Huberman Lab - Rick Rubin: How to Access Your Creativity

Welcome to the Huberman Lab Podcast,

where we discuss science

and science-based tools for everyday life.

I’m Andrew Huberman,

and I’m a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology

at Stanford School of Medicine.

Today, my guest is Rick Rubin.

Rick Rubin is credited with being one of the most creative

and prolific music producers of all time.

The range of artists with whom he’s worked with

and discovered is absolutely staggering,

ranging from artists such as LL Cool J,

Public Enemy, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Beastie Boys,

Jesus and Mary Chain, Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers,

Metallica, Green Day, Tom Petty, System of a Down,

Joe Strummer, Kanye West, Johnny Cash,

Adele, and many, many more.

Not surprisingly, therefore,

Rick is considered somewhat of an enigma.

That is, people want to know how it is

that one individual is able to extract

the best creative artistry from so many different people

in so many different genres of music.

Well, as today’s discussion reveals,

Rick’s expertise in the creative process

extends well beyond music.

In fact, our conversation takes us into the realm

of what the creative process is specifically

and generally across domains,

including music, of course,

but also writing, film, science,

and essentially all domains in which new original thought,

ideas, and production of anything becomes important.

Our conversation ventures from abstract themes

such as what is creativity and where does it stem from

to the more concrete everyday tool-based approaches

to creativity, including those that Rick himself uses

and that he’s seen other people use to great success.

That took us down some incredible avenues

ranging from a discussion about the subconscious

to how the subconscious interacts with our conscious mind

and how the subconscious and conscious mind interact

with nature around us and within us.

Indeed, our conversation got rather scientific at times,

but all with an eye and an ear

toward understanding the practical tools

that any and all of us can use

in order to access the creative process.

We also spend some time talking about Rick’s new book,

which is all about creativity and ways to access creativity.

The title of the book is

The Creative Act, A Way of Being by Rick Rubin.

This is a book that I’ve now read three times

from cover to cover, and I’m now reading it a fourth time

because it is so rich with wisdom and information

that I’m applying in multiple domains of my life,

not just my work, but my everyday life.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Rick has an incredible ability to translate

his understanding of the creative process

in a way that is meaningful for anybody.

So if you’re in music, if you’re a musician,

it will certainly be meaningful for you,

but it is not about music.

It is about the creative process.

And so whether or not you consider yourself

somebody creative or not,

or whether or not you seek to be more creative,

Rick’s book and today’s conversation sheds light

on what I believe to be the fundamental features

of what makes us human beings.

That is what allows us, unlike other animals,

to look out on the landscape around us,

to examine our inner landscape,

and to come up with truly novel ideas that thrill us,

entertain us, entertain other people, scare us,

make us laugh, make us cry.

All the things that make life rich

are essentially contained in the creative process.

And to be able to sit down and learn from the Rick Rubin,

how the creative process emerges in him

and his observations about how it can best emerge in others

is and was truly a gift.

So I’m excited to share his knowledge with you today.

One thing that you’ll quickly come to notice

about today’s conversation

is that Rick is incredibly generous with his knowledge

about the creative process.

In fact, he very graciously and spontaneously,

I should add,

offered to answer your questions about creativity.

So if you have questions

about the creative process for Rick,

please put those in the comment section on YouTube.

And in order to make those questions

a bit easier for me to find,

please put question for Rick Rubin in capitals,

then colon or dash, whichever you choose,

and then put your question there.

I do ask that you keep the questions relatively short

so that I can ask Rick

as many of those questions as possible.

We will record that conversation

and we will post it as a clip

on the Huberman Lab Clips channel.

Before we begin,

I’d like to emphasize that this podcast

is separate from my teaching and research roles at Stanford.

It is, however, part of my desire and effort

to bring zero cost to consumer information

about science and science related tools

to the general public.

In keeping with that theme,

I’d like to thank the sponsors of today’s podcast.

Our first sponsor is Maui Nui,

which I can confidently say is the most nutrient dense

and delicious red meat available.

Maui Nui spent nearly a decade

building a USDA certified wild harvesting system

to help balance invasive deer populations

on the Island of Maui.

I’ve talked before on this podcast

and we’ve had guests on this podcast

that have emphasized the critical role

of getting quality protein,

not just for muscle repair and protein synthesis,

but also for repair of all tissues,

including brain tissue on a day-to-day basis.

And the general rule of thumb for that

is one gram of quality protein

per pound of body weight per day.

With Maui Nui meats,

you can accomplish that very easily

and you can do that without ingesting an excess of calories,

which is also critical for immediate and long-term health.

I should say that Maui Nui meats

are not only extremely high quality,

but they are also delicious.

I particularly like their jerky,

so their venison jerky.

I also have had Maui Nui venison in various recipes,

including ground venison, some venison steaks,

and I love the taste of the venison.

It’s lean, but it doesn’t taste overly lean or dry at all.

It’s incredibly delicious.

So if you’d like to try Maui Nui venison,

go to slash Huberman

to get 20% off your first order.

Again, that’s slash Huberman

to get 20% off your first order.

Today’s episode is also brought to us by Thesis.

Thesis makes custom nootropics.

And as many of you have probably heard me say before,

I am not a fan of the word nootropics

because nootropics means smart drugs.

And frankly, the brain doesn’t work that way.

The brain has neural circuits for focus.

It also has neural circuits for creativity

and neural circuits for task switching

and for imagination and for memory.

There is no such thing as a neural circuit for being smart.

And therefore the word nootropics

doesn’t really apply to anything specific

neurobiologically speaking.

Thesis understands this

and therefore has designed custom nootropics

that are tailored to your unique needs.

I’ve been using Thesis for over a year now

and their nootropic formulas

have been a game changer for me,

in particular in the realm of cognitive work.

My go-to formula for when I’m doing

any kind of cognitive work is their clarity formula.

That’s the one I’ve been using most often lately.

If you’d like to try Thesis customized nootropics,

you can go online to slash Huberman.

You’ll take a brief three-minute quiz

and Thesis will send you four different formulas

to try in your first month.

Again, that’s slash Huberman

and use the code Huberman at checkout

for 10% off your first box.

Today’s episode is also brought to us by Woop.

Woop is a fitness wearable device

that tracks your daily activity and sleep,

but goes beyond activity and sleep tracking

to provide real-time feedback

on how to adjust your training and sleep schedules

in order to feel and perform better.

Six months ago, I started working with Woop

as a member of their scientific advisory council

as a way to help Woop advance their mission

of unlocking human performance.

And as a Woop user, I’ve experienced firsthand

the health benefits of their technology.

It’s clear based on quality research

that Woop can inform you how well you’re sleeping,

how to change your sleep habits,

how to change your activity habits,

even how to modify different aspects of your nutrition,

exercise, sleep, and lifestyle

in order to maximize your mental health,

physical health, and performance.

So whether or not you’re an athlete

or you’re exercising simply for health,

Woop can really help you understand

how your body functions under different conditions

and how to really program your schedule,

nutrition, and exercise,

and many other factors of your life

in order to really optimize your health and performance,

including your cognition.

If you’re interested in trying Woop,

you can go to joinwoop, spelled W-H-O-O-P,

.com slash Huberman.

That’s slash Huberman today

and get your first month free.

The Huberman Lab podcast is proud to announce

that we are now partnered with Momentous Supplements

because Momentous Supplements

are of the very highest quality.

They ship internationally

and they have single ingredient formulations.

If you’d like to access the supplements

discussed on the Huberman Lab podcast,

you can go to Live Momentous, spelled O-U-S,

so slash Huberman.

And now for my discussion with Rick Rubin.

Great to have you here today, Rick.

Thank you for having me.

It’s a pleasure.

So of all the topics in science

and in particular in neuroscience,

I confess that creativity

is the most difficult one to capture

because you can find papers,

scientific studies, that is,

on convergent thinking versus divergent thinking.

And there are definitions to these.

I mean, they take on different forms,

but in a strict definition form,

it seems that creativity has something to do

with either rearranging existing elements

or coming up with new elements.

But as I went into your book,

which I’ve done twice, I’ve read it twice,

and by the way, I feel so blessed and honored

to have gotten an early copy from you,

or a final copy early, that is.

But having gone through it twice,

I’m now convinced that there may not actually be

an internal source of creativity that exists on its own.

Right, and the example that you give

that for me really is serving as an anchor,

and tell me if I’m wrong here,

is this idea that ideas and creativity

are a little bit like a cloud.

If you look at it at one moment,

you might think that it looks like one thing,

where it has a certain shape and texture,

but then you look at it a moment later,

it could be quite a bit different,

and if you look at it an hour later,

it very well could be gone.

And the reason I think that serves as such a powerful hook

for me to think about creativity

and why I think neuroscientists and scientists in general

have never actually captured a way

to even talk about creativity,

stems from somebody that you knew in person,

but that, as you know, I greatly admire.

I don’t have many heroes,

but I would put Joe Strummer

among the short list of heroes that I have.

And I remember once an interview with him,

fairly disjointed, he was sort of off in different tangents

that I couldn’t follow, but at one point,

he just kind of blurted out that if you have an idea,

you have to write it down,

and you may end up throwing it away,

but if you wait, it will be gone.

And I remember that, and as a consequence,

I have a whole system that I use to try and capture ideas,

but what are your thoughts on what Joe said,

this cloud idea that comes up in one form

in one area of the book,

but then I think is thread throughout the book

in different ways, how did that come to you?

And how does it serve you in trying to,

I don’t want to say extract, but trying to access creativity?

I think the best way to think about it is like a dream.

It’s like, if you think about your dreams,

they don’t necessarily make sense.

When you wake up, you might remember part,

but not the whole thing.

Then if you start writing them down, they’ll come back,

and they may not make sense to you.

They’ll be a series of abstract images,

and maybe someday in the future,

you’ll be able to look back and understand what they mean,

and maybe not.

And that’s sort of how the art making process works,

is like we’re making things,

and we’re looking for a feeling in ourselves,

and it could be a feeling of excitement or enthusiasm,

a feeling of interest, a feeling of curiosity,

I want to know more, feeling of leaning forward.

And we’re following that energy in our body

when we feel there’s something here,

there’s something here, I want to know more,

I want to know more, I want to know more.

But it’s not, I’ll say it’s not an intellectual process,

it’s a different thing.

That’s why it’s hard even to talk about it,

because it’s so elusive, you know?

Recently, I was listening to a podcast

by our friend Lex Friedman.

I think it was an episode with Balaji Srinivasan,

where this, with Balaji, who’s a investor type guy,

thinker type guy, this is like an eight hour episode.

He says something at the beginning

that I’d love your thoughts on.

He said, look, you know, we can train a rat

to lever press every other time,

or to expect reward on every even number press,

or every odd number press,

or even every fifth number press.

But a human and a rat can’t do that

for like prime number presses.

You can’t actually train that.

And then you think about the reward systems

and the way that we follow life

from when we get up until we go to sleep.

And what he said is, the fact that we can’t do that

means that we may not actually be in touch

with the best schedules of doing things.

Like every time I’m thirsty, I take a sip.

I assume that’s the right way to do it,

but it might not be optimal, right?

Optimal for whatever purpose.

When I was reading your book,

I was thinking about there’s a set of things to follow,

things to pay attention to.

You talk about this, things to access,

that none of the creative process

comes from just within us.

It can, but it’s always being fed by things outside of it.

And so what I started to do

is the second time I read through the book

was think about it through the lens

of what Balaji was saying was that

there may not even be a language

for this thing that we call accessing creativity.

I mean, there’s a process,

but that language in the form of words

is a little bit like trying to use even numbers

to try and access prime numbers.

The math becomes so convoluted

that we end up in a conversation like this

where I’m confident we can get to the kernels of it

because what’s remarkable about the book is that you do.

You show and inform the process,

but there may not be a English or any other language

for saying do this, then this, then this, then this,

and you’ll have something of creative value.

Does that capture it?

Yes, I think language is insufficient

to drill down on creativity.

It’s more, it’s closer to magic than it is science.

So when kids come into the world,

do you think that they have better access

to this creative process than we do as adults?

Because we start to impart role plays

and books like, will it get likes?

Will people like it?

But also like all the things that are available to us

that we’re not paying attention to,

like the texture of this table, right?

They, we’re discarding things kind of systematically.

We get quote unquote set in our ways.

Do you think kids are more, are just by definition

and by design more creative than adults?

Yes, kids are, they’re open and they have no baggage.

They don’t have any belief system.

They don’t know how things are supposed to work.

They just see what is.

And if we pay attention to what is we learn,

we learn much more than if we,

most of us select from an endless number of data points

available to us to, well, as a species,

to make sure that we don’t die and to procreate

and to feed ourselves are probably

the primary functions first.

And then, and then we learn things

about what’s right and what’s wrong.

And we learn things about how to do certain things

or we’re inspired by someone who makes something we love

and we want to do it the way they do it.

And all of those things undermine the purity

of the creative process.

They can be tools to build your skillset

to be able to do it yourself.

Like if you’re a singer,

you might imitate a singer you really like for a while

to get good at it.

And then eventually come to find your own voice.

It doesn’t always start with your own voice.

But if you’re three years old or five years old

and you try singing, you’re not singing like anyone else.

You’re singing with your own voice.

And when you make something,

you’re making it based on not knowing.

And I think I had the advantage early in my career

of starting making music without any experience,

which was helpful because I didn’t know

what rules I was breaking.

And so it wasn’t intentional breaking of rules.

I just did what seemed right to me.

But I didn’t realize that I was doing things

that other people wouldn’t do.

I mean, there is this idea that there are no new ideas.

I sort of disagree because every once in a while

I’ll see or hear something

that at least seems different enough.

I think it’s a combination of a new combination

of existing ideas presented in a new way.

I think that’s how it works.

I don’t know, but I will say it does seem like

the things that are most interesting to me

have a series of familiar elements joined together

in a way that it’s creating something

that I’ve never seen before.

You mentioned that when you are close to

or you see hints of creativity,

that is of real value, that it’s a feeling.

And I also believe that the body

is a great source of information,

which once people realize that the brain, of course,

is in the skull, but the nervous system

extends everywhere in the body,

the whole mind-body thing just falls away.

Philosophers have argued about this forever,

but it’s a silly argument.

It’s also true that if, God forbid,

I were to amputate all my limbs, have them amputated,

I’d fundamentally still be me, right?

The same is not true if we took out

a big enough chunk of my brain and I still survived,

I would be fundamentally different human being.

I’d still have the same name and identity

and social security number,

but I would behave very differently.

Who knows, maybe better.

The signals from the body,

we know or at least we assume are pretty generic.

Like I can think of 50 different ways

or 100 ways that we could talk about creativity today

and we could define it and redefine it

and carve it up and serve it up like sushi

in a bunch of different ways.

But the body sends signals that most of us

we have a kind of coarse understanding of.

It’s like, oh, my stomach hurts or my stomach feels good

or I’m not sensing my stomach.

Or, oh, that feels good, it feels warm, it feels cold.

Most of us aren’t trained in understanding

how to interpret those signals.

So it’s almost like you have a few vowels, a few syllables,

and there isn’t a lot more.

Whereas when we talk about our thoughts and our experiences,

depending on how hyperverbal somebody is

and how much emphasis they put on different sounds,

it’s kind of near infinite, right?

Not infinite, but near infinite.

So for you personally, when you know

that you’re on the end of a thread of creativity,

maybe you’re listening to an artist

or you’re hearing something and you’re like there

and your antennae start to deflect in a certain way, right?

Do you feel that in your body as a recognizable sensation

or is it a thought and a sensation?

It’s a feeling in my body.

Is it localized?

No, it’s a feeling of,

I would say it’s like a surge of energy.

Do you remember the first time you experienced that?

Probably hearing the Beatles

when I was three or four years old.

Three or four years old?




Is there something wrong with me

that the Beatles have never done it for me?

No, maybe just weren’t exposed at the right time

in the right way.

There’s no right or wrong way.

And everyone, I can love the Beatles and you cannot,

and we’re both right.

You know, there’s not a-

I’m glad we can still be friends.

I was a little concerned.

I was a little scared to ask you that question.

I know my taste in music is a little bit obscure

and kind of fragmentary, but okay, good.

I’ve always felt like, gosh,

there must be something wrong with me.

I like their songs, but there’s no juice for me there.

I think maybe we’ll watch,

there was an eight part series called

The Beatles Anthology, which is out of print,

but I can try to find it somewhere

and we can watch that together.

Maybe that’ll make the case for the Beatles.


Yeah, but I mean, nothing against them.

It’s just, and I’m always bothering you for story,

but like Ramones, I saw that and I was like, wow,

like Genes, Aviators,

everyone had to change their last name to Ramone.

A lot of them hated each other.

There’s so much drama in there and three chords and just,

but to me, it just was like, wow,

like kids from New York, that energy.

So I think different things for different people, right?


So that brings me to a question of

when something feels creatively right

and you’re sensing it and you’re there,

let’s say in the studio,

or maybe even you’re listening to something

that somebody sent you,

how do you translate that given the absence of language?

How do you translate that into a conversation

with the artist?

And again, this could be about writing or comedy or,

you know, or science or podcasting for that matter.

How do you say that, keep going that way

when they might not even recognize that they did it?

And I’m guessing a lot of times they don’t.

Yeah, sometimes they don’t.

It depends when we’re in the,

I’ll try to be in a setting where as we’re talking about it,

we can engage with it in that moment.

So it’s not much good.

Let’s say I was producing your new record

and you played me something

and I had some thoughts about it.

It wouldn’t be so helpful for me

to tell you what those were.

It’d be better for us to wait till we were in a place

where we could try things and see where it goes.

So the first thing is I wouldn’t rely on language to do it.

It would be more of a making a suggestion

of something that’s actionable.

We try it and then we have more data

and either we’re moving in a good direction

or we’re moving away from it.

We’re moving towards it or away from it and we never know.

And so it’s always an experiment

and maybe a simple way to talk about it would be like

if I gave you two dishes of food and asked you to taste them

and tell me which one you like better.

It’s pretty, usually it’s pretty straightforward.

When you have two choices, which you like better.

And I think most creativity can be boiled down to that.

That’s very different than I wonder how this is gonna

perform on certain social media platforms.

That’s different than what is it

when I’m tasting these two things

which is the one I wanna finish eating.

And if I would say, hmm, I like this one better

but it needs a little salt and then put a little salt on it.

It’s like, hmm, maybe I put too much salt

and you know when you taste it.

It’s like, it’s that simple.

Being in tune enough with ourselves

to really know how we feel in the face of knowing

that other people might feel very differently

which is part of the challenge.

It’s like if everyone tells you A, A, A, A, A, A, A

and you listen and you’re like, that’s B.

As an artist, it’s important to be able to say,

to me it’s B.

And it’s a disconnect because so much of, you know

when we go to school, it’s to get us to follow the rules.

And in art, it’s different because the rules are there

as a scaffolding to be chipped away as need be.

Sometimes they’re helpful, sometimes they’re not.

And sometimes we’ll even impose our own rules

to give something its shape.

So we can decide to make a, we’re gonna make a painting

but we’re only gonna use green and red

are the only colors we’re allowed to use.

We decide that in advance.

And then how do we solve the problem

knowing all we have is green and red?

Because otherwise if there’s an infinite number

of choices, anything can be anything.

You know, it’s like, it’s sometimes more choices

is not better.

So limiting your palette to something manageable

forces you to solve problems in a different way.

Now in our digital age, music wise

you can make anything digitally.

There’s no, like in, there was a time when

if you didn’t have a guitar in the studio

you couldn’t record guitar.

Or if you didn’t, if you couldn’t hire an orchestra

there couldn’t be orchestra on your recording.

Now you can just call any of those things up.

So there’s infinite choices and infinite choices

don’t necessarily lead to better compositions

or better final works.

Understanding how you feel

in the face of other voices

without second guessing yourself

is probably the single most important

thing to practice as an artist

or skill set to develop as an artist

is to know how you feel and own your feelings.

And the key to that is not, I know.

So I know what’s right for you.

It doesn’t work that way.

It’s just, I know for me.

And the reason I chose to be an artist

is to demonstrate this is how I see it.

If I’m undermining my taste

for some commercial idea

or it defeats the whole purpose of doing this.

This is not, that’s not what this process is about.

This process is I’m doing me

and I’m showing you who I am

and you can like it or not,

but either way, this is still how I see it.

I love that because in science,

having trained graduate students,

having been a graduate student,

I was very blessed to have mentors.

One of who was a real icon of class.

He’s dead now.

Actually, all my advisors are dead.

Suicide, cancer, cancer.

The joke is you don’t want me to work for you.

They were all had a morbid sense of humor.

So they’re laughing about this someplace right now.

I thought you were going to say

they all ate the poison mushroom.

No, but the last one said to me,

you’re the common denominator, Andrew.

And I thought, oh my goodness.

And he said, kind of just kidding, but not really.

So that’s a little bit eerie.

But in any case, he always said, his name was Ben.

He always said, the one thing I can’t teach is taste.

And the one predictor I have of the people

who will never develop it

are the ones who are perfectionists

because they’re filtering their perfect,

perfectionists that filter their perfection

through the feedback of others.

He was always looking for the person

that was putting up a little bit

of a middle finger to feedback,

not so much that they would get things wrong

because it can be badly wrong in science.

You can be wrong for the right reasons,

but you can also be wrong for the wrong reasons.

But people that just had almost a compulsion

to do it their way or to believe in what they were doing.

And I’m hearing some of that,

or I’m hearing that in what you’re describing.

I also think that there’s something

about the human empathic process or the emotional process

where when we see somebody doing something

and they seem to really not be paying attention

to what anyone else is doing.

I mean, like I said, the crazy person on the street

is one version of it where we go,

they’re just in their experience and it’s just crazy.

But when somebody seems to be enjoying themselves

or the emotion seems to be real,

I think there are a good fraction of people

who feel a kind of gravitational pull.

They go, yeah, that.

And the best example I have of this

is I remember growing up in the skateboard thing.

We were the first to start doing the baggy,

like sagging the clothes thing.

We got teased endlessly one year in school.

Then there was a bunch of hip hop that came out

and guys were wearing, sagging their jeans or their shorts.

Next year we come back and the very same people

who were making fun of us were all doing it.

And that’s when it clicked for me.

I was like, most people don’t actually know what they like.

They like what they like because of the certainty

of the people that they like.

And so the question then is in this landscape

of creative stuff, what’s real, what’s not real?

It’s almost like whoever can create

the most convincing story,

at least captures a good fraction of audiences.

But that’s not what the creative artist needs to do.

They need to actually depart from that.

Do I have that right?

Well, they’re just two different things.

Like coming up with a story

with the purpose of pleasing someone else is a skillset,

but it’s more of a commercial endeavor

than an artistic endeavor.

It’s like tactical.

Yeah, I was seeing it in your book.

You describe, again, when you’re thinking

about the creative processes, the cloud.

For me, again, it serves as such a powerful anchor.

And then I think about the biology,

the neurobiology of like strategy formation

or strategy implementation.

And then almost by sheer luck or miraculously,

I turn a few pages later into the book,

and there’s a description of how animals

that are trying to accomplish something,

eat, mate, find water,

accomplish the requirements of living,

it requires a narrow visual focus.

This is something my lab is kind of obsessed with

and I’ve been obsessed with.

And in that more narrow visual focus,

we know that the playbook becomes more narrow.

The rule set is more narrow.

Now, at some point,

in order to come up with a new creative idea,

that means broadening vision is essential in some way

or broadening thinking.

Well, it could either be a broadening or a narrowing,

but it’s changing the aperture from the standard.

The reason we do this is to present something new

that maybe you already knew, but didn’t know you knew it.

And for that to be the case,

if to be looking at it,

it’s not unlike what a comedian does.

You know, comedian makes you laugh.

Usually what they’re saying, it’s outrageous,

but you know that it’s right.

You know, just no one says it that way

or no one has said it that way before,

but it’s always the truth in it that makes it funny.

It’s like that.

It’s the same idea as recognizing something

that seems really obvious once you see it,

but it seems like nobody else sees it

or no one else points it out.

And I feel like science is like that too,

because how much of science,

when once the light flashes over your head,

it’s like, I got it.

It just seems like, well, we knew that forever.

No one knew it, but do you know what I’m saying?

It’s like, it’s so obvious.

It’s so obvious.

And I think another superpower of artists

is this accepting we don’t know anything.

When we think we know things, that also limits our world.

We think we know, it’s only like this.

This is all that’s possible.

We’re mice in this little box.

But in reality, who’s to say that’s the case?

Who’s to say any of the,

we could take all of the, what we believe in science now

and decide to throw all of that away and start from scratch.

And we would probably create a different,

a whole different one.

I’d like to take a brief break

and acknowledge our sponsor, Athletic Greens.

Athletic Greens is an all-in-one

vitamin mineral probiotic drink

that also contains digestive enzymes and adaptogens.

I started taking Athletic Greens way back in 2012.

So that’s 10 years now

of taking Athletic Greens every single day.

So I’m delighted that they’re sponsoring this podcast.

The reason I started taking Athletic Greens

and the reason I still take Athletic Greens

is that it covers all of my foundational nutritional needs.

So whether or not I’m eating well or enough or not,

I’m sure that I’m covering all of my needs

for vitamins, minerals, probiotics,

adaptogens to combat stress

and the digestive enzymes really help my digestion.

I just feel much better when I’m drinking Athletic Greens.

If you’d like to try Athletic Greens,

you can go to slash Huberman.

And for the month of January,

they have a special offer

where they’ll give you 10 free travel packs

plus a year supply of vitamin D3, K2.

Vitamin D3 and K2 are vital for immune function,

metabolic function, hormone health,

but also calcium regulation and heart health.

Again, that’s slash Huberman

to claim their special offer

in the month of January of 10 free travel packs

plus a year supply of vitamin D3, K2.

In an offline conversation one time,

you asked a good friend of mine

who’s been a guest on this podcast, Eddie Chang,

who’s Chair of Neurosurgery.

And I would place him in the top, top 1% of neuroscientists.

You know, he’s pulling speech out of people

who are completely paralyzed with Locked-In Syndrome,

et cetera, and you asked him what percentage

of what’s contained in medical textbooks and training-



Yeah, if you went to medical school today

and you learned what was in the textbook,

what percentage of that information is accurate

and what percentage is not?

And he said, maybe half.

Right, and you asked, and what is the consequence of that?

And he said, incalculable.

And I completely agree.

And I asked him a second time

and he still came up with the same answer.

So that’s a good sign.

Reliability from experiment to the next is good.

Yeah, I think that there is this idea

that we really know things.

In science, I mean, you’ve seen,

we’ve observed amazing discoveries from chance.

We’ve observed amazing discoveries

from incredible bouts of hard work.

In both cases, people were spending a lot of time

in the lab.

Like, no one walked into the lab, saw something one day,

and had a Nobel Prize winning discovery

or fundamental discovery.

They were all hanging out in lab a lot.

Just some of them came up with something

that they didn’t expect.

Others were drilling toward an answer.

And in all those cases, when the breakthroughs happen,

I’m guessing, I don’t know this,

that considering we assume this information,

then this discovery is true

based on everything that came before it.

But if everything that came before it is wrong,

then the discoveries are probably built on a,

do you know what I’m saying?

It’s like the context,

everything that happens takes into account

that the context that it’s sitting in,

it fits in that context.

Maybe that context isn’t right.

Who knows?

We don’t know.

So I’m saying we’re too close to most things

in thinking when we think we know things,

where there are a lot of assumptions that go into it.

And that any new discoveries are essentially built

on top of these beliefs, you know?

But they’re beliefs.

I remember, of course I listened to the Beastie Boys

growing up, who didn’t, I was a child of the 90s.

And they were in this, you know,

Sabotage was sort of an outgrowth of a skateboarding movie,

like Spike Jones and like the girl movies.

And those worlds, the Beastie Boys and skateboarding

were really closely interwoven for a while.

Some people know this, some people don’t.

And Spike sort of formed the bridge.

And then Spike went off and started making bigger movies

that more people watch.

But let’s just use them as an example.

I heard you say once before that, you know,

you guys were kind of joking around like Beastie Boys,

like, you know, these guys doing hip hop,

but it was kind of like the hardcore scene in New York,

punk rock scene.

And it was sort of a joke.

There were a lot of inside jokes.

When you were working together,

was there the thought that people might love it,

might hate it, or you just weren’t paying attention at all?

Weren’t paying attention at all.

Never considered it.

There were no, at that point in time,

when we were making Licensed to Ill,

hip hop music was a tiny underground thing.

And there was no one making hip hop at that time

thought it would ever mean anything.

It was not a realistic thought.

So we were making it really for our crazy friends.

And that’s it.

So do you think nowadays the fact that one can create

something and quote, unquote, release it quickly,

I can put something out onto Twitter or Instagram now,

you can do it in 10 seconds from now,

and I will get immediate feedback that,

which is external feedback, of course,

but then I can iterate on the basis of that feedback.

Do you think that’s problematic

for the larger opportunity for creativity?

In other words, if we were to go back 20 years

or even 15 years, when the opportunity to create

was certainly still there,

but you really didn’t know how it was gonna land

until you quote, unquote, released it.

It seems to me there was more opportunity

to stay in that magical rainforest

that is the creativity itself.

I don’t think it’s wrong or right.

It’s just, it’s more information that you can use

or not use and use it in a useful way.

And you can make something and put it out

and people could not like it.

And you’re like, oh, they still don’t get it here.

I’m gonna, I gotta go harder.

I gotta go harder in that direction, not,

do you know what I’m saying?

It’s like not to react away from information.

It can be helpful.

It can be helpful when there could be different stories

that happen at the same time where you’re making something

and you have an idea of what it is

and then other people engage with it

and they have a different idea of what it is

and they like it for a different reason than you did

or dislike it for a reason different

than the reason you like it.

We can’t control any of those things.

The only part of it that we can control

is how we relate to the thing that we make.

And any external information that undermines the clarity

of that connection is probably bad for the art is my guess.

And again, I’m only saying this from my experience.

Like I try to make things, all I’ve ever tried to make

were something I like or something that I felt like

was missing as a fan that I wanted

and nobody was making it, so I’ll make it,

but it wasn’t, it was always in the service of,

I love this thing, I want something like this,

no one else is making one,

I have to make one.

Yeah, it’s beautiful because the word

that keeps coming to mind is this,

it’s almost like a compulsion.

Like there are other options of ways to be

and to behave and to function and work in life,

but if something’s a compulsion,

it yanks us away from those other opportunities

just enough that we have to get back to it.

You’ve talked before about, and you talk in the book,

this notion of the source.

And to me, again, I can’t help

but put my neuroscientist lens on this.

I think of the source as not one brain area,

but some function within the brain

where we are in touch with our bodily signals,

like what feels right, what doesn’t,

sort of like tasting the two foods, I love that example.

And that it’s a playbook that is,

that is far more vast than the short-term adaptive playbook.

Like this is how I’m going to get from point A to point B.

And yet when I listen to an album or a song,

I mean, I have to assume that there,

at some point it becomes not strategy development

or creativity, but strategy implementation.

Like there needs to be,

like the songs are going to come in this order.

And like, I don’t know much about music.

My musician friends are always, you know, laughing.

I don’t either, it’s not so much about music.

Right, well put.

But the ordering of the sequence of the melodies, et cetera.

So at what point does one decide,

okay, like now’s the time to get

into that more narrow focus of effort.

Like we’ve got it, let’s run with this.

Because there is a component of the creative process

that involves packaging and finishing.

And is that part less satisfying to you

or is it just all part of the same larger arc?

It’s all part of the same, it’s nice.

There’s a good feeling.

There’s usually a good feeling when something is done.

On the one hand, it’s a commitment

because up until the time that you say it’s done,

you can keep experimenting and changing it.

You know, if you think,

well, maybe tomorrow I can make it better,

then it’s not finished.

And you keep thinking that for a long time,

you can do that forever and never, never put out anything.

So getting to the point where you’re ready to sign off

is a good feeling.

And it allows you,

one of the things I talk about in the book is

because it is a difficult thing to do,

because it’s fun to play and it’s fun to,

maybe it’s not the best it could be yet, you know?

To use whatever the next project is gonna be

as motivation to finish the one you’re working on now.

Like, I’m working on this,

I’m spending all of my time on this thing.

It’s really good.

I believe it can be better,

but there’s this other thing that I really wanna make.

And if I keep tinkering with this one,

I’ll never get to make the other one.

So using other projects as a impetus to finish something

and release it into the world’s a good one.

And you said your description of source

is something within us.

I don’t know if I would accurate,

if I would say that was accurate.

It’s definitely in us too,

but it’s not only in us.

And it’s,

I think of source as the organizing principle of everything.

And it’s how everything exists.

It’s how the trees grow and why there are mountains

and anything that we can see in the outside world

and every discovery and every piece of art

and every new design and every machine

are all outgrowths of this source energy.

Our part of it is the antenna that like connects to it.

And maybe where the vehicle for source

to allow things to happen in the world.

And thank you for that.

Cause I did indeed miss speak

because I recall very distinctly in the book,

you described how the physical world is constrained

by the laws of physics and certain things.

The imagination is unconstrained.

And I think I have this right.

That you said the work sits somewhere between those.

It’s neither of one nor the other,

that ultimately what feeds into all of that,

our imagination and the way indeed

that our brain is a physical entity,

the nature and the outside world provides

at least what appears to be near infinite,

if not infinite options.

And I love the example of the color palette

that if we restrict me to whatever sorts of paints

or medium I have, then it’s restricted.

But in nature, there’s an infinite number

of shades and tones and combinations.

And even on one, if you pick up a rock

and look at the color of the rock

and tried to find a paint to match that rock,

it would never match.

There’s too much, there are too many variations in nature

within a single color rock for us to get close.

There’s too much information.

We scratch the surface.

We’re only scratching the surface.

And we love when we are able to peer in

at different scales, spatial scales,

time scales too, but spatial scales,

the delight that comes from that.

You know, like these nature pictures,

seem like there were more of these in the eighties,

like where you’d see a drop of oil shot

at high, very high resolution.

There’s beauty in a drop of oil.

And then you’d see the earth and the galaxy,

there’s beauty in that too, right?

These extremes.

And of course our daily perception is mostly

through the filter of these kinds of interactions,

walls and sometimes outdoors.

There’s a brilliant neuroscientists

and not surprisingly, he has a Nobel.

His name is Richard Axel.

He’s at Columbia University.

He’s outrageous personality.

Choose Nicorette nonstop.

You guys would get along great,

not because of the Nicorette,

but because his perspective on things

is very abstract for a guy who’s solved,

he won the Nobel for solving a great problem

within how we smell, perception of odors and taste.

And he says, you know,

everything that the brain does is an abstraction.

Like I could take a photograph of your face

and show it to you and say, yeah, that’s me.

Or let’s say for the moment,

I call myself an abstract artist.

Let’s just play a game.

Cause I’ve never been accused of being an artist,

but, and I do three dots and a squiggly line.

And I say, that’s you.

And you say, well, that doesn’t look like me.

And I say, but that’s my abstraction of you.

Okay, well, the brain essentially does that

because we’re something in between that

because there’s no actual photograph of you in my brain.

It’s just a bunch of neurons playing

what we call an ensemble,

like a different keys on a piano.

And we go, Rick, I recognize you, Rick Rubin.

And so everything is an abstraction.

And it’s only once we start tinkering with the parts,

and this is the essence of science

to remove and add and manipulate.

And the best example I can come up with

would be Rothko.

And I only come up with this example

cause I started off in vision science

and maybe so make the most sense to everyone,

except the folks who’ve been blind since birth

and they can swap something in here.

That if I show you a Rothko

and I don’t tell you it’s a Rothko,

you may or may not actually think it’s that impressive.

It depends on your taste in art.

But what Rothko did, which was amazing,

even if you don’t like Rothko’s, and I happen to,

is that he removed all the white

and high contrasty stuff.

And when you do that, you alter color space.

And so the colors look very different.

Some people saw that dress a few years ago.

Is it orange or is it gold or whatever?

That was a little bit of the same phenomenon.

I doubt, in fact, I’d be willing to bet my left arm

that Rothko knew nothing about

the neuroscience of color perception,

but somehow got to this place

where if there was no canvas showing and no high contrast

and the paintings were large enough

and on the appropriate wall,

you saw them a certain way

that tapped into something fundamental.

And this is where I think art and science really converge

is that every once in a while we see something

that feels amazing to enough people

and not just like the baggy pants phenomenon,

not just because other people think it’s cool,

but there’s something there.

And again, this defies language.

And I have to imagine that in your years of life

and music and other creative endeavors

that every once in a while,

have you ever encountered something

where like something fundamental

keeps showing up in different form

or there’s something almost like a rule or a principle?

Does it ever come about?

Because in science, we think of this as like,

this reveals something about our limitation

to abstract the world.

I hope I made that clear.

Not exactly, but I have a thought.

You talked earlier about the drop of oil,

the photograph of the drop of oil and the photograph,

or we could use the, on the other side,

like Hubble telescope images of these vast things

and high definition.

What we see every day is as impressive as those things,

but we’re numb to them because we see them all the time.

We look at drops of oil every day in a microscope.

A month from now, we would not find wonder in that image.

So it’s, sometimes it’s the novelty

of not seeing it from that perspective before.

That’s really thrilling.

You could, and I could imagine,

and this probably relates to the Rothko idea,

you could see something from a particular angle

and have this magical experience

and then walk three feet to the side

and see it from a different way and it just evaporates.

It only works, it only triggers this thing in us

when we look at it just the right way.

There was a paint, an experiment I just heard about,

heard about the other day that sounds fascinating,

that a painting teacher recommended

where instead of painting, you know,

having a model in the room and painting the model,

that you have the model in the next room

and you go into the next room without your equipment,

you don’t have your equipment

and you can study the model for as long as you want

and then you go into a different room

where you can’t see the model and paint the model.

Instead of, and it changes your relationship

where it’s not, we’re not just painting the lines.

We’re painting what is interesting enough

about what I saw.

What are the data points that stuck in my mind?

And when I string those together, what do I get?

And what do I, how do I form it

to get as close to whatever that,

the experience of that person was,

which the closest of getting to the experience

of that person in the painting

might not look like a photograph.

You know, it might look more different

than more the same to really see what you see.

This, if we think about the Picasso paintings

that were inspired by African art,

where the eyes are on different levels,

they may give us more information

than a photograph would give us.

I’m thinking about the,

when you were describing the sensation

of when something takes your breath away

and we all have that

when we see a dramatic sunset.

Anyone you know, when there’s a really dramatic sunset,

or if there’s a whale,

and if anyone’s on the beach and there’s a whale,

everybody’s really interested that there’s a whale.

Do you know what I’m saying?

These feelings of wonder,

we get to experience them depending on where we are,

or, you know, a dragonfly,

or a bird flies into your space.

These things happen.

And when they happen,

and when they happen,

it’s like we’re confronted with the mystery of the world

when we change the perspective.

Normally, we don’t think of whales in our backyard

or birds in our house, you know, flying freely.

But they do happen.

These things do happen.

And they like break us out of our trance

when these things happen.

It’s like, oh yeah, there are birds like this everywhere.

I’m just not paying attention.

This guy’s coming in to like tap me on the shoulder.

Like, remember me?

Here I am, you know?

So I would say that the whale example

and what you’re describing is it’s revealing to us

how, in a delightful way,

how deficient our perceptual filters normally are.


It’s a little bit like the Rothko is revealing how,

I’ve never thought about it this way until this moment,

is revealing to us how color normally looks

is actually, first of all, not the only way it looks.

Those colors we think are one way, but all color,

this gets into the biology of color vision,

is all about contrast.

What something is next to dictates what it looks like.

And that’s the origin of that dress meme

or whatever you call it.

I still can’t figure out exactly what a meme is.

Someone will eventually tell me.

In the same way, when you see a whale and it’s delightful,

I think it’s revealing to us the extent

to which those whales are, the ocean is vast.

There’s a whole universe there

and we are blind to it all the time.

And I think the misperception or the misconception,

excuse me, is that we’re delighted because we see the whale.

We might be just as delighted

because we’re getting hit with the contrast

of how little we recognize all the time.

And in that way, it reminds me a little bit about comedy,

where, and I’ve been watching more comedy lately,

and sometimes it’s the shock.

Sometimes it’s the absolute truth that’s revealed.

And then other times, what I’ve noticed,

and I saw Rogan do comedy at the Vulcan Club in Austin,

which he does every once in a while,

and it was a small club and he was leading out the story

during his routine or bit, I think, right?

This bit, and everyone knew where it was going.

We all knew.

And then when he finally told us,

it was exactly where we thought it was going

and it was hilarious.

And it felt good.

And it felt amazing.

And I thought in that moment, I was like, wait a second,

how did he pull that off?

That was masterful because normally it’s this thing

like you create one story,

there’s like a scripting out almost like a courtroom lawyer,

and then they kind of pull the curtain

and it’s something different.

And if you look at the science, the neuroscience

and brain imaging of laughter and humor,

which I’ve looked into, to be honest,

and no disrespect to the people in that field,

it’s pretty lame.

It’s lame because it’s always

the jarring nature of a surprise.

But what he led us to was something that,

oh no, he’s actually going there.

Oh wait, he’s really going there.

And it was this anticipation

with a beautiful delivery at the end.

And so I’m convinced that based on

what we’re talking about here,

that there’s something about when we see something,

we think it’s about that,

but that the delight that we feel

could be about all the other experiences

that now become in a subconscious way,

kind of like, ha, it’s almost like laughing

at this perceptual deficit that we have.

It’s almost like laughing at how little we actually know,

which is what you’ve said.

Yeah, it could be that.

It also could be the sense of community

of when you think it’s going to go a particular way

and it goes that way, it’s like reinforcement of you.

You know, it’s like, yeah, he’s saying it,

but in a way we’re saying it together.

I’m listening, he’s saying it,

but we’re in this together and that’s a good feeling.

To think about that for a second,

I was trying to think about why certain music

still can evoke such powerful emotions in me.

And there does seem to be something special

about the music we listen to when we are teenagers,

from about 14 until about 25,

it seems to get routed into our nervous system in some way,

maybe because that phase of our life

is really one of identity crisis.

I mean, you don’t find too many 40-year-olds,

some who are wondering like who they are occasionally,

but almost every young teenager or preteen

and it’s kind of like, who am I?

You’re defining personality.

So I always likened it to that,

but leaving out the sort of critical period biology stuff,

what do you think it is about

the music that we hear at that time?

Are we that much more emotionally tuned?

Have we not shut down our sensors quite as much?

Is there, the songs and the artists don’t matter

because they’re very individual to me.

For other people, it will be the Beatles or something.

Now I just really wish the Beatles did it for me too,

but do you think that’s important?

Because I could see how it’s really terrific.

I could also see how it sets up one of these,

what I’ll just use nerdy language

and call it like a semi-deprived filter,

because if I’m only looking for the way that

like a stiff little fingers track made me feel

the first time I listened to when I was 15,

the feeling is worthwhile.

But if I’m looking for that,

I’m missing all the other stuff.

I’m missing the Beatles.

I’m missing Fleetwood Mac,

which never did it for me either.

I’m like, I’m missing all this stuff that,

people I love and respect really love.

So I’ve never worried about it

because there’s kind of an infinite treasure trove

of other things that I do love.

But I do sometimes wonder whether or not

my life experiences diminish

because I’m not allowing kind of range.

And you’ve obviously worked in a huge number

of different genres of music.

Punk is one thing, hip hop isn’t.

I mean, Neil Diamond too, right?

Eminem too, Slayer too, right?

And in some senses I list these off.

I mean, just think about how much in high school,

maybe nowadays less so,

but even in college and as an adult,

societally we’re sort of asked to constrain ourselves

to one of these groups.

Like, I didn’t know it was okay to love Bob Dylan

and love punk rock as much as I do

until I heard Tim Armstrong said he loved Bob Dylan.

And I was like,

and recently he told me he loves the Grateful Dead.

And I was like, whoa.

But to it, I remember when you had to pick.

Both the Ramones and the Clash loved the Beatles,

so we can-

Okay, I got work to do.

No, but we’ll do it together.

Okay, so-

I have a feeling part of it is,

the reason it gets in at that age is,

it’s at a time when we’re defining who we are

and the music is part of the definition

of how we see ourselves.

So it’s like the music that we hear before that

might be the music that’s on the radio

or our parents’ music

or our older brother or sister’s music.

And then when you’re 14 or 15

and you start choosing what you’re listening to,

it’s like, now it’s finally mine.

And my parents might not like it

and my older brothers and sisters may or may not like it,

but this one is mine.

And it always has that impression in us

that this is ours.

That’s my thought of why it continues to last.

How do you wipe the slate clean then?

So for instance, if you’re going to go in

and work with somebody new,

and again, as people are hearing this,

I hope that they’re transplanting this

to whatever it is that they do.

Because in the realm of science and podcasting,

communication, it’s not music,

but there’s a contour and a way,

hopefully this podcast will look nothing

like it does in five years.

That’s my hope,

is it will still have the core features

of the beauty and utility of biology coming through,

but I hope it doesn’t look anything like episode two.

And I think it’ll evolve as you evolve.

It’s just the truer it is to what interests you.

And if you’re not interested in biology

in the same way in five years,

I would hope it’s not the same.

I’ll be doing psychoanalysis in real time here.

We’ll do therapy, we’ll all be lying down on couches.

Whatever it is, whatever it is.

Yeah, we probably won’t be on psychedelics,

but we might be levitating.

I’d like to take a brief break

and thank our sponsor, InsideTracker.

InsideTracker is a personalized nutrition platform

that analyzes data from your blood and DNA

to help you better understand your body

and help you reach your health goals.

I’ve long been a believer in getting regular blood work done

for the simple reason that many of the factors

that impact your immediate and long-term health

can only be analyzed from a quality blood test.

The problem with a lot of blood and DNA tests out there,

however, is that you get data back

about metabolic factors, lipids and hormones and so forth,

but you don’t know what to do with those data.

InsideTracker solves that problem

and makes it very easy for you to understand

what sorts of nutritional, behavioral,

maybe even supplementation-based interventions

you might want to take on

in order to adjust the numbers of those metabolic factors,

hormones, lipids, and other things

that impact your immediate and long-term health

to bring those numbers into the ranges

that are appropriate and indeed optimal for you.

If you’d like to try InsideTracker,

you can visit slash Huberman

and get 20% off any of InsideTracker’s plans.

That’s slash Huberman

to get 20% off.

So how do you, let’s talk a little bit, if you would,

because I know I’m very interested in your process, right?

I’ll spare you the daily routine question.

It’s very cliche,

but you and I are both lovers of sunlight, of horizons,

and not as a trivial source,

as an amazing gift of energy, right?

And there aren’t words for it, really.

Aside from your daily routines,

when it comes to somebody,

you’re going from project to project,

and you know you’re going to be doing work with somebody,

could be your own work,

and we’ll talk about the writing of this book

and its structure, which is very unique.

I’ve never encountered a book

with this kind of structure before.

And it’s the most facile read ever,

and yet every single page I underline,

took notes, starred,

and as you’d notice, it’s very worn,

very, very worn already,

and only more so over time.

Do you have a process for removing the functions of the day,

and what you were doing last week,

and what’s going on,

and in order to get more access to this,

I’m going to think of it now more

as a receiver inside of you, right?

Almost like tuning a radio,

and then it comes in,

like the beginning of like a strummer clash, right?

You love the radio, Joe loved the radio, right?

And then it comes in clear, and there it is.

How do you clear the static?

What are some of the operational steps

that you think might be more generalizable

to regardless of where somebody in Africa

is listening to this now?

I would say when I engage in a particular project,

whatever it is,

I dedicate all of myself for that period of time,

whatever it is,

whether it be 20 minutes,

or whether it be five hours,

whatever it is,

total focus,

and no outside distraction whatsoever.

And when I leave that process,

I do my best not to think about it when I’m away from it.

I don’t bring any materials with me.

I don’t leave the studio with works in progress

and spend time listening to them during the day

or looking for ideas.

I stay as far away from it

when I’m not directly engaging in it as possible.

And in the best of situations,

I have something else to totally engage myself in,

in between.

So instead of working on project A for five hours,

and then leaving and doing nothing,

I’m hoping to engage in a project B or B, C, and D

with all of myself before going back to project A again,

which might be the next day, let’s say.

So this relates to an amazing chapter

and series of writings of your book

that I’m not going to describe

because I want people to find it for themselves

about disengaging,

about disengaging from the process.

One question I had as I read that chapter,

and as you’re saying this now is,

even though you’re disengaged,

do you believe that your subconscious

is working it through?

I believe so.

I believe so.

And I think in general,

to stew over a problem is not the way to solve a problem.

Think to hold the problem slightly.

And when I say a problem,

you know, when we’re starting a project,

there’s usually this feeling of,

there’s a question mark

at the beginning of every project.

I’m always anxious when I start a new project

because I have no idea what’s going to happen.

I never know.

I never, I never,

I may have in some cases a potential backup plan

if, you know, if nothing works.

But I really try not even to have that.

I prefer not to have that.

I prefer to go in,

maybe to calm myself down enough to be able to show up.

There’ll be an idea of like, nothing works.

Maybe we could try something like this.

But that would only be for my own anxiety.

That would, it wouldn’t be for actual practical use.

But there’s always a sense of anxiety

because I know whatever’s going to happen

is completely out of my control.

Something’s going to,

something either interesting or not will appear.

And then we’re going to follow that wherever it goes.

And until something appears for us to follow,

I have a lot of anxiety.

Even though it has never not come,

you know, it has come every time,

but there’s something about it.

Cause I also feel like there might be expectation on me

that I’m going to make it happen.

And I know that’s not happening.

That’s not how it works.


I show up ready for it to happen

and am open to whatever we have to do

to find that first thread.

And once we find the thread, then it’s like, okay,

we have a, and that thread may lead us to anything,

you know, could lead us to in a million

different directions,

but something about having that glimmer

that it’s not a blank,

we’re not looking at a blank page.

You know, we’re looking at a blank page.

You know, we’re looking at, okay,

we have the beginnings of,

I would say a map,

but it’s a map that we don’t know where it takes us.

And it’s just the beginning.

It’s just like, it’s just the start, you know,

you are here.

It wasn’t, if you have a map and it says you are here,

even if you can’t see the directions,

knowing where we are feels okay.

And once we get, and usually, again,

usually in the first day, first couple of days,

it happens,

but up until then,

it’s really an anxiety producing situation.

And then I can’t remember the original question.

It’s like, that was the beginning of,

of something completely different.

But I, do you remember what you asked?

I don’t remember.

Yeah, well, we were talking about,

and then we were talking about, you know,

so I love this.

So like, what are,

what is your process of wading into this thing?

And you’re revealing that now.

I mean, I, I think of anxiety as readiness, you know,

I mean, think about the characteristic features of anxiety.

It tends to be a bit of a constriction of the visual field

into more of a narrow vision,

but that’s appropriate because you want to shed the,

you know, the, the, the, the, the,

the, the, the, the, the, the, the, the,

that’s appropriate because you want to shed the,

what’s going on elsewhere.

And then, you know,

even when people talk about the shakes or this,

like not feeling okay, sitting still,

anxiety was designed to mobilize us

and not always to run away.

This is one of the, I could, you know,

rarely do I talk about the work in my own laboratory,

but one of the things that frankly I didn’t discover,

but it was done in my laboratory,

but this brilliant graduate student,

Lindsay Salay, who’s now at Caltech,

was that we can often observe animals or humans

in very high states of anxiety

as they move forward toward a goal.

And we always think of moving forward

as like this calm thing, you know, we, these heroes,

you know, Rosa Parks telling people like,

F you, like, I’m not getting off the back,

I’m not leaving the, giving up my seat on the bus,

or Muhammad Ali, I bet you,

they were experiencing tremendous anxiety,

but it was in the forward tilt.

And so I think anxiety is least comfortable

when we are forcing ourselves to stand still.

So it’s an activating energy.

And, you know, that brings up a word that, you know,

I have written in my notebook as an extraction

of a lot of themes from within the book

that you and I have talked about before,

which is, and here I’m going to sound very West Coast woo,

but I mean it as seriously as it can be stated

that I feel like everything is energetic, right?

We can do things from a place of anger.

We can do things from a place of joy.

We can do things from a place of delight.

I’m, I like to think maturing into the idea

that joy and delight and love

is kind of the ultimate reservoir of energy.

But, you know, a lot of the music that I liked

from when I was younger,

it was because of the anger that was thread into it

or the sadness.

If you think of your relationship to that music,

it’s a relationship of love.

You didn’t listen to that to get angry.

You listened to it because you loved it.

And I felt loved by it

because it matched where I was at at the time.

It was true to who you were and where you were.

I know that collaboration,

there’s a wonderful chapter on collaboration,

but it’s collaboration, as you mentioned before,

with the universe, not with others.

But in terms of the,

especially the kind of work that you’ve done and do,

when it comes to working with artists,

I do wonder,

and here I’m not looking for any gossip or stories.

I’ve never been interested in gossip.

I love stories, but I’m not interested in gossip.

But once you see that thread kind of dangling there

and you’re going to,

you guys are going to go after this

or you grab onto it and you’re like,

okay, now you have a little bit of a map

and an orientation within that map.

I often wonder, you know, scientists are complicated people.

People think they’re very boring,

but they’re actually very complicated

because they’re often living in one limited rule set

of the prefrontal cortex.

That’s how you get good at getting degrees

is by understanding the rules of academia

and playing by those rules.


People tinker with the rules.

You get your Richard Axels who are very playful

in how they go about it, but they are systematic.

He’s known for rigor, rigor, rigor, right?

When I think of creative artists and musical artists,

I think of a bit more zany or loose,

or you watch the documentary about the Ramones

and you’re like, wow, there’s all this chaos.

How, because so many of the brilliant artists,

musical artists that are out there

seem to have some chaos inside them

or their lives aren’t always structured.

Oftentimes, and science too, by the way,

there are substance abuse issues and personal life issues.

How, since you don’t have 100% control,

they need to play the instruments, sing, et cetera.

How do you work with people who have it in them,

but are getting in their own way, right?

And do you think that that kind of the internal chaos

that a lot of artists seem to have,

do you think that sometimes is actually an essential piece

of the creativity picture, that you can’t disentangle it?

Yeah, I don’t think it’s an essential piece in general,

but certain artists, that’s how they do it.

I would say I rarely get to see the chaotic part of artists

for whatever reason, they rarely show it to me.

And most of them, like most comedians I know,

are much more serious about what they’re doing

than what it looks like from, if you see them on stage.

There’s much more to it and there’s much more focus

on craft going on and digging deep

than would necessarily be obvious

seeing them jump around on stage.

I’m a fan of boxing, track and field and boxing,

the sports nobody really cares about

now that UFC is so popular.

And track and field, it’s a little bit like wrestling.

When you go, the people that there are there

because they really love it.

We’ll talk about wrestling a little bit,

professional wrestling.

But Floyd Mayweather is obviously a colorful character

and one of the best records in boxing of all time.

And a few years back, I got into watching his stuff

and what one sees is the cars and the money,

they literally call themselves the money team,

and the spending and there’s all the outrageous stuff.

But I know someone who is in camp with him

who actually was a sparring partner for him

and the lore has it, they have very closed door sparring

or camps, but the lore is that he would do,

because nowadays it’s 12, three minute rounds, right?

With a minute in between, used to be 15,

but now neuroscientists stepped in

and it turns out a lot of deaths were occurring

when it was more than 12 rounds.

For whatever reason, you cut off at 12,

really seemed to truncate the death.

There are other things too.

If the dad is apparently a corner man,

we have someone else here at the podcast

who knows more about this than me,

but yeah, the kid not wanting to disappoint the parent

correlated with death.

There’s, and I’ll get some of this wrong

and then they can come after me.

But in any case, this guy who was in Floyd’s camp

said that he would do 30 to 60 minutes of sparring,

bringing in fresh sparring partners with no rest.

That he would run three or four times per 24 hour cycle,

despite all the critical need for sleep.

That his training was unbelievably intense

to the point where he would just chew out,

chew up and destroy all training partners.

And yet the perception that we see

is it’s kind of a, it’s playful for him.

So it sounds very similar.

Like what we see is often not what goes into it,

that people are intensely rigorous.

Yeah, and I think in a way from a psychological perspective,

if you knew you were fighting someone

who wasn’t taking it seriously,

that would give you some confidence

and that would not be a good thing

if the person was actually working really hard

outworking you, do you know what I’m saying?

Like it’s from a psychological perspective

that makes sense to me.

So I keep coming back to is that I’m imagining in my mind

kind of two ends of the continuum.

One that is about fairly narrow focus,

training, training, strategy, implementation,

cultivating craft, building craft.

And then the other side is this, the cloud.

It’s very nebulous, right?

There’s this word that I learned from a colleague of mine

when I was down at the Salk Institute

when my lab was there, because he studies this.

There’s this phenomenon that I don’t want to mispronounce

because then it sounds like something else.

But the correct pronunciation is pareidolia.

And pareidolia is our tendency to look at an amorphous shape

like a cloud or a tree

and think that it looks like something else.

An ice cream cone.

The man in the moon.

And that again, reveals the extent to which the brain

wants to place symbolic filters on things.

And we need this, right?

Because I see you walk in the door and,

Rick, I recognize you.

In fact, we have a brain area

called the fusiform face gyrus.

It literally is a face recognition area.

And you could be at any orientation

or I could just see your eyes and know that it’s you.

There’s a phenomenon called propriocegnosia

where people can see faces,

they can describe everything in the face,

but they don’t know, for instance,

that it’s JFK or Madonna or Lex Friedman.

It’s quite the list.

Quite the list.

There you go, Lex.

Run for office, Lex.

Just kidding.

It’s hard enough to get you to respond to my text as it is.

So we have these filters.

And so we’re taking this cloud

and we’re deciding what things are.

And what I want to drill into your process

a little bit more deeply,

when you approach a project,

so everyone meets each other, shakes hands,

here are the engineers,

we’re going to sit down,

everyone knows what they’re doing

because you work with professionals,

and you start going,

are you trying to be with the cloud

or in the implementation?

Like, where are you in that continuum?

And forgive me if I’m trying to surgically

go into your process in a way

that would disrupt it in any way,

but I trust you’ve been doing this for a while

and there’s no threat of that.

I’m in the cloud with the exception of,

I’m aware of what could go wrong on a technical side.

And I might, like, if something good is happening,

I might look over and make sure that we’re rolling.

So that’s a leap over to here momentarily,

but then you’re back in the cloud.


If I feel like,

if I was in the moment,

I would be in the cloud,

and if something good starts happening,

it would trigger something in me,

like, uh-oh, I hope this is,

I hope we’re really doing this

because I don’t know if we could ever do this again.

That would be a thought of when the first time

the real world would come into the picture

would be something good is happening.

Let’s not lose it.

And when that happens, do you,

never been in a studio besides a podcast studio,

do you say, hey guys, that sounded good,

more of that, or do you wait, you let them continue?

Because obviously you don’t want to break their flow.

We’d never want to break any flow once it’s happening.

Yeah, once something’s happening,

just kind of sit back and watch.

And do you think there’s resonance,

like the team of engineers and other people know

when it quote unquote is happening?

If everyone’s paying attention, yes.

When everyone’s paying attention,

it’s usually pretty obvious.

Sometimes the threat will be something different

than expected, and maybe not everybody would pick up on it.

And that might be a particular,

that might be particular based on my taste

or an artist’s taste,

or someone involved might say that was,

let’s listen back to that.

I think that was better than what we thought

that can happen.

You said several things and it was like,

you said enough for there to be several conversations.

I tend to do that, sorry, especially with you.

I don’t get to see you as nearly as often as I would like.

And so when I do,

I confess that I’m a little bit of a kid in a candy shop.

I wrote down the brain tells us stories.

So you talked about, I walk in certain data points,

you recognize me,

but it’s a real like looking at a cloud shorthand.

We go through our lives doing this all day

with everything we see.

And the shorthand, in the case of me, you know me,

the shorthand turns out to be right, it checks out.

If it’s something we don’t know

and something we’re not familiar with,

something happens, we experience something on the street,

something happens and it doesn’t make sense.

Something out of the ordinary happens.

First thing is, is this doesn’t make sense.

Then what we do is again, subconscious, unconsciously,

I don’t know if it’s unconscious or subconsciously

without thinking, we create a story

that explains what just happened, a hypothetical

that makes it okay that what just happened, happened.

And, oh, maybe he’s running

because his dog ran away and he’s chasing his dog.

Maybe that’s why he’s running.

And as soon as we have that thought of what it might be,

we relax because now it’s not just a guy running

and this is weird, but it’s a guy running.

Oh, he’s probably running after his dog.

And now we register that story

that we just made up without even knowing

we were making it up as what happened.

And then later in the day, if someone says,

yeah, do you see that guy running out of the box?

Like, yeah, he was chasing his dog, I saw that.

And you won’t even realize

that it was the maybe hypothetical story

that was the first possible explanation

that allowed you to continue walking.

Do you know what I’m saying?

That’s our whole lives.

Our whole lives are reacting to things,

making up a story of what we think may have happened

without realizing that’s what we’re doing,

and then living the rest of our lives

as if that thing that we made up really happened

and we never know.

I completely agree.

We confabulate from birth until death.

There’s this well-observed phenomenon

in people who have memory deficits.

So there’s the sad example of this,

and then there’s the everyday typical,

not, who knows, sad or not sad example.

So for instance, if somebody has a slight memory deficit

or someone has Alzheimer’s dementia,

they’ll find themselves in the hallway at night

and say, what are you doing here?

And they’ll say, oh, you know,

I was going to get a glass of water,

but they’re walking away from the direction

that would make sense.

People who, alcoholics who drink enough

develop something called Korsakoff syndrome

where a certain brain area gets messed up

and you’ll ask them a question like,

oh, what are you doing here?

And they will come up with incredible stories,

sometimes interesting stories

that have no bearing on reality.

You ask them who their name is.

But do they believe, they believe that’s what happened.

With 100% certainty.

And this actually relates to a lot of the

now better understood controversy around repressed memories.

You know, you can, especially from young people,

you can pull memories from them

of things that never happened.

This has been demonstrated over and over again.

So courtrooms know to be very cautious now

about this whole notion of repressed memories.

That’s good to know.

Yeah, very, very complicated area of the law,

as you can imagine,

because we want, we tend to want to trust victims

for understandable reasons.

But in terms of accuracy of details,

two people have very different accounts of the same,

of the same experiences.

And this has been shown over and over again.

And even that you can do well in the laboratory.

It’s pretty interesting.

So again, because of these selective filtering

and storytelling, and we are,

I think it was Salman Rushdie who said,

we are the storytelling species.

He probably-

Wow, I was going to say we’re storytelling machines.

That’s great.

Yeah, I think, you know, we are the story.

I would say that the big five,

if I had to pick up sort of brain function is,

we are very limited filters.

The mantis shrimp sees 67 shades of red

for every one that we see.

So they have access to things we don’t have access to.

They’re not, as far as I know, you know,

releasing albums of the, you know,

red hot chili peppers caliber, but who knows,

maybe down there they are.

I did see something, by the way,

as a relevant tangent recently.

And I don’t know if it’s, look,

even if it’s crazy, it’s super cool.

If you take a device that amplifies

the electrical signals coming from cactus,

and you just translate that into a simple rule

of conversion to two or three pitches of sound,

the music that comes out of it is beautiful.

Nothing short of beautiful.

And when I saw that, the teenager in me thought,

you know, when we hear whale song,

we think it’s so beautiful.

Like, what if they’re just like cursing at each other

the whole time, right?

I mean, maybe they’re in there like a Rogan episode

when he invites all his comedian friends in there.

Who knows?

Maybe it’s a psychoanalytic conversation

about their childhood traumas.

I don’t know.

But we decide whale song is beautiful.

We decide cactus are just plants.

And it’s beautiful to us.

And we’re right that it is beautiful to us,

but it doesn’t mean we know anything about it.

That’s right.

Yeah, so we have these filters, perceptual filters.

We only can see and hear, smell and taste what we can.

And then the brain likes to work in symbols.

We tend to like to match that person

whose shoes are messed up must be homeless.

I’ve had a couple instances in life

where I saw what I thought was a homeless vagrant

inside a building at an academics institution.

It turned out it was the most accomplished person

in the field.

That’s always cool.

Yes, that happened at Berkeley.

Then the other thing that we do

is we tend to put symbol,

so we said perception, symbol representations,

and then our memories are entirely confabulated

based on already deficient symbol

and perceptual representation.

And so I never liked the statement

that we don’t know how the brain works.

I think we do know how the brain works,

but that it works through very limited filters.

Knowing that and accepting it.

It seems to me that this idea of looking to nature,

looking outside us is so critical.

And in fact, I hope you won’t mind me sharing this,

but a few years back, I had sent you something by text

and I was kind of in disbelief

about something I’d seen in the media.

I was like, they got it all wrong.

And I knew the person involved

and it was not a good situation for them.

I was like, they got it all wrong.

And you wrote back and you said,

it’s all lies, back to nature, the only truth.

Wow, that’s wild.

And I wrote that down, I put it over my desk.


And I still, I’d tattoo it on my forehead

if I didn’t already have it well committed to memory.

But I think I know that’s true, right?

Nature we can look at and it’s-

But when I say it’s all lies,

you just talked about our ability to,

how limited our facility to see and understand what we see.



So based on that, that leads us to,

we can’t know much.

Do you know what I’m saying?

Our resolution is so low on everything

that we’re really just like, we’re grasping at straws.

We have no idea.

We have no idea.

And there’s great power in knowing that.

Because if you think you know what’s going on,

chances are you’re being deceived.

Not because somebody is deceiving you,

but because they’re telling you what they see

and they don’t know.

It’s all, do you know what I’m saying?

It’s all made up.

It’s all made up.

Everything that we, everything we know is made up.

Maybe, maybe it’s true.

This brings us to pro wrestling.

It’s the reason that pro wrestling is closer to reality

than anything else we can watch or any other content.

It’s, we know it’s made up.

We know that it’s a performance.

It’s storytelling.

And that’s how everything is,

except we think wrestling’s fake and the world is real.

Wrestling’s real and the world’s fake.

You talk about in the book,

we’re definitely going this direction.

In the book, you talk about this notion

of entertaining the idea of the opposite being true, as it.

And there’s our not only emerging,

but established fields of psychology

that are making great ground, I think,

into the human psyche, Byron Katie’s work and others,

where you take a statement

and you start playing with that statement

for you poke at its authenticity.

And when I first heard that, I thought,

this is kind of hokey, right?

It’s just words.

And then I realized how foolish I was being

because she’s really onto something.

And there are others too, of course,

but in science, that’s exactly what you do.

You don’t really ask questions in science.

You are forced to raise hypotheses

and try and say true or false.

Now, there are limitations to that approach, certainly.

I mean, pure observational studies have been incredible

in terms of what they’ve revealed to us,

especially in medicine.

A patient that has a bullet hole

through a certain area of the brain,

you don’t go in and say,

oh, I hypothesize that person will have a deficit

in seeing faces.

No, the person wandered into the clinic

and they go, this person sees faces,

but can’t make sense of them.

And then you reverse,

you forensically arrive at an understanding.

But in general, we go about things in this way.

And considering that the opposite might be true,

well, that’s a little bit, I suppose,

of like seeing the whale at the surface of the water.

It’s like, well, the opposite of my experience,

which is all above water for the most part,

is maybe not the complete experience of life.

You start seeing the inverse all the time.

So I want to-

Consider the inverse all the time.

And it really relates to the way that you described

how we see colors is based on contrast.

So maybe blue’s only blue in relation to yellow.

So if blue is our choice,

if we’re not considering yellow,

blue doesn’t exist.

Do you know what I’m saying?

It’s like, we talk about night.

It’s only night because there’s day.

If there was no day, there is no night.

In all of our cases,

it’s like the yin-yang.

There’s the light and the shadow always.

There’s always another side for everything.

And we focus on one aspect.

But if we look at the other aspect,

chances are we’ll learn something too.

The nervous system is not just able to do this.

It’s the way it does everything.

Two experiments I’ll just briefly describe.

My scientific great-grandparents,

David Hubel and Torrance de Wiesel,

showed that if you force a person

to look at something for a long period of time

without moving their eyes,

there’s a way that you can do this,

the image disappears.

Because normally your eyes are making little micro saccades

and you’re comparing what you’re seeing

to what’s right next to it, pixel by pixel,

pixel by pixel, pixel by pixel.

If we don’t even have to use the example

of pressing on the arm,

we’re sitting in chairs right now.

And until I said,

what’s going on at the level of sensation

on the backs of your thighs,

you were unaware of it

because if you experience a pressure

or a smell in a room,

you ever walk in,

the smell is either good or not good,

pretty soon the smell disappears.

The neurons are still firing like sledgehammers on a bell,

but we become blind and deaf to it

because the nervous system likes to habituate

the value of that signal when it’s there often.

And it’s only the stuff that comes through,

signal the noise,

that kind of jolts us into attention and awareness.

And I want to return to attention awareness,

which are prominent themes in the book.

And I think in an important way,

not just, oh, attention awareness is important,

but you also give insight into how to pay better attention,

how to pay awareness with the understanding

that people are going to go about it differently.

But I do want to ask you about wrestling

because when I was growing up,

I was not, I lived South of the Cow Palace

and there was some wrestling going on there.

I think back then it was WWF.

And there was a short stint in my childhood

where I paid attention to, in particular,

was it Coco Beware, the guy that had a macaw?

I was obsessed with tropical birds.

And he would come in,

he’d put his tropical bird on the thing.

And then who’s that, George the Animal Steel,

the guy that would eat the ring.


Okay, so, and-

I believe he was a professor.

Seriously, seriously, seriously.

Was he really?

In real life.


He was a professor,

George the Animal Steel as a wrestler.

And I loved the movie, The Wrestler.

The Wrestler.

Darren Aronofsky movie.

It was Mickey Rourke.

Yeah, one of the reasons I liked it

is I once visited Ashbury Park.

Isn’t that where that was filmed?

There’s a vacant, he goes to visit his daughter.

There’s a vacant amusement park

or abandoned amusement park scene there

that was really eerie.

Still kind of haunts me a little bit.

There’s something about the East Coast

in kind of fall,

all the places that people normally go

just for the summer

that we don’t have out here on the West Coast.

People on the East Coast are just tougher than we are.

It still haunts me.

Great movie.

But I remember watching wrestling

and it was at that age,

I think I was probably about 12, 13,

maybe 11, 12, 13,

where you’re kind of entering puberty.

So, and puberty is a fundamental landmark of development.

It’s the most rapid period of aging.

It’s also when we start to change our rule set,

like certain people in certain kinds of interactions

take on profoundly different meaning, right?

It’s not just a reproductive competence time

and when kids change, their bodies change.

The rule book changes fundamentally.

Our understanding of the world changes in that moment.

Yeah, I mean, the moment that a child understands

really what sex is and kind of how they got there

and that a lot of the stuff that we see in the world

is kind of passively or not so passively

being sent through that filter.

It’s like, it’s something,

it changes the rule or the rule book of perception.

I view this age from about 11 to 13,

at least for me was a unique transition point

where the gap between what I perceived as reality

and fiction was kind of blurry.

This is captured pretty well in that movie,

“‘Stand By Me,”

where they’re hanging around the campfire at night

and the kid says,

who do you think would win in a fight

between Superman and Mighty Mouse?

And the other kid says like, you idiot,

Mighty Mouse is a cartoon.

Of course Superman would win.

And like, to me, that’s being 11 and a half or 12 years old

where your understanding of reality as you know it

is changing,

but it’s not completely crystallized

into an adult form reality.

That sounds like a really healthy place to be to me,

like that, not letting it crystallize.

I think that’s the, there’s where the downfall happens.

So I have questions specifically about wrestling,

but it’s really about process.

I want to know whether or not you watch wrestling

because it allows you to access the energy state

in your body and mind,

and that kind of mode of thinking in which reality

as one conceives it is somewhat blurry,

or is it for a number of other reasons, which is fine?

Is that the energy you’re trying to export

and bring to the creative process elsewhere to life?

Is it that anything is possible

or that we’re dealing with archetypes?

Because it doesn’t matter if it’s Coco Beware

or Randy Macho Man Savage,

or George the Animal Steel and the lovely Elizabeth.

I guess I did watch a little bit of wrestling.

They are archetypes,

much like the Greek myths or the Bible,

or no disrespect to the Bible or to Greek myths

or to wrestling for that matter.

Archetypes are a powerful filter for humans,

but we know that they’re a very limited filter too

because people aren’t built like square wave functions.

We have curves and contours and complexity.

So what is the deal with your relationship to wrestling?

I think it maintains that kind of playfulness.

Anything is possible.

We expect the unexpected all the time in wrestling,

and it’s a way to have a kind of a feeling

of the energy of a sport with no competition.

Everyone is working together

to put on the best show they can.

So it’s more like a ballet than it is like a sporting event.

And there’s great skill involved.

It’s one of the few things that I can watch

and really feel relaxed.

It relaxes me.

I don’t feel like I have to think about it.

I can just relax and enjoy it.

This brings up a topic that is very near and dear

to my heart, which is this notion of balance.

It’s very near and dear to my heart,

which is this notion of dopamine schedules.

I never want to reduce everything to dopamine,

but dopamine is the universal currency

of delight, pleasure, motivation seeking.

There are other chemicals involved too,

but there’s a beautiful experiment

and a couple of examples that I’ll use as a foundation

to more questions about wrestling and why it’s powerful

and why other people may want to use wrestling

or some other endeavor as a way to access

creative energy and source.

Earlier, we talked about, you can train an animal

to press a lever three times and then get reward

and it will learn three’s the magic number for reward.

And then it can switch.

It takes a little bit of training and then they can switch,

but they can’t do prime numbers.

They can’t do high abstraction schedules.

Humans either, we’re not very good at figuring out

the rule set for optimal foraging.

We do it well enough to persist as a species,

at least for now, but it’s very likely

that we are not tapping into that system

as well as we could.

And how would we know if we don’t know?

It’s one of those, you don’t know what you don’t know.

There’s a beautiful experiment that explored

when dopamine is released in the context of watching sport

or watching comedy, believe it or not.

And with the comedy stuff,

it was every time there was a surprise,

it was kind of that jarringly, ha ha,

and they’d measure people’s dopamine output.

They were also brain imaging.

In a game of basketball,

it’s a beautiful opportunity experimentally

because every time one team gets the ball

or shooting free throws or something,

they’re going down court and it’s either going to end up

in the basket or it’s not.

Might end up on the free throw line, but it’s never not.

So what they found is that the schedule of anticipation

was every time there was a switch of which team got it.

So you’re waiting, waiting, and then it’s, ah,

you’re waiting, waiting, yes, waiting, waiting,

three pointer, oh, awesome.

And if something happened where it looked like

they were going to make the three pointer,

but then somebody basically swatted the ball away

and then went for a half court shot,

like you don’t expect that very often,

bigger dopamine release, okay?

So that’s kind of how the dopamine thing works.

When you describe wrestling, I wonder,

because you don’t know the script,

it’s not one team gets it, then the other team gets it.

You don’t know who’s going to win.

Anything could happen is what you said.

The availability of that dopamine surge or drip,

which is a powerful thing,

is completely, it’s completely out of your reach

in terms of anticipation.

You don’t know when it’s going to come,

but it must arrive often enough that you return to it

11 hours a week of watching.

In many ways, the way I’m starting to conceptualize

the creative process is a little bit the same.

You don’t know where those nuggets of gold

and those loose threads are,

but you have enough experience.

And in this case, I am referring to you specifically

to know that they are in there.

The people walking in this room

have a certain level of ability and talent to create

that the map will form itself

as we are going through the voyage.

And those nuggets of, here I’m calling them dopamine,

but they are out there.

And that knowledge is enough to get you to come back again.

And again, to trust the process.

So I actually think the way you described wrestling as,

you know, it’s the energy of the sport.

It’s not the, whether or not it’s this move or that move

or who wins or who loses, it’s the energy.

And I’m guessing it’s the energy that it creates in you

as an observer.

Yes, it’s the energy it creates in me

and the reality that it’s honest in what it is

in a world where seemingly nothing is honest at what it is.

And again, not because people are lying all the time.

We have little data.

We make up a story to explain it.

And then we say, that’s what happened.

And we have trusted sources

who do exactly what I just described

and who pass this down as gospel of what we think

and what we teach and maybe it’s true and maybe it’s not.

With wrestling, we know maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.

We lean towards it not being true.

But what’s really interesting about wrestling

and maybe one of the most fun things about it

is that sometimes real life works its way into the story.

Like two wrestlers get married.


In real life.

Well, we don’t know.

You never know.

It’s like in the storyline, they’re getting married

or getting divorced or best friends turn on each other.

And it could be part of the story

and it could really be happening because they do, right?

Someone breaks their leg.

So they’re out because their leg is broken.

Did they break their leg?

We don’t know.

They’re out.

Do you know what I’m saying?

We’re told they broke their leg.

So there’s always this like, I wonder what’s true.

I wonder where the line is.

We know that it’s scripted or predetermined.

That’s how they say it.

It’s predetermined.

But we don’t know where reality is and isn’t.

And in some ways, that’s our real experience of the world.

We don’t really know where reality is and isn’t.

We have an idea maybe.

I think in some ways, wrestling is more honest

or legitimate because we start with the idea

that it’s fixed.

When we go to a boxing match,

we don’t go to a boxing match thinking it’s fixed.

Yet it might be.

And historically, it’s happened.

Or there was just something in baseball where,

was it baseball?

I don’t follow baseball.

I should know.

There was just a big sports,

one of the teams that-

The plays, basically.


Was it the call signals of the catcher?


You’re not supposed to deprogram

or deconstruct the call signals of the other team.

And I guess maybe a team got caught doing that.

Yes, and the team that won whatever the World Series was.

So it’s like with wrestling, that wouldn’t be a scandal.

Do you know what I’m saying?

It’s like-

Because almost anything goes.

Anything goes.

And that’s what the world is really like.

So in some ways, it’s comforting.

And there’s still this mystery of like,

well, I wonder if that’s true or not

because we never really know.

Someone gets hurt.

Did they really break their back

or are they just going on vacation?

We don’t know.

We’ll never know.

It’s fascinating.

It is fascinating.

And I feel like there are certain people

who show up in a way that is surprising

in not just one direction, but in all directions.

Like it’s one thing for a celebrity to come out

and make a statement.

That can be interesting or not interesting

depending on the celebrity and the statement

and the delivery.

But, and I’m probably going to get this wrong

because I’m terrible at pop culture things,

most of them anyway.

But as I recall, Lady Gaga showed up to some event

wearing an outfit made of meat.

And I can’t tell you for the life of me

whether or not that was a statement against meat

or for meat.

Maybe it was a statement for the carnivore diet.

Maybe it was a statement for veganism.

I don’t know.

Either way.

Or maybe neither.

Or maybe neither.

But it was definitely a statement

in that it broke with the norm.

And it said to me, okay,

she creates different rules for herself

or sort of breaks boundaries that other people had.

I never heard of anyone doing that before.

It doesn’t mean they hadn’t,

but I never heard of anyone doing it before.

But we do tend to associate outside the current playbook

with quote unquote creativity,

unless it crosses a line,

in which case it becomes something else.

It becomes almost theater for sake of theater.

But what you’re telling me is that

within the realm of wrestling,

theater is the goal at some level.

And everybody knows it who goes into those arenas,

who watches it.



And everyone agrees to kind of suspend outside reality

and say, this is reality.


And they boo for the bad guys

and cheer for the good guys,

knowing that backstage they’re probably friends.

Except for the kids that are 11,

who think it’s really real.

I don’t know.

I don’t even know if they know.

I’m not sure.

The only other person I know

who has vocalized their love of professional wrestling

to the extent that you have

is Lars Fredrickson,

the rhythm guitar player for Rancid,

who loves wrestling.

But his statement,

and forgive me, Lars,

if I’m getting this wrong,

is that because he grew up in an area of the South Bay

where there were no teams,

like now there’s the San Jose Earthquakes,

but there was no football team in San Jose.

He’s from Campbell.

But there were no good teams,

no sports teams,

but they had wrestling.

And he had it where?

On the television set.

And so if you didn’t have a,

I didn’t grow up with any organized sports thing.

The 49ers were up the road,

but for me it was skateboarding.

And I love it for the same reason.

You actually never really know what’s going to happen.

There is no rule book.

The rule book is made up.

But they are very,

it’s a unique sport in that,

surfing’s a bit like this too,

in that they are absolutely maniacal

about making things look a certain way.

It’s not about just doing it.

It’s about doing it and making it look good.

Smooth, catching it with the front foot.

And the trends change.



It’s a style.

Style is this nebulous thing of like,

you know, in fashion or in sport.

Whereas with a football,

there’s some amazing catches.

There’s even like the catch,

which I happen to know is a 49er,

the catch during the Super Bowl.

But in general,

it’s like the goal is get in the end zone,

win the game.

And I’m sure football players are like cringing

as I say this,

but it doesn’t matter if you run ugly,

if you run fastest.

In skateboarding, that would never fly.

In fact, you basically be ridiculed out of the sport.

In wrestling, is it the same?

Is there style to wrestling?

It’s all performance.

It’s all the charisma of the people involved.

There’s the physical ability,

the ability to talk and tell a story,

and how charismatic the performers are.

Whether you want to watch them,

whether you want to see them win,

whether you want to see them lose,

and whether you’re interested in cheering

or booing for them.

I was going to say it reminds me of opera,

but opera get released over and over again.

You know the story and how it ends when you walk in,

if you’ve listened to it before.

So wrestling does seem to be unique in that way.

It’s real-time iteration,

at least from the perspective of the-

And it’s real-time iteration based on,

because people get hurt all the time,

they’re doing really crazy physical stuff.

So if someone gets hurt, the story has to change,

because in real life, they can’t show up next week

and do what was planned in the script.

So it’s very alive,

and there’s a lot of,

something interesting and unexpected is always happening.

Well, in a much more calm form,

I’ll share with you something,

just like your perspective on it.

For years, I used a tool

in order to try and access ideas,

since I was a little kid, actually,

because I have a little bit of OCD,

a little bit of a Tourette’s.

When I get tired, I’ll do that,

and very strategy implementation oriented.

When I was a little, little kid,

I needed all my stuffed animals arranged in a certain way.

Legos had to be a little neurotic, or a lot.

And then science is very much about,

you have to do things with a lot of precision.

And I discovered that the ultimate reset for me

when I was in graduate school or a postdoc,

if I couldn’t make it to a really good,

like agnostic front show, or like chaos,

like the chaos of a punk rock show for me

was kind of this reset.

It was like, ah, could like release all this thing,

and I got energy from it.

First time I saw Transplants play,

and you know, it was like, whoa,

because you don’t know what’s going to happen.

And it was scary, and I loved it.

The other thing that I used over time

to kind of reset this ability to think in a structured way

without it feeling like it was overcoming me,

maybe even access the same thing

in some ways that you’re accessing with wrestling

was I like to stare at Aquaria.

Like I like to go to aquariums or I’d build aquariums,

and I would just sit there

because you never know which way the fish are going to go.

You think it’s going that way,

but then all of a sudden they’ll turn and go the other way.

It’s completely unpredictable.

And I love Aquaria because of the tranquility

and had them in my lab for a long time.

I just adore aquariums

because of the non-linearity of it.

It’s not A, B, C, it’s A, Z, Z, Q, you know?

And I think this is what some people try

and access through psychedelics,

but that didn’t seem to me like a very good way

to do it on a regular basis.

Whereas with Aquaria, you just, the tanks are there.

So in your book, you talk about something

that I also share a love for,

which is how the ocean and aspects of nature,

like clouds and ocean, they have a predictability to them.

We know where they are and where to find them.

Fortunately, the sun rises and sets every day,

at least for now.

And we can count on them with 100% reliability.

And yet they are from the perspective

of like what physicists would say, they’re very chaotic.

You can’t look at a wave

and know exactly how the foam is going to roll out.

You know, it’s going to roll in and roll out.

We have the tides.

But when I hear about wrestling,

when I think about my love of Aquaria,

when I think about my love of punk rock music, for instance,

or I think about the ocean,

I think of it in that way that we actually have a need

to source from things that have both a combination

of structure and no structure.

I think it’s interesting that there are some places

that don’t change and some places that change a lot.

And I can remember thinking about this.

I was walking, there’s a beach that I walk on in Hawaii.

That I walk on every morning when I’m there.

And if you walk on the same beach every day,

you kind of get a sense of what it’s like.

And I remember I was in Hawaii,

walked on the beach every day for a year,

however long it was.

And then I left for six months and I came back.

And the next time I walked on the beach,

it was an entirely different beach, entirely different.

And I remember thinking in that moment,

it’s like, this is an unusual place

because I pictured the house that I didn’t even grow up in.

The house I lived in maybe for the first seven years

of my life.

And I think about what the backyard looked like.

And I think about a particular old tree that was there.

And I don’t know this for sure,

but my sense is if I were to go back to where I grew up

and go to that place and look in that yard,

it would probably look pretty similar.

Yet here was this beach that I was walking on in Hawaii

that in the course of six months,

completely changed its face.

And just how interesting both of those things are.

And that depending on the project we’re working on,

to be able to go to a place that we know

has the potential to change a lot

and what that would do to our connection with the earth

when we’re experiencing that,

versus going to a place that has very little change.

And you can kind of count on it being the way

it’s always been.

That both of those are interesting things

to be able to draw upon,

depending on what we want to open in our psyche.

I have an almost unhealthy fascination with New York

in the mid 80s and 90s.

You didn’t live there though.

No, but since I was a kid,

I went there when I was a little kid

and I was fascinated by it.

There’s also a very interesting migration

of East Coast to West Coast creatives,

including yourself,

that played an important part of my life,

just seeing things and hearing things

that were meaningful to me.

But I like, for instance, I love the movie.

I haven’t seen the documentary,

but the one about Jean-Michel Basquiat,

because of the characters that are in it

and the huge number of people in that,

like Parker Posey, Dennis Hopper, and Christopher Wall,

and on and on.

Those images of New York at that time

are so exciting and what was happening.

I wish I could transplant myself to that.

If I had a time machine, that’s where I’d land first.

I hear a lot of people say,

New York isn’t what it used to be.

San Francisco isn’t what it used to be, whatever.

LA isn’t what…

There does seem to be something

that feels a little bit disruptive to people

about cities changing.

But the idea that natural landscapes change

is actually, we even accept like,

if fires sweep through places

and assuming they weren’t started by humans,

we accept that, that change

and the reordering of landscapes is normal and healthy.

And I always tell myself,

they have the kids growing up in New York

or San Francisco or Chicago now,

they only know it that way.

So to them, it’s as cool or as uncool

as it’s ever gonna be, right?

They either wanna get out

or they’re loving every piece of it.

And this happened for all the people that came before us.

So my question is a very basic one.

Do you miss the New York that you came up in?

Are you somebody who is attached to the past?

I’m not attached at all.

I’m not attached to anything in the past.

I don’t look back at all.

You don’t think about like,

oh, in my dorm room at NYU, Beastie Boys, this,

like I miss…

No, your optics are forward, present and forward.

Only present and forward.

Is there a process to that

or it just happens to be where you default to?

I don’t know.

I’m not sure, but that’s how I do it.

Nostalgia is not in Rick Rubin’s brain.


Oh, lucky you, man.


I say that with genuine admiration.

So you can hear a song

that maybe you had a role in producing or not,

something from the past,

and you’re accessing a state presumably,

but you’re not pining for or wishing how it was.


I’m no psychologist,

but I’m going to venture to say

that I think that’s a very unique quality.

I think a lot of people wish for

or wish that things did not happen the way they did,

that there’s a lot of living in the past.

There’s a lot of this notion of like people future trip.

I don’t actually think

that’s the default state of the brain.

I think a lot of people live in emotional anchors

to the past, good and bad.

No, I have none.

And watching wrestling is one way

that you cleanse the palate.

Yeah, it’s true.

You go to a meal and they pass around this,

that don’t really do the same more,

but pass around a little bit of sorbet

to cleanse the palate.

Turns out there’s a biological reason for that.

There’s a kind of neutralization of the taste receptors

between savory and sweet, et cetera.

So if wrestling is your palate neutralizer.

I know that if I watch wrestling before I go to sleep,

it’s going to be a good night’s sleep.

Do you dream about wrestling?

No, never.

But it’s just relaxing.

It’s just relaxing.

Do you anticipate when you watch it?

Like here comes the dopamine hit.

Sometimes, sometimes when it happens,

it’s exciting.

Yeah, sometimes it’s exciting.

But do you enjoy it?

But even men, it’s like the stakes are low.

It’s like, I don’t really care what happens,

which feels good.

You know that I’m just being entertained.

Do they actually get hurt sometimes?

You said they do.

A lot.


They do.

I mean, they’re basically stuntmen.

So imagine stuntman getting hurt, doing a crazy stunt.

Happens all the time.

Well, in the movie, The Wrestler,

I remember he got staples stapled into him.

And I thought that’s pretty intense.

I once went and saw,

I guess they called it Mexican wrestling.

I don’t know if they call it that anymore,

where the guys dip their hands.

Yeah, they dipped their hands in glass.

This was in Sacramento.

And I went and saw it.

I honestly didn’t have a stomach for it.

I really didn’t.

I couldn’t believe it was legal.

It might not have been legal.


But I thought.

There’s crazy stuff in wrestling sometimes.


So before sleep,

is that typically when you watch wrestling?


Do you think it’s useful for people to have some activity

that allows them to kind of clear their mind

and create peace before heading off to sleep?

I think so.

And I think yoga nidras would be good.

It’s like yoga nidra pro wrestling.

Any of the, any of those type things.

Yeah, not watching the Dalmer thing.

I won’t watch that.

I don’t watch any horror, anything,

or I don’t like violent things.


I know it exists.

I know horrible things happen in the world,

but I certainly don’t want to do that before sleep.

I think these liminal states before

and emerging from sleep are very powerful.

When you wake up in the morning,

are your thoughts immediately structured

or do you enjoy the kind of clearing of the clouds?

It’s a slow process for me to wake up.

And I like that.

I like not engaging too much too soon.

I also, another, I usually fall asleep

listening to a lecture or something speaking

because if I’m, if I don’t,

I can get caught in my own thoughts

and listening to something is enough of a focus point

that it stops me from talking to myself.

Yeah, I do the same.

My grandfather listened to the radio,

to sports on the radio, and he would fall asleep.

Oftentimes he was a smoker with a cigarette in his mouth.

His wife’s responsibility was to stay up later than he did

to make sure he didn’t burn everything down.

And then when you wake up, you said it’s a slow process.

Is it an hour or two before you feel like you’re?

I would say probably an hour.

I usually wake up and try to get in the sun

as soon as I possibly can

and hope to spend, hope to spend about an hour.

And then I’ll usually go for a walk on the beach

for another hour, 90 minutes, depending.

Are you with family members and other people at that time?

I’m usually focused by myself.


I’ll be listening to something.

I don’t look at the phone, but I listen.

I listen to, again, a lecture or a podcast or audio book.

I like audio books a lot.

Yeah, I do too.

If an idea comes to mind, do you write it down?

I may.

It depends.

I like to.

I usually would do a note in my phone.

I don’t usually carry pen and paper with me

when I’m walking.

Yeah, I do the same.

I do a long Sunday hike or jog

and I will audio script into my phone.

People sometimes give me funny looks

because I’m talking to myself.

That’s a nice way to do it though.

I’d like to learn more of the audio methods of doing it

instead of the typing methods.

Right now I type and I don’t think it’s the best way.

The voice memos function in the iPhone

and other phones is really good.

And there are now companies like

that will turn those into Word doc scripts

that are fairly well corrected, fairly inexpensive.

No, they’re not a sponsor of the podcast.

I just happen to use it.

It’s great.

I actually learned that trick from Richard Axel,

the Nicorette chewing wild man, Nobel prize winner.

He writes manuscripts and by walking around his office,

pacing and talking into his phone.

I always think of the Woody Allen movie

where the Alan Alda character is talking about,

yeah, he’s speaking comedy ideas into the phone.

It’s really pretentious.

I liked that movie about Harvey Milk,

that Sean Penn played Harvey Milk.

Because that all took place before I was alive,

mostly in the Bay Area.

But there’s these beautiful scenes of him,

as I recall, sitting there at his kitchen table

talking into a tape recorder at night,

talking about how he predicted

that he would be possibly assassinated, et cetera.

And this goes back to the Strummer thing

about writing things down.

I think that a lot of people, including myself,

feel a little bit of like egotistical guilt

around like, who am I to think that my ideas

could be worthwhile or something?

But I think over time, I’ve come to realize

that the ideas about experiments

or health questions I have about health,

they don’t always, but oftentimes can lead to real seeds

that grow into big trees.

But it’s something that’s interesting to you.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

Most of my notes are not for anyone else’s use.

I hear about something that’s interesting to me

and I think about, okay,

I want to learn more about this, whatever it is.

And then sometimes those things work their way

into things I’m doing because the universe

seems to work in that way.

But I rarely am learning something

with the idea of using it.

I learn things with the idea of, this is what I want to know.

This is what’s interesting to me.

And then often those things that are interesting to me

can find their way into other projects just because they do.


Yeah, that’s almost like Kohler kindling.

But the moment that you think of it that way,

it sort of, it sounds so extractive, right?

But if you, so you take this walk

and you’re writing down the occasional idea perhaps,

and then what is the next sort of the way that,

here are less than do this, than this, than that.

I’m interested in like, where does your mind shift to?

Does it become more structured as the day goes on?

Does your thinking become more structured

around projects and plans?

I try to deal with things that need dealing with after that

and in preparation for going to work.

And then when I go to work, it’s more like free,

this free thing where I’m, again,

hoping something good comes, welcoming something good,

paying attention and maybe trying to will it to happen,

but never, but knowing I don’t have the ability

to make it happen.

I can just be present for it and be ready if it does arrive.

Some of the more surprising,

and I found really interesting and useful features

of the book were about dancing with structure

and lack of structure.

So when I think of structure, I think of like deadlines.

So when you are in the process of creating something,

obviously deadlines are relevant, time of day, right?

There’s only so many hours in the day

where one can stay in the groove

or in this like readiness to receive.

Have you ever found yourself in that mode

where you’re kind of grinding, like, ah, like here we are,

like, okay, I’m not coming home for dinner tonight.

It’s the next, you know, we’re going to push.

We’re like, put on the coffee pot kind of thing.

A lot, a lot in the, over the course of my life, a lot,

not as much now.

And one of the things that I discovered

through working on the book was the phases of work

were not required to treat the different phases of work

in the same way.

Whereas before I did,

before everything was in this state of play,

everything had a wide open time schedule.

It happens when it happens.

And if it takes two years or three years,

it doesn’t matter, it’s not about that.

It’s only about this thing has to be great.

And what I came to realize in working on the book

is that there are different phases.

And the first phase is this seed collecting phase,

which is kind of an ongoing part of life in general.

I do that.

I do that always, whether I’m,

whether I’m working on something or not,

I’m always in the seed collecting phase

and there’s no deadline or just anything that interests me

that I think I want to learn more about

or has potential to be something, anything,

something, I hear something, I think, hmm,

I’d like to read more about that.

Or I wonder if there’s a movie about that.

Is there a movie about that?

If not, maybe there’s a movie to be made.

You know, like, again, I want,

this is something I want in my life.

Let’s see if it exists.

If it doesn’t exist,

then maybe that’s something interesting to pursue.

But I know that the desire is there because I have it.

So in the seed phase, there’s no deadlines.

It’s just a wide open part.

And then the next phase is called the experimentation phase

where you start experimenting

to see what the seeds want to do.

You’re involved, but you’re more of a,

you’re not really dictating the action.

You’re setting the stage for something to happen,

but it’s not about you yet.

So it’d be like the equivalent of you’d plant the seed,

you would water it,

you would make sure it was in the sun, and you’d wait.

So you’re involved, but you can’t make it grow, you know?

And then when it sprouts and it grows

and if it turns into a plant,

then you can look at the plants,

like, okay, how does this plant,

what’s the potential of this plant?

And then the third phase is the crafting phase

where it’s like, okay, I have this plant,

maybe I’m gonna trim it,

or maybe I’m gonna combine it with these other plants

to make something else with it.

Now it’s like material that you have.

And then finally is the completion or finishing phase,

which is the final edit, getting to the version of it.

The version of it that’s the one

that you can share with the world

if that’s something you’re gonna do.

And I’ve come to realize that by the time

you’re going into the completion phase,

you can have a deadline and it won’t hurt the project.

In fact, it might help the project.

And I didn’t know that before.

So I’ve worked on projects that have gone longer

than they necessarily needed to.

And maybe not in the best interest of the project

because I didn’t know that.

I didn’t understand the timing of that

because I am so aware of the necessity

in the experimental phase to not have a deadline

that I assumed that that held through the whole project.

And it’s not a clear phase one finishes

and then you start phase two,

phase two finishes and then you start phase three.

You move back and forth between them.

I’m collecting seeds all the time.

I’m always in phase one.

And then probably to some degree,

there’s always some version of experimentation going on.

Maybe not now, but if something’s on a list of things

I wanna look at, hopefully I’ll get to the list

and give them some experimentation

and see what they can turn into.

And then if they do turn into something,

then they get to the crafting phase

where it’s more, okay, now I have this thing.

What do I know about this kind of thing?

What can I match this with?

What can I use this for?

How can I be involved as a craftsman?

And by the end of the crafting phase

or deep into the crafting phase,

you can start seeing the end.

You can start seeing an end

and then you can even dictate an end.

But I recommend if you do just dictate it for you,

not for anyone else,

because if something comes up where you learn,

if you set a deadline, a public deadline,

and then a new discovery happens along the way

and you realize, oh, this could actually be much better

than I thought, but I need more time.

It’s harder to do that if you set the deadline.

So I would say have an internal deadline

to get to finish it.

That said, if an unusual situation comes up

and it’s better for everything not to meet that deadline,

it’s one of those rules that you set the rule to break it

if it’s what’s best for the project.

But that was a new thing for me and it helped me a lot.

When did you realize that?

In collecting the material for the book

and thinking about it.

When I realized that it was phases,

I didn’t know any of this.

When I started writing the book,

I didn’t know hardly any of the things in the book.

They’re more, most of it would be reverse engineering

something that I had experienced, a successful experience,

using these methods without knowing they were methods,

just following my instincts, got me to something good.

And then I would look back at why did I want to do that?

And is there a principle at play

that could be of use outside of this case?

And how do I explain that?

And that’s what the book is,

is these reverse engineered principles

that have led to good decision-making

and trying to make things.

The chapter on self-doubt was really interesting to me.

As we’re all-

Tell me what it says,

because I can’t remember.

I’ll read the first sentence of it,

which is that self-doubt lives in all of us.

And while we may wish it was gone, it is there to serve us.

And it goes on to describe how to dance with self-doubt

in not so many words.

I think there’s a saying

that is actually from the landscape of psychology,

which is generally discussed

in a kind of pathological context,

which is, if nothing matters, anything goes.

This is usually the phrase used to describe people

who feel as if there’s no use in living,

so just go crazy, often to self-destruct.

But there’s a light version of this, I realize,

where in some sense,

the creative process seems to have something to do with,

if you’re not paying attention to what outcomes are,

like who likes it, who doesn’t like it,

and you’re just doing it for you,

you make the rule play, I want to delight myself,

well then, anything goes,

and you have an infinite rule set there

to extract from, at least initially.

So, as one gets better at their craft,

you can imagine self-doubt goes down.

I think that’s the perception of a lot of people, right?

You get better at what you’re doing,

you can land more free throws as a basketball player,

you can hit more home runs as a baseball player,

you can produce more platinum albums as an artist,

self-confidence goes up, self-doubt goes down,

but I think you and I both know a number of people

who are successful enough to know that,

oftentimes, there’s a mirror image to that

where people feel pressure because they did it once,

now they got to do it again.

Yes, or that you think you’re so good at it

that it comes easily and you don’t have to apply yourself.


Yeah, so self-doubt, it’s like a check on yourself.

It can either be really helpful, or it can undermine you.

So, it’s something we all have,

and if we let it undermine us,

then we don’t make anything, and that’s not good.

But when used as a balancing tool in our lives,

it serves a great function, where we really do,

it’s okay to have all the confidence in the world,

and still second guess, is this the best it can be?

You can doubt, I think the phrase is in the book,

you can doubt your way to a great work,

to a masterpiece, but it’s okay to doubt your way.

To a great work, to a masterpiece.

Sometimes that questioning allows you to push further

than just accepting I made it so it’s good.

Yeah, I’ve encountered more people

that seem to be driven by self-doubt

and the need to constantly perform and perform again

than I have real arrogance.

Just that’s been my experience, fortunately.

I’ve met some arrogant people in my life,

but, and of course, we never, as a psychiatrist,

who I admire a lot, and bioengineer,

who was a guest on this podcast, Karl Deisseroth,

said we never really know how other people feel.

I mean, most of the time, we don’t even know how we feel.

Again, language is a very deprived format

for explaining feelings, so we think somebody feels one way,

but we can observe, and it could be another,

but we observe their behavior.

So, in the sense of returning to the work,

just always returning to process,

it sounds like your routine is fairly scripted,

at least now, but the things that you are getting

in touch with, wrestling, sleep and dreaming, the ocean,

there’s a predictability of them

because you can access them in a predictable way,

but they seem to have a lot of unpredictability in them.

The ocean is completely unpredictable.

I also listen to a lot of music that I don’t know,

so I listen to a lot of classical music,

less so, but some jazz,

and a lot of old music that I never heard before,

and I like being surprised by music,

and sometimes it really catches me off guard,

like I shazam a lot when I hear something I like.

Have you ever encountered music that really works well live,

but just does not work in a recording?

Or that is that much better live,

but the recording is sort of, meh.

You don’t have to name names.

Yeah, I don’t think so.

I feel like maybe there are some artists who are great live

who’ve never captured it well on record.

Example would probably be the Grateful Dead’s

good example of a band where I feel like their albums

are not their strong point,

but they’re, if you hear live recordings,

they’re really interesting

and really different from each other,

and that’s kind of part of what makes

the Grateful Dead interesting is their unpredictability.

I confess, I had a sister who listened to the Grateful Dead,

and I got taken to a few shows when I was younger,

and they would do that, what is it called, space?

It was like these drum solos

that would go on for hours and hours.

This is like the antithesis of punk rock shows

where songs are like 90 to 120 seconds,

and I remember thinking like, what is this?

But people I know who love the Grateful Dead

love that uncertainty about where that drum thing,

I think they do call it space.

Forgive me, Deadheads, I’m not enough of one

to get it right.

But they’re looking for something,

and sometimes they find it,

and if you’re there when they find it, it feels exciting,

because it’s not just following a script.

It’s like something is really happening.

It’s a real moment.

It’s something that I aim for in the studio

is to create real moments that when you hear them,

they don’t necessarily sound perfect.

They sound like something that really happened,

and in that moment, something happened,

and it’s a special moment.

And you can feel that if they were to play it again,

it wouldn’t be like that.

There’s something really exciting about that.

It’s really how jazz works as well,

and I think bringing some of that jazz mentality

into other types of music is really interesting,

makes for compelling things,

because when you hear them,

there’s a certain amount of,

you really have to pay attention to do it.

When you’re doing it, you’re really paying attention.

It’s like, I don’t really know.

There’s no music.

There’s no map to follow,

and now we’re working together to make something.

Do I play or not play?

When do I play?

And you’re really paying attention,

can I add, or you go to start adding something,

and someone else added something,

and you’re like, oh, I can’t do that.

And it’s like, everyone’s just in this moment,

experiencing this thing at once

that you can feel as a listener,

and we get to hear their excitement of finding it,

and it’s thrilling when it happens.

So I like that experience.

I feel like that’s kind of what the dead do live.

They’ll play songs in different ways,

and again, I don’t know very much about the dead,

and it’s sort of a newer,

it’s newer for me to listen to the dead.

Growing up, I never listened to the dead,

but probably because I heard songs on their albums

and thought, this doesn’t really speak to me,

but I think that the albums don’t really reflect

what’s special about them.

I think a lot of their shows were recorded, right,

or videotaped.

But by fans, which they supported.

They supported that everybody come, everybody tape,

everybody trade tapes.

It made sense for who that band was.

They redefined, or they defined, excuse me,

the notion of followers.

I mean, people literally gave up their lives

or spent much of their lives

literally driving from city to city to follow them.

Because it’s not like going from city to city

to watch a movie over and over,

because it’s not a movie.

It’s different every night.

It’s changing.

Pretty incredible phenomenon.

I don’t know of anything else quite like it except cults,

and those often don’t end well.

I think a guy that mixed the punch

for the Jonestown Massacre went to my high school.

That was the-

Is that true?

I think so, yeah.

That’s amazing.

My sister is really good at all this kind of like 70s, 80s,

like dark psychology trivia.

She’s a very light person, but-

Did you read Season of the Witch?


It’s about San Francisco in the 60s.

It’s great.

You’ll love it.


Great book.

I’ll have to check it out.

The way you describe experiences going by in time

or things emerging in time

and the creative process being a way

of sort of capturing those moments,

maybe rearranging, maybe watering, et cetera,

I thought was beautifully captured

in the analogy you gave

about a kind of a conveyor belt going by of things, right?

That we think of the creative process

like it’s going to land in us or we’re going to enter it,

or that we’re going to sit there in a chair

and like grit our teeth.

You know, there’s like a some Hemingway quote

where you just sit there and stare at the page

until the beads of blood form on your forehead or something.

Maybe it was him.

Maybe it was, I don’t know,

it sounds like Bukowski or something.

Anyway, I’m going to get this wrong.

People tell me in the comments,

maybe no one said it.

It was a dream.

But I love this conveyor belt thing.

That reminds me of being in laboratory,

doing experiments thinking I was trying to solve one thing

and then seeing something else

and then having to make the decision like,

is that really cool enough to drop everything

and go that direction

or to kind of spend a night or a week

or a career going that way?

I mean, these are kind of big decisions

given that at least as far as we know,

we’re going to live 100 years or less.

But this idea that we have, you know,

thoughts and experiences in our past

and we can draw on and like try and make good decisions.

Do we like grab these things off the conveyor or not?

I’m hearing you and I’m starting to realize

that being attached to the past

might be the worst thing that one could do

in terms of being able to make good decisions

in this context.

Because if we have a kind of a playbook

of what’s worked and what hasn’t worked,

but you actually talk about this.

There’s a passage in the book, you know,

that I’ll just read it.

To be aware of the assumption

that the way you work is the best way

simply because it’s the way you’ve done it before.

I sat with this page for almost 10 full minutes,

which is not something I do very often.

Maybe you could elaborate on this a little bit.

I mean, we want to have, you know,

mechanisms and routines we can trust.

But this is, I think, an important warning.

Yeah, when something works,

it’s easy to be fooled into believing

that’s the way to do it or that’s the right way.

It’s just a way and it’s just a way

that happened to work that time.

And this plays into when you get

advice from people who have more experience than you.

You explain your situation, they tell you their advice.

The advice that they’re giving you

is not based on your life or your experience.

It’s based on their life and their experience.

And the stories that they’re telling

are based on experiences they’ve had

that have very different data points than yours.

So maybe they’re giving you good advice,

but maybe they’re giving you good advice for them

and not giving you good advice for you.

And it’s easy when we try something

and have a result, a positive result,

thinking this is, everybody can do this.

You know, the way I was vegan for a long time, 22 years,

and then I started eating animal protein,

and then eventually changed my diet a few times

to the point where I lost a lot of weight.

The way that I did it worked for me.

Right before that happened,

I did something that I was told

that everyone else who did what you did,

they all lost weight for whatever reason I didn’t.

So the idea that we know what’s right for someone else,

I think it’s hard enough to even figure out

what’s right for ourselves.

And if we do somehow crack the code of what’s right for us,

be happy we have it, and then still know,

I wonder if that’s the only way.

Maybe there’s an even better way that we’re not considering.

Like not to get comfortable with thinking

we know how it works,

just because we get the outcome we want.

I was raised in science with a principle.

It was literally dictated to me as a principle,

almost like a rule of religion,

which was that the brain is plastic.

It can change and learn until you’re about 25,

and then the critical periods end and that’s it.

And this was a rule,

essentially it was dictated a Nobel Prize,

which was very deserved,

given to my scientific great-grandparents,

they deserve it.

But I was told there was no changing

of brain structure function in any meaningful way

after age 25 or so.

Turns out that’s completely wrong.

Sorry, David and Torsten, but they knew it was wrong.

Wow, that’s interesting.

Yeah, it was actively suppressed

because of the competitive nature

of prizes and discoveries at that time.

And a guy named Mike Merzenich

and a student, Greg Reckin’s own,

were showing that adult plasticity exists.

And only now is this really starting to emerge as a theme.

Just crazy.

There were so many reasons and the textbook said it,

we were all told it, and it changed our behavior.

Now we know this to be completely false.

There’s plasticity throughout the lifespan.

There’s limits to it here and there,

but it’s just far and away a different story.

So why would that be the only time that ever happened?

Right, exactly.

But the field was run by a very small cabal

of people at that time.

All fields are run by a very small cabal of people

who have an investment in things being the way they are now

because they’re in charge.

And one of the great things about getting older

is that, well, fortunately, everyone eventually ages.

And I hope that, you know, David unfortunately passed away.

He was lovely, Torsten’s lovely, he’s still alive.

And they would say, I think Torsten would say,

yeah, we should have been a little more open or kind

in allowing these other ideas.

But I think that-

But just think about all the years that were wasted

with this misunderstanding.

Absolutely, absolutely.

And it went beyond that.

And there were BBC specials that helped propagate this.

And, you know, one of the goals of the podcast

has been to try and shine light on ideas

that at first seemed crazy.

Like I know you and I are both semi-obsessed

with the health benefits of light.

And you hear about this stuff like negative ion therapy.

Sounds crazy, right?

Sounds like something you would only hear about

at Esalen or in Big Sur.

Turns out negative ionization therapy for sleep and mood

is based on really amazing work out of Columbia

by a guy named Michael Terman.

The Nobel Prize, I think it was in 1916,

was given for phototherapy for the treatment of lupus.

Like this idea that certain wavelengths of light

can help treat medical conditions is not a new idea.

But somehow we see a red light.

We’re not used to seeing red lights

except in sunsets and on stoplights.

And somehow it bothers people or it makes them feel like-

Well, it undermines a business model

that doesn’t take red light into consideration.

Right, until it does.

And then it was, and then it’s co-opted there.

And the place, what I look to is acupuncture.

You know, for a lot of years people said,

well, acupuncture, this is like no mechanism,

no mechanism, no mechanism.

There’s a lab at Harvard, a guy named Chufu Ma,

who I know reasonably well, whose laboratory is dedicated

to trying to figure out the biological mechanisms

of acupuncture.

And they’re discovering what everyone has known

for thousands of years, which is that incredible effects

on anti-inflammation, the gut microbiome.


I have a friend who was having a terrible back problem.

And I suggested that he see an acupuncturist.

And he went to the acupuncturist that I suggested

and his back problem completely healed

almost instantaneously.

And I asked him, you know, have you been keeping up?

Because he had another flare up.

He’s like, no, I can’t go back there

because acupuncture doesn’t work.

I said, well, you saw it work for you.

He’s like, yeah, but there’s no science.



Oh, he’s got it.

There is, now there’s good science.

And published in premier journals.

It, you know, what’s interesting is,

this is a little bit of science editorial,

but since we like to exchange information about health

and things of that sort,

the editorial staff of a journal dictates

what gets published and what doesn’t.

And the premier journals have an outsized effect

on what the media covers.

And so the beautiful thing is the journal staff now

is of the age that they grew up

hearing about acupuncture.

Hypnosis has a powerful clinical effect,

if it’s done right.

Yoga Nidra and similar practices.

And so the tides are changing,

but I sometimes like to take a step back and think,

what are we confronted with now that seems crazy

that in 10 years, the kids that will be the,

because to me, they’re kids, will be journal editors.

Like, oh yeah, absolutely.

You know, I’m making this up,

but putting tuning forks against your head

or something like that.

Like sound wave therapy.

I think when one adopts a stance of,

we have to filter everything through

the limitations of our biology,

but also through the sociology of like the way culture goes,

it becomes a different story.

How do you deal with that?

Not just in terms of health,

but in terms of thinking about anything.

It sounds like you don’t spend a whole lot of time

thinking about what people are gonna think is cool or not.

No, I can’t.

You’re a punk rocker at heart.


You still are.

Yes, I can’t, I can’t.

I just know what I like and what I don’t.

I know what works for me and what doesn’t.

You know, I try things and I’m constantly looking

for new, better solutions to anything.

And wherever they come from, it doesn’t matter.

It could come from, it could come from Stanford

or it could come from the guy talking to himself

on the street.

If it works, I’m good.

You know, it doesn’t really matter to me at all.

I don’t hold, I don’t hold any of it tightly.

Well, fortunately there’s now a division

of the National Institutes of Health

called Complementary Health,

Complementary and Alternative Health.

And it’s amazing.

NCCIH is run by a woman who has published on,

this is interesting, some of the anti-cancer effects

of things like acupuncture.

Not that acupuncture can cure all cancers,

but real, you know, real data.

That I think for a lot of people, you know,

certainly of the generation above us, you know,

they just are like not interested.

It sheds new light on the Andrew Wiles,

the Paul Stamets’, you know, the wild ones.

Ozone therapy or there’s so many,

there’s so many we can look at.

I mean, for a long time,

nutrition was just thought of as something

that doesn’t matter what you eat.

It’s what medicine you take and what, you know,

it’s like the food is everything.

Food is a powerful, powerful variable.

In the landscape of online nutrition,

it’s sort of one of the third rails

for anyone like myself who’s out there on social media.

You do a very good job of putting out posts

on Twitter and Instagram, but each day you take it down,

you put up a new one.

And I don’t talk about any, I only talk about, you know,

I talk about creative ideas.

I don’t talk about anything specific related to anything

other than, you know, maybe something like

don’t believe what you hear.

Right, exactly.

Well, in the landscape of nutrition,

sometimes I now place it through the filter

of professional wrestling.

You’ve got your vegans and your omnivores

and your carnivore MD, and you’ve got liver king,

and you’ve got everything in between, right?

So you could translate that to any number

of different areas.

Fashion probably has its people,

I’m just not aware of who they are.

Music has theirs, and sports has theirs,

and science has theirs, characters.

So are we all just pro-wrestling like characters

in these different domains?

And we’re taking ourselves and each other

way too seriously?

Yeah, it’s all, we don’t know anything.

It’s all, if someone has an idea

and it sounds interesting to you, try it.

And if it doesn’t work, it’s okay, try something else.

You’re an empiricist.

Yeah, whatever works, whatever works.

And if something seems interesting to you

and you’re excited by it, why not try it?

It’s, you know, I try very fringy things.

I like, in some ways, the more unrealistic it seems,

the more interesting it is to me.

Because I feel like that’s getting closer

to something that somebody doesn’t want me to know,

you know?

But you’re not a big drug guy,

like the big psychedelic craze that’s happening now

and that happened some years back.

I’m not against it, it just has never been

something that I’ve done.

Yeah, yeah, it’s an interesting area

that’s definitely making it headway

inside of standard academic science and medicine now.

So that-

I’m interested in non-pharmalogical approaches to things,

whatever they are.

Well, I’m a big believer that also

that behavioral do’s and don’ts first

are the, they’re the most fun to explore.

Because in general, unless it’s something like, you know,

jumping between buildings, doing parkour or something,

most of the time, you’re not going to injure

or harm yourself.

There’s more room for iteration

than there is with a pill or a potion.

Although, you know, certainly pharmacology has its place.

So you’ve had creative works,

certainly within the realm of music,

also comedy and producing film and other things.

For somebody out there who, of whatever age,

maybe they’re creating,

maybe they know they have this creative antennae,

not the sources outside.

What was it that Strummer said?

I actually wrote this on the wall of my laboratory.

No input, no output.

That’s Strummer’s law.

It’s written in my laboratory.

The people in my lab were so like, what’s going on here?

I think one guy under knew what that was,

but it was a picture of him and picture of my bulldog.

And, you know, no input, no output.

I don’t think I can just stay in a room

with four walls and a ceiling and nothing else and create.

I mean, I know that there’s a certain number

of things in here,

but I do think accessing the world is important.

The world is giving us clues all the time

for paying attention.

That’s another part of it.

Like if you’re paying attention,

the thing that you are looking for

is being either whispered or screamed at you

in the outside world, if you’re paying attention.

Well, and I forget the exact title of the chapter,

but there’s a chapter about staying open to clues

or being on the lookout for clues.

Now I feel tempted to look for the exact title

of that chapter, but-

It’s probably look for clues.

It was look for clues.

Sounds like it sounds right.

And since you wrote it, I’m guessing that’s right.

So do you think there are clues in everywhere?

Yes, I think there are clues everywhere.

If we pay attention, we’ll hear a phrase,

we’ll trigger a thought, we’ll see something unexpected.

If someone recommends something to you,

maybe it’s a coincidence.

If three people recommend the same thing to you,

maybe it’s not, you know, who knows?

Who knows?

I do believe the universe is on the side of creativity.

And the universe is supporting things to happen.

And they can happen through you,

or they could happen through someone else.

So if you’re paying attention,

maybe it’ll happen through you.

We had a guest on the podcast named Justin Sonnenberg.

He’s an expert in the gut microbiome.

And he applied something that, without knowing,

he applied the opposite principle.

The opposite is true principle.

We were talking about these trillions of gut microbiota

that clearly are doing amazing things to create

neurotransmitters and govern our brain,

and even decision-making,

how much sugar is in our system, driving appetite, et cetera.

And he said, you know, we think of them as cargo.

But like, maybe we’re just vehicles and they’re in charge.

That all of our interactions,

like every time we shake hands or touch our eyes,

we’re exchanging gut microbiota.

And we think of intelligence as thinking and intelligence.

And he’s a microbiologist.

And in all seriousness, he said,

maybe we’re the ones being manipulated.

We’re the house cats.

And we think here we are,

we’re falling in love and kissing and shaking hands

and washing hands and doing all sorts of things

to isolate or connect with one another.

And maybe the gut microbiota are really trying

to optimize their survival.

That’s what Laird Hamilton said that one point in the sauna,

that when you’re in the sauna and it’s really hot,

the feeling that you have of wanting to get out

could be the bad critters in your body that can’t handle it.

Like, let’s get out of here.

Are trying to convince you from the inside to get out.

Maybe that’s where that feeling of being compelled

to get out comes from.

So Elon, getting us all to Mars might be a bit of,

maybe they just want to get to Mars.

And so they’re-


I’m starting to feel like I’m channeling Lex Friedman here

for a moment.

No, I think this considering the opposite is really key.

And while it might sound mystical to people

or a little bit like we’re just playing with ideas,

it’s exactly what you do in science.

Someone walks in with a result and says,

I found this, this is true.

And you say, but what if it’s all something else?

A good example might be here,

I’m pulling from podcast episodes that we’ve had,

but Aaliyah Crum is this amazing psychologist

who works on belief effects.

Your knowledge strongly shapes the physiological outcome.

And she had this amazing graduate thesis where she said,

what if all of exercise is placebo?

All of it.

Yeah, it burns some calories and does some things.

Turns out this isn’t the case,

but it turns out a lot of the effects of exercise,

positive effects, lowering blood pressure,

relieving stress, positive, are placebo.

But nobody thinks of it like that

because we’re so attached to calories burned, et cetera.

I think that’s a big point that the belief part of it

is a huge part of the conversation about everything.

You know, what we believe has power.

If we believe we can make something great,

the chances of us making something great are better

than if we don’t believe we can.

So I would say any ability to harness your belief

on your behalf is a really healthy thing to do.

And one thing that you make very clear

is that while our own abilities may come into question

from time to time, you absolutely believe

that the elements from which to create are out there.


All the elements are here.

Everything is here.

We get to pick and choose.

We get to, the conveyor belt’s going by

with the little gifts.

And we can, first we have to notice

there’s a conveyor belt.

Then we notice the gifts.

And then that’s the starting point.

And then we may even feel empowered enough

to grab one of the gifts and open it up

and see what’s inside.

And then maybe that’s the start

of something really beautiful

that we wouldn’t have done.

Everything that I make or have made

has always been based on something that I see or hear

that allows me to see something that I didn’t see before.

So I was going to ask you whether or not

it’s important to be happy in order to create,

but certainly a lot of people that were unhappy

were still able to create.

But the more I listened to you,

it seems that it’s really about an ability

to pay attention.


So if I’m unhappy or if I’m happy,

may not be as relevant as whether or not

I’m able to stay undistracted.


I would say that’s, I would say being able

to stay present in the work

is probably the most important part of it.

And how you feel is less of an issue

unless how you feel gets in the way of you feeling

how the work makes you feel.

Do you know what I’m saying?

If you’re in a lot of pain

and you’re looking at a piece of art,

it may be hard to know how that art makes you feel

because the big signal in your body is the physical pain.

I’m sure there are some people who can do that too,

who can even through the physical pain can feel it.

And there’s this idea of transmutation

of taking one emotion and contorting it

and co-opting it into another action in an adaptive way.

But this idea of distraction being a problem,

this really resonates, I think,

when I think of times of great productivity

is when I was able to be undistracted.

I could also see how success can be its own distraction.

This is often discussed in the context of fighting sports

where someone starts making a lot of money

and pretty soon their focus becomes all the things

they can access with their success

as opposed to the thing that got them there

in the first place.

Keeping an underdog mentality.



Before we conclude, I do want to ask you

about one other aspect of process, which is meditation.

Meditation is interesting to me

because when we close our eyes,

as most meditations are done,

and we focus on our brain, our brain has no sensation.

Like if we-

I wouldn’t say we focus on our brain.

Or we focus on something other than our normal experience.

How would you define meditation?

Well, it’s different.

There are different types of meditation.

Usually, either way,

I would say there’s no form of meditation

where we’re focused on our brain.

Okay, good.

I’m glad we disagree.

I would say here are the things that happen.

We either are engaging in a mantra,

which would be a version of almost like

creating a trance for ourselves,

not unlike listening to something when we go to sleep

that would distract our conscious mind

from participating.

We would be overriding the talking mind

with just a sound that we’re generating,

or a word, or a phrase, series of phrases.

A meta meditation is a loving kindness meditation

with phrases.

Could be that.

Or it could be focused on the breath.

But the purpose of being focused on the breath

is to not hear the self-talk that we normally have.

It’s a single-pointed focus exercise

in those that I described.

The other version is an awareness meditation

where you’re closing your eyes

and you’re being with whatever is and noticing.

So if we were to do it now,

and you could do it eyes open or eyes closed

with an awareness practice.

But the first thing that I would do is I would feel,

I feel a little ringing in my ears.

It might be from the electronic equipment around us,

and I don’t mean that I hear the sound.

It’s like a vibration.

I hear cars passing in the distance.

See what else comes up.

I can feel a feeling in my chest.

I can feel this part of my face, not sure why.

Feels like it’s related to my jaw.

More car sounds.

I’m aware of a little feeling of warmth.

So now I would say the room feels a bit warm.

I wasn’t aware of that before

when I wasn’t just being with what’s happening.

Feel a little itch on my left shoulder.

So that would be an awareness practice,

which is another kind of meditation

where you’re just paying attention to what’s going on.

There’s no story.

There’s no this means this, none of those things.

Just like an inventory almost

of everything that comes up when it comes up,

and you do that for a period of time.

But in all of those cases,

in the example of doing the awareness meditation

or doing a mantra meditation or focusing on the breath,

in none of them am I thinking,

in none of them am I concentrating on,

I’m being aware of sense perceptions in the awareness one,

or in the other meditations, I’m doing a practice

so that I’m not aware of thinking about anything else.

When did you start meditating

and how often do you meditate now?

I learned when I was 14 and I started with TM,

and that’s probably the meditation

that I’ve done the most in my life.

And I come back to, although I tried many different kinds

and also different physical forms of meditation,

Tai Chi, things like that.

I meditated for five or six years,

and then I stopped when I went to school to university.

And then I started again several years later.

And when I started again,

I realized how profound it was in me

that I had done it when I did it.

So I usually have some sort of a practice.

In some ways, the beach walks could be a form of meditation.

But for me, typically I would wake up,

it’d be the first thing I would do

during that sort of in-between time,

maybe go out in the sun, close my eyes and meditate

before starting my day.

If I’m doing it twice a day,

the second time would probably be right before dinner

if I’m doing it on a regular schedule.

Then if I find myself on an airplane,

I might meditate for an hour or for the…

I can remember one time meditating the entire flight

from New York to LA,

just was a great opportunity to do a deep dive.

And time passes, you lose track of time.

You don’t even know.

It’s like going to sleep and waking up.

You don’t feel like that was eight hours.

It’s just time stops.

Not always, but when it does, it’s a great feeling.

Yeah, you’ve sent me some meditations,

including the one that you did on that transatlantic

or transcontinental flight.

And I’ve been trying to do longer and longer meditations,

but I’ve always meditated a little bit,

but your meditation practice is one

that I’m starting to adopt.

Maybe we could convince you to give us

suggestions of one or two,

and we can link out to them for listeners.

I’m sure they’d appreciate that.

And there’s also meditation-like practices to do

that involve, like there’s something called

the surgical series from the Monroe Institute,

which I used when I had a surgery.

You listen to this recording

and it both allows your body to heal much faster.

And remove some of the trauma that goes on

when getting cut open, it’s traumatic.

But just through listening to certain things,

you can have a really powerful effect, heal much faster.

I remember I was about to be put under for a surgery,

and my eyes were closed and I wasn’t communicating

with anyone there because I was going inside.

And my wife was with me and they came in and they said,

oh, so they already gave Rick the sedative

because he’s ready to wheel in.

She’s like, I didn’t give him anything.

He’s like, but look at his numbers, like, yeah.

I love it.

Yeah, it’s an amazingly powerful practice.

I like, because anyone can cultivate.

Absolutely, absolutely.

And there’s no good or bad version.

It really is just, if you learn a technique

and show up and do it, it works.

Well, I love that you’re so willing to share

what you do and your process.

And listen, I just want to say thank you

for a number of things.

I want to thank you for the music you’ve created

and that you are to create

because we want to be still ongoing.

Certainly for your time today

and sharing your thought process

and a bit of what goes into this incredible

creative process.

And I want to thank you for writing the book.

You know, I don’t talk about or feature many books

on the podcast.

It’s just not something we typically do,

but I’ve seen a little bit of the evolution of it.

And then I’ve seen it now and read through it

in its final form twice, as I mentioned,

and I’m going to continue to read through it again.

It is one of those books where it is so filled with gems,

like every chapter, like I could take notes on this

and take notes on this.

And it’s assembled in a very digestible way

that allows people to extract the meaningful parts

in every chapter.

And there’s so many in a way that’s very straightforward.

So I love the book.

So thank you for doing it

because you certainly didn’t have to write a book,

but I’m so happy that you did.

And I know that I’ve already benefited.

I know so many people are going to benefit.

It’s an amazing book

and I couldn’t help but put my neuroscience lens on it.

But I also about halfway through,

I learned to discard my preexisting lens a bit

and start to see things through what I think

is a different perspective.

So I just want to thank you

for being such an incredible portal

and also for being an amazing friend.

Thank you.

I’m so happy to be here with you.

And anytime I get to see you, it’s a good day.


Thank you for joining me today

for my discussion with Rick Rubin,

all about creativity and the creative process.

Please also be sure to check out his new book,

The Creative Act, A Way of Being by Rick Rubin.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s an incredible book

and such a wealth of knowledge

for you creative types out there,

for those of you that seek to be more creative

or to understand the creative process generally.

And as I mentioned at the beginning of today’s episode,

Rick has very generously offered

to answer your questions about creativity.

So if you have questions for Rick Rubin about creativity

or the creative process or anything else for that matter,

please put those in the comment section on YouTube

by writing in capital letters,

question for Rick Rubin,

and then please put the question there.

That will make it easier for me to find those questions.

I will record the conversation

where I ask Rick those questions.

And of course we will post his answers to those questions

on our Huberman Lab Clips channel.

If you’re learning from and or enjoying this podcast,

please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

That’s a terrific zero cost way to support us.

In addition, please subscribe to the podcast

on Spotify and Apple.

And on both Spotify and Apple,

you can leave us up to a five-star review.

If you have questions for us or comments

or topics that you’d like me to cover

or guests that you’d like me to include

on the Huberman Lab podcast,

please put those in the comment section on YouTube.

I do read all the comments.

Please also check out the sponsors mentioned

at the beginning and throughout today’s episode.

That’s the best way to support this podcast.

Not so much during today’s episode,

but on many episodes of the Huberman Lab podcast,

we discuss supplements.

While supplements aren’t necessary for everybody,

many people derive tremendous benefit from them

for things like enhancing the depth and quality of sleep,

for enhancing focus and for hormone support,

and many other aspects of mental health,

physical health and performance.

The Huberman Lab podcast is proud to announce

that we are now partnered with Momentous Supplements

because Momentous Supplements

are of the very highest quality.

They ship internationally

and they have single ingredient formulations,

which turns out to be important

if you’re going to develop the most cost-effective

and biologically effective supplementation regimen.

If you’d like to access the supplements

discussed on the Huberman Lab podcast,

you can go to LiveMomentous, spelled O-U-S,

so slash Huberman.

If you’re not already following us on social media,

we are Huberman Lab on Instagram, Twitter,

LinkedIn, and Facebook.

In all of those places,

I talk about science and science-related tools,

some of which overlap with the content

of the Huberman Lab podcast,

but much of which is distinct from the content

of the Huberman Lab podcast.

Again, it’s Huberman Lab on all social media handles,

all platforms, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

If you haven’t already subscribed

to our Neural Network newsletter,

that’s a monthly newsletter.

It’s completely zero cost

and includes summaries of podcast episodes,

as well as toolkits for things like enhancing your sleep,

enhancing your focus and ability to learn,

hormone support, fitness, and on and on.

You simply go to, go to the menu,

click on the menu, and scroll down to newsletter,

provide your email,

and you can start receiving

our monthly Neural Network newsletter.

Thank you for joining me

for today’s discussion with Rick Rubin,

all about creativity and the creative process.

And as always, thank you for your interest in science.

[“In the Life”]

comments powered by Disqus