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Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work Kindle Edition
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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.
An electrifying, fast-paced journey into the deep potential of the human brain.-- "David Eagleman, neuroscientist, New York Times bestselling author, presenter of PBS's The Brain" --This text refers to the audioCD edition.
About the Author
STEVEN KOTLER is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and the cofounder and director of research for the Flow Genome Project. His books include Tomorrowland, Bold, The Rise of Superman, Abundance, A Small Furry Prayer, West of Jesus, and The Angle Quickest for Flight. His work has been translated into forty languages and his articles have appeared in more than eighty publications, including the New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Wired, Forbes, and Time. Steven is an in-demand speaker and advisor on technology, innovation and peak performance. You can find him online at www.stevenkotler.com.
Jamie Wheal is an expert on peak performance and leadership, specializing in the neuroscience and application of Flow states. He has advised everyone from the US Naval War College and Special Operations Command, the athletes of Red Bull, and the owners of NFL, NBA, MLB, and Premier League teams, to the executives of Google, Deloitte Cisco, and Young Presidents' Organization. He studied historical anthropology under MacArthur Fellow Patricia Nelson Limerick, specializing in utopian social movements and his work has appeared in anthologies and peer-reviewed academic journals.
Fred Sanders, an actor and Earphones Award-winning narrator, has received critics' praise for his audio narrations that range from nonfiction, memoir, and fiction to mystery and suspense. He been seen on Broadway in The Buddy Holly Story, in national tours for Driving Miss Daisy and Big River, and on such television shows as Seinfeld, The West Wing, Will and Grace, Numb3rs, Titus, and Malcolm in the Middle. His films include Sea of Love, The Shadow, and the Oscar-nominated short Culture. He is a native New Yorker and Yale graduate.--This text refers to the audioCD edition.
- ASIN : B01GCCT3G6
- Publisher : Dey Street Books; Reprint edition (February 21, 2017)
- Publication date : February 21, 2017
- Language : English
- File size : 2233 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 309 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #182,149 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the authors
Reviewed in the United States on February 23, 2017
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Top reviews from the United States
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Unfortunately I quickly lost interest as the author seemed to keep going deeper into abstracts, and leaving me confused on what he was actually trying to say. Maybe I'm not smart enough, or I just don't have the prior knowledge required, but I did not finish this book and don't have any urge to.
The plot: Stealing is an attempt to demystify and scientifically quantify what it means when an athlete or a soldier says they feel "in the zone". We've known for a long time that professionals in any field - from manufacturing workers on a production line to soldiers in a war zone - enter an odd brain state where a mixture of training and instinct seem to put their body on autopilot. Their reflexes are sharper, their movements seem choreographed even when encountering complex challenges, yet if you ask them what they're feeling at the time they may very well tell you they just "zoned out" and weren't really thinking about what they were doing. Stealing Fire poses and answers a simple question - what can we learn about these states, and can we reliably create them in our own lives to enhance our own performance? (The answers are "a lot" and "yes").
Why it's a good book: A mixture of engaging narrative and research, this book contains as many anecdotes and personal testimonies as it does footnotes to peer-reviewed literature. A lot of people complain in equal parts that the book "doesn't contain practical tips" and also that it "just tells you to do drugs to achieve this state" - that's contradictory. The truth is that this is a good book for getting your brain going. It will help you think differently about performance and accomplishment, and give you some ideas about how to get started, without giving you a diet or workout regimen.
The only catch: Yes, these guys are salesmen. Like many self-help books, there are some subtle and not-so-subtle hits given throughout the book that the reader could choose to purchase other materials and courses now that the authors have set up their own training camps to help clients learn about flow states. However, they don't "black box" much of the information. This isn't like the opening pamphlet of a meditation retreat that gives you two sentences about how nice the view is without telling you what an actual day looks like. Stealing Fire is full of plenty of practical advice, and you don't have to buy into any of the sales pitch at all. To be completely fair as well, the authors and their business partners really are on the cutting edge with these studies and - at the time of writing - their courses were some of the only ways out there to get up on the latest information.
Overall: Almost every critic of this book complains that they "just tell you do to do drugs". This is silly. Most of the examples in the book - especially from the military - deal with people who've never touched drugs in their life. One of the main points in the book is that although psychadelic drugs are a (frankly very safe when done correctly) way to get acquainted with altered brain states, almost everyone gets to a flow state through completely natural - though extreme - circumstances. Maybe your flow comes from putting on earbuds and running a 5k. Maybe your flow comes from lighting some incense and concentrating on your laptop for work. However you get there - the point is to go there, because that's where your creativity and your peak performance are waiting for you.
Many of the things they talk about are not on the market or not easily accessible to most of us (flow dojo, illicit drugs, TMS, virtual reality). Some of the methods they mention felt commercial, and it’s no coincidence that some names mentioned in the book are involved in the for-profit Flow Genome project the authors have founded. So in some ways, this book is a 300 page commercial for Flow Genome. But it’s a fun commercial so I can forgive. I was concerned about the factual nature of some of their anecdotes and evidence. They included a caveat in the back of the book which most people will not read. But readers should know that many facts in the book are controversial. Not all experts agree. Most notable is the controversy over fMRI which much of the neuroscience in this book is based upon.
I’m having a hard time choosing one snippet from the book because I highlighted hundreds – the book was that interesting. So I’ll include one that attempts to summarize what the book is about.
“…harnessing altered states toward practical ends would have seemed crazy. But we now know they can heal trauma, amplify creativity and accelerate personal development.”
What did I learn? The best part of Stealing Fire was the constant pings of dopamine my brain received every time I learned a new and interesting fact. I can’t pick a favorite chapter because the book was filled with revelations that I found valuable.
Who would like this book? Anybody who is interested in neuroscience, popular culture or altered states of consciousness. Or anybody who wants a fun read through nonfiction because Kotler & Wheal are an enjoyable read
Top reviews from other countries
West of Jesus follows the authors quest to try and discover what it would take to achieve a flow state as he had once achieved whilst surfing. It was at a more personal and accessible level and was an enjoyable read. The rise of superman explored the theme but focused on extreme sportsman who routinely enter flow states through performing at the edge of human ability and although this was interesting it started to depart from what most people would do to achieve a flow state and this current book seems to have gone down a rabbit hole of enquiry useless to most folk.
Well researched, lots of detail but totally useless to me and I was not hooked at all and had to plough through it to get to the end.
I am a huge fan of Steve Kotler. His book “The rise of superman” is a must read for anyone interested in flow, productivity, performance and human resource management. It was the first time I heard about the pursuit of companies to achieve group flow.
Conscious processing can only handle about 12033 bits of information at once. However, unconscious processing (= flow) can handle billions of bits at once. The result is 200 percent boost in creativity, a 490 percent boost in learning, a 500 percent boost in productivity.
Consciousness goes straight to the bottom line. Which is why 44 percent of all U.S. companies are offering mindfulness training to employees. Saving $2,000 per employee in health-care costs, and gaining $3,000 per employee in productivity. Yoga is now more popular than football. There is an exponential growth in the neurotech industry.
Yep, looking to create group genius or a hive mind. Where groups of people synchronise their heart rates and brain waves and drive them into group flow. Merging selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness and richness. Looking for the elusive “hive-switch”.
The deep now (without time in the picture, we have all the time in the world), where our inner voice is quiet and where our amygdala shuts down (no fight or flight). Processing rich, deep data. An integrated, whole-system experience. The body, the gut, the senses, the immune system, the lymphatic system and the brain in complete sync.
It is amazing what Navy SEALS, Google, Red Bull are doing. Setting up flow-dojos. Applying techniques from psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology and technology. Combining IOT, AI, VR, sports technology and LSD.
You are what you think
Your body and mind are one
How we move our body affect our brain and mind
Transformational leaders not only regulated their own nervous systems better than most; they also regulated other people’s.
The stomach and intestines complete this network, containing more than 500 million nerve cells, 100 million neutrons, 30 different neurotransmitters, and 90 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin.
The neurobiology of emotion shows that our nonverbal cues—our tics, twitches, and tone—reveal much more about our inner experience than words typically do. Our biometrics gives us more accurate insight than our own self-reporting.
Remember the movie “The Mansourian Candidate”? It has been done with an audience by researchers using bio- feedback.
A collection of the world’s biggest brands—Apple, Coca-Cola, American Express, Nike, Samsung, Sony, and Ford put up $7 million to fund a study into the neuroscience of buying behaviour.
Soon VR systems are going to track everything from eye gaze to vocal tone to neurochemistry, hormones, brainwaves, and cardiac coherence. If a smartphone is a surveillance device we voluntarily carry in our pocket, then VR will be a total surveillance state we voluntarily enter.
Mental arms race
As I said in my review of “The science of selling”, I am expecting and predicting an arms race between mindfulness and manipulation.
What the authors are referring to are different states of consciousness achieved through things Nike being “in flow”, under the influence of drugs (eg mdma, psylocibin, etc) or meditating. What I didn’t know is the benefits which this can yield in terms of happiness and performance.
So it’s a very interesting book and I’m glad I didn’t give up on it, though I was tempted a couple of times when the authors went on at length about Burning Man and some other points.
The reason for 4 stars is they don’t really give any actionable ways that most people can access these states. What I mean is this …
- I’m not planning to take mdma or psylocibin, magic mushrooms or anything like that any time soon
- I’m not going to take up BASE jumping or free diving
- I’m not going to take up meditation to the point of doing it for hours
… so it’s not impossible, I might get into flow while skiing or something like that, but it’s not the same as some of the other routes. I would have liked to see a more complete answer as to how the “regular person” might access / experiment with some of this. That was missing, for me.
But, that shouldn’t detract from the an otherwise interesting book. That said, if you’re strongly anti-drugs then this book is going to challenge your world view I think. Just a warning.
At first glance it's an interesting, fast-paced book, making dramatic promises in dramatic prose, but after a while I found myself wondering what, if anything, I could take from it to improve my team at work. By the time I finished I had concluded, maybe nothing.
The examples it is based on are very high-flying types of people, Special Forces, top rate engineers and so forth, so maybe it is just that its lessons are not applicable to surgical teams.