Neuroscientist REVEALS How To Reprogram Your Mind WHILE YOU SLEEP For Success! | Moran Cerf | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Neuroscientist REVEALS How To Reprogram Your Mind WHILE YOU SLEEP For Success! | Moran Cerf".
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- Everybody, welcome to Impact Theory. You're here because you believe, as I do, that human potential is nearly limitless, but you know that having potential is not the same thing as actually doing something with it. So our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas that are gonna help you actually execute on your dreams. All right, today's guest is a hacker turned neuroscientist. He is a fascinating blend of a wide variety of disciplines, and this diversity has led him to explore some promising, albeit non-traditional ways of investigating the brain, namely cracking open the skull, and peering inside whilst the person is still living. What he's found is so interesting, it makes my eyes bleed and has made him a much sought after speaker and leading thinker who is influencing academia and business in equal measure. His education is a wondrous grab bag of joy and includes a PhD in neuroscience from Caltech and both an MA in philosophy and a BSC in physics from Tel Aviv University. He's a visiting faculty member at MIT's Media Lab, and his work has been published in such prestigious scholarly journals as Nature, the highest ranking journal in the world, as well as widely distributed publications such as Scientific American Mind, Wired and New Scientist. He was named one of the 40 leading professors under 40, and his groundbreaking work has brought him a claim and attention from all over the globe, including Hollywood, where he's been tapped as a consultant and contributor on such hit shows as Mr.
Discussion On Neuroscience And Behavioral Motivation
Dr. Moran Cerf (01:16)
Robot, my favorite, Limitless, Bull, Falling Water and Ancient Aliens. He's also the Alfred P. Sloan Professor at the American Film Institute, where he teaches a screenwriting course on science and film. He holds multiple patents and is a multi-time national storytelling champion whose talks have garnered him millions of views. Please help me in welcoming the Professor of Neuroscience and Business at the Kellogg School of Management and the Neuroscience Program at Northwestern University, the neurosurgeon who has actually walked into a bank and robbed it, Dr. Moran Serf. - Thank you. - Thank you, Moran. - Thank you. - What a pleasure, man. - Thank you so much for joining us. And I think the only reasonable place to start with you is to ask, how does it feel to rob a bank? - It feels remarkable.
Bank Robbers (02:30)
I think I'm trying to go back to the memory of doing it the first time. It's something that you can live in the first time. Before and after. Your life is... - How many times have you robbed a bank? - I have to bank the way you mean as it went into a one and stole the cash four times. - Wow. - And stole money virtually dozens of times. - Because so the stealing money virtually was your job. - Right. - But walk us through how you end up walking into a bank and actually robbing it. - So there are a number of people right now whose job is to actually break into banks and steal the money online. So this is a job, it's called Pentester. You're hired by the banks board to try and kind of find ways to online steal the money. This is common. There are some banks who would let you also try to test the physical security, which would mean to actually go there and see if the cameras are pointing to the right place. If someone left a post-it note with the password on the computer and also to actually go and say, "Hey, give me your money." - Wow. - It's not that popular among hackers because they're not really good at it normally. But every now and then you'll hear about a group of hackers who tried it and we were among those who went instead. Let's see if we can rob the bank. The way, you know, Westerners did it. - So how do you then end up becoming a neuroscientist? Your job was pretty sexy. It's not like it was drool and boring. You were robbing banks and hacking computers. - So the story involves a lot of characters who influenced it but I would say that the one person who influenced me the most is Francis Krik, who was at the time maybe the most influential neuroscientist studying consciousness in San Diego that I happened to meet when I was a hacker.
Phineas Gage (04:00)
So totally doing something else in my life and had an evening with him. And in this evening, he kind of learned about my career and he said, "Your job is to basically "look at the black box, "see what comes in, what goes out and learn how it works." This is what hackers do. He said, "Think about using that "in something that's gonna be much more valuable "to the world which is looking at the brain." The brain is this black box instead of trying to kind of figure out the code, try to see how people behave, understand what they do and learn how their brains work to make it happen. And this took me two years to actually apply the advice but it's really interesting. So you're talking about Francis Krik from Krik and Watson, the people who discovered the double helix of DNA, which is pretty interesting. And honestly, tell us a little researching you. I didn't realize how recently he was active. It sort of felt a little more distant to me. You've called him your idol. What was it about him in particular that made him your idol? - So first of all, he tackled the interesting questions. There's a lot of scientists and they kind of tried to do the same thing many, many times just to kind of accumulate more knowledge on the same problem. He was not that kind of guy. He really tried to look at all the things that I was told as a kid, all the interesting things in science but you should not ever study them until you have a Nobel Prize. Studying dreams, consciousness, whether there's aliens out there, free wheel, all the cool things that we kind of think about when we were kids, but I was told as we enter academia, don't ever touch this thing, at least until you get a Nobel Prize.
The Worlds We Live In (05:21)
He was looking at all of those things and really kind of diving into them. So I felt that this was what's interesting. - And you actually made a list, right? When you first started your, was it your PhD? You made the list of like, here are the important questions I think I want to explore. - Day one on my fridge, I had this post-it note with all the things that I wanted to do, if I ever get a PhD. And among those things were the things I mentioned. - All right, so let's take them piece by piece and I'm really fascinated by free will certainly. And I'm assuming that you follow Sam Harris in terms of his talk about free will and all the stuff that he's done on that. What is it that draws you to free will? Why are you interested? - So I think that in a way there's an application to free will, right? We live life thinking, we make decisions all the time and are responsible for our decisions and also kind of determined and defined by those. So if I ask you what do you want to have for lunch and I offer you five different things and you make a choice, then your choice is somehow your identity. This is like what you care about. And if I told you right now that I could predict what you're gonna choose an hour before you made a choice a day, 20 years before, it kind of takes away some of our identity in a way, but also kind of gives us meaning because it says, okay, there is actually a narrative that we carry with us throughout life. And now the choice has become really something that defines who we are, not just the moment of but as a person in the world. So I always care about like free will, understanding it, predicting it, and also using it to change things. So if you think that, okay, all my choices are kind of determined, do I have any meaning to my life? The answer is they're not determined. We do have control over them, and that's what makes us kind of human. - So you believe that we do have free will, or you believe that it's totally different than how we're thinking of them.
The illusion of free will (07:16)
We have to totally reimagine it. - So there's like two kind of moments that need to be addressed. One is whether we do actually have this moment of spark that happens when the choice is totally arbitrary and we have like a choice. I do believe that we have that free will. Kind of a toss of a coin where something gets determined, but what's interesting is the moment where we become aware of the free will choice. As in, I ask you, you're sitting in a restaurant and I ask you do you want the fish or the steak? There's this moment, like you have two options. And now you're about to make a choice. What do you want? - Steak. - Steak. - For sure. - You had a second now where you had kind of to look at all the options, like if you wanted to make a decision. So now at some point if I asked you when did you make the choice, you would say well, maybe as soon as I finished the sentence, maybe I would, maybe you would say a fraction of a second afterwards. The question is, hey, how far before did we know the answer to that? Also, was there anything I could have said differently that would have made you say the fish? And most importantly, what's the gap between the moment you would tell me? That's the moment I chose and the moment that you actually chose. And apparently there is a gap. And this gap is what we call the illusion of free will. The moment where you say, that's the moment, this is T zero. This is when it happened. And I can look at your brain and say, no, what? Actually, here, we already knew that you're going to choose. Or even if you want to take it one first time ever, we can actually stimulate your brain and make you choose this thing. And I would tell you and say, wait a minute, you say, I definitely make the choice myself. This was my decision. And I say, well, you know what? Here's me zipping your brain before making you say fish. Here's me zipping your brain. We can use it with transcranial magnetic circulation. So this is not me, but there are people who know. So what would you do? Can you really do the steak fish one? There's a-- the only demo that I saw was one person basically having a little box. And they have buttons and have to choose whether you want to press the left or the right. And people sit there and they press left, right, right, left, left, left for like 10 minutes. And then someone asked them, was it your choice? Which button to press at any point? So of course. And then you zoom out and you see a person sitting with a TMS, like this machine that looks at the brain and basically playing like a papa tail, left, right, right. Can't you walk out of here? That's real? That's real. And what's interesting isn't that you can do that. This is not surprising. We know that we can actually zap your brain and make you move your head. What's surprising is that you would tell me it was my choice. Like you would-- you would believe that it was your decision. You wouldn't question the fact that what you did was your decision. And this to me is the interesting part that we kind of have this way with our brain to always defend it and always say, whatever I did, I wanted to do. If I made this thing, it wasn't my choice. And now we know that it wasn't necessarily your choice. The things affected you, the things made you do what you did, and you will always claim that it was your decision. So we can actually show you that you're not really full. How do people respond when you show them? Funny. They mostly try to defend free will. So they try to argue with me. And I showed them the video of me saying anything. And they say, no, no, no, we have this experiment where we bring it to the lab. And we just tell them things. We say, OK, what do you want to eat after the experiment? What do you want to sit here or there? We ask them to make decisions and we don't really tell them anything. Just say, take decisions. Like, sit here or there. Do you want this pen or that pen? Do you want the light on or off? And then we ask them after the experiment, how many choices you made? The people who experienced us toying with their free will think that they made hundreds of choices. They made about 14. But they really feel that, OK, I had too many choices. I controlled everything. This was my decision. They kind of tried to grasp into the idea of free will and say, I had a lot of choices in my life and I made them. They become a little more religious. They become a little bit more ethical. A lot of things happen to you when you feel that what's in question is your identity. That is so interesting. And I've heard a lot of these studies. And I have not heard where you're literally playing Congo drums on whether they do the right and left. I've seen the one where you know they're about to do it before they do. And so you turn the buttons on essentially to buzz them and tell them not to press, which is hilarious. But I didn't know about that one. It's so interesting. So, OK, you're a guy with deep background and narrative.
Do you believe in free will -- and how do you know? (11:03)
Teach a screenwriting course for God's sake. So, help me understand how you know that you can manipulate the brain. And yet you still believe in free will. But it sounds like you believe in free will in the way that it's tied to your own self narrative. So, here's the idea. I feel that there's a lot of things that affect our decisions. The temperature in the room, the height of the chair, the weight of the book, we're holding a lot of things. And this is studied by a lot of people in many, many ways that show time and again that you can actually change a person's behavior. And we can list those things. So, someone can take them and now have a kind of list of things that they can apply if they want to have better interactions with people, what temperature should the room be, what they should do. So, we know that. We know that thing. And at the same time, we still live life as if it's our decision entirely. So, we know that I can trick you by making the price of the food 6.99 rather than 7 and you would think that it's 6.7. That's like the simplest one in the book. And all of us know it and it still works. Taking that to a larger scale, we know that there's hundreds of thousands of biases that affect our brain. And even if I tell you what they are, you will still work the same way. So, free will is becoming interesting to me when we learn all of those things and we say, okay, then who am I? And what's in charge? Who's the puppeteer in this example? And the reality is that what we learn is that there are more than one puppeteer in our brain. There's many, many. And every day one other guy wakes up. And so, one day we're this guy, one day we're this guy, and they're kind of vying for dominance. They fight and they compete. They kind of make a decision together. They vote. And ultimately, we protect the person who spoke last and we say, this is who I am. And to me, what's interesting is that we can now actually show all the characters. We can show them fighting. We can tell you that there are more people in your brain. And in doing so, we can actually allow you to really manifest different sides of yours. So, you know maybe that you're making better choices in the morning and I make better choices in the evening. You might know that you're making better decisions when you're hungry and I'm when I'm full. When you're talking to your friends when you're alone.
The Best Time To Make A Decision (13:11)
So, we can now profile your brain. So, if somebody's watching this right now and they're thinking, okay, wait, do I make better decisions when I'm hungry or fall, night, day, what are you looking for and what can they look for at home? So, I would say what we do with a lot of people who are kind of in senior positions and companies that want to actually make decisions better. We have a protocol that's a little bit tedious. So, it's not easy to do it, but I'll tell you what it is. And then you can think of ways to maybe try it yourself. So, we have them basically walk for a week with a diary and make choices and just write them down. So, tell us, okay, you know, I had this fish or the steak for lunch and I chose this and this and I chose. And they also write whether they were happy or not with the choice. Now, this is done the way they would normally, but we also had one more thing. We put EG cap on their head. All day for more than 24 hours. So, they walk with something that measures their brain activity. And there's moments where we have to replace the batteries. There's a lot of gaps there, but altogether we have them walk through life with both living life the way they do and they reflect on the soil choices, but also have us look at our brain. And what we do at the end of the three days, one week as long as they would do that, it's kind of uncomfortable and embarrassing sometimes. We ask them to kind of look at all the choices and tell us which ones were good, which ones were bad, and then we look at our brains and we see what was their brain looking like, what did it look like when they made choices that they were happy with. And we sometimes see that there are things in their brain that are kind of repeated. So, maybe they make choices more using this part of the brain. I'm not trying to simplify it by looking at part of the brain that are more emotional, rather than rational. We see that they activate more parts of the brain that are buried deep inside, that has to do with reflection rather than thinking. So, we kind of, and we tell them, you know, here's what we learned about you. You are better in this and that state. So, that's one thing. So, it's kind of not easy to apply because you still have to have this thing on your head. So, not everyone can do that, but at least people in senior positions who feel that, you know, their choices are critical, come to us and they say, "Okay, help me. I want to know who I am better."
The Power Of Your Brain (15:06)
Now, what about the study you did where you've got the cyclist on the bike, they're going, "Hard, hard, hard, hard, hard." And you watch for certain brain states where you know, "Okay, they're going to quit." And then you use that information over time to get them to delay quitting farther and farther. So, behind that lies the idea that the brain is kind of like a muscle. And specifically, there's a part of the brain that we really care about. It's the part that's doing self-control. So, if you think about it in simple way to look at it, is that you start running, you go running. The first mile, your legs say, "Let's run." And the brain controls themselves, "Let's run." And the other part, within it, says, "No problem at all." After one mile, your legs say, "It's a little bit painful, but the other brain controls them," say, "Keep going." After 10 miles, the legs say, "I want to quit." And the other part say, "No, keep going." And there's like a battle there. And at some point, you're going to break. Now, when you're going to break, it depends on a lot of things, your muscles, but it also depends on this kind of control, coming from the front of your brain, that overrides your experience, your pain. And if we can see this moment where you break, the moment where you stop despite the fact that you can do a little more, we can come back to you tomorrow and say, "Let's do the same thing you did yesterday. Have you run?" Only this time when you get to the moment, when we see that you're about to break, we're going to play a sound. We're going to tell you that we can see that you're about to break. And we ask you to just continue for one more minute at this moment that is beyond what you did yesterday. What, in that moment, how do you appeal to them? It's like, "Come on, motherfucker, you got this!" Or... That's basically it's right. There's a question in sports for a while. Why is it that people do better when they play home game versus outside game? Like, what is it about your mum being in the audience that makes you win the game? Like, in theory, they shouldn't matter. Like, throwing the basketball should be the same. But somehow we know that if your friends are there, if you're feeling better, we know that people do better when they're all at the kind of winning... There's a lot of things that affect our brain. What we try to understand right now is, "Where is it in the brain? What is this part of the brain that gets better when your emotions are highlighted and more heightened?" And now we've seen it. That is so... This is life. Like, what you're talking about right now, boys and girls at home, I'm telling you, there's a banality to being an entrepreneur. There is a willingness to suffer to being an entrepreneur. To being a great mom, like, whatever it is that you're trying to do, suffering is involved. And it literally, like, being able to extend your breakpoint is what it's about. And when I read... What we're gonna say is that we all face those moments. When the alarm passes at 6 a.m., we set the alarm at 10 p.m. And suddenly in the morning, we're different people. Like, we're not the person who wants to wake up anymore. And it's the same brain that set the alarm at 10 p.m. But now suddenly it's the same guy. This is the moment. Like that. We have to make a choice. When we're going running, when we're about to eat the cake, there's like a tasty cake and we're gonna die it. And we say, "Oh, I shouldn't eat the cake," but there's a conflict. And now is the moment where those two parts of the brain come to life. And the more you know about yourself, the more you're aware of those situations, the better you can do in controlling them. And the more you know about yourself, you can do better in all of those tasks. And that's kind of the ultimate thing. That's why we're here. We're giving you the knowledge. And once you know it doesn't work anymore. Once you know that 699 isn't 7, it's how to afford to work. So just knowing is enough for people to do better. Know that it's in your capacity to change. And that's what we want. Like, how does somebody become more self-aware? How do they begin to identify those things that are particular to them so that they can extend their breaking point or so that they can, you know, improve whatever.
Controlling Fear (18:32)
So, so all we need to do is we need to communicate science in tangible way so people would know all the options. I said there's a hundred dozen options, but there are actually a couple of hundreds of biases that we humans have. I can give you an example in a second. Once you know them, they don't work anymore. So the job of scientists is to just translate the knowledge of the brain into words that they can be then spoken to an audience who then leaves by them. And that's it. So all we need to do is just do this. Speak to people and list the biases. Then it doesn't work anymore. Then at least when it happens, you become a little bit better in controlling that. That's all we need. It's pretty simple. Once you know it doesn't work. So how about, I mean, let's use an example from your life. So I love the story, by the way, of you're about to be published in nature. It's your first big break in science. I mean, this is really going to set up your career. And then someone wakes you up from a nap and you basically say, yeah, recording dreams is possible. You can't take it back. You're like, wait, wait, that's not quite what I meant. And it goes crazy. But the part that I love is Christopher Nolan calls you up. This is, hey, I just did this movie, "Inception." You're now the dream recording guy. I want you to come with me and do a worldwide tour, which would be a huge break for you and just be, I'm sure, money and certainly notoriety. And you had to think about it. Even though you knew going means essentially reinforcing this opinion that I actually don't agree with. But turning it down means that I pass up that opportunity. What did you go through in the 24 hours before you gave the answer? So to give you the full story, I'm finishing my PhD. I've decided what I do next. Am I continuing in science? Do I go back to being a hacker? This is like a moment of folk in my life. And suddenly this comes this moment where the end of my five-year PhD is getting a lot of attention, but all wrong. This is my career hinges of this thing. Then I have suddenly an option to actually own this thing and become this dream expert even though it's based on a lie. Right. So I was fortunate enough to have enough checks and balances that I didn't really have to go far with that. So here's the interesting reflection that I have right now. So I knew it's impossible to look at people's dreams. And I knew that I kind of set it in a sleepy state and created this amazing story for people that scientists are now recording dreams. And the mistake was to leave this. To say, "No, it's not possible. I'm not going to own this thing even though the world cares about it." So if anything can be learned from this thing, is that the world really wanted to have people to call dreams because that's why it's such a big thing because people cared about it. It was dreams are interesting. And I went and I said it's impossible and I want to kill this toy. This was the mistake. Interesting. Three years later, I'm sitting at home now 2013. And I got a call from BBC again. BBC were the first ones to kind of let the story go away. And they called me again and they say, "Professor Serf, we want you to comment on dream recording and the possibility of doing that." And I say, "Guys, are you kidding me? We've done with that. This is not too... Like, let's not even begin going there." I said, "No, no. We know that you cannot do that. But we wanted to comment on the work of Professor Kamitani from Japan who's doing this right now." So someone in Japan didn't know that it was impossible. He just didn't hear me going anywhere public and saying it's impossible. So he just did it. So three years after I said it was impossible, someone did it. And two years after that, I joined. So now half the thing we do in my lab is actually looking at people's dreams. So we... The mistake I made wasn't to say it's possible when it was not. It was to say something was impossible before I knew that. Because I think that science is all about going to those dark places and trying to find it's impossible. My mistake was to say it was impossible before I was sure about that. So I should have said we don't know yet, we didn't do it yet, but we should investigate. I was quick to say I didn't do it, it's impossible. So I delayed things by three years, five years after I'm doing it right now. Dude, can I shake a hand? I fucking love that so much. Like that's... Like most people cannot look at something like that and say the mistake that I made was actually in the opposite direction and I should have been bolder. I should have made a wiser proclamation. And then to actually join the team. That's so cool. The first thing I did was to say that I was told not to study. Now that's what I do in my lab every day. Now I'm never saying something is impossible before, I'm certain that it's impossible.
Changing Behavior (23:07)
Wow, I love that. I'd love it even more if you would go so far as to say nothing is truly impossible. Then you'd really have me. I'll go with that. So you mentioned that I teach screenwriter and I work with TV. The reason I do that is because I feel that the best ideas for my research come from those hours with the kids who write plays, with the fellows at the American Institute who writes science fiction from movies that inspired me, like the Matrix. You mentioned that. This inspired us. We were kids of 1999. What happened then affected us. It started like affected my dad's generation. The best paper that I ever written has a thousand of citation. The episode of Limitless that I worked on last week and came out has five million people watching it. Those are the kids who are going to be me in 20 years and if they think, "Oh, this is maybe possible," they're going to do that. You ask me how to change behavior. This is how to know what the possibilities are. I love that so much. Here's the people watching the show. They know my story very, very well and I'll run it into the ground because it's so important. I am not an example of what happens when innate talent meets hard work. I'm an example of what happens with a human being anytime hard work is applied because I didn't show early signs of promise. I got a 990 on my SATs. That was taking it twice. I don't qualify for men or anything like that. I have an average IQ. It's like none of my raw materials are very impressive. I work hard and I work hard over a very long period of time. In doing so, I've completely transformed my life and I've transformed my mind to the point where now people just assume I'm smart. The same people that were looking at me 20 years ago did not assume I was smart, but they do now. The reason this conversation is so important to be having with a neuroscientist is it all comes down to me to the narrative that you tell yourself. When I was under educated and lost and bordering undepressed and all of that, it was because the narrative that I told myself was that I was a victim of something. Once I gave up the victim mentality and I realized I can do anything that I set my mind to. Now it's a spiritual question. If you really believe you can do anything you set your mind to, then how you spend your time is a spiritual question. Once I said, "Okay, what I'm going to spend my time on is self improvement. I'm going to see how much can I manipulate my own brain." I began researching the brain to understand what's malleable, what's not learning about myelin. If you don't even know what myelin is, to think that you've already sort of maxed yourself out, it's fucking crazy. Researching the brain, finding out the anatomical mechanisms that are at play and then coming to, "Okay, this comes down to self-narrative." If I'm telling myself dreams can't be recorded, then they really can't because I will stop shy of that.
If You Dont Think Big, That's On You (25:59)
When you're talking about never saying that something is impossible and you're not really sure, what I started thinking about is thinking big. Everything really big. Watching the matrix and saying, "Okay, either that level of VR is actually possible or stopping bullets is actually possible." Whatever the thing is that you take away from it. Time travel was one of the things on your list. The promise I make to people watching this show is from watching this show, you will accomplish more than you would if you didn't watch the show. One of the key reasons for that is you'll finally understand that if you fail to think big, that's on you. The only reason you're not thinking big is because you're scared, because there's nothing in the machinations of the brain. There's nothing in what has come before you in science, nothing that would lead you to believe the thing you currently think is impossible actually is. Let me say this in neuroscience words. I love it. Here's how I'm going to say it. Your brain goes with you and it carries all of the history in the form of memories. All you have from what happened before you is stored in the form of memories and they're not accurate and they're compressed. That's all you have about the past. You have no idea in the future, even though your brain tries to predict it all the time. This is what dreams are for. This is what decisions are for. You try to simulate the future and make predictions. You don't know what's going on. All you have is this sliver of reality which is the present, which is all you have. You control everything that happens there. The nice thing about the present is that actually it interacts with everything in your brain and you can change things. What we learned in the last five years is that memories are different in how they work and what if I had started it in one sentence, they change every time you use them. If you have a memory stored here of what you had for lunch yesterday and I ask you what did you have for lunch, you basically open the memory right now and you tell me a story but whatever happens right now goes into the story and you save it differently. If I ask you tomorrow what you had for lunch, you'll open the modified version. What am I asking you the same question? You open a different version which means you can actually change the past. You can actually change your experience of things. This is why therapy works. You go, your girlfriend breaks up with you, you go to the therapist, she asks you what happened, you tell the story, she intervenes, you save it differently. You wake after, what happened, you tell a different story. After five meetings you have a different version of the reality. That is powerful because it means that we control the narrative that we have. We don't really have to be kind of confound to the story that we have experienced. We can actually change it. This is what the brain is for, to simulate and change and adjust and synthesize better version of life. We can make ourselves happy, we can make bad things look better, we can control things and it's all by virtue of just telling a story, looking it differently and saving it again. It's as simple as that. We have the ability to actually change the story all the time. So learning is one way to do that, thinking and reflecting about ourselves another way to do that, having more experiences allows us to do that, we know all of this now. So suddenly there's kind of essence to this self-help book that we've had when we're kids and we know how to implement it. I become a preacher but I love it, I love it and I hope people are listening to your sermon because this is like that is the most important thing anybody struggling to have success should know is the narrative that you tell yourself about yourself is the most important thing you have. And if you tell yourself a story of struggle and adequacy, not being good enough, failure, like all of that, then that's going to reinforce because that literally becomes your identity and going back to what you're saying at the very beginning, you've got people and they're justifying why they made some choice. And when you said you want the fish to the steak, dude inside I was like my narrative as a human being is I'm the guy who chooses the steak.
Your Narrative Is the Most Important Thing! (29:49)
So I didn't know that wasn't even difficult. It would have been easier if you said steak or cake because I was really the guy that chooses the steak over cake. But it's like that's pure narrative, right? That's what I want to tell myself. And so when I like the big breakthrough in my life, the big breakthrough on a map of my timeline, if you were going to put a demarcation point, it is the day I stopped thinking of myself as smart because I wasn't and I started thinking of myself as a learner. That changed everything because now the narrative that I was reinforcing, the memories I was pulling out, changing just a little bit and then putting back all revolved around reimagining myself as somebody who learns faster than other people is willing to learn. We'll put in the time and the effort to learn. And so it became this identity which was anti-fragile, right? Because now you could tell me that I was stupid and it didn't hurt me. It just compelled me to learn more. The reason I shook your hand earlier is I really am moved when you say I was wrong about that. I should have done this. Anytime people can say that, can just own a mistake and see a better solution, that's somebody who's polishing a self-image in a way that's anti-fragile. The more they look at that failure, the harder they go in a new and better direction. It's really incredible. All right. I want to ask you all the questions that I get asked to which I have no answer. And I'm hoping because I get asked these questions a lot.
Self-Improvement Techniques And Understanding The Brain'S Wants
How Can I Get More Motivation? (31:13)
All right. Number one. How can I get more motivation? And it's the one thing because I've never lacked motivation. I don't know how to help people. Tough. So here's how I would think about that. So motivation is a word, right? It's a label that we put a set of events in our brain. What you actually want is the outcome of that. You want to do things that when it's held. So I think that there are a few kind of things that we know work. One is evidence of past successes. If I see video and I go back to your memories and I reframe them as successes, suddenly the current event that's the same is a success. So I think that one thing is having success stories and identification stories. As in you find there's a lot of people out there. There was a person that is like you that had similar experience and chose the thing that you want to choose. Find this person or these people and it's going to rub into you. So I get asked by my students often, how do I become funnier? How do I become a smaller and my one tip that I give them all the time is surround yourself with people that you want to be like. You want to be funny, just sit next to comedians, just go to the same room they are and just sit next to them. It's going to rub onto you by your smoothness because it's the environment that is around us that really changes everything and other people said it before but I'll tell you the neuroscience behind it. We know now that brains interact with each other through language in a way that synchronizes the brains. So when I talk to you right now, if you're engaged with what I say, it means that if we scan our brain right now, our brains are going to look alike. More than yours and someone on the street that isn't here. So two people in the same room, as soon as they interact, their brains literally start to kind of, if you want, pulsing in the same way. Lots of the brain light up in the same way, parts shut down. So we actually, this is how we affected each other. This is how communication made humans who they are. This is the one thing that makes us better than all the animals because we are able to communicate using language, affect each other's brain and create narratives that exist together. We both believe in things that we've never seen before, like God or ideas that democracy or money. Like those things we invented and we can communicate them and create this image in people's brains and they all share this thing. So in the same way, if you surround yourself by people that you want to be like, you hear them communicate, they change your brain and it's going to rub onto you. You are going to actually become funnier. If you sit and listen to funny people, next to you, you actually become more motivated if you're next to people that are motivated. The next version of that, if you cannot find them, if you're sitting right now in a rural part of Alaska and you can't just find yourself in Los Angeles with the people you want to be with, is to actually just look at them on videos, on books. And that's the way our brain basically gets content and change. So changing brains happens many, many ways, but the easiest one that everyone can try is to say what kind of world I want to be in and bring this world to you in the form of movies, stories, TV shows or people. That's the way to kind of get things that you want next to you. And do you think when you're doing that, that you're getting into a repetitive brain firing pattern that ultimately wires, you actually change your brain. So we didn't mention that there's science behind it much, like in terms of what we do, but we put a lot of people's brains and we look at their brains while things happen to them and we actually see it in action. We see how the brain changes when people communicate. We see how the brain looks when you watch a movie, we see how your brain aligns with the movie and when you tell someone else the story of the movie, their brain aligns with your brain but aligns also with the brain of the director of the movie. So communication is this mechanism by which information flows between brains and changes the brains. But actually, if you want to take it one step above, this is also how we change ourselves because we talk to ourselves all the time. You drive your car or you walk to work and you're just alone with yourself and you communicate, you also change your brain. You kind of solidify the things that you want to be more like and you suppress the ones in the one. So we always talk and those voices, those are basically the other characters in our brain that talk to each other. You kind of choose which ones to give more weight to.
How Do You Become a Better Person Overnight (35:28)
So this is how you become the better person you want to be. So we actually now play with things that change behavior during the night when you're sleeping in the following way.
Dreams & Sleep Stages (35:35)
Yes. We actually... Talk about this. So this is another new thing from the last 10 years in neuroscience that was kind of finally discovered which is you can learn, change and transfer overnight. So if you look at the night, if you go to sleep for eight hours sleep, it's not really a uniform experience. Night is not really just the full asleep and you spend eight hours just in the same state. You actually have phases. We call them stages and cycles. And there have different things that happen in them. And one of them is the stage where we are dreaming. That's when our brain basically simulate future options and shows us a movie of things that could happen and allow us to live to them. Thinking their reality, it's the ultimate VR. We actually live life thinking that we are there. Thinking how it would be to live with her in Alaska or to quit the job in Moutouvain-Kouver. Really, have this experience, filter it to our emotions and then wake up with the answer to what to do. This is one stage but there's another stage. It's really interesting. Stage three and four of the sleep. We call it slow if sleep. It's a stage of the night. Your brain essentially takes all the experiences from the day before and waits them and chooses which ones to keep and which ones to take out. So if you think about life, when you go through your day, there are many, many moments that you call the present. About every one and a half second, you have a different present and then it goes into the past and becomes a memory. Then you go to the next moment and you leave it and then you start in a memory. Then when you go to sleep, your brain looks at all those 50,000 moments that you had and says, "Okay, when I walked from home to the bank, I had 20 of those moments. They're not really important. I should compress them into one. Keep just one. You move the others." When I kissed her, it was a moment that I want to remember every fraction of. So I want to keep all of them individually as one big stock of experiences. Your brain does that during slow wave sleep during this moment. We kind of choose out of all of them and pick the ones that are important. What we learned in the last five years, 10 years, is that you can actually do things to you at this stage. When you're sleeping, that will make you change the pointer. We can choose for you to focus on the work to the bank rather than the kiss. In doing so, we're going to basically make you strengthen those memories at a sense of others. We do that by using smells or sounds that we play to your ears. In the right moment, the smell of the... When you judge that right moment because you're actually watching a readout. It has to be done. The more things that you can't do at home, you can't just spray the smell in the room all the time. You have to do it in the right moment because if you just spray the smell in the room, it's going to wash out. You have to kind of target the brain in the right moment. But then the brain is going to say, "I smell this thing. This means that I want to focus on this moment and strengthen that." And what the experiments that we're doing and others are doing right now show is that you can actually make a person learn things when they're sleeping. You can actually change their behavior. You can make them choose to focus on different behaviors that they want to change and wake up not doing this thing. You can actually do things. So the classical experiment that was really popular in the last three years of 2015 was people come to the lab and they're smokers and they want to quit. They go to sleep for two hours and the experimenters wait for the moment when their brain is in this state where it's kind of listening to the outside world and reassessing life. And they spray the smell of nicotine into their nose, making their brain think, "Okay, out of all memories I have, let's focus on those that have to do with smoking." And then immediately after they blast the brain with the smell of hot and eggs, which basically makes the brain rewire and take nicotine and wire it with bad experiences. So you do that a few times when they're sleeping, they wake up, they have no idea what happened, but then suddenly they say, "I don't really want to smoke anymore." For a few days they actually change their behavior. They don't want to smoke, not knowing what happened. They just came to connect, wake up, and they don't want to smoke. This is a changing behavior, neuroscience. You find the moment, you hit the brain with it.
People Freaking Out (39:19)
You change the wiring and the person wakes up, a different person. That is amazing. Do people freak out about that? Like good or bad? The answer is they do, but they shouldn't. And I have an analogy that's going to be the kind of way I look at it. Go back four hundred and six years ago. Sixteen, ten. Garito Garile points his telescope to the moons of Jupiter and he looks at the orbit and he expects it to go in one way, but it doesn't. It goes in a different way. And he tries to understand what's going on there and the only way to solve the equation is to re-align the planets of our Milky Way galaxy and specifically the solar system by putting the sun in the center and putting Earth as the number three planet in the system. Which to him is a de-thronomer to humankind. What does it mean that we're just one more planet out of many? We're not the center. It feels horrible to him. It changes everything, but the equations require that so he does it. And in doing so, he basically allows us to now see the wide, rigid universe. Suddenly we see that the universe is much bigger than we imagined and we can explore it. And in the next four hundred years, we saw more of the universe and we learned a lot about what is out there. Now in the same way, in the last five years, we're beginning to understand that in our own brain there are many, many voices and we are not the most important one, we're not even the center. We're just one more voice out of many in our head and we're the one who thinks the most important, but actually they're quiet ones that don't really talk to us all the center of our universe. Now this to us again feels like I did one of the humankind. What does it mean that I'm not the center of my own universe? But the reality is that this will allow us to understand the most important and interesting thing in the universe, which is us. That's I think a profound understanding. Yes, it's scary that we're not responsible for choices, that they happen to us, that we're creating a narrative based on things that we're not really full in control. But that's the beauty of us. Now we can actually explore more things in our brain and learn how things happen and maybe we'll understand how to become better people. It's really interesting. I somehow did a picture tonight.
Leveraging self-deception for your own purposes (41:18)
Not really how it happened, but I'm going to take it. Yes, please. And preach now about the self-deception, how essentially it feels like the layer that we view as us or the voice to use your vernacular, the voice that we view as us is trying to cobble together this narrative based on these decisions that are made by the quiet voices. How can we leverage that to either just tell ourselves a more empowering story or to actually get the quiet voices to do what we want them to do that's more in line with our goals. And very specifically with self-deception, how can that become a tool that we're using in a self-aware way to push us forward? It is, too, that we're deceiving ourselves, but we have to change the valence of the statement to a positive one. Self-deception sounds like a bad thing. This is our brain's way of saving us. This is our brain's self-deception, it's still a deception. It's still not living to reality the way it is, but this is actually mechanisms that our brain created to optimize the world. We know that our eyes offer us only a small kind of fraction of all the things that the world has, but we call this reality. We know that our nose smells only what's right here and our nose is even out to where the smells are. The smells are down here and our noses are up here. We don't even smell the... We don't even have a place. All of those things mean that our brain deceives us. It always offers us a reality that isn't too. That's great. This allows us to have a different kind of view of the universe that we get to create ourselves. On the one hand, we want to know what's out there. That's why we invented the X-ray sensors and ultra-violet sensors. We want to actually know what are all the rays of light that our eyes cannot see. That's why we develop all those smart tools to hear things that are beyond the frequencies that our ear can get. We want to know what's out there, but our brain, through years of evolution, created this self-deception, recallality in a way that's perfect for us. It allows us to live life in a comfortable way.
Understanding what your brain (yes, your brain) wants (43:31)
One of the things that you talk about along the lines of self-deception is people are really bad at understanding what they want and whether they're intentionally deceiving themselves, intentionally deceiving you as a researcher. One thing I get asked a lot is somebody wants to be fulfilled. They want to find a career that they love. They want to start a company, but they don't know what. How can people get good at understanding what they want? I would say that the best way is to be a well. Be a well meaning like take a note. We see, actually, we look at the brains of people, we see how few repetitions of a message does it take for your brain to rewire and now have it solidified. We can show you eight times. It's kind of various, but that's the kind of area. We show you eight times this person next to this item. First, when you see this person, this cell lights up in your brain. The cell that codes tiger woods. Lights up when you see tiger woods. We show you Gillette, another cell lights up. We start showing you two of them together. After eight repetitions of hidden together, suddenly the cell for tiger woods also codes Gillette and the same for tiger woods. Suddenly the cell kind of absorbed. That's it. The repetitions is very little. This is the amount of time that commercials need to be shown on TV before you say, "Okay, now I know that this is the spokesperson for this band." That means that it's very easy to place in our brain things that we're going to change it. Now that we also learned that the numbers are pretty small, we can also look at what times of the day. We know that there's times of the days where it's even three times. What do you think that has to do with it? Is that like a circadian rhythm thing? Is that a level of alertness tied to food? It's a surprise weather. All of the above. Our brain has a lot of clocks in it if you want. There's clocks in the environment. In a way, it's simple. The neuroscience kind of proves what we can do behaviorally very easily.
Ethics In Neuroscience And Contact Information
We must play God with the brain.""" (45:35)
Just pay attention, learn, surround yourself with people that we care about, and kind of decide when we want to be fooled and when we don't want to be fooled. I think that this historian I really like said that 100 years ago, there's biggest threats to humanity were famine, plague, and war. Basically it's over. Those are no longer a threat for us. If someone is hungry right now, it's because politically we want them to be hungry. There shouldn't be any hunger in the world, but there is because of reasons that will be other. But basically, we conquered the things that we should be... Right now, it's a lot more scary. You're a lot more likely to die from overeating than under eating. Right? Diabetes is a lot bigger threat to us than malnourishment. So in that sense, I think we conquered a lot of things. And now, at the level, we start playing God. We're starting to think, what can we do to the body that's going to make it better? We're pre-relleges. We're focusing on happiness and what would make us happy? We're extending life to its limit. And now, we're realizing that the one thing that we don't know how to deal with is not the extension of life but the quality of life. So a lot of us are going to get to age 150, but we might spend the last 50 years not being there. Our bodies are going to be there, but our brain is going to be basically not able to do the thinking. So a bunch of neuroscientists, and I'm helping a little bit, but it's a project that is beyond me, are trying to fix that. And this is really the science fiction aspect. The way to fix that is not by actually fixing the brain using drugs, but by placing components of it. What we're doing right now? With synthetic biology? With chips. Like we basically take a chip and there are parts of the brain that are almost like a bridge. So things come from the inn and get possessed here and go out. And a lot of things could come in, a lot of things could come out, but it's finite set. There's a table of millions of things that could come in, and for them there's a clear what comes out. The idea is that when you're starting to decay, when your Alzheimer emerges, we're going to put electrodes in your brain and learn how the inn looks and how the outlooks and learn that while you're decaying. And when you get to the state where you're really no longer out there, we're going to take out the part of the brain that's biological, that failed, and we're going to put a chip instead and a chip is going to now do the take that input from here. Wow. And now you can open it to questions like, is it still me? If there's many of those chips that kind of bypassing it. That's being worked on right now. It's already working with rats. With rats, you can actually induce Alzheimer and then replace the faulty parts with chips that do the mapping done here in Los Angeles by guys at USC. Man, you're really getting its A, exciting. B, you're opening Pandora's box like this is insane.
I love this shit. Yeah, we should talk about ethics in the end. Whenever you tell me that the very important thing. Let's talk about ethics. Because there is an interesting part. So I'm spending my time half, half my days in a business school. And this could be seen as a, no, like a really selling your soul to a devil by helping people sell more kept and crunch overnight to a person who's in phase three of their night. You can bomb out their brain with buy kept and crunch and they're going to wake up and they want to buy kept and crunch instead of smoking less. Can we switch that to quest bars? Please. So the idea is that there's like a world right now where neuroscientists are speeding up and they're finding things. They're finding a change behavior over the night, we're learning how we can change your biome and make you a different person by playing with your gut bacteria that makes you different. We know how smells affect your behavior. We can make you like this woman, not that woman by playing different smells in the womb. A lot of things are happening and no one is in control of that because policymakers are slow. Takes them a while to create the policies but the people are really fast are businessmen and marketing departments. They're really fast. They say, "Okay, let's apply that." My students, the MBA students are the ones to say, "Hmm, it's interesting." My job and that's kind of why I feel it's important to say it here is to remind those students how bad they felt when they saw the 699. They say, "Oh, come on, I feel like I'm being scoot." Someone tells me that it's a 99 to fool me but I wanted to be just the fair price of $7. I would know why do they play with my film. In 20 years you're going to be the guy who sets the price. You're going to have the option as well to go for 699 and make a person buy it. All you can say, "I'm going to be the better person. I'm going to not try to play on all those biases and kind of change things." I think this is the reality we have to have right now because scientists are going to offer you a lot of tools to do good or bad and we have to choose as society how we play with them. Can I give you what I think is the right answer? Now I'm talking to the School of Management guy instead of the neuroscientist here. As an entrepreneur, as somebody who's built a food company in particular, the answer that I came to because I'm very much trying to convince you to buy. What I realize is we're living in an era where companies have an obligation, a moral obligation in my opinion, a moral obligation to make products worthy of being used. If you're making a product that actually delivers value and that's so important and yes, I get it, who determines the value? I honestly think that the companies have to be able to look themselves in the eye and say, "I believe this product is good for you." If you believe that it's good for the person that you're selling it to, then using the tools and techniques to get people to buy it, that makes sense to me. It all comes down to what you're pushing and promoting. Think about policymakers trying to get adoption on even just policies like getting STD tests or whatever the case may be, that things that are good, not just for that person but for society as a whole, you have to sell it. You have to get people to believe in that thing. As long as that thing is good for you, I think getting people to believe in it's alright. I think that as scientists, we have to expose the world, this is why we're here, to all the options and including the ones that will be good for you and the ones that are going to be bad for you and then have you really understand how to make a choice better yourself? That's good. One last question for you. What's the impact that you want to have on the world? The one thing that I'm really good at and I should do is find ways to take complex ideas and make them into something that is tangible for everyone. This is the impact I want to be. I want to find ways, movies, conversations, products, students to have everyone have the option. I want everyone in the world to know enough so they can make a decision by themselves. I love it. All right. Thank you so much for coming on the show, man. This is really incredible.
Where to Find Moran Online (52:24)
Guys, I think we are all thinking the same thing right now. Where can we find you online? I have a website that I built in the last couple of weeks that say I'm pretty good. I think it has my name, moansurf.com. But then again, I have so many stories I told and students that take the message out there. So if you just look for ideas, you'll find me somewhere buried in them. Nice. Well, I can tell you from experience, if you drop his name into YouTube, you're going to get a treasure trove of amazing talks, watch them all. They're incredible. I hope you guys had as much fun with this man as I have. I promise you, I will be working to get him back for round two. It is rare that I say that on the spot, but I'm telling you I could go for round two. That would be amazing. I had so much fun picking this man's brain. The diverse way that he approaches everything he does is incredible. You're going to see that as you dive into his world, watch the talks and hear him go from one subject to another. He can go deep business and really like nuts and bolts, business, marketing, and then switch it over and show you photos of an actual brain with electrodes in it and what they're learning from that. It is utterly astonishing. I have rarely seen this human being who can so rapidly and beautifully traverse the line between academia and business for anybody out there that wants to be at the cutting edge of what's happening in marketing. You're going to want to look them up. It is absolutely phenomenal. And from one narrator to another, as somebody who believes in the power of story, my friend, you have a unique ability to do it. It's absolutely incredible. Watch him on the moth storytelling. See the stories that allowed him to win the awards.
They're amazing. All right, guys. This is a weekly show. If you're not already following me, you better be @TomBilly. You hit it up. We're doing really cool stuff on my socials. If you're not already following Impact Theory, get on it. It's @ImpactTheory. And guys, as you know, this is a weekly show, so be sure to subscribe, hit that button, and until next week, my friends, be legendary. Take care. Thank you. Thank you so much. Love and pleasure, man. Hey, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us for another episode of Impact Theory. If this content is adding value to your life, our one ask is that you go to iTunes and Stitcher and Rate and Review. Not only does that help us build this community, which at the end of the day is all we care about, but it also helps us get even more amazing guests on here to show their knowledge with all of us. Thank you guys so much for being a part of this community. And until next time, be legendary.