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About Jamie Wheal
His work and ideas have been covered in The New York Times, Financial Times, Wired, Entrepreneur, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc., and TED. He has spoken at Stanford University, MIT, the Harvard Club, Imperial College, Singularity University, the U.S. Naval War College and Special Operations Command, Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, the Bohemian Club, and the United Nations.
He lives high in the Rocky Mountains in an off-grid cabin with his partner, Julie; two children, Lucas and Emma; and their golden retrievers, Aslan and Calliope. When not writing, he can be found mountain biking, kitesurfing, and backcountry skiing.
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“A highly personal, richly informed and culturally wide-ranging meditation on the loss of meaning in our times and on pathways to rediscovering it.” —Gabor Maté, MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
A neuroanthropologist maps out a revolutionary new practice—Hedonic Engineering—that combines the best of neuroscience and optimal psychology. It’s an intensive program of breathing, movement, and sexuality that mends trauma, heightens inspiration and tightens connections—helping us wake up, grow up, and show up for a world that needs us all.
This is a book about a big idea. And the idea is this: Slowly over the past few decades, and now suddenly, all at once, we’re suffering from a collapse in Meaning. Fundamentalism and nihilism are filling that vacuum, with consequences that affect us all. In a world that needs us at our best, diseases of despair, tribalism, and disaster fatigue are leaving us at our worst.
It’s vital that we regain control of the stories we’re telling because they are shaping the future we’re creating. To do that, we have to remember our deepest inspiration, heal our pain and apathy, and connect to each other like never before. If we can do that, we’ve got a shot at solving the big problems we face. And if we can’t? Well, the dustbin of history has swallowed civilizations older and fancier than ours.
This book is divided into three parts. The first, Choose Your Own Apocalypse, takes a look at our current Meaning Crisis--where we are today, why it’s so hard to make sense of the world, what might be coming next, and what to do about it. It also makes a case that many of our efforts to cope, whether anxiety and denial, or tribalism and identity politics, are likely making things worse.
The middle section, The Alchemist Cookbook, applies the creative firm IDEO’s design thinking to the Meaning Crisis. This is where the book gets hands on--taking a look at the strongest evolutionary drivers that can bring about inspiration, healing, and connection. From breathing, to movement, sexuality, music, and substances--these are the everyday tools to help us wake up, grow up, and show up. AKA--how to blow yourself sky high with household materials. And the best part? They’re accessible, by anyone anywhere, no middleman required. Transcendence democratized.
The final third of the book, Ethical Cult Building, focuses on the tricky nature of putting these kinds of experiences into gear and into culture—because, anytime in the past when we’ve figured out combinations of peak states and deep healing, we’ve almost always ended up with problematic culty communities. Playing with fire has left a lot of people burned. This section lays out a roadmap for sparking a thousand fires around the world--each one unique and tailored to the needs and values of its participants. Think of it as an open-source toolkit for building ethical culture.
In Recapture the Rapture, we’re taking radical research out of the extremes and applying it to the mainstream--to the broader social problem of healing, believing, and belonging. It’s providing answers to the questions we face: how to replace blind faith with direct experience, how to move from broken to whole, and how to cure isolation with connection.
CNBC and Strategy + Business Best Business Book of the Year
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.