Transcript: Biohacking, Self-Optimization, and Becoming Superhuman – Boomer Anderson
Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Boomer Anderson.
At the age of 30, with a successful career and a highly active lifestyle, Boomer Anderson was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. This unpleasant surprise led him on a journey to self-optimization covering everything from sleep to diet to meditation to psychedelics and more, all grounded in data. In this episode, Boomer and Paul discuss their ongoing personal journeys, how to succeed at habit change, and what it means to be a superhuman.
- Boomer’s journey from world-travelling investment banker to heart disease patient to podcast host and entrepreneur.
- Some of the health and energetic differences between the United States and Europe.
- What a lifelong struggle with anxiety can feel like.
- Changing our definition of a superhuman.
- How to undo 10 years’ worth of habits.
- The importance of structuring your workday around your brain’s ability to operate.
- Peeling back the onion, experimenting, getting to your best self.
- The internal goal of continuous personal growth.
- How to really measure your physical health.
- Getting and staying on a superhuman path: What the data says.
- The fundamental—and pretty easy—principles of health.
- The role of psychedelics in behavior change.
- How psychedelics have affected Boomer’s anxiety.
- The power that comes from truly believing you have a choice.
- What is health optimization medicine?
- Concrete steps to getting started on the path to becoming superhuman.
0:00:00 Paul Austin: Boomer Anderson, founder of Decoding Superhuman. I just wanna welcome you to the podcast Boomer, it’s great to publicly record our… What? Maybe this is our fourth or fifth conversation by this point, so it’s an honor speak with you…
0:00:14 Boomer Anderson: Yeah, I always enjoy talking to you, Paul, so it is nice to click record on these conversations every once in a while because I think there is a lot that I learn from you and stepping on this side of the mic this time… Well, let’s just have some fun.
0:00:30 PA: Let’s just have some fun. So you’re founder of Decoding Superhuman, you actually had me on your podcast a few months ago where we talked about psychedelics, we talked about optimization, we talked about microdosing versus some of the plant medicine, so I’d love if as a starting point for our listeners, you could just fill us in on the backstory of Decoding Superhuman because I think that in itself is such a fascinating topic, and I wanna just start at that fundamental level, and then we can see how it fractalizes from there.
0:01:04 BA: Okay, and by the way, the fact that you used the word fractalize is just… It means this conversation can go in any number of directions. Excellent, excellent, well, in the spirit of [unclear speech], which it seems to be how my life has grown these days, I haven’t always been involved in this health realm, in fact, even now, my life is much more sort of straddling the realm of health, business strategy and finance. But going back a number of years, I was working in investment banking. So if you graduated in 2008 with a degree in Finance and wanted to be recognized for your performance, you went into investment banking, first I went to New York, then I went to Singapore.
0:01:51 BA: I say this all as a backstory ’cause it kind of segues into what we’re gonna get into today. While I was in Singapore, I had a very fortunate opportunity to get a leading role at an investment bank at an extremely young age, that sent me all over the world, 40 countries in four years, which was an incredible experience, especially when it’s on somebody else’s balance sheet, right. And that time I thought I was this “healthy person,” I was loosely involved in the Quantified Self movement at a very early start of it, more from just an observer and a self-experimenter rather than participating in the conferences, so to speak, and I was exercising doing things like CrossFit and all of this stuff.
0:02:39 BA: Upwards of 10 times a week. And so I thought I was healthy. And I say this all because around the age of 30, I got pretty cocky, decided to leave investment banking and build an app, because at that point, everybody else in the world was building apps and wanting to create unicorns and all that stuff. And in the process of my resignation, ’cause I had to serve out a resignation period, I got a series of tests, and hell, why not order all the tests if it’s on somebody else’s dollar, and one of those included a calcium score, the calcium score came back positive and a subsequent series of events led me to getting diagnosed with cardiovascular disease at the age of 30.
0:03:22 BA: Now, this is a little bit of a shocking moment to anybody, because cardiovascular disease is a leading preventable cause of death in the entire world. And I was 30 years old and from an outward perspective, I was healthy. But it turns out the internal biochemistry, something was clearly screwed up, and so rather than taking the traditional approach of going down the route of statins and lowering my cholesterol, I thought there is a better way to do things.
0:03:51 BA: So rather than focusing on this app, I left and decided to focus on my health, with the background in banking and just a love of data and metrics, I started un-peeling the layers of the onion of what could potentially cause cardiovascular disease. In that process, I needed to speak to experts, I needed to speak to people around the world just to understand a little bit more about myself, and also I wanted to just build a network in this new health field. I wasn’t sure what it was going to look like in the future, but I just wanted to build that network.
0:04:27 BA: And one of the cheapest ways to get free consults with experts all around the world is to have a media platform, so I launched a podcast about two years ago, and now we have over a 170 episodes of Decoding Superhuman. And that’s just a fraction of what I do now, but I’ve always lit up when I have smart conversations with smart people, and that podcast, every time I record an episode, whether it’s with the likes of yourselves or some of our mutual friends like Dave Braben, I get so excited and lit up over those conversations that this is something that I just love to do, and it’s become almost a passion project now, but initially it was quite literally trying to unpeel the layers of the onion of what was a pretty interesting scenario to be in as a 30-year-old.
0:05:20 PA: Cardiovascular disease.
0:05:23 BA: Yeah, man, I hit you with a bombshell, I’m not sure I told you that before man, but…
0:05:26 PA: You’ve never told me this before.
0:05:29 BA: So I had a blockage of the left anterior descending artery, and if you look that up in Dr. Google, it will come back and tell you that you have a blockage of something called the widow maker, which is pretty ominous, and for my age, I had a 95% chance of a cardiac event in my life. Okay, you see the writing on the wall, right? The lifestyle that I was living at that point, which consisted of… Yes, working out too much. It was essentially a work hard, play hard lifestyle, I was working out too much, sleeping 4 to 6 hours a night and really just pushing everything to its limit, and clearly there was a net negative benefit or a net negative outcome to that.
0:06:16 BA: And so when you see the writing on the wall, you have a couple of choices. You can either turn the other direction or continue where you’re going, and I decided to turn the other direction. Luckily, around that same time, coincided with our move to Amsterdam, and I’ve been here now for over four years and life is much better, so to speak, from a health perspective.
0:06:37 PA: Well, and it’s so interesting that you bring that up. That’s also been one of my biggest observations, in having lived both in the United States, and I’ve been in the United States now for the last three years. I lived in New York, Oakland and now I’m in Miami. But for the previous five years, I was abroad. And it’s just this sort of… When you live in the States, and especially when you’re in big cities, there’s this overhang of anxiety around everything, which leads to poor quality sleep, which leads to spending more time in a sympathetic state, which leads to spending more time in reactivity. And the food quality especially, if you’re cooking your own food obviously, that is what it is, you can manage that, but the food quality is much lower I find when you go out to eat, go to restaurants. Whereas every time I’ve either lived in Europe or just spend significant time there, it’s like this energetic burden just washes away.
0:07:28 PA: And it feels… I’m gonna be curious to hear your thoughts on this. It feels like Europe generally is a much healthier place. What’s been, for you, some of the biggest changes? You’ve lived in Amsterdam now for four years, and I love Amsterdam. I’ve been to Amsterdam several times. I basically… I started Synthesis in Amsterdam, so I spent a lot of time there in 2019, so I get that vibe, but I would just love to hear from you what’s that transition been like? How has that impacted your health and well-being? Like what sort of things pop up to you as, “Damn, I’m really grateful for being here for this reason and that reason.”
0:08:06 BA: Absolutely. And I will caveat this by saying… And there’s a word you mentioned earlier, anxiety, and we can get into this a little bit, which is something that I have struggled with my entire life. And that anxiety was a little bit accelerated by both the industry that I lived in, the cities that I chose to live in, New York and Singapore, and just my general thought process. So when you move to Europe, one of the things that you’ll notice is that rather than this work hard, play hard, Puritan work ethic, harder, not smarter attitude, that typically comes of some American cities, and I’m not demonizing America, hell I still have their passport.
0:08:55 BA: It’s a situation where people tend to have a little bit more of this thing called balance. Now, balance is a little bit of a controversial word, and if you’re working in an industry that I think you love, I don’t know if you necessarily need the balance, but when it comes to just work and lifestyle, the Europeans have a very different perception on this. There’s very much a dedication to the work and working hard while you’re there, but once you’re gone and out of the office, you’re out of the office.
0:09:31 BA: If you’re on vacation, you’re not expected to check your, well at the time it was a BlackBerry for me, but since BlackBerry kinda went the way of the Dodo, and you’re not expected to spend hours a day on your vacation answering emails. So it’s a little bit of a different lifestyle change. Now, let’s double click on me for a second and talk about environmental changes and how Amsterdam kinda fits into that. So Amsterdam was my favorite city, in Europe still is, obviously, I live here. And that’s part of the reason why we moved here.
0:10:01 BA: And now moving from Singapore to Amsterdam, there were a number of different things that changed in terms of lifestyle. Not necessarily embracing fully this European lifestyle, because after all, entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily lend itself to just shutting off at any given time, but getting into situations where I realized the benefits of actually taking time off, relaxing, frequent breaks, spending time in nature. If you look at those cities, New York and Singapore, most of the time I was spending it in concrete jungles, so getting outside, spending time in nature. Spending time away from my computer, not working 20 hours a day.
0:10:48 BA: These are all habits that took a while to unwind for me, because in my early 20s, all the way up until 30, so a good decade of experience, working consistently and always being available had to be broken. And some of that stuff I’m still unwinding today, but Amsterdam has lent itself to a lot of self-experimentation, but also a lot of being able to recognize the benefits of that European lifestyle where there’s a little bit less go all the time and a little bit more of this attitude to work smarter and not harder. Does that make sense?
0:11:30 PA: That totally makes sense. So let’s go a little bit deeper into that. So balance, work smarter not harder, and not be on all the time. I think these are fairly common… These are things that are coming into the awareness of more and more people, especially in the COVID era. I saw a tweet the other day from Joe who runs Fitt Insider, which is a phenomenal podcast about the fitness industry, and said, basically, something along the lines of, there’s an impending burnout crisis, and that more and more people are recognizing that they are in fact burnt out.
0:12:07 PA: And I’d love to hear about that moment for you. What was the moment for you, whether it’s a specific story or a memory of something that happened, where you got out of the matrix of this work and realized just how spent and tired you were and how necessary it was for you to cultivate balance, to feel well? Because I think that’s one common misconception that people have of this superhuman approach, is that to be superhuman, we always have to be on. I think this is partly responsible…
0:12:43 PA: Or partly because of Dave Asprey, and what he taught, and this is probably eight, 10 years ago at this point, but he would talk about how he ate all this super clean food and did all this fasting and took all the data points and did testosterone shots, and that he only slept three hours a night, and [unclear speech]. And I think that is… It’s a false narrative, or not even a false narrative, but it’s a not holistic narrative, it doesn’t necessarily integrate everything that might be, that might come up in an individual’s life. So I’d love to hear you go a little bit more into that, in terms of that moment for you where you recognized, “Oh shit. I’m burnt out,” and how that played into your reconception of what it means to be superhuman.
0:13:28 BA: Yeah. That’s such a good question, Paul. So let me acknowledge something about my 20s. I was a very dense individual, in the sense that I just wanted to perform well and I had a lot going on, and a need and a thirst for external validation. Let’s recap a series of events. At the age of 23, I got sent to the hospital for exhaustion, at the age of 26, I got sent to the hospital to stop vomiting so I could go back into work, at the age of 27, I collapsed in the shower because of exhaustion. So burnt out was written all over the wall well before I was diagnosed with this heart condition at the age of 30.
0:14:13 BA: But there’s something about having a piece of paper in your hand that says, “Hey, you have this piece of calcium in your heart.” That triggers something. It says, “Oh shit. Hey, I may die.” And there’s that confrontation with mortality that helped catalyze this path that I’m on now. Now, you have a series of habits that you’ve built up over 10 years, and you’re not just going to unwind those overnight, very few people do. And so when I was looking at really those un-peeling the layers of the onion, there were some obvious things that I had to attack, which was sleep from the age of 18 to 30, I slept four to six hours a night, and six hours was a really good night for me.
0:15:00 BA: And then you start un-peeling the layers more, “Okay, I was exercising too much. My diet didn’t necessarily suit what I needed from a nutrient perspective. My gut microbiome was a mess.” And you start un-peeling the layers of the onion, and eventually you arrive to this thing called, “What am I doing with my day-to-day life that is contributing to all of this chaos internally? This thing called stress.” And like I said earlier, I eventually arrived at the idea that this anxiety issue, which I had been pushing underneath the covers my entire life, because I didn’t want anyone to know about it, because hell, nobody should see me sweat, right? Nobody should really understand what’s going on underneath the surface.
0:15:47 BA: You gotta be hard, as our friend David Goggins would say. And I had this moment where I realized I had to confront this anxiety problem, and for me, a lot of that anxiety was around perception of who I had to be. And so, you then start looking at, “Okay, do I really need to complete 10,000 tasks in a day? Do I really need to be respondent to this email in five minutes time, or is it okay to sit on it, think about it, and maybe address it a little bit later?” “Do I really need to stay up until midnight and wake up at 6:00 AM to be the early to bed early to rise… Or not even early to bed, but just the late to bed, early to rise person and always be switched on?” And those were questions I eventually arrived at the answers, and you can see how it drastically impacted my lifestyle.
0:16:43 BA: And so when I went about switching a lot of these behaviors, the idea of balance was interesting ’cause I do have an enormous amount of responsibilities across a few companies, and I started looking at the idea of working in breaks. And you mentioned something about this common burnout crisis, or this coming burnout crisis that’s going to come as a result of COVID. And you could see it when COVID actually happened, people went about just scheduling their day, and packing their day full of meetings and calls and not really getting any work done until the end of their “work day,” and then starting work, because they thought that in order to be recognized by their organization as valuable, they had to be on these calls and be responsive all day long. Well, hopefully some of that is starting to course correct, but the same was true with my life, it was just…
0:17:41 BA: Okay, the great thing about entrepreneurship is that, at the end of the day, it only matters if you get something done, and at the end of the day, it only matters if you produce the result that you either promised, or you are looking to deliver. And so that could mean that my day gets structured a little bit differently. So for myself, I structure my day almost in thirds, in the sense that I’ve now got this environmental change whereby I know I’m the most productive first thing in the morning, and so I’ve now structured my morning to be my deepest part of work.
0:18:21 BA: I then take a break mid-day and focus on big picture thinking strategy for in particular one of these companies that I’m involved with, and then the back half of my day is more of those smaller repetitive tasks, doing things like talking to my friend Paul Austin, who’s in Miami right now, soaking up the amazing humidity which also exists in Amsterdam. And so that environment, and that sort of shift into giving myself more frequent breaks throughout the day, but also prioritizing my work time based on my brain’s ability to operate best, has been immensely helpful, and it’s something that in the COVID era when nobody’s looking over your shoulder per se, and not necessarily concerned about FaceTime, this is something that could broadly apply to everybody.
0:19:16 PA: And I think meetings, what I’m hearing is, especially when talking about burnout and COVID, it’s all of these meetings, and I don’t have a lot of experience with this, ’cause to be honest, we don’t do a ton of meetings at Third Wave. We have our one-on-ones, we have a little bit of team meetings every now and then, but meetings, from what I hear, are the bane of most people’s existence. [chuckle] So there is this element of, as we’re going into work, as we’re looking at how to best work with it in a post-COVID era, like you said, finding those times that we could be creative and we wanna be more a manager and communicating. Paul Graham has this fantastic essay that he wrote, which we’ll link to in the show notes, of the maker versus the manager. The maker, the creator schedules time in the morning, usually a two-hour block minimum, that’s what I have in my calendar as well, to dive into the most important task, the most important thing that you’re working on, and then of course, in the afternoon is a much better time to handle task management with Asana or to communicate with team members through Slack or to set up one-on-ones etc.
0:20:20 PA: So there’s a lot of sort of tactical on-the-ground stuff that we can handle, but I think the more sort of, not relevant, necessarily, but the more interesting question, as a follow-up to everything tactical, Boomer, is, what do you consider to be superhuman? So in other words, you have a podcast called Decoding Superhuman, how have… In what ways have you decoded superhuman, and what does it mean? What came out of that decoding process for you?
0:20:49 BA: Such a good question. And nobody’s ever asked me that before, so thank you. And let’s take it this way. So superhuman to me… Or let’s just go through this whole process, ’cause we’ve already talked about how I eventually boiled down to anxiety being that struggle, and this could actually dovetail a little bit into psychedelics. So superhuman is an elevated state. And the process of Decoding Superhuman and what that’s looked like for me has been continuous self-experimentation. And that self-experimentation initially looked a lot like, “I’m gonna try this next thing, whether it be technology, habit change or something else. And with that next thing, I am going to reach that state of relaxation, all… Elevated… I’m gonna reach that elevated state of what we call superhuman.” And for years, what that looked like was, “Okay, I’m gonna buy this technology, change this habit. Okay. I didn’t get there with this one, but with this next one, I’m gonna get there. I’m gonna get there.”
0:22:08 BA: And eventually, where I arrived at it for myself is that it’s not necessarily about the journey, and this is a phrase that… Or sorry, it’s not necessarily about the destination, this is a phrase that’s popped up many times in that entrepreneur world. It’s more about the journey. And this is true not just for entrepreneurship and building businesses, because if you’re an entrepreneur, and your building business, and you’re solely focused on the destination and not enjoying the moment, that’s a pretty, pretty bleak life, so to speak, because you are not… If you’re not enjoying the moment and you’re not enjoying the building process, well, when you get there, are you actually going to enjoy that? And I have a history of setting big goals like getting that job on Wall Street, etc, and then once I got there, I didn’t enjoy actually being there.
0:23:00 BA: And so in this process of Decoding Superhuman, if you will, what I’ve done is experimented all over different technologies, scientific papers, etc, and ended up at a place where I realized that, hey, it’s about this journey that I’m on, the unravelling the layers of the onion, to becoming my best self every single day, rather than this, I don’t know, Übermensch, if we’re gonna use a Nietzsche sort of context here, or rather than looking at becoming a super… Like Clark Kent and Superman, it’s about that journey for me. So superhuman to me is more about just continually elevating myself rather than looking at myself and trying to become this archetype of a superhero. Does that make sense, Paul?
0:23:55 PA: So, in other words, there is more of a focus on the internal than the external. We can look to the external archetype sometimes for the model or scaffolding, but ultimately, the path of becoming superhuman or decoding our own sort of superhuman nature is really an internal path, and there’s not necessarily a comparative nature to it, but it’s really just that continual process of becoming, of cultivating, of learning, of adapting, of growing, of evolving. Does that sound… Is that sort of…
0:24:24 BA: That resonates very well, right? So it is… So superhuman to me is an internal goal. It’s not something that I look to compare myself. And I did at first. I love to consider… Compare myself to those archetypes of what we, as society, perceive as superhuman, the Elon, Steve Jobs of the world. And for now, it’s more about an internal comparison of where I was yesterday. And so just continual personal growth is how I view the path of Decoding Superhuman.
0:24:58 PA: And then for you, as you’ve done all these podcasts, as you’ve gone to all these conferences, as you’ve done all these sort of tests on yourself, so to say, what works for people and what doesn’t? So in other words, what helps people deeper along that path of their superhumaness. And what do you find often distracts or is a detour or just doesn’t work on that path?
0:25:28 BA: Yeah, let’s get into this. I’m glad you brought this up because we are inundated with information daily. If you decide to drop yourself into the matrix, so to speak, you can quite literally hear 10,000 different opinions from 10,000 different journalists, if you will, about what diet you should be following, about what sleep pattern you should be following, about what sort of exercise program, the list goes on and on. And so what actually works for people is to take a moment and actually discover what you need as an individual. And so there is a very elegant framework by which to do that. And one of the, and it’s, in fact, one of the side conversations that you and I have had many times, is around measurement. And so how do we discern what is actually useful for us in this vortex that is media, versus what is not necessary, and we don’t necessarily have to spend that much attention to? And the framework for that starts with measurement.
0:26:34 BA: And so what I encourage everybody to do, and especially if you have the means to do this, is to try and figure out what you need as an individual. And one of the best ways to look at this is, first, to reframe what we think of in terms of health, and I do think health is the center of performance, and we can have a debate about that if somebody wants to, but when we look at health, it’s not just this diet and exercise thing. We have to look at health in terms of what’s going on internally. What we want to do, going back to that word fractalize, is what actually gets fractalizes throughout the body, it’s our cells. And so if we take things down to a cell, we have to realize that our cells are actually a marriage between mitochondria and ancient bacteria. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
0:27:23 BA: This is actually articulated in the endosymbiotic theory of evolution in the early, I believe, 1900s. It was further popularized in the early 1990s with an idea called the holobiont. And this holobiont, and to take a holobiont perspective is an interesting way to look at health, is essentially looking at your body as a collection of organisms. I mentioned one, and that’s the cell, and we can look at it in terms of that symbiotic relationship which makes up our cells, but also, there are things like gut bacteria, or our microbiome. There are viruses existing throughout our body, or our virome. We have fungi existing all throughout our body, probably the most popular one there is Candida, but also that’s called the mycobiome. And the collection of these ohms that I just mentioned is not necessarily called omex, it’s actually called the holobiont.
0:28:20 BA: And so one of the ways that I encourage people to look at health and to really just kind of look at building a framework for themselves to benchmark themselves against their… Really, against you, is to take a look at your health from a holobiont perspective. So when we’re looking at health from a holobiont perspective, health isn’t necessarily, “Can I run a six-minute mile?” Health isn’t necessarily, “Can I follow a ketogenic diet for 30 days?” Health is actually the health of our organisms. And the way I actually look at this in practice is by testing at the level of the metabolome. And simplistically, metabolomics is looking at your cells and where they are now, and the health of them today, but also where they’ve been recently. And so we’re looking there at things like toxicities, we’re looking at vitamin and mineral deficiencies, we’re looking at the health of things like your citric acid cycle, and we’re able to measure you at the health of your cells, and then once we have that information, including the gut microbiome and any food sensitivities you may have, we’re able to create this customized framework for you, so that you can actually go out and operate in the world.
0:29:37 BA: Now, people listening to this may say, “Hey, that sounds like a lot of work.” Well, so is reading all of that information that continues to pummel in and seems to shift every single day. By testing yourself, by building this framework by which to operate, you actually know what is right for you based on your biochemistry. You no longer need to listen to a lot of the pundits out there, you can actually look at what they’re saying, interpret it in the context of what is right for you, and decide whether or not to use it.
0:30:11 BA: So this really gives you a customized way to operate in this world that we live in, where we’re constantly inundated with information. And so when people are looking to start on this path, it’s useful to have not only benchmarks, but a baseline. So where are you now, and that’s just as simple as getting something like a gut microbiome test, a test of your biochemistry, and looking at your cellular level health, but as well as food sensitivities. And one of my mentors is Dr. Theodore Achacoso, and he’s a guy, Paul, that you should have on your podcast. I’ll connect you guys afterwards. But he created this framework in something called Health Optimization Medicine Practice. And so when people are looking at evaluating different choices, different bio-hacks, different technologies, it’s nice to have a baseline to determine what you actually need and what can be tabled for something later.
0:31:09 PA: There’s a lot there, Boomer. First, I wanna make sure I’m getting the pronunciation right. The metabolome.
0:31:16 BA: Yes.
0:31:17 PA: Looking at things at the cellular level. And what I love about that is, it’s very… It’s very cutting edge. It’s very much like this is where you’re at right now, if I were to do the task, for example… Well, I have a test waiting at home for me to go through it, so if I were to go through with that test, then I think you said it takes, what, four to six weeks or something to finish that up?
0:31:40 BA: It depends on how backed up the lab is, but anywhere between, I’ve seen them come back in as little as two, as long as six.
0:31:49 PA: But still, within two to six weeks, you have that snapshot picture of where you’re at from a health perspective. And then, what I’m hearing is, then you don’t need to worry about, “Oh, this doctor says this, and this nutritionist says this, and this person says this,” with these tests, you can actually have a full, honest, objective understanding of where your health is actually at. And then what I didn’t hear you talk about, but what I’d love to contribute to this conversation that I think fundamentally, a lot of health is quite simple.
0:32:20 BA: Mm-hmm.
0:32:21 PA: It’s sleep, it’s six to… Ideally seven to nine hours of sleep every night. It’s some sort of, ideally, fasting and, or time-restricted eating, because that is evolutionarily what’s happened for us, and there’s incredible benefits of fasting that we’ve talked about on the podcast before, we won’t get into it again here, but a lot of listeners are familiar with that. It’s minimizing processed food. Ideally, a paleo-esque diet, because that’s the type of food that we, as humans, have been eating for tens of thousands of years. And then it’s just not being too sedentary, having some sort of movement practice, not sitting down all the time, getting outside, getting some sunshine, not being in front of a computer. The actual fundamental principles of health are quite easy, and usually, if we have some sort of disease, if we have some sort of sickness that we could become more aware of, like you did through the test, the cardiovascular test, it was pretty clear and obvious, looking back, that you are definitely gonna have cardiovascular issues because all the stress that you were putting through, but doing that test and seeing it was like an objective sort of perspective at, “Oh, this is definitely fundamentally true, and now I have no choice but to go face it.”
0:33:37 PA: And I feel like that process where it’s just like, “Look, this isn’t that hard. You pay attention to these fundamentals, you get some sort of test to see where you’re at, and then what you need to do is if you’re not truly honoring these fundamentals, you need to look at how can you integrate microdosing or psychedelic use, or meditation or float tanks or anything that helps to facilitate neuroplasticity, so that you don’t have this sort of subconscious resistance to living in a more empowered, nourished and beautiful way.” And I think that’s to me where these three things sort of coincide, it’s you get the nitty-gritty with the metabolome, you have the fundamentals from ancestral health, we could say, and then psychedelics can be infused into your sort of weekly, monthly, yearly routine to make it much easier for you to change your behaviors, so that you can continue to grow and develop into the person you’re becoming. And I think that transitions into the next question, which I wanna dig into, and feel free to comment on anything that I just mentioned, Boomer.
0:34:40 BA: Yeah. Paul, let me just add something in there, because there’s a simple formulation, and Ted always says this to me. It’s just people need to sleep well, they need to hydrate well, they need to eat well, they need to sun well, ground well, move well, and stress well, so that you can, and I don’t know if I can curse on this podcast, so censor me if I get this wrong, so that you can fuck well. And that is… It’s elegantly… It’s elegant, it’s simple, and some of the best things that you can do for yourself are very simple. It’s just oftentimes we get wrapped up in our day-to-day lives that it becomes a lot more difficult.
0:35:23 PA: Right. We become stressed out, we become… We get tunnel vision, we worry, are we doing everything right, etc. And I love that. The best things are often simple, and that’s especially true for health and well-being. Especially true for health and well-being. So, in terms of simplification, in terms of your own health and well-being, I’d love… Something we haven’t yet talked about is psychedelics, and your path with psychedelics and microdosing. And I’d love if you could just bring us back into your story. You’re 30 years old, you’re diagnosed with a cardiovascular issue. At what point do psychedelics come into this role, come into your story, and what role did they play in helping you become a healthier, more optimized, sort of more grounded human being?
0:36:07 BA: Okay. So actually, Paul, I’m gonna take this even further back than 30-year-old Boomer. I’m gonna take it back to 12-year-old Boomer, who used to be… I was a badass for about two weeks, where I was smoking cigarettes, drinking, all of this stuff. And so at 12 years old, I decided to not pursue that path. And among the people that I hung out with, one of those guys actually became… He went into heroin rehab before the age of 18. One of those guys actually became a coke dealer. And at this time, I was labeling all of these drug… Even psychedelics, I was labeling them as “drugs,” because we grew up in the United States where we’re taught from a very young age DARE, whatever that means. At the age of 14, I was playing ice hockey, and the goalie on my team actually ended up in a bad drug deal, and ended up with a bullet in the back of his head. And at the age of 18, when I was in college, from that same ice hockey team, there is one of my teammates who went on a mushroom trip, and at the end of it, committed suicide. So if there’s anybody who was in that realm of skeptical about drugs, about psychedelics…
0:37:29 BA: It was me, and I for years cast it off in the back of my mind as something that people did to escape life. And to a certain extent, people do, and particularly in the “drug category.” And now let’s pass… Let’s now fast forward into my 30s because at this time, I’m rapidly unveiling layers of the onion. I alluded to some of them earlier, learning to sleep better, learning to stress less, learning to actually not exercise too much. And there came a point where… I got to this point, and I was like, “Wow, I’ve done so much and there’s still something there that I can’t explain, there’s still something in the way of me and what I perceive to be my best life, or at least being comfortable with who I am.” And around that time, I discovered both the Third Wave, but also a group of people that were investigating this from a lens of… They’re taking more of a scientific approach to that. And this was… I was already aware of MAPS for a while, I was already aware of a lot of the work that people have done in the 60s, all the way to the 80s, etcetera.
0:39:00 BA: And I knew that there was something there and I wanted to experiment with it, but I was just so removed from it because I had for a number of years demonised psychedelics. And around that time I met a couple of people who were experimenting with it, and they were of the caliber that I trusted them, and ended up in a spot where I had a chance to microdose with LSD. And around this time in my life, I was going through a significant amount of business anxiety about where I wanted Decoding Superhuman to go and potentially going down a path that I wasn’t too aligned with.
0:39:44 BA: But I didn’t want to make the wrong decision. And this microdosing experience, although it was just one time, it was just so elucidating in the sense that I very quickly dropped away things like ego, and could technically evaluate this decision to make sure that it was the right one for me, and not sending me down a path that I didn’t necessarily want to go. And so that was it was actually only a short time ago, a little over a year ago, and I at that point I was like, “Okay, maybe there’s something here.”
0:40:28 BA: And by virtue of the fact that I live in Amsterdam, there were several of these substances that I was able to try and able to get a hold of. Now, let’s go back to the thing that has sort of been the blanket, if you will, in my life, which is anxiety. And so when you look at psychedelics from a scientific perspective, if you will, and how these may be able to help with anxiety, there are a number of them that come to mind, both in microdosing as well as larger dosing sizes. But in terms of microdosing, looking at substances like 1P-LSD, and magic mushroom truffles, or magic truffles, and using those substances in a way that it would facilitate an unravelling of that anxiety. And it’s gradual, right, it’s not gonna be overnight, it’s not gonna be necessarily something that you burst through, although in certain cases that probably does happen.
0:41:33 BA: But I used these substances, and they were able to provide me more clarity and thought, less overwhelmed, give me perspective, allow me to address that anxiety, and even gives senses of connectedness, flow states, all of this stuff, and that combined with increasing meditation practices has served me very well. And over the course of this, I’ve always been into Quantified Self and data, and over the course of this, if you want me to share, Paul, I’m happy to. I’ve been looking at how to track these experiences because to my knowledge, there weren’t too many people out there doing a lot of self-tracking around microdosing in particular.
0:42:21 BA: Now, of course, we can talk about larger dosing if you want, but I was looking at these in terms of how to measure their improvements on my general anxiety, and you can look at a biomarker like heart rate variability, right, heart rate variability, simplified is the distance between two heartbeats. And you can calculate the health of your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Now, as a person who’s dealt with anxiety my whole life, you can imagine that I’m pretty sympathetic dominant. But as I began to experiment with these substances… And again, this is just an N-of-1 experiment, if you will, you began to see improvements in HRV. And then subjectively, I began to see improvements in my perception of anxiety, but also openness, and openness is actually something you can qualitatively survey. So if there’s people out there that really want to get into microdosing, and also quantifying the benefits of microdosing, HRV monitors are pretty easy to come by.
0:43:29 BA: There’s certain ones that are better than others, there’s also three-day HRV processes where you can continuously track HRV. But also you can look at something like a big five personality test, which looks at openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extra-virgin, extraversion, not extra-virgin, that’s a little bit different, and neuroticism, and you’re able to measure the degree of openness if you track this over time by which you improve. And for me, if you look at me, I was on somebody else’s podcast last night, and if you look at me over a year ago versus who I am now, I’m a completely different person. And probably the number one thing I would attribute to that is the use of some of these substances.
0:44:16 PA: So it started with microdosing.
0:44:16 BA: It started…
0:44:21 PA: Then you worked with truffles and higher doses a little bit.
0:44:26 BA: Yeah, I didn’t mention the higher doses. If you want me to go into that, I’m happy to.
0:44:29 PA: ‘Cause that, I think, will add the other half, and then I would love to ask a follow-up from that.
0:44:36 BA: Sure. So around this time… It’s interesting because when you need, the teacher appears, oftentimes, and if you’re listening, you can find them. And around this time, I became in touch with somebody who does psychedelic-assisted therapy. And so, initially, that started with MDMA at higher doses, and then at higher doses, then finally, it rounded off with a series of those. And this is over a span of a year, it wasn’t like a weekend or anything like that. But higher dose MDMA, which, at that point, when I did it, I was pretty closed off, and not a very open person, and it was almost like, over the course of the several hours that the MDMA journey happened, and through the use of the assisted therapy, it was just… I hate to use the word life-changing, ’cause it sounds kind of hokey in personal development’s perspective, but it just burst through that closeness that I had, and all of a sudden, I became open, I felt free again.
0:45:54 BA: And so, once I had that experience of working with an assisted therapist, to me, it was such a profound event that when I looked at larger doses of various substances, in my mind, I had it set that, set and setting being so important, that I would only do it with a particular therapist in this case. And so that later led to that journey, which had profound effects on this area of external validation, which I’ve dealt with my entire life. And so, over the course of the six plus hours of using , yeah, it was somewhat painful, but I don’t believe that there’s anything like a bad trip. And during that time, I was in a group setting, and I was dealing with that need for external validation, and very fast, it seemed to resolve, in the sense that, after that experience, it was minimized in my life.
0:47:15 BA: Now, I will say that some of these changes haven’t been necessarily permanent, and I do think that where microdosing comes into play here a lot more is post these experiences, these lovely therapeutic experiences, using microdosing continues to… And I think, Paul, you’ve explained this very well in your course, continues to just reinforce the point, if you will. And to this day, if I were to give you a marker for anxiety, my anxiety has gone from a 10 to a three. And a lot of that I can attribute to the assisted therapy, but also the microdosing.
0:48:00 PA: We have similar stories. We have not a ton of overlap in our background stories, but there’s still commonalities. I never got into investment banking, but I’ve always, like you, have been interested in personal growth and development, and awareness, and ambition and business. So we definitely have a lot of overlap there. And like you, I’ve struggled with… For most of my early 20s and teens, there was more, I would say, depression, pretty significant depressive states. In my later 20s, it’s been more anxiety. I’d say I’m not… I don’t really have any sort of depression any longer, but definitely, I find myself in states of high anxiety, sometimes oscillating into depression, but mostly just states of anxiety and stress. And a lot of that, to be honest, is brought about by my own choice.
0:48:53 PA: I think that’s what we often realize from working with psychedelic substances is, if something is happening to us, if we’re feeling anxious, if we’re feeling depressed, if we’re just having a hard time with something, there’s a choice that we can make to change that and to adjust that, it’s just that so often, we’re stuck in the nitty-gritty, we’re stuck the… Like a swamp, so to say, that we can’t pop out to have that perspective of, “Oh, we need to shift this and change this and move this.” And that’s the value of those high dose experiences, is allowing us to have that perspective, so we go, “Oh, I’ve been struggling with this, or this pattern continues to happen. And now what is in my power or what can I do?” And again, this comes back to be… With the superhuman. What can I do in my power to actually shift this and change this, so this block or this sabotage or this whatever, doesn’t continue to show itself in surface.
0:49:49 BA: Yeah, absolutely. I think Sam Harris said something similar, to the effect of, “Yeah, psychedelics may not change everything for you, but they will give you the perspective of what the change can be, and what it could look like.” My last… My first and last TMT journey, I will do it again, had a lot to do with that perspective that you just mentioned. And a lot of what’s come since then has been more around, okay, the anxiety is somewhat of a choice that… You just said this, the anxiety is somewhat of a choice for me, but so long as I have a perspective that I do have the choice to turn the other way, think about how immensely helpful that is. It’s not like you’re drowning in quicksand anymore. You can now see a little bit above the quicksand, see above the cloud, so to speak, and give yourself that perspective that you need to go operate, perform well, and be the superhuman that you can be.
0:50:57 PA: So to wrap up the podcast, let’s get into a little more nitty-gritty. We heard about your story, Boomer, cardiovascular disease, investment banking, moved to Amsterdam for four years. We talked a little bit about the difference in living in a place like Amsterdam compared to Singapore or a major American city and we delved into the metabolome, we talked a little bit about your personal story with psychedelics, so I’d love to sort of weave this all together for our audience and get a little bit into… Let’s say someone who’s listening to this goes, “Hey, I’d really like to take more agency over my own health.” I’m really interested in what you’ve talked about with the metabolome, Boomer. I’m also interested in the measurements that can be taken with psychedelics.” How does someone get started on this path? How does someone get started on this path of taking control over their own health of maybe doing some of these tests that you’ve talked about setting up certain measurements? And I’d love to just see what emerges ’cause I know you’re gonna have some great things to share, I’ll have some great things to share and I think that’ll be a really nice way to wrap up the episode.
0:51:57 BA: Yeah, absolutely. And again, Paul, you’re full of really great questions, so I love this.
0:52:02 PA: Thank you. You’re very kind, Boomer.
0:52:06 BA: So if you wanna take a little bit more agency of your health, I think there needs to be a level of curiosity there if you’re curious and are really ready to take action, where do you start? Well, I think everyone should start by acknowledging that there’s a whole lot of stuff out there in this world that we’re bombarded with and we don’t necessarily need to follow all of it. So setting up that framework for being able to evaluate what is good, what is bad for you, what is not necessary, is extremely useful. And a lot of this can start with just qualitative assessments.
0:52:47 BA: There are things like the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which allow you to assess, if you have a sleep issue where it might be stemming from. There are surveys like the Institute of Functional Medicine’s, multiple symptom questionnaire, which allows you to score yourself based on how you’re feeling and it’s something that I still take every single month myself and I’m a person that does do a lot of the under the hood testing, as well. So you can line up a set of surveys to just get yourself started on knowing a little bit more about yourself and recognizing feelings within your body.
0:53:27 BA: Because so many of us are just very disconnected from what’s going on inside, we’ve built up these constructs in order for us to perform at a high level in this world and so just really reconnecting with what’s underneath the hood and what’s inside it and getting a feeling for that is a great place to start. Now, once you’ve gone through that path or let’s say you are willing to spend the money on getting the testing, you can go and get one of these tests, the organization… The not-for-profit that I work for is called the HOMe/HOPe Association. And essentially, the HOMe/HOPe Association educates doctors and practitioners on how to optimize health rather than treat for disease.
0:54:10 BA: And if you think about this simplistically, looking at our healthcare system right now, it seems as though… And there are a few good practitioners out there, certainly, but it seems as though healthcare is built around disease management. If you think about the reasons why you go to your typical general practitioner, it’s to heal an ailment, it’s to fix a broken bone, it’s to have a surgery etcetera and maybe that’s not necessarily a general practitioner, but you get the point. And all of those things certainly have a purpose and are certainly needed. But when I was 25, 26, and just trying to look for someone to help me perform at 110, 120 instead of 80 or 90, that was very hard to find.
0:55:00 BA: And so what health optimization medicine and practice does is, provides this education for doctors so that you can operate at that 100% level, you can operate at that 120 level. And the framework is very elegant in terms of testing and the levers that we pull on in order to get you performing at your absolute best. So if you want to have some sort of agency in your health, I would first start by gathering some data, understanding yourself, you can get wearable technology here, but absent the wearable technology, there are still surveys out there, you can still get your blood tested, etcetera. And so that’s where I would start along that agency of health standpoint and from having that framework, you’re now able to have a filter on the world such that what’s best for you and you don’t necessarily have to listen to a lot of very articulate people tell you that what worked for them should work for you, even though, it may not. And so I would start… Agency to me, starts with a baseline assessment.
0:56:16 PA: Yeah. And I think more than anything, it starts with a willingness to look at things that might not make you feel great.
0:56:23 BA: Yeah, absolutely.
0:56:25 PA: Especially, if there is some sort of disease or some sort of… Something, it doesn’t feel right, or you’ve been sick or you’re unhealthy in some way, over stress, right? But often that willingness to go, “Okay, I know this isn’t gonna look great.” or “I know this isn’t gonna be great.” But just facing that, and having, I think, the courage to face that is often the first step on a path towards living in a healthier way. And I feel like that, more than anything is what psychedelics help us to do is that when we enter and step into a container of psychedelic transformation, they almost as plants themselves help provide that boost of courage to look at the shadow, to look at the difficult parts of ourselves, to look at things that we might not wanna fully acknowledge and just to be able to fully acknowledge them and say, “Okay, since that is true, how do I need to adapt and adjust and change things?”
0:57:18 PA: And so when we look at how that applies to personalized medicine, let’s say you get the metabolome and you realize that you have certain food sensitivities to, it could be gluten, it could be dairy, it could be legumes, it could even be certain meats or whatever it is, then having the courage to go, “That’s true I have a food sensitivity. It’s causing harm, it’s causing disease, now I need to have the courage and the willingness to cut that out and commit to that because it’s what is best for me.” So I think that’s the first step of courage and then the following step of follow-through.
0:57:51 PA: And that’s why even on our own platform with Third Wave, we have the microdosing course but we also have coaches, because I think a critical component of any process of growth and development is having a coach who can keep you accountable and keep you on track. And I feel like… It seems as if coaching is becoming the profession of the future. In other words, there are more and more coaches everyday and I think that’s a great thing. It also provides an opportunity to ensure that what those coaches are doing work. And I think when it comes to the intersection of psychedelics, microdosing, personal, taking agency over our own health, a lot of the things that… We’ve talked about metabolome in the podcast today, you wanna work with people who understand that complex dynamic because in many ways, it is still pioneering. It is still cutting edge. And, as we both experience, 0Boomer, it’s in a way… It is optimal for understanding what we need to feel nourished, alive, healthy, free, liberated, etcetera.
0:58:55 BA: Superhuman, right?
0:59:00 PA: Superhuman.
0:59:03 BA: Yeah. I completely concur with everything you just said, right, and just taking that leap is the first step. Curiosity is what will get you started and then, just getting… Coaches are great because they help you see your blind spots. And having a coach through this process, if you’re willing to hire one, will allow you to accelerate growth. I know… I have coaches for pretty much everything that I do and, that allows me to accelerate growth that much faster than if I was working at this… Working on this and doing these things all by myself. And so, when you’re evaluating your options for taking agency over your health, recognize that there could be value, whether it’s a coach to help you microdose or it’s a coach to guide you through habit change or to even discover what’s going on underneath the hood in your biochemistry. There’s value to having a guide there.
1:00:10 PA: Absolutely. Well, Boomer, I just wanna thank you for coming on the podcast. Thank you for sharing your story, for getting vulnerable with us, for going into the metabolome, for the wonderful saying which we’ll emphasize in a quote from Dr. Ted, about sunning and fucking and eating and all the good things. And before we wrap up today, Boomer, if you could just let our listeners know if they wanna find out more information about you and your work, where they connect to.
1:00:37 BA: Sure. So, the one that we talked about at the beginning is Decoding Superhuman. Decoding Superhuman is my podcast platform. There’s 170 different episodes covering various aspects of health and performance optimization but the rest of my work is reflected in the companies that I work on. The predominant one is Troscriptions, as well as the Health Optimization Medicine and Practice Association. And so, Troscriptions produces, right now, a nootropic called Blue Cannetine but coming this fall, we’ll be releasing, well, in California at least, some interesting things taking a look at common ailments that people have around using Cannabis. So, keep an eye out for that. So, troscriptions.com is that one and then, homehope.org is really where you can find out more information about the metabolomics testing that I mentioned, but also this framework for gathering agency over yourself.
1:01:38 PA: Beautiful. Well, thank you so much, Boomer. I really appreciate you hopping on the podcast.
1:01:42 BA: Paul, always a pleasure, my friend, and I’m looking forward to further conversations.