OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time

OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson features the best Big Ideas from the best optimal living books. More wisdom in less time to help you live your greatest life. (Learn more at
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OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time









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Jun 14, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we’ve had fun (at least I have!) briefly chatting about the first two steps Paul Napper and Anthony Rao encourage us to take in pursuit of cultivating our Agency such that life’s challenges are just nutritious treats fueling our hero’s journeys.
Step 1: Control Stimuli.
Step 2: Selectively Associate. 
Today we’re going to talk about Step 3: Move.
Here’s how Paul and Anthony put it: “Focusing on movement, and on the nutrition and rest necessary to keep you active and in balance, increases mental and physical strength and stamina–essential building blocks to all body and mind functions.”
Want a strong sense of personal power?
Well, as we discuss ALL.THE.TIME!!, you better ENERGIZE
Let’s hear it from their perspective. 
They tell us: “We all know what it feels like to sit around like a slug all day, not getting outdoors and moving about. But when we get some real movement in, it is a kind of agency in itself. It primes our minds and our senses to fully engage in the world.”
They continue: “When we say Move, we really mean this: Pay attention to your body so that you can provide it with what it requires to be healthy and in balance, because when your body is out of balance, your mind is out of balance. To achieve this, engage in physical movements in multiple ways, rest adequately, and eat nutritious food. Your agency depends on it. Without physical health and balance in your life, everything else will wobble and decline. Flexibility, strength, and stamina are the most obvious things that begin to deteriorate when you’re physically out of balance. But likewise, your motivation, your ability to pay attention, and your ability to delay gratification are adversely affected. Most important to realize, with unhealthy amounts of movement, rest, nutrition, your psychological state–your thinking skills and ability to manage your emotions– deteriorates, and along with it your personal agency.”
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s the one thing you know you could be doing that could most benefit your life if you did it consistently starting Today?
Got it? 
Now forget it. (Hah.)
What’s one TINY (!!!) little thing you could do RIGHT NOW (!) that would be a fun way to demonstrate some mastery and build your agency?
Let’s do it. 
(Mine? I’m going to take a nice, calming, deep breath in through my nose down into my belly. Then pause for a moment before smiling and exhaling back out through my nose—slightly longer than my inhale—as I relax my body and get ready to give the world some more of what I’ve got!)
Jun 9, 2019
In our last little flurry of +1s, we had some fun with Mel Robbins’s 5 Second Rule.
Have you tried it out yet?
5… 4… 3… 2… 1… - GO!!!
That might be THE most elegantly efficient Tool we’ve discussed to help close the gap between who we’re CAPABLE of being and who we’re ACTUALLY being. (Operationalizing Areté for the win!) 
Now, one of the key themes of Mel’s book and reasons why that tool is so powerful is the fact that, in addition to getting us to take action RIGHT NOW on what matters most, her 5 Second Rule also builds something that scientists call “agency.”
(Mel actually doesn’t use the word “agency” to describe it; she focuses on a parallel idea called “locus of control.” We’ll save that idea for another time.)
It’s a beautiful word. One of my favorites in fact. Science says it’s one of the secret sauces to Optimizing.
So, when I fortuitously stumbled upon a book called The Power of Agency on Amazon, I immediately got it and read it. It’s written by Paul Napper and Anthony Rao—two leading consultants and clinicians who have both held academic positions at Harvard Medical School. 
In their great book, they define agency as “the ability to act as an effective agent for yourself—reflecting, making creative choices, and constructing a meaningful life.” 
In the book, they provide practical, scientifically-grounded wisdom on, as per the sub-title: “The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms.” 
We’ll explore a few of the most powerful, practical Ideas on how to BUILD our agency over the next several days.
Today I just want to make the connection between DOING WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE and cultivating a strong sense of personal power (aka agency).
That and I also want to have a little fun.
Imagine that you’re a Secret Agent. 
(DoubleO-You perhaps. Short for OptimizingOptimusYOU, of course!)
You work for your Daimon. 
What mission is he/she asking you to carry out? 
Have you chosen to accept it?
What’s your next step?
Get on that!
This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds…
5… 4… 3… 2… 1… - GO!
Jun 4, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about our new Optimus launch code: "5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Now what needs to be done?” 
Although I didn’t make the second part of the little launch mantra explicit, we connected Mel Robbins’s brilliant 5 Second Rule with David Reynold’s Constructive Living Rule.
It’s always awesome to see teachers from such different backgrounds say basically exactly the same thing.
As you may recall, Reynolds is a Zen therapist who wrote a great little book called Constructive Living. 
He tells us: “Our behavior is controllable in a way that our feelings are not. There is a very special satisfaction for the Artist of Living who works within life’s limits to produce a fine self-portrait. The more control we develop over our actions, the more chance we have of producing a self we can be proud of.”
His mantra? 
“Now what needs to be done?”
(We have a +1 on this already but it’s worth a replay.)
Don’t feel like doing something you know you need to do? No problem. 
“Now what needs to be done?”
Happen again? Fantastic.
“Now what needs to be done?”
Repeat. All day. Every day.
And, if you’re feeling it, rock the 5 Second Rule with it as well.
"5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Now what needs to be done?” 
That’s Today’s +1.
One more time:
"5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Now what needs to be done?” 
Step forward into growth. Flip the switch
Close the gap between who you’re CAPABLE of being and who you’re ACTUALLY being.
Again and again and again.
5… 4… 3… 2… 1… BLASTOFF!
May 30, 2019
A couple +1s ago, we hung out with a world-class Ferrari pit stop crew and took a moment to celebrate all the people in OUR pit stop crews while committing to stepping up our pit crew games for those we’re blessed to serve.
Today I want to talk about WD-40.
I’ve actually been meaning to talk about it for awhile and Today seems like a good day. 
Of course, I have no idea if pit stop crews use WD-40 (I’m pretty sure the Ferrari guys don’t—lol) but it seems like a good opportunity to slip in a fun story so here we are.
For those who may not be familiar with the super-lubricating product, Wikipedia tells us that WD-40 is the trademark name of a penetrating oil and water-displacing spray. The spray is manufactured by the WD-40 Company based in San Diego, California.”
But that’s not the point of Today’s +1.
I want to talk about the origin story for WD-40.
Pop quiz: Do you know how they came up with that name?
Well, on the company’s web site they tell us: “WD-40® literally stands for Water Displacement, 40th formula. That's the name straight out of the lab book used by the chemist who developed the product back in 1953. The chemist, Norm Larsen, was attempting to concoct a formula to prevent corrosion—a task which is done by displacing water.”
That’s a nice way to say that our chemist friend Norm Larsen failed 39 times trying to figure out how to create a solvent to prevent corrosion but then finally figured it out. On attempt #40.
And then they figured out thousands of ways to apply his new solvent to everyday challenges.
I kinda like that arc.
Dozens of failures. Oops.
Figured it out. Awesome.
Then figured out how to scale the new discovery to solve a ton of other challenges. Even more awesome.
Skipping any more unpaid product promotion (lol)… 
Today’s +1. 
Have you ever failed over and over and over again before finally succeeding? (Of course you have. Let’s celebrate that!!)
And… Are you, perhaps, in the middle of another series of experiments to figure out how to master something? (I hope so, heroic one!)
Let’s squirt a little WD-Optimizing40 on our challenges and get back to work in the laboratories of our lives as we get a little closer to a fun breakthrough origin story!
May 25, 2019
Way back in the early days of our +1 Optimizing together, we talked about the fact that our limbic systems evolved to deal with a single lion roaring at us at a time. 
As we said in that little chat on Lions vs. Jungles, that lion’s roar triggers a fight or flight response. We fight or we flee. And, hopefully, we live to talk about the tale later. 
But, the important thing to note is that the stress from that event, although extremely acute, is also extremely short-lived. We respond to the challenge and move on. Our nervous system resets itself, all good.
These days, we’re so bombarded with stimuli that it’s as if, to use Alberto Villoldo’s metaphor, the ENTIRE JUNGLE is roaring at us ALL DAY EVERY DAY.
The result? 
A whole lot of enervated anxiety.
Today I want to talk about the single best predictor of people’s fear and anxiety. 
Pop quiz: Can you guess what it is?
We’ll find the answer at the end of this little passage from Kelly McGonigal’s The Upside of Stress
She tells us: “Stress caused by the news, as opposed to stress caused by your life, is unique in its ability to trigger a sense of hopelessness. Watching TV news after a natural disaster or terrorist attack has consistently been shown to increase the risk of developing depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. One shocking study found that people who watched six or more hours of news about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing were more likely to develop post-traumatic stress symptoms than people who were actually at the bombing and personally affected by it. It’s not just traditional news programs that instill fear and hopelessness; stories of tragedy, trauma, and threats dominate many forms of media. In fact, a 2014 study of U.S. adults found that the single best predictor of people’s fear and anxiety was how much time they spent watching TV talk shows.”
There ya go.
“… a 2014 study of U.S. adults found that the single best predictor of people’s fear and anxiety was how much time they spent watching TV talk shows.”
Today’s +1.
Two quick questions.
  1. How’s your fear and anxiety?
  2. How much time do you spend watching TV talk shows?
Bonus questions: See any connections and/or ways to Optimize?
Here’s to dealing with the inevitable stressors of life without introducing unnecessary ones!!
+1. +1. +1. via -1. -1. -1.
May 20, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we talked about the art and science of lining up our dominoes in one neat and shiny staircase to moon-heaven. 
It all sounds so nice and easy when it’s mapped out like that, eh? (Hah.)
Alas, there are a few important asterisks to that little story.
As important as it is to have clarity on what’s important and worthy of our life force, nothing is ever quite that straightforward in real heroic living. 
And, of course, it’s impossible to line up ALL the dominoes and see them perfectly arrayed before you actually start the journey.
That’s Today’s +1.
Embrace the mess.
It’s a feature of the Hero’s Journey, not a sign that something's wrong with you and your approach per se.
And, remember: The greater the challenge, the greater the need for a protocol to keep our emotional stamina Optimized.
That is all.
Here’s to joyfully embracing the wonderfully messy process of Optimizing and actualizing. Especially when you don’t feel like it. (Hah!)
High fives from me and my daimon to you and yours!
P.S. Let’s do this!!
May 15, 2019
The other day I headed to Google to look up the meaning of the phrase “force multiplier.” 
Short story: When we initially launched our Optimize Coach certification program, I said that I believed our program could be a catalytic force multiplier in helping people Optimize their lives so we can change the world together.
After the first couple of months working with our first class of Coaches, I am more certain of that catalytic power than ever before.
Enter: A quick Google search on force multiplier” so I could wrap my brain around the precise definition of that powerful phrase.
The best (and first) answer came from (Thanks, guys! And, thanks Google for connecting us!)
Here’s how they put it: “Force Multipliers are tools that help you Amplify your effort to produce more output. A hammer is a force multiplier. Investing in Force Multipliers means that you'll get more done with the same amount of effort.”
Brilliant, eh?
Would you rather hammer a nail in with your hand or with a hammer? 
Same basic swinging motion of effort. But the hammer delivers a lot more output with the same effort, eh? (While, obviously, saving your hand from the ouch! Hammer for the win!)
While taking a quick gander at other definitions and examples of force multipliers, I stumbled upon a brilliant blog post about some wisdom from retired four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Here’s how Powell puts it: “In the military, we are always looking for ways to leverage up our forces. Having greater communications and command and control over your forces than your enemy has over his is a force multiplier. Having greater logistics capability than the enemy is a force multiplier. Having better-trained commanders is a force multiplier.
Perpetual optimism, believing in yourself, believing in your purpose, believing you will prevail, and demonstrating passion and confidence is a force multiplier. If you believe and have prepared your followers, the followers will believe.”
Perpetual optimism.”
← Isn’t that a beautiful phrase?
Well, it might just be our most powerful force multiplier. 
Tomorrow we’ll talk about a little distinction to that wisdom. 
Today I’d like to do a quick check in.
How’s your belief in yourself? And your belief in your purpose? And your belief that you will prevail?
Let’s remember that our passion and confidence are force multipliers. 
Our “followers” (be they our kids or our colleagues or our staff or OURSELVES!) are A L W A Y S watching and taking our lead. 
So, let’s lead wisely. 
Let’s multiply our power via perpetual optimism!!
How can you boost your optimism just a little more Today?
May 10, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we’ve had fun exploring some wisdom gems from my recent PhilosophersNotes binge-athon.
Today we’re going to talk about another great Idea from another great Note. This one’s on Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life.
Quick context: Stephen is the director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living. Kripalu is the largest yoga research institute in the Western world. (And being the director of “Extraordinary Living” may be the coolest job title ever, eh?) 
As the Senior Scholar in Residence at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, he has been integrating Eastern contemplative traditions and Western philosophy and psychology for years.
In his great book, Stephen brings the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita to life in our modern lives.
One of the big themes of the book is the idea of dharma.
He tells us: “The yoga tradition is very, very interested in the idea of an inner possibility harbored within every human soul. Yogis insist that every single human being has a unique vocation. They call this dharma. Dharma is a potent Sanskrit word that is packed tight with meaning, like one of those little sponge animals that expands to six times its original size when you add water. Dharma means, variously, ‘path,’ ‘teaching,’ or ‘law.’ For our purposes in this book it will mean primarily, ‘vocation,’ or ‘sacred duty.’ It means, most of all—and in all cases—truth. Yogis believe that our greatest responsibility in life is to this inner possibility—this dharma—and they believe that every human being’s duty is to utterly, fully, and completely embody his own idiosyncratic dharma…”
I just LOVE that word.
And, I love the idea that “every single human being has a unique vocation” and that every human being’s duty is to utterly, fully, and completely embody his own idiosyncratic dharma.”
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s YOUR idiosyncratic dharma?
Here’s to honoring our sacred duty as we give the world all we’ve got.
Apr 25, 2019
In our last +1, we explored the relationship between our food rotting and us rotting. Recall: The longer the shelf life of the food we eat, the shorter our lives will be!
That wisdom was from Michael Pollan’s Food Rules
In fact, it’s Rule #13: “Eat only foods that will eventually rot.”
Today we’re going to talk about another Food Rule.
Food Rule #57 to be precise.
“Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.”
Here’s how Pollan puts it: “American gas stations now make more money inside selling food (and cigarettes) than they do outside selling gasoline. But consider what kind of food this is: Except perhaps for the milk and water, it’s all highly processed, imperishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened soft drinks in hefty twenty-ounce bottles. Gas stations have become ‘processed corn stations’: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside for you. Don’t eat there.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Don’t eat at a gas station. 
Ever again.
Apr 20, 2019
Why We Sleep is a life-changing kinda book.
We’re going to spend a few more days mining a few more of the many gems from Matthew Walker’s masterpiece.
Today we’re going to flip open our virtual Optimize magazine to the kind of ad we’d allow in there.
Here it is:
Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and strokes, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?”
← Wow!! I’ll take it! You?
Matthew continues: “While it may sound hyperbolic, nothing about this fictitious advertisement would be inaccurate. If this were a drug, many people will be disbelieving. Those who were convinced would pay large sums of money for even the smallest dose. Should clinical trials back up the claims, share prices of the pharmaceutical company that invented the drug would skyrocket.
Of course, the ad is not describing some miracle new tincture or a cure-all wonder drug, but rather the proven benefits of a full night of sleep. The evidence supporting these claims have been documented in more than 17,000 well-scrutinized and scientific reports to date. As for the prescription cost, well, there isn’t one. It’s free. Yet all too often, we shun the nightly invitations to receive our full dose of this all natural remedy–with terrible consequences.
Failed by the lack of public education, most of us do not realize how remarkable a panacea sleep truly is.”
I always love it when the fundamentals are pitched like a miracle pill.
Jonathan Haidt’s similar ad for meditation comes to mind: “Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It’s called meditation.
Then there’s John Ratey’s magic from Spark: “I tell people that going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters. It’s a handy metaphor to get the point across, but the deeper explanation is that exercise balances neurotransmitters — along with the rest of the neurochemicals in the brain. And as you’ll see, keeping your brain in balance can change your life.”
(btw: After shattering my arm, I couldn’t exercise/sweat for a month. Gah!!! I *really* missed my little daily dose of Ritalin and Prozac and I’m really happy to be popping those metaphorical pills again! Alas, I’m still months away from full burpees but I’ll take what I can get for now!)
So, yah. Sleep is a magic pill. So is meditation. And exercise. 
The more of those metaphorical pills we pop, the less of the other stuff we’re likely to need, eh?
P.S. Actual sleeping pills? Matthew dedicates a chapter to outlining why they are a REALLY bad idea. They don’t help induce real, restorative sleep. Science says CBT-I is a much better option!!
Apr 15, 2019
In our Optimize Coach certification program, we kick the party off by establishing the game we’re playing in Module I: Eudaimon-ology in which we connect ancient wisdom (Aristotle!) to modern science (Seligman!) to establish the fact that it’s all about flourishing/having a “good soul” via living with virtue.
Then we move on to get clarity on how to Operationalize Virtue—going from theory to practice to mastery. When? TODAY!!! 
After a quick look at Module II: The Big 3 x 2 (aka: Energy + Work + Love x Identity + Virtues + Behaviors), we spend six (!!!) weeks on Module III: #carpediem as we begin systematically architecting our Masterpiece Days to cultivate emotional stamina and consistently express the (Optimus!) best version of ourselves.
We remind ourselves of the fact that our day actually begins the night before. As such, the first thing we focus on Optimizing is our PM Bookend. The #1 thing we focus on there is our digital sunset—aka, when we turn off our blue-light emitting devices to allow our brains to simmer down so we can get a good night of sleep so we can wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and energized.
All of which gets us one step closer to the point of Today’s +1.
During our two hours (!) of Q&A for that session, one of the questions a Coach asked was if it made a difference whether they read via an iPad or a book at night.
I gave my thoughts on the subject. Then, literally the next day, I got more clarity on the SCIENCE behind the answer.
Enter: Matthew Walker’s brilliant book on the science of Why We Sleep. (Note: If you’re going to read one book on sleep, this is it.)
Short story: Bring people into a lab. Have them read a book on an iPad a few hours before going to sleep. Then have the same person read a printed book on a different night. Then measure their melatonin. 
Here’s what you’ll find: “Compared to reading a printed book, reading on an iPad suppressed melatonin released by over 50% at night. Indeed, iPad reading delayed the rise of melatonin by up to three hours, relative to the natural rising the same individuals experience when reading a printed book. When reading on the iPad, their melatonin peak, and thus instruction to sleep, did not occur until the early morning hours, rather than before midnight. Unsurprisingly, individuals took longer to fall asleep after iPad reading relative to print-copy reading.”
Crazy but true: Reading on your iPad suppresses melatonin production (a key pacing event for great sleep) by a remarkable 50%!! 
Today’s +1: Reading tonight?
Consider going old school and reading a print book.
Your melatonin will thank you.
And your future, tomorrow self will thank you for the energy boost as well.
Apr 10, 2019
In our last +1, we did some severe pruning with Steve Chandler and Ralph Waldo Emerson. (How’d that go for you? More specifically: What went for you?)
Today we’re going to spend some more time doing creative gardening with Steve. 
Now, as we discussed in our +1 on our radish farm (oops!), I’m not much of a gardener. (Hah.) So… I’d never heard of “grow lights” before but I love the way Steve captures their metaphorical power. 
Here’s how he puts it in CREATOR: “When an aware person (someone who knows and realizes that they are creative energy itself) notices that the sales of their services have been neglected—resulting in lower income—they simply turn their light (creative energy) toward the sales process.
‘Whatever you give your attention to grows’ is not just some positive slogan—it’s how the world actually works. The more you become aware that you are infinite, creative energy, the more you can see yourself as light.
Think of it the way a gardener uses a grow light.’ Sometimes called a ‘plant light,’ grow lights make it easy to grow plants indoors. Grow lights are used for horticulture, indoor gardening, indoor hydroponics, and aquatic plants. Shine a grow light on your indoor plant and you ignite enough photosynthesis for the plant to grow.
Creativity is just like that light. You can shine your grow light anywhere. On your business, on relationships, on your exercise routine, on your music, and on your education.”
Love it!!!
Want to grow something in your life?
Yep. That’s the trick-ticket.
Which kinda begs two questions:
  1. What would you like to see more of in your life? And,
  2. How can you shine a little more grow light on it?
Today a good day to get on that, my CREATOR friend?!? 
Mar 31, 2019
In our last +1, we had some fun soaking our minds in some epic “To Dare or Not to Dare” wisdom. We kicked that party off with a Søren Kierkegaard gem.
This one: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.” 
(How’s your daring going?)
Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
He was also the purveyor of other epically quotable wisdom gems.
Including this one: “God has given each of us our ‘marching orders.’ Our purpose here on Earth is to find those orders and carry them out. Those orders acknowledge our special gifts.”
That’s Today’s +1.
God has given each of us our marching orders.
What are YOURS?
Let’s know that our purpose here on Earth (and why we do all we do together Optimizing!) is to find those orders and carry them out.
So… What are your special gifts? How are you/will you give them to the world?
One more time: What are your marching orders?
Let’s find them and follow them.
Mar 26, 2019
In our last +1 we talked about the fact that, as per legendary tough guy Vince Lombardi, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” 
Then we operationalized a super-simple antidote to cowardice via a super-simple PM Bookend routine. (How’d that go for you?)
I mentioned the fact that we’d connect that fatigue-coward phenomenon to my heart rate monitor. So, let’s.
Not too long ago, I introduced you to my Suunto watch. Love it. Works great. 
… Except when it doesn’t!
Every once in awhile, I’ll be training at a mellow pace and my watch will be telling me that my heart rate is WAY higher than it could possibly be. 
To put it in perspective, my target Maffetone-approved aerobic zone is 131 to 141. I usually train in that zone every other day. On my mellow recovery days, I do the same trail at a slower pace and stay well below that 131.
So, imagine my surprise one day when I’m going at a super mellow pace and look down at my watch to see it telling me that I’m at 160-something. I’m like, “Really? No way. That’s not possible. I’m pretty sure I’m not blowing up right now.” (Hah.)
So… I got my strip detector things a little wet via a little spit. Didn’t help. I took off my heart rate monitor strap. Put it back on. Still didn’t help.
I’m basically standing still and it’s telling me I’m still blowing up.
Hah! D’oh. 
Now… As a Professional Optimizer/Lover of Wisdom, I’m not allowed to waste lemon squeezing opportunities so, after a moment of almost-frustration I carried on with my hike and decided to simply ignore the data.
Which is when the metaphorical learning moment hit me.
That data from the heart rate monitor was, for whatever reason, literally USELESS for me during that workout. 
So I ignored it.
Guess what?
You know that voice in your head that shows up when you’re tired
You know, the voice that says: “Life sucks boo hoo yada yada yada blah blah blah. Etc. Etc. Etc.”
Guess what?
When you’re tired, that “data” your mind throws at you is about as useful as my broken heart rate monitor.
Carry on with your day.
Go build your Emotional Stamina muscles as you execute your protocol and practice having good bad days. Then figure out what “Needs work!” so you can wake up tomorrow feeling WAY better—with a working monitor that gives you good data.
That’s Today’s +1.
Happy Trails!
Mar 23, 2019

Michael J. Gelb is the world’s leading authority on the application of genius thinking to personal and organizational development. He is a pioneer in the fields of creative thinking, accelerated learning, and innovative leadership. Gelb leads seminars for organizations such as DuPont, Merck, Microsoft, Nike, Roche and YPO. He brings more than 35 years of experience as a professional speaker, seminar leader and organizational consultant to his diverse, international clientele. Michael Gelb is the author of 14 books on creativity and innovation including the international best seller How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. (1998) How to Think Like Leonardo has been translated into 25 languages and has appeared on the Washington Post, Amazon, and the New York Times best seller lists.

Mar 21, 2019
Continuing our time with my dear friend Katherine Collins, let’s talk about another micro-moment of Divine wisdom from our recent chat.
Quick context.
As you know if you’ve been following along, I’ve spent half of the last 20 years in Founder/CEO mode and the other half in Philosopher/Lover-of-Wisdom mode.
Although I’m not really into astrological signs (lol), I happen to be a Gemini and that myth happens to describe one of my primary challenges pretty well.
I often feel a pull to be one OR the other. 
A CEO or a Philosopher.
Which recently made me think of the word ambivalence.
Which led to a trip to my 2,084-page American Heritage dictionary.
I flip to page 56. Here’s the definition: “the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.”
Alright. Got it. 
But what I’m really interested in is the etymology of the word.
Get this: ambi means “on both sides of” and valence comes from the same root as valor and valence—it basically means “strength.”
So, I reflect on the idea that ambi-valence basically means to be on both sides of strength and that, from my perspective at the time, the result of that is WEAKNESS. 
Now, let’s head back to my chat with Katherine. I share that little distinction with her.
To which she replies by saying something along the lines of: “Well… We could look at it that way. Or… We could say that you have TWO simultaneously STRONG channels through which you can express your gifts.”
To which I say, “God Bless you, Katherine.” (Hah. Seriously.)
Which leads us to Today’s +1.
Do you feel any ambi-valence in your life?
What if we could reframe that “ambi-valence” into HEROIC-valence”?! 
I wonder… How can we take you and your multi-faceted awesome and channel ALL that awesome into heroic strength?
Get on that. We need you and ALL your gifts.
One more time: Be not afraid. Give us all you’ve got.
(Pretty please.)
Mar 16, 2019
In our last couple +1s, we talked about the 11 virtues that show up on our shiny new Optimus medallions and make an appearance in our Optimus meditation.
Wisdom + Arete + Confidence + Purpose + Self-Awareness + Telos + Energy + Presence + Courage + Love + en*theos
I’ve been playing around with those virtues in my formal meditation practice and while I’m rowing and while I’m training and before I fall asleep and after I wake up and, well, a lot. (Laughing. “That’s like me!”)
I’ll either go through the meditation we walked through in our last +1 (with the I Am [Insert Virtue] on the inhale followed by the power-statement on the exhale) or just pull a virtue out that I think would be useful in the moment and repeat it in my mind—feeling its power flowing through me.
Which makes me think of mantras.
And makes me surprised we’ve done over 700 (!) +1s so far (go us!) and we haven’t talked about one of the most powerful tools to train our mind.
I mean…
Do you know what the word mantra literally means?
It’s a Sanskrit word.
Basically: The man part means “mind” and the tra part means “tool.”
So… A mantra is literally a “tool of the mind.”
Today’s +1.
Want to Optimize your mind?
Mantras are a good place to start.
Pick a word. Or a collection of words. (Virtues perhaps?) 
And get to work on your mind.
Mar 11, 2019
Continuing our exploration of how to endure the pain of walking over burning (psychological) coals in pursuit of the upper limits of our potential, let’s talk about one of Matt Fitzgerald’s recommended “coping strategies” to Optimize our perception of effort and get closer to that wall of our potential.
Today we’re going to talk about The Psychology of Pain. (Cue weird music?)
Short story: Researchers have studied how different people deal with pain and have discovered that some people are MUCH better at dealing with it (and, as a result, perform at a much higher level in the midst of experiencing pain).
Get this: There are basically two ways you can deal with the prospect of experiencing pain. You can accept it. Or you can try to suppress it.
(Which one do you think is more effective?)
Here’s how Matt puts it: “Research on the psychology of pain has produced similar findings. A number of studies have compared the effects of two contrasting anticipatory attitudes—acceptance and suppression— on pain perception. Some people have a natural tendency to look ahead to the repetition of a familiar pain stimulus with acceptance. They tell themselves, ‘This is going to hurt, but no worse than before.’ Other people try to cope with the same situation through suppression, a form of denial. They tell themselves, in effect, ‘I really hope this doesn’t hurt as much as it did the last time.’ Psychologists have generally found that, compared to suppression, acceptance reduces the unpleasantness of pain without reducing the pain itself. For this reason, it is a more effective coping skill. ... In common language, this attitude of acceptance toward an impending disagreeable experience is called ‘bracing yourself.’”
Today’s +1.
How do YOU deal with prospective pain?
Here’s to bracing ourselves, K N O W I N G pain is inevitable on our hero’s journeys and then #OMMSing our way to awesome.
+1. +1. +1.
P.S. Check out our +1 on Kristin Neff’s pain equation for more. Remember: Suffering = Pain x Resistance. 
Mar 6, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about you feasting on your Hero Bars—using memories of your past success as fuel to walk through fear doors today.
(You grab three for Today?)
All of those Cookies and Hero Bars remind me of an idea from former Navy SEAL Alden Mills’ great book Be Unstoppable
I read it years ago and recently re-read it with Emerson.
It’s a fantastic parable about a young captain who meets a wise, older mentor-captain who teaches him how to Optimize and actualize his potential to become a “Master and Commander.”
Emerson and I loved it.
The Master Captain (who goes by Persistent Pete), has eight actions he teaches his young protégé. (One of which reminds me of the Hero Bars! We’ll talk about it tomorrow.) 
The Actions form the acronym UPERSIST.
Emerson can rattle them off.
In fact, let’s invite him in so he can share!
Action #1: Understand Your Why
Action #2: Plan
Action #3: Energize to Execute (Alden may go with “Exercise” to Execute but we expanded it to “Energize” so we can include our other fundies of eating and sleeping!)
Action #4: Recognize Your Reason to Believe in Yourself
Action #5: Survey Your Habits
Action #6: Improvise to Overcome Obstacles
Action #7: Seek Expert Advice
Action #8: Team Up!
Today’s +1.
Let’s do a quick run through:
First: What’s your #1 goal these days? (Seriously. What is it?!)
What’s your why?
How’s your plan?
You energized?
What reasons do you have to believe in yourself? (← Hint: Those are our Hero Bars!)
How are your habits?
You improvising to overcome (inevitable!) obstacles #OMMS style?!
Need to seek advice from any experts?
And… How can you team up a little more today?
There ya go. A super-quick take on how to Be Unstoppable
Mar 1, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about the wonderful little book-gift I received from Cal Newport and we reflected on a particular passage from that book (Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin) that really jumped out and grabbed me.
The essence of that passage?
Our presidential luminaries differed in many ways. But they ALL shared a fierce ambition.”
Of the heroic kind.
Today I’d like to talk about another passage from the book. This one’s from page 106. I actually STARTED reading the book on this page because, in his thoughtful gift note, Cal told me that the wisdom on that particular page made him think of me and of our recent chats.
Here’s how page 106 starts: “What fired in Lincoln this furious and fertile time of self-improvement? The answer lay in his readiness to gaze in the mirror and soberly scrutinize himself. Taking stock, he found himself wanting. From the beginning, young Lincoln aspired to nothing less than to inscribe his name into the book of communal memory. To fulfill what he believed to be his destiny, a different kind of sustained effort and discipline was required, a willingness to confront weakness and imperfection, reflect upon failure, and examine the kind of leader he wanted to be.
The passage continues: “The diligence and studiousness he exhibited during this period of introspection would have been remarkable in a young student; in a man of forty, it was astounding.”
Um. Yah. 
That’s powerful.
(btw: Self-efficacy 101 style, this is one of the reasons reading biographies of great humans is such a wise thing to do—we gain strength in other people’s examples!!)
That passage is from Part II of the book in which we learn about all the EXTRAORDINARY (!) challenges our heroes faced in their quests to fulfill their destinies. 
(Lincoln’s was dramatic. He was so depressed after letting down his constituents in Illinois after his tenure as a state legislator that his friends feared for his life and removed every sharp object from his house.)
Fierce ambition.
Equally huge failure.
Then what?
Then our hero doesn’t feel like a hero.
Then what?
Then he (or she) gets to work. 
As we’ve discussed countless times, this isn’t supposed to be easy. (And, thinking that it should be easy is probably the biggest challenge we face.) 
Echo: We’re not sidestepping lizards en route to our destiny. We’re battling dragons. 
As such, building our heroic strength for two demands a FIERCE commitment to self-improvement (Optimizing!!) to match that fierce ambition to make a difference.
As Lincoln said, I must die or be better.”
Today’s +1.
How about YOU?
How’s your fierce ambition?
How’s your strength-building going?
Here’s to having the audacity to dream big and the heroic humility and self-mastery to do the work we need to do so we can most fully give ourselves to the world.
Starting Today.
Continuing forever. 
+1. +1. +1. 
Feb 24, 2019
Continuing our theme of seeking/conquering fear, let’s have some fun with Jon Eliot and his wisdom from Overachievement.
Here’s how he (brilliantly!) puts it: “Working on techniques to manage stress is a bit like trying to win the Indy 500 by putting a governor on the engine of your race car or swapping out a powerful V-12 for a V-4 because it offers a ‘quieter ride.’ You wouldn’t do that. Not if you were after the checkered flag. Not if you were racing star Jeff Gordon. No superstar is about to give his opponents an edge. Nor should you by trying to relax when the pressure’s on.”
Important question.
Do you want to win the race of life?
Would you simply prefer to have a “quieter” ride?
(I say “YES!!!” to both, please! lol)
Ideally, we show up with THE most powerful engine possible AND we have fun learning how to handle that Beast as we drive at record-shattering speeds, eh?
Let’s do that.
But let’s agree not to get so overwhelmed by the sensations of fear that we swap out our race car engine for a lawnmower engine, eh?
P.S. More wisdom from Jon Eliot: “I have discovered that I cannot enhance anybody’s performance without getting them not only to live with the butterflies that come with high-pressure jobs, but to embrace that kind of physical response, enjoy it, get into it. That’s the real first ticket to being a performer who thinks exceptionally.”
P.P.S. Another John comes to mind here. JFK once said: “Don't pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men [and women].”
Feb 19, 2019
Gary Taubes wrote a great book called The Case Against Sugar.
Basic idea: If you were a detective in charge of figuring out a series of crimes and you noticed a common pattern among those crimes, you’d be smart to put the pieces together and see if you could narrow your search down to a single suspect.
Well… That’s what Taubes does in his book.
The crimes? All the chronic diseases wreaking havoc on our society—from diabetes and obesity to heart disease and cancer.
Short story: All those chronic diseases are associated with metabolic dysfunction.
And the fastest way to make your metabolism dysfunctional? Sugar.
Enter: The case against it. 
Remember our Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn? She discovered telomerase—the stuff that replenishes telomeres. 
Here’s how she puts it in The Telomere Effect: “When we want to spot the parties responsible for metabolic disease, we point a finger at the highly processed, sugary foods and sweetened drinks. (We’re looking at you, packaged cakes, candies, cookies, and sodas.) These are the foods and drinks most associated with compulsive eating. They light up the reward system in your brain. They are almost immediately absorbed into the blood, and they trick the brain into thinking we are starving and need more food. While we used to think all nutrients had similar effects on weight and metabolism — a ‘calorie is a calorie’ — this is wrong. Simply reducing sugars, even if you eat the same number of calories, can lead to metabolic improvements. Simple carbs wreak more havoc on metabolism and control over appetite than other types of foods.”
Blackburn is at UCSF. She references her colleague Robert Lustig when she makes the point above. As we discussed in our last +1, Lustig is one of the world’s leading research endocrinologists. You know what he says about sugar?
He tells us that sugar is the “Darth Vader” of the nutrition world.
This little statistic might be THE most powerful one we’ll ever read regarding just how dangerous sugar is. (I repeated it half a dozen times in Optimal Weight 101).
“If you had any residual doubt about ‘a calorie is not a calorie,’ this analysis should remove it. Every additional 150 calories per person per day barely raised diabetes prevalence. But if those 150 calories were instead from a can of soda, increase in diabetes rose sevenfold. Sugar is more dangerous than its calories. Sugar is a toxin. Plain and simple.”
I repeat:
“If you had any residual doubt about ‘a calorie is not a calorie,’ this analysis should remove it. Every additional 150 calories per person per day barely raised diabetes prevalence. But if those 150 calories were instead from a can of soda, increase in diabetes rose sevenfold. Sugar is more dangerous than its calories. Sugar is a toxin. Plain and simple.”
That’s crazy.
150 additional calories from any source? No big deal.
150 additional calories from a CAN OF SODA? DIABETES GOES UP SEVENFOLD.
Know this: “Sugar is more dangerous than its calories. Sugar is a toxin. Plain and simple.”
Please tattoo that on your consciousness. (Right after throwing away your sodas!)
And… To be clear: This isn’t just about risk for diabetes. It’s a metabolic issue—which is all about how every cell in our bodies produce Energy—which means it affects EVERYTHING.
Today’s +1.
If you feel so inspired, go throw away all the sodas in your house. (Hah. Seriously.)
The Case Against Sugar is REALLY solid.
If we’re serious about Optimizing our Energy and well-being (for ourselves and for our kids), reducing/eliminating it should be a top priority.
Feb 14, 2019
In our last +1, we took a quick trip to Michelangelo’s studio and saw the Optimus You sitting there in the uncarved marble. Then we did a little chiseling at some behaviors that might be getting in the way.
Today’s +1 is another super-quick one.
Pop quiz: You know what moment Michelangelo decided to capture when he carved David? 
Hint: It wasn’t his moment of celebration right after he “officially” became a hero by defeating Goliath. 
It was his moment of DECISION.
It was the moment he DECIDED to step up and do his best to serve profoundly and, ultimately, heroically.
That (and I have goosebumps as I type this) was what Michelangelo (rightly) considered the most heroic moment of David’s life—the moment he DECIDED to step up and strive to be a hero. 
Guess what?
We get to make those micro-decisions all day every day.
Here’s to choosing wisely, David.
Feb 9, 2019
In our last +1, we met Joe De Sena’s kettlebell named Leo. (I laugh as I type that.)
As you may recall, little Leonidas goes everywhere Joe goes. Traveling around the world? Mr. Leo gets checked in. Heading to the office in the morning. Leo’s going, too. 
All day every day. Joe and his 44-pound cast-iron little Leo are BFFs.
Now, as I was preparing for Greatest Year Ever 2019, I was reflecting on that epic love story and thinking about the importance of having symbols to capture our most important intentions. 
For Joe, that kettlebell represents his commitment to obstacle immunity and to honoring the pledge he’s made to help 100 million people Optimize their lives via his Spartan Races—which I find to be SUPER inspiring.
I wondered: What symbol can I create for myself that will capture my commitment to stepping up and into the next-best version of myself as a social entrepreneur and leader—doing my part to help 100 million (!!) people Optimize their lives by combining the power of Wisdom + Community + Virtue?
For about 5 seconds, I considered taking Joe’s lead and carrying around my own 44-pound kettlebell. But, a) that’s crazy (even by my standards—lol) and b) that’s Joe’s thing. 
So… I scratched that idea and simply placed my 44-pound kettlebell a few feet from my wall calendar so I nearly trip over it every time I capture a micro “That’s like me!!” WIN.
Then it hit me.
I’ll wear the little Spartan sweatband you get when you do a Spartan Race with the competitive folks. Yep. That’s it. I used to keep it on the corner of my desk as a reminder but I picked it up and put it on.
Obnoxiously obvious = perfect.
I hereby formally introduce you to my own little Leo. You met my Suunto Spartan Ultra watch not too long ago. Well, here’s his pal. He prefers to go by his full name: Leonidas.
Every time I glance down at him I think of the ancient Spartan King and of my commitment to be Spartan (and Athenian! lol) strong as I strive to cultivate my virtue and give the world all I’ve got.
All of which leads us to Today’s +1.
How about YOU?
What are you most committed to in this precious life of yours?
What symbol can you create to capture that commitment?
Note: If you’re feeling particularly iconoclastically feisty: The more obnoxiously obvious (for you and everyone around you) the better.
Feb 4, 2019
At this point, most of us are pretty aware of the fact that it’s been proven to be pretty epic for our well-being. 
Congrats, high fives, curtsies, etc. if you’re rockin’ a meditation practice already.
If you’re not investing a few minutes of your day into meditation yet, what’re you waiting for?!
Perhaps you’re telling yourself you don’t have the time?
Well, we know that’s a pretty flimsy excuse (hah!) but if you’re not meditating and you have a tough time falling asleep at night, here’s some fun little data from Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution that will help us quantify the IMMEDIATE time-ROI you’ll get by meditating.
Arianna tells us: “A 2009 Stanford study found that a six-week mindfulness meditation course helped people who have trouble sleeping fall asleep twice as quickly, in fifteen minutes instead of thirty-three minutes.”
Recap: If you have trouble falling asleep, learning to meditate (and doing so consistently) can help you fall asleep twice as quickly—in FIFTEEN minutes rather than THIRTY.
That 15 minutes you invest this morning in meditation?
You’ll get it back tonight.
You’ll get all the other benefits of meditation as well.
Check out Meditation 101 for more.
For now, how about a one-minute meditation to get your practice going starting today?
Sit up nice and straight. With “dignity” as Jon Kabat-Zinn would say. Pull that thread your head. Chest up. Chin down. Relax. Smile. Breathe in through your nose, down into your belly. Exhale slowly through your nose. 
Repeat. Five times. 
You’re a meditator!
Here’s to your calm confidence and energized tranquility today AND tonight—as we remember the instant ROI from a simple meditation practice.
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