1. Breathe Through Your Nose (EXCLUSIVELY!)
When? All day. Every day. (Including while sleeping and training.)
Why? Well, check out the class for a full description (and/or the Notes on The Oxygen Advantage, etc.) but here’s the basic idea. 
  • First: Your nose filters, humidifies and conditions air in ways your mouth simply can’t. 
  • Second: Know that we NEVER used to breathe through our mouths except for the most extreme instances of physical exertion. (Think: Lion chasing you.) 
  • Third: When you breathe through your mouth, you tend to “overbreathe” via short, shallow, fast breaths that disrupt the oxygen to carbon dioxide levels in your body. Although it might sound weird, it’s the CARBON DIOXIDE that actually gets the oxygen out of your red blood cells and into your tissues and organs and you need to slow down your breathing (via your nose!) to get the CO2 right and, as a result, the O2 where you want it. 
Rule #2. Breathe into Your Belly
Fill up the lower part of your lungs. Flex your most underappreciated and underutilized muscle in your body. Get your diaphragm rocking!!
Note: Don’t take “big” breaths via your mouth into your chest. Take nice, mellow, quiet, DEEP breaths into your belly. Repeat. All day. Every day.
Rule #3. Exhale Slightly Longer than You Inhale.
This is the fastest way to flip the flip the vagal switch and turn on your parasympathetic nervous system and R E L A X.
Whenever you think about it: Exhale longer than you inhale. (Finish strong as we like to say at the Johnson house!
Squeeze your diaphragm. Get all that air out. Why? Well, did you know that breathing is responsible for 70% (!!!) of your body’s detoxification? Elimination and sweat only take care of 30%. (Kinda surprising, eh?)
But, guess what? If you’re not breathing right, you’re not detoxifying fully. And, of course, you’re not fueling your cells properly. 
Enter: Compromised vitality and increased potential of getting all the things you don’t want. 
Therefore: Nose. Belly. Exhale.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Today’s +1.
How about a nice, deep, calm breath. In through your nose… Down into your belly… Out through your nose with a nice, long exhale.
Here’s to your Optimal Breathing!
Jul 29, 2018
Since our time with George Leonard exploring his ideas on Mastery, I’ve been thinking about him a lot.
I realized that I forgot to share another one of my favorite Ideas from his great little book that has most changed my life. 
It’s super simple but equally powerful. 
First, the context. 
In a section on getting energy for mastery, George tells us: “A human being is the kind of machine that wears out from lack of use. There are limits, of course, and we do need healthful rest and relaxation, but for the most part we gain energy by using energy... It might well be that all of us possess enormous stores of potential energy, more than we could ever hope to use.”
Of course, as we discuss often, we need to remember to oscillate and train our recovery, etc. but we’ve also gotta know that human beings GAIN energy by USING energy. We’re the kind of machine that wears out from LACK of use.
Which reminds me of super-energized Leonardo da Vinci’s wisdom: “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind. So we must stretch ourselves to the very limits of human possibility. Anything less is a sin against both God and man.”
(Cue choir of angels on this one: ”So we must stretch ourselves to the very limits of human possibility. Anything less is a sin against both God and man.”)
George offers a few tips on how to Optimize our energy for mastery.
One of them is to set priorities and make decisions. He tells us: “Indecision leads to inaction, which leads to low energy, depression, despair.” 
Another tip is to get on the path of mastery and STAY ON IT. He says: “Much of the world’s depression and discontent... can ultimately be traced to our unused energy, our untapped potential.” 
All of which leads us to two questions and then the point of Today’s +1.
Question #1: Got any decisions you need to make?
Question #2: Are you using your potential?!
And, now to the main event: As an Aikido master, George tells us: “It’s instructive to watch the immediate surge of clarity and energy during training that comes from the simplest act of writing one’s name on a notice.” 
I don’t know about you, but after I’ve put my “name on a notice” (aka signed up for a Spartan Trifecta for the year including a 13+ mile race up and down ski slopes at elevation with bonus energy points for racing with the elite age group guys), my energy and clarity and intensity of (and consistency of!) training IMMEDIATELY shifts. 
How about YOU? 
Has that ever happened to you in the past? 
And, most importantly: Got any sign-up forms waiting for you?
Yah? What makes you smile (and maybe makes your heart skip a beat) just imagining doing it?
A 5k? A triathlon? A Spartan Race? Getting your black belt? 
What’ll it be?
That’s Today’s +1. If you’re feeling so inspired, go put your name on a notice. Watch the immediate surge of clarity and energy during your training.
Jul 24, 2018
Continuing our good times with Confucius, here’s one of the gems from his Analects that has tattooed itself on my brain since I read it a decade ago.
“The Master said, He does not mind not being in office; all he minds about is whether he has qualities that entitle him to office. He does not mind failing to get recognition; he is too busy doing the things that entitle him to recognition.”
How great is THAT?
Would you like a little more recognition than you’re getting?
OK. That’s fine.
Now take a deep breath and get back to work doing whatever it is you think will EARN you that recognition.
Repeat that process whenever the desire for (more) recognition arises. 
That’s Today’s +1.
Well, that and this passage from James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh—which is also tattooed to my brain along with big chunks of that entire essay.
Imagine working tirelessly and then, one day, things just shift.
Here’s how Allen poetically puts it: “And you, too, youthful reader, will realize the Vision (not the idle wish) of your heart, be it base or beautiful, or a mixture of both, for you will always gravitate toward that which you secretly most love. Into your hands will be placed the exact results of your own thoughts; you will receive that which you earn; no more, no less. Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your Vision, your Ideal. 
You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration: in the beautiful words of Stanton Kirkham Davis, ‘You may be keeping accounts, and presently you shall walk out of the door that for so long has seemed to you the barrier of your ideals, and shall find yourself before an audience - the pen still behind your ear, the ink stains on your fingers - and then and there shall pour out the torrent of your inspiration. You may be driving sheep, and you shall wander to the city - bucolic and open mouthed; shall wander under the intrepid guidance of the spirit into the studio of the master, and after a time he shall say, 'I have nothing more to teach you.' And now you have become the master, who did so recently dream of great things while driving sheep. You shall lay down the saw and the plane to take upon yourself the regeneration of the world.’”
Here’s to the ink stains on your fingers when the curtains rise and the world applauds and you say, “Did I win?”
Jul 19, 2018
I can’t resist. One more +1 on Aristotle.
So… The Olympic Games started in Olympia (not too far outside of Athens) in 776 BC.
A few centuries later, Aristotle told us that you can’t just SHOW UP at the Olympics and look like a great athlete, you have to actually COMPETE.
Here’s how he puts it: “Just as at the Olympic Games it is not the best-looking or the strongest men present that are crowned with wreaths, but the competitors (because it is from them that the winners come), so it is those who act that rightly win the honours and rewards in life.”
To recap his point: You can’t just KNOW how to live virtuously. You need to actually LIVE with virtue. 
I repeat: Theory is rudimentary philosophy. Practice is the advanced work.
And, I’m reminded of Donald Robertson’s genius wisdom on the difference between being a warrior of the mind and a mere librarian of the mind. 
As we’ve discussed, in The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy he tells us: “The ancients conceived of the ideal philosopher as a veritable warrior of the mind, a spiritual hero akin to Hercules himself, but since the demise of the Hellenistic schools, the philosopher has become something more bookish, not a warrior, but a mere librarian of the mind.”
Today’s +1. 
Is there a “theory” you need to make a “practice”? 
Yah? Which one? And how will you bring it to life today?! 
Here’s to leaving the library and heading into the Olympic arena that is our lives. 
Jul 14, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and the fact that his word for “happiness” was VERY different than our word.
Eudaimonia, as we discussed, literally means “good soul” and implies a powerful sense of actualizing our potential—succeeding in expressing the best within ourselves.
Today we’re going to focus on HOW Aristotle teaches us to create THAT type of “happiness.”
Pop quiz: Can you guess?
Pop answer: In a word: Virtue. 
In a Greek word: Areté.
Aristotle tells us that the ONLY way to have a “good soul” and experience the deepest sense of well-being and happiness is to, essentially, express the best version of yourself moment to moment to moment. To live with virtue.
Here’s how he puts it: But what is happiness? If we consider what the function of man is, we find that happiness is a virtuous activity of the soul.”
  • “Virtuous activity of the soul.”
Wow. Isn’t that BEAUTIFUL.
  • “Virtuous activity of the soul.”
Just for a moment… Imagine a culture in which our sense of happiness was grounded in a commitment to “virtuous activity of the soul.” 
Then imagine YOUR life in which your happiness was connected to the virtuous activity of your soul.
What’s that mean?
We’ll talk more about how to hit that target via Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean tomorrow.
For now: At a choice point today, just ask yourself, “What would my soul like me to do right now? What would ‘virtuous activity’ of the best within me look like?’”
Then, of course, have fun high-fiving your inner soul as you rock it.
Jul 9, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that 25 minutes every day = 2 YEARS of your life. 
Did you figure out how you’re wasting time and make some progress eliminating that time wasting activity?
If so, high fives.
If not, here’s a tip.
In Bored and Brilliant, Manoush Zomorodi gives people a 7-Day Challenge to invite more boredom and more brilliance into their lives. Challenge #4 is pretty epic. It’s the fastest way to add two years back to our lives.
Here’s how she puts it: “Your instructions for today: Delete it. Delete *that* app. ... You know which one is your albatross. The one you use too much. The one you use to escape—too often, at the expense of other things (including sleep). The one that makes you feel bad about yourself. Delete said time-wasting, bad-habit app. Uninstall it.”
Yep. THAT app.
Which one is it?
Want two years of your life back?
Delete it. Now. 
I know it’s going to hurt but so is you looking back on your life from your deathbed and wondering why you squandered so much precious time and didn’t go ALL IN on living your greatest life so… 
Jim Rohn’s wisdom comes to mind: “We will all experience one pain or the other—the pain of discipline or the pain of regret—but the difference is that the pain of discipline weighs only ounces while the pain of regret weighs tons.
Let’s pay in ounces. Delete THAT app.
(NOW! Seriously. You’re the Boss, but let’s do this!!)
Jul 4, 2018
George Leonard was an aikido master who wrote a great little book called Mastery
It’s a tiny little book packed with a ton of wisdom. I highly recommend it. 
There’s one particular passage that’s been tattooed on my mind since I read it over a decade ago. We’re going to talk about that tomorrow. Today, we’re going to take a quick look at how Leonard describes mastery and the other paths that can trip us up.
First, pop quiz! When you think of the path of Mastery and the Master who walks that path, what vision comes to mind? How would YOU describe it?
Take a moment and noodle that.
Here’s how Leonard describes mastery. He tells us that “We fail to realize that mastery is not about perfection. It’s about a process, a journey. The master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year. The master is the one who is willing to try, and fail, and try again, for as long as he or she lives.”
That’s mastery. It’s a PROCESS. 
When we commit to the path of mastery we stay on that path day in and day out. YEAR after YEAR. (Reminds me of Steven Pressfield’s wisdom about Turning Pro—and how your life changes the day you truly flip the switch and go from amateur to Professional.)
The alternatives to Mastery? Well, Leonard tells us we can be what he calls a “Dabbler” or a “Hacker” or an “Obsessive."
Here’s the quick look.
The Dabbler: Gets really into something for awhile and loves the quick results but the moment the newness fades, he or she’s off to the next new thing—rationalizing that it just wasn’t a good fit. Hence, no mastery.
The Obsessive: A bottom-line type of person who wants to get the tennis stroke right on the first lesson and, when results start to slow, pushes even harder to make it work, ignoring the fact that plateaus are part of the path of mastery—pushing and pushing mercilessly to create a continuing upward curve. Then? Injury/burnout/etc. Followed by a sharp, sharp decline. Hence, no mastery.
The Hacker: After sort of getting the hang of something, the hacker is content to stay at a plateau—never really improving his skills beyond the first basic level. Hacking, hacking, hacking. Hence, no mastery.
The Master. The Dabbler. The Obsessive. The Hacker.
And YOU.
How are you showing up these days?
Now… I was going to ask you how you think you can bring a little more mastery to your life but then I realized I should probably give you Leonard’s #1 tip first.
Here it is: “How do you best move toward mastery? To put it simply, you practice diligently, but you practice primarily for the sake of the practice itself.”
Aha! Practice. Again. 
So… Today’s +1. 
What’s the most important thing in your life right now?
And… What’s your DAILY (!) PRACTICE to Optimize that thing or the Big 3 things? 
For me? 
  1. Energy = AM Trail (I never miss a day = my commitment to the practice/mastery)
  2. Work = AM Deep Work (Again, I (literally) never miss a day = my commitment to the practice/mastery)
  3. Love = AM Kid Time (I too often miss a day here! lol. Although my shut-down complete is pretty legit this still needs work and is being reinstalled!)
  1. Energy = __________________
  2. Work = __________________
  3. Love = __________________
Here’s to your Mastery and the simple practices that keep us on the path!
Jun 29, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Rule #1 of Nutrition. You remember what it was?
Basic idea: It’s not what you start eating that has the most positive impact. It’s what you STOP eating. There aren’t any Fountains of Youth in nature; there ARE poisons. And, you can’t eat enough broccoli to make up for all that pizza.
(So, what did you eliminate?)
Although I did share his high-level perspective, I didn’t share John Durant’s perspective on what he thinks we should remove as I wanted to make his general advice apply whether you’re Paleo or Vegan or Pegan or whatever.
Today we’re going to look at his top recs at what qualifies as “poison” and should, therefore, be removed. 
*** Note: I share this with a respectful tip ‘o the hat to the Grain Lovers out there. ***
John tells us (and, of course, many others who share his perspective echo this): “Top on this list [of poisons] are industrial foods (sugar, vegetable oils) as well as the seed-based crops they’re made out of (cereal grains, legumes). Think of these as slow-acting poisons when consumed in large quantities.”
Very few people are going to argue that sugar is good for us. (And certainly not in the quantities in which we consume it today: 150+ lbs per person per year. The fact that we can consume more sugar in one meal than our ancestors would consume in an entire year = not good.)
Then we have veggie oils. We’ve talked about it before, but they’re not good for inflammation. 
(Although, when I was in the hospital waiting room while my brother had his surgery, for some odd reason Dr. Oz dedicated his show to trying to convince us that corn oil is awesome. Hah. We’ll save that for another chat.)
Then we have grains and legumes. If you fall into the Paleo-esque camp, you won’t have a tough time agreeing with the statement that we can ”Think of these as slow-acting poisons when consumed in large quantities.”
If you enjoy grains and legumes and your digestion and health are perfect then congrats! 
If you enjoy those foods and your health and digestion can use some Optimizing, you might want to experiment with a little elimination! 
As per the Hartwigs in It Starts with Food (their Whole360 program was super-helpful years ago after my decade-long low-fat-vegan stint): “The marketing from big cereal companies would have you think that cereal grains are highly nutritious—and that if you don’t eat them, you’ll miss out on all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you can get only from grains. That’s simply not true. Grains are not (we repeat, not) nutrient-dense when compared with vegetables and fruit.”
Plus: “Another way that a diet high in grains leads to suboptimal nutrition is in terms of opportunity cost: If there are more whole grains on your plate, then there’s probably less of some other food—like vegetables—on your plate. And that lowers the overall micronutrient density in your diet too. In summary: There is not a single health-promoting substance present in grains that you can’t also get from vegetables and fruit.
I laugh as I type this given the near-religious fervor with which people approach their nutrition.
Again, YOU’re the Boss.
Given your nutritional philosophy, are there any foods that you think you might to eliminate?
Have fun. That is all!
Jun 24, 2018
Nathaniel Branden was a fascinating guy. As a teenager he wrote a fan letter to Ayn Rand—which she ignored. Then he wrote another letter a little later which led to an intimate relationship and collaboration. 
We’ll save the details of that relationship for another discussion. For now, let’s look at some wisdom from The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem where Nathaniel tells us about a little self-awareness exercise called “sentence completion.”
Here’s how he puts it: “Sentence-completion work is a deceptively simple yet uniquely powerful tool for raising self-understanding, self-esteem, and personal effectiveness. It rests on the premise that all of us have more knowledge than we normally are aware of—more wisdom than we use, more potentials than typically show up in our behavior. Sentence completion is a tool for accessing and activating these ‘hidden resources.’”
How’s it work?
Like this.
Take a sentence stem (like: “Living consciously to me means...”) and create 6-10 completions of that sentence. Only rule is that each ending needs to create a grammatical sentence. Write quickly, don’t stop to “think” and, as Nathaniel says: “Any ending is fine, just keep going.”
Let’s try it out on this sentence stem: 
If I bring 5 percent more awareness to my activities today…
That’s Today’s +1.
Here’s to tapping into the wisdom that’s always right there waiting for us!
Jun 19, 2018
We’ve talked about how exercise is kinda like taking a little bit of Ritalin and a little bit of Prozac, but somehow we’ve gotten this far into our +1 series without talking about the fact that exercise is as effective as Zoloft in reducing depression.
Get this.
In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirksy walks us through a little experiment. 
Bring clinically depressed individuals into a lab. Split them into three groups. The first group is assigned to four months of aerobic exercise while the second group gets an antidepressant medication (in this case Zoloft) and the third group gets both. 
The exercise group does three, forty-five minute sessions per week of cycling or walking/jogging at a moderate to high intensity.
Fast-forward four months.
As Sonja says: "Remarkably, by the end of the four-month intervention period, all three groups had experienced their depressions lift and reported fewer dysfunctional attitudes and increased happiness and self-esteem. Aerobic exercise was just as effective at treating depression as was Zoloft, or as a combination of exercise and Zoloft. Yet exercise is a lot less expensive, usually with no side effects apart from soreness. Perhaps even more remarkably, six months later, participants who had ‘remitted’ (recovered) from their depressions were less likely to relapse if they had been in the exercise group (six months ago!) than if they had been in the medication group.” 
She continues by saying: “No one in our society needs to be told that exercise is good for us. Whether you are overweight or have a chronic illness or are a slim couch potato, you’ve probably heard or read this dictum countless times throughout your life. But has anyone told you— indeed, guaranteed you—that regular physical activity will make you happier? I swear by it.”
Any time one of the leading, conservative scientists in the field guarantees (!) ANYTHING I sit up straight and pay attention.
And, in this case, I put on my shoes and hit the trail.
Jun 14, 2018
In Self-Image 101, we talked about how to create the most heroically awesome version of yourself by integrating the Optimus you and the “en*theos” you into the “Hērōs” you.
We also talked about Other Image 101—aka: How do you see OTHERS?
Walt Whitman helped us out with this idea. 
He once said: “In the faces of men and women, I see God.”
Which begs the question: When you look in the faces of men and women, what do YOU see?
That’s actually Today’s +1.
When you’re out and about today (and, perhaps even more importantly: when you’re in and hanging out with your family today!), take a moment to step back and SEE the absolute best, most divinely awesome essence of the people with whom you’re interacting.
And, remember: It’s hard to see in others what we’re not seeing in ourselves. 
Let’s make sure the first person in whom we see God this morning is that person looking back at us in the mirror. 
Here’s to bowing to the divine within yourself and to the divine within all those you meet today!
+1. +1. +1. 
Jun 9, 2018
Here's another little gem from Dan Pink’s To Sell Is Human. (The man is a brilliant writer and a treasure-trove of goodness.)
He tells us that, according to research from McKinsey: “the typical American hears or reads more than one hundred thousand words every day.”
Think about that for a moment.
100,000 words. EVERY DAY.
When I think about that, I immediately think of a few things: A Lion, a King, and a Monk
Specifically, I think about Alberto Villoldo’s wisdom that we are now exposed to more stimuli in ONE WEEK than our ancient ancestors were exposed to in their ENTIRE LIFETIMES. 
As he says, we evolved to deal with one lion roaring at us at a time. Now, with 24/7/365-global news, it’s as if the entire jungle is roaring at us all day every day. (Which, btw, is one of the reasons why obsessive news and talk show consumption is correlated with anxiety, depression, etc.)
(Another btw: Here’s a crazy stat from Nasha Winters in The Metabolic Approach to Cancer. She tells us: “We can slug down more sugar in thirty minutes than our ancestors would consume in an entire year.” <- Yikes. And we wonder why we're all so sick…)
That’s our Lion. (Side note: Emerson and I just read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and are now working our way through the Chronicles of Narnia. Love it.)
Then there’s our King. Stephen King to be precise.
In On Writing, King says that the hardest part of his creative journey was when he was a full-time high school teacher trying to make it as a writer. Although he loved the kids, at the end of the week he felt like his brain had been attached to jumper cables (!) and it was REALLY hard to simmer down and write anything worth reading.
Then there’s our Monk: Thich Nhat Hanh.
He tells us that everything we are exposed to is a “nutriment” that needs to be “digested.” Those 100,000 words we hear and read every day? Your brain has to process them and digest them just like all the food you eat (and that sugar you might be consuming!).
All of that to say… 
To put it very directly: If you’re the “typical” American, jamming your consciousness so full of words (and stimulation) all day every day, you probably have a VERY hard time ever coming up with an original thought. (Laughing. Sorry to break the news…)
At least that’s MY experience when I open the tap a bit too much to news—I find myself waking up in the morning thinking about what’s going on in the world vs. what I want to CREATE in the world.
Of course, as with everything, there’s a balance. 
How’s yours?
btw: This is also why I very rarely have any music on (and never any talk shows) when I’m driving (that’s my silent time to decompress and think and integrate!) and why I NEVER (!!!) bring any technology with me when I’m in nature hiking (that’s my silent time to decompress and think and integrate!).
Again, we all need to find our path and our optimal balance.
How’s yours?
To the extent we’re committed to being more CREATIVE than REACTIVE, I say we trim that 100,0000-word count down and remember Mark Twain’s quip that anytime he finds himself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect. And, of course, there’s Krishnamurti’s genius line that being well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society is no measure of health.
Let’s break away from the noise and make some noise in the world!
Jun 4, 2018
Emerson is learning how to read and I’m the lucky guy who gets to teach him.
The other day Emerson wrote his first word: “mom.” Then he busted out “dad.” Then he was able to write his name by himself. (I get a little misty just typing that.)
I don’t hang on to much “stuff” but those first, handwritten words are now my most prized possessions.
Philosophically, it’s amazing to see how something that is super hard — like, for example, Emerson writing an “a” — suddenly becomes “easy.”
Of course, I might take more than a moment to celebrate the now awesome “a” and remind Emerson that there was a time when that was really hard. 
And, we often quickly roll through the other things that were hard before they became super easy. If you were a fly on the wall of the Johnson house you might here something like this:
“Remember how you used to poop in your pants!” (We both get a kick out of that one.) “And, now it’s super easy to go in the toilet!”
“And, remember how you used to suck your thumb and it was super hard to stop? But then you decided to and BAM! Now it’s easy!”
“Remember when writing that ‘a’ was hard?! And NOW look at it! You make it look easy! WOW.” 
Then we like to connect the dots between hard and easy.
Me: “How’d you get so good at doing that ‘a’?!”
E: “Practice.”
Me: “Yep. That’s how you get good at anything, huh?”
Together: Practice. Practice. Practice.”
Me: “You can pretty much do ANYTHING you want, buddy, with enough practice!”
I have mist in my eyes as I type that.
And, I say the same thing to you (and, of course, to myself): You can pretty much do ANYTHING you want, buddy, with enough practice!
Only question is: What do you want? (Seriously. What do you really want in your life?!)
Ready to pay the price?
Here’s to pooping in the toilet and remembering that everything is hard before it’s easy.
May 30, 2018
Yesterday we reviewed our Motivation Equation. I hope you took the time to hang out with your #1 Wildly Important Goal and run it through the little magical formula. 
And, if not: Pardon the soapbox moment but… Um… Well, hmmmm… 
We can’t incrementally crush it together if we’re not actually PRACTICING these ideas on a consistent (read: daily!) basis. 
We’ve gotta move from THEORY to PRACTICE and there’s only ONE way to do that…
Ahem. I am now stepping off the soapbox.
Today we shall review another super powerful not-so-secret weapon: WOOP!
As I mentioned in our last +1, we’re currently working on a big project. As such, I’m employing all the best stuff I know to rock it. 
And, it’s now officially I M P O S S I B L E for me to not WOOP something I really care about.
I mean, recall that science shows just how powerful this little practice can be in making our dreams a reality so…
The key? Once again: Start with a vision of your ideal. That’s your WISH. Know the OUTCOMES you think you’ll experience—aka why you’re fired up. Then… Rub that vision up against reality by seeing the OBSTACLES you might face then create a PLAN to deal with it. Voila! You’ve created a “necessity to act” and you’ve increased your odds of success.
Today’s +1.
Let’s revisit your #1 Wildly Important Goal. (Note: Number ONE. Not ten. Or five. Or even two or three. ONE.)
Bust out a blank piece of paper or use our Worksheet. Let’s run through the WOOP! process.
What’s your WISH? If everything went perfectly, what, specifically, would you see in your life? (Awesome.)
What’s your OUTCOME? In other words, WHY are you fired up about achieving this? What benefits will you achieve? (Awesome.)
What OBSTACLES do you think you might face? Yep. That one. And that one. Don’t forget that one. (Awesome.)
What’s your PLAN?! What will you do to go over and under and through those inevitable obstacles? OMMS!! (Awesome.)
W O O P!
There it is.
Again and again and again.
Let’s do this!
May 25, 2018
One of the themes we come back to again and again is the basic idea of loving what is — whether that’s via Byron Katie’s wisdom or the Stoics or the Serenity Prayer.
Here’s another take on it that I’ve found super helpful.
Vernon Howard tells us: “If your grand purpose in life is to wake up, then whatever happens to you is good, for it can prod you into self-awakening.”
And, he says: “If it takes apparent misfortune to turn us into true philosophers and doers of good to receive good, then apparent misfortune is our greatest fortune.”
Well that’s one way to look at it, eh?
Indeed it is. A very powerful way.
Today’s +1.
What’s your GRAND purpose? The ultimate big ol’ purpose of your existence?
In short: To actualize my potential. In service to the world. While enjoying the process.
Now, with THAT goal in mind, I can bring Vernon’s wisdom to mind and alchemize pretty much E V E R Y T H I N G into great fortune. From the mundane issues with the kids or the biz to the bigger challenges in life. 
It’s ALL antifragile fuel for the fire of actualization.
All of it.
So, again… What’s your grand purpose?
Get clear on it. Then make the connection between your response to this moment and that target. 
Let’s use E V E R Y T H I N G as fuel for our growth.
That’s how to turn apparent misfortune into great fortune.
May 20, 2018
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche tells us: “He who cannot command himself should obey. And many can command themselves, but much is still lacking before they can obey themselves.”
How epic is that?!
Let’s slow down and read it again: “He who cannot command himself should obey. And many can command themselves, but much is still lacking before they can obey themselves.”
To translate: Can’t figure out what you should do? No big deal. Just get used to following orders from someone else.
Have a sense of what you should do but can’t follow through? Well, much is still lacking then, my friend. We must be able to command ourselves then obey those commands.
It’s why Leonardo da Vinci said: “One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.”
And… Well, pretty much E V E R Y O N E (! ! !) says that self-mastery is the secret sauce (to being the Boss of your own life).
(It’s also why, if I had to summarize my entire philosophy in one word I’d go with areté.)
So… Today’s +1. 
What the most important “command” the wise, Commander-in-Chief version of you would give to the “rest” of you? (aka: What’s the #1 thing you KNOW you could be doing that you’re not doing?)
Is now a good time to obey that wise Commander?
Command. Obey. Repeat.
Spiral up today.
May 2, 2018
Dan Pink tells us that To Sell Is Human.
Although only 1 in 9 Americans is technically in sales, he says that the other 8 in 9 spend a ton of their time in “non-sales selling.” In fact, the research he commissioned shows that we spend around 40% (!) of our time (or 24 minutes out of every working hour!) trying to move people to do things—whether that’s pitching an idea to colleagues or trying to change someone’s behavior.
(That’s, obviously a lot. And, being good at that is, obviously, important to our professional and personal success.)
Then there’s the personal time we spend “selling”/”moving” others—from selling our kids on a philosophical idea (“mistakes are awesome!”) or your spouse on how to Optimize your nutrition (“sugar isn’t awesome!”).
In that context, he tells us we need some new ABCs of selling. As you may know, the “ABCs” of the old-school, hard-core sales approach are “Always be closing.” 
That, to say the least, is not where it’s at. Now? Now, Dan says, it’s all about Attunement + Buoyancy + Clarity.”
Check out our Notes for more. Here’s the jumbo-quick look:
Attunement is basically the ability to connect with others. We get there via three things: humility, trying to figure out what the other person is thinking (this is more effective, btw, than trying to figure out what they’re feeling) and strategically mimicking their movements and words (but doing it subtly and acting like a human being without being weird about it).
Buoyancy is actually what I want to focus on today. More on that in a moment.
Then we have Clarity. We need to be able to concisely communicate the essence of our offer—finding the 1% of what really matters while asking good questions, etc.
All that to arrive at Bouyancy
Bouyancy is how we stay afloat in the “ocean of rejection” we all feel when we try to “sell” people on our ideas and/or products, etc. Dan offer us tips to stay buoyant before, during and after our pitch. 
Before: We want to make sure our self-talk is empowering (he offers a fascinating twist here that we’ll talk about in our next +1). 
During: We want to keep our positivity ratios Optimized. 1:1 isn’t going to do it. Nor will 2:1. Research shows that 3:1 is the sweet spot. (Note: 11:1 isn’t going to work either!)
After: We want to make sure our “explanatory styles” are rocking. Check out the +1 on How to Learn Optimism featuring Martin Seligman’s 3 P’s for more.
Now, we’re ready for the point of Today’s +1.
You know that positivity ratio? We want to target 3:1. Too little positivity isn’t going to work. AND (very important and!), TOO MUCH positivity isn’t going to work either.
I love the way Dan frames Barbara Fredrickson’s wisdom on this: “Fredrickson sees the healthy positivity ratios ... as a calibration between two competing pulls: levity and gravity. ‘Levity is that unseen force that lifts you skyward, whereas gravity is the opposing force that pulls you earthward. Unchecked levity leaves you flighty, ungrounded, and unreal. Unchecked gravity leaves you collapsed in a heap of misery,’ she writes. ‘Yet when properly combined, these two opposing forces leave you buoyant.’”
Levity + Gravity = Buoyancy.
I love that.
How’s your levity? How’s your gravity? 
Fantastic. Here’s to your buoyancy!
Apr 30, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about our 80/20 180 phase in which we implemented a number of high-leverage lifestyle changes.
After that stabilization and Optimizing process, we went deep into what research shows to be a REALLY powerful targeted therapy for cancer: a ketogenic diet.
In fact, we hired the woman who literally wrote the book on it.
That book is called Keto for Cancer. Its author, Miriam Kalamian has been my brother’s day-to-day nutritionist for the last x weeks. She and her book are AMAZING.
If you’re wondering what nutritional approach we’re following, THAT’s it.
I’m laughing as I type this but my brother went from pretty much eating whatever he wanted whenever he wanted in whatever quantity he wanted to following a nutritional plan with the precision of an Olympic athlete such that he knows, in his words, whether or not he can have a couple more walnuts with lunch. (HAH!)
All of which begs a few questions.
First, you may wonder: What’s a ketogenic diet? And, why is it relevant?
Well, a therapeutic ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate, adequate protein, high healthy-fat, nutrient-dense diet that shifts your body’s primary source of energy metabolism from glucose to what’s known as “ketones.” 
The ketones produced in a therapeutic ketogenic diet are relevant because THIS is how we strike cancer where it’s weak.
Here’s the deal. Remember our chat about the fact that “cancer loves sugar”? Well, cancer cells don’t just love sugar, cancer cells pretty much literally (!!!) can’t live without sugar. (I have goosebumps as I type that.)
Know this: You don’t need to rewind that far in our 1.5-million-year evolutionary history to arrive at a time when the next meal wasn’t guaranteed (let alone arriving as “edible foodlike substances” that was made in a factory and available in your fridge all day every day — all consumed with basically no effort, etc.). 
Know this: We evolved to not just survive during times of food scarcity but to THRIVE.
This fact required what’s known as metabolic flexibility.” Healthy cells had to be able to burn either glucose or ketones for fuel. 
(Side note: Here’s a little known fact that all dieticians know but nearly all keep secret: We can function just fine with ZERO carbs. We NEED fats and proteins. We do NOT NEED carbs.)
And might just be THE most important point in our entire discussion about how to conquer cancer so let’s pay attention here:
Which means that cancer cells can’t make the switch from using glucose for fuel to using ketones. (Whereas healthy cells easily can.)
And THAT is how you checkmate the seemingly immortal cells and their out-of-control growth.
Leverage their metabolic inflexibility. Cut off their fuel source. Step on their Achilles heel. 
Practically speaking, what that means is we need to drastically reduce carb intake (in the range of around 20 net carbs per day). When done with precision (ideally with the guidance of a nutrition pro) within the healthy fat, adequate protein, nutrient-dense parameters Miriam maps out in her book, you radically change your energy metabolism — nourishing your healthy cells with ketones while starving your cancer cells of glucose. 
This is why my brother measures his glucose and ketones all day every day. 
He’s driven the glucose down: now in the 80s — which, again, is an epically awesome drop from the 145 diabetic, cancer-feasting-on-glucose zone to the optimal, “where’s the glucose?!” cancer cell starvation diet zone WHILE driving his ketone levels up. Again, nourishing the metabolically flexible healthy cells while exploiting the metabolically INflexible cancer cell’s Achilles.
THAT is how we use targeted nutritional therapy to win the war on cancer. 
Apr 25, 2018
So, on one hand, as per our last +1, science shows that genes play a surprisingly small role in the cause of cancer.
Guess where nearly all of that $100 billion of research money has has been spent?
We’ve spent $100 billion dollars on research and we spend $100 billion dollars on cancer medications every year operating under the assumption that cancer is, primarily, a genetic issue.
To put it directly, that appears to be the essence of why we’ve failed to win the war on cancer. We’ve been looking at it from the wrong perspective. 
Result: No improvements in the real death rates since the 1950s.
Here’s the short story on the two conflicting theories regarding the origin of cancer: 
The dominant theoretical orientation within Western medicine is something called the somatic mutation theory (or “SMT”) of cancer.
It basically says that cancer is CAUSED by genetic mutations. 
Now, there’s no question that cancer cells are pretty wacky genetically. In fact, the sheer complexity of mutations that exist even within one individual with cancer (let alone across individuals with various types of cancers) is why it’s so hard to treat cancer from this paradigm. 
But the question we need to ask is: Is cancer CAUSED by genetic mutations, or are those mutations a downstream EFFECT of some other cause?
Thankfully, researchers have been asking this question.
Enter: The metabolic theory of cancer.
The METABOLIC theory of cancer (vs. the genetic theory of cancer) says it’s dysfunctional ENERGY METABOLISM that precedes the genetic instability (and all the other hallmarks of cancer).
And, guess what?
That’s a HUGE distinction.
Because your theory drives your therapy. Get the theory wrong and you get the therapy wrong.
You just might spend an awful lot of money on research and treatment and get no real improvements.
To put it directly: When a loved one’s life is on the line, that’s no longer an abstract statistic. It’s a matter of life and death. 
P.S. Did you know that some cancer medications cost $100,000 for a year’s worth of treatment that only extends life by three months? That’s (shockingly) true. There has to be a better way, eh? Yes. And… The good news: There is a better way. 
P.P.S. Thomas Seyfried is one of the world’s leading researchers who is persuasively arguing for the metabolic theory of cancer. His 15-page (+ 7 pages of references) peer-reviewed article in the scientific journal Nutrition & Metabolism called Cancer as a metabolic disease” is a MUST READ. 
Print it out, read it. Bring a copy with you to your next appointment with your oncologist and team, etc. This is the scientific foundation for the theoretical framework we will be using to inform our metabolic approach to therapy. 
P.P.P.S. It’s essential that we understand the fact that what we’re talking about here is not a “cleanse” or a “detox” or anything along those lines. Although many inspiring anecdotal stories exist out there on the Internet about various juicing/cleansing/detoxing protocols, that’s NOT what we’re talking about here and, with blessings to all those who have benefited from and swear by them, I would never bet my life (or my brother’s life or your life) on those approaches. 
What we’re talking about here is a scientifically-grounded look at an alternative theory of cancer supported by a growing body of peer-reviewed, empirically sound data. There’s a BIG difference between that and the “cancer cures” we can find on the Internet. And, that’s one of the reasons why most primary care physicians and oncologists freak out when they hear you’re doing something other than traditional approaches.
We’ve shared all this research with our traditional team. And, we’ve gotten smart about how to communicate our approach. Which (along with the astonishing (!) therapeutic benefits my brother has experienced thus far) has led our oncologist to say to my brother, “If I were diagnosed with what you have (stage IIB pancreatic cancer), I’d do what you’re doing.”
Why would he say that? Because, pancreatic cancer is notoriously hard to treat from a traditional (read: genetic origin!) perspective.
And, you know when he said that? It wasn’t in our first meeting. In that initial meeting when he delivered the prognosis he literally didn’t look at my brother once. He had the very difficult job of communicating a very heavy prognosis and all my brother could see from the table was the side of his doctor’s face as he described what was going on to Rick’s wife, Kristin. It wasn’t a good day to say the least.
He changed his tone after he looked at my brother’s PET scan that showed NO SIGNS of cancer—after 5 weeks of SUPER intense nutritional and lifestyle therapeutic intervention that we’ll discuss. (Although we didn’t have a “before” PET scan to compare it to, that’s not supposed to happen with stage IIB pancreatic.) He and the other doctor who reviewed the PET + CT scans said, “If we didn’t know you had cancer, we wouldn’t know you had cancer after looking at those scans.”  
Now, there are a lot of variables at play and, again, we didn’t have a baseline to compare it to, and this is a sample size of one and we have a long way to go in our Optimizing journey, etc. etc. etc. but I am extremely confident that our metabolic approach to my brother’s cancer helped halt his cancer’s growth. And, I know we’re not alone as there are so many exemplars with similar results following a similar approach out there. 
I’m excited to share some of the practical steps we’ve taken in line with the metabolic approach to cancer. But, first, I want to spend a little more time establishing the theoretical framework as it’s important we get it on a high level.
Which we’ll do in our next +1…
Apr 21, 2018

What You Can Do on a Daily Basis to Optimize Your Nutrition in an Easy and Practical Way.

Apr 20, 2018
In our last couple +1s, we had some fun at the hospital with our Stoic friends Seneca and Epictetus. 
Recall Epictetus’ wisdom that sometimes good philosophy feels more like a trip to the hospital than a spa. (Ouch!)
Seneca echoes this wisdom in Letters from a Stoic where he says, Be harsh with yourself at times.”
Now, of course, this does NOT mean that we need to go around like that albino monk from The da Vinci Code mutilating ourselves. (Yowsers!)
It DOES mean that, at times, with a base of (and, ultimately, OUT OF a deep sense of) self-compassion, we need to give ourselves a Zen stick to the head and wake up from the bad habits that might be dragging us down.
As with the virtuous mean chat we had awhile ago, there’s a virtuous mean here. 
TOO MUCH harshness is destructive — we’ll develop a sense of self-loathing that Aristotle would consider a vice of excess
TOO LITTLE harshness on the other hand, and we run the risk of being a bit too self-contented. That would be a vice of deficiency.
The virtuous mean rests right there in the middle path — where we’re appropriately correcting our weaknesses WITHOUT self-criticism per se, just a nice firm needs work” look in the eye as we embody more and more of our ideals.
The great Sufi philosopher Rumi comes to mind. He tells us: This discipline and rough treatment are a furnace to extract the silver from the dross. This testing purifies the gold by boiling the scum away.”
In other words, be harsh with yourself at times. Check yourself into the hospital for the surgery. Throw yourself into the furnace.
Let’s extract the silver from the dross. Purify the gold within by boiling away the scum.
Now. And again and again and again.
With a knowing, joyful, Stoic-Sufi-Optimizing smile.
Apr 15, 2018
Once upon a time in a land far away, there was an old farmer.
This man had a horse.
Then, one day, his horse ran away. 
All the neighbors said, Gah!! That’s such a bummer. What bad luck.”
The man said, Maybe. It is what is.”
Then, one day, the horse returned!! And, lo and behold, the horse brought along a bunch of wild stallions with him!
All the neighbors said, Wow!! That’s incredible. What good luck!”
The man said, Maybe. It is what it is.”
At this point in the story, I should mention that the man also had a son. This son was pretty excited about the new horses. Especially one particularly wild stallion he wanted to ride.
So, he hops up on the horse and, WHAM! He gets slammed to the ground and breaks his leg.
All the neighbors said, Ohhhhhhhhh, man! What bad luck. I can’t believe that happened. Now your son can’t work the fields. That’s really bad.”
The man said, Maybe. It is what it is.”
Then one day, the army came marching into the small village. There was a war and the king demanded that all able-bodied young men join them in their battle. Our man’s son with the broken leg was spared.
All the neighbors said, Wow. Your son has been saved! What good luck.”
The man said… 
Well, at this stage you know what the man said.
Today’s +1. How do YOU respond to life’s events?
Is it all either good” or bad”?
Or, perhaps, is it just what it is? 
P.S. Shakespeare must have had this Zen story in mind when he had Hamlet say that there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Apr 10, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Phil Stutz’ great phrase: Endlessly evolving process.”
Phil likes to draw upward spiraling loops to describe the flow of evolving into the best version of ourselves.
In fact, his spiraling loops are almost identical to Ray Dalio’s spiraling loops. Remember his? We unpacked his 5-Steps to Success model not too long ago.
The super-quick recap: You start with an audacious goal. Then you fail. Then you figure out why you failed. Then you design a better solution to your challenge. Then you get to work on the solution. 
Then you spiral up and repeat that process of evolving into a slightly better version of you. (For how long? E N D L E S S L Y.)
Now, Dalio tells us that it’s REALLY important to fall in love with that process. ESPECIALLY (!) the part most people shy away from — that whole failing part.
“But can’t I just evolve without all those mistakes?”
(Insert laughter from all philosophers ever.)
(Still laughing.)
“No. You can’t.”
Therefore, the wisest among us (with Dalio in the lead on this one) tell us that we want to so fall in love with the process of making mistakes and then getting a little better that we’re kinda like a runner who hits a certain point during his or her run where the pain goes away and the runner’s high” takes over.
Dalio calls this the mistake-learner’s high.”
You’re so engaged in the dynamic process of Optimizing that you L O V E the mistakes — knowing that they’re just part of the process of going after something audacious and the perfect data/fuel to Optimize just a little more today.
And, we all know that it’s all about aggregating and compounding those tiny little gains over an extended period of time, right?
Today’s +1. Made any mistakes lately? 
Can you see how those mistakes are an ESSENTIAL part of your (endlessly evolving) process of achieving your audacious goals?!
Fantastic. Keep that in mind today.
And tomorrow. And the day after that.
Enjoy your mistake-learner’s high!
Apr 5, 2018
Please extend your pointer finger and shake it as if you’re lecturing someone — saying something like, You shouldn’t do this, this and this! Do that, that and that!”
Thank you.
Now, look at your hand and count how many fingers are pointing at the person you’re lecturing and how many fingers are pointing back at you.
Unless you’re missing a digit, you should see one finger pointing at the lucky recipient of your lecture and THREE fingers pointing back at you.
You may want to pay attention to that the next time you’re lecturing someone.
Debbie Ford tells us that this practices is a really handy way to notice our shadow” — the stuff we haven’t integrated in our own lives that, unfortunately, we tend to project onto others.
She tells us to attend our own lectures” because, more often than not, whatever lecture we’re giving someone else is the one WE desperately need to attend.
Today’s +1. The next time you start telling someone all the things you think they need to start doing more of or less of or whatever, imagine you’re a student diligently taking notes on the lecture you’re giving.
You might just find that the lecture you’re giving *them* is what YOU most need to hear!
(And, btw, the sooner you actually do the stuff you’re lecturing other people about, the sooner you’ll stop lecturing them about it. ;)
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