Brian Johnson
What All Hero’s Have In Common

Keep going with your gains. Do them consistently, especially if we don't feel like it. And significant, fundamental, permanent changes can be installed.

Brian Johnson
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Show Notes

Meet Brian Johnson(@BrianJohnson), founder and CEO of a Heroic Public Benefit Corporation. With the heart of a philosopher and the acumen of a CEO, he’s dedicated 101% to propelling humanity toward a flourishing future by 2051. Brian’s new book, Arete, illuminates his visionary insights, offering a transformative guide to unlocking one’s highest potential. 

“The most latent desire I’ve always had is how can I live a great life in service to something bigger than myself and help others do that? “

– Brian Johnson

Key Takeaways:

  • Anti-fragile Confidence: Building unbreakable confidence by keeping commitments to oneself, leveraging challenges to grow stronger rather than breaking. If you lack integrity in your word, trusting yourself is impossible and erodes your confidence. To have trust, you must do what you say in any relationship, whether with yourself or others. 
  • The Hero’s Journey: The three phases of the heroic journey are the call to adventure, the facing of challenges, and the return to the ordinary world. Each stage evolves the hero’s consciousness. This journey isn’t a one-time event but a continuous theme in life—answering the call repeatedly to develop and live a life from the heart in service.
  • 8 Virtues: To live your best life and align with your heroic journey, there are 8 virtues to live by: wisdom, discipline, love, courage, gratitude, hope, curiosity, and zest. These 8 virtues come from ancient philosophy and modern science. 
  • The Ultimate Game: The ultimate game of life is to choose wisely and to be your best self in service to something bigger than yourself. To do this, you need to forge anti-fragile confidence and recognize that the hero’s journey is supposed to be complicated.

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Mark Divine 0:00  

Welcome to the Mark Divine Show. This is your host Mark Divine. Thanks so much for joining me today. Super stoked to have you here. On this show, I explore what it means to be fearless and heroic through the lens of the world’s most inspirational, compassionate, and resilient leaders. I love talking to folks from all different walks of life. Stoic philosophers and psychedelic researchers, motivational scientists, peace crusaders even, and heroic virtuous individuals who have incredible businesses. My guest today is that heroic virtuous leader Brian Johnson, founder and CEO of a Heroic Public Benefit Corporation. Brian’s 50%, philosopher, 50% CEO, and 101% committed to helping create a world in which 51% of humanity is flourishing by the year 2051. Brian made crowdfunding history as a first company to raise $5 million in a crowdfunding platform. He’s built and sold two social media company platforms and as a philosopher-teacher, he’s helped millions of people train 10,000 Heroic coaches from 100 companies, and created a protocol that science says changes lives positively. He lives in the country outside of Austin, Texas with his wife, Alexandra, and their two kids, Emerson and Eleanor. Super stoked to have Brian Johnson on the Mark Divine Show.

Mark Divine  1:13  

Welcome back to the Mark Divine Show. Super great to see you again. My friend.

Brian Johnson 1:18  

Commander Mark Divine, good to see you. 5320.

Mark Divine

3-20 checking in for duty.

Brian Johnson 1:23

Let’s go. 

Mark Divine 1:24

Awesome. Man, I love you. So good to see you. This is not your first time we’ve done this. 


Brian Johnson 1:29

We have, yeah, I’ve had you on, you’ve had me on, and I’d love you too, and great to see your man. 


Mark Divine 1:33

So even up to a lot, since I first met you. First met you, you were working on a business called optimize. I actually found you because you had done a philosopher’s note on my book. I think The Way of The SEAL


Brian Johnson 1:48

Unbeatable Mind first.


Mark Divine 1:49

Oh, Unbeatable Mind. 


Brian Johnson 1:50

Yeah, yeah, yeah, transformed my life. 


Mark Divine 1:52

And I was like, what, look at this, someone did like a cliff note version of Unbeatable Mind, who is this guy. And I checked it out. I’m like, holy cow. That’s really cool. So your philosophers’ notes were brilliant. And I know you still have those are kind of baked into your new program in the heroic platform. But tell us about the journey right from the education of little Brian to become the philosopher CEO that he is today. Tell us a little bit about the journey. And then we’ll double click on kind of like this transformation of optimizing to heroic, and then we’ll get in. I love to talk about your new book. 


Brian Johnson 2:22

Right on man.


Mark Divine 2:22

Which your flying the colors for it, I see.


Brian Johnson 2:23

I’m all in. I’m flying the colors in more ways than one, let’s go. You know, it’s funny just to start at, when I found you, I can remember reading your book, one of the few books I’ve read on Kindle for whatever reason I read Unbeatable Mind on a Kindle. And it was that one of the most transformative moments in my life. I’d raised a couple million dollars on something before optimize that was working. But it was never going to be what I wanted it to be. And I had to make the really hard decision to blow it up. We were doing a small business, but over a million dollars of revenue. It had potential but it just you know, when you know that it isn’t what you need it to be. Blew it up took it from a million plus to zero. And I have goosebumps right now. I don’t know how I found it, I was looking for mental toughness books. Because I needed mental toughness. It’s like, I don’t know what it is 10 years ago or something, you know, like I what do I need here. Found Unbeatable Mind, then it was one of those like, the book I needed right when I needed it, just transformed my life, and just felt a kinship with you well, before we met one another. 


Mark Divine 3:20

That’s cool. 


Brian Johnson 3:20

So that’s an important part of the story in my kind of story has a lot of those moments. You know, the hero’s on a quest or not, it needs to answer the call and dragons and all the winning and learning and all that goes into that. But one of the things I’ve been talking a lot more about in chats like this is, my upbringing you know. I grew up and I know, we have a lot of parallels in this too, you know, really conservative. For me, it was a conservative blue-collar family. My father struggled with alcohol and depression and all the things that go with that. His father’s struggled with alcohol and depression and all the things that go with that, and ended his own life. 


Mark Divine 3:52

Oh my.


Brian Johnson 3:53

So I can say, I can kind of laugh about it now, but I pretty much lost what appears to be the genetic and environmental lottery on those things. And, you know, I struggled with anxiety and I was scared of everything as a little kid and wanted to end my own life 25-plus years ago, and I know…


Marl Divine 4:09

I don’t think you told me that. That’s interesting. Sorry, you had to go through that. 


Brian Johnson 4:13

I talk about it in my work, you know, about conquering depression one on one. And as you know, we’ve been blessed to work with some really elite performers, helping them go to the next level. I have a lot of pride in that. But I have at least as much pride in the people who in more frankly, who didn’t know if they wanted to get up and live another day, you know, who found my work and a lot of that stuff that I talk about. Knowing what it feels like to feel that, knowing what it feels like to feel what I feel now. And of course, I’m human, and there’s ups and downs, but there’s a stability, a joy, a meaning a purpose. And having a pretty good sense of what I did to move from there to here. And then a framework that helps people find their own pathway. But that just feels like a really important part of my story that I just want to make sure to share…


Mark Divine 4:54

For sure.


Brian Johnson 4:54

…as we talk about high ideals and living in integrity and all of that. 


Mark Divine 4:59

I have a theory that the best teachers tend to have challenged childhoods because they need to be able to express the full range of human experience to truly connect. I feel very grateful for my traumatic childhood and the alcoholism in the family and you know, other things that will be unspoken of, because without that, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I think if you look at a lot of great teachers, they’ve had gone through that kind of crucible. So they can connect it at all levels, connect with the pain and the suffering as well as the happiness and the bliss. So what got you interested? Because you were like a business guy first, right? You were like, here comes the internet. Your building was it E teams, that was the one you blew up with that the name of it?


Brian Johnson 5:50



Mark Divine 5:51

And then you started, like, voraciously consuming philosophical content and not just philosophical, but across-the-board performance and mental toughness and everything. You developed this capacity to consume it and to digest it, and then distill it and present it. What was that process like? Did you have like an epiphany one day that you were gonna be this kind of philosopher type? Or did it just kind of grow on you and suddenly there it was? 


Brian Johnson 6:15

Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting, because I’ve always had a fascination always being since my early 20s, a fascination with what makes truly extraordinary people extraordinary. And actually, I studied psychology at UCLA, and I minored in business. And this is 1996. Positive Psychology didn’t exist. The main focal point of study at UCLA was autism. So I then knew I wanted to study this, but there was really no avenue at that time. So I almost reluctantly went into business worked at Arthur Andersen, as you know, in all the service lines went to law school dropped out. And the only thing I knew I wanted to do when I wasn’t, by the way, that was when I was thinking about ending my own life, was coach a little league baseball team. And it was out of that, following what little joy I had at that time in my life, that I had the idea for my first business. And I did that, and we were able to achieve some success. And I learned a lot. And then I had enough to take a few years off to figure out what I wanted to do. And that’s when I traveled and studied and did all that stuff. But the most latent desire I’ve always had is how can I live a great life in service to something bigger than myself and help others do that? 

And for me, my life has been an integration of those two kind of personalities, if you will. I do happen to be a Gemini, that’s not something I really go into. But I’m very much part philosopher, part CEO. And that’s how I spent the last 25 years kind of bouncing back and forth, built and sold to businesses. When I wasn’t doing that all I was doing is reading and writing and thinking and bubble-wrapped Hermitage, you know. But now it’s the integration. So with heroic with the book, it’s how do I express for me, you know, my identity in our app is heroic philosopher CEO. My two heroes are Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. And I got criticized for having a dude wall. But I used to have Epictetus and Aurelius behind me, as like my two inspirations, and they’relike that’s a dude wall. I’m like alright, fine it is.


Mark Divine 8:08

A dude wall.


Brian Johnson 8:08

I’ll put up an Aurelius, which is my son’s middle name, and Eleanor Roosevelt, which is my daughter’s, you know, Eleanor, anyway, then my kids are put up. But that integration has been my life’s journey. But I’ve always been passionate about both. I’ve always been passionate about what is it that makes great people tick, studying ancient wisdom, modern science, but then I want to be a radiant exemplar of my own expression of that. And I want to help people, and I want to create businesses at scale that embody the virtues of my heroes. And so it’s been a really interesting integration, more or less graceful, depending the point…


Mark Divine 8:44

Depending, well that’s life, right? 


Brian Johnson 8:46

Yeah Exactly.


Mark Divine 8:46

Life is lifey, as we say, it’s never a straight line. Nor is it always pretty, for sure, at least, that’s my experience. I love what you just said, because it’s very 100% aligned with my overarching philosophy, which is self-mastery in service. And that’s what I express through Unbeatable Mind. Self-mastery is the integration in the development of the most complete version of yourself so that you can bring that to the world in service. So it’s almost identical. And I believe that is actually descriptive of why we’re on this planet at a meta-purpose level as humans to evolve and to serve, or evolve through service, right. And as a yogi, I would call that the integration of the yoga of evolution with Karma Yoga, which is the yoga of service.


Brian Johnson 9:29



Mark Divine 9:30

It’s cool, huh. 


Brian Johnson 9:31

Well goosebumps. Yes, and there’s the yogic then there’s the Buddhist, it’s the Bodhisattva, the one who becomes their most enlightened self and returns to the world with open hands to serve. Or it’s Abraham Maslow. I mean, people forget that self-actualization wasn’t the end point. 


Mark Divine 9:45



Brian Johnson 9:46

It was self-transcendence.


Mark Divine 9:47



Brian Johnson 9:48

And this is what it means to be a hero. I mean, as you know, I’m passionate about redefining what it means to be heroic. So in ancient Greece, the word they came up with for hero wasn’t tough guy or killer, or bad guy. The word hero in ancient Greece meant protector. So my whole thing is what we’re all called to be the heroes of our own stories, of course, and you can hear that and go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yea… but it’s true. 

Who are you at your best? I call about your best, most heroic self. And we need you to step up and be that best, most heroic version of yourself. Quit looking outside yourself for the hero, that’s gonna save you. Boom, today’s the day, now’s the time. And, you know, we’ve talked about it, we fast forward 500 years look at right now, it’s historically significant. We’re facing historically significant challenges. And from my vantage point, the only way we’re going to meet those challenges is if enough of us step up and serve profoundly in service, of course, to something bigger than ourselves. And then we do the hard work. 


Mark Divine 10:45



Brian Johnson 10:46

We have the wisdom, we have the discipline, we have the love, we have the courage to show up and build the strength for two, remembering that the hero secret weapon is love. We’re powered by our commitment to something bigger than ourselves, then we do the hard work to be worthy of that. But again, you’ve been such an instrumental mentor, both wisdom-wise, and embodiment and modeling-wise. Like who you are and what you stand for, and why I feel like, you know, we’re soul Brothers is we’re saying the same things from our own idiosyncratic expression. 


Mark Divine 11:15

That’s right.


Brian Johnson 11:16

But I really admire what you’ve done, you know, and who you are, and how you show up. So full alignment.


Mark Divine 11:22

I want to talk about a couple of things that you kind of bring up here. First, philosophy, right, in our modern day, philosophy has been divorced from practice. And I believe that’s dangerous, because everyone now, all the academics, I mean, there are obviously exceptions, but the so called generalized academics, you know, and I’m in there, I’m in the belly of the beast right now with my PhD. Is to search for knowledge. But there’s no attempt to connect that knowledge to practice or practical application to see just how close to truth it is. And most of that, you know, when you get to the ground level, like it doesn’t work, there’s second, third, fourth order consequences. But it wasn’t always that way. Right? The Stoics. For them, philosophy was a living art, and science. It was a both/and, yin/yang, you had to download new information, you share it, but then you have to go out and practice and see whether it’s relevant for you, or if it’s true across other human beings you know, just how you know, and that’s how we get the wisdom. 

I want you to kind of riff on that a little bit, because I know that’s a big thing to go from theory to practice to wisdom. 


Brian Johnson 12:32



Mark Divine 12:33

I know it’s not, those aren’t the words you use. But I want you to kind of espouse upon the hero’s journey? Because people need to understand that they’re on a hero’s journey, and that your life is a hero’s journey. And then you have kind of like, more like shorter quests along the way.


Brian Johnson 12:45



Mark Divine 12:45

That are hero’s journeys in and of themselves. 


Brian Johnson 12:47

Yeah, I love it. Theory to practice to mastery is how we like to frame it up. This is simultaneously it’s been exacerbated, but the stoics face the same challenge. So they look around themselves. And they’d see the Sofists of the day. The Sofists were our kind of dancing on the stage self help gurus of 2000 years ago, you know.


Mark Divine 13:07



Brian Johnson 13:07

They got up there, with their dogs. Everyone’s like, yeah, that guy’s amazing.


Mark Divine 13:10

The Tony Robbins of the Stoics. 


Brian Johnson 13:12

We had we, that was 2000 years ago. You know, there’s the unbelievable speakers that made you feel great. And you felt great about them and all that stuff. You’d end your time with them and in a standing ovation and applause. Well, the stoics said, alright that’s fine. But when you come to us, you shouldn’t feel like you just went to a spa, you should feel like you’re leaving a hospital after getting surgery.


Mark Divine 13:34



Brian Johnson 13:35

Yeah. You know, but then they also had the humility, where Seneca would say, Look, I’m not I’m not going to talk to you like up on a stage, I’m going to talk to you like I am next to you in a bed in the hospital going through the same things you’re going through. 


Mark Divine 13:49



Brian Johnson 13:50

It’s hard work. And I’m not going to tell you anything but that. And we’re gonna go do that hard work together. So it’s one of the things I admire about them. But they said less logic chopping, less intellectual distinctions that are made in an ivory tower these days, and more action, more practice. And then I love the metaphor, the frame that Donald Robertson, the great stoic therapist, you know, who wrote How to Think like the Roman Emperor and a number of other books. He says, they wanted you to be warriors of the mind, not librarians.


Mark Divine 14:17



Brian Johnson 14:18

Like don’t catalog ideas like a librarian, be a warrior of the mind show up and put them into practice. And that ideal, you know, it’s something that I aspire to and just to have that humility to, as you know, I have a real strong affinity to you and the SEALs and all that you do to protect our freedoms and that commitment to earning your Trident every single day, I take that seriously. I’ve got a Naval Special Warfare thing that Mike Magna Ricci sent me that he and Wyman Howard did together on my desk. I read it like it’s my Bible. Tthe standards that you all set for our country, for your team and then for yourself in that order. You know, and just to be worthy of being in dialogue with you right now to lead the movement we’re committed to creating is my deepest thing, you know, and that’s a moment to moment to moment, day by day practice that I think demands, all the virtues, we’re talking about starting with humility, you know, and realizing, that this is hard work, get to work, and you’re never going to be exonerated. 

As my coach Phil Stouts puts it, there’s no there there. You know, you’re never gonna get to the point where you got to figured it out, quit complaining about it and just do what needs to get done right now. Simplified adult.


Mark Divine 15:25

The more you master yourself, the bigger the challenges get. 


Brian Johnson 15:28

Yeah, but what do we he says the reward for success is more hard work, you know, and congratulations, and everybody who says, you know, works hard for a weekend and they packed their bags, and they want to go on some trip and put their toes in the sand, he’s like, show up, do the hard work, you know. 


Mark Divine 15:43

What people don’t understand is that as you develop, the challenges get bigger, the mountains get higher, but the joy gets greater in just the act of…


Brian Johnson 15:55



Mark Divine 15:56

…going toward that challenge. 


Brian Johnson 15:57



Mark Divine 15:57



Brian Johnson 15:57



Mark Divine 15:58

Overcoming the obstacles. So link that to the hero’s journey, like what’s your perspective on how the courageous warrior can kind of use the idea the archetypal energy of the hero’s journey to frame their life or their frame a challenge? 


Brian Johnson 16:11

Yep. So this, what I’m going to share is my take on Joseph Campbell’s work. So Joseph Campbell, of course, the leading scholar of the universal myth that all cultures talk about all storytellers, George Lucas down are inspired by Joseph Campbell and his work on the hero’s journey. I like to break things out into threes, right? So there are three steps to the hero’s journey, as I see it. First is the call to adventure. So the hero, when they pay attention realizes they’re capable of more, they’re in the ordinary world and they’re called to an adventure. They realize that there’s a lot more potential within them that has been expressed. They need to answer that call, then the hero in that phase crosses the threshold, they get a guide Harry Potter got Dumbledore. Then they get buddy’s; Harry got Hermione, and Ron, and you can fill in the blank on all the other heroes stories. Then what does the hero do when they answer the call? Well, first of all, if you don’t answer the call, you’re going to suffer. So when the phone rings, Campbell says you better answer it, and you want to answer it while, it’s a phone call ringing not a sledgehammer to your your life. You know.


Mark Divine 17:12

That’s right.


Brian Johnson 17:13



Mark Divine 17:14

The longer you take to answer the call, the bigger the hammer gets.


Brian Johnson 17:17

The louder, the stronger the force is that’s applied by the bigger force that’s working on it.


Mark Divine 17:23



Brian Johnson 17:23

But the hero needs to answer the call to adventure. And importantly, we’ll come back to it that’s not a once in your lifetime and done, it’s not even a once a year; you do it right. It’s 1000 times a day, you’re being called to step forward into your potential and you either answer that or you don’t moment to moment to moment. Which will bring us back to take in a moment. But the hero answers the call, they get a guide, they get buddies, then what do they do they go face their dragons, real and metaphorical. Now in the beginning, you’re conquering them, you’re slaying them, you’re realizing the dragon, the thing you’re afraid of protects the treasure, your greatest gifts in life. At some stage, it gets even more fun and joyful, you realize you don’t need to kill the dragon, tame it, write it, that fear that thing that is challenging, you becomes the fuel for your growth, and you develop a different relationship. But the Dragon will be there always and they get bigger. But you get stronger and more capable of dealing with them. 

You win, you learn, you win, you learn and then you come back. So phase two is the dragons the winning in the learning, etc. In the process, you transform your consciousness, and then you have to return. So you the hero answers the call, they face their dragons. And then they return with what Campbell called the boon, the gift to the world. You return to the ordinary world like the Bodhisattva, like the others we discussed. Goosebumps, and your gift is your transformed consciousness. Campbell says, going on these quests is not egotistical in the negative sense. It’s a demonstration of what’s possible. You become in the process of living a heroic life, transparent to the transcendent. You become an example of what’s possible when one follows their joy and their bliss and does the hard work you are that to me. 

When I learned about your story. 10-12-15 years ago, whatever it was, I want to be more like him. You’ve been like a big brother to me, you know of like, I didn’t have a brother like you, you know. So my, that’s my big brother. I got a soul brother right here. And I want to be like you.


Mark Divine 19:13



Brian Johnson 19:14

You were steps ahead of me on the journey. And I, I was inspired by you having gone on the quest and coming back with your boon telling me about what I needed to think about at different stages. But those are the three stages of a good hero’s journey from my vantage point. And I’ll pause there. There’s so much more we can talk about, but I’ll pause.


Mark Divine 19:31

No, I love that. And my perspective is this doesn’t happen once in your life. Right? It’s a recurring theme, right? Because once you come back with a boon, and you’ve transformed your consciousness, it’s a lot like you said earlier, there’s no there there. You can see more you can bring more to the world, which means you take on a bigger mission. And that big scary mission is is another hero’s journey. So then you set out again, and you do it and that’s what you did with the transformation of Optimized into Heroic. Tell us a little bit about that story and, and I want to, wait before you do, your mission is to see 51% of humanity flourishing by 2050. Wow, what is flourishing mean to you? And where did you come up with like 51%? That’s like a few billion people right now. It’s like four and a half billion people or 4 billion people. 


Brian Johnson 20:18

Yeah, it’s a crazy goal. I got it,I got it from Martin Seligman, the founder of the positive psychology movement. In the year 2000, he founded the positive psychology movement. Up until that point, almost all the studies were done on negative 10 to zero, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, how do you get someone stabilized? He said, that’s important. But what can we do to help people become their greatest selves to go from zero to 10 to 100, he created the positive psychology movement with that in mind. Their moonshot goal was to help create a world in which 51% of humanity was flourishing by the year 2051. 


Mark Divine 20:50



Brian Johnson 20:51

When I first heard of that years ago, I thought that was crazy. I still think that’s crazy. And that’s what I’ve dedicated my life to. To helping, you know, play our roles well with you with others committed to serving profoundly, you know, and I tattooed my body with it. And the joke is, if you write down your goals, you increase the odds of success by 42%, science says. Most people write their goals down on a post, they put it up on their bathroom mirror.


Mark Divine 21:15

You put it on your arm.


Brian Johnson 21:16

Well, I put it somewhere I can’t forget. I still think it’s crazy for all the obvious reasons. But that’s what I’ve committed my life to. Now, flourishing is an interesting thing. It’s a scientific term. That means something specifically. I literally just got off an interview with a guy who’s the son, Robert Biswas Diener, who’s the son of a guy named Ed Diener, who founded positive psychology with Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. So we’ve actually done research on our app and the coach program and corporate work on The Ed Diener scale of flourishing. Five minute test, you can see where people are in different aspects of their life, how much meaning they have, how much engagement in their life they have, how much joy they have in their life, very simple questionnaire. So flourishing is a very specific, measurable state of well-being. 

That we’re, I’m all in. That is our commitment to scientifically move people, and we just got data back two weeks ago, a group of people at a wealth advisory firm run by a guy who put a million dollars into our business. Brought 800 People from his 1500 person company into a study with us, done by Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the world’s preeminent wellbeing researchers, she was the lead on it, we brought people from the 53rd percentile of flourishing, which is precisely average, right 53rd percentile average, to the 70th, in 30 day on the Diener scale.


Mark Divine 22:39



Brian Johnson 22:40

With one one hour coaching over four weeks plus the app. And if you hit one target in the app, and I realize, you know, we continue to work on the UX to make it easier and easier. But if you set up your protocol in our app, and you hit just one target a day, you will be and we did a randomized control study, like what do we need 100 people, three conditions control waitlist, randomize, here’s the app, good luck. Here’s the app, and here’s some coaching. 

The group that got the app, if they hit one target in the app, which required them to set up the big three, which took you know, an hour or two to set up. They were 23% more energized in 30 days, than the control group that just basically stayed the same. So anyway, science matters to me. I’m all about ancient wisdom, modern science. I mean, science is the modern religion in many ways. Um, but all science is doing is confirming what all the ancient wisdom traditions said.


Mark Divine 23:34

That’s right.


Brian Johnson 23:35

Which is, live with wisdom, discipline, love, and courage. Or in a word arete, it’s the Greek word for virtue. So that’s the one-word answer, as you know, that the Stoics and the ancient Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates and Plato would give you if you ask them how to live a good life. One word arete; live with virtue, excellence, be your best self, moment, to moment to moment in service to something bigger than yourself, and you will experience a deep sense of joy, meaning, purpose, etc. 


Mark Divine 24:04

How do you account for the fact, you know, people just logging in and hitting a target? I mean, so what kind of target like, describe hitting a target? And how do you account for the fact that just logging into an app and thinking differently about something can lead to more flourishing? 


Brian Johnson 24:20

The way that we did the book is architected against the coach program, the app has basic training is what we call it. But what we do is we help you systematically walk through knowing the ultimate game, which is not fame and wealth and hotness that we’ve been seduced to believe, it’s intrinsic, become a better person, deepen relationships, and make a contribution to your community. Then we teach them that it’s supposed to be hard. Hero’s journeys are hard. Quit complaining about those challenges use them as fuel. Then we simplify self-development into what we call the big three. So Freud said a good life is working off. I say, yes, one of the few things I agree with you on Freud, but you need to have good energy. If you want to show up and you work or love. And if you’re making poor lifestyle choices, you’re not going to want to get out of bed. So energy, work and above are what we call the big three, then we help you get clarity on your identities in energy, work and love, what virtues you embody, and most importantly, what you do when you’re at your best energy working well. 

So the whole app is based on a protocol development, helping you get clarity on your protocol, very simple stuff. You know, take out a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, write, do on the left, don’t on the right. And think about you at your best. What did you do? What did you not do? And then we help you take those things and put them into the app and do them every day. So we interrupt you get clarity on that, I’m in bed for 9 to 10 hours a night, it’s my superpower. Now, I wasn’t doing that when I wanted to end my own life. Nor was I following my nutrition protocol, which is one of the targets I follow and hit every day, not every single day. 

But I know when I miss it, at least I know I set a target. And I know when I hit it, and when I didnt.


Mark Divine 26:00



Brian Johnson 26:01

I meditate for at least 11 minutes, I do a movement sequence, one sun salutation, 10 Pull-ups, 100 burpees, 1000 meters of rowing, and 10,000 steps every day. I can count on two hands in the last decade how many days I haven’t done that. So anyway, we get clarity on who we are at our best. And then every morning, we spend 60-90 seconds recommitting to being that version of ourselves. So why the app works is it forces you to slow down, get clarity on who you are at your best, concretize it, and then very importantly, recommit in the morning. So my day begins again, 60-90 seconds, it takes longer than that to set it up, of course. But then what you’re doing is you go from New Year’s resolutions, I’m fired up, I walked on fire, I walked on fire with Tony. And then I came back in the day three, five later, I felt worse than when I went because no one told me that I’m going to come down, and no one told me that that state experience can only be maintained through discipline, and consistency of practice. 

So we say make a new day’s resolution, get clear on who you are. Commit to being that best version of yourself, then you have your intention focused on what matters most. You’re programming your reticular activating system the same way as you know, you buy a car and all of a sudden you see it everywhere. Well, you need to know who you are at your best. I send my wife a love note every morning I send her a text note it might be I love you babes, so happy with the life we created, 10 seconds. But I do that every day. I give my kids a hug every day little things. But these little things matter. So anyway, that’s the basic idea with the app, I think our intention is created, our attention follows. We do the little things more consistently. And voila. Oh my goodness, we feel a heck of a lot better. But it’s not complicated. Know who you are at your best. Do those things. Don’t give up your gains do them consistently, especially we don’t feel like it. And significant, fundamental, permanent changes can be installed. 


Mark Divine 27:56

Hooyah. So I want to get to Arete which, by the way, holy schmoly. And you said volume one, right? You really intended to do a second volume of this sucker. This is awesome. 


Brian Johnson 28:08

I want to do five.


Mark Divine 28:09

Five volumes, really, that’s incredible. 


Brian Johnson 28:12

451 ideas. Your activation energy point.


Mark Divine 28:15

That’s awesome. 


Brian Johnson 28:15

Fire is ignited at 451 you enter a forge a 2200 degrees. So five of those volumes is 2200 degrees. If I’m alive over the next 30 years, I hope to share some more wisdom.


Mark Divine  28:29  

That’s awesome. Yeah. So I want to get to that. But I did want to hear the the hero’s journey from Optimized to Heroics. I remember getting a text from you or hearing from you, and it’s all fired up, and I think it was after the 2020 election. Right? Tell me the story. 


Brian Johnson 28:44

You know, I’m building Optimize. Optimize has the philosopher’s notes, a bunch of classes. We’ve got a coach certification program, we’re doing all those things, but I’m basically in bubble wrap. I’m a hermit, I’m reading I’m writing I’m thinking. You know, I do the exact same thing every day. And I love it. And it’s all good. But my background is in social technology. So I built and sold two social platforms before Facebook. I built a platform the John Mackey of Whole Foods invested in nearly bought, it was MySpace for people who want to make a difference in the world. That was the proxy back in the day. I sold it to a publicly traded company. It had 250,000 people on it before Facebook, and it died a sad death as many startups do. But I basically waited, you know, 15-16-17 years for someone to create an answer to Facebook, or an alternative to Facebook. The documentary, The Social Dilemma have we talked about that? 


Mark Divine 29:34



Brian Johnson 29:35



Mark Divine 29:36

It’s great a great show.


Brian Johnson 29:36

Yeah, it’s a great great documentary, Tristan Harris, the unintended catastrophic consequences of social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, that are built on hacking your attention. So things happen, things go sideways, you know, that lead to things like higher levels of anxiety, depression that have been correlated to self-harm, particularly among you know, young girls and women and suicide rates are highly correlated to the rise of social media. 

So that documentary documents the issue. Now I waited for someone to create an alternative to Facebook. And on election night 2020 politics genuinely aside, we’ve served people at the highest levels on both parties. But it was one of those epiphinal moments for me. Of, all right, I guess I’ve waited long enough, you know, in the political polarization data allowed it.


Mark Divine 30:22

Yeah, if not you who, right it’s not happening?


Brian Johnson 30:25

And if not, you know, when? it in that moment…


Mark Divine 30:27

And ifnot now, when?


Brian Johnson 30:27

It was done, all my ambivalence was gone. The Hermitage is burned, I’m coming out, I’m going to do my best to create an answer to the social dilemma, a social training platform that leverages the absolute best, world class, social and persuasive technology, to help people be their absolute best so we can change the world together. So that was the epiphanal moment that you heard from me right after. And then I found out that the crowdfunding regulations for equity fundraising, we’re changing from a million to five, two days after that. 

Andit was another epiphany moment, I didn’t think we’d be the first to do it. I knew we’d be the first company, we’d make history as the first company to do that. Anyway, warm and fuzzy. Six weeks later, we filed with the SCC sent out an email in 24 hours, we had support for $5 million of investment.


Mark Divine 31:16



Brian Johnson 31:16

In 100 hours, we had $10 million of investment expressed interest, we wound up making history. First company raise 5 million we raised 10 million. We’ve partnered with a company that built Slack, Tinder, Uber Eats Elon Musk’s new neural link. That’s the vision, to integrate the ancient wisdom and modern science, the theory and the practice tools, and the community. Because the reality is the fastest way to change your life is to join a community like this. Me and you right now we’re, I’m better being with you. You know, you’re in the SEALs, you’re a better human being you’re operating at a higher level. We want to create a social platform, where we bring the hero in, a hero gets a guide me, you, others who are blessed to be in that position, and they get buddies, because anyone watching this or listening to this, has more in common with the other people watching and listening to this than most people in their lives. But where do you connect? Yeah, yeah, you can go to an Unbeatable event, you can do this and that. 

But we want to create an alternative to Facebook where we have all those technology tools without the viciousness without the toxicity. And we’re really, really committed to and excited about that. That’s Heroic. We’re a public benefit corporation committed to changing the world via the social and training technology. And really, it’s just foundational. You know, we’ve got a good foundation now, you know how hard we’ve worked and everything takes and costs more than you think it will. Perfect, Hooyah. 


Mark Divine 32:40

Always, yeah.


Brian Johnson 32:40

Let’s go. 


Mark Divine 32:41

Hooyah, it’s always gonna take 3 times as long as 10 times as hard. You’ve got the practice app, what’s the status on your social platform? And are they going to be one eventually Are they…


Brian Johnson 32:52

One, they’re one, the navigation on the app is today;theory, practice mastery, and then together. So that together as the social platform, we’re in private beta right now. So basically, working out the kinks so that I’m the prototypical guide, and Michael, our head coach, and my wife, Alexandra, but the vision is unique, and we’ve got 10,000 coaches, you’ve got all of your coaches, we’ve got all these local guides. And then we have these luminaries like; You, like Cal Newport, and all the others that we admire Tal Ben-Shahar, Sonja Lyubomirsky. And our vision is to become the platform that people like us both the heroes and the guides. And all of us are both heroes and guides in different roles. We can come together, buddy up, and what do we change our lives and in the process, change the world together. We’ve got some aggressive goals between here in 2025, and then 2030, in route to 2051. But that’s the basic frame. And so the social is private beta right now, rolling that out more aggressively end of this year and 2024 is time to start taking those next steps more powerfully. 


Mark Divine 33:55

Sweet, I can’t wait to see that. Good luck with that. It’s gonna crush it. You know, this tome that you are about to unleash on the world, Arete. When you first started it, you were calling it Be Heroic, I think.


Brian Johnson 34:09

Dude, I have so many names. I don’t know about you. There were…


Mark Divine 34:11

I know, so, tell us the story of the book, and the seven kind of objectives to activate your hero potential. And I think that this but these are on the back right.


Brian Johnson 34:21

They are the four cardinal virtues, followed by the four virtues.


Mark Divine 34:25

Wisdom, discipline, love, courage, gratitude, hope, curiosity and zest. 


Brian Johnson 34:27

Yeah, so those are the virtues that if you ask every ancient wisdom tradition, how to live they to answer wisdom, self mastery, discipline, temperance, call whatever you want. They use the word justice, you know, and stoicism and ancient Greek philosophy, but the real word word is love. I mean, if you really read Epictetus, and Musonius Rufus, and Marcus Aurelius. These guys justice is love. You care in which is called what it is, and then courage, of course, those are the four cardinal virtues. And then science says hope, gratitude, curiosity, love again, and zest or vitality are the virtues most highly correlated with your flourishing. 

But the book is 451 of the most powerful ideas that I’ve studied over the last now 15-20 years. And I had to decide what the book was called, what format it would go into. And I was actually like 70%, done with a normal 200 to 300 page kind of fluffy book, you know, that just had longer forms, doctors, and here you go, et cetera. And I got to a point where I realized, that’s not the book I want to write. My style was really pithy, more like Steven Pressfield’s, War of Art, you know, really tight micro chapters. And I asked the team, hey, what’s the idea that I’ve taught you? That’s most changed your life? The answer, you know, 3-5-10, Michael had 100 different ideas, but they were all different. The ideas that changed this person’s life were different. There’s very little crossover. 

So I realized I wanted to do something different. And then the chapter in which I describe it is actually based on Admiral Mcravens, wisdom from buds. So you know, that’s, of course, but there’s a chapter in his newest book, called When in doubt, Overload. So the way that I share it is all right, Navy SEALs go through basic underwater demolition, right? This is what they’re doing, when they’re trained on that. And when they’re taught how to figure out how much explosives to use on an underwater obstacle. They’re told when in doubt, overload don’t come up short. Right? 


Mark Divine 36:30



Brian Johnson 36:30

Then, I tell the story about D Day and the invasion and Eisenhower and the fact that the earliest Navy SEALs were the ones that cleared the obstacles that led to the D Day invasion, Wow, we got a lot of Navy SEALs to thank and of course, all the military that protects our freedoms, etc. And then I said, Look, I was in doubt, what kind of books should I create, and I channeled Mcraven. And you and your crew and your team and said, Aren’t, I’m in doubt, I’m going to overload I’m going to go all in, I’m going to do my best to create something that will help people activate their heroic potential. Now I chose 451. Because I like playing with numbers.

And 451 degrees is what it takes to start a fire. So I knew I wanted 451 of the absolute best ideas I know, any one of which may help someone transform their lives.

 And that’s how their book became 1000 page. You know, it’s kind of weight to it yet, I hope. And I’ve been told that it’s really readable. You can open it anywhere, anywhere your pages, get some wisdom, etcetera. 


Mark Divine 37:29

That’s awesome. But there is like an overarching structure. There’s like seven objectives. So let’s talk about those. 


Brian Johnson 37:36

Yep, so seven objectives. So we’ve touched on some but objective number one is you got to know the ultimate game. We’ve been seduced to play the wrong game. This is not a new challenge. The choice of Hercules is what Socrates and the Stoics would talk about 2,500-2,000 years ago. Hercules young man, he’s out in a walk trying to figure out his life, two goddesses approach him. One’s kind of overly made up and preening and rushes in front of the other. You can almost imagine her snapping a selfie and putting it up on Instagram, right? She’s just all whatever. She says, Hercules. My name is happiness. She’s lying. Her name is vice. Follow me, 


Mark Divine 38:13



Brian Johnson 38:13

I’ll give you a good life. You won’t have to do anything. Second goddess waits patiently she steps up. She’s got this austere. She’s beautiful, but she’s got this austere stern presence. And she says to Hercules, I’m not promising you anything that she’s promising you. Your life’s gonna be difficult if you follow me, but she you’ll live a life of service that’s worthy of the admiration of the gods and you reflecting on it with pride at the end of your life. Her name was Arete. She was the goddess of virtue. Hercules, of course chose wisely. 

That’s objective one, you got to know the ultimate game. It’s to be your best self in service to something bigger than yourself. And the way you win that game, is you live with Arete. You show up with virtue with excellence, you close the gap between who you’re capable of being and who you’re actually being. And the way I say it is if at any given moment, you could be this and you are this and there’s a gap. It’s in that gap in which regret, anxiety, disillusionment exists. The moment you close the gap, you live with Arete, you experience a deep sense of what the ancient Greeks and Stoics would call eudaimonia. Which was the summum bonum, the greatest good of life, according to the ancients, you have a good soul. That’s objective one, knowing the ultimate game. You know, I got 70 micro chapters in the book, talking about how everyone says that. It’s not just Aristotle and the Stoics. It’s Abraham Maslow, it’s it’s Rumi, the ultimate Jihad wasn’t against external oppressors. The ultimate Jihad was the battle within your own mind. The Bhagavad Gita is set on a battlefield metaphorically representing the battle within each of us as you know. Anyway, that’s objective one, know the ultimate game. David Brooks is second mountain, same thing, first mountain second mountain. Then objective two is you got to forge anti-fragile confidence. Rule number one of the game is it’s supposed to be hard.

If your story that it should be easy. And the fact that we’ve been seduced to play the wrong game, and then we’ve been told it should be easy. And if you suffer if you struggle, something’s wrong with you. That’s insane. All great hero’s journeys have challenges. You use them to your advantage. You do that by forging what I call anti fragile confidence. To be anti fragile is to be the opposite of fragile. It’s a Nassim Taleb word, what would happen if instead of breaking fragily when you get hit, you got stronger? You’d be anti fragile. How do you build that level of confidence in yourself? Well, confidence means intense trust, the only way to build trust in any relationship is to do what you say you will do. 

And if you aren’t doing the things you say you will do, you shouldn’t trust yourself, you shouldn’t have confidence. But stated positive when you do never perfectly, but more and more consistently. And when you get hit, you double down in your protocol, you become invincible, because the things that used to break you literally make you stronger. It’s my favorite concept, in general, and in the book, and in our program. It’s life-changing. Even getting 3 or 5%. better at that. I’ll pause. Those are the first two and then we got 3-4-5-6-7 I can quickly blow through. 


Mark Divine 41:09

Yeah, there’s so much there. And I love that. You’re playing the right game. I think that’s key because we’re just so distracted. And the sirens are all over the place. And like you said, especially in social media, you know, network news, and it’s all negative. Of course, there’s a lot of shiny, attractive things. But those are the the false idols that Jesus talked about. And so, know, you know, I love that know that you’re playing the right game. 

The right game is mastery. Control over their emotions. And I’m working with trauma and shadows and energy and developing the feeding the courage with developing the positive attributes and letting more lifeforce flow through us and doing that in service. That’s the game. That’s the game. So I love that. And that’s the powerful starting point. But then as you step out in that ultimate hero’s journey, right, it’s gonna be hard, right? You’re gonna have to have to embrace the suck. Anti fragile. I mean, that’s a lot, you know, a lot of the entry point from my work is, let’s get tough, mentally tough, physically tough, emotionally tough, spiritually tough. How do we do that? You know, through practices, tools and mentors and guides, like you said, and through challenges. That’s the crucible. So much great stuff there, Brian, I don’t want to have you give the whole book away. But tell me like…


Brian Johnson 42:20

It’s 1000 pages dude, were good. 


Mark Divine 42:22

It’s 1000 pages, I know we’re good, ha.


Brian Johnson 42:23

I wouldn’t be asking people to buy the book. If I thought I was gonna give it all away in a 40-minute chat here, let’s go wherever you want to go, Im happy to go. 


Mark Divine 42:31

Just summarize the other five principles, and then put a bow on it. And because we got to wrap up here soon.


Brian Johnson 42:37

Objective three is the big three: Energy, Work, and Love. Objective four is make today a masterpiece. Figure out what your day looks like without your best do that. Objective five is master yourself. I’m a huge student of the art and science of behavioral change. How do you install and delete habits at will? Objective six is dominate the fundamentals. Eating moving, sleeping, breathing, focusing your mind. Objective seven is activate your superpower. The way I frame it up is who are your favorite heroes again, I know we’ve talked about it but who are your favorite heroes? 


Mark Divine 43:10

Uh, Leonidas is one, and Jesus is another.


Brian Johnson 43:14

Ah, the perfect combo. Yeah. Look at Leonidus and Jesus. In some ways you couldn’t think of two people more different. I often use Gandhi and Churchill, two of my heroes above me. 


Mark Divine 43:23



Brian Johnson 43:23

Now, those two human beings Jesus and Leonidus are incredibly different. Yet they’re exactly the same. What they both had in common is what I call soul force, a moral charisma and integrity that you could feel in their presence. So I offer that when we live in integrity with our ideals, we have a moral charisma, a soul force, is what Gandhi called it. Martin Luther King referenced, soul-force, in his I Have a Dream speech. It’s how you change the world. So the entire book is to help you activate your soul force, your moral charisma. See, you’re a force for good and people feel your integrity. Those are the seven objectives. Again, each one has its own little micro chapters to help find the way into your consciousness and practice to truly activate what you’re capable of being, not someday, but again, today.


Mark Divine 44:14

Activate your heroic potential. I love that like we have something called the Unbeatable Mind operating system, which is built upon Ken Wilber’s all quadrant all level modeling and the four quadrants. And the first and most important we call potential, right, and that’s the work done in the inner domain. And from the field of potential as you expand or 20X potential, you bring that to the world and in the realm of the performance domain, that second quadrant, and then you bring it into your relationships through the third, through deepening connections with love and then in the fourth through service. So it’s interesting that model, you can overlay it upon your seven objectives and they would map to those four quadrants for sure. 


Brian Johnson 44:51



Mark Divine 44:51

Terrific. Great. I love it. Congratulations. You know, I know. And when people say that to me, I’m like, you know, I don’t need to be congratulated. It’s just what we do, but this is a lot of work, for sure. I know how much work it takes to put a book together. So good on you, I’ll say, that was a Navy SEAL-worthy effort. And i’s going to be a huge success. I often ask people like what’s next, but I know what’s next for you. What’s next for you is today and then tomorrow and then the next day. One day One lifetime.


Brian Johnson 45:18

Earn your Trident, is literally a target in my app.


Mark Divine 45:20



Brian Johnson 45:21

Which I earn by hopping in a cold plunge for two minutes.


Mark Divine 45:23



Brian Johnson 45:23

For 49 degrees. That’s what’s nextdude, but I appreciate it. 


Mark Divine 45:27

That’s whats next.


Brian Johnson 45:28

And I now know how hard it is to write a book. So bless you for all your books. I can’t wait for your next one. Uncommon, right? 


Mark Divine 45:35

Uncommon, yeah. It’s coming up next July.


Brian Johnson 45:37

Dude. I can’t wait. 


Mark Divine 45:38

Hooyah, you’re awesome. Thanks so much, buddy. 


Brian Johnson 45:42

Likewise, I appreciate you.


Mark Divine  45:43  

Wow, I loved talking to Brian. Totally full of energy, verve, lifeforce, and Aretei. I love it. Brian, thanks so much for joining us today on the Mark Divine Show. Super stoked to have you, and Hooyah, sir! 

Show Notes are up on Mark Divine.com. You can get the video at my YouTube channel, you can reach out to me on Twitter, or slash x at Mark Divine, or on Instagram and Facebook at real Mark Divine. If you’re not getting my newsletter, Divine Inspiration, consider going to Mark Divine.com to subscribe comes out every Tuesday morning, and it has my blog show notes from the week’s podcast, a book I’m reading with some notes, practice for the week. And some other really cool things that come across my desk that I think that you will find inspirational. So check it out. And ratings and reviews are very helpful. So if you haven’t done so please consider rating or reviewing or both wherever you listen and helps the show stay relevant. And at the top of the ranking. Shout out to my incredible team, Jason Sanderson, and Catherine Divine, and Geoff Haskell who bring guests you like Brian every week, and help produce this newsletter Divine Inspiration. Thanks so much for being the oddity in your own life and being the change you want to see in the world. If we can help you at Unbeatable Mind or SEALFIT, please allow us to go to unbeatable mind.com/challenge To learn more about our 30-day, simple challenge. It’s only 39 bucks, and it’s transformative or go to SEALFIT.com to learn about our crucibles and all the cool events we have coming up in 2024. Until next time, this is your host, Mark Divine, Hooyah!


Transcribed by Catherine and https://otter.ai



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