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Flow is a path that anyone can take toward accelerated learning, increased focus and higher performance.

Drugs, hot tubs and ‘flow dojos’ are part of a CEO’s work life — Financial Times

World’s highest achievers use increasingly unusual methods in their quest for ideas March 12, 2017 — by Andrew Hill For $250,000 a head, groups of chief executives can stay at an exclusive San Francisco hotel, brainstorming new ideas that a…

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Drugs, hot tubs and ‘flow dojos’ are part of a CEO’s work life — Financial Times

World’s highest achievers use increasingly unusual methods in their quest for ideas

March 12, 2017 — by Andrew Hill

For $250,000 a head, groups of chief executives can stay at an exclusive San Francisco hotel, brainstorming new ideas that a team of coders and innovators fired up on modafinil, the anti-narcolepsy drug, will turn into 3D prototypes overnight.

 

Or they could go to an event like the one I attended last week: a morning in a Swiss conference suite as guests of a business school, discussing better ways to develop leaders, where the only stimulants on offer are coffee and some gentle group bonding exercises.

 

The two events stand at opposite ends of a global quest to improve productivity and creativity. In each case, the grail of organisers is to trigger “flow”. Flow is the elusive but addictive experience of being “in the zone”, enjoying the mastery of a specific task to a degree that is so fulfilling it becomes its own reward. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied flow in athletes, artists and musicians, but the self-propelling high has always been accessible to others, mainly through sport and meditation. Now the rich and ambitious are seeking new ways of juicing up their performance.

 

I had always assumed paragliding private equity partners or bankers who extreme-skiied (chosen pastime of Carsten Kengeter, Deutsche Börse’s chief executive) were just showing off. But Jamie Wheal, who told me about the drug-stoked San Francisco coders, says high-earning thrill-seekers are also tuning up their brains.

 

In a new book, Stealing Fire, he and Steven Kotler lead a mind-blowing tour along the path from sex and drugs to R&D. They identify the sometimes frightening neurobiological, psychological, pharmacological and technological ways billionaires and others are pushing the boundaries of performance improvement.

 

Mr Wheal, talking in between heli-skiing outings (he cannot be accused of armchair analysis), says executives and entrepreneurs are “microdosing” on illicit substances and submitting to transcranial magnetic stimulation — normally used to treat depression — in search of creative highs.

 

At the more conventional end of an unconventional spectrum, it was Eric Schmidt’s visit in the early 2000s to Burning Man — the trippy Nevada desert gathering beloved of Silicon Valley — that convinced Google’s festival-going founders he was the man to provide “adult supervision” to the search company in a critical phase of growth.

 

“If Schmidt could endure the blistering heat, the dust storms, the sleepless nights, and the relentless don’t-give-a-shit-who-you-are strangeness of Burning Man, just maybe, he’d be the guy who could help them grow the dream without killing it,” Mr Wheal and Mr Kotler write.

 

Sir Richard Branson’s kite-surfing, zipwiring Necker Island paradise is another example of a place “built to trigger [a] state of effortless focus”. The entrepreneur tells the authors: “When I do [reach flow], I get an extra two hours of great work done, and the other 12 are really, really productive.”

 

Such experiences seem as far from my Swiss conference suite and bonding exercises with human resources executives as hippy communes are from the suburban commute. Yet efforts to democratise high-net-worth highs are multiplying. Mr Wheal and Mr Kotler have designed a “Flow Dojo” — a cross between a playground and a lab — that simulates and measures the effects of surfing, skiing and high-wire acts. It prompts users to recreate that flow, without the risk of wingsuiting into a mountainside. Ultimately, it may be possible to use such methods, as well as the positive psychology of mindfulness, to create team states of flow — the heightened group awareness that gives special forces on a mission a sixth sense for how to proceed.

 

The big catch is that work priorities have a habit of interrupting flow.

 

One stressed participant at the meeting I attended last week confided, after a “networking break” in which he had sat hunched over his smartphone: “We’re sacking 20 people today.” Look at the patchy take-up of even mundane office benefits, and you will find evidence of how busy lives, with their many distractions, sap willpower. I would bet that applies at least as much to workers at Google, despite the plenitude of perks available to them, as it does to staff at lower-profile organisations. It is one reason Mr Wheal offers desk drones a simple smartphone-based course. It has the more basic goal of getting people off their backsides and helping them take the first steps towards finding the ideal conditions for productive work.

 

This will never be enough for the elite, of course. Stealing Fire conjures the disturbing image of Sir Richard’s “birthing” Virgin Galactic, his space tourism project, in a Necker Island hot-tub under the stars. It is a reminder that once everyone is “in the zone”, the richest and most ambitious will simply blast off to new and riskier zones.

 

andrew.hill@ft.com

Twitter: @andrewtghill

SmartDrugsSmart: Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness with Steven Kotler

To hear, click here: Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS It’s becoming increasingly common to hear talk of “flow” — the mental state of being fully immersed and involved in whatever activity you’re performing.  But you don’t often hear flow…

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SmartDrugsSmart: Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness with Steven Kotler

It’s becoming increasingly common to hear talk of “flow” — the mental state of being fully immersed and involved in whatever activity you’re performing.  But you don’t often hear flow states mentioned in the same breath as sexual activity, chanting, psychedelics — and for that matter, controlled breathing.

New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler and expert on peak performance Jamie Wheal wrote a new book about just that. Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work is about the widespread use of altered states (achieved through many different means) to achieve enhanced performance.

A Broad Array of Altered Mental States

Flow is just one type of altered mental state that Kotler and Wheal are interested in.

Ecstasis is a Greek term meaning to stand outside oneself and to be filled with inspiration.  They use the term to describe the types of mental states where one’s identity fades into the background and you gain an outside awareness of yourself.  It can describe a range of non-ordinary mental states, from flow to psychedelic experiences.

These altered mental states can be entered through a variety of methods.  Meditation, pharmaceuticals, sex, dance, surfing, drumming, sensory deprivation tanks, neurofeedback and more can all induce ecstasis.

The Flow Genome Project

As Kotler and Wheal began to catalog all the diverse technologies and practices that reliably shift a person’s state of consciousness into a non-ordinary state, they realized that, despite the surface differences, all of these technologies were having similar effects on the brain.

That’s when they put together the Flow Genome Project, a matrix of all the neurobiological changes that underpin non-ordinary mental states.

If you’re interested in learning more about your own flow profile, they have a free quiz to help you better understand your own non-ordinary mental states.

The Benefits of Altered States

It’s all very interesting that humans (and, it turns out, most other animals) can change their mental state, but what’s the point?

Kotler and Wheal argue that altered mental states improve performance across a range of areas.  We become more creative, more courageous in ecstasis.  They point to the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries, a ritual filled with flow-triggers — prayer, meditation, dance, distance running, and psychedelics — as the inspiration that seeded many ideas in Western Culture.

In modern times, they point to professional athletes and high-performing business people as examples of people using flow to increase performance.

Ecstasis can even heal trauma.  The combination of MDMA and up to three sessions of talk therapy put soldiers’ PTSD into remission for five years.  Later studies found that five weeks of surfing or four weeks of meditation plus talk therapy had similar results. All three — MDMA, surfing, and meditation — are mental state changing technology, albeit with different difficulty and risk levels.

Taking Advantage of Ecstasis

Some flow in your life is great.  You step outside of the limited confines of the ego, enhance creativity, and potentially gain new insights.

How you go about this is up to you. Holotropic breathing, sensory deprivation tanks, meditation, exercise — they’re all great options.

On the flip side, flow states are expensive to the brain to produce.  Kotler and Wheal warn that being permanently in a flow state isn’t high-performance, it’s mania.

 

Written by Hannah Sabih
Hannah believes there’s nothing 8 hours of sleep and some kale can’t cure (yes, she’s from California). She’s an avid runner, reader, and traveler, who brings you the latest and greatest in neuroscience via our social media channels.

Science can help you reach enlightenment — but will it mess with your head?

By Stefanie Cohen February 26, 2017 A person hooked up to a machine created to activate consciousness.Handout   A Navy SEAL, broad-chested and strongly built, floats peacefully on the water, as his recent deployment to a war-torn country becomes a…

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Science can help you reach enlightenment — but will it mess with your head?

 

A Navy SEAL, broad-chested and strongly built, floats peacefully on the water, as his recent deployment to a war-torn country becomes a distant memory.

Sealed inside a pitch-black sensory deprivation tank in the Mind Gym at Navy SEALs headquarters in Norfolk, Va., electrodes attached to his head, he has reached an altered state of consciousness referred to as “ecstasis” or “stepping outside oneself.”

It’s a state achieved by many others throughout time. High-performance athletes are in ecstasis when they ski down huge mountains or surf giant waves. Monks attain it after years of meditation. Mystics feel it when they have visions. And the US government uses it to try to reset their most elite warriors after brutal battles abroad.

This state of mind is called “flow” or an “altered” or “non-ordinary state of consciousness” where “action and awareness start to merge. Our sense of self vanishes. Our sense of time as well. And all aspects of performance, both mental and physical go through the roof,” write Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, authors of “Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.”

But, it turns out finding flow, and reproducing it on command, isn’t easy. The athletes who know how to get into flow don’t know how to explain it, and scientists who could potentially map it haven’t until recently been able to find it. But, over the last decade, advances in brain science have allowed researchers to learn how it works so we mortals can recreate it.

For a long time, research into flow states was subjective — researchers had to rely on people’s self-reported experiences to understand altered states of mind. But advances in imaging technologies such as fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging) over the last decade have allowed researchers to see what’s happening under the hood during various mental states.

During normal consciousness, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is buzzing with activity and stress hormones. But in flow states, scientists now know that brain waves slow down, stress hormones decrease and feel-good, social-bonding chemicals like endorphins and serotonin flood the mind.

As a result, people “in flow” look to increase cooperation and social bonds with others, as well as learn faster and be more creative — skills that are prized and almost impossible to teach, says Kotler.

For instance, neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg took brain scans of nuns and monks deep in prayer who described feeling a oneness or unity with the world when they prayed — and there’s a neurological reason for that.

Activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for navigating our bodies through space (the right parietal lobe) slows way down during deep meditation, meaning that the brain loses track of the body’s physical boundaries — where the person begins and ends.

“At that moment, as far as the brain can tell, you are one with everything,” said Newberg.

Neuropsychopharmacologist Robin Carhart-Harris used fMRIs to study the effects of psychedelics on the brain.

Carhart-Harris found that the brain’s default mode network — the part of the mind that aimlessly chatters away all day, often causing a lot of distress — goes “offline” under the influence of LSD.

This is one of the reasons why scientists think psychedelic drugs are healing for those suffering from trauma or other mental conditions.

A system measures brain activityHandout

In less industrialized cultures, people seem to be able to enter and exit altered states more easily, says Wheal.

Think of Sufis, who enter trance states while twirling, or Native Americans, who reached mystical states during vision quests, or Tibetan monks, who learn meditation as a way of life. But Westerners need a whack over the head to break out of regular consciousness.

“In the West, we have such an entrenched ego identity. We have one channel of awareness, while other cultures, their dials move more freely between various states. Over here, our dial got rusted shut, so to ungum those works, we need stronger interventions,” says Wheal. “We don’t have much practice shifting between states.”

It’s not like we’re not trying. A whopping $4 trillion a year worldwide is spent on achieving altered states of consciousness through everything from alcohol to caffeine to action sports, EDM concerts, yoga, even online porn — anything to get us out of our own heads for a minute, the authors write.

Sensory-deprivation tanks like the ones found at Navy SEALs headquarters, where soldiers can learn to process trauma, are having a renaissance all over the country. There are thousands of centers that offer the float-tank experience now, whereas a decade ago they were relatively rare.

Invented by Dr. John Lilly in 1954 for the National Institutes of Mental Health, the tanks were “specifically designed to help people shut off the self,” the authors write. Studies suggest that floating in the tanks increases theta waves in the brain, which are the also produced during meditation. Some users report that they hallucinate within the tanks, and others say it leads to heightened creativity.

Engaging in action sports — big-wave surfing, BASE jumping, rock climbing — is another way to trigger a “flow” state, say the authors.

In 2007, Carly Rogers, an occupational therapist from UCLA, got Iraq War vets to go surfing. The high that comes from riding a wave, combined with talk therapy, got the same results as a single dose of MDMA, which is commonly known as the drug ecstasy.

At his Necker Island getaway resort in the Caribbean, billionaire Richard Branson uses the action-sports trick to incite new business ideas. Between kitesurfing sessions, zip-lining to breakfast and hanging out in a cedar hot tub beneath the stars, chosen guests can pitch start-up ideas directly to him. Everything on the island is designed to keep people in flow — to turn off their conscious minds and stimulate creativity.

People are hooked up to machines while they try to reach a deeper level of consciousness.handout

Sound can be another “state changing” trigger . Medieval churches “were designed with narrow walls to produce a ‘slap echo’ — a sort of a threefold bounce meant to represent the flapping of an angel’s wings,” the authors write.

“The gothic arches of Notre Dame and Chartres cathedrals act as giant subwoofers for the pipe organs.”

Today, UK speaker company Funktion-One uses that philosophy to create a “common place [where people can] expand their minds,” says founder Tony Andrews.

The authors describe a Funktion-One’s sound effects like “getting pressure-washed with a sonic firehose . . . there was no room for thinking at all.”

The digital artist Android Jones, live “paints” during music performances, sometimes in collaboration with Andrews. A graduate of George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, his work has also been seen at the Sydney Opera House, at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, and on the Empire State Building, where his painting of the Hindu goddess Kali was projected 40 stories high.

The authors say his enormous images produce a “profoundly altered state” in viewers, and a 2012 Stanford study found “encounters with perceptual vastness, be it the endless spiral of galaxies in the night sky or Jones’ larger than life projections, triggers a self-negating, time-dilating sense of awe.”

Mikey Siegel, MIT and NASA trained roboticistHandout

While music, sports and drugs have helped us reach an altered state for hundreds of years, Mikey Siegel, an MIT and NASA-trained roboticist, has invented a new ecstasis “machine” that is very 21st century.

In 2011, Siegel was living in Silicon Valley and working as an engineer when he went on a long meditation retreat. After seven days of sitting ramrod straight, he was in agony. But, just as suddenly, he experienced a shift. His brain stopped judging the pain, and he felt it disappear.

He wanted to reach that state again, but it was harder to find it back home, surrounded by everyday life. So he put his engineering tools to use, launching a field called “enlightenment engineering.” First, he made a sensor that could convert his heart rate into an audio tone and wore it for three days straight. At the end of the three days, he’d figured out how to control his heart rate — getting him closer to that feeling he had on the retreat.

Since then, he’s founded a company called Consciousness Hacking, which has begun making “tech-assisted self-awareness devices” meant to help people “tune their internal environments” and reach non-ordinary states of consciousness on their own, Siegel says.

And that’s a good thing, the authors say. “These technologies help you learn about what’s happening inside your body and your brain, helping you get in control of yourself faster, with less mindless seeking,” says Wheal. “Instead of self-help courses or handfuls of vitamin supplements, these tools ideally offer accelerated self-mastery and [greater] well-being.”

Currently, Siegel’s working on a device that combines ultrasound, transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct stimulation, all of which shoot pulses into the brain, turning on and off various regions at your command.

“It’s not quite what decades of meditation training can produce, but it’s legitimate, reliable, repeatable state change,” Siegel says.

As a result, we may be one step closer to achieving the “flow” state at will, without relying on drugs or skydives or endless meditation.

But be warned: There is a risk of becoming a “bliss junkie,” the authors write. Dr. Lilly himself, the creator of the deprivation tank, is the poster child for going too deep into ecstasis. Soon after he patented his invention, he began experimenting with psychedelics inside the tanks, taking ketamine (an anesthetic that puts users in a trance-like state).

Predictably, things went awry when he fell into the tank one day and, immobilized by the drug, almost drowned. His wife found him floating face down and revived him. But even that didn’t stop his experiments into his own consciousness.

It was only when he had another near death experience and was warned by “entities” on the other side, he says, to stop his experimenting, that he gave it up.
There can be a downside, it seems, to pursuing nirvana on tap.

“What happens when we do have the keys to the kingdom?” asks Wheal. “If you spend all your time blissed out, Zenned out, drunk, stoned, sexed up or anything else, then you’ve lost all the contrast that initially made those experiences so rich — what made them altered in the first place.”

Opinion: What Navy SEAL Team 6 can teach us about how to succeed at work

By Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler Published: Mar 3, 2017 8:38 a.m. ET   SEALs go against most default approaches to leadership, training and execution to excel under adversity.   Getty ImagesProspective Navy SEALs participate in a land navigation training…

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Opinion: What Navy SEAL Team 6 can teach us about how to succeed at work

Published: Mar 3, 2017 8:38 a.m. ET

 

SEALs go against most default approaches to leadership, training and execution to excel under adversity.

 

Getty Images
Prospective Navy SEALs participate in a land navigation training exercise in 2010.

 

There may not be another organization on the planet that routinely faces such adversity and instability as SEAL Team 6 (officially known as the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU). But the methods these special operators use to excel under those conditions are surprisingly straightforward.

 

The catch? They go against most default approaches to leadership, training and execution. If business leaders facing turbulent conditions of their own can adapt three of these techniques, they can bring some of that elite teamwork into their own organizations.

 

Prevailing through chaotic combat conditions requires an astounding level of cognitive dexterity and almost superhuman teamwork. SEALs have to be able to stop acting like individuals, and start operating as a single entity, almost on demand. As DEVGRU Commander Rich Davis explains: “More than any other skill, SEALs rely on a merger of consciousness—‘flipping the switch,’ that’s the real secret to being a SEAL.” (Davis’s name has been changed by the authors for security purposes.)

 

Contemporary scientists have slightly different terms and descriptions. They call the experience: “group flow.” “[It’s] a peak state,” explains University of North Carolina psychologist Keith Sawyer in his book “Group Genius,” “a group performing at its top level of ability. In situations of rapid change, it’s more important than ever for a group to be able to merge action and awareness, to adjust immediately by improvising.” And it’s prioritizing that adaptive, collective intelligence that is the first step in decoding how these teams accomplish what they do.

 

Of course, this isn’t how we normally think of SEALs. What we know best about these special operators is how hard they train their bodies, not their minds. Hell Week, for example, the kickoff to their infamous selection process, is 5½ days of nonstop physical exertion and radical sleep deprivation that routinely breaks world-class athletes. But even this crucible is more about brain than body. “At every step of the training,” says Davis, “from the first day of BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs) through their last day in DEVGRU, we are weeding out candidates who cannot shift their [mental] state and merge with the team.”

For typical organizations, training is either a necessary evil endured by new hires, a perk reserved for executives or “high potentials” or, come crunch time, an expense to be cut.

 

When most companies hire new talent, they go off resumes—where someone went to school, what positions they’ve held in the past, what their individual accomplishments have been. And while that kind of initial screening might establish baseline capability, it in no way diagnoses or predicts the likelihood of being able to merge with teammates in high-stress situations.

 

To get to that level of elite coordination, where teammates “flip the switch” on demand and do the near-impossible, DEVGRU deploys a couple of specific techniques: overtraining and dynamic subordination. Neither of them is necessarily complicated, but for any organization looking to emulate them, both require serious commitment.

 

The first is an obvious prerequisite: invest in excellence. Archilochus, the classical Greek poet (and originator of Jim Collins’ hedgehog concept) coined another phrase adapted by the Navy teams: “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” So the SEALs commit to training nearly every scenario imaginable, under all conditions. That investment adds up fast: it costs over a million dollars a year to keep a member of DEVGRU in the field, while in ammunition alone, they spend as much as the entire U.S. Marine Corps.

 

For typical organizations, training is either a necessary evil endured by new hires, a perk reserved for executives or “high potentials” or, come crunch time, an expense to be cut. By allocating the time and resources toward continuous high-quality practice across all levels of their organization, DEVGRU creates conditions where the level of their training routinely exceeds the real-world conditions they face. And it doesn’t have to involve big budgets or executive signoff. Even on a small team, the ability to plan regularly and to debrief projects with an “After Action Review” can help foster what Harvard Business School’s Chris Argyris calls “double-loop learning”—where employees learn to reflect on their approach and not just the results.

 

Dey Street Books

 

The next technique is easy to understand intellectually but harder to implement culturally: dynamic subordination.

 

“When SEALs sweep a building,” explains Commander Davis, “slow is dangerous. We want to move as fast as possible. To do this, there are only two rules. The first is do the exact opposite of what the guy in front of you is doing—so if he looks left, then you look right. The second is trickier: the person who knows what to do next is the leader. We’re entirely non-hierarchical in that way. But in a combat environment, when split-seconds make all the difference, there’s no time for second-guessing. When someone steps up to become the new leader, everyone, immediately, automatically, moves with him. It’s the only way we win.”

 

This “dynamic subordination,” where leadership is fluid and defined by conditions on the ground, is the foundation of accessing the performance gains of group flow. But to ingrain it in their operational culture, the SEALs have had to break with strict naval protocols, forego standard dress codes and deliberately blur divisions between ranks. It’s a stark meritocracy, where a veteran chief petty officer (the senior-most enlisted position) carries far more authority than a new officer fresh from Annapolis.

 

In egalitarian startups, where CEOs and coders all share the same folding tables and eat from the same pizza boxes, this kind of structural flexibility comes naturally. But as soon as companies become more established, corner offices, preferred parking spaces, seating charts, dress norms, and a host of other signs and signifiers of organizational power calcify the flexibility of “the person who knows what to do next is in charge.”

 

What SEALS do to support that high-performance culture is straightforward: they screen for group flow as much as for individual skills.

To fully experience the power of dynamic subordination, you have to be willing to constantly deconstruct static hierarchies. From the subtle things, like varying who facilitates meetings or sends out calendar invites, to the bigger things, like who claims airtime in strategy sessions or participates in hiring and review processes, you have to repeatedly upend the comfortable conventions of company culture. And while a large amount of this responsibility to set cultural norms rests with the leaders of the company, middle managers and newer employees can “manage up” to offer insights and take initiative.

 

While the last decade has seen an explosion of popular interest in the biographies and mission accounts of individual SEALs, the real power of special operations culture comes from what they achieve together. At their best, they are always an anonymous team. “I do not seek recognition for my actions . . .,” reads the SEAL code, “I expect to lead and be led . . . my teammates steady my resolve and silently guide my every deed.” And this ethos is reinforced every time they flip that switch, when egos disappear and they perform together in ways that are just not possible alone.

 

What they do to support that high-performance culture is straightforward: they screen for group flow as much as for individual skills. They over-invest in rigorous training. They enforce dynamic subordination. As with all things these operators do, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy.

 

But that provides a competitive advantage for any organization willing to emulate their methods. And if you’re unsure whether your entire organization would be willing or able to make changes such as these, you can always start small—with your immediate team. Perform so well they can’t ignore you. Then share some of the insights that inspired you.

 

Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler are the authors of “Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs and Maverick Scientists are Reinventing the Way We Live and Work”, published in February.

Don Wettrick and Hunter Stone’s StartEdUp Podcast — Stealing Fire w/Steven Kotler

To hear click here: Ep 24: Stealing Fire w/ Steven Kotler Released Feb 28, 2017 Steven Kotler, an innovative author, entrepreneur and explorer of science and culture discusses intensely deep concepts in altered states of consciousness, human optimization, and the disruption of…

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Don Wettrick and Hunter Stone’s StartEdUp Podcast — Stealing Fire w/Steven Kotler

To hear click here:

Ep 24: Stealing Fire w/ Steven Kotler

Released Feb 28, 2017

Steven Kotler, an innovative author, entrepreneur and explorer of science and culture discusses intensely deep concepts in altered states of consciousness, human optimization, and the disruption of how we understand productivity. Be sure to check out more about Steven and his new book, “Stealing Fire”: http://www.stevenkotler.com/ https://twitter.com/steven_kotler

Nick Dinardo SA 069: Discovering, Dissecting and Hacking Flow State with Steven Kotler

March 1, 2017 To hear, click here: Steven Kotler: His writings have been translated into over 40 languages and appeared in over 80 publications, including The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Forbes, Wired and TIME. He also writes “Far Frontiers,”…

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Nick Dinardo SA 069: Discovering, Dissecting and Hacking Flow State with Steven Kotler

March 1, 2017

To hear, click here:

Steven Kotler

Steven Kotler: His writings have been translated into over 40 languages and appeared in over 80 publications, including The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Forbes, Wired and TIME. He also writes “Far Frontiers,” a blog about science and culture for Forbes.com, appears frequently on television and radio, and lectures widely on technological, scientific and cultural issues, both to corporate and education institutions.

Alongside his wife, the author Joy Nicholson, Steven is the cofounder of Rancho de Chihuahua, a dog sanctuary in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. He has a BA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MA from Johns Hopkins University and, whenever possible, can be found hurling himself down mountains at high speeds.

Guest Bio:

(source: stevenkotler.com)

Some Questions We Ask:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

  • What does Steven consider success? How do people achieve the impossible? Steven talks about the idea of success being a process.
  • What led Steven down this path? The punk rock counterculture shaped his formative years. His journey hasn’t been a straight forward, clear path.
  • Steven talks about his parents and childhood, which included lots of books.
  • Steven wasn’t a natural born athlete and played what he calls “outsider activities.”
  • His proudest moment includes breaking 82 bones
  • How Steve’s experience with Lyme Disease and suicidal thoughts led him to the Flow Genome Project
  • Mystical instances in Flow states
  • The healing power of non-ordinary states, such as near death experiences
  • How to use fear, pain, and barriers to your advantage and get to a flow state
  • The different kinds of grit and how they relate to Flow
  • The neurobiological and scientific details of Flow and why it feels like a mystical experience
  • “Transient Hypofrontality”
  • Bringing Flow to schools
  • Skills vs. States of Mind
  • Explaining pro-social chemicals in Flow and how it causes a strong bond.
  • Exercise induced transient hypofrontality
  • The roles nutrition, sleep, and technology play in achieving Flow states.
  • Steven gives the fundamentals of Flow and walks us through how he starts his day, including the importance of meditation.
  • How to find flow in your life right now

Notable Quotes:

“Success isn’t a living thing.”

“Almost every successful person I’ve ever met is running from something just as fast as they’re running towards something.”

“I’ve seen all successful people lean on Flow very heavily.”

“I think mastery is the ability to have creative high performance in almost any direction.”

“Work really hard. Don’t lie. Try not to complain.” – ethos from childhood

“I popped up into a dimension I didn’t even know existed.” – surfing after almost committing suicide

“I’m a science guy. I don’t have mystical experiences… and I was having consistent mystical experiences.”

“Learn to use fear like a compass.”

“You have to get good at struggle.”

“To maximize flow, you have to be able to maximize adversity.”

“Evolution shaped our brains to solve certain problems certain ways.”

“21st century normal is tired, wired, and stressed.”

“Passion is a phenomenal flow trigger.”

“Viciously protect the first 90 minutes of your work day.”

“Hang a sign on the door that says ‘Fuck off, I’m Flowing.”

“If you’re not doing [Flow] in your organization, I don’t believe you’ll be able to keep up long term.”

“Flow follows focus.”

Links:

Website: stevenkotler.com
Book: Stealing Fire

Resource: flowgenomeproject.com

Ben Greenfield Fitness: Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.

To hear, click here: Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist and the cofounder/director of research for the Flow Genome Project. He first appeared on this podcast in the episode, “Decoding The Science of Ultimate Human Performance“,…

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Ben Greenfield Fitness: Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.

To hear, click here:

Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist and the cofounder/director of research for the Flow Genome Project.

He first appeared on this podcast in the episode, “Decoding The Science of Ultimate Human Performance“, in which he talked about his book “The Rise Of Superman – Decoding The Science of Ultimate Human Performance” and explained exactly how to biohack yourself into this state of flow, and how you can tap into this power to achieve amazing feats of physical and mental performance, even if you’re not a “super athlete”.

 

Then, in our second podcast, “Why The Future Of Health Is Better Than You Think“, we delved into Steven’s book “Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think” Steven presented the contrarian view that exponentially growing technologies and other powerful forces are conspiring to better the lives of billions on our planet, that the gap between the privileged few and hardscrabble majority is closing fast, and that this is drastically affecting human access to everything from water to food, energy, healthcare, education, and freedom.

 

In today’s episode, Steven is back to to present the fascinating topics in his new book “Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work“. Stealing Fire reveals the biggest revolution you’ve never heard of, and it’s hiding in plain sight. Over the past decade, Silicon Valley executives like Eric Schmidt and Elon Musk, Special Operators like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets, and maverick scientists like Sasha Shulgin and Amy Cuddy have turned everything we thought we knew about high performance upside down. Instead of grit, better habits, or 10,000 hours, these trailblazers have found a surprising short cut. They’re harnessing rare and controversial states of consciousness to solve critical challenges and outperform the competition.

 

Steven Kotler, along with high performance expert Jamie Wheal (Executive Director of Flow Genome Project and a leading expert on the neuro-physiology of human performance), spent four years investigating the leading edges of this revolution: from the home of SEAL Team Six to the Googleplex, the Burning Man festival, Richard Branson’s Necker Island, Red Bull’s training center, Nike’s innovation team, and the United Nations’ Headquarters. And what they learned was stunning: In their own ways, with differing languages, techniques, and applications, every one of these groups has been quietly seeking the same thing: the boost in information and inspiration that altered states provide.

 

Today, this revolution is spreading to the mainstream, fueling a trillion dollar underground economy and forcing us to rethink how we can all lead richer, more productive, more satisfying lives. Driven by four accelerating forces – psychology, neurobiology, technology and pharmacology – we are gaining access to and insights about some of the most contested and misunderstood terrain in history. Stealing Fire is a provocative examination of what’s actually possible; a guidebook for anyone who wants to radically upgrade their life.

 

During the podcast discussion on this episode with Steven and Jamie, you’ll discover:

 

-What ecstasis is, and what does it have to do with the SEALs…[7:30]

 

-The ancient, psychedelic, little-known substance called kykeon, and what it has to do with group flow…[11:28]

 

-How the SEALs cut the time it takes to learn a foreign language form six months to six weeks…[18:20]

 

-How meditation practitioners achieve in months what used to take years…[19:05]

 

-Why it is important to be able to shut down your prefontal cortex…[24:30]

 

-The surprising host of actual, measurable chemicals associated with flow state…[27:40]

 

-Why Google is so interested in hiring people who attend Burning Man…[32:45]

 

-For people interested in going to Burning Man, why do you think they should go and what can they expect…[34:35]

 

-How LSD helps people to solve technology problems…[42:40]

 

-How taking mushrooms before church could make church or other religious experiences more meaningful…[47:15]

 

-What you need to know about “The God Helmet”…[50:45]

 

-The big, big problem with Botox…[57:20]

 

-The fascinating tale of how animals use psychedelics to enhance lateral thinking…[61:50]

 

-How entire groups of people in a single room can synchronize their heart rates and brain waves…[65:05]

 

-The shocking impact of music on brainwaves and neurochemicals…[67:50]

 

-A few very important rules to follow if you decide to use psychedelics…[71:25]

 

-And much more…

 

Resources from this episode:

 

The Peak Brain Institute in LA

 

The HALO headset for stimulating the cortex

CW 267: TECHNOLOGICAL OPTIMISM WITH STEVEN KOTLER AUTHOR OF ‘ABUNDANCE: THE FUTURE IS BETTER THAN YOU THINK’

To hear, click here: Despite the grim, doom-and-gloom events occurring in our world today, emerging technologies will make it possible to overcome challenges and bring about significant abundance. Jason Hartman interviews Steven Kotler, co-author of the book, “Abundance,” also co-authored…

Read Full Article >>

CW 267: TECHNOLOGICAL OPTIMISM WITH STEVEN KOTLER AUTHOR OF ‘ABUNDANCE: THE FUTURE IS BETTER THAN YOU THINK’

To hear, click here:

Despite the grim, doom-and-gloom events occurring in our world today, emerging technologies will make it possible to overcome challenges and bring about significant abundance. Jason Hartman interviews Steven Kotler, co-author of the book, “Abundance,” also co-authored by Peter Diamandis.

Steven talks about the four forces bringing about abundance, explaining how improvements and new developments in communication technology have already brought many people around the globe out of poverty by bringing more and more brilliant minds online. Medical technology advances will make it possible to diagnose illnesses and disease from home, without incurring the costs of physician and lab fees. People may soon be able to pick IBM’s supercomputer Watson’s brain online for free. There have been huge advancements in online education technologies.

Steven and Jason also discuss population control by raising the standard of living through clean water, education, and good healthcare. Steven points out the domino effect of continuously improving technologies that allow for higher standards of living and better health. He also talks about the “network effect,” how it affects people and governments around the world, leading to amazing innovations and changes from surprising sources.

There have been incredible advancements in clean water and food production. The answer to saving biodiversities that cannot be replaced is freeing up land and repurposing it. Vertical gardening is one new process that provides more food in less space, while dropping the transportation costs of farming to zero.Steven Kotler is a bestselling author and an award-winning journalist. His books include the non-fiction works: Abundance, A Small, Furry Prayer, and West of Jesus, and the novel The Angle Quickest for Flight. His articles have appeared in over 60 publications, including: New York Times Magazine, Wired, Discover, Popular Science, Outside, GQ, and National Geographic. He writes “The Playing Field,” a blog about the science of sport and culture for PsychologyToday.com.

Kotler is also the co-founder and director of research at the Flow Genome Project, an international organization devoted to putting flow state research on a hard science footing, and the co-founder of the New Mexico-based Rancho de Chihuahua dog sanctuary. He has a BA in English/Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and an MA from the John Hopkins University in Creative Writing.

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ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Creating Wealth with Jason Hartman! During this program Jason is going to tell you some really exciting things that you probably haven’t thought of before, and a new slant on investing: fresh new approaches to America’s best investment that will enable you to create more wealth and happiness than you ever thought possible. Jason is a genuine, self-made multi-millionaire who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. He’s been a successful investor for 20 years and currently owns properties in 11 states and 17 cities. This program will help you follow in Jason’s footsteps on the road to financial freedom. You really can do it! And now, here’s your host, Jason Hartman, with the complete solution for real estate investors.

JASON HARTMAN: It’s my pleasure to welcome you to episode number two sixty-seven, this is your host, Jason Hartman, and today we are going to talk about abundance. The future is better than you think. We have an interview with the author Steven Kotler today, and his co-author, of course, is Peter Diamandis, and I think you’ll really, really enjoy this show. And you know, it’s kind of timely, really. Because, of course there’s a lot of bad news in the media, and there has been for several years now, with the financial crisis and so forth. And we’ve covered it on the Creating Wealth Show, and more so even on the Holistic Survival Show, the more doom and gloomy of my shows, and you know, at the same time, it’s kind of like we have these two sort of parallel—well, maybe that’s not the right word. Maybe divergent trends, which in a way are converging, too.

It’s sort of hard to explain or even wrap your head around. I certainly haven’t done it. But in one way, the future looks incredibly bright, and most of this future comes through technology. But it’s not just through technology. It’s through the type of community technology creates. And of course, that is centered largely around the Internet. And all of the new products and services—not just technology in the way we think of it as gadgets, but new products and services that come out of that technology. For example, another great book that I just finished is entitled, Reality is Broken. And that book is about gamification; it was written by Jane McGonigal, and I hope to get her on the show, because the book was just, just brilliant. And it really talked about, you know, gaming, something that—I’m not a gamer. I kind of always dismissed gaming as something I just don’t have time to do. And some of my friends are into gaming, and you know, I sort of give them a hard time about sitting in front of a TV screen a lot, and playing these games, but amazingly, it’s been a revelation to me, in going through that book, that gaming, in many ways, can solve a lot of the world’s problems! I really never realized it!

And when we talk about abundance, and how the future is better than you think, with the author in today’s interview, you’re going to be amazed, and hopefully you picked up a copy of this book, because it really, really is quite interesting. I have always been fascinated by the future. When I was a little kid, I was into Star Trek. I always liked science fiction. When I got a little bit older than that, in my early 20s, I was really into futurist books. I remember over the years, I’ve read the Megatrends books by John Naisbitt. I’d like to get him on the show; I know he’s still around. And I used to subscribe to his newsletter. I think it was called the Trends Report, or something like that. And Faith Popcorn, who wrote the Popcorn Report, I also thought that was a very interesting book.

The book The Fourth Turning, and the author was Strauss on that one. Anyway, I’ve always liked futurist books. They’ve always fascinated me. And it begs to question, when it comes to my investment philosophy, when you look at technology, when you look at so many things about the future, they are largely deflationary, in many ways, because of what is known as disruptive technologies, and also Moore’s Law. Now, of course you’ve probably heard of Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law is basically—I think it was Gordon Moore, is his name, who was the one who noticed that everything becomes sort of obsolete in about 18 months. That’s the cycle. And that cycle is speeding up. Moore’s Law proceeds at an even fast pace as technology increases. So, I mean, here’s another example of it. I just got—and I’m recording right now—onto my brand new MacBook Pro. I just got this two days ago. It is literally now the most powerful laptop in the world. Cost me 4,000 bucks. And I gotta say, I love how fast it is. I am finally about the same speed as my computer. My computer moves about as fast as I do now. Whereas I don’t have to wait for it anymore to do things. At least not yet. And it’s because it’s all flash memory, and it’s got like 16 gigabytes of RAM in it. And thes

e things get cheaper and better all the time, don’t they? Now, compare this to my very first computer. This will be sort of interesting to you, as a perspective. I remember back, a long time ago, I won’t even mention the year, but I do know what year it was. You could probably figure it out. I got my first computer—I got a Compaq SLT/286—and it cost $4200. It was a sort of a big lunchbox style computer. It weighed 14 pounds. I remember this computer very well, actually. And it had a little tiny black and white screen. And it was a—I guess you’d call it a laptop [LAUGHTER]. But it was much bigger. And I remember when I got that, and I remember when I got my first cell phone.

Now, let me tell you about my first cell phone. My first cell phone was a Radio Shack knockoff of a phone called a Mobira. And it weighed about 14 pounds too, I think, actually. And it was one of those—it was portable. It would come out of the car, but you actually had it installed in the car, and it had like the receiver, and the sort of lunchbox that you would carry around with it. And I thought oh, that’s so cool! It’s a portable phone. And I remember I actually financed that phone, as a—I was basically a kid when I bought it—and I financed it. It was $3200, I believe. And I financed it through Radio Shack credit. The store, Radio Shack? Do you remember them? There’s a few of those around still, I guess. But I don’t know, RadioShack…I don’t know if they’re gonna make it in today’s world. It’s all changed, obviously.

But these things, these gadgets, are really influenced by Moore’s Law, and they’ve also influenced by the concept of disruptive technology. But when it comes to my investment philosophy, as you know, if you’re a regular listener—my investment philosophy, and the reason I love income property, is because I really, really like commodities. I think commodities are a great investment! We are increasing in population on this earth faster than ever before in history. More and more people are being created all the time, and more and more people are expanding life spans all the time. And if a lot of this stuff comes true in the abundance book in terms of technology, people will be living even longer and longer lives. And better qualities of life, too.

So, what does this mean? Well, it means more demand for commodities! And that’s why I like commodities. So, as an income property investor, the way I buy my commodities, of course, I buy them as packaged commodities, or assembled commodities, two of my trademark phrases. And I buy all of the wood, the copper wire, the petroleum products, the energy, the concrete, the steel, the glass, all of these commodities, I buy them in the form of houses or apartment buildings. And houses and apartment buildings, of course, have universal need. Because everybody on the planet has of course those three common needs, right? Food, clothing, and shelter, don’t they?

And as such, I hope they can rent it from you and me. This, I think, is a great, great thing. So, as a commodities investor, it begs the question—and here was my point. Does disruptive technology affect us? These materials? Well, sort of. Because in the book, they talk about nanotechnology, and of course, materials might be made cheaper in the future. And this would be deflationary. However, these materials, unless we’re all going to be living in a force field, which probably someday we will, maybe these materials could be a little cheaper. Who knows. But let me tell you something when you think about investing in commodities.

As you know, if you’re a regular listener, I am constantly getting into debates that I always seem to win, with gold bugs! The people that love precious metals, that like gold and silver. And I’ve said it before many times. I think they have the right premise, but the wrong conclusion. And I have read and heard in the news media about how metals like gold and silver, and certainly diamonds—they do this already with diamonds. You may not even know this, by the way. Diamonds can now be made in a lab. In a laboratory! So, what does that do to the price of commodities that are small and valuable like gold and silver?

There is even a company, I heard about it on the news recently, that is raising money now to send space ships to asteroids to mine precious metals off of asteroids, and bring them back to earth. What will that do to the price of some of those commodities? Well, it will reduce it, probably. Now, that’s pretty far-fetched. I mean, right now, it’s probably fairly unlikely that any time in the next five years we’re going to be spending space ships to asteroids to bring back metals mined from asteroids, right? I know you think that’s far-fetched. But some day it might happen! Some day, gold and silver might be made in a lab!

But the thing about housing, and the reason I love it so much, is because it’s very simple, and by the pound, it’s not very valuable. It’s not like a little tiny piece of gold that is worth maybe $16, $1700 for an ounce. It’s something that is big, and as such, big and cheap—drywall, lumber, those kinds of things—it’s not really worth making the materials cost a lot lower. At least, not initially. It’s not one of the first areas where there’s a lot of pressure to advance, like there is in a cell phone or a laptop computer. So, the disruptive technology, and Moore’s Law, does not really apply to housing nearly as much, in anywhere near the magnitude that it does to some of these other items that are very deflationary.

So, as technology improves, our lives improve. Our quality of life improves, so hopefully the quality of our health improves; one of the things they talk about in the book is how there is a new XPRIZE to make a tricorder. Do you remember? You know how Spock on Star Trek would carry around the tricorder? And I’m sorry, Bones, the doctor—well, Spock had a tricorder too, but it did different things than the one the doctor carried. Bones McCoy. Boy, I’m dating myself with Star Trek stuff, aren’t I?

But anyway, you know, where you could run it over a person’s body and it would scan their body to see what was going on. Well, there’s an XPRIZE now to create a tricorder. And by golly, I’ll bet you they’ll do it! So, it’s amazing. I just read an article today about the company Under Armour. Do you know Under Armour? The sportswear manufacturer? Well, Under Armour has this amazing laboratory. They call it their Innovation Lab. And they talk about what they’re creating. They’re working on a shirt that will come out next year—they say, you can buy this shirt on a retail basis in 2013. It’s called the E39 shirt, and it will monitor your heart rate, it will monitor your breathing level, and even your G-force. And it’s already been tested on NFL players, okay? So, amazing.

You know that heart rate monitor where you have to put the strap around your chest and wear the wristwatch? Well, now your shirt’s gonna do all that, and a whole lot more. It’ll monitor your G-force, so if you’re jumping or tackling—can you imagine that? It’ll monitor all of that. And you breathing. Soon there will be shirts that regulate—not shirts, but all clothing—will regulate our body temperature with nanotechnology. Clothing that will wash itself, so maybe you don’t need a washing machine anymore—can you imagine that? Clothing that will—if you spill a glass of red wine on your slacks, it will clean itself! I mean, instantly. Isn’t that amazing? I mean, look at the amazing stuff coming our way in the future.

There are so many reasons to be so optimistic and hopeful about the future! Of course you’ve heard of Google Goggles, or Google Glasses, right? These are the glasses—and I was looking at them today online, just Google it. You can Google Google Glasses. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? And basically, this is a computer that you just wear in your glasses, and you control it with your eyes! And, incredible! I mean, just amazing, amazing things. Back to Under Armour, they have a sweatshirt they’re going to sell for 60 bucks real soon that repels water as good as a duck, so, you don’t need to carry a raincoat anymore. It’s basically a cotton type of sweatshirt. It’s called storm cotton. And it’s a new version of cotton.

Just incredible things. I mean, I could go on and on about this stuff. But the place to be, in my opinion, after reading all of this stuff, hearing about all of this stuff, is in the housing business. Because it’s simple, it’s not very prone—although it has things, small changes in advancements, but it’s a simple technology—and it’s not very prone to Moore’s Law or disruptive technologies. Not very susceptible to it, I should say. And just think! As the world becomes richer, in so many ways, demand for basic, simple, simple, cheap commodities—housing-oriented commodities—will increase and increase, and technology will allow people to do more and more with their lives. It will make them live longer, it will reduce mortality, and boy, I think population will increase faster and faster.

Now, I’m not saying that’s all good, because of course, if you talk to the environmentalists, who, many of them hate people, and want to see the earth’s population reduced dramatically. You know, the Malthusian kind of thinking, of scarce resources and so forth. If you talk to people about the agricultural effects, in this book they talk about how urban gardening, and vertical gardening, is changing so many things. So, think about it. If you’re an investor in farmland, like one of our listeners—I’m thinking of Si, who’s gonna be on the show here real soon. We did a case study with him.

That could change the game for farmland, couldn’t it? A lot of this stuff really can change. But again, you know me—I’m not that fond of land. I’m fond of packaged commodities on cheap or free land, which is basically what we offer in our different markets. So, a lot of great stuff coming. We almost, by the way, we have almost inked—I’m just about to sign the contracts on two events we have coming up this fall, and that is our Atlanta Creating Wealth Boot Camp, and our property tour in Atlanta, Georgia, and it’s looking like that’s gonna be the last weekend of September, and I think we’re going to be at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead, a beautiful hotel that I’ve stayed at myself, and wow, what a gorgeous, gorgeous property.

We’re just about to ink that and announce it in full detail probably on the next episode. And then, our Meet the Masters event, of course, that we’re working on as well, and we’ll get that announced. We’ve of course got special room rates for these events for you, and just some really good stuff like that coming up this fall. So, let’s get to the interview with Steven Kotler on the book Abundance, and so many great shows coming up for you on all kinds of topics, including case studies, economics, etcetera, etcetera.

But I just wanted to kind of talk about this abundance thinking, and how it impacts prices. And you know, maybe just to make one more comment on that before we go to the interview. This is the whole concept of hedonics. Remember—inflation, the Consumer Price Index, the most widely accepted measure of index, which is manipulated like crazy. I believe the real inflation right now is about 9-10% in real inflation. Of course, that differs for every person. We all have our own, personal, individual inflation rate, because we all spend our money differently. But, the government would have you believe it’s much lower. What techniques do they use to manipulate the Consumer Price Index?

Well, one is, they use what’s called the core rate, which is the CPI minus two major things. Of course, you probably know what they are, as a regular listener. Those two things they take out, they strip out, are food and energy. As if anybody can survive without food and energy. They strip those out because they are too volatile. And then the other thing they do, when you look at the overall CPI not the core rate, with food and energy stripped away, put it back in, they do weighting, substitution, and hedonics. Just a little refresher here, for those of you regular listeners. Weighting, of course means, how much weight do they give to the food component, or the housing cost component? And, as they weight these things differently, they manipulate the index lower.

The government has a huge incentive to say inflation is lower than it really is. Mostly this incentive plays out in two ways: number one is of course, all the government entitlement programs are indexed to what? Inflation! So if they say the inflation rate is high, then they have to increase Social Security at a higher rate. They have to increase other benefits and entitlements at a higher rate. They have to increase wages for government employees, and when the federal government’s almost, or maybe a little bit over, 20% of the overall economy, which of course is ridiculous, but that’s another subject, that is a major, major expense for the government! And then, of course, there’s the public sentiment.

There’s the political aspect of it. If you think the inflation rate is really high, you’re going to be disappointed with your leaders, with your politicians, right? And you won’t vote them back into power. So, those are the two reasons. Now, when it comes to hedonics, the Hedonic Index—hedonics, the root word is seeking pleasure, right? Hedonism. So, they’re saying that this new MacBook Pro that I’m recording on right this moment is much better than my old MacBook Pro, which is about a year old. The one I replaced it with, the old one cost about $2800, the new one cost about $4000, but the new one is a whole order of magnitude better. I mean, it’s much better than the old one. So, even though I really paid $4000 for it, they will only calculate into the index that I paid maybe $2000. And the old one, I only paid $2800 for.

So, they think my cost of living has gone down. What the Hedonics Index does, although seemingly logical on its face, is that it deprives us, as people, of the right to progress. Because what it says is that we don’t deserve the benefit of the better, faster, cheaper product—the index for inflation deserves it. Even though I really spent more money for the new thing than I did for the old thing, it thinks, the way the index was calculated, that the new thing was actually cheaper than the old thing. But it wasn’t.

So that’s the misnomer of hedonics. And that’s what plays into this whole concept of commodities and technology and Moore’s Law, and disruptive technology, and that’s why, again, I like the housing concept. It’s a simple technology, it’s not subject to very disruptive factors, and that makes it great as an investment for us. And of course, as the government spends more and more irresponsibly, that inflation coming toward us will benefit us dramatically as investors. One of my Facebook friends posted a video today, and the video said something like, I think it was called, what happens when the dollar becomes worthless? And I didn’t do it—it was one of the gold bug people I always argue with—and I didn’t do it, but I wanted to say, what happens when the dollar becomes worthless?

Well, my comment was going to be—and maybe I’ll go back and post it—that your debt becomes worthless. So, long-term fixed rate debt, for three decades long, at the lowest rates ever on record, attached to commodities that last for hundreds of years—I mean, how long does a house last? There are houses in parts of this country, and many in parts of Europe, that are hundreds of years old, and they are still standing there. They still have economic value, and if they’re rented, they’re still producing income for their owner. That is the heart of the ultimate investing equation, folks. And that is why I love income property so, so much. Find out about those events I mentioned at www.jasonhartman.com, that’s www.jasonhartman.com, as well as take a look at some of the new blog posts we have, and of course the properties section, and the events will be posted soon, that I mentioned, and we will be back with the interview with Steven Kotler, the author of Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, here in just a moment.

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JASON HARTMAN: Did you know that you can call in to the Creating Wealth Show? Yes, you can call me and talk to me direct, for later broadcast on the show. The number is 949-200-8009. Or via Skype, JasonHartmanROI. Please make sure you have a good connection when you call. Get your questions answered, participate in the show, and share your experiences with other investors. Call in, 949-200-8009, or Skype, JasonHartmanROI, and participate in the Creating Wealth Show.

[MUSIC]

JASON HARTMAN: My pleasure to welcome Steven Kotler to the show! I just finished reading the book that he co-authored with Peter Diamandis, and I absolutely loved it. This is one of my big, big book recommendations for the year. The book is entitled Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, and it’s something everybody listening needs to read. Steven, welcome. How are you?

STEVEN KOTLER: Thank you for having me, I’m well, how are you?

JASON HARTMAN: Well, thank you for joining us! I’m doing well, and thank you for joining us from New Mexico today, where you have a dog rescue operation on the side! When you’re not writing books.

STEVEN KOTLER: Thank you. There’s a couple of different entrepreneurial projects going on at all times.

JASON HARTMAN: Well that’s fantastic. Well, Abundance—Peter is behind the XPRIZE. I don’t know as much about your background with it, but the book is awesome. Tell us more!

STEVEN KOTLER: So, the book—the central thesis of the book is pretty straightforward. It’s that because of four emerging forces, we should have the power to significantly raise global standards of living over the next 20-30 years. That’s the central premise of the book. We’re not—and I should flat-out say this—this is not a techno-utopist tone. We are not saying the world is not facing a considering amount of dire challenges. We are saying that is absolutely the case. The experts are not wrong. But what we are saying is that for the first time ever, it’s possible to rise and meet them.

JASON HARTMAN: It sure is, and you outline so many incredible things coming forward in the way of technology. Things that are already here, in fact, many of them, that really, really can change things. And talk to us about some of those. I mean, you talk about the rising billion, and they say that globalization has lifted about 275 million people already out of poverty around the world. So, is there another billion beyond that 275 million?

STEVEN KOTLER: Well, so, to talk about the rising billion, we have to back up a little bit and kind of just talk about abundance in general. A lot of people, when they hear this concept, it sounds very, very foreign to them, and we can talk about why that is, and why the brain is hostile to the idea, if you want. But people always ask for examples. A great example is communication and information technology. If you think about it, today a Maasai warrior in the middle of Africa on a cell phone has better access to information and communication technologies than the President of the United States did 25 years ago. If they’re on a smart phone with access to Google, they have better access to information technology than the president did 15 years ago.

That’s Clinton. That’s astounding. That’s a world of communication and information abundance. What’s really astounding about that is the numbers. Right now, there are roughly 2 billion people online. By 2020, that number is going to jump to 5 billion. So, there are 3 billion new minds coming online for the very first time. So when Peter and I talk about the four forces that are bringing us to abundance, one of these forces we call the rising billion, which other people have nicknamed the bottom billion: the poorest people on earth. These people over the next eight years are going to be coming online for the first time. We’ve never had access to their minds, we’ve never had access to their thoughts. They’re going to—everybody’s excited about the bottom billion as a potential market, and it’s a huge market! It’s tens of trillions of dollars of purchasing power coming into the economy on an annual basis.

That in itself is a big deal. But as producers, and as creators, that’s where things get really, really, really exciting. And to your point earlier about technology—one of the other things is, it’s not just 3 billion people coming online. It’s 3 billion people who are going to be better educated than ever before, and for example—this is just one example—right now, there’s something called the Khan Academy. It was started by a hedge fund analyst named Salman Khan, and he started making tutorial videos for his nieces on subjects in high school, and posting them on YouTube.

JASON HARTMAN: And they are fantastic, by the way. I’ve watched a few of them.

STEVEN KOTLER: They’ve become a massive, massive hit. They now have I think it’s closing in on 2500 of these, they’re literally adding more every day. You can essentially go kindergarten—not kindergarten, but some of the early grades—through high school, probably even first or second year of college in terms of general classes—for free, online, in English, today. Now, here’s where it gets really interesting. Google is now translating all the Khan Academy videos into the seven major languages. Khan Academy is then going to crowdsource them into every language on earth. Now this is one example. There are tons of other things going on in education online. All of them are interesting. But what it means is, within a few years, everyone on earth who wants access to an education and has a smart phone can have one.

JASON HARTMAN: Incredible.

STEVEN KOTLER: That’s incredible. So you’ve got this population that’s coming online, the rising billion—they’re going to be smarter than ever before. They’re also going to be healthier. If you take another example, to talk about Peter a little bit, let me talk a little more about what Peter’s doing right now. The XPRIZE Foundation just launched the Qualcomm Tricoder XPRIZE. It’s a $10 million prize for the first team that can build a tricorder, which if you’re a Star Trek fan, you may remember is the medical scanning device that Bones used.

JASON HARTMAN: Sure. Bones McCoy.

STEVEN KOTLER: So the idea is to make a handheld device that can diagnose illness better than board-certified doctors. Now, why is this a huge deal? Well, in America, with massively spiraling healthcare costs, diagnostics—first of all, 50%—it’s actually 45% of the time you go to the doctor, they get it wrong. That’s what the studies tell us. That is massively expensive, very dangerous, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. So, better diagnosis really helps. Cheaper diagnosis really helps. And parts of the world where there are barely—there’s not enough doctors, not enough nurses, not enough hospitals, not enough anything, this is a huge step forward. So how does it happen? It sounds miraculous, right? It turns out, none of the technologies that are needed to create the tricorder are [unintelligible]; instead they’re all here today. Combines three technologies. The first—you may remember a couple of years ago, a computer beat human contestants on Jeopardy.

JASON HARTMAN: Good old Watson! Yeah, IBM’s Watson.

STEVEN KOTLER: So, after Watson—the big deal, by the way, with Jeopardy—I don’t know if you know this or not. You probably do. But the big deal on Jeopardy was, to win on Jeopardy, Watson had to understand natural language. Slang. How people spoke. All that stuff. That was a very tough AI nut to crack, that nobody’s been able to crack for a long time, but they got it. So, after Watson was done on Jeopardy, do you know what they did with Watson? They sent Watson to medical school at the University of Maryland. They are now packing Watson with as much medical information as they possibly can. Watson will then be uploaded into the Cloud, so anybody with a smart phone can access Watson.

JASON HARTMAN: That is truly incredible, and I want to talk about the network effect in a minute. I mean, we’re really talking about it now. But I have some specific questions about it for you. But think about that. If you can access Watson’s brain for maybe a smart phone app that’s either free or 99 cents, how does that just level the world? It’s amazing!

STEVEN KOTLER: The last technology that goes into it is lab-on-a-chip. So here’s the thing. Lab-on-a-chip technology means that you can put a drop of blood, spit, urine, on a—essentially on your smart phone. It analyzes the sample, uploads the information to Watson, and suddenly you have zero-cost diagnostics.

JASON HARTMAN: Incredible.

STEVEN KOTLER: Huge, exciting, interesting deal.

JASON HARTMAN: Very exciting. And you talk in the book about how when people are healthier, more educated, and more urbanized, the birth rate just naturally declines.

STEVEN KOTLER: That’s one—so when Peter—Peter and I, we each had about 50% of this book in our head when we got together. And I’ve known Peter forever, and we’ve been wanting to do a project for a long time. And he came through with the core idea and some of the stuff, and I had been looking at these exact—he had been looking at how do you make humans’ lives better, and because of my background with animals, I had been looking at environmental issues. And we both had seen the exact same kind of leverage and trends and things, so it kind of met in the middle there. But one of the early sticking points for me was population.

Because I did not know—I had seen technology solve really intractable problems. Problems that I had spent most of my life thinking were unsolvable, and I had seen some of these solved. But I didn’t know what we were going to do about population, and had been writing about population—one of the very few kind of vocal voices about population in the world at the time. So Peter and I went back and forth on this, and I read essentially everything there is to read, and you’re absolutely right. It turns out—and this is one of the reasons people have a very difficult time understanding what’s possible. We understand that all of our problems are nestled—that they function like dominos.

Global warming goes up, we grow less crops, we have less water, all these things are nestled and stacked, right? Same thing happens with the solutions. The solutions actually work like dominos. For example, the single greatest thing you can do to lower population, is provide people with clean water. After that, its women’s rights and information about access to condoms. Those are the three things you do. So essentially, if you raise basic standards of living, population plummets. And we know this, because we’ve seen it. And we’ve seen absolute examples of it—Morocco’s a phenomenal example. Over the last 20 or 30 years they’ve instituted the exact same changes that I’ve talked about; they went from having I believe 8, to 11, was the average birthrate in the 70s. And it’s now down below 3.

JASON HARTMAN: Well Morocco’s a pretty—I mean, I’ve been there, at Marrakech, and it’s a pretty—I don’t want to say this in a demeaning way, but a civilized country. It’s pretty advanced, compared to many African nations, obviously. But so the birthrate has gone from 11 to 8 to 3, per couple, huh?

STEVEN KOTLER: Well, it was 8—it was between 8 and 11, but it’s down around 3 now. Yeah.

JASON HARTMAN: That’s amazing. It’s amazing. You know, why does that happen? I mean, I can see with women’s rights why it would happen, but why with health?

STEVEN KOTLER: So, it’s really—it’s a very—the answer is heartbreakingly sad. But the truth of the matter is, people have—the hedge their bets. So, what people want, if you’re living in dire rural poverty, and you want out, you need to three sons.

JASON HARTMAN: To work the land.

STEVEN KOTLER: You need one to work the land, one is going to die, one to work the land, and make enough money to send the third to school. That’s the only plan that works. Now, it’s 50/50. So for every boy, you’re probably going to get a girl. So, those are the numbers. The problem—the thing is, if you can get people to live longer, if you can take away the need for what they call replacement births, then population drops, because the numbers come down. You don’t need as many sons, basically, because they stay alive, so you don’t need that extra son and the extra daughter it could produce. So you get kind of really dramatic effects that way, and the simplest way to keep people alive—the number one killer is dirty water.

JASON HARTMAN: Water is big time. And in the book, when you talk about the lifesaver bottle, what an amazing bottle. You can literally buy this today on Amazon.com for about 150 bucks, and the survivalist community would love this thing! Because I mean, it can really, really clean water, and an incredible amount of water, very, very economically, can’t it?

STEVEN KOTLER: Yeah. The lifesaver bottle’s astounding. Dean Kamen’s Slingshot, which is kind of the next stage up that chain, is astounding. There’s really, really interesting water innovation coming. And a lot of that is also because this is one of those older issues that’s been around for a while, so, we’ve kind of tried a lot of the early solutions, and we’re getting to the real stuff now, and it’s really exciting. And certainly one of our other forces is the exponential growth rate of technology, which essentially says that all information-based technology is kind of also advancing at the rate of Moore’s Law, right, so it’s doubling every couple years. And for example biotechnology is advancing five times faster than Moore’s Law. So this underpins a lot of it, and it certainly underpins a lot of what we’re seeing in water now.

JASON HARTMAN: Well, let’s talk a little bit about technology and Metcalfe, as well. Because he popularized the concept of the network effect. And the traditional thinking is 1 + 1 is 2. But in the information age, in the age we’re living in, maybe 1 and 1 is not 2; it’s 11. And it grows exponentially as more people come online, and more people share ideas, and more people can do things. And the thing I want to ask you about is the Google Library project, because you talked about that in the book, and that was just fascinating to me. I had heard of it, but I never heard some of the things you had said about it in the book. So, what were you going to say, though?

STEVEN KOTLER: Well, I was going to talk about the network effect for a second, which was—and this is in the book. We had this in book, but it’s something Dean Kamen said when we were talking to him in one of the conversations, and it struck me. A lot of people have said similar things, but this just struck me as the clearest way to say it. He said, in a material-based economy, which is essentially what we had up till about now, all exchange is one-for-one. It’s zero sum. I’ve got a hunk of gold, you’ve got a watch, we trade, I’ve got a watch, you’ve got a hunk of gold, right? But in an information economy, if I have a good idea, and you have a good idea, and we trade, we each have two ideas. It’s non-zero. So at the heart of the network effect you’re talking about, is that simple equation, right? And you can immediately see how that gets exponential fast.

JASON HARTMAN: It sure does. It’s unbelievable. I remember reading Alvin Toffler’s book many, many years ago, Power Shift, when he talked about the three forms of power. First it was fire, then it was violence—or, I’m sorry. It was violence, capital, and information. Those were the three forms. And with violence, you eventually—it stops motivating, because you eventually just have to kill your opponent, or the person you’re trying to gain something from. So that’s barbaric. And with capital, it has limits. But with information, it literally is completely limitless in its value. And information can be known by both people, and benefit both parties, in completely new and different ways, can’t it?

STEVEN KOTLER: It can. And the other thing you get is very—I mean, and this would be seen with open sourcing, and this is where there’s so much leverage. You get very peculiar, weird networks effects, and this is the other big deal about the rising billion. Do you know the story—are you familiar with the game Foldit?

JASON HARTMAN: No.

STEVEN KOTLER: Ok. So, how, essentially—they’re not really, but, how essentially two-dimensional amino acids fold into the structure of three-dimensional proteins—

JASON HARTMAN: Oh, yeah, yeah, you talked about that in the book, yeah, sure.

STEVEN KOTLER: No, we don’t.

JASON HARTMAN: Oh, I thought you did.

STEVEN KOTLER: I think Peter has told this story before.

JASON HARTMAN: I heard on his video, because that’s the lady that at home was folding, or something?

STEVEN KOTLER: Yeah. So the story is essentially, the structure of a protein determines its function, right? So, that structure is everything. For drug discovery, medical technology—big deal. It was a supercomputer problem until a couple years ago, and then a bunch of guys from the University of Washington—graduate students actually, and not just guys, women too—decide, the human brain has a great pattern recognition system, and we’re really good at determining shape, and let’s see how we do at folding proteins. What the hell, we’ll turn it into a game, put it online and see what happens.

The game is called Foldit, and over 100,000 people have signed up to play, and it’s produced astounding, astounding results. I’ll give you one random example. A couple of years ago, about 10 researchers working for free in their spare time, over the course of 10 days, cracked the structure of an AIDS-causing enzyme that had puzzled researchers for 13 years. So, you get—and it happens because you get people poking in from all different disciplines. You get combinations of ideas that happen in very weird ways, and you get these network effects. But the point you were making earlier, which is the cool point, is that when they went and looked to see who the best protein folder in the world was, they did not find a Cal Tech scientist. They didn’t find an MIT grad student. They found Suzanne, a woman from Manchester, England, who by day is an executive secretary at a rehabilitation clinic, and by night is the world’s best protein folder.

JASON HARTMAN: That is amazing. I mean—

STEVEN KOTLER: Who would have known, right?

JASON HARTMAN: Who would have ever thought—

STEVEN KOTLER: And on top of it, Suzanne didn’t know, right?

JASON HARTMAN: Right.

STEVEN KOTLER: So that’s—I mean, that’s the flip side. So when you talk about 3 billion new minds coming online, and accessing them for the first time, I mean good God. If you’ve ever spent time in developing countries and seen what people come up with as workarounds for electricity or water or things like that, the ingenuity and the creativity, and start applying this to grand challenges that are directly gonna impact their lives? It’s gonna be great.

JASON HARTMAN: We’ll be back in just a minute.

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JASON HARTMAN: In the book, you give so many examples of how the XPRIZE and other sort of contest-oriented things like that, whether they be gamification, which is another huge area which Foldit definitely is part of that, but there’s more to that one, a lot more to that, too. But all of these areas where holding a contest has created so much non-traditional innovation. I mean, most obviously the XPRIZE, the first one, where you get people that don’t have training in aerospace, they don’t work for NASA; it’s not some government agency or a defense contractor that comes up with some incredible way to make space accessible to civilians. An incredible future, when we can finally tap into all these minds, and maybe we’re doing it in a way that’s just entertaining to others. You talk also about the Google project, which is taking all of these old books and manuscripts and digitizing them, and how the computers, through optical character recognition software, aren’t perfect—at best I think they’ll get like what, 70%, right? If you scan it twice in two different software programs. But then, people, through the network effect, are really helping digitize these old books, right?

STEVEN KOTLER: Sure. I mean, you’re seeing it everywhere. The point—I mean, at the root of all of this, right, is another one of our forces, which is essentially the newfound power of the DIY innovator. And what’s important here, and why this is a big deal, is for the very first time in history, small groups of motivated individuals can tackle the kinds of grand challenges that 10, 15 years ago were the sole problems of large corporations and governments, right? And the XPRIZE, which you mentioned—fantastic example of this. Every aerospace contractor in the world said it couldn’t be done. NASA said it can’t be done, and if you do do it, you’re going to have to spend the $300 billion we spend, and how are you going to pull that off? And etcetera, etcetera, and Burt Rutan and a team of—and they also said, by the way, it would take thousands of engineers, because that’s what they use.

And Burt Rutan and a team of 20 guys, roughly—oversized garage in the Mohave—pretty oversized garage, it’s an actual business, but that’s what it is—for $26 million put a man into space twice in two weeks. They did what nobody else was able to do before. And to your point, here’s the cool thing. Peter and the XPRIZE foundation put up $10 million for that prize. They got over $100 million worth of research. So, that’s a massive amount of leverage. And that shows up over and over and over with incentive prizes. Which is why the Obama administration has adopted incentive prizes into every kind of area of government, to stimulate innovation. Because government has a big problem right now.

How do they keep up with exponentially advancing technology? Our system is not designed to move that fast. So, incentive prizes are one way you can kind of harness that kind of unbelievable leverage and gain some ground. But I mean, the Google project is one example. The craziest one is the story we tell about Goldcorp. That to me is the one that’s the most mind-blowing, and it’s a guy who basically took over a gold mine and spent 10 years turning the ship around and got it right, and then he started asking his engineers, I want to expand my company, I want to dig for gold—where’s my gold? Nobody could tell him. They had no idea. They didn’t have a clue. So he open sourced his data. He created the Goldcorp Challenge. Half a million dollars for whoever can tell him where his gold is. And three teams won the prize. None of them visited the mine. Two were from Norway, one was from Russia, I believe. I could be wrong on that, it’s been a while since I’ve thought about this story. But that open source, crowdsourcing, all these tools, give the DIY innovator just access to knowledge and power that they’ve never had before. And the effects are incredibly potent, as we’ve already seen.

JASON HARTMAN: It is truly, truly, truly an amazing time. I bet the listeners didn’t know, and I didn’t know this either, until I read the book—the book before yours, that I just finished, by the way, this morning—was Free, by Chris Anderson, and that was great too, from a business perspective. And then your book—and you both mentioned this. You talked about CAPTCHAs. I had no idea, when I was filling out a CAPTCHA on a website, to fill out a web form, that I was actually helping solve problems, and helping Google digitize manuscripts! That blew my mind! I mean, it’s an incredible example of the network effect, as you talk about. Talk to us about the network effect—you sort of end the book with this discussion on freedom and economics, and the future of governments, really. The cat is sort of out of the bag, in terms of free speech nowadays. Even in countries that probably wouldn’t prefer it this way. You look at the uprising in Iran, and the Arab Spring, and how Twitter played a part in that, and other social media, and the blogosphere. There’s this dialogue that’s going on, that has never happened before. I remember back to the old days when we had a Soviet news agency called Tass. And you know, remember Tass? And then China has an official news agency, but—and you know, of course, they block websites. But even there the cat is out of the bag completely.

STEVEN KOTLER: I tend to agree with Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt, who we talked to about—we talked to in the book. They have made the argument, and I tend to agree with it, that—well, technology, obviously, is fundamentally neutral, right? A hammer can be used to hit nails or bash brains. But, information-based technology—information communication technology—seems to have a bias towards personal empowerment. Now, that is a double-edged sword. You empower the man on the street, and you empower the terrorist at the same time. But it does seem that the longer these technologies are around, freedom—it’s hard to keep freedom of speech down, but these are also ongoing trends, right?

We talk about this in the book. If you look at all these categories for improvement on the human rights front, we’ve been massively improving over the past century. This seems to be the next step forward. And there’s of course always gonna be a push and pull. There’s gonna be a lot of blowback. The very same tools that set a lot of people free in the Arab Spring in the beginning, the governments figured out how to use them against their citizens by the middle of it, and were rounding people up. So, they caught up. They figured it out. But I think, you know, as this kind of tugs forward, that little, that fundamental bias for personal empowerment is going to continue to spread, and we’re seeing greater and greater and greater freedom as a value, and the funny thing is, well, most people don’t have problems with democracy, whatever version, it’s still—it’s now the preferred form of government kind of across the globe as a global opinion. At least 80 or 90% prefer democracy. That’s a crazy statistic! That’s a big number!

JASON HARTMAN: It’s never happened before, has it?

STEVEN KOTLER: No, nothing like this has even happened before. I mean, Peter and I poke at what is almost a metaphysical argument in one section of the book, and again, I point out, it’s almost a metaphysical argument, so I can’t—I can tell you if things are trending, I can give you a lot of science, but I can’t tell you if it’s true. But it does seem that we are evolving towards greater and greater states of cooperation.

JASON HARTMAN: I would agree with that. And you know, I think one of the reasons for that is that all of these technologies that empower—they tend to empower the individual more so than the big organization, whether it be government, or the corporatocracy, because they’re distributed power. They’re not held in one mainframe. Pretty much everybody has access to this information, and it’s all so beautiful indexed nowadays. I remember reading John Naisbitt, the futurist, many years ago, who wrote the Megatrends books, I’m sure you’re familiar with him. And one of the things he said a long time ago was he said that the challenge was that it was easier for a researcher, a scientist, to just perform experiments over again, than it was to find the result of that experiment from somebody else. But of course, that was before the Internet’s evolution. Or revolution. And nowadays, it’s just easier to find out than to redo the experiment. And it’s easier to crowdsource and open source that experiment as well, right? And that’s just flattened everything out. It’s changed it so much, hasn’t it?

STEVEN KOTLER: It has dramatically changed it. We have access to—I mean, there’s an overload, and of course, at a certain point you start going, which is the good information, and which is the bad information? And, sorting and sifting becomes a much bigger deal, right? And you know, that—but also, that problem leaves really unique ways. If you look at the flip side of that problem which is data caves, which are huge visualization caves for massive amounts of data, are progressing in really weird days. Guys are turning the stock market into ski slopes, and you can go out and ski the stock market in visualizations. And instead of having to look at numbers, which the human brain isn’t great at, you can look at contours of landscapes, which we’re really good at identifying patterns in. And so, our capabilities with this swamp of data for identifying significant trends are also increasing. So it’s really—you’re gonna get network effects tucked inside of network effects tucked inside of network effects. But I think—the other side of your point, we’ve been talking about information, but you brought up Chris Anderson earlier, and you know, on a certain level, this is the fantasy, but the utopian version of [unintelligible] economics is, everybody gets to do exactly what they want, and as long as they can productize it, there’s a way to reach that market. So, you know, there’s a significant amount of freedom built into that idea as well.

JASON HARTMAN: Just by itself, yeah

STEVEN KOTLER: Yeah. Just the fact that you can make a living without all the old structures anywhere is a big deal.

JASON HARTMAN: Is traditional education, including grade school and of course college—it’s so overpriced nowadays, I think—but is that really just an outmoded idea? Is it better—if you’ve got a kid who’s 17 years old, is it better just to send them to the Khan Academy, which is to say, to send them to their computer screen? Or is it better to send them to college?

STEVEN KOTLER: Well, I mean, there’s two answers to this question. The first answer is, of course, yes. We’ve got—I mean, Ken Robinson has made this point as eloquently as anybody’s every made it. We’ve got a massively outdated, antiquated, batch-processing education system that is designed to treat every student the same. And it was developed at the time we were mechanizing and industrializing and moving towards the assembly line. So of course, that was the best thinking at the time. Turns out, everybody learns differently. So, how do you individuate that system, is a big deal going forward. This does not mean, by the way, that we get rid of teachers. What it does mean is that we have to transition from teachers into coaches. And that’s what’s happening, and it doesn’t mean we have to radically every possible—[unintelligible] person who’s looked at this has pointed out that we need what they’re calling 21st century skills, which is, if you boil all the 21st century skills down into one thing, the most important thing we can teach kids today is the ability to ask good questions.

And that’s not what our educational system is designed to do at all. So, we have to change all of it, just to be able to keep up in the world. And it’s happening anyways. In really, really innovative fashions. So, that’s the first answer to part of your question, which would lead me to say, don’t send the kid to college. The problem is, we have not solved the accreditation problem. There are really amazing people teaching through the University of Phoenix right now. Really brilliant people. Nobody believes it, right? The University of Phoenix is an online institute that is in most peoples’ minds somewhere near a scam, and it makes them nervous. Well, is that really the case? We haven’t figured out, how do you get somebody a college degree if they don’t have to college anymore? How do you accreditize that? How do you trust that, right? There’s trust issues, there’s validation issues. That’s why reputation is so important online, and it does eventually—reputation can certainly trump a lack of a degree, but it doesn’t in the beginning, so we’re going to have to solve that puzzle, and I think it’s a really interesting and exciting one.

JASON HARTMAN: It sure is. Yeah, most definitely. Well, listen. We didn’t get time to talk about some major portions of the book, which are so exciting. If you want to just—I know time is limited, but if you want to just mention anything on these. You talk about some incredible progress, of course, in water. We touched on that. But in food production, synthetic foods, urban gardening, high rise gardening—

STEVEN KOTLER: So let me close with telling you how I came to write this book, because that’ll answer that question. I am an animal geek. And if you’re an animal geek, you care about biodiversity. And if you care about biodiversity, you know we’re in the midst of what’s being called the 6th great extinction. What most people don’t know is that every year, the environment for free provides us with $36 trillion worth of what are called ecosystems services. These are things the environment does for us for free that are critical. Pollination services. Pollution control. Flood protection. Disease protection. Resource production. All kinds.

The list is giant. $36 trillion is essentially the global economy. So, we can’t afford to pay for these things. And what we learned in Biosphere 2 is, we can’t recreate ecosystems. So we can’t recreate ecosystems services. So if these things go away, we’re in very significant trouble. And this is an issue that’s complicated that a lot of people are not even talking—environmentalists are talking about this, but a lot of other people, it’s one of the forgotten problems. So I was staring at this one, trying to figure out, how do you solve this problem? And we’ve known since the 60s, if you want to preserve biodiversity, you need to preserve keystone predators, the people at the top of the food chain. And the only way to do that is what are called [unintelligible]. Big chunks of land linking together our national parks.

We know how to solve the biodiversity crisis. The issue is, how do you get enough land? Well, the answer is, you’ve gotta get people off land and into the cities, so you can free up land to repurpose. And that is already happening, right? By 2025, 70% of us are going to live in cities. That’s happening naturally. The other thing you have to then do, is you have to move agriculture. So, I started looking at food production technologies, and I keyed in on two. The first was vertical farms, which are essentially moving farms from agricultural lands into skyscrapers. And what you get there, because the environment is totally controlled, because they can water the plants using aeroponics, which essentially mists the root better—well, it’s 70% more water efficient than hydroponics, and hydroponics is 70% more water efficient than traditional agriculture.

So, the water reduction in a vertical farm is 80%. It’s totally enclosed, so there’s no pesticides whatsoever, and it cuts food transportation miles down to zero. And that’s a big deal, because right now, the average foodstuff travels 1500 miles to get to your plate, and that’s both energy expensive and nutrition erodes over time, so you’re getting less nutritious foods, so it’s a health issue as well. So vertical farms solve all of these issues. But the biggest deal to me was, they free up all this land that can then be repurposed for protecting biodiversity. And the next technology I looked at was in vitro meat, which is essentially growing steak from stem cells. Same exact thing; most of the land out there—I think it’s 30% of the land globally—is used for rangeland for cattle. Cattle—and no matter what you do to a steak—by the way, it’s always going to be bad for you. But if you can grow steak from stem cells, and we’re moving very far along with this technology, and we’ve already kind of got all the basic steps, and the next question is, how do we scale it up efficiently.

People are working on that right now. And suddenly you’ve freed up massive tracts of land. You’re providing much more nutritious food for a population where they are, so their food miles are gone, and everything scales up really, really well. For example, vertical farms—there’s a vertical farm that’s being built by Plantagon International, it’s a Swedish company, one of the companies developing these, that can grow 100,000 acres of crops in 10,000 acres of building. So, you get a lot more food in a lot less, and it’s a way to solve the biodiversity crisis. You solve a lot of things all at once. And they’re all problems that nobody thought were possible to solve!

JASON HARTMAN: Amazing, amazing. And we didn’t get to talk about energy, which—amazing breakthroughs coming there too, right?

STEVEN KOTLER: Absolutely.

JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, phenomenal. Well, the book is Abundance; it’s got 4½ stars with 139 reviews on Amazon. I’d give it 5 stars for sure. Steven Kotler and Peter Diamandis. Anything else you want to say? The future is bright; everybody put on your sunglasses, because it is bright.

STEVEN KOTLER: The last thing I want to say is, we wrote this book because we wanted to change peoples’ minds, and give them a glimpse of what is possible. And before anybody has to rush out and buy the book, if you go to our website, which is www.abundancethebook.com, we give away the first chapter for free. So, check it out there. See what we’re talking about. And go from there!

JASON HARTMAN: Good stuff. Well Steven, thanks so much for joining us today.

STEVEN KOTLER: Thanks for having me.

[MUSIC]

ANNOUNCER: This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company. All rights reserved. For distribution or publication rights and media interviews, please visit www.HartmanMedia.com, or email media@hartmanmedia.com. Nothing on this show should be considered specific personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate, or business professional for any individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own, and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network, Inc. exclusively.

Transcribed by David

Dov Baron’s Leadership and Loyalty Tips for Executives Podcast

To hear, click here: EPISODE DESCRIPTION Steven Kotler Bestselling Author: Stealing Fire: How Silicone Valley, The Navy Seals, and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing The Way We Live and Work. ever increasing demand to not only out perform your competitors but…

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Dov Baron’s Leadership and Loyalty Tips for Executives Podcast

To hear, click here:

EPISODE DESCRIPTION

Steven Kotler Bestselling Author: Stealing Fire: How Silicone Valley, The Navy Seals, and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing The Way We Live and Work. ever increasing demand to not only out perform your competitors but to out perform yourself and what you archived yesterday…how do we stay on top, in the flow, and on fire? My guest today is Steven Kotler and he understands this better than anyone I’ve ever met. Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist and the cofounder/director of research for the Flow Genome Project. He is one of the world’s leading experts on high performance, disruptive technology and innovation. He is also the author of eight books, including: The Rise of Superman, Tomorrowland, Bold, Abundance, and many others. His writing has been translated into over 40 languages and appeared in over 80 publications, including The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Forbes, Wired and TIME He appears frequently on television and radio, and is an in-demand speaker and advisor to everyone from the U.S. Naval War College, and Special Operations Command to Cisco and Google.

Find out more about Steven Kotler: http://www.stevenkotler.com/

More on Stealing Fire: www.stealingfirebook.com

More on the Host Dov Baron: http://FullMontyLeadership.com

Inside Personal Growth: Podcast 619: Stealing Fire with Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal

To hear, click here: Inside Personal Growth at 37:23: This is a must listen to podcast with Steven Kotler. If you want to really alter your personal performance please listen to this podcast and get a copy of Stealing Fire

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Inside Personal Growth: Podcast 619: Stealing Fire with Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal

To hear, click here:

Inside Personal Growth at 37:23:

This is a must listen to podcast with Steven Kotler. If you want to really alter your personal performance please listen to this podcast and get a copy of Stealing Fire

JAMIE WHEAL AND STEVEN KOTLER: ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS, STEALING FIRE

  To hear, click here: This conversation is with Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler. Many of you will remember Steven from our conversation about flow state — if you missed that, check out episode 16 on Ultimate Human Performance. Jamie…

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JAMIE WHEAL AND STEVEN KOTLER: ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS, STEALING FIRE

 

To hear, click here:

This conversation is with Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler. Many of you will remember Steven from our conversation about flow state — if you missed that, check out episode 16 on Ultimate Human Performance.

Jamie and Steven are the co-founders of the Flow Genome Project, which is a collection of world-class academics, athletes and artists dedicated to taking flow from the extreme to the mainstream.

I’ve loved being their friend and being part of their community.

Jamie and Steven are completely switched-on : smart, quick and divergent thinkers, lovers of life, and are so curious, that they embody what they’re trying to learn.

This conversation has very nuanced adult themes — so — if you’re listening with kids, maybe you’ll want to consider listening to this one without them depending on however you roll.

Steven and Jamie just wrote a book together called: Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.

What I hope you’ll take away from this conversation is the value of exploring the edges, the value of community, and how challenging it is to really change.

“The things we know for sure is you get one shot at this life and you’re going to spend a 1/3 of it asleep. Those things are non-negotiable facts. To me the only question that matters is: Are you going to be awake for the rest of it?”

In This Episode:

  • Loving the outdoors and how that gave him his first taste of flow (Wheal)
  • Why doing shrooms for the first time was a huge awakening (Wheal)
  • Seeing his brother experimenting with magic and wondering if everything that looks like magic has a skill under it? (Kotler)
  • Recapping how discovering flow helped cure his lime disease (Kotler)
  • What it means to be a cultural architect (Wheal)
  • Where does information come from? (Kotler)
  • Getting to the life you want (Kotler)
  • How you can take small steps towards on-ramping ecstasies (Wheal)
  • The dangers of pursuing flow for too long (Wheal)
  • What happens when you come down from a night drinking / intoxication (Kotler)
  • Determining what information is accurate in a state of flow (Kotler)
  • What he hopes people will take away from “Stealing Fire” (Wheal)
  • How we decode mystical states (Wheal)
  • Why honoring your natural rhythm is a great habit (Kotler)
  • Why he believes in getting outdoors and experimenting with high grade psychedelics (Wheal)

 

Listen via: iTunes | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

Steven Kotler – How You Can Step Outside Yourself and “Do The Impossible”

 2/22/17 James Altucher, Contributor Imagine going on a swing as high as you can. Then going higher. Then going so high you loop around.   I get scared thinking about it.   Sergey Brin, the founder of Google, did it…

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Steven Kotler – How You Can Step Outside Yourself and “Do The Impossible”

Imagine going on a swing as high as you can. Then going higher. Then going so high you loop around.

 

I get scared thinking about it.

 

Sergey Brin, the founder of Google, did it the first time he tried. Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal were training people at Google how to get into the state of FLOW. Sergey volunteered.

 

What is Flow? The state where your brain and body loses all sense of time and you retreat into this perfect area of creativity and productivity.

 

A state where Steven and Jamie have spent years trying to hack and re-create at will. And this is what they’ve done.

 

I was talking to Steven Kotler, who’s been on my podcast a few times and Jamie Wheal. They co-authored “Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.”

 

It’s sort of a sequel to “The Rise of Superman” all about “flow” in action sports.

 

Steven said. “It’s the moments of total absorption where you get so focussed on the task at hand that everything else just disappears, action and awareness merge, your sense of self disappears, time passes very strangely and all aspects of performance, mental and physical, go through the roof.”

 

But when I read it I thought, “Where are the chess players?” Where are the creatives?

 

Programmers get into flow. Musicians, athletes, artists, all sorts of people get into flow.

 

The question was “how?” I am selfish. I wanted to know for myself: HOW?

 

So I read “Stealing Fire.” It’s about all the ways you can get into flow and other “optimal states of consciousness.” It teaches you how to step outside yourself, have a 500% increase in your performance, functionality, creativity and have satisfaction.

 

I had to find out, what are the triggers to get into flow?

 

They said “risk.”

 

“Life or death?” I asked.

 

“You need risk, but it’s definitely not physical risk,” Steven said. “The brain can’t tell the difference between social fear and physical fear.”

 

Steven and Jamie figured this out when they went to Google to experiment on Sergey Brin’s brain (Google’s CEO and founder). They built a swing that loops 360 degrees around and covered him in EEG sensors. You’d have to pump your legs and use all your strength to gain the physical and mental momentum to go in a full circle.

 

“My ten year old daughter crushed it,” Jamie said. “She did 35 loops in 60 seconds, which is nudging the world record.”

 

Only a few people actually made it all the way around. Sergey’s one of them.

 

It takes intense focus. You have to overcome your fear and stay in the moment. You have to use risk to your advantage.

 

“Anything that drives attention to the current moment drives flow,” Steven said.

 

It’s not just swings. It’s not just “smart drugs” or “extreme sports”.

 

On the podcast, Steven and Jamie give a range of techniques and ideas for how to get into flow.

 

I want in. I want in ALL of the time.

 

They have a quiz on their website (flowgenomeproject.com) that tells you your “flow profile.” Over 50,000 people have taken it.

 

On the first company I started I once disappeared into my office and programmed for about 24 hours straight. Completing a month’s project in one day’s time.

 

We kept that client for life, even when we sold the company.

 

Flow not only feels good, creates increased productivity and brain function, it’s also a key skill to compete.

 

I hope I can get back to that state again. Today.

The 33voices Interview – Steve Kotler & Jamie Wheal Episode 1300 – Igniting the hidden dimensions of flow

Flow Genome Project co-founders, Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal rejoin Moe Abdou to discuss their latest book, Stealing Fire. Click here to hear:   Steven Kotler Cofounder of Research Flow Genome ProjectView Full Profile Igniting the hidden dimensions of flow…

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The 33voices Interview – Steve Kotler & Jamie Wheal Episode 1300 – Igniting the hidden dimensions of flow

Flow Genome Project co-founders, Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal rejoin Moe Abdou to discuss their latest book, Stealing Fire.

Click here to hear:

 


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Steven Kotler

Cofounder of Research Flow Genome ProjectView Full Profile


Igniting the hidden dimensions of flow

Nothing fascinates me more than the science of optimal performance – be it with world-class athletes or highly accomplished individuals – and no two individuals share that passion more than the co-founders of the Flow Genome Project, Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal.  For five years now, I’ve followed closely the work of Steven and Jamie, and not only have I improved my own ability to ignite my flow state; more importantly, I am more convinced than ever that a heightened state of mind has less to do with the human body, and much more with our minds.

In their latest book – Stealing Fire:  How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALS, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work – Steven and Jamie will undoubtedly challenge you too, to seek and discover your own hidden greatness.  Don’t expect an easy button, but do dive into the scientifically proven techniques that show you why and how your mind can rewire your body to defy its own biology, preconceived expectations and establish a new normal.  Here’s what we discuss:

  • What have we learned definitively about triggering Flow state
  • The science of ‘getting out of your head’
  • What can we all learn from Burning Man
  • Merging your consciousness – what does that really mean
  • The correlation between triggering Flow and growing a Startup
  • Why modern leaders manage states of mind
  • What do you do when you’ve lost your confidence
    • Resources:

This is what Tibetan monks and Navy SEALs have in common—and how we can use it to our advantage

  Abraham Maslow once famously said, “When all you’ve got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” What he meant was, when it comes to problem-solving, we tend to get locked into using familiar tools in expected ways….

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This is what Tibetan monks and Navy SEALs have in common—and how we can use it to our advantage

 

Abraham Maslow once famously said, “When all you’ve got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” What he meant was, when it comes to problem-solving, we tend to get locked into using familiar tools in expected ways. The technical term for this is the Law of the Instrument. Give someone a hammer and, indeed, they’ll look for nails to pound. But present them with a problem where they need to repurpose that same hammer as a doorstop, or a pendulum weight, or a tomahawk, and you’ll typically get blank stares.

 

We may be facing a similar situation when it comes to our minds. At least as far back as the French Enlightenment and Descartes’s cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore, I am), we’ve relied on our rational selves—what psychologists call our “egos”—to run the whole show. It’s a Maslow’s hammer kind of reaction. Every issue we encounter, we try to solve by thinking.

 

And we know it’s not working. Even a quick glance at today’s dire mental health statistics—the one in four Americans now on psychiatric medicines; the escalating rate of suicide for everyone from ages ten to seventy-eight—shows how critically overtaxed our mental processing is these days. We may have come to the end of our psychological tether. It might be time to rethink all that thinking.

 

With the recent advancements in neurobiology, we now have options: Embodied cognition teaches us that how we move our bodies affects our brains and minds. AI therapy proves that our subconscious expressions can reflect our inner state more accurately than we do. Precognition demonstrates that we can anticipate how we’re going to feel and think in the future by tracking (and even altering) our biometrics in the present. Neurotheology integrates all of these findings and lets us reverse-engineer a whole host of nonordinary states, just by working backward from our neurophysiology.

 

Rather than treating our psychology like the unquestioned operating system (or OS) of our entire lives, we can repurpose it to function more like a user interface (or UI)—that easy-to-use dashboard that sits atop all the other, more complex programs. By treating the mind like a dashboard, by treating different states of consciousness like apps to be judiciously deployed, we can bypass a lot of psychological storytelling and get results faster and, often, with less frustration.

 

 

Take, for example, one of the most common ailments of the modern world—mild to moderate depression. Instead of moping around, hoping for things to get better on their own, we can scan our UI and choose an alternate program to run. We could get on a treadmill (studies show exercise is effective for depression in all but severe cases), or get some natural sunshine (70 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, which has a direct impact on mood), or practice meditation for fifteen minutes (a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association found it as effective as SSRI’s and without the side effects). None of these approaches require thinking about our thinking, but each of them can significantly shift our mood.

 

Choices like these are available not just in our personal lives, but in our professional lives, too. Instead of nervously waiting for a job interview and obsessing about all the things that could go wrong, we can take a page out of Amy Cuddy’s book and stand up, breathe deeply, and power-pose our way to lower cortisol, higher testosterone, and more confidence. Instead of using trendy leadership books and a new mission statement to fire up employees, we can follow ESADE’s lead and use neurofeedback to heighten group coherence and prompt more productive strategy sessions.

 

But most of us, when challenged, will do none of these things. We’ll think more, talk more, and stress more. We’ll wait until after we feel better to go for that walk in the sun, rather than going for that walk in order to feel better. We’ll wait until after we get that job offer to pump our fists and stand tall, instead of the other way around.

 

That’s because, at first, reorienting from OS to UI can be downright disorienting. If I can change the “wallpaper of my mind” by deliberately shifting my neurophysiology—my breathing, my posture, my brainwaves, or any number of other interventions—what good are all those stories I’ve been telling myself? If I am not my thoughts, then who am I, really?

 

This idea, that our ego isn’t the be-all and end-all, flourished in Asia for centuries before landing in California in the 1960’s. Thoughts were illusions, the swamis and lamas maintained, and nirvana lay on the other side of ego death. But, for modern Americans, all those earnest (and sometimes addled) attempts to transcend the self didn’t turn out to be that practical. To make sense of today’s fast-paced world, we need our egos to navigate our relationships and responsibilities. We just don’t need to use them like Maslow’s hammer, turning everything around us into a psychological problem to beat on.

 

Instead, we can stay above our storytelling mind and simply monitor the knobs and levers of our neurobiology. And while this may seem far-fetched, top performers are already there. Tibetan monks can shut off their default mode network (or inner mind chatter) almost at will, SEAL snipers tune their brainwaves to the alpha frequency before locking on to targets, extreme athletes smooth out their heart rhythms right before dropping into a mountain or wave. They’re deliberately doing an end run around their conscious minds. They’re accessing more efficient and effective ways of being, and they’re doing this exactly backward from how most of us have been taught.

 

Which brings us back to ecstasis. When we step beyond our conventional egos and experience the richness of altered states, it’s essential to upgrade our software. Those monkey-suit personas we thought were us (until we suddenly realize they aren’t) don’t need to confine us or define us. “To diagnose . . . yourself while in the midst of action requires the ability to achieve some distance from those on-the-ground events,” Harvard Business School professor Ron Heifetz maintains. “‘Getting on the balcony’ . . . [provides] the distanced perspective you need to see what is really happening.”

 

And this is what moving from OS to UI delivers: a better view from the balcony. When we consistently see more of “what is really happening,” we can liberate ourselves from the limitations of our psychology. We can put our egos to better use, using them to modulate our neurobiology and with it, our experience. We can train our brains to find our minds.

 

Steven Kotler is co-author with Jamie Wheal of the new book Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work. He is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and the cofounder and director of research for the Flow Genome Project.

Science can help you reach enlightenment — but will it mess with your head?

A Navy SEAL, broad-chested and strongly built, floats peacefully on the water, as his recent deployment to a war-torn country becomes a distant memory. Sealed inside a pitch-black sensory deprivation tank in the Mind Gym at Navy SEALs headquarters in…

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Science can help you reach enlightenment — but will it mess with your head?

A Navy SEAL, broad-chested and strongly built, floats peacefully on the water, as his recent deployment to a war-torn country becomes a distant memory.

Sealed inside a pitch-black sensory deprivation tank in the Mind Gym at Navy SEALs headquarters in Norfolk, Va., electrodes attached to his head, he has reached an altered state of consciousness referred to as “ecstasis” or “stepping outside oneself.”

It’s a state achieved by many others throughout time. High-performance athletes are in ecstasis when they ski down huge mountains or surf giant waves. Monks attain it after years of meditation. Mystics feel it when they have visions. And the US government uses it to try to reset their most elite warriors after brutal battles abroad.

This state of mind is called “flow” or an “altered” or “non-ordinary state of consciousness” where “action and awareness start to merge. Our sense of self vanishes. Our sense of time as well. And all aspects of performance, both mental and physical go through the roof,” write Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, authors of “Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.”

But, it turns out finding flow, and reproducing it on command, isn’t easy. The athletes who know how to get into flow don’t know how to explain it, and scientists who could potentially map it haven’t until recently been able to find it. But, over the last decade, advances in brain science have allowed researchers to learn how it works so we mortals can recreate it.

Read the entire article here.

The Inertia 2/07/2017

Decoding the Flow State at 9,000 Feet; It All Starts with Riding Snow Steve Andrews Writer/Photographer/Stoke Ambassador It’s not so much the sense of doubt and trepidation I remember, but more the awareness I had of those nervous energies dissipating. I had…

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The Inertia 2/07/2017

Decoding the Flow State at 9,000 Feet; It All Starts with Riding Snow

Steve Andrews
Writer/Photographer/Stoke Ambassador

It’s not so much the sense of doubt and trepidation I remember, but more the awareness I had of those nervous energies dissipating. I had skied before but never on a run this big… never this fast. As we picked up momentum I remember a sense of elevated confidence as I ached for more speed. I looked up to see the city lights expanding far to the horizon and became enveloped in an overwhelming sense of awe. At this point, my hands were still clutching my dad’s ski pole that he held between his legs like a safety bar, but I knew that it was no longer necessary. I let go and for the first time in my life, I felt it. So began my love affair with sliding on snow in the mountains.

I was two years old, give or take. My birthday is mid-winter and the exact date of the experience was insignificant compared to the feeling that it sparked. It’s a feeling that I have now been chasing (and, thankfully, achieving) for over 30 years.  As I recounted this memory in front of two ladies I just met, I was mesmerized by my mind’s ability to reenact the event with such vivid detail.  I recited this memory in response to instructions to recall a time in my childhood in which I experienced flow.

Flow has different interpretations, but we all can intuitively relate. Some call it “In the Zone”, “Zenning Out”, or even “High on Life”. However you identify it, by now you likely have several images in your head from your own experience. We all experience times where finite moments expand beyond comprehension and your awareness is so fixated on the present that you reach your highest potential. It’s a state of being where anything is possible; and swells the boundaries of human capability to incomprehensible horizons.

Photo Steve Andrews

Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal are so fascinated with the flow state that they dedicated their careers to dissecting its characteristics and revealing their findings to the world. In establishing Flow Genome Project they have cultivated a following of passionate athletes, artists, thinkers, and doers around the world who are committed to unraveling the secrets to ultimate human performance. This past week saw a few dozen of these cohorts—myself included— coalescing at Powder Mountain in Utah to experience practical application of the flow state in the mountains.

Why the mountains? I’m glad you asked. To me, they are the clearest reminder that our planet is in fact alive. What better way to enter flow than through immersion into some of Earth’s most fascinating forces? No two days are alike in the mountains. Subtle changes in the wind or temperature, among many other variables, can mean the difference between pure elation and utter frustration.”We get instant feedback in the mountains,” Wheal remarks, “and that lets us learn faster – and kid ourselves less.”

Steven Kotler wrote about this in The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance. The bestselling book explores various action sports athletes’ ability to harness the flow state. Kotler argues that these athletes have no choice but to enter flow; either reach that state or die. While risk is certainly a quick trigger to access that superhuman state, it is not the only way. Kotler spoke of deep embodiment of your surroundings: essentially becoming one with the ever-changing environment around you.  This is true not only in the mountains, but in the ocean and many other environments where we can dispel the separation between ourselves and our surroundings.

To get to that state takes training and practice, but Kotler taught us methods to get there faster. One was “creatively interpreting the terrain.” In doing so you become an active player in the scene, putting your own mark on the terrain that surrounds you. Most people do this already, and as such they get into that state in question; and this workshop created a framework to replicate that more easily, with a motivated group to cheer you along.

The workshop, appropriately and phonetically titled “Flow and Snow”, was a four-day catapult into the flow state through various means. Powder Mountain in Utah served as an ideal venue with expansive terrain both in and out of bounds, and state of the art redesigned lodges to reconvene at for in-depth learning, comedy, and even dancing. Pro skiers Lynsey Dyer, Langely McNeal, and Julian Carr were part of the experience, working with attendees to really dial down the mechanics of skiing to allow a faster induction into that flow state. But this wasn’t a one-way exchange of information. In fact, I learned just as much from the various attendees as I did from the headlining guests and speakers. Included were bankers, lawyers, real estate barons, olympic athletes, even a guy who had just quit his job last week and commenced a vision quest to decide the next steps. Each person had a unique story, and everyone showed up to really dive into understanding their own performance in all aspects of life. Amazing things happen with that much energy toward collective intention. It’s the only way we as a species seem to be able to move forward, and events like these provide the kinetic energy necessary to send these ideas into a higher orbit.

The Panel: Big Mountain phenom Lynsey Dyer. Ski Crosser Langely McNeal, Alaska Heli Guide Paul Krekow, World Record Holder Julian Carr, and American Ninja Warrior finalist Travis Brewer

Putting it into Practice

My own experience was a bit unique as I wasn’t sure which hat to wear. Was I to sit back and observe, allowing the event to take place around me and report about it later through words and images? That’s usually how I roll when covering these things. But this mountain environment makes me come alive better than anything else. The memory of skiing between my dad’s legs reminded me how deep my infatuation is in my life. So I assumed a role of service; helping out wherever I could and forgoing the backcountry pow lines for the in-bounds groomers. In doing so I was able to help a fellow snowboarder progress his riding ability by putting complex biomechanics into simple concepts. As a result, I found a new way of attaining flow: sharing the experience of learning activities and emotions that give you the greatest challenge and joy.

The author, finding flow.

Everyone is different; it doesn’t take a neuroscientist to figure that out. But we are all similar in that our minds and bodies work best when pushed beyond our comfort zone. In doing so we tune into the present in a way that allows us to progress—not only as individuals, but as a species. So whatever your triggers are, seek them out. Your perception of time will expand, your experiences will feel more rich and impassioned, and relationships will take on a whole new significance. There is much more than that to understand about flow; but that will start you down the right course.

For more information on realizing flow states in everyday life, check out the Flow Genome Project and preorder Wheal and Kotler’s new book Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy Seals, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.

The High-Tech Race to Make Deadly Adventure Sports Safe for Anyone

Risky pursuits like BASE jumping offer a buzz better than any drug. New technologies provide the same rush without the danger. By: Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal Feb 21, 2017 Dean Potter base jumping off the Tombstone cliff outside of…

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The High-Tech Race to Make Deadly Adventure Sports Safe for Anyone

Risky pursuits like BASE jumping offer a buzz better than any drug. New technologies provide the same rush without the danger.

action

Dean Potter base jumping off the Tombstone cliff outside of Moab, Utah.    Photo: Whit Richardson

In their new book Stealing Fire ($28; Harper Collins) Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal investigate the many ways people are now seeking out the heightened awareness of flow states—those ecstatic zones of pure focus where humans achieve ultimate performance. Some use psychedelics, others meditate or dance, and daring athletes practice extremely dangerous adventure sports. In this exclusive excerpt, the authors recount the tragic death of BASE-jumper Dean Potter, question why he and others are willing to risk everything in the pursuit of elevated consciousness, and explain how innovative technologies enable us to reach the same state without the without the life-and-death stakes.

 

The why was never in question. What happened? How it happened? Those answers remain unclear. But the why? For Dean Potter—it was never in doubt.

 

It was May 16, 2015, in Yosemite Valley, California, a nice spring evening, right on the edge of dusk. Potter, a record-breaking rock climber, slackline walker, and wingsuit flier, got ready for the evening’s adventure. He was 3,500 feet above the valley floor, standing on the summit of Taft Point. Alongside his friend and fellow flier Graham Hunt—considered one of the best young pilots around—their goal was to leap off the edge, zip across the canyon below, and sail through a V-shaped notch in a neighboring ridge, above an ominously named cliff, Lost Brother.

 

Dean Potter played an important role in the writing of Rise of Superman. He was a good friend of the Flow Genome Project, a member of our advisory board, and as big-hearted and thoughtful as any professional athlete we’ve met. In 2013, when we were filming the Rise of Superman video series, Dean told the story of how he nearly died while BASE-jumping into a deep cave in Mexico. He finished tellingly: “This year, twenty-something wingsuiters have lost their lives. Dying’s not worth it. I’ve been struggling with that a lot. I don’t want to be that guy who got lucky. And I’ve been that guy who got lucky for a lot of years. I want to be that guy that’s such a wizard of strategy and knows myself and am comfortable enough to say, ‘Na-ah, I’m not going. I want to live.'”

 

But, that early evening in Yosemite, he went anyway.

 

Graham and Dean launched off Taft Point. Forty seconds later, their flights were over. Both men came into the notch low, possibly because the colder, denser winds that arrived with the setting sun had cost them altitude. Potter never wavered, but Hunt—as far as anyone can tell—jerked left, then swerved right, putting him on a diagonal path and directly into the canyon’s far wall. Potter made it through the notch, but didn’t have the height he needed and crashed into the rocks on the other side. Both men died on impact.

 

And to this day, the details of the accident remain mysteries. No one knows what caused Hunt to swerve; no one knows exactly how Potter lost so much altitude. But the why was never in question.

“Look,” Potter once explained, “I know the dark secret. I know my options. I can sit on a cushion and meditate for two hours and maybe I get a glimpse of something interesting—and maybe it lasts two seconds—but I put on a wingsuit and leap off a cliff and it’s instantaneous: Whammo, there I am, in an alternate universe that lasts for hours.”

 

And for flow junkies who get their fix through action sports, this has always been the dark secret. Ecstasis only arises when attention is fully focused in the present moment. In meditation, for example, the reason you follow your breath is to ride its rhythm right into the now. Psychedelics overwhelm the senses with data, throwing so much information at us per second that paying attention to anything else becomes impossible. And for action and adventure athletes seeking flow, risk serves this same function. “When a man knows he is to be hanged in the morning,” Samuel Johnson once remarked, “it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

 

By 2015, wingsuiting was providing exactly that kind of dangerous focus. “I start to shiver and wonder if what we’re doing is right,” Dean wrote in an essay just a month before his death. “Wingsuit BASE-jumping feels safe to me, but [so many] fliers have lost their lives this year alone. There must be some flaw in our system, a lethal secret beyond my comprehension.”

 

The lethal flaw is that, for many, using high-risk sport to explore ecstasis is so compelling and rewarding that it becomes an experience worth dying for. Steph Davis, Potter’s ex-wife and a professional climber and wingsuiter herself, has lost two husbands to the sport, yet she keeps flying. The siren song of “hours in an alternate universe” that Dean sought has continued to beckon to pilots convinced they can dodge the rocks.

 

But for the rest us? Those with lives and wives and things that matter? Are we shut out of these “alternate universes?” Do we have to make an impossible choice between dedicating decades to practice or accepting intolerable risks to get there faster?

 

Thanks to inventors like skydiver Alan Metni, the answer, increasingly, looks like “no.” Metni began his professional life as a lawyer at Vinson and Elkins, a global firm that counts senators, U.S. attorneys general, and Fortune 100 CEOs as alumni. But the legal life didn’t do it for him, so he chucked it for his true passion: jumping out of airplanes. He pitched a tent at a local airport and began training relentlessly, logging more than ten thousand jumps and earning three U.S. national championships and a world championship in formation flying along the way.

 

But Metni wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to find a way to train even harder, so he started tinkering with giant fans and wind tunnels. By the early 2000’s, he’d perfected an indoor skydiving experience indistinguishable from true free fall. Suddenly, competitive teams could log hundreds of hours training together in absolute safety. With this one innovation, the standard of excellence at the elite level changed nearly overnight. Even SEAL Team Six came to work with Metni. Not to learn how to jump out of airplanes—they had that part down cold—but to train teamwork, group flow, and the secret to “flipping the switch” while falling through space together.

 

“Around the world,” Metni said, “it doesn’t matter what culture, language, or faith, everyone has the same dream: to fly.” So he built a company, iFly, and set out to fulfill that dream, one wind tunnel at a time.

Today, iFly is in fourteen countries with over fifty-four tunnels and revenue nudging ten figures. Thousands and thousands of people who would never have considered jumping out of a perfectly good airplane or leaping off a cliff in a wingsuit have realized that dream, and done so safely. By taking out the risk, iFly has taken a sport once reserved for daredevils and made it accessible to everyone—ages three and up.

 

And skydiving isn’t the only high-risk pursuit that has undergone a revolution in accessibility. Across the action sports industry, advancements in technology are providing safer and easier entry into the zone than ever before. Powder skiing, with its utterly magical sensation of floating down a mountain, used to be the rarefied domain of top athletes. Today, extra-fat skis make that float available to anyone who can link two turns together. Mountain bikes, which once offered bone-rattling descents to all but the best riders, now have supple front and rear suspensions, oversize balloon tires, and an ability to roll over the most daunting terrain. Even kitesurfing—best known on the Internet for its “kitemare” footage of people getting dragged by giant sails across highways—has mellowed. Better safety gear lets newcomers find the balance between wind and waves with a fraction of the exposure and learning time.

 

This trend, of technological innovation providing wider and safer access to altered states, isn’t limited to adventure sports. It’s showing up across many disciplines, allowing more people than ever before to sample what these experiences have to offer. We’re shedding some light on Dean’s dark secret, sparing many of us the stark trade-offs that he and so many other pioneers were forced to make. Technology is bringing ecstasis to the masses, allowing us to taste it all, without having to risk it all.

3 Surprising Ways to Unlock Your Creativity

FEBRUARY 21, 2017 READER RESOURCE Join Entrepreneur’s The Goal Standard Challenge and make 2017 yours. Learn more » Creativity tops the heap. It’s the apex of “21st-century skills,” or those skills considered essential for children to thrive today. It’s the…

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3 Surprising Ways to Unlock Your Creativity

READER RESOURCE

Join Entrepreneur’s The Goal Standard Challenge and make 2017 yours. Learn more »

Creativity tops the heap. It’s the apex of “21st-century skills,” or those skills considered essential for children to thrive today. It’s the same ability that IBM — after surveying over 1,500 CEOs — found most critical to being a successful CEO. And, as mental health and successful aging have become national concerns, a bevy of research finds creative expression crucial to both short term happiness and long term satisfaction. Yet, despite being bedrock fundamental to so much that we want from our lives, creativity remains elusive: tricky to understand, nearly impossible to train.

In 2015, for example, the energy drink company Red Bull completed the first phase of Hacking Creativity, the largest meta-analysis of the subject ever undertaken. After combing through more than 30,000 scientific studies and conducting hundreds of interviews with experts, researchers concluded that creativity is, indeed, the most important skill for success in our fast-paced world. Unfortunately, they also found we have very little success teaching people how to be more creative.

Related: The Science of Innovation: How to Imagine the Unimaginable

But there’s a startling reason for this failure. We keep trying to train up a skill, but what we really need to be training is a state of mind.

A growing pile of evidence shows that non-ordinary states of consciousness — a term defined by John Hopkins psychiatrist Stanislav Grof as dramatic shifts in perception, emotion and thought — are the real key to unlocking our creativity. Consider three of today’s most familiar non-ordinary states: meditation, flow and psychedelics.

Meditation

Research done in the 1990s on Tibetan Buddhists found that longtime meditation produces brainwaves in the gamma range. These unusual waves arise primarily during “binding,” the moment novel ideas snap together for the first time — the telltale signature of “a-ha insight.” This means meditation amplifies creativity, but — as those monks had put in 34,000 hours of cross-legged cushion time — it was a finding with limited practical application.

Then researchers began to consider the impact of short-term meditation on mental performance. Was it possible to cut some monastic corners and get similar results? Turns out, you can cut quite a few corners.

In 2009, psychologists at the University of North Carolina found that even four days of meditation significantly improved both creativity and cognitive flexibility. “Simply stated,” lead researcher Fadel Zeidan explained to Science Daily, “the profound improvements we found after just four days of meditation training are really surprising. . . . [They’re] comparable to results that have been documented after far more extensive training.” So rather than pulling a caffeinated all-nighter to force a eureka insight (or devoting decades to becoming a monk), we now know that even a few days’ training in mindfulness can up the odds of a breakthrough considerably.

Related: The Secret to Coming Up with New Ideas

Flow

Similar boosts are showing up in the study of those “in the zone” moments of total absorption known as flow. A recent University of Sydney experiment used transcranial magnetic stimulation to induce the state, then gave subjects the nine-dot problem, that classic test of creative puzzle solving: Connect nine dots with four lines without lifting pencil from paper in 10 minutes. Normally, fewer than 5 percent pull it off. In their control group, no one did. But 40 percent of the flow group connected the dots in record time, or eight times better than the norm. This is also why, when McKinsey did a 10-year study of companies, top executives — meaning those most frequently called upon to solve complex creative problems — reported being up to 500 percent more productive in flow.

Related: 10 Tips to Turn Your Brain into an Idea Factory

Psychedelics

And comparable results are appearing in psychedelic research. In a national study of microdosing among professionals, psychologist James Fadiman found sub-perceptual doses of substances like LSD consistently enhanced pattern recognition and creative problem-solving. This also explains how the headline “Why Men Are Dropping Acid At Work” came to grace this month’s cover of GQ.

But the key takeaway here isn’t that mindfulness, micro-dosing or flow are the next “killer app.” It’s that tuning our states of mind — regardless of mechanism — makes us far more creative and effective.

And for anyone interested in this approach, but unsure where to begin, consider the protocols we developed at Google while beta-testing this research. Over a six week stretch, with 60 minutes a day of required practice, the subjects in our study averaged a 71 percent increase in both flow and heightened performance.

  1. Enforce rigorous sleep hygiene: Dark, cold and quiet. Want to go further? Learn your “chronotype” by taking Dr. Michael Breuss’s The Power of When quiz and tune your circadian rhythm.
  2. Own the hour after waking: How we start our day has a massive impact on whether we stride or stumble through the rest of it — so take time to hydrate, reflect, move and fuel.
  3. Defend your first 90 minutes of work: To heighten flow, eliminate distraction, use Brain.fm to block out noise and enhance concentration, push calls and meetings to afternoon and focus only on your most important tasks — not your inbox. And if you’re curious about your unique way to get into the zone, there’s a free quiz.
  4. Periodize recovery: Just because you could sit at your desk for 5 hours without budging doesn’t mean you should. Use a Pomodoro timer to get up and move for 5-10 minutes for every hour spent working. This will keep you from getting overtaxed, allowing you to stay in peak productivity longer.
  5. Practice active recovery: Passive recovery is when we’re too fried to take the steps needed to rebound. Think Netflix and veg vs. workout and meditate. Instead, build time into your calendar to shift states and recover quicker. Download a heart-rate variability (HRV) app and spend 5 minutes calibrating your cardiac rhythm. Soak in an Epsom salt bath or take a sauna before bed. Get outside and move: Recent studies have shown that hiking in nature decreases “excess rumination” and boosts creativity and memory.
  6. Plan state shifting experiences and adventures: Book a float tank session. Do a weekend silent meditation retreat. Train for and compete in an adventure race. Ask your doctor if transcranial magnetic stimulation is right for you. Learn to hyperventilate with Wim Hof, or go to a raging dance party.

Anything that gets you out of ruts and routines, defrags your mental hard drive and resets your nervous system, pays big dividends over time.

Consider the gains: a 200 percent boost in creativity, a 490 percent boost in learning, a 500 percent boost in productivity. These are essential skills and those are big percentage gains. If they were merely the result of a few studies done by a couple of labs, they would be easier to dismiss. But there are now seven decades of research, conducted by hundreds of scientists on thousands of participants, showing that changing the channel of consciousness, no matter the method used, can unlock the creativity we’ve been searching for.

What Google Found at Burning Man: A CEO and the Art of Flow

It was 2001, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin faced the biggest personnel decision of their start-up lives. Despite creating one of Silicon Valley’s more notorious hiring gauntlets, where candidates were ruthlessly vetted for GPAs, SATs, and their ability to…

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What Google Found at Burning Man: A CEO and the Art of Flow

It was 2001, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin faced the biggest personnel decision of their start-up lives. Despite creating one of Silicon Valley’s more notorious hiring gauntlets, where candidates were ruthlessly vetted for GPAs, SATs, and their ability to calculate MENSA-like brain-teasers, the founders realized they couldn’t crack their next hire with metrics alone.

After several years of rocket ship success, Google’s board had decided that the company was growing too big for Larry’s and Sergey’s twenty-something britches. The investors felt a little “adult supervision” was needed and initiated a search for what would prove to be one of the more pivotal CEO hires of the high-tech era.

The process wasn’t easy, on anyone. After nearly a year of interviews, as Brin later told the press, “Larry and I [had] managed to alienate fifty of the top executives in Silicon Valley.” Time was running out. If they couldn’t get it right soon, they’d prove the board’s point: they were in over their heads.

In choosing their CEO, Page and Brin came to the conclusion that they had to look beyond their normal screening process. Resumes were all but useless. The technical part was more or less a given—there were plenty of sharp guys in the Valley who could run a stable of code monkeys. But, in a town full of outsize personalities, they had to find someone who could set ego aside and get what Google was trying to do. Someone who could, in the New York Times’ John Markoff’s assessment, “discipline Google’s flamboyant, self-indulgent culture, without wringing out the genius.”

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Get it right, and they’d own the search engine space for a decade or more. Screw it up, and they could lose control of their company. Game over. Back to grad school.

So, in a stroke of desperate inspiration, Page and Brin found themselves turning to an unusual selection process, a brutal filtration system both strikingly similar to Navy SEAL Basic Underwater Demolition training (BUD/S ) and as wildly different as it could get.

Like the SEALs’ infamous Hell Week, a finalist for Google’s CEO job would have to spend five nearly sleepless days and nights enduring oppressive sun, freezing cold, and a 24/7 barrage of VUCA conditions (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). Pushed to physical and psychological extremes, the prospective leader would have nowhere to hide. Would he retreat into himself? Or could he merge with the team?

Of course, there were a few differences. Unlike the San Diego beach where BUD/S prospects prove themselves, the beach Page and Brin had in mind hadn’t seen flowing water in nearly fifteen thousand years. It was now a bone-dry lake bed in the middle of Nevada’s Black Rock Mountains. The site of Burning Man, one of the stranger rites of passage in modern times.

And rite of passage is the right phrase. This teeming, temporary carnival of tens of thousands has its own quirky customs, exotic rituals, and a fiercely dedicated following. It’s a modern-day Eleusis, a Bacchanalian blowout, the Party at the End of Time—take your pick. But there’s no denying the truth: Something happens out there.

And Page and Brin were regular and enthusiastic attendees. The company that set the bar for catered perks ran free shuttle buses to the event. For many years, the two-story atrium of Building 43, Google’s main headquarters, wasn’t decorated with industry accolades or stock-ticker flat screens. Instead, it showcased pictures of loincloth-wearing, fire-spinning Googlers and their eclectic Burning Man art projects.

In fact, the very first Google Doodle, posted in the late summer of 1998, was a crude stick figure of the Burning Man himself. Made from two commas set back to back, centered over the second yellow o in Google, that cryptic icon signified to those in the know that Page and Brin were turning out the lights in Palo Alto and lighting out for the Nevada badlands.

So, when the founders heard that Eric Schmidt, the 46-year-old veteran of Sun Microsystems and a Berkeley Ph.D. computer scientist, was the sole CEO finalist who had already been to the event, they rejiggered their rankings and gave the guy a callback. “Eric was . . . the only one who went to Burning Man,” Brin told Doc Searls, then a Berkman Center fellow at Harvard. “We thought [that] was an important criterion.”

Stanford sociologist Fred Turner agrees, arguing that the festival’s appeal to Silicon Valley is that it brings that hive mind experience to the masses. “[It] transforms the work of engineering into . . . a kind of communal vocational ecstasy.” One of Turner’s research subjects, a Googler himself, explained his experience on a pyrotechnic team: “[We were] very focused, very few words, open to anything . . . no egos. We worked very tightly. . . . I loved the ‘feeling of flow’ on the team—it was an extended, ecstatic feeling of interpersonal unity and timelessness we shared throughout.”

And like the SEALs flipping the switch, the Googler’s “communal vocational ecstasy” relies on changes in brain function. “Attending festivals like Burning Man,” explains Oxford professor of neuropsychology Molly Crockett, “practicing meditation, being in flow, or taking psychedelic drugs rely on shared neural substrates. What many of these routes have in common is activation of the serotonin system.”

But it’s not only serotonin that makes up the foundation of those collaborative experiences. In those states, all of the neurochemicals that arise—serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, endorphins, anandamide, and oxytocin—play roles in social bonding. Norepinephrine and dopamine underpin “romantic love,” endorphins and oxytocin link mother to child and friend to friend, anandamide and serotonin deepen feelings of trust, openness, and intimacy. When all of these chemicals flow through groups at once, you get tighter bonds and heightened cooperation.

That heightened cooperation, that communal vocational ecstasy, was what Page, Brin, and so many of Google’s engineers had discovered in the desert. It was an altered state of consciousness that suggested a better way of working together, and a feeling that anyone who presumed to lead them simply had to know firsthand. Maybe, if Schmidt could endure the blistering heat, the dust storms, the sleepless nights, and the relentless strangeness of Burning Man, just maybe, he’d be the guy who could help them grow the dream without killing it.

Did it work? Did a bash in the boonies filter for critical talent better than any algorithm they could code? “The whole point of taking Schmidt to Burning Man,” explains Salim Ismail, global ambassador for Singularity University and a Silicon Valley fixture, “was to see how he could handle a wild environment. Could he deal with the volatile, novel context? The extreme creativity? Did he merge with his team or stand in their way? And that’s what they learned on that trip, that’s one of Schmidt’s great talents. He’s really flexible, even in difficult conditions. He adapted his management style to fit their culture without bleeding out their genius and turned Google into a monster success.”

Just check the numbers. When Google hired Schmidt in 2001, their revenues were rumored to be about $100 million. A decade later, when Schmidt finally handed the CEO reins back to Page, the company’s revenues were nearly $40 billion.

That’s a return of almost 40,000 percent.

Page and Brin have gone on to become numbers nineteen and twenty on Forbes’s list of the world’s wealthiest individuals, while Schmidt is one of the only nonfounder, nonfamily-members to ever become a stock option billionaire in history. Even for a company like Google, dedicated to unassuming goals like “10x moonshots” and organizing the entire world’s information—a 400x return?

As close to priceless as they’ll ever get.

From the book “Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work” by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal. Copyright ©2017 by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal. Reprinted by permission of Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Genius Who Sticks Around Forever

They say that wisdom accumulates, that perhaps it is not subject to the same ticktock corrosion that renders bones frail and hair thin. They say it is our one real treasure, this thing to be passed on, gener­ation to generation,…

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The Genius Who Sticks Around Forever

They say that wisdom accumulates, that perhaps it is not subject to the same ticktock corrosion that renders bones frail and hair thin. They say it is our one real treasure, this thing to be passed on, gener­ation to generation, to grant us a stay against a dark, dim future. And so we have Greek lectures transcribed by diligent pupils; sketches by Leonardo; a collection of Gertrude Stein’s writing; the fireside scratch of a chatty F.D.R.; a cinematic tour of Stephen Hawking’s universe; and now, at this great, late date, we have Timothy Leary charting his last days just a mouse-click away. But what we don’t have is the people themselves; we don’t have their consciousnesses, and that is the real loss. And, if you believe the believers, that is all about to change.

They’re calling it the Soul Catcher, a pet name really, as if the soul were something that could be caught like a fish. It’s the brainchild of Peter Cochrane of British Telecommunications: a micromemory, chip implanted in the human brain, implanted for the whole of a life­time, meant to record the whole of that lifetime.

The first step – integrating the chip with the body _ shows great promise. Already researchers at Stanford University have found ways of splicing nerves and, using a chip, getting them to grow back together. In a Georgia hospital, electrodes have been successfully embedded in the brain of a completely paralyzed man, translating thoughts into cursor movement. (See Page 63.) Unlike the rest of the body, which tends to reject foreign implants, the nervous system is incorporative — meaning that the act of placing a chunk of metal into the brain is more like rewiring a light switch than reinventing the wheel.

By using variations of existing technologies – the silicon retina, artificial cochlea, artificial tongue — scientists have managed to document the activity of each of the five senses. Each time we have a sensory experience, a chemical reaction is triggered in the brain, which we interpret as emotion. The next goal — which Cochrane thinks could take about two years to achieve – is to measure and track these chemical reactions, and eventually create a record of a lifetime’s worth of experience and feeling.

Throughout the typical 70-year human life span, the brain pro­cesses something akin to 50 terabytes of memory, a data accumu­lation equivalent to millions of books. In about ten years, Coch­rane says, computers will be so advanced that they will be capable of reassembling millions of bits of recorded experience into a fac­simile of individual perspective. Think, for instance, of a chip that could record everything that a person ever ate – a lifetime of fast food and gourmet snacks and whatever else. Now add to that a record of the chemical reactions set in motion by eating these meals. A computer powerful enough to synthesize this data could end up with a pretty good idea of that person’s taste. Multiply this by all sensory experiences, and you have a machine capable of reproducing all experience.

But Cochrane’s idea is not simply to capture a life. He wants to make that life available to others after the person with the em­bedded chip dies. That requires a powerful playback device ­something akin to the virtual-reality goggles and gloves that have been promised for years. Cochrane proposes that within the fast blink of two decades, a living being will be able to experience mo­ments in the life of a dead one.

Cochrane takes a grand view of all this. He thinks in terms of preserving the wisdom of the ages, of the chance to interact with the future Einsteins, Sapphos and Beethovens after their deaths. But he also acknowledges the risks. “I’m sure there will be prob­lems,” says Cochrane. “I may turn out to be a little like the guy who invented television. When they asked him what he thought television would be used for, the only thing he could think of was education. Now all we have to watch is crap.”

How will we sort the potential Edisons from the basement tin­kerers? Will we all eventually have our lives recorded for pos­terity? And what of the unsettling possibilities? The wife who takes a peek into her husband’s life and finds that he was a thief; the husband who discovers his wife’s betrayal; and the thousands of other secrets we withhold from one another. There may be a dark side to our desire for ‘soul-to-soul union. Sometimes the very thing meant to bring us closer together can, in fact, drive us farther apart.