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Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is usually my job in the long-form interviews to deconstruct world-class performers of all different types to tease out the routines, habits, favorite books, etc. that you can apply to your own lives. This episode is going to be something different. It's an experimental format that I'm super excited about. I've been thinking about it for a long time, and it really scratches an itch that I've had for years. I'm asked all the time, "What are your favorite podcasts to listen to?" And the fact of the matter is, I'm so busy with this podcast that I don't always get to listen to what I want to listen to. Right? There's so many great podcasts out there, even when they are by some of my closest friends. So my answer to this predicament was to ask them to send me one of their top segments each from their podcast that I can listen to and, just as important, also share with you, my dear listeners. So my team edited these together, and here we are. This episode is a compilation of 15 to 30 minute clips from some of the best podcasters in the world and certainly some of my favorites. And I told them that these segments have to be valuable as standalones, so you will get value from them. At the beginning of each clip, you'll hear an intro from the host, where to find their work and podcast, and so on. At the end, I'll also share one of my favorite clips from an episode of this podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, from one of the long-form interviews. You will notice that the first host is Sam Harris, and he actually includes some audio from his app, the Waking Up app, which I asked for, and I put him first very, very deliberately because I want to give you all some of my favorite meditations that you could listen to repeatedly. And to use this episode basically as a boot-up mechanism or a reboot mechanism when you're feeling stressed or immersed in the chaos or just need some perspective. So, that is why Sam is first. So, you can view this episode as a buffet. I strongly suggest you check out the shows included. And if you like my podcast, you will very likely enjoy the featured shows in this episode. For a full list of the guests featured today, see the episode's description or, as usual, head to tim.blog/podcast for all the details. And before you go, please let me know what you think of this episode. What do you think of this format? What can we do to improve, make it even better? Let me know on Twitter @tferris. That's T-F-E-R-R-I-S-S. And if you can, please CC @teamtimferris because that will also notify my team who will want to keep an eye on these things. Whether we continue this series or not depends on you. Of course, I'm still going to do the long-form interviews. That's going to be the meat and potatoes of this podcast. But I want to experiment with different formats because it is fun. And I need to keep this thing fun for me. With all that said, please enjoy. This podcast episode is brought to you by Helix Sleep. Sleep is super important to me. In the last few years, I've come to conclude it is the end-all be-all. That all good things, good mood, good performance, good everything seem to stem from good sleep. So I've tried a lot to optimize it. I've tried pills and potions, all sorts of different mattresses, you name it. And for the last few years, I've been sleeping on a Helix Midnight Luxe mattress. I also have one in the guest bedroom. And feedback from friends has always been fantastic. It's something that they comment on. Helix Sleep has a quiz, takes about two minutes to complete, that matches your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress for you. With Helix, there's a specific mattress for each and every body. That is your body, also your taste. So let's say you sleep on your side in like a super soft bed. No problem. Or if you're a back sleeper who likes a mattress that's as firm as a rock, they've got a mattress for you too. Helix was selected as the number one best overall mattress pick of 2020 by GQ Magazine, Wired, Apartment Therapy, and many others. Just go to helixsleep.com/tim, take their two-minute sleep quiz, and they'll match you to a customized mattress that will give you the best sleep of your life. They have a 10-year warranty, and you get to try it out for 100 nights risk-free. They'll even pick it up from you if you don't love it. And now, my dear listeners, Helix is offering up to $200 off of all mattress orders and two free pillows at helixsleep.com/tim. These are not cheap pillows either, so getting two for free is an upgraded deal. So that's up to $200 off and two free pillows at helixsleep.com/tim. That's helix, H-E-L-I-X, sleep.com/tim for up to $200 off. So check it out one more time, helix, H-E-L-I-X, sleep.com/tim. This episode is brought to you by Allform. If you've been listening to this podcast for a while, you've probably heard me talk about Helix Sleep and their mattresses, which I've been using since 2017. I have two of them upstairs from where I'm sitting at this moment. Helix has gone beyond the bedroom and started making sofas. They've launched a company called Allform, A-L-L-F-O-R-M, and they're making premium customizable sofas and chairs shipped right to your door at a fraction of the cost of traditional stores. So I'm sitting in my living room right now, and it's entirely Allform furniture. I've got two chairs, I've got an ottoman, and I have an L-sectional couch, and I'll come back to that. You can pick your fabric. They're all spill stain and scratch resistant, the sofa color, the color of the legs, the sofa size, the shape to make sure it's perfect for you in your home. Also, Allform arrives in just three to seven days, and you can assemble it all yourself in a few minutes. No tools needed. I was quite astonished by how modular and easy these things fit together, kind of like Lego pieces. They've got armchairs, love seats, all the way up to an eight-seat sectional, so there's something for everyone. You can also start small and kind of build on top of it if you wanted to get a smaller couch and then build out on it, which is actually in a way what I did, because I can turn my L-sectional couch into a normal straight couch and then with a separate ottoman in a matter of about 60 seconds. It's pretty rad. So I mentioned I have all these different things in this room. I used the natural leg finish, which is their lightest color, and I dig it. I mean, I've been using these things hours and hours and hours every single day. So I am using what I am sharing with you guys. And if getting a sofa without trying it in store sounds risky, you don't need to worry. Allform sofas are delivered directly to your home with fast, free shipping, and you get 100 days to decide if you want to keep it. That's more than three months. And if you don't love it, they'll pick it up for free and give you a full refund. Your sofa frame also has a forever warranty. That's literally forever. So check it out. Take a look. They've got all sorts of cool stuff to choose from. I was skeptical and actually worked. It worked much better than I could have imagined, and I'm very, very happy. So to find your perfect sofa, check out allform.com/tim. That's A-L-L-F-O-R-M dot com slash tim. Allform is offering 20% off all orders to you, my dear listeners, at allform.com/tim. Make sure to use the code "tim" at checkout. That's allform.com/tim and use code "tim" at checkout. At this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I answer your personal question? No, I would have seen an appropriate time. What if I get the eye on you? I'm a cybernetic organism living tissue over metal endoskeleton. The Tim Ferriss Show.
Key Insights From Sam Harris And Peter Attia
Who is Sam Harris? (07:40)
Hello, Tim Ferriss fans. This is Sam Harris. I've been on this podcast a couple of times before, and I'm also a frequent listener. I host my own podcast, Making Sense, and I also have an app called Waking Up, which I previewed here on Tim's podcast about three years ago, and it's been a major focus of mine ever since. As some of you might remember, my academic background is in neuroscience and philosophy. I also share Tim's interest in psychedelics, both in the current scientific research and in the occasional personal use. I've also spent a lot of time practicing various forms of meditation. When I was an undergraduate, I became interested in esoteric things like the nature of consciousness and the nature of the self, both in what we can understand about them philosophically and scientifically, and in what could only be discovered about them through direct experience. And at that point I dropped out of school, for what became a full decade. I made many trips to India and Nepal, where I got a chance to study with some of the greatest meditation teachers who were alive at that time. This was in the late 80s and 90s. I also spent about two years on silent retreats, ranging in length from one week to three months. I eventually did go back to school, where I finished my degree in philosophy, and then I did a PhD in neuroscience. And while I've covered many other areas in my work since, I've written several books and done hundreds of podcast episodes on a wide range of topics. I've always been most interested in those first questions about the nature of mind that sent me to Asia in the first place and into the silence of retreat. While questions about consciousness and the nature of the self may seem divorced from everyday concerns, they actually relate directly to the most fundamental causes of happiness and suffering, and to the larger question of what it means to live a good life, personally, psychologically, ethically, and even collectively, for whole societies. Waking Up is where I fully explore these issues, and Tim has invited me to give you a sampling of some of the content that can be found there. So here are a few lessons and short reflections that are fairly representative of the kinds of things I talk about there. There are also many other teachers and scholars on Waking Up, and the app is always growing, but I've just included samples of my own content here. Anyway, I hope you find this useful. Enjoy.
The last time (10:10)
I'd like you to take a moment to think about all the things in this life that you will experience for the last time. Of course, there will come a day when you will die, and then everything will have been done for the last time. But long before you die, you will cease to have certain experiences, experiences that you surely take for granted now. If you're a parent, when is the last time you will pick up your child, or tuck her into bed, or read her a story? Our youngest daughter still says "aminals" instead of "animals," and though I'm a stickler for words, I am not correcting her. Each one of those is priceless. Now, thinking in this way lends a poignancy to everything, even to things that you don't like. Again, let's say you're a new parent and you're getting woken up several times a night by your baby. That's brutal, but there will be a last time, and knowing that can change your experience in the moment. There's something sweet even about this experience. It's possible that you will miss this. We do everything a finite number of times, and yet we tend to take even beautiful moments for granted. And the rest of the time we're just trying to get through stuff. You're just trying to get to the end of whatever experience you're having. Tim Urban, who writes this wonderful blog titled Wait But Why, often touches this topic. He actually publishes a poster which represents 90 years of life in weeks. Each line has 52 squares, and there are 90 lines on a single page. And the scale is, frankly, a little alarming to contemplate. Each week is a significant piece of 90 years, and you can put your finger on the current week in your life. You can see where you are, and then, of course, you realize you have no assurance of how many weeks you have left. Assuming that you have 90 years, certainly 90 good years, is generally not a safe assumption. What you can know, however, is that each time you do something, pleasant or unpleasant, that is one last time you will do it. And there will come a time when you will have done something the final time, and you will rarely know when that is. For instance, I used to love to ski, and I now haven't skied in well over a decade. Will I ever ski again? I have no idea, but I can assure you that the last time I took off my skis, I was not even dimly aware of the possibility that it might be the last time, right? That I might live for many, many more years, and yet this stood a good chance of being the last time I would ever ski. When is the last time you swam in the ocean or went camping? When is the last time you took a walk just to take a walk? As you go about your day today, consider everything you're doing is like this. Everything represents a finite opportunity to savor your life. On some level, everything is precious, and if it doesn't seem that way, I think you'll find that paying more attention can make it seem that way. Attention really is your true source of wealth, even more than time, right? Because you can waste time being distracted. So this is just to urge you to take a little more care. When you meet someone for the first time and you shake their hand, pay a little more attention. When you thank somebody for something, mean it a little more. Connect with your life, and mindfulness is the tool that allows you to do that, because the only alternative is to be lost in thought. And every time you notice that you're lost, that you're distracted by a thought about the past or the future, and you come back, you are training your mind. And it may feel like an effort at first, but eventually it's like continually waking up from a dream. And ask yourself, how much effort does that take? Many people who are at first skeptical about the benefits of meditation find their skepticism relieved when they hear that meditation changes the brain.
Mindfulness changes the brain (14:58)
And there are areas of the brain that appear to physically change size in response to meditation. Undoubtedly new connections are made and others are diminished. And in addition to structural changes, there are functional ones. And there does seem to be a more or less linear relationship between changes of this kind and the amount of time a person has spent practicing. Now, this information is interesting, and I will certainly discuss it in other contexts, but the truth is virtually anything you do changes your brain. The fact that you had breakfast this morning and that you can remember it changed your brain. And of course, learning any complex skill requires that your brain physically alter its structure. That is what learning is at the level of the brain. So saying that meditation changes the brain is not to say that it's special or that it's good for you. Most things that are bad for you also change your brain. Of course, there's a growing literature on the benefits of meditation, but I want to suggest that there's nothing likely to appear in that literature that represents the deepest reason why one should meditate. For instance, there are studies that suggest that meditation improves immune function or reduces stress or that it's associated with less age-related thinning of the cerebral cortex. Well, having a good immune system and reducing stress and not suffering neurodegeneration are good things in general, but those studies might fail to replicate tomorrow. And should that happen, my recommendations in this course would not change at all. There really are deeper reasons to meditate and to live an examined life in general. Meditation is a skill that opens doors that you might not otherwise know exist. And to say that you should do this because it reduces stress or confers any other ancillary benefit is really to miss the point. Consider an analogy to reading. Is reading good for you? Does it reduce stress? Do you see what's peculiar about that framing? Given how profound the difference is between being an avid reader and being illiterate, these are strange questions. Just think about it. Does reading reduce stress? It sort of depends on what you read, right? Is it good for you? Well, I think we can all imagine scenarios where it's not good for somebody in any kind of straightforward way. But reading is one of the most important skills our species has ever acquired. Almost everything we care about depends on it. Of course, mindfulness is a very different sort of skill. But it also has sweeping implications. And the other way to think about this is that you are always meditating on something. Your attention is always bound up in something. We largely become what we pay attention to. We are building our minds in each moment. We're building habits and desires and worries and expectations and prejudices and insights. And mindfulness is just the ability to notice this process with clarity, and to then prioritize what you pay attention to. Why not pay attention to those things that make you a better person? Why not free your attention from all of the trivial things that are clamoring for it? Let's say you pick up your phone to check your email. And at that moment, your five-year-old daughter starts telling you a story. Now, several things are possible. You could be so lost in your thoughts about your email, and you could find the urge to respond to it so compelling that you don't even notice that your daughter is talking to you. Or you could notice it only to rebuff her in a way that makes her feel terrible. And you might be so entranced that five minutes later you wouldn't even recall that this episode occurred. That's how most people live their lives. In fact, that's how most of us live most of our lives even after we learn to meditate. But the more you train in this practice, the more degrees of freedom you'll find in situations like this. You can notice, for instance, that your daughter's trying to get your attention, and that giving her your attention is in competition with your following this urge to check your email. And when actual mindfulness comes online, you can feel the urge to check your email as a pattern of energy in your body and simply let it go. That is, you can actually break the link between the feeling and the behavioral imperative it seems to communicate. It's true that one way to get rid of this feeling is to check your email, but another is to simply let go of it. And only mindfulness allows you to do the latter. And then you can direct your attention to the five-year-old who is standing in front of you. And it might be the only story she tells you that day. And you can be aware of this fact in that moment. You can feel the poignancy of that. And in that moment you can further ingrain this new habit. You can become the kind of person who is fully present in moments like that. And you become that kind of person not just for yourself by changing your brain, but in this case for your daughter by changing her brain. And this is just a 30-second slice of life. When you learn to meditate, there are literally hundreds, even thousands of moments like this throughout the day. These are choice points that wouldn't otherwise exist. These are paths taken and not taken, for good reason. But without free attention, there's no place for good reasons to land. And as you grow in mindfulness, you begin to notice the lies you can no longer tell. And you begin to have insights into your true motives in various situations that are sometimes not flattering. But you want these insights all the same, because how else could you become a better person? That is what it is to live an examined life. So don't meditate just because it's good for you. It's more important than that. When you sit down to meditate, you will find yourself assailed by thoughts.
When intrusive thoughts disrupt meditation (21:53)
Thoughts about what you need to do later in the day. Thoughts about things that worry you. Thoughts about things you want or don't want. The moment you attempt to pay attention to your breath or to the sound of the wind in the trees, you will meet your mind. And your mind is the most rambling, chaotic, needling, insulting, insufferable person you will ever meet. It's like having some maniac walk through the front door of your house and follow you from room to room and refuse to stop talking. And this happens every day of your life. It is possible to get him to stop talking for brief periods of time. And that can come with greater concentration in meditation. It's possible to pay attention to the breath, for instance, and to be so focused on it that thoughts no longer arise. And this can be an extremely pleasant experience when it happens, but it's a temporary experience. Real relief comes when we recognize thoughts for what they are. Mere appearances in consciousness. Images. Bits of language. The fact that a thought has arisen does not give it a necessary claim upon your life. It need not have any implications, psychological or otherwise. Of course, you'll continue to think and to be moved to act by thoughts, but meditation gives you a choice. Do you really want to follow this next thought wherever it leads? There's a story from 2012, I think, but I only recently stumbled on it online, about a woman who was on a tour bus in Iceland.
The perils of taking the search for self too literally (24:03)
And at one point when the bus stopped near a scenic canyon rest stop, she got off and decided to change her clothes. And when she returned to the bus, nobody recognized her. So when it came time to leave, many people grew concerned that the woman in her original likeness was missing. And they told the driver that an Asian woman in dark clothes had not yet returned to the bus. And apparently the woman in question didn't recognize this description of herself. And so she too became concerned about the missing traveler. And a search party was quickly formed, and she joined it. And the search apparently went on all day and into the night. And the police were notified. And the coast guard was notified too. And they even readied a helicopter for use in the morning. And it wasn't until 3 a.m. that the woman finally realized that she was the missing person. And of course, the search was called off. Now, this is obviously a quite crazy and comical situation, but we're actually in a similar position with respect to our own minds. Because we spend our lives seeking, and the goal of our search is poorly defined, we get inducted into a search by our culture, by the expectations that others place on us, and which we learn to place on ourselves. And we learn that there are things we want out of life, largely because others want them. We want to succeed in various ways, rather than fail. And we need to acquire skills to do this. And we want all the social advantages that come with success. We want others to respect us. Why we want this is never really inspected. It goes without saying. This is something we crave. Of course, various sources of danger and disappointment seem to lurk everywhere. And however much we succeed, things naturally fall apart. Everything needs to be shored up against the forces of entropy. And the landscape continues to shift. Expectations change. Cultures like a vast tide that keeps sweeping everything out toward a horizon that we can't clearly see. I mean, where is all this going? What will life be like in 10 years? Think of everything that captures your attention. The things you buy or wish you could buy. How you dress and all the preferences that are enshrined there in your closet. Your exercise routine. Your relationship to sleep. Your diet. Consider all your efforts to improve these things, or to maintain them, or to reconsider them. And of course, all the while, you hope to have whatever fun you can have while making these efforts. To entertain yourself socially or binge watch the latest series on Netflix. You're continually in motion. As a matter of attention, it's just one damn thing after the next. Then occasionally something big happens. Somebody close to you dies, say. And you have a moment to reflect on the whole spectacle of what is otherwise normal. And you might think, what is the point of all of this? What am I up to, really? Now, I'm not saying the details of life don't matter. It's not that fun doesn't matter, or work, or money, or clothing. There are countless transitory sources of satisfaction. And if we have our priorities straight, these are ranked in a hierarchy of sorts, at least implicitly. And we spend our time and attention in ways that are proportionate to what we actually value. Now, we might be lying to ourselves about what our hierarchy actually is. For instance, I might believe that my kids are the most important thing in the world to me. But if that's true, they should get more of my time and attention than my following college football does. It's against this background of seeking satisfaction amid ceaseless change, that you can see how radical an act meditation actually is. Meditation is the act of calling off the search. It is the art of doing nothing. But we should be clear about what it means to do nothing, because it actually matters what sort of nothing one is doing. For instance, you can just space out and make no mental effort at all. And then you'll naturally be lost in thought, just daydreaming. Now, this is actually our default state when we're not explicitly paying attention to something or trying to get something done. In fact, it's our default state even when we're doing many things that do require our attention, like driving a car. Thoughts just keep coming, and we keep thinking them, for better or worse. And if you pay attention to the character of your thoughts, you'll find that you're mostly talking to yourself about all the things you want to do or wish you had done to become happy. You're continuously narrating the search. So that's not quite the doing nothing we're after. When one first begins to meditate, the practice seems like it requires effort. It doesn't seem like you're doing nothing. You're actually struggling to pay attention to the breath, for instance, or to other sensations in your body, or to sounds, or even to thoughts themselves. And the struggle is to sustain one's mindfulness for any significant amount of time without being lost in thought. And it's true, this apparent struggle continues for quite some time. But once you know how to meditate, you discover that real mindfulness is free of effort. It too simply appears, like anything else. The clouds part all on their own, and you just notice the next thing you notice. And you can even try to practice this way from the beginning. And rather than strategically pay attention to an object of meditation, like the breath, you can practice what's often called choiceless awareness. Where you just notice whatever you notice, without making an effort to stay focused on any specific object. But this isn't quite doing nothing either. There's still this fluctuation. This feeling of being lost and found. This game of cat and mouse with attention. And there can still be this subtle or not so subtle sense of seeking to get somewhere. And the sense that there's a self that is doing the seeking. The only way of truly doing nothing is to recognize how consciousness always already is. Open. Unobstructed. Effortlessly aware of its apparent changes. You have to recognize what you would otherwise seek. The very context of any effort you could make to pay attention. You have to turn about and realize that nothing is or can be lost. Think of that woman on the bus the moment before she realized that she was the object of the search. She's looking for a lost tourist. And think of that next moment when she suddenly realizes that she is the one who has been presumed lost. Now is it accurate to say that she has now found herself? Was the search ever fulfilled? No. There was a false premise that had been unrecognized. Just think of how the sense of seeking evaporated in her case. The recognition of consciousness reveals that the contents of consciousness are beside the point. And all seeking is an effort to improve or to maintain or to otherwise modify the contents of consciousness. So the freedom that you find in meditation is not a change in experience really. It's the recognition of the context of experience itself. You simply need to drop back and recognize the condition in which everything is already appearing. Thoughts and intentions and moods and emotions, sensations, perceptions. Everything is simply appearing. As a matter of experience there is no you apart from this flow. So the real way of doing nothing isn't to stop doing anything. It's simply to recognize that everything is already happening on its own. Take a moment to close your eyes and become aware of your body as a field of sensation.
Can you point to your consciousness? (33:18)
All at once. You don't need to take time to do this. And notice your tendency to establish your point of view in your head, noticing the rest of your body as though from above. See if you can recognize that from the point of view of consciousness there is no above or below or inside or outside. Everything that appears is simply appearing in consciousness as a modification of it. As a matter of experience, awareness is not in your head, and it can't be aimed from your head toward other objects of perception or sensation or emotion or thought. Everything is simply appearing in its own place, all by itself. Just as the sky need not make any effort to contain or open to the clouds, notice that consciousness itself need not do anything. It's simply the condition in which everything appears, including the sense of having a head, including every movement of attention. And you're not aware of this condition. You're aware as it. When we practice meditation, one of the things we learn is how to begin again in each moment.
Begin again (35:26)
You notice that you're distracted, you've been lost in thought for who knows how long, and then suddenly you return to a clear witnessing of the contents of consciousness. You notice a sound or the breath or some other sensations in your body, or you see the present thought itself unraveling. And in this clear noticing of this next appearance in consciousness, we're training our minds. We're practicing a willingness to simply return to the present moment without judgment, without disappointment, without contraction, with a mind that is standing truly free of the past. And it's always possible to recover this freedom no matter what happens. Let's say you notice you're distracted, and rather than just observe the next sound or sensation, you're immediately plunged into self-judgment. You're annoyed. You subscribe to this damn app, and you're supposed to be meditating, but you just spent the last five minutes thinking about something that you saw on television last night. But you can break this spell and begin again at any point by just noticing self-judgment and frustration as appearances. And the truth is, they're as good as anything else you can notice when it comes to revealing the intrinsic freedom of consciousness. Its openness, its centerlessness, its selflessness. Honestly, frustration, real frustration, a mind like a clenched fist, is just as good as the breath or a sound or even an expansive emotion like joy if you'll just drop back and recognize what consciousness is like in that moment. Now this ability to begin again has ethical force as well. It's actually the foundation of forgiveness. The only way to truly forgive another person or oneself is to restart the clock in the present. And this habit of mind allows for a resilience that we can't otherwise find. And there are literally hundreds of opportunities each day to practice it. If you notice that a conversation with a friend or a family member or a colleague isn't going very well, or you're not having fun at a party, or you've been trying to get some work done, but you found that you've just wasted the last hour on the internet, or you're working out in the gym, but you haven't been making much of an effort, the moment you notice this ghost of mediocrity hovering over the present, you can fully exercise it just by beginning again and then fully commit by relinquishing the past. There's no real reason why the next 10 minutes in the gym can't be the best you've had in years. There's no real reason why you can't put this conversation that's almost over on a new footing by saying something that is truly useful. So the practice is to stop telling ourselves a story about what has been happening and to fully connect with experience in this moment. Notice this present thought, this fear, this judgment, this doubt, this desire to be elsewhere as an appearance in consciousness and then just begin again. Okay, well that was a sample of a few lessons from the Waking Up app. For those of you who might want to locate this content on the app, what you heard were the lessons titled, "The Last Time," "Don't Meditate Because It's Good For You," "The Veil of Thought," "The Art of Doing Nothing," and "Begin Again."
A recap and where to find more from Sam (39:10)
There was also a moment thrown in there. Moments are short reflections from 30 seconds to two minutes in length that arrive once or twice a day if you have your notifications turned on. Generally speaking, the aim of Waking Up isn't to just help you meditate. It's to help you live a more examined and fulfilling life altogether. And to that end, there's no shortage of resources you can explore in the app now, including dozens of conversations I've had with philosophers and scholars and contemplatives. There are other courses with some of the best meditation teachers around and there are discussions about psychedelics and sleep and happiness and stoicism and effective altruism and much more. We recently added the full catalog of Alan Watts' talks too, which are great fun. The app does require a subscription, but it's also free for anyone who can't afford it. And we give a minimum of 10% of our profits to the most effective charities. And we're actively looking for ways to encourage individuals and businesses to join us in doing that. This has been directly inspired by the work on effective altruism being done by the philosopher Will MacAskill, who I actually first discovered here on Tim's podcast. It's amazing how much that one episode of this podcast has affected my life and subsequently the lives of many others. I don't know if you followed that, Tim, but my further conversations with Will have raised many millions of dollars for GiveWell and other charities. So thanks for that. Anyway, if you want more information about Waking Up, everything can be found at wakingup.com. As always, Tim, thanks for what you do. In addition to counting myself among your friends, I'm a huge fan of the conversations you have here. And thanks for the opportunity to speak to your audience once again. Just a quick thanks to one of our sponsors and we'll be right back to the show. This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time what I would take if I could only take one supplement. The answer is invariably AG1 by Athletic Greens. If you're traveling, if you're just busy, if you're not sure if your meals are where they should be, it covers your bases. With approximately 75 vitamins, minerals, and whole food source ingredients, you'll be hard pressed to find a more nutrient dense formula on the market. It has a multivitamin, multi-mineral greens complex, probiotics and prebiotics for gut health and immunity formula, digestive enzymes and adaptogens. You get the idea. Right now, Athletic Greens is giving my audience a special offer on top of their all-in-one formula, which is a free vitamin D supplement and five free travel packs with your first subscription purchase. Many of us are deficient in vitamin D. I found that true for myself, which is usually produced in our bodies from sun exposure. So adding a vitamin D supplement to your daily routine is a great option for additional immune support. Support your immunity, gut health and energy by visiting athleticgreens.com/tim. You'll receive up to a year's supply of vitamin D and five free travel packs with your subscription. Again, that's athleticgreens.com/tim. Hi, my name is Peter Attia and what you're about to hear are a few clips from my podcast, The Peter Attia Drive.
Who is Peter Attia? (42:47)
The Drive is a deep dive podcast focusing on maximizing longevity and all that goes into that from a physical, cognitive and emotional standpoint. As far as my background, I'm a physician focusing on the applied science of longevity. What does that mean? It means that I take care of patients and I try to figure out the best way to take the science of longevity and apply it in a clinical fashion using all the levers at our disposal, such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, emotional and mental health and pharmacology to increase lifespan. That's kind of the how long you live part. Well, equally, if not more importantly, improving healthspan, the how well you live. The clips you're about to listen to feature part of an episode where I speak about a number of things, including cancer and heart disease, and also something called ApoB. For those of you that don't know what ApoB is, I'll explain it in much more detail, but it's something that everybody should know their own value of. It's probably the single most important biomarker when it comes to managing your risk of cardiovascular disease, which is, of course, the number one killer in the world. I also talk in these clips at length about time restricted feeding, the importance of protein, and of course, my favorite subject of them all, exercise. If you like this clip and you want to hear more, you can find my podcast on any podcast platform, or you can visit our site, peteratiamd.com. Atiya is spelled A-T-T-I-A. You can also find me on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, though I probably spend more time on Instagram than all the others, under the ID, Peter Atiya, MD. Mad Fientist Anything that you think is really interesting under cancer?
The challenges of cancer screening (44:17)
Peter Anything on cancer is just my complete aggression when it comes to screening for gastrointestinal cancers. Let's just kind of put big, big things in perspective. How many cancer deaths do we have each year? So I think for 2020, we're looking at probably 600,000 people in the US died of cancer. And how many of those were in the digestive system? 170,000 of the 600,000. So the GI system is a really big issue, right? And that's basically everything from mouth to anus. Now, some of those things are very difficult to screen for. So pancreatic cancer, we don't really have a great way to screen for it. And that's why we use things like diffusion weighted image MRIs, liquid biopsies, as ways to basically pursue those things. Now, we have a podcast that's coming up on liquid biopsies and all things around that. So that's going to be a very interesting podcast. We had a previous podcast that was probably in the first hundred with Raj Atawalla, where we talked about diffusion weighted imaging MRI for cancer screening. So if we put those things aside, the good news is that there are a lot of cancers for which we can directly take a look at the epithelial surface that is going to become cancerous. And there is no part of that that is more important than the colon. So the esophagus, the stomach and the colon probably represent, I don't know, 40% of those GI cancers. So again, liver and intrahepatic bile duct and pancreas are probably also about 40% and those are much harder to screen. But when you look at organ specific sites, colon cancer is generally in the top three leading causes of death for both men and women.
Nobody should ever die from colon cancer (46:14)
And what I'm about to say is going to sound incredibly bold and controversial. It seems increasingly true to me, which is nobody should ever die from colon cancer. And I would add the same for esophageal and stomach. And the reason for that is, especially in colon, the progression from non-cancer to cancer is visible to the naked eye through the transition of non-malignant polyp to malignant polyp. So if you did this as a thought experiment, if you did a colonoscopy on somebody every single day of their life, they would never get colon cancer because at some point you would see the polyp, you would remove it while it is non-cancerous and they would not get cancer. So of course, how do you turn that thought experiment into a real life idea? Well, you have to ask the question, what is the shortest interval of time for which a person can have a completely normal colonoscopy until they can have a cancer? There's no clear answer to this question and we've done a lot of work on it and I've spoken with a lot of gastroenterologists about it. And there are certainly some case reports that it can happen in as little as six to eight months. Of course, one has to question whether in fact people had perfectly normal colonoscopies six to eight months earlier and it's possible that they did not and that something was actually missed at the time. But I think most people would agree that if you had a colonoscopy every one to two years, the likelihood that you could ever develop a colon cancer while maybe not zero is so remote that you could effectively take colon cancer off the list of the top 10 reasons why someone dies of cancer. And so it's for that reason that I'm very aggressive when it comes to this type of screening which also includes upper endoscopy. So you basically get for free the esophagus and stomach when you look at the entire colon rectum anus. And what are your costs? Well, your costs are obviously the dollar cost which is not cheap. I can't tell you what the average cost of a colonoscopy I think when I get them done because I'm getting them done outside of regular screening so I'm paying for them. They're certainly not cheap. I want to say maybe I'm paying $2,000 for a colonoscopy so that's a huge cost. And then there's obviously the risk of the sedation which again is not zero. In the hands of someone who's doing this every minute of every day, it's very small. And then of course there's the risk of perforation which again is also incredibly small especially in healthy individual. And even if it does happen, it's generally something that's pretty easy to manage. So again, is this something that I'm taking lightly? No, it's not. And I can't tell you yet what the ideal frequency is because at some point, for example, a colonoscopy every day would be a silly idea on all of those metrics, right? Your risk of complication is clearly going to exceed your risk of cancer notwithstanding the cost and daily challenges of bowel preps. So where is that number? I don't know, but it's much more frequently than what's being done today. That's what I would propose. It's not every five to ten years. So it's probably every one to three years would be my intuition. Another good resource on this is after Chadwick Boseman passed away, we did a weekly email on it and we'll link to it in the show notes.
When should you have your first colonoscopy? (49:39)
It's called Colorectal Cancer Screening. And I think the other thing that was talked about in there, which you do a little different, is not only the frequency, but the age in which you start your patients for their first colonoscopy. I think the standard is 50 or 45 now, but either way you prefer much earlier. I think they are moving it down. I mean, in our practice, we think 40 is the age at which a person should have their first colonoscopy if they have no history of colon cancer. About when I had my first one was 40 or 41. I'm 49 right now and I'm scheduled for a colonoscopy in a month, and that'll probably be my fourth one. And to be clear, this requires me arguing a little bit with my primary care physician who's saying, "Peter, you're being a bit ridiculous." But then I say, "Look, I want you to go and read what I've written about this. Let's hop on a call and let's discuss this." In the end, he's like, "Okay." And then you could argue, "Well, maybe I get my way because I'm a doctor and I can be more persuasive in my arguments." But I think these are the discussions patients need to be having with their doctors if they're in a position that they can afford to do this outside of their regular screening. And if not, I think they should push to see whatever can be done with inside the bounds of their insurance as well. I realize that we're all tainted by our biases, but the images of the people that I have seen who have had colonic cancer before the age of 50, I mean, those are seared into my brain. And that's why I think those are just such asymmetric benefits.
Discussion On Health And Nutrition
Early and aggressive lowering of apoB could change course of ASCVD (atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease) (51:18)
I think you had a few other things in diseases that you mentioned early on. Yeah, so on ASCVD, I've also become far more aggressive on the timing and magnitude of APOB reduction. So take a step back and ask, what are the leading causes or modifiable causes of ASCVD? The big three are pretty unambiguously smoking, hypertension, and hyperbeta lipoproteinemia, which is just a really fancy word for saying too many lipoproteins that have APOB on them. as opposed to just measuring LP, LDL, particle number, or LDL cholesterol number, is we have one single number that captures the total concentration of APOB. And while that's pretty well associated with non-HDL cholesterol, which is a far better surrogate than LDL cholesterol, it's still better. And that's been demonstrated, and I think we even covered that in a previous podcast, where we went over the discordance between non-HDL cholesterol and APOB. So now the question becomes, well, when should you start APOB reduction? And how much should you lower it? And I'll tell you, I used to take a point of view that if a 40-year-old had an elevated APOB, let's just put some numbers to this, right? So the 20th percentile of APOB is about 80 milligrams per deciliter. I used to say that, let's say somebody was at the 50th percentile, they're 40 years old, their calcium score is zero, and they were ambivalent about lipid lowering therapy. And let's assume that they're not insulin resistant, and you've done all the things that you can do reasonably with nutrition. I wouldn't push that hard. I've now taken a very different stand, which is I've basically taken the stand with others that I've taken with myself, which is the evidence is overwhelming that infantile levels of APOB are not deleterious in any way, meaning an APOB of 30 to 40 milligrams per deciliter, which is the level that children would have, poses not only no risk to children, as evidenced by the fact that, I mean, that doesn't require an explanation, but as evidenced by what we see in the literature on adults with levels that have been pharmacologically reduced, tells me that we need to be lower, and the amount of time it takes to see a benefit tells me we don't want to wait until there's an issue. In other words, if the reason we begin therapy is because somebody has a positive calcium score, which again, we covered this in great detail in, does that AMA come out yet? I was just going to say that AMA will be released two weeks after this. Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah. So for people listening, we have a dedicated ASCVD AMA, which goes into heavy detail for about 90 minutes on all this stuff where if this is of interest, hang on for a few weeks and we'll be diving even deeper into it. Yeah. I got a bit lost with the recording cycle, but that's a great AMA that goes super deep on basically all of the reasons why I think my point of view now is treat early and treat aggressively. And I will now also make a very bold statement. Again, it's let's start with the thought experiment, right? If the thought experiment for colon cancer was do a colonoscopy every day on a person's life, starting at the age of 30, would you eliminate colon cancer deaths? I think the answer is yes. And similarly, I would say pharmacologically lower ApoB to somewhere in the 20 to 30 milligram per deciliter range for everybody in the population while someone is in their 20s, can you eliminate ASCVD? And I think the answer is probably yes. In other words, I think what you're basically going to do is eliminate death from atherosclerotic causes. And that would need to be started in 20s? I think so, yeah. Very early on. Yeah. So again, how do you take that thought experiment and turn it into a practical implication? Because I don't think it's practical to take every 20 year old and obliterate their ApoB. Although it's clearly something we do in the subset of patients who have significant genetic abnormalities, such as the cluster of genetic abnormalities that coalesce around a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, we certainly do medicate those patients, usually as teenagers. So this is not some completely crazy idea. But I think practically what it means is, basically by the time you're in your late 30s or early 40s, if you have any measure of ApoB that's even north of the 20th percentile, that should be completely lowered. So in some ways, I would view an ApoB ceiling of 60 as the limit. And that's probably at about the fifth percentile. You'd sort of want everybody to be below the fifth percentile. Do you know the rough numbers of 20%, 50% and 80% ApoB just for people who maybe have their ApoB metrics down, but they don't know where it relates in the percentage? Yeah, so fifth percentile from the Framingham Offspring Study was 62. I just, in my mind, keep 60. Tenth percentile is about 70. 20th percentile is 78. So I just think of 80. 50th percentile is about 100. It's technically 97. 80th percentile, 118. So I just kind of think of 120. 95th percentile is 140. Yeah, I mean, we're going to see patients of all these levels. I've got a new patient whose first labs I'm reviewing very soon. I just got his labs back the other day. His ApoB is, I don't know, I want to say like 171. And the 95th percentile is 140. So he's, you know, in the 99.9th percentile. He almost meets diagnostic criteria for FH based on his LDL cholesterol. But you're going to see the whole spectrum here. But again, going back to this point, I just don't see a reason to have an ApoB ever north of 60 milligrams per deciliter. And I think when you look at a lot of the Mendelian randomizations, plus the clinical trial data, if you have an LDL cholesterol below 30, or an ApoB below 40 milligrams per deciliter, for a very long period of time, I think the odds that you're going to suffer ASCVD are incredibly low. Again, the earlier you start and the lower you go, the more you can make that number approximate zero. And therefore, it then only becomes a question of what are your therapeutic choices to get there? How do you do this in a way that minimizes the side effects of that? Because for some people, to lower ApoB that much is trivial. Like in me, it's actually really easy. I take a PCSK9 inhibitor, and I take a statin. And I can basically eradicate it. And I don't have any issues with either of those. But for some people, statins are difficult to tolerate. About 5% of the population has intractable muscle soreness. And that appears to be the case regardless of which statin you use. And we tend to rotate through different statins. I like to start with razuvastatin or pravastatin. And then if we have difficulties there, move to pitavastatin or Livolab. But if people can't tolerate those things, today we have so many other options. If they're a hyper absorber, we would use Azetimibe. If they're a hypersynthesizer, but can't respond to statins, we use mepndoic acid. So we have lots of tools up our sleeve today, more than ever before. And that's why I just think we should be more and more aggressive on this now. Yeah, I mean, you could say it's even a more bold statement, too, because listening to that Alan Snyderman podcast and just how many doctors, especially in the US, don't even look at ApoB. So the importance for people listening to this, too, is when they go to their doctor and they're going to run their labs, just making sure to bring up, is it possible to get an ApoB ran? Because if they just do what a typical cholesterol panel or a typical annual exam, it might not even be looked at. Yep. Moving to our next category, anything on nutrition that you specifically want to bring up or talk about?
New thoughts on nutrition and TRF (time-restricted feeding) (59:36)
Yeah, I think there are two things on the nutrition front that are worth talking about where I've become more pointed in my feelings over the past roughly two years, which I guess would be over the last hundred episodes. So the first is my view that I think most of the benefit of time restricted feeding is accrued through caloric restriction. So I've always been a little unsure of how much of the time restriction was exerting its benefit through factors that go beyond what is likely a reduced calorie intake in someone with a smaller feeding window. So in other words, was there something magical about not eating? So if you had an experiment that was done where people are going to eat 3000 calories a day spread out over the course of 12 hours versus people that are going to eat 3000 calories spread out over six hours, is there any difference between them? And I think the answer today is no. I think the answer is nope. When people talk about how time restricted feeding is helping them lose weight and manage insulin resistance and things like that, I think it appears that that's all due to reduced caloric intake. It's just harder to eat more during a narrower window. And at some point that window gets narrow enough that it's almost impossible to eat as much as you would in the course of a day unless you're deliberately being as gluttonous as possible. And I've seen people attempt to do that for reasons I don't understand. And I think where this gets problematic is in people who can't really afford to lose too much muscle. And not completely atypical TRF scenario I see is in a patient who becomes completely obsessed with only eating in a six hour window or even less. And at the end of a year, they've lost five pounds. So they were kind of normal-ish weight to begin with, you know, they were 180 pounds to begin with, and they're 5'11", so pretty normal. And a year later, they're 175, and they're like, "This is just amazing. I've lost five pounds, I feel like I can eat whatever I want." Then you do a DEXA scan on them and you realize, well, you lost 10 pounds of lean tissue, and you gained five pounds of fat mass. So yes, you're down five pounds, but your body fat is actually up, I'm making this up because I'd have to do the math, but your body fat's up 3%, your visceral fat is up by 500 grams, nothing has moved in the right direction except this very, very crude measurement of the number on the scale. In these individuals, I think because they're eating so much less protein, they're impairing muscle protein synthesis, so they're actually losing lean mass even while putting on fat mass. They're oftentimes becoming insulin resistant. I especially see this in people who are doing one meal a day, this so-called OMAD, especially because most people who are doing that are doing it late in the day, and so now they're having impaired glucose homeostasis overnight. We're seeing high glucose levels overnight, probably high cortisol levels and impaired glucose tolerance in the morning. So a lot of these things just aren't what we would want to see. Now there are some people for whom that still works well. So I've also seen people who lose 100 pounds and 70 of it is fat and 30 of it is lean and they're net better off because they were starting at a body weight of 300 pounds and they certainly had the amount of lean mass to improve. So their body fat maybe goes from 50% to 35%. I'm kind of making those numbers up. So they're moving in the right direction. The point here is I think you need to ask yourself before you go on an aggressive TRF regimen, how much muscle mass can you afford to lose? And if the answer is none, which is, it should be the answer for most people, by the way, most of us don't have the freedom to lose any lean mass, then you got to make sure you're not restricting protein. And that you're thinking about when you can refuel in relation to exercise.
DEXA scanning for determining muscle mass (01:03:57)
So Peter, when people listening are kind of trying to figure out, okay, how much muscle do they have? Can they get a baseline? And then if they are doing various diets or time restricted feeding, things of that nature, and they want to see what actually went up and down, what's the best way for them to do it? Is it a DEXA scan? Is there another way outside of that where they can test this? I think DEXA is the only way to do it, truthfully. I mean, obviously, it's not the single most accurate way to do it. There are more accurate ways to do them, but those would all be done in a research setting. DEXA is relatively inexpensive, $100 in most places. Maybe if you're in a place like New York, it's more, but we're talking of something in the low hundreds of dollars, not something that is thousands of dollars. And the information it yields is also segmental, which is really valuable. So unlike the sort of buoyancy based tests, which I think are quite inaccurate anyway, you don't get the segmental information. You don't get the information of visceral adipose tissue. So when we do a DEXA scan, we're looking at lots of information. We're looking at BMD, bone mineral density, total body fat, things like that. But what I'm really interested in is what's your fat-free mass index? So that's the total lean tissue in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. The ALMI, which is the appendicular lean mass index, which is the same as the FFMI, except it's only using the lean mass of the four limbs, not including the torso. We're looking at VAT, and we're putting all of these things on a nomogram to see where you rank for your age and sex. And that's where I think people need to be really focused. And frankly, I care much more about those metrics than I care about your total body fat percent. Your body fat percent is at the 40th percentile, but your ALMI, FFMI are at the 90th percentile and your VAT is at the 10th percentile. It's perfectly adequate. And again, a lot of that total body fat in some ways comes down to a little bit of vanity once the biomarkers are themselves also great. Yeah, I think that was one of the most interesting things. We had an internal meeting about this other day, which is just, it surprised me how cheap a DEXA scan is. And if people just search the city they're in, in DEXA, I think they'd be surprised to find that out. And then same thing with VO2. And I know we'll talk about an exercise here, but some of the places that do DEXA scans can also do VO2 max tests. And so it's something that if people haven't done it, it's worth looking into and making that investment in because of what you can learn from there. Before we move on, is there anything else in nutrition you want to touch on? I think on the topic of protein, we're probably underdoing it for most people.
The perils of underdoing protein (01:06:46)
I don't think I was paying enough attention to it. And I think the RDA is, the recommended daily allowances are kind of out to lunch. You know, the RDA for protein is something to the tune of, I want to say it's like 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or something pathetic like that. You take an 80 kilogram person, so someone that weighs like about a buck 75, and that person should only be eating 65 grams of protein a day or something asinine, like 0.8 to 1. And the reality of it is I think the RDA is predicated on how much protein you need to like live versus how much protein you need to thrive. And so I think when you look at those data, you realize it's probably closer to two grams per kilogram or about a gram per pound of body weight. And that quote unquote toxicity of too much protein toxicity is that well, it's generally kidney toxicity. If you consume enough protein, you're going to overtax the kidneys because that's how we excrete the excess nitrogen. And you're looking at somewhere in the order of three to four grams per kilogram before you get into the places where you're going to start to challenge your kidneys abilities to take care of excess nitrogen. So this is something that we're also becoming much more attuned to in our patients. It seems to be a really big problem in middle-aged women. That's where we're probably seeing the biggest deficits are these women that show up with no muscle mass, eating no protein, doing very little strength training. I mean, to me, that is a recipe for a shorter life, but more importantly, a lower quality of life. I think it makes sense then to kind of go a little bit on the path we're going, which is exercise.
Updated thoughts on exercise (01:08:36)
So I don't want to say there's a lot of things that changed with your view on exercise because you've always been a big proponent of it, but from how I've even heard you talk about it, it seems you're more so than you've ever been on the importance of exercise in someone's longevity. So do you want to maybe talk about just the theme of exercise and where you've evolved, what you're thinking is now and why you even put more of an emphasis than before? Yeah, you're right. It seems odd that I would even be talking about this, given that exercise has always been such an important part of my life personally, but I think I've now come to appreciate the magnitude of the value that is brought to a person's lifespan and health span by having higher cardio-respiratory fitness and more strength. And you can't really get more strength without training. So more strength is synonymous with training, with strength training obviously. I think I posted something on this a long time ago, or not that long ago, maybe a month or so ago on Instagram and Twitter where I kind of walk through some of the data on this. We'll link to that, but the gist of it is when you look at the improvements in all-cause mortality by moving up the chain of cardio-respiratory fitness, so moving from being in the bottom 25th percentile to the 25th to 50th percentile, they have terminology for all of those things, like low, below average, above average, high, and elite, which would be sort of bottom 25th percentile, 25th to 50th, 50th to 75th, 75th to like 97 and a half, and then the top, call it 2, 2 and a half percent. As you march up those strata, your all-cause mortality drops, and it drops at levels that aren't appreciated by any other intervention. Quitting smoking, going from having end-stage renal disease to not, and it's easier to look at these in reverse, so comparing someone with end-stage renal disease to someone who doesn't have it, a smoker to a non-smoker, someone with type 2 diabetes to someone who does not, those are big multipliers of risk, but they're dwarfed by the multiplier in risk that you would go from having a very high VO2 max to a low VO2 max. Now of course, these associations have lots of interplay with other variables. There's some genetic component to this, to be sure, and there's obviously a healthy user bias, so I'm not acting like those things aren't present, but the point here is, if you can get yourself to exercise versus not, that's a big driver of mortality reduction, and the VO2 max becomes one way that we can track the progress you're making on that metric, similarly with strength, similarly with muscle mass, and things like that. Turns out, by the way, that strength matters more than muscle mass, but muscle mass is a very good proxy for strength. You know, it's funny, I'm two days now post-op from this shoulder surgery, and it's really interesting how much I've noticed my grip is weaker in my right hand, which is the side I was operated on, than pre-op, so not being able to recruit the full musculature of my shoulder and scapula on the right means I actually have slightly weaker grip in my right hand, and that's why I think grip strength is a great proxy for longevity. It's always been known to be that way, and the question is why, and I think there's lots of reasons. Among them, it's just a great proxy for overall body strength and muscle mass, but I think it's also a very functional form of strength. Basically, everything in your upper body is mediated through your hands, and if your grip is weak, everything downstream of that is weak. When you watch someone who's got a weak grip deadlifting, it's very difficult for them to deadlift correctly because they don't create a proper wedge. They don't create enough tension between the bar and their torso because their grip is weak, and if they don't create that tension, they're gonna compromise their lift, and by the way, then they're more likely to get injured. How are you training specifically for grip strength?
How Peter trains for grip strength (01:12:58)
I mean, a lot of carrying things. So I'll do a lot of supersets. I'm doing a farmer's carry in between other workouts, one of my favorite. I won't be doing these things for quite a while, of course, as I'm recovering, but I love doing like the ski erg. So I'll do a one-minute all-out ski erg followed by a one-minute farmer's carry with, I don't know, 70 pounds in each hand. So whatever that is, probably 75% of my body weight or 80% of my body weight, and just go back and forth and back and forth between those types of things. But basically picking up heavy things is how you train for it. You know how much I love deadhanging, so that's another great way to train grip strength. What's your record for deadhang these days? Well, the last long one I did was four minutes, 35 seconds. Which is insane. And was that pre or post workout? That was a clean day. So I was doing some katsu training, some BFR training, but not particularly intensive on my grip. So that was a fresh start. The other thing that I've come to the conclusion of, and just talking to you and listening to podcasts and meetings and things of that nature is, a lot of times the feedback we can get is when you talk about some of this stuff, it's not widely available to all.
Impact Of Mindset On Success
Exercise: the good news and bad news (01:14:00)
When you look at some of the drugs, it's either, it can be cost prohibitive or really tough to access them or find doctors who will prescribe them. But the thing with exercise is it's available to everyone. It just requires a lot of hard work. But from what I've heard you saying, correct me if I'm wrong, you still think it's one of the most potent things that people can do outside of what drugs or supplements they take, outside of other things they can do is just exercise and working on building that muscle strength and muscle size to this day just can make such a difference in someone's not only health span, but also ultimately their lifespan. Yeah, I mean, that's the good news and that's the bad news. The good news is this tool called exercise, which is broad, includes a lot of things. It's not just one thing. So by definition, it needs to be multimodal. It has an unbelievable impact on your lifespan and health span, probably bigger than anything else. And it's available to everyone. It has the least barrier to entry. The drawback is it's the hardest. I think it takes the most time, that's for sure. And it's the most uncomfortable. Welcome to the I Will Teach You To Be Rich podcast. My name is Ramit Sethi, and I'm the New York Times bestselling author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
Who is Ramit Sethi? (01:15:32)
For the last 20 years, I've been studying money psychology. When I ask people what words come to mind when they think of money, here's what they say. Guilt, stress, and not enough. When I ask them, what's your rich life? They almost all say, I want to do what I want, when I want. Then I say, okay, that sounds pretty good. So what do you want? And that's when they stare at me blankly. Most people have never actually thought about what they want to use their money for. That's because everybody teaches us how to save, but nobody teaches us how to spend. I learned that when most people look at their personal finances, they see random numbers in a spreadsheet. When I look at someone's finances, I see a two-week trip to Italy. I see being able to pick up your children from school every afternoon, or I see you being able to retire early. I wanted to show how you can use money to create your rich life. This podcast takes you into real conversations with real people about real numbers, the kind of conversations you have never heard before. Welcome to the I Will Teach You to be Rich podcast. You're netting $80,000 a month and you're questioning my audible $12 subscription every day?
Frugal vs. cheap (01:16:59)
There's a problem here. We file our taxes jointly, and I had to sign for taxes recently. I couldn't believe my eyes. I didn't even know how much we made. I had to sign $175,000 per month. My yard is in shambles. There's no reason for this. When we fly, we fly as basic economy as we can. When we stay in hotels, it's the cheapest. I am cheap. I am frugal. I am cheap. There's no mistake about that. There are folks that have much more money than I do that end up going bankrupt. Like what happened to them? They didn't pay attention and they started spending extravagantly and they got themselves in trouble. She could or has spent money in ways that I thought should not have spent in those folks. And the real clincher here is that because he earns the money and physically has more access to the money, he directs it. He manages it. I do believe that he wants to change. I do believe that he realizes the damage that has been done. I'm not optimistic that he can actually do it. I recently got a message and I have to read it to you. Here's what it said. We have a $10 million net worth and a $2.5 million income and we still share a Netflix password. Please help. My wife of 21 years is threatening divorce. Today, I'd like you to meet Michelle and Charles. Charles, what was going on when you wrote that message to me? We were having a very toxic discussion about money. I know you say you can't help cheap people, but I am cheap. I am frugal. I am cheap. And there are certain things that I feel I don't want to spend money on. I bought a fancy car a couple of years ago, paid all cash, just a fancy car. I'll invest in that. Like a car, it was more like luxury. - I mean, is a Tesla luxury? Because I didn't look at that as luxury. I mean, he's a tech executive who bought a used Tesla with the lowest battery power. That's not a luxury to me. - I'm gonna try to find out when this started affecting their relationship. - So the night before our marriage, so we're planning the wedding and everyone's responsible for whatever thing. And he comes to me the night before the wedding and says, did you bring your checkbook? I'm like, no. And all the friends, how can I forget? How can I bring my checkbook? And I was like, why? He's like, because you have to pay the musicians. I'm like, what difference does it make? We're getting married tomorrow. And that stuck with me. I almost called the wedding off because I just felt like, we're getting married. We're going from separate to joint. Why would he ask for my checkbook? And so that's been the theme for 21 years. Sometimes I refer back to that, like the checkbook moment. And that's been a problem. So this started very early. His idea of spending is spending to make more money and then make more money. I'm constantly saying like, why do you need more money? Oh, because I want to invest, make more money. Well, why do you need that? Why do you need that? At some point you die and you're just doing this to give it away to other people. The problem is that we're married. And what his beliefs are, he doesn't realize that they affect me immensely. I mean, literally to the point where it's broken my spirit. The reason why we're coming to you now is because after all these years, it's just too much. I mean, I remember another podcast you did and you asked them to rate it from zero to 10. We're at a nine. We've been at a nine and a half for many years, maybe the last 10 years. And I just can't take it anymore. I think that one of the biggest question marks in my mind is when I talk to Michelle about what does our risk life look like? And I start seeing dollar signs. I start seeing hearing, I want to fly first class. I want to buy a huge house. I want to stay in the Western United States in a high cost geography. And I'm saying, OK, well, my initial plans were X her plans or 1.5 X. So unless we get an agreement alignment on what that rich life looks like, it's going to be hard for me to pencil it out. Why don't we just do it right now? Well, let's just do it right now. Keep it very high level. Here's the thing before we do it. That's exactly why I haven't done it, because it doesn't stop there. It's not here are my five things that I'd like to do. It's set in stone. So if I give you five things right now that I'd like to do, that's my rich life. That's it. There can't be a single dollar spent anywhere else. The minute I spit out the first one, he has a problem with it because it's like, oh my God, that's spending money on something that I would not otherwise spend money on. - I'm a very planful guy. I like to stick to a plan. And so, but I'm trying to convince Michelle that, hey, I've learned to be more flexible and it's not going to be set in stone, but let's be thoughtful about putting a plan together. Don't just kind of spit out numbers or ideas. Let's be thoughtful and make sure that something you put forward is something that you put some thought into. - Okay. Are you seeing Michelle's reaction right now? She's shaking her head. What is the implication of you needing to remind your wife of 21 years that you both need to be thoughtful? - I guess the implication is that she has not been thoughtful. - If you were to say, hey babe, you make the plan for the vacation. Here's the checkbook. What is the implication that, what would she do with that checkbook? - That she's going to spend a bunch of money thoughtlessly. - Like a huge amount, like an amount of money that's going to set you back in the poor house. Do you think she would do that? - I don't think she would do that intentionally, but I think that she could or has spent money in ways that I thought that we should not have spent in those ways. - Do you think there is a vacation that the two of you could go on? Do you think there's an amount she could spend that would materially affect your finances negatively? - No. - Say it again, say it in a full sentence so you hear that yourself. - I don't think it's possible for Michelle to spend money on one vacation that would materially impact our finances. However... - I agree. - Just stop right there. Just stop right there. I'm going to save you from yourself, okay? Trust me. I'm saving you. I'm saving all of us right now. Okay, okay. I had to stop him from some long monologue that he was about to go on.
Focusing on what can go right vs. what can go wrong (01:23:37)
And two things just happened right there. One you could see and one you could not. First, Charles acknowledged that there is literally no amount Michelle could spend on a vacation that would materially affect their finances. To put it another way, she could plan a $500,000 trip and they would make that much money back in a few months in interest alone. But you'll notice how I had to almost drag this out of him. Even when he admitted it, he felt he had to caveat it to cover his bases, to explain. I wish you could have seen Michelle's face. She looked so sad. She looked frustrated. The problem with needing to dot every I and cross every T, and I'm talking to all you logical dorks out there who feel the need to explain and show the math and ROI of every life decision. The problem is that nobody likes being told all the things you might do wrong. Especially when you've been someone's partner for 21 years. Michelle is looking for a little partnership here, a little trust to focus on what can go right instead of only focusing on what can go wrong. Michelle - The house is my biggest thing. The house. Maintaining it, beautifying it, making it comfortable, making it comfortable for my family and friends. But the problem is it's not. And then another thing that I kind of picked up as Charles was talking is it's what he finds valuable. It's what he finds pleasure in. So when we talk about the Tesla, that's that benefited him solely. When we talk about the garage remodel that benefits him solely. So the disconnect comes when it benefits him. It doesn't benefit him in any kind of way. That's when the friction happens. So he could care less about furniture in the living room could care less. That's our friction. And it's everything to me. He could care less about landscaping could care less, but it's everything to me. And the real clincher here is that because he earns the money and physically has more access to the money, he directs it. He manages it. So buying is just a wish. His desires are actually played out because he physically earns it and doesn't view this as our money. I would love him to take enough money that he needs. He said he needs 150,000. Take it. Give me the rest. I mean, literally like you only need 150. You're netting 80,000 a month and you're questioning my audible twelve dollars subscription every day. There's a problem here. You know, we file our taxes jointly. Couldn't believe my eyes. I didn't even know how much we made. I had to sign one hundred seventy five thousand dollars per month. My yard is in shambles. There's no reason for this. When we fly, we fly as basic economy as we can. When we say in hotels, it's the cheapest. It comes down to the words that he said before convincing, being thoughtful, being planful. I'm all those things I plan. I research. I weigh and measure. I don't just willy nilly just say, hey, I want to buy a couch today. But those words are unacceptable and they shut me down. It's often the things that make us successful in the first place that turn around and cost us everything.
The qualities that make us successful can wind up costing us everything (01:27:13)
Charles has been very financially successful, and yet he's taken it too far. He's become cheap. He's become disconnected from what really matters. His wife is frustrated, maybe beyond saving. Now, the good news is that they both came to me open mindedly, willing to listen and potentially change. And as I started having this conversation with him, I saw how much there is to unpack with Charles and Michelle. The first and the big elephant in the room is that cheapness is one of the most difficult afflictions to change. You know why? Because deep down, cheap people don't really think it's a problem. They'll often shroud their behavior in all kinds of positive phrases. Well, you know, I'm a conscious spender. There's certain things I care about, certain things I don't. I would never spend on that. But when you zoom out and you ask them, what is your philosophy on money costing you? Well, suddenly they have to start to acknowledge that friends aren't inviting them out as much, that they're accumulating a huge amount in their checking account and they have no idea what to do with it. In this case, Charles has to acknowledge that his wife is extremely unhappy. It becomes clear that this is a much, much more complex psychological issue than the amount of money in a savings account. Is Michelle a good mom? She's a great mom. Is she a good wife? Excellent wife. Good partner? Very good partner. How come in your statements, the two parter, you give her the warning of what she might do wrong? Where's that coming from? I think it's coming from because we approach things differently. Now, the good news is that Charles and Michelle came to me with an open mind. Charles admits he wants to change. He knows that it's costing him a lot. But old habits die hard. He is really struggling to come around on the idea of spending money. He has certain beliefs. They're very rational and analytical, and they are causing him to look at money through only one lens. Progress. But after 21 years of these types of conversations, Michelle does not believe that Charles is actually going to change. And every time we get close to him saying he's going to change, she doesn't believe it. We have a lot of scar tissue here, and this is not going to be easy. What I hear beneath the surface is this fear that if you take Michelle's approach, which you've described as being more intuitive, more spontaneous, that somehow you will lose the core of what made you successful and that suddenly you're going to just lose it all. And oh, my God, I dropped $75,000 on dinner tonight. Can you see a reality where you ever spend $75,000 on one dinner, Charles? No. No, I don't think so. It would be very hard to do that. Can you ever see a reality where Michelle spends that much on a single dinner? For the two of us, no. Okay. So knowing that you have so solidly anchored your analytical self in, what I would say is this fear of if I let go just a little bit, I'm going to turn into a pile of mush that just spends money everywhere. It's never going to happen. Never. In fact, I could work with you every single day for the next 20 years. It would still be very challenging for you to just go out there and conceive of money the same way Michelle does. It is really, really hard for people to turn the page in their rich life.
Questions for galvanizing change from cheap to frugal (01:31:18)
Let me explain what I mean. For highly successful people like Charles, all of their skills of saving and investing and planning and optimizing got them to the top of the mountain. So from the outside, you look at them and you say, you made it. Why are you agonizing over $200 jeans? But to them, they see the very skills that got them here as identical with themselves. I'm going to do a little guided conversation here. I can tell that if I let these two just talk to each other, it's going to quickly devolve into, you didn't let me do that. And well, I think this. There's so much resentment built up here that I'm going to have to micromanage this conversation a little, maybe offer a little bit of training. Watch what I do. I'm going to ask a few questions. Listen to the questions and listen to her answers. Okay. What is your absolute dream destination? Budget is irrelevant. Probably Italy. Why Italy? What would you do there? I just think it's, it seems like an exotic, you know, beautiful country. I would enjoy the food and the scenery and the people. Fantastic. And what kind of foods are you thinking about having when you go there? Yummy pasta. What kind? Well, if I'm not on my diet, fettuccine and penny and pizza. Love it. What kind of weather are you imagining? Is it summertime? Are you wearing a long coat? What are you thinking? It's more summery and more sun's out. Beautiful. Where are you staying when you're in Italy? A beautiful home, a beautiful resort type field. Very nice. And who do you have with you on this trip? Ideally my husband. But if he, if I'm going to, if the price of that is him belittling me for even wanting what I just described, then a girlfriend or solo. No, no, no, no, no. This is Charles, who's fully bought in. Fully. He's actually saying to you, "Babe, I made a special reservation tonight. Don't worry. Put on something nice and let's go out to this place." How would that feel? It would feel great, but you know, 21 years of not having that is tough to get over. Yeah, I love it. And final question for you. When you get to the Italian airport and you get on your plane, which seat are you sitting in? I'm definitely in first class. My vacation starts the minute I leave my door. Very good. Okay. Charles, what did you hear in my questions? Your questions were geared around how this would make her feel and her experiences. And it really put her in the driver's seat. Her in complete control of planning and experiencing this vacation. Very nice. Wow. Very good pickups on all those things. Now, did you notice at one point she kind of went a little negative and did you notice what I did there? Yeah. You tried to get away from that and set that aside for now. And I think that's the scar tissue coming back. And you know, she can't imagine me doing that after 21 years. And so that's what we need to overcome. I agree. Do you think you could possibly do that after 21 years? Sure. Okay. I don't know if that's true. I hope it is. That will be for the two of you to decide. Right. We have one conversation together. The two of you have a lifelong relationship. Right. And I want to totally acknowledge that is a lot of scar tissue, 21 years. But I do think it's possible to change. I've seen it. It starts with little steps. It starts with just a series of questions like this. What did you not hear in our conversation? I was waiting for you to ask the money question. There is no money question. Guess what? You won. You could do that entire trip. Guess how long it would take you to earn enough to pay for that entire trip? I don't know. How long? You tell me. Guess. I mean, you're an investor. Give me a call. So maybe that trip was going to cost maybe 20 grand. Okay. It took about a month. One day. Not really, but about a month. One day. One month. One day. One day. Maybe two. Maybe two. You have approximately $11 million. Interest is earning. You make a considerable income. One day, two days. Hey, let's even be conservative. Five days. Five days. Five days. And what happens if you were to spend that money? I think Michel will be really, really happy. All right. So I want you to take the same approach I took. Tried it's going to be uncomfortable, but I'm here with you. Okay. Landscaping. So, Michel, landscaping. What's your vision for our front yard and our backyard? Like, what do you see as the complete vision? What would make you absolutely happy if we got the front yard and backyard landscaped? Well, if Ramit asks that same question, then I can answer it. Because coming from you, I'm like, uh... Michel, I know your tense. I get it. And I know that there's a lifetime of beliefs right now that are just right at your throat and they're bubbling up. I totally get that. Charles is playing ball here. Right? And he's doing some uncomfortable stuff. And so what I want to ask from you is that you play ball as well. And if it means really trying to acknowledge those feelings inside, but set them aside for just three minutes, that's what I would ask. I understand it's a bit contrived. I understand that me asking you to do this does not remove those feelings. They are there. They are real. But in order for us to move forward together, sometimes the best way to do it is to act as if. So, let's start with the behavior and let's see if often our feelings can follow. So, my vision is just when you walk up the steps toward our home, you just want to be home. It's inviting. It's plush. It's modern. It's well cared for, maintained. It just would make me feel so good if I just drive home and walk up to a home I want to walk into. The backyard, same thing. I just want to be able to walk outside of my house, feel really good about being outside. I would love to eat dinner outside, sit outside, just go outside to just think. And I just want to see something pleasing. All I could see is just a new deck and comfortable chairs and greenery. Just those are the things that I'd love to look at. What are some things you'd love to do out there once we get it all fixed up? I just want to spend time out there. I just want to sit down on a chair and look out to the yard, look at the lemon tree, look at the apricot tree, look at plush grass. I just want a feeling of calmness. I don't need a party or anything. I just want it for our family for now. Just a place where I can go and retreat. And then when you think about the front yard, what are the things that you think will really kind of make the front yard pop? I just want it well maintained. It hurts to see everyone around me changing their landscape, fixing up their yard, replanting if the plants have died, rearranging things. I just feel after 11 years and nothing has been done, the rocks have slid down the slope. I just want those things filled in because the way it looks now, I don't want that to be a reflection of who I am today. Do you want this to happen right now? Do you want this to happen later on? Like when do you want to make this happen? Well, I think it's long overdue. So the win would be right now. And what can I do to help you make this become a reality? Loosen up the money, not control it in the sense that you decide how much is enough and just trust me that I'm not here to spend multi-thousand dollars on the project. I'm just here to get a nice update to the property. Would it be okay if I provided just a teensy-winty bit of feedback or input into the landscaping? This would be an overall vision, but I'd like to have the opportunity to have a little bit of input on the landscape. Would that be okay with you? On your terms, of course. Anything other than money and how much something costs. If you want to suggest bushes or tree arrangements, great, but nothing about how much, nothing around money. Okay. So I am committed to being your partner in this and not talking about money, not talking about how much. And I'm committed to giving you whatever vision you want for the front yard and backyard landscaping and to make it become a reality. - I'm like grinning from ear to ear because I'm like, could this be real? Like, can we call you back if that doesn't work? Can we get this in writing? - Michelle, you're almost in disbelief over here. Do you think that it's gonna happen? - I don't know because I do believe that he wants to change. I do believe that he realizes the damage that has been done. I'm not optimistic that he can actually do it. I haven't seen change in this area of money. - I get it. You're cautious about hope. I get that. - Exactly. - You have two choices here. Option one is honey, I trust you. It's your call. You don't even look at it. You hand it right back to her. Option two, what's that option, Charles? You know that one very well. - This is, how much is this gonna cost? It seems very expensive. - And that phrase, what do you think that phrase saying that to Michelle will cost you? - To help make sure that Charles actually changes, I help them set up something I call a worry-free number.
Learning From Elizabeth Gilbert
The worry-free number (01:41:46)
Imagine when you go to the grocery store. If you're in the checkout lane and you see a pack of gum, do you sit there and deliberate over whether you can afford it? Do you agonize how that pack of gum is gonna affect your early retirement number? No, a pack of gum is so small, you don't even worry about it. A worry-free number is a number below which you don't worry about it. You don't even think about it. Now in your early 20s, your worry-free number might be $5. That might be a pack of gum or a coffee. But for multimillionaires like Charles and Michelle, their worry-free number should be much higher. So below $3,000 for the next six months, you're not gonna talk about it. - I've been begging for a Peloton for the last year since COVID. - Done, done. It's ordered tonight. Wow, it really gives me great joy to spend other people's money. I think I just ordered Michelle a Peloton with Michelle and Charles's money. What a great job I have. Now you have freedom to dream. Peloton, love it, amazing. Order it tonight. And you get on that Peloton, you're gonna feel so good. It's gonna feel like Charles feels getting into his Tesla. That's a beautiful thing. Charles, what are you gonna spend this worry-free money on potentially? - Nothing. I think I'd like to go to a fantasy baseball camp, the Dodgers in Vero Beach, and spend a week with the Hall of Famers. - That's less than 3,000 bucks? - No, but I'd also like to get some autographed Muhammad Ali gloves signed, and get a Jackie Robinson signed check. Get some sports memorabilia. - Where did all this stuff come from? All of a sudden, you have this list of things you're gonna get. I love it. Where did this come from? - Well, I read your book and I started to kind of to sketch out my rich life and this is on it. - Okay, very good. So sounds like two of those things fall under worry-free, and the third one probably need to be some kind of discussion, right? This Dodgers thing. Great. Love it. Both of you starting to realize, okay, we spent this money. It did not change a single thing for us financially. In fact, it was just sitting here in this swamp, just sitting here in a savings account or a check-in account, just sitting there doing nothing. And now every day I wake up, I go to the exercise room, I have a Peloton, I feel joy. Love it. You two did it. You got married, you raised a beautiful family, you became wildly financially successful, and you're still really young, mobile, everything's put together. You're great. It would be a tragedy to wait another 10 years, which we turn into another 10. - Yeah. The bitterness would deepen, possibly divorce. We wouldn't get to enjoy all the hard work we've been through to be in this financial position. It would be a wasted opportunity. - What I would like you to work towards, North Star is not just for you both to be spending more money. I don't really care how much you spend. I want you to have a rich life. A rich life means, Michelle, you are happy in your beautiful home. I want that for you. You are traveling. Charles, a rich life for you is feeling like your money is not out of control, that you will have enough, and to know it deep down in your spreadsheet bones, and to be just a little more adventurous than you are today. I'm Ramit Sethi, and you've been listening to a clip of an episode from the I Will Teach You To Be Rich podcast, which features real stories from real couples, including real numbers. Do you think Charles can actually change? Even at the end of this episode, Michelle wasn't sure. But we received a follow-up from Charles six months later, and I think you'll be very surprised by what you hear. You can go to iwt.com/followups to hear the full episode, and you'll be able to read the full letter from Charles, updating us on what happened. Thanks for listening to I Will Teach You To Be Rich. And now a clip from The Tim Ferriss Show. One book that came up in my research, and feel free to confirm or deny because you can't believe everything you read on the internet, but are you a fan of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius?
Why is New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert a fan of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius? (01:46:35)
Yes. Why is that? What is the meaning of this book for you, or what role does it play for you? Marcus Aurelius was, of course, the great philosopher king. Plato had always said that the ideal society would be a society where the king was also a philosopher. We have that right now in America. I was excited to see where that was going. I kid. I kid because I love. Anyway, Marcus Aurelius was that. He was a great scholar, and he was a great leader. And he was like all philosophers, somebody who spent his life in examination of the human condition and of his own existence. And his meditations are what survives of his journals. And they're so beautiful, and they're so immediate. I mean, the other thing that great art is, is that it's eternal, right? So the way that Marcus Aurelius speaks to himself in his journal feels like it could have been written yesterday. He is struggling through the same eternal questions that all of us are struggling through. What is the meaning of my life? How do I serve without being destroyed in service? How do I handle failure? How do I handle difficult people? How do I handle the limits of my powerlessness? You know, what happens when there are situations that are beyond my control? And he was a stoic as well. So a lot of it is just about can I survive my emotions? And stoicism in that philosophical realm doesn't mean white-knuckling your way through pain and pretending not to feel it. It means achieving, going back to Whitman, achieving that sense of being both in and out of the game at the same time. Being involved and like up to your neck in the messiness of life, while at the same time achieving a tiny bit of detachment to watch the, I guess what in Eastern philosophy they would call the karmic dilemma that you're in, and recognizing that there may be limitations to how much you can control that. And I love the way that he speaks to himself directly in his journals, the way that he'll say to himself, "Come on, come on, man. Like, come on, Marcus, you know, like, dude, get it together. Like, it's time, like, this is a moment for you to act. You can go down now, or you can find your strength, you can find your resilience, like the way that he coaches himself." I find that incredibly inspiring. And I also think my friend Martha Beck, who I talk about a lot, because she's a great teacher, but she has a great teaching that she gives people when they're full of anxiety and full of fear. There's ways that you can learn to speak to yourself that will actually mitigate that. And one of the ways that she teaches is that she coaches her clients to write down, let their fear speak. So you just give your fear its day, right? You have to respect it, it exists, it's part of you, you don't want to cast it away or attack it. You just open up your journal and you invite your fear to write down everything that it's afraid of. And you listen politely and with nonviolent compassion to your fear as it speaks. And then once it's done, and it's had its say, you say, "Thank you so much for sharing that. I'm really, I'm really grateful to, that you trust me enough to be this vulnerable and to tell me everything that you're afraid of." And then you say to your fear, "I'm now going to ask you, now that you've had a chance to speak, if you'll step aside, and I'm going to bring another aspect of myself forward. And I'm going to ask it to speak. So if fear, if you would just step aside for a moment, I'm now inviting wisdom into the room. And now I'm going to ask wisdom to write down what it thinks and what it suggests in this case." And it's extraordinary to see the wisdom that people find in themselves, that you're not just made of fear, you're also made of grace and of wisdom. And those meditations of Marcus Aurelius, it feels like that's what he's doing. He's writing to himself from a place of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. And then he's writing back to himself from a place of wisdom and saying, "This is what you're upset about. I recognize that. I see that. And now I'm going to ask wisdom to come into the room. And this is what it would suggest." So it's so beautiful and intimate to get to see a great mind like that working with itself in such an intimate setting. Well, hot damn, am I glad I asked about Marcus Aurelius. And for people who have no familiarity with Marcus Aurelius, to put the philosopher label also in perspective from the leadership, or within the sort of mesh of leadership, he was the last of the rulers known as the five good emperors, and also the last emperor of the Pax Romana, which was an age of peace and stability in the Roman Empire. So very highly effective, highly revered, and also highly reflective. And so I definitely second the recommendation. I would love to chat. Thank you so much, Tim, for putting him into, of course, because I'm so fascinated by spirituality and philosophy, I forgot to mention that he was also a badass Roman emperor. He also had a job. He also had a really good job, really, really good job. And he was excellent at it. So yes, thank you for pointing that out. He wasn't just a really thoughtful guy. He was also running like the world's greatest empire. Yeah, he was, I mean, fascinating character, and in some ways a reluctant leader also, much like Cincinnatus and some others who, George Washington comes to mind. Fascinating, fascinating guy. And I would love to leapfrog to Martha Beck, because you mentioned this parts work, which would be one way to put it, letting the fear speak, which makes me think also of something called internal family systems or IFS, which is super, super, I'll use the word interesting and also incredibly effective.
Lessons from Martha Beck (01:52:32)
I've seen IFS mostly as used by Michael and Annie Mithoffer who are therapists who work very closely with a nonprofit called MAPS in developing protocols for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. And both IFS and, well, I don't want to actually say this about IFS, but cognitive behavioral therapy has a lot of its roots in stoic philosophy, which has been used for trauma and PTSD. And then IFS does as well. That's just as a bit of context for folks. And I'd love for you to speak to what else you've learned from Martha Beck. I mean, what are some of the other things that have really stuck for you? I'll give you one. When I met her, I met her years ago at an Oprah Winfrey event. If you don't know of her, she's a life coach. She's a writer. She's actually the person for whom the term life coach was invented. She was the original life coach. And I always say, she was Oprah Winfrey's life coach, everybody. So if you just want to know some credentials, that's Martha. And when I met her, I met her around the time Rayya was sick. I had reached out to her weirdly. There are no coincidences, but we had met years ago. And then she wrote a book called Diana herself that landed on my desk. And I read it and I was like, this is so dazzling. And I need to reach out to her personally and tell her how great it is. So that reestablished our contact with each other. And then very shortly after that contact was established, Rayya got sick and Martha was right there for us and really walking us through that death and dying experience in such a remarkable way. I can truly say that it would have been a very much more painful experience without her help. One of the things that I said to Rayya about Martha once I first started having conversations with her was, I said, I've always felt like I play the game of life pretty well. Martha took the ball and just left the arena. Like, here I am struggling to play the game well. She's just like, now I'm not even going to play the game by its rules. And I didn't even know that you could just leave the game. And she's so wild off the charts. And her wildness is that she has this very strong belief that your intuitive nature will take care of everything. But in order to listen to it, you have to step away from trauma and you have to step away from culture. And that often means you have to unlearn every single thing you were ever taught by your family and by your culture about what is right and wrong. And you have to become a completely natural, wild, intuitive being. And you have to guide yourself purely based on essentially what she would say is based on what your body tells you. So any time that you and that's located like I'm putting my hand on it right now, but it's that center located between like your navel and your sternum. That's often extremely emotionally reactive. So if I don't want to do something, if I don't like somebody, that thing knows. It's a compass that's never wrong. And culture and trauma and family and training have taught me to override it constantly, right? So somebody invites me to an event and my sternum navel area starts to feel sick because I don't want to do it. But my training and my culture tells me that I have to. That's me overriding the only navigational system that is truly my own in order to be a good member of society. Or it's my fear that's overriding it because I say, "Oh, I have to say yes to that invitation because I have to network." You know, and if I say no to this really powerful person, then you know, so and that overrides it. Anytime you say yes with your mind when your body says no, you will lead yourself farther and farther and farther away from your path. And so the work that Martha does is about teaching people how to trust that and only that. And she has navigated her life based on that and only that. And she started navigating it that way, not for fun, but because she was dying. She was literally dying of several autoimmune diseases. And she was dying of being a good person. She was dying of doing everything exactly right as she had been taught by her Mormon upbringing. And then by Harvard. She went and got three degrees at Harvard. So she went from one really oppressive culture, which was Mormonism, into another one, which was academia. And the entire time was trying to be the best, good, moral, ethical person as per culture's recommendations. And she was literally dying of it. And the way that she cured herself was that she went on what she called an integrity cleanse. And this is the most badass thing I have ever heard anybody do. I like that. That is amazing. This is what, yeah, it all sounds good until you find out what you have to do to go out and-- It's like true for so many things. Dude, it's so hardcore. Like, she got a watch. She got a digital watch. This was years ago before phones. You can do it now on your phone, but like ask yourself if you really want to. But she did it because her alternative was literally to die. And that's often what will make people have to change. She got this watch. She put a timer on it to have it go off every 30 minutes. And every 30 minutes, whatever she was doing, she would check and see if she was lying. And if she was lying, she would correct it. So every 30 minutes, every 30 minutes. So that means you're on the phone with your sister and your sister's saying, "You guys coming for Christmas this year?" And you say, "Yeah, I can't wait. We're so looking forward to it." Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. Actually, no, I don't want to come. I don't want to come. We're not coming. Next 30 minutes, another one. Beep, beep, beep. Everything. Every single interaction, every single conversation, no more polite social lies, nothing. This extreme integrity cleanse. And she said, it was the most amazing thing in the world. She lost every single member of her family. She lost her marriage. She lost the work path that she was on. And what she became was herself. And what she got back was her health and her well-being and her intuition and her instincts. And then she had a few people left at the end of that. And they were her core people. And from that, she built her entire new life that she's still living in now. So it's a massively badass thing to do. But it's pretty cool. And she said, "I've softened it a bit." She's like, "I'll tell a social lie now just to be nice." But she's got a new book coming out next year that's all about this that I can't wait to be out into the world because the amount of integrity that she lives with and the amount of integrity that she taught me to live with are huge. And when you asked me, was it hard for me to tell my husband that I was in love with Rayya, that was directly a result of seeing the way that Martha lives and just having to be in integrity at the same time as being in respect to somebody. I'll give you one more Martha Beck line that I love. She says, "There are certain moments of your life where you're standing in front of a bonfire, and you have to jump. You just have to jump into it. And you have to be willing to burn away everything that you've been taught and everything that you're afraid of and just do it." And she said, and I remember her telling me this with such glee. She goes, "It's such a cool moment that you're in." And she said this to me, "As I was leaving my marriage and going to be with Rayya," she said that these bonfire moments are so fantastic because there's only two things that can happen when you jump into a bonfire. One of them is that you find out that it wasn't actually a bonfire, that you were afraid that it was going to burn you to pieces. And it actually didn't. It wasn't as scary as you thought. You did it. You took the leap. It turned out to be kind of like warm and soft and easy. So it was no big deal. The other thing that can happen is that it is a bonfire. And you are incinerated. And your entire life is incinerated by it. And that's even better because then you get to be reborn as a Phoenix on the other side completely new. So either way you win. So there's no reason not to. You'll either jump in and find out it was nothing or you'll jump in and you'll be destroyed and that's awesome too. So when I say Martha doesn't play by the game, that's what I mean. Like that's what I mean about she's not even in the arena that we would call any sort of normal way of living. And for that reason, she's been one of the top three most influential people in my entire life. You're like, "Martha, do we go left right or straight?" She's like, "We go up." You're like, "What? How do we do that?" That's incredible. Let's talk about the integrity check that sternum to navel area will have to come up with some sort of perineum like label that makes it a little easier to intercompass.
Importance Of Personal Boundaries
Staying true to one’s inner compass and saying “No” without remorse (02:02:03)
There we go. That's where it's located. Yeah. When you do say an integrity check and I had read that when Ray was sick, for instance, you began deleting or archiving emails without responding as a bit of a treat to yourself and okay, deleting goodbye. And when you say now, check in with yourself and decide to say no to something, let's just to make it easier, make it concrete via email, you get an invitation from a friend you do actually really like with something that could plausibly advance your career or be fun, but you check in with yourself and it's like, "No, this isn't a yes." How do you phrase your no's or declines? Do you have any particular go-to language that you like to use? I just want to make sure everybody knows that this is not easy. I didn't want to have any illusions for anybody that this is simple. And the closer the relationship, the harder it is. The closer and more intimately I'm involved with somebody, the more stakes there are for me and the harder it is for me to tell the truth. And that feels like it should be, you know, there's a paradox, you know, the people you love the most should be the people that you're able to be the most honest with. Well, no, because they're the people who you want to hurt the least. And so that's where it's really, really hard. So there's a couple layers of it, right? So if it's somebody... I now treat my inbox like it's my home, because I think it's an extension of my home. So if somebody walks into my home uninvited, and announces themselves, and doesn't say how they got a key, and asks for something, I delete that email. And I will delete that email even if they are a producer for Good Morning America. You know, I'm like, I'm just like, I didn't invite you in. There are proper channels, you know what they are. I don't know how you got my personal email and I just deleted it. And if I feel a sense in my sternum of offense, of feeling like this person has taken a liberty, I don't believe that I owe them anything. I don't believe that I owe them anything any more than if I came down to my kitchen and saw people sitting at my table who I didn't know eating breakfast, I wouldn't believe that I owed them to make them a cup of coffee. I'd be like, get out of my house. You're not supposed to be here. And I don't think I even owe them. I don't even think I owe them a polite response. I owe them nothing. I didn't ask you to come into my house. I don't owe you anything. So that's the easiest. Those are ones are easy. And I now treat myself to doing that. I mean, I do that every day. I clear my inbox out very quickly that way. And then it's very, I'm entertained when they come back later. And they're like, just circling back. And I'm like, yeah, just deleting you again. Circle back as many times as you want. You are not coming in. So that's simple. If it's a- Just bumping this up because I know you. Yeah. I'm just bumping you back. And I'm just, it's like whack-a-moles. It's like, I can do this all day. Delete, delete, delete. If it's somebody who I care about, if it's something that I'm interested in, but I'm just not going to do it because I don't want to, I will write back and say, thank you so much. I'm really honored that you invited me to this, but I'm not going to be able to do this at this time. And I don't feel the need to give a reason. I think a simple no is really, really good. And the reason, sometimes the reason it's good not to give an explanation is that if that person is an expert manipulator, as many of us are, that explanation will not suffice. So it won't matter what you give as an explanation because they can come back and be like, well, we can do it by audio, you know, or we can do, oh, if you're, oh, well, we can do it a different weekend. Just no. And I learned a lot about this from my teacher, Byron Katie, who teaches an amazing thing called the school for the work. That's a whole, she's a whole another being who's not at all living by the rules. - Extra terrestrial for sure. - She is extraterrestrial. She is the only fully enlightened human being I believe I have ever met. And as such, she does not have any trouble saying an honest yes and an honest no to people. - And just to underscore that, 'cause I did an in-person training with her. I mean, literally no hesitation, no struggle, no conflict. It's bizarre. And just mesmerizing to watch. - And she loves you. And she loves you. There's also no hostility. - And no offense, no hostility. - Somebody came up to her at an event, handed her a book that they'd written, which people do to me all the time too. So I really marveled at this. And they said, I wrote this and I want to share it with you. And she said, oh, sweetheart, I'm never gonna read that. True. It's just true. I'm never gonna read that. And I'm like, oh my God, I didn't know you could say that. Right? It's so, that's amazing. And she said it so lovingly like, oh, no, I have no interest in reading that. So she teaches, I don't know if you did, when you took her training, did you do where she teaches a simple no, and she does a training on how to give a simple no? - I don't think we actually spent much time on that. So I would love to hear you say more. We worked on the emotional one pages and the turnarounds. We did a lot on the turnarounds, which is probably, we could do a whole episode just on that. - Everybody look up Byron Katie. She's amazing. And if you have the means and if you have the chance to ever take her nine day school for the work, it's the most important thing I've ever done for myself. So I'll say that quite simply. But she has a whole day in the nine day school for work, which is about the simple no. And the simple no is ways to say no. And it always begins with thank you. And there's never a but, 'cause she feels that the word but is very cruel and it's just an and. So it's thank you and no. And that's it. That's a simple no. And then if they come back, you can say- - Well, hold on just to pause for a second. Is that literally the phrasing or is it just- - Yeah. Thank you and no. Yeah, that's it. That's it. That's a simple no. And it just, it still makes my stomach ache. 'Cause I'm like, "Oh my God, you can't just do that. You've got to give, you've got to like do the dance." And she's like, "You don't have to do the dance." And she's the one who taught me if the person is a good enough manipulator, it doesn't matter what you bring, they're gonna manipulate it. And the beautiful thing about a simple no is that it gives, in the jujitsu game, it gives somebody no weapon that they can take and bring back at you. They can say, "You're being incredibly selfish." And you can say, "I hear that and you might be right about that." That's another one she always says, "You might be right about that. You might be right about that and no." And you just keep adding and no after the statement. So then there's, "I need you to do this. I'm desperate." And you say, "I see that. I see your desperation and no." And one other thing she'll add is you can say, "If I change my mind about this, I'll let you know and no." And that's been a game changer for me. So I just did one last week. Somebody who I have a professional relationship said, "I want you to do this one hour video interview to promote this thing that I'm doing." And old Liz would have thought, "I owe her that because she did this other thing for me that time." And I checked in with my inner compass and I was like, "Nothing in me wants to do this." And so I just wrote back to her. I said, "I'm so sorry. I'm not." I said, "I'm sorry and I'm not gonna be able to do this at this time." And she wrote back and pushed in and said, "Oh, let me clarify. I wasn't clear about why we need it. We really need it because right now it's really hard for us to sell things because we don't have because of COVID-19 and that's why we need it." And I wrote back and said, "I hear you and I understand you and no." And it goes away. They don't tend to come back a third time. It really does just stop and let it sit at the no. The more words you add after that, the more entangled you get. But again, I want to make clear it's hardest closest to home and it's hardest with family. And with family, I find if I anticipate that I'm going to be asked something, I really have to practice because it's scary. And I have to really practice and be like, and just practice saying, "I'm not doing that right now. I'm not coming this year. I'm not doing it." And I'll say it a thousand times. I'll just go for a long walk and I'll just practice it and practice it and practice it because as I say, the closer the people are to you, the more difficult it is. - Hey guys, this is Tim again. Just one more thing before you take off and that is Five Bullet Friday. Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little fun before the weekend? Between one and a half and 2 million people subscribe to my free newsletter, my super short newsletter called Five Bullet Friday. Easy to sign up, easy to cancel. It is basically a half page that I send out every Friday to share the coolest things I've found or discovered or have started exploring over that week. It's kind of like my diary of cool things. 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