A Philosophers Notes On Optimal Living, Creating an Authentically Awesome Life and Other Such Goodness

Brian Johnson


  • Living a life of virtue and integrity will lead to all things we desire such as meaning, love, wisdom and kindness
  • The integrity gap is the difference between what we’re capable of doing and what we actually do.
  • The integrity gap is where depression and anxiety happen.
  • Happiness is not something to chase, but something to practice.
  • Write down your answers to the following questions:
  • What is the single thing which, if you started doing consistently, would have the biggest positive impact on your life? (my answer is fasting)
  • What is the single thing which, if you stopped doing consistently, would have the biggest positive impact on your life? (my answer is smoking weed)
  • Take action on your answers. Do it right now. This is how you live a life of virtue and integrity.
  • These are the 10 principles of optimal living:
    • Optimism
    • Purpose
    • Self-awareness
    • Goals
    • Action
    • Energy
    • Wisdom
    • Courage
    • Love
    • en*theos


  • “Imagine a study with two dogs. They’re both given shocks at random intervals. One can press a lever to stop the shocks. The other can’t. The first dog quickly discovers how to stop the shocks and is fine. The other dog—the one who can’t do anything about the shocks—eventually gives up and curls into a helpless little ball in the corner as the shocks continue. Eek.That’s Part I of the study.

    Part 2: Those same dogs are put into a new environment. This time, both dogs can easily avoid the shocks. The healthy dog quickly discovers the trick and is fine. The other dog, EVEN THOUGH IT NOW HAS THE POWER TO CHANGE THINGS, just gives up—curling into a ball as the shocks continue (and continue and continue). The dog has learned helplessness.”

  • Don’t learn helplessness. You can always choose your attitude and attitudes of mastery/courage/dominance/happiness/etc will make life so much better.
  • Optimism can be trained the same way physicality can be trained. Go to the optimism gym if you’re not an optimist.
  • Instead of complaining, find solutions.
  • Don’t be a victim, be a creator. Define what you want and go get it.
  • Life is hard and causes you to lose focus. Practice regaining your foucs and each time you will get better. Eventually you will be a master of focus.
  • Everyone has negative thoughts. That’s ok. Don’t dwell on them. When you realize that you’re dwelling, do literally anything to distract yourself: walk, breath, journal, sing, anything to get your mind off these negative thoughts. Eventually their frequency will reduce.
  • Here are two tools to reframe bad things:
    • pretend you scripted the bad thing that happened (you intended for it to happen)
    • Ask yourself “what if this was a gift?”

Purpose and Self-Awareness

  • Reframe your highest purpose as living with virtue and integrity. This will give you a the opportunity to live every single day happily instead of delaying your happiness to achieve some 10 year goal
  • Deepak Chopra asks: if you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do? Use this answer as a north star in how you life your life today.
  • What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? Embody those thoughts today.
  • Here’ an exercise (I haven’t done this yet myself): take out a notebook and write down 100 questions. Find a theme in those 100. Pick out the top 10 and write them down elsewhere. Rank those top 10. Start living those top 10 questions today.
  • Near-death experiences cause people to reprioritize their lives and live differently. Suppose you had one, how would you live differently?
  • Pretend in the future a time travel machine is invented and your 110-year-old self can come back and talk to you for 30 minutes. What would they say? What if the conversation was only 5 minutes?


  • Acquiring stuff never creates lasting happiness
  • Set “being” goals instead of “bling” goals
  • Make your goals attainable and as soon as you attain one, set another attainable goal. Incremental progress is powerful.
  • Ask yourself, and write down the answer, “if everything went incredibly, splendidly right, what would my life look like?”


  • You gotta do things, just like Nike tells us.
  • Show up every day and put in the effort. Never underestimate incremental improvement.
  • The masters of any discipline have learned it’s fundamentals. What are your fundamentals?
  • Every decision you make either pushes you forward (+1) or backward (-1). Try to end each day with the highest score you can. Again, incremental improvement.
  • Ask yourself “now what needs to be done?” and go do that
  • Plan your life
  • Blowing off commitments isn’t virtuous. Before you make a commitment, take stock of whether you will follow through. Once you’ve made a commitment, don’t back out.
  • If something comes up and you can complete it in less than two minutes, Just Do It. Accomplishment begets accomplishment.
  • Exploit the pareto principle as much as you can. In almost all things in life, 20% of the work gets you 80% of the way there.


  • Oh, one more thing. Ever hear the story about the guy who runs into another guy who’s sawing down a tree? He’s watching the guy work and work and work and he’s like: “Hey, dood. You might want to sharpen that saw. I think it’ll make everything a lot easier.” And the other guy says: “No way, man. I’m way too busy to slow down long enough to sharpen this thing.”
    • It’s (almost) always worth it to sharpen your saw
  • Exercise has been shown to be more effective at treating depression than antidepressants. Exercise is good. You’ve heard this before. Make sure you exercise.
  • Remember the idea of incremental improvement? Well it comes up here again. Prefer consistency over intensity. Doing a little bit every day will yield greater results than doing a lot every now and then.
  • You should meditate daily. The book recommends this and so does Paymahn.


  • Here are the 12 Hows of Happiness
    • Expressing Gratitude
    • Cultivating Optimism
    • Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison
    • Practicing Acts of Kindness
    • Nurturing Social Relationships
    • Developing Strategies for Coping
    • Learning to Forgive
    • Increasing Flow Experiences
    • Savoring Life’s Joys
    • Committing to Your Goals
    • Practicing Religion and Spirituality
    • Taking Care of Your Body: Meditation + Physical Activity + Acting Like a Happy Person
  • We can’t be happy all the time. But we can move needle for both our lows and our highs. We can orchestrate our lives such that some time in the future, our lows are higher than our current highs. It just takes some work.
  • The activites of our lives can be defined along two axes: important/not important and urgent/not urgent. We can even plot these activities on a cartesian graph with 4 quadrants. Doing things which are unimportant and not urgent is a waste of time (quadrant 4). Doing things which are important and urgent is the best use of our time (quadrant 2). Aim to do things in quadrant 2 as much as possible.
  • Nobody is perfect and humour is a good way to reduce the fear of mistakes. Laugh at what you did wrong, learn and try again. Almost no mistake is catastrophic.


  • Fear is tied to negative expectation. Try to reframe your thoughts positively to avoid fear.
  • There are two types of struggles, against external oppressors and against ourselves. The harder struggle to overcome is the one within.


  • One marriage counselor claims he can predict with 90+% accuracy whether a couple will divorce or not. He does this by measuring the ratio of positive to negative interactions and has found that the magic ratio is 5:1.
  • Here’s a great way to reframe your thinking: change “should” to “could”. “I should have gone to the party last night” -> “I could have gone to the party last night”. Should is blaming while could is empowering.
  • Don’t take things personally. Other people’s behaviors are because of their internal state and not because of you. You act different when you’re hungry and tired vs full and awake, so do others.
  • Try not to lecture others and when you do, try to listen to your lectures.
  • Let go of your grudges. Holding a grudge is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die.
  • Never forget the golden rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
  • Learn the platinum rule: Do not do unto yourself what you would no do unto others


  • Tear down your temple walls and see the whole world as your church. Pratice spirituality every moment of every day.
  • Stop waiting and start doing.
  • What you can be, you must be.
  • Live with virtue and integrity.
  • Get god flowing through and within you.
  • Don’t wait for retirement to live. Live now.

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