Do You Fear Your Ambition? – Brian Johnson: Building Heroic Part 4

Are your goals too ambitious or are you holding yourself back?

What is the opposite of imposter syndrome?

And is there anyone in your life who challenges you to get out of your way?

Optimize and Heroic founder, Brian Johnson returns for part 4 in our series that explores his growth process for launching a company aimed at changing the world. In today’s conversation we talk about ambition, assessing risk, and ensuring that we’re operating from our inner wisdom instead of our inner Johnny Knoxville (no offense Johnny).

Brian has recently unlocked his flagship program Optimize. This incredible collection of book summaries, courses, and masterclasses is now completely free. It’s an incredible value. You can learn more by visiting

In this episode:

  • The fear of going big
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Working with Phil Stutz on ambition
  • Tapping into infinite possibility
  • The key to confidence


  • How do you build trust within yourself?
  • Who within you is setting your goals?
  • What are you called to do?
  • Assessing risk
  • Are your risks dumb or courageous?


  • Are you willing to eat “death cookies”?
  • Do you only listen to people who agree with you?
  • Who challenges you to think big?
  • Is your ego an enemy or an ally?
  • What do you do to access your most confident self?

Click here to learn more about Brian Johnson’s project Optimize.

About Brian Johnson

After selling my first business (eteamz) over 15 years ago (at 26), I had enough money to take a little time off to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I became a lover of wisdom—a philosopher. My quest? I was obsessed about understanding what makes great people great. What is it about that .0001% of people in the world who truly optimize their lives, actualize their potential and give their greatest gifts in greatest service to the world? (And… enjoy the process!)

I read a ton and traveled a bit, studying Socrates in Athens, Aurelius in the Danube of Hungary, Jesus in Jerusalem, and Rumi in Konya, Turkey. I started sharing what I was learning via a daily newsletter that quickly went from a couple hundred friends to thousands of people.

After several years of reading, writing, and thinking, I needed to make some money again but didn’t feel like going the typical self-help route so I created my second business (Zaadz). After selling that a few years later, I had enough money to take a little more time off. I looked into a range of Ph.D. programs but couldn’t find one that integrated everything I wanted to study, so I playfully (emphasis on playfully) decided to give myself my own Ph.D. in Optimal Living—integrating ancient wisdom, modern science and practical tools across a range of domains (from nutrition and psychology to business and peak performance) to Optimize and actualize.

As part of my made-up program’s Master’s project, I distilled 100 of the best books on optimal living into 6-page PDF summaries (and 20-min MP3s). I called these “PhilosophersNotes” and created a profitable business sharing the wisdom I was learning as a demonstration that we can get paid to do what we love in service to the world. My “dissertation” was a simple book called A Philosopher’s Notes and a class I taught called “Optimal Living 101” (which became an integrated part of the curriculum at Harvard-Westlake).

Of course, the learning’s never over so I continued studying and practicing. Over the last decade, I’ve created 600 PhilosophersNotes. I’ve also created over 50 Optimal Living 101 master classes on everything from Optimizing your Energy and Confidence to your Productivity and Purpose and over 1,000 “Optimize +1s” sharing wisdom in super-short daily bursts.

These days I continue to study, embody and teach the fundamentals of Optimizing while sharing what I’m learning with our growing community of Optimizers and Optimize Coaches from around the world.

When I’m not doing that, you’ll probably find me hanging out with my wife Alexandra and our two kids, Emerson and Eleanor, or on the trail on our ranch outside Austin.

Click here to learn more about Brian Johnson’s project Optimize.

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