#261 – Practical Life Philosophy with Brian Johnson


Brian Johnson is the Philosopher & CEO of en*theos Enterprises where he has fun integrating his passion for practical philosophy with his passion for creating cool businesses that inspire and empower people to live their most authentically awesome lives.

A few years ago Brian decided to sell the business he was running and give himself a Ph.D. in Optimal Living. He couldn’t find a program that integrated everything he wanted to study—from old school philosophy, positive psychology and spirituality to nutrition, health & fitness, creativity, business and modern self-development. So, he decided to create his own doctoral program.

He created PhilosophersNotes where he shares “More Wisdom in Less Time” by distilling the Big Ideas from his favorite optimal living classics into fun, inspiring and super practical 6-page PDFs, 20-minute MP3s and 10-minute PNTV episodes. His dissertation came in the form of a little book called A Philosopher’s Notes where he distilled his favorite 100 Big Ideas on optimal living.

In his past lives, Brian built and sold the social networking sites eteamz and Zaadz. He’s a proud law school dropout and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UCLA where he studied Psychology and Business. He enjoys spooning with his Goddess when he’s not reading, hiking, creating or otherwise enjoying himself.

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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. Posted May 7, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I love these podcasts. Mostly because I get to see the wide range of flakiness that persists in the field of psychology.

    An absolute must read for everyone interested in Positive Psychology is Barbara Ehrenreich’s book:

    “Bright-Sided – How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America”

    Dr. Dave – have you read it? I listened to the audio version of the book and she has done a superb job of tracing the roots and function of positive thinking and yes, that new hope “Positive Psychology”.

    It would be interesting to hear her interviewed. It would probably be Dr. Dave’s most challenging interview.

  2. Posted May 7, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi John,

    Yes, I have read “Bright Sided” by Barbara Ehrenreich. In fact, I blogged about it. Check out these two blog posts in Psychology Today: http://tinyurl.com/294dlkg
    and also http://tinyurl.com/26rpj86
    First of all keep in mind that Ehrenreich is a journalist and not a trained psychologist. What she is railing most against is a kind of mindless pollyanish attitude she encountered when she came down with cancer. She is critical of something she perceives as a cultural characterological flaw among Americans. She really only devotes a single chapter to attacking Positive Psychology and she qualifies that attack somewhat. Unfortunately that chapter is mostly an ad hominem screed attack on Martin Seligman. You shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, though. There are scores of independent, well-trained scientifically oriented psychologists (and scientists from other disciplines) contributing to the burgeoning literature on happiness, thriving, joy, etc.

    I would not be intimidated to interview Eherenreich and I’m sure we’d find many points of agreement. For the moment, though, I’ve moved on to other topics.

    Thanks for the suggestion. It’s a good one and I may get around to her at some point.

  3. john danzer
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    As usual you are on top of your field. I watched some TED lectures with Seligman and it is unfortunate that he has been such a prominent figure and spokesman for “Positive Psychology”. His dog torture is indeed disturbing.

    I am sorry for implying that you would not be up to the task of interviewing Eherenreich or anyone for that matter. But, I love a good debate and like the excitement of people that have a clear position either for against a particular subject.

    I have some problems with Ehrenreich’s use of words. And it seems that most of the problems in psychology is that the words we are left to use are ancient and carry a lot of religious connotations.

    For instance I think Ehrenreich (as well as Seligman) make a serious mistake by conflating the terms “positive ” and “optimistic”. Thinking is based on the management of “no” so it is inherently negative. You don’t need to think if there isn’t a potential for something going wrong. However, “optimism” is more connected with the orientational -“searching” mode. When things aren’t working you don’t just stop but you explore the world for a solution.
    I tend to believe that “optimism” is not learned but is an inherited trait that varies along a continuous spectrum. If you’re not an optimist in the first place you are going to choose stability over change and risk.

    I see nothing wrong with pumping up sales people with pep talks but I believe it is insensitive to tell people who have suffered job loss, or economic or health set backs that their problem is they aren’t “positive” enough.

    To tie this in with the Brian Johnson interview – I was disappointed with the three book condensations he offered as
    an enticement to subscribe to his program. They were really light weight and sprinkled with superlatives that come off as warmed over Tony Robbins. One of the books sounded like the philosophy of “The Secret”.

  4. john danzer
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Read your blog on PT. Excellent sum-up . And as usual very fair. Wish I would have read it first and saved myself the need to post.

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