Brian Johnson on Achieving Arete

And how his book and anti-fragile confidence can change you life

Best-selling author Brian Johnson describes himself as 50 percent philosopher,  50 percent CEO and 101 percent committed to helping create a world in which 51 percent of humanity is flourishing by the year 2051. He even has a tattoo of the goal, as well as a tattoo of the word Arete. He says, “Arete is the one-word answer the stoics would give you on how to live a good life.” It’s also the title of his book ARETE: Activate Your Heroic Potential, which became a New York Times bestseller its first week out. Brian, who lives in Texas Hill Country, is also the founder of the self-development platform Heroic, where you can find him giving daily doses of wisdom via his popular YouTube channel and the platform's app. We caught up with him for a snapshot discussion on his book and life, but for a deeper dive, we recommend you get the book, available everywhere books are sold, and check out Heroic.

On the cover of the book, Phil Stutz says ‘This book will change your life.” How will it do that?

I think you achieve Arete by expressing the best version of yourself moment, to moment to moment. I think this book will change your life by helping you move from theory, to practice to mastery. I’ve spent half of the last 25 years building and selling to businesses and the other half reading and writing and thinking. The book distills all the best ideas I’ve learned, integrating ancient wisdom and modern science.

What are some habits you do daily to be optimal?

I’m a very disciplined guy. What I’m trying to do is forge anti-fragile confidence, so I do the key behaviors that keep me plugged into energy, work and love all day every day, especially when I don’t feel like it. I know that today started last night, so my number one habit is getting a good night of sleep. I’m in bed for 8-9 hours a night almost every single night.

You summarize hundreds of books in Arete, what are three of your must-read books?

The Tools by Phil Stutz, my beloved spiritual father and coach. Phil was featured in the Netflix documentary by Jonah Hill called “Stutz.” My second is Deep Work by my friend Cal Newport in which he helps us understand that the ability to focus your attention on what’s important now in your work is a 21st century superpower and Atomic Habits by James Clear which is arguably the best book on behavioral change ever written, helping you install and delete habits.

You talk a lot about your sessions with Phil Stutz (over 400!) and he wrote the forward to Arete, what would you tell people who are apprehensive about seeking therapy?

Phil is a psychiatrist and a therapist but I view my relationship with him as my coach. His therapy is coaching which is the whole point of Stutz, he’s revolutionized the psychological model to make it incredibly practical. I think we need to destigmatize mental health challenges in general and realize the best among us have the most coaches and get the most support. About 80 percent of us are struggling with anxiety or depression or burnout, so you’re not alone.

This book says Volume 1, will there be a Volume 2?

And a three and a four and a five if I live long enough. This one is 451 of the most potentially life-changing ideas I know to this point, but I intend to produce one every 3-5 years and five is the target. It takes 451 degrees to ignite a fire, and 2200 degrees is what takes to forge a sword. I intend to create five volumes.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I wish I could go back to my 10-year-old self who was scared of everything, or even my 20-year-old self and I wish they could see me and feel me and get excited for the future we’re creating together. I’d tell him, ‘You got this! I’d tell him to forge anti-fragile confidence, to optimize your energy, your work and your love, make today a masterpiece, master yourself, dominate your fundamentals and know your superpower.’

Find Brian on Instagram at @heroicbrian

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