Hacking Yourself: Dave Asprey (Full Transcript)

Dave Asprey at TEDxConstitutionDrive

Full text of author Dave Asprey’s talk: Hacking yourself at TEDxConstitutionDrive conference. In this informative talk, Dave shares and explains his bio-hacking techniques that he discovered during his journey to be better at everything he does: at work, in family and in life.

Best quote from this talk:

Because if you don’t understand that system and learn how to control it, it will control you. Because it’s faster than you are, even though it’s far dumber than you are.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Dave Asprey – Author & Entrepreneur

I wanted to start out today by announcing something that people have been asking for a while, which is when is your book coming out?

Because this week, I’m really grateful to have gotten a deal with Rodale to publish my book December 2nd on the Bulletproof diet. So that’s coming up.

So I’m an author and then soon to be another author.

We’ve mentioned the podcast. I’ve been around for a while in Silicon Valley but being a human Guinea pig is the reason I’ve actually managed to stay around in Silicon Valley for a while. And we’re going to talk about that today.

There’s also the idea of being a human performance consultant, which what the heck is that?

Because I got really good at helping myself perform when honestly, biologically I’d probably had no right to perform.

When I started this quest, I’ve developed a practice of helping others do the same.

And when I say I didn’t perform very well, this is me. Sorry, it’s so grainy. This is scanned from Entrepreneur magazine because in a bizarre twist of my life, I was the first person to sell anything over the internet.

So I’m not going to say I invented e-commerce because I’m totally not Al Gore. We love you Al.

But I sold caffeine T-shirts out of my dorm room to 12 countries before the web browser was invented and I weighed 300 pounds.

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Years later, I lost 50 pounds and I became an instructor at down the street at the University of California, while working full-time at the company that created cloud computing called Exodus Communications.

Google’s first servers were in our buildings, using our network. Way cool!

I was a little fat, little inflamed, not looking so great, but still managing to perform reasonably well.

And then I decided I needed to start paying attention to what was going on?

I was getting brain fog, like serious brain fog. I’d sit in a meeting. I couldn’t remember what happened. And I knew I was there, but it’s just gone.

I started hacking and quantifying myself and I’d say, well, some days I perform well, some days I don’t, what’s the variable doing this.

And the kind of thinking that helped to build the internet. On the internet, you don’t have control or visibility of what everyone else is doing. You just know how to talk with them. So you’re managing complex systems without enough data.

And we started getting data and this is doctor handwriting, so you can’t read it. I’ll zoom in. It says: increased risk for stroke and myocardial infarction.

So I’m 29 or 30. And they’re basically saying you have a pretty good chance of dying. Things are worse than you think they are. I thought, well, maybe I should get some more data.

So I injected myself with radioactive sugar, like anyone would do. And I got, what’s called a SPECT scan, which looks at metabolic activity in the brain. And this is actually, you know, it.

And there were two other pages of things: decreased perfusion, decreased activity. Basically, they said, you look like you’ve been poisoned. You have toxic brain exposure and some other stuff.

And best of all, I was an interesting referral. You could call me a motivated biohacker at this point, right. On one hand, my career is going crazy. On the other hand, maybe I’m going crazy.

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And then I realized what they had told me in seventh grade, which was that you’re fat and stupid was actually coming true.

Talk about motivation, so what would you do?

Well, learn yoga, right? So I decided maybe I should explore that. And I did.

And maybe you should go to South America and do aayhuaska with the Shaman and explore that. So I did.

Shave your head. Definitely should do that. And then spend some time at a Buddhist monastery in Nepal and go climb mountains in Tibet. That’s Mount Kailash, the headwaters of the Ganges and the Indus.

So what I did is I explored Eastern approaches when the Western ones largely failed me. Because when I weighed 300 pounds, I worked out six days a week for an hour and a half a day.

I wasn’t eating tons of calories. I was eating a low calorie, low fat diet, and I couldn’t lose the weight. I could get strong, but I was always fat.

And it was only at that point when I realized, wait a minute, I’m an engineer. Here’s what I’m doing. I’m sorry, the assumptions that if I work out more and eat less than I’m going to magically get thin and stay thin or that my brain will work, are simply wrong. My data has disproven that.

If people say something is this way and you can just prove it one time, then the assumptions are wrong. It might be a good model, but the assumptions are wrong.

And that’s what led me to look at the actual causes and the actual assumptions.

You might even try fasting in a cave to understand what’s going on. Yeah, did that too.

And then you get into the technology, because there’s no data about what happened in the cave. Well, I sat there for four days. It was hungry and drink some water and generally it was hot.

And yeah, I learned some more about the inner awareness – what’s going on inside your head.

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But when you hook electrodes up to your head and you learn in seven days to do what an advanced Zen meditator takes 20 to 40 years to do, computers make things a little bit easier. It’s like having bumpers and lights on the side of your meditation pathway.

So if you’re meditating, you have no idea if you’re doing it right. But if a computer tells you, ‘Hey, that wasn’t good’. Suddenly you can do things that really were not available without an enormous investment of time and energy. 

You can even get data about how your brain is performing right then. I’ve had an EEG machine at home since 1998, you don’t?

And I met some of the leaders in various fields of psychology, trying to understand, not just the physical parts of this, but what are the motivational parts? What makes you perform really, really well?

And where I ended up after that, after spending $300,000 and 15 years and becoming a bio-hacker, I’ve had an amazing career. I’ve run strategy for companies with billions of dollars in revenue.

I’ve been a spokesperson for companies. That a startup we sold for $600 million. All of this kinds of crazy stuff.

I became expert at managing this though, which is what led me do that. And I’ve upgraded my intelligence. I can pay attention all day long. I have tons and tons of energy. I went on five hours or less of sleep for two years straight, eating 4,000 calories a day without exercising and grow six-pack.

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