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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Jan 30, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about the Optimize Master’s program (aka Optimize Coach!) and had fun with some wisdom on moving from theory to practice—reminding ourselves that the theory (although important!) is just the rudimentary stuff. The ADVANCED work is the actual PRACTICE.
Here’s what was kinda weird.
As I was drafting that +1, I was doing some quick key word searches on my Mac to find the quotes I wanted to pull. I grabbed one from Ernest Holmes’s Creative Mind and Success and one from Vernon Howard’s The Power of Your Supermind
But before I found the right quote from Holmes, I opened up another one of our Notes on another one of his great books The Art of Life
(Fun note: I went through a phase where I was REALLY into understanding what all the old-school New Thought guys thought and read basically all their stuff.)
As I did that little searching and opened up a few PDFs, I noticed that the first Big Idea from both The Art of Life and from The Power of Your Supermind (books written by two different teachers fifty years apart), said almost EXACTLY the same thing.
Big Idea #1 in our Notes on The Art of Life by Ernest Holmes: “You are using the Law of Life every time you think. No matter how long you may have been using It wrongly in your ignorance, the very day, that hour, yes the very moment, you begin to use this Power rightly, the effect of having used It wrongly will pass from your experience. Does it make any difference how long a room has been dark when you introduce a light; how long the earth has been parched when refreshing rain comes to bring new life, a new seed time and a new harvest to the fields?”
Big Idea #1 in our Notes on The Power of Your Supermind by Vernon Howard: “It is a mistake for anyone to think he has lived too long in his old, unsatisfactory ways to make the great change. If you switch on the light in a dark room, it makes no difference how long it was dark because the light will still shine. Be teachable. That is the whole secret.”
There ya go. That’s Today’s +1.
Flip on the light.
(Then reflip it every time it goes off, of course!!)
Jan 25, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about our inaugural Optimize Coach program (there’s still a little more time to sign up and join hundreds of other passionate Optimizers in making this the greatest year of our lives while helping others in our lives do the same, btw).
Specifically, we discussed the very first email we send out with the very first micro-exercise to invite Optimus Us to the party.
It goes like this: 
Stand up. Expand. Relax. Pull the thread thru your head. Take a deep breath (in thru the nose, down into the belly, etc.). Chest up. Chin down. Relax a little more. Expand a little more. Smile.
“Hi, Optimus!!”
We’re going to start (and end) every single one of our 43 weekly sessions together with that exercise. CONSTANTLY remembering to physically flip the switch from the not-quite-Optimus version of ourselves to the “Let’s do this!!!” Optimus version of Us.
As I wrapped my brain around the importance of this little exercise and how to integrate it in our lives, I was thinking that it’s kinda like our Presence phone booth—the one Clark Kent pops into to change from his meek self into his Heroic Superman identity.
Which led me to Google.
Google: “I’d like some love on ‘Clark Kent to Superman transformation,’ please.”
You’ll notice that he goes from a hunched over, apologetic, squeaky-voiced sub-Optimus version of himself to, well, Superman. 
It’s almost as if the script said:
“Stand up. Expand. Relax. Pull the thread thru your head. Take a deep breath (in thru the nose, down into the belly, etc.). Chest up. Chin down. Relax a little more. Expand a little more. Smile.”
(Side note: At 45 seconds you may notice some room for coaching with that mouth breathing. “Love it, Clark! Well done on standing up nice and tall, expanding while relaxing and smiling knowing you’ve got it going on. Tiny little thing: Let’s keep that breath coming in (and out) through the nose. Nice, light, deep into the diaphragm, slightly longer exhale with a smile! Yep. That’s it. SUPERMAN’s in the house!!” lol)
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s remember Amy Cuddy’s wisdom on the power of Presence and Richard Wiseman’s wisdom on The As If Principle as we practice flipping (and reflipping/ducktaping!) the superhero identity switch—living as the new version of you 24/7/365… sending the old you on permanent vacation.
One more time…
“Stand up. Expand. Relax. Pull the thread thru your head. Take a deep breath (in thru the nose, down into the belly, etc.). Chest up. Chin down. Relax a little more. Expand a little more. Smile.”
 “Hi, Optimus!!”
Jan 20, 2019
In our last +1, we took a nice stroll down Brian’s Biographical Byway—exploring the power of flipping Identity switches. (You make any distinctions? Flip any switches?)
btw: That Seneca quote with which we wrapped up that +1 always knocks my socks off: It is not because things are difficult that you do not dare. It is because you do not dare that things are difficult.” 
Today I want to go back to Atomic Habits and explore an Idea that didn’t make it into the Note. 
It has to do with Michael Phelps. And his genes. And how they impacted his pants inseam length. And how that affected his Olympic greatness.
Get this: At this stage, we all know that Phelps is one of the greatest athletes of ALL TIME. He’s won more gold medals (23!!) than anyone in the history of the Olympics. 
He’s a case study in grit. In his autobiography No Limits, he shares the key character traits he believes led to his astonishing success.
One of the things he doesn’t mention is the fact that his body just so happens to be near-perfectly architected for absolute dominance in his chosen sport.
He’s 6’4. Perfect. 
His wingspan is considerable longer that his height. Awesome.
And… His torso is crazy long. Like CRAZY long. (lol) 
A “normal” 6 foot 4 inch guy has a 34-inch inseam. Phelps? His inseam is 30 inches. (Which, Google says, would hover around the “petite” to “small” range if he were shopping for women’s pants.)
The Swimming Gods have blessed that man!! 
Of course, Effort Counts Twice and that guy put in the effort of 10 Olympians—squeezing every drop of potential out of his uniquely shaped body and dominating his sport for a very long time.
But that’s not quite the point of this +1.
This is: James Clear tells us that if we want to achieve greatness in our lives, we need to make sure we’re focusing our precious life force in a domain in which our talents and passion are a good fit.
If Phelps had tried to be a runner he would have failed miserably. His dimensions are precisely the opposite of what’s required there. He needed to be in a pool for us to see him shine.
Today’s +1.
What “pool” do you belong in? Are you in it?
Go take your hedgehog out for a swim or a walk or a run or whatever it is you love to do.
Match your strengths to the domain in which you’re building the habits to most fully express your life force.
Show us what you’ve got. All of it. 
(Pretty please and thank you!)
Jan 15, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about how to make yourself a quadrillion (!!!) times better. The recap there: Just let the magic of compounding 1% gains work for you. Every day. 10 years. Boom!
Of course the fine print includes the fact that, although inspiring, that’s (obviously) pretty much impossible as NO ONE, not even the best among us, are perfect (thanks, Maslow!) and we won’t be the first. But contemplating the sheer potential force of compounding tiny gains is pretty inspiring.
Now, as I wrapped my brain around that power and imagined each of us stepping into that next-best version of ourselves (then repeating the spiraling up again and again!), Ralph Waldo Emerson came to mind.  
In Self-Reliance, he has a great line about the fact that great human beings have an aura about them. He says that it’s almost as if they have a bunch of angels escorting them. 
As he puts it: The force of character is cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this. What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the field, which so fills the imagination? The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind. They shed an united light on the advancing actor. He is attended as by a visible escort of angels.”
That sounds about right.
And you know what “angel” is leading the rest of the angels?
Our proud daimons.
High fives to you and yours!
Jan 10, 2019
In our last +1, we talked about how the Peak Performance guys recommend we craft our optimal work-to-rest ratio. 
Pop quiz: You recall the ratio? 
Pop answer: 50 to 90 minutes ON. 7 to 20 minutes OFF. Making nice rhythmic waves…
(More importantly: You practice it yesterday?)
Today, as promised, I want to talk about the importance of creating boundaries lest we teeter into the realm of burnout and/or never leave the realm of sub-awesome performance.
First, let’s talk about the boundaries required to get into true, 100% ON mode. 
Guess what… All that multi-tasking? Flitting back and forth from one thing to another? That’s NOT awesome. (Cap’n Obvious here with a friendly public service announcement.) 
We need to create bright-line boundaries and focus on ONE Thing—the most important thing—if we want to have a shot at operating in our upper threshold of productive performance. 
We all know that. (Right?)
Do you still paper cut your attention and never really go deep because you’re too busy multitasking? Well, as the Peak Performance guys put it: “For 99 percent of us, effective multitasking is nothing more than effective delusional thinking.”
So, to be ALL IN ON, we need to eliminate distractions and truly go ALL IN for our 50 to 90 minutes of peak performance work. Got it.
Then what?
Then we need to truly recover during that 7 to 20 minutes OFF phase. Go for a walk, meditate, take a nap. (If you’re a nut like me, go throw some spears in your backyard.)
But, whatever you do, don’t go online and read the news and/or catch up on your social feeds or anything else that’s going to blow up your brain (and nervous system and neurotransmitters) and not offer you a true recovery period.
Again, boundaries. 
100% On. 100% Off. Repeat.
But only if you like sustainable peak performance.
Remember: Boundaries or burnout.
Oh! And this is even more important at the end of the day. Remember our chat about “Shut-down complete!”? Well, that’s a really good boundary to make sure you properly recover via some epic sleep while also ensuring some solid Deep Love time. 
Boundaries = Awesome.
Jan 5, 2019
Continuing (and concluding) our trip through Steve Chandler’s wise brain (and great book, Reinventing Yourself), let’s talk about campfires.
Campfires? Yep. Campfires. 
So… You’re out camping. It’s night time. You light a fire. It keeps you warm. You wake up the next morning. The fire is out. You’ll need to light another fire tonight to get warm again.
Now, do you complain about the fact that you need to create another fire? Or, do you just accept that that’s how it is?
Unless you pretty much exclusively speak Victimese, you accept that reality and simply make another fire, right?
Well… Steve tells us that the “human spirit” is JUST like that campfire. You need to re-light it EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Most people don’t like that fact. They want their fire to burn all day every day from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep (with pleasant dreams included as well)—with as little effort as possible.
That’s called entitlement. You can also call it wanting to be exonerated from all future effort.
As it turns out, Phil Stutz says almost exactly the same thing. Only the metaphor he uses in our chats is that of a chair. He says that when you build a chair on the physical or material plane of life, it’s there the next day. 
BUT… (And this is another big “but”!!)
On the spiritual plane, that chair you built today WON’T be there tomorrow. You need to get back to work RE-BUILDING it. Every day. Whether you like it or not. 
Kinda like the campfire of the human spirit.
Today’s +1.
At the end of the day today, use the wood from the chair you built to fuel the campfire you need to build every night—knowing that you’ll need to build both again tomorrow morning.
Know that when we really get this, we’re nearly invincible. Why? Well, we stop complaining when we inevitably feel a little off and simply get to work doing the things we KNOW will help us feel great.
THAT is the source of ultimate confidence. And it’s ours.
Here’s to your comfie chairs that act as kindling for your warm fires!
Jan 4, 2019

Arianna Huffington (CEO of Thrive and co-founder + editor in chief of The Huffington Post) went from being a sleep-deprived executive to a sleep evangelist after passing out and banging her head following years of a grueling work! In this book, she brilliantly walks us through the crisis we’re facing, the history of sleep, the science of sleep and, most importantly, what we can do to Optimize our sleep. I highly recommend it. Big Ideas we explore include the fact that sleep is the #1 most underrated health habit, how to master sleeping well, the #1 tip (and #2-4), how much sleep the wealthiest human on the planet gets (hint: target: 8!), how athletes train their sleep (guess what time Tom Brady goes to sleep!), and why you should set a WORK-DOWN alarm so you don't need a WAKE-UP alarm.

Dec 26, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about LeBron James and the fact that he tries to get 11 to 12 hours of sleep per day when he’s training. (So does Roger Federer. And, Tom Brady is in bed at 8:30.
Let’s talk about LeBron a little more today. 
Renowned mental toughness coach Bob Rotella kicks off his book How Champions Think with a story about how LeBron thinks. 
It goes something like this.
Once upon a time early in LeBron’s career, Rotella spent some time working with LeBron. He knew the basics. Six-eight. A chiseled two hundred fifty pounds with explosive speed. A proven superstar. But it wasn’t until they sat down and chatted that he REALLY got LeBron’s power.
Rotella asked him about his goals. LeBron told him: “I want to be the greatest basketball player in history.” 
Rotella thought: “Beautiful. This is a truly talented guy.” 
He tells us what he was MOST impressed by: “It was not that he had physical gifts. It was LeBron’s mind.” 
Specifically, it was the way he saw himself that most moved Rotella: “The vital importance of that sort of attitude is the foremost thing I have learned about exceptionalism in my decades of work with people striving to be great.”
That’s worth repeating. Rotella has worked with THE top performers for DECADES. The “foremost thing” he has learned about exceptionalism and people striving to be great? The vital importance of seeing themselves and their potential with such audacious (!) clarity.
Which begs the question: How do YOU see yourself
Now, continuing our story… After LeBron told Rotella he wanted to be the greatest basketball player in history (!!!), Rotella asked him where he thought he stood in relation to that goal. LeBron told him he thought he was doing pretty well but that he wasn’t going to be the greatest if his teams didn’t win championships and they weren’t going to do that unless he became a better three-point shooter.
Long story short: Rotella told him to create a video montage of him nailing threes from every spot on the court. Set it to music. Watch it every night. FEEL it. Program his subconscious mind.
And, he told him to hire a shooting coach, work with him every day and make two hundred three-point shots off the dribble every day while imagining the best defender guarding him. Then make another two hundred catch-and-shoot three-pointers. “I told him I didn’t care how many shots it took to make those four hundred three-pointers, or how long it took. If he wanted to be great, he would find the time and find the energy.”
Rotella continues: “The actual number of shots I suggested was not as important, in my mind, as the idea that LeBron would set a practice goal for himself, commit to achieving it every day, and wait patiently for the results.”
Fast-forward. LeBron went from being a 29% three-point shooter in his rookie season to a 40% beast—collecting a few championships en route to his quest to be the greatest player ever.
Of course, this Idea has nothing to do with LeBron James and his three-pointers. 
It has to do with YOU. 
In what domain are you committed to being exceptional
Where do you think you stand in relation to that goal? 
And what do you think you need to do every day (!!) to have a shot at being your exceptional best?
Find the time. Find the energy. Be an exception. Be exceptional.
Dec 21, 2018
Today I’d like to talk about a little more wisdom from Seth Godin’s Icarus Deception
As we’ve discussed, his book (and his entire body of work for that matter), is basically a plea for us to step up and into our highest potential. 
He tells us: “Your ability to follow directions is not the secret to your success. You are hiding your best work, your best insight, and your best self from us every day.”
That’s inspiringly true. 
(Note the references to your best,” your best, your best.” And, think: Optimus, optimus, optimus.)
But here’s the passage that’s been rattling around in my head: “It’s too bad that so much time has been wasted, but it would be unforgivable to wait any longer. You have the ability to contribute so much. We need you, now.”
It’s funny because when I recalled that passage in my head, I thought he said, “It’s unfortunate that so much time has been wasted. But it would be unforgivable to wait any longer.”
Unfortunate vs. Unforgivable.
Unfortunate vs. Unforgivable.
Unfortunate vs. Unforgivable.
That’s the phrase that’s been bubbling up for me…
Yah. It’s a bit of a bummer we’ve wasted so many years (or decades!) living at less than our best. (“Gosh darnit!! GAH!!! Oh, to have that time back!!!”)
As UNFORTUNATE as that wasted time is, it’s UNFORGIVABLE to wait any longer.
So, let’s capitalize all the lessons learned and GET BUSY GIVING OUR BEST SELVES MOST FULLY TO THE WORLD.
How might you do that just a little more today?
Remember: Unfortunate vs. Unforgivable
And give us what you’ve got!!
Dec 16, 2018
With all this talk about sports heroes and scoring touchdowns and winning forever, I think it’s time to remind ourselves that sports simply provide the perfect (over-simplified) context for SPIRITUAL truths. 
That’s why we love watching the Olympics, Super Bowls and World Cups so much. When we watch an athlete performing at their absolute (optimus!) best we’re simply reminded of our own heroic potential.
Of course, we want to make sure we get off the couch and get into the arena of life and use their demonstration of greatness as an inspiration for our own pursuit of excellence (rather than as mere entertainment by people who are somehow gifted in ways in which we aren’t).
(Remember: According to Anders Ericsson, the preeminent researcher on what makes great people great: We ALL have “The Gift.”)
Bringing it back the spiritual arena, Today we’re going to talk about Rumi.
As you may know, Rumi was one of the greatest spiritual beings in history and his beautiful poetry is beloved around the world. He was a Sufi—which is, essentially, a Muslim mystic. He was born in the 13th century in what is now Afghanistan. He lived and taught in Konya, Turkey which was, at the time, the capital of the dominant Selcuk Empire.
I smile as I recall studying Rumi and visiting his grave in Konya on my little philosophical tour over 15 years ago (during which I also studied Socrates in Athens, Jesus in Jersualem, and Marcus Aurelius near the Danube in Hungary).
What does he say about how we should live? Well, in terms of the intensity with which our sports heroes lived, I love the way he encourages us to play the much bigger game of life. 
These passages capture some of his spiritual intensity:
“I am burning. If anyone lacks tinder, let him set his rubbish ablaze with my fire.”
“Travelers, it is late. Life’s sun is going to set. During these brief days that you have strength, be quick and spare no effort of your wings.”
He is a letter to everyone. You open it. It says, ‘Live!’”
All in.
If Rumi played football, he would have played it like Jerry Rice.
If he coached basketball, he would have coached it like John Wooden.
Today’s +1.
If you feel so inspired, I’d love to have you join me in opening Rumi’s letter.
Let’s spare no effort of our wings as we set ourselves on fire so that others may feel the warmth of our glow and we can change the world, one person at a time, together, starting with you and me. Today.
Dec 11, 2018
A couple +1s ago, we talked about Optimizer Jessica’s kind words and then had fun talking about Mr. Anonymous Troll Guy as well.
Today I want to talk about a line from Jessica’s little note that I didn’t share before. 
In addition to her kind words about my commitment to sharing my own struggles and how that has helped her build resilience, she said this: “Furthermore, the partnership he and Alexandra have built is exemplary — I only wish they weren’t so hard to emulate!”
Now, again, I’m super touched by that and honored that we serve as potential relationship exemplars and I know Jessica wasn’t saying that she thought we were perfect…
(Laughing as I type this…)
As Maslow said and we discuss ALL THE TIME (but still nowhere near enough!), THERE ARE NO PERFECT HUMANS. And, by extension, THERE ARE NO PERFECT RELATIONSHIPS.
And, as I always like to say: You and I won’t be the first perfect people. Nor will we have the first perfect relationship. (At least Alexandra and I certainly won’t!)
Here’s what’s funny. 
The morning after we received that note (LITERALLY the morning after!), Alexandra and I got into a nice little argument. Now, to be clear, we weren’t crazy yelling at each other or anything, but it was a nice little testy one. (Laughing.)
About what?
Well, that’s the best part.
Basically about the proper way to Optimize and build sustainable habits. (Laughing.)
I won’t bore you with the details but the point I want to make is that, and I know this is obvious but I want make sure we’re all on the same page, WE AREN’T PERFECT. Individually or together. 
Again, I realize that’s obvious, but I want to make it jumbo explicit.
Why do you think I work so hard on this stuff? And why do you think I come back to the same themes again and again and again?
BECAUSE I NEED IT!!! (More laughter.)
So, yah. There ya go.
btw: In a chat with Cal Newport not too long ago (we’re actually chatting in a couple hours—which I’m really looking forward to), we talked about my Big 3: Energy + Work + Love. He was breaking it down with his “I-have-a-Ph.D.-from-MIT brain” when I shared my Wildly Important Goal for “Love.” It’s always evolving but, basically, it’s to celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with Alexandra and be best friends with my adult kids.
I told him that no one sets a goal like that unless not hitting it is a possibility. (Laughing yet again.) In other words, Alexandra and I being married in another 39 years isn’t a foregone conclusion. We have challenges like everyone else. And, we’ll choose to work on them and preserve/Optimize our relationship as a key component of our Optimizing and actualizing or we won’t.
But the challenge remains. For all of us.
Again, I repeat, off the soapbox now in a more relaxed tone: There are no perfect human beings; and, there are no perfect relationships.
So, I’m honored to be an exemplar for those who find inspiration in my life and I’m absolutely (!!!) committed to being worthy of that role. 
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s remember that NO ONE is perfect. And, as hard as we work, we won’t be the first.
Then let’s rub our hands together at all the challenges we face and strive to be imperfect, always-Optimizing-and-actualizing exemplars for our families, communities and world.
Dec 6, 2018

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Here are 5 of my favorite Big Ideas from "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. Hope you enjoy!

James Clear has a super-popular website ( Millions of people visit it every month and hundreds of thousands subscribe to his email newsletter. After reading this book, I can see why. He’s a great writer and distills the essence of habit formation into, well, its fundamental components—the “atomic” structure if you will—while showing us how those TINY little incremental improvements add up to MIGHTY results. I rarely say a book is a must-read but this one’s as close as it gets. Big Ideas we explore include: The math behind 1% gains compounding over a year (and a decade!), navigating the Plateau of Latent Potential (ever given up on a habit? Take note!), the importance (and etymology) of our Identity (get this: it *literally* means 'repeated being ness'), The 4 Laws of Behavior Change (remember: cue + craving + response + reward and... make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, make it satisfying), and the Sorites Paradox (can a single habit change your life?).

Dec 6, 2018
In our last +1, we met one of my heroes, Mrs. Kristie Kuehnast. I smile with joy (and in awe) every time I imagine her fifth-grade students coming back into the classroom after their mile run to sit down and watch a new +1 or PNTV. 
High fives, Kristie. We appreciate you. (Oh! Please walk through a cloning machine about 50 million times. Thank you.)
We also briefly touched on Yuval Noah Harari’s perspective on the subject of Education. Today I want to revisit some more wisdom from his new book.
As we discussed, Yuval shines a spotlight on 21 of the biggest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. With the rise of artificial intelligence, information technology and biotechnology, things are changing at an incomprehensible speed. And, it’s only going to speed up, not slow down.
He tells us: “The danger is that if we invest too much in developing AI and too little in developing human consciousness, the very sophisticated artificial intelligence of computers might only serve to empower the stupidity of humans.”
He also tells us: “To avoid such outcomes, for every dollar and every minute we invest in improving artificial intelligence, we’d be wise to invest a dollar and a minute in advancing human consciousness. Unfortunately, at present we are not doing much in the way of research into human consciousness and ways to develop it. We are researching and developing human abilities mainly according to the immediate needs of the economic and political system, rather than according to our own long-term needs as conscious beings. My boss wants me to answer emails as quickly as possible, but he has little interest in my ability to taste and appreciate the food I am eating. Consequently, I check my emails even during meals, which means I lose the ability to pay attention to my own sensations. The economic system pressures me to expand and diversify my investment portfolio, but it gives me zero incentive to expand and diversify my compassion. So I strive to understand the mysteries of the stock exchange while making far less effort to understand the deep causes of suffering.”
Let’s focus on the end of that passage…
Which are you most interested in understanding?
The fluctuations in the stock market? Or the fluctuations in your own well-being, and, by extension, the well-being of those around you and the world at large?
I remember a coaching session where an Optimizer and I had fun making the distinction that, rather than waking up and immediately checking the stock market, he may want to consider waking up and checking in how his ULTIMATE stock was doing—that stock being his OWN CONSCIOUSNESS, of course.
When you wake up, what do you do? Do you check in on the most precious “asset” you’ll ever have? (Again, I repeat: That would be YOU and your well-being, of course!)
Or, do you immediately check in on the world—whether that’s the stock market or the news or your email inbox?
Byron Katie comes to mind. She tells us: “The greatest stock market you can invest in is yourself. Finding this truth is better than finding a gold mine.”
Today’s +1.
How can you invest in yourself a little more today?
Here’s to celebrating (and tapping into!) our gold mines.
Dec 1, 2018
A few +1s ago, we talked about Walter Russell and the sound of joy
Today I’d like to talk about another one of his powerful insights.
Here it is. 
He tells us: Mediocrity is self-inflicted. Genius is self-bestowed.”
Here’s the slightly longer version: “I believe that every man has consummate genius within him. Some appear to have it more than others only because they are aware of it more than others are, and the awareness or unawareness of it is what makes each one of them into masters or holds them down to mediocrity. I believe that mediocrity is self-inflicted and that genius is self-bestowed.”
Today’s +1 is very simple.
Are you bestowing genius upon yourself or inflicting mediocrity?
Well, which is it?
Genius. Mediocrity.
I agree with Walter (and countless other teachers). We ALL have “consummate” (Golden Buddha!) genius within ourselves. 
Can you see it?
Nov 26, 2018
In our last couple +1s, we talked about the lead-up to a recent keynote talk I gave and some wisdom gleaned in the process—including practicing the “Bring it on!” and “I’m excited!” tools THE MOMENT I experienced doubt/fear/etc. and… Hanging towels over mirrors to reduce the ol' self-consciousness.
Today I want to talk about being a ballet dancer. (Hah.)
Well, actually, I want to talk about some of my favorite feedback from the event. I had some great conversations with the people at the event but one nice little comment really stuck.
Short story: While I was holding Eleanor while Alexandra and Emerson were enjoying a quick little hot tub session at the hotel on Friday night, a woman who attended the event strolled by. We had a nice little Love 2.0 moment. 
She told me that she was trained in Russian ballet and that one of the first things she noticed when I started talking was my posture. 
She said that in her ballet training, she was taught to simultaneously go up AND go down. And that, apparently, I did that really well. 
She said I looked like I could be a ballet dancer. I said, “That’s AWESOME. Thank you!”
But, as awesome as that is (lol), that’s not quite the point of Today’s +1.
Today I want to talk about three things: Head Threads + Power Poses + Thor’s Hammer.
I take my posture/gait kinda seriously. (I think it was Phil Maffetone who says that how we hold ourselves (how we stand/walk/etc.) is, essentially, the sum total of our overall well-being and communicates to everyone around us.)
So… During my meditation this morning, the essence of this +1 bubbled up and I actually got up to capture the ideas (which is a very rare thing for me to do).
There are three essential things I think we want to have in mind posture-wise.
First, Head Threads. Quick recap: As per the Alexander Technique training I did on a tiny little island in Greece back in the day, imagine having a thread that runs from the top of your head down through your spine. Gently pull it up—lengthening (and widening) your spine. When you sit. When you stand. When you walk. All day every day. Experts in that method say that’s one of the keys to grace and poise.
Then we have Power Poses: I also like to think of Amy Cuddy’s research on the power of our posture. As it turns out, Amy was actually a ballet dancer as well. Recall her research on how to cultivate Presence. One of her big things, of course, is to strike a power pose. Channel your inner Superman or Wonder Woman. When you sit. When you stand. When you walk. All day every day. Experts in this field of research say this is one of the most effective ways to cultivate our presence and power.
Finally we have Thor’s Hammer: Eric Goodman is one of the world’s leading biomechanic experts. He wrote a book called True to Form. You know who wrote the foreword to his book? Thor!! Well, technically, it was Chris Helmsworth but he attributes his superpowers to Eric’s wisdom. The key tip from Eric I have in my mind often throughout the day? “Chest up. Chin down.” Try it. Chest up. Chin down. All day. Every day. Thor says: It does a body good.
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s (literally!) embody the idea of buoyancy by simultaneously having levity AND gravity.
Remember: Head Threads. Power Poses. Thor’s Hammer.
Simultaneously UP and DOWN.
And, most importantly: Let’s dance!
Nov 21, 2018
We’ve been talking a fair amount about the idea that some of history’s greatest creators didn’t work all that much. To be clear, they worked hard and (very importantly!) CONSISTENTLY, but the fact is that it’s really hard to put in any more than 4 to 6 hours of really high-quality work.
Of course, we all have our own idiosyncratic professional responsibilities. And, in addition to Deep Work, we all have (and, for the record, all of history’s greatest creators had!) some Team Work and some Monkey Work to do. (Even hermits like me can’t get all that to zero—as hard as I may try! lol)
But I get the fact that, for a lot of people, the idea that we can structure our lives such that we’re basically hammering out four hours of deep work and then calling it a day feels a bit impossible. 
Fair enough. 
Maybe we can’t currently (or ever!) wave our wands and instantly manifest our ideal Masterpiece Days. 
a) Have you actually stepped back and REALLY thought about how you COULD structure your life so you more consistently execute a pretty epically masterpiece day?
b) What about just ONE hour of Deep Work hammer time per day? If four hours feels like an “impossible” stretch, can you carve out ONE hour to go DEEP on what REALLY matters most to you before jumping into the whirlwind of other people’s priorities?
Perhaps part of that Deep Work time can be dedicated to mapping out how you create four hours of sheer awesome such that you can consistently accumulate twenty hours of REALLY solid Deep Work per week?! (And, the “impossible” becomes “what’s for breakfast” as per a recent +1?)
You know how much four hours of Deep Work per day/twenty hours of Deep Work per week adds up to in a year?
1,000 hours. 
You know how many hours that adds up to in a decade?
10,000 hours. 
You know who you would be if you logged in 10,000 (!!!) hours of REALLY Deep Work?
Of course you don’t. That, as Ellen Langer would say, is UNKNOWABLE. 
But… You know what? I’m super-curious to know what it could look like.
How about YOU?
That’s Today’s +1. 
If you’re struggling to find your Deep Work rhythms, how about an hour of awesome today?
Let’s run the math on that as well…
You know how much one hour of Deep Work per day or five hours of Deep Work per week adds up to in a year?
250 hours. 
You know many hours that adds up to in a decade?
2,500 hours. 
You know who you would be if you logged in 2,500 (!!!) hours of REALLY Deep Work?
(… Echo…) Of course you don’t. That, as Ellen Langer would say, is UNKNOWABLE. 
But… You know what? I’m super-curious to know what it could look like.
How about YOU?
Here’s to your 1-Hour (Deep)Workday!
Nov 16, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that we need to train our recovery the same way we train our Deep Work. We want to create nice, rhythmic waves in our lives and prioritize rest. One great way to do that? Deep Play.
I briefly mentioned the fact that, as Alex Pang tells us in his great book Rest, when we look closely at the routines of some of history’s greatest, most creative and most prolific creators what we find is that they don’t actually work that much.
Here’s how he puts it: “Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the results of endless hours of toil. Their towering creative achievements result from modest ‘working’ hours. …
If some of history’s greatest figures didn’t put in immensely long hours, maybe the key to unlocking the secret of their creativity lies in understanding not just how they labored but how they rested, and how the two relate.”
That again, is from a chapter he calls “4 Hours.”
As in, the greatest creators tend to work only 4 hours a day. 
But, they put first things first and GO DEEP.
Then, they recover.
The 4-Hour Workday. ← That would be an epic book.
btw: For those paying close attention, you may recall that we actually had a very similar +1 not too long ago featuring wisdom from Anders Ericsson and Tony Schwartz. We called that one The 4.5-Hour Workday
I love how we come back to the same wisdom again and again (and again!!). As Tony Robbins says, repetition is the mother of skill; or, in our case, repetition is the mother of wise Optimizing. 
(One more aside: I’m reminded of a recent philosophical ping-pong chat with Cal Newport. We talked about the fact that all great traditions come back to the same themes and I remarked that Optimizing by integrating ancient wisdom + modern science + practical tools like we do is kinda like looking at all the facets of a gem from different angles so you can appreciate its full beauty.)
One more little facet of the Today’s gem then we’ll get back to our 4-Hour Workday.
We’ve talked a lot about Scott Adams and Stephen King. Alex talks about their daily rhythms and tells us: “Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, works about four hours a day on the strip and other writing; as he points out, ‘My value is based on my best ideas in any given day, not the number of hours I work.’ Stephen King describes four to six hours of reading and writing as a ‘strenuous’ day.”
There ya go. 
Get clear on what matters. GO DEEP. Daily. Accrete value in your most important work. Recover. Deeply. Repeat.
That’s Today’s +1.
Now, go enjoy your 4-Hour Workday!
Nov 11, 2018
Continuing our theme of wisdom gleaned from Zen Optimize in the Art of Spartan Racing, let’s talk about spiritual obstacle course racer, Sri Swami Satchidananda.
Sri Swami Satchidananda was an obstacle course racer? 
Well, yah!
Satchidananda was one of the most revered Yoga Masters of the 20th century. He wrote a great book called The Golden Present. It’s one of those books that has a chapter for each day of the year so you can work through the wisdom and create your greatest year ever.
Guess what wisdom he shared in Chapter #1, January 1st? 
… What wisdom do you think he thought was most important to kick off your year strong? 
Quick answer: How to see life as one big obstacle course.
Longer answer, in his words: “Life must be a challenge. Only then is it exciting. In an obstacle race, you are forced to surmount all the obstacles: to jump over the hurdles, go through the barrels, crawl under the rugs, climb over walls.
What would happen if, to avoid all that, you went around all the obstacles and asked for the winner’s cup? Would they give it to you? No. They would say, ‘You must go back and face all the obstacles.’
... Make your life as exciting as possible, but always think of it as fun. The adversities as well
as the harmony should be enjoyable. Don’t become sober and morose and have a castor oil
face in the name of spirituality. Just be happy. Jump with joy. Even if you make a mistake, say, ‘Hey, I did this? Great! What a wonderful lesson I learned!’ If you really want to, you can make everything fun.”
Amen and high fives, Swami!!!
That’s PRECISELY why my sport-hobby involves me PAYING to go over and under and through obstacles so I really get the sports-metaphor that so perfectly captures the essence of life.
Today’s +1.
Two key things. 
  1. Make your life as exciting (and challenging!) as possible.
  2. And always think of it as FUN!!!
Friendly Optimizing reminder: Life is one big, preciously brief game. 
As India.Arie says
If you create the game then you create the rules
And if you just be you
There's no way you can lose
Get out there and have fun. 
Jump with joy—right over any and all obstacles you face today!
Nov 6, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about Zen in the Art of Spartan Spear Throwing and the recent installation of a spear throw setup in our backyard, complete with bails of hay, etc. (Yes, we’re ALL IN at the Johnson house.)
How about YOU? Do you have a deep commitment to mastery in your life? 
Remember: Even the most mundane practices can be a portal into enlightenOptimizement. 
I’m in my backyard throwing my spear and thinking about Steven Pressfield’s wisdom. As I had fun walking back and forth covering the 30 feet between the hay bales and my starting point, I was also thinking about some Lanny and Troy Bassham wisdom.
As we’ve discussed, Lanny wrote a book called With Winning in Mind. Troy wrote a book called Attainment. We briefly talked about some of their wisdom on how average vs. elite performers practice in our +1 on why Buddha kept on meditating after his enlightenment
Short story: Lanny and Troy tell us that AVERAGE performers practice something until they can get it right. ELITE performers, on the other hand, practice until they CAN’T GET IT WRONG.
That’s how to roll. 
And that’s worth a repeat: AVERAGE performers practice something until they can get it right. ELITE performers, on the other hand, practice until they CAN’T GET IT WRONG.
So… Today’s +1.
How are YOU approaching your life and the most salient aspects of it?
Trying to get it right? Or working so hard you can’t get it wrong?
Let’s avoid the “Meh, I’m good enough” zone of competence as we chase excellence.
Let’s go from average to elite to our optimus best.
Then let’s keep going.
Nov 1, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that Americans check their phones 8 BILLION times every day. (Wow.) 
We also talked about the fact that (at least 5 billion of) those 8 billion checks are essentially kryptonite for the love in your life.
Today I want to talk about some more wisdom from Yuval Noah Harari’s new book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
But first, let’s talk about horses.
I live in a small town in Southern California called Ojai. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the very few places in the world where people ride their horses next to Teslas. (Hah.)
Now, of course, no one in town is getting around primarily via horses, but it’s always fun to see a few people on horseback cruising through town or to see a few horses “parked” outside the local cafe.
So… The other day I saw a fresh horseshoe print on my Trail. For whatever reason, I thought of Elon Musk’s talk to governors. 
Note: I pretty much never watch YouTube videos or TED Talks. I read books. Period. (Hah.) But, a good friend of mine (thank you, Michael!) strongly encouraged me to watch this talk. So, I did. And, I’m glad I did. I highly recommend it for a fascinating look at one man’s vision of the future. (Check it out here.)
So… In this discussion, Elon talks about the future of cars. Long story short, he tells us that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, ALL cars will be self-driving. It’s not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN.
To make his point, he tells us that just as some people still ride horses for fun, none of us ride horses as a primary means of transportation these days. Likewise, some people will have fun driving a car around in the future, but that won’t be the primary means of transportation in x years.
That, my friends, is what I thought of when I saw a horseshoe print in the dust of my Trail. (Hah.)
Well, that and a passage from Harari’s new book. 
In a chapter on “Work” he talks about the HUGE shifts in our global economy that will result from the advances in artificial technology.
He tells us: “The benefits for human society are likely to be immense. AI doctors could provide far better and cheaper healthcare for billions of people, particularly for those who currently receive no healthcare at all. Thanks to learning algorithms and biometric sensors, a poor villager in an underdeveloped country might come to enjoy far better healthcare via her smartphone than the richest person in the world gets today from the most advanced urban hospital.
Similarly, self-driving vehicles could provide people with much better transportation services, and in particular reduce mortality from traffic accidents. Today close to 1.25 million people are killed annually in traffic accidents (twice the number killed by war, crime, and terrorism combined). More than 90 percent of those accidents are caused by human errors: somebody drinking alcohol and driving, somebody texting a message while driving, somebody falling asleep at the wheel, somebody daydreaming instead of paying attention to the road. … Self-driving vehicles will never do any of those things. Though they suffer from their own problems and limitations, and though some accidents are inevitable, replacing all human drivers by computers is expected to reduce deaths and injuries on the road by about 90 percent. In other words, switching to autonomous vehicles is likely to save the lives of one million people every year.
It would therefore be madness to block automation in fields such as transport and healthcare just in order to protect human jobs. After all, what we ultimately ought to protect is humans—not jobs. Displaced drivers and doctors will just have to find something else to do.”
Of course, the long-term economic ramifications of all this are beyond the scope of Today’s +1. 
Two things I want to focus on.
First: Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how quickly our world is changing and that a lot of the things we take for granted as the peak of sophistication will be viewed, in the not-so-distant future, as a bit like riding a horse. 
Second: You know what Harari tells us is the most important quality for us to cultivate (and to teach our children) to prepare for such a rapidly changing world? 
Well, he says that “for every dollar and ever minute we invest in improving artificial intelligence, it would be wise to invest a dollar and a minute in advancing human consciousness.”
In short, we need to Optimize.
Oct 27, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about my quest to be a Spartan champion in 2025 and how that’s resulted in a lot of WINing TODAY. (How’re your goals-systems?!)
Today I want to talk about being a Champ Champ Champ. 
← I laugh as I type that. 
Note: This +1 is a bit ridiculous. 
Quick context: After one of the best mixed martial arts coaches in the world (Firas Zahabi, owner of Tristar gym and Georges St Pierre’s coach) became an Optimizer then sent a note telling me how much he loved the PhilosophersNotes (thanks, Firas!), I learned more about Firas and his mastery of his craft and, in the process, paid more attention to the UFC.
In the process, I stumbled across Conor McGregor before he was the superstar he is today. It’s cliché to say that I could see that he had a spark of something different about him but, well, he did. And, he does.
While embracing Maslow’s wisdom that there are no perfect human beings, I’ve enjoyed watching his entertaining, charismatic rise to superstardom.
Short story for those who may not know: Conor McGregor is an Irish mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter who is the first person in the premier “league” of MMA (the UFC) to win championships in TWO weight classes. It’s a pretty impressive feat. It’s especially impressive and inspiring because he went from being an apprentice plumber to a kid with a dream receiving welfare checks to winning those two world championships and making something like $100 million in his first professional boxing match against one of the all-time greats.
Now, in addition to being a great fighter, Conor is also a great promoter. 
All of which brings us closer to Today’s +1.
After winning the two championships, he took to calling himself “Champ Champ.” I laugh as I type that as it’s so wonderfully ridiculous. “Champ Champ.” (Hah.)
As I’ve been stepping up my athlētē game, I’ve been having fun with different mantras during my meditation, during training and during everyday life. Optimus is one of my favorite ways to focus my energy on being my best. I also like “World-Class.” And, as the bar has moved up, “World-Champion” might have been getting some airtime in my head.
Of course, my athletic goals are really just a means to Optimize my Energy which is really just a means to Optimize my Work and my Love so I’ve been having fun playing with different ways to capture all Big 3 commitments in one mantra.
That’s when Champ Champ Champ” popped into my head.
← I laugh as I type that and I laughed when it first appeared in my head. (Which I take as a very good sign.)
Yep. That’s the standard. A World-Class → World-Champion Athlētē AND a World-Class → “World-Champion” Husband and Father AND a World-Class → “World-Champion” Philosopher-Teacher-Leader.
That’s like me.
Champ Champ Champ.
How about you?
What’s the best version of YOU look like Energy + Work + Love-wise?!
Any fun ways to bring your commitments to life?
Oct 17, 2018
We’ve been talking a lot about how champions maximize minutes—giving everything they’ve got into being the best versions of themselves.
Thank you, John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, and Dan Millman for your wisdom. 
Today we’e going to invite Gandhi to the party to establish the fact that this isn’t a SPORTS idea, it’s a SPIRITUAL ideal.
Here’s how Gandhi puts it: “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.”
Full effort is full victory. We do our best, let go of the results and then get back to doing our best. That wisdom is a central theme of Gandhi’s handbook, the Bhagavad Gita.
Now, for a fun twist, let’s bring the conversation back to sports.
Have you ever heard of The Legend of Bagger Vance? It’s an old-school movie starring Will Smith and Matt Damon. Guess what they’re doing? Playing golf. 
Short story: Matt Damon (playing Rannulph Junuh) has lost his mojo on the course. His caddy Will Smith (Bagger Vance) teaches him to trust his swing again.
The movie is based on a book written by a guy named Steven Pressfield who, in addition to being a great author, is also a master of the creative process. I consider his trilogy on the creative process must reads. (See Notes on The War of Art, Do the Work and Turning Pro.)
But get this: “The Legend of Bagger Vance” is really just the “Bhagavad Gita” on a golf course. (Get it? Bagger Vance Bhagavad Gita…)
In the Gita, we have a reluctant warrior named Arjuna (sounds a lot like Rannulph Junuh, eh?). Arjuna is counseled by the mighty Krishna who, basically, tells him to trust his swing and do what he’s here to do. 
Take that spiritual wisdom, put it on a golf course, throw two huge stars in there and voila, we have a sports movie delivering some pretty legit wisdom.
Which, of course, is why sports are so popular. The super-clearly-defined rules of a given sport give us an opportunity to see life’s bigger challenges play out in a 60-minute game.
For now, let’s bring all this wisdom back to our lives via a couple more sources of wisdom.
In The War of Art, Pressfield tells us that we need to go from being amateurs” to being “Professionals in our creative lives. One of the key attributes of the professional? 
Here’s how he puts it: “The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.” 
In other words, full effort is full victory. We do our best, let go of the results and then get back to doing our best.
Pressfield got that wisdom from the Gita. Flip open that classic manual on the art of living to find this gem: “The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results.”
In other words, full effort is full victory. We do our best, let go of the results and then get back to doing our best.
That’s Today’s +1.
Remember: Full effort is full victory. 
Let’s do our best, let go of results and then get back to doing our best.
Oct 12, 2018
In our last +1, we continued our chat about the fact that your perfection is already there. It’s just waiting for you to follow Rule #1 and quit doing yourself harm. 
I said that that just requires a little more discipline from you. (And me.)
Which makes me think about the connection between our ego and the divine within.
This is part of a much longer discussion. But here’s the quick take.
Most people think we need to “get rid of” our ego or subdue it or tame it or otherwise maim it if we want to tap into the most divinely spiritual within us.
I don’t agree with that approach.
I prefer to think of it more like Joseph Campbell. And Ken Wilber. And Nathaniel Brandon.
Campbell tells us that he doesn’t understand why there’s all this talk about annihilating the ego when, in fact, it’s our egos that keep us in the game. 
Then Wilber tells us that it’s not “ego-minus” but “ego-plus.” We need a strong ego that’s plugged into something bigger than ourselves. THAT’s when the magic happens. 
Then we have Nathaniel Brandon who tells us that even if we think “letting go of” the ego is either desirable or possible (he and I don’t think it’s either), successfully letting go of your ego would, by definition, require you to have a firm grip on your ego before you could let it go. (Think about it for a second: How can you let go of something you never had hold of?)
All of which leads me to how I think we should think about our ego.
Of course, there are so many different definitions of what the “ego” is that we can get dizzy trying to keep up. I prefer to think of the ego in a classic Western psychoanalytic frame a la Freud.
In that model we have three components: our id,” our “superego” and our “ego.” 
Our id is that impulsive part of us that wants everything right.this.second. Doesn’t matter whether it’s good for us or not. Just give it to us. NOW. Say hello to all your addictions—be they digital (“Hi, smartphone!”) or chemical (“Hi sugar and flour and alcohol and…”).
Our superego is basically the conditioned part of us that’s constantly judging all those things your id did and wondering what in the world you were thinking. (It also really really really wants people to like us and can lock us into conformity.)
Then we have our ego. Our ego is that part of us that keeps our id and superego in check. We NEED a STRONG ego to make sure we don’t spin out of control alternating between a hyper-impulsive/addictive version of ourselves and a hyper-conforming/ashamed version of ourselves.
All of which brings us back to where we started: DISCIPLINE.
How do you get your ego to be strong enough to deal with the pulls of the id and the superego? You dominate your environment. You cultivate a heightened level of self-awareness to know how to make yourself proud and then you match that self-awareness with an equally high level of self-mastery such that you consciously, joyfully do the right thing moment to moment to moment.
You know what happens then?
Your golden light shines through. 
Your divine spiritual essence (however you want to define it) finally has a stable home in which to hang out and shine forth. 
Here’s to your ego. Get it strong. 
Then plug it into something MUCH bigger than yourself and shine with the radiant enthusiasm only discovered when we live in integrity with what we know to be true.
Oct 7, 2018
In our last +1, we talked about the science of social comparison and reiterated the fact that it’s toxic.
Remember, as per Sonja Lyubomirsky: “You can’t be envious and happy at the same time. People who pay too much attention to social comparisons find themselves chronically vulnerable, threatened, and insecure.”
Plus: “The happier the person, the less attention she pays to how others around her are doing.”
Today we’re going to talk about what we can do when we inevitably find ourselves feeling the itch of envy.
I love how T Harv Eker puts it in The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. He says: Bless that which you want. If you see a person with a beautiful home, bless that person and bless that home. If you see a person with a beautiful car, bless that person and bless that car. If you see a person with a loving family, bless that person and bless that family. If you see a person with a beautiful body, bless that person and bless their body.”
There ya go.
That’s Today’s +1. 
Feel a little envious? Remember, you can’t be envious and happy at the same time.
Notice something you wish you had a little more of in your life? BLESS the people who are blessed to have it.
Then get back to living your life as well as you possibly can.
You’ll be considerably happier NOW and considerably more likely to experience the same blessings in the future. 
Oct 7, 2018

Alexandra joins us as a guest teacher for this class! Learn how to activate your superpowers, increase your mojo & have more fun.

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