You’re Actually Not a Badass and Here’s Why – Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., with Dave Asprey – #775

Find out how vulnerability gets tangled with narcissism; how to strive for growth, not happiness; and how to retell your story and lead with who you are now.

In this episode of Bulletproof Radio, my guest, Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., is a humanistic psychologist exploring the depths of human potential. We go way beyond basic needs and discuss how to get close to transcendence. Hint: you get to change (or even drop) the story you tell about yourself. It’s one of the hard parts of self-actualization, but worth it to move your life forward.

When Scott discovered Abraham Maslow’s unfinished theory of transcendence through unpublished journals, lectures and essays, he felt a deep connection to his own work. Maslow is most famous for his theory on the hierarchy of needs

“We can harness [Maslow’s theory of] transcendence in our lives and we can be motivated by what he called the B values, the values of pure being, the values in life that you don’t engage with and you’re not one with because you want something else,” Scott says.

Scott’s curiosity led him to finish Maslow’s theory and update it with seven decades of new science that’s been discovered since. The result is Scott’s new book, “Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization.”

I took Scott’s free self-actualization test, and we explore my results in today’s discussion. Scott has great insights about how to approach vulnerability with yourself and others, self-awareness, attachment and other critical pieces of human growth and personal development.

“A lot of people don’t realize that they can actually divorce their mind and have a lot more psychological free will,” he says. “Sometimes I think it’s an act of craziness to exert it.”

Scott unravels the mysteries of Maslow’s unfinished theory and integrates these ideas with the latest research on connection, creativity, love, purpose and other building blocks of a life well lived, and gives science-backed suggestions, including:

  • Fight familiarization and seek fresh experiences.
  • Periodically get away from time-and-space concerns.
  • Get out of the “deficiency realm” by deliberately going to the “being realm.”

“These aren’t necessarily things that are going to make you happy,” Scott says. “Again, we’re going through the difference between happiness and growth, but they’re things that will help you grow. They really will. They’ll help you get outside your comfort zone.”

Scott has been named one of “50 Groundbreaking Scientists who are changing the way we see the world” by Business Insider. He’s hosted “The Psychology Podcast” since 2014 and wrote the popular “Beautiful Minds” blog for Scientific American for close to a decade.

Enjoy! And get more resources at Dave.Asprey/podcasts

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Follow Along with the Transcript

You’re Actually Not a Badass and Here’s Why – Scott Barry Kaufman with Dave Asprey – #775


Book: “Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization”

Key Notes

  • Books are a much quicker route to making an impact on the world. – 3:30
  • A lot of people don’t realize that they can actually divorce their mind and have a lot more psychological free will. – 7:21
  • The interesting thing about humans is that we have evolutionary goals and we also have goals that we set in our own lives that have no evolutionary history.  – 12:17
  • If we can have those basic needs met, then we can put our all and our entire being into the need for self-actualization, which is becoming whatever we are most uniquely capable of becoming in life. – 15:31
  • The fascinating thing that most people don’t realize is that Maslow never drew a pyramid. – 16:01
  • The whole thing started with some management consultants in the 60s. It was first a stepladder before it became a pyramid. And in the stepladder of needs, there was the man at the top with a flag pole. It was the self-realized man. – 16:33
  • I re-imagined it, my Kaufman sailboat, is more in line with Maslow’s spirit of it. – 16:54
  • Do you have to be vulnerable to grow? – 17:00
  • It’s a more introverted flavor of narcissism, more vulnerable form, where that’s the kind of person, they’ll lay in their bed all day and, “Why is that person succeeding and I’m not?” There’s a lot of resentment. – 20:42
  • There’s something where things have flipped around where we don’t empower people to want to have agency now. We empower people to be a victim. – 22:33
  • I had central auditory processing disorder is the official name of what I had, and it took me a couple of extra milliseconds just to process in real time, so they thought I was stupid. And for a while, I kept that as core to my identity. – 24:09
  • You can be happy in the sense you report high life satisfaction or you have positive emotions but feel spiritually empty, feel deeply unfulfilled. That’s why I’m really interested in basic needs and whole self fulfillment. – 29:09
  • I do have a test, a free test you could take right now and find out your self-actualization score. – 29:51
  • Scott: Humanism could considered a whole school of philosophical thought, but I’m talking about humanistic psychology, which has as its goal, the understanding of the whole human and what it means to live an experientially alive life, one that’s full of meaning, purpose and connection with others and to kind of feel like you’re at your full potential as a human.- 32:38
  • It’s very easy to see the worst in humans when you do all the things to activate someone’s defense mechanisms, but it’s also very easy to see the goodness when you just truly listen to someone and you’re just truly present with another person and admire them for who they are on their own terms, not what you can get out of them.  – 34:44
  • But Maslow’s like, “I think there’s a Theory Z, something higher where you then distinguish between non-transcending self-actualizers and transcending self-actualizers. – 45:18
  • The difference between non-self-actualizing and transcenders, you enjoy your job. You feel good about it and you feel like you’re fulfilling your potential, but you just don’t care at all about helping to fulfill the potential of society. – 46:16
  • Attachment I put in the boat itself. It’s not part of the sail. It’s part of our security. It’s part of our grounding. – 48:22
  • Erich Fromm, the humanistic psychologist said, “To be sane in an insane society is the highest marker of insanity,” – 51:38
  • What does it take to be non-reactive? – 52:57
  • There’s a whole Theory Z worldview of wisdom and insight into the human condition and into oneself. – 54:30
  • “Now here’s what to do,” is a great act of service for readers and I want you to share in this interview some of the practical tips, some of the exercises that you have in the book that you think are the most useful. – 57:26

If you like today’s episode, check us out on Apple Podcasts at and leave us a (hopefully) 5-star rating and a creative review.

Go check out my new book Super Human: The Bulletproof Plan to Age Backward and Maybe Even Live Forever and also “Game Changers“, “Headstrong” and “The Bulletproof Diet” on Amazon and consider leaving a review!

Want to help others reach their full potential? Check out the incredible Human Potential Coach Training program I set up with Dr. Mark Atkinson.

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