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OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time

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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.

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.
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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.




+1: #499 Batting .300

I don’t know about you, but I’m still kind of attached to the idea that I should never make a mistake. I mean, I get it intellectually. We’ve gotta remember to have a growth mindset, that you can’t do anything great without some setbacks, no movie was ever shot in one perfect sequence of scenes—there are always “mis-takes,” etc. yada yada etc. But that’s only GENERALLY true. When it comes to YOU and ME, we should be perfect, right? (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!) Seriously. As I...


+1: #498 How to Discover Your Mission

While we’re talking about Alex Lickerman and his ideas on how to create an indestructible self while turning poison into medicine and all that goodness, let’s talk about your purpose in life. Specifically, your MISSION in life. As Sonja Lyubomirsky tells us, happy people have projects. And, as all the great philosophers and psychologists have said since the dawn of time, the happiest among us have figured out how to make our lives an offering to the world—actualizing our...


+1 #497 Poison into Medicine

Continuing our “let’s create an indestructible self” theme (!), here’s another way Alex Lickerman encourages us to think about it in his great book The Undefeated Mind. He tells us that we need to get good at turning poison into medicine. Specifically, he says: “From the Buddhist perspective, I told him, all of us have the capacity to make use of any circumstance, no matter how awful, to create value. This ability to ‘change poison into medicine,’ as it is known in Nichiren...


+1: #496 An Indestructible Mind

In our last +1, we talked about inviting the Conquering Hero to your mind-wandering party and escorting out the Suffering (Whiney) Martyr. Today, let’s continue that chat by talking about how to construct an Indestructible Mind. For this, we’re going to check out Alex Lickerman’s The Undefeated Mind. In addition to placing high on the list for best title ever, I think this may at least tie for first for best sub-title ever: “On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible...


+1: #495 Conquering Hero vs. Suffering Martyr

In our last +1, we talked about the science of daydreaming. Quick recap: Stay out of the “poor attention control” and “guilty-dysphoric” realms and in the “positive-constructive” mode. Here’s another way to think about it. (Thanks again to Manoush Zomorodi!) When your mind is wandering and you’re kinda randomly thinking about your life, do you imagine yourself as the CONQUERING HERO of your own story (positive-constructive!) or the SUFFERING MARTYR (guilty-dysphoric) of...


+1: #494 Science of Daydreaming

Did you know there’s actually a science of daydreaming? It’s true. Thank you, awesome researchers. Technically, they describe it as either daydreaming or “mind-wandering” but it’s important stuff. Why? Because this is our ticket to activating the supercomputer-like default mode we talked about in our last +1. But here’s the deal. When we flip the “off” switch to our activated/focused brain and enter the default mode, you might’ve noticed that we can do it in more or less...


+1: #493 The Supercomputer in Your Head

A few +1s ago, we talked about Manoush Zomorodi’s great book Bored and Brilliant. We reflected on the fact that 25 minutes of time wasting per day equates to 2 YEARS of your life over the long run. (That’s C R A Z Y. You delete THAT app yet?) We did’t talk about WHY allowing yourself to be “bored” leads to brilliance. Let’s do so today. Here’s the deal. There’s a whole field of neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists who study what happens to your brain when you allow...


+1: #492 Sweeping Streets with Martin Luther King

In our last +1, we talked about Martin Seligman’s ideas on the science of having a Job vs. a Career vs. a Calling. I proposed we aim to have ALL THREE such that our work involves us using our signature strengths in greatest service to the world WHILE getting paid well AND having fun mastering our chosen domain. Today I want to chat about another Martin. Martin Luther King, Jr. He has a lot to say about the subject as well. Now, my hunch is you might’ve run across this little...


+1: #491 Jobs, Careers, Callings

In our last +1, we talked about you starting a hypothetical new job. Today I want to talk about the science of jobs, careers, and callings. In Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman tells us about the “three kinds of ‘work orientation’: a job, a career, and a calling.” He says that, in short: If you’re simply showing up, punching the clock and getting paid, you have a Job. If, on the other hand, you’re committed to mastering a given domain and working your way up the...


+1: #490 Begin Before You Begin

In our last +1, we talked about zambonis for your brain. Also known as naps. We added a Dan Pink-inspired addition of a cup of coffee right before to make it a nappuccino. (You try it out?!) Let’s go back to Dan’s great book on the science of perfect timing for another gem. He talks about what science has to say about Optimizing our “Beginnings” + “Middles” + “Ends." Today we’re going to focus on some advice he gives related to “Beginnings.” Imagine you get a big...


+1: #489 Nappuccino, Anyone?

I’m typing this right after taking a little napitation. (I literally got up 4 minutes ago. Hah.) It always blows me away how a nap as brief as 6 minutes (!) can reboot your ol’ brain and give you another 1/2 a day. (The nap I just enjoyed was 13 minutes total.) My routine is always the same: Lock the office door. Close the office windows. Pull the blackout curtains shut, pop in the ear plugs, cruise over to the futon, lay down, put the ear muffs on to be safe (with a...


+1: #488 The Golden (+ Platinum!) Rule

We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule. But, today I have three quick questions: Do you know just how ubiquitous that Golden Rule is across cultures? Have you ever heard of the Platinum Rule? Do you practice both? First: The Ubiquitous Golden Rule. I love the way Dale Carnegie puts it in How to Win Friends and Influence People. He tells us: “Philosophers have been speculating on the rules of human relationships for thousands of years, and out of all that speculation, there has...


+1: #487 Breath Control = Emotional Control

Concluding this edition of our breathing series, let’s talk about the fact that BREATH CONTROL = SELF-CONTROL. You know how elite performers ALL (!!!) center themselves for the peak performances? Their breath. Period. Navy SEALs in the chaos of war? Check. NBA stars at the line before a game-winning free throw? Yep. 4th graders before crushing a test? Yep. If they’ve been coached! YOU before you do __________________. Yep. That’s like you to breathe like a...


+1: #486 Want SuperWillpower NOW?

Continuing our Optimal Breathing theme, here’s a little gem from Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct. I’ll let her take over… She tells us: “You won’t find many quick fixes in this book, but there is one way to immediately boost willpower: Slow your breathing down to four to six breaths per minute. That’s ten to fifteen seconds per breath—slower than you normally breathe, but not difficult with a little bit of practice and patience. Slowing the breath down activates the...


+1: #485 The Rules of Breathing

In our last couple +1s, we’ve talked about your breathing. If you haven’t checked out the full Optimal Breathing 101 master class yet, you might dig it. For now, how about a quick look at the THREE simple rules of optimal breathing? Here they are: Breathe through your nose Into your belly And exhale slightly longer than you inhaled 1 + 2 + 3 = Magic. How about a quick inventory then a closer look? First, the quick inventory: You breathing through your nose? (Most people...


+1: #484 Your Optimal Breathing Rate

In our last +1, we talked about the new sexy: vagal tone. It’s essentially a measure of the health of our parasympathetic nervous system and a sign of our ability to flip the switch out of stress and into relaxation. How’d we get our vagus workout on? A nice, calm, deep breath. Today we’re going to talk more about our breathing. Specifically, we’re going to talk about what researchers call your “resonant rate.” It’s basically your optimal breathing rate—a rate at which you...


+1: #483 Vagal Tone

Your 10th cranial nerve starts at the base of your brain and then cruises down to your heart and thru your lungs and down into your gut. It kinda wanders. Which is why it’s called the vagus nerve—which, in Latin, literally means “wanderer.” (It shares a root with words like vagabond.) Why are we talking about your vagal tone? Because it plays a REALLY important role in regulating our parasympathetic nervous system. Super-short story: As you know, we have a ...


+1: #482 Digital Sabbath

In our last +1, we took a quick trip to our garage to recapture a potentially lost micro-moment as Eleanor and I filled up our water jug. (Little by little, drop by drop, btw!) Today we’re going to stay in the neighborhood and visit the Johnson house on a Sunday when we’re reinstituting our Digital Sabbath. Super simple. On Sundays the Wi-Fi stays off. Computers stay off. Phones off. iPods off. Enter: Tech-free restorative bliss. Keeping Alexandra’s phone off is the most...


+1: #481 Reclaiming Lost Hours

Before we bid farewell to George Leonard, how about ONE more little idea from the Aikido (and life) master? This might be the most important Idea from his work we discuss, so sit up straight. (I just did as I typed this.) Here we go… George tells us: “Could all of us reclaim lost hours of our lives by making everything—the commonplace along with the extraordinary—a part of our practice?” That’s Today’s +1. Could you reclaim “lost hours” of your life by making...