Brian Johnson, author of Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential


By Brian Johnson, author of Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential

I’ve dedicated my life to helping create a world in which 51% of humanity is flourishing by the year 2051. As I look at the world today, I’m often humbled by just how much work we have to do to create that world.  But I know one thing for certain…

The only way we can have a shot at fulfilling that mission is if we protect the freedoms on which our flourishing is so dependent. And that is one of the reasons why I am so committed to doing everything in my power to serve our armed forces and their families.

I’m honored that our Heroic app has been introduced to the cadets, staff, and faculty at the United States Military Academy at West Point and that we have the opportunity to serve everyone from ROTC cadets to special forces operators and members of the armed services around the world.

Every time I think of that, I pause and appreciate the extraordinary commitment of military servicemen and women AND their families who have previously and are currently protecting the freedoms that we enjoy today. 

As I was writing my book, Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential, I had wisdom from one of my heroes in mind: Admiral William H. McRaven. 

As a Four-Star Admiral, Admiral McRaven’s final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. You may have seen his commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin called “Make Your Bed.” He’s written a number of great books, and in his most recent book on leadership, The Wisdom from the Bullfrog, Admiral McRaven shares eighteen military aphorisms that have guided his life. One of them is called “When in Doubt, Overload.” 

Let’s set some context and then we’ll connect the wisdom from that book to the approach I took to my own book, Areté, as an example for how that wisdom can apply to all of our lives. 

As you may know, when aspiring U.S. Navy SEALs want to see if they have what it takes to join one of the most elite military forces in history, they have to go through Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. Of course, that training is an extraordinarily challenging mental and physical trial. Only twenty percent of those who start finish. 

A little more context… 

On June 6, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower led the invasion of Normandy that turned the tide of World War II.

According to the Eisenhower Library: “The invasion force included 7,000 ships and landing craft manned by over 195,000 naval personnel from eight allied countries. Almost 133,000 troops from the United States, the British Commonwealth, and their allies landed on D-Day.”


Before the troops could get to their three thousand landing crafts on the five beaches of Normandy, do you know who showed up in the darkness of the previous nights to clear the way? Some of the very first U.S. Navy SEALs. 

They were underwater demolition experts who found and destroyed the underwater barriers that had been set up to prevent that landing. All of which leads us to Admiral McRaven’s sixteenth leadership principle from his great book and one more question…

Do you know what U.S. Navy SEALs are taught as they calculate how much explosives they need to use to blow up the underwater obstacles they’re tasked with destroying?

As McRaven puts it: Whenever they were in doubt about the amount of explosives to use, they were told to “Always overload. Always put more energy, more focus, more power into the situation than seemed necessary. It was the only way to guarantee success in the face of uncertainty and doubt.”

When I wrote my book, that’s the wisdom I had in mind when I chose to write a 1,000+ page book with 451 potentially life-changing ideas. 

I wanted readers to FEEL the explosive power of those ideas as tools to eliminate everything that may be in the way of us actualizing our potential so we can win the ultimate war between vice and virtue we are ALL waging all day every day. 

And…that’s the same way we should approach our lives.

Always putting more energy, focus, and power into situations than may seem necessary, and by doing so, putting ourselves in the position to guarantee success even in the face of pain and uncertainty.

Remember: When in doubt, we overload.  It’s time to activate our Heroic potential. 


Brian Johnson is the Founder & CEO of Heroic Public Benefit Corporation. He’s 50% philosopher + 50% CEO and 101% committed to helping create a world in which 51% of humanity is flourishing by the year 2051. As a founder/CEO he’s raised $25M+, made crowdfunding history, and built and sold two social platforms. As a philosopher/teacher, he’s helped millions of people from around the world, trained 10,000+ Heroic Coaches from 100+ countries and created a protocol that science says changes lives. He lives outside Austin, Texas, with his wife, Alexandra, and their two kids, Emerson and Eleanor.

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