Optimize Focus

Locked 101 Classes

Meditation 101

How to Meditate without Moving to the Himalayas

Meditation. It’s unequivocally awesome. But it can also get a little more esoteric than necessary. Enter: How to meditate without moving to the Himalayas! Here are my Top 10 Big Ideas on the nuts and bolts of how to create a great, sustainable practice.

Locked 101 Classes

Conquering Digital Addiction 101

​​To Sculpt or to Be Hacked? That Is the Question

​​Technology is, obviously, awesome. We’ve been using “tech” tools for 2.5 million years since our protohuman ancestors first picked up a stone and used it as a tool. 1.8 million years ago, “we” figured out how to make an acheulean hand axe which was a pretty epic innovation at the time.
​​So, with the advent of smartphones in what’s known as the “Input Age,” I’m not suggesting we should all become tech-smashing Luddites. But… (And this is a big but!), I also don’t think we should underestimate just how much we play the role of addicted users caught up in the mix of a $7 TRILLION attention economics (/mind-hacking!) industry.
​​The solution: Become Optimizites—use technology wisely to become the BEST you rather than mindlessly let your 1 million-year-old prefrontal cortex get hacked all day every day.
​​In the class, we walk through the costs of addiction, then talk about how to conquer it so we can sculpt our ideal lives.

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The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Daniel Goleman is a former New York Times science writer and author of the uber-bestselling book Emotional Intelligence. In Focus, we look at the underlying neuroscience of attention. We need to start by realizing that the strength (or weakness) of our attention is at the core of E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. we do. Everything! Which is why Goleman calls it “the hidden driver of excellence.” Big Ideas we explore include rumination vs. reflection, the three foci of willpower, smart practice and hitting the mental gym.

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How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction

Hyperfocus. Just looking at the cover of this book makes me smile. I got it after Cal Newport connected me with Chris Bailey. Chris is the author of The Productivity Project and a full-time productivity researcher/writer/practitioner. Although the book is called “Hyperfocus,” it’s ultimately about learning how to control our attention—turning it on AND off at will as we master the process of intentionally entering what Chris calls “Hyperfocus” (think: getting things done/being present mode) AND what he calls “Scatterfocus” (deliberately allowing our minds to wander to enter creative mode). As per the inside flap, it’s “a practical guide to managing your attention—the most powerful resource you have to become more creative, get stuff done, and live a meaningful life.” Big Ideas we explore include defining Hyperfocus, establishing how to get into it (including the #1 rule!), the power of specific implementation intentions (vs. "vague" intentions) and how to expand our productivity potential.

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Black Hole Focus

How Intelligent People Can Create a Powerful Purpose for Their Lives

Black holes. Just contemplating the sheer, fierce power of them is awe-inspiring, eh? Isaiah Hankel tells us that although physicists used to think that everything got destroyed in a black hole, now they believe that it’s less about destruction and more about *transformation.* And shines some light on the power of focusing on our purpose with black hole intensity. Big Ideas we explore include sheep vs. strategists, figuring out your ikigai (= why you get up in the morning), the fascinating endurance of rats with hope, the first two steps in greatness and moving from vision to decision.

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Fully Engaged

Using the Practicing Mind in Daily Life

Thomas Sterner wrote the great book The Practicing Mind (see Notes). This is a follow-up practical guide to applying the concepts in that book to our daily lives. It’s a great little book packed with wisdom and zero fluff. Having the ability to do be fully (!) engaged in this moment is the ultimate super power. Big Ideas we explore include: how to be fully engaged, the #1 goal of meditation, how to get in total control of your life, goal poison, premeditated procedures, and the powerful question: “And then what?”

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Make Time

How to Focus on What Matters Every Day

Want to Make Time? Well, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky (JZ) have the system to help you, as per the sub-title of their great book: “Focus on What Matters Every Day.’ Jake and JZ met at Google. Jake had worked on Gmail and JZ on YouTube before they connected at Google Ventures. While there, they worked with a ton of startups in which Google invested (including Uber, Slack and 23andMe) on a project-development system they created called “Sprint.” This book is all about resetting our culture’s default settings by stepping off of what they call “the Busy Bandwagon” while jumping out of “Infinity Pools” of distraction to optimize our energy, focus, and time. It’s a GREAT book that echoes a ton of what we talk about all the time. Big Ideas we explore include how to make time in four steps: Highlight (what's today's focal point?) + Laser (vs. disco balls) + Energize (be a good Homo sapien) + Reflect (it's all one big experiment!).

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Attention and the Focused Life

Attention. If you want to optimize your life, this is the place to start. Winifred Gallagher gives us a beautiful target: rapt attention that leads us to live the focused life. Gallagher is a behavioral science writer who, five years before writing this book, received a cancer diagnosis that dramatically shifted the way she saw the world. That experience inspired her to understand the neuroscientific underpinnings of how attention works—which led to this book. Big Ideas we explore include: Attention 101, how to get it, the paradox of choice, grit + focus, focusing on virtue, how to be happier and waking up!

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Deep Work

Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work. It’s the key to how you get So Good They Can’t Ignore You—which, of course, is the title of another one of Cal’s great books. Big Ideas include Deep Work vs. Shallow Work, how to give your neurons a workout, cleaning up attention residue, the four rules of deep work, finding the routine that works for you and learning how to shut down completely.

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The Practicing Mind

Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life‎

The Practicing Mind. It’s the key to true inner peace and contentment. In a world that conditions us to obsess about goals and outcomes, it’s easy to miss the importance of the process. The PRACTICE. Thomas Sterner brilliantly (!) helps us bring discipline and focus into our lives to experience the presence and joy that comes as a result. (Bonus: We also create a frictionless path to our goals as well!)

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Digital Minimalism

Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Cal Newport is one of my favorite thinkers. He got his Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT and is now a Professor at Georgetown. He’s also a bestselling author of a number of books. Given the fact that the fastest way to Optimize your life is to STOP doing things that are sub-optimal AND the fact that (for nearly all of us) our use of technology is the #1 thing that “Needs work!,” it’s SUPER important for us to figure out how to best use all the technology available to us WITHOUT becoming lost in a tsunami of inputs. Enter: Our new philosophy of technology use: Digital Minimalism. Enter: My SUPER strong recommendation of the book and my ALL IN commitment to helping create a movement around the ideas in the book. As you know, I rarely say a book is a must read but this book is as close as it gets. Big Ideas we explore include the fact that your soul is engaged in a lopsided arms race, a definition + overview of digital minimalism, the importance of spending time alone (and the consequences of *not* spending adequate time alone), reclaiming leisure (get active!) and joining the Attention Resistance. Here's to Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World!

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The Brain Warrior's Way

Ignite Your Energy and Focus, Attack Illness and Aging, Transform Pain into Purpose

Daniel Amen is a ten-time New York Times bestselling author and the Washington Post has described him as the most popular psychiatrist in America. Tana is also a New York Times best-selling author (The Omni Diet) and a leading fitness expert who holds black belts in both Tae Kwon Do and Kempo Karate. Together, they’ve written a passionate, inspiring book on how we can, as the sub-title suggests, ignite our energy and focus, attack illness and aging, and transform pain into purpose. Big Ideas we explore include why to become a brain warrior, a check in to see if positive thinking is killing you, the #1 strategy to live long, top 10 nutrition tips, why cheat days are not smart, and the power of community to Optimize.

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Your Brain at Work

Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long

Ever wonder how your brain works while you’re at work? And, even more importantly, how you can OPTIMIZE how your brain works while you work? If so, this is the book for you. Big Ideas we explore include the importance of prioritizing prioritizing (aka quit blowing your brain up), how to decrease your IQ by 15 points (hah—seriously—here’s how to be 3 times less effective than someone stoned! :0), why your basal ganglia is awesome, and how to rock the seesaw that is your limbic system + prefrontal cortex.

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Manage Your Day-to-Day

Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series)

If you’re looking to optimize your day-to-day-productivity, this collection of wisdom from some of the world’s leading creative gurus via 99U is a fantastic place to start. Big Ideas we explore include the importance daily routines, the most important thing you can do to boost your productivity, how screen apnea leads to things you don’t want and why rats love to check email.

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Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems

Dr. Daniel Amen MD is one of the world’s leading psychiatrists. He’s a clinical neuroscientist (love that phrase!) who has performed 115,000+ SPECT scans on his patients’ brains. (That’s a lot.) This book captures what he’s learned about optimizing our brains, why it’s important and how to do it. Big Ideas we explore include #ANTspray, wisdom from Fat Freddie the penguin, how hungry your brain is (did you know it’s 2% body weight but uses 20-30% of calories consumed?), and a bunch of other goodness.

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Brain Maker

The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain—for Life

Ready to get your brain right? Start with your gut! In this compelling book, Dr. David Perlmutter walks us through the leading-edge science on how to dial in our microbiome to optimize our brain + overall well-being. In the Note, we explore Big Ideas ranging from the power of probiotics and your second brain to the importnace of focusing on root causes rather than just symptoms along with the 6 keys to feeding your microbes.

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The Power of Concentration

Concentration. As we know, the sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus. This is an old school manual on how to cultivate our strength of mind to set our lives on fire. In the Note, we'll look at some Big Ideas to cultivate our concentration, sticktoitiveness and make every moment a part of our practice.

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The Way of the SEAL

Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed

A former U.S. Navy SEAL Commander, Mark Divine integrates the ancient warrior traditions with grounded, practical virtue and 21st century get-it-done effectiveness in a way that I find incredibly inspiring. Big Ideas we cover include the power of front-sight focus, how to DIRECT your mind, going Yoda on your commitments and creating micro goals when things are tough.

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How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done

This is a quick-reading, smart, practical guide on how to, as the sub-title suggests, “Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done. My kind of book. I *highly* recommend it. Big Ideas we explore include rats + rewards (real vs. random), progress hacks to conquer the progress paradox, saying “YES!!!” en route to saying “No” plus the physics of emails and 21st century superpowers.

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The ONE Thing

The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

The ONE Thing. What's yours? Gary Keller (his Keller-Williams real estate is THE largest real estate company in the world--I bet that was a ONE Thing goal at some point!) shares his wisdom in this BRILLIANT book. We'll have fun exploring a few of my favorite Big Ideas: dominoes + extreme Pareto and other goodness.

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25th Anniversary Edition

Ellen Langer is one of the world's leading researchers studying the science of well-being. This book was was published over 25 years ago—before the concept of “mindfulness” went mainstream. Ellen takes a Western scientific orientation to mindfulness (vis-a-vis an Eastern mystical) as she challenges us to overcome our mindless patterns, let go of false limits, focus on the process and notice all the wonders present in our lives.

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How Successful People Think

Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

John Maxwell is one of the world’s authorities on leadership. He’s sold over 25 million (!) books. This is a quick-reading 127 pages packed with wisdom and Big Ideas on Maxwell’s eleven essential types of thinking—ranging from Big-Picture thinking to Realistic Thinking and everything in between. Big Ideas we explore include the power of targets for focused thinking, becoming a possibility thinker and anxietivity—how creativity and anxiety go together.

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Lead Yourself First

Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude

Solitude. It’s the secret sauce to leadership. But... In their great book Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin tells us: “Solitude is a state of mind, a space where you can focus on your own thoughts without distraction, with a power to bring mind and soul together in clear-eyed conviction. Like a great wave that saturates everything in its path, however, handheld devices and other media now leave us awash with the thoughts of others. We are losing solitude without even realizing it.” Big Ideas we explore include the big 4 of solitude (clarity + creativity + emotional balance + moral courage), the threats from our "Input Age," how MLK and Eisenhower used solitude, FOMO (get over it!) and how to change the world (starting with YOU!).

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The Distraction Addiction

Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is a professional futurist. (I think that is officially tied for first for the coolest job title ever. The co-winner? Professional Optimizer, of course. Hah. :) He has a PhD in the history of science and is a former Microsoft Research fellow and visiting scholar at Stanford and Oxford. I found the book fascinating and a great complement to our collection on how to conquer digital addiction. Big Ideas we explore include how to tame that monkey in your mind, email apnea (you breathing?!), the fact that "entanglement" tech is over 1 million years old ("Hi, stone tools!"), the big costs of task switching (and an easy way to feel its effects), the importance of experimenting (w/an experiment you can do today), the Latin wisdom solvitur ambulando ("it is solved by walking") and how to be an Optimizite rather than a Luddite. :)

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The Miracle of Mindfulness

An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

Written in 1975, The Miracle of Mindfulness is one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s earliest books. It was originally written as a long letter to one of his main staff members in South Vietnam—encouraging him during very challenging times to continue their work of “engaged Buddhism.” It’s beautifully written and packed with wisdom. Big Ideas we explore include what qualifies as a miracle (hint: it’s ALL a miracle), choosing to sit or stand but avoiding the wobble, how to balance on top of a bamboo pole and three questions to ponder.

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Focal Point

A Proven System to Simplify Your Life, Double your Productivity, and Achieve All Your Goals

Brian Tracy is one of the classic modern self-development teachers and he's literally a Big Idea machine. In this Note, we'll have fun learning about the importance of taking responsibility in our lives and staying flexible (and, of course, some Ideas on how to do so!). We'll also check in on the importance of managing our time well by "one-touching" stuff and maintaining our optimism in the face of challenges.

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Black Box Thinking

Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some Do

Failure. Some of us lean into it and learn as much as we can from it, and some of us prefer to avoid thinking about it and/or pretend it never happened. As you may guess, one approach leads to dramatically better performance over the long run. (Hint: Seeing failure as feedback + learning opportunities is a very wise idea.) Big Ideas we explore include a quick look at the aviation vs. health care industries, the importance of quantity of work if you want quality, marginal gains, cognitive dissonance and pre-mortems.

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The 80/20 Principle

The Secrete to Success by Achieving More With Less

Did you know 20% of beer drinkers drink 80% of the beer? And that 20% of streets account for 80% of the traffic? And that most peeps wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time? And that 20% of customers/products usually account for about 80% of profits? Yepperz. In this Note, we’ll explore the 80/20 principle and how we can apply its power to every aspect of our lives to "achieve more with less."

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The Compound Effect

Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success

Darren Hardy is the Publisher of SUCCESS magazine and knows a thing or 1,000 about success. It's all boiled down into this little manifesto on The Compound Effect. The equation? Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = RADICAL DIFFERENCE. In the Note, we'll check out the power of compounding and how to welcome Mr. Mo to the party and create your greatest life.

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The Power of Rest

Why Sleep Alone Is Not Enough

Rest. You getting enough? If you're like most of us, the answer is No. Leading medical doctor, Matthew Edlund shows us how sleep isn't enough. We need to cultivate "active rest" into our day-to-day lives. In this Note, we'll look at how to integrate active Mental + Physical + Social + Spiritual rest while working out our brain, breathing and optimizing our lives.

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The Shallows

What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Wondering what the Internet is doing to our brains? Then I think you’ll love The Shallows. It’s a fascinating, well-researched, brilliant book. Big Ideas we explore include a quick look at the neuroscience of just how “massively plastic” our brains are, the hungry gremlins in your brain, how hyperlinks decrease retention, and young vs. old brains.

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Discipline Equals Freedom

Field Manual

Jocko Willink is a retired Navy SEAL. He was commander of Task Unit Bruiser―the most decorated Special Operations Unit of the Iraq War. I really enjoyed Jocko’s first book Extreme Ownership and I knew this one would be good but... I didn’t expect it to be THIS good. The words literally explode off the page. Not just because each micro-chapter was an incredibly inspiring micro-manifesto but because each word was written by a man so clearly living in complete integrity with his deepest values. John Maxwell would say his “moral authority” is extraordinary. I’d say his SOUL FORCE is palpable. If you’re in the mood for a soul-rattling call-to-disciplined action, I think you’ll enjoy the book as much as I did.