Real 4-Hour Workweek Case Studies — Allen Walton and SpyGuy, The Path to Seven Figures (#351)

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“And then I wake up at 7:00 a.m., and I roll over and look at my phone. And I have a notification from Shopify saying that I made my first sale for $149. And I let out this huge, orgasmic noise of relief. I was like, ‘Wow. Everything’s going to be okay.’” — Allen Walton 

This episode is by popular request!

In detail, we uncover a real-world case study of someone who built a seven-figure business after reading The 4-Hour Workweek (and other resources, of course).

Two important people joined me for this jam session.

First is Allen Walton (@allenthird), founder of SpyGuy, an online security store based in the Dallas, Texas area. Walton struggled in high school and spent a few years playing video games before his mom made him apply for a job at a local surveillance chain, where he worked from 2009-2011. He became interested in starting his own business after being exposed to The 4-Hour Workweek. In 2014, he went out on his own and started SpyGuy, his current business. He built the business to $1 million in revenue on his own, relying on what he learned in books and podcasts, and it now brings in seven-figure revenue with five employees.

The second person joining me is journalist Elaine Pofeldt (@elainepofeldt), an independent journalist and speaker who specializes in careers and entrepreneurship. She is the author of The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business: Make Great Money. Work the Way You Like. Have the Life You Want, in which she looks at how entrepreneurs are scaling to $1 million in revenue prior to hiring employees.

In this episode we explore the specifics of key decisions, helpful tools, early mistakes, and much more, all leading to a business that has exceeded all expectations. I had a blast doing this one, and I hope you have a blast listening!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

#351: Real 4-Hour Workweek Case Studies — Allen Walton and SpyGuy, The Path to Seven Figures
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Want to hear a conversation with an entrepreneur who sold his company for $800 million? — Listen to Braintree and OS Fund founder Bryan Johnson’s rag to riches to philanthropy story (stream below or right-click here to download):

#81: The Rags to Riches Philosopher: Bryan Johnson's Path to $800 Million
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This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. I reached out to these Finnish entrepreneurs after a very talented acrobat introduced me to one of their products, which blew my mind (in the best way possible). It is mushroom coffee featuring chaga. It tastes like coffee, but there are only 40 milligrams of caffeine, so it has less than half of what you would find in a regular cup of coffee. I do not get any jitters, acid reflux, or any type of stomach burn. It put me on fire for an entire day, and I only had half of the packet.

People are always asking me what I use for cognitive enhancement right now — this is the answer. You can try it right now by going to foursigmatic.com/tim and using the code Tim to get 20 percent off your first order. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you’ll be disappointed.


This podcast is also brought to you by FreshBooks. FreshBooks is the #1 cloud bookkeeping software, which is used by a ton of the start-ups I advise and many of the contractors I work with. It is the easiest way to send invoices, get paid, track your time, and track your clients.

FreshBooks tells you when your clients have viewed your invoices, helps you customize your invoices, track your hours, automatically organize your receipts, have late payment reminders sent automatically and much more.

Right now you can get a free month of complete and unrestricted useYou do not need a credit card for the trial. To claim your free month and see how the brand new Freshbooks can change your business, go to FreshBooks.com/Tim and enter “Tim Ferriss” in the “how did you hear about us” section.


QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

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The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Dr. Andrew Weil

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Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Andrew Weil, M.D. (@DrWeil), a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine; founder and Director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, where he also holds the Lovell-Jones Endowed Chair in Integrative Rheumatology and is Clinical Professor of Medicine and Professor of Public Health; and a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books on health and well-being, including The Natural MindMind Over MedsFast Food, Good FoodTrue FoodSpontaneous HappinessHealthy Aging; and Eight Weeks to Optimum HealthIt was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!

Listen to the interview on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

#350: Dr. Andrew Weil — Optimal Health, Plant Medicine, and More
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Tim Ferriss: Dr. Weil, welcome to the show.

Dr. Andrew Weil: Thank you. I’m very happy to be here.

Tim Ferriss: I am thrilled to finally have you on the podcast because it gives us a chance to also catch up. I have not had the opportunity to hear your latest and greatest adventures in quite some time. And some of the memories that I have of the interactions we’ve had – and I have to thank Kevin Rose, I think, initially, for making that connection – relate to your incredible gardens and plants. So I thought that a logical place to begin this conversation might be discussing your love affair with plants. Can you talk about how this started?

Dr. Andrew Weil: I think it started with my mother when I was a kid. And she got that from her mother who had a real green thumb. So I grew up in a row house in Philadelphia. We had very little ground behind the house. But my mother and I used to plant all sorts of seeds. And I grew flowering bulbs indoors. So that started my interest. And then as an undergraduate at Harvard, I majored in botany which was a very unusual major, very old fashioned in those days.

But I had the good fortune to have as a mentor Richard Schultes, the director of the Harvard Botanical Museum, who is considered the godfather of modern ethnobotany. He had spent 14 years in the Amazon. And one of his interests was hallucinogenic plants. So studying with him got me interested in medicinal plants. And that really became a career interest. And I always dreamed of having big enough space to grow a real garden. And I know have that both in Tucson, where I live in the winter and in British Columbia where I am in the summer. So I grow a lot of my own food. I grow flowers. All that gives me a great deal of pleasure.

Tim Ferriss: Are there any particular go-to plants, let’s just say, in either of those places – perhaps they’re different just based on the climates – that you use on an ongoing daily or weekly basis for food or for other health purposes?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Well, in terms of foods, I just say there’s nothing like having fresh food from the garden. And I’m a very avid home cook. I like simple dishes that are easy to prepare. And many people who eat my food say they’ve never tasted such good food. But the secret is that it’s fresh food. And I think many people have never tasted plant foods that come right out of the garden. In terms of medicinal plants, probably one of my go-tos is garlic. I grow my own garlic. And garlic has many health benefits. It’s a very powerful antibiotic. It lowers cholesterol, blood pressure. Many uses. And you gotta use it fresh and raw. Anything you do to garlic lowers its medicinal properties.

Tim Ferriss: You mentioned Schultes a moment ago and gave a snapshot of your history with plants. Can you put the following in chronological order: the book, Doors of Perception, nutmeg, and cannabis in terms of your interest? What is the proper order of those three?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Doors of Perception first. That was written by Aldous Huxley. I’m not exactly sure of the date. But he came to MIT to give a series of lectures on states of consciousness, on visionary experience. And that, I remember, was in 1960. And I was a freshman at Harvard and I listened to his lectures on radio. And that really inspired me to take mescaline, which he had written about in Doors of Perception. So I wrote him and asked him, “How do I get mescaline?” And he wrote back and gave me the name of a lab in New York. I wrote to them, but they wanted all sorts of paperwork. And I found another company that would sell it no questions asked. This was in the days before thalidomide. And the FDA did not require – there weren’t many regulations on getting drugs for experimental use. Anyway, packages of mescaline arrived outside my dorm door delivered by UPS.

And so in 1960, never having smoked pot or really experimented with any psychedelics, I took mescaline. A number of friends and I did it several times. And I didn’t really have a context in which to put it. I didn’t know people who were using psychedelics. Nonetheless, it showed me possibilities which I wasn’t really prepared to follow at that time. I think if I had, I would never have gone to medical school. So Aldous Huxley, Doors of Perception came first. Under Schultes, I opted to get an honor’s degree in botany, which is part of the biology department. I had to write a thesis for that. So the thesis I wrote was on nutmeg as a narcotic. Nutmeg is a psychoactive drug if you take enough of it. And it was being used mostly by people who couldn’t get better drugs, such as prisoners. You have to take a whole can of powdered nutmeg – I don’t recommend that – or eat one or two whole nutmegs.

It’s pretty hard to choke it down. And you do get high on it. But I’d say it’s a pretty third-rate high. Any rate, I wrote that paper. It got picked up by a lot of people including tabloids talking about people getting high on nutmeg. So that was really my first academic paper. Then what was the third book that you asked about?

Tim Ferriss: Oh, no. It was the second – well, I suppose the third if we count mescaline – the third of the compounds or plants which would be cannabis

Dr. Andrew Weil: So back in those days, in the early 1960s, I didn’t know people who smoked cannabis. And I didn’t really try it until 1964 when I was a senior in college. I didn’t get any effect from it. Then I went to Harvard Medical School, and I began using it and having very enjoyable highs from it. It amazed me that as cannabis was getting a lot of attention and causing a lot of controversy; there had been no research done with it, really nothing. Astonishing. There had been one experiment done in 1937 I think. But since then, nobody had given marijuana to human beings to see what it did. So as a senior in medical school, I devoted my elective time to research to try to do the first human-controlled double-blind studies with marijuana. I can’t even begin to tell you what a challenge that was. Many people bet me that there was no way I’d get permission.

And that meant coordinating the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the Massachusetts state authorities, the universities. Nonetheless, I did it. I gave marijuana to human subjects and published this as a lead story in science in 1968. It was frontpage news on The New York Times. It concluded that marijuana was a relatively mild intoxicant. I showed that it did not dilate pupils. Cops were arresting people who had dilated eyes and said that was probably cause for searching and for marijuana. I showed that it didn’t lower blood sugar, which was often invoked as the cause for the munchies and that while, in people who’d never had it before, you could demonstrate some impairment on basic psychological and psychomotor tests, if you gave it to people who are experienced with it, you couldn’t really show anything like that. So the basic conclusion was relatively mild intoxicant. I thought that pot would be legal in five years.

Boy, was I wrong. I thought it was just a matter of getting the right information out there. I quickly learned that people believe what they want to believe and don’t believe what they don’t want to believe.

Tim Ferriss: Now this is a perfect segue in terms of belief and expectation because my understanding is that one of the – just in doing some homework for this, one of the challenges of the experimental design – and I don’t know if it was the IRB or maybe a different acronym at the time – for putting this study into practice was working with naïve subjects, people who had not had any exposure.

Dr. Andrew Weil: Exactly.

Tim Ferriss: Could you talk about why that was important to you?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Because I wanted to see what marijuana did that had no expectations of what it would do. My intuition told me that what you expected of pot and all drugs and the setting in which you took it were as important as the drug itself. So this idea that drug effects are a combined effect of drug set and setting I think is basic to understanding how mind-altering drugs work. And with marijuana, where the physical effects are really relatively subtle, I think you really have to learn to get high on it. You have to associate an altered state with it. So it was very important to me to use people who’ve never had it. That became a great sticking point with the two universities, Boston University and Harvard, that had to give approval for this because their fear was that if you introduce people to this drug, they would soon be heroin addicts in the street. Anyway, finally got permission to do that.

And I’ll tell you one funny story. The cops who were involved in this, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics – this was the old treasury department cops – and the Massachusetts cops kept bugging me to come down to our lab and watch people smoke marijuana because they’d never seen anyone smoke marijuana. And I said, “Look, we can’t have you there because that would be a major disturbance of set and setting.” But I said if they were patient and we had time, we’d do a demo for them at the end when the experiments were finished. So one night, we had two of my friends who were labeled chronic users of marijuana agree to smoke it in our laboratory.

And this bunch of guys – two from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. I think there were two from Massachusetts – came. And these people, they had to smoke two of these joints that we had rolled. It was relatively mild by today’s standards. And they smoked them. And then we were giving them these tests. So the one cop sidles up to me and elbows me and says, “When is it going to happen?” And I knew what he was after. I said, “What do you mean?’ He said, “You know, when does it happen?” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, when do they get high?” And I said, “Well, they are high.” And he said, “No. No.” He said, “When do they get high?” I don’t know what his –

[Crosstalk]

Dr. Andrew Weil: — was. Ripping off their clothes, running around screaming. But here were these two guys just sitting there doing their pursuit rotor tests and the numerical tests. And they weren’t any different. That was a very sobering experience for these law enforcement agents. And at that time and since, many people would ask me, “How can you tell if a person is high?” And I said, “You really can’t unless they volunteer that information.” Maybe their whites of their eyes are red but nothing else. That was very upsetting to many people. So after I published that study, I was in great demand as an expert on cannabis. This was in 1969, 1970, 1971. And I was asked to testify about it in front of Congress and be an expert witness in various things and give lectures. I made it a rule for myself that I would never do that unless I was stoned.

So, I would always smoke pot right before I had to testify or – I should say, by the way, while I was a fairly serious user of pot in my 20s and 30s, I have not been much of a user of it later in life. But anyway, it was fun to do that and also to be in a position where I’d be lecturing or testifying, and people would ask me that question. “How can you tell if a person is high on pot.” And I would say, “You can’t unless they volunteer that information.” Of course, I did not volunteer that I was high on pot.

Tim Ferriss: All right. I have so many follow-up questions here. I want to rewind for a second because I think these two might be related. Can you describe your first mescaline experience? Was it a Huxley-like explosion of aesthetic –

Dr. Andrew Weil: It was as far from it as you can imagine. I was in a dorm room at Harvard in this old, dilapidated building, Claverly Hall. It was on a Saturday afternoon. And I and one other roommate of mine took it. We took half a gram of pure mescaline. And there were about seven people sitting around watching to see what would happen before they decided whether they wanted to try it or not. So I didn’t feel anything for a long time. And after maybe an hour and a half, I began to feel some physical effects. I just felt a little – I didn’t know how to – the only drug experience I’d had up to that point was with alcohol. And so that was the only thing I could compare it to. So I felt a little different. At that moment, exactly, the phone rang. And it was my mother calling from Philadelphia. We never talked except on Sundays we would call, and I’d call my parents.

So, she called and said [00:13:10, audio cuts out] said, “What are you doing?” And I said, “Well, I’m just sitting around with some friends.” And she said, “Why aren’t you outside?” And I said, “Well, I’m just sitting here.” And she said, “I hope you’re not doing anything foolish like taking mescaline or anything like that.” Now I had mentioned the word mescaline at the dinner table maybe three months before and said I was interested. I got such a reaction from my parents that I never said another word about it. There’d been an article in the newspaper about a kid who died supposedly from an overdose of it. So talk about mother being psychic. I said, “Oh, no, Mother. Of course, I wouldn’t be doing anything like that.” So that kind of affected my experience. But I really had no significant psychological change from that time. The second time I took it, I did have a very profound altered state.

And it’s hard to describe, but I had a real sense of oneness of everything and a much larger reality out there than I had been aware of. And I think I had to put that in a box and tie it up because if I had followed that, I don’t think I would have been able to stay in school and get a medical degree. So I just boxed that up until I had a chance to explore that.

Tim Ferriss: I think we will come back to the exploration. You mentioned one thing in passing that I wanted to just follow-up on since I know people are probably wondering. And that is you mentioned you used to be a heavy or a consistent cannabis user. Not so much so in your more recent years. Why has that changed?

Dr. Andrew Weil: I found that my experiences with it changed over time. And when I first was using it in my mid-20s, the highs that I had with it were light, bubble, hysterical, a lot of laughing, sitting around with people, and sensual enjoyment of food and music and all that. After several years of that, I think the highs changed for me. I was using it more heavily. But the highs changed for me to be more introspective. And it was in that period that I think it really stimulated my imagination. It was great for writing. My first book, The Natural Mind, that I wrote in – I wrote it in 1971. It was published in ’72 – about drugs and altered states. I think a lot of that felt channeled as a result of being in the states of consciousness that cannabis ushered me into. So there was a period of think – then I was living in South America for a number of years. I used pot pretty regularly.

And during that time, I think the experiences changed more in the direction of being more sedative. And it would tend to make me groggy and not creative and imaginative. And that went on for a long time. And I finally just felt that didn’t do much for me. So I weaned myself off it, which took some doing. And then I began to use it just occasionally with friends as a social thing. So now, I personally don’t like the effect of it very much. So I think my body has changed. My brain has changed. It was a real ally for me in the early part of my life. Now, I’m more interested in it for its medicinal uses. And, of course, I’m delighted to see our society finally coming to some sensible terms with that plant.

Tim Ferriss: We are going to get to South America because I have certainly, a number of questions about South America. But before we get to that, you mentioned set and setting. For people who don’t know what that means – and I think you described it in brief – can you explain what that means? And can you also explain how you first came across that phrase? Because you were at Harvard at a very interesting time.

Dr. Andrew Weil: Yeah. Well, Timothy Leary was there. And Richard Alpert. And one of my other mentors besides Schultes was a Freudian psychoanalyst named Norman Zinberg. We became very close friends. He was a colleague of mine in the marijuana research. We got high together. He was older than me. But it was a great connection. And he was one of – I think Leary was one of the first people I heard use the phrase set and setting. And Zinberg wrote about this a lot in his academic writing. So set is a psychologist’s term for all of the expectational factors that a person brings to an experience. And so when you – the effects of drugs are not just due to the drug. One factor is the nature of the drug, the dose. But then there is what a person expects to happen when he or she takes that dose. And then there is the setting which is the environment, the physical and social environment in which the drug is taken.

And my experience has been that the combined effects of set and setting can actually reverse the pharmacological effect of drugs, that you can give a stimulant to a person in conditions of set and setting that cause the person to fall asleep. And you could give a sedative drug to somebody under conditions of set and setting that cause a person to become alert and stimulated. And this doesn’t just apply to marijuana and drugs. I think this has an awful lot to do with medicine and healing as well. I think that the way we present treatments to people and their effects also are very dependent on expectation and environment. And it’s the expectation both of the giver of the treatment or the drug and the person who takes it.

In the early days of LSD research – this is back in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s – there was very good research being done with it in terminal cancer patients, for example, showing that people near the end of life, if they had a structured LSD session and then follow-up with a skilled person had much less pain, required far fewer opioids, had much more productive interactions with family and friends, and much easier deaths. People got excited about that research. And then other people who didn’t understand that set/setting drug interaction and thought the magic was just in the LSD tried to reproduce that by giving LSD to people without paying attention to set and setting. And they didn’t get the same results. And that’s one of the reasons I think people backed off from doing research with it.

Tim Ferriss: How would you suggest people these days think about designing studies for researching these compounds? Because as you are certainly extremely aware, there are some incredible challenges with studying – let’s just take whether we want to call them psychedelics or hallucinogens, as an example, in terms of trying to placebo control. And some people will use niacin or some type of lower dose as an active placebo. There was a great piece in The New York Times just in the last few weeks called “What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick?” looking at the biochemical basis. And it just gets – the further down that rabbit hole you go, the more you realize how incredibly challenging it is to design a study that somehow isolates if that’s even the objective, the effects, particularly when you have dif –

Dr. Andrew Weil: I don’t know that that’s worth doing, Tim. I think really, what we’re going for is how do you maximally increase the chance of producing a positive experience. I’m fascinated with the potential of these drugs for healing and medicine, not just psychological problems but real things like autoimmune diseases, cancer. I think there’s a tremendous potential for these psychedelics, especially to give people the experience that they can change whatever’s going on in their body. I’ll give you one example that I – I’ll give you a couple that I’ve written about. When I was about 28, right before I left for South America, I was starting to practice yoga. And I had problems with some poses. The one I had the most difficulty with is the plow where you lay on your back and try to touch your toes to the ground behind your head. I got so I could get my toes about a foot from the ground, and I couldn’t go any further.

I had excruciating pain in my neck. So I was about to give up. I thought I was just too old to be doing this at 28. And one day, I – it was a spring day. I was living in Virginia. I took LSD with some friends outdoors. It was fabulous. I was in a fabulous state. My body felt totally elastic. And I thought, “Gee, while I’m feeling this way, I ought to try to do that.” So I lay on the ground, brought my toes down, and I thought I had about a foot to go. And they touched the ground. And I didn’t have any pain. And I kept doing it over and over. I thought, “This is fantastic.” The next day, I tried to do it. I could get my toes about a foot from the ground, and there was excruciating pain in my neck. But it was now different because I had seen it was possible. If I had not had that experience, I don’t think I would have been motivated to continue to practice. But knowing that, I kept at it. And in a few weeks, I was able to do it.

To me, that’s a model of what these drugs can do. They can show you possibilities that you wouldn’t have believed but that it’s up to you to figure out how to have that more of the time.

Tim Ferriss: I love that example because it’s parallel with many experiences people would tend to put into the box of psychological or emotional in the sense that you have someone like Sam Harris, very smart guy, who came to meditation through seeing what was possible via certain psychedelic experiences. I came across your name very unexpectedly at the home of a friend’s parents. And I was browsing their bookshelf. And I came across a book with the very appealing title, to me, at least, of Wizard of the Upper Amazon. And I was astonished I hadn’t come across this book before. And you wrote – I don’t recall if it was the forward or the introduction to that book.

Dr. Andrew Weil: I wrote it. Yup.

Tim Ferriss: And I became really engrossed in this, which was a bit of a problem because I was supposed to be at a party being social. But I ended up in the guest bedroom reading part of this book. Can you explain what drew you to South America? Why did you go? How long were you there? What did you do when you were there?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Well, Schultes sent me there. As I said, he had really lived there. He’d lived in the Amazon continuously from 1939 to 1953. And he had great connections, especially in Columbia. So he wanted me to go down there. And I was interested in studying coca leaves, especially but a whole range of plants.

Tim Ferriss: Why were you interested in coca specifically?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Because he got me interested. And he said he had chewed it every day during the time he was in the Amazon, and he recommended I go down there. I just liked the name. And it seemed like something interesting. This was before cocaine was around up here. So I wrote The Natural Mind, sent it off to the publisher. And I got a fantastic fellowship from a group called the Institute of Current World Affairs that sent people far and wide. And all you had to do was write a monthly newsletter for them.

Most people did this on political subjects. And I had proposed to them writing about altered states of consciousness and psychoactive drugs and things like that. And they’d never done anything like that. And so I got this great fellowship that paid all my expenses. I had that for three and a half years. So I first went to Mexico, lived there for three months to learn Spanish, which I did just by living with people and having to speak Spanish. And then I drove my Land Rover all the way to Columbia.

Tim Ferriss: That’s an exciting trip for people –

Dr. Andrew Weil: It was an exciting trip. It took a while. And then I spent about three and a half years in South America, mostly in Columbia which I – a country I love. But also, Ecuador, Peru, some in Brazil. I saw a lot of interesting things. I learned a lot about plant medicine. I spent time with shamans, some of which were a very mixed bag. There were drunks who just wanted to be paid for giving people ayahuasca. I saw a few real genuine healers. I saw a lot of interesting alternative medical stuff. Anyway, it was a very interesting period of time in my life. And I still retain that connection. I look forward to going back and spending more time in Columbia. So I learned a lot of stuff. But interestingly, I had been most interested in finding healers. And at the end of that time, my car – I came back to the US. I was just going to be here briefly and go back down to Mexico.

And the Land Rover agency that overhauled the car in Laguna Beach forgot to pack one of the wheels with grease. And I drove through Tucson. I was just going to get supplies. And the wheel bearing shattered. And it took six weeks to get a replacement. It was February of a very warm, wet winter. The desert was in full bloom. I met people I liked. And I never left. And here I am, 45 years later still living in Tucson. It turned out that the most fascinating healer, the person I had most to learn from was in Tucson and had been here all the time before I had gone down to South America. And there’s something perfect about that too, doing all this wandering, and then right under your feet is what you’re looking for. It was an old osteopathic physician named Robert Fulford who was a master of cranial therapy and the best healer I’ve ever seen. He just put his hands on you, and remarkable things happened.

And he really made me aware of the healing power of nature. It felt so good to be worked on by him. And people would say, “When should I come back?” And he’d say, “You don’t need to come back. You’re fixed.” And he would say, “All you have to do is make these little adjustments and let old mother nature do her work.” He’d charge $35.00 for a visit, use no equipment. It was very inspirational to spend time with him

Tim Ferriss: Did he have anything in common with the, as you mentioned, few genuine healers you came across in your travels in South America? Were there any commonalities?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Fulford used a modality cranial therapy, which I think is terrific. I’m a big fan of osteopathic manipulation. It’s wonderful. Unfortunately, a very small percentage of osteopaths do that anymore. And fewer do really good cranial therapy. I think Fulford was a healer. And if he’d been working in some other means, he would be as effective. So I think I’ve met people who were able to catalyze that in other people, maybe just by their own presence, by their own energy, people who were whole and healed themselves.

That, by the way, goes back to your question about structuring research with psychedelics. I think the key thing is that the person running the show, who’s giving the drugs, himself or herself has to be fully experienced. They have to be a shaman. This is what shamans are trained to do. And you can’t just have research hacks trying to give these drugs in clinical settings and expecting to get wonderful results.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Even within the clinical setting, of course, there’s a huge, enormous range of experience. So you could have someone coming in fresh off the boat, so to speak. Or you could have someone like Mary Cosimano at Johns Hopkins who’s incredible and has a library of vast experience. You mentioned Schultes, a name I’m very fond of. And he put out a book. I believe it was maybe co-authored or just featured an introduction with Albert Hoffman called Plants of the Gods, which is a fantastic book. You put out a book that, as I understand it, had – I’m thinking of a senator in particular – mixed responses that I’d love for you to talk about a little bit called Chocolate to Morphine, subtitled Understanding Mind-Active Drugs. Why did you write this book?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Before I do that, let me ask you: did you ever see another book that Schultes put out which is a real collector’s item? You remember the little golden guides on –

Tim Ferriss: Yes, I do.

Dr. Andrew Weil: Well, he did a little golden guide of hallucinogenic plants. If you can find a copy of it, it’s amazing. It’s every hallucinogenic plant done in that same style of minerals and birds and plants. And it was on sale in museums and stuff like that. So see if you can find a copy of it.

Tim Ferriss: Wow. I’ll have to do that before I publish this podcast.

Dr. Andrew Weil: Anyway, I wrote a book with a coauthor, Winifred Rosen, called From Chocolate to Morphine about mind-altering drugs. I think it’s an excellent book. It’s still in print. It’s much-loved. Many parents have given it to their kids. Many kids have given it to their parents. It came out in 1983 just when the war on drugs started, which was precipitated by the death of a basketball player, Len Bias. And that started the Reagans on a whole crusade. So that book caused a lot of controversy because it did not say, “No.” It said, “We’re not going to tell you whether you should use drugs or not. But if you are, this is what you should know about them. And these are the precautions that you might take.” And it went through all drugs, the legal ones, nicotine, all the forms of caffeine, all the psychedelic stimulants [00:30:49, inaudible] or so forth.

So a Republican senator from Florida, Paula Hawkins, who was a crony of Nancy Reagan’s, made it a campaign to get the book banned. And she stood up on the floor of the senate waving the book around. It was on national news, which got more publicity than the publisher got for it. And there then followed a campaign to ban that book from libraries. And there was a personal campaign to try to keep me from speaking in places that was organized by the White House. Very interesting times. Anyway, I’m still here. The book is still in print then, very popular. And I recommend it. It’s great.

Tim Ferriss: Were there any particular – well, actually, let me take a step back. For people who are listening to that experience and looking back at some of the blowback that was experienced in the – let’s just call it the Leary era – and wondering if there are things that can be done to minimize the likelihood of – or just mitigate excessive blowback to current research and attempts to reclassify things like MDMA, psilocybin, and so on for very legitimate medical applications, did you have any thoughts on best practices for people who are very enthusiastic? You’ve been in this world for so much longer than most. I don’t know if you have any particular thoughts on how to not unnecessarily jeopardize things I guess is a –

Dr. Andrew Weil: Okay. First of all, don’t be angry. Because I see many people out there who talk about subjects and get tremendous blowback and think that people are reacting to the content of what they’re saying. And it’s not. It’s the tone of what they’re saying. I’ve gotten away with saying the most outrageous things because I’m not angry. And people listen, and we can have actual dialog. Secondly, I think it’s very important to suggest possibilities for uses of these agents for which we don’t have – that address problems for which we don’t have solutions. For example, the opioid crisis is a fantastic opportunity at the moment, both for integrative medicine in general and for cannabis medicine.

Doctors working in states where cannabis is legal say that it has tremendously improved the lives of patients who are dependent on opioids and tremendously improved their lives as practitioners who are faced with how to deal with chronic pain management. So that’s one area that I think is very important. So the demonstration that psilocybin, for example, can be used with obsessive-compulsive disorder, that MDMA produces these tremendous results with post-traumatic stress disorder, this is all helping greatly to legitimize the uses of these.

Tim Ferriss: And let’s talk about – this is just something that we could talk about for hours and days and weeks, probably. But just for the sake of definition, could you define for people integrative medicine, the combination of these two?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Sure. First of all, I think this is medicine of the future. And the term integrative medicine is now totally accepted in academic discourse. There are textbooks of integrative medicine. All medical journals refer to it. So the short answer is it’s the intelligent combination of conventional medicine and natural and preventative medicine and useful alternative therapies. The longer answer is that it’s a system that emphasizes the natural healing power of the organism that looks at people not just as physical bodies but also as mental, emotional beings, spiritual entities, community members – that’s sometimes called whole-person medicine – that places a great deal of emphasis on lifestyle and all of the lifestyle factors that influence health and illness that really values the practitioner-patient relationship and makes use of all available therapies that show reasonable evidence of efficacy and aren’t going to cause harm.

And we often butt heads against the evidence-based medicine people who say we’re trying to advocate unscientific or anti-scientific ideas and practices. My feeling has always been that a good way to use evidence, a good rule to follow is that the greater the potential of a treatment to cause harm, the stricter the standards of evidence it should be held to for efficacy. If we would follow that principle in standard medicine, we’d save ourselves a lot of trouble. I commonly teach patients breathing techniques. There hasn’t been a lot of research on the health effects of breathing because nobody takes it seriously. It doesn’t involve a drug or a device. But the chance of these breathing techniques causing harm is so negligible that I’m not bothered by recommending in the absence of a great deal of evidence for them. Anyway, integrative medicine is the future.

I founded and direct Center of Excellence at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, the Center for Integrative Medicine. We’re the world leader in educating physicians in this new system. So we give two-year, thousand-hour fellowships for MDs and DOs that teach nutrition, mind-body interactions, herbal medicine including the uses of cannabis and psychedelics, the strengths and weaknesses of alternative medical systems, spirituality in medicine, and all these things that are left out of conventional training. And we’ve now graduated about 1,600 physicians from that intensive fellowship. They’re in practice all over the country and in many other countries. We have our curriculum in 80 residencies throughout the country. We teach medical students.

We’re about to open an integrative primary care clinic in Tucson. So we’re really on a roll. And as I say, I think this is the future because the great promise of integrative medicine is that it can lower healthcare costs while maintaining or I think improving health outcomes. And I think it’s the only way out of this mess that we have with healthcare in this country.

Tim Ferriss: So there’s a lot to dig into here. And I’m looking forward to it. Just for people who may have missed this earlier – but they must have been smoking something of their own if they missed it earlier – you do have experience with and familiarity with double-blind placebo-controlled studies. And I don’t think – and correct me if I’m wrong – that you would argue that there is no place for that and that it has a place and is a source of information. There –

Dr. Andrew Weil: It’s one kind of information. And it has its own limitations. I think there are other kinds of information that are valid. For example, the information that comes from your own experience. And I like to point out to people that in all languages derived from Latin, unfortunately not English, the word for experience and the word for experiment are the same. In Spanish, experimentar means both to experience and to experiment. So your own experience is a form of experimentation that produces useful information. You have to check it against other kinds of information. With double-blind studies, this is held out as the gold standard. And many people think this is the only kind of information we should pay attention to. But here’s an interesting thing. You can try this yourself. And it’s an assignment that I give to medical students and doctors.

Go into a medical library and pull out any medical journal that reports results of placebo control double-blind testing. Pick an article. Turn to the back of the article where there’s a table summarizing the results. In the placebo group, there will always be one or two or a small number of subjects who show all of the changes produced in the experimental group who got the drug.

That is fascinating. That means that any change that we can produce in the human organism by giving a pharmacological agent can be exactly mimicked in at least some people some of the time purely by a mind-mediated mechanism, the placebo response if you want. Anyway, we should be trying to take advantage of that, find out how to make it happen more of the time. Also, I would just say that there are a great many worthless and dangerous drugs on the market at the moment. And many of them have a lot of placebo-controlled randomized trials behind them supporting their use. So things can be structured in ways to produce results that people want.

Tim Ferriss: I want to spend some time on this because I find myself, and I think you probably – certainly, not probably – have found yourself straddling what, at times, people perceive to be mutually exclusive worlds. So I have, on one hand, a lot of interaction with you name it. Clinical psychologists and different researchers at UCSF, at Johns Hopkins, at many different institutions where I’m funding or helping to fund the types of studies that we’re talking about. And then, on the other hand, I experiment with a lot of what people would consider esoteric and probably just outright crazy stuff, some of it below the border. Not all of it below the border.

And I would love to hear – you’ve spoken I think quite a bit about some of the limitations of the types of studies we’re talking about among others we haven’t even talked about but that these are not necessarily the first place to go if you’re looking to generate hypotheses that are innovative for testing in the first place. But if we were to flip the coin and look at the other side because you mentioned tone earlier and how a lot can be dismissed if you are angry and it’s not a response to the content, but it’s a response to the tone, where do people in the integrative medicine field or in the complementary or alternative treatment realms make mistakes? What are some of the ways in which they think they have all the answers or alienate themselves from people who might actually be open with a different delivery to some of what they’re experimenting with?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Well, with the people that I come in contact with who come through our training programs, I always emphasize just not being angry and to have some published data to support things that you’re doing with patients so that if somebody asks why are you giving this treatment, you can cite something. So I think, to me, that’s most important. I don’t see many people today – the common mistake is just to antagonize colleagues or to reject conventional medicine out of hand. I don’t like the term alternative medicine. It suggests that you’re trying to replace conventional medicine. And that’s not my goal. I want to make conventional medicine better. And knowing when and when not to use that system is extremely important. I said earlier drawing on your own experience for hypotheses – let me give you two personal experiences of mine that suggest possibilities that I would love to see tested in research settings.

At about that same time that I had that experience with yoga and LSD, on another occasion, I took LSD also in a wonderful outdoor setting, feeling great. I had a lifelong allergy to cats. This was, again, when I was 28. If a cat came near me, my eyes would itch, and my nose would run. And if a cat licked me, I’d get hives where it licked me. So I always tended to avoid them. So on this day, when I was high on LSD, feeling great, a cat came up and jumped in my lap. And I had a moment trying to [00:43:24, audio cuts out] myself against it. And then I thought, “This is silly. I’m just going to drop this.” And I began petting the cat and enjoying it. I had no allergic reaction. And I’ve never had one since. So instant disappearance of allergies. All right. So how about you offer allergy treatment centers where people come in. and on the first visit, they take a full dose of the substance.

And then over, say, 10 visits, you reduce the dose until, at the end, they’re taking nothing. And they learn to unlearn the allergy. Also, around the same time, another dramatic physical change in me. I grew up. I was told I had very fair skin. I could never get tan. And we used to go down to the Jersey shore in the summer, at the beaches. I can’t tell you how many times – sheets of skin peeling off. Horrible. And then I’d never get tan. So I just accepted that. So also around the same time when I was doing all this experimentation – and I think this was, again, with LSD, outdoors, running around naked in the sun. And I was laying down and looking at the sun. And I thought, “This is silly. The sun is not my enemy.” I got tan the next day. And I have ever since. Now, these kinds of changes I have not seen much written about. And to me, that’s the stuff I would love to see tested.

I’d love to see us figure out these potentials on how to allow more people to experience them. And this is why I say that when you’re dealing with people with chronic illness, whether it’s chronic pain or autoimmunity where they don’t see a possibility of changing it, you can, I think, arrange conditions of set and setting with the right agent in which you can show people that it’s possible to experience your body in a different way.

Tim Ferriss: Do you recall how many, roughly, micrograms you were consuming with the cat allergy experience?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Oh, my guess is it was somewhere around maybe 200, something like that.

Tim Ferriss: Got it. And if you had to, how would you attempt to explain that? Do you have a hypothetical mechanism or –

Dr. Andrew Weil: The allergy thing is easier to explain than the tanning reaction because there’s obviously a mind-body component of allergy. If a person has an allergy to roses, you can show them a plastic rose, and they’ll have allergic symptoms, for example. I think many people with allergies can see that changing emotional states really affect the allergic expression. So that, to me, is more understandable. Although, the fact that it was a permanent change I find very interesting. With tanning, that’s a little more complex, the physiology of that. So I haven’t thought about that. I’m sure there is a physiological mechanism underlying it. But it, again, suggests that many aspects of our reaction to the environment are modifiable by changing our internal state.

Tim Ferriss: And you mentioned brea – I want to come back to breathing since that seems to also tie into this. As you mentioned, and I think you’ve also discussed publicly having this sliding scale of evidence in the sense that the more something has the potential and a demonstrated potential for harm, the greater the burden of proof should be. And hormone placement therapy – there are many examples that come to mind that seem to be a great idea at the time with certain populations which, demonstrably, could have been predicted to have known dangers. In the case of breathing compared to benzos and all these other drugs that are available, is there a sample breathing technique you could describe for people who are looking to reduce anxiety?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Yes. There’s a breath that I teach which I learned from Dr. Fulford that I call the 4-7-8 breath. And if people will just Google my name and 4-7-8 breath, you’ll get demonstrations of me doing it. It’s all over the place these days. But basically, it’s a yoga technique. You let all the air out through your mouth. And you breathe in quietly through your nose to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, blow air out your mouth forcibly to a count of eight, and you repeat that for four breath cycles. You have to do it at least twice a day. It’s a practice. And by doing this, you change the tone of the autonomic nervous system. You decrease sympathetic tone, increase parasympathetic tone, the relaxation response. And after practicing this for several weeks, months, it becomes an amazing tool for all sorts of things. One is controlling anxiety, lowering blood pressure, heart rate, improving digestion, and so forth.

And breath is really – it’s the key to controlling involuntary functions. And breathing is the only thing you can do completely consciously or completely unconsciously. The theory is that by using your voluntary system to impose rhythms on the breath, gradually, those are induced in the involuntary nervous system which you can’t get at directly. So I’ve seen tremendous results of people doing this 4-7-8 breath practice, just amazing things, stopping atrial fibrillation, having cold hands become warm, chronic digestive problems disappearing. But for anxiety, it is far and away the best method I’ve ever found. It makes benzodiazepines look very pathetic by comparison. And I’ve seen even the most extreme cases of panic disorder respond to this breathing technique once people practiced it enough.

Tim Ferriss: You have a history of spotting and/or popularizing concepts, terms, even fields of study long before they hit the mainstream. So right now, we’re edging into some territory that might lead into this. And the question’s going to be: what current accepted concepts or practices do you think are going to be obsolete in the near future or significantly revised? Because we have this cartesian mind-body separation which, to me, is hilarious also because it tends to overlap almost perfectly with people who have a hyper-materialist view of brain equals mind. It’s just very hard to reconcile since it’s an organ. But the reason this came to mind for me is you mentioned autonomous nervous system. And these are things that I suppose most would assume you do not have any conscious control over. And yet, I’ve spent time, as an example. And no, I haven’t seen this studied in a clinical setting because who the hell would actually do it and study it?

And who would want to put their career on hold for two to three years to do it? But there’s a professor, formerly from Stanford Medical School. Lifelong meditator. Uses neurofeedback very consistently. And he can do some very strange things. I’ve seen him do this multiple times where you can pick one of his eyes, and he can hyper-dilate his pupil in the eye that you choose. You can watch this happen. It is one of the strangest things I’ve seen. So that’s a long-winded way of asking a question. But what are certain concepts or beliefs held to be true or things that are held in strong conviction now in medicine or tangentially related to it that you think are going to be significantly revised?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Well, first, let me tell you two quick stories =

Tim Ferriss: Please.

Dr. Andrew Weil: — relevant to this. I grew up in Philadelphia, late 1940s-1950s. All shoe stores had fluoroscopes in them. These were big consoles and to check the fit of shoes. So you went in as a kid. The salesman got you shoes. And then you would go to this fluoroscope, stick your feet under it. And there was a viewing thing you could look into. And you’d see the bones of your feet, this big, glowing green screen. And the shoe salesman would point out to your parents how well the shoes fit. And as a kid, your job was to distract the shoe salesman and your parents, so you could spend as much time under there as possible. Unbelievable. Fluoroscopes in shoe stores? What were they thinking? Going back a little earlier, when I was at Harvard Medical School, I found this old attic of medical curiosities.

And one item in there was from about the turn of the early 1900s was a belt with two pouches that held radium ore that was supposed to be worn around the waist. The pouches fit over the kidneys to deliver healthful radiation to your kidneys for several hours a day. Now, whenever I see things like that, I wonder, “What are we doing now that we’re going to look back at 50 years from now and not believe that we did?” I’ll tell you one area is dentistry. I think the whole idea of drilling cavities and filling them with foreign materials, I think we will not believe that we were doing that. I really think that chemotherapy and radiation will be obsolete as cancer treatments, probably in not too distant future. And the problem with those is they just don’t distinguish well enough between malignant cells and normal cells unless you’re dealing with a cancer who has a very rapid cell division rate, which most of them don’t.

So I think that’ll be replaced by things like gene therapy and immunotherapy, antiangiogenesis therapy, so forth. I think the whole field of regenerative medicine is right on the horizon. This recent research was done in Japan of being able to take cells from skin and get them to reverse to an embryonic state where they can differentiate into any line. We’re really close to being able to regenerate organs, spinal cord injuries, damaged hearts. I think that’s all on the horizon and will replace a lot of the things that we have now. I think a lot of the diseases that we consider incurable, that’s just a concept that we have. And once you see it’s possible, then it’s possible. And if it’s possible in one individual, why shouldn’t it be possible for everyone?

Tim Ferriss: You’ve talked about, certainly – I think it was through a quote. Maybe it was Ful – was it Fulford? Am I getting the right –

Dr. Andrew Weil: Fulford, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: Fulford. But related to the body healing itself. For people who are interested in this, want to mention also, in the meantime, as it relates to cancer, there is some very interesting work being done looking at the impact of fasting when combined typically pre-treatment with different types of chemotherapy and radiation. And from an anecdotal perspective, I can certainly vouch for the protective effects related to normal cells of fasting with a friend who is part of a cohort, this group of people who are going through these very intense treatments for a later stage cancer that he had. And those who did not fast in his group – there were a few experimenting with fasting. And sure, you could you explain this away in a number of different ways. But the people who did not fast were laid out for days afterward, basically on the couch not moving.

And he and a few others were going for 5-10 mile training runs the next morning. So really fascinating stuff. The dentistry that you mentioned – you talked about some of the potential replacements that are certainly being explored quite a bit now related to cancer. With dentistry, what would you see replacing the current approach to drilling and filling?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Well, one possibility is a vaccine that would inoculate you against the bacteria that caused decay. That’s one thing. I think that’s also a place for regenerative medicine that possibly being able to stimulate the growth of new teeth. I think that’s all within the realm of possibility.

Tim Ferriss: This is probably not specifically intended to help people regenerate teeth, but there are services now which may be outdated shortly but, for people who are curious, where you can take the baby teeth as they are, I suppose, discarded – I’m not sure what the proper word is – released from the mouth by your children, and then have them immediately shipped for storage so that you can harvest the stem cell pulp later for regenerative uses. There are –

Dr. Andrew Weil: Oh, great. I didn’t know about that. That’s neat.

Tim Ferriss: It’s pretty cool. Yeah, there are services that do that, so you don’t necessarily have to drill into your kid’s hip or whatever it might be which is, of course, part of what makes the research in Japan and so on so exciting, the possibility of getting to the embryonic starting point without having to use these really invasive procedures. What else are you most excited about right now?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Well, I have to say that the mainstreaming of integrative medicine thrills me. I’ve been writing and saying the same things about medical education, medicine, health for probably 45 years. And in the early years, nobody paid attention to me. And then I got a larger and larger following in the general public. But none of my medical colleagues took me seriously. And that didn’t change until the early 1990s. and it was then when the economics of healthcare began to go south that institutions began to open to this.

And one lesson I draw from that is that no amount of ideological argument moves anything. It’s only when the pocketbooks of institutions get squeezed enough that they begin to open to change. But the change is quite remarkable. There’s a group called the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. And now, two-thirds of the medical schools in the US have joined us. The dean or chancellor of an institution has to request membership. And the school has to show that they’ve got activity in two of the three areas of clinical medicine research and teaching. So it’s quite wonderful to watch this happen.

Tim Ferriss: We could talk for hours and hours and hours. And we definitely have to hang out again. And maybe we can go for a hike with our mutual friend. Certainly, you’ve known him long enough, Paul Stamets. Would just be amazing. What books have you gifted the most to other people outside of your own book? So are there any books that you’ve gifted often to other people?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Yes. One is a translation of Lao Tzu by a man named Witter Bynner. It’s called The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu. It’s beautiful translations. And I find those verses which were the sole output of this philosopher to be remarkably right on. Another book that I’ve given out a lot recently is We by Robert Johnson, a Jungian psychoanalyst that’s subtitled The Psychology of Romantic Love. A very short, easily read book about the traps that people get themselves into in romantic relationships. That’s one that I like very much. Jeez, I have a whole bunch out there.

Tim Ferriss: What catalyzed or led you to gift We?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Just because I see so many of my friends who are trapped in repetitive patterns with other people that are very unfulfilling. And We is all about how we project something onto another person, which really is inside us. And that totally fits with my ideas about drug highs and healing, that these are all within us, and we sometimes need something external on which to project our belief in order to experience what we want to experience.

Tim Ferriss: Well, on that note, I’ve heard you talk about the drive to experience – I don’t want to use that –

Dr. Andrew Weil: Other states of consciousness?

Tim Ferriss: Non-ordinary states of consciousness to be innate to human beings, right? The –

Dr. Andrew Weil: No, that was the premise of my first book, The Natural Mind, that we have an innate drive to alter consciousness, not necessarily with drugs. There are all sorts of ways of doing it.

Tim Ferriss: Children spinning.

Dr. Andrew Weil: I talked about whirling. Yeah, children spinning around and so forth. That also got me in a lot of trouble when that was first published. People didn’t want to hear that. But I think this is absolutely the case. And it’s in all societies. And I think the inability of our society to allow for that drive and to help channel it in good directions is one reason why we have the kind of drug problems we do today. So I think teaching people how to experience these states, how to get them in ways that are manageable and will hold up for you over time, we should be doing that. And the people who should be teaching that are people who have mastered that themselves, the equivalents of shamans in our society.

Tim Ferriss: When you look at periods in your life where you feel like you’re in the zone, however you would define that, what are some of the daily or weekly practices that you spot, just in terms of the pattern of recognition, when you look back at these sweet spots, when you’ve just really been performing well and feeling good, are there any particular daily, weekly practices, morning habits, whatever comes to mind that you see as consistent?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Yeah. Well, I do have a sitting meditation practice, sometimes quite brief. But I do it when I first get up in the morning. And I’ve done that quite regularly for a long time. Part of that is my breathing work. Another is being physically active. And the forms of my physical activity have changed over my lifetime. In my 20s, I ran. Then I got signals from my knees that they didn’t like that. And I started biking, instead. Always did a lot of walking and hiking. And in later life, I’ve really gotten into swimming. That’s my favorite physical activity at the moment. I’ve lived with dogs for most of my adult life. And I can’t imagine life without dogs. And that has been a very important part of my emotional wellbeing, I would say. My connection with plants, which we started out talking about, brings me a great deal of fulfillment. But growing plants, using them as medicine, cooking.

Cooking and food preparation have always been very grounding for me. I’ve often said and written that for me, cooking is a meditation. Chopping vegetables. Also manifesting. I have a concept in my head, something that I want to prepare. I think cooking is great training in practical magic. How do you manifest things? How do you take things from inside your head and make them real in physical reality, as close to your imagination as possible? And to be [01:03:29, audio cuts out] is a great [01:03:31, audio cuts out] for doing that. So that’s been very important to me. And I love turning people on to new experiences including experiences of food and plants. A lot of people over the years have said to me in reading my books that I’ve put into words things that they always knew to be true but hadn’t put into words themselves. That makes me very happy.

I have many people come up to me who say that reading my books or taking our training programs has really changed their lives for the better. That makes me very happy and makes me feel I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

Tim Ferriss: I don’t know what your current troupe looks like, but do you still have your – I want to say Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

Dr. Andrew Weil: I have two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, a male and a female who are – this is my third generation of them. And they’re stellar. For me, living with them has really taught me to be good at nonverbal communication. We’re really good at reading each other’s needs and wants and attentions. And that’s been remarkable training. There’s been also some – you probably have seen some of this research on some of the positive interactions with dogs, especially. One is that dogs are the only animal that holds our gaze. And most animals regard looking into the eyes as a threat. And dogs have evolved the ability to hold our gaze. And there’s research showing that when a dog holds your gaze, there is oxytocin released both in the dog’s brain and the human brain.

And the longer the eye connection is, the greater the release of oxytocin which is the bonding hormone. The results of a paper that came out in this past year, showing that when you exchange saliva with a dog – I won’t go into how that happens, but it happens – that this does very good things for your microbiome. And in particular, it changed it in ways that seemed to protect against obesity.

Tim Ferriss: I cannot wait to see the products that come out of that comment. The dog saliva morning swish.

[Crosstalk]

Tim Ferriss: The morning meditation, could you elaborate on that, just a second, in terms of the format? What does that look like in practice?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Okay. Long, long ago, around the time that I was writing The Natural Mind, I became interested in meditation. I began reading about Zen. I met people who practiced Zen. So that’s what I first tried of sitting down, counting breaths. Then I took some Vipassana training, mindfulness meditation. And so what I do now is a kind of combination of that. I sit down. I first do my breathing. I do some bellows breath, breath of fire. And then I do that 4-7-8 breath for at least eight breath cycles. And then I try to keep my attention on my breath, on sensations in my body, on whatever are actual sensory signals in the room around me.

And if I’m aware that my attention is in images, I just try to bring it back to those things. So that’s really all that I do, a simple sitting. But to me, meditation is not about doing it just in a special time of sitting. It’s carrying that experience and training into all aspects of your life. So whether it’s driving, walking, chopping vegetables, you want to be as much in that state as possible. To me, that’s the essence of mindfulness.

Tim Ferriss: And you mentioned Vipassana. You may have other recommendations, which I’d love to hear. But for people who are curious about experimenting with Vipassana in a way that does not involve a ton of language that perhaps they don’t speak natively, we – we. I’m using the royal we. I mentioned Sam Harris earlier. His Waking Up app I find to be very, very, very good for this, particularly if people have previously had an allergy to how meditation can sometimes be presented.

Dr. Andrew Weil: I’m a great admirer of his work. And another one of the books that I have commonly given out to people is The End of Faith. You know it’s a very slim little volume. And the combination of being a neuroscientist, somebody who really questions religious dogma, and also accepts the mystery of existence, I think that’s a very unusual combination.

Tim Ferriss: It is. Yeah. It is very unusual. Yeah, I was thinking about your cooking remark because I only in the last handful of years discovered cooking in the process of writing my third book and have often wondered why I find cooking so meditative, as you put it. And one theory that I have is that much like why I – it is for similar reasons that I find certain types of sports and physical training meditative, and that is that there are actually some consequences built in. You have to pay attention if you’re finely dicing vegetables or you have three things on different heats on the stovetop.

Dr. Andrew Weil: I was kicked out of the kitchen, growing up. My mother said I should be out playing. But I was always fascinated watching people do it. And I really got into it when I was in medical school. In those days, you had to work really long shifts in hospitals. And they were ghastly places. And when I came out of them, I was in such bad mental and emotional states. And I found that imagining something that I could cook for myself and getting the ingredients and then doing it, that this put my head back in a very good place. So from a very early time, I discovered that power of cooking for me. And I’ve gotten to be a very good home cook. And over the years, many people have said, “You ought to open a restaurant.” And I never was interested in that because I knew I knew nothing about the restaurant business. And it looked like a very tough business.

And then about 12 years ago, a mutual friend introduced me to a successful restaurateur here in Arizona. And I proposed to him the concept of a restaurant that would serve delicious food that was also healthy. His immediate response was, “Health food doesn’t sell.” I think he thought I was talking tofu and sprouts. I eventually asked him and his wife to come out to my place. I cooked dinner for them. They liked the food. But he was very skeptical. But his wheels turned. And he said he was willing to give this a try. But he was very doubtful. But he got a piece of real estate in Phoenix, which was a coffee shop. And we converted it and opened the first True Food Kitchen 11 years ago. It was, from the moment it opened, an immediate success. A lot of my recipes, my concept based on my anti-inflammatory diet. It’s delicious, wonderful looking food. It also happens to adhere to good, nutritional guidelines.

And we now have 25 of these around the country. Very successful. We’re going to open eight more this year. I’m still a minority owner in it and oversee the menu. And that’s been great fun. And watching people eat the kind of food that I eat and loving it is great.

Tim Ferriss: There’s a location here in Austin, True Food Kitchen, about a few blocks from where I’m sitting and recording. And I was actually there two nights ago having dinner – for those people who might be interested, the seasonal ingredient salad with chicken added to it – and with Dan Engle, who is also a previous guest on the podcast. So I’m a fan. Why do you think – given the fatality rate and not just the fatality rate but the infant mortality rate of restaurants and new concepts, to what do you attribute it being successful from the get-go? Did you guys do a lot of testing beforehand?

Dr. Andrew Weil: No, we didn’t. No, we didn’t. I think my partner, Sam Fox, his taste and mine couldn’t be more different. He likes cheeseburgers and steaks. And we butted heads over a lot of things. But he knows the restaurant business. So in our compromises, I think we worked out a formula that worked. One reason for the success is we have something for everyone, something for meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free people. And we’re willing to modify recipes to whatever diners want. The restaurant has created its own culture that’s very distinctive. And it draws people to work there who live the lifestyle. The servers, the cooks really all follow the kind of lifestyle that I preach.

And that’s visible when you go into one of these places. I just can’t tell you – a lot of people tell me that people eat there four and five times a week. Some of our dishes, like the kale salad, have become so popular. We created a shortage of organic kale on the west coast some years ago. And I’ve had parents come up with kids and say their kid’s favorite dish is the kale salad, and they have to make it for them at home. Who would have ever thought that American kids would be eating kale salad? So I think there’s this culture that’s apparent when you go into the restaurant. We’ve had really no successful competition. And the food speaks for itself. It’s beautiful. It’s delicious. Flavors come through. And the fact that it makes you feel good when you leave I think is what draws people back.

Tim Ferriss: So I was just thinking – as you mentioned the kale shortage, I was thinking for all the hedge fund managers listening to this, they should try to get inside information on pending menu additions, so they can go long whatever that – or look at the secondary and tertiary effects of whatever the shortage will be which is a real thing. I remember the almonds in California. In any case, so you mentioned True Food Kitchen. This is a good opportunity for me to ask you about investments. You’ve thought about investing in many different ways. And I’d like to talk about investments, not of money but time, energy, and so on.

Can you think of one of or any of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? It could be money. It could be money in the sense that I’ve had people on the podcast like Amelia Boone who was an attorney but paid for her first competitor ticket to the World’s Toughest Mudder. She ended up being a four-time world champion. And it really changed her life. So it could be money but not in the strict sense of investment into a stock or a company, if that makes sense.

Dr. Andrew Weil: Well, one of them has to be True Food Kitchen. I did invest money in it, but I invested a great deal of time. And the reward that I’ve gotten back has been manifold. I’ve created a private foundation, the Weil Foundation, which funds integrative medicine, education, and research in this country and other countries and been able to give away $7 million in the past few years since that was created. That’s been very fulfilling to me. In terms of time investments, I guess I’ve invested an awful lot of time in writing. And that’s not the easiest occupation, as you know. But that has also been incredibly rewarding to me. Publishing is a very uncertain business these days. And I was fortunate enough to be in it at a time when it worked and to reap the benefits of that. And that’s been very satisfying. But that’s been a major part of my life.

Tim Ferriss: What about on the conver – if we look at the other end of the spectrum, can you think of any failures or apparent failures that set you up for later success? Do you have any favorite failures?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Let me think about that.

Tim Ferriss: Or just things you viewed as catastrophes or real awful occurrences that turned out to be blessings in disguise.

Dr. Andrew Weil: Well, for a lot of years, the kind of medicine that I advocated, people thought I was nuts. And as I said, none of my medical colleagues took me seriously. They thought I’d gone off the deep end. So I knew that I was on the right path. And I’ve always had great trust in my intuition and my inner light. And even in periods when I did not get much confirmation of that from the outside world. I think I developed the ability to just hold true to what I knew to be right and keep following my footsteps.

Tim Ferriss: Are there any positions or opinions in the last few years – or it could be way back. It doesn’t have to be in the last few years – that you’ve changed substantially where you’ve shifted your position or completely changed your mind?

Dr. Andrew Weil: I change my position all the time. And I think that’s one thing that people respect about my work. I’m quite willing to say that I was wrong about something. Or as new information comes out – you mentioned though, I do have a very good ability to spot trends and to pick up on things that may take the mainstream culture years to come around to. For example, I was warning people about trans fats probably 15 years before people saw how dangerous they were and there was any attempt to ban them from food. So I’m just really good at stuff like that.

Tim Ferriss: How did that come about? Do you mind giving us a little bit of background on how –

Dr. Andrew Weil: A lot of information comes across my desk. And now that I have all of these students out there that I’ve trained, they constantly send me things. I don’t have great patience to read whole articles. But I’m very good at getting the gist of things very quickly and putting together with other information that I know. And so, with the anti-inflammatory diet, I saw this – it must be, again, 15-18 years ago.

But there was this hypothesis out there that chronic, low-level inflammation may be the root cause of many diseases that we had thought were unrelated like heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. And I picked up on that idea very early. And that led me to develop this anti-inflammatory eating plan. There’s now a tremendous amount of validation of that. So all I can tell you is I’m very intuitive about that. I pick up on things. I see the connections to other things. I’m willing to start advocating them before the evidence is all there. But most of the time, the evidence comes in.

Tim Ferriss: There are certain things you’ve done for a long time. You mentioned the cooking really beginning in if I’m remembering correctly, medical school. In recent memory, it could be the last few years, the last five years, are there any new beliefs or behaviors or habits that have really improved the quality of your life that come to mind?

Dr. Andrew Weil: Well, I’m fascinated by the stuff that’s been out there on intermittent fasting. That’s something that I’ve been experimenting with. I think the biochemistry of it is fascinating. I think there are all different ways of doing it. I haven’t figured out exactly what’s right for me. But I’m sure there’s something there that’s valuable. And I will continue to experiment with that. What else?

Tim Ferriss: Are there any resources or particular people who led you to look into that closely?

Dr. Andrew Weil: I can’t think of one person. I think it’s from hearing that from a variety of sources and reading the medical literature about it.

Tim Ferriss: So I have maybe a strange question to ask you. But I feel like I want to ask, nonetheless. It’s not a scary question, but it might be odd, which is: when is the last time you remember crying tears of joy? And this is a question that was used as an opener at a group dinner once. And I thought it was going to completely fall flat and could be a catastrophe. Michael Hebb. I want to give him credit. And it opened the portal to such an incredible conversation among strangers that I’ve jotted it down.

Dr. Andrew Weil: I don’t know that I actually cried tears of joy. But I feel myself welling up in certain circumstances. And I think a number of times when people have written me or told me in person that something that I wrote or said had really saved their life, literally. I have a very strong emotional response to that.

Tim Ferriss: Is there anything that you – besides looking at intermittent fasting, is there anything in particular that you are working on these days? Do you do anything like New Year’s resolutions? Or do you have any rituals around the New Year?

Dr. Andrew Weil: No. First of all, I don’t believe in the New Year. I think it’s just an artificial concept on a calendar. I was always fascinated by the fact that the Jewish New Year is at the time of the autumn equinox. And it’s not in the first month of the Jewish calendar. So that’s odd that the new year begins not in the first month. And in some ways, it’s calling attention to the importance of the autumn equinox. And I think that’s a very special time. I think the symbolism that I have there is that if you plant root crops at that time, they develop in the dark. They put roots down. You don’t see any sign of them.

And then in the spring, shoots come up. And the result of all that work in the dark manifests itself. So the idea is that at that time of year, in that equilibrated time of year, that the mental patterns, the life patterns that you set may manifest when spring comes around. At that time of year, I think about what I want to do. But since I’m mostly doing what I want to do, I don’t have to change too much.

Tim Ferriss: Are the first 60 minutes or 90 minutes of your day fairly scripted at this point? If so –

Dr. Andrew Weil: Yes.

Tim Ferriss: — when do you wake up? What does it look like?

Dr. Andrew Weil: I wake up pretty consistently at 4:00 a.m. Although it changes through the – I tend to wake up when it gets light. But my pattern now is I wake up at 4:00. And I usually go to bed at 9:00. So I like to get seven hours of sleep. And I sleep with my dogs. And if I don’t wake up at 4:00, the female dog wakes me up exactly at 4:00 by licking my head very vigorously. Anyway, so I get up. I brush my teeth. And then I sit down and do my meditation, however long that takes. And then I go in and I usually feed the dogs. I may feed myself. And then as soon as it gets light, I take the dogs out. There’s a pretty wild wash near my home where they run off leash [01:23:38, audio cuts out] walks very early in the morning.

Tim Ferriss: What are your default breakfasts if you do have breakfast?

Dr. Andrew Weil: I love Japanese breakfast. And I know you and I are both Japanophiles. I hated breakfast growing up as a kid. There was nothing I was served that I liked. And I went to Japan when I was 17. This was in 1959. I was there with a student exchange group. I lived with Japanese families outside of Tokyo and in Kobe. And I suddenly discovered this is what I want to eat for breakfast, that a piece of broiled fish and miso soup and steamed rice and some seaweed and pickles and green tea, that just suits me fine. And if I can, I have things like that for breakfast.

Tim Ferriss: It’s gotta be the best breakfast on the planet. I’ve tried so many breakfasts.

Dr. Andrew Weil: That’s my favorite.

Tim Ferriss: And it’s just so good.

Dr. Andrew Weil: The American breakfasts make me feel horrible. When I’m on the road, that’s the meal I have most difficulty with. By the way, let me also tell you another story. When I was first in Japan, it was – I arrived in – I think it was November 1st of 1959. Was with this family outside of Tokyo in Urawa city. And there was no language in common. None of them spoke English. I didn’t speak Japanese. So there was a lot of gesturing. But on the second night that I was there, the mother of the household took me next door to her neighbor who was a practitioner of Chanoyu tea ceremony. And I experienced a tea ceremony for the first time and was served matcha. And two things about it fascinated me. One was the color of the powdered tea. I had never seen a more beautiful green powder. And the other was the chasen, this whisk that’s made from one piece of carved bamboo that’s just a miracle of carving.

And something about the shape of that just fascinated me that was used to whisk the tea into a froth. So as you can imagine, when I came back to the states in 1960, nobody knew about Japanese food. Every city had one Japanese restaurant that was named Ginza or Sikora. And they had miso soup and clear soup. They had some tempura and some kind of broiled salmon. The idea of eating raw fish would never be there at all. And if anybody had told me that Americans would be eating sushi the way they are now, I would never have believed it. So anyway, I became a fan of matcha from that time. And that’s another example of something that I came across and turned people on to many, many years before it became popular.

And in recent years, I found a sourced really good matcha in Japan in Uji which is the town outside of Kyoto where most of the tea growing goes on. And I’ve been making this available to – I helped start a company called Matcha Kari. The website is matcha.com. And it’s just amazing to me to watch matcha suddenly being discovered here. And I’ve seen it on – there was a recent episode of Madam Secretary where –

[Crosstalk]

Dr. Andrew Weil: — preparing a bowl of matcha for somebody. That’s amazing. So I was, I think, 40 or 50 years ahead of that one.

Tim Ferriss: And matcha, for those people wondering on the spelling is M-A-T-C-H-A. Matcha.com. That’s a hell of a URL.

Dr. Andrew Weil: I know. Not bad. Matcha, it literally means powdered tea. And this is the only form of tea in which the whole leaf is consumed. So you’re getting all of the nutrients, phytochemicals there. And it’s a labor-intensive process of making it, but it’s just – matcha’s a beautiful thing.

Tim Ferriss: It is a fantastic tea. I consume matcha regularly. I have some at home. And you can use the whisk. If you want to be sacrilegious but really efficient, you can also use one of those battery-powered frothers.

Dr. Andrew Weil: I like iced matcha also, especially in warm weather. And I just put the matcha in cold water and use one of the electric whisks to whisk it and then ask ice to it. I don’t sweeten it. And that’s, again, beautiful green and a wonderful drink.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Green is my favorite color. And if someone were to ask me what shade of green – I used to know the exact Pantone number, which is pretty nerdy. They’re one and the same really. It’s the color of maple leaves in July on eastern Long Island or when the sunlight hits the backside or matcha green tea.

Dr. Andrew Weil: Matcha. Right. Great. I like it.

Tim Ferriss: That’s so beautiful. Let me ask just a few more questions. And then maybe we’ll do a round two sometime. But I’d love to break bread in person in the meantime at some point. But if you could have – well, actually, no. I’ll start with a different one. I’m going to ask you my usual, “What would you put on a billboard?” question. But we’ll get to that. In terms of small purchases, are there any purchases of $100 or less that have positively impacted your life in recent memory? People always love specifics. But is there any little thing –

Dr. Andrew Weil: Yes. Well, one of them I’m holding in my hand right now. And my daughter turned me onto these. She’s now 28. Computer glasses, which I got on Amazon. I don’t know. They were less than $20. But these are yellow-tinted glasses that enlarge things slightly. That has totally changed my comfort in sitting in front of a screen. It cancels out the blue light. And that’s been a great thing to have in my life.

Tim Ferriss: Perfect. So going from the micro to the macro – so we have the computer glasses. And then something that probably wouldn’t require glasses which is a gigantic billboard. This is more of a metaphorical question. But if you could get a message out to millions or billions of people, it could be a word, could be a sentence, could be a quote, could be anything non-commercial, what might you put on such a billboard?

Dr. Andrew Weil: I think it’s that all the good stuff is inside you. That was the main point of The Natural Mind is that the highs that you get from drugs are inside you. They’re in the nervous system. The drugs act as a releaser. Healing is a potential inside you. Various treatments where people can activate that or release it. But it’s that everything really is within.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. And you don’t have to – I’m not saying this for you. I’m saying this for people listening. You don’t have to believe in witchcraft and fairy dust to come to that conclusion. If you read the article that I mention – I’ll put it in the show notes for everybody as well – on the placebo effect, on how the placebo effect various culturally, on how it’s become stronger in the United States, on looking at the outliers in the control groups, these placebo groups, like you mentioned, if you’re looking at the tables of studies, it’s so exciting to explore. And I am so excited to see how it is further studied and utilized in medicine because it’s –

Dr. Andrew Weil: Tim, this is another one that I think I was onto long before people got into it. I don’t know if you’ve read my book called Health and Healing that came out shortly after From Chocolate to Morphine. It was the first book that I wrote on medicine and medical philosophy. There are two chapters in that on placebos. And I would recommend go back and read them because it’s all this stuff that we’ve been talking about.

Tim Ferriss: Medical Nostradamus strikes again. Andrew, people can find you at drweil.com, medicine.arizona.edu. You’re on twitter @drweil. That’s W-E-I-L. Do you have any final asks or requests or suggestions for people listening to the podcast just in the process of finishing up?

Dr. Andrew Weil: No. I think my work is out there. It’s easily accessed. And I think it’s relevant to many people today. And I really enjoyed talking to you. It’s been a while since we were together in person. I hope we can remedy that.

Tim Ferriss: Yes. Definitely. I think there might be more locations of True Food Kitchen popping up in the very near future and not necessarily too far away from either of us. So perhaps we can rendezvous at one of those. Or even better, if I could sample some more produce from your garden which was just incredible, and maybe we can invite some bald eagles which was also something I had never seen before while we’re after it, that would be really wonderful. But I really appreciate you taking the time. I’ve been wanting to have you on the podcast for quite a while. So it’s nice to finally reconnect and certainly hope it’s not the last time any time soon.

Dr. Andrew Weil: Good. Thanks for having me.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. So thank you. And for everybody listening, everything we talked about, the books, the various websites, the matcha, you name it, all of those will be available in the show notes as always, at tim.blog/podcast. So you can find links and extended links to everything, studies and so on. And Andrew, thank you again.

Dr. Andrew Weil: Thank you.

Tim Ferriss: And to everybody listening, be safe. Experiment and experience widely. Use your brains. Pay attention to your body. And until next time, thank you for listening.

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Dr. Andrew Weil — Optimal Health, Plant Medicine, and More (#350)

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“I’ve gotten away with saying the most outrageous things because I’m not angry. And people listen, and we can have actual dialog.” — Dr. Andrew Weil 

Andrew Weil, M.D. (@DrWeil) is a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine.

Dr. Weil received a degree in biology (botany) from Harvard College in 1964 and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1968. After completing a medical internship at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco, he worked a year with the National Institute of Mental Health, then wrote his first book, The Natural Mind. From 1971-75, as a Fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs, Dr. Weil traveled widely in North and South America and Africa collecting information on drug use in other cultures, medicinal plants, and alternative methods of treating disease. From 1971-84 he was on the research staff of the Harvard Botanical Museum and conducted investigations of medicinal and psychoactive plants.

Dr. Weil is the founder and Director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, where he also holds the Lovell-Jones Endowed Chair in Integrative Rheumatology and is Clinical Professor of Medicine and Professor of Public Health. Through its Fellowship and Integrative Medicine in Residency curricula, the Center is now training doctors and nurse practitioners around the world.

A New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Weil is the author of 15 books on health and well-being, including Mind Over MedsFast Food, Good Food, True Food, Spontaneous Happiness, Healthy Aging, and Eight Weeks to Optimum Health.

Please enjoy this wide-ranging (and often hysterical) conversation with Dr. Weil!

Listen to the interview on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

#350: Dr. Andrew Weil — Optimal Health, Plant Medicine, and More
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Want to hear another episode on improving one’s health? — In this episode, Dr. Rhonda Patrick discusses best practices for fasting, most important blood tests, smart drugs, and much, much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

#237: Exploring Smart Drugs, Fasting, and Fat Loss — Dr. Rhonda Patrick
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This podcast is brought to you by Audible. I have used Audible for years, and I love audiobooks. I have a few to recommend:

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  2. The Tao of Seneca by Seneca
  3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  4. Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

All you need to do to get three months of Audible for just $6.95 a month is visit Audible.com/Tim or text TIM to 500500 to get started today.


This podcast is also brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could only use one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is, inevitably, Athletic Greens. It is my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body and did not get paid to do so. As a listener of The Tim Ferriss Show, you’ll get a free 20-count travel pack with your first order — valued at $100 — at AthleticGreens.com/Tim.


QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

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The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: LeBron James and Mike Mancias

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Please enjoy this transcript of the first-ever interview that LeBron James has given alongside his below-the-radar, some might say top-secret, athletic trainer Mike Mancias about details of training, recovery, diet, and even how much longer he hopes to play in the NBA.

LeBron James (@KingJames) is widely considered one of the greatest athletes of his generation and regarded by some as the best basketball player of all time. His accomplishments on the court include four NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, three NBA Championships and three NBA Finals MVP Awards, two Olympic gold medals, and an NBA scoring title. He is the all-time NBA playoffs scoring leader and has amassed fourteen NBA All-Star game appearances, twelve All-NBA First Team selections, and five All-Defensive First Team honors. He is also a philanthropist and savvy businessman with a portfolio of innovative endorsements and investments that has established him as one of the most influential figures in all of sports.

Mike Mancias (@mikemancias1) is LeBron James’ athletic trainer and recovery specialist, a position he’s held for 14 years and counting. A veteran in the world of training professional basketball players, his experience also includes working with NFL, MLB, PGA, and top NCAA athletes. Throughout his tenure with LeBron, Mike has quietly developed a winning human-performance blueprint that encompasses everything from preventative medicine, strength training/rehab, nutrition, and the latest in recovery techniques. Mike’s philosophy is one that is now commonly accepted by many athletes and trainers as the ideal 360-degree approach to wellness and performance. It was through this focus on nutrition to performance and recovery that Mancias aided in developing the Ladder brand and its products with founder LeBron and cofounders Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cindy Crawford, and Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn.

Listen to the interview on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

#349: LeBron James and His Top-Secret Trainer, Mike Mancias
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Tim Ferriss: LeBron and Mike, welcome to the show.

Mike Mancias: Thanks, Tim. Thanks for having us.

LeBron James: Appreciate it. Thank you for having –

Tim Ferriss: My pleasure. I am thrilled to have the two of you on, in part because it is so difficult to do research on the two of you together which is fascinating to me. Mike, you’re like the Banksy of elite trainers. I see your art – that is the product of the work that you do – on television and everywhere. But you are like Batman. It’s impossible to do research on you, which is really exciting for me as someone who’s made a job of doing that. So I thought we could jump right into questions on my mind and questions on many minds. And we’ll begin with a little bit of context. And maybe, LeBron, if you want to take this, how did the two of you first meet? You seem to have a very special relationship.

I’d love to just get a little bit of background and your thoughts on what makes the relationship work so well.

LeBron James: Yeah. My second year in the NBA with the Cavs, Mike was interning with the Cavs at the time. And every day, I was trying to figure out the way how I could be more consistent with my training and be more consistent with – just trying to make the jump from my rookie year to my second year. And not only from afar but from up close, I saw the demeanor and the laser-focus in Mike every single day on what he was doing. And I resonated with that. And we started to have conversations. We started to talk more and more every day. And the relationship started to grow every single day. And I believe the rest is history at this point.

Tim Ferriss: So you two have done so much together, spent so much time together. Mike, I’d love to dig into, I suppose, more than a few things but to begin with, recovery and injury prevention. LeBron, you had such a momentous evening last night, so congratulations, of course, on that. And you’re a bit of a unicorn in the sense that you’ve played more than, as I understand it, 50,000 minutes in your career. Most hit a wall and deteriorate after 40,000. So you’re defying all the predictions of player decline. So Mike, maybe you can give us a window into some of that. And I’ve, in the course of trying to do research, read about recovery between games which I’ve picked up, maybe not true, electro-stimulation machines, air-pumped compression sleeves, soft tissue —. Could you walk us through some of the tools of the trade and the approaches that you use to help with recovery in between games?

Mike Mancias: Yeah, Tim. Well, I think with any elite athlete, I think the one thing that we all, as trainers and therapists, have to keep in mind is that recovery never ends. Recovery never stops. If LeBron plays 40 minutes one night, if he plays 28 minutes one night, we’re still going to keep recovery as our number one focus, whether that be in nutrition, whether that be in hydration, more flexibility exercises, stuff in the weight room. It’s a never-ending process, really. And I think that’s the approach that we must take in order for us to be successful and provide longevity for these guys.

Tim Ferriss: And if we look at just the first few hours after particularly intense games, what is some of the triage that you pull out of your bag to use?

Mike Mancias: Yeah. Well, we’ll do a quick Q&A in the locker room. I get a quick assessment. I say, “Okay. How did the game go? How was this feeling? How was this feeling? Etc.” And LeBron would give me some feedback on how he felt after each and every game, believe it or not. So we’ll do that, number one. And then we’ll start our process of hydration and nutrition because he does spend a lot of energy up there. So we need to make sure that we feed him the right calories, calories in a protein shake, etc., a water or a sports drink. And number one, frankly, is just some good food, some good, high-quality food. So that’s number one, right off the bat after a game. It’s nutrition. From there, we go into cryotherapy, either a cold tank, ice bags, cryotherapy chamber, whatever may be available at that particular night.

Tim Ferriss: And if we’re looking at general injury prevention, are there any particular – and I’ll give one example. I’ve interviewed a number of Olympic sprint coaches. And in some cases, they’ll take something like the deadlift, but they’ll modify it so that they’re only lifting to the knee. And they’ll drop so they’re not risking hamstring injuries with the negatives. Are there any particular exercises that you feel are tremendously important for injury prevention or any that you avoid because you think that they could produce injuries?

Mike Mancias: Well, I think with that question, I think every athlete is different just based on their body makeup. And so we have to – number one, before we even prescribe any exercises, we have to do a quick assessment of their body. Do they have any factors that are limiting their range of motion? We’ll start from the very bottom. And that’s the big toe. “How much movement do you have in your big toe?”

And then you go up the chain, the ankle, the knee, the hip, the lower back, and the shoulders, etc. Once you get a quick assessment, then you can start to tweak your workout routine by adding or subtracting different exercises. The second part of that is, “Okay. Who are you dealing with?” LeBron’s been to the league. He’s starting his 16th year in the NBA. He’s played a lot of minutes, high-quality minutes. And so you just have to be smart as to your prescription.

Tim Ferriss: And LeBron, do you think that – if you look at, for instance, the big names that came into the league around the same time that you did, it’s staggering to see how few of them are still playing. And yet, here you are, playing as the best in the NBA. Are there any particular approaches you’ve taken or things that you attribute that to?

LeBron James: Well, I can’t speak on any other players or anybody who came in around my time or a little bit after me or not too far when I came in. But I know me, personally, I’ve just been very consistent with the process. I’ve been very consistent with training my body, rehabbing my body, eating, having my body be very clean throughout this journey because I’ve always wanted to have a long career, or as long as I could be in this space.

A friend of mine, when I was 13 years old, he used to always tell me, “Play hard, have fun, and stretch,” every game. Always, “Play hard, have fun, and stretch.” And that always stuck with me to even when I got in the NBA, always stretch and keeping my body flexible, keeping my limbs flexible. So I can contribute to that and doing it consistently, just like leadership.

Leadership is not a one-day thing, or you do it for two days or two months. Leadership is consistent. And I believe having longevity in the space that I’m in is also consistency as well, not only on the floor but off the floor as well.

Tim Ferriss: So I’m glad you mentioned leadership. I was going to get to it, but since we’re already on the topic, I spotted a picture of you with a copy of Leadership: In Turbulent Times which is a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin who’s also been on the podcast. And I’ve had a number of people as me to ask you about leadership. Are there any particular leaders you admire or look to and study who come to mind?

LeBron James: You know what’s crazy, Tim? I never grew up looking for other leaders and saying I want to be them or using what they did to incorporate it into me. I believe that it was put on me before I even wanted to be a leader. My grandmother passed away when I was three years old, and she was the staple of the home. And my mother had me when she was 16. But she was still in school. So being an only child, being one of the few men in the house, I had to grow up and be one of the leaders of the household very young, before I even wanted to, before you would want any child to become a leader. And then once you get into team sports and you find some success, but you see how you’re succeeding, you understand that it’s not just about you. You understand that in order for you to continue to be successful, everyone has to feel important. Everyone wants to feel like they had something to do with the success and be a part of it. And I sensed that at an early age. And it’s just continued into my adulthood, as well.

So I can’t even sit here and say that I looked for leadership throughout others. Now, I’ve admired leaders like Martin Luther King. He’s one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever had an opportunity to just read about and watch from afar, obviously. Muhammad Ali as well is one. Barack Obama is another. And then my mother. I believe my mother’s one of the greatest leaders just in the fact that being a single parent mother in the inner city without any financial stability and then being able to raise a kid on her own at age 16. So I had those examples. But for me, I’ve always learned on the fly as well.

Tim Ferriss: The more I’ve done research, the more incredible your mother seems to me. How has she impacted the way that you think about parenting or being a father?

LeBron James: Well, from the beginning, being a part of a single parent household, when I decided I wanted to have a family, I was like, “I’m always going to be a part of my kids’ life. And no matter what goes on in my life, I just can’t have my kids have some of the same, ‘Why?’ questions that I had when I was younger.” And then it’s about the perseverance and the patience of being a parent is what I learned from my mom. My mom was just so perseverant. And for me, she never had me in a situation where I felt like I wasn’t special, like I wasn’t one of the best kids in the world. And then from, like I said, that leadership standpoint, she was just always a rock. No matter what was going on, she was always a rock and very patient with the process. And I’ve taken that not only to being a father but in life in general. I always preached this process thing because I just fell in love with it.

I fell in love with the process throughout my whole life and throughout my basketball career to a point where I don’t like to look at the ending because I like to just live in the moment.

Tim Ferriss: And it’s, I think, the consistency which is such a focus for a lot of, at least, my listeners when they’re looking at your career. It’s been astonishing to watch over time. And many people want to know about the habits or the reminders, things along these lines. And one of the things I came across – I don’t know if it’s true, you could tell me. But did you at one point have Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote in your locker?

LeBron James: I still do.

Tim Ferriss: You still do. Why –

LeBron James: I write it on my shoes every game too.

Tim Ferriss: All right. Why is that important to you?

LeBron James: It just hit home for me at a point in time where I was listening to people that I shouldn’t have been listening to, meaning there are always people out there that are going to judge you and critique you and say that you should do this, or you shouldn’t do that.

And at that point in time, I wasn’t mature enough to just believe in the decisions that I’ve made. And I’m a true believer in the more and more that you listen to things like that, then it’ll creep into your mind, and you start to believe it. And once I started to study some of the great leaders that we’ve had in our time, I ran across that quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “The Man in the Arena.” For our listeners that don’t know about it, it’s basically saying that it truly doesn’t matter what anyone says because they’ve never stepped inside the arena. They’ve never had the blood and the sweat and the tears or paid their dues inside the arena. So they can’t really understand or critique you about what’s going on in your life. And that hit home for me. And that stuck with me to this day.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It’s such a tremendous quote. Mike, I’d love to come back to something you mentioned earlier which was recovery never ending. And I’d like to talk about the third of our lives or so that we spend asleep. How do you think about sleep? And is there anything you do to optimize sleep or to help LeBron and others to optimize their sleep?

LeBron James: By the way, Tim, he gets on me every single day, every single day about my sleep. “How much sleep did you get last night? How much sleep? How much sleep? You get your eight hours? You get your nine hours?” all the time.

Mike Mancias: Yeah, Tim, by the way, that muffling you hear in the background is LeBron actually removing his ice bags.

LeBron James: Oh, yeah. Sorry.

Tim Ferriss: No problem.

Mike Mancias: Like we just said, recovery never stops, right?

Well, we’re sitting here doing this podcast in Los Angeles. And LeBron is continuing to ice his knees and the rest of his body right now in the middle of this podcast.

Tim Ferriss: So Mike, I’d love to hear your thoughts on sleep. This is something that a lot of people struggle with, and it would seem to be a very important potential asset for someone who is taxing his body as much as LeBron is.

Mike Mancias: Absolutely. Yeah. We’ve always learned, and I’ve always told LeBron the body does recover, and it heals itself while we’re asleep, while we reach our REM sleep and our deep sleep. So any athlete, any – and you don’t have to be a professional athlete. Whatever athlete at whatever level – you can be a businessman, a doctor, lawyer, etc., you need your sleep, guys. And you must sleep in order to recover from whatever it is, either playing an NBA game or a big day in the courtroom, in a hospital room or whatever. Sleeping is when the body heals itself. So it’s very, very important.

Tim Ferriss: Are there any particular techniques or tools or recommendations that you’ve found to be helpful with athletes or that you’ve tested and found effective?

Mike Mancias: Yeah. Without giving everybody all of our secrets, number one is be very, very comfortable in that room. Just create an environment. For LeBron, it’s always in his hotel room, making sure the temperature’s set at a particular – probably 68 to 70 degrees is probably optimal, making sure the room is completely dark, you have no distractions, trying to turn off your –

LeBron James: Electronics.

Mike Mancias: – all your electronics –

[Crosstalk]

LeBron James: He’s honest though.

Mike Mancias: – the televisions, your phones, etc. Just turn everything off probably a half hour to 45 minutes before you actually want to go to sleep and just really committing yourself to that. We all love to scroll on the internet and our social media accounts at night to catch up on everything. But you owe it to yourself and you owe it to your recovery just to commit to just creating an environment. Again, the room at an optimal temperature, a dark, dark room, a comfortable bed, etc. And it helps some people to even use sleep apps like soft music or –

[Crosstalk]

LeBron James: I love a nice sleep app.

Tim Ferriss: What do you use, LeBron, currently? Or what do –

LeBron James: It’s an app called Calm actually, that I use. Yeah. And I’m the guy who picks rain on leaves. That’s what goes on on my phone throughout the night.

Mike Mancias: And there you have it, Tim. There you have it. Rain on leaves.

Tim Ferriss: Rain on leaves, the secret to success. I love it. And LeBron, what has become more important to you from a health or wellness perspective as you’ve become older, more seasoned? Does anything come to mind as being more important?

LeBron James: Yeah. Just what we’re talking about right now, the topic that we’re on, sleep. There’s nothing more important than optimal REM sleep. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about right now. That’s the best way for your body to physically and emotionally be able to recover and get back to 100% as possible. Now, will you wake up and feel 100%? There’re some days you don’t. So some days you feel better than others. But the more, and more, and more time that you get those eight – if you can get nine, that’s amazing. Sometimes, I even get 10 hours of sleep.

And if I don’t get those eight to nine hours at night, then I’ll go home. I’m going to tell you right now, Tim, when I leave here, I’m going to go home and take a nap for probably about two and a half hours too. I just think that’s just the best way to recover. I could do all the training. I could do all the ice bags and the NormaTecs and everything that we do that we have as far as our recovery package while I’m up. But when you get in that good sleep, you just wake up, and you feel fresh. You don’t need an alarm clock. You just feel like, “Okay. I can tackle this day at the highest level,” that you can get to.

Tim Ferriss: One thing I’ve also seemed to pick up just as a pattern is your willingness to experiment. And I’m sure that goes for both of you. But the topic of diet is one I’d love to discuss. But it seems like you’ve tested many different diets ranging from low carb to probably high carb and everything in between.

Could you give us an example of where you are now? Let’s take just yesterday. Could you tell us about some of the meals that you had or some of the food that you consumed yesterday, what that looks like?

LeBron James: Hold on. Let me think about it. Yesterday, I had an egg white omelet with smoked salmon and gluten-free pancakes with berries. That was my breakfast. For lunch, I had whole wheat pasta, salmon, and vegetables. And right before the game, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And at halftime, I had sliced apples with almond butter on top. Right after the game, Mike gave me a protein shake to put in my system right after. I downed that right after the game last night. And then for dinner, I had chicken parm with a rocket salad and a beautiful glass of cabernet.

Tim Ferriss: You have no idea how happy that detail makes me. Thank you for that.

LeBron James: That was my full day of – yeah, that was it right there.

Tim Ferriss: You also have a very good memory. And I’ve been meaning to – I wasn’t sure how to shoehorn this in, but you gave me an opening. You enjoy your wine. Do you have any favorite wines that you can mention or types of wines?

LeBron James: I have so many, Tim. I can’t sit here and say what is my favorite. But I am definitely a Bordeaux fan, huge Bordeaux fan. There are some cabs that I love as well. But there’re some brands that I love as well. We get to the higher level as far as Screaming Eagle, Quintarelli, Rothschild. There’s just a whole – Latour. There’re so many different wines that I actually love. So we’d be sitting here all day if I’d get you a full list of my cellar that I got going on at home.

Tim Ferriss: That’s round two. “King James: Sommelier.” That’ll be the next episode. Is there anything that – and this can go out to either of you guys. But anything that you will not touch besides the obvious out of bounds, illicit stuff. But are there any foods or drinks, anything in the food realm that you really just try to avoid 100%?

LeBron James: Yeah. I think right now, what we try to stay away from – and I don’t want to say even try to stay away from – we haven’t had in a long time is artificial drinks, artificial sugars, and fried foods.

We stay away from the fried foods at least during the season. And that’s to both accounts. I have artificial drinks from time to time in off-season. But during the season, I pretty much don’t have any fried foods, and I don’t have anything that’s artificial. We want to keep it as just natural sugars and foods as much as possible, just try to be clean as possible throughout the season when I’m burning so much and trying to get the recovery back.

Mike Mancias: Tim, it’s all about less is more as far as nutrition goes. We just keep it simple. We try to stay organic the entire year. Again, like LeBron just mentioned, no artificial ingredients. And hydration. I think one thing that we talked about yesterday’s game day was that every time I saw LeBron, I had a bottle of water in his face making sure he was drinking. That’s one thing.

Tim Ferriss: And Mike, to come back to one thing that LeBron mentioned, I would be very curious to know postgame, if you have a preferred type of protein. Doesn’t have to be a brand, although it could be. But are you providing whey protein isolate? Are you providing a mixture of different proteins? What are you giving him in that protein shake?

Mike Mancias: Right after a game, I try to go light with it. I don’t give him a heavy whey protein because his body is in a recovery phase, right? And he needs to absorb everything that he can, everything clean like we just mentioned. So I try to give him a plant-based protein powder with an almond milk or something like that with some fruits and just clean calories, just give him clean calories because the first 30 minutes after activity, after a game, after a practice, etc., the body’s like a sponge. And it’s going to absorb whatever you give it. So I just try to stay clean, stay away from animal products for the first hour after a high-calorie competition.

Tim Ferriss: Thank you. LeBron, I would love to chat about self-talk for a minute because I’ve watched you playing. I’ve watched video footage of you throughout your life. And it’s obvious to me, at least it seems that there’s quite a bit going on behind the scenes, meaning in your own head and that you’re very good at centering yourself. What do you say to yourself? Or is there anything in particular that you say to yourself as you’re getting prepared for a big game or right before a big game or after a hard loss, for instance?

LeBron James: Yeah. I think for me, personally, before a big game, I’m pretty consistent with my routine. And I’ll try to do the same thing every single day on a game day because that’s just how I lock in. And so right before I run on the floor, I’m just basically thinking about the game plan that the coaching staff has given us, what do I need to do personally not only for me to be successful but for my teammates to ultimately be successful and how I’m going to lead these guys throughout good times and bad times throughout the course of a game because that’s what happens. It’s inevitable that that’s just going to happen. And then to your notion of after a bad loss, I’m rethinking about and replaying the game into my head, “What happened throughout the course of the game that made this loss become a bad loss? What did I do? What did I not do? What did we not do?” because I want to be better. I don’t want to dwell on that loss.

But I do want to know what there were things that I could have done, or we could have done to prevent it if it happens next time because I always preach the best teacher in life is experience. And it’s okay for you to experience defeat. But when you’re at a position where you may have to cross that threshold again, do you approach it the same way? Or do you learn from that? And that’s what I try to do. I try to put myself in a mental state of, “How do I learn from that defeat? How do I learn from that loss?”

Tim Ferriss: And you’re the leader of guys on a team who are all multimillionaires, some of the best athletes in the world with all sorts of different personalities. How do you think about supporting them when things go sideways or when people get frustrated? How have you learned to be most helpful and effective in those circumstances?

LeBron James: I think the number one thing is patience.

When I talk about patience, it comes back to being a father. I have three kids. And I want the best out of my kids just like any parent in the world. But what I have learned is that to get the best out of my three kids, I can’t approach them all the same way because they all have different personalities. They all are different. And I had to find out, “How do I tap into each one of my kids to get the same result but teach them differently?” And that’s the same with being the leader of a basketball team, the leader of a franchise. You can’t express or talk to everyone the same way and expect to get the same result or get the most out of them because every personality is different. So one thing I may say to one player may trigger a certain different response than another player. And that’s where the patience comes in, Tim because you have to learn that. You can’t go in and say, “This is how I’m going to lead.”

Yes, I’m a leader. But there are ways to lead because you have to learn those things that you can – how do you approach this matter? If this happens, you know how you can speak to him. You know how you can speak to this player, to that player to get what you want to get out of him. So it comes back to that patience of learning their mindsets, learning how can you get the most out of them, what triggers them to be their best, what triggers them to not be their best. So you learn that over time.

Tim Ferriss: And in the case of your own pregame routine, I’m fascinated by the repetition of routines that work. As it stands right now, what do you have in your pregame playlist? What is the music that you listen to?

LeBron James: It’s going to be hip hop for sure.

[Crosstalk]

Tim Ferriss: Any specifics?

LeBron James: No. You know what’s crazy, Tim? There’re no specifics. Once I start my routine – actually, once I get to the arena, that’s when I start my routine as far as music.

It’s a feel for an artist that particular time that I know is going to get me going. And it could be an artist from New York. It could be an artist from California. It could be an artist from Florida or from Texas, from the Midwest. It all depends on what artist pops into my head that I know that’s going to get me going, get my juices flowing and get my routine going. So I don’t have just a set game day routine. I’m all over the place. And that comes also from being a historian of music as well.

Tim Ferriss: What is your tattoo – I’ve wanted to ask this. There’s no real obvious segue for this. But I’ve wanted to know because it seems to be an important theme in your life. The tattoo that you have, “Loyalty,” on your side, could you explain what that means to you?

LeBron James: Yeah. And on my other side, it says, “Family.” So it’s self-explanatory. When I talk about my family, my family is everything to me. And it’s a personal mantra of mine to always be loyal to my family, not – you’re going to have ups and downs with your family. That happens. There’s going to be times where you don’t like what your family does, or your family doesn’t like what you do. But at the end of the day, we’re all loyal to one another.

And that’s okay. That happens. That’s what a family is. A family is not a bed of roses. It comes with thorns. And you have to understand that. But at the end of the day, we will never let someone else infiltrate those thorns. And so when I got that tattooed on my ribs, that’s basically what it came down to, family loyalty and us always sticking together no matter the trials and tribulations, the turbulence, the good, the bad, the ugly, the sunshine, and the thunderstorms. So that’s what it came down to.

Tim Ferriss: And Mike, if I could use that to lead into a question for you, how do you support your athletes when they’re going through a difficult time, whether that is an injury, an unexpected setback, psychologically having trouble contending with someone that has happened, whether it’s on the court or off the court? Are there any particular approaches that you’ve found to be helpful, whether it’s in the last few years or just over the course of your career?

Mike Mancias: Yeah. I think the number one thing for me has always been remain consistent. Remain consistent through the ups and downs and everything in between, as LeBron said because if there is a setback if there is something going on, I always have to remain consistent with my job and with what I do.

Now, I can always add or augment something that I feel might be beneficial if it’s something as small as a certain gift of kindness, just asking about the family. “Are things okay outside of basketball? Are things okay outside of the athletic realm, the athletic world?” And just try to be there for them, just try to be there for them through – again, it’s all great when we’re scoring 45 points a night and doing all these wonderful things. But is the athlete okay? Is the athlete doing well mentally and spiritually? And so I try to address it in a multifaceted fashion.

Tim Ferriss: And for you, Mike, in the offseason, how do your priorities change, if at all, for LeBron in terms of training and anything else that comes to mind?

Mike Mancias: I think in the offseason, we have to be smart. LeBron gives everything he has for these nine months. And so my job is to be smart about what we’re doing as far as the volume of training that we’re doing and how much I see him. Although we do tend to see each other pretty much every other day in the summertime. But it’s what we’re doing. And it’s managing and gauging his body throughout the summertime.

LeBron James: Yeah. He’s a lot more calm than I am, Tim, in the summer. He consistently tells me, “Hey, listen, man. You need to take a little bit more time off. We just went for nine and a half straight months.” And I’m like, “No.”

[Crosstalk]

Mike Mancias: Yeah. We have to pull the reins a little bit sometimes.

Tim Ferriss: Do you, LeBron, have any particular favorite exercises or forms of physical recreation in the offseason? I’ve read about yoga, Pilates. VersaClimber has come up a lot. Are there any particular ingredients that you like to regularly inject into your offseason?

LeBron James: Yeah. Besides the VersaClimber, I actually really like running on the football field for two reasons. You’re outside, which is always a cool way to exercise. And then it takes me back to my high school days of playing the game of football. And I just have a huge, deep, love of the game of football. So being able to get that condition in and get that cardio, being outside but also being back on the football field, it just does something for me, personally.

Tim Ferriss: And what might one of those workouts look like? Are you doing 400-meter repeats? Are you doing long, steady, and slow? What type of workout –

LeBron James: Yeah. It’s more like 100-yard sprints from end zone to end zone. And we don’t ever have a set number of how many we want to do. But we do enough to where we want to get our heart rate going while we’re out there.

Tim Ferriss: And how do you decide when to stop? Because that would seem to be really critical for –

LeBron James: Well, like you said – you hear Mike just say he pulls the reins? He says, “Okay, now. That’s enough.” Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: Mike, a name that’s come up a lot in doing research for this conversation is Tim Grover. And could you explain who that is and what you’ve learned from him?

Mike Mancias: Well, me growing up – I’ll take you back a little bit. I was a big Jordan fan. I was a big Chicago Bulls fan. And so I was doing my own research back when all you had was press instead of the internet. And so I was just asking around, reading up on Jordan and the stuff that he was doing for his body.

So his name came up a lot of times. And so I gathered the stones to reach out to Tim. Just somehow, I tracked down his number. And I told him what I wanted to do. I wanted to learn from him. And he says, “Okay. Well, why don’t you come up to Chicago and intern for us for a couple of weeks? MJ will be with us. He’ll be getting ready to work with the Washington Wizards. He just signed his deal with the Wizards. And so I’m in the middle of doing that. So you’re more than welcome to come up.” And thank God that I caught Tim in a great mood that day. So he invited me up to Chicago. And I spent a few weeks with him along with MJ. And I learned a lot. I learned a lot in those two weeks. I learned how to work with an elite athlete of Michael’s stature. So it was invaluable. I learned what to do, what not to do, stuff I should stay away from, stuff I should really augment. So it was a great educational experience for me.

Tim Ferriss: In terms of things to stay away from, was there anything that sticks out in your mind as a key learning or takeaway in that department? Or it could be one of the other categories. But is there anything specific that comes to mind?

Mike Mancias: Anything specific as far as an athlete training, working with an athlete of that caliber is to remain consistent, to remain consistent. There’s no particular exercise. There’s no particular stretch. It’s all about your own mindset and your own confidence working with someone like Michael and now, obviously, working with someone like LeBron. So it’s all about how to approach it mentally and how to be consistent for that athlete. Again, just be that rock.

Tim Ferriss: Consistency. So this is a good opportunity –

[Crosstalk]

Tim Ferriss: Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

LeBron James: And available.

Mike Mancias: And available 24/7.

LeBron James: Yeah. I might wake up at 3:00 in the morning wanting to get a workout in. It’s happened.

Tim Ferriss: On demand, which I think is a good window to start chatting about a new collaboration that you’re both involved with. LeBron, you’ve become a very active businessman and investor over the course of your career. And there are many things we could discuss related to that. But one that I think is very relevant to our conversation right now is Ladder. And there are a lot of people out there who are constantly asking themselves – and every time they get to New Year’s, make resolutions related to loving and not dreading fitness and wellness, and trying to find a way to attack it that leads them to passion and not feeling burned with responsibility. Could you guys – and either one of you can grab this – explain what Ladder is and what is the purpose behind it?

Mike Mancias: I think with the whole idea behind Ladder and starting this company – it started way back probably around 2014. We were at a crossroads of, “Okay. What else could we add to our routine as far as nutrition goes?” I felt like we were just beginning to scratch the surface as to what was available out there. But unfortunately, we found that some of the stuff that’s out there, all these big companies have all these proprietary blends. And we weren’t sure – “Okay. What exactly is in these proprietary blends?”

And so we’ll start with a company. We’ll start with something off the shelf that was NSF certified. But we just didn’t want to take the chance to continue to use these products. And so we got together with LJ and said, “Let’s really do some more research as to what is out there that it is not available for us and why not.” And so we started to do some more research after 2014 when, unfortunately, he experienced the much-publicized and critiqued cramping game in 2014 during the finals. That’s when LeBron and I really got together and said, “Okay. What are we missing here? Why are we cramping here? Are we doing everything we can for hydration? No. Let’s dive deeper into this because it’s obviously affecting our performance and our productivity.

And maybe, to some degree, it caused us the championship.” So we started doing, like I said, more and more research. I said, “What’s out there?” And we finally came up with the right ingredients. And you know what? Like we mentioned earlier, we kept it simple, Tim. We kept it really, really simple and very transparent to the public as to what’s in these products.

Tim Ferriss: Right. You mentioned a few things that I wanna underscore for folks also. The NSF certified for sport, which is effectively considered the gold standard for testing and approved by not only the major sports teams by the IOC and so on. So for competitors, extremely important to know exactly what you’re putting into your bodies for any number of reasons. And for people who are looking for supplementation or tools to augment their physical activity, you’ve also assembled a very strong team of founders. So I was wondering if you could chat a little bit about the people involved and why that particular team has been assembled for this.

LeBron James: Well, I can talk about that, Tim. Obviously, two of our founders are Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cindy Crawford. And I can speak up on Arnold. For one, we’ve been in business for quite a while now together through a mutual friend of ours. And obviously, his history of what he’s done in his career as far as nutrition and training and things that go without even talking about, we know how unbelievable he’s been. And his career is so that that makeup and that match fit perfectly. And also the same with Cindy Crawford as well. She’s been doing the wellness and the health and the training and everything she’s been doing throughout her whole life.

And it made sense for her to be a part of the team as well. And we also have Lindsey Vonn as well, one of the greatest athletes of her genre and her craft as well. So we wanted to be able to assemble not only people that have actually lived this life but also people that people can relate to as well. So it all made sense for all of us.

Tim Ferriss: And looking at the materials that I reviewed, the message, in effect, of life is a workout and recognizing that the physical part of your life is really part of everything – it is the vehicle for everything else, and your mind is part of your body. So if you want to care for that, you also have to care for the overall package that is your physical totality. LeBron, you must have thousands of opportunities come to you and get pitched to you I would imagine on not just an annual basis but a monthly or weekly basis. You could drown in the number of pitches you would receive. Why is this important to you?

LeBron James: Well, I think it goes back to what Mike was speaking upon. We had that moment during the finals. We were mind boggled because we know how much we take care of the body. We know how much we put into the body, what we put into our body. We know how much liquids throughout the whole day. And for that to happen at a very important moment in my career, we were searching for answers. And for us to get to this point now where we’ve found the answers – I told Mike, “Listen. You go out and do the research. I trust you. I’ve been with you for over a decade-plus now. Only thing I ask is that we make sure that everything is clean because that’s what’s more important than anything.”

I’ve trained my body. We’ve trained our body throughout this whole process. And you know my body more than I know it. So that’s how it all got started. And I think everything that I’ve ever done, Tim, has always been authentic to myself, authentic to what I do on a day to day basis. If it’s from a few years ago having a bikeathon in my hometown, it all stemmed from me training, riding mountain bikes in the summertime for getting back into shape. So that’s how that came about. If there’s anything that I’ve done in my career, it’s always been authentic to who I am. You look at, like you said, some of the things that I’m doing now as far as the production of TV shows and things of that nature. It stems from me loving TV and loving the fact that being there to engage people’s mind and emotions and things of that nature is just authentic to myself. And that’s what Ladder is all about as well.

Tim Ferriss: And is Ladder also going to have an editorial resource component? Because the URL weareladder.com, as I understand it is also going to have a lot of answers to questions with scientifically supported responses to topics ranging from fitness to nutrition to various types of health problems. How do you envision – Mike, maybe if you wanna chat on that side of things, how do you envision that serving people? And what would people go there to find?

Mike Mancias: Yeah. We wanna provide a one-stop shop for athletes and for everyone else who’s interested in maybe getting some sort of gain from not only a product but from just a lifestyle stance here. We could all improve. We could all improve in whatever field that we’re in, whether we take it by leaps and bounds or we take it by inches.

We could all improve. And part of it is creating that environment. By environment, I’m meaning that website, social media stuff where athletes can go in and tap into our resources. And our resources, it’s going to be a panel of experts in their field, in not only athletic performance but social behaviors, psychological behaviors, mental stuff. It’s all vital. It’s all vital. And it’s more about the athletic realm. It’s about living your best life I guess and improving.

Tim Ferriss: This is something that fits a very particular Venn diagram for me, which is something that was born out of the two of you scratching your own itch, right?

You mentioned the cramping in 2014, and I’m always most interested when a service or product is born out of an unaddressed need, an unmet need from one of the founders themselves. And it seems like you’ll be making tools available to people that would otherwise perhaps be limited to some of these high-level athletes you mentioned. And that’s exciting. I would also be remiss if I didn’t ask you, LeBron – and I know we have just a few minutes left here. But how many more years would you like to play?

LeBron James: I would love to see the floor with my son. My son is in eighth grade now. If he continues on the path that he’s on right now, he could possibly be in the NBA in five-six years. So that would be an unbelievable moment for not only myself but for my family, for everybody. So we’ll see. Obviously, taking care of the body is number one. And we will continue to do that but, more importantly, taking care of the mind. If your mind’s not fresh, then your body will fall at the waistline. So through the grace of the man above and through everything that myself and Mike and my support team do, that will be pretty dang-on cool if I’m able to be on the NBA floor with my oldest son.

Tim Ferriss: That would be amazing. Well, I look forward to watching that. And you guys have been very generous with your time. I appreciate you making it happen. And I’m very excited to see what both of you do and what Ladder does. People can find Ladder at weareladder.com. Of course, LeBron, you’re everywhere. @kingjames on Twitter and Instagram, LeBron on Facebook. Mike, I’m not sure. Smoke signals, carrier pigeon? How should people find you if there is a way to find you? Or should they just watch your good deeds through the athletes that you work with?

Mike Mancias: I think our body of work together with LeBron on the court, I think that’s proof in itself. If you do want to follow on Instagram, it’s mikemancias1. And I think I have the same Twitter handle as well. I’m pretty sure. No. But it’s all good. It’s all good. And it’s an exciting journey for me.

Tim Ferriss: Beautiful. And I will link to everything we’ve discussed, people listening, in the show notes, as per usual at tim.blog/podcast. And LeBron, we didn’t have time today to get into the Family Foundation. But you’re doing incredible work. And I wanted to just thank you among many other things for doing so much for the kids of Akron. I think it’s really tremendous. I’ve looked very closely at it myself for inspiration for things I hope to do. But I appreciate you putting that much time and effort and care back into the community that you came from.

LeBron James: I appreciate it, Tim. Thank you very much.

Tim Ferriss: All right. Well, guys, I will let you get running. You have icing to do. You have who knows what else to get done in the meantime. And I wish you both the best the best of luck. And look forward to seeing what you guys do.

Mike Mancias: Thank you, Tim. Take care, Tim.

LeBron James: Thanks, Tim.

Tim Ferriss: Thanks very much. Bye-bye.

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The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Dave Elitch

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Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Dave Elitch (IG: @daveelitch), a regular session-and touring-drummer who has worked with The Mars Volta, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, M83, The 1975, Juliette Lewis, Big Black Delta and his own band Daughters of Mara and a drum teacher who has developed a reputation as the technique/body mechanic specialist, having helped many of the world’s top players and educators overcome physical and mental plateaus at his private studio in Los Angeles. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!

Listen to the interview on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

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Tim Ferriss: Why, hello, boys and girls. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job each and every episode, this one included, to interview and dissect world-class performers of all different types – business, sports, chess, entertainment, music, sometimes folks who span many multiple disciplines and this is one of those cases, in my mind at least. We have Dave Elitch sitting across from me. Dave, how are you?

Dave Elitch: I’m great, man. Happy to be here.

Tim Ferriss: On Instagram and Twitter and elsewhere, @daveelitch, E-L-I-T-C-H. Daveelitch.com. Instagram would probably be the first choice for checking him out. I’ll read the bio, and then I have all sorts of questions about the bio. But I think before I get into that, I think it’s helpful to, perhaps as context for some folks, mention what I said to my girlfriend last night, who asked me, fairly, “Who is Dave? Why is he in the house?” Not in an accusatory way. More out of curiosity.

You were helping to set up my first-ever drum kit after many, many misfires, which we won’t get into right now. There are a lot of people very, very high on drugs who will volunteer to help you assemble kits. It turns out they don’t follow the directions very well. I wanted her to hear you play. Just to tool around after we had consumed many pounds of pork and biscuits and all sorts of other Texan health food. She had asked me at some point the day before, mostly as a hypothetical question, but also she was very curious, “I wonder who Annie goes to for relationship advice?” Annie, in this case, is a very well-known relationship coach/therapist. Who does the relationship coach go to for relationship advice?

I use that as a bridge to say well, many of the musicians you think of, many of the best drummers you might see on stage go to Dave as sort of the drumming whisperer/mechanic fixer, among many other things. So let’s jump into the bio. But for those people who are listening and who are thinking to themselves, “Well, I don’t really know anything about drumming and I really don’t know anything about music; this is an audio-only format; I’m not going to be able to watch Dave smashing on his kit,” we are going to jump across all sorts of different topics. So fear not.

Let’s get into the basic bio. Dave Elitch first garnered attention with his band, Daughters of Mara’s debut album I Am Destroyer in 2007. Very appropriate debut album name for a lot of reasons. But his time touring with the progressive rock band The Mars Volta in 2009-2010 is what really put him on the map and certainly put you on my map, which we can get into. He has since worked with Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, M83, The 1975, Juliette Lewis, Big Black Delta, and many, many others. He conducts master class lectures worldwide, and, in fact, you are going to be conducting a master class tomorrow here in Austin, Texas, which is exciting.

He’s a regular in the L.A. session scene. I want to come back to a bunch of vocab here that we can dissect, including performing on film scores for many major motion pictures – and I have questions about that. As an educator for the last 20 years, which for people who have listened to this podcast for a while is part of what makes you so interesting to me. It’s not just the ability to perform, but the ability to transmit and to break down and to convey and to demystify.

Back to the sentence. As an educator for the last 20 years, Dave has developed a reputation as the technique body mechanic specialist who has helped many of the world’s top players and educators overcome physical and mental plateaus at his private studio in Los Angeles. Your brand-new online course, Getting Out of Your Own Way, which is perhaps the best title of any course I’ve ever encountered is available at daveelitch.com. I have checked it out. It is fucking awesome.

Dave Elitch: Thank you.

Tim Ferriss: I have spent a lot of time thinking about teaching. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about learning, and I’m by no means a musician but have also digested a fair amount of material related to drumming and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Dave Elitch: Thanks.

Tim Ferriss: I thought we could start with the t-shirt that you’re wearing right now. It’s a t-shirt that I liked so much at one point when we hung out in L.A. and smashed on some drums and then ate a bunch of Himalayan yak if I remember correctly, I asked you where I could get one of these shirts. So could you describe for people what you’re wearing at the moment and why?

Dave Elitch: Absolutely. I’m wearing one of the t-shirts that I make and are available on my website that say “slow down” on the front and “do it again” on the back. It came from me having to say that over and over and over again to people as I was teaching them. So I just got tired of yelling at people and saying the same shit over and over again. So I point at my shirt now, and go, come on, slow it down. Because so many people, it’s not about what you’re trying to learn as much as it is about how you approach learning it, which obviously is a universal concept.

So many people try to rush through things so quickly, especially when you’re doing something that’s so physically and mentally demanding as drumming. If you don’t approach it slowly, your brain has no idea what your body is doing. So all these people try to rush through something, and they physiologically have no idea what’s going on. “Do it again” because of the sheer amount of repetition you have to do to plug in that muscle memory. It’s fun. I made it just as a joke kind of, you know?

And then people would come up to me on the street and be like, “Oh, I love that shirt,” because people get whatever sort of meaning they want.

Tim Ferriss: It’s the Rorschach inkblot test.

Dave Elitch: Absolutely. People love it, and they get whatever they want out of it. It could mean all sorts of different things.

Tim Ferriss: This also I think highlights for me a difference between, a critical difference in learning anything, or several critical differences. One is developing a skill versus demonstrating the skill. You could apply that to say, strength. It’s development versus display; competing in powerlifting versus training for powerlifting. In this case, I think maybe a good contrast that comes to mind would be last night, sitting down at this electronic drum kit, my first kit of that type that I’ve ever used, and playing with the basic posture and body mechanics. So you would ask me to relinquish control of my arm and provide deadweight and to do the same with my leg, to try to ensure that, for instance, when using the – I never know if I should call it a kick or bass or something else.

Dave Elitch: Same thing.

Tim Ferriss: Kick or bass drum or pedal, rather, that I would be using my hip as opposed to getting wicket-whack with my ankle or other articulation. In aiming to do that, ensuring that I’m not leaning back like I’m in an easy rider because that creates all sorts of instability. It was incredible to me, but not surprising given my time with you, that within about 120 seconds, you took one of my greatest sources of discomfort sitting at any kit, which was feeling like I had to be balanced on my left ass cheek to make the bass pedal work properly, and you removed that, so now I could have a little bit of anterior pelvic tilt.

And for people wondering what that means, imagine your hips are a glass of wine. If you pour wine out the front, that’s anterior pelvic tilt. Posterior pelvic tilt would be pouring wine out the back. And so having a little bit of tilt forward so that I can fit my sit bones on the stool, which you also helped me to do by taking a weight plate – this was in the garage, and the gym is also there – and putting it on top of it. So you diagnosed that very quickly. And then we practiced a very slow, basic, sort of AC/DC rock beat.

Dave Elitch: Money beat.

Tim Ferriss: In doing that, we were able to focus on some fundamental grips and so on in a very slow fashion. But the video that introduced you to me has a number, it turns out, of stories associated with it that I hadn’t heard. It seems like a lot of people have come to find you through this video. So I’d love to tell people about it. I think it came about because I was on Twitter at God knows what unholy hour and was thinking about drumming. I’ve always been fascinated by drumming. So I asked something along the lines of “Who is a beast drummer who is also a good drummer?” and somebody threw a link up to this video. What is the video?

Dave Elitch: The video is me playing with The Mars Volta at a Big Day Out Festival in Sydney, Australia in 2010, early 2010. I would videotape all of the shows that we played. I’d set up a little camera behind me. Because when you’re in the heat of battle, as you could say, you have no idea how it’s actually coming across. If I backtrack a little bit, with this situation and a lot of situations that I get called for, I’ve sort of developed this reputation as a bit of a mercenary in that like when someone breaks their arm or someone gets fired, or someone needs someone to do a tour like last minute, with no rehearsal, little rehearsal, whatever, they call me and I have to learn everything last minute. It’s funny. I’ve been –

Tim Ferriss: The Cleaner.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, exactly. So with The Mars Volta, with Miley Cyrus, with 1975, with M83, you walk into a room. You go, “Nice to meet you guys.” You might run through the set once, and then you’re playing in front of 15,000-30,000 people. It’s a unique situation to be in. The amount of pressure is unbelievable. Because as a drummer, if you drop the ball, the whole show collapses in on top of you. It’s not like the guitar, where you can go, whoops, flubbed that, and then you can just kind of keep playing.

Tim Ferriss: Do it twice, and you’re playing jazz.

Dave Elitch: Yes, exactly. Drumming, if you drop the ball, the whole show caves in on you. So The Mars Volta was the first big situation that I was in like that. I got that gig when I was 25. They called hundreds of people to do it. People were sending in video auditions and all kinds of stuff. When they asked me to do it, I said, “Yeah, sure.” In your head, it’s one of those – I’m sure you’ve had this experience before – they’re like, “Great, this sounds great.” In my head, I’m like, “No, no, no, no, no,” and then I was just like, “Yes.” Yes just comes out of your mouth. I feel like every important life decision I’ve ever made, that happens, and it’s super important just to do it.

Tim Ferriss: Grow wings on the way down.

Dave Elitch: Yes, exactly. So I flew to Europe, met the band, we ran through the two and a half hour set twice, and then went on tour. This is for people who aren’t familiar with the band, it’s extremely complex music. Lots of – Omar the guitar player, lots of hand signals and eyebrows, cues.

Tim Ferriss: I didn’t realize that. So he’s like a major league baseball catcher.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s a long drum solo every night. You have to be on point, really. So I would set up a camera behind me every night to be like, “I need to know what this actually sounds like.” Because in the heat of the moment, you could think you’re killing it, and then you watch a video, and you’re like, “Ugh, whoops.” Or the opposite is also true always. I could be like, “I feel like that didn’t sound good at all,” and then I watch the video, and I’m like, “Oh, that was actually okay.” That level of cognitive disconnect in that scenario is huge.

I would go back to my hotel room after the show, and watch the video and take mental notes about things that worked and things that didn’t work. For me, it’s always been very important to put on a visual show. There’s nothing worse than going to see a show and just watching someone that looks like they’re doing their taxes.

Tim Ferriss: Why do you think this particular video – and we’ll put it in the show notes for people who want to see it, you can go to tim.blog/podcast, and it’ll be right in the show notes so you can find the link. But if people wanted to Google this, is there anything, in particular, they should search for?

Dave Elitch: You could type in “Dave Elitch drum cam” or just “Dave Elitch,” and it’s going to pop up at the top somewhere.

Tim Ferriss: It’s one of the very first results. Why do you think this video – and this is related to where you were going, I think – why do you think this video caught on in the way that it did?

Dave Elitch: Because I’m going apeshit.

Tim Ferriss: Fucking berserk.

Dave Elitch: I was standing up, kicking stuff over. Like, just going nuts. I think it’s really important to put on a show, so people are like, “Holy shit. What is going on? This is insane.” So yeah, I’m standing up and hitting super hard. It’s visually entertaining. But the most important part of that is the playing has to be happening. If you go nuts, and then you screw something up, there’s a point. So the playing has to be on point, and then I’m going to stand up and kick something over, you know?

Tim Ferriss: Before you had your first, whether it’s your first performance with The Mars Volta, so you’ve gone through the set twice. You’re in Europe. Or wherever you are in the world. What is your self-talk or your prep before going out on stage to play with this band?

Dave Elitch: You’ll be into this because there’s a lot of note-taking.

Tim Ferriss: I’m already into it.

Dave Elitch: This is something that I do with a lot of people that I work with. Just showing them how to chart out a song properly because so many people write out way too much nonsense and then it’s way too much to navigate. Learning music at the last minute and having to play it, that does happen quite a bit, whether it’s like a coffee house or a huge show or whatever. So most people will write out everything, and then they go to look at it, and they have no idea. They can’t read their handwriting. Meaning what I do with people is it’s just the roadmap. You’re not writing out notation. It’s just like intro – eight bars; verse – 16 bars; chorus – 16. It’s just that.

That’s it. I might say where my right hand is. Right cymbal, crash, high hat. But it’s very minimalistic. So I made those charts for all the songs. I would go through – it’s all about how you approach this stuff, right? A lot of people would go, “I’m going to play through this setlist,” just bang, bang, bang, down the line. But you’re constantly distracted. You’re constantly switching. The target’s moving. So you can’t get deep.

Tim Ferriss: Why is the target moving?

Dave Elitch: Because you’re switching songs all the time. What I would do is I would take the first song in the setlist, and I would have my notes and the music, and I would play through it as many times as it took for me to be like, “I know this really well.” But the same thing on repeat. Most people would be like, “I’m just going to go through the set and then it’s like –”

Tim Ferriss: By the songs changing, you mean that show to show?

Dave Elitch: No, I mean within the setlist itself. So like someone would play the first song and then the second song and then the third song all in a row. Then they can’t remember anything because they’re working on all the songs at the same time.

Tim Ferriss: It’s linear.

Dave Elitch: Yes, exactly.

Tim Ferriss: It’s also – just because we’ve both had a fair amount of caffeine, so I feel like we can make use of that caffeine now – this is also a reason why certain mnemonic devices work better than others. For instance, if you use what sometimes is referred to as a memory palace, this has been used for thousands of years. Cicero used it for memorizing speeches, among other things, where you could take – this is also how a lot of memory competitors memorize shuffled decks of cards, is they will memorize pairs of cards as interacting images and place them along a familiar route. So walking from their front door to the grocery store or something like that.

But one of the challenges with that is if you want to get to the 12th item and recall that 12th item, you have to run through the list. Similarly, if you’re only memorizing or getting familiar with a playlist or a set from one to 12 or whatever the number is, and then all of a sudden I’m just like imagining the lead singer’s like, “Fuck it. I feel we should just go to five.” And you’re like, “I’m not ready for five.”

Dave Elitch: Totally. That’s a very real thing. And that’s a real thing also when people are doing method book work like out of a drum book, let’s say. I might have them learn the entire page; this happens all the time. I’m like, “Cool. Let me hear you start from the end.” They’re like, “Uh…” So that is a very important point, and that comes later in the process, at the end of the process. So I will go through one song over and over and over again until I know it really well; this is huge; practicing not in regards to time, but in regards to goals.

So the number of people who go to music school and they go, “Yeah, I practice eight hours a day.” It’s not about how much time. It’s about what you’re getting done. And having specific goals. And writing that down and go, “I need to get this from here to here. Once I get that done, I’m done. Check. Moving on.” A lot of people go, “I need to work on this thing for an hour.” That doesn’t mean anything. It’s not a tangible goal. An hour for you and an hour for me are completely different. One person could get it in 20 minutes. Another person could take two hours. It’s unbelievable how everyone structures things in terms of time.

Tim Ferriss: How do you know when you have a song?

Dave Elitch: That’s a good question. I don’t know if I can put that into words.

Tim Ferriss: What does it feel like?

Dave Elitch: It feels like – you’ve given a lot of talks. You rehearse it enough, and you’re like, “Yeah, I don’t need these notes.” You know it in your core. It’s like when you memorize your times tables or whatever. It’s that same type of thing. You don’t have to gear up to get it going.

Tim Ferriss: Someone could slap you in the face to wake you up and be like, “Do this,” and it would come out.

Dave Elitch: It’s in your bones. I prepare in that regard like an insane amount. It’s like a ridiculous amount. So I’ll play the song; I don’t know, like five or 10 times with my notes. And then I start, “Okay, I think I got it now.” Then I’ll put my notes away and just play. No, sorry. Then I’ll play with just the notes, no music. Then I’ll play –

Tim Ferriss: As you were saying. So you’re accompanying the music first with your notes.

Dave Elitch: Yes. And then when I get comfortable the next step –

Tim Ferriss: Turn off the music.

Dave Elitch: – and just play with the notes. And then the next step is music, no notes. And then the final step is just a click track, nothing else. So just a click track.

Tim Ferriss: Click track metronome.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. So I hear nothing, and I have to know it so well that I can get through the whole song in my head, hearing everything. That’s an insane amount of work. But the deal is when you get on stage, and there are 30,000 people screaming, and like with Miley, people throwing bras and underwear at me.

Tim Ferriss: Better than batteries and tomatoes, I guess. Or beer bottles.

Dave Elitch: Like at that moment, you have to know everything so well that that’s not going to faze you. It takes a long time. I’m in there for 10 or 12 hours at the beginning. But that type of preparation is huge. What’s funny is when I went to Amsterdam to rehearse the set with them, I set up an extra floor tom on my left side, which you normally wouldn’t do that; they’re on your right side. Were you going to say something?

Tim Ferriss: No, no, no. I was going to say maybe you could explain what a floor tom is for people who don’t know.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. So Tom’s, yeah, interesting explaining this. Man, how would you explain this to a layman?

Tim Ferriss: It’s tough. I’m going to do a poor job.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, great.

Tim Ferriss: I will do a terrible job, but it’s easy for me to come at this with beginner’s ideas because I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. If people can hear the snap, like the, generally – please feel free to call bullshit on any of this.

Dave Elitch: No, no, you’re good.

Tim Ferriss: Like that, you’re going to be hearing say a snare drum, right?

Dave Elitch: Mm-hmm.

Tim Ferriss: When you look at drummers, and they have their hands seemingly crossed, they’re hitting the high hat, and then they’re hitting the snare with the other hand. That’s part of the lifeblood of any kind of rock beat, right?

Dave Elitch: And the kick drum with their foot.

Tim Ferriss: So it’s like [sound effects], that is the high hat and the snare. Then if you were to hear a drummer say travel left to right, assuming they’re right-handed, like [sound effects], when you hear [sound effects] that part is very often going to be a floor tom.

Dave Elitch: Perfect. Perfect. I couldn’t have done that better myself.

Tim Ferriss: So you are right-handed?

Dave Elitch: Yes. So you have a rack tom up top, straight in front of you, which is going to be the higher pitch, like [sound effects] and then you go down further, and you get bigger drums, which are sitting on the floor, floor toms, right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. So having those on the left is not normal.

Dave Elitch: Not normal, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: So why would you do that?

Dave Elitch: So I put it on my left so I could put my notes on the left and didn’t think anyone would see them. I go to the bathroom after the first set, and I come back, and it’s all gone.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, fuck.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. And I was like, “Uh…” and the bass player is like, “It’s cool, man. You got it. It’s all good. You don’t need those.” And I didn’t.

Tim Ferriss: You’re like, “Thanks, bass player who’s done this set 400 times.”

Dave Elitch: Exactly, yeah, yeah. “Okay, great.”

Tim Ferriss: I want to note something for folks, and I’m so glad we got into this because that particular way that you laid out your progression for practicing a song is nearly identical to how a lot of the best public speakers also prepare their keynotes. They will take a keynote – and I learned to do this as well, but I was borrowing from other people – and instead of – let’s just say for the sake of simplicity, a 60-minute keynote – rather than trying to give the 60-minute keynote from start to finish, they’ll break it into four pieces.

Or what they’ll do – and this is something I started to model – is because the beginning and the ending is so important, actually breaking out the first five minutes and the last five minutes. Let’s make it simple. If it’s a 40-minute talk – this will make the math a little easier – first five minutes, then you have three 10-minute sections and then the last five minutes. And to practice each one of those individually, as opposed to in sequence. Initially, not paying attention to time, although having some rough idea of the total length. And then recording, listening to it, making these post-game analysis edits necessary.

And then also at a later point – and I picked this up from someone as well when I was practicing, you’re talking about the bras and the panties and everything – when I was preparing for my TED talk about a year and a half ago, which was going to be the opening session, main stage, nervous as fuck. Just as a side note – I’m sure you have a million of these, so I’d love to hear some of these war stories – there’s this area behind the stage at TED, which is called something hilarious like the Zen room or the chill-out room where the people who are on deck, like the three or four speakers who are on deck, are meant to hang out there with their little misters and cold water and so on.

You walk in there, at least when I walked in there, it was some of the most polished speakers in the world basically freaking the fuck out. I was like, “I need to leave here now!”

Dave Elitch: This isn’t helping.

Tim Ferriss: “I need to leave right now.” This is like being in the water with Bear Grylls and all his survival experts, and they’re losing their shit because there are like great white sharks in the water. You’re like, “This is not helpful. I need not to be here.” But one of the things that I’d done in the last week or so of preparation was to load myself up on way too much caffeine, like three or four coffees, before giving dress rehearsals before strangers at my friends’ companies. I would have them call in people during lunch hour, and I would give a rehearsal in front of people who probably didn’t particularly want to be there. Not a super-warm crowd, who don’t care about my feelings, particularly.

Dave Elitch: And you’re all jacked.

Tim Ferriss: And I’m jacked to try to simulate the adrenaline I would feel when I actually got out there.

Dave Elitch: That’s smart, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: In any case, I don’t want to brain vomit on you too much.

Dave Elitch: No, it’s all good. That’s what we’re here for.

Tim Ferriss: I’ll reserve some of my brain vomit for later. But the point being that progression you use applies to so many things. We’re going to comment. You can see my fondling these – fondling is a strange word – but these gifts. Gifts, people! Get your mind out of the gutter – that you gave me, which I do want to talk about. You’ve followed this progression song-by-song. You’ve gone through the set twice. Hour before you get on stage, what does that hour look like? For that particular mercenary gig.

Dave Elitch: It’s extremely stressful. You’re waking up in the middle of the night going, “Huh, huh, how does that bridge go?” Like freaking out. Because you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s extremely stressful and in a lot of these situations – it was funny. I was thinking about how to sort of present this to the laymen. It’s like your first day on the job. It’s some really, you got like a giant promotion, or you’re at a new company, different title, different role. And you roll in, and you meet everyone. You pick five random people out of the office, and you say, “Great. You guys are going to go on stage in front of 30,000 people together.” You just met.

Or you’re going to spend the next month in a bus together, waking up next to each other. It’s a very weird situation. Who knows how that’s going to work out as far as personalities and everything? But the hour before the show, I’ve done the Sam Harris guided meditation. I just go to an area by myself and sit down and breathe and just try to stay as relaxed as possible.

Tim Ferriss: This is the 10-minute?

Dave Elitch: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: For people who don’t know, this is Sam Harris, a neuroscience Ph.D. and also a very well-known author. I think he’s at samharris.org, two R’s, one S. He has a number of really good guided meditations. So you will have done that?

Dave Elitch: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: Is that the morning of? Is that right before?

Dave Elitch: Both. If I’m feeling really anxious, I’ll do it right before. One of the things that took years me years of touring to figure out is a lot of people will – drumming is an incredibly physical instrument, especially with how hard I can hit at times, and you really have to treat yourself like an athlete – a lot of people will sit there and “warm up” on a rubber pad and gingerly hit it around for 10 or 15 minutes and then they go out onstage and their feet are cold. I started bringing a jump rope on tour with me. I was just like, “Oh, my God, how did I not figure this out earlier?”

I skip rope for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, and that gets the blood flowing so when I walk out onstage, I feel like I’m three songs in already, which is a game changer, physiologically. I’ll do that. It gets your head in the zone. Because skipping rope is the same exact thing as playing a musical instrument in terms of focus. It’s like a detached focus. If you think about what you’re doing, you use a different part of your brain neurologically, and you’ll screw up whatever you’re doing if it’s a highly learned, embedded task.

So if you’re skipping rope and you think about what you’re doing, you’ll hit your feet, and you’ll screw it all up. If I’m playing a show, I have to be either totally Zenned out and not thinking about anything at all or I have to think about what I’m eating after the show or doing laundry or whatever. I can’t think, “Here comes this part” or “Right, right, left, left,” or I’ll immediately bungle whatever I’m doing. But skipping rope gets my head in that mindset. It also gets me warmed up. So yeah, it’s just a lot of pacing. I don’t drink coffee or Red Bulls or anything because I know my heart rate’s already going to be insane, so I try not to do that.

Tim Ferriss: Do you have anything that you, any particular rituals or things that you say to yourself before you go out or if you are, alternatively, do you take either or both of these – when you’re talking to a professional who perhaps is really nervous about a tour they’re about to do or gigs that they’re doing, what’s your advice to them right before they go out?

Dave Elitch: My advice is what I try to live by in that if you put the time in and you know the material, there’s nothing to be nervous about because you know what you’re doing. As soon as you get on stage, after about five minutes and the adrenaline wears off, you should be comfortable. Because you’re like, “I couldn’t have put in more time. I put in the time. I know what I’m doing. This is fine.” What’s really scary is when you don’t have the time to put the work in; then that’s freaky. I try to never put myself in those situations. But yeah, as long as you put in the time.

When I’m working with someone, I make sure they put in the time. Usually, it’s a lot of guys who’ve been in bands for a long time. They have an ample amount; they might have a month of rehearsals. So it’s not about whether I know this material. It’s maybe some other issue. But I tell everyone to do the Sam Harris guided meditation, especially people who aren’t familiar with that. Because when I first started doing it, I literally had to relearn how to breathe.

Tim Ferriss: The guided meditation?

Dave Elitch: Yeah. My breathing was – because I was driving to the studio and I was recording this record with this band called Antemasque that I did with Omar and Cedric from The Mars Volta after The Mars Volta. Flea was playing bass on it from the Chili Peppers. I had just finished doing the Killer Be Killed record, which is a metal band I was in, and I had to learn the Miley set after being in the studio all day with Antemasque. So I was driving to the studio, and I was white-knuckling the steering wheel, and I was holding my breath. I realized, “Oh, my God, am I doing this all the time?”

Tim Ferriss: Is this my normal?

Dave Elitch: Yeah. This is crazy. Then I started paying attention to it, and I realized I was holding my breath all the time. When I started doing the short guided meditation, I realized, “Oh, my God, I don’t know how to breathe anymore.” I had to literally learn how to take a full breath because I didn’t, just from getting kicked in the balls over and over again and daily life, your breathing gets shallow. So that was massive for me.

As far as the rituals, that’s huge. Even if I don’t have time to sit down and fully do the meditation, I’ll try and get into that headspace, because if you start your day with that, you can very easily go back and access that mindset later on. It’s much easier for me to go, “Okay, feeling stressed, okay, there’s a full breath.” Whereas if I didn’t start my day off doing that, I might not physically be able to access that full breath.

Tim Ferriss: Right. You haven’t limbered up.

Dave Elitch: Yes.

Tim Ferriss: Psychologically and physically.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, it’s huge.

Tim Ferriss: The breathing, facial tension. Yesterday you were asking me when I was sitting at the kit about the jaw and the mouth. We were chatting about that last night. Well, is it just from the standpoint of teaching, there are so many different skills that can be enhanced, oddly enough, by paying attention to mouth, jaw, tongue relaxation. We were chatting last night about “Is it best to tell someone to relax the jaw, or is that too hard?” And, in fact, if you ask someone to relax the tongue, do you get that entire structure to relax more easily?

All of which transcends music specifically. This is a conversation I’ve had a lot with someone who’s been on the podcast, Kelly Starrett, who always talks about breathing and positions. If you can’t breathe in the position, you do not earn the position.

Dave Elitch: That’s why I was so excited about doing this with you. Because I knew there was going to be tons of carryover from different disciplines. That’s what I really love. So you telling me, “If you relax your tongue, you’ll relax your whole face and your jaw.” I was like, “Of course.” That’s huge, and that’s the way I’m going to present it to people from now on because that’s a better way to teach it.

Tim Ferriss: You and I were having a conversation last night, romantic, candle-lit, hot tub conversation.

Dave Elitch: Amongst ice, ice baths.

Tim Ferriss: That’s true. We did ice baths, which is also a great opportunity to work on breathing, big time.

Dave Elitch: Breathing. Holy shit.

Tim Ferriss: We can have a Round 2. We were chatting about, in part – we were talking about a lot of things – about what keeps me excited. My answer was seeing the interconnectedness and the transferability of these types of concepts because even if you bleed the stone and work in one area on one discipline, and you get to a point where perhaps you just feel fatigued and want to try something else, but you’re not sure if you could ever recapture the excitement you felt in the nascent stages of that first dominant skill.

For me, I’ve realized that there are thousands of different disciplines you could be exposed to and take to like a fish to water because you have knowingly or unknowingly developed all of these meta-skills that apply. You gave me a few gifts that I alluded to fondling earlier. One of them I’m holding here, and I’d love for you to tell people what it is and why you gave it to me.

Dave Elitch: Sure. This is a book called The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. It came out in 1974. It’s one of those books where people are like, “Oh, yeah, that book.” It had a huge effect, and there are all sorts of spinoffs. The Inner Game of Music is actually a book. The amazing thing with this book is – both of us have read a lot about Zen Buddhism – the thing about Zen Buddhism is by the very nature of what it is, it’s very difficult to pin down and point at directly and define because it’s so amorphous. This is the first thing I ever read where he nails it down in the context of tennis. It’s easier to do that way.

Tim Ferriss: Are you a tennis player?

Dave Elitch: I’m not.

Tim Ferriss: This is important.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. So the book talks about essentially these two selves that we have. Self 1 and Self 2. Self 1 is the analytical, cruel self-talk, harsh critic who you hit the ball into the net – if we’re going to stick with the tennis analogy – and Self 1 is like, “Oh, you fucking piece of shit. Come on, get it together.” And Self 2 is your subconscious automatic self that’s just, “Hey, I’m just trying to make this happen here.” The whole idea is calming down the critical, analytical Self 1, your self-talk, and letting Self 2, the automatic subconscious, take over. If you let that happen, everything will happen automatically.

So what’s interesting is what I do with so many people is very technique oriented. This book can be described as an anti-technique because it’s sort of the opposite way of coming about it. But what’s interesting about this is with the Zen stuff, they will lead you down a path and then just leave you there, a lot of times. The brilliant thing with this book is it’s very easy to understand. Anyone can pick it up and learn. You can replace tennis with any other thing, any other discipline.

The brilliant thing about this book is it takes you somewhere and he’s like, this is a plateau you have to overcome and this is how you do it. That happens multiple times in the book.

Tim Ferriss: This is the problem. Here are a few approaches to resolving the problem.

Dave Elitch: As a for-instance, if you’re really getting in your head – I’ll stick with the tennis analogy – in a match, and you need a device to overcome that Self 1, because like I was saying earlier, if you think physiologically about what you’re doing in terms of movement, you use a different structure in your brain and you’ll botch it. So if you’re serving a tennis ball, you throw the ball up, you go, “I throw the ball up, then I move my racquet,” you’re fucked. You’re going to hit the net every time. So in order to not do that, he’ll say, “Focus on the laces of the ball as it’s coming at you” or “Focus on the whop of the sound when you get a good hit” and just focus on those things in and of themselves that will take you into that space.

We were talking about this last night. Everyone that talks about being in the zone or being on that fire, that kind of thing, as a state you can willingly inhabit, it’s not really a thing. It’s not really true. You can set the stage for it by this type of thing, but you can’t willingly enter into that or else everybody would do that all the time. When I’m having these out-of-body experiences when I’m playing music, which is what gets you to do it in the first place, sort of time slows down and unfolds in front of you and you see what you’re going to play.

Tim Ferriss: Neo back-bending with the bullets flying by?

Dave Elitch: It’s exactly the same thing. That’s what got me hooked. That Matrix thing. You can use that in any discipline.

Tim Ferriss: And you can’t, as you said, guarantee that you can follow the boot-up sequence and automatically enter flow at any point in time, but you can increase the odds.

Dave Elitch: Sure, absolutely.

Tim Ferriss: You can increase the odds.

Dave Elitch: Absolutely.

Tim Ferriss: You were mentioning it in the context of tennis or a tennis serve, but last night when we were tooling around on the drum kit, it’s very similar, right?

Dave Elitch: Mm-hmm.

Tim Ferriss: You were asking me to note the difference in sound from switching from a French grip, thumb on top, to a German grip, which is all more internally rotated.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, a flat hand.

Tim Ferriss: Flatter hand. But using the wrist.

Dave Elitch: As a whip.

Tim Ferriss: As a whip for rim shot or on the snare drum. You were asking me to notice the feel and the sound of it.

Dave Elitch: What’s amazing about this is we’re playing an electronic kit. We’re not playing an acoustic kit. So even though you’re hearing sounds, theoretically, it shouldn’t really sound any different because it’s not real. You know what I mean?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Dave Elitch: But that’s what’s even cooler about this. Being on an electronic kit is once we got you relaxing and getting those techniques happening, and trimming the fat, your vibe and your feel were totally different, even in that situation.

Tim Ferriss: The sound or the queuing into that sound or feeling, much like anyone who has played tennis, and I’ve played very little tennis, knows the gratification of that proper thwack when you really hit it in the sweet spot or anyone who’s boxed and found that sweet spot on a heavy bag. It acts as an anchor for the 27 biomechanical ingredients that make it up, but if you try to recall the 27 separate ingredients discretely when you’re pulling your arm back to hit the ball, you’re fucked.

Dave Elitch: You hit the nail on the head, man. That is exactly the kind of stuff that I find so exciting are those carryovers. When you hit a home run, when you smash a baseball, it doesn’t feel like you did anything. Whereas if you hit it wonky, you’re like [sound effects]. You know what I mean? It’s terrible.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Dave Elitch: It’s the same thing with drums. When you hit them right, the energy should be going out, not back in. It’s the same with anything else, any athletic movement.

Tim Ferriss: You gave this book, The Inner Game of Tennis, to – and we’re definitely going to come back to this topic – to your therapist, who is 81?

Dave Elitch: Something like that, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: 80-something and a very wise woman. It now has a prominent place on her shelf.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, it has a spot on her mantle. One of the five or six books she gives out to people regularly.

Tim Ferriss: I didn’t ask you this because I don’t think you mentioned the five or six other books, but do you know offhand any of the other books?

Dave Elitch: The Pia Mellody, Facing Love Addiction, is one of them.

Tim Ferriss: Pia Mellody, P-I-A Mellody.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. I don’t know the other ones.

Tim Ferriss: We can make that a bonus feature for the show notes.

Dave Elitch: I’ll look closer next time.

Tim Ferriss: We’ll put those in the show notes. Let’s take a look at these other two because I think they are also a fun way to dissect you a bit. Let’s go with this one next. This is a very small book, and I always get excited about small books.

Dave Elitch: One would not think that.

Tim Ferriss: One would not think that. Every time I set out to write a 20-page children’s book, it ends up being a 700-page bludgeoning tool. This is titled The Medium is the Massage. Subtitled, An Inventory of Effects. Marshall McLuhan? Is that how you say it?

Dave Elitch: That’s it.

Tim Ferriss: M, little C, uppercase L-U-H-A-N. And Quentin Fiore? Is he the graphic designer?

Dave Elitch: Yes.

Tim Ferriss: And then produced, I didn’t even notice that, by Jerome Agel, I suppose, something like that.

Dave Elitch: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: Who knows. That’s not something I typically see associated with books, so I’m not sure what that means. Tell me about this book.

Dave Elitch: Marshall McLuhan was a really interesting and very popular social and media theorist in the ‘50s and ‘60s, so I find it really fascinating that he’s not a household name now, being that media is such a massive part of everyone’s life now, especially people who do their own thing. We have to have Instagram and Twitter and all that stuff. You don’t have a choice, right? So I find societal issues and media and how we process and consume media very interesting. This dude was so ahead of everyone by decades. It’s almost creepy.

Tim Ferriss: Just in terms of his predictive ability?

Dave Elitch: Yeah. The interesting thing about him is he would spout off all sorts of inflammatory, crazy things. People would get furious about certain things, or pick things apart. He would contradict himself all the time, and make these grand statements. That maybe would’ve bothered me years ago, but now, as long as there are gems throughout and he hits the nail on the head in certain areas, and I can take away things that shift my perspective as a whole, that’s all that matters to me. So The Medium is the Message. This is actually The Medium is the Massage because they screwed up when they –

Tim Ferriss: That’s so funny. I didn’t even notice that.

Dave Elitch: I know. They screwed up when they were printing it originally, and he thought it was hilarious and he’s like, just leave it, it’s fine. So it was supposed to be The Medium is the Message, but it’s actually The Medium is the Massage. He’s like, “That’s great.”

Tim Ferriss: That’s great. Let’s keep it.

Dave Elitch: He loved puns. He was kind of a quirky, weird dude. The whole idea of that phrase is that the medium with which information is submitted to you is more important than the actual information itself. An example I like to use is something like Auto-Tune. For people who don’t know what Auto-Tune is, if you think of that Cher song Do you Believe in Love, whatever, that was 20 years ago. Auto-Tune is a software that people use to correct someone’s vocal take. So if someone’s vocal take is wonky, they just sort of massage it a little bit.

Tim Ferriss: It’s been used quite a bit in hip-hop.

Dave Elitch: Yes. What the new thing with that Cher song is they used a different key signature to Auto-Tune it, so it way over-corrected itself, and that’s what got that weird, now T-Pain sort of sound. Drake. As something that was an experiment, now has currently changed the way music is. The software itself has now changed the art form to the point where I’ll have producer friends of mine tracking someone doing vocals in their 20s, and they’re like, “Hey, why does my voice sound weird?” They’re like, “That’s what your voice sounds like.”

Tim Ferriss: Oh, uncorrected?

Dave Elitch: They expect it to sound Auto-Tuned. So the technology has now affected the art form.

Tim Ferriss: It not only changed the content, but it also changed the perception of the raw materials.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. And you could say the same thing about, there’s something called Beat Detective, which is something drummers the world over hate. It’s the same sort of a thing for drummers. So you can track something, record something in a studio, and then they will artificially adjust everything to a grid. If someone’s lazy about it, they snap it to the grid, and it’s just like [sound effects], it’s very stiff and computer-like because that’s what it’s been turned into.

Tim Ferriss: Spock on drums.

Dave Elitch: Exactly. But people got used to hearing that.

Tim Ferriss: Can you remove the soul from my music?

Dave Elitch: Yeah. So I’ve done sessions where I’ll go in, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job. Then I’ll hear it back, and I’m like, “Why did you even have me play on this?” Because they’re just lazy. It’s more about them being lazy and not going through and, you know. But people got used to hearing how quote, unquote “perfect” that is. And if someone hears something that rushes or drags or is a little bit not perfect, they’re like, “This is weird.” And so a lot of things are Beat-Detected to the point where it’s just totally artificial now.

Tim Ferriss: You’ve drained the blood.

Dave Elitch: Yes. And then the pendulum will swing back. That’s why Adele was so successful, because it was real music.

Tim Ferriss: And Jack Johnson.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, exactly.

Tim Ferriss: You do have the pendulum sometimes swing in the opposite direction. Is your interest in this – because I know it’s not limited just to this book – and, one, I wanted to bring up you have mentioned this to me many times. In fact, this is a documentary series that has come up repeatedly on this podcast. I’m embarrassed to say that I still have not seen it. Adam Curtis’ BBC documentary series, The Century of the Self and HyperNormalisation. So you’ve said it changed the way that you saw the world forever. I’ll just continue here.

Even if you just check out – these are your words – the first 20 minutes of Century of the Self, it’ll blow your mind. Maybe you could segue into The Century of the Self and HyperNormalisation. Tell me why this is so interesting to you. Because this seems to be fanatically something that is of great interest to you. We were just talking about Beat Detective and other things. People might assume it’s because he’s a musician and it’s how these things affect music. But I don’t know if that’s true. So could you talk about how you found Century of the Self? Because it has come up surprisingly frequently on this podcast. And why does it grab your attention?

Dave Elitch: My buddy, Chris, is a musician friend of mine. He told me about it years ago. I think it came out in 2000. I’d have to double-check that. The premise of Century of the Self is it starts with focusing on Edward Bernays. Edward Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew. He took all of Sigmund Freud’s theories on the subconscious and came to the conclusion that human beings are either savage animals that are going to rip each other apart, or they can be controlled and made docile via consumerism.

Tim Ferriss: The opiate for the masses.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, it’s literally that. Edward Bernays used some of these tactics that he pioneered in propaganda for World War I. Then after World War I, he was like, “Well, we can use these in peacetime for capitalists.”

Tim Ferriss: Selling more detergent.

Dave Elitch: Yes. So the whole notion of you buying a pair of shoes to express your inner self was single-handedly formulated by him. So we think that’s just always been around. But really, before him, if people were thirsty, they drank water. They would wear shirts for years. As that dude who I’m a big fan of, Slavoj Žižek –

Tim Ferriss: We’re going to come back to this. He’s a Slovenian philosopher. S-L-A-V-O-J. Second name, Z-I-Z-E-K. Amazing name. Please continue.

Dave Elitch: Amazing person.

Tim Ferriss: We’ll come back to that.

Dave Elitch: What he talks about, he says once you drink Coke instead of water, the excess is with us forever. You can’t go backward. He did interesting things like having a bunch of women smoke cigarettes. There was some sort of subconscious phallic connotation with that. But at the time, women didn’t smoke. He hired a bunch of attractive women to smoke in a parade or in public or something, to get it sort of “trending.”

Tim Ferriss: It’s like having the celebrity wear the sneakers.

Dave Elitch: Exactly. So he created focus groups. He created the idea of PR. This is all him. So this guy single-handedly shaped America as we know it. Of course, America affects everything else in the world. Up until recently, anyway. Especially the world we live in now with Instagram and social media. He’s maybe the most influential person in terms of society.

Tim Ferriss: Whose name most people don’t recognize.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. It blows my mind. He would be a household name.

Tim Ferriss: This is Edward Bernays.

Dave Elitch: Yes. The documentary –

Tim Ferriss: B-E-R-N-A-Y-S, for people wondering.

Dave Elitch: What’s interesting is you would think he made himself famous via Sigmund Freud, but it was actually the other way around. He took all of his tactics and made Sigmund Freud into Sigmund Freud. It’s crazy.

Tim Ferriss: That I didn’t, I had no idea. That’s really wild.

Dave Elitch: It’s four one-hour episodes and the first episode –

Tim Ferriss: The Century of the Self.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. It’s called Happiness Machines. That’s the first episode. Adam Curtis has a really interesting style of making these documentaries. I saw him do a talk in Los Angeles when HyperNormalisation came out in 2016. He said, “These aren’t really documentaries. They’re kind of just things that I make.” They’re almost like video essays or collages. McLuhan talks a lot about that, presenting things as sort of a star pattern of images because language is sometimes insufficient to convey the ideas. It can be like a weird collage. I show this documentary to people, and they’re like, “What is this?” It’s really strange. The music is really weird and bizarre.

Tim Ferriss: Which one are you talking about?

Dave Elitch: Sorry. I’m talking about –

Tim Ferriss: HyperNormalisation?

Dave Elitch: Either one. Anything Adam Curtis has made is the same style. It’s four one-hour episodes, and it goes all the way up until the Clinton administration because this idea, this Edward Bernays stuff weaves its way into politics. It goes into other things too. That completely changed the way I think about everything. I think about it every day.

Tim Ferriss: What would be an example? Is it just that you’re aware of the way your subconscious is being manipulated? Is it that you view other individual and collective behavior differently because you question the free will ingredient? How does it on a day-to-day basis impact how you think about things or view reality?

Dave Elitch: It’s all of that. If we’re talking about consumerism, if I want to buy something, whatever it is, a drink or a snare drum, which I buy a lot of, or some art, which I also buy a lot of, I think, “Why do I want this? What’s driving this?” A lot of times, the answer is different than what you think what it may be.

Tim Ferriss: Or what you want it to be.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. A lot of times you’re filling the void. That’s a whole other topic – existential angst.

Tim Ferriss: That is a big topic.

Dave Elitch: But that’s why a lot of people are buying things. To make themselves feel better.

Tim Ferriss: I heard this quote not too long ago. It’s actually in a collection of quotes. I’m such a promiscuous quote reader. But there’s one, and I don’t know the attribution. Someone out there on the internet can certainly indicate who the proper attribution is. I’ll put it in the show notes as well. I’ll write down this note: mankind existential animal quote question mark. The quote is along the lines of, “Man is the only animal for which his own existence is a problem to be solved.”

Dave Elitch: I love that. Yeah, I love that. That’s it right there.

Tim Ferriss: It’s like, my dog, Molly, does not seem preoccupied. At all.

Dave Elitch: No, she’s just having a good time.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. You mentioned artwork. We’re going to come back to some music, and we’re also going to jump into some of the rapid-fire questions that I love to ask. We’ve known each other for quite a while, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked, certainly 90% of those that we’re going to be coming up on. The artwork. I follow you on Instagram, and I love your drumming.

Dave Elitch: Thanks.

Tim Ferriss: So don’t take this the wrong way. I find the artwork that you discover to be fascinating.

Dave Elitch: Thanks.

Tim Ferriss: And strange.

Dave Elitch: Thanks.

Tim Ferriss: You’re welcome. So I use your account also as a way of discovering different types of design and art. Have you always been interested in visual art, and if not, how did that become what seems like an important part of your life? I don’t know if it is.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, it’s a very important part of my life.

Tim Ferriss: How did it become important? Why is it important?

Dave Elitch: I used to make art. I used to draw a lot and do watercolors when I was a kid. Then when I started playing drums, really young, like five, six, seven. Then when I started playing drums, I didn’t do anything else. It took my full mental capacity. So that sort of fell by the wayside. I hit a certain point in my career if you just have those blinders on and you’re myopic about something because you’re very focused and driven, you end up burning out eventually. Touring is incredibly stressful. I hit a wall a few years ago.

Tim Ferriss: How old are you know?

Dave Elitch: 34.

Tim Ferriss: Okay. So like 31, 32?

Dave Elitch: Something like that, yeah. I turned to art as a sort of oblique form of inspiration.

Tim Ferriss: I don’t want to hijack the flow here. When you say hit a wall, is that physical fatigue? What do you mean by that?

Dave Elitch: Mental fatigue, mostly. We were sort of talking about this last night. You get to a certain point where you check all the boxes of things that you’ve wanted to do. I got to a certain point where I was like, “I’ve done everything that I wanted to do career-wise. Now, what do I do?” Also, I was talking to Jimmy Chamberlin about this. He’s a good friend of mine, and I’ve been helping him out a little bit.

Tim Ferriss: Who is that?

Dave Elitch: He plays drums for The Smashing Pumpkins. We were having breakfast a few months ago, and we were talking about the same type of thing. He was saying people are like, “Man, this is great. Your band is doing so well.” Or, “You’re doing all these tours and isn’t that amazing?” I was saying, “Yeah, it’s not amazing. I always knew I was going to do this. This isn’t a surprise to me. I always knew this was going to happen.” In a way, it’s hard to get to the top of Mt. Everest and be like, “I did it.” Because you’re like, “Duh, of course I did it.”

Tim Ferriss: When you say, “I knew it was going to happen,” how much of that – and there certainly could be an Option C, D, and E – but how much of that is “I knew it was going to happen because I knew I was really good,” versus “I’m just doing my fucking job. As a professional drummer, I am putting in the work, and therefore it is my job ultimately to do X, Y, and Z, and I did X, Y, and Z, so why would I pat myself on the back for doing my job?” Or something else?

Dave Elitch: Sort of both. It’s just like I’m –

Tim Ferriss: Because I have a lot of the latter. I’ve struggled with that quite a bit.  

Dave Elitch: I’m going to work harder than you are and I’m going to be the first in and the last out. If this guy can make it work, I can certainly make it work. It’s really that sort of thing. I always say this to people I’m working with. I’m saying, look, you can have a good amount of innate ability at whatever you’re doing, but the person who puts the work in is always going to surpass you. If you have a little bit of innate ability, like I think I do, and you work harder than anyone else, obviously there’s a certain amount of luck involved in anything which you can’t do anything about. But there was no other option.

With the thing I was talking about with Jimmy, is he was like, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy down to the molecular, atomic level. If you’re operating from that state, things will unfold in that manner because you’re working in that. Not the secret kind of bullshit. Not that crap. He recommended this book to me, and I have so many books I have to read. Is it like On Becoming Yourself? [Ed. Note: Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza] It’s super popular right now. I’ll have to look it up.

Tim Ferriss: I wonder who wrote it.

Dave Elitch: I have it.

Tim Ferriss: Is it Krista Tippett?

Dave Elitch: No. She’s great though.

Tim Ferriss: She is, yeah.

Dave Elitch: I’m reading this Ellen Langer book called Mindfulness, which you’re going to super dig.

Tim Ferriss: I’ve watched you carrying it around.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, it’s so good. Ellen Langer was on her podcast. That’s how I found out about her.

Tim Ferriss: All right. We will follow up. So Jimmy recommended a book that maybe On Becoming something or other.

Dave Elitch: God, I have to look it up.

Tim Ferriss: What’s the gist of the book or why did he recommend it?

Dave Elitch: It basically goes way into that in terms of a scientific vantage point. How all of that stuff works. It’s very scientific.

Tim Ferriss: When you say bad stuff, you mean when you place yourself on a certain direction and make thousands of micro-decisions that are subconsciously aligned with that direction? How things unfold?

Dave Elitch: Yes. How does that work scientifically instead of some voodoo, weird, I want a new car, so I’m going to put that into the universe and then it’ll just happen.

Tim Ferriss: It makes me think – again, I’m going to blame it on the caffeine, but I just like jumping around and interjecting because I’m too hyperactive – we were talking about Maria Bamford, who is a fucking amazing comedian. At one point, she was doing this bit on having read The Secret. She said, “I went home, and I created a vision board. And on my vision board, I had all the things I wanted, and my sister came over.”

Her sister apparently is some very successful lawyer or something. Her sister comes over, very Type A and her sister is like, “What is this?” She’s like, “Oh, that’s my vision board.” She’s like, “You have a microwave on your vision board?” She’s like, “A fucking microwave? That’s ridiculous. I’ll buy you a fucking microwave.” And then Maria’s like, “Bam! Manifest!”

Dave Elitch: That’s awesome.

Tim Ferriss: So we’re not talking about trying to make that happen?

Dave Elitch: No. But I haven’t read it yet, so I’m kind of talking out of my ass here. But he was saying it’s incredible.

Tim Ferriss: How did he think it would help you? Why did he prescribe that?

Dave Elitch: Because we were talking about it anyway and he’s like, “Oh, have you read this book?” That’s sort of what it’s all about. It’s in the queue. I haven’t gotten to it yet.

Tim Ferriss: What did he share with you or what were his thoughts on this position that you find yourself in? Where it’s like, “All right, I seem to have some degree of innate ability for this particular field. I was drawn to it. I’ve applied myself very diligently” over, at this point, decades, right?

Dave Elitch: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: “I’ve done what I want to do. Now what?” And you said something; I don’t know if you want to debut it here or not. I said, “Oh my God, you should put that on social media just to further outsource your self-esteem,” which I think is social media in a nutshell. Do you want to take a stab at it?

Dave Elitch: I said, “Anyone who says do what you love for a living and you’ll never work a day in your life hasn’t done what they want to do for a living.”

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, you do anything day in, day out for decades, there’s a point where you’re like, “Okay.”

Dave Elitch: Even to the point where I’m doing these tours where I’m super stressed out. You’re walking onstage in an arena for 15,000 people at Staples Center or whatever and you’re like, “Ugh.” After a week, once I have the show down, I’m like, “Ugh, whatever. Making the doughnuts.” Especially if it’s a pop thing because it’s literally the same thing. If it’s something more improvised, that’s a little bit more exciting. There’s something that happens that I have to help people out who are on tour for a year and a half or two years and it’s pop context.

Tim Ferriss: Holy shit. I didn’t realize tours were that long. Fuck.

Dave Elitch: Oh, yeah, dude. Album cycle? Totally. So you’re playing the exact same thing, note-for-note, day in, day out.

Tim Ferriss: So it’s like being on a book tour until your next book comes out, basically?

Dave Elitch: Yup. Well, and then you’ll take a break.

Tim Ferriss: You’ll do some recording.

Dave Elitch: You’ll take a break, do a new record. But yeah, it’s intense. You’re out with the same people, the same techs. You’re away from your family. It’s pretty rough. Something that happens to people is they’re playing the same thing over and over and over again. I mean literally note-for-note. If you’re playing pop, like when I was doing Miley, that’s a massive production. It’s like eight busses, 12 semis. The stage production is insane. I’m going up, up, above, and down, above and below the stage. There’s a huge video wall. She’s riding a giant hot dog 20 feet above the air in the arena. There’s a lot of things that go on there.

So you can’t do anything differently because the dancers will be like, what just happened? So you have people playing the exact same thing note-for-note for a year and a half, two years, and they start to lose their mind because it’s so monotonous and representative.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it’s like the polar bear doing the lap in the one 10-foot pool in the enclosure.

Dave Elitch: Exactly. It’s exactly the same thing. What starts happening is your brain starts creating weird quagmires for you to fall into because it’s bored.

Tim Ferriss: What would be an example of that?

Dave Elitch: So for instance, you’ll get to a certain part, and you’ll be like, “Why can’t I play that? It’s not hard to play.” There was a guy I was working with who has played with Janet Jackson for a year, a lot of people. He’s a fantastic drummer. He had some issues with his foot. He went to see someone in Atlanta, like a neurologist. She had some helmet that he put on. We were looking at the technique, the physical issues. I guess there were some parts of his brain that were turned off to control the foot. It’s crazy. I don’t know how that technology works, but your brain will fuck with you.

There were times with The Mars Volta or with Miley or whatever where I would be like, “Oh, here comes this part.” You’re already dead in the water. Or when I was doing M83, there was one section where I would hear the beat in the wrong place.

Tim Ferriss: Weird. You had like an auditory hallucination.

Dave Elitch: Yes. It was a very simple section. I remember at sound check, me going like, “Whoa, what’s going on here?” This is like, and your brain is like, “I need something to do.” It’s crazy. I forgot why I got on that tangent.

Tim Ferriss: We were talking about Jimmy and climbing Everest and what his thoughts were on what to do.

Dave Elitch: We were talking about this sort of last night. In certain situations, there aren’t a lot of people you can talk to about certain things, right? So we were just going back and forth with that type of thing. The thing with him is he is in a band that’s still huge. This is the thing that’s uncontrollable in the music industry. There are tons of parables here. I can work really hard, and it doesn’t matter if my band makes it or not in a way that if you really hit the lottery, that’s totally outside of your control.

They put in all the hard work, but that band hit the lottery. That is out of your control. But again, you can sort of set the stage for it. Where he’s coming from, because he’s in a band that is huge, is totally different from someone like me, who is a mercenary.

Tim Ferriss: A Blackwater sniper of drumming technicians.

Dave Elitch: Totally. It’s a totally different thing. He’s very intelligent and a great player, and a really great guy, too. He’s amazing. You guys would get along really well.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I’d love to meet him.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, for sure.

Tim Ferriss: How long has he been the drummer?

Dave Elitch: He took a break for a while and then he recently got back together with them, and they’re on tour right now doing their new record.

Tim Ferriss: Cool. There are so many tracks that just fueled me through so many parts of college and other points – Zero, Bullet with Butterfly Wings.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, dude. I love that song.

Tim Ferriss: So amazing. I think we should maybe jump into some rapid fire. And we will incorporate this. Thank you for the index finger point. We’re not going to miss this, because you mentioned a word earlier, which is a very useful word, “oblique.” We’re not talking about the sides of your abs. Although I suppose we are. It’s used in that context here. We’re going to come back and talk about Oblique Strategies. But first, since we’ve consumed several black teas, several green teas, several Topo Chicos, and are working our way through a couple of cappuccinos and more green tea, we’ll talk a short bio break and return for your listening pleasure. We’ll be right back.

And we’re back, as promised. Oblique Strategies. This is a black case that is holding what looks like a deck of cards. This deck of cards has all sorts of things written on them. The first two which I pulled out yesterday, which were highly relevant to a number of corners I’ve painted myself into recently, where Card No. 1 – simple subtraction. Card No. 2 – what mistakes did you make last time? What are these Oblique Strategies?

Dave Elitch: They’re cards that Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt made together in 1975.

Tim Ferriss: Who are those two people?

Dave Elitch: Brian Eno is a super-famous musician. He’s done a lot of different things over the years, but he was first famous with the band, Roxy Music. He went on later to pioneer ambient music with Music for Airports.

Tim Ferriss: Literally music for airports?

Dave Elitch: That’s what the record is called. It’s called Music for Airports. Sorry, I should have clarified that.

Tim Ferriss: I feel like they would get along with McLuhan and The Medium is the Massage.

Dave Elitch: He wanted to make something that neither had a beginning or an end, and you could tune in and out of, and it didn’t really matter. He’s a very interesting, brilliant person. These are strategies when you’re making anything. This is in the context of making music, but you can obviously apply them to anything. The device is to knock you out of your present state of mind. Like you said when you paint yourself into a corner. You’re like, “I’ve got to get out of this.”

Tim Ferriss: Or you just feel like you’ve painted yourself into a corner.

Dave Elitch: Sure. Well, that’s a whole other thing, right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Dave Elitch: There’s a whole deck of cards that are very simple, minimalist suggestions. The ones that you picked out, you already said. But if we pick out a few random ones.

Tim Ferriss: Tidy up. Do something boring. The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten. Ain’t that the truth? Overtly resist change. Discipline self-indulgence. So these are prompts, in a way?

Dave Elitch: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: For getting unstuck or un-fucked.

Dave Elitch: I’ve had a set of these for years, and I thought you would be super into these.

Tim Ferriss: How do you use these cards? I’ll just buy a little bit of time because I notice there’s a description card, which I hadn’t noticed earlier. “These cards evolved from separate observations of the principles underlying what we were doing.” What we were doing, I’m imagining, is very much musically related. “But sometimes they were recognized in retrospect, i.e., intellect catching up with intuition. Sometimes they were identified as they were happening. Sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack.

A set of possibilities being continuously reviewed in the mind, or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case, the card is trusted, even if its appropriateness is quite unclear. They are not final, as new ideas will present themselves and others will become self-evident.”

Dave Elitch: There you go.

Tim Ferriss: How do you use or how have you used these cards?

Dave Elitch: I always think about them in terms of how I’m supporting music for the greater good. A lot of times in an improvised context, these are very applicable. Because with an instrument such as drums, guitar, piano, or bass, where you don’t have to breathe to play it, you run the risk of vomit chops.

Tim Ferriss: What does that mean?

Dave Elitch: It means you can just play as much as you want. If you’re playing a wind instrument, you literally have to breathe, so that affects your phrasing. So you can pause. With drumming, you don’t have to do that. You can play a million miles an hour forever. After two minutes, the listener wants to kill themselves.

Tim Ferriss: That’s true. There isn’t as much of a – there is a biological limiter, but it’s not as obvious to the listener.

Dave Elitch: No. Yeah, with saxophone or something, you have to breathe every 15 or 20 seconds, so you have to have a space. That cliché thing of it’s not about what you play; it’s about what you don’t play, that’s cliché for a reason. It’s really true. That’s something that I try to focus on a lot because if you have a lot of facility, it’s very easy to just barf all over the place and overwhelm everyone.

Tim Ferriss: I’m not a musician, as I’ve stated repeatedly. I remember someone said to me, music is the space between the notes. I was like, “Ooh, interesting.”

Dave Elitch: With drumming, especially because you’re keeping time for everyone, it’s a very meditative state. A lot of people will count in between the notes, and they’ll be very precise about it. I’ve always tried to be very Zen about it and just feel the void in between the notes that you’re playing. It’s two totally different ways of doing it. Depending on what you’re doing at the moment, one could be better than the other. But yeah, man.

Tim Ferriss: Give me an example, if you could. It could be hypothetical. When would you pull out this deck and be like, “All right, I really feel like I need one of these cards.”

Dave Elitch: I do a lot of the body mechanic stuff with people. I also have people who are just like, “Hey dude, give me a bunch of cool, crazy licks to play. Song enders. [Sound effects]. That kind of a thing.” I did that with my buddy, Stacy Jones, who is Miley’s MD and drummer.

Tim Ferriss: MD?

Dave Elitch: Musical director, sorry.

Tim Ferriss: I was like, “That’s a hell of a combo. Let me finish this song and then here’s an EpiPen.”

Dave Elitch: He was like, “Hey dude, I just want to get some rad song enders.” It was like, “Great. We can totally do that.” So I showed him a bunch of licks, and we had fun. This is the kind of situation that’s great for these because people, after you’re working on phrasing, after about 20 minutes, they’ve played everything they know. Then they’re like, “Well, what do I do now?” So you could just pick something out of the deck. Like you just picked out “Give the game away.” How you interpret that, you could go a number of ways.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It’s like “Slow down” on your shirt. Anyone who picks that up, they’re like, “What does that mean?” You’re like, “What does it mean to you?” You could therapize them.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, exactly. For me, the first way I would process that is a lot of times when you’re building up solos, you don’t do that. You want to lead someone in and sort of set the stage. Because if you start off on –

Tim Ferriss: Don’t give them the filet mignon as the appetizer.

Dave Elitch: Exactly. This, to me, the way I would interpret this is, I’m going to come in guns blazing and then try to work my way out of that because that’s the biggest no-no. I’m going to do that on purpose and then see what happens. Someone could also say, if you’re thinking about a sports analogy, “I’m just going to play the game and see what happens.” Let it happen on its own. It’s not about winning or losing.

Tim Ferriss: Cool. I dig it. This is good timing for me.

Dave Elitch: Great.

Tim Ferriss: We’ve talked a lot about playing in front of huge crowds and the musicians you work with. Certainly, this show tends to feature people who are very good at something or another. I would like to talk about failures or disappointments. This is a question I really enjoy asking. How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success? It could be a disappointment or anything. Do you have any particular favorite failures or failures that come to mind that were in retrospect very valuable?

Dave Elitch: I’ve gone out for auditions for plenty of bands, and I haven’t gotten gigs. That’s just how it goes. If you go in there and, again, you’re really prepared, and you fully present yourself accurately, and they don’t want it, it’s not the right fit, what else can you do? You might think, “I didn’t get the gig; it’s a failure.” But what about if you – it’s the same thing as dating, right? What if you present a fake version of yourself, and then they like that, and then you have to keep doing that, and then you’re like, “Who am I?” There’s plenty of situations where I go in doing the Dave smash thing like in that Mars Volta video, and they’re like, “Holy shit, Jesus Christ.”

Tim Ferriss: Get a restraining order.

Dave Elitch: And it’s too much, and they get freaked out. And it’s like, “Well, I might not be that guy all the time, but that’s definitely possible.” A real-life situation, which is what I always try to talk about because that’s the most important thing. So many people run into problems when they – it’s hyperbole. When I was out with The 1975 maybe a couple of years ago, George, the drummer, I’ve been teaching him for a while, and he broke his collarbone on tour. This was the same type of situation.

Tim Ferriss: How did he break his collarbone? Maybe it’s not for family programming.

Dave Elitch: I don’t know. But he was just like, “Dude, I broke my collarbone.”

Tim Ferriss: Good recovery. Continue.

Dave Elitch: I was like, “Who knows?” He was like, “Can you come out here and fill in?” It’s the same type of situation. I have to learn all the music last minute. It’s really large venues, arenas. I show up in Toronto, meet everyone. We have a line check on stage, which is you make sure all the connections are working. We run through a couple of songs, maybe.

Tim Ferriss: The people attempting to assemble my drum kit did not do this.

Dave Elitch: That was another thing. I’m like 5’6” on a good day. George is at least a foot taller than me, if not more. He’s very tall. He’s probably like 6’9”.

Tim Ferriss: Holy cow.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, he’s very tall.

Tim Ferriss: Daddy long legs on that drum kit.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, long legs, long arms, long everything. So I had to rearrange his kit. A lot of times, you have to sit down and just play it, which can present some problems. But I had to rearrange things because it was impossible. An outdoor stage in Toronto. 10,000 people. You just have to go for it.

Tim Ferriss: You said you were going through a line check and then took it off the reservation.

Dave Elitch: Line check is like a kick drum, snare drum, guitar. Checking that everything’s working. Matty, the singer, is like, “Can we do this song? Let’s do this song.” We did a couple of songs. Then he’s like, “Okay, great.” Then it’s showtime. Because that’s the type of situation where it’s a band, and you have to come in. The very difficult thing is you have to assume someone else’s character and try to make everyone feel comfortable enough to where it’s comfortable. They were like, “Play the parts, but you can have fun.” I threw in some things here and there, and they were laughing and into it.

It was super fun. We did that run for about a month. Then I sat down with Matty, the singer and he was like, “You know, man, we have to do Glastonbury and some BB1 stuff. It’s really important that this band sounds like The 1975. Right now, it sounds like The 1975 with Dave Elitch, because your personality is just huge.” At the time, I was like, “Fuck.” I was so bummed. Because I really like Matty, I really like George. All those guys. And I really like the music a lot. I was just like, “Fuck, man.” Then I was like, “Wait, this is the best compliment anyone could ever give me.” Because having an identity is the most important thing when you’re making art.

I’m like, “You know what? That’s fucking awesome.” They got my buddy, Freddy, who was doing it for a week until I got there, Freddy Sheed, a really great drummer in the U.K. They got him to do it again until George could come back. Freddy’s great, and he’s a really great buddy of mine. He did a great job. At the time, I was just so bummed.

Tim Ferriss: What helped you reframe it? When were you able to reframe it, and view it that way?

Dave Elitch: It took a while. It took a few months.

Tim Ferriss: Did you do it on your own? Did it come to clarity through therapy? What helped? Because a lot of people don’t recover. They’re not able to reframe something that might’ve been a very difficult time. It continues to be something. That was very difficult.

Dave Elitch: It takes them out forever.

Tim Ferriss: Or yeah, it just becomes this pain, this dull ache that they revisit every time they have the memory. But you’ve been able to reframe it.

Dave Elitch: Yeah. I think through enough experience and having enough success outside of that situation. I can definitely see that happening if it’s like that’s your one shot, and that’s the only amount of success you ever had. But I’ve done a lot of other things, and I did things after that and before it. That was just that one thing. It wasn’t like “You’ve fucked it up,” it was like, “You’re too distracting.”

Tim Ferriss: What’s the shittiest music gig you’ve ever had? It could be anything. It could be fucking halftime; it could be a rogue Olive Garden, I don’t know.

Dave Elitch: Man, I don’t know if I can answer that without getting in trouble.

Tim Ferriss: Have there ever been moments when you’ve doubted yourself or doubted the music path? Where you’ve just been like, “Fuck.”

Dave Elitch: All the time.

Tim Ferriss: Any examples come to mind? They could be super early. They could be at any point.

Dave Elitch: The industry has changed so much in the past 10 or 15 years. Just the way it’s structured as a business model alone makes you question things. “Is this even a working model anymore?” That changes on a daily basis. Just thinking about things monetarily, sometimes, “Does this even make sense?” For me, “Am I going to go out on tour, and be away from home, and make X amount of money when I can just stay home and sleep in my own bed, and make X amount of money teaching?” That kind of a thing. Then it’s like, “Well, do I want to teach, or do I want to play music?” Then it’s like, “The grass is always greener.”

That stuff is constantly swirling around in my head. When you’re auditioning for gigs, and you’re like, “That guy got the gig? Are you kidding me?” Then you’re like, “If that’s what people want, that’s garbage.” And everyone else is like, “Oh, gross. That dude’s such a cheeseball. Why would they?” And you’re like, “Is that what people want? If that’s what people want, why am I doing this?” Because no one has good taste. You can get into that whole thing. Totally. I think what’s very important is doing a multitude of things. I teach a lot.

That’s really my bread-and-butter. But because of that, I can be selective and learn how to say no to things because of that. So if someone calls me –

Tim Ferriss: To playing gigs?

Dave Elitch: Yes. If someone calls me for a tour and I heard a lot of bad things about the artist, like they’re a pain in the ass, I’ll be like, “Nah, I’m good.” I don’t have to do it. I have a lot of friends who tour, and that’s all they do.

Tim Ferriss: They have to go.

Dave Elitch: They’re like, “God, you’re so lucky you teach. I have to go out with this piece of shit right now.” Then it comes around to doing what you love for a living. What’s the point if you go out on the road and you’re bumming? So there’s something to be said for the weekend warrior who goes to their suit-and-tie cubicle job, and then they get out of work, and they’re like, “Yeah, I’m going to go play drums right now,” and they’re stoked. There’s something to be said for that. Because it’s still like a wholly special thing.

That’s something that I struggle with in art because I love art so much and it’s so important to me. Everyone’s like, “When are you going to start making stuff?” It’s like, “But if I start making it, then I’m part of it,” and then it’s tainted in a way.

Tim Ferriss: It makes me think of some of my friends who are very successful travel writers. It’s really hard for them to travel for fun because they’re constantly thinking about, “What would the lede be? How would I describe this? Maybe I should take some notes, just in case.” They have a very tough time experiencing travel without thinking about how they would craft the narrative.

Dave Elitch: Same thing for me. If you go on tour a lot, you don’t want to go traveling for fun. You’re like, “I was just out for six weeks. I just want to be.” Everyone’s like, “Man, you should take a vacation.” I don’t want to go anywhere.

Tim Ferriss: I want a staycation.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, exactly.

Tim Ferriss: You were talking about the teaching, which I think is really a point I want to revisit because you do multiple things. You have many different interests. It strikes me that in a sense you’ve, number one, diversified your identity in such a way that you don’t feel psychologically compelled always to tour. Secondly, with the teaching and with the online course, Getting Out of Your Own Way, which I think could be, maybe it will be the title of this podcast, so interrelated as it relates to – this is a terrible sentence, but you get the idea – Oblique Strategies, Inner Game of Tennis. So many of these creative pursuits, professional pursuits, personal pursuits, are not about doing something brand-new that is this gigantic skill that you have to acquire over 15 years.

A lot of it is just removing the blocks. But the point I was going to make is you are not in a position, because you have developed these different branches of your life, where you have to feel or act out of desperation. It makes me think, for instance, this might seem like it’s totally out of left field, but Arnold Schwarzenegger never really auditioned. This is something not a whole lot of people know about him. It’s not a secret. But he made millions of dollars in real estate before he ever had his break in film. So he focused on real estate in Santa Monica and other areas and also had other types of business.

He had a mail-order business. He had a bricklaying business with Franco Columbu so that he could be selective about the roles he took.

Dave Elitch: That’s incredible.

Tim Ferriss: So he was able to craft a trajectory, even when – you were talking about the cheeseball taking the gig – when he got started, people are like, “This is never going to work. You’re a freak show. Nobody wants that. People want Al Pacino in Taxi.” Was it Taxi or Taxi Driver?

Dave Elitch: Robert De Niro?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, there we go. Wow. How many ways can I get that story wrong?

Dave Elitch: We can edit that out.patience

Tim Ferriss: Close enough. This is audio verité, so I’ll leave it in. Wow. You get the idea. He was able to bide his time also so that at some point he could put himself in a position where he could be exactly what people wanted. I’ll give you a public thanks also for – you can see how my brain is connecting these two – for your introduction to Bill Burr, a comedian who was also on this show, who you teach. Who, for people who haven’t seen it, does one of the most hilarious Arnold Schwarzenegger bits of all time, which I won’t spoil. It is definitely not suitable for work, so don’t play it at full volume on YouTube at your job and then get pissed off at me on the internet. But the diversification of identity psychologically is very important. Then the income diversification for you, allowing you to then as an artist craft a more deliberate path, I think is really important.

Dave Elitch: Absolutely. And if you’re not being deliberate about what you’re creating, then what the hell are you doing? You’re just making garbage, right?

Tim Ferriss: Absolutely. You mentioned George. This is George Daniel, right?

Dave Elitch: Yup.

Tim Ferriss: The 1975. He has said, and I quote, “Among other things,” I’ll read the whole thing, “Dave saved my arms and hands. He made me see I could, in fact, contrary to my belief, develop a technique that would save me from blisters and helped solve tendinitis from many years of horribly inefficient technique.” We don’t have to talk about that. We can, but the next line is what’s interesting to me. “He taught patience! An incredible player, a really great teacher, and all-around lovely human.” What does that mean by “He taught patience?”

Dave Elitch: I think probably, as long as someone is putting the work in, I’m very patient with people, because seeing the light flash in their eyes when something clicks is one of the greatest feelings imaginable. Also, probably for him, I think to be patient with himself. Taking the time to really hone in on certain things and not having to rush through things. Just feeling like, “I’m going to put the work in and I’m going to take the time so all this stuff happens the way it should happen.” You have to be patient with that or else it’s never going to manifest itself.

Tim Ferriss: Or with something that’s as physical as drumming, if you rush it and your technique is not biomechanically suitable for a human body, then –

Dave Elitch: That’s what I was saying earlier. It’s inherently an issue of the drum set as an instrument in that the way the drum set was formed initially around the turn of the century, it was called a trap kit, short for “contraption.” So you think of these dudes around the late 1800s, 1900s, taking disparate concert percussion instruments like a bass drum by itself and a snare drum. Then they had to make a pedal to use the bass drum. And the high hats were originally called low boys because they were on the floor and you only played them with your foot.

It’s evolved in this really bizarre, strange way, so it’s physically strange. But also the bar is incredibly low in terms of entry. It’s very easy to play drums in the beginning. You sit down and go [sound effects], and you’re like, “Oh, I can play drums. I can play along to AC/DC and Michael Jackson. This is great.” No one thinks about how anything functions because they can already do it. Then they go out tour and 10 years later, they’re like, “My arms are destroyed,” or “My hip,” or “My back.” Because they’re doing everything inefficiently or incorrectly.

Then also they get stuck as far as the vocabulary goes because they can’t express themselves properly because they’re in their own way. A lot of it is inherently part of the instrument itself. I always use violin as an example. You have to sit there for six months just getting your intonation happening. Or with saxophone, you have to get your embouchure together.

Tim Ferriss: Your what?

Dave Elitch: Embouchure.

Tim Ferriss: Embouchure. What is that?

Dave Elitch: It’s basically throat control. How you produce air pressure. That takes a while. You start learning the clarinet. You’re squawking all over the place. You have to develop that control. You can’t just sit down and make a sound. There’s a certain amount of gestation.

Tim Ferriss: With the drums, you can get the reward without having to develop that body control.

Dave Elitch: Immediately. Exactly. That’s the problem. But that’s part of the instrument. What I was going to say earlier when we were talking about being able to wear many different hats, do many different things, but be deliberate about what you’re doing, I was talking to a friend about this. He was like, “Yeah, if your identity is largely based on what you do for a living, whatever it is, what if you wake up one day and you don’t want to do that thing? Then you’re like, ‘Who am I?’ That’s a mind-fuck.”

Tim Ferriss: Very common. Super, super common. For people who try to retire and then they’re like, “Wait, I’ve spent 12 hours a day for the last 30 years doing X.”

Dave Elitch: Then you have a whole other black hole where if you’re a very important person and you get a lot of respect, and then you retire, you’re just some guy. That’s a whole other thing to deal with. Then what are you going to do with your life when you just wake up? Are you going to play golf? All that? Then that’s a whole other thing.

Tim Ferriss: What would you put on a billboard, if you could put – metaphorically, right? A message, a few words, a word. Anything. A billboard to get out to million of people. He’s holding his t-shirt. Slow down?

Dave Elitch: Yeah. Slow down. Because generally speaking, so many people need to do that. Slow down, take a deep breath, just relax.

Tim Ferriss: You can also cover up or hide a lot of your own mistakes and sloppiness from yourself by doing things too quickly.

Dave Elitch: Absolutely. That’s very common in music.

Tim Ferriss: Yes, very common in music. It’s very common in a lot of things. When I watch really good boxing instructors, they’re always like, “Slow down.” In the beginning, certainly. Anybody can flail their arms around so nobody can see what you’re doing exactly. I want to see exactly what you’re doing, really slowly in the beginning. It also brings to mind one of my favorite expressions I’ve learned in the last few years, which is from a friend of mine who is a former Navy SEAL. It’s not specific to him. It’s something that you hear quite a lot. It is “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”

Dave Elitch: Yes, I like that.

Tim Ferriss: Do not rush. Because if you try to rush a reload or rush whatever it might be and you botch it, now you’re really slow.

Dave Elitch: You’re slower than you would even be before.

Tim Ferriss: Yes.

Dave Elitch: It’s the same with the weights and shit in the smaller circles. You have to learn things in large movements or whatever you want to think about this is, whatever paradigm you want to think about this in, and then as you get more comfortable with it, it gets smaller and smaller and smaller. Then you’re just throwing someone across the room.

Tim Ferriss: For those people wondering, that’s Josh Waitzkin who is a fantastic guy, a good friend of mine, who is the basis for the book and the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. He’s really a master in many disciplines. That’s one of his concepts, for sure.

Dave Elitch: I tell everyone I teach to get that book.

Tim Ferriss: The Art of Learning is a fantastic book. He was the second ever guest on this podcast. A lot of great concepts. Also for people interested, I did a television episode with him where we looked at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which he’s a black belt in, among other things. That was the first time for that TV show that he got in front of a chess board in, I want to say 15 years, something like that. His wife said: “I cannot believe that he’s getting in front of a chess board. I’ve maybe never seen him do it.”

Dave Elitch: That thing in the episode where he talks about playing like 50 chess games at the same time.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, the simultaneous games.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, and talking about feeling the flow of energy in the room and then he felt like a shift.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. He felt like he had been juggling 30 balls and one of them got dropped. He was playing, it was something like 30 kids, and one of them cheated. And he came back around, and he didn’t know exactly what had happened, but he was like, “This doesn’t feel right.”

Dave Elitch: That sounds spooky. That’s a real thing. That episode was so affirming and exciting for me because he said a lot of things where I was like, “I am doing this right. I am on the right path.” Because there were so many things that we did similarly.

Tim Ferriss: The transfer is so clear.

Dave Elitch: Huge.

Tim Ferriss: Which is part of the fun. It’s a big part of the fun of having this podcast for me is interviewing people across disciplines that at first glance you would expect to have nothing to do with one another, and you just realize that people who are playing their A game in any field have more in common with one another than they do with the B players in their own field.

Dave Elitch: That’s one of my favorite things to do with Burr. We sit down and talk about comedy and drumming and the massive amounts of overlap between the two. When we first started working together, he had basically like a John Bonham, Led Zeppelin, almost like a replica kit. He’s a huge Bonham fan. Everyone who plays drums is a John Bonham fan. He’s incredible. He has a very specific sound. So he got this early ‘70s, green sparkle Ludwig kit. Giant 26” bass drum. It’s a thing. It’s a very specific thing. We’re working together, and we’re talking about identity and what he wants to say and who he wants to be and getting his posture together.

I was like, “Dude, you wouldn’t walk out on stage and start yelling like Sam Kinison. That’s his thing. You do your own thing. You walk out on stage in front of whatever, 12,000 people at Madison Square Garden. You’re doing your own thing. Bring that to this.” He sold the kit immediately. Got his own thing. He’s figuring out what his own thing is. That’s so much fun for me to do. He’s one of the smartest dudes I know. He’s brilliant.

Tim Ferriss: He’s a very smart guy. Within any field, you have certain philosophical underpinnings or paradigms that people choose as the foundation for a lot of their decisions and career paths and so on. Then you have the strategies, and you have the tactics. The lower level you go in some respects, the more the fields diverge, but certainly at the higher levels, whether it’s tennis, comedy, drumming, or otherwise, there are so many commonalities. What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Dave Elitch: That I love?

Tim Ferriss: I’ll give you an example. Or a compulsion. So for instance, Cheryl Strayed, who wrote the book, Wild. She’s an excellent author and a fantastic podcast host. The example she gave is she likes to reassemble sandwiches. So when she gets a sandwich, it bothers her if all the tomatoes are on one side of the sandwich and the avocado is on the other. She wants every bite to be as uniform as possible. So she reassembles her sandwich. I like the number 555 because I finished editing the final line on the final pass of The 4-Hour Body in a samovar tea shop in San Francisco ages ago and looked up and it was 5:55 p.m. So that became this good luck charm. So I take screenshots of that whenever it pops up. It could be anything.

Dave Elitch:   It’s funny. I think to be good at anything, you need to have a touch of OCD, absolutely. You have to be detail oriented. I do have those things, but I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, other than checking the stove 10 times when I’m leaving the house. Checking my studio door four times to make sure it’s locked. I can’t think of anything weirdly specific like that at the moment.

Tim Ferriss: No problem. I’m sure there are depths to plumb there that we can return to. How often do you eat Indian or Himalayan food with some type of curry-type consistency?

Dave Elitch: Every day, pretty much. That’s why I go to the gym six days a week, because I have to work off all the clarified butter.

Tim Ferriss: All right. I’ll leave that. That may qualify. When you feel – actually, I’m not going to ask that one. Let me go somewhere else. One thing that’s come up in our conversations recently because I’ve never worked with a therapist, and I’ve listened to interviews you’ve done where you’ve mentioned therapy and your therapist. I’ve always had a certain degree of resistance, particularly to talk therapy, for a lot of reasons I won’t bore everybody with. I’d like to talk about that because it seems like you’ve benefited tremendously from it. If you’re comfortable talking about it, why did you end up engaging a therapist? How did you choose your therapist? What have been some of the benefits that you’ve derived from it so far?

Dave Elitch: I initially –

Tim Ferriss: Sorry. I’ll continue to step all over your answers. You, as well as a few other people, when I have mentioned that I have not worked with a therapist, they’re just like, “What in the fuck? Are you serious?”

Dave Elitch: Especially you.

Tim Ferriss: They’re like, “Really?” I’m like, “Okay, maybe this is something I should explore.”

Dave Elitch: Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Ferriss: This has come up multiple times from multiple people. Your story.

Dave Elitch: I started seeing a therapist around when I was 30-ish. Something like that. It was mainly to figure out relationship issues that kept happening over and over and over again. I was like, “There’s clearly something here that’s a blind spot to me, and I don’t know what I’m doing; I need to figure this out.” That was the specific reason why I started going. I found my therapist through a really close friend of mine who is a therapist. We obviously can’t work together because she’s a close friend of mine. She was like, “You should see this person; she’s incredible.”

Working with a therapist, having a good relationship with someone where you can really trust them, and you care about each other, it clicks. That is unbelievably important. There are so many bad drum teachers out there, and there are so many bad therapists out there. It can be extremely damaging to someone. Having a good therapist who you get along with and connect with and who’s very competent, that’s why I picked someone – I mean, we hit it off, and it was obvious. But she’s 80. All these life coaches running around who are like 25. It’s like, “What the fuck do you know? You don’t know anything.”

Having a therapist where I can bring up anything and she’s like, “Yup, been there.” That’s huge. It started off with the relationship stuff, and then it obviously shoots off into all these other different directions. Even having someone to go in and dump on and brain vomit, who’s only there to help you out, help you sort things out, the world would be a completely different place if everyone had that. Had a safe –

Tim Ferriss: Like an outlet.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, to just unload.

Tim Ferriss: What are some of the ingredients for success in the beginning? Would you say that it was important for you to meet every week for a certain period of time? Given how much you potentially travel, right? What were some of the things that made it work?

Dave Elitch: It’s the same thing with drumming. I’m like, “Hey look, if you’re serious about this, we’ve got to do this once a week,” because it’s like going to the gym. You don’t go two days a week for four hours. You go every day for an hour or something. You have consistency. That’s crucial. You’re able to make progress because it’s a recurring dialogue you’re having with someone. I went once a week for years. When things got particularly messy, I would sometimes go twice a week. There were times when she really saved my life. Dealing with PTSD, you literally feel like you’re going to die.

Now I go once a month to sort of check in. What’s funny, we were talking about this last night, the times when I’m like, “Everything’s kind of cool; I don’t even need to go today.” Those are the times when you stumble into some massive paradigm shift. It literally is a paradigm shift. You see the world in a completely different way. A lot of the times when that happens, it’s funny. I’ll be talking out loud, thinking, but verbalizing it and you sort of get on a path and then you’re like, “Boom,” and something happens. You’re just like, “Holy shit, where did that come from?” It’s almost like an out-of-body experience.

A lot of it is trying to get outside of yourself, which is extremely difficult. Thinking about “Is this aspect of my personality – is this learned from my parents or someone else, or is this part of me?” A lot of things that I didn’t know I was even doing are learned things that can be unlearned. It might take a lot of work. It takes a lot of work. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I am a completely different person. A very specific example that’s something small, if I’m at the gym and someone reracks their weights improperly, it drives me fucking bananas. It drives me crazy. If they take the 25s –

Tim Ferriss: And put it on the 35s?

Dave Elitch: Oh, my God. It drives me crazy. It’s like this could not be more black and white. How is that acceptable? And then that fucks up the flow for everyone else. One day, she was like, “Well, you know, they didn’t see that you were wearing your invisible police uniform. They just didn’t see it.” I start laughing, and I’m like, “Oh, my God, you’re totally right.” The feeling, this need to police everyone. It’s obviously a need for control, which is a learned thing. That’s something that I constantly have to check myself about. That’ll take you out because there are so many things like that on the daily.

Tim Ferriss: Hundreds, thousands, right?

Dave Elitch: Yeah, and they’re everywhere.

Tim Ferriss: Why does this guy not know how to use this chip reader?

Dave Elitch: Yeah, or like, “Why did you park like an asshole?” It’s mostly people being inconsiderate that drives me crazy.

Tim Ferriss: I have one friend, and I’m not sure he’d want to be named explicitly, so I won’t mention his name. He’s a very brilliant guy in his field. When he goes through TSA and airport security, it drives him completely fucking bananas when people don’t know how to go through security. They’ll leave their belt on, or they’ll have a huge container of water after the person has asked them four times if they have any liquids. What he started to do – he’s also been very recently seeing a therapist and has figured out certain coping mechanisms.

One of his coping mechanisms, which I think is really hilarious, is he will become the voice that he imagines they have. They’re 30 feet away. He’ll go, “What do you mean I can’t take water on the airplane? Last time I was here, I could bring my computer through the metal detector.” And he’ll do this. I remember asking him at one point, “That’s really funny. That’s what you say to yourself?” He’s like, “No, that’s what I say out loud. I say it loud enough so that everybody around me can hear it and people start laughing and chill the fuck out.”

Dave Elitch: Oh, it’s a way to defuse it?

Tim Ferriss: I think he did it initially because he thought it was hilarious and uncomfortable to say it out loud, but now he’s become the standup comedian at the back of the line. I now know at least a half dozen people who have spent time with him who now do the same thing in line.

Dave Elitch: That’s hilarious.

Tim Ferriss: But it’s the little things that are the big things, right?

Dave Elitch: It’s also why would – it’s also for, like, TSA employees driving you bananas. I travel a lot and a lot of them are totally incompetent. It’s like going to anything where you have to deal with someone in that type of a job. You go, “Wait, why would this person be competent? A competent person wouldn’t have this job in the first place, so why am I expecting that to begin with?” I’m setting myself up to get angry.

Tim Ferriss: It’s the small things. We think about these big, existential dilemmas and questions, but in so many cases – that stuff is important or can be important – but it’s also are you giving yourself 100 pats on the back in your day or are you giving yourself 100 papercuts? Because you have ample opportunity for both.

Dave Elitch: What we’re talking about might sound trivial, but you stack all of those things up, and they’ll take you out.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, yeah, for sure. Oh, my God. We will, at some point, maybe tonight over some wine, come back to more unusual and absurd things that you love because I am sure there is a treasure trove. One or two last questions. You’ve mentioned a few books here that you gifted to me, which are very timely. Are there any other particular gifts that you’ve given the most as gifts to other people?

Dave Elitch: The Andre Agassi book, Open, is phenomenal.

Tim Ferriss: An incredible book. Even if you don’t care about tennis at all, it is an incredible book.

Dave Elitch: I tweeted years ago, I was like, “Hey, does anyone know any sports psychology books directly related to tennis or golf?” Because I was really fascinated by those. I don’t really give a shit about sports, really. But I was really fascinated because the psychological warfare you have to navigate by yourself is the same as when the red light’s on in the studio. I have to do these film scores where you have to sight-read everything. You’ve never seen it before. They throw up a book.

Tim Ferriss: Sight reading is you’ve never played it?

Dave Elitch: You’ve never seen the music before. They throw up the sheet music, and you have to play it perfectly the first time because you have to do the whole movie in a day.

Tim Ferriss: Jesus.

Dave Elitch: So it’s very stressful.

Tim Ferriss: Including films like Trolls, The Book of Love. Others?

Dave Elitch: Logan, that Wolverine movie.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, so good.

Dave Elitch: That St. Vincent movie with Bill Murray a few years ago. All the Divergent, Insurgent.

Tim Ferriss: But like same, same, but different. In terms of the sports, the tennis, the golf.

Dave Elitch: Like when you hit the ball in the sand, and you’re like, “Fuck.” Then you have to leave it be. You can’t let that ruin the whole game. The same sort of thing. When the red light’s on in the studio, or you’re playing in front of 30,000 people, it’s the same thing. If you screw something up, you can’t be “Light, ugh,” and let it screw up the whole show. It’s the same exact thing. I thought that was fascinating.

Tim Ferriss: So was the Agassi book recommended as a result of that post that you put up?

Dave Elitch: Yeah. I was like, “Oh, my God, this is incredible.”

Tim Ferriss: It’s a tremendous book.

Dave Elitch: I give that to people all the time. The Art of Learning I give to people all the time.

Tim Ferriss: Josh Waitzkin.

Dave Elitch: Yup. I give The Inner Game of Tennis. I give Zen in the Art of Archery to people all the time. I feel like that was the very first book that spawned all of these Zen and the art of –

Tim Ferriss: Fill-in-the-blank. Yeah, definitely.

Dave Elitch: Yes. So popular now. God, I need to look at my bookcase. There’s so many.

Tim Ferriss: Horton Hears a Who! Last but not least.

Dave Elitch: So many.

Tim Ferriss: You are one of the best-read people I’ve met in the last I would say five years, which is saying a lot because I meet a lot of people who read very widely.

Dave Elitch: Thanks.

Tim Ferriss: This has been so much fun. We could go on for many, many more hours, so maybe we’ll do that at some point. Where are some of the best places for people to find you? We talked about daveelitch.com, Instagram, Twitter @daveelitch. There are other social profiles, I’m sure, but it seems like maybe those are the best. The online course, which is really stunningly shot and very well done, Getting Out of Your Own Way, that’s available at daveelitch.com?

Dave Elitch:   Daveelitch.com, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: Any other places where people can find you that you’d like them to pay attention to or any other recommendations or asks of the audience, people who are listening?

Dave Elitch: Well, the easiest place to find me is Instagram. Just Dave Elitch. Or my website. You can contact me through my website. I’m not super active on Twitter or Facebook anymore. Someone else who wrote a lot of books I recommend are Douglas Coupland. He wrote Generation X.

Tim Ferriss: Coupland, that’s C-O-U-P-L-A-N-D.

Dave Elitch: He’s also an equally amazing visual artist, which is incredibly rare. I find a ton of inspiration from him. He’s great. I recommend a lot of his books. Generation X is great social commentary from the early ‘90s.

Tim Ferriss: He coined that term “Generation X.”

Dave Elitch: Yeah. He’s an interesting sort of social tech theorist. I think he has a job at Google now.

Tim Ferriss: He very well could. They tend to gather interesting, eclectic folks.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, he’s an interesting dude. So yeah. Those are the two best places to contact me, my website or Instagram. If anyone hears this and they’re sort of kindred spirits in terms of what motivates us or in terms of any sort of creative endeavor, reach out and say “Hey.”

Tim Ferriss: Lob out a note or a hand wave through the ether that is the interwebs. Dave, it’s so awesome to finally get you on.

Dave Elitch: Same, dude.

Tim Ferriss: Many, many adventures ahead. I’m excited for you. I’m hoping to pop into the master class tomorrow, which I will be completely unqualified for. Nonetheless, as a fly on the wall.

Dave Elitch: Awesome.

Tim Ferriss: I really look forward to that. Before I forget, Daughters of Mara. Is Mara, I’ve never thought to ask this, but is that a reference to the, what is it, Hindu god?

Dave Elitch: I think it’s Buddhist.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it’s Buddhist. Mara, who’s sort of the equivalent of –

Dave Elitch: The Devil.

Tim Ferriss: The Devil.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, he had three daughters that would tempt people. Sort of like the snake in the Garden of Eden equivalent.

Tim Ferriss: Daughters of Mara.

Dave Elitch: That was a band I was in in 2005-2007 that was on Virgin, Capitol Records, did a record, and then EMI got bought out by Terra Firma, and that was that.

Tim Ferriss: I am Destroyer, appropriate.

Dave Elitch: Yeah, very relevant. Little did we know.

Tim Ferriss: Dave smash! All right. Everybody listening, as always, you can find links to all the things we talked about, including the crazy Mars Volta video. We will also look up a few other things, like the books that, in addition to the Pia Mellody book, the other books, perhaps some of the books your therapist has on her mantle, and the mankind existential animal quote question mark, etc. will all be in the show notes.

You can also find links certainly to Getting Out of Your Own Way and everything linked to Dave at tim.blog/podcast. Until next time, thank you for listening.

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LeBron James and His Top-Secret Trainer, Mike Mancias (#349)

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Photo by Eric Ray Davidson

“I try to put myself in a mental state of, ‘How do I learn from that defeat? How do I learn from that loss?'” — LeBron James

“Recovery never stops.” — Mike Mancias

This episode represents the first time that LeBron James has been interviewed alongside his very below-the-radar, some might say top-secret, athletic trainer about details of training, recovery, diet, and even how much longer he hopes to play in the NBA.

LeBron James (@KingJames) is widely considered one of the greatest athletes of his generation and regarded by some as the best basketball player of all time. James’ accomplishments on the court include four NBA Most Valuable Players Awards, three NBA Championships and three NBA Finals MVP Awards, two Olympic gold medals, and an NBA scoring title. He is the all-time NBA playoffs scoring leader and has amassed fourteen NBA All-Star game appearances, twelve All-NBA First Team selections, and five All-Defensive First Team honors.

Throughout his career, James has used his platform to inspire and empower others through his LeBron James Family Foundation that supports at-risk students in his hometown earn life-changing educations (culminating in the recent opening of his I PROMISE School); SpringHill Entertainment, the entertainment company he co-founded with Maverick Carter that produces compelling and aspirational content for a cross-cultural audience on a variety of platforms including digital, film, and television; and UNINTERRUPTED, the digital media company he and Carter co-founded that provides athletes a platform to tell their stories.

James’ diverse business portfolio of innovative endorsements and investments has established him as one of the most influential figures in all of sports. James has appeared on Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful celebrities, TIME’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s 100 Most Influential People in Sports.

LeBron, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cindy Crawford, and Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, has founded Ladder, a health and wellness platform and brand launching today. The site, weareladder.com, is a resource for reaching fitness, nutrition, and health goals with tools and scientifically supported insights for addressing any frustrations or roadblocks along the way.

Mike Mancias (@mikemancias1) is LeBron James’ athletic trainer and recovery specialist, a position he’s held for 14 years and counting. A veteran in the world of training professional basketball players, his experience also includes working with NFL, MLB, PGA, and top NCAA athletes. Throughout his tenure with LeBron, Mike has quietly developed a winning human-performance blueprint that encompasses everything from preventative medicine, strength training/rehab, nutrition, and the latest in recovery techniques. Mike’s philosophy is one that is now commonly accepted by many athletes and trainers as the ideal 360-degree approach to wellness and performance. It was through this focus on nutrition to performance and recovery that Mancias aided in developing the Ladder brand and its products.

Originally from Brownsville, Texas, Mancias attended the University of Texas-Pan American and graduated with a degree in Health Education. He is licensed and nationally certified by the Accredited National Athletic Trainers Association and is a 14-year member of The National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association.

Please enjoy this interview with LeBron James and Mike Mancias!

Listen to the interview on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

#349: LeBron James and His Top-Secret Trainer, Mike Mancias
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Want to hear my first conversation with LeBron’s business partner Arnold Schwarzenegger? — In this episode, we discuss psychological warfare and much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

#60: Tim Ferriss Interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger on Psychological Warfare (And Much More)
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This episode is brought to you by 99designs. 99designs is the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together. From logos to apps and packaging to books, 99designs is the go-to design resource for any budget. I have used it for years to help with display advertising and illustrations and to rapid prototype the cover for The Tao of Seneca. Whether your business needs a logo, website design, business card, or anything you can imagine, check out 99designs.

99designs’ designer search tool connects you directly with one designer based on design category or industry specialization, style, skill level, availability and more. Or, you can start a contest – invite the entire community to take a shot at your project – then you pick your favorite. Right now you guys, my listeners, can receive a free $99 upgrade on your first design contest. To check out your first free upgrade, please visit 99designs.com/Tim and click on the link in the landing page.

This podcast is also brought to you by Peloton, which has become a staple of my daily routine. I picked up this bike after seeing the success of my friend Kevin Rose, and I’ve been enjoying it more than I ever imagined. Peloton is an indoor cycling bike that brings live studio classes right to your home. No worrying about fitting classes into your busy schedule or making it to a studio with a crazy commute.

New classes are added every day, and this includes options led by elite NYC instructors in your own living room. You can even live stream studio classes taught by the world’s best instructors, or find your favorite class on demand.

Peloton is offering listeners to this show a special offer. Visit onepeloton.com and enter the code TIM at checkout to receive $100 off accessories with your Peloton bike purchase. This is a great way to get in your workouts, or an incredible gift. Again, that’s onepeloton.com and enter the code TIM.


QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

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Dave Elitch — How to Get Out of Your Own Way (#348)

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Photo by Dan Gillan

“Slow down. Do it again.” — Dave Elitch

Dave Elitch (IG: @daveelitch) first garnered attention with his band Daughters of Mara’s debut album I am Destroyer in 2007, but his time touring with the American progressive rock band The Mars Volta in 2009-2010 is what really put him on the map. He has since worked with Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, M83, The 1975, Juliette Lewis, Big Black Delta, as well as many others.

Dave conducts master-class lectures worldwide and is a regular in the L.A. session scene, including performing on film scores for many major motion pictures. As an educator for the last 20 years, Dave has developed a reputation as the technique/body mechanic specialist who has helped many of the world’s top players and educators overcome physical and mental plateaus at his private studio in Los Angeles. His brand new online course, Getting Out of Your Own Way, is available now at DaveElitch.com (use the code FERRISS at checkout for a 25% off discount).

Please enjoy this episode with Dave Elitch!

Listen to the interview on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or on your favorite podcast platform. 


Further curious about how drummers see the world? You’re not alone! — Make sure to listen to my conversation with Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police and son of a bona fide CIA operative! (Stream below or right-click here to download):

#262: The CIA, The Police, and Other Adventures from Stewart Copeland
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This podcast is brought to you by FreshBooks. FreshBooks is the #1 cloud bookkeeping software, which is used by a ton of the start-ups I advise and many of the contractors I work with. It is the easiest way to send invoices, get paid, track your time, and track your clients.

FreshBooks tells you when your clients have viewed your invoices, helps you customize your invoices, track your hours, automatically organize your receipts, have late payment reminders sent automatically and much more.

Right now you can get a free month of complete and unrestricted use. You do not need a credit card for the trial. To claim your free month and see how the brand new Freshbooks can change your business, go to FreshBooks.com/Tim and enter “Tim Ferriss” in the “how did you hear about us” section.


This podcast is also brought to you by Audible. I have used Audible for years, and I love audiobooks. I have a few to recommend:

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  2. The Tao of Seneca by Seneca
  3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  4. Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

All you need to do to get three months of Audible for just $6.95 a month is visit Audible.com/Tim or text TIM to 500500 to get started today.


QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

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