Published on October 1, 2016
[0:00] Introduction/Four Sigmatic
[2:08] Blue Apron
[3:54] Organifi Green Juice
[5:05] Introduction to This Episode
[6:56] All About Neil Strauss
[7:13] What Ben and Neil Did This Morning
[12:50] The Ingredients of the “Billion Dollar Smoothie”
[15:26] Using the Oculus Rift to Improve Your Body
[18:20] Why Neil Is So Interested In Advanced Virtual Reality Gaming
[20:56] When Neil Started Getting Into Health
[22:39] What Neil Did When He Wrote “The Truth”
[35:03] What Neil Found Out Towards The End Of “The Truth”
[36:11] What Neil Was Curious About When He First Met Ben
[45:30] Neil’s Three Steps for “Rewiring” Your Brain
[1:07:03] Neil's “Books to Read” List
[1:18:34] Neil's Most Interesting Story From “The Dirt”
[1:22:29] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey. What's up? It’s Ben Greenfield. I was actually hunting last week in British Columbia, and I came across a ton of different mushrooms, mushrooms of all shapes, and sizes, and smells growing out of everything from tree trunks to cow pies. I posted a lot of photos of them to Facebook asking people if I could eat them. That's actually a really safe way to identify mushrooms, by the way. Just post them to Facebook. Trust me. You can't go wrong if somebody on Facebook says you can eat a mushroom. No. I jest. You should probably use an ethnobotanist. But there is one source of mushrooms, and one particular mushroom I have been eating quite a bit of lately. It's called cordyceps. Cordyceps. You may have heard of it before, but this particular company, Four Sigmatic, they take cordyceps and they blend it with coffee.
So why would you want to blend cordyceps with coffee? Well cordyceps is, basically, it's a mushroom extract that supports the adrenal glands. But the other very cool thing that I like it for is it promotes cellular energy. Basically it's got what's called cordycepic acid in it. Cordycepic acid. And that causes things like adrenal activation of lung tissue, it helps to support the immune system, it helps to increase performance particularly at altitude, you gotta lot of sherpas using this stuff. But when you blend it with coffee, it is a big, big boost to the coffee. So if you haven't tried mushroom coffee with cordyceps before, you need to. It also contains chaga, this mushroom coffee that I use. It's wild-crafted Siberian chaga and cordyceps. It's all made from wild harvested chaga, the cordyceps come from vegan sources. There's no acidity, so you don't get any stomach burn from the coffee.
It's really cool stuff. So you can check this out at foursigmatic.com/greenfield. That's FOURsigmatic.com/greenfield, and when you go there, use coupon code Ben Greenfield and you get 15% off. And what you need to buy is this mushroom coffee mix. Add anything else to your cart, but that's the stuff you actually wanna get that I recommend is this mushroom coffee.
This podcast is also brought to you by baked eggs and potato hash with sweet peppers and kale. No. Seriously. There's this company and they send meal ingredients to your house and recipe cards. Check this out. This is what I got this week: baked eggs and potato hash with sweet peppers and kale. It has colorful fingerling potatoes, sweet tinker bell peppers — you heard right, they do make a pepper called a tinker bell pepper — and lacinato kale, which is like a Tuscan style kale that they use in a lot of Italian cooking. And you bake the eggs, and they send you aged cheddar cheese, liven it up with a little splash of Tabasco hot sauce that they send you. They even make a wine recommendation. I recommend a Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 to stand up to the sharper cheese cheddar-like flavor of this meal and the eggy richness.
So this company is called Blue Apron, and you can check 'em out at blueapron.com. They send this to your house, and you can just make it. So if you go to blueapron.com/ben, you get your first three meals free. They send you the recipe cards, they send you all the food, it arrives in a box at your door, you open it, you follow the recipe card. You can be a horrid cook and make an amazing meal that knocks the socks off of your friends, your family, or just your own taste buds. So check it out, blueapron.com. And, yes, everything is sourced from free range, humane, natural sources, sustainable sources, regenerative farming practices. This is food that is collected the right way. So check it out, blueapron.com/ben. It's less than 10 bucks a meal, first three meals are free with free shipping at blueapron.com/ben.
And then finally, I want to tell you about this stuff called coconut powder. So coconut powder is basically the power of a coconut, but you get rid of the sugar. So you get all of the sodium, the magnesium, the potassium, and the phosphorus that you get from a coconut water, but none of the sugars and the blood sugar spiking effect. And there's this company called Organifi that has made this green powder that has all the coconut water powder added to it. They also add things like wheat grass, and spirulina, and chlorella, and matcha green tea, all sorts of stuff blended into this green juice. It's called Organifi Green Juice. And there's no shopping, no juicing, no blending, no clean-up. It just arrives as this powder straight to your door. So you get 20% off this green juice, FitLife Organifi Green Juice, by going to bengreenfieldfitness.com/fitlife and use discount code Ben to get 20% off this green juice with the coconut powder in it. So check it out, and sit back, unless you're with children, in which case, put them away, and sit back, and check out this episode with the crazy journalist, Neil Strauss.
In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“I often find that heartbreak is sometimes the best motivator for change because you're really in like a primal emotional pain. So when someone's sort of heartbreak is greater than the situation that happened, it's really not about them. It's about mom or dad. It's about that primal attachment wound.” “Your relationship has nothing to do with the other person. It's all about you and the way you relate to the other person. And basically, we have templates that are created by the way we're raised and the way our brain is wired that cause us to gain functional or dysfunctional relationships.”
He’s an expert in human performance and nutrition, voted America’s top personal trainer and one of the globe’s most influential people in health and fitness. His show provides you with everything you need to optimize physical and mental performance. He is Ben Greenfield. “Power, speed, mobility, balance – whatever it is for you that’s the natural movement, get out there! When you look at all the studies done… studies that have shown the greatest efficacy…” All the information you need in one place, right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.
Ben: My lips, I have just been informed, are still blue from either this morning's crazy pool workout up at Laird Hamilton and Gabby Reese's house in Malibu, or possibly from the surfing we just did outside my guest's house. He's sitting right here with me. His name, as you've just learned, is Neil Strauss, and he's a lot more than just a book writer, or an author, I guess we should say. That's probably a little bit more smooth than book writer. Neil, how you doing?
Neil: Good, man. It's a seven hour journey to doing this podcast. We started seven hours ago, I think.
Ben: It's hard to get (censored) done in Malibu. We woke up this morning, we did the pool workout.
Neil: Right. Which was intense.
Ben: So for those of you who don't know what we're talking about, Neil, describe the pool workout to me.
Neil: So Laird Hamilton, the incredible big wave surfer…
Ben: Big wave surfer. Like he does 100-foot waves around the world.
Neil: And so much more, kind of develop this pool workout where you're lifting and swim with weights in the water. So you might grab to 40 pound weights, sink to the bottom of the pool, you'll walk, and a lot of it's about sort of seeing how long you can hold your breath, and really playing with breathing oxygenation.
Ben: Right. Don't try this alone at home.
Neil: Don't try it alone at home. We got people literally black out at the pool and hit their forehead on the side.
Ben: I didn't know this.
Ben: I'm glad you didn't tell me this before we started this morning.
Neil: And we did something pretty hardcore today.
Ben: So just to give you an example, and I just uploaded a video of Neil to the Snapchat page over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/snapchat where you can watch him going back and forth across the pool, you probably hold your breath for almost two minutes, I'd say.
Neil: And it's not really just how long can hold your breath, it's because the workout itself and the energy you put in, use a lotta oxygen. The harder you're working, the harder it is to hold your breath.
Ben: Right. So for example, you grab the two 40 pound umbrellas, you'll walk them across the bottom of the pool all the way to one end, and then you grab the other one, you held it to your chest…
Neil: And then you swim back up to the surface on the other side.
Ben: To the surface, but you don't come up for a breath 'cause then you go back across with that same dumbbell. As you go back across, grab the lone dumbbell that you left at the other edge, and then run that back.
Neil: Right. And the crazy thing is, when I was first told about this, I literally did not think it was possible. And it's mental more than physical. It's mental. And it's knowing that when you feel like you're out of air and it's just your body's warning signal. You still have a lotta oxygen left.
Ben: Yeah. I learned this when I took a free diving course. When your diaphragm, so you know that feeling, if you're listening in, you've probably kinda heard this before, if you do any mount of underwater work, it's kinda like (makes a breathing noise), like your diaphragm starts to contract. And you feel that, and you just keep going.
Neil: Yeah. And you can learn to do the little things, little like tricks, such as I'll just exhale a little bit when I really feel like I'm running out of air, and that always allowed me to go a little bit further.
Ben: Right. And then another example that Neil showed me is you basically do, what are they called? Sea horses?
Ben: So you have a dumbbell, basically up by your crotch.
Neil: You're holding it between your legs.
Ben: You're holding an 8, or a 10, or a 15 between your legs, and you're treading water. Your feet are up in a V-shape, and you tell folks about that workout that we did this morning, after what you just described.
Neil: So what you want is you're sort of facing forward. You want your entire feet out of the water and you're propelling yourself forwards here. Your body's in a V-shape, you're just propelling yourself across the water…
Ben: With your hands.
Neil: With your hands, feet out of water, and your head can be out of the water or underwater, doesn't matter. You go to the other side, 10 push-ups, hop back in, go across again, 10 push-ups. And after maybe six of these, your arms are so gone just pulling yourself out of the water. It's brutal.
Ben: Yeah! I mean, dude, I played water polo where we would have people like standing on the edge of the pool, dropping a medicine ball. You're treading water, you're throwing your medicine ball back up, without using your hands. So it's all eggbeater kick with the legs. We did those type of sprints where you'd sprint across the pool, and get out, and do push-ups, but we never did this kinda stuff where you're actually going back and forth under the water with the dumbbells.
Neil: What's so amazing is that Laird is literally inventing a new workout, and you and I are getting to sort of experience this new workout being invented in front of our eyes. Because every time you come back into town, there's a new exercise we're doing, it's got a new name, and it's amazing to sort of be on the ground floor of this. And it intuitively just feels good in your body. You're in the water, you're outside in the sun, you're not working just with strength; you're working with oxygen, with movement. It's incredible.
Ben: It's a full body and full mind routine. And then the other thing is there's a barrel sauna and an ice tub. Tell me about what you do with the barrel sauna and the ice tub that are right next to the pool.
Neil: So when you're done, it's the sauna, which is about 220 degrees. You do the sauna for about 15 minutes and then you do the ice for 3 minutes. And it's funny because people at that workout have the personality that as soon as, you can't really say, “Hey, look at what I did,” 'cause as soon as you say “look at what I did,” someone will say, “Oh, do it this way.” So maybe you're in the ice bath and you say, “Hey, I just did five minutes,” and then Laird or someone will say, “Oh, do it with your hands underwater.”
Neil: Someone will also say, “Well, I did it fully submerged for a minute underwater in the ice tub.” So every time you think you're getting good, they're getting better.
Ben: So you've got heat, cold, breath, strength, in the water, out of the water. So many components that you work. And you do this how many days a week, Neil?
Neil: Three days a week.
Ben: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday?
Ben: You go in there, and we were there, we showed up at like 8:30 and we were there 'til almost 11.
Neil: Yeah. Really.
Ben: Yeah. Just basically going back and forth. So we delved down this rabbit hole when you were saying it took seven hours for us to podcast, but bear with us. ‘Cause then we went to SunLife Organics in Malibu and had the smoothie…
Neil: Right. Almost the most expensive smoothie in America.
Ben: Okay. So I've got the ingredients pulled up here in front of me, this is called The Billion Dollar Smoothie, for those of you who want to replicate this at home. Okay, here we go. ‘Cause this was your first time drinking this as well.
Neil: Yeah. It's similar to what you normally drink in the morning, right?
Ben: Yeah. It's kinda similar to what I make at home in the morning. I haven't had explosive diarrhea yet, but it's young Thai coconut meat, spinach, raw cashew butter, goat colostrum, chlorophyll, aloe, vitamin C crystals, collagen, silica, greens powder, grass-fed whey protein, E3-Live — which I think is like a brain nootropic type of thing, it's called Brain-On, MCT oil, a ten mushroom blend from our friends over at Four Sigmatic, which is like reishi, and chaga, and cordyceps, hemp milk, the list goes on and on, and it's $28. You nursed yours for like two hours. I punished mine in 5 minutes.
Neil: Yeah. You had dinner with the owner last night, and he's a friend, so they gave it to us for free. But I was really thinking like every sip is like a quarter. It's like that sip…
Ben: You can do the math. “Cha-ching! Cha-ching! Cha-ching!” per sip.
Neil: It's really hard to justify.
Ben: And then we surfed. Very active day leading up to today's podcast. And played a little Oculus Rift. If you hear voices and shouting in the background, there are still people in Neil's gaming room/library playing. Is it HTC?
Neil: It's the HTC Vive. So what it is, the Oculus Rift is the one that's kind of been really famous. Right now, it's just the goggles. They don't have hand controllers publicly available, but they're making them pretty soon. But the HTC Vive is what they call room-scale virtual reality. And they're freaking out right now. You can hear yelling in the background.
Ben: And you can just like run around the room? What's the game he's playing right now?
Neil: He was doing Brookhaven Experiment, which is a zombie one, and it's terrifying. When my wife did it, she literally ripped off the goggles and had tears in her eyes. It was so scary. It's so real. And they're playing maybe now Raw Data, which is kind of a robot one. But what's cool about room scale is you can literally move around the room, and it really feels real, and you have hand controllers, you can pick up and touch. It feels incredibly real.
Ben: Yeah. I just took the Oculus Rift off my head, and I haven't done much virtual reality at all. It is crazy how realistic it was.
Neil: When you do it, you start to realize that what's happened with augmented virtual reality will be a revolution, maybe bigger than the internet, because people are going to just walk around the world and decide what level of reality they want to be in at any time.
Ben: Is their utility for giving, because all of the listeners love to biohack their bodies or improve our brains, like how could you use something like that to actually get a better body or get a better brain?
Neil: Yeah. It's funny that people aren't doing that with it yet. I would love them to do it.
Neil: What I'm thinking would be amazing for people who sort of, being able to follow, I think would be able to follow the journey of the food once it's in your body and see, “Okay. When I'm eating this, look at where it's landing, and look at what's happening.”
Ben: What do you mean? You would eat something and you would be able to…
Neil: Imagine if you just showed somebody who's drinking sugary beverages, like soda or something. Imagine if you could show them the journey that that Coke takes in their body and they could follow it.
Ben: Oh! See what I was thinking was some kind of like a mentally challenging game or some kind of like a physically rigorous game that you could do with virtual reality.
Neil: It's funny because you definitely have to be in the right space because someone just dented my wall trying to kill a zombie.
Ben: Yeah. Actually, I was in there eating a salad as this guy was playing a virtual reality game, and he literally stuck the little wand controller right in my salad. Who's in there playing right now? Cameron?
Neil: Yeah. Cameron Dallas.
Ben: Cameron Dallas, some famous internet personality, I've just learned, is a famous internet personality. Guess you could probably Google him. Internet, I dunno, heartthrob kinda guy? Something like that.
Neil: Yeah. Instagram is his art, or Vine and Instagram. That's his art form.
Neil: But as far as mental things also, I also think it would be good for sort of trauma healing, getting over phobias, because you realize how fragile the mind is ‘cause once you go into that virtual reality and you know it's not real, it feels and looks real.
Ben: Yeah. That's interesting.
Neil: So I think we haven't sort of…
Ben: What's the most physically rigorous thing that you've done using virtual reality?
Neil: I would… (laughs)
Ben: You're not allowed to say virtual sex. This is, well, I guess we can mark this podcast as explicit if need be. I know you've written some pretty explicit books.
Neil: You brought the topic, but the truth is my wife and I try to experiment with that. It didn't really, we tested it out. It wasn't as, maybe we tried the wrong thing, but it wasn't there yet. It felt like they were gigantic.
Ben: Virtual reality sex is like gigantic, pixelated.
Neil: Yeah. Their perspective wasn't right. And also like when your goggles are on, you really don't know what's around you. So all your friends could be surrounding you, laughing.
Ben: Or you could be humping your bookshelf.
Neil: Yeah. Exactly. There'll probably some foolish videos coming out, but I would say similar to that kind of, again, right now it's not really a substitute for actually doing what we did today, but some of the shooter games, you're really out of breath 'cause they're coming around from all sides.
Ben: You mean, not a substitute for like an underwater pool workout?
Neil: For example.
Ben: That's my concern is, even for my kids, when I was wearing the Oculus Rift in there just now with you, I thought, “Wow. This would be really cool for my kids.” But not as cool as them actually going outside and hunting a rabbit with their bow and arrow. And I'm sorry if you love rabbits, for everybody who loves rabbits. Go ahead.
Neil: Cute little bunny rabbits.
Ben: Cute little bunny rabbits.
Neil: So what it is is educational though. You can really have empathy. I think there are a lot of great videos being made in displaced person's camps in Syria, and you can really see what it's like. So what I think people are doing now is allowing you to have the experiences you want 'cause it really feels like you're there.
Neil: And once they have haptics…
Ben: What are haptics?
Neil: Haptics is, this is the next level. Next level with haptics is we actually get the touch and feeling of stuff. So kind of where a lot of the kind of tech science is right now, is around working with haptics. So when that dinosaur was breathing on you, you would feel the breath and the wetness.
Ben: That's crazy. So you wouldn't just see it? You'd actually feel it. You would wear sensors on your fingers, on your toes, anything where you wanted sensory perception?
Neil: Yeah. Or a bodysuit. This isn't even what we're talking about in this podcast, but it's fascinating. I was just at a place called Two Bit Circus where it's sort of a group of people who are working a lot with virtual reality, and they have things where you're in a race, it's kind of like the junkyard version of it in a sense, and they're doing great stuff, by the way. Very advanced, but where you're maybe in a race car, and you're in a seat that's shaking, there's a fan blowing on you, so it feels like you're really there. So that's sort of the homemade tinker version, even though they're doing advance stuff of haptics.
So people are doing really cool stuff with VR right now. And I'm really thinking with my baby, who you might've heard in the background earlier, who's 18 months old, I really think when he grows up, he's not gonna wanna see flatscreen photos of himself. So I wanna get a 360 degree camera for him.
Ben: So boring. No flatscreen photos.
Neil: Yeah. Eventually, movies you're gonna be in them, looking around.
Neil: You're the center of the action. For sporting events too.
Ben: I'm so torn on this because it's like I really want my kids to grow up in the woods, surviving, and living with the dirt, and the elements, and all the negative ions that we get from the world, and not spend all their time indoors on virtual reality, plugged in and getting all the blue light exposure. But at the same time, it's freaking fun, and you could see a ton of utility for learning, and for gaming, and I mean the sky's the limit with this stuff.
Neil: Yeah. I mean even as a writer, I would love to create the perfect writing environment to write in on that sort of…
Ben: Yeah. I see what you did there. We're talking about some of these books that you've written.
Neil: We don't have to…
Ben: But what I'm curious about actually, 'cause I know that you're best known, for those of you who are familiar with Neil, you're best known for this book “The Game,” but you have some books that have quite a bent towards optimal brain performance, and even some pretty physically rigorous activities. Like “Emergency,” for example, which I wanna ask you a little bit about, but have you always been into getting more out of your body and your brain? Or were you just like a geeky journalist that eventually discovered underwater pool workouts along the way? Where did fitness, and health, or nutrition start to become an interest for you?
Neil: Yeah. There's several questions in there, so I think the first thing is I know that life exists outside your comfort zone. So number one is, I always want to be outside my comfort zone. If I'm scared of something, that makes me want to do it. So a lot of my books are about, there's maybe, if I say I can't or there's a challenge in my life where I'm really stuck, I don't write about what I know. I write about what I don't know, and maybe become an expert of it by the end of the book.
So it's the perfect job because you can just say, “Oh, I'm a horrible at this.” This is really a big area of my life where I feel like I'm missing out. For example, last book, “The Truth,” was about relationships. All my relationships went wrong. It was, of course, always the other person's fault, 'til I started to realize, well, I'm the common denominator right? And so I really explored like, “Well, what is that about relationships?” And you really go deep, and you don't just talk to the experts, but you actually go through the experience. You can come out the other side with the knowledge…
Ben: And you can go to specifics. I can mark this podcast episode as explicit if need be, but I think that would be a fascinating way to illustrate how you do go deep. What'd you do when you wrote this book “The Truth”?
Neil: I started off in sex addiction rehab. And I wouldn't say that I'm a sex addict, but I think, so I was in love, or so I thought, and I cheated on the person and got caught. And I just thought…
Ben: You cheated on?
Neil: On Ingrid.
Ben: On your wife?
Neil: On my wife.
Ben: Yeah. You were married at the time. Your wife who's in the room next to us?
Neil: Right. We have no secrets.
Ben: Right. Right. It's quite obvious. You wrote a whole book about it.
Neil: Yeah. I know exactly no secrets.
Ben: Actually, I own this book and I read it, and I think the first page, it says, “Ingrid, don't read this.”
Neil: Yeah. Exactly.
Neil: And the last page says, “Ingrid, I hope you did read it. ” And that's the journey from “I have a secret life that I don't wanna share with you” to “I wanna share all of me with you.” And I just thought…
Ben: So cheated on your wife, you went a sex addiction therapy?
Neil: Right. And so I just thought, I thought I was a good person, but how would a good person lie to someone they love, deceive someone they love, hurt someone they love? Like, really, what's wrong with me? And our friend, you were doing a podcast with Rick Rubin, he's also in the book, really said, “Hey. If sex was so important to you that you're willing to hurt yourself and other people to get, and lie, and violate your ethics system, maybe you're a sex addict? And I said, “I don't know, but what if I just,” and at this point, it wasn't in a book. It was just me trying to like figure out what was wrong with me. So I actually checked myself into sex addiction rehab, and what I found there was not a bunch of the sort of perverted people you'd expect, but other people who'd cheated on their wives…
Ben: A bunch of creepy guys with dark-colored glasses.
Neil: Yeah. In my sort of group, except for one guy, everybody was there because they had cheated on their girlfriend or wife. It's interesting that…
Ben: [0:24:35] ______ , I read the book…
Neil: That was just the beginning. That was just the first step.
Ben: You were doing like three ways in Paris and drugged out orgies like in Europe…
Neil: So I decided, and I think this is the conversation a lot of people have that, “Are we meant to be monogamous?” In my head I was like, “Okay,” and again, in sex addiction rehab, they had a very, very Puritan take. They really said like, “you should go on something like 20 dates with someone before you have physical intimacy, and make an emotional connection first,” which, the truth is it actually makes sense 'cause a lot of that, it's funny that I would say that now 'cause I’m really angry about them saying that. I thought they were trying to sort of impose Victorian morality on us. But the truth is, if you really want a relationship, start with an emotional connection first, and then have the physical. ‘Cause a lot of people have a great physical connection and then a disastrous relationship for years.
Ben: Yeah. I've been married for almost 14 years now, and my entire relationship with my wife started off as us being really, really good friends for a year and a half before we had any romantic relationship before we fell in love. We just adventured together, and there was there was a huge emotional component, which means as we get old, and really ugly, and have horrible bodies, and everything else that people might associate with bad sex or whatever, it's really not gonna matter because there's so many things in the relationship that go beyond that.
Neil: Yeah. You really gotta look at the person, and say, “I'm gonna love you whatever we become, whatever happens to us, and whatever we look like.”
Ben: You take a deep dive when you write these books. You're definitely the quintessential immersive journalist.
Neil: Yeah. So the question I ask myself, I just cut you off, I realize, but the question I ask myself was, “If you look at science, there's nothing in science that says monogamy is natural.” Even the species that one thought were monogamous before, they discovered that not all their litter, or their offspring, have the same, DNA test doesn't match to the father. So they're sneaking around behind their back. They might be so…
Ben: Even like the, is the swan a monogamous…?
Neil: I think the swan was one that thought to be monogamous. I don't remember though.
Ben: But then they found out that daddy swans were actually out messing around.
Neil: And that was true with the fox, and again, I know you like to get scientific, so we'll do this. So the animal they love to study is the vole. Do you know about this? It's the…
Ben: It's funny because the voles have come up on the show before. The voles, when I interviewed Dr. David Minkoff about cancer, he got into how the voles near Chernobyl in Russia live for an inordinate amount of time. Somehow radiation has allowed them to have some kind of like an anti-aging longevity effect in their mitochondria. But you found something else about the voles and sex?
Neil: Yeah. So there are two kinds of voles, and I'm just going off my memory, so I'm gonna get this slightly wrong about which kind it is, like prairie vole and the other vole, I dunno, we'll call it the city vole…
Ben: You make it up, and I would not be able to call you out.
Neil: We'll call it the city vole, but it's not the prairie vole. It's another type of vole. And one vole, it lives like monogamous and mates for life. And the other one is a player. It just plays the field, literally. And they sort of discovered that those who are naturally monogamous have a gene coding for a longer vasopressin receptor. So when I found this out, I thought, “Okay.” I went to this guy, [0:28:01] ______, who'd done a lot of the studies. He was in Sweden, and he also worked in Emory when they did this study, and he's one of the biggest guys studying the science of monogamy. I said, “Listen, if I don't have a gene code for long vasopressin receptor,” and I also maybe wasn't, there is a certain kind of psychological profile, the way you were raised that'll make you more sort of akin to monogamy. I'm like, “If I have neither of those, should I even bother trying to be monogamous?” First of all, I said, “Maybe I can get like a transplant.” But there's no, for example, they played with oxytocin, vasopressin on humans, and it might make you sort of feel a connection after sex or something, but I won't make you kind of mate for life…
Ben: Well, there are actually, not to rabbit hole too much, but there's actually a lot of people using intranasal and topical oxytocin to enhance your feeling of connectivity or romanticism towards your partner.
Neil: Yes. Yep, and that's exactly what he was talking about.
Ben: Which I think you need a doctor's prescription for, I believe.
Neil: And that works in the short term, but not the long term.
Ben: Okay. So it's like a short-term…
Neil: And really, man, maybe with the wrong person if you have to do that. Let's just face it.
Ben: My concern, because when I experimented before, I haven't used oxytocin. When I went to Thailand last time, I bought a whole bunch of their Thai version of viagra because there's so much research on that for everything from sports performance enhancement, to of course, sex, well, those are the biggest two. And one thing I noticed was the couple of times that I used it for sex, I started to get nervous when I didn't use it, about what would happen. Like if I'd still have it or if I needed that. I would be concerned about oxytocin too, if you'd always need that little bottle of oxytocin in your pocket.
Neil: And I think the fear of the worry is the same way sort of like heroin addicts. It's sort of, their body stops producing opiates to kill the normal to pains. They're like, “Oh, I'm already getting opiates. I don't need it.” In the same way, your body lessens it's own, sort of build-up…
Ben: Yeah. So many negative feedback loops, even for topical, or testosterone creams, or progesterone in women. It shuts down endogenous production, which you may need to do in short-term.
Neil: Let me ask, 'cause I think the thing that I've really sort of learned since sort of, we're in a world now, and your podcast is a good example, that where you'd have to be your own expert, you have to be your own doctor, you have to be your own nutritionist, and what I found is it isn't like most things are not good or bad. It depends on what you want them for. For example, we were in the sauna having a discussion with Darin, who is an incredible writer, and doing some great studies on stem cells…
Ben: Oh, that guy who does supplement research who was in the sauna at Laird and Gabby's?
Ben: That was amazing.
Neil: He has a great book called “Super Life.”
Ben: Oh, he does have a book. I didn't know this. We were picking his brain, and we'll get back to what you were saying…
Neil: There were all those recent studies about how coffee is good for you. And he was saying that coffee hurts your stem cells, so the thing is it's not like something's good for you…
Ben: It can actually kill what he called totipotent stem cells.
Ben: So what this guy was saying was that we all have these totipotent stem cells that can be converted to any other cell, that they get released from connective tissue, but that if they are in the bloodstream and presented with oxidative damage from things that are even like mild hormetic stressors, like alcohol, or coffee, or things like this, it can actually shut down longevity. And he's doing a bunch of research on how, I believe what I understood from what he was saying was that one-two combo of injury, or inflammation, or excess stress, combined with coffee, or alcohol, or anything else that we might consider to be these hormetic stressors, that in small amounts are actually good for us, are bad for us and can kill stem cells if we're already stressed out, or injured, or inflamed.
Neil: Yeah. I think the main thing that I've kinda learned as well, everything has good and bad effects. It depends on what you want it for, and you really have to know. So when you read something, decide this is good, well, what's it good for and what's it bad for, and you make those choices.
Neil: But I thought it was interesting what he was saying about stem cells too, that a lot of the stem cell stuff they're doing is useless.
Ben: Yeah. Those stem cells that you get injected from bone marrow, or amniotic fluid, or, I guess, embryonic stem cells, they don't have the capability to differentiate into the same type of tissue that these totipotent stem cells we have in our own body can differentiate.
Neil: Was that the first time you heard the word totipotent?
Ben: I've heard the word pluripotent before in reference to stem cells, but never totipotent.
Neil: Yeah. Same. Your memory is so good that you…
Ben: You could possibly have made it up. I wouldn't know, 'cause I was in a sauna with no Google.
Neil: Yeah. I think he's very well connected.
Ben: Yeah. He was a very fascinating guy and I asked him when we finished that discussion, what his top two supplements that he would take for anything from like cognitive performance to anti-aging would be. And his response was not coffee, but coffee fruit, which is the combination of the coffee and the seed, and then, not turmeric, but turmerones, which apparently are an extract of turmeric that are way different than like curcumin, or curcuminoids, or anything else, but they make anything that you take them along with extremely bioavailable. He said none of this stuff is available on the market right now, but coffee fruit extract and turmerones. Learned something new this morning.
Neil: Yeah. His main job is that he's a superfood hunter.
Ben: Yeah. “Super Life.” I didn't know he had a book. By the way, if you guys want in the show notes, to access any of this stuff, you can find the show notes at bengreenfieldfitness.com/neil, as in N-E-I-L. bengreenfieldfitness.com/neil.
Neil: And just so people know his last name too, it's Darin Olien, O-L-I-E-N is his last name.
Ben: Okay. I'll hunt him down. He's kind of a beast too. He was killing the pool workout. Okay. So you immersed yourself into this book, you wrote “The Truth,” and to come full circle to what we were talking about regarding vasopressin in the voles…
Neil: So I just thought, “Maybe this is not the way we're actually meant to live.” And so I started thinking, “Maybe I should find the type of relationship that's natural to me.” So I experimented with polyamory, with open relationships, with swinging, with maybe not having your sexual partner the same as your romantic bonding partner, and I kind of tried everything. Things that I tried living, I just thought wouldn't it be cool to live in sort of a commune situation, where everybody's sort of connected, and relationship fluid, and just living with a bunch of friends in this freewheeling paradise. On the third day, somebody tried to kill me over jealousy with an axe.
Ben: Yeah. The full story of that is in the book. It actually is a quite interesting book.
Neil: And what I learned was that when every one of these things went wrong, or turned into some sort of disaster, that I had to kind of face up to the fact that it was my own emotional unhealthiness, and I brought it with me to whatever kind of relationship I was having.
Ben: So ultimately, what'd you find out in the end there?
Neil: So, you know what I found out was if you're unhealthy, all your relationships will be unhealthy. That's the first thing. But the second thing, like the big lesson, and I really would love to dive deeper into this if it is into the kind of the more hardcore psychology of it, but that your relationship has nothing to do with the other person. It's all about you and the way you relate to the other person.
Basically, we have templates that are created by the way we're raised and the wiring, the way our brain is wired, that cause us to be in functional or dysfunctional relationships. And so, for example, if someone hasn't done the psychological work on themselves and if they'd tell me the way they were raised, I can guess how their relationships are. If they tell me how their relationships are, I can tell the way they were raised. There's a 1:1 correspondence.
Ben: I remember when you and I first met, the very first thing you asked me was how my relationship with, I think you asked me what about my relationship with my mom, if I remember correctly. I thought it was such an odd first question to ask someone who you've never met before.
Neil: What I was curious about with you, and let's sort of discuss it here, is obviously there is a control issues with you around the way you live your lifestyle. Right? So you really control what comes in, what comes out, measure it…
Ben: Strict, regimented measurer, type A. Yeah.
Neil: Right. And your extremeness in it is your talent, in a sense, and why your podcast is so great, and why I trust you with that kind of information. But I also think that it comes as a response to something. So my question was what was the environment you were raised in that led to that. And what's the answer?
Ben: Yeah. So my environment was actually a relatively strict, controlled environment. I was homeschooled K through 12. I had a really good relationship with my parents, but it was also a very, very kind of a strict upbringing. Some would say like a sheltered, stereotypical prairie muffin, homeschooled type of upbringing.
Neil: And to figure this out, you almost have to go one level deeper. That's the sort of postcard version. But in a sense, and maybe one way to say it, like we can start here, which is, first of all, strict in what way?
Ben: It's okay. Anything goes in this podcast. You can delve deep and ask me embarrassing questions.
Neil: Let's go with that. Your 11 or 12 year old, were you Ben? Benny? Were you just little Ben? Benjamin?
Ben: Benjamin. If I was in trouble.
Neil: Right. If you were in trouble, you were Benjamin. So give me three words as little Ben that describe, say, dad as you saw him through your eyes then.
Ben: At 12 years old? Quiet, in almost like a standoffish kinda way. He was not very physical, right. Like not a lot of like hugs, or piggyback rides, stuff like that. That's something that also stood out to me. I know this sounds like I'm saying a bunch of bad things about my dad. I'm not. I'm just saying it how it is. And, I guess one of the other things that comes to mind is that I didn't feel like I learned a lot from him. Like what I'm very careful with my kids is to teach them how to shave, how to fish, how to hunt, how to do what we might consider in our culture to be like manly things.
Neil: And by the way, when we do this, I think the hardest barrier to people with their own personal psychological growth is the desire to protect one's parents from saying anything so-called bad about 'em…
Ben: Yeah. Especially knowing that this is a podcast, right? It's gonna be in public and my dad might listen to it.
Neil: Listen. It's not a relationship with anybody if you can't be honest with them. Right?
Neil: And imagine…
Ben: There's actually a really good book about this I just read called “Radical Honesty.”
Neil: Yeah. Brad Blanton.
Neil: Yeah. It's great. He's fascinating. I did some great many documentaries on him on YouTube. They're worth watching. And just to kind of press that point where you want to think about these, they are the variables that make you you. And we're looking at them as variables non-judgmentally. In other words, all human beings are imperfect. Thus all parents are imperfect, and some of those imperfections get passed on to you. But if you wanna know the operating system you're running on, you have to do sort of this virus scan on yourself. And you do it by figuring out, “Well, what is the way I was raised?” And if you look at it again, sort of scientifically is you're born, you've got your brain, and the architecture of your brain is built in those first years, and they're being built at an astonishing rate.
A three year old has twice as many neural connections as you and I. And then after three while you're still learning, a process called, there's that saying “cells that fire together, wire together.” Right? So as you're having these experiences that, whatever, “dad is distant, and so I gotta learn stuff for myself.” So that the first lesson is, “Okay. I'm not being taught from my dad. I have to learn it for myself.” Guess what? We're talking about my books, I had the same kinda dad. Exact the same, almost.
Ben: Really? Interesting.
Neil: And so all of my books, if you think about 'em, are looking for these father figures. It was Mystery in “The Game.” In “The Truth,” a lot of it was Rick, in a sense. In “Emergency,” it was the survivalists. And looking to get those skills that I never got from my parents, right?
Neil: And same with you. That's why you're such a…
Ben: I'm on a constant quest to find those mentors, find those people who will teach me things, go on adventures, and discover and learn, usually from experts in their respected fields. It's a big part of what this podcast is about, right? Then bring that knowledge to the masses.
Neil: And that's the gift of the trauma and the gift of that upbringing. There are some people probably listening right now that maybe, the hardest person to see themselves in this way is, and this is the toughest, is when mom or dad, and often it was dad, when you live in a family where dad was always right, or mom was always right, they were never wrong, and there is no arguing with them because what happens is your parent takes almost that's sort of god. They call it spiritual abuse 'cause the parent is god and they're never wrong and they're always right, and of course, even when they are wrong. And so as you get older, to question your family system is almost like blaspheming god, and those the hardest people to get to sort of see themselves. And so to go full circle, when I talk to [0:42:08] ______ about monogamy, he said, he always…
Ben: To who?
Neil: To the geneticist who did the study with the…
Ben: Oh, yeah. Yeah. The vole guy.
Neil: Yeah. By the way, it's prairie voles and meadow voles are the other kinds. He said, “You get to change things.” At any point, you can change things. The older you get, the harder it is because all those repetitions of that behavior have really wired in those beliefs. But what I found was if you can shift your beliefs on a belief level, everything changes. For example, in a small tangent, but a lot of people wanna change their behavior. So if you think, “Oh, I wanna quit this habit,” or start this habit, it should be easy enough to just do it, right? You make that choice. But if you can't do it, if your willpower is not enough, then you have to start looking at your beliefs 'cause your beliefs are what drive that. And they're harder to change than behaviors, but their reward is they shift everything.
Neil: There's a model of NLP which I love, and I always think about this for change and transformation…
Ben: Neuro-linguistic programming?
Neil: Neuro-linguistic programming. And this is the model for change. So on the outside, there's your environment. I know so many people who think, “I'm going to move to this place and have a new life,” or “I'm gonna go to this place, and I'll quit drugs.”
Ben: Well, I personally believe that to make, I believe the phrase goes “to radically change your habits, you must radically change your environment.” Isn't that a saying?
Neil: Yes. And I don't think that's true. It's the shallowest, simplest way to change your habits. So the outside is environment, the second level is your behaviors. So, “Hey, maybe I'll start doing this and change the behaviors.” So one deeper than behaviors is your capabilities, what you're capable of doing. The deeper you go, the more change radiates outward to the outer layers. I wish I could draw this. Beneath capability is your beliefs.
So the belief is if you believe deep down, let's just say, sometimes someone whose father wasn't around and, let's say, their mom was very critical, they might have the belief that “I'm worthless. I'm not good enough.” Right? “If I was good enough, dad would've cared for me and mom would've not been so negative.” And so, they'll take that belief that I'm not good enough to everything they do, and it can a) the positive side is it can drive 'em to greatness, but the downside is they'll always be miserable because they just feel like “I'm not good enough,” no matter what they do and what they perform with. So beneath belief is identity. Identity might be your way of being. Who are you? Are you joyful? Are you negative? Are you stressed? So your identity is just really who you are. Any guesses what the deepest level is that shifts everything?
Ben: Below belief? Below identity?
Ben: I don't. What would it be?
Neil: The deepest is spirituality. So your belief about the entire world, of the universe, and what's the shift in structure of the world, your kind of world view is the deepest. That's why if somebody's going through AA, NA, or Alcoholics Anonymous, or something, it's all spiritual stuff because it'll make a spiritual shift in your spiritual beliefs. Everything changes.
Ben: Interesting. So what you're saying is that, to kinda get to one of the things that you and I talked about before we even started recording this podcast, we were talking about like smart drugs and nootropics, and how to hack your brain without smart drugs. So, in essence, if you want to change your brain or your mental function, are you saying that you start with looking at where you're at spiritually?
Neil: Here's where I would start. I would start with, there are a few signs when you're out of touch with reality, and I'll give you those signs. So one is when do you overreact to things. So, for example, an overreaction could be getting angry. Right? You might get really angry at someone or something, but the truth is, like, “Really?” They did whatever they did or happened justify you being in a rage, or anger out of control. Another form of overreaction is shutting down. Some people shut down. Another form of that interaction is anxiety. You’re entrapping a ton of anxiety, but does it really matter? Is it worth the stress you're putting out your own system and your health because you're gonna be a couple minutes late to that thing.
So whenever, there's a saying, “where there's over reactivity, there's a wound,” and that's usually attached to a false belief. And so the first thing is I think you have to, I'd say, like to be a scientist of your own lows. So where you overly stress. Let's say you break up with somebody, and you're just devastated. The truth is it was probably the right thing. And let's just say someone comes to you and the worst thing that could happen, they say, “You know what? I cheated on you. I'm in love with someone else.” Right? Like do you really want that person back? They made a choice, and you can respect that choice, and move on, and find someone that works for you. That's not how it feels because it triggers a deeper wound.
I often find that heartbreak is sometimes the best motivator for change because you're really in like a primal emotional pain. So when someone's sort of heartbreak is greater than the situation that happened, it's really not about them. It's about mom or dad. It's about that primal attachment wound.
Ben: Have you written about this in any of your books? Or is this all like neuro-linguistic programming?
Neil: No. Everything I'm saying, by the way, neuro-linguistic programming was just those levels of change. That was all. And this stuff is the stuff that's in “The Truth.”
Neil: So the stuff we're talking about is in there, in between the lines in there.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha.
Neil: So one is overreaction. Another one is this. Let me ask you, are all people equal? Are all people, have equal worth and value as human beings? Do we all have equal worth and value as human beings?
Ben: My gut response is yes.
Neil: Yes! Of course we do!
Neil: Yeah. No matter who it is, whether the president or somebody…
Ben: I was wondering if you were asking me trick questions.
Neil: No. It wasn't a trick question. The truth is, we all have equal worth and value as human beings. So any time you feel less than others, or better than others, that’s a sign that you're out of alignment with reality and that also comes from a core kinda wound.
Neil: And again, I'm kind of like going heavy without all of the context, but understanding these caught concepts allowed me to sort of break in, and then I can say, “Okay, what's going on here?” And the way I would sort of map it out for myself is if I can figure out the core wound, the false belief. So, “I'm worthless,” “I'm not enough,” “Nobody understands me…”
Ben: So that stuff will figure out the false belief?
Neil: Right. The false belief. Next, step two is figure out where it came from. ‘Cause if you can figure out where it came from, you can let go of the lie. Are we going to like heavy without the context for it? Or no? Are we going too, getting too psychological without the context?
Ben: I think we're okay. I think now that you're kinda like summarizing the steps, this is helpful for people who are out bicycling, or running, and listening in with smoke coming out their ears.
Neil: Here's a good example. When I was in rehab, there were people in rehab for exercise addiction. There are people who are, you're doing it to be healthier person, but some will do it to such an extreme that they're hurting themselves.
Neil: Right? That they're like poisoning their system with the wrong kinds, or too much…
Ben: Anorexics, overtrained, inflamed exercisers, bodybuilders, people with like body dysmorphic disorder, or an obsession with the way their body looks. That type of thing.
Neil: And the thing is it's not what you're doing. This is my philosophy. It's not what you're doing that makes you healthy, or not healthy. It's why you're doing it. So are you doing it just because it feels good and it seems right? Like the pool workout, the truth is, I don't really know all the science of it. I know that I feel good. The Forge, I mean, during and after, I feel good.
Ben: I usually feel hungry.
Neil: Yeah. I just enjoy it. That's it. But if you're doing it to sort of compensate for inadequacy, and also you look at, your results reveal to you your intentions. So if you're doing something and it's making you less healthy, or your weight is getting worse, or you're depressed, you're less happy…
Ben: Chronically fatigued, overtrained. Yeah.
Neil: Right. Then maybe you have to look at why you're doing it.
Ben: Right. That makes sense.
Neil: Oh. So it's doing that chart.
Ben: You delved away from the chart a little bit, but you identify.
Neil: So you identify the beliefs…
Ben: The beliefs, okay.
Neil: And it's crazy. Like if you really start to think about your beliefs really, really will just, I see so many people, and again, my other job is for Rolling Stone. For 20 years, I've interviewed the most famous people in the world for Rolling Stone. That's kind of been my job. And I see that, and I know I'm going off a small tangent, but I see that fame and money don't make people happier or fix anything. They just amplify what's wrong with them.
So a lot of people quest for a certain goal, whether it's fame, maybe it's money, maybe it's health, maybe it's a certain weight. And then they get there, they achieve that goal. If you're lucky, you achieve that goal. You get to that goal, and this goes without exception, you get there and you realize, “Oh. Now what do I do because I'm still living with myself and I still have the same emotions that these things would fix.”
Ben: And then you look at a guy like, Robin Williams might be a perfect example of that. Amazing guy who achieved a ton in life, and I think checked off most of anything that you want to check off in life. And by external measures, he was rich, and successful, and funny, and happy, and then he committed suicide.
Neil: And a lot of people, and this goes, I would say almost with very few exceptions, they get there and they hit a depression as soon as they reach their goals because before, you could say, “Oh, I'm not happy 'cause I'm not there yet.” And then you're there…
Ben: You see this in the world of like obstacle racing, and marathoning, and Ironman triathlons, and these type of things, people will, they'll cross the finish line, and then what you see is folks get really sad for a couple of weeks, unless they have another race to sign up for. Or unless they have another event on the horizon.
Neil: And it's that any different than a heroin addict. You need the next fix.
Ben: Not much. Some would argue a healthy version, some an unhealthy version, but it's actually, it's a brilliant marketing on the part of, say, like Ironman triathlon 'cause they open up registration the next morning. You gotta go stand in line, and register, and write your 600, or 800, or 1,000 Dollar check, or whatever it is now, to get into the next race. So all of a sudden, you have that meaning thrust back into your life ASAP.
Ben: Like the emptiness is filled before you've had a chance to dive back into depression.
Neil: And that's the goal about the “why”. If you exist with your own meaning, then everything else is just great to do. And if you're looking for meaning outside yourself, you're just giving all your power away. So what it is, you identify the core issue, then you identify where it comes from. So in other words, if I think I need to compete and win because at home, I only got attention from my parents when I got good grades, or excelled in this or that, while my brother got it 'cause he excelled in this and that, and so I'm still competing for love. I'm competing for attention, I'm competing for my own validation.
Once you identify where it comes from, you can let go of the lie. You can realize it comes from that experience. It's not really a truth. Then the third thing is to replace it with the actual belief, the actual truth. So if the truth is, if you realize the false belief is like, “I only feel worth and value when I have an accomplishment,” the truth is “I am, have worth and value. Period. As a person.” And you can start sort of re-parenting yourself, and sort of being the parent, and give…
Ben: That's really interesting. I don't know if you run into this, if people give you this response a lot, but like for me, this strikes home, what you're saying. ‘Cause I'm a hard-charging, high achieving guy who's always looking for the next big thing that I want to accomplish, the next way to make myself better, the next run of the ladder that I can climb. And what you're saying is one of the things that you'd recommend that I do is go back and look at what beliefs I might have about myself, and then where those beliefs came from, and then generate a new belief that I actually am worthy and don't need to like do all these things to prove to the world that I can accomplish X, or Y, or Z.
Neil: Right. And a great example is Michael Phelps, the swimmer. Michael Phelps? Is that it? Yeah. So he just went through a lot of some of the same stuff that I went through, and I went through a lot of rehab and stuff like that.
Ben: You mean sex addiction?
Neil: I don't know. I think it was sex, I think it was alcohol, I think it's all tied up together…
Ben: I was gonna say I think it was weed.
Neil: I dunno, but kinda came out healthier and still kill it and take away anything. So the thing is you can keep the benefit of it and you can still strive toward excellence, but not keep the compulsiveness.
Ben: I dunno. There's still a lot of Michael Phelps memes out there that I think he [0:55:03] ______ .
Neil: Yeah. And again, it's dealing with this, healing this stuff is like the half-life of radiation. You keep cutting in half, and cutting in half, but there's a little bit that's always there. But it's getting to decide where it's not compulsive anymore, where you're actually making the choices, and you're in the driver seat, and these things aren't driving you.
Ben: This is really, truly, I didn't know we were going to talk about this, but it's very close to home.
Neil: Let's go to you, and let's sort of discuss it a little bit, and give me the three words for mom, and then I'm gonna ask some other questions. I got a feeling it comes from the…
Ben: Okay. So three words as 11 or 12 years old?
Neil: Yeah. Just around that age.
Ben: Okay. I would say that she was very protective, very protective of like everything. How late we were out at night, what movies we were seeing. We had like, even things like squawk boxes on the TV to keep us from hearing curse words, and just like, which was really funny because my brothers and I would study carefully the TV screen to figure what they were saying and then go rush away to find out what that word meant. It was like obsessed with cursing.
Neil: You could probably read lips well now.
Ben: Right. Like having the squawk box, yeah. Made us into really good cursers. What else? I guess when you ask this question, I personally start to think about flaws more than I start to think about…
Neil: Go with what you think about. I think it's hard. I think us having this conversation in private might be slightly different.
Ben: Right. Sitting at your diner room table in front of microphones, it makes it all the more difficult.
Neil: But again, I think maybe the truth comes out, you guys can have cool dialogue.
Ben: Oh, yeah. I know that stuff like this gets back to my mom and dad. That's of no concern to me. They know I'm a pretty honest guy. Sometimes too honest. So the…
Neil: I'll argue that there's no such thing as too honest.
Ben: “Radical Honesty,” right? Overprotected, or overprotective. I would say, what else? She was very busy all the time. Like always, people had to be over always. Something had to be going on always. There had to be a conversation. There wasn't a lot of silence. There wasn't a lot of like stillness, meditation. And I've had to overcome, I think, at times, my own propensity to go stir crazy when there is silence. I've actually gotten very good, I've used things like hunting, and meditation, and all sorts of methods to get better at just being alone in my own thoughts.
Neil: Yet you're still doing, you're still busy meditating or busy hunting.
Ben: But you're still doing something. Yeah. You're still hunting.
Neil: ‘Cause that's that message from there is like it's a doing philosophy versus shifting with being philosophy.
Ben: And then, I'd have to say, gosh what would be the last thing? Tough to say, man. So a little bit overprotected, very busy, and I would say she was extremely involved in our lives. Like driving us here and…
Neil: It's funny. Say the one you really wanna say. ‘Cause you feel like, “Oh, I gotta end with a positive one.” But say the one you really wanna say 'cause I feel like, I can see you, I'm sitting here watching you. I'm watching you think, “Oh, I really should end with something positive.”
Ben: Right. Exactly.
Neil: But I'll take it. We'll stick to those.
Ben: Okay. So almost there to almost like an annoying extent.
Neil: Very present.
Ben: Like we had to have pagers when we drive around so she could page us and communicate with us. And now, even still, it's just like boatloads of text messages and things like that. Yeah. So extremely, extremely communicative, perhaps to a flaw.
Neil: Right. So the pattern for you, which is funny 'cause it's the same for me, is abandonment on the dad side and again what people think abandonment is dad is not there. Abandonment is sometimes when someone's not sort of just emotionally, physically present with you. They can be present, like a friend of mine, her dad's a famous executive, let's say, in Hollywood, and was always really working hard. It's a great loving dad, but 'cause he's never around, she always chooses guys who are not available. No matter what. And if a guy's available, she just doesn't feel any chemistry or connection because she needs that unavailability to feel that connection, which is why she's, and she's amazing, it's just so hard for her to find a relationship that works.
Ben: You mean unavailable guy like a married man or something like that?
Neil: Usually it's emotionally unavailable. It'll be just a guy who like might not return phone calls, disappears after a couple times of hanging out, and just is like, “Okay, let's make plans,” but doesn't really commit to a plan, and she gets hung, stuck on that. Where she meets a loving, present guy, and she's like, “You know, I don't feel any chemistry with him.” Well, of course you don't. Because that's not your template. So you have sort of abandonment on dad's side, and then enmeshment on mom's side.
Ben: Abandonment on dad's side, enmeshment on mom's side.
Neil: And a lot of people don't know this concept, but it's opposite abandonment. Abandonment is some sort of neglect, of parents not physically or emotionally there. And you kinda know, an enmeshment is that the parent, in your case, is they were too much. But the idea is this: the job of a functional parent is to be there for the needs of the child. Those needs include, it’s not taking what your mother wants, to be there, then child needs comes first.
In the case of your mom, some of her strictness was not for your needs to make you sort of the best person, possibly for her needs about a) what she thought you should be and about her not feeling anxiety 'cause she doesn't know where you are. And so enmeshment is you're in a sense, serving the parents’ needs. This can come if you, for some people, they become mom or dad's therapist, or daddy's little girl, or mom's kinda surrogate boyfriend where she's sort of having all the emotional conversations with you that she should be having with her husband. Or sometimes someone has a depressed mom who they're always trying to cheer up, and you're there for their needs. So a lot of your mom's strictness was really about her needs, not about yours. So that's, the word for that is enmeshment.
Neil: Engulfment is another word that's used for it. And so it's a pattern a lot of people don't know. And it tends to the result, and this isn't sure, I mean you've been married for a long time, but it tends to make people avoidant sometimes in relationships is because if someone's too needy, I assume your wife's not a needy person.
Ben: No. My wife's like freaking independent.
Neil: And that's what…
Ben: And it's crazy. Like I just called my wife from your patio. First time I've talked to her in a week. Like she doesn't text me, or call me, or anything when I'm out traveling. She's super independent. She's just nose to the grindstone and does her thing.
Neil: And that is why it works. Because if she needed to check in all the time, you would go nuts. You would go nuts. Right? And someone who was sort of raised with that enmeshment, they might get in a relationship and someone's really needy, and they'll just feel their skin crawling.
Ben: What's really interesting, my wife is like one of the least communicative people when it comes to constantly being in touch. Like very few texts, like she could lose your phone for a week and not care, whereas I would be searching up and down and using “Locate My Phone” on iCloud.
Neil: Right. What was her relationship with her dad?
Ben: Her dad and her were really close.
Neil: Of course they are. Because she is probably enmeshed in some way with her dad, and that's why she's a little avoidant too. So you're like kinda two avoidants together, and it works really nicely in a way.
Neil: It's interesting, right?
Ben: This is really interesting stuff.
Neil: Like it really is like the map of your psyche. And once you start to understand that, then you can realize, “Okay. What's working for me? What isn't working for me?” You can start to do the work to change it. It's fascinating. We're really running on these operating systems that were programmed in the first 17 years.
Ben: To hammer this home for folks, the three steps again are…
Neil: I think the steps are identify the beliefs that don't serve you, figure out their origin. So those are your core beliefs. Then figure out what this origin story of them is. And then kind of replace them with the new beliefs that are true. Right? Because most of our beliefs are total lies, and you'll see, if you start to think about it, you'll start to see it happen all the time in your life. You're out and you're like, “Oh, I feel like people don't feel like I fit in,” or “I don't feel like I did good enough.” And you'll start to realize the other thing it's related to is your family message. With you, and it's fun, what we're doing is giving this as an example so other people can think about themselves.
Neil: So every family has a message that's spoken or implicit. And for example, in my family, I used to think the message was “do great and be successful.” But the actual message was “don't fail, don't screw it up.” Everything I did, they were always scared that something was going wrong or something was gonna happen, and that's maybe what led me maybe to “The Game” in a sense, I was trying to find out the science so I won't to get rejected in meeting women. I figured there's a right way to do everything. I don't wanna fail. I would have this group called “The Society,” which is this sort of hundred person mastermind group, and the motto is…
Ben: Yeah. That's how you and I met. I think you had like a society meeting at an anti-aging conference, or an anti-aging institute, where the whole focus was on longevity.
Neil: Yep. That was it.
Neil: And the motto is “you only live once, don't blow it.” In a way, that's my family message…
Ben: That's motto of your entire society? “You only live once, don't blow it.”
Neil: And I only realized afterwards that, “Shoot. I just took my family message into that.” So what's your family message?
Ben: 9laughs) I don't know if I could put it into, my family now? Like Jessa, and me, and River, and Terran? Or me growing up?
Neil: All that matters for the stuff we're talking about is the first 17 years.
Ben: You know what? To me, it would be centered around something like, have you ever seen that cartoon online called “The Greenfields”?
Neil: I might have.
Ben: Okay. I forget.
Neil: Is it like an old newspaper cartoon with like a family?
Ben: No. It was one of the very first like online animated cartoons. My brother and I used to watch it…
Neil: Really? And it's called The Greenfields? Is it after you?
Ben: I remember my brothers and I used to just like howl at it 'cause there was like Nanna Hooter, this big, huge like woman in with these giant hooters, they were like, she'd injure people with their hooters. And like that the theme for that show was, “We are the Greenfields, the mighty, mighty Greenfields.” And it goes on, I don't remember the rest of it. But it was very much like that where we were supposed to be the Greenfields, like the proud, mighty, high achieving, like leader…
Neil: So the message is “we are the Greenfields,” and I haven't seen that, but the message is “we are the Greenfields and we are the best”?
Ben: Very, very unique snowflakes. And the best. Yes. That was the message.
Neil: Which is exactly how you live your life, right? You know the most, you exceed in the Spartan races and everything, and that's how you live your life. You're living out that message. It's fascinating, right?
Neil: It's like we're programmed.
Ben: Yeah. It's really interesting.
Neil: And one of my main, I mean the things I do the most is interview. Right? I've done that for Rolling Stone, The New York Times, that's really been my job. And what it is is because my mom would kinda come into my room when I was really young and tell me about all the problems in her life, and with my dad, and stuff. And so I learned to have sort of an empathy for problems in lives that I couldn't really understand. And that sort of set that up, that sort of model to be stepping in other people's worlds, and understanding them, and explaining them. It's fascinating, right?
Ben: It's super fascinating. You have written other books. We were just in your library. You've got lots and lots of books that you've written. One turned my head, and it's actually way up there on my list of books to read, your list of books to read is longer than my list of books to read, by the way. You have a section on your shelf that's what? Maybe there's thirty on there that you wanna read? I think mine might be seven or eight right now, and growing. Do you have the same problem? Or people just send you books out of the blue?
Neil: They do, but it doesn't mean I'm gonna read those.
Ben: No, it doesn't mean I'm gonna read…
Neil: They get in the way of what I wanna read.
Ben: The way I'm wired is if it shows up, and it's there, I kinda wanna read it. I'll start to thumb through it. It's why I don't watch many movies is I can't start them and not finish them. I have to finish the story.
Neil: Oh, I'm the same way. My wife hates that about me, but it's true. If I start a movie, even if it's bad, I need to make the end…
Ben: Yep. Exactly. Totally sucks.
Neil: If I start, like I just finished this article for Rolling Stone about fear, about the psychology and biology of fear, because it's obviously a big thing in our nation right now with the election, and you see politicians, advertisers, other people exploiting fear. A lot of it's about how we make bad decisions around fear, but with such a big article to write about fear for Rolling Stone. And also to step into the political kind of war happening in our culture right now, that I wanted to give up a thousand times, I really wanted to write my editor and say, “This isn't for me. I'm not doing this.” And I just pushed through, and pushed through, and push through, and then you get to a point where you do it, and you're so happy you did it, and it's great. But I'm not, I'm like you, I'm not a quitter. I don't give up on stuff. I'm a finisher, but even of the really bad movies.
Ben: Yeah. You have a lot of books in there to finish. I do wanna ask you though, because you're such a prolific author, and again like I mentioned, if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/neil, N-E-I-L, I'll link to all of Neil's books. I would like to ask you, and I didn't forewarn you that I would ask you this question, I wanna hear a few stories from your books. You have a book called “The Dirt,” is that correct?
Ben: That you wrote when you were following Motley Crue, the band, just following them around the world on tour.
Ben: Well, what was one of the craziest things that happened in writing that book? Or one of the most memorable aspects of that book's creation that perhaps you haven't shared or that you'd like to share?
Neil: First, let's consider the subject matter. It's Motley Crue. So we're not gonna be going very deep here.
Ben: We're not gonna be talking about health.
Neil: Right. I mean, my interest in Motley Crue was, this was before “The Game,” and these guys just seemed to be living the most decadent lifestyle ever. So I kinda wanted to tour and see what that was like. And I remember I was doing an article for them for a magazine and that's how I met them, we're gonna get adult here. I mean, not in the language, but in visuals. Adult themes.
Ben: iTunes likes to call it explicit.
Neil: Mature themes. So I remember they were sitting around, and this isn't the best story, maybe it's a sign I wanna write the book. I was a different person back then. And I think Tommy said, “Remember that time that we were offered like twenty dollars for any mother and daughter to the band?” Then Nikki Sixx was like, “Yeah, but then we start going broke 'cause we're spending so much money.” And then Vince goes, “Yeah. And then we decided to do it any mother, daughter, grandmother does the band, and Tommy did it.” And they would sit around telling these insane stories.
Ben: Does the band like screw the band member…
Neil: First, it was for mother, daughter. And then it was happening so much, they did mother, daughter, grandmother. So they were sitting around, just telling these stories, and just nonstop. “Remember, like we used to just kinda rent Ferrari's and then crash 'em on the wall, and rent another Ferrari?” It's almost like, here's the thing if you're, this is the opposite of the philosophy that you just shared about radical personal responsibility in a sense, and the way we're responsible for ourselves. What happens if you're sort of a rock star, specifically more music than film, in film, you gotta get jobs and people have to like you to get jobs. In rock star, your job is to be a rock star, and all these people around you just babysit you to get you drugs, to put you on stage. I mean, remember I was backstage and someone on the microphone, we're gonna get too crude. I'm not gonna say what they said, but they were basically on a walkie-talkie and they said, “We need this specific sexual act for the boss,” and that was sort of brought in for them. And so basically it's an eternal hall pass to be an adolescent. And so there's no responsibility. You get away with anything.
Ben: When you're a rockstar?
Neil: And as long as you show up on stage, you're okay.
Ben: Would you say that rock stars are getting healthier though? I'm just curious. For you being a journalist for the Rolling Stone, run into a lot of these guys, like…
Neil: I'll tell you what. Aging rock stars start to realize the toll they put on their bodies and get healthier, but not all rock bands, by the way. I've toured, say, with Beck or somebody, and he lives a very healthy lifestyle, and they watch, I wouldn't say very healthy, but they watch movies. It's hard to stay healthy in the rock world. I was touring with a really healthy band, and they still couldn't do the healthy stuff because there's just soda, chips everywhere.
Ben: Right. Backstage.
Neil: Everywhere you go. It's so hard to stay healthy on the road. But some people do it, but they'll travel with their own cook. Eliminate everything.
Ben: I was gonna say you need to prepare in advance and take a lot of these meal replacement blend…
Neil: It's really hard. I mean, roadies, like the average life span of a roadie is like 50. 55 at the most. You die soon. It's sad. But I remember once, my first book was Marilyn Manson, and I remember I was at his house one night.
Ben: And what was that book?
Neil: “The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell.”
Ben: “Long Hard Road Out Of Hell.”
Neil: And he called up his manager, he says, “Oh, I want to set the mannequin on fire and push it in the pool. Is that okay?” And the manager's just like, “Sure. Do whatever you want.” But, literally, it's just stupid human tricks all day. They're just bored. And a lot of 'em get into drugs often because people on the road wanna connect with them, or they're just bored and they start doing drugs. I guess I've been in a lot of worlds.
Ben: Yeah. You have been in a lot of worlds. You wrote, “Don't Try This At Home” with Dave Navarro, “How To Make Love Like A Porn Star,” where you followed around porn star Jenna Jameson, you wrote “The Game,” probably one of your more famous books, “Penetrating The Secret Society of Pickup Artists,” “How To Make Money Like A Porn Star,” “Rules of The Game,” and then one that I think our audience might find pretty interesting, and one that I'd like to hear your take on, “Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life.” The picture on the front is like the fire, the thing that you pull down to break the fire hydrant open, or to break the case for the fire hydrant open.
Neil: Yeah. The fire alarm.
Ben: “Emergency.” What's that about? It's like urban escape and…
Neil: What it's about is this. So the world we're living, or so I kinda thought, it seemed to be like we're living in a scary world. First of all, since 9/11, we live in a world where there are terror alerts every day. “What's the terror alert today?” “What color is it?” All of a sudden, 9/11 changed the psyche of our nation, and myself because all of a sudden, you realize people on our soil could be here and try to hurt us.
I remember I saw Hurricane Katrina and I thought, realized, “Oh, our government really can't protect it.” When there were bodies floating in the streets in New Orleans, you realize our government can't protect us from a natural disaster and they're not gonna be able to rescue you. And so I started studying disasters, and survival, and preparedness, and literally, if you talk to the fire department, the police department, they say if there is a disaster, you're on your own. Like they're gonna be putting out the big fire, the big problem. They aren't gonna be able to deal with, 911's going to be…
Ben: The random person walking through the street, looking for water, is not gonna be as important as…
Neil: Yeah. Exactly. Or a broken leg, or a concussion, or shot. Their system's being overloaded, they're trying to deal with the bigger stuff.
Ben: They're gonna be off fighting the zombies, or the attacking helicopters.
Neil: And maybe if the whole system's not broken down, maybe three days later they'll get to you. I mean, the first most basic thing that I learned is really, if you don't have a stockpile for at least two weeks, like you're stupid. I'm sorry. I just called a lot of people stupid. Just really have enough food, water.
Ben: No! It makes sense! I'm shocked when I walk in to some peoples’, and I'm a total prepper, right? I have guns, gold, silver, and people are gonna be Googling to find out my address to know. But, yeah, if crap hits the fan, I could survive for quite some time.
Neil: I'll show you my garage afterwards.
Ben: Most people have two weeks.
Neil: Yeah. Just have at least two weeks for the system to get back online at the minimum. You can go as far as Ben and I, if you wanna kind of next level it. So what I did was, and it goes back to the father thing, is I didn't have a father who took me, say, hunting, or taught me how to make a fire, or do anything, change a tire, anything practical. And so, I sort of just started learning how to be self-sufficient, how to survive, kinda like you do with your place, how to survive off the grid.
Ben: Even in an urban scenario.
Neil: Even in an urban scenario. It ranged from, one thing was I think when you can survive for three days to a week in the wilderness with nothing but your clothes and the knife on your back, sorry. Your clothes on your back and a knife, not in your back, a knife in your back…
Ben: A knife in your back and your clothes at your side!
Neil: Exactly. You have no fear anymore. If you lose all your money, you're gonna be okay. You can survive. You know you can live off the land. It's an amazing feeling to have. It's really some emotional security. And then on the urban survival, and you've hung out with Kevin Reeve on Point Tactical.
Ben: Yeah. On Point Tactical. I'm actually planning on doing one of the three day urban escape and evasion courses up in Seattle.
Neil: Great. The advanced one? Or the kinda first level?
Ben: I think I'm signing up for the advance one, just 'cause I wanna go straight into fire pan. The frying pan, so to speak.
Neil: They're both great. I would do them both. So what they do, what they teach is, because the truth is, a lot of the wilderness survival is, we're not really living most of us, in the wilderness anymore. We're living in an urban, or suburban, or rural environment. It's not all nature. We have corrugated metal, and we have all these other things around us.
Ben: Finding mushrooms in the forest might not be as important to you as figuring out a way to scale barbed wire.
Neil: Yeah. Exactly. Or how do you break into that place that has food.
Neil: Right? So really, if everyone's abandoned the area, so they teach you lock picking. They teach you how to escape from handcuffs, how to get over barbed wire. For one of the tests, you're handcuffed, put in the trunk, they drive over a bumpy road, or whatever, and have to bop out of the handcuffs and escape from the trunk.
Ben: You did this? They threw you in the trunk, handcuffed?
Neil: Yeah. You run with leg irons. You learn it all. Yeah. There a lot of people there who actually, military, who are maybe going over to Iraq, or Syria, or back to Afghanistan, and they might be caught behind enemy lines…
Ben: And is this also the course where they will attempt to chase you through the streets, and kidnap you, and you have to evade them?
Neil: So the final exam, you are handcuffed and zip tied to some of your classmates, you're driven off to the middle of nowhere, and then you're let out. So you have to escape, you have to run a mission, but there are bounty hunters looking for you throughout the city. And you have to sort of evade them. I did like a very psychological trick which was they, so you go out in pairs. And I realized they were gonna be looking for pairs of people. So I got on the social media, and I said, “Hey, I need five people hang out with me.” So we're out in a group 'cause I knew, like visually, they're looking for pairs. So they see five people, they think they're not their students. So that's how it kind of made…
Ben: And you're allowed to use social media?
Neil: Well, you're allowed to prepare in advance. And what they're preparing was it's creating a cache. I have caches, by the way. Like three of them in LA. Caches where you bury your supplies, right.
Ben: Wow. So you can go prep anything you want before you do this course?
Neil: Yeah. You can go prep. So like bury some caches, supplies…
Ben: Do you still have caches in LA where you buried supplies?
Neil: Yeah, I still have caches. Yeah.
Ben: Just like random parts and stuff?
Neil: Yeah. Different locations. I got one in Catalina Island.
Ben: It's a good idea.
Neil: I actually hid a cache in there. No one's found it yet. There are clues in the illustrations in the book to find a cache. And I hid one and I gave people clues to find it, and no one's found it yet.
Ben: When I called you on the phone the other day, I think on your voicemail, you said…
Neil: Yes. There's a hint.
Ben: That had to do with that.
Neil: There's a hint. Yeah. My number's hidden in the book as well.
Ben: It was crazy. And by the way, this book that we're talking about, just so you know, is probably gonna be the one that I would say might appeal the most, to folks listening in, because we've got a lot of adventurers and people who wanna take on a challenge. But at the same time, we delved into some kinda deep stuff too. And I think that's important. We went some places I didn't expect that we were gonna go, but this other book, “The Truth,” is also really interesting.
Neil: And maybe it's only 'cause I just wrote it and it feels like part of my soul in a book, I would really, it's the stuff we're talking about, by the way, take this course, read that book, but like doing a deep work on yourself will change everything. It can give you that winning edge. A lot of people don't succeed in life because they have an inward fear of failure, or fear of success. Some people are actually afraid of success 'cause they feel like they're not worthy, or they won't know what to do, or just is something they haven't experienced. We have these limiting beliefs that really screw up our lives, and our relationships, and cause self-sabotage.
Ben: So if you've learned anything from the show and you're listening in, it is to go bury stuff in the woods near your house.
Neil: That's exactly the message.
Ben: It is to…
Neil: Make sure you mark it though on a GPS or something.
Ben: Right. Exactly. Get yourself an Oculus Rift, and also carry dumbbells back and forth across the bottom of the pool.
Neil: That's my family message.
Ben: Also, identify your limiting beliefs. Identify your limiting beliefs and identify your new belief.
Neil: Be a scientist of your own lows.
Ben: Yeah. Be a scientist of your own what?
Neil: Lows. Your low points.
Ben: A scientist of your own lows. Interesting. And that is how to hack your brain without smart drugs.
Neil: And so much more.
Ben: I like it. Alright. Cool. Neil, thanks for coming on the show.
Neil: Yeah. Went to some interesting places.
Ben: It did. And if you're listening, again, you can grab the show notes at bengreenfieldfitness.com/neil, N-E-I-L. And until next time, I'm Ben Greenfield here with Neil Strauss signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
You’ve been listening to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com for even more cutting edge fitness and performance advice.
Neil Strauss is an American author, journalist and ghostwriter, perhaps best known for his controversial best-selling book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, in which he describes his experiences in the seduction community in an effort to become a “pick-up artist.” He is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and also writes regularly for The New York Times.
But Neil’s interests go far beyond “seduction”.
For example, in his book Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, he spent three years surviving amongst survivalists, tax-dodgers, billionaire businessmen, and the government itself, and the book was hailed by Rolling Stone as an “escape plan” for the current world crisis.
When I visited Neil’s home in Malibu to record this interview, I found myself immersed with Neil in everything from advanced virtual reality game playing, crazy underwater pool workouts, surfing with internet celebrities and drinking “billion-dollar smoothies”, all of which you’ll hear about in this podcast recorded from Neil’s kitchen.
During our discussion, which gets slightly explicit at times, you’ll discover:
-Exactly how to do an underwater pool workout like Laird Hamilton…[7:25]
-The ingredients of the “billion dollar smoothie”…[12:50]
-Why Neil and I were surfing with internet celebrity Cameron Dallas prior to recording the episode…[16:20]
-Why Neil is so interested in advanced virtual reality gaming…[18:20]
-Why Neil checked himself into sex addiction therapy…[22:30]
-Neil’s uncomfortable volley of questions to me in which I potentially throw my Mom and Dad “under the bus”…[36:40 & 55:00]
-Neil’s three steps for “rewiring” your brain without the use of smart drugs or biohacks…[45:30 & 63:00]
-Why Neil paid to get thrown in the back of a trunk with his hands ziptied together…[77:30]
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
-My podcast with Laird Hamilton and Gabby Reece about underwater workouts
-The book “Rules of the Game“
-The book “Radical Honesty”
-The book “Superlife”