Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work Info

Find out the best Medical Books 2019 - Reviews & Buyer's Guide. Discover our community's huge selection of medical books and ebooks and read hundreds of reviews for each title. Read&Download Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work by Steven Kotler,Jamie Wheal Online


National Bestseller

CNBC and
Strategy + Business Best Business Book of the
Year

"Steven and Jamie have done a wonderful job
of balancing the promises, perils, and how-to prescriptions of
engineering peak states such as 'flow.'"
Tim Ferriss, #1 New
York Times 
best-selling author of The 4-Hour
Workweek

It’s the biggest revolution you’ve
never heard of, and it’s hiding in plain sight. Over the past
decade, Silicon Valley executives like Eric Schmidt and Elon Musk,
Special Operators like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets, and maverick
scientists like Sasha Shulgin and Amy Cuddy have turned everything we
thought we knew about high performance upside down. Instead of grit,
better habits, or 10,000 hours, these trailblazers have found a
surprising short cut. They're harnessing rare and controversial states
of consciousness to solve critical challenges and outperform the
competition.

New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler
and high performance expert Jamie Wheal spent four years investigating
the leading edges of this revolution—from the home of SEAL Team
Six to the Googleplex, the Burning Man festival, Richard Branson’s
Necker Island, Red Bull’s training center, Nike’s
innovation team, and the United Nations’ Headquarters. And what
they learned was stunning: In their own ways, with differing languages,
techniques, and applications, every one of these groups has been quietly
seeking the same thing: the boost in information and inspiration that
altered states provide.

Today, this revolution is spreading to
the mainstream, fueling a trillion dollar underground economy
and forcing us to rethink how we can all lead richer, more productive,
more satisfying lives. Driven by four accelerating
forces—psychology, neurobiology, technology and
pharmacology—we are gaining access to and insights about some of
the most contested and misunderstood terrain in history. Stealing Fire
is a provocative examination of what’s actually possible; a
guidebook for anyone who wants to radically upgrade their
life.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work:

2

Mar 19, 2017

***I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway***

This book doesn't really say anything. It gives a lot of anecdotes about people trying to reach ecstasis through drugs, religion, music, jumping out of planes, etc...but doesn't really tie it all together into a cohesive argument. Also, it desperately needs fact checking. For example, the authors claim that more copies of 50 Shades of Grey were sold than all 7 Harry Potter books combined. A quick Google search shows that to be false. It makes me ***I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway***

This book doesn't really say anything. It gives a lot of anecdotes about people trying to reach ecstasis through drugs, religion, music, jumping out of planes, etc...but doesn't really tie it all together into a cohesive argument. Also, it desperately needs fact checking. For example, the authors claim that more copies of 50 Shades of Grey were sold than all 7 Harry Potter books combined. A quick Google search shows that to be false. It makes me question pretty much all the facts in this book. ...more
5

Feb 19, 2017

“Altered states of consciousness” conjures visions of rogue scientists hitting hallucinogens and then sealing themselves up in sensory deprivation tanks until they either have a breakthrough or a breakdown. This book may touch on such activities, but it’s about something else--something broader and in some sense, and yet narrower in another. What it’s about are the states of consciousness in which the part of the mind that is critical, cautioning, and always creating worst case scenarios fades “Altered states of consciousness” conjures visions of rogue scientists hitting hallucinogens and then sealing themselves up in sensory deprivation tanks until they either have a breakthrough or a breakdown. This book may touch on such activities, but it’s about something else--something broader and in some sense, and yet narrower in another. What it’s about are the states of consciousness in which the part of the mind that is critical, cautioning, and always creating worst case scenarios fades into the background, allowing one to be more effective, happier, and to drop one’s neurotic tendencies. Kotler and Wheal refer to this as ecstasis, borrowing from the Greek word meaning “to get outside oneself.” They differentiate it from the Flow of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi with which it clearly has overlap. (One of the authors, Kotler, wrote a great book on the exploitation of Flow by extreme athletes entitled “The Rise of Superman.”) [I’d love to see a Venn diagram of how they see these states overlapping, but—alas—one isn’t provided, though there is some discussion of it.]


The book is organized into three parts. The first part consists of three chapters and it both explores what ecstasis is and why it’s so hard to find. The story of how the Navy SEALs designs training to build group Flow states on command is illuminating as is the second chapter’s discussion of how Jason Silva found ecstasis through freewheeling philosophizing. The third of the chapters describes three prominent barriers to achieving these states of mind. These barriers are among the reasons for the rarity of these altered states even though they’re available to everyone.


The heart of the book is the second part which describes four avenues by which people pursue these altered states of consciousness: psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology, and technology. The chapter on psychology uses a dialogue series between Oprah and Eckhart Tolle as a stepping off point, probably more because of what it tells us about the scale of yearning for ways to get outside of one’s head than because of the dialogues’ value in facilitating that condition. Positive psychology as recipient of a mantle once held by religion and spiritualism is an important theme in this chapter.


The neurobiology chapter isn’t just about the biology of the brain and nervous system; it’s about the integration of brain and body. In it, we learn about how expressions, postures, and gestures can influence our state of mind.


Many apparently believe that the story of pharmacology is a much bigger part of this book than it actually is, but it’s a part that’s hard to ignore. As one who seeks non-pharmacological approaches to Flow (I’m more about yoga, meditation, and movement) I still found this chapter fascinating, and perhaps most so in its discussion of other species’ pursuit of chemically-induced highs [particularly that of dolphins.]


The technology discussed covers a range of approaches from biofeedback devices designed to help one navigate one’s way into the zone, to gear to help one engage in trigger activities at lower risk. For example, the mix of defiance of gravity and high-speed gliding experienced wing-suiting seems to be a potent trigger for ecstasis. It also seems to kill anyone who keeps doing it long enough. So the question is whether one can create the sensation and still achieve the trigger without inevitably experiencing an untimely demise.


The grimness of that last paragraph is an apropos lead-in to discussion of the book’s final part, which considers how one can organize one’s pursuit of ecstasis without running into the many pitfalls that coexist with it—from becoming a pleasure junky to dropping out of life to killing oneself. The first of three chapters in the final part discusses the Burning Man festival phenomena in great detail as well as other avenues by which people find themselves drawn into the pursuit of altered consciousness. The next chapter describes how both government and commercial firms have sought to exploit the bliss of these altered states. The last chapter is about how to merge daily life and pursuit of ecstasis in a balanced way so one avoids becoming a pleasure junky who runs his life aground on rocky shoals in pursuit of the next ecstasis fix.


The book is endnoted, and has some nice ancillary features—a number of which are available online with the link being given at the back of the book. An appendix that I found interesting was one entitled “Notes on Inside Baseball.” This section discussed a number of controversies that were outside the scope of the book, but which readers might wish to research in greater detail.


I found this book to be highly engaging. The authors use the narrative approach throughout to keep it interesting, while at the same time conveying complex ideas in an approachable fashion. They scour many disparate realms in search of this altered consciousness, and so there’s never a dull moment.


I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about how to shut down that perpetually critical and gloomy part of the brain so that one can achieve one’s optimal potential. ...more
3

Mar 04, 2017

Entertaining read, but lacks practical tips.

Maybe I came into this book with improper expectations. I kept waiting for practical steps on how to reap the benefits of ecstasis. Aside from some suggestions on how to schedule consciousness altering practices into one's life, the book lacked practical tips. I'm already convinced that a flow state is beneficial to me. I didn't need 98% of the book to convince me of that. If you need some convincing, this book is for you. If you need a practical Entertaining read, but lacks practical tips.

Maybe I came into this book with improper expectations. I kept waiting for practical steps on how to reap the benefits of ecstasis. Aside from some suggestions on how to schedule consciousness altering practices into one's life, the book lacked practical tips. I'm already convinced that a flow state is beneficial to me. I didn't need 98% of the book to convince me of that. If you need some convincing, this book is for you. If you need a practical roadmap on integrating these practices (and applying them to your life pursuits), look elsewhere. ...more
2

May 26, 2017

I'm a psychologist, and I was hoping this book would build on my knowledge of how to leverage empirically based principles of behavior science to enhance performance and well-being. Although I found the "altered state" information interesting (and aligned with work I'm familiar with about group dynamics and bonding), the main point of the book seemed to be: Do some drugs.

Now I'm not a puritan who casts judgment on the use of controlled substances, BUT I do think this advice is completely I'm a psychologist, and I was hoping this book would build on my knowledge of how to leverage empirically based principles of behavior science to enhance performance and well-being. Although I found the "altered state" information interesting (and aligned with work I'm familiar with about group dynamics and bonding), the main point of the book seemed to be: Do some drugs.

Now I'm not a puritan who casts judgment on the use of controlled substances, BUT I do think this advice is completely impractical for the average reader. One reason so many of the success stories in this book are billionaires and CEOs is because they also have the power and resources to obtain and use these substances without facing the legal and social consequences your average Joe might. It was telling to me that unlike most good pop psychology books, this one really didn't offer any meaningful suggestions for harnessing the altered state techniques in your own life ("hedonistic calendar" be damned). What, you can't tell us how to obtain these miracle substances you've been touting for 200 pages?

At best, this book is an entertaining way to think "what if" in terms of caring for your brain and body very differently. At worst, it's an advertisement for Burning Man and a glib assumption that anyone who's not microdosing with LSD before work is wasting her potential. ...more
4

Dec 23, 2018

Enlightenment, intelligence enhancement, mental invulnerability through neurobiological and pharmacological tuning, ... Superhero fiction? Yes too, but in this case military and commercial research.

Please note that I have put the original German text to the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

Four ways lead to the goal. According to the severity of invasiveness psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology and finally technology.

Psychology in this context means to come to the status of Enlightenment, intelligence enhancement, mental invulnerability through neurobiological and pharmacological tuning, ... Superhero fiction? Yes too, but in this case military and commercial research.

Please note that I have put the original German text to the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

Four ways lead to the goal. According to the severity of invasiveness psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology and finally technology.

Psychology in this context means to come to the status of a Zen meditator who meditates for life. To perfect the techniques for learning body control and mind control so that people, much faster and at a younger age, can control their consciousness, subconscious, sleep, emotions, hormone release, ... That both the obstructive aspects of their subjective identity and any side effects of group dynamics become obsolete. The flow, the detachment from the ego and the loss of space and sense of time can also be generated pharmacologically. But only as an aid and crutch on the path to each individuals perfection.

Neurobiology works on the hardware of the operating software in psychology. The better the brain and the linked hormone circuits of the organs are understood, the better one can optimize them. Be it invasive, by genetic engineering, via external stimuli or with

Pharmacology. The insights of the effects on hardware and software flow together. The most effective, but also the hardest to implement, would be an individualized dosage. That every patient or voluntary self-optimizer gets the mix tailored to his wishes. Creativity, perseverance, association, memory, visual imagination,... Before that, the general increase of one or more properties by a standard drug will be the rule. But as soon as individual analyzes allow the drugs to be adapted to unique brain chemistry, another milestone will be reached. For the primary work focus, leisure activities, hobbies, ... Whatever one can imagine.

Technology is also the key to immortality. It already starts with first, primitive implants and will gradually continue to increase until the consciousness is uploaded to a machine. As fundamental research in psychology shows more and more that the brain can fundamentally adapt to new conditions, it´s just a question of finding the right way to do it. To make it possible to exist in other places than in a bone ball with eyes and stuff.

Interdisciplinarity will be the mantra. Neurobiology decodes and tests optimal pharmacological and technological conditions. To first make a brain in an artificial environment viable. And then to transfer the functions of the brain to technical devices. The individual human consciousness is just a complex algorithm that can be recreated as a program in a machine. Nothing special or not reproducible inside there, just conditioning, epigenetics, many cognitive dissonances and a wobbly self-concept.

Alternatively, the body is simply immortalized by nanotechnology and genetic engineering. After all, these are the key technologies in all preliminary stages that will make the implementation possible in the first place.

Whether the "brain in a vat" and "mind transmittable to the machine/ deus ex machina" approach will be more successful than the "instant, immediate immortality" in ones own body, is difficult to say. Whether it is harder to stop aging and decay or to write a program that corresponds a consciousness and can be transferred back to a clone or an empty host for set up.

Subjectively and speculatively, I just pick one of many possible ways: The frozen bodies/minds can be brought back to life without damage and kept alive. Like amphibians. As a stopover, they inhabit artificial storage media after leaving the body. And, in the end, these formerly real, temporary artificial intelligences could take possession of non-conscious biological clones produced on an industrial scale. The transfer of consciousness between the original, to be renovated body, storage unit and a new body is arbitrary.

The motivation behind it is not altruistic and caring about the welfare of entire populations, let alone individuals. Instead, it is the top goal of the state to become the birthplace of the superior and unbeatable people of the future trough leadership in these disciplines,. The realization of transhumanist ideals with a grain of cyberpunk and mental uploading. The geniuses would not even get lost someday.

Indeed, the primary application will be designed for military and commercial purposes. Sooner or later civil applications will emerge. It is pragmatic to accept that a better late than never is the only viable option in this case.

Erleuchtung, Intelligenzsteigerung, mentale Unverwundbarkeit durch neurobiologisches und pharmakologisches tuning, … Superhelden Fiktion? Nein, militärische und privatwirtschaftliche Forschung.

Vier Wege führen zum Ziel. Nach dem Grad ihrer Invasivität Psychologie, Neurobiologie, Pharmakologie und Technologie.

Psychologie bedeutet in diesem Kontext, auf den Status eines lebenslang meditierenden Zenmeisters zu kommen. Die Techniken zur Erlernung der Körperkontrolle und Gedankensteuerung so zu vervollkommnen, dass Menschen schneller und in jüngerem Alter ihr Bewusstsein, Unterbewusstsein, Schlaf, Emotionen, Hormonausschüttung,… kontrollieren können. Dass sowohl die hindernden Aspekte ihrer subjektiven Identität als auch etwaiger Nebeneffekte von Gruppendynamik obsolet werden. Der Flow, die Loslösung vom Ego und der Verlust von Raum und Zeitgefühl können auch pharmakologisch erzeugt werden. Das aber nur als Hilfsmittel und Krücke bis zur eigenen Vervollkommnung.

Neurobiologie arbeitet an der Hardware des Funktionierens der Software in der Psychologie. Je besser das Hirn und die daran gekoppelten Hormonkreisläufe der Organe verstanden werden, desto besser kann man sie optimieren. Sei es invasiv, mittels gentechnischen Verfahren, über externe Stimuli oder über

Pharmakologie. Dabei fließen die Erkenntnisse aus den Auswirkungen auf Hardware und Software zusammen. Am effektivsten, aber auch am schwersten umzusetzen, wäre eine individualisierte Dosierung. Dass jeder Patient oder freiwillige Selbstoptimierer die auf seine Wünsche zugeschnittene Mischung bekommt. Kreativität, Ausdauer, Assoziationsgabe, Gedächtnis, visuelle Vorstellung,…. Davor wird die generelle Steigerung einer oder mehrerer Eigenschaften durch ein Standardmedikament die Regel sein. Aber sobald individuelle Analysen ermöglichen, die Wirkstoffe auf die einzigartige Hirnchemie hin zuzuschneiden, wird ein weiterer Meilenstein erreicht sein. Für den primären Arbeitsfokus, Freizeitgestaltung, Hobbies,…

Die Technik ist gleichzeitig der Schlüssel zur Unsterblichkeit. Es beginnt bereits mit primitiven Implantaten und wird sich sukzessive immer weiter bis zum Hochladen des Bewusstseins in eine Maschine steigern. Da die Grundlagenforschung der Psychologie immer mehr zeigt, dass sich das Hirn grundsätzlich auf neue Bedingungen einstellen kann. Etwa an anderen Orten als in einer Knochenkugel.

Interdisziplinarität wird das Mantra sein. Die Neurobiologie entschlüsselt und testet die optimalen pharmakologischen und technologischen Bedingungen. Um zuerst ein Hirn in einer künstlichen Umgebung lebensfähig machen zu können. Und dann die Funktionsweisen des Hirns auf technische Geräte zu übertragen. Das individuelle menschliche Bewusstsein ist nur ein komplexer Algorithmus, den man als Programm in einer Maschine nachbauen kann.

Alternativ wird einfach der Körper mittels Nanotechnologie und Gentechnik unsterblich gemacht. Überhaupt sind das in allen Vorstufen die entscheidenden Technologien, die die Umsetzung erst möglich machen werden.

Ob der "Hirn in einem Bottich" beziehungsweise " Übertragbarer Geist in der Maschine" Ansatz eher Erfolg haben wird als die unmittelbare Unsterblichkeit, lässt sich schwer sagen. Ob es schwerer ist, das Altern und den Verfall zu stoppen oder ein Programm zu schreiben, dass einem Bewusstsein entspricht und sich wieder auf einen Klon oder einen leeren Wirt übertragen lässt.

Subjektiv und spekulativ sehe ich einen von vielen möglichen Wegen: Die tiefgekühlten Körper/ Hirne werden ohne Schaden wieder zum Leben erweckt und am Leben erhalten werden können. Wie etwa bei Amphibien. Als Zwischenstation bewohnen sie nach dem Verlassen des Körpers künstliche Speichermedien. Und am Ende könnten diese ehemals echten, vorübergehend künstlichen Intelligenzen, von in industriellem Maßstab hergestellten, biologischen Klonhüllen ohne Bewusstsein Besitz ergreifen. Der Transfer des Bewusstseins zwischen echtem, zu renovierenden Körper, Speicherung und neuem Körper ist beliebig.

Es geht dabei nicht altruistisch um das Wohl ganzer Bevölkerungen, geschweige denn um Einzelpersonen. Sondern um den Staat, der sich durch die Führungsrolle in diesen Disziplinen zum Geburtsort für überlegene und nicht zu schlagende Menschen der Zukunft macht. Die Verwirklichung transhumanistischer Ideale mit einem Schuss Cyberpunk und mentalem Uploading. Die Genies würden irgendwann nicht einmal mehr verloren gehen.

Sicher wird die Primäranwendung für militärische und kommerzielle Zwecke ausgelegt werden. Daraus erwachsen über kurz oder lang die zivilen Anwendungen. Es ist pragmatisch zu akzeptieren, dass ein besser spät als nie in diesem Fall den einzig gangbaren Weg darstellt.

...more
4

Apr 16, 2017

People have known for a long time that there are a whole lot of ways to experience consciousness outside the every day way we experience it. Every society sorts these ways that are either acceptable or “beyond the pale” as it’s described in Stealing Fire. Up until recently, Western culture has been quite wary of anything that changes our experience of the world too drastically. Lately though, maybe since the 1950’s, this has started to shift, and in the last few years in particular, altered People have known for a long time that there are a whole lot of ways to experience consciousness outside the every day way we experience it. Every society sorts these ways that are either acceptable or “beyond the pale” as it’s described in Stealing Fire. Up until recently, Western culture has been quite wary of anything that changes our experience of the world too drastically. Lately though, maybe since the 1950’s, this has started to shift, and in the last few years in particular, altered states have received increased mainstream interest and attention. We’re at the beginning of what might be a revival in experimentation with altered states of consciousness. A more careful, measured revival.

Stealing Fire calls the over-arching feeling we’re seeking “ecstasis,” the Greek word for “stepping beyond oneself.” This is pretty good choice of word, but their acronym STER was even more useful, it stands for Selflessness, Timelessness, Richness, Effortlessness and enumerates the broad categories of reasons for seeking altered states. Of these, richness was the most ambiguous to me, so here’s how they describe it: “creative inspiration or divine madness or that kind of connection to something larger than ourselves that makes us feel like we understand the intelligence that runs throughout the universe.”

If you think about it, everything we do has the goal of either directly or indirectly obtaining or avoiding a mental state. It’s why we exercise, eat well, use substances like caffeine or alcohol, and, at a more abstract level, it’s why we avoid regret and do things to make memories. So we seek states of mind. We always have, always will. Stealing Fire is about going after them in less conventional ways.

In a nod to the less conventional, the authors give plenty of space to the altered states brought on by psychedelics. I suppose this is why a lot of reviews are hard on the book. What’s the point of reading about taking illegal substances like DMT or LSD for people who are unwilling to risk breaking the law to experience them? Well, I'd argue that regardless of whether or not you are willing to try them there are reasons to learn about them, but even if you disagree, the book’s central focus isn’t illegal substances, it’s a survey why people are interested in altered states and the variety of ways they achieve them.

Apart from hallucinogens, they explore flow, and contemplative states like those achieved through meditation, sexuality, chanting, and dance. Within these broad categories they look at how technology, psychology, neurobiology, and pharmacology can best induce, measure, and control these non-ordinary states of consciousness and make them useful in our quest to experience novelty, form creative connections, and make meaning.

Stealing Fire isn’t perfect but the complaints that the authors are just trying to push people toward their courses or seminars or whatever it is are overstated. Their courses are hardly mentioned. There is however, a clear bias toward the Silicon Valley mentality with their love of Burning Man, self-quantification, expensive conferences, and projects that only millionaires could even fathom. At times it’s a little eye-roll inducing, but don’t let that keep you away from the book. As any good survey style non-fiction book should have, there are more starting points than conclusions here. I took pages of notes and have a new list books to check out that go deeper into the topics they treat briefly. It’s well written and engaging and worth your time. ...more
5

Mar 15, 2017

THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING BOOKS THAT I HAVE READ THIS YEAR! "Stealing Fire" is an exploration of man's journey through altered states of consciousness. The authors, Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler explore thins topic from a variety of perspectives that you wouldn't expect-mind gyms, exterme sports, neurotheology, Navy SEALS, mind control as well as the stuff that you would expect, mind-altering substances. The book isn't a straightforward and boring academic book, though, it's a THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING BOOKS THAT I HAVE READ THIS YEAR! "Stealing Fire" is an exploration of man's journey through altered states of consciousness. The authors, Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler explore thins topic from a variety of perspectives that you wouldn't expect-mind gyms, exterme sports, neurotheology, Navy SEALS, mind control as well as the stuff that you would expect, mind-altering substances. The book isn't a straightforward and boring academic book, though, it's a story-driven, exciting adventure. that goes down different rabbit holes that eventually tie together into one big theme. I immediately intrigued by the idea of "flow" (I'm a productivity nerd) and immediately loved going down all of the rabbit holes that Kotler and Wheal take readers down.

While I was reading this book, I made quite a few changes in my life (which means it was a good book!). I started to listen to bianaural beats and gamma music on YouTube, joined the free webinar about flow sponsored by the Genome Project website, and took time to devote more quiet time so that I can get into the "flow state" more often. I have a different perspective on the brain because of this book and look forward to learning more about "flow".

The one area that everyday people might have trouble is applying some of the tips on a down-to-earth level. The book is full of absolutely incredible stories and there are some general principles that help the everyday reader identify the characteristics of flow state and a little bit about how the brain works while under the flow state. On the other hand, I (like many readers) don't have access to a mind dojo, tickets to the Burning Man festival, or access to any of the other cool stuff in the book. For those readers, I would advise taking the principles of the book and the tips in the last chapter (hedonic calendar) to start an exploration of the "flow state" moments in your life (meditating, listening to good music, taking a trip into nature). ...more
1

Sep 25, 2018

I was ready to give this two stars, but after getting home, I have to go with one star.

What do the following have in common? Google. Navy SEALs. Joan of Arc. Monks. Brain waves. I'm not entirely sure even after reading this.

This book is all about altered states of consciousness and cognitive enhancement....yes, that includes drugs. He then plays the "everyone who is anyone is doing it". It is entertaining enough, but I kept feeling "played" all throughout this. Every time the author wants you I was ready to give this two stars, but after getting home, I have to go with one star.

What do the following have in common? Google. Navy SEALs. Joan of Arc. Monks. Brain waves. I'm not entirely sure even after reading this.

This book is all about altered states of consciousness and cognitive enhancement....yes, that includes drugs. He then plays the "everyone who is anyone is doing it". It is entertaining enough, but I kept feeling "played" all throughout this. Every time the author wants you to be impressed with his statements (whether true or not), he mentions super famous/popular people, organizations that are glowing examples of all that is good in the world, successful businesses, and the like. And if he wanted to attach a negative vibe to his statements, he'd conjure up images of Barney the purple dinosaur, Mormons (several times), obesity, masturbating monkeys, and anything else people don't want to get too close to.

This was so slanted and he tried too hard to color this. I wish the research and the science was presented as such, because that part was kind of fascinating. But the sad attempts to make it something it clearly is not...that irked me. Then towards the end the author issues words of caution about doing drugs....it sounded like an afterthought. This book had me rolling my eyes and wondering if people really fall for this high school type of posturing. ...more
3

Mar 15, 2017

This is about altered mental states and how they improve life. It seems a little too much like a commercial for their web site and their classes. It doesn't tell you how to make any of this help in your regular, everyday suburban life. Like you can go to Burning Man, or climb mountains on the weekend with your extra time and money and then come back on Monday and everything will just be magically improved. It wasn't bad, but I didn't get out of this what I was hoping for.
3

May 07, 2017

Three and a half stars, really. This title deals with the benefits of attaining a 'flow' mentality, which the authors claim has long-lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. Science has already shown that many activities discussed within provide positive effects for us, such as meditation, prayer, and the liberating "rush" of performing extreme sports. Any act which unleashes an epiphanic episode provides us with a distinct and ultimately useful view of ourselves, and by extension of Three and a half stars, really. This title deals with the benefits of attaining a 'flow' mentality, which the authors claim has long-lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. Science has already shown that many activities discussed within provide positive effects for us, such as meditation, prayer, and the liberating "rush" of performing extreme sports. Any act which unleashes an epiphanic episode provides us with a distinct and ultimately useful view of ourselves, and by extension of our world.

What the authors here propose is that we should be actively pursue these states in life, and gives us some tips on how to do so. I particularly recommend to millennials the final chapter, which warns us that this is not about being a 'bliss junkie': exhilaration is only a first step which needs to be followed by hard work, grit, and discipline. ...more
0

Aug 03, 2018

this book was highly recommended to me but my concentration continually skidded away like it was Teflon-coated. dnf at p. 109
5

Jul 02, 2017

I came across this book on recommendation from podcast, and it sounded interesting - but from the cover and initial impressions, I thought it'd be another sort of self-help "using flow state or mindfulness to be a better worker bee." While I want to be good at my job, it wasn't my main interest, but when reading it anyway, this book presented so much more! Sure, it talks about efficiency and flow states, but it explores cultural backgrounds, different paradigms and approaches - from psychedelic I came across this book on recommendation from podcast, and it sounded interesting - but from the cover and initial impressions, I thought it'd be another sort of self-help "using flow state or mindfulness to be a better worker bee." While I want to be good at my job, it wasn't my main interest, but when reading it anyway, this book presented so much more! Sure, it talks about efficiency and flow states, but it explores cultural backgrounds, different paradigms and approaches - from psychedelic drugs (and their history and cultural context) to Temporary Autonomous Zones to communes to extreme sports. The personal stories and varied experiences are fantastic and engaging, and illustrate the points about the concepts, and how it may apply to various aspects of your life - job, mental well-being, spiritual well-being, relations with others - but without veering into New Age-land *or* being skeptical to the point of dismissing ideas just because they're outside the norm. That probably raises some eyebrows, but it's like this: the authors never ask you to believe in anything, they just show cases where certain things have worked, why they might have worked, and that belief in itself may have been a component of the experiences.
I've been reading about these sorts of experiences for decades, and keep running into walls because so much out there is reiterations of Flow 101. This is finally a next step, in a way that doesn't fill it all up with anyone's particular fluff, but provides streamlined ways to integrate the ideas into your own mental fluff. ...more
3

Mar 17, 2017

It seems like this year the typical book that falls in my hands is the one that takes your beliefs and ideas about the world, laughs at them with that "Disney witch" laughter and then smashes them with a hammer into thousands of pieces. This is one of them.

As most of my friends know, until recently I was your basic "boarding school" type of girl: no drugs, no drinking, no smoking, no coffee… (Yes, I used to do other stupid stuff, just not those ones).

So this book puts things in a whole new It seems like this year the typical book that falls in my hands is the one that takes your beliefs and ideas about the world, laughs at them with that "Disney witch" laughter and then smashes them with a hammer into thousands of pieces. This is one of them.

As most of my friends know, until recently I was your basic "boarding school" type of girl: no drugs, no drinking, no smoking, no coffee… (Yes, I used to do other stupid stuff, just not those ones).

So this book puts things in a whole new perspective. What if all those (and a lot more) are methods of expanding our consciousness (if applied in certain conditions)? Increasing performance? Solving complex problems? Creating a sense of community? And by the way, we used to do this for thousands of years until we became "puritans". What if there is no difference in terms of ethics between using meditation and LSD as tools for "getting there" (for example)?

All in all, the case they make is logical (most part of it at least) and easy to follow. Tons of examples and approaches to help you "get there", in flow.

The only two issues I had with the book were a) the touch of "conspiracy theory" added and b) the tendency to over-generalize at the end of the arguments. But still a good provocative read. ...more
1

Mar 31, 2017

This book talks about the latest trend in using 'alternative state of mind' to make ourselves more creative, train harder or just for fun. Basically getting high, and mainly through psychedelic drugs. He explained that all the Silicon Valley elites and Davos 0.01%-ters are doing it.

The author invoked Csikszentmihalyi's 'flow' states of high performing athletes and artists which feels timeless and blissful, and is also a high-performance state. Similarly, Buddhist monks can enter similar state This book talks about the latest trend in using 'alternative state of mind' to make ourselves more creative, train harder or just for fun. Basically getting high, and mainly through psychedelic drugs. He explained that all the Silicon Valley elites and Davos 0.01%-ters are doing it.

The author invoked Csikszentmihalyi's 'flow' states of high performing athletes and artists which feels timeless and blissful, and is also a high-performance state. Similarly, Buddhist monks can enter similar state of 'oneness with the universe through meditation. He explained that nowadays psychedelic drugs can help human beings do the same thing. This I must disagree. The athletes and monks can Control entering and leaving the state. People taking drugs can't. And even the author acknowledged that one can fall into the trap of seeking blissfulness for its own sake, or what we simply called addiction and/or dependence.

I can't imagine a future when everyone would just take psychedelic drugs in class to increase their creativity. Sounds scary to me. ...more
2

Jul 18, 2018

Stealing Fire opens with a story from ancient Greece, so surely that proves what an important book it is. The anecdote is about the mysterious, psychoactive beverage kykeon and its use during the time of Socrates. While the authors acknowledge the probable presence of the mind-altering substance ergot, they also claim “uncovering the ingredients of kykeon has become a Holy Grail kind of quest.” These guys should really learn about Wikipedia, or any of the many web sites that describe the Stealing Fire opens with a story from ancient Greece, so surely that proves what an important book it is. The anecdote is about the mysterious, psychoactive beverage kykeon and its use during the time of Socrates. While the authors acknowledge the probable presence of the mind-altering substance ergot, they also claim “uncovering the ingredients of kykeon has become a Holy Grail kind of quest.” These guys should really learn about Wikipedia, or any of the many web sites that describe the ingredients of kykeon.

That carelessness is one of the biggest problems with the book. The authors jump breathlessly from anecdote to anecdote without ever creating a coherent narrative. The overall point seems to be that a state of “ecstasis,” a broad term that includes flow states, contemplative/mystical states, and psychedelic states, is easy to achieve through a variety of methods. Sometimes the anecdotes offer a clear connection to this point. Other times, the authors seem so eager to drop as many names as possible that the connection is lost. For example, the story of Joseph Smith and his “Book of Mormon” is included. Are the authors arguing that spirit visitations and secret religious texts are a good thing? Considering how much money the LDS has spent trying to limit the basic freedoms of millions of Americans, this doesn't do much for the authors' point.

There is an appendix where the authors acknowledge that some of the research they cite has subsequently been called into question (in fact, in some cases, flat out refuted). That kind of disclosure belongs in the text, not in an appendix that many won't even read. And there are still glaring omissions. For example, they report a study claiming that “power poses” (think the Wonder Woman or Superman power stance) increases testosterone. As a former healthcare worker, this didn't make sense to me, so I looked it up. Later research fully discredited the “power pose” finding – power poses can increase one's self-confidence, but they have no impact on testosterone levels.

Another name-dropping example is the Trojan Warrier Project undertaken by the Pentagon to integrate meditation, biofeedback, and other techniques into training of Green Berets. But the authors provide no follow-up! Not only do the authors not indicate if the project was a success, they don't even speculate as to what “success” would mean in that situation. Was the goal to help soldiers kill more efficiently? To train them in non-violence techniques? To reduce the future prospects of PTSD? No clue.

This kind of sloppiness – going so far as to seem like deliberate avoidance at times – occurs throughout the book. The authors love Burning Man to the point of worship. They salivate over the unity and creative incubator culture but only gloss over the class separation that has become rampant at Burning Man (private camps that amount to gated communities). And they don't even mention the considerable environmental impact of this city in the dessert, temporary or otherwise. (And can we please put to rest the myth that Elon Musk invented hyperloop? He simply repackaged the work of scientists like Robert Goddard.)

Meditation and mindfulness, one of the possible paths to “ecstasis,” represents another issue with Stealing Fire. We're supposed to be impressed that health insurer Aetna (important name!) implemented a mindfulness training program to employees. It's wonderful that Aetna “saved $2,000 per employee in health-care costs, and gained $3,000 per employee in productivity.” Good for Aetna! Did the employees benefit? Did the savings get passed on to Aetna's customers? (And did you know that you can experience a “breakthrough” after only four days of meditation training? Hurry now, while supplies last!)

Even more problematic is the neglect of potentially significant ethical conflicts. The authors mention that they were the keynote speakers at an annual Advertising Research Foundation meeting. Then they caution about corporations (many of them members of the aforementioned foundation) influencing consumer spending with the techniques described in the book. No connection is made between this influence and the authors' participation. Similar issues exist surrounding the authors' fanboy descriptions of Google founders Brin and Page, completely ignoring the ethics of Google's eager collection and exploitation of private consumer data.

Ultimately, Stealing Fire ends up feeling like just another cog in the propaganda machine that serves Silicon Valley libertarian technocrats. Of course new companies and business units will result from Burning Man – any time that many uberwealthy people get together to party, they will come up with money-making schemes. That's what they do. Except for one brief mention, the authors never connect success with effort. One reasons the titans of tech succeed (based on material standards of “success,” which are themselves debatable) is that they simply work longer hours than most of us. Hopping in and out of a state of euphoria might sound like fun, but good things really do take time. A lifetime of meditation, years of disciplined athletic training, or the seven-day work weeks of a technology start-up – time and commitment are the real sources of value.

Some of the book's anecdotes are very interesting, hence my two stars instead of one, but the reader should view every page with a critical eye. And much of this is either useless to the average layperson (How many of us are really going to experiment with LSD? Not me.) or reinforces long-standing awareness (yes, you will probably benefit from a regular meditation practice). It mostly adds up to a long, and poorly researched, press release. In the end, these authors are not stealing fire so much as blowing smoke. ...more
5

Mar 09, 2017

An exuberant and vital study on the neurochemistry of 'flow' and 'altered states of consciousness' that brings a modern ontological perspective on what many of us still consider shamanistic mysticism.
5

Mar 11, 2017

One needs an Open Mind for Flow and Inspiration...

A fascinating, yet controversial read.
This book may inspire or offend you. If you are more on the conservative or deeply spiritual side, parts of this most interesting book you might not like. I personally also wouldn't opt for doing the riskier things.
However, the collection of studies around "flow" or heightened mental states is fascinating. Group flow and meditation practice has been done for millennia, so there most probably is something to One needs an Open Mind for Flow and Inspiration...

A fascinating, yet controversial read.
This book may inspire or offend you. If you are more on the conservative or deeply spiritual side, parts of this most interesting book you might not like. I personally also wouldn't opt for doing the riskier things.
However, the collection of studies around "flow" or heightened mental states is fascinating. Group flow and meditation practice has been done for millennia, so there most probably is something to it. I will look further into these for myself and at work. Towards further success :-) ...more
2

Nov 19, 2018

I have to admit, I would have likely never listened to this book had I known the premise. I thought it was going to be about technology advancements in the Navy Seal community. While I guess you could kind of make that connection, the premise is far less about them and more about how the Silicon Valley is accessing high performance through very unconventional ways. The Seal community is connected for the reason that they are studying how groups "get in the zone" and become high performing teams. I have to admit, I would have likely never listened to this book had I known the premise. I thought it was going to be about technology advancements in the Navy Seal community. While I guess you could kind of make that connection, the premise is far less about them and more about how the Silicon Valley is accessing high performance through very unconventional ways. The Seal community is connected for the reason that they are studying how groups "get in the zone" and become high performing teams. They gel, they become lock step, and they are high performing. This concept is also connected to many entrepreneurs seeking to obtain a competitive edge. While that may sound like an interesting business book, it was much more about how people are seeking high performance through mind altering drugs and strange ecstatic experiences. If you ask me, it sounded kind of wacky.

One area that I had to point out because it destroys the author's point was found in part six (of ten) of the audiobook. The author compared the founder of the Mormon faith (Joseph Smith) with Moses of the Christian Old Testament. His point was that people have had to trust leaders about spiritual matters without having the evidence to prove their assertions. In Joseph Smith's story, he has a conversation with an angel named Mordecai who relays all of these messages from God to Joseph on golden plates. He later writes them down in book form but cannot produce the golden plates later to confirm his evidence of divine communication. The author attempts to compare this to the Christian Bible where Moses comes down from the mountain with the ten commandments on stone tablets after speaking with God. Moses sees the utter unfaithfulness of the Jewish people who have resorted to worshipping false gods while Moses was away. In anger, Moses throws the tablets down and rebukes the people. The author states that the Bible is based on Moses word, not hard evidence. Unfortunately, the author never read the rest of the story. The very next chapter (Exodus 34) shows Moses going back up to speak with God about this matter and he brings back down another set of the same ten commandments. Thus, the faith of the Christian Bible can never be similarly compared to the Mormon religion. The Christian faith is not based solely on trusting that Moses was speaking to God. This invalidates the point made about spiritual experiences being believed or experienced with no proof. It certainly happens every day with false religions. Certainly we can see this with the Mormon religion, but this cannot be claimed against the Christian faith.

The one thing I can appreciate with this book was that it provided a look into the culture in which we live. I can appreciate the disclaimers that were made regarding pursuing this kind of lifestyle. But I also wonder what cost some will bear for pursuing this kind of lifestyle, allowing life decisions to be made through such emotionally charged experiences. It's easy to commit to something when you are emotionally connected to something. In fairness, the Burning Man Conference (referenced throughout the book and a model of sorts for the author's theme) does recommend that those attending this conference avoid making any major decisions for at least one month after their experience of attending the conference.

The author desires for us to find hope in our pursuits of human achievement. Through finding "exstacia", their hope is on what they can accomplish. I think this is fleeting and temporary. I personally find hope in the unchanging God who created all things. He has always been, is here, and always will be. He is all knowing, all powerful, and cannot sin. He is completely trustworthy. I rely on Him for my whole life and encourage others to trust in Him. You see, we all have sinned (made poor life decisions that we regret). Sin is disobedience against God's moral law. God has made clear that those who sin, deserve death and are cast into a dark place full of suffering for eternity. It is the consequence for our disobedience to His commands. No one can be good enough to earn life and avoid this punishment. But at the right time, God sent His only son, Jesus Christ, into the world. Jesus lived a perfect life, and yet died on a cross to satisfy God's punishment for our sin. If you would just believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that He alone can save you from your sin, that he alone can forgive you of your sin, and that you commit to living your life as Christ did, you can be saved from your sin and live in eternity with God forever. We cannot save ourselves through our achievements. We cannot even save ourselves through good works as Christians. We can only be saved by what Christ accomplished 2,000 years ago on a cross. He died on a cross to bear my sin and I am forgiven for my sin because I place my faith in Him alone. Dear reader, please flee from this life of strange appetites and weird substitutes as this book presents, and come to the God who made you and walk in His ways through the life and death of Jesus Christ who alone can save you. ...more
0

Aug 24, 2019

(Just a few quick sentences, not a lengthy review...)

This was so badly fact-checked that it made me wonder if I could have asked for a refund, had it not been a library book. It just had a *lot* of random inaccuracies (no, hemp seeds are not psychoactive... the power pose research did not replicate... not all painkillers have psychological effects etc.).

Otherwise the book is basically about using spirituality to increase work efficiency when you are a businessperson - with a lot of namedropping (Just a few quick sentences, not a lengthy review...)

This was so badly fact-checked that it made me wonder if I could have asked for a refund, had it not been a library book. It just had a *lot* of random inaccuracies (no, hemp seeds are not psychoactive... the power pose research did not replicate... not all painkillers have psychological effects etc.).

Otherwise the book is basically about using spirituality to increase work efficiency when you are a businessperson - with a lot of namedropping of businesspeople mostly in the IT world, and also some Navy SEALs. I feel like Western spirituality had to produce this offshoot, it was inevitable, but I personally wouldn't recommend it. The first book recommendation I got via HN that I ended up disliking.

It also misses so much that would've been slam-dunk hits related to the main topic. I can't believe that First Earth Battalion only got two brief paragraphs, and there was no (NO) discussion of lucid dreaming.

Source of the book: Yes, the library ...more
4

Jan 26, 2018

Wow... I can't remember previous book that made me think so much. Very, very intriguing lecture. Personally for me, the best part was beginning of the book, where most of the ideas and assumptions were introduced. I was moved to the level of really pittying the fact, that I'm not i.e. working for Google, living in California and Rave culture with a Burning Man festival is just something I can read about in such books :)

But seriously, It got me really consider meditation, mindfulness and impact Wow... I can't remember previous book that made me think so much. Very, very intriguing lecture. Personally for me, the best part was beginning of the book, where most of the ideas and assumptions were introduced. I was moved to the level of really pittying the fact, that I'm not i.e. working for Google, living in California and Rave culture with a Burning Man festival is just something I can read about in such books :)

But seriously, It got me really consider meditation, mindfulness and impact the different states of consciousness have on ourdaily life.

I would gladly consider five stars, but I feel like there is far too little attention paid to the dark side of altering conconsciousness and knowledge that lays behind it. There are some chapters regarding exploiting the topic by the government and "greedy corporations", but for me there is too little, especially regarding the harm that people can do to themselves - and I'm not talking only about the drugs of course.

All in all - I really, really... recommend this book to anyone interested in flow, mindfullness, happiness... life :) Very intriguing lecture! ...more
4

Oct 09, 2018

An absolutely fascinating insight into the world of ecstasis filled with explanations that anyone can understand. I've never dabbled with any form of drug, let alone anything that would elicit an "altered state" or so I thought.

The authors did a great job explaining how things like drugs, sports, meditation and prayer effect our brain's chemistry. They're also careful to list the "rules" to abide by should you want to explore an altered state.

Now that I'm done with this book I'll be spending An absolutely fascinating insight into the world of ecstasis filled with explanations that anyone can understand. I've never dabbled with any form of drug, let alone anything that would elicit an "altered state" or so I thought.

The authors did a great job explaining how things like drugs, sports, meditation and prayer effect our brain's chemistry. They're also careful to list the "rules" to abide by should you want to explore an altered state.

Now that I'm done with this book I'll be spending time listing my activities that lead to altered states and planning accordingly. ...more
4

Mar 14, 2017

“Some revolutions begin with a gunshot, others with a party."
5

Mar 17, 2017

Important

The sociocultural importance of this book far outweighs the depth or technical accuracy of its commentary. You can find much more extensive and precise descriptions of each of the fields it covers, but what this book brings together is a holistic portrayal of a movement spanning many communities and activities. I feel this is an extremely important milestone on the path to gaining widespread acceptance of non-ordinary states of consciousness.
2

Mar 08, 2017

As author brings Maslow's hammer: when the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. I think that the author felt under this trap as well, seeing key role of extasy in too many domains.
On the other hand, I've got a variety of interesting stories to share, thanks to the book (especially on Burning Man).
Overall - 2 stars, as I don't really know if it will influence my life in any way.
3

Mar 01, 2017

This is an interesting and quick read about how states of selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness, and richness (STER) can be achieved through various means and activities. As one may expect, many of these states are either unachievable due to the absence of skill or illegal due to federal and state drug laws. If you have any interest in the boundless nature of the human consciousness, I would recommend picking this up, but don't expect to get much in the way of advice.

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