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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Jun 13, 2020
Have you ever heard of “hedonic treadmills”?
We talked about them briefly a few years ago in the context of this +1 on the science of hedonic adaptation
Basic idea: We adapt to all the “things” we get in our lives. That shiny new car isn’t so shiny a few months after we get it. Same thing with the new phone or TV or whatever.
Sonja Lyubomirksy is one of the world’s leading researchers on the subject of hedonic adaptation. In The Myths of Happiness she tells us: Indeed, it turns out that we are prone to take for granted pretty much everything positive that happens to us. When we move into a beautiful new loft with a grand view, when we partake of plastic surgery, when we purchase a fancy new automobile or nth-generation smartphone, when we earn the corner office and a raise at work, when we become immersed in a new hobby, and even when we wed, we obtain an immediate boost of happiness from the improved situation; but the thrill only lasts for a short time. Over the coming days, weeks, and months, we find our expectations ramping upward and we begin taking our new improved circumstances for granted. We are left with ‘felicific stagnation.’”
We adapt to the hedonic pleasures in our lives. It’s like we’re on a treadmill. Moving faster and faster but not getting any further in our pursuit of true happiness.
You know what happens when we joyfully commit to using everything as fuel for our growth while living with more Wisdom + Self-Mastery + Courage + Love + Hope + Gratitude + Curiosity + Zest?
We actually get happier.
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s step off the hedonic treadmill and make some real progress in our lives as we focus on practicing our philosophy, high fiving our inner souls and FLOURISHING.
May 29, 2020
In our last +1, we tapped into some wisdom from Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness as we wrote ourselves a permission slip and then hopped on the bus.
Today we’re going to spend some more time with Brené. And, we’ll invite Pema Chodrön to the party.
Brené tells us: “I love Pema Chodrön’s ‘Lousy World’ teaching on this topic. In it, Chodrön uses the lessons of the Indian Buddhist monk Shantideva to make a very powerful analogy about moving through the world constantly pissed off and disappointed. ...
[She says]: ‘‘We’re laughing, but that’s what we all do. That is how we approach things. We think, if we could just get rid of everything and cover it with leather, our pain would go away. Well, sure, because then it wouldn’t be cutting our feet anymore. It’s just logical, isn’t it? But it doesn’t make any sense, really. Shantideva said, ‘But if you simply wrap leather around your feet.’ In other words, if you put on shoes then you could walk across the boiling sand and the cut glass and the horns, and it wouldn’t bother you. So the analogy is, if you work with your mind, instead of trying to change everything on the outside, that’s how your temper will cool down.’”
As you may know, Pema Chodrön is a Buddhist monk and teacher. (We have Notes on two of her great books: When Things Fall Apart and The Places That Scare You.)
You can watch that wonderful 2.5-minute YouTube video of her “Lousy World” teaching here.
Short story: We complain about everything and everyone. All the time. 
It’s too hot. It’s too cold. He smells bad. She’s wearing too much perfume. 
All day every day.
We think the answer is to change the world—to lay leather over all the thorns and rocks in our way. The answer, of course, is to simply wrap a little leather over our feet and voila! 
Problem solved. 
btw: Here’s how Shantideva puts it The Way of the Bodhisattva:
“To cover all the earth with sheets of leather— 
Where could such amounts of skin be found? 
But with the leather soles of just my shoes
It is as though I cover all the earth!”
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s wrap some leather (vegan alternatives available) around our feet (and brains) and joyfully walk through the wilderness of life.
May 24, 2020
In our last +1, we blew up some belly balloons with our kids. 
We breathed in through our noses, down into our bellies (can you make that balloon pop?!) then we breathed back out through our noses (slightly longer than the inhale). 
ESPECIALLY when things start to get a little out of control!!!
Which leads us to another little practice we’ve been playing around with at the Johnson House. 
(Note to self: This is a REALLY effective practice. Do it more!)
You know those times when your kids start to get a little, shall we say, frazzled, which leads to you (and/or your spouse) (in my case: ME!), getting equally, shall we say, frazzled? 
I know that reasonably well. 
Rather than let it all devolve into a circus, when I’m being Mr. Wise and Mindful Philosopher Guy, I remember to do wise and mindful things to smooth out the rough seas.
This practice has proven to be particularly powerful.
Step 1. Emerson and I leave the scene of the chaos by going to a different room in the house.
Step 2. We sit knee to knee in what’s wonderfully known as “hero’s pose.” (To strike this pose: Kneel on the floor and drop your butt on your ankles. Use bolsters if necessary. Check out Yoga Journal for tips.)
Step 3. We sit up nice and tall and look each other in the eye as we pull the thread through our head, breathing in deeply (through our noses) into our bellies, then exhaling (through our noses) slightly longer than our inhale.
In just a few breaths, our nervous systems are calmed down and we’re connected. 
Circus has left town.
It’s actually SHOCKING how powerful this is.
The hard part (as always!) is remembering to do it in the moment we need to do it.
Note to self: Do it more often.
That’s Today’s +1.
Circus come to town?
Try some hero breathing!!!
May 19, 2020
A little over seven and half years ago, Emerson was born at home.
We had an amazing midwife (named Mary Jackson) for both Emerson and Eleanor’s births.
I’ll never forget the very first moments of Emerson’s life.
I had the blessed honor of being the first to officially welcome him into the world. 
RIGHT after he was born (literally a couple seconds after), he looked at me and our eyes met. Then he wrapped his tiny (!) little hand right around my pinky finger. 
We’ve recounted this special moment countless times.
I like to say that we both said, “I LOVE YOU!!!” right when our eyes first connected and he wrapped that tiny hand of his around my pinky.
One of the ways we like to recreate that moment is by holding hands while we’re walking.
That, in itself, will always be one of my favorite things in life.
We like to take it one step further and say “I LOVE YOU!” to each other in our own Top Secret way. 
In fact, we developed our own special language. 
It’s called Squeezy-eze.
It’s super easy to learn. There’s actually only one phrase: “I LOVE YOU.” 
All you have to do is grab someone’s hand and… SQUEEZE IT a few times.
It’s like a Morse Code of awesome.
And, well, that’s Today’s +1.
If you feel so inspired, how about a little squeezy-eze of Love?
Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze. 
I. Love. YOU!!!
May 14, 2020
Continuing our little series on the science of courage, how about some more wisdom from Robert Biswas-Diener?
In The Courage Quotient, he tells us: “Herein lies the intervention related to failure: accept it. We modern people have fallen in love with the idea that we are in control of our lives, and this worldview gives rise to an impulse to resist failure, to fight against the very notion of it. But just like the modern trend to defy age, the battle against failure is a lost cause. Failure is inevitable. We all experience it, in forms large and small. It is in your past and it is in your future. People with a high courage quotient understand that failure is a risk much of the time and unavoidable some of the time. Rather than trying to tiptoe around failure, they simply accept it as part of the process of success.”
That’s from a chapter called “Be Willing to Fail.”
It’s packed with powerful, practical wisdom.
Like this: Failure is a fantastic learning opportunity. Think of every time you have made a mistake and said to yourself, ‘Well, I will never do that again!’ A single instance of failure can serve as a powerful lifelong course correction. Failure also helps us regroup mentally and improve our skills and strategy so that later attempts at goals might be more successful. Where your courage quotient is concerned, here is the tricky part: you do not have to accept that failure feels good, just that it is inevitable and often beneficial. Accepting failure is not synonymous with actively pursuing failure or enjoying failure when it crashes down upon you. The trick is to acknowledge both the positive and the negative aspects of failure. You can tell yourself, ‘This does not feel good and I am very disappointed with myself,’ on the one hand, even as on the other you reassure yourself by saying, This is also a growth opportunity for me. I will learn from this temporary experience and move on.’
And this: “Where the courage quotient is concerned it is instructive to realize that not everyone reacts to failure, or even the prospect of failure, in the same way. Some people—as I have mentioned and as we have all seen—allow failure to overshadow their lives, restricting their decisions and leaving them embarrassed, timid, or withdrawn. Other people appear to take failure in stride and are able to move beyond it after experiencing its temporary psychological sting. Thomas Edison famously said, recalling countless problematic attempts to create a working light bulb, ‘I failed my way to success.’ Winston Churchill too might be among the resilient. He once said, ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.’ Apparently the ability to reframe failure as part of a larger process— learning, say—is instrumental in being able to cope with it.”
And, well, that’s Today’s +1.
Want to Optimize your Courage Quotient?
Be willing to fail.
And, reframe your past failures as fantastic learning opportunities.
Then get out there and give us all the Wisdom + Self-Mastery + Courage + Love you got.
May 9, 2020
In our last +1, we all get issued our magic wand.
It can alchemize any and all challenges into fuel for our growth.
Thank you, Hermes and Epictetus!!
I mentioned the fact that Ward Farnsworth shared that passage in his great book The Practicing Stoic
He shared it in a chapter on how Stoics deal with adversity in which he tells us: “Stoics avoid adversity in the ways that anyone of sense would. But sometimes it comes regardless, and then the Stoic goal is to see the adversity rightly and not let one’s peace of mind be destroyed by its arrival. Indeed, the aim of the Stoic is something more: to accept reversal without shock and to make it grist for the creation of greater things. Nobody wants hardship in any particular case, but it is a necessary element in the formation of worthy people and worthy achievements that, in the long run, we do want. Stoics seek the value in whatever happens.”
As I read that passage and reflected on the fact that some adversity is NECESSARY for our growth, I thought of some wisdom from Robert Emmons and his great book Thanks!
He tells us: “Not only does the experience of tragedy give us an exceptional opportunity for growth, but some sort of suffering is also necessary for a person to achieve maximal psychological growth. In his study of self-actualizers, the paragons of mental wellness, the famed humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow noted that ‘the most important learning lessons... were tragedies, deaths, and trauma... which forced change in the life-outlook of the person and consequently in everything that he did.’”
Facing any adversity, my beloved Hero? 
Let’s wave Hermes’ wand, alchemize it into another opportunity to practice our philosophy as we give ourselves most fully to the world. 
May 4, 2020
In our last +1, we played the “I want to speak with your supervisor!” game.
You play it yet?
If not, try it.
It’s truly awesome.
As you’ll recall, the most important part of the process is to start with the end in mind—knowing that it’ll end with you praising the awesomeness of the rep who helped you. 
(btw: When you chat with the supervisor, tell THEM how great of a job THEY must be doing to have such a great team member. Then you get a double bump of awesome. people with bunny ears )
Today I want to talk about how to get some bonus points as we practice our philosophy and play the game of life well. 
Here it is.
Before you make the call—right before you commit to ending it with the supervisor chat—take a moment to practice a little gratitude.
Presumably, you’re calling the company to get help with a service they provide. 
Well, what service is it?
Recall that we have two options: We can take the service for granted OR we can take it *as* granted.
As Robert Emmons tells us, we can act entitled or we can have the humble perspective to realize that we are so ridiculously blessed it’s astonishing. 
That’s Today’s +1.
Super simple.
Let’s use every opportunity we can to be grateful.
As we practice our philosophy.
Apr 29, 2020
In our last +1, we upgraded our conception of Soul Mates to Soul Mate 2.0.
(At least I did!)
Before we jump into the wisdom for Today’s +1, how about some fun Johnson family history?!
Once upon a time (actually, almost exactly 13 years ago), Alexandra and I met. 
At the time I was running a social networking site called Zaadz that was all about connecting people who wanted to be the change and change the world together.
Long story short, Alexandra was introduced to the site by a friend. She checked it out, found my profile page and said, “I’m going to marry that guy.”
No joke! 
I get misty-eyed just typing that.
We happened to have a mutual friend who happened to introduce us and, well, skipping some fun details, the rest is history. 
One of the reasons we fell in love is that we both loved Leo Buscaglia and his book Love.
In fact, Alexandra was the first woman I ever met who had actually read that book. 
TWICE no less!
Today we’re going to talk about Love. 
More specifically: Leo Buscaglia’s Love
We’ll start with this gem (that captures the thesis of our Love 101 class): “As soon as the love relationship does not lead me to me, as soon as I in a love relationship do not lead another person to himself, this love, even if it seems to be the most secure and ecstatic attachment I have ever experienced, is not true love. For real love is dedicated to continual becoming.”
Then there’s this lesson I’ve been blessed to learn and relearn (!): “One does not fall ‘in’ or ‘out’ of love. One grows in love.”
And: “It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.”
And, finally: “If one wishes to know love, one must live love, in action.”
Let’s live it.
Apr 25, 2020

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

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

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

<- Isn’t that some solid wisdom? 
Makes you want to silently shout BRING IT ON!!, eh?! 
I go to Google to do a quick search to make sure I got the quote right. 
I find this awesome blog post on a site appropriately called “Star Wars Thoughts.”
In it, our wise guide walks us through the role fear has played throughout the Star Wars saga. He tells us that Luke once told Yoda: “I’m not afraid!” 
You know what Yoda said in response? 
“You will be.” 
← That’s SO good.
And, that’s Today’s +1.
Confronting fear.
It’s the destiny of a Jedi. 
And an Optimizer.
It’s your destiny. 
And mine.
Let’s step into our infinite potential as we exit our comfort zones calmly and confidently and courageously chanting BRING. IT. ON.
P.S. Not too long after Luke dropped his wisdom bomb on Rey, I took my notebook out again to capture some wisdom from Poe who tells us: “We’re not alone. Good people will fight if we lead them.” 
Amen. Let’s do this.
Apr 4, 2020
In our last +1, we talked about making a Purpose upgrade—going from a grand conception of one “big purpose” for life (Purpose 1.0) to finding micro-moments of purpose all day every day (Purpose 2.0).
I promised to chat about HOW to go about doing that Today.
Here we are.
Let’s bring Tom Rath back for some more wisdom from Life’s Great Question.
Tom is a senior scientist at Gallup and shares some FASCINATING research he and his colleagues in the wellbeing-at-work industry have conducted.
Get this.
Tom tells us: “You can begin by connecting your daily efforts to the way they contribute to specific people’s lives—connecting what you do with who your work serves. There are now countless examples of how connecting your work to the meaning it creates for specific people leads to better results, as well as to more enjoyment in and satisfaction from one’s work.”
He continues by saying: “In food service, for example, when a cook or someone preparing food can literally see the people they serve, it increases that customer’s satisfaction with the meal by 10%. If the cook and customer can both see one another, satisfaction with meal quality goes up 17% and service is 13% faster. You see a similar result across other professions.”
And: “When lifeguards read stories of people’s lives being saved, they are more vigilant on the job. When telephone-based fund-raisers hear from the beneficiaries of their work, they are more motivated and raise far more funds for their cause. Even when the only people you serve are internal customers or colleagues, connecting the work you do with the direct contribution it makes has tangible benefits.”
Plus: “In a Harvard study, field workers who harvested tomatoes watched videos of the way their contribution helped colleagues in the factory another step down the supply chain. In comparison to a control group, the workers who watched this short video experienced a 7% increase in productivity, as measured by tons of tomatoes harvested per hour.”
← Pause and reflect on that for a moment longer. That’s nuts! peanuts
Finally, he tells us: My takeaway from all this research is that people experience a far greater sense of belonging and more sustainable wellbeing when they connect their efforts in the moment with a larger influence on others.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Spotlight on YOU.
What do YOU do? 
Who do you SERVE when you do what you do?
Take a moment and actually identify a SPECIFIC person who you KNOW benefits from the day-to-day things you do.
One person.
Could be a colleague. A customer. Whoever.
ONE PERSON you *know* benefits from what you do.
Got it?
Let’s reflect on our contributions often.
Remember: “People experience a far greater sense of belonging and more sustainable wellbeing when they connect their efforts in the moment with a larger influence on others.”
+1 micro-moments of service +1 micro-moments of service +1 micro-moments of service.
All day every day for the Purpose 2.0 meaning-filled life.
Starting TODAY.
Mar 30, 2020
Richard Rohr is one of my new favorite teachers.
Alexandra got me his book called Falling Upward after I told her how much I loved David Brooks’ The Second Mountain. Apparently it’s recommended alongside that book on Amazon. With 1,400+ reviews, Alexandra thought I might like it.
And, well, YES!! Not only did I like the book, I loved it. (Check out those Notes for more.)
And… I fell in love with Richard Rohr.
Father Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest. In fact, he’s been a Franciscan priest for FIVE DECADES. 
This has particular resonance for me. As we’ve discussed, I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school for twelve years. At my elementary school and primary church, our priests were Franciscan. 
Yet... The closest I’ve come to studying an integrated Catholic perspective thus far has been Anthony de Mello—a Jesuit priest. 
So... I found Father Richard’s wisdom particularly resonant for a range of reasons.
Now... When I read a book, I use a blank note card as a bookmark. On that note card, I jot down related books and ideas I want to make sure we cover in our Notes together. After reading chapters in which he connected Odysseus and the Hero’s Journey to Christianity and our modern lives, at the top of the bookmark-card for this book I wrote this description of Father Richard: “If Joseph Campbell was a Franciscan monk.”
I laughed as I typed that but it’s pretty darn close to being a great micro-bio. Throw in a little Ken Wilber and a TON of “elderly” wisdom and voila. We have one of my new favorite spiritual teachers.
But that’s not quite the point of Today’s +1.
Today I want to chat about a fantastic line from the book that comes pretty darn close to capturing the intention behind ALL of our work together.
Here it is: “As Desmond Tutu once told me on a recent trip to Cape Town, ‘We are only the light bulbs, Richard, and our job is just to remain screwed in!’”
How great is THAT?
We’re only the light bulbs. Our job is just to remain screwed in. (Thank you, Bishop Tutu.)
Not only does that line capture the essence of all of our work together, it’s also a great answer to Joseph Campbell’s question: “What am I? Am I the bulb that carries the light, or am I the light of which the bulb is a vehicle?”
Here’s to keeping ourselves screwed in so the Divine Light can shine through us. 
Mar 25, 2020
In our last +1, we talked about being Efficient vs. Effective.
It’s GREAT for managing our time and completing tasks. Not so great for creating EFFECTIVE relationships with people.
We also hammered our “technology is the obstacle to presence!” theme one more time. (I promise to keep coming back to it.)
Today I want to chat about another big relationship idea I’ve been meaning to discuss.
We’re going to talk about the idea of “bids.”
I’m pretty sure I learned about this from Dan Siegel. 
Enter: Search of my Mac for “bids”…
Oh, wait. 
Actually, I learned about this from THE leading researcher on the science of effective marriages: Jon Gottman!
In his GREAT book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman tells us that we need to “Turn Toward” our partners and respond to their “bids.” 
Here’s how he puts it: “Hollywood has distorted our notions of romance and what makes passion sizzle. Watching Humphrey Bogart gather teary-eyed Ingrid Bergman into his arms may make your heart pound, but real-life romance is fueled by far more humdrum scenes. It is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life. In marriage, couples are always making what I call ‘bids’ for each other’s attention, affection, humor, or support. Bids can be as minor as asking for a backrub or as significant as seeking help in carrying the burden when an aging parent is ill. The partner responds to each bid either by turning toward the spouse or turning away. A tendency to turn toward your partner is the basis of trust, emotional connection, passion, and a satisfying sex life. Comical as it may sound, romance is strengthened in the supermarket aisle when your partner asks, ‘Are we out of butter?’ and you answer, ‘I don’t know. Let me go get some just in case,’ instead of shrugging apathetically. It grows when you know your spouse is having a bad day at work and you take a few seconds out of your schedule to send him an encouraging text. In all of these instances, partners are making a choice to turn toward rather than away.”
“Turning toward” our partner instead of away from them. 
Gottman tells us that our partners are always making “bids” for our attention. Whether we accept their invitation to connect or not is one of the greatest predictors of the longevity of our relationship.
Get this: Gottman did a 6-year follow-up study of newlyweds. For those who were still married, the partner’s responded to each other’s bids 86% of the time.
For those who got divorced? They only responded 33% of the time. 
Today’s +1.
How’s YOUR Bid Math?
Let’s pay attention and see if we can notice some more bids and, of course, remember to TURN TOWARD our partners a little more TODAY.
Mar 20, 2020
In our last couple +1s, we flipped through my notes from session number 150-something with my Yoda/spiritual Godfather Phil Stutz.
On page one we had: Success doesn’t matter in this world, commitment does.”
On the middle of page three we had: “Real enthusiasm is passing through the worst and realizing it’s the best.”
Looking at the bottom of page three, we see: “How you react to dramatic things is good. How you react to SMALL things is GREAT! That’s where the power is.”
As I reread my messy writing, I actually remember asking Phil to hold on a second so I could write that down. (Hah. Seriously.)
I repeat: “How you react to dramatic things is good. How you react to SMALL things is GREAT! That’s where the power is.”
As we’ve discussed, Phil (and all great teachers, really) is ALL ABOUT the SMALL THINGS. 
He calls our moment-to-moment experiences (with ourselves and others) “micro transactions.” Although we tend to ignore them and think only the “big” stuff is “really” important, he flips that around and says it’s the TINY things that matter the MOST.
(Of course, by practicing with the small things, we’re well-trained to handle the “big” things when they inevitably arrive.)
One more time: “How you react to dramatic things is good. How you react to SMALL things is GREAT! That’s where the power is.”
David Allen comes to mind.
As we’ve discussed, in our interview years ago, he said that “the sublime comes through the mundane.”
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s bring our best.
To the small things.
P.S. Fun family fact: Midway through writing this +1, I heard a ferocious banging on my office door. Like jumbo crazy loud. (Laughing.) 
My initial reaction was WTNotFantastic! (Laughing.)
Then I ran my “If… Then…” algorithm and got ready to welcome my little man.
What did I see?
Emerson in his brand-new BRIGHT GREEN (hah) helmet standing next to his sister in her helmet.
“Daddy!!! Look at my new bike!!!”
Yep. His new bike we got last night was downstairs. He cruised down, hopped on it and rode around the house. 
To think I almost ruined that TINY moment by getting upset IN THE MIDDLE of writing this +1… (Laughing yet again.)
Here’s to moving from Theory to Practice.
With the little things. 
And little ones.
Mar 15, 2020
Yes, we’ve been chatting about it quite a bit recently. 
That’s deliberate.
You know how we recently established the (scientifically-validated) Top 2 virtues as Zest + Hope?
Positive psychologists arm wrestle a bit about those top two virtues. 
While Ryan Niemiec (via The Power of Character Strengths) tells us that Zest + Hope are our Top 2, Robert Emmons tells us that Gratitude is even more predictive of well-being than Hope. 
We’ll leave the arm-wrestling debate on the precise order of those Top 2 to our academic friends but let’s shine a BRIGHT LIGHT on the Big 3 Virtues: Zest + Hope + Gratitude.
As I’ve been thinking about it, I actually like the order: Zest + Gratitude + Hope.
We’re Optimizing our Energy-Zest so we can give our best to our Work + Love. (Zest is still the undisputed #1 Virtue—although I’d say it’s technically achieved as a by-product of Wisdom + Self-Mastery/Discipline on the the fundamentals.)
Then… We practice Gratitude for the fact that we’re alive and for everything in our lives. (INCLUDING all the challenges, of course.)
Then… We practice Hope as we see a better future via a specific goal that inspires us, know we can make it happen and make a plan to make it so.
Zest + Gratitude + Hope.
(Note: Throw in Love + Curiosity for the Top 5.)
I love coming back to that and I’m constantly spinning those virtues around in my mind, trying to think about how to help us operationalize them more consistently in our lives. 
That’s not quite what I want to talk about Today.
Today I want to talk about that “What Went Well and Why?” gratitude exercise I referenced not too long ago. It’s one of Robert Emmons’ top recommended practices. 
Here’s how Martin Seligman puts it in Flourish: “Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (‘My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today’), but they can be important (‘My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy’).
Next to each positive event, answer the question ‘Why did this happen?’ For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes’ or ‘because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.’ Or if you write, ‘My sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy,’ you might pick as the cause ‘God was looking out for her’ or ‘She did everything right during her pregnancy.’
Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”
Today’s +1.
Here’s to celebrating many more awesome moments (and clarity on how they came about!) between here and our next +1!
+1. +1. +1. 
Mar 12, 2020

William Damon is one of the world's leading scholars on human development. As the Director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, Professor of Education at Stanford University, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Damon's research explores how people develop purpose and integrity in their work, family, and civic life. In his most recent book, The Power of Ideals, Professor Damon shares how we all have the power to cultivate more noble, moral possibilities in our lives.

Mar 10, 2020
In our last couple +1s, we talked about the science of gratitude and explored some tips on Robert Emmons’ #1 practice: Gratitude Journaling.
Today I want to chat about one of the distinctions I most loved from his book Gratitude Works!
He tells us: “Think about and then write down those aspects of your life that you are prone to take for granted. Instead, take them as granted.”
I just LOVE that distinction. 
Ungrateful people tend to take things (and people!) for granted
For example, we take for granted all of the astonishing modern benefits that make our lives possible: like a warm house, a car, a smartphone, the Internet and all the other magical marvels of modern life.
Robert tells us we’d be wise to move from taking people and things FOR GRANTED to seeing them AS GRANTED.
Let’s think about that for a moment longer.
We can take the amazing people and goodness in our lives FOR GRANTED or AS GRANTED
It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a REALLY big distinction. 
Science says: We’d be wise to remember that NONE of it is guaranteed. 
Making the shift to see that it’s ALL one big GIFT is at the heart of gratitude. In fact, it’s so important that we’re going to spend another moment on it tomorrow as we talk about the #1 obstacle to gratitude.
For now…
Let’s think of three things we normally take for granted and see if we can shift to seeing them “as granted.”
Here are three things pop up immediately for me…
#1: The computer on which I’m typing this. 
It’s easy for me to take this for granted (and get frustrated when it inevitably doesn’t work perfectly). But MY GOODNESS!!! It’s a MIRACLE. 
I can type on little black pieces of plastic and somehow (!) create letters that somehow (!) show up on the screen and on a website (Dropbox Paper) that I can edit and share with our team who can share it with you and with other Optimizers around the world. MIND BOGGLING. 
I hereby commit to, for this moment, seeing all of this AS GRANTED to me (via countless people over countless iterations over countless generations…). Grateful wow.
#2: The house in which I’m typing this. 
As I looked up from the screen out my office window at the mountain I hike every morning I thought of how easy it is to take the fact that I live in a safe, climate controlled house FOR GRANTED. That’s crazy. I’m so blessed (by so many people—including YOU) that it’s not even funny. 
I shall now, for this moment, see it AS GRANTED to me. Thank you.
#3: The bottle from which I’m drinking fresh water. 
I drink from a water bottle all day every day. Of course, it’s very easy to take that FOR GRANTED. But… Again… MY GOODNESS. That’s a miracle. Countless people around the world don’t have fresh water (gah) and ALL of us used to have to trek long distances to get our daily water (when we could find it). 
I hereby, for this moment, commit to seeing this gift AS GRANTED. And, for that I am grateful.
Of course, we can go on all day every day on this. And STILL barely scratch the surface of all the benefits we receive. 
And, that’s Today’s +1.
What three things can you shift from taking FOR GRANTED to AS GRANTED?
  1. _________________________________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________________________________
Mar 5, 2020

Alzheimer’s. Even just thinking about that dreaded disease freaks you out a bit, eh? Over 5 million people in the US alone have Alzheimer’s. 1 in 9 people over 65. We’re told that there’s little we can do to prevent it and even less (make that: nothing) we can do to reverse it. Well... What if we could put an End to Alzheimer’s? In his great book, The End of Alzheimers, and in this conversation, Dale Bredeson, MD shares how Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented, and in many cases its associated decline can be reversed.

Mar 5, 2020
In our last +1, we talked about how to sidestep depression and anxiety. 
I still can’t believe that scientists have identified a threshold for our step counts under which we make ourselves more vulnerable for anxiety and depression.
As Kelly McGonigal tells us in The Joy of Movement: “The average daily step count required to induce feelings of anxiety and depression and decrease satisfaction with life is 5,649. The typical American takes 4,774 steps per day. Across the globe, the average is 4,961.”
Right before those step count thresholds, she tells us: “Other experiments in the U.S. and UK have forced moderately active adults to become sedentary for a period of time, only to watch their well-being wither. Regular exercisers who replace physical activity with a sedentary activity for two weeks become more anxious, tired, and hostile. When adults are randomly assigned to reduce their daily step count, 88 percent become more depressed. Within one week of becoming more sedentary, they report a 31 percent decline in life satisfaction.”
Those stats are nuts as well.
Take a regular exerciser, force them to become more sedentary and VOILA! 
Their “well-being withers.”
88% (EIGHTY-EIGHT PERCENT!!!) become more depressed. 
Within ONE WEEK of becoming more sedentary, they report a 31% (!!!) decline in life satisfaction.
Kinda makes you want to move, eh?
It’s funny, because, having been a non-exercising and much more “anxious, tired, hostile and depressed” version of myself, I’ve often jokingly said that you couldn’t PAY me to NOT exercise. 
As it turns out, the researchers conducting studies like that often ran into challenges finding people willing to not exercise! (Apparently, I’m not alone.)
So... One more time. Back to you. 
How can you move a little more?
Feb 29, 2020
In our last +1, we left Zeno the leopard gecko in his terrarium and hung out with Zeno the founder of Stoicism.
As we discussed, Zeno was a wealthy merchant who arrived in Athens via shipwreck, discovered philosophy and then told his students that “he had come to value wisdom more than wealth or reputation.” 
He valued wisdom so much that he used to say: “My most profitable journey began on the day I was shipwrecked and lost my entire fortune.” 
Today I want to talk about another Stoic practice we can use to get a firm grip on reality so we can alchemize our apparent misfortune into our greatest fortune.
Stepping back for a moment, let’s remind ourselves of the fact that the Stoics took the whole idea of living with wisdom VERY seriously.
They were ALL IN on playing the eudaimonia game and believed that living with virtue was THE means by which to win that game. 
When a “disaster” struck, they stepped back (right there in between stimulus and response) and asked themselves, “What virtue can I put to work on this challenge?”
Perhaps a little Wisdom to remind myself that setbacks are an inherent part of life?
Perhaps a little Self-Mastery to actually practice my philosophy in the moment it matters?
Perhaps a little Courage to step forward into growth and do needs to get done whether I feel like it or not?
Or, perhaps I can practice the ultimate virtue of Love and bring kindness and presence and magnanimity to the moment?
That’s Today’s +1.
Facing any challenges?
What =Virtue(s) can YOU apply to those challenges?
Let’s move from Theory to Practice en route to Mastery. 
+1. +1. +1. 
Feb 27, 2020

The Alter Ego Effect. This is one of the most fun and compelling and inspiring books I’ve read in a while. I REALLY (!!!) enjoyed reading it, had a ton of fun constructing and playing with some potential Alter Egos and highly recommend it. I also really enjoyed how high-performance coach and mental game strategist Todd Herman describes the science behind the power of “secret identities” to transform our lives and I loved the parallels between his perspective and our Big 3 Identities Virtues Behaviors model. Big Ideas we explore include Superman + Clark Kent (who's who?), activating your Heroic Self (the science of), motivation and emotion (share a common Latin root), virtues as superpowers (more on the science of), and Crossing the Threshold (Today the day?).

Feb 19, 2020
In our last couple +1s, we’ve been hanging out with Emerson, playing the “I Love You!” game and taking a quick look at the story of our world.
Today we’re going to spend a little more time with Emerson and history.
First: Quick aside.
At the Optimize Coach graduation weekend, it was amazing how many of our Coaches came up to Alexandra and me and told us how much THEIR KIDS loved seeing Emerson in the +1s. (I actually got misty typing that.)
They told us that the +1s with him were a great way to share the wisdom with their kids and that their kids looked forward to more +1s with the little philosopher.
So… Here we are.
Back to The Story of the World: Volume 2: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance.
After the fall of Rome, Western Europe entered what is known as the “middle ages” or the “dark ages.” Then there was a “rebirth” or renewed interest in ancient ideals that fueled the Renaissance.
As you know, a key player in the Renaissance was a guy named Galileo.
(In addition to his creation of a super-powerful telescope that let him view the moons of Jupiter that strengthened his belief in Copernicus’s theory that Earth revolved around the sun, did you know that Galileo also invented the thermometer? Might want to give ol’ G a virtual fistbump of gratitude every time you check the temperature Today!)
Which leads us to page 339 of The Story of the World Volume II and to the point of Today’s +1.
Here’s the passage: “Galileo was one of the first modern scientists, because he used the experimental method to find out how the world worked. Rather than trying to decide whether or not his ideas lined up with philosophy, Galileo made theories about the world and then tested them through doing experiments. ‘Measure what is measurable,’ he once said, ‘and if something cannot be measured, figure out how it can be.’”
I LOVE (!) the idea of running Optimizing experiments (but only all day every day) (N = 1!), but it’s that last part that got me to fold the page over.
Measure what is measurable.” … “And if something cannot be measured, figure out how it can be.’”
When I read that, I immediately thought of virtue. 
If we believe all the ancient wisdom traditions (and modern science!), virtue is THE #1 thing that’s driving our sense of flourishing and well-being.
Are we measuring it?
How do we measure it? 
Of course, there are an infinite number of ways to attempt to measure virtue, but I think the most important thing to do is to simply step back long enough from the hustle and bustle of daily living and all the “time management” we do and think about virtue management” long enough to appreciate just how important it is.
Which is why we encourage you (and require our Coaches!) to reflect on your virtues EVERY SINGLE MORNING—identifying who you are at your best, articulating the virtues THAT version of you embodies, and then committing to BEING that Optimus-best version of yourself TODAY.
Then, for the super-serious-Optimizing scientists among us, we check in at the end of the day (channeling our inner Pythagoras) to see how we did so we can get a little better tomorrow.
That’s Today’s +1.
Let’s measure it.
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