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 https://heroic.us)
In our last +1, we hung out with my two favorite Joes: Scholar of the Hero’s Journey (and Grandpa in my spiritual family tree) Joseph Campbell, and gritty heroic exemplar (and soul brother), Joe De Sena.
Today I want to spend a little more time with Joe De Sena.
Let’s open up his latest bookThe Spartan Way. Page 14.
He tells us: “Throughwork and endurance racing I have come to know many people. Some of them were unforgettable. These great ones all shared the same core qualities. I call them the Spartan Core Virtues. Combine these qualities into one person and you have the ideal boss, the valuable employee, the perfect business partner, or comrade in any endeavor. Here’s a short description of each of the Spartan Core Virtues.
Self-Awareness: Know who you are and who you are not. If you don’t, you’ll be confused daily.
Commitment: Stick to it because the world is filled with people who don’t. You’re better than
Passion: If you’re not passionate about what you do, you’re not going to be great at it. Take things seriously and learn to be passionate.
Discipline: Set your rules and stick to them. Be disciplined about it.
Prioritization: Deal with the important things—important being what you define as
Grit: Get gritty. Break out of your comfort zone. Do the hard, scary shit. Find your passion and persevere.
Courage: This is the ability to stay focused and work relentlessly with both intensity and passion through virtually anything, especially through failure.
Optimism: See the world as you want it to be, not as it is. Be ever hopeful.
Integrity: If you’re not honest with yourself and others, then what are you?
Wholeness: Live the life of a complete and whole Spartan.”
There ya go. The Ten Spartan Core Virtues.
Repetition is the essence of mastery, so let’s go through them again. This time, if you feel so inspired and didn’t already do a quick inventory on how you’re doing with each, please do.
Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness have written a couple great books together. First, they gave usPeak Performance. ThenThe Passion Paradox.
Today we’re going to talk about one of the central themes ofThe Passion Paradox. (Tomorrow we’ll chat about some goodness fromPeak Performance.)
Except when it isn’t.
Enter:The Passion Paradox.
As Brad and Steve put it:“Mindlesslyliving with a passion can be extremely harmful and destructive. Mindfully living with a passion can be the key to a life well lived.”
They tell us that psychologists differentiate two types of passion by calling the unhealthy kind “ObsessivePassion” and the healthy kind“HarmoniousPassion.”
Obsessive Passion is toxic. It has two primary facets: 1. Focusing too much on extrinsic results (like fame, wealth, achievement, etc.); 2. Being too worried about failure.
Harmonious Passion, on the other hand, gives us a deep sense of joy. Whereas the toxic passion is focused on the pursuit of extrinsic rewards, the healthy passion is focused on intrinsic drivers.
As Brad and Steve put it:“Enterharmonious passion:a feeling that emerges when you are wrapped up in something primarily for the joy of the activity, when your engagement is not merely a means to an end but rather an end in itself. Harmonious passion manifests mainly from activities that are freely chosen without contingencies; when you do something because you enjoy it, not because it offers potential rewards, and not to avoid negative repercussions.
Not every moment of harmonious passion is necessarily pleasing, but overall, it is deeply fulfilling. It aligns closely with the ancient Greek notion of eudaimonia, or a kind of happiness that results not from overwhelming pleasure but from striving to meet one’s full potential by engaging in activities that one considers meaningful.
In the 1970s, the late psychologist and humanist philosopher Erich Fromm wrote of something similar, which he called productive activity, where happiness isn’t related to the attainment of possession or rewards but rather to‘theprocess of ever growing aliveness . . . for living as fully as one can is so satisfactory that concern for what one might or might not attain has little chance to develop.’
The great paradox, however, is that although external achievement is never a primary goal of harmonious passion, when you become completely immersed in what you’re doing for the joy of the activity itself, it is often a by-product. Those who focus most on success are least likely to achieve it. Those who focus least on success, and focus on the process of engaging in their craft instead, are most likely to achieve it.”
That’s Today’s +1.
First: Shout out foreudaimonia. :)
Second: Pop quiz:How’s YOUR passion?
Here’s to the Harmonious variety in which we seek mastery and experience the joys of mindfully embracing our passion—while letting the outcomes take care of themselves.
In our last +1, we did our best Boss impersonation as we reinterpreted our sweaty palms and racing hearts as a sign we’re EXCITED and READY TO GO rather than as a sign that something’s wrong.
When I read that passage in Marie’s book, I immediately thought of some parallel wisdom from Jon Eliot’sOverachievement.
Recall that Eliot is the guy who told us that we want tokeep our V-12 engines and learn how to manage all that power rather than swap it out for a lawnmower engine. And, he told us that we want tobe more like squirrels than Einstein when we get ready to perform.
Here’s the passage I thought of as I read about the Boss’s Bossness.
Eliot tells us:“Thephysical symptoms of fight-or-flight are what the human body has learned over thousands of years to operate more efficiently and at the highest level. Anxiety is a cognitive interpretation of that physical response.”
That energy we feel when we’re about to perform?
Eliot tells us we need to remember two more things:
"1. Everything that your body does to you when the pressure is on is good for performance...
Pressure is different from anxiety; nervousness is different from worry.”
One more time: Everything is inherently empty of meaning. We get toCHOOSE the meaning we give to any and everything that’s happening to us. (Period!)
A few +1s ago, we had fun chatting about the starting and finish lines of my first business, eteamz.
I mentioned that it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and we briefly discussed the fact that I’ve failed WAY MORE times than I’ve succeeded.
(btw. As a recovering fixed-mindset perfectionist, it was therapeutic for me to type that. Hah. Seriously.)
Today we’re going to remind ourselves to embrace the mis-takes and failures of life that INEVITABLY (and NECESSARILY!!) occur as we strive to do great things in pursuit of mastering ourselves in service to the world.
This gem is pretty epic and worth contemplating:“Themaster has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”
Then there’s Adam Grant’s wisdom fromOriginals where he quotes Randy Komisar—one of the best entrepreneurs/investors alive:“Whetheryou’re generating or evaluating new ideas the best you can do is measure success on the kind of yardstick that batters use in baseball. As Randy Komisar puts it,‘IfI’m hitting .300, I’m a genius. That’s because the future cannot be predicted. The sooner you learn it, the sooner you can be good at it.’”
And… There’s Michael Jordan’s wisdom viaCarol Dweck’sMindset (one more time!):“MichaelJordan embraced his failures. In fact, in one of his favorite ads for Nike, he says:“I’vemissed more than nine thousand shots. I’ve lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed.” You can be sure that each time, he went back and practiced the shot a hundred times.”
As we look forward to 2020 and commit to making it the best year of our lives (and the start of the best DECADE of our lives!!) let’s reframe our mis-takes and failures as foundation-building fuel for our heroic quests.
Capitalize all those mistakes. Use the data wisely.
We talk a lot about the futility of arguing with reality.
As Byron Katie so perfectly says,“WhenI argue with reality I lose. But only 100% of the time.” (Hah.)
Today we’re going to take another look at that wisdom from a slightly different angle.
We’ll invite a couple of modern Zen Masters to the party: Joko Beck and Phil Jackson.
We’ll start with legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson’s wisdom. In his bookSacred Hoops, he tells us:“InZen it is said that the gap between accepting things the way they are and wishing them to be otherwise is‘thetenth of an inch of difference between heaven and hell.’ If we can accept whatever we’ve been dealt—no matter how unwelcome—the way to proceed eventually becomes clear. This is what is meant by right action: the capacity to observe what’s happening and act appropriately, without being distracted by self-centered thoughts. If we rage and resist, our angry, fearful minds have trouble quieting down sufficiently to allow us to act in the most beneficial way for ourselves and others.”
Thank you, Phil.
Now for Joko Beck. InEveryday Zen, she tells us:“Ifwe require that life be a certain way, inevitably we suffer—since life is always the way it is, and not always fair, not always pleasant. Life is not particularly the way we want it to be, it is just the way it is. And that need not prevent our enjoyment of it, our appreciation, our gratitude.”
That’s Today’s +1.
When/if we find ourselves a little (or a lot annoyed) Today—whether that’s with our kids or our colleagues or ourselves—let’s see if we can step back and notice the gap between what’s happening in the moment and what we want to be happening in the moment.
That tenth of an inch?
Let’s close it.
-1.-1.-1. for the +1 win!
P.S. If you’re getting all crazy-ragey? Well, you just fell into a mile-long chasm between reality and your fantasy of what should be happening. Good news? Just snap your fingers, love what it is and that gap magically vanishes.
In our last +1, we spent some time with Todd Herman, Batman, Dora the Explorer and YOUR most heroic self.
Today we’re going to connect all that goodness to wisdom from the classic peak-performance bookThe Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey.
Here’s how he puts it:“‘Askingfor qualities’ describes the other kind of role-playing. When introducing this idea, I usually say something like this:‘Imaginethat I am the director of a television series. Knowing that you are an actor that plays tennis, I ask if you would like to do a bit part as a top-flight tennis player. I assure you that you needn’t worry about hitting the ball out or into the net because the camera will only be focused on you and will not follow the ball. What I’m mainly interested in is that you adopt professional mannerisms, and that you swing your racket with super self-assurance. Above all, your face must express no self-doubt. You should look as if you are hitting every ball exactly where you want to. Really get into the role, hit as hard as you like and ignore where the ball is actually going.”
“Asking for qualities.”
That’s one of Gallwey’s three practices for communicating with what he calls Self 2—which is basically your Optimus-best self that innately knows how to crush it if we’d simply get out of our own way.
(The other two practices? Letting go of judgments and the art of creating images of the outcomes you want to see.)
Today we’re going to walk onto the set of the movie that is our lives.
You’re the star. (Go you!)
(Well, technically, we’re ALL just bit players in the game of life so perhaps we should adopt that view, eh?)
What roles are you playing these days?
(Perhaps you can use the Big 3 Identities for Energy + Work + Love.)
How would you show up in your life if you acted like a top-flight pro in your given field, adopted professional mannerisms and did your thing with super self-assurance—with no doubt and pure confidence?
Let’s ACT LIKE THAT.
How would you walk, talk, breathe and be if you were acting like the best possible version of yourself?
And let’s watch our performance (and enjoyment) soar.
In our last +1, we revisited Ellen Langer at her “Psychology of Possibility” lab at Harvard to learn that words matter.
As you may recall, simply priming people with words associated with old age (via a crossword puzzle!) will cause them to walk more slowly to the elevator than those who weren’t primed with those words.
One more time: Astonishing, eh?
One more time: WORDS MATTER. A lot.
Langer shares that study and wisdom in her bookCounterclockwise in a section in which she also talks about “placebos” and other truly fascinating studies.
Here’s how she puts it:“Whenwe see mind and body as parts of a single entity, the research on placebos takes on new meaning and suggests we can not only control much of our disease experience, but we may also be able to extend our ability to gain, recover, or enhance our health.
Placebos often come in the form of a single word that captures a richer mindset. In one study I conducted with my students, we explored the mindset most of us have regarding excellent vision air force pilots have. All participants were given a vision test. One group of participants were then encouraged to role-play‘airforce pilots.’ They dressed the part and, in uniform, sat in a flight simulator. They were asked to read the letters on the wing of a nearby plane, which were actually part of an eye chart. Those participants who adopted the‘pilot’mindset, primed to have excellent vision, showed improved vision over those who were simulating being in the simulator and simply asked to read an eye chart from the same distance.”
Just having people pretend that they’re air force pilots can improve their vision?
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s YOUR“singleword that captures a richer mindset”?
Let’s pop that mantra-placebo word all day Today.
And, if you feel so inspired, why not even dress the part as well?
Geoff Colvin’s Talent Is Overrated is a great book.
It falls into the “Effort Counts Twice” / Deliberate Practice bucket of how to reach our Peak via Grit, etc.
It’s packed with great stories about, as per the sub-title of the book: “WhatReally Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.”
(Here’s a short hint to the answer:“Nomatter who they were, or what explanation of their performance was being advanced, it always took them many years to become excellent, and if a person achieves elite status only after many years of toil, assigning the principal role in that success to innate gifts becomes problematic, to say theleast.”)
(Note: That doesn’t mean Talent Is IRRELEVANT, just OVERRATED when compared to extraordinarily hard work. Again: SeeEffort Counts Twice for Angela Duckworth’s math on the subject!)
Today I want to share one of my favorite stories from that book.
Here it is.
Colvin tells us:“Astudy of figure skaters found that sub-elite skaters spent lots of time working on the jumps they could already do, while skaters at the highest levels spent more time on the jumps they couldn’t do, the kind that ultimately win Olympic medals and that involve lots of falling down before they’re mastered.”
(Aha! Stretching out of our comfort zones into our stretch zones (but not into our panic zones!) for the win!)
Colvin then tells the story ofShizuka Arakawa, who won the gold medal in figure skating at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
As you may know, she rocked some crazy move called “a layback Ina Bauer” — which basically required her to bend backward“almostdouble with the feet pointing in opposite directions — leading into a three-jump combination.”
You can watch her gold-medal winning performancehere.
(Note1: The move we’re talking about occurs at the 1:45 mark.)
(Note2: If you aren’t moved to tears of joy as you watch such a beautiful expression of human excellence then…. well… I don’t know what to say other than rewatch it?!)
Now…. When most of us watch something like that it simply looks IMPOSSIBLE to do. (And, for most of us, it pretty much is.)
But… As we watch that performance in AWE, we would be wise to remember that Shizuka, who won the gold at twenty-four, had been training for NINETEEN years.
Consistently pushing her edges.
Falling down again and again and again...
In fact, Colvin calculated the number of times she probably fell and says:“Landingon your butt twenty thousand times is where great performance comes from.”
And…That’s Today’s +1.
Ineffably elegant grace?
It’s the by-product of being willing to inelegantly fall on your butt(oncold ice, no less!) 20,000(!!)times.
Olympic cameras back on you.
Let’s cruise back into our respective metaphorical ice-skating rinks to train like world-class performers as wewear our falls like medals and remember this parting wisdom from Colvin:“Theevidenceoffers no easy assurances. It shows that the price of top-level achievement is extraordinarily high. Perhaps it’s inevitable that not many people will choose to pay it. But the evidence shows also that by understanding how a few become great, anyone can become better. Above all, what the evidence shouts most loudly is striking, liberating news: that great performance is not reserved for the pre-ordained few. It is available to you and to everyone.”
The other day I found myself re-reading our Notes on Christopher McDougall’s great book Natural Born Heroes.
Although we’ve talked (many times) about the fact thatthe ancient word forheroliterally meant“protector,” I realized that (somehow!) I’ve never shared McDougall’s brilliant wisdom that catalyzed my emphasis on the whole idea of all of us becoming modern heroes.
Let’s take a quick look at how McDougall so wisely puts it.
He tells us:“Andwhat Plutarch taught them is this: Heroes care. True heroism, as the ancients understood, isn’t about strength, or boldness, or even courage. It’s about compassion.
When the Greeks created the heroic ideal, they didn’t choose a word that mean‘DiesTrying’ or‘MassacresBad Guy.’ They went with hērōs—‘protector.’ Heroes aren’t perfect; with a god as one parent and a mortal as the other, they’re perpetually teetering between two destinies. What tips them toward greatness is a sidekick, a human connection who helps turn the spigot on the power of compassion. Empathy, the Greeks believed, was a source of strength, not softness; the more you recognized yourself in others and connected with their distress, the more endurance, wisdom, cunning, and determination you could tap into.”
That’s Today’s +1.
It’s that simple.
As aspiring modern heroes, we demonstrate that love and compassion by building the strength for two.
For whom do YOU aspire to have strength?
How will you build just a little more strength Today?
How can you use the strength you have in service to the world just a little more Today?
Especially when you find yourself triggered by something (or someone).
“Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”
“Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”
“Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”
It’s kinda weird what happens when I do that.
I go from feeling stressed/annoyed/whatever to feeling truly GRATEFUL.
I don’t even have to do anything other than kickstart the mantra. After a few reps, my mind comes up with things for which I can be grateful in the midst of whatever might be challenging me.
Gratitude just kinda bubbles up.
Bubbles of gratitude like: “Thank you for the challenge itself—which is giving me the opportunity to actually practice these ideas.” “Thank you for all the amazing things you have done for me, o’ person who is currently pushing my buttons.” Etc. Etc. Etc.
It’s almost weird how powerful it is.
Perhaps that’s why Meister Eckhart once said:“Ifthe only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
Not too long ago, we talked aboutSleep Curfews. Five of them, to be precise.
One forCaffeine. Another forExercise. PlusEating. PlusScreens. PlusWork.
As you may recall,Caffeine has a half-life of 5 to 6 hours so try to cut back on that by around noon or 2 or whatever you find works best for you.
Exercise late in the day gets your core temperature all jacked up when it should be mellowing out, so aim for atleast 3 hours before bedtime. (And, remember that exercisealso gives you a 12-hour mood boost so might as well pop a happy pill early in the day, eh?)
Eating was a fun one. The standard advice is to eat at least 2 hours before bedtime. (And def don’t snack right before/in the middle of the night.) Want togo gonzo with the glymph? Eat at least 4 (FOUR!) hours before bedtime.
Then we haveScreens. Again, turn off the screens AT LEAST an hour before bed. More if you’re feeling it.
Finally, we had aWork “shut-down complete” target. We left that one up to you and I said mine was no later than 5:00 pm.
Today I want to add a new curfew. Let’s call it the “StressCurfew.”
I violated this one the other day and, as I found myself wide awake (over)thinking in the middle of the night, I vowed touse the data as wisely as possible torecommit to somebright lines as I Optimized. (I almost gave myself amistake-learner’s high I was so buzzing.) (Almost.) (lol)
Technically, you could say I violated BOTH my digital sunset Screen Curfew AND my shut-down complete Work Curfew when I was using Alexandra’s phone to work on a (somewhat intense) business issue way past my normal 5:00 pm curfews.
Now, it wasonly 6:45 pm when I put down the phone but that’s an hour before I usually go to bed (laughing at myself; who does that?) and a couple/few hours later than I usually do that kind of work so my brain was hopping WAY (!) more than it usually is that late in the day.
Enter: That poor night of sleep and a poor Oura readiness score to show for it.
Good news: Irebounded from the83 readiness score to back-to-back 95’s with an even deeper appreciation for just how much the seemingly little things matter. (Marginalgains!!)
The lesson for me: There are VERY few things that arethat important that they can’t wait until the next day to be addressed. And… I’m MUCH more likely to be able to solve them wisely when I’m well-rested. THEREFORE, honor your curfews, yo!
In our last +1, we talked about A World Without Heroes and the fact that “Ahero sacrifices for the greater good. A hero is true to his or her conscience. In short, heroism means doing the right thing regardless of the consequences.”
Then we challenged ourselves to choose THIS DAY (!) to be one of them.
Today we’re going to talk about some more brilliant metaphorical wisdom from Brandon Mull’s wonderful storytelling mind.
Quick context: InBeyonders, our main characters gets transported to another world. In that world, an evil Emperor reigns. Few people have chosen to stand up to the Emperor. Those who look like they might be significant threats are harassed and, if they’re lucky, get invited to a place called Harthenham to enjoy the “Eternal Feast.”
Basically, this is a place where you have ZERO issues. A place where you can enjoy all the most indulgent foods and pleasures you can imagine—where you have no worries at all and canliterally live better than a king who has to worry about his kingdom.
When presented with an invitation to Harthenham, many heroes give up their quest and cash in their ticket to the Eternal Feast—where they proceed to waste away the rest of their lives.
I’ll save the spoiler alert about what happens with our young hero. Today we’ll focus on the brilliant metaphorical representation of OUR desires to get to a place where WE have no further toil or challenges.
The Eternal Feast.
(Doesn’t that sound scrumptiously inviting?!)
We have a word for that.
(Thanks, Phil + Barry!)
Wouldn’t it be so amazing to no longer have to work so.darn.hard?
No more bills to pay. Kids to feed. Laundry to fold.
No more (often) overwhelming creative challenges. Or health issues. Or, well, ANY problems at all?
Wouldn’t that be SO NICE?!
Plus: More laughter.
Reminder:We will NEVER(!)be exonerated from challenges.
And, the sooner we get that fact (and remember it when we forget it) the faster we’ll reduce the “Resistance” part of the“Suffering= Pain x Resistance” equation as we get back to practicing the ancientart of acquiescence and the modern art ofloving what is.
Not too long ago we talked about the fact that the wordprosperity literally means “to go forward with hope.”
Then, as you may recall, I challenged us to take some time to create aprospectus that inspires us to invest in the project that is our masterpiece lives such that we consistently MOVE FORWARD WITH HOPE.
I realized that this is pretty much exactly what we’re trying to do with our Coaches on a daily, micro-prospectus level via something we’re calling “Carpe Diem” journaling.
One of the core themes of our work together (in these +1s and in our Coach program, etc.) is the power ofconstantly (!) experimenting as we find little ways to Optimize.
All day. Every day.
(Again.) (And again.) (And again!)
All done with a big eudaimonically joyful smile—as if we’re playing the greatest game ever created. (Which, of course, we are.)
We’ve called it a bunch of things.
In a business environment, the whole idea ofkaizenis super popular.(Kaizenis Japanese for“improvement.”… Synonymous with“Optimize”?)
While Tony Robbins calls it“CANI!”(Asin“ConstantAnd Never-ending Improvement.”)
I’m riffing on that basic theme during our fundies session on Sleep—reminding us all of the power ofchipping away and looking formarginal gains as we have fun with the whole CANI thing.
Only, I suggested we swap out the “I” for “E” and make it “Constant And Never-ending EXPERIMENTING” (rather than “Improving”).
I then made the (weak) suggestion that perhaps we could pronounce it: CAN-EE!
To which Michael Balchan (my right-hand guy with our Coach program) playfully suggested we call it “CANOE!” (short for “Constant And Never-ending Optimizing Experimentation”) as he made some side-to-side canoeing motions.
To which I said, “PERFECT!”
Constant And Never-ending Optimizing Experimentation.
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s one little experiment YOU can run Today?
Let’s grab our CANOEs and hop in the OptimizingRiver of Flexibility.
In one of our very first Notes, we took a quick look at Brendan Brazier’s The Thrive Diet.
I read the book when it came out nearly a dozen years ago. Loved it. Then Brendan and I met at an event, became friends, etc.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to be a high-performance plant-based athlete/human, I think you’ll enjoy Brenden and his work. He’s a former professional endurance athlete and the formulator (and cofounder) of the Vega nutrition brand.
Today we’re going to chat about one of my favorite Ideas from his book.
It popped into my head during the Q&A with our Coaches after our session on Sleep as we discussed having curfews on our caffeine while remembering the fact that when we routinely get less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep we DOUBLE (!) our risk for cancer.
First, here’s the wisdom fromBrendan:“Iconsider coffee drinking an uncomplementary stress. I view it as a form of credit, similar to shopping with a credit card. You get energy now that you don’t actually have, but you pay for it later—when the‘bill,’or fatigue, hits.(Simplydrinking more coffee to put off the inevitable is like paying off one credit card with another: It will catch up with you sooner or later.) You’ll most likely pay a high interest rate as well, needing more time to recover than if that energy had not been borrowed in the first place. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle.”
Let’s call that “Borrowed Energy.”
Now, let’s connect that to the Matthew Walker gem we keep on talkingabout:“Twothirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep. I doubt you’re surprised by this fact, but you may be surprised by the consequences. Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer.”
You know what MOST of those two-thirds of adults who aren’t getting enough sleep do to make up for the fatigue they almost certainly feel most days?
They (of course)BORROW ENERGY.
In the form of caffeine via coffee, sodas, tea, etc. And/or sugar, etc.
It would be GREAT if we actually had a running tab on all the energy we’ve borrowed. Some super simple energy budgeting App like Mint for Energy.
One glance and we can see how much more energy we borrowed Today and how high our interest rates are, etc.
Unfortunately (and this is TRULY unfortunate), we don’t.
Instead, we go on borrowing more and more and more energy. Day in and day out. Week in and week out. Month in and month out. Year in and year out. Decade in and decade out.
We don’t just continue to feel fatigue…
We double our risk of getting cancer and make ourselves unnecessarily vulnerable to all the other chronic illnesses we don’t want.
Our debt is due.
And we run a vey high risk of paying a VERY steep price in the form of one of those dreaded chronic diseases that are currently plaguing our modern society.
Let’s remember that the vast majority of chronic diseases could be prevented with a few simple (fundamental!) lifestyle changes.
I repeat myself (yet again): One of the biggest levers we can pull?
Get a good night of sleep.
Stop borrowing so much Energy.
Pay down your Energy debt. Start building your Energy wealth portfolio.
In our last couple +1s, we’ve been hanging out in our guts. (Good times!)
Surprisingly, that’s where we discovered 90% (!) of our serotonin and 70-80% (!!) of our immune systems.
Today we’re going to spend another moment on the subject.
Get this: Although modern medicine pretty much ignores the gut as its standard of care focuses on alleviatingsymptoms rather than Optimizingsystems, the idea that our guts play a central role in our well-being isn’t a new idea.
Let’s jump into a time machine and rewind the clock about 2,400 years.
Destination: Ancient Greece.
It’s time to meet the father of medicine:Hippocrates.
You know what he said?“Alldisease begins in the gut.”
Dr. Gundry echoes that wisdom and adds a little bonus gem (viaThe Longevity Paradox) where he tells us:“AsHippocrates famously and wisely said,‘Alldisease begins in the gut.’ The good news is that all disease can be stopped there as well.”
That’s Today’s +1.
What’s ONE thing you KNOW you could be doing to Optimize your nutrition?
Dr. Steven Gundry is Tony Robbins’ doctor. He’s a former world-class heart surgeon. These days he focuses on longevity.
His new book is calledThe Longevity Paradox. Sub-title: “How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age.”
It’s fantastic. I highly recommend it.
The main theme of the book is that our longevity, paradoxically, is driven by the most ancient parts of us—the bacteria and other “foreign” stuff living in our guts (and on our bodies).
Today, I want to focus on one of the practical ideas from that book that might wind up being one of the most significant Optimizing levers I’ve pulled. (Ever.) (Seriously.)
It’s called “BrainWashing.”
I’ve known for awhile that I should have my last meal earlier than I’ve been having it. Dr. Gundry finally sold me on why I should at leasttest what would happen if Iate my last meal FOUR hours before going to bed.
Yes,four(!)hours before I go to bed. Now, I go to bed as early as 7:30 PM so that means I’m eating my last meal around 3:00 or so.
It sounded absurd to me as well when I first contemplated it.
The data coming in so far is almost even more absurd. We’ll talk about that more in our next +1.
For now, let’s talk aboutglymph.
Ever heard of it?
Here’s how Dr. G puts it:“Afew years ago, researchers discovered a system that allows cerebrospinal fluid(thatclear fluid we tap when we stick a needle into your spine) to flow through the brain, cleaning out the spaces in between cells, just as lymphatic fluid does in the rest of your body. This is called the glymphatic system. To make room for the fluid to wash out your brain, your cells actually shrink in size when you are in deep sleep. This allows the full‘brainwash’ process to go twenty times as fast when you are in deep sleep as when you are awake and helps explain why a good night’s sleep is so restorative. When you get an adequate amount of deep sleep, you literally wake up with a refreshed and rejuvenated mind that has been swept clean of junk and debris.”
We’ve all heard of ourlymphatic system.
It’s an essential part of our immune system featuring a clear fluid called “lymph” that helps rid our bodies of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.
But... What about ourglymphaticsystem?
I never really paid attention to it until I read this book. It’s a BIG deal.
Want to keep your brain all squeaky clean?
Well... It’s theglymph in our GLYMPHATIC system that’s responsible for getting rid of all the toxins, waste and other unwanted materials from our BRAINS.
Which kinda begs the question: How do we Optimize THAT process?
Back to Dr. G. He tells us:“Theglymphatic system is most active during the specific stage of deep sleep that happens very early in the sleep cycle. And theglymphatic system, just like your digestive system, requires a great deal of blood flow. This means that if you eat too soon before going to bed, your blood will all flow to your gut to aid in digestion and will not be able to reach your brain to complete the all-important brain wash.”
He tells us that this “brain wash cycle” is probably the“singlemost overlooked and misunderstood aspect of neurodegenerative diseases.”
He also tells us that, luckily, there’s a simple solution:“Leavingas big a gap as possible between your last meal of the day and your bedtime.”
His specific recommendation? Again: Eat your last meal at least FOUR hours before you go to bed.
This morning I was doing my normal thing. In the process, I came up with a little insight I’m excited to share.
First, the quick recap of what led to the insight.
Of course, my day started yesterday when I shutdown early the day before (4:00 PM; right after my every-Monday coaching call), hung out with the fam then went to bed super early (7:30 PM) and deliberately spent 10 hours in bed (getting 9 hours of sleep including 1 hour 24 min of REM sleep and 2 hours 23 min of deep sleep). Then I was up at 5:30 AM (I’m sleeping in these days, folks! lol) with an Oura readiness score of 95 (having fun gaming it). 20-min Meditation, 5-min Movement then AM1 Deep Work.
I started the Deep Work with our quick “Carpe Diem” journaling session—noting my Identities + Virtues + Behaviors for Energy + Work + Love. (Note: This practice is a cornerstone of our Mastery Series/Optimize Coach program. Aspiring Coaches need to log 200 days of Optimize Carpe Diem journaling as one of the requirements to get certified.)
Then I spent some time doing some strategic planning for 2020 and beyond.
That journaling looked something like this.
At the top I wrote “Philosopher”(technically,I drew the Φ symbol to represent Philosopher). Then I wrote“SoulForce” then“ElegantSimplicity” then“Focus”then“Flow.”
(Note1: Every (!) time I write down “10,000” in the +1 column in 25 years, I imagine the 70-year-old version of me smiling and waving and saying, “Hi, this is Brian. Welcome back to another Optimize +1!” (That actually gets me misty just typing that, imagining the potential of us hanging out for that long.)
Note2: If all goes as currently planned, we’ll share that +1 exactly 3 months after I turn 70 on August 22, 2044.)
Below that Body of Work goodness, I sketched out the three primary components of our biz as I currently see them.
These include what I call “Core Wisdom” which is basically the +1s, PNs, and 101s as articulated above in the Body of Work chart. I draw an arrow to infinity to represent my (current) plans to do those forever as the foundation of our work together. (And, so I can be likethis guy.)
Then I draw a big “greater than” symbol (>) to represent the fact that all that “Core Wisdom” is going to be distilled into what I’m calling a “Mastery Series.” Imagine my absolute best stuff distilled into a “this will change your life” program that will, well, change your life. (lol)
Then I draw a “less than” symbol (<) to represent that all THAT energy goes into “Optimize Coach” to represent the fact that a select group of people will go through the Mastery Series and not only master the wisdom for themselves but use our Optimize protocol to Coach others on how to Optimizetheir lives.
Ultimately, my sketch looks kinda like this:
CORE WISDOM > MASTERY SERIES < OPTIMIZE COACH
But none of that is really the point of Today’s +1. (Although I do like sharing my thought process and I hope you enjoy it as well. I feel like we’re creating something together and I think it’s important to share my (oftenmessy!) creative process as we have fun creating something awesome together.)
Below all THAT, I reminded myself of my/our Mission.
Change the world.
One person at a time. Together.
Starting with you and me.
Then I wrote down: “Elegant Simplicity” + “Fierce Consistency” + “Energized Tranquility” + “Operationalizing Virtue.”
I drew two venn circles.
Next to the one on the left I wrote “ELEGANT SIMPLICITY.”
Next to the one on the right I wrote “PROFOUND SERVICE.”
And all THAT gets us to the point of Today’s +1.
After writing “PROFOUND SERVICE” I got up and cruised over to the dictionary. I was curious what “profound”literally meant.
Do you know what the word means?
Apple Dictionary tells us thatprofoundis an adjective that has a couple definitions:
1(ofa state, quality, or emotion) very great or intense:profound feelings of disquiet|profound social changes.
2(ofa person or statement) having or showing great knowledge or insight:a profound philosopher.
Those are interesting, but what I really wanted was the etymology of the word. It’s from the Latinprofundus—which means“deep”and is made up of two little words:pro(before)+fundus(bottom).
I literally laughed when I read that.
Profound. It means DEEP. As in “right before the bottom.”
The best part?
I have a chat with Cal Newport scheduled for this afternoon. I can’t wait to tell him that Deep (PROFOUND!) Work is what allows us to engage in Deep (PROFOUND!) Service.
In our last +1, we talked about the Fundies and how (ahem) fundamental they are to our Optimizing and Actualizing.
As I said, if I could whisper one thing in my younger self’s ear, I think it would be to MASTERthose guys as I’m firmly convinced that when we get our PHYSIOLOGY properly Optimized, the rest tends to follow pretty smoothly via the super-strong connection we’ve created between our “normal” selves and our eudaimonic, Optimus-best selves.
Today I want to talk about another Idea from the Big Picture lecture on the subject.
Remember theSpinny Fingers we talked about back in the day?
Basic recap: Find a safe place to spin around and get yourself dizzy. Then do one of two things.
First: After getting yourself nice and dizzy, stop spinning and start looking aimlessly around the room. Up over there. Down there.All around.
What happens when you have no central point to ground yourself? You get DIZZIER.
Shake that off. Then, if you feel so inspired, get yourself nice and dizzy again.
Only this time, rather than aimlessly looking around, press your palms and fingers together in front of your face(likeyou’re praying) and STARE intently right at your fingertips.
What happens when you have a central point in which you can ground yourself? You IMMEDIATELY get balanced. Dizzy begone.
(Try it. It’s pretty cool.)
All of that brings us to the point of Today’s +1.
The next time you find yourself getting all dizzy by life, consider pausing and asking yourself three simple questions.
What’s my#1 self-care habit? Am I honoring it or have I let it slip?
What’s the #1 thing I could START doing that would have the most positive impact in my life?
What’s the #1 thing I could STOP doing that would have the most positive impact in my life?
In our last +1, we talked about lint on the projector’s lens and the fact that, as per Byron Katie, “everyperceived problem appearing‘outthere’ is really nothing more than a misperception within your own thinking.”
As I imagined us all busting out a nice little cloth to clean up our own lens rather than trying to change things “out there,” I thought of another great spiritual teacher.
He lived a couple thousand years ago. In the land of Galilea. His name was Jesus.
You know what he said?
Well, in our Note on The Jefferson Bible, we flip open to the Bible, Matthew 7:3 where we find this eternally epic wisdom gem:“Andwhy beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerst not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite! First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
And, that’s Today’s +1.
See any“mote”in thy brother’s(orsister’s or spouse’s or child’s or colleague’s or…) eye?
Look in the mirror.
Work on the beam in your own eye.
(btw: For curious souls, a “mote” is “a tiny piece of a substance.” Think: Sawdust. A beam? It’s much bigger. Focus on that big thing in your own eye.)
Continuing our series on how to build a bonFIRE, today we’re going to chat about The Big 3 of creating Financial Independence (and Interdependence) as we win the ultimate game of life, Realizing Eudaimonia.
Let’s flip open our copies ofThe Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins for this wisdom-love.
As we briefly discussed in our last +1, JL is a tough-love, lovable Uncle kinda guy. He originally shared his “simple path to wealth” via a series of letters he wrote for his daughter. Those letters became a blog series.
Obviously check out the book and JL’s site for the deep dive (and, I’m a lover of wisdom not a financial planner so…), but here’s The Big 3 in a tiny nutshell.
1. Avoid debt.
2. Spend (WAY) less than you make.
3. Invest the rest.
That’s it. Do that. Give it time. And… Voila.
Well, obviously there’s a LOT more to it than that.
But, as they say, the NUMBERS are simple. It’s the LIFESTYLE changes that are hard.
One more time:
1. Avoid debt.
Like the plague. Seriously. Debt is TOXIC to your freedom. Think: Shackles.
2. Spend (WAY!!!) less than you make.
JL and the FIRE Co. tell us to save AT LEAST 50% of total earnings savings rate. ← Yes, you read that right. Spend AT LEAST 50% less than you make. Want to buy freedom? It’s not cheap. But it’s a lot more shiny than that shiny stuff.
Although no longer cool, it’s as wise as ever: LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS. Way below. (But only if you want what really matters: The eudaimonic happiness that freedom helps us buy.)
3. Invest the savings.
More specifically: In Index funds. More specifically, in Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund.
This is kinda what JL is known for. He tells us we should all consider Jack Bogle a hero. Bogle founded The Vanguard Group (and invented index funds) forty years ago. JL provides some very (!) compelling arguments for why Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund is the secret sauce. (Warren Buffett pretty much agrees, btw.)
At this stage, most people have heard of Dale Carnegie’s uber-bestselling bookHow to Win Friends and Influence People. It was originally published in 1936 and has sold 15 million copies.
It helped kicked off the whole self-development movement and is one of the bestselling self-help book of all time. (It was #19 onTime magazines list of all-time most influential books.)
Having said that, I actually avoided reading it for over 20 years.
I just couldn’t get past what appeared to be a pretty shallow, transactional view of human relationships so…
Alas, a couple years ago I finally submitted to the pressure of countless requests to do a Note on it (hah) and really enjoyed it.
But that’s not quite the point of Today’s +1.
Did you know Dale wrote another book a dozen years later calledHow to Stop Worrying and Start Living? It’s true. And, it’s AWESOME.
Quick question: You ever worry?
* Insert laughter here *
Once again: Of course you do. You’re human.
Want a quick tip on how to stop worrying and start living?
Dale offers a bunch of practical wisdom but this is one of my favorites:“GeorgeBernard Shaw was right. He summed it all up when he said:‘Thesecret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.’ So don’t bother to think about it! Spit on your hands and get busy. Your blood will start circulating; your mind will start ticking—and pretty soon this whole positive upsurge of life in your body will drive worry from your mind.Get busy. Keep busy. It’s the cheapest kind of medicine there is on this earth—and one of the best.”
Obviously, it’s a bit more nuanced than that but…
That’s about right.
As George Bernard Shaw says:“Thesecret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.”
And, as Dale Carnegie says: “Spiton your hands and get busy. Your blood will start circulating; your mind will start ticking—and pretty soon this whole positive upsurge of life in your body will drive worry from your mind. Get busy. Keep busy. It’s the cheapest kind of medicine there is on this earth—and one of the best.”
* Insert spit on your hands *
Let’s get busy.
And stay busy.
While, of course, properly oscillating and shutting down completely when the time’s right.
In our last couple +1s, we talked about Seneca’s wisdom on the importance of “fortifying our pertinacity” until ourwill to do the right thing becomes adisposition to doing the right thing.
That’s basically EXACTLY whatwe talked about a little bit ago when we explored the Algorithms Module we recently went through in the Mastery portion of our Optimize Coach program.
As you may recall (bonus points and high fives if you’ve already tattooed this line on your Optimizing consciousness), I often say that it’s all aboutusing our Willpower wisely to install Habits that run on autopilot via Algorithms.
Here’s a super-quick recap of the basic idea that I think we REALLY want to get.
(btw: I just got goosebumps as I typed that.)
(Yes, as we’ve established by this stage, I’m weird. Things like this get methat fired up.)
Our basal ganglia is an ancient part of our brain. In fact, it’s 500 million (!!!) years old. All mammals have it.
Among other things, it basically figures out what behaviors seem important to us (because we do them often) and decides to save us all the effort of having to think about doing them by helping us do them automatically.
Thank you, basal ganglia.
Now, this is super helpful for the good stuff. My hunch is you don’t need to negotiate with yourself every night when it’s time to brush your teeth. And, you probably just automatically put on your seat belt when you get in a car.
Thank you, basal ganglia.
Of course, thisisn’t so helpful for the sub-optimal behaviors. We’ll save that chat for another time.
Today I want to talk about a handy-dandy little framework I developed for our Coaches to help them Master the process of (I repeat!) using their Willpower wisely to install Habits that run on autopilot via Algorithms.
I encouraged them to think about aPilot, Co-Pilot and Autopilot.
The Pilot? That’s your Daimon. That(Optimus!)best part of us that basicallyalwaysknows the right thing to do and is always whispering in our ears.(Ifwe’d only slow down long enough to listen!)
The Co-Pilot? That’s you. Our job, as I see it, is to simply PAY ATTENTION to what that Pilot is guiding us to do and then, of course, DO IT more consistently.
The Autopilot? That’s our basal ganglia. It’s WAITING for us to program the optimal behaviors. It’s almost like the basal ganglia is our pre-installed brain“hardware”and our job(asCo-Pilots) is to listen to the Pilot then program the behavioral“software”that gets us doing the right thing more and more consistently.
Obviously, part of a longer chat but there ya go.
That’s Today’s +1.
You playing your role well?
What little behavioral software upgrade is your Pilot asking you to program these days?
Is TODAY a good day to fortify your pertinacity such that the (Optimus!)best you becomes thedefault you?
Skipping the longer philosophical chat about the ethics of being a conqueror, Today we’re going to chat about Alexander the Great.
More specifically, we’re going to talk about him and a knot.
The Gordion Knot.
You know the story?
Wikipedia tells us that legend has it that, once upon a time, the ancient people known as the Phrygians (who lived in what is now modern Turkey) didn’t have a king.
An oracle declared that the next man to enter their capital city driving an ox-cart would become king. (That’s one way to do it, eh?)
So… A peasant farmer drove an ox-cart into town and, lo and behold, became king.
His name was Gordias.
In gratitude, his son Midas dedicated the ox-cart to the main Phrygian god (kinda like their version of Zeus) and tied it to a post with a super-intricate knot.
As in, "good luck untying THAT knot” kinda knot.
A Roman historian described it as"severalknots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened.”
Another oracle declares that whoever can unravel the crazy knot would become the ruler of all of Asia. (That’s one way to do it, eh?)
Many men attempt to unravel the knot. No luck.
It’s now 333 bce.
Alexander the Great cruises into town. He tries to untie the knot himself and has no luck.
Being Great and all, he just decides to pull out his sword and slice the knot in half with a single blow. (That’s one way to do it, eh?)
And then, of course, he went on to fulfill the prophecy as he conquered Asia.
Enter: The Gordion Knot.
Back to Wikipedia which tells us:“Itis often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem(untyingan impossibly-tangled knot) solved easily by finding an approach to the problem that renders the perceived constraints of the problem moot(‘cuttingthe Gordian knot’).”
That’s Today’s +1.
Got any seemingly impossible knots in your life?
How’s the unraveling going?
Is there, perhaps, a more direct and/or forceful approach to resolving the issue than you may have tried so far?