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 optimize.me.)


  • +1: #1134 How to Act Boldly

    13/05/2020 Duración: 03min

    In our last couple of +1s, we’ve chatted about the science of courage.   Let’s continue that discussion with some more pro tips on how to Optimize our Courage Quotient.   In The Courage Quotient, Robert Biswas-Diener tells us: “If we choose courageous roles or think of ourselves as filling courageous roles, we are more likely to act boldly when the need arises.”   Then he tells us: “A perfect example of this is the action taken by nine- year-old Lin Hao in Suchuan, China. On May 12, 2008, Sichuan was struck by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake that left buildings flattened and more than 69,000 people dead. Among the most tragic losses on that day were the countless children whose school buildings collapsed. Lin Hao was in such a school and was able to rescue two of his second-grade classmates from the rubble before saving himself. When asked about his courage, this young boy simply explained that he was the hall monitor and that it was ‘my job’ to save the other children. Lin Hao quickly became a symbol

  • +1: #1130 Alchemizing Adversity

    09/05/2020 Duración: 03min

    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 tho

  • +1: #1125 Practicing Gratitude

    04/05/2020 Duración: 02min

    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. )   So…   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 c

  • +1: #1120 Love in Action

    29/04/2020 Duración: 03min

    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.    Now…   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!   So…   Today we’re going to talk about L

  • +1 #1115 The Path with Heart

    24/04/2020 Duración: 03min

    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 p

  • +1: #1110 What Great Performance Looks Like

    19/04/2020 Duración: 03min

    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.”   Now…   To be fair (and to state the obvious)

  • +1: #1105 Helplessness vs. Optimism

    14/04/2020 Duración: 02min

    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

  • +1: #1100 Confronting Fear

    09/04/2020 Duración: 03min

    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.   So…   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?!    So…   I go to Google to do a quick search to make sure I got the quote right.    And…    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

  • +1: #1095 How to Meaningify Your Work

    04/04/2020 Duración: 04min

    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.   So…    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

  • +1: #1090 We’re Only the Light Bulbs

    30/03/2020 Duración: 03min

    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

  • +1: #1085 Relationship Bid Math

    25/03/2020 Duración: 04min

    In our last +1, we talked about being Efficient vs. Effective.   Efficiency?    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

  • +1: #1080 How You React

    20/03/2020 Duración: 04min

    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”

  • +1: #1075 What Went Well? (And Why?!)

    15/03/2020 Duración: 05min

    Gratitude.   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?   Well…    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 t

  • Interview: The Power of Purpose and Ideals with William Damon

    12/03/2020 Duración: 58min

    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.

  • +1: #1070 Taking Things FOR GRANTED vs. AS GRANTED

    10/03/2020 Duración: 04min

    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

  • +1: #1065 A Quick Ticket to Ick

    05/03/2020 Duración: 03min

    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

  • The End of Alzheimers with Dr. Dale Bredesen

    05/03/2020 Duración: 40min

    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.

  • +1: #1060 Facing a Challenge?

    29/02/2020 Duración: 03min

    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.    Therefore…   When a “disaster” struck, they stepped back (right there in between stimulus and response) and asked them

  • The Alter Ego Effect with Todd Herman

    27/02/2020 Duración: 56min

    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 super powers (more on the science of), and Crossing the Threshold (Today the day?)."}" data-sheets-userformat= "{"2":769,"3":{"1":0},"11":3,"12":0}"> 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 roo

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