Welcome to Part 2 of our interview with none other than the 4-hour man himself, Tim Ferriss. Tim is the author of three #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers: The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. In his own words “For the last two years, I’ve interviewed nearly two hundred world-class performers for my podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Guests range from super celebs (Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.) and athletes (icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, surfing, etc.) to legendary Special Operations commanders and black-market biochemists.” Today, Tim is here on Bulletproof Radio to talk about the culmination of those interviews — his new book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers. Enjoy the show.
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Announcer: Bulletproof Radio. A state of high performance.
Dave Asprey: You’re listening to Bulletproof Radio with Dave Asprey. Today’s cool of the fact of the day is about the psychological effects of failure. It turns out that failure makes the same goal seem less attainable, it distorts your perceptions of your abilities, it can make you believe that you’re helpless, and just one single failure experience can create an unconscious fear of failure. When you have fear of failure you can sabotage yourself without even knowing it and it’s something that you can transmit to your own kids, or maybe you got from your parents.
The pressure to succeed increases performance anxiety, which causes you to choke. While this is the real end of the cool fact of the day, it’s that a great way to overcome choking is actually to whistle or mutter. So when you feel like going, “Oh, what am I going to do?”, just whistling or kind of just talking to yourself for a little while can make a difference. The psychologically healthiest response to failure is to focus on the variables that are in your control. If you really want to focus on failure though, you could do what I do with my kids. Every day I celebrate my biggest fail and they celebrate their biggest fail, because if you don’t fail at something it means you weren’t working out your edges. When failure becomes a success, well then the fear of failure just goes away.
If you’re a regular listener you’ve heard me share my list of top 10 biohacks. Let’s talk about number nine, Fun Hacks for the Bulletproof Mind. It may sound weird, but hanging upside down is a great way to hack your brain. Regularly inverting trains your brain capillaries, making them stronger and more capable to bring oxygen to your brain. It’s pretty straightforward. More oxygen in the brain means better performance.
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This is part two of the Bulletproof Radio interview with Tim Ferriss where we talk about the tools that successful people use to create health, and wealth, and wisdom, and some of it which can be found in his new book. Let’s get back on with Tim.
Have you tried Ibogaine or are you willing to talk about it? Or you can say …
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I can talk about it, I can talk about it.
Dave Asprey: … take the Fifth.
Tim Ferriss: Yep. No, I’m not going to take the Fifth. So I should just, as a caveat for people listening. In the United States, the legal side effects of using anything that we were talking about right now are extremely severe. These compounds are in the same class, Schedule I, as cocaine and heroin. So if you are caught with these things, much more so if you are caught with enough that it can be considered intent to distribute, you can go to jail for a long time, 20 plus years. That all having been said, I have used ibogaine, specifically ibogaine the alkaloid, not iboga, in a microdosing protocol. And I’ve experimented …
Dave Asprey: I haven’t heard of. That’s cool.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. So I have not gone on, nor do I have very … I don’t have real interest in going on a full ride iboga or ibogaine experience. I know a lot of people involved and many doctors who are working with heroin addicts …
Dave Asprey: Crossroads and places, yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, exactly. It has tremendous applications in that particular sphere, but ibogaine also has the worst safety record of any psychedelic that I have seen, mostly related to cardiac events. To date, and some people think this is … The numbers are actually much higher, closer to one in 100, but the number that is thrown around is one in 300 people have a fatal cardiac event. Now, if you have proper medical supervision and they are looking at pulse oximeters, they’re looking at your pulse, heart rate, and you’re hooked up to proper machines, they have atropine on hand and so on, that shouldn’t happen. But, nonetheless, it looks like at least in the somewhat highly unregulated, and largely I think in many cases sadly unqualified, clinics that are providing ibogaine, people die. But I have microdosed it at very low dosages. We’re talking in the two to four milligram range total, which is at least, or I should say, yeah at least or at maximum 1/100, as I understand it, of the migs per kigs full ride dose that I would potentially use in a ceremonial or heroin/opiate detox protocol.
I have done quite a bit of experimentation on that side of things. Hard to get …
Dave Asprey: What was that like?
Tim Ferriss: Hard to get.
Dave Asprey: A very … Well, where I live it’s legal. I’m in Canada so …
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Dave Asprey: … I mean it isn’t scheduled here.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, yeah. In the US, it’s like nipples and ibogaine, both get you in a lot of trouble.
Dave Asprey: Now what is your experience from microdosing that? I mean, I may or may not have microdosed a few other substances …
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, for sure, and actually … So the three, I should say, the three longest chapters in “Tools of Titans,” and they’re long, the first is on fasting and ketosis and Dominic D’Agostino. We did a lot of extra conversations and a lot of e-mails to flesh it out. The other two are all on psychedelics and talk about a lot of the experimentation in my personal schedule and so on. In the case of microdosing ibogaine, I could tell you exactly what I noticed. First off, it is, it did not induce any hallucinations whatsoever, which is very deliberate. It had, for me, initially the effect of perhaps half a tablet of Adderall, which I’m not particularly fond of.
Dave Asprey: Yeah, that’s harsh.
Tim Ferriss: I got a mild pre-frontal headache. If I combined it, or I shouldn’t say combined it, but if I consumed green tea within two hours, the side effects, meaning this frontal headache, were much worse. It was not the case with black tea. I had a slightly buzzy, very very mildly anxious feel for the first three to four hours. In that period of time though, I did have heightened attention. It is used by some people as a very mild stimulant. In fact, it was sold in France for precisely that reason. It was sold as a stimulant many, many years ago. What’s interesting to me is not what happens on the first day, it’s what happens subsequently. There are some speculative, not entirely implausible explanations for why this would be, like a regulation of the [inaudible 00:07:39] opiate receptors and so on.
For the next two to three days, I feel like my happiness setpoint is about 15% higher, 15 to 20% higher.
Dave Asprey: Wow!
Tim Ferriss: And I have the non-reactivity, the kind of cool and dispassionate assessment of things that I don’t react emotionally, overly emotionally, that would typically take for me two to three weeks of daily meditation without fail. That is like that. I utilized in this particular case, or the regimen that I landed on, was microdosing on Mondays and Fridays. So I’ve done that for months at a time. I found it very, very, at least in terms of observable side effects, very very low, based on the, my reviews of the very scant literature involving human trials and also rat studies with ibogaine or iboga. They have observed, for instance, at higher milligrams of ibogaine per kilogram of body weight in mice some, I should say, several types of brain damage, but at the lower dosages, certainly no one’s looked at microdosing that I’m aware of, but at those doses these types of side effects were not observed.
The fact of the matter is the dose makes the poison. So …
Dave Asprey: Oh, yeah.
Tim Ferriss: … if I want to kill you with water, I can kill you with water. I mean, and I’m not talking about drowning you I’m talking about making you drink it until your heart stops working. The dose makes the poison. It’s not surprising to me that you take some weird psychedelic stimulant from West Africa and you force feed a shovelful of it to a rat that bad things are going to happen. I’m not terribly surprised by that. But nonetheless, it is more dangerous, certainly I would say than psilocybin or some of these others that I mentioned, at least based on the data that we have available.
There are some people who are aiming to develop or take metabolites like noribogaine and develop them into pharmaceuticals that allow some of the detox, and it appears like opiate or opioid receptor resetting that ibogaine accomplishes without some of the side effects. So, yeah, these are all topics that I’m digging very deeply into, for sure.
Dave Asprey: It’s really fascinating because it’s still controversial. I mean there are people out there who are like, “If using hallucinogens, you’re … It’s tied to the CIA. You’re a bad and satanist.” People, there’s a lot of wacky stuff out there, but we’re talking extremely small amounts, that in studies and just observably, improve your performance like meaningfully.
Tim Ferriss: Oh, yeah. I mean the … My general predisposition and preference is focusing on compounds in the whole food form. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that we can get pretty epistemologically arrogant to think that we understand how exactly every component in a given plant functions, the sum of the parts. I think that’s generally reaching because do we even have the technology to identify all the constituent components in the first place? Probably not. For me, I defer when trying to research and certainly use these compounds to plants that have been used for millennia most likely by at least one or ideally multiple civilizations. Look, I mean that isn’t exactly a placebo-controlled, randomized trial, but humans figure out pretty quickly if over a few thousand years of regular consumption what things really mess you up or kill you because you win a Darwin award otherwise. I’m not saying all these things are safe at all. By the way, I use these substances with supervision, I very often have medical personnel or MDs in attendance. I take this stuff very, very seriously because could you certainly exacerbate or even trigger predispositions like schizophrenia? Absolutely.
One of my cousins by marriage fried his brains using LSD. His family had a history of schizophrenia and he went from super high-functioning chess whiz to staring off into space, I kid you not. I’ve seen that firsthand, part of the reason I don’t use LSD but that’s the longer story. It has applications to a lot of stuff it’s just not my tool of choice. If you’re in an unsafe environment or an uncontrolled environment, you are using a hallucinogen that you may decide that you can fly and step out of a window. You may decide that you want to go for a walk and walk out into a street, which actually happened to me once very, very early on in college when I was experimenting with these, but I didn’t know how to properly manage the surroundings and circumstances. I came out of a trip standing in the middle of the road in the middle of the night with headlights coming down on me. That’s not safe. Caveat emptor, folks, take the stuff seriously.
But very powerful compounds that have incredible applications to treatment-resistant depression, potentially. End of life anxiety in cancer patients, PTSD, opiate addiction, which by the way of the 22 or 23 veterans who commit suicide in the United States every day, about a third are associated with opiate addiction, prescription medication opiate addiction. The list goes on. If you look at even with the small data set that we have so far. It’s preliminary, let’s call it that.
The magnitude of effect and the duration of effect after a single dose of psilocybin … There’s a study that just received a bunch of coverage in the New York Times a few days ago and it was looking at cancer patients and anti-depressive effects of psilocybin. I think it said 80% of the subjects who received psilocybin seven months later still reported a significant effect from one dose. There is no other intervention that I am aware of, and I’ve read quite a bit of the literature, that comes even close to that. You can say the same thing for nicotine addiction and alcoholism. Very few people realize way back in the day when AA was being formed, the founder wanted to have LSD as one of the steps because he himself became sober after a psychedelic experience using something else. Nonetheless, LSD was what was most readily available at the time.
I’m glad that people are revisiting this. It’s still very much politically maligned for scientifically, I think, indefensible reasons.
Dave Asprey: It’s puritanical bullshit, I think.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Dave Asprey: I don’t swear that much on Bulletproof Radio except when it’s really deserved, but sorry.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Dave Asprey: That’s what it’s deserved for, right?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I’m from Long Island. It doesn’t offend me.
Dave Asprey: Oh, I wasn’t apologizing to you, Tim. That was for the people listening who are like, “Dave doesn’t normally swear! My kids are listening.” Sorry, kids. Don’t say that at home.
Tim Ferriss: Ear muffs. Ear muffs, kids.
Dave Asprey: Right. Now, what you’re saying about using these things for drug and alcohol addiction is powerful. When people ask me this, and you probably get asked this all the time too, what would you do for a heroin addict? These are typically people who are asking for a friend. In my mind there’s two heavy big guns, and one is ibogaine and the other one is cerebral electrical stimulation. They have the most evidence behind … They’re just running little electrical current across the brain. Everything else pales in comparison in studies. Those are just things that are either controversial, no one’s heard of it or they seem scary. So I’m grateful that you’re just talking about it, just laying it out there.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I mean it’s in the dedication page, on the dedication page in my book, is the commitment to apply a non-trivial portion of the proceeds to studies in scientific research at places like Johns Hopkins and so on that are hopefully going to steer the ship and get these compounds rescheduled in such a way that I’m not even concerned at this point about everybody having access to it. I just want more research to be performed. What’s … If we want to just step away from the, say addiction aspect or the applications of these compounds, what’s so fascinating about psychedelics, which is also a loaded term. Some people are now calling them entheogens …
Dave Asprey: Yep.
Tim Ferriss: … is that at different dosages the same compound behaves like a completely different drug. That is wild, right? So you have … We’re talking about microdosing. In the case of LSD you might have 10 micrograms or 15 as a microdose. Then that is sub-perceptual. As one person put it, “The rocks don’t glitter even a little and the flowers don’t turn to look at you.” This is very sub-perceptual. Microdosing has shown as … I think you might have mentioned some very interesting applications to endurance sports.
Dave Asprey: Oh, yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Now, then you get to, let’s just call it a museum or a concert dose, 50 milligrams. Then you start moving up to say what’s called 100, 150 …
Dave Asprey: Basically a tab, right?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, for creative problem solving, including the hard sciences. James Fadiman, who is in the book as well, worked with a number of corporations at one point who brought in people who had become stuck trying to design new circuit boards or solve complex mathematical problems. It was something like 33 out of 35 with his particular regimen, which involved LSD, were able to then find solutions, meaning solve equations or publish papers, design circuit boards. Thirty-three out of 35, or something just incredible like that. That’s … Let’s just call it 150. Then you go up and you get to the transcendent and then the heroic. Even if you want to cleave away from your … You want to cleave off your ego and strap yourself to the icebreaker of existential pain and delight, then there’s that too. It’s incredible how different the effects are. It’s not like you start seeing the same effect at a low dose and then it just gets more intense. It’s very, very different …
Dave Asprey: Yeah, yeah. Very well put.
Tim Ferriss: So, yeah. Go figure. Hopefully we’ll learn more after a whole set of dozens and dozens of studies get done. I’ve thought about actually funding studies in Canada for a lot of reasons, including costs, well legality and therefore cost for say …
Dave Asprey: You know, if you’re serious about that, Tim … I mean, I’m not a Canadian citizen yet, I’m a permanent resident up here, but they have Canadian grants for R&D that’s done up here where the government writes checks for a lot of money for Canadian-based companies, even if they’re not owned and run by Canadians. You could probably get doubling down whatever the grant was as long as there’s an R&D aspect to it.
Tim Ferriss: Cool!
Dave Asprey: Canada’s a cool place and dollars are very cheap up here. You could just buy them like with American dollars.
Tim Ferriss: Sweet!
Dave Asprey: You get extra money. [crosstalk 00:19:29]
Tim Ferriss: You get extra doubloonies, as they say?
Dave Asprey: Exactly. Now … Let me do a quick time check with you. We can go over some more stuff in the book. Do you have time for that?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah!
Dave Asprey: Do you want to keep chatting for a little while? I have fun. [crosstalk 00:19:43]
Tim Ferriss: I do have a … What do you think about maybe another 15 minutes? Does that work for you?
Dave Asprey: Yeah, I’m totally good.
Tim Ferriss: Because I have a date with another smart drug, which is known as wine. And have a bit of a meeting and a commitment that I have to get to, but yeah, I’m happy to do another … Let’s do another 15. I’m happy to talk about whatever.
Dave Asprey: All right. I can respect that commitment to wine but you’re going to have to share with our listeners exactly which one you have a date with.
Tim Ferriss: Well, you know, I was enjoying some Trapiche Malbec and Catena Malbec, which is from high altitude from Argentina. Tonight I’ve been getting a little frisky. I’ve been getting a little promiscuous with my wine drinking, and I know nothing about Italian wine. For the last two days I’ve been having very fruity, Pinot noir-esque Italian wines that I can’t pronounce. That’s my … I guess it’s a blind date at this point. I don’t know who’s going to show up.
Dave Asprey: Fair enough. Now you had Lyme disease. You were real public about that for a while, which … We chatted at the time. I had it for a long time and it totally knocked me down. One of the reasons that I know so much about ketosis and all is that it really helped me get my brain back on. I can tolerate wine now better than I ever could in the last 15 years. What I want to know, and I think a substantial number of people listening want to know too, did you tolerate wine and beer and things like that before Lyme disease, during Lyme disease, and did it change after Lyme disease?
Tim Ferriss: That is a very good question that I haven’t pondered before. To be honest, I don’t recall drinking very much when I was at 10%, when I was really, really knocked out …
Dave Asprey: When you’re drained, yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I mean I was operating at literally 10% at best capacity for about nine months. I don’t remember much from that period at all.
Dave Asprey: Yeah, the brain fog is severe.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I don’t remember much at all of what happened other than just painful joints and slurred speech and forgetting friends’ names and feeling like I had dementia for that period of time out on [inaudible 00:22:00] …
Dave Asprey: Well you pretty much did have dementia.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I pretty much do. I don’t think I drank very much during that period so I couldn’t tell you. I would say that at this point my response to alcohol seems to be roughly equivalent to what it was before Lyme disease. But I’ll tell you something else. I’m not sure I mentioned this when we spoke about it. When I had the very imperfect but unfortunate solely-available testing done, so the Western blot …
Dave Asprey: Western blot.
Tim Ferriss: They said, “You realize that you’ve actually had Lyme disease before, right? The long-term antibodies were positive.” That I think could explain some really tough periods that I had when I was a kid, that I had a lot of long term implications. But to the alcohol question I don’t know. I can share a little discovery though that you might enjoy …
Dave Asprey: Sure.
Tim Ferriss: … related to alcohol. I had a really tough breakup, maybe a year and a half ago. Long relationship, and I won’t get into all the juicy details but … No one did anything bad, it was just one of those like …
Dave Asprey: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:23:15].
Tim Ferriss: “I think it’s time. Time for us to part ways.” It was very tough for me. One of my buddies, being a good buddy, was like, “Hey, idiot. You’re not allowed to mope around in your house for the next six months. Come to Sweden with me. I’m going to Sweden.” I was like, “All right, I’ll go to Sweden.”
Dave Asprey: [Swedish 00:23:30]
Tim Ferriss: Man, and I kind of dragged myself there and my friend kind of proceeded to try to feed me ungodly amounts of alcohol and gets me to do stupid things.
Dave Asprey: Very Swedish.
Tim Ferriss: What I noticed though after two nights of drinking, I would say an amount of alcohol, half of which would normally make me vomit, without any subsequent vomiting I was like, “What is going on here? This is really weird.” I’ve never had this much alcohol and not vomited halfway through, because we’re talking dozens of drinks, like vodka …
Dave Asprey: Good god!
Tim Ferriss: … wine, champagne. It was filthy.
Dave Asprey: And you were mixing them. Ugh!
Tim Ferriss: Ugh, it was terrible. I mean, the worst sort of night out alcohol hygiene you could imagine. It was terrible, but I didn’t get sick. I was puzzled by this. I started looking at the various supplements and so on that I was taking, my diet, trying to figure out what might account for it because it was consistent. What I eventually found doing some searches on not only PubMed but on Google Books, is that lysine appears to affect ethanol metabolism. I was taking L-lysine, a few grams a day, to just prevent any type of flu or whatnot because I was low on sleep to begin with, low on sleep afterwards. I’d forgotten my passport, I couldn’t … It was a big disaster getting there so I was really sleep-deprived and I didn’t want to get sick. I was taking all this L-lysine and I’ve replicated that since. I don’t know if it’s reliable, I don’t know if there’s much there …
Dave Asprey: That’s fine.
Tim Ferriss: … but that is something if I know I’m going to have a big night like I had a couple of nights ago at a friend’s bachelor party which was … Alcohol in those quantities is not my preferred sport, but L-lysine is definitely part of the portfolio.
Dave Asprey: That’s a pretty cool experiment.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Dave Asprey: I will also share an alcohol thing, which is going to offend wine consumers everywhere. I’m pretty sketchy on a lot of American wines because our standards for microtoxins are not nearly as tight as Europeans. A good French wine is like two parts per billion, and here I think it’s 10. It’s not well regulated. I feel the difference. I have weird dreams when I get American wine. I don’t get it from French wine. There are some good American brands, they’re just … You got to know which vintage and what year and all that. I had some wine that was organic and reasonably clean but I was a little nervous and I was with … [inaudible 00:26:11], and I drank half of it. The next day I’m like, “Oh, this has been sitting out. I’ll just try this.” I took the wine, put it in the blender, I added the Brain Octane and some ice. I blended it up and it makes this crazy lavender color that’s entirely unnatural for a food. Yes, it was ruining a wine but it had already been opened for 24 hours so it wasn’t that sinful.
The Brain Octane actually in studies helps to prevent damage from LPS, lipopolysaccharides, that alcohol escorts across the gut, specifically to the liver. Basically it supports liver stuff. Just biochemically, I’m like, “This might make me not have an effect.” I drank half the bottle the first night, and I must’ve gotten mildly buzzed and felt good, but it was a little stiff the next morning. I drank the other half the next night and I was like, “Okay, I did it. It tastes more like a wine cooler smoothie thing.” It was delicious. I’d sampled it on other people without telling them what it was, and they’re like, “What drink is this? Like I want to buy that.” I gave … It was good enough to pass the fruity umbrella straw test.
Anyway, I don’t know what that’s worth it, but you might … When you’re in ketosis you might see that there’s a difference there. My question there is were you in ketosis? Were you running on a beta-hydroxybutyrate?
Tim Ferriss: No, no. I was not.
Dave Asprey: You were not, okay.
Tim Ferriss: No, no. In Sweden it was like, “Hey, you want some more bread with your bread?” It was definitely not keto-friendly, but I …
Dave Asprey: My wife is Swedish. They eat bread and herring and nothing else, and cheese right?
Tim Ferriss: Yes. Ah, Swedes. I love Sweden. So on the alcohol question about is it related to Lyme, I don’t know. I don’t know. I really don’t feel like I have any residual symptoms at this point …
Dave Asprey: Good for you, man.
Tim Ferriss: … which is great.
Dave Asprey: Congratulations on that.
Tim Ferriss: Thanks.
Dave Asprey: There’s a lot of people who work on that quite a bit. It’s been a big area of focus for me because like you you’re saying I had it when I was young. There’s a lot of people walking around who have Lyme, have water damage in their environment or some other biological pathology and they don’t know it. They walk around angry all the time and hating everyone around them. It’s like, “It’s biological! It’s not that you’re an asshole, it’s that something is tweaking on you to make you act like an asshole,” and you probably feel bad about it.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, and it’s really … One of my first recommendations … I am not against antibiotics. I think they serve an important function.
Dave Asprey: They do.
Tim Ferriss: There’s a lot of nonsense out there related to Lyme disease. I think it’s widely misdiagnosed. All that having been said, if people have tried the conventional therapies and don’t seem to be making progress, I as an adjunct to a number of friends have recommended getting to at least two millimolars, just measuring it with a Precision Xtra, for instance, ketotic state through fasting then followed by diet. Very small sample size, we’re talking maybe five close friends who have come to me with this, so far 100% success rate in terms of dramatically reducing or eliminating the symptoms of Lyme or what they assumed was Lyme, because who knows? I didn’t look at their blood tests.
Dave Asprey: There’s mitochondrial pathologies that all kind of manifest the same way. There’s a toxin from Lyme, there’s toxin from mold, there’s toxin from fish, there’s excess mercury. They all reduce mitochondrial functioning ketones turning back up. It’s kind of cool, that’s why I’m focusing so much on mitochondria in the next book, because I’m like, “Wait, what’s the uniting element in everything I’ve ever done that worked?” That’s what they were.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, so it’s …
Dave Asprey: How about hits to the head? Do I remember you talking to me about TBI?
Tim Ferriss: Oh, I have plenty of hits to the head. Yes, I’ve plenty of … Just from all the years of combat sports, kickboxing, boxing, and so on. Wrestling, judo, getting thrown on my head. I mean it’s … It’s pretty definitive, I would say, or certain that I have a decent amount of … I’ve had concussions for sure, I mean 100% diagnosed. I’ve been knocked unconscious. It’s not good.
Dave Asprey: I’ve been looking at the brains of senior executive types with [inaudible 00:30:22] and neurofeedback stuff. Ninety percent of people that come in for a performance upgrade, they have an observable TBI they don’t know about. Like look, this part of your brain looks like it’s been smacked. You can see it with a 24-channel EEG with software interpolation. I think it’s a major performance inhibitor for even some of the world’s highest performers. I took a really good hit to the head, like a really bad TBI. I got food poisoning and passed out. My head hit the floor right on the temple. I couldn’t play Go Fish with my kids because my working memory was shot. I was swearing all the time, and I fortunately have the right tools. Once I recognized that it was what it was, I was able to come back in a couple of weeks.
During that couple of weeks I was … I was kind of an asshole to my employees, to friends. You don’t even know it’s happening. I’ve talked with a few other really high performing people who had something like this happen and like, “Oh, my god! I’m so embarrassed, look at the things I did.” It’s like you’re not yourself, right?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I can’t turn back the sands of time at this point, so I’m making the best of it. I do think that it’s certainly a contributing factor, maybe a contributing factor, to the depressive periods that I’ve had. I think that it almost certainly plays a role in a lot of the depression, suicide, et cetera that we see in veterans, whether the … Very often they’ve been exposed to IEDs or different types of head trauma. These are all things that I’m exploring but I’m trying not to do … Derek Sivers is an incredible entrepreneur, also really kind of a philosopher programmer who built CD Baby, which at the time was the largest independent music market, I suppose you could say, platform in the world, which he later sold. What he says to himself and the advice he’d give his younger self is … One of the pieces is “Don’t be a donkey.” This is going somewhere.
So “Don’t be a donkey,” he’ll remind himself, and the number of my listeners have put this on their kitchen mirrors and things like that, or rather bathroom mirrors. It refers to burden’s ass. When Derek was in his 30s, he felt like the world wanted to pressure him into specializing in one thing, but he wanted to do 10 things and he didn’t want to conform to the expectations of other people. He wanted to have it all, do it all. Burden’s ass is a fable. There’s a donkey in between hay on one side and water on the other. It can’t decide if it wants to eat or if it wants to drink. Eat, drink, eat, drink, because the donkey can’t think long term. Of course it could just do one and then the next, but it ends up dying in the middle because it can’t make a decision.
“Don’t be a donkey” to him was effectively you can do it all, you just can’t do it at the same time. You have to focus on one thing for a year, then maybe another for a year. If you try to do all 10 things, you’ll get to a point, five years later where you will not have made progress on any of them. There’s so many areas that I’d like explore, particularly through more scientific studies and rigor. The first domino that I want to tip over is the psychedelics. The TBI is very interesting to me. I think that the psychedelics in a way is an umbrella. Potential modality and treatment that could and actually there’s some literature to support this …
Dave Asprey: Oh, yeah, you’re very right. That’s why I brought it up actually. It was because of the psychedelic angle. There are … People hit their head, a large portion of the time get PTSD. You can work on the PTSD around that with the psychedelics and maybe even just with increasing connectivity. I’m … Tim, I love it that you’re working with Johns Hopkins and that you’re pushing on this because it’s just science. We want to know how it works, and if we don’t do the research we’ll never know how it works.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, and the LD 50, the dosage that would kill 50% of the population or at least the subjects in a given study for these, is so low with the exception of ibogaine and the case of say psilocybin, that the safety really is not an issue for at least a number of these compounds when done in a proper setting. The fact that they’re Schedule I, which is high potential for abuse or addiction, which is ludicrous when you look at the existing data, and B, no known medical application. It’s silly, which is why I think it’s very important to use populations that are very hard to attack or malign. So cancer patients, terminal cancer patients, veterans, people who have treatment-resistant depression, those are bipartisan issues. This should not be controversial. I’m trying to take the politically charged, emotional debate that has been very counterproductive for the last few decades and turn it into one of just open-minded scientific inquiry. We’ll see.
It’s going to be a challenge but it’s the type of challenge that I like and fortunately with a lot of the habits and so on that I’ve accumulated over the last few years, I’ve become a little less combative and a little better at empathy and seeing solutions that aren’t necessarily win-lose. Not that I was always that way but I’ve become better at seeing multiple sides of the problem or, as Jocko Willink would say, detaching, stepping back and just being able to almost have this out of body experience where I can look at something, a situation, and observe if someone thinks I’m angry or if the emotional tone is off, if I’m conveying my message but I’m doing it in a way that sounds aggressive even though it’s not intended to be.
It was really wild with “Tools of Titans” that as I wrote it … I’m such a checklist, Excel spreadsheet, data export and crunch type of guy, when I look at … I know you do something very similar. I would imagine for behavior change, “Okay, I want to instill this particular behavior in this following change. Now we’re going to look at the science and I’m going to take this methodical step by step approach and I’m going to decide on the frequency and the dosage and the this and the that and I’m going to track my metrics … ”
I didn’t do any of that when I was editing this book, but just by the sheer exposure and osmosis I suppose, I started … Maybe it’s in part because I designed the book in such a way that these are short, very short profiles, five to 10 pages typically. Each point, each tactic is maybe one to two paragraphs. I just ended up using them without all of that apparatus, all that heavy lifting, and I’m not going to say bullshit but it just showed me that you don’t always have to have this huge amount of scaffolding around instilling something like that which was reassuring for me quite frankly because that stuff is fatiguing! It’s kind of tiring to have all those levels of abstraction. It’s been nice to just snack on Scooby Snacks and have them actually pan out.
Dave Asprey: It’s a little relaxing that way. I did go through a period, and it sounds like that’s what you’re talking about, where I was maybe tracking more than was beneficial. I’m a fan of track what you hack, and the rest of the time just notice “How do I feel right now?” That’s actually mindfulness in a certain way, and then doing the reverse, root cause analysis event correlation is … That’s a practiced art and you can use the numbers for that.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, and you can get super fancy. I’ve been involved with quantified self since the very, very first meetup 20 some odd people in Kevin Kelly’s house in 2008 or 2009. I’ve witnessed mass data tracking and consumption, and I’ve done it myself, but I think sometimes it’s as simple as something that Jodie Foster said, and I might get this slightly off, but it’s pretty close which was, “In the end, success is sleeping well.”
Dave Asprey: There you go. Very well said.
Tim Ferriss: It’s like all right, why don’t we just look at how easy it is for you to fall asleep and how you feel when you wake up. That is, I think, as good a barometer as just about anything else for most of what matters, but hey.
Dave Asprey: Well put, Tim.
Tim Ferriss: Still a student, still a work in progress, still trying to figure it out.
Dave Asprey: All right. Two more questions, one short one, one medium one.
Tim Ferriss: All right.
Dave Asprey: Short question. What percentage of the titans out there, both ones you’ve interviewed and not interviewed, do you think have been heavily influen- … Not heavily, have been meaningfully influenced by a psychedelic experience?
Tim Ferriss: Well, I would say in Silicon Valley the kind of open secret is you look at the top tier folks and they’re there … I think there are many potential explanations for this, but … Eric Weinstein who’s a PhD, mathematician, physicist. He’s the managing director of Thiel Capital, so he works directly with Peter Thiel. He calls it the … He was very much anti every drug for his entire life, as straitlaced as you can imagine, and only in the last few years has been exposed to psychedelics because he identified what he called the psychedelic elite, and in Silicon Valley he just said, “Hey …”
Dave Asprey: There’s a lot of them.
Tim Ferriss: In the top, say five, 10% of the performers in pretty much every area in this particular world, this particular corner, everyone has used, or is currently using psychedelics in some capacity. Now, I don’t want to say that that is causal, that they are that good because of it. Maybe when you’re that driven your neuroses are also 100X everyone else, so you need a powerful intervention to even maintain a semblance of sanity as you’re trying to hit all these home runs, maybe. But I would say it’s an extremely high percentage. If we’re looking at the titans, it is a very, very, very high percentage. Not all of them are ready to talk about it publicly …
Dave Asprey: Of course.
Tim Ferriss: … because of the legal status of these compounds, but it’s a very high percentage.
Dave Asprey: That is my understanding as well and my experience is that it’s a substantially high percentage. I wish more of them felt safe enough to talk about it and maybe 20 years from now they will when the laws change, but we can talk about it without naming names and … I just want to reiterate there are teenagers who listen as their parents listen to this. This is not dropping acid and going to Disneyland because that is neurologically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically dangerous and ill-advised. Do not play with these. We’re talking about something different, right?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it’s totally different. You would treat it like you are choosing a neurosurgeon to excise a tumor from your brain. You’re not going to go on Craigslist to find someone to do that. You’re not going to go to Burning Man and grab a hula hoop and walk off into the desert with someone and ask them to perform neurosurgery on you. Treat it that way and there are plenty of warnings and caveats and so on in “Tools of the Titans,” so definitely don’t skip those. Pay attention to the protocol.
Dave Asprey: The next question and the last question of the interview, it’s one you’ve answered before but I want to look at the delta here. Now that you’ve written “Tools of Titans,” you’ve absorbed this knowledge from those 10,000 pages of transcripts and the active writing crystallizes things in your brain so well. It’s really cool. If someone came to you today and said, “Look, I want to kick ass at everything I do. I want to kick ass at life. What are the three most important pieces of advice you have for me?” What would you offer them?
Tim Ferriss: Three most important things to kick ass in all areas?
Dave Asprey: Yeah, and who knows? I want to be better at everything I do. What do I need to know?
Tim Ferriss: All right. The first answer, if you ask Richard Branson, would be work out, exercise, seriously. I think that exercise and specifically for me in the last few years, body weight calisthenics, like gymnastic strength training. There’s a coach, Christopher Sommer … In the healthy section, I talk about … Effectively the combination of gymnastic strength training, acroyoga, and ketosis and fasting, were what have completely changed my life from a physical and mental performance standpoint. I would give the same answer as Richard Branson which is work out, but specifically I would say investigate GymnasticBodies, just the company, or some form of gymnastic strength training which focuses on mobility, i.e. the ability to exhibit strength in your end ranges. It’s very different for passive flexibility, but it does something very interesting. I don’t know if it’s brain drive neurotrophic factor or whatever …
Dave Asprey: Probably.
Tim Ferriss: … but cognitively, man. If I do that two or three times a week, even minimally, short sessions 30 to 60 minutes, it’s been a game changer. I would say that’s the one.
Dave Asprey: When you cross the midline it causes more connections between the hemispheres and a lot of the twists and things like that you’re applying pressure. I believe that might be part of it, but I love that answer. No one’s ever been that specific with exercise, so thank you for specificity. What’s number two?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, for sure. So number two would have to be diet-related. I would say of specifically … What would I say specifically related to diet? Honestly, I would say, and this is going to sound weird, but a combination … I’m kind of cheating here. Combination of regular fasting for longevity, because what good does it do if you kick ass for 10 years and then croak?
Dave Asprey: Amen.
Tim Ferriss: Regular fasting and we don’t have time to get into exactly what that means, but I do shorter, regular monthly and then longer, say a quarter and an annual. Eating shitty food, and this is maybe bleeding into a number three, but eating really … Not shitty. Eating really, really, really, really cheap food for at least a few days a month, wearing the same clothing for that entire period, and try sleeping on a sleeping bag on your floor. Here’s why. This is related to a letter … I’m going to get super specific and dirty. This is …
Dave Asprey: I love it.
Tim Ferriss: This is letter 13 on festivals and fasting from Seneca the Younger to [Bu-kil-ee-us 00:45:24]. It’s a letter where he talks about fear rehearsal. You’re practicing your worst case scenario, losing all your money, let’s say. What do you do? Maybe you go camping but you would wear say … I wear a cheap T-shirt and pair of jeans, cheap shoes, that’s it for the week. Then I’ll either fast the whole time or I will survive, and it’s really not that bad quite frankly, on instant oatmeal or rice and beans. It’s something it’s two to three dollars a day max in cost, and experience what it would be like to rehearse poverty in this case. It is … It makes you extremely resilient and able to take bold steps in different directions because you realize that the worst case in many respects isn’t that bad. You might actually come out of the experiment really, really happy. That’s another weird side effect.
I know that’s a huge cheat, but that’s like the diet/practice of some pragmatic …
Dave Asprey: Practice dietary poverty, there we go.
Tim Ferriss: There we go. Then number three, number three, kick ass in all areas would be ask absurd questions. Ask absurd questions, this came up over and over and over and over again. Interviewing Peter Thiel, who’s a serial billionaire …
Dave Asprey: Yeah, he’s a cool guy.
Tim Ferriss: Incredible guy. Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize, questions like “Why can’t you achieve your 10-year plans in the next six months?” Don’t just think about it for 10 seconds and then move on, sit down and write three pages, stream of consciousness. Or questions like … This is a question that Peter Diamandis, he asks companies who want his investment, he’ll say, “How could you 10X your company’s economics in the next …” I’m making up this number, but “three months?” If they say “That’s impossible,” his response is “I don’t accept that answer. Try again.” These types of crazy absurd questions I used to ask myself, still do sometimes.
But if i had a gun against my head I would say for when I was writing this book, this is actually kind of funny. I was … I kept on coming up with these absurd questions, absurd questions like “Okay, well let’s try that,” in the process of writing the book. I would journal on questions like, “How would I write this book if I only had a week to do it?” It’s very important that they’re absurd, I mean seemingly impossible. The goal isn’t to determine how to write it in the week, it’s to aim so high and crazy that you probably land somewhere in between and there’s something that you can really use that you wouldn’t have thought of if you’re trying to do it incrementally.
Asking absurd questions is number three for me.
Dave Asprey: I love those answers and they are different than your last ones, not that I’ve memorized them but after 300 and something out of some large number. I don’t have them all memorized but I’m going to go back when you write the blog post for this and we’ll do a compare and contrast then.
Tim Ferriss: I’ll be curious to check them out.
Dave Asprey: Like “What did Tim Ferriss learn from his, from The Tim Ferriss Show and from ‘Tools of Titans’?” Now the book, the book is available now. People can pick it up …
Tim Ferriss: It’s everywhere.
Dave Asprey: Either they can pick it up at their bookstore or they can go online and they can order it from wherever books are sold. You have a website set up for it, ToolsOfTitans.com?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, ToolsOfTitans.com. You can find sample chapters. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote the foreword which is so surreal and blows my mind …
Dave Asprey: That’s pretty cool.
Tim Ferriss: … which is honestly really empowering to read by itself. It’s title could be because it’s the beginning of the piece “I Am Not A Self-Made Man,” really interesting about learning from other people. That’s a good place to go, Tools of Titans or BandN.com, Amazon.com, wherever dot com, or your local bookstore. You’ll be able to find it everywhere. It’s hard to miss, I mean it’s gigantic. It has a bright red cover on it, so if it’s there it will be hard to miss.
Dave Asprey: Well, Tim, thanks for being on Bulletproof Radio today.
Tim Ferriss: My pleasure, man! Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
Dave Asprey: If you enjoyed today’s episode, you know what to do. Head on out and pick up a copy of Tim’s book, read it, use the knowledge in it to do something good. It’s a pretty straightforward ask and it’s actually worth your time to do it. I really do my best to not waste your time on this show. This was hopefully a useful interview for you with lots of tidbits, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you on the next episode.