I answered questions on my current morning and exercise routines, holotropic breathwork, ambition vs. self-compassion, diet, tools for assisting with ontological shock, what currently brings me a lot of joy, not caring what other people think, and much, much more.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
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This interview was transcribed by Rev.com.
Tim Ferriss: How’s everybody doing? Thanks for joining. I’m wearing a C4 shirt for people who might be interested. You can check out C4 Foundation. We’re going to do a Q&A as promised, and the Q&A will alternate from livestream, which means the chat box where everyone is chatting at the moment. You’ll be able to submit questions. Why don’t we start with perhaps a few of the questions that were pre-submitted? So I have a list of questions that were submitted, and I will do my best to take a stab at those questions, and we’ll just go back and forth until I run out of time. That’s about it.
So let’s jump into it. We see people from all over the world here, from many different countries, Scotland, from the Netherlands. Any other people here from outside the US? Let’s see. I think we have CMDX. I wish I knew what that was. I don’t know what that is. So perhaps somebody can tell me. Devon, England, Montana, Vancouver Island, London, Canada, SoCal, Berlin, Montreal. Great. Germany, Ireland, all over.
So let us just jump in to this Q&A, and I’ll say this one more time that we have questions that were submitted in advance. We also have live chat, and I’ll alternate going back and forth between the two. Hopefully, we’ll have some fun, and I will do my best not to provide completely idiotic answers. I can’t give any guarantees on the questions, though. Although I think most of these questions are quite strong. So let’s just go to a couple of softball pitches, and then I will jump in to the livestream.
Number one, this is from Sera, S-E-R-A, “Hey, Tim. What’s a 2021 updated version of your morning routine?”
It’s actually quite consistent I think with past morning routine. The basics are 20 minutes of meditation first thing in the morning. That’s generally going to be some form of transcendental meditation. Then brushing teeth, doing the basics of self-care and getting downstairs to have pu’erh tea, usually pique, P-I-Q-U-E, pu’erh tea, and I’ll alternate black and green or coffee of some type, and as long-term listeners will know, I am a huge fan of both Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee and Laird Superfood Creamer. I had both this morning, in fact.
From that point on, it really depends on the day. So I organize my week in a thematic approach, meaning, rather than taking the five types of activities that I need or want to cover each week and spreading them throughout each day, I tend to have a day dedicated to different types of work. So Tuesday will involve lots and lots of phone calls, or at least that’s when I’ll batch my phone calls with my team and with other people.
So very frequently, I will not do any type of journaling on that day, but start walking and talking. So I’ll get a lot of my sun exposure on Tuesdays, and so on and so forth. So it really depends on the day. There could be writing following decaffeination. There could be exercise. So twice a week, I will get into this next, I do some form of acrobatic or inversion training in the form of typically AcroYoga, and that leads to the next question from Mark Chavez, “What is your current exercise routine, and what cool exercise equipment or gadgets are you using?”
So my weekly routine right now was really, I suppose, first forged in quarantine. So during quarantine, began doing AcroYoga twice a week via Zoom with someone named Jason Nemer as the instructor, and practicing with my girlfriend provided us both with physical contact, additional physical contact and play, several hours of additional contact and play per week, but also gave us a fantastic way to move because there are forms of exercise that really don’t entail a lot of movement through space.
AcroYoga happens to include all the elements, both acrobatic and therapeutic. So we would do, say, 45 to 60 minutes of inversion practice, which would include forearm stands, handstands, and so on, and there are many different training tools to use for that. Then do what is known as L-basing, where I’m on my back holding my girlfriend in the air with my feet and hands, and we have different roles and responsibilities in that dynamic, and then doing some version of thigh massage, often with traction towards the end of that workout. It’s the combination of these sympathetic activation and parasympathetic off-ramp that I think leads to a great sense of well-being, physically and emotionally for the rest of the day.
So twice a week. Let’s just call it Tuesday. Thursdays, I would have acro in the morning. That would be right after the pu’erh tea or coffee. Then twice a week, currently, and this is post-COVID, climbing. So I do bouldering and also top roping. I haven’t done my lead climbing cert yet. So I’m not lead climbing, and have really been enjoying doing that. The two combine very well. Acro is really very much pushing-based. So you’re going to be pushing away or stabilizing with a pushing movement of some type with both your arms and your legs.
Of course, in rock climbing, you do have pushing in the legs, but it is largely pulling, otherwise. So I find that that tends to balance out the, say, antagonistic muscle groups, so that you don’t develop, if you approach it in a moderate way, which I am, you don’t develop the repetitive stress, pain, and injuries that have plagued me for most of my life by the virtue of overdoing things or I should say the vice of overdoing things.
So even though my body might be able to handle climbing three or four times a week, I’m limiting myself to twice a week, and that has been fantastic. It has meant that despite the fact that I had complete shoulder reconstruction of my left shoulder in the early 2000s, and elbow surgery on my right elbow more recently, I have been able to train without extended pain. Of course, little nicks and bruises and so on.
So we have climbing twice a week. We have acro twice a week, and then we have weight training typically of some type one to two times per week. This is nothing fancy. It’s something along the lines of, say, an Occam’s protocol in The 4-Hour Body or kettlebell swings. It’s very basic. It’s generally going to be 20 to 40 minutes, and it is for the purpose of injury prevention, first and foremost, not performance enhancement.
Last but not least, walking. I walk a fair amount on Tuesdays during calls. I would say I walk for three to five hours minimum, and do my best certainly when I have access to trails and so on to walk for a minimum of an hour per day. I find that walking is not just physically therapeutic, but psychoemotionally incredibly therapeutic. So that is what the exercise routine looks like.
So we checked off two of those. Let’s try a few questions from the livestream. So we’ll look at a couple of questions from the livestream here, and it might take me a moment to select because there are many of them. All right.
Edgar Inoue, I think, is how we pronounce that. Question, “What is your process to determine if you’re going the right direction? Sometimes we might get lost in trying to accomplish things instead of thinking about what is worth working for.”
Really, this is an energetic canary in the coal mine for me in the sense that if you find yourself low energy, which is very often accompanied by depressive or pessimistic thoughts, then I will do a number of things, including 80/20 analysis and, really, some form of streamlining as outlined in The 4-Hour Workweek, but I will very frequently take the 80/20 analysis and apply it in two columns, and those are the, say, 20 percent of people in activities that are producing 80 percent or more of my peak positive emotional states, and then on the other side, peak negative emotional states or negative adds and negative subtractions, and I will look at that.
Really, it’s just using a simple rubric like how quickly do you fall asleep and how do you feel when you first wake up. When you first wake up, is there a feeling of dread, of, “Oh, fuck! I have to slog through another day of not really knowing where I’m going,” or is it a different feeling?
So for me, as Jodie Foster once said, I believe could be a misattribution, but, “In the end, winning is sleeping well,” something along those lines. So it’s really, how do you feel right before you go to bed or when you go to bed, and how do you feel right when you wake up. If something is off, I believe you know it. It doesn’t need to be put into a spreadsheet and analyzed.
Then the question is figuring out where to focus, and to that point, I am actually going to hop to another question here in front of me, which might be related on some level.
This is a question from Steve Schwab, and this might seem like a hard left turn, but I don’t think it is. So Steve Schwab’s question is, “I have constant thoughts about the meaning or meaninglessness of life and discomfort with death. Therefore, I distract my life with work. Do you have any recommendations on managing these thoughts?”
I wanted to bring this up because let’s say you are having the experience of a malaise. You are having trouble falling asleep or you have a certain level of anxiety about the unknown or you wake up and feel that you are without direction. I think those feelings are often combined with these difficulties or challenges that Steve is outlining.
So do I have any recommendations on managing these thoughts? I’m not going to start with an answer to that. I’ll start by saying that for the last several months, I have had constant thoughts about the meaninglessness of life and quite a bit of discomfort or angst around death. So what am I doing? So in this case, I’m not going to provide an answer necessarily because I also think that’s a very personal thing, but I’ll tell you how I am looking to reboot the system and hopefully navigate that.
Number one is I’m going to reread Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which I’ve been meaning to reread for a very long time. I also have a book a friend recommend called Smile at Fear. I can’t vouch for it yet because I haven’t read it. The author, I’m going to butcher this name, Chögyam Trungpa. That’s C-H-O-G-Y-A-M T-R-U-N-G-P-A, but Smile at Fear. The title should find you the book.
I’m also going to read biographies of people who found meaning. Really, I don’t know how much of it is finding meaning versus choosing meaning, and I don’t think there is any inherent single objective meaning of life that should guide your steps and decisions. It seems to me that it is a personal decision of sorts. Perhaps that is with a vocation. Perhaps you feel called to something. Perhaps you pursue something, but I’m looking for models of people who have done that. So I think biographies will also hold an important position in my trying to navigate this particular period in my life. So there you have my answer in a way to both of those.
All right. So let me scroll down, see what other questions we have in the livestream. Andrew Robinson, “If you were asked to give a commencement speech, what would be the core message?”
The core message would be you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So pick them very carefully, and prune very carefully over time because some friends are for a night, some for a season, and some for life. All are welcome. There is a place and a time, and there are certainly many benefits and enjoyments to be had for all, but those categories can change, and not everyone is forever.
All right. Two additional questions in the stream. Let me take a look at it. I may pause a bit. All right. This is from Johnny Miller, “Are any of the MAPS or Johns Hopkins studies that you’re aware of looking at the therapeutic effect of holotropic breathwork? What do you view as the potential and opportunities for breathwork?”
So for those who are not familiar, MAPS, maps.org is a nonprofit that is the driving force behind the phase three studies for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Let me rephrase that. So maps.org is a nonprofit that is the driving force behind the phase three studies for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. This very often involves veterans, victims of sexual abuse, et cetera. MDMA has been shown to have tremendous promise. There is a huge cover story that is the cover of The New York Times print edition discussing MAPS and Rick Doblin’s work and so on in this area.
Johns Hopkins, at least in this particular reference, is looking at psilocybin, which is the psychoactive or one of the psychoactive compounds found in psilocybe mushrooms or magic mushrooms for treating things like nicotine addiction, end of life existential distress in cancer patients, et cetera.
So I’m not aware of any studies being sponsored by MAPS or being conducted at Johns Hopkins that incorporate holotropic breathwork specifically, but I think there is tremendous, certainly, and this is not a discovery of mind or anything novel from me. There are, I believe, very interesting applications of breathwork, both to therapy and somatic awareness, somatic release. That will be true in something like Hakomi therapy, H-A-K-O-M-I, which I think is a fantastic adjunct to any type of psychedelic-assisted therapy.
It can also be used, and certainly this is true in holotropic breathwork, which is so named because the tropic portion refers to turning towards holo, wholeness, turning towards wholeness, right? So you would have heliotropic flowers, for instance, that turn towards the sun. Holotropic would be turning towards wholeness. It was created much like the drumming of Michael Harner. This would be a separate example. Holotropic breathwork was created by Stan Grof, who is a psychiatrist or psychotherapist originally from the Czech Republic, who is looking for an alternative to psychedelic compounds after they were illegalized during the Nixon administration.
You can use intense breathwork such as holotropic breathwork to experience non-ordinary states of consciousness, what some might call altered states of consciousness without drugs, and there is value in this, certainly. My recommendation to anyone who approaches me and asks about psychedelics is often, unless it’s contraindicated for them, and there are some contraindications, that they experience something like holotropic breathwork first because, A, it’s legal and, B, it does not involve any drugs, which can provoke a lot of anxiety in many people. So I view that as a precursor or a prerequisite almost to engaging in any type of psychedelic therapy, but I’m not aware of any studies. I do believe that Jamie Wheal, W-H-E-A-L, is involved or maybe involved in some studies related to holotropic breathwork, and that is not the only breathwork that can be used for all of the purposes that I have been describing. There are many others.
All right. Let’s jump to another question in the stream, and thanks for joining, everybody. This is fun. I enjoy this. Just see a note from Gonchin, “Careful with pseudo-shamans, though.” Yes. Be careful with pseudo-shamans and rent-a-shamans or yogawaska practitioners. If anyone calls themself a shaman, in fact, I would anyway generally that is a red flag and you should probably steer clear of them because the well-trained indigenous practitioners or those who’ve spent decades working in specific lineages, in my experience, without exception, do not call themselves shamans. They have a particular term usually pulled from one of the native languages like Quechua, Spanish, or fill in the blank to describe what they do. So if someone runs up to you with a voucher for discounted shamanic experiences, run the other direction. Okay.
Question from Reese Zenino, “In a recent podcast, you talked about joint pain. Have you tried fish oil, moxa sticks, or acupuncture? What has been the most effective tool for you?”
I’ve tried all of these things. Moxa, I found interesting. Moxa or moxibustion, moxa sticks, this is really using radiant heat at the joint above the skin. So you’re taking a burning stick and holding it near the skin, definitely not on the skin.
What I have found most helpful for certain types of joint issues like elbow pain, for instance, from climbing is, A, modulating volume. So there is a dose that will make the exercise a poison, as Paracelsus would say. So if you exercise too much, you are going to suffer the consequences. So one is really just finding a cadence of exercise that works where you can still adapt and get stronger without causing chronic tendonosis, et cetera. That’s number one.
Number two is working the muscles that act in opposition. So if you’re climbing and doing a lot of pulling, for instance, you’re going to be working the flexors of the forearm tremendously. So you’d want to do some complementary exercises with the extensors, and you can use any number of devices for that. You could use also a bucket of rice. There are many exercises that rock climbers use involving a large bucket of rice, which I found helpful.
VooDoo floss, created by my friend Kelly Starrett, I found tremendously helpful also to use after climbing for the arms, specifically, although it can be used for many different parts of the body. So people can look up VooDoo floss I’m sure on YouTube to find videos of Kelly demonstrating how this can be used, and otherwise, contrast therapy, hot, cold. So I have a hot tub. I also have a sauna. You could certainly just use a hot bath. If you’re fortunate enough to have two baths, you could have one hot and then one full of ice and at an extremely cold temperature. So I have a chest freezer that I have converted into a cold plunge. Be sure to unplug the freezer so that you don’t electrocute yourself.
Based on some recommendations from Kyle Kingsbury, modified, meaning really just caulking to fully waterproof the freezer to make it a cold plunge. So I will go hot, cold, hot, cold, hot, cold. Usually, let’s just call it three minutes in each, and this is well-documented for recovery effects. Then nutrition. So those are a few of the things, a few of the levers that I have pulled most recently, at least, to address or rather prevent elbow pain and this also applies to my shoulder.
Last but not least, I would say technique before volume. So in the case of rock climbing, I do foresee a point where I will be able to train three or four or more times per week. Right now, my technique is so inefficient, and my joints or more accurately, my tendons and ligaments have not strengthened at the same pace as my musculature so I’m being very, very cautious, but there will be a point, and I hope to climb for many decades where I’ll be able to add volume to that.
All right. Let’s take a look at some more questions. All right. So I get this question a lot, “Do you know of any psychedelic retreats that I can recommend?”
I can’t do that, of course, because as much as I wish I could, immediately, whatever I recommend would suffer as one listener called the hug of death, and they would get more applications than they could accept. They would attempt to increase capacity, and then quality and customer service would go through the floor, and it would be a complete disaster for everyone involved.
So let me take a look at a few questions that are then in front of me here. Frank Chen, “Who or what has consistently brought you joy in the past six months, one year, three years, five years?”
Well, I would say, if we’re talking who, my girlfriend is the first who comes to mind, and then, of course, we have Molly Pup, my companion, my second girlfriend, and then that’s one and the same. It’s a joke, folks. I’m saying Molly is my other girlfriend, and then best friends, et cetera. So that’s self-evident, I suppose, but the what has consistently brought me joy in the past six months, one year, consistent joy, period, in the last year or during COVID I have found to be tremendously challenging, but I would say two things come to mind, and that is extended time in nature, where I do not hear the noise of mankind, and I say that right now because I’m sitting in a house where we have construction on almost every side, and it is driving me cuckoo bananas.
Extended time in nature, and that involves also rocking. So taking a weighted backpack. I use GORUCK for training purposes, and just going for long hikes in old-growth forests, if at all possible. Of course, nature anywhere, I think, is very medicinal, but tall trees, big canopies, particularly, calming for my system. The Japanese might call it tree bathing, and then also learning more about the plants and animals so that you can click the dial a few notches on the resolution of what you see because, of course, until you have labels for things, until you have names for things, it is very difficult to distinguish them from the background of, say, your visual experience. That’s why children need to learn, infants and toddlers and so on, labels so that they can distinguish between chair, table, wall, and so on, so that they aren’t just patterns of light and color and shadow that are somehow, I suppose, what should I say? Indistinguishable.
To do that, you need names, you need labels. So I’ve taken walks with field biologists. I have taken walks with biologists of several different types just through common public trails to learn to be able to identify different trees. That’s where I started because at least on the East Coast where I first did this, the biologist said to me, “Look, we could try to learn flowers, and there are going to be hundreds of different wildflowers, and you’re going to have tremendous trouble separating one from the next, and it could be very frustrating, or I could teach you eight trees, and you’ll be able to identify 90 percent of the trees that you see here.” I found that to be good advice.
So those are two things. Time and nature, often moving, not just sitting still, but that’s personal preference, and then learning the plants and animals, the flora and fauna of that given area.
All right. Let me see what other questions we have in the livestream. Daniel Viba, I’m not sure if that’s how you pronounce it, but that’s how I would read it, “Any plans for different projects over the next two to three years?”
I think there is a decent chance that I will finally write or rather finish because I’m actually pretty far through it, the screenplay for The 4-Hour Workweek, which would be a Best In Show/Zoolander comedy of sorts, but it would all be based on true events, and there would be a lot of philosophy and a lot of, I think, practical takeaways along the lines of something like Fight Club. So that’s my pet project in the back of my mind that I have not yet finished and I really should finish. So I envision that probably being a major project for me or at least a project. I don’t want to make bare that it needs to be a project for me in the next two to three years. I would like to do more in the visual medium.
All right. There’s a recommendation from Josh or Joshua Armstrong, “Also check out Viktor Frankl’s Yes to Life. It’s a compilation of lectures he gave before publishing Man Search for Meaning, and I found it to be more actionable as direct advice.”
That is great advice, Joshua. So thank you. I will check that out because I am all for actionable at the moment, although the conceptual stuff ultimately can soak in and help with your view of the world that then informs other decisions, but I will check out that collection of, I guess, transcribed lectures, basically. Okay.
Let’s see. There’s a question here, “Any research on the effects…” Just to revisit this because it’s come up from a few people. “Any research on the effects of psychedelics combined with breathwork?”
Increased synergistic effect. I suspect that it depends on the compound, but absolutely, it is very common that breathwork is administered to people on psychedelics, and there are different versions of this. One is referred to as power breathing and has a multiplicative effect on the dose. So for instance, if we consider a normal hit of LSD to be 100 micrograms, if you were to give someone 50 micrograms and then have them do the equivalent of Wim Hof or holotropic breathwork from, say, after the point of administration, minutes 30 to 60, my expectation would be that many people would subjectively feel it as if it were between 100 micrograms and 200 micrograms. So that is worth being aware of.
All right. Let’s look at some other questions. Of course, I’m not recommending that anyone use any illegal compounds. So I am not a doctor. I don’t play one on the internet, nor am I your lawyer. So everything we’re discussing here is for informational purposes only. Okay.
Let me take a look here. There’s a question from Debbie, Debbie Weil or Weil, “I’m 69, married, and have six grandchildren, definitely not in your target demographic, but still a big fan.”
Thank you, Debbie. I appreciate that. I don’t think I have a target demo. So maybe that makes everyone my target demo. So I appreciate you being a fan.
“Question. Why are you still hesitating about having children?”
I’m not hesitating about having kids. Actually, I hesitated for a long time because, A, I wasn’t convinced that I would be a good father, and I needed to have some conviction around that before even contemplating having kids because I think it is inherently a selfish choice or a self-interested choice. You’re having kids because you want to have kids. As far as we know, they are not choosing to have you as a parent. So I really wanted to do a lot of self-work and go through quite a lot of therapy, many different types of therapy for childhood trauma, et cetera, before even considering that as an option. It seemed like the only ethical way to approach it.
Secondly, some of my hesitation has been around my genetic predisposition, and it is a genetic predisposition. I’ve seen this in my family, certainly, to depressive episodes and whether or not I want to pass along genetic code that could predispose someone who didn’t ask for it to experience depressive episodes on a regular basis, but at this point, for many reasons, I am in the process of seeing fertility doctors and basically doing the pre — let me try that English again. I’m in the process of seeing fertility docs and going through the preflight checklist, so to speak, to ensure that all systems are go, and then I think we’re off to the races. So TBD on outcomes, but that is the current plan. So I’m no longer hesitating in my mind.
Recommendation from Rolins Jigaroff: “Watch Kumaré about how to become a fake shaman.”
This is actually excellent advice. So anyone who is listening to this, I would strongly suggest that you watch a documentary called Kumaré. I don’t want to ruin it. So just watch the trailer, K-U-M-A-R-E, and if you want to train yourself to look on the bright side, if you want to have a degree of optimism while simultaneously learning to defend yourself more effectively against charlatans, this is a great documentary. It is a real fun watch, and it is also one hell of a nail-biter. I’ll leave it at that.
Let’s look to some of the questions here in front of me. Bogdon Bulgarian, if that is you — oh, no, Bogdon the Bulgarian, what a great name. So Bogdon, I may abridge your question a little bit, but I think it’s a good one, and it’s one that I get a fair amount or I’ve seen a fair amount. Here it is, “You’ve mentioned that you believe your hard-charging, beat-yourself-up attitude actually held you back rather than helped you get ahead. Can you explain more about why you think that’s the case? It seems a lot of successful people spend their 20s and 30s grinding super hard to get to where they are, and it’s only once they have achieved success that they take the point of view, ‘I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself.’ Do you think that you would have overcome all the obstacles you had if you had been more self-compassionate even in your 20s and 30s?”
So this is a great question, and on one level, it’s impossible to answer, right? So I can’t run a Monte Carlo simulation on my life and say, “If I had behaved in these different ways or viewed myself in these other ways, that the outcomes would have been the same,” or “I would have reached the same degree of financial success,” but I do think that the word successful is worth underlining here, and that is why I said financially successful, and I modified it in that way.
Here’s what I can say is that a lot of people who compulsively focus on professional achievement have demons whipping them in their back, and that there are exceptions, certainly, but many of the people who achieve outsized financial success, success in any measurable way that can be socially reinforced and appreciated and lauded on magazine covers and so on have super powers and equally super deficits, and that many of them after making millions of dollars or billions of dollars remain quite tortured and unhappy.
So I just want to say that as a preface. That word successful is very dangerous. So I would encourage everybody, when you use that word successful, at the very least, to throw a modifier in front of it, like financially successful or even better, financially independent or post-economic or whatever the concept is that you’re seeking to describe.
To this point, I can’t speak for my experience because I’ve only had the life that I’ve had, but there are also counterexamples. So whenever someone says, “I can’t do,” or “I couldn’t have done X because I am Y,” or “I had to do X,” or “I have to do X because I am Y,” one of the first questions that I always have or that comes to mind is, are there any counterexamples, right? I could say, for instance, and the phrasing will change, but I am successful or people are financially successful because they have a beat yourself up attitude in their 20s and 30s that leads them to grind super hard.
Question: are there counterexamples? There are. I actually have quite a few friends who did not self-flagellate to my knowledge and were not malicious to themselves, did not constantly focus on their flaws, who have had outsized financial success. So is it necessary? No, I don’t think so. Is it common? Yes. So then the question is, should you risk it? If you’re in your 20s and 30s, should you risk being self-compassionate? What I would say is I see very little downside.
So if you are someone who is even asking this question, you are probably not being self-compassionate, if that makes any sense. So you already have some edge of beat-yourself-up attitude if you’re even asking this question, right? If I look at what I have achieved, just by adding a little bit of softness, a little bit of slowness, a little bit of spaciousness to my life through, say, meditation, 20 minutes in the morning. That’s it. Forget about self-compassion. That just gets too squishy for a lot of hard driving McKinsey I-banker aspiring folks who just want to conquer the world. So let’s not use self-compassionate, but what about meditating 20 minutes in the morning?
This will help you to become more self-aware. Let’s start there. Forget about compassion. If you have the ability to pause, even for a few seconds, before reflexively responding, say, in anger or in anything, if you have the ability to be more self-aware so that you can regulate more effectively, will that make you more effective or will that make you less effective? I think it will make you more effective.
These things will naturally lead, I think, to some degree of self-compassion, right? So if we deconstruct it that way, I would have to say, A, I have yet to find someone who has cultivated any of these behaviors, who has said, “I’ve lost my edge, I lost my drive completely, I can’t achieve anything anymore, and I really regret it.” I’ve never met anyone who has said that. This includes people in their 20 and 30s. This includes — I’m repeating because I’m tongue-tied at the moment and we’re recording this. So this is also true for people in their 20s and 30s.
The second thing I would say is that when you take the edge off a little bit, and because this is also a concern in therapy. People don’t want to go to therapy because they’re afraid they’ll lose their edge. This is very true for people like comedians or entertainers, oftentimes, or they don’t want to meditate. They don’t want to journal because they might lose their edge or whatever that is.
In my experience, you don’t lose your edge, you become more aware of the psychological clothing you put on, the stories that you tell yourself, et cetera, that produce that edge, if that makes any sense, right? So you become aware of the recipe that you use for the edge, and you could view that like a — the analogy that I’ve used with one person is it’s like a jacket that you take off and you put in your closet. You still have that jacket. If you need that edge, you know where to find it, and you can put it back on, and you can get out, and you can scorch the Earth or you can conquer the world, whatever it happens to be.
If somebody, for instance, I found a stalker came out of the woodwork and really bothered me and there was a risk that they were going to be a threat to someone in my family, so I went into my wardrobe and I took out my killer cloak, and I put it on, and I quadrupled my edge, and I was able to solve the problem, let’s just say. Then I can take off that cloak and put it back in my wardrobe and not wear it 24/7. There’s a time and a place for it, but it’s like a smoking jacket, right? That’s the analogy I use with this friend. I said, “It’s a smoking jacket. It’s cool. Great, but you wear it when you’re smoking in a lounge. It’s a very specific use case. You don’t fucking wear it to Starbucks. You don’t walk around all day in your office wearing a smoking jacket. You’d be a weirdo, and it’s just not necessary.” So that’s a very, very long answer to your question, but, hopefully, that is helpful in some capacity.
Here’s the other thing. It’s not all or nothing. It’s like when female friends of mine say, “If I lift weights, I’ll get really bulky, won’t I?” I said, “That’s not going to happen overnight. You’re not just going to turn into some show pony with quadzillas in 48 hours. So train, do some resistance training, and it’s going to be incremental, and if you don’t like it, stop.” You’re not going to become a Buddhist master monk overnight if you start meditating or considering some of these topics by reading books like Radical Acceptance or Awareness by Anthony de Mello, for instance.
All right. There you are, Bogdon. Hopefully, that is helpful. Okay.
Question from John, and then we’re going to jump back into the livestream. John says, “You’ve covered an experiment with a number of different eating approaches, time-restricted eating, faster, 30 grams of protein in the morning, slow carb, keto, et cetera. What’s your current eating plan or schedule look like?”
I’m back to slow carb. I’ve tried so many things, and the slow carb diet, generally speaking, is going to be my preferred method of eating. I’m not doing much time-restricted eating. I think that there are, I’m sure, benefits. I am sure because they’re documented. There are benefits to time-restricted eating, but right now, I’m trying to add muscle mass and strength with a lot of the training that I’m doing. So I am not using time-restricted eating, and there are people who will say you can use time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting to enhance anabolism. I just find it easier to follow a normal more or less three-meal per day slow carb diet in pursuing that.
Then from a fasting perspective, I still try to do and aim to do, say, a three-day fast, meaning a 72-hour water fast once per month, and then at least a single one-week fast per year. So that is my current regimen, and if you have not fasted before, please do so under medical supervision. Speak to your general practitioner beforehand, please, because not everyone tolerates fasting terribly well, and you can listen to my podcasts with Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, D apostrophe A-G-O-S-T-I-N-O, for all the detail in the world you could possibly want on fasting. He is one of the country’s top experts. All right. That is John.
Let’s jump in to the live questions here. I’ll see what I can find, and I appreciate everybody chiming in. You guys are funny. All right. Let’s see here. Okay. I think we got more coming in. All right. Here’s a question from Daniel, “Any particular thinkers or writers you found very helpful regarding child-rearing and preparation for fatherhood? Obviously, the general work with acceptance, self-love, et cetera, about rearing children.”
So Daniel, honestly, I have not begun to read those books because once I let that genie out of the bottle, I’m going to read a hundred of them. My general feeling is spending time with my friends who I consider to be excellent parents and excellent partners, and I do look for them to check both boxes is the best preparation that I can do in addition to all the self-work that you mentioned. I think that if you try to make yourself the most compassionate aware person possible, obviously with boundaries, I think I will be a strict parent on a lot of levels, and you trust your biology.
We have been giving birth and raising children successfully for a very, very long time, well before What to Expect When You’re Expecting came out, even though I hear that’s a very good book. So I’m not overly anxious or insecure about parenting because I do think that a lot of switches will be flipped as soon as, really, we get into the process of getting pregnant, giving birth, and so on, but I’ll keep you posted.
All right. Recommendation to Daniel. Might not be exactly what you’re looking for. This is from another commenter, but the book by Gabor Maté, Scattered Minds, touches a lot of important topics on importance of early development.
All right. Let’s jump back to the questions I have here in front of me. Here’s one from Max. Max asks, “Do you have any advice for dealing with ontological shock like that of the realization of your childhood abuse, a sudden and dramatic need to rewrite the existing narratives of your life and identity?”
I’m struggling with this. So thanks for the question, Max. I want to take a close look at this term that you used, which is a good term, ontological shock, and this is a shock of knowing. Actually, is it a shock of knowing? Let me look that up. I always mix up epistemology and ontological and all these things. Since I have the luxury of looking things up right now, I’m going to take a look at this.
Ontology, yeah, nature of being. All right. So let me just read it then. All right. So let me do a retake on that. All right. So I want to take a closer look at this phrase ontological shock. I first heard this phrase from Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins with reference to what some people, some patients can experience after their first mystical experience on higher doses of something like psilocybin.
So what is ontology now? The branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being. Two, a set of concepts and categories in a subject area domain that shows their properties and relations between them. So it’s really a nature of being, a nature of knowing. This is how I think about this.
The ontological shock that someone can experience in a psychedelic session would include being unable to reconcile new experiences of reality or new experiences of non-ordinary states of consciousness that seem hyper real. How do you take this experience and then reconcile it with your normal ordinary way of being in the world? It turns out that it can be extremely difficult and very jarring for people. It can take, in some instances, weeks or months or years to readjust if you don’t have help. This is not something that happens all the time, but it is something that happens with some frequency.
Then you have, we could call it ontological shock, say, of the realization or the surfacing of memories related to childhood abuse as an example or any type of abuse or trauma for that matter. I have found a number of tools very helpful for this. I do find IFS, Internal Family Systems, to be very helpful, created by Dick Schwartz. I did a podcast episode with Dick Schwartz, where we actually did a live session of IFS to really demonstrate and showcase the characteristics of that method, and there are IFS therapists around the world. So I would suggest taking a look at that podcast to see if it’s something that might be of interest.
The next that comes to mind, and this applies in many areas, is The Work by Byron Katie, and it’s really a series of questions, form of self-inquiry that allows you to interrogate your thoughts or examine and cross-examine your thoughts or beliefs, beliefs being thoughts we take as true. So The Work by Byron Katie you can find online and many worksheets and so on can be found for free on her website.
The other that I’ll mention and let me just get this right. I think it is free already by Bruce Tift, but I’m going to double check that, and it will just take me a second, folks. Okay. I was close. So the last book I’ll mention quickly here, actually, there are two. One I already mentioned, Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, B-R-A-C-H. She’s also been a guest on the podcast because almost all of my guests on the podcast have some connection to my life, meaning, I invite them on the podcast because of a personal curiosity or personal challenge or personal goal. So Tara Brach has been on my podcast that could serve as a teaser if you want to consider Radical Acceptance, which is a fantastic, fantastic book.
The last book in this particular answer — wow! Got to sound like I’m drunk. I think I’m just tired. The last book that I’ll mention in this particular answer is one by Bruce Tift, T-I-F-T. The book is Already Free, and the title is worth saying twice, Already Free, subtitle, Buddhism Meets Psychotherapy on the Path to Liberation. I found this book to be akin, after reading, say, the first 50 to 74 pages, to taking off a 100-pound backpack you didn’t even realize you’ve been carrying.
I think that that in combination with Radical Acceptance really offers a synergistic one-two punch that could help a lot with many different types of ontological shock. So I will leave it at that, and I wish you good luck. It’s a difficult experience, and that doesn’t mean it is a valueless experience. Sometimes we experience breakdowns so that we can experience breakthroughs. I know that sounds very cliché, but, certainly, I have come to believe that in my own personal experience.
All right. I’m looking at some additional questions now here in the livestream. Chloe Carol, “Have you finished reading Overstory yet?”
Yes. I’ve finished reading The Overstory, which for those who don’t know is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. It is incredibly good. It is incredibly long. You need to give it time to tie the different threads together. I thought it was a beautiful book. It has certainly increased my interest in trees, botany, plants, which one might expect. I recommend it to everyone. It contains a lot of beauty and a lot of brutality. For anyone who’s right at that, it will make sense, and I think there’s a tendency to shield ourselves from brutality, which makes a lot of sense in part because it’s easy to succumb to what someone on my team called doomscrolling, particularly during COVID when every news headline, every article seems optimized to cause a panic response or a rage response.
That is, I think, a form of unfiltered, unselected brutality that is to be avoided, right? That would be stress in the form of distress. Then you have stress in the form of the opposite, which is eustress, E-U, like euphoria, so positive stress. Weightlifting would be an example of this. The rock climbing that I’m doing would be an example of this. These are stressors or sunlight leading to a suntan that you want, stressors that produce an adaptation.
I think selecting painful truths or certain types of brutality and becoming familiar with them, particularly if there is the combination with beauty as you would find in The Overstory allows you to inoculate yourself a bit, and what I mean by that is if you constantly shield yourself from the difficult, from what you perceive to be the negative, when you are for factors well outside of your control forced to encounter the negative, the difficult, the destructive, you may find that you are more fragile.
You may find that you are increasingly having trouble withstanding the onslaught if you have not trained yourself in some fashion with the combination, which you can find of beauty and brutality. Perhaps that’s a strange way to put it, but I do believe there’s something to that.
All right. Let’s keep going. A lot to see here. Let me keep — Ricky asked me, “Are you sure you’re not drunk?”
I’m 100 percent sure I’m not drunk. I also recorded a very long, very fun podcast just a few hours ago. So I’ve already been talking for, say, three hours today. So I think there’s something to that. Everyone who’s listening should try talking for six hours and then seeing how their speech evolves or devolves over the day.
Still looking for questions here. Somebody asked, “When this ends?”
Not sure. I mean, we’ve gone for an hour. I’ll probably go for a little bit longer, especially since apparently my brain function is faltering, but I will probably go for another 20 to 30 minutes. Let’s call it 15 to 30 minutes. All right. Let me take a look.
Here’s a question. “What am I laughing at the most these days?” Someone also asked about evening routines. In the evening, very often, my catchup time with my girlfriend is, well, dinners. We do have date nights twice a week, and I think it’s very important to block those out. Otherwise, life will just crowd out that time with people you care about. So we have date nights twice a week. One is tonight. So I will be certainly not be staying on for hours, in that case.
Then we have a hot tub or sauna, which is just a great way to physically let go, and then we will very often watch a short TV show of some type. Right now, that’s Schitt’s Creek. That’s S-C-H-I-T-T apostrophe S Creek, which is absolutely hilarious. The episodes are extremely short. We are about, I want to say, three quarters of the way through season two, and it’s outstanding. It is really well done, and the characters are all uniquely hilarious and it’s easy. It’s very easy. So I would say that is one example of where I am laughing the most these days.
All right. All right. I’m going to check a few more here in front of me. Let’s see if I can answer any others. Here’s a question from Robert Metcalfe, “When you get into an unproductive thought or emotional loop, are there any particular practices, quotes, reminders that you would turn to for grounding and clear thinking?”
I’ll be the first to confess that I get into unproductive thought or emotional loops all the fucking time. So if that makes anybody feel any better, this is an ongoing challenge, and so it goes. That’s okay. Particular practices, quotes, reminders. Practice number one would be Morning Pages as described by Julia Cameron. There’s a Morning Pages Workbook that I use. It is literally on my kitchen table right now, and you can learn all about that just by searching my name, Tim Ferriss and Morning Pages, and I wrote an entire blog post on how I approach that. So I won’t rehash it here, but that is definitely one of my go-to practices.
Quotes? I have a piece of wood that has a quote laser etched into it. It’s not so much a quote as a proverb, but it’s a Polish proverb, and it’s very simple: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Now why would I use that? Very often because my unproductive thought or emotional loop is triggered by some bullshit that gets foisted upon me like a hot potato. I would say in combination with, “Not my circus, not my monkeys,” the expression, “Your lack of preparation does not constitute my emergency,” which was said to me once way back in the day when I was getting started because I was trying to rush someone to do something, and it is simply a reminder that if you allow everyone else’s to-do list to become your to-do list, you will have a life replete of emergencies, and that just produces a daily experience and a life of cortisol, which I don’t think any of us want.
Now, granted, you need cortisol. If you didn’t have it, you would die, but you don’t want to have a life that is dominated by stress hormones. So those are a few, and then last but not least, and I know I’ve mentioned this already in this episode, and the fact that I will mention it again should tell you that I view it as valuable, the book Awareness by Anthony de Mello. It is a constant source of nourishment with incredible after effects.
I find myself really to be at peace for two to three weeks after reading Awareness with fresh eyes, and I always find a new nuance or a new takeaway from this book even though I’ve read it probably 12 times at this point, something along 10 to 12 times. I would say minimum. I have an entire shelf in my guest bedroom at home that is full of copies of Awareness to give to friends who come to visit, and that is how strongly I feel about the benefits.
Let’s go back to the livestream. Anybody have any questions? Any questions? Any questions? Okay. Comment from Justin Steward, “Ted Lasso is a good one, too.”
I polled my followers on Twitter and Facebook and so on. So a few million people asking for an easy, feel-good series to binge watch, and Ted Lasso, L-A-S-S-O, came up repeatedly. It was probably one of the top three. So that is also on my list. Even in this chat, there are many plus ones for Ted Lasso.
All right. Matt Ridley asks, “How much time do I set aside for reading each week?”
I tend to read before bed as a way to wind down and very frequently, I would say once or twice a week, I’ll try to read. This is often if I am feeling anxious for whatever reason or rushed, but without a clear explanation, I will meditate, have my tea or coffee, and then lay down on the couch with my dog, and read for 30 to 60 minutes. So I would say if you total it all up, I am probably reading for three to five hours per week. If I’m traveling, it will be significantly higher.
All right. Let me take a look at questions. Let’s see. Question here, “How active are you in lobbying Congress’ decreased restrictions on psychedelic research?”
Well, there are many challenges in the arena of psychedelic research. Certainly, one is the federal scheduling of most of these compounds. Suffice to say, I am active on almost every front related to psychedelic research.
Question from — looks like Greek. Unfortunately, I can’t read Greek phonetically, so I apologize. “Have you given serious thoughts to writing fiction?”
Yes, I have, and in fact, I have been writing short stories in fiction, and I’ve been doing that in the mornings before inputs, often on the weekends, and it has been tremendously liberating, and it is quite similar to rock climbing, in fact, and I think part of the reason I enjoy both is that you might have an idea of where you’re starting, the first few moves, and then you get up on the wall, and unless you’ve specced out the entire route, you need to improvise, and you begin to problem solve, and play with puzzles on the way up.
I quite enjoy that, which is very different from my experience of nonfiction. Nonfiction is more like, for me at least, carpentry. It’s a lot of research, preparation, laying out the outlines, knowing where you’re going, having the data in front of you. This is much more similar to playing with building blocks or finger paints or something like that, not to in any way denigrate fiction. Great fiction I find almost impossible to comprehend as a craft. I don’t know how someone like the author of Little, Big, for instance, writes the way that he writes. I just don’t know how it’s done. It really boggles my mind, but I am taking it step-by-step, bird-by-bird, as one might say, which is also one of my favorite books on the craft of writing and fiction, which is really also a great book on the craft of living, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
All right. Let me take a look here. All right. I’m going to go back, and I think I am going to wrap up in a few minutes because my brain is clearly lagging with my slurring, and I promise you no drug involved. Maybe I need more drugs. All right. Let me take a look.
All right. I’m going to read this question from Andrew Robinson not because my answer is a great answer. Although I think it may be helpful to some people, but it’s an important topic. So Andrew asks, “How do you overcome the fear of being misunderstood? It seems that you have made many decisions in your personal and professional life, example given, opting out of a more typical career path after Princeton, extreme experimentation, quitting startup investing, and most recently, supporting psychedelic research. They might be confusing at first even for those in your personal life. Anything other than fear setting that comes to mind for helping you manage how others, whether personal friends or the general public may perceive your decisions?”
So this is a topic that we could explore for an entire episode, but I do the first principles are important because you can come up with all sorts of strategies and tactics, but underlying those are some assumptions or beliefs, and those are, in a sense, the first principles.
So for me, I suppose there are a couple of things to consider that, first, you should assume you’re almost always going to be misunderstood or I should say if you assume you will always be misunderstood because think about how difficult it is to understand yourself. How many people listening right now can say, “I understand myself perfectly”? I certainly can’t say that. I don’t even know what understand would mean in such a context, but there are misunderstandings, left, right, and center every day, probably every hour, every minute as we sit here engaging in this live Q&A, certainly.
If we then just assume that understanding as a concept is hard to wrap our heads around with a lot, and that even if we could wrap our heads around it, we’re going to be constantly misunderstood. That removes a lot of the pressure to make yourself understood, if that makes any sense.
So if the secret to happiness is low expectations, as I was told by one of my Danish friends when I asked him why Denmark rated as one of the happiest countries on Earth, then perhaps the key to overcoming the fear of being misunderstood is just to assume that everyone misunderstands everyone, and that there’s no point that it is pissing in the wind to try to prevent people from misunderstanding you. So that’s point number one.
Point number two is that we dramatically overestimate how much people are thinking about us. People think about themselves. Most of us spend the vast majority of our time in the me, me, me movie, where we are the lead actor or actress. Everyone else is supporting cast, and we are ruminating and perseverating on all sorts of nonsense. We occasionally stumble upon something important, but mostly, think about trivialities related to our own lives, our own goals, our own fears, what other people might be thinking even though in truth everyone else is also in their own solo act.
That I think can be tremendously freeing. When you assume that everyone else, your family, closest friends, et cetera, are also somewhat compulsively self-referential and thinking about themselves most of the time. They’re just not thinking about you most of the time, and that can be, instead of being depressing, very, very uplifting and reassuring. So you can feel free in a sense to do what you believe the next right thing is because it doesn’t really matter. They’re not thinking about you. At least it doesn’t matter on that level.
You can also focus on communication and expressing needs, and expressing your motivations without attachment to the response that comes. That takes practice. I’ve been very fortunate to have felt a lot of support, not necessarily for every decision, but I felt support for marching to the beat of my own drummer, if that makes any sense. So those are a few thoughts related to not overcoming the fear of being misunderstood, but reframing the fear of being misunderstood. I hope those are helpful.
You could also read Make Good Art or better yet, watch the commencement speech Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman, G-A-I-M-A-N, and it doesn’t address this perfectly, but it speaks to vulnerability, and I think that vulnerability, whether it’s a fear of vulnerability or a wish to be more candid with those around you, that is the connective tissue between those two recommendations. Okay.
I think that is going to be it, guys. I think I’ll take a quick look at some of the questions that we have in the livestream, but I think this is probably good. I think this is probably good. I think it’s time for me to maybe go get some exercise. Here’s a complementary comment from someone, “I saw a bumper sticker that goes, ‘Don’t worry about what other people think. They don’t do it very often.'”
Exactly. That summarizes one of the key points I was trying to make very, very succinctly. Then a question on sleep. I’ll take a stab at this, “Tips, resources, hack for improving sleep?”
So I have written about sleep quite extensively in Tools of Titans. I’ll mention just a few things. California poppy is very helpful for me, at least with sleep, and I do not want to take melatonin on a daily basis. I just do not feel good about taking things that consistently that affect hormones without cycling off. So I will use melatonin occasionally, although it often leaves me feeling groggy. There are people who will take, say, phosphatidylserine. If your head tends to spin or remain very active when you’re trying to go to sleep, there are some people who will take phosphatidylserine, otherwise known as PS, which I did take, say, last night before bed to try to prevent or I should say lower the release of cortisol, which then can result in spikes in blood glucose.
So those are a couple of supplemental interventions. Magnesium L-threonate is a version of magnesium that is preferentially absorbed in the brain. That can also be quite interesting, but the greatest determinant of sleep quality or I should say determinants for me are, A, restricting caffeine intake in time to before midnight because the quarter life of caffeine is about 12 hours, which means if you consume, say, 100 mg of caffeine or 200 mg, but let’s go with the 100 because it makes the math simple, a quarter of that will still be present 12 hours later.
So if you have 100 mg of caffeine, that will be one Vivarin at noon, you will still have 25 mg of that caffeine in your system roughly, obviously we’re dealing with averages here, at midnight. Okay? So minimizing caffeine intake in volume and then also in time I think is a huge and I know is a huge determinant of sleep quality because I track my sleep quality with something like the Oura Ring. I do wear the Oura Ring, O-U-R-A, which I find to be extremely helpful to establish your baseline, and then look at what interventions actually do to your sleep quality and types of sleep, that is phases of sleep.
Second is exercise and sun exposure. So when in doubt, just get more exercise and sun exposure before lunch and without fail, that will increase my sleep quality in terms of percentage of, say, restorative deep sleep and also speed to sleep. That is the onset of sleep.
Last is temperature. So one modification that I would make to what I wrote in Tools of Titans is I now use a cover on my bed from Eight Sleep, which I find to be tremendously helpful for both speed to sleep and quality of sleep. So temperature is really one of the primary levers that I like to pull. So I sleep as cold as I can without suffering, and that solves all sorts of relationship issues and potential strife around fighting over the thermostat also. So there are many benefits to using something like the Eight Sleep bed cover, which I do.
So those are a few recommendations that you could consider playing with, but you need to be able to certainly evaluate whether or not your interventions are working. You could do that subjectively, how you feel, certainly, but some metrics will be helpful, and that is where something like the Oura Ring comes into play and can be combined with a device like Eight Sleep, which also offers some metrics and markers on a nightly basis.
With all that said, there’s a question here. I’m going to leave it as a cliffhanger. There’s a question about how I learned Japanese, through Judo textbooks and so on. Confusingly, The 4-Hour Chef, this book that I wrote, which was the hardest book to put together is in fact a book about accelerated learning, and it goes into how I used these textbooks and how I deconstructed characters for Japanese in some length. So I’ll leave it to people to explore The 4-Hour Chef if they want to dig more deeply into that, and it talks about accelerated learning not only for let’s say factual knowledge or declarative knowledge like memorizing characters and foreign vocabulary and so on, but also procedural knowledge, skills, shooting a basketball or any thousands of other things, knife skills in the kitchen, et cetera. So all of those things are deconstructed with the framework DiSSS and CaFE, and those are two frameworks that you can apply to learning just about any skill; I have not found any exceptions.
So with that, thank you everyone for joining. It’s been really fun to connect with everybody on this live Q&A. Hope you found some of it or any of it valuable. I wish everyone a wonderful week and wonderful weekend, and take care, and take care means not just take care of other people, but take care of yourselves. If your cultivation of compassion does not include yourself, then it is incomplete as my friend Jack Kornfield would say. Until next time, until next time what? What do I want to say? Until next time, have fun, be safe, and thanks for tuning in.
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