Author Dave Asprey Offers Game-Changing Advice on How to Win at Life
What would happen if you sat down, one on one, with 450 successful, unusually impactful people and asked each of them their secrets to performing better as a human being based on their own life experience — and then took the time to statistically analyze their replies and organize what you’d learned? For the past five years, I’ve been having those conversations with people who are unusually noteworthy in their fields, and this book is based on those interviews and that data.
It all began when I first launched my podcast, Bulletproof Radio, with the goal of learning from people who had gained mastery in their respective fields—often in fields they themselves had pioneered. Since then, it has evolved into an award-winning podcast that is consistently rated as one of the top performers in its category on iTunes with about 75 million downloads. My interest in interviewing these experts was originally born out of my now nineteen-year, multimillion-dollar personal crusade to upgrade myself using every tool in existence. This journey took me from anti-aging facilities around the world to the offices of neuroscientists to remote monasteries in Tibet to Silicon Valley. I left no stone unturned in my obsessive mission to discover the simplest and most effective things I could do to become better at everything.
On this quest, I have had the unique pleasure of interviewing nearly five hundred people who have impacted humanity with their discoveries and innovations while hundreds of thousands of listeners eavesdropped on our conversations. You may have heard of some of these experts, such as Jack “Chicken Soup for the Soul” Canfield, Tim “4 Hour” Ferriss, Arianna “HuffPo” Huffington, and John “Men Are from Mars” Gray. But the vast majority of my guests are not household names. They are university researchers who have spearheaded new fields of study, maverick scientists who have conducted incredible experiments in their labs, innovators who have created new fields of psychology, doctors who have cured the incurable, authors, artists, and business leaders who have boiled thousands of hours of experience into books that have changed the way we think about what it means to be human.
These experts are not only pushing boundaries in their fields but also often extending them to the cutting edge of what is possible. They are game changers who are rewriting the rules, stretching the limits, and helping to change the world for the rest of us. It has been a rare honor to talk directly with so many of these originators and learn about their ideas and discoveries. As you can imagine, it’s incredibly satisfying to get to spend an hour learning about a game changer’s life’s work. But the real treasure lies at the end of each interview when I ask them how they have managed to reach the high levels of performance that allowed them to achieve so much. The question is not what they achieved, not how they achieved it, but what were the most important things that powered their achievement.
I posed the same question to each guest: If someone came to you tomorrow wanting to perform better as a human being, what are the three most important pieces of advice you’d offer, based on your own life experience? I was intentional about the phrasing of the question, asking about human performance instead of just “performance” because we are all human, and we all have different goals and definitions of success. You can perform better as a parent, as an artist, as a teacher, as a meditator, as a lover, as a scientist, as a friend, or as an entrepreneur. And I wanted to know what these experts thought mattered most based on their actual life experience, not just their areas of study. I had no idea what to expect.
To say that their answers have been illuminating would be a tremendous understatement. Yes, some were shocking. Others were predictable. But the real value came after I had accumulated a large-enough sample size (over 450 interviews) to conduct a statistical analysis. After all, it’s easy to ask one successful person what he or she does and to copy it. But the odds of that one person’s favorite tool or trick working for you aren’t very good, because you aren’t that person. You have different DNA. You grew up in a different family. Your struggles aren’t the same. Your strengths aren’t the same. After asking hundreds of game changers what mattered most to their success, however, there was an incredible amount of data, and I noticed certain patterns emerging. When examined statistically, these patterns reveal a path that offers you a much better chance of getting you what you want.
My analysis revealed that most of the advice fell into one of three categories: things that make you smarter, things that make you faster, and things that make you happier. These innovators were able to grow their success because they also prioritized growing their abilities.
But the things that these top performers didn’t say were just as revealing as the things they did. Their answers were unanimously far more focused on the things that have allowed them to contribute meaningfully to the world than what may have helped them attain any typical definition of success. My guests include lauded businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and CEOs, but not one person mentioned money, power, or physical attractiveness as being key to their success. Yet these three things are what most of us spend our entire lives striving to obtain. So what gives?
To make it simple, you’ll find these options broken down into laws summarizing the most important advice from my high-performing guests, concentrated and distilled, along with some things you may want to try if they resonate with you. This style and structure was inspired by that of The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, one of the luminaires I interviewed on the show whose books have made an enormous difference to millions of people, myself included. These laws fall into three main categories, which are the areas to focus on when you want to transcend your limits and learn to like your life while performing at your peak: becoming smarter, faster, and happier.
Law #4 – Even Your False Beliefs Are True
The beliefs you hold and the stories you tell yourself shape your internal model of reality. When your model is wrong, you build broken habits and make decisions that don’t create what you want. You suffer. A flexible mind changes itself and builds a better model as it gathers more data about reality. Build a flexible mind with the built-in habit of questioning your assumptions about reality so you can grow.
Vishen Lakhiani has been a meditation teacher for more than twenty years and runs the world’s largest meditation training program online. His two-hundred-person company, Mindvalley, has enabled him to become a substantial philanthropist, and his bestselling book,The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed on Your Own Terms, teaches you how to optimize your brain for prime happiness and performance.
In his interview, Vishen shared with me how he came to believe a false story about himself. He is of South Asian descent, but he grew up in Asia, where he looked different from the other kids. He had a larger nose than most of his classmates and more hair on his arms and legs. The other boys called him Gorilla Legs and Hook Nose, and Vishen internalized those messages. As his mind, which he calls a “meaning-matching machine,” tried to make sense of the world around it, as all young minds do, it created the meaning that he was ugly, and he held on to that belief for many years.
Vishen refers to these types of stories and beliefs as our hardware, because they are instilled in us, usually before the age of seven, much as hardware is installed in a computer. We do not deliberately choose them. Authority figures, our society and culture, our education systems, and the observations we make as children indoctrinate such beliefs into us at a very young age. If we allow them to go unquestioned, they can have a hugely detrimental impact on our lives. Our beliefs tell us how important we are, what we are capable of, our role in society, and so on. If our beliefs are limited, they can drastically diminish our human potential. The problem is that our beliefs feel like reality because they are reality until you realize they are false.
The good news is that just as you can upgrade the hardware on your computer, you can upgrade your beliefs once you become aware of them. In Vishen’s book, he teaches a codified form of learning and human development that he calls consciousness engineering. The first step of consciousness engineering is to recognize that your beliefs are not who you are. They are simply hardware that was installed in you long ago and can be upgraded or replaced.
Neuroplasticity teaches us that we can swap out a negative or limiting belief for a belief that will serve us better. Vishen says that when people change their beliefs, their lives completely transform because those beliefs inform how they experience the world. For instance, when Vishen got rid of the false belief that his differences made him ugly, it changed his confidence and his entire perspective, and his life and relationships quickly shifted in a positive way.
Swapping out your limiting beliefs is crucial if you want to go from Human 1.0 to Human 2.0, but it isn’t easy. Humans hold on to limiting beliefs without even realizing it. They seem so real to us that we don’t always realize they even exist. To us, they are simply the way things are. Vishen recommends modalities such as hypnotherapy or meditation (more on this later), which can lead to awakening moments that make you conscious of your beliefs. Then you can begin to change them intentionally.
High performers focus on recognizing and changing limiting beliefs because they know that their beliefs will become true whether or not they are based in reality. In fact, helping people discover and correct self-limiting beliefs is one of the primary roles of a life coach or a business coach. For example, if you believe that you are having a lucky day before a presentation, it doesn’t matter whether or not there is any such thing as luck. Your belief in your own luck will lead you to have more confidence and to actually perform better in that presentation. It’s like the placebo effect on steroids.
When I meditate, I tell my nervous system I’m grateful that things happen the way they’re supposed to happen, that there is a conspiracy to help me succeed, and that the universe has my back. (Gabby Bernstein, the author of a great book by that title, inspires that last part. Her interview on Bulletproof Radio was amazing.) It doesn’t matter if any of those beliefs are actually true or even if my rational brain thinks they’re true. I want the simple-minded systems in my body to believe that they are true so they will automatically help me to make things happen with less resistance.
Your positive beliefs can literally bring you success. You can tell yourself the story that you’re successful, and your brain will believe it and act on it. The opposite is also true. Based on thirty years of research on more than a million participants, Dr. Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania found that optimistic expectations were a significant predictor of achievement.1 When salespeople believed that they would make a particular sale, they were 55 percent more successful than their pessimistic counterparts. Your beliefs directly impact the outcome of your efforts, so it is essential to swap out your negative beliefs so you can reach your potential or surpass what you presently believe is your potential. I spend a substantial amount of energy and time with people who think bigger than I do because it edits my own stories about my potential, and doing so has expanded my life and my company more than I ever expected. (Of course, I didn’t expect it; I had a limiting story!)
The second aspect of consciousness engineering is upgrading your systems for living, also known as your habits. Vishen says that your habits are like the apps on your phone. They consist of things such as your diet, your exercise routine, and your sleep hygiene—the patterns that shape your days. He recommends learning new systems through studying the greats and finding out what habits made a difference for the most impactful people . . . kind of like what you’re doing by reading this book!
This is an excerpt from“Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do to Win at Life” by Dave Asprey, the Father of Biohacking. Published by Harper Wave.
This excerpt was featured in the Dec. 9th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.