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: #950 Natural Born Heroes

    +1: #950 Natural Born Heroes

    11/11/2019 Duration: 01h10min

    The other day I found myself re-reading our Notes on Christopher McDougall’s great book Natural Born Heroes.   Although we’ve talked (many times) about the fact that the ancient word for hero literally meant “protector,” I realized that (somehow!) I’ve never shared McDougall’s brilliant wisdom that catalyzed my emphasis on the whole idea of all of us becoming modern heroes.   So…   Let’s take a quick look at how McDougall so wisely puts it.   He tells us: “And what Plutarch taught them is this: Heroes care. True heroism, as the ancients understood, isn’t about strength, or boldness, or even courage. It’s about compassion.   When the Greeks created the heroic ideal, they didn’t choose a word that mean ‘Dies Trying’ or ‘Massacres Bad Guy.’ They went with hērōs—‘protector.’ Heroes aren’t perfect; with a god as one parent and a mortal as the other, they’re perpetually teetering between two destinies. What tips them toward greatness is a sidekick, a human connection who helps turn the spigot

  • +1: #945 Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

    +1: #945 Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

    06/11/2019 Duration: 01h10min

    As we’ve discussed, a mantra is literally “a tool of the mind.”   By repeating a mantra over and over and over again (spiritual teachers say!), it takes hold in our subconscious and subtly shapes our mind.   Eknath Easwaran is a huge fan and advocate of mantras. He sold me on their power years ago and I’ve experimented with many but I haven’t really found one that stuck.    Until now…   I think I might have found my new go-to mantra.   Here it is: “Thank you.”   As in: “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”   Followed by: “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”   Followed up by: “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”   Repeat.   Especially when you find yourself triggered by something (or someone).   “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.” “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.” “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.”   It’s kinda weird what happens when I do that.   I go from feeling stressed/annoyed/wha

  • +1: #940 Stress Curfews

    +1: #940 Stress Curfews

    01/11/2019 Duration: 03min

    Not too long ago, we talked about Sleep Curfews. Five of them, to be precise.    One for Caffeine. Another for Exercise. Plus Eating. Plus Screens. Plus Work.   As you may recall, Caffeine has a half-life of 5 to 6 hours so try to cut back on that by around noon or 2 or whatever you find works best for you.    Exercise late in the day gets your core temperature all jacked up when it should be mellowing out, so aim for at least 3 hours before bedtime. (And, remember that exercise also gives you a 12-hour mood boost so might as well pop a happy pill early in the day, eh?)   Eating was a fun one. The standard advice is to eat at least 2 hours before bedtime. (And def don’t snack right before/in the middle of the night.) Want to go gonzo with the glymph? Eat at least 4 (FOUR!) hours before bedtime.    Then we have Screens. Again, turn off the screens AT LEAST an hour before bed. More if you’re feeling it.   Finally, we had a Work “shut-down complete” target. We left that one up to

  • Optimize Interview: The Power of Agency with Paul Napper  Anthony Rao

    Optimize Interview: The Power of Agency with Paul Napper & Anthony Rao

    31/10/2019 Duration: 33min

    Agency. It’s one of my favorite words and psychological concepts (and a cornerstone of our Optimize Coach program). So, when I saw this book I immediately got it and read it and here we are. Paul Napper and Anthony Rao are leading consultants and clinicians (who have both held academic positions at Harvard Medical School). In their great book, they define agency as “the ability to act as an effective agent for yourself—reflecting, making creative choices, and constructing a meaningful life.” Then they provide practical, scientifically-grounded wisdom on, as per the sub-title of the book: “The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms.” In this Note, we take a quick look at the 7 principles and shine a spotlight on the first 3 with a focus on how we can Optimize our agency TODAY!!

  • +1: #935 The Eternal Feast

    +1: #935 The Eternal Feast

    27/10/2019 Duration: 03min

    In our last +1, we talked about A World Without Heroes and the fact that “A hero sacrifices for the greater good. A hero is true to his or her conscience. In short, heroism means doing the right thing regardless of the consequences.”   Then we challenged ourselves to choose THIS DAY (!) to be one of them.   Today we’re going to talk about some more brilliant metaphorical wisdom from Brandon Mull’s wonderful storytelling mind.   Quick context: In Beyonders, our main characters gets transported to another world. In that world, an evil Emperor reigns. Few people have chosen to stand up to the Emperor. Those who look like they might be significant threats are harassed and, if they’re lucky, get invited to a place called Harthenham to enjoy the “Eternal Feast.”   Basically, this is a place where you have ZERO issues. A place where you can enjoy all the most indulgent foods and pleasures you can imagine—where you have no worries at all and can literally live better than a king who has to worry abou

  • Optimize Interview: Stillness is the Key with Ryan Holiday

    Optimize Interview: Stillness is the Key with Ryan Holiday

    25/10/2019 Duration: 01h10min
  • +1: #930 Micro Prospectus

    +1: #930 Micro Prospectus

    22/10/2019 Duration: 03min

    Not too long ago we talked about the fact that the word prosperity literally means “to go forward with hope.”    Then, as you may recall, I challenged us to take some time to create a prospectus that inspires us to invest in the project that is our masterpiece lives such that we consistently MOVE FORWARD WITH HOPE.   Then…   I realized that this is pretty much exactly what we’re trying to do with our Coaches on a daily, micro-prospectus level via something we’re calling “Carpe Diem” journaling.    Carpe Diem.    Seize the day!!    How?   Create a micro-prospectus.    How?   Well, one way is via The Big 3 (x 2): Energy + Work + Love (x Identity + Virtues + Behaviors).   In (very) short:    Identity: Who are you at your Optimus best Energy + Work + Love-wise?    Virtues: What virtues do you embody as you express your best in each of those Identities?    Behaviors: What’s ONE thing that best version of you would do TODAY Energy + Work + Love-wise?    That’s it. #carpediem   You ca

  • Optimize Interview: Everything is Figureoutable with Marie Forleo

    Optimize Interview: Everything is Figureoutable with Marie Forleo

    18/10/2019 Duration: 01h10min

    My wife Alexandra has been a huge fan of Marie’s for a long time. I knew she was awesome. But... As I told Alexandra: “I had no idea Marie was THAT awesome!!!” My excuse: I’ve been in hermit-mode and have done nothing but read books for 5 years (no blogs/videos/etc.) so I wasn’t able to get the full sense of Marie’s heroically brilliant and grounded and HILARIOUS power until this book came out. I’ve read and created PhilosophersNotes on well over 500 books. This is one of my ABSOLUTE (!) favorites of all time. I HIGHLY (!!!) recommend it. It’s in the same league as some of my other favorites like Deep Work Atomic Habits and The 5 Second Rule. (In fact, on my chalkboard right now, I actually have “EVERYTHING IS FIGUREOUTABLE” right above “5-4-3-2-1-GO!” -- Winning combo!) The book is PACKED (!) with Big Ideas and I’m excited to share my chat with Marie about a few of her favorites.

  • +1: #925 C.A.N.O.E-ing

    +1: #925 C.A.N.O.E-ing

    17/10/2019 Duration: 03min

    One of the core themes of our work together (in these +1s and in our Coach program, etc.) is the power of constantly (!) experimenting as we find little ways to Optimize.    All day. Every day.    Repeat.    (Again.) (And again.) (And again!)   All done with a big eudaimonically joyful smile—as if we’re playing the greatest game ever created. (Which, of course, we are.)   So…   We’ve called it a bunch of things.    In a business environment, the whole idea of kaizen is super popular. (Kaizen is Japanese for “improvement.” … Synonymous with “Optimize”?)   While Tony Robbins calls it “CANI!” (As in “Constant And Never-ending Improvement.”)   So…   I’m riffing on that basic theme during our fundies session on Sleep—reminding us all of the power of chipping away and looking for marginal gains as we have fun with the whole CANI thing.   Only, I suggested we swap out the “I” for “E” and make it “Constant And Never-ending EXPERIMENTING” (rather than “Improving”).   I

  • +1: #920 Borrowed Energy

    +1: #920 Borrowed Energy

    12/10/2019 Duration: 05min

    In one of our very first Notes, we took a quick look at Brendan Brazier’s The Thrive Diet.    I read the book when it came out nearly a dozen years ago. Loved it. Then Brendan and I met at an event, became friends, etc.   If you’re looking for ideas on how to be a high-performance plant-based athlete/human, I think you’ll enjoy Brenden and his work. He’s a former professional endurance athlete and the formulator (and cofounder) of the Vega nutrition brand.   Today we’re going to chat about one of my favorite Ideas from his book.   It popped into my head during the Q&A with our Coaches after our session on Sleep as we discussed having curfews on our caffeine while remembering the fact that when we routinely get less than 6 or 7 hours of sleep we DOUBLE (!) our risk for cancer.    First, here’s the wisdom from Brendan: “I consider coffee drinking an uncomplementary stress. I view it as a form of credit, similar to shopping with a credit card. You get energy now that you don’t actually have, but

  • +1: #910 Sweeping Our Own Porches

    +1: #910 Sweeping Our Own Porches

    02/10/2019 Duration: 02min

    Today is, of course, October 2nd, 2019.    Let’s hop in a time machine.    Destination: 150 years ago: 1869.    Cars don’t exist yet. Neither do phones. (Let alone a smartphone.)    So…    Imagine me sending this to you via telegram as we appreciate all the marvels of modern life.   150 years ago Today a great soul was born: Mohandas Gandhi.   Let’s celebrate by taking a moment to reflect on his iconic “Be the change you want to see” wisdom.   We’ll let another great soul who spent her life in India lead our reflection today.   As you may know, Mother Teresa once said: “If each of us would only sweep our own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.”   Yep.   That’s about right, eh?   What change do YOU want to see in the world?   Are you BEING it?   Awesome.   Here’s to sweeping our front porches as we do our little part in making the whole world clean.

  • +1: #905 The Origin of Disease

    +1: #905 The Origin of Disease

    27/09/2019 Duration: 01min

    In our last couple +1s, we’ve been hanging out in our guts. (Good times!)   Surprisingly, that’s where we discovered 90% (!) of our serotonin and 70-80% (!!) of our immune systems.   Crazy, eh?   Today we’re going to spend another moment on the subject.   Get this: Although modern medicine pretty much ignores the gut as its standard of care focuses on alleviating symptoms rather than Optimizing systems, the idea that our guts play a central role in our well-being isn’t a new idea.   Let’s jump into a time machine and rewind the clock about 2,400 years.    Destination: Ancient Greece.    It’s time to meet the father of medicine: Hippocrates.   You know what he said? “All disease begins in the gut.”   Dr. Gundry echoes that wisdom and adds a little bonus gem (via The Longevity Paradox) where he tells us: “As Hippocrates famously and wisely said, ‘All disease begins in the gut.’ The good news is that all disease can be stopped there as well.”   That’s Today’s +1.   What’s ONE thing

  • +1: #895 Got Glymph?

    +1: #895 Got Glymph?

    17/09/2019 Duration: 05min

    Dr. Steven Gundry is Tony Robbins’ doctor. He’s a former world-class heart surgeon. These days he focuses on longevity.   His new book is called The Longevity Paradox. Sub-title: “How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age.”    It’s fantastic. I highly recommend it.    The main theme of the book is that our longevity, paradoxically, is driven by the most ancient parts of us—the bacteria and other “foreign” stuff living in our guts (and on our bodies).    Today, I want to focus on one of the practical ideas from that book that might wind up being one of the most significant Optimizing levers I’ve pulled. (Ever.) (Seriously.)   It’s called “Brain Washing.”   Short story.    I’ve known for awhile that I should have my last meal earlier than I’ve been having it. Dr. Gundry finally sold me on why I should at least test what would happen if I ate my last meal FOUR hours before going to bed.    Yes, four (!) hours before I go to bed. Now, I go to bed as early as 7:30 PM so that means I’m eating my

  • +1: #890 Profound Service

    +1: #890 Profound Service

    12/09/2019 Duration: 09min

    This morning I was doing my normal thing. In the process, I came up with a little insight I’m excited to share.    First, the quick recap of what led to the insight.   Of course, my day started yesterday when I shutdown early the day before (4:00 PM; right after my every-Monday coaching call), hung out with the fam then went to bed super early (7:30 PM) and deliberately spent 10 hours in bed (getting 9 hours of sleep including 1 hour 24 min of REM sleep and 2 hours 23 min of deep sleep). Then I was up at 5:30 AM (I’m sleeping in these days, folks! lol) with an Oura readiness score of 95 (having fun gaming it). 20-min Meditation, 5-min Movement then AM1 Deep Work.   I started the Deep Work with our quick “Carpe Diem” journaling session—noting my Identities + Virtues + Behaviors for Energy + Work + Love. (Note: This practice is a cornerstone of our Mastery Series/Optimize Coach program. Aspiring Coaches need to log 200 days of Optimize Carpe Diem journaling as one of the requirements to get ce

  • +1: #885 Equanimity Anchors

    +1: #885 Equanimity Anchors

    07/09/2019 Duration: 03min

    In our last +1, we talked about the Fundies and how (ahem) fundamental they are to our Optimizing and Actualizing.    Eat! Move! Sleep! Breathe! Be Present! Prosper!   As I said, if I could whisper one thing in my younger self’s ear, I think it would be to MASTER those guys as I’m firmly convinced that when we get our PHYSIOLOGY properly Optimized, the rest tends to follow pretty smoothly via the super-strong connection we’ve created between our “normal” selves and our eudaimonic, Optimus-best selves.   Today I want to talk about another Idea from the Big Picture lecture on the subject.   Remember the Spinny Fingers we talked about back in the day?   Basic recap: Find a safe place to spin around and get yourself dizzy. Then do one of two things.    First: After getting yourself nice and dizzy, stop spinning and start looking aimlessly around the room. Up over there. Down there. All around.   What happens when you have no central point to ground yourself? You get DIZZIER.   Shake that of

  • +1: #880 Jesus on Motes and Beams

    +1: #880 Jesus on Motes and Beams

    02/09/2019 Duration: 02min

    In our last +1, we talked about lint on the projector’s lens and the fact that, as per Byron Katie, “every perceived problem appearing ‘out there’ is really nothing more than a misperception within your own thinking.”    As I imagined us all busting out a nice little cloth to clean up our own lens rather than trying to change things “out there,” I thought of another great spiritual teacher.   He lived a couple thousand years ago. In the land of Galilea. His name was Jesus.   You know what he said?   Well, in our Note on The Jefferson Bible, we flip open to the Bible, Matthew 7:3 where we find this eternally epic wisdom gem: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerst not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite! First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

  • +1: #875 FIRE: The Big 3

    +1: #875 FIRE: The Big 3

    28/08/2019 Duration: 03min

    Continuing our series on how to build a bonFIRE, today we’re going to chat about The Big 3 of creating Financial Independence (and Interdependence) as we win the ultimate game of life, Realizing Eudaimonia.   Let’s flip open our copies of The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins for this wisdom-love.   As we briefly discussed in our last +1, JL is a tough-love, lovable Uncle kinda guy. He originally shared his “simple path to wealth” via a series of letters he wrote for his daughter. Those letters became a blog series.     Obviously check out the book and JL’s site for the deep dive (and, I’m a lover of wisdom not a financial planner so…), but here’s The Big 3 in a tiny nutshell. 1. Avoid debt. 2. Spend (WAY) less than you make. 3. Invest the rest. That’s it. Do that. Give it time. And… Voila.    Well, obviously there’s a LOT more to it than that.   But, as they say, the NUMBERS are simple. It’s the LIFESTYLE changes that are hard.   One more time:   1. Avoid debt.    Like the plague. Seriousl

  • +1: #870 How to Stop Worrying

    +1: #870 How to Stop Worrying

    23/08/2019 Duration: 03min

    At this stage, most people have heard of Dale Carnegie’s uber-bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence People. It was originally published in 1936 and has sold 15 million copies.    It helped kicked off the whole self-development movement and is one of the bestselling self-help book of all time. (It was #19 on Time magazines list of all-time most influential books.)   Having said that, I actually avoided reading it for over 20 years.   I just couldn’t get past what appeared to be a pretty shallow, transactional view of human relationships so…   Alas, a couple years ago I finally submitted to the pressure of countless requests to do a Note on it (hah) and really enjoyed it.   But that’s not quite the point of Today’s +1.   This is.   Did you know Dale wrote another book a dozen years later called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living? It’s true. And, it’s AWESOME.   Quick question: You ever worry?   * Insert laughter here *   Once again: Of course you do. You’re human.   Want a qu

  • +1: #865 Pilot + Co-Pilot + Autopilot

    +1: #865 Pilot + Co-Pilot + Autopilot

    18/08/2019 Duration: 04min

    In our last couple +1s, we talked about Seneca’s wisdom on the importance of “fortifying our pertinacity” until our will to do the right thing becomes a disposition to doing the right thing.   That’s basically EXACTLY what we talked about a little bit ago when we explored the Algorithms Module we recently went through in the Mastery portion of our Optimize Coach program.   As you may recall (bonus points and high fives if you’ve already tattooed this line on your Optimizing consciousness), I often say that it’s all about using our Willpower wisely to install Habits that run on autopilot via Algorithms.   Here’s a super-quick recap of the basic idea that I think we REALLY want to get.    (btw: I just got goosebumps as I typed that.)    (Yes, as we’ve established by this stage, I’m weird. Things like this get me that fired up.)    So…    Our basal ganglia is an ancient part of our brain. In fact, it’s 500 million (!!!) years old. All mammals have it.   Among other things, it basically fig

  • +1: #860 You and Your Gordion Knots

    +1: #860 You and Your Gordion Knots

    13/08/2019 Duration: 03min

    Skipping the longer philosophical chat about the ethics of being a conqueror, Today we’re going to chat about Alexander the Great.   More specifically, we’re going to talk about him and a knot.   The Gordion Knot.   You know the story?   Wikipedia tells us that legend has it that, once upon a time, the ancient people known as the Phrygians (who lived in what is now modern Turkey) didn’t have a king.    An oracle declared that the next man to enter their capital city driving an ox-cart would become king. (That’s one way to do it, eh? )   So… A peasant farmer drove an ox-cart into town and, lo and behold, became king.   His name was Gordias.    In gratitude, his son Midas dedicated the ox-cart to the main Phrygian god (kinda like their version of Zeus) and tied it to a post with a super-intricate knot.    As in, "good luck untying THAT knot” kinda knot.   A Roman historian described it as "several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened.”   Fast

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