Master Big Ideas with Heroic (Optimize.Me)

Are you time-starved? You have too many things to do coupled with too many distractions. This can be a hindrance to personal development. If you feel overwhelmed, you’ll appreciate Optimize. It’s a free service that teaches the key concepts from great non-fiction books on topics ranging from Productivity to Conquering Depression. Best of all, the lessons are easy to fit into your schedule.

When I first started using the service it was mainly “Philosopher Notes” and contained book summaries and a YouTube channel. It also had a paid component that unlocked more. The site rebranded to Optimize. Me. All of the photos are taken from that service. Recently, the site has rebranded again to Heroic.US. The Optimize content is still there, but a sub-section. However, I’ve not re-evaluated the service. I do have a lot of respect for Brian’s work.

Building Your Foundation

Since my first visit years ago, a lot has changed including the new website and domain at OPTIMIZE.ME The site has enhanced areas such as classes (101s), micro-lessons(+1s), and added coaching. It’s an ever-evolving self-help hub.

With the exception of an extensive multi-month coaching program, all the content is free. Yes, even the items I paid to see and hear years ago. In addition, the number of categories has expanded. It’s developed into a robust personal development library.

The service consists of a number of building blocks. They remind me how you can build something magnificent with Legos by adding one part at a time. You can be very disciplined and create something from a plan or choose to go “free form”. You’re the architect.

When you log in to the Dashboard, you have a top link to these assets, but you’re greeted with a direct question – “What do you want to Optimize?” and a list of categories. You might think of these as a master class. This is for folks who wish to do a deep dive into a subject.

main page of

At the time of this writing, there are 35 categories that I’ve alphabetized below. I’ve also indicated how many assets are in each group. There are overlaps as you might have a note classified in multiple categories. The nice thing about the overlap is that when you get ready to learn something else, you already have some groundwork done.

  • Ancient Wisdom (139)
  • Breathing (39)
  • Buddhism (68)
  • Business (104)
  • Conquer Anxiety (42)
  • Conquer Cancer (43)
  • Conquer Depression (42)
  • Conquer Digital Addiction (41)
  • Conquer Perfectionism (44)
  • Conquer Procrastination (54)
  • Creativity (101)
  • Energy (43)
  • Fitness (41)
  • Focus (113)
  • Goal Setting (60)
  • Habits (43)
  • Leadership (47)
  • Learning (65)
  • Meditation (77)
  • Mental Toughness (63)
  • Nutrition (44)
  • Parenting (44)
  • Peak Performance (56)
  • Positive Psychology (123)
  • Productivity (45)
  • Prosperity (58)
  • Public Speaking (45)
  • Purpose (60)
  • Relationships (57)
  • Self-Image (42)
  • Sleep (51)
  • Sports (86)
  • Stoicism (61)
  • Weight Loss (42)
  • Willpower (49)

Finding a Category

Each category contains a combination of 101 Classes, PhilosophersNotes and +1s, which are micro-classes. For example, if I click Learning 101, I can see there are 65 optimization assets. This category starts off with the 101 Class, a series of 18 PhilosphersNotes and 46 micro classes. Using the filter at the top, I can select which type of asset I want to review. In addition, I can filter out items I’ve completed.

This filter option is a nice feature because I can select the type of asset that matches my time and energy level. If I only have 10 minutes, I’ll probably opt for a +1 micro-class. I can quickly see the video and read the transcript if I want. If I have a longer period, I’ll probably knock out a PhilosophersNote.

[A] Blue ring indicator showing how much I’ve completed. (8 of 65 complete)

[B] A filter that allows me to choose between classes, PN, or, +1 micro-lessons.

[C] Checkbox to hide items marked completed.

List of items in the Learning 101 category.

Many of the categories include a 15-20 minute video introduction by Brian. During this time he outlines the topic, key ideas, and talks about many of the books. In addition, he adds personal notes about items that resonated with him. If you plan on doing a deep dive on a category but are not sure where to start, these overview videos are very helpful.

Example of a category overview video.
Overview video of Willpower category

By focusing on a category, I can work my way through the list at my own pace. I’m not restricted in how I want to learn. You can pick and choose which items you wish to study and when. This is more a free-form study as you don’t have any reminders, class assignments, or completion certificates. If you want a more formal approach, Optimize does offer a paid coaching program.

Also, you’re not locked into a category. I’ll often pop over to the site search to see if there are resources available on some topic I’m pursuing. The search feature is very good, but it will include items from the paid coaching plan. Those are in the Luminary Sessions and Live Coaching. The benefit to this is it also gives you an idea of what is included in the coaching program.

Example of search results for "writing".
Search results showing additional coaching material

101 Classes

A major component and starting point for a category is the 101 Class. However, not all categories have them. And some categories have more than 1. This is where Brian or the guest lecturer elaborates on a number of big ideas that have been pulled in from PhilospersNotes and +1.

In the case of the Learning 101 Class, the video was about one hour. While there isn’t a class transcript or closed captioning, there are chapter marks for the big ideas with timestamps.

Apart from the video, there are supporting materials in the sidebar. You can also download the collection as a zip file. These include:

  • PDF workbook with exercises
  • Poster of the topic’s 10 big ideas
  • Meditation (MP3)
  • MP3 file from class
  • Brian’s original handwritten notes
  • Affirmation (MP3)

What Brian excels at is distilling and linking the learnings from all the books he’s read. He weaves concepts together and introduces you to the 10 big ideas and where they originated. These ideas set the expectations for the class.

Big Ideas mind map from Learning 101.
Big Ideas from Learning 101 Class

PhilosophersNotes (PN)

These notes are the Legos of the 101 classes. Each note is a book abstract around 6 pages in length. The note starts with a summary of the book so you can determine if you want to pursue it. Underneath the title is an author link that provides a bio, link to the author’s website, and additional resources featuring the author including quotes. This is a nice feature if you like the work of specific people.

Philosophers Note into for "The Art of Learning".
PhilosophersNote intro

In a similar fashion to the 101 Lesson, you’re also presented with the book’s Big ideas. Like the class, you also have a PNTV video presentation by Brian Johnson. These tend to be much shorter than a 101 lesson, but nicely highlight key points from the book. In some cases, he’s outlining points on a blackboard.

There is also a hybrid report that combines author passages in yellow highlighting with Brian’s take. You can either read the online version or download the PDF.

PDF notes for The Art of Learning.
Example of PDF version of Philosophers Notes

+1s (Micro Lessons)

If the book notes are the Legos. the +1s are their “studs”. And yes, that’s the technical name for the bumps on Lego pieces that help lock items together. These are short video segments where Brian talks about one pillar concept for several minutes.

+1 Micro-lesson for multitaking.
Example of +1 Micro-lesson

Underneath each video, you have access to the transcript. And the sidebar has access to a workbook, meditation, and MP3 file. Moreover, you can see which book inspired the concept.

The Action Bar

The site does a phenomenal job of linking various points together. For instance, one PhilsophersNote may reference another idea and now you’re over on a completely different section. Sometimes, learning isn’t linear. This is when I like to take advantage of the “Action Bar”. I don’t know if this is the actual name. I found it referenced that way in the site’s CSS.

Most of the pages show this bar. Sometimes it’s directly under the asset’s description. Other times, it’s off to the side.

Red outline around Action Bar.
Action Bar with Complete checked

I tend to use Fav for items I like a lot. I use the Save to List to queue up items I know I want to learn soon.

Smartphone Apps

The service does have applications for both Android and iOS from their respective stores. One advantage is that you can sync information offline.

While the programs seem similar in major functionality, I’ve noticed there are subtle differences. For example, on my Android device, I have a menu called “More Goodness” that links to the podcast. On the iPad, there is a menu called “Bonus Goodness“. In addition to the podcast link, it also has links to social networks. And, there is a 1000 second timer. Hint: Look at the Movement 101 class.

The other difference I see is the Android version has a menu option for Featured Content.

Apply Your Learning Method

Regardless of your learning style or time, Optimize.Me makes it easy to learn new skills. While it has some similarities to Blinkist (See Blinkist review), it offers much more. The service nicely links together learnings and provides multiple modalities.

If you do plan structured learning, I might suggest marking the next 10 items you want with the Action Bar. Then set a recurring task to check that topic on an assigned interval.

And if you’re one of these people who starts your day on your smartphone, you can then use the Saved Items list and start reading the next item. It’s a great way to get “more wisdom in less time”.



Cost: Free to $99/Year