Dave: Hey, everyone, it’s Dave Asprey with Bulletproof Radio, the number one ranked health podcast on iTunes.
Today’s cool fact of the day is that The Bulletproof Diet, my newly launching book, hit number 15 of all books on Amazon four months before being released. Now that it’s the week of the release, I’m really, really excited and grateful for the volume just for people buying the book and sharing it with their friends. I put a lot of heart and soul into it, so thank you for taking your time to check it out, and thanks for listening to the show today.
Today’s guest is a guy whose work I’ve known for substantially more than a decade, one of the original brain hacker biohacker guys, who has been working on hacking the brain probably as long as I’ve been alive or maybe something close to that. It’s none other than Bill Harris from the Centerpointe Research Institute.
Bill, welcome to the show.
Bill Harris: I’m glad to be here, Dave. When you’re 95 years old like I am, at least like you’re implying that I am, it’s good to be anywhere.
Dave: Are you calling me old, Bill?
Bill Harris: I don’t think I’m that much older than you.
Dave: You’re not. I’m just giving you a hard time there.
Bill, you’ve been working on hacking the brain for about 30 years; right?
Bill Harris: Yeah. We didn’t call it hacking the brain. I’ve just, like you, been interested in how to improve my thinking abilities, my motivation, my peace of mind, et cetera, et cetera, my health and all of those things. Then some of my younger employees started telling me about biohacking and your name came up.
I think this one young women that works for me, Babe knew Zack, who works for you, so when you were in Portland visiting him we got together and spent a couple hours sitting in my office realizing that we were doing a lot of the same stuff.
Dave: I wish I’d had a video recorder then, because we had the coolest conversations about how the brain works. One of the things that really stood out to me was that you opened a filing cabinet and you pulled out this kind of ridiculous EEG, almost like a lie detector printout, showing me your brain waves. You have some pretty strong brain waves there. It’s obvious that your technology has done something for you, and I’ve looked at enough EEGs, metrograms, to know that some of the differences there, although I’m not a trained neuro-feedback expert, I was pretty blown away.
Your work is very influential in how sounds influence the brain kind of state. Back in about 1996, ’97, I read my first info about this. I said, “This is great. I’ll do it myself,” so I got a video game sound editor, a thing they use to make sound effects, like Atari- and Pong-level sound effects, to be honest. This was a while ago.
I made my own primitive binaural beats, and they certainly did something, but I realized that there’s definitely an art and a science to this.
I was pretty excited when I heard about Centerpointe, and I became a lifetime member of your program, which is not a small commitment. I’ve been a member for a long time, and that means that I get custom-made audio. I don’t listen every night but for quite a while there every night I would listen when I was going to sleep. I know that your technology works because I’ve used it. I was honored to get a chance to meet you and chat with you.
Bill Harris: Well, you know, we weren’t the very first people to use this kind of technology commercially, but we were one of the first, and we’re really the ones that made this particular space. I mean, I have all these knock-off pretenders who are making binaural beat kind of soundtracks. What they lack, though, is that … It’s more than an art really.
There’s an infinite number of variations on how you could use this kind of technology, and it took me quite a long time, just like you’ve done a lot of research on coffee and other supplements and everything. I did the same thing for many years. Then we have a big laboratory of at this point of about 2 million people who have given us feedback. Then I’m a certified trainer of NLP. I’ve been meditating literally for 45 years. I’m a Zen monk. And on and on.
I know what happens when you stimulate the brain in this way. I know what people go through. I know how to guide them through it. I know exactly how to use this kind of technology to get the greatest results. Most of the rest of these people are kind of doing like you were. They’re saying, “Oh, this is simple to do it.” I often use the metaphor of it would be like I’m the best pastry chef in the world, although I don’t eat pastries, so maybe I should pick a different metaphor anytime I say this. Because I’m eating something very similar to your bulletproof diet, but I’m the greatest pastry chef in the world.
Somebody else goes out and buys The Joy of Cooking and makes some pastries and then goes online and says, “My pastries are just as good as Bill Harris’s because they have the same, they have flour and they have sugar and they have eggs and they have this, and it’s the same thing.” But of course it isn’t the same thing. Because the best pastry chef in the world knows one hell of a lot more about making delicious pastries than somebody that just read a recipe out of a book.
Anyway, we don’t need to make this about me and my puny little competitors.
Dave: You know what they say? Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Same thing; there have been times when I’ve written a post with new information. Within five minutes there are people who copy the post, edit a few words, and it goes out there. But end of the day, it’s good that people are paying attention to how they can control their brain and realizing that they have the ability to use a whole bunch of different technologies to improve who they are and how they perform.
It’s that way with food. You can buy a hot dog on those little roller things at 7-Eleven, which is better than starving barely.
Bill Harris: It’s a little bit better than starving.
Dave: Yeah. You can also get a grass-fed, perfectly seasoned sausage, made by the top sausage maker in the country and cooked perfectly. Well, they’re still both sausage. They both kept you from starving. One of them was more expensive than the other. One of them was quantifiably and qualitatively better, and there’s a whole spectrum of hot dogs, between the sort of wrinkled rolley one and the most gourmet thing on earth.
Where you end up there is over time as you start becoming an expert here on sausage, you end up saying, “Well, that one was a lot better than that one. Maybe I should go up there.”
My own path as a biohacker has oftentimes been, “All right. I’m going to do something.” And, “Oh, something in that direction worked. What’s the apex? Who’s the best in the world? How can I talk to that guy?”
Here I would say without a lot of reservation that when it comes to using sounds to manipulate brain states, it doesn’t get more best in the world or more experienced than you. That’s not a small thing to say, but you’re one of the world’s leading experts on this.
Bill Harris: I totally agree. I’ve been doing this for 29 years now and definitely have more experience and more feedback and all that sort of thing. But really you don’t think that those 7-Eleven hot dogs are cooked correctly then?
Dave: Yeah, they’re too rare. They could be more wrinkled.
Bill Harris: I see. The reason that I bring this up is that most of the stuff out there that is brain entrainment is really garbage, and people get it and they think, “Wow, I saved money because it costs less,” and they use it for a week or two at most, and then they put it aside and they don’t do anything. We have people use Holosync for 10 years, 12 years, 15 years, and if they get to the end of the program, they start saying, “Oh, no, what am I going to do when I’ve finished all the levels of this?”
I’ve never regretted getting the best of anything, and I’ve often regretted getting something that was a knock-off or a cheap version or whatever.
Dave: There’s a thing that happens when you’re trying to get a lot done. You only have so much time and so much energy. People are going to come in at wherever they can, and they’ll improve. What I work to do in my own life and especially with Bulletproof video is to help people understand cost benefit trade-offs and where they can go so that you don’t have to make a bunch of mistakes along the way.
Let me tell you a story about my own experience with using your stuff, and then I’d like you to tell me whether that’s normal. Then walk people listening through how it works, like, what can you do with Centerpointe technology?
Bill Harris: Good.
Dave: The first thing I experienced with it is there’s some relaxing sounds. You sort of drift off. I would tend to drift off. I misused your software because I would use it at bedtime, and you recommend sitting up and doing it when you’re not going to fall asleep, but I found that I was still getting some benefit and I was compressing my time. So I’d use it around bedtime and sometimes I’d stay awake for a while. Sometimes I’d make it three-quarters of the way through and I’d go to sleep.
It feels like it’s helping you to un-program those unconscious fight or flight responses during the day, but it does it really slowly and gently was my perception of it.
I’ve done some really aggressive self-development, the 40 years of Zen kind of thing that I do is P90X for your brain. I’m not affiliated with P90X. I don’t want to misuse that, but that level of super high intensity, like a super marathon or something. But what yours was doing, it felt like a very natural, an unwrapping of that stuff so that you kind of just gently let it go.
When I would play it for both Lana and I, she could tell it was like a little bit of emotional weirdness sometimes, that you just feel a little bit cranky after you listen to it like it was helping you to see more what was going on in your nervous system.
Is that a typical explanation or are we just weird people?
Bill Harris: Well, I think both.
Dave: Thanks, Bill.
Bill Harris: In your case. You said so much there. There’s so many cans of worms you opened, let me see if I can …
First of all, when you’re listening to this, there’s a lot of things I could say about what’s happening, but, first of all, you’re changing the electrical patterns in your brain, and there’s a lot of things that happen when you do that. There are many beneficial states that are associated with alpha brain waves, theta brain waves, delta brain waves.
When we take you through that spectrum every day, essentially what happens is more neural real estate gets trimmed over, first of all, to the ability to go into those brain wave patterns.
Most people are reasonably good at making delta while they’re asleep and beta while they’re awake and maybe a little smidgen of alpha here and there, but most people can’t make theta and alpha, particularly while they’re awake. Those two brain wave patterns are kind of the connector between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind, and that’s one of the reasons why people are so darned unconscious in their behavior and all that sort of thing.
First of all, we’re just training people to have access to this whole spectrum, which means that if you need to be creative, you naturally and automatically can access a theta state, which is among many of the things, the source of an “Aha” experience, where you put something together in a new way and suddenly go, “Oh, I get it.” It’s where you actually learn something; you have an insight and so on. That’s one thing that’s happening.
Another thing that’s happening is that the parasympathetic nervous system, the source of rest and relaxation and that sort of thing, is being enhanced, and the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight side of the nervous system, is being slowed down.
I just made a video, for instance, about flow states. In doing a little bit of research one of the things I found out is that when people … In order to go into a flow state, you have to calm a part of the brain, the posterior cingulate cortex, which is the source of what brain scientists call the default state, which is the non-focused state, which many of the biohacker types think that they should permanently have that turned off so they can be hyper-focused all the time.
However, you have to go into that state to recharge, so it’s sort of … These are like people that want to be on Methedrine all the time so they’ll be hyper-focused. There’s a price to pay for that.
At any rate, it turns out that Holosync, when you listen to it, and so does traditional meditation. It’s just Holosync does it faster and more easily and more effortlessly. It turns down the posterior cingulate cortex and it enhances the other part of the brain that, when it’s enhanced, you can easily go into a flow state, and that is the prefrontal cortex.
I’m actually working on a book right now called Mastering Self-Regulation, and it’s really all about the prefrontal cortex, enhancing that, and turning down the parts of the brain that get in the way of self-regulation, the amygdala, for instance.
When somebody cuts you off in traffic and you feel like taking the gun out of the glove compartment and shooting them across the lanes of traffic, your prefrontal cortex hopefully steps in and says, “Long term consequences not really that good for that action” and you …
It turns out that the prefrontal cortex enhancement, which is one of the main things that meditation and Holosync on steroids does, has to do with willpower, it has to do with peace of mind, lowering stress, improving health, motivation, achievement, better relationships, getting into a flow state, healing emotional trauma, on and on and on and on.
There’s all of this stuff, there’s this axis between the amygdala, which fires off when the saber-toothed tiger is chasing you, which hasn’t happened to me for a long time. Occasionally somebody says something to me and I react as if a saber-toothed tiger was after me, but pretty soon my prefrontal cortex steps in and tells me, “Not a good idea.”
At any rate, that’s another way to look at this. It’s enhancing the parasympathetic nervous system and the prefrontal cortex. It’s calming the amygdala. It’s calming the post-fibular cortex. There’s no test on all these terms later in case this gets a little geeky sounding.
The thing I’ve been saying for a long time is that meditation in general and Holosync in spades creates awareness, and awareness creates choice. Another way to say that would be, the meditation and Holosync enhances the prefrontal cortex, giving you the ability to self-regulate, which is really what I mean when I talk about awareness.
Now, as to having funky emotions come up, like you mentioned, what everybody wants to be more aware, but they don’t stop to think what that really means. I mean, there is a brain signature which I’ve alluded to, but also people want to be aware of the oneness that people talk about when they meditate and they want to be aware in a mental ability way and that sort of thing. But also what you become aware of is all the crap you have repressed.
In everybody’s family there are things that are not okay to exhibit. Different emotions that you’re not supposed to express, different qualities. In some families it might not be okay to be the center of attention. Luckily, in my family it was okay to be the center of attention, and I loved being the center of attention.
Some people, they have to give a talk at work and they freak out because it’s not okay to be the center … They don’t know why they’re freaking out, but it has to do with all the stuff that’s repressed, and of course everybody is taught to repress selfishness and anger and stuff like that.
At any rate, you start to become aware of all this stuff that you have semi-successfully pushed out of your awareness. Really what happens when you repress this stuff, it comes out anyway but just in a very dysfunctional and immature way. And everybody can see that you, for instance … I don’t mean you personally … that you are selfish or angry or whatever. But you don’t think you’re angry because you’ve repressed it. You’ve pushed it out of your awareness.
Anyway, all this stuff, which is really what is standing in your way of feeling peaceful, happy, from being like those monks up in the Himalayas and so on where they just have all this equanimity and peacefulness, calm, compassion, all that; this is the stuff that’s standing in the way of that.
What happens is that comes into awareness at some times and some people like more of it than others of course, but the real key is that some people … I was one of these people … their whole mode of dealing with life is to resist the things they don’t like. As soon as that stuff comes up, people go, “Oh, I don’t like this. I want this to stop. I hate this,” and they go into this resistant mode and they feel all this discomfort which they think is that stuff coming up, but it’s really what they’re feeling is their own resistance.
One of the things we’re trying to teach people while they’re doing this is let whatever happens be okay. Watch it with awareness and curiosity, saying, “Hmm, interesting. I’m feeling this really intense feeling in my stomach and I feel like smacking that guy.” But you’re stepping back from it and just noticing it rather than getting into this whole resistant thing or an expression thing of doing something that you’ll later regret.
That’s what was going on there. I could vamp on this forever.
Dave: What you just described there, the idea of feeling your own resistance, is terribly important. I see this in actually my five- and seven-year-olds a lot. They’ll say, “That is annoying,” and I’ll say, “Actually, that’s not what’s happening here. What’s happening is you are feeling annoying and you don’t like that thing.” There’s a fundamental difference between labeling something else as being the cause and labeling your reaction to the something else as being the cause.
Bill Harris: Absolutely. I have a course. It takes six months to go through that goes into all the internal cognitive processes that people do that create how they feel, how they behave, which people and situations they unconsciously, for the most part, attract or become attracted to and what meanings they assign to things.
One of the things that I say to people is, there’s a trigger. Something happens. You have some sort of sensory experience, which could also be having a thought, but usually that’s triggered by something. There’s the trigger, and then what people think is that there’s a trigger and then I feel X. But actually there’s a step in between. There’s a trigger. You make certain internal representations inside your head, which are designed to be happening outside your awareness actually. If they weren’t you’d go nuts with the volume of shit going on in your head. But that is what creates good feelings, bad feelings, whatever.
This whole system works really great as long as you survive childhood without any trauma, and by “trauma” I mean something happens in life that causes you to say, “You know, that is a potential danger to me.”
Now, the percentage of people who survive childhood without that happening is zero. Because we’re living in a world where you can’t get everything you want all the time, and there’s plenty of disappointments, plenty of chances for loss. There’s a whole big thing I could do about that, but we don’t have time for that.
Dave: It’s important, people who are listening, imagine you’re two and you wanted the French fry, and you didn’t get the French fry. Your nervous system may have just been so pissed off about that that it created a sense of loss that created a little trauma that made you react in a tiny way. It doesn’t have to be that big of a thing for you to just get some labeling that says “This is …”
Bill Harris: Especially when you’re little and helpless and dependent, something that … If I didn’t give you a French fry. I wouldn’t give you poison like a French fry. I don’t know why you picked that. But if I didn’t give you something you wanted like that, some little item like that, it wouldn’t be a big deal to you, but to a little kid it can be traumatic.
If you come home from school and you’re six and you have something you spent quite a while drawing at school and you want to show your mother and she’s upset because she just realized that there’s a big bill due and she doesn’t have enough money to cover it and so she’s worrying, so she sort of doesn’t pay attention to you. She doesn’t even notice that because an adult that happened would be understanding of that usually, but the child might go, “God, mom doesn’t think that I can draw. She doesn’t like me. She doesn’t care about what I do,” and that is a trauma. Any kind of loss could be.
At any rate, when we have these traumas, what happens is we say, “Oh, that is a potential danger to me.” To then avoid it, we make internal representations of the danger with the idea of avoiding it. The problem is that anything you focus on, especially repeatedly, your brain takes as a goal and it does two things with it.
First of all, it creates a bad feeling, which is a survival thing, so you’re alerted that when that thing comes along, it’s a danger, and it also causes your brain to say, “Okay, we can figure out how to attract or create more of this.” So you end up then attracting more of what you don’t want, and it becomes obviously a vicious circle where you just keep doing that.
What happens when you become more aware … Every time something reminds you unconsciously of that trauma, the same bad feelings … They’re usually the bad feelings of a powerless little child, powerless and dependent child. So they’re out of proportion to what’s really happening now. They’re just an echo of what happened back then.
Well, when people use Holosync or meditate for 30 years, they begin to see how they do that. They begin to see how there’s no danger in the present. I am taking something from the past and I am doing it now. That awareness of that process, seeing themselves create that bad feeling as they do it, makes it into a choice. Awareness creates choice, and then people automatically choose to drop it, to not do it.
People have remarkable changes in emotional health from doing this and remarkable increases in equanimity and that sort of a thing. You could look at it from a more neural physiological point of view too and say, “Well, that person’s parasympathetic nervous system was enhanced. The sympathetic nervous system was turned down so that they don’t feel that reactiveness.”
You can explain this in different ways, but it’s all kind of the same thing. Your brain changes, turns more neural real estate over to being happy, being calm, being peaceful, being focused, being creative, et cetera, and turns down the part of the brain that’s going to be reactive and angry and resistant and repressing stuff and all of that. We’ve got a hell of a lot of people who have done this to shore up our wild claims.
Dave: A lot of people who are hearing this, we just sound like therapists or people, “Oh, childhood trauma.” Look, I’m 30 years old, at the top of my game, I’m physically ripped, but here’s the deal. I didn’t know any of this stuff when I was say, 30. I’m 42 now. I’ve spent the last 12 years and actually maybe even 15 digging in on this stuff, realizing, you can hack the physical body but when you get your hardware working, it’s easier to do the work on the software.
We’re talking about software programming here, not getting yourself healthy. Although when you fix the software, the hardware tends to run better.
Bill Harris: When you turn down the sympathetic nervous system and you have less stress, there’s less inflammation in your body, there’s less dangerous nerve chemicals and dangerous hormones being created.
When I see somebody that’s using Holosync like at a live event and then I see them again a year later, the amount of glow in their face and the ease that they have, and there’s perception that they’re even more comfortable in their own skin. All of those things are really palpably obvious. So it does affect health too.
Anyway, didn’t mean to interrupt. We’re back to the software part.
Dave: It was a great interruption, because if you’re listening to this and it just sounds like, “What the heck?” Here’s the thing. Your body is not rationale. It doesn’t have a brain to think. It’s a nervous system. It’s reactionary. I didn’t get this, and I had no clue at the depths of my powers of self-deception.
When you use a technology like this, when you use some of the other complimentary things like meditation, breathing exercises, vipassana, neuro-feedback, heart rate; anything that increases awareness of what’s going on in your body, you’re going to start running into these things. One response is to say, “It doesn’t matter. I can ignore the signal.” I don’t think you’ll reach a state of high performance that way. You’ll continuously get in there and wait. You won’t know why, and it’s like, “Crap, just doesn’t work.”
But when you start peeling off these layers and looking at it, you realize that your capacity for performance is there. I would not know how to do what I do today with the Bulletproof Executive if I hadn’t have gone through and identified every one of those things that made my nervous system make a rule that was not in my interest. Some sort of survival reflex that wasn’t about a threat but my body thought it was.
I’ve spent seven weeks just with electrodes stuck to my head, several years listening to your technology, five years in Yoga, of doing daily breathing exercises, all that kind of stuff, with the idea of going back, finding every little thing and then reprogramming it so that I could control the way my nervous system responded.
As I did it, everything I did became easier and easier, just less and less effort involved. Part of performing well is not wasting your willpower doing stuff because you’re forcing yourself to overcome what your body is trying to prevent you from doing. It’s resetting the body so that it will stop resisting stuff that isn’t a threat.
Bill Harris: Well, and you also alluded to our capacity to self-delude. You sort of just said this from your own perspective. I didn’t realize how stressed I was and how much I was not aware of and how much I was missing until I gained enough awareness to see the difference, because I always thought that I was totally aware.
I was reading a book just the other day, and it was talking about some studies on self-delusion. They were talking in a different context, but people universally … I forget what the statistic is. They had people rate themselves on a whole bunch of qualities, and then they had other people that knew them rate them. A hundred percent of the people rated themselves way higher than other people rated them, and the people that realistically rated themselves, were people who were chronically depressed. They rated themselves the same way that other people saw them.
I guess if you saw yourself the way that everybody else sees you, you’d be depressed I guess. The depressed people were more realistic.
They called this your psychological immune system. It’s part of the mechanism by which if something bad happens to you, you are able to be much more optimistic about the prognosis of what’s going to happen than you would be if you were being totally realistic. It’s another interesting survival mechanism. But anyway, I’m going afield here.
Here’s another way of saying it. You know Ken Wilber. You at least know who he is. I’ve known Ken for a long time. One of the things he talks about is that we’re always immersed in something, a point of view, for instance.
When you’re immersed in something, you can’t see beyond it. Think about when you were 15 years old, the way you saw the world and the way you saw yourself and the way you saw your parents and life and everything. And the way you see it now. When you’re older you know so much more, but at that point you were immersed in something and, believe it or not, everybody that’s listening to this is immersed in something now too.
The more that you do things that make yourself more aware, that increase your ability to self-regulate, that increase your willpower, that increase your ability to observe things that usually people can’t observe, your perspective is enhanced, you see more, and you also notice limitations that you used to have.
I don’t know. I think we’ve covered that thing.
I think that’s a good point, Dave, that we don’t want people listening to this to say, “Oh, what’s the big deal? Why would I need this?” You don’t need this, but if you want to really enhance yourself in the best possible way …
I have to say I know that this is my product and everything, but this is one of the most amazing tools I have ever seen. I have never seen anything that so strongly affects human beings and regulates all kinds of problems that they had, whether they’re mental or emotional or relationship related or even physical health kinds of things. People that were depressed for years and on medication don’t need the medication after a few months of doing this and on and on and on.
I’m not suggesting anybody throw away their medication without their doctor being involved, but I’ve seen this have a huge effect on autistic kids, everything. It’s quite amazing.
I can take responsibility for putting together a program using this and guiding people through it. I didn’t discover this. I just stumbled across it when I was about 35 years old, started using it. It blew my mind. It changed me.
I think I’ve told you before, I was really angry, rough around the edges, difficult to get along with, unhappy, depressed a lot, et cetera, et cetera, and after using Holosync for a while, all this stuff that had been a lifelong problem just kind of all drained away and it thrust me into a completely different life.
At this point we have sold 150-plus million dollars worth of Holosync, and I’ve become quite wealthy. I give money to charities, tons of money, and all that. None of that would have happened without Holosync. I would have just continued to be a miserable, reasonably intelligent, semi-loser if I had not shaken up my head from doing this.
I’ve seen this happen with hundreds of thousands of other people too.
Dave: I would say flat out if you want to be an A-player and you want to max out your capacity, a practice like this, a practice of awareness, is a requirement. There’s many different ones out there, and I’m a fan of Centerpointe for sure. I have you on the show. But no matter, even if all you can afford is breathing exercises, some meditation every morning. You can do that.
You really owe it to yourself to do that. If you listen to Bullet Proof Radio, you’re probably the kind of person who already is doing this or really ought to be doing this. Otherwise, you’d be listening to some other show.
Bill Harris: Yeah. I think one of the qualities that I have that has served me, and I know you have this same quality, I bet most of the people listening to this do too, is that you’re a doer. When I find out about something, if I read about a molecule that if I consume it it’s going to do something beneficial for me, I say, “Where can I get it?” and I start doing it. I don’t wait around and say, “Well, I don’t know.”
When I was learning marketing or learning business stuff, I learned something and I put it into practice. I’ve always been … I didn’t even know I want to call it being a risk taker, because I think there’s more of a risk of not doing stuff than doing stuff.
Everything I decide to do doesn’t always work out. Sometimes I make some stupid decision about doing something but not so much anymore. That’s one of the great benefits of getting your brain working optimally is that you do way, way fewer stupid things.
Dave: Speaking of molecules you put in your body, what did you use to increase your performance before the podcast? Did you take smart drugs? Tell me your stack. I’m curious.
Bill Harris: Oh, you’re wanting me to tell everybody that I drank some Bulletproof coffee.
Dave: I’m pretty sure you did. I’ve seen you take handfuls of pills just like I do. Talk about that. If you did drink Bulletproof coffee, please do admit it. I’m assuming you also took Unfair Advantage, Gaba Wave, Collagen Protein… No, I’m kidding.
You must have taken a normal stack of things like fish oil and whatever else that you do. Just kind of the overview of that is what I was going for.
Bill Harris: I take a lot of things, and I don’t know if I can even remember them all. I take quite a bit of fish oil. Acetylcarnitine is something I take. Phosphorylated serine. I’m taking a bunch of stuff; 5HTP and stuff to enhance serotonin production. I do drink a couple of cups of Bulletproof coffee every day. I’m on a high good fat, low almost minuscule amount of carb diet. Let’s see. I take Vacha.
I’m trying to imagine taking them. I supplement extra Vitamin E. I’m taking Life Extension Foundation sort of mega-vitamin thing, which you take nine of a day, and it has literally everything you’ve ever heard of in it, every possible micro-nutrient and mineral and on and on and on.
Let’s see. What else am I …? I take a lot of Vitamin A.
By the way, you probably have already told people this, but you need to be doing regular blood panels. You just don’t throw a lot of stuff at the wall here. I take a certain amount of Vitamin A in order to keep my Vitamin A in a certain range. The same thing with all these things.
I take a lot of stuff, antioxidant. I take a lot of Resveratrol.
Gee, it’s too bad. If you’d told me, I would have brought my list, but it would take up a long time to read the whole thing.
Dave: It’s pretty similar to mine. I know we chatted about it when we last met in person.
Bill Harris: There’s not very many people I can sit down and talk to about all these supplements, and they say, “Yeah, yeah, I take that. Yeah, I take that. Yeah, I take that.” But I get blood tests to make sure I’m not going out of range on something or overdoing something.
Dave: Let’s switch gears and go back to something you mentioned earlier in the show, and it’s something that has been top of mind for me for the past about three years as I’ve really worked on focusing intuition and creativity, and that is the default mode network. This is a core part of the training in the Bulletproof Mind Upgrade, the new brain-training stuff that I’m working on and the stuff that’s using your technology.
The default mode for me being one of those guys who wants the ability to pay attention and focus and do what I want to do all day long and then switch gears and focus on meditation. “Hurry, meditate faster” is kind of the perspective I’ve got on things even though it’s funny.
Bill Harris: That’s sort of an oxymoron, but …
Dave: It is. There is an efficiency metric, how much benefit do you get from it.
Bill Harris: “Hurry, hurry, hurry and meditate.”
Dave: From that perspective, I’ve found for me to name a product or to write a book, I need to spend time with my brain awake but not focused, and it’s not a daydreaming state. It’s a default mode state. We’ve got the research that shows that your brain always has X amount of default mode and Y amount of active mode. You basically move between them. It’s not a binary state.
Talk more, if you would, about the default mode network and how it relates to flow states, specifically around intuition and creativity, because I’ve worked on training my own default model network so I can remember more of what goes on in there, and that’s what I’m working to teach others to do now.
You’re one of the guys who actually gets the neuroscience behind this. We haven’t planned this ahead of time, so I know what you’re going to say, but talk about the default model network, how it works, what it is, what it does.
Bill Harris: Well, as you probably know, daydreaming does happen in the default state, and there are plenty of scientific discoveries that happened when someone is in a default state. The carbon brain was …
Now I’m trying to think who it was that …
Dave: Watson and Crick did DNA, and you’re talking about the Bucky ball Formation?
Bill Harris: No. I’m talking about when they … God, whoever it was. This was long before that. He was staring into a fire and he’d been trying to figure out the molecular shape of Benzene.
Bill Harris: He’d been doing it for a long time. I can’t think who it was. It’s somebody famous. He was just sort of frustrated that he couldn’t figure it out. All creative things, there’s a time where you don’t get it and it’s frustrating, and then suddenly you get it.
He was just staring into the fire, and suddenly he kind of went into this trance-like state, which is probably a theta state, and he suddenly had this vision of a snake biting it’s own tail in a circle, and he came out of the state and said, “That’s it. It’s a ring. That’s why I couldn’t figure it out …” blah, blah, blah. There’s probably people that could tell that story a lot better because I’m just sort of pulling it out of long-term memory without a lot of the details coming with it.
Those kinds of things do happen in a default state, and they don’t happen when you’re in that highly analytical super-focused state. Both have their ability. That’s why I said that in my talk at the biohacking conference, because I’m talking to these people. They’re all hyper-focused, hyper-focused, “I want to be focused all the time. I’ve got to take more of these smart drugs so I’ll be focused all the time.” And I’m saying, “Well, okay, but that’s a little unbalanced and it won’t work.” That’s one thing.
The research on flow states shows that the prefrontal cortex is being enhanced during a flow state and, as I said earlier, the post cingulate cortex is being turned down. It also gets turned down in meditation. One of the things that they found is that long-term meditators not only can enter a flow state easily but they’re in a flow state most of the time. Not all the time, because being in a flow state does consume neuro-chemical ingredients that at a certain point need to be … You need to go into that default state so that you can renew that.
It even includes things like the potassium sodium balance in the brain, because when you do a power nap sort of a thing, for instance, the reason that you feel like you need one is because that balance is, among other things, it’s unbalanced. Then you close your eyes for seven or eight minutes and go into a slower brain wave pattern, and when you come back, suddenly you feel invigorated again.
Because in that state a lot of different sorts of things happen in your brain and in your endocrine system and things get realigned. Of course that’s why you need to sleep too and why you’ve done a lot of stuff to help people to have their sleep be more productive. Because some people can’t go through a normal sleep cycle very easily for various reasons; stress and their diet is probably a big part of it, but it could be other things too.
At any rate, when somebody meditates for a long time, they get, as I said earlier when I was talking about brain wave patterns, you go into these brain wave patterns, these other brain wave patterns, repeatedly the brain turns over more neuro real estate to being able to access them. It’s not like you say, “Well, I need to learn something. I think I’ll go into an alpha state.” It’s just like you’re sitting there wanting to learn something and you go into an alpha state. It just happens.
You need to be more persuasive, and if you’re really advanced, you go into a delta state. Or you need to do something creative, and you go into a theta state or whatever it happens to be.
Just in that same way, when you are meditating a lot and you’re learning how to go into a default state or out of a default state, when it’s necessary to do it, you just naturally do it. A lot of this stuff just gets on autopilot.
When these monks that were around, Matthieu Ricard, who has been called the world’s happiest man, one of the monks that they did the brain scans on, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, he doesn’t say, “I think I’ll be happy right now,” and then he becomes happy. He’s doing all this stuff effortlessly because his brain, more real estate has been turned over to being that way.
That’s what happens when you do these sorts of things, and the default state and more focused, more aware state, or, like you say, it’s sort of like a see-saw; when one is enhanced, the other goes down. But there’s a reason why your brain is built that way. It’s a nice arrangement.
Did I cover that?
Dave: I think you did.
Bill Harris: You probably had some other thoughts that I left out, though.
Dave: We’ve talked about it quite a bit on our calls and when we’ve met in person.
I have found that a lot of times good stuff happens in that default mode, but I’m not paying attention, so it goes away. It’s like you wake up in the morning and if you don’t write the dream down or tell someone, it evaporates.
In my own experience, the vast majority of my best ideas evaporate because I’m not paying attention when they happened. I worked on being able to pay more attention and create a memory thread when I’m in a default mode so that I can harvest more of what’s already happening in my brain.
I’m one of those guys who says, “Look, I want to have enough energy and intention to focus on what I want to do.” I want a very high amplitude focus. “I’m doing this now. I’m going to laser focus, I’m going to lock in, I’m going to do it.” Then I want to go into default mode. I drop everything. I’ve got to sink into a meditative, into a default mode state.
I want to do that with high amplitude so I can be all the way on or more off, but if I’m good at being all the way off, then when I’m really in a super-altered state … This has been one of my biggest challenges for meditation is that I can go too deep. I’m not asleep. I just don’t remember.
I see colors and I go somewhere and I’m really in a good spot, but I want to bring back the gift that comes from being in those states. I wasn’t always doing it. I’ve worked for several years on ways to train myself to bring that back and that’s the direction that I’ve headed with Bulletproof Mind Upgrade software, to help people understand when you do have some downtime, what’s the magic that happens and how you bring it back into the world instead of just letting it stay on your pillow when you wake up in the morning.
Bill Harris: Well, I found that one thing that helps bring it back is a situational need for it. There’s plenty of examples of this in history anyway where someone has a problem and they sleep on it and then they have an insight, but it’s not like they wake up and say, “Aha, I’ve got the answer.” Maybe later in the day, they’re in a conference with some people where they’re talking about this problem, and because they had the intention to think about it, the unconscious mind worked on it while they were asleep and now that it comes up again, you begin to, “Hey, I’ve got an idea,” but the idea really happened while you were asleep.
I think it’s sort of a truism that anything you measure or keep track of improves. If you, like you say, keep something to write on near where you’re sleeping and you write it down, it just helps your short-term memory become long-term memory and helps make those connections. I think that’s a really excellent thing to do.
There’s nothing wrong with … Some people think if they write things down it means, “Well, I must not have the super memory that I’m supposed to have when I’m taking CILTEP…” or whatever. Write things down.
I mentioned that book, The Organized Mind, in my talk.
Dave: It’s a great book.
Bill Harris: You were off stage, and you said, “Great book. I’m reading that too.”
Bill Harris: One of the things that I learned from that book or clarified was that you have a limited amount of attention. There’s only so much you can hold in awareness. High performance people that he mentions in there, and I already knew this because I was doing it, they either turn over some things that they don’t want to have to waste attention on to an assistant or some software or something like that, or they just write them down or whatever. So that they only have to hold in awareness at any one time the thing that’s most important to address with awareness.
There’s nothing wrong at all with using outside tools to help you do that.
Dave: This is one of the things I missed early in my career. I had my first job in high-end corporate strategic planning. I was responsible for a technology strategy for this multi-billion-dollar company, and I would do this tech strategy. I’m like, “What should we do next?” and I thought, “Well, I’m taking this kind of complex ideas and they’re already so simple. Everyone in this room should understand them.” I would describe to my friends, “Look, strategy is taking ideas that are already crayon simple and redoing them in fingerprints for executives.”
Honestly, I was arrogant and I thought it was because the executives were dumb or something. What I didn’t understand is that they were all practicing this idea that, “Look, Dave, you’re the expert. You spent three to six months studying this and coming up with all this.” But I’m dealing with 100 other people like you, so I have exactly this much, this tiny little fraction of my attention for what you’re going to do, so give it to me in a way I can digest it.
Now that I’m a CEO and I have enormous pressure on my time, because a lot of people want to talk and a lot of people I want to help. I feel like I could do a lot, but if I’m not really, really strict on monitoring that, I can fill my brain with stuff that isn’t that helpful.
I’ve become one of those people who uses an assistant and I don’t necessarily know what day of the week it is and I don’t always know my own zip code because I don’t need to hold that in my mind. It’s not important information. It’s not unique. It’s not my special abilities, so I just don’t need it.
For me, that was actually a big, actually a fear thing. You don’t want to be perceived as dumb and you don’t want to actually be like a helpless child, but there’s times when there’s things I know I’m capable of doing them, but I don’t do it regularly and it would take me an hour. I can ask one of the people I count on to support my mission to help me do it and they’ll do it far more efficiently than I would. That’s not because I’m weak. It’s because I’m doing something else.
Bill Harris: Hallelujah. I’m the same way. There are plenty of things that would probably be nice if I did learn them. I’ve confessed to you that I’m an idiot on technology. If I need to do something in my phone, I go get Babe, who worked in the next office over, who’s 28 and she knows how to do all that stuff and she shows me. Then 20 minutes later I’ve forgotten it because I won’t have to do it again for two or three weeks. By then I’ll think, “I don’t remember exactly how she did this.”
But I’m not willing to go through the learning curve to master that stuff because it just isn’t that important to me. I don’t care if I know how to post something on Instagram or whatever. I’ll find somebody else to do that stuff for me just like you were saying.
Dave: Yeah. It’s not a sign of weakness, which is what I always thought it was, or a sign of stupidity. It’s a sign of being very, very motivated and very focused on getting the maximum impact, the maximum stuff done that matters.
Bill Harris: I make lists of stuff that I need to accomplish and then I just … I know now … I’ve been doing this kind of stuff for a long time. I know that I’m never going to do all that stuff. It’s just impossible to do it all. There’s always more stuff and more ideas that I have and everything than I can accomplish, so I always do the highest priority stuff. I’ve never regretted the fact that I can’t do it all, because how can you improve on doing what’s the highest priority and always doing that?
Bill Harris: The unfortunate thing with people that aren’t accomplishing very much is that they don’t have enough prefrontal cortex activity to realize that the long-term consequences of doing the low-priority stuff like playing Angry Birds for an hour when you could be learning something or whatever, they’re doing lower priority stuff. They’re certainly sometimes doing nothing and relaxing and watching a movie or whatever is the highest priority for me. It just makes it really easy when you just take all the other stuff …
As soon as I do something or delegate it to somebody, I completely forget about it.
Bill Harris: Occasionally whoever I delegated it to screws it up or drops the ball or something and then I discover that two months later, and it kind of ticks me off, because I think, “Hey, look, I can’t remember all this stuff for you. You’ve got to do it.” It doesn’t happen that often, but I completely forget about it as soon as it happens.
Dave: You’re not alone. I’ve spent the last two years with exceptionally high-performance people, people running companies with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and to a T, they’re all doing the same thing that you and I are talking about, because that’s what people at the very highest level of performance do, because you do hit a limit of working memory.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you can post to Instagram because there’s a ton of people who do it for free and would love to have a job doing it, and it’s not a good use of your time. Even though it seems trivial, when you’re at capacity, everything you add is non-trivial because it’s taking from something else that’s important.
Bill Harris: I just gave that Instagram as an example so people would think I know what that is. I think it has something to do with posting pictures of something, but I’ve never been on Instagram, and if I never am on Instagram it will be okay with me.
Quite frankly, I don’t understand all this social media stuff very well because I just don’t have enough time to lurk on Facebook and chat with people continuously. I go on there once in a while.
Dave: I think Instagram is Friendster meets Snapchat for millenials, but I’m not entirely sure.
Everyone laughing right now is going, “Yeah, whatever, Dave.”
Bill Harris: I don’t even know what you just said, Dave.
Dave: I can tell you I use Snapchat, which is something that people from the generation after me are using all the time. I finally used it two weeks ago, which is one of those services.
I helped to create some of the infrastructure that’s connecting our conversation right now, and I was the first guy to sell something over the internet back in the early ’90’s. I sold caffeine tee-shirts from my dorm room. Even just by all that stuff, there’s a ton of things like that that I don’t know either.
It’s kind of funny, because there’s a pressure that I feel as a tech guy to stay on top of all that, and the more I do what I do, the less I’m on top of it.
I actually had to hack my own stress response to that. I don’t have it anymore. I don’t feel that, “I’m falling behind. I’m losing my edge.” I finally got rid of that, but that was really hard to do. I feel really comfortable. When one of the people on my team says, “Look, I’ll figure that one out for you,” I’m like, “Ah, thank you.” I’m going to go back and I’m going to record another really good podcast or I’m going to write the next part of the next book or whatever it is. I feel like I’m just doing more there.
It’s interesting. I didn’t know we’d talk about this, but it’s cool.
Bill Harris: When you begin to lose your edge, I’ll let you know.
Dave: Okay, Bill.
On that note, we’re near the end of the show. I want to know your top three recommendations for people to perform better. You’re one of the guys who’s going to have an amazing answer to this, I already know. I don’t know your answer, but I know that you’ve led a pretty interesting life. You’ve spent so much time both as an entrepreneur and as a meditator and as a brain hacker, bio-hacker. Top three most important lessons from all that experience?
Bill Harris: You know, if I had to pick three things, first of all, you should be meditating. What we find is that people who use Holosync get the same benefits as people who meditate for decades, but they get it eight times faster. There are some things that happen when you do Holosync that you’d have to be one of those monks in the Himalayas just sitting there for 30 minutes a day or an hour a day.
The first one would be definitely use Holosync. Holosync is really amazing and people love doing it. Once you start doing it, you’re high on your own brain chemicals and you don’t even want to consider not doing it.
The second thing I think is to eat a non-inflammatory diet, to eat a diet high in good fats, protein, lots of vegetables, that sort of a thing. Certainly the Bulletproof version of that diet, I’d be remiss if I told them to go look at some other version of it. There’s a lot of people talking about this kind of diet.
Dave: It’s becoming mainstream, yes.
Bill Harris: You want to have the medium chain triglyceride, oils, all that stuff. So that’s the second thing is get rid of the low-fat typical high-carb diet, which is sort of akin to poisoning yourself. Your brain function and your health and everything will improve dramatically just from that one thing.
I think the third thing I would say, I wish I had something more exotic. I guess Holosync is a little exotic. The third thing is exercise, except that I’ve heard you say something about how little you exercise. I work out every day for five minutes.
Dave: For five minutes. That would be a little exercise. I thought we agreed on that one too.
Bill Harris: I have that ROM machine that I told you about, which is a four-minute exercise. Then I do between 100 and 150 push-ups just for fun before I go to bed. Some people would say, “Don’t do it before you go to bed,” but I actually get in bed and watch old movies for about an hour, and then I go to sleep, so it’s not right before bed. That’s my exercising.
When I’m sitting there watching boxing on TV or something, I’ll do a whole bunch of stretches. I try to get that in too, but I don’t know if that counts as working out.
If you do those three things, you’re pretty good. If I was going to add a fourth one, you mentioned breathing exercises. When I’m reading a book or driving in my car or something, I’m doing a reasonably fast, like three-, four-, five-second inhale and then a 30-, 40-second exhale. That goes on autopilot. I just do that. That enhances the parasympathetic nervous system, turns down the sympathetic nervous system, and that’s another very, very great thing to do.
If I’d add a fifth one, I would say sleep, and certainly there are lots of ways to supplement your diet in order to enhance a lot of things. When you get older, certain genes begin to malfunction or shut down or whatever. There are ways, though, to replace some of what those genes used to be doing or to take supplements that cause those genes to continue to operate the way that they were meant to.
Most people that meet me would not guess that I’m a month away from being 65, which probably people that are that old that look better than I do, but I beat the 25-year-olds up six flights of stairs. To tell you the truth, I’m not even breathing hard after doing 100 push-ups.
Dave: It’s kind of funny. When I met you in person, you would strike me as someone who is full of vim and vigor, to use an older term, but you’re full of energy, and you can tell someone who’s vibrant and someone who’s starting to deal with aging. You’re definitely doing something right. We’ll just put it that way.
Bill Harris: I refuse to get old or fat, and I don’t see any reason for it. I used to watch Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, who were the original creators of Life Extension Foundation, which they then sold to people that made it into a real business, but they used to be on the Merv Griffin Show back in the … I don’t know when it was … early ’70’s? I think I was in my early 20’s or something. They were talking about taking all these weird things to extend life and all that. I got interested in that. I took all the pre-med sciences in school, so I was kind of geekily reading, coming across scientific journal articles about stuff.
I feel really grateful that I followed all this stuff. I didn’t know where it was going to go. If we check back a year from now, there will be even more stuff that has been figured out. I would be just like all those other fat people walking around in the mall if I hadn’t learned about this. I see people that are my age all the time, and I think, “I wish this slow guy would get out of my way, and he doesn’t seem like he’s very with it,” and then I look at him and I think, “I’m probably older than he is.”
But they’re eating a typical crappy American diet and they aren’t supplementing anything. They aren’t exercising. They don’t have enough prefrontal cortex ability to have the willpower … I don’t even like that word really, because it makes it sound like it’s hard. They don’t have the foresight to exercise and do all these things that we’re doing as a matter of course.
Of course you don’t have to exercise for a long time because the best research lately is that small amounts of exercise that are intense does much more. I always didn’t like sitting on an exercise bicycle for 45 minutes anyway.
Dave: I love your stories. They’re so accurate. I’ve experienced some similar things, even the Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw stuff. I didn’t get into it as early as you. It will pay dividends, but they take a long time.
On that note, we’re out of time for the show. I just wanted to say thanks again for both speaking at the Bulletproof Biohacking Conference in Pasadena and thanks for being on the show again. I’m really excited that we’re working on the Bulletproof Mind Upgrade, so I’m appreciative of that. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with Bulletproof listeners.
Where can people learn more about you?
Bill Harris: Well, are you going to post a link so they can go and check on Holosync?
Bill Harris: That’s the best way, because I don’t think we make exactly determined as we’re recording this where to send them exactly.
Bill Harris: But it will be worth going to, I promise that.
Dave: All right.
Bill Harris: There’s about a 20-minute demo sample that you can listen to online and a ton of information on our website. Click on the link below the screen and it will show you anything you need to know.
Dave: To learn more about Bill Harris’s work with Centerpointe and to get a 20-minute demo, go to BulletproofExec.com/Centerpointe. When you go to BulletproofExec.com/Centerpointe, you’ll learn all that you’d like to know about this. It’s actually worth just trying out the free demo. It’s cool stuff.
Bill Harris: Make sure they know how to spell “Centerpointe” too, with an “E” on the end.
Dave: All right. Let me say that one more time. “Centerpointe,” with an “E.”
On that note, thanks, everyone. Have an awesome day.
Bill, as always, it’s a great pleasure.
Bill Harris: Well, thanks for inviting me, Dave.
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