Elevated Entrepreneurship: Psychedelics & the Evolution of Leadership


Episode 202

Scott Omelianuk

Scott Omelianuk, Editor-in-Chief of Inc. Business Media, joins the Psychedelic Podcast to examine the intersection of entrepreneurship, mental health, and psychedelics.

Scott and Paul F. Austin emphasize the importance of supporting founders' mental well-being and how psychedelics can play a role in reducing stress and enhancing mindfulness. Scott openly shares his personal struggles, revealing the profound impact of psychedelic therapy that surpassed years of talk therapy. By embracing mental health challenges, Scott believes leaders can overcome pressures, uncertainties, and isolation, enabling them to become their best selves.

The conversation envisions psychedelics as tools to foster human connection and long-term thinking, ultimately cultivating a more conscious and compassionate mindset among entrepreneurs.

Scott Omelianuk:

Scott Omelianuk is the Editor-in-Chief of Inc. Business Media. He has built a reputation for defining culture and using it to the advantage of clients and benefit of consumers.

Honored with the Ad Age A-List, Idea of the Year award, and a Media Vanguard Award, Scott is known as a marketing and branding expert and champion of entrepreneurial thinking within the enterprise and small business.

A professor of marketing and innovation and an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Stevens Institute of Technology, a U.S. News & World Report “Top 25 Innovation School,” Scott has repositioned Inc., the preeminent voice of entrepreneurship, to reflect the needs of today’s founder, with inspiration, information, and instruction, as well as community.

As an author, investor, founder, and patent holder, Scott has been profiled or served as an expert source for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, AdWeek, CNN, the BBC, NHK, NPR, CNBC, MSNBC and dozens of other newspapers, blogs, and broadcast outlets around the world.

Podcast Highlights

  • Scott’s personal drive to explore psychedelics.
  • Inc.’s reason for writing about leadership struggles & mental health issues.
  • Lessons psychedelics can teach business leaders.
  • Scott’s professional path to becoming Editor-in-Chief at Inc.
  • The challenges of maintaining a long-term vision in a capitalist world.
  • Scott’s reflection on the state of the psychedelic renaissance.
  • The importance of keeping a beginner’s mind in the early stages of the movement.
  • Scott’s take on microdosing vs. macrodosing.
  • Scott’s personal and professional outlook.

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Podcast Transcript

0:00:00.3 Paul Austin: Welcome back to the Psychedelic Podcast. Today we have Scott Omelianuk, the editor-in-chief of Inc.

0:00:08.5 Scott Omelianuk: And what's interesting to me about entrepreneurs is they're curious people, they're early adopters, they wanna try new things, they're constantly looking to optimize, and then they're leading us. They're bringing us into the future. People like you and the people you interview are bringing us into the future, and so if we could do that from a more grounded place, that would kind of be amazing.


0:00:34.6 Paul Austin: Welcome to the Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave, audio mycelium, connecting you to the luminaries and thought leaders of the psychedelic renaissance. We bring you illuminating conversations with scientists, therapists, entrepreneurs, coaches, doctors, and shamanic practitioners, exploring how we can best use psychedelic medicine to accelerate personal healing, peak performance and collective transformation.


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0:02:53.4 Paul Austin: So our guest today is Scott Omelianuk. Scott has a reputation for defining culture and using it to the advantage of clients and the benefit of consumers. Honored with the Ad Age A-List, its Idea of the Year award and a Media Vanguard Award, Scott is known as a marketing and branding expert, and champion of entrepreneurial thinking within small business and enterprise. As an author, investor, founder and patent holder, Scott has been profiled or served as an expert source for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, Adweek, CNN, The BBC, NPR, CNBC, MSNBC and dozens of other outlets. Now, Scott is a listener to the Psychedelic Podcast, he's been listening for over a year now. He reached out over email a few weeks ago to say, "Hey Paul, I have had my own story of healing with Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy, and I'd love to share that journey with your audience." Now, that happened to coincide with an article that Inc recently published about psychedelics in business that I had the opportunity to be quoted in.

0:04:03.0 Paul Austin: And so, I noticed that Inc was starting to talk more about psychedelics and this relationship between personal life and business. And so Scott and I had a fantastic conversation today about his journey, what it means to be a leader and an entrepreneur, what lessons and healings we can receive from psychedelics and some of the risks and cautions that we have to be mindful of as we pioneer into this uncertain liminal space. So, without further ado, our guest today is Scott Omelianuk.

0:04:42.6 Paul Austin: Hey, listeners, welcome back to the Psychedelic Podcast, today we have Scott Omelianuk on the podcast joining us. And this is a first. This is the first time that we've had the opportunity to interview an editor-in-chief of what I consider to be one of the major media publications out there. And so Scott, it's really an honor and a pleasure to have you join us for the podcast today.

0:05:04.4 Scott Omelianuk: Thank you, Paul. I'm really honored to be here.

0:05:07.7 Paul Austin: So, you wrote a piece that I pulled up just before hopping on, which was about your own personal Psilocybin journey.

0:05:17.2 Scott Omelianuk: Yeah.

0:05:17.7 Paul Austin: And that piece was published in Inc, I believe a few months ago. And in addition to that piece, Inc also just published a long form editorial piece about psychedelics, business, leadership. A writer named Devin, whose last name is escaping me right now, he went to HOLOS, went through a full experience there. I was also interviewed for the piece and just did a really great job of giving the sort of overlay of psychedelics for leadership creativity. And as we know, a lot of the emphasis, a lot of the research has been on the clinical and therapeutic applications. So for Inc to... For you as the editor-in-chief to talk publicly about your experience, for Inc to start to explore this more as a topic, I find to be really exciting. And so I'd love to start there just from a leadership lens, with you being the editor-in-chief of Inc, why is it that either you yourself... Let's start there. Why is it that you yourself started exploring psychedelics and why is it that Inc has started to explore it as an editorial topic at this point in time?

0:06:27.2 Scott Omelianuk: Yeah, for me personally, it sort of was [laughter] a last resort kind of thing. I'd been through a great deal of therapy. So I briefly wrote in my editor's letter about my own background which sort of rough growing up, child of a very violent alcoholic, a lot of emotional abuse and had a lot of survival skills that I developed that helped me in those circumstances as a young kid, as a teenager that didn't necessarily translate well to an adult and to the business world. And so I think in my own estimation, I had done a lot of therapy that helped to a large extent, but sort of never got me all the way there. It sort of left me with a lot of awareness of where I was still falling short in interpersonal relationships and business relationships and how I conducted myself. And I think it was through an experience that I'd had with Chip Conley, who's the author of Peak and a Making of a Modern Elder who was Brian Chesky of Airbnb's mentor, his own founder of Joie de Vivre hotels before that.

0:07:49.6 Scott Omelianuk: But an experience that I had with a group of entrepreneurs that Inc took to his place in Mexico, that was not psychedelic, but that made me realize how much more work I had to do. Simultaneous to that, someone you know, you've interviewed Keith Ferrazzi, who's a friend of mine. We started talking about his journey and I just thought this is not what I remember it being from movies and all of those things, I need to try it. And I found a therapist who for years has been doing this in the underground. And for me, the experience was remarkable. I would say that in a day of medicine, that first day of medicine, I sort of had an awareness and felt like I had a sense of accomplishment that would have taken five or eight years in talk therapy. So I became, at least for me, in my own experience a convert right away. I think by no means am I fixed or a whole person, but I think I'm much better than I was before I started on my days of medicine.

0:09:09.1 Paul Austin: One thing that's coming up as you're talking through this is this metaphor of the map versus the terrain. And an author, Tucker Max, who you may know of or may have heard about, he wrote about this precise topic on his Median page where essentially he said... He did 10 years of talk therapy, he had a really good sense of the map. There was a lot of awareness, but what psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy did is it actually brought him into the terrain, or the other way that I look at it, it's going from, really, it being a cognitive intellectual exercise into being a very somatic, embodied, emotionally-felt experience. And if it's not felt, it can't be healed.

0:09:54.0 Scott Omelianuk: Yeah, I think that was sort of one of many remarkable experiences that I had with psilocybin and one is this somatic nature of it. The idea that it's not as intellectual as it is physical. The idea that you can unplug, and in fact many people will journal after their journeys as part of integration. I was an art student when I was a kid, so I drew and it was a more immediate way for me of translating the experiences and a more immediate way of getting out of your head and being directly physical. And for me, that meant, I think, a lot of what I perceived to be realities that if you looked back and we wrote dates down and all of those things turned out not to be right. So anticipatory things that put me in a really bad head space, that I thought about. Not felt, thought about. I didn't have to spend as much time there anymore, if that makes sense. So I disconnected from the world as I imagined it would be and lived the world more directly. And it not only, I think, reduced conflict, made me a more generous person, but just increased this sense of comfort I had in navigating my way through the world.

0:11:23.9 Paul Austin: There tends to be an ability after going through these deep experiences of, there's an inner confidence that's cultivated in... Once you do 5 grams of mushrooms or 7 grams or whatever you did as that high dose, when you come back into sort of a normal reality tunnel as Robert Anton Wilson would call it. When you come back into this normal reality tunnel, all of a sudden these minor stresses or these things that we worry about, these anxieties don't hold as much charge and they don't seem to be nearly as important.

0:11:58.9 Scott Omelianuk: Yeah. Absolutely, one of the realizations I had was... And this is trying to run a significant business here at Inc. Having lots of staff with competing interests and things like that, partners external who want things that we may or may not be able to deliver them, budget numbers we have to hit. All of those things exist. And one day just sitting in one of my deputy's offices, I just had this realization that there're outcomes, and there are always outcomes. And we decide whether they're good, indifferent or bad. And usually it's the good or the bad, not just indifferent. And recognizing that for me just de-charged or sort of took the explosiveness out of so many situations and made decision-making easier, made it easier to praise people when they were successful and made me not wanna come down on someone when they fell short. It just was different. Now, again, not perfect, I still slipped back plenty of times, but I feel like that's a big leap forward for me.


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0:15:02.2 Paul Austin: I'd love to go into a little bit about Inc, then, as an organization and as a business. Why is it that you've chosen as a direction to write about psychedelics and for you what do you see as maybe the potential possibilities of psychedelics, business, leadership? Those overlaps, now having gone through your own experience, I'm sure many of your professional colleagues... We know Keith has done a lot of Ayahuasca, he does a lot of mushrooms, he's talked about that publicly. So I'm sure a lot of your professional colleagues have also explored this. Why is it that Inc made that decision? And what does your intuition say about that? The development of that.

0:15:44.5 Scott Omelianuk: So for me, it was a matter... It grew out of an idea that the content landscape or the media landscape is incredibly competitive. There's lots of commoditization, there are big players in the business space like The Economist and Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. And there's Inc which while it has done a remarkable job of supporting entrepreneurs for more than four decades, needs to find it's own way. And I realized in having, in part, been an entrepreneur myself, having talked to lots of entrepreneurs, there was a place that was being missed. And that was where business sort of gets personal. What is the real toll on entrepreneurs and founders of startups in choosing this path? It's not easy. There's a significant stressor there, and no one was really talking about that. We talk about start of porn, all the exciting things that are happening, who's overnight success at 22 years old we should be following. And the fact is, none of that is representative of the landscape.

0:16:52.3 Scott Omelianuk: There are many more people who struggle every single day. They've got a spouse who may or may not understand them. They have their own self-doubts, they have teams who may or may not understand them or be marching in the same direction at any minute, they have investors who are making demands on them. And with all of those people, you can't necessarily show your true self. So I decided you don't want your spouse to think you've mortgaged the house for no good reason. You don't want your team to think you don't have perfect leadership and you don't want your investors to think you have any self-doubt. You've gotta be... You've gotta stand tall that whole time, but that's just not realistic. And I thought Inc had a real opportunity to be the place founders could acknowledge that they have difficulty, mental health problems, leadership problems, worries about finances. And in being honest and being authentic in that way we had a lot of opportunity as a business, but simultaneous to that, we had a lot of opportunity to help people be more successful. It's okay to talk about your mental health struggle because it's real.

0:18:02.7 Scott Omelianuk: And maybe in acknowledging it and dealing with it, you'll be a better founder, you'll be a better leader, you'll be more creative, whatever it is. I just felt that there was a real opportunity in being honest about that. And then of course then for me it was, you can't be... You can't talk that talk unless you acknowledge your own struggles. And so I did that, and I did that in that letter that you referred to... That story you referred to.

0:18:28.0 Scott Omelianuk: And so, why psychedelics then, what is it that you think psychedelics can teach us or have or can teach business leaders or can teach entrepreneurs about? 'Cause a phrase that I... That you didn't say explicitly, but that I'm hearing is vulnerability, shadow work, being sensitive and allowing ourselves to be sensitive. What do you... What's your sense of what psychedelics can teach leaders as a skill that will help them to deal with some of the challenges and struggles of entrepreneurship and executive leadership?

0:19:02.4 Scott Omelianuk: Yeah. So, for me it comes down to my very first journey. I can remember putting an eyeshade on and having my earphones in following the MAPS protocol. And all of a sudden my field of vision was populated by lots of people I work with, and then all of a sudden they got really small, and really small, and smaller and smaller and smaller until they were gone. I felt my ego dissolving, I felt my body getting bigger, and I had this realization that I needed to be more generous to myself. Hard to explain everything in there, this is all very ineffable, words fail us. But the immediate fact is that, in recognizing there was room for generosity toward myself, I was able to be more generous to the people who work with me.

0:19:58.2 Scott Omelianuk: And for me, that realization was remarkable because it was hard to be generous, hard to give praise, when you don't get praise, it's hard to give praise. And hard to understand that it has a meaning, even. So right away, for me, it was like, "Wow, if this one moment can have this impact on me, what does that mean when it scaled up? What does it mean when other people have feelings like this?" And certainly, there's drive and ego and all of these things that push founders forward that, it can be a pretty blunt instrument. And then that blunt instrument, it can hurt other people. What if you could, as a leader, still achieve the same things, but do it in a softer way, like less boxing and more Taekwondo maybe? And so, Chip Conley who I mentioned already, he talks about CEOs being chief emotional officers too, and the impact they can have.

0:21:01.9 Scott Omelianuk: We've talked here at Inc. A lot about the pebble in the pond, the ripple effects of entrepreneurship. They're real in a financial way, but what if they could be real in a human-to-human way as well? And so suddenly, I think this understanding opened up for me. Then I talked to a lot of other founders, and recognized that they were seeking the same thing. And what's interesting to me about entrepreneurs is they're curious people, they're early adopters, they wanna try new things, they're constantly looking to optimize. And then they're leading us, they're bringing us into the future. People like you and the people you interview are bringing us into the future. And so, if we could do that from a more grounded place, that would be amazing. And so many of the folks I talk to in that world wanted the same thing. And so I just thought, Inc. Is well-respected, Inc. Has an audience of significant founders. Bill Gates was in the Inc. 5000, the list of the 5000 fastest growing companies 30 or 40 years ago when he was bragging about having 20,000 consumers. What if we could have reached Bill Gates then, and for the next two decades while he built Microsoft? Who do we have that opportunity with now? And so that's why it was, this idea that, maybe we could have an effect on how people show up every day and show up in a more human and caring way.

0:22:46.4 Paul Austin: And almost balancing, 'cause Inc. 5000, just for listeners who aren't all that familiar, it's the list of, from what I understand, the 5000 fastest growing companies in the United States.

0:22:56.8 Scott Omelianuk: That's right.

0:22:57.9 Paul Austin: Or... In the United States. And so that's a very, as you said, driven, ambitious, even masculine. And so what I'm hearing from you and what I've noticed, even in general in my own leadership development as a CEO in the conversations that I've had with Keith about co-elevation and how that might play out is there is an invitation for more softness, for more heart, for more emotional, I would say capacity or development. And that feels like a really beautiful balance to the orientation even of the Inc. 5000 because, what I've noticed is, in chatting with a lot of founders, CEOs, entrepreneurs and leaders, when they work with psychedelics, especially the younger age, I think it's a little bit different for maybe folks who are maybe in their 50s and 60s and have already have their orientation. But a lot of folks in their younger years after they have these psychedelic experiences, their scope of what matters, their idea of what incentivizes really develops beyond just money, status, ego, and is much more relational.

0:24:17.7 Scott Omelianuk: Yeah. I think that's absolutely right.

0:24:19.4 Paul Austin: And so, community is centrally important and, not just grow, grow, grow, grow, but I often think of this metaphor of weaving and what it takes to weave a community to weave a business that might exist for the next 50 to 70, to 100, to 150 years. We seem to glorify this hockey stick growth, the quick exit, as you said, the VC charged. But I think there's really something beautiful about picking a mission, focusing on a mission and saying, "This is what I'm really gonna dedicate myself to for the rest of my life."

0:25:00.7 Scott Omelianuk: That's right. And it happens in all different ways. Immediately, to my mind, two different people pop into my head. One is a vet, who has a significant business right now, also has PTSD, chronic brain injury and a lot of other long-term pain from having been in a couple of firefights. And the difference in the way he is able to function after, and in his case, ketamine therapy because he has government contracts, and so it has to be legal about it, has to take polygraphs for it. I look forward to the day when other medicines are legalized for him.

0:25:47.0 Scott Omelianuk: So for him, it starts from a personal place. And because he doesn't have the thorn in his paw, he is able to be a better leader for his team, better for his children and all of that. On the flip side, I'm thinking of another person who was a co-founder and CEO of the number 1 Inc. 5000 company from a couple of years ago, who would have said, "When I reach the success, I thought I would sell my company and retire and be on the beach in Maui." Now, when we talk about the ripple effects of entrepreneurship, he realizes that the impact he had on people's lives in developing that company, first generation people who were able to afford their first house employing and getting into the C-suite, people who had been the first people in their family to go to college, all of these significant milestones he helped other people have really became the reason to be that hard driving, the high growth CEO.

0:26:45.9 Scott Omelianuk: It was for... Yeah, the money was there, but the money was there to help people live better lives, not for him personally. And so he un-retired and started a second company. So I agree entirely that there's a shift that happens. I don't think the two... In the case of that guy, the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. You can be high growth, but you can do it in a kind way. And then and just the opposite, I mean, Steve Jobs is famous for saying LSD is the single most important thing/experience in his life and he was still a dick. [chuckle] There's no question he was not a guy in... A good guy in the office. So it's not a guarantee, but we can get there step by step, I think.

0:27:32.4 Paul Austin: So what's been your own path, journey? Bring us through a little bit of the highlights and milestones of, basically, how you ended up as Editor in Chief at Inc. Magazine.

0:27:43.1 Scott Omelianuk: [chuckle] So I have a long-term media career across media platforms. So brands like Esquire and GQ and Details, when that still existed. I ran a multimedia brand for Time Inc. Called This Old House Ventures, which is another television show that's been on the air, This Old House, for almost 45 years, I think. Digital Experience, Television Experience. I was on the creative team and I apologize for this and think in many ways karma is retroactively punished me in this life for being on the creator team of The Real Housewives Franchise, but ultimately, I was at Time Inc. And Time Warner when those companies were dissolving. Left thinking I never wanted to return to media.

0:28:33.9 Scott Omelianuk: I actually became a... I was a consultant, a professor of marketing and ultimately entrepreneurship at a university and a co-founder of a wellness startup that I would best describe as audiomented meditation. So guided meditation that included light and sound. And I was awful at all of those things, I think, ultimately. [chuckle] Terrible consultant. I'd be like bad sales person. So I didn't have a lot of clients. And then worst bill collector. They'd be like, "Can't pay you" and I'm like, "Okay, check me later." And I went for a couple of years with no money in the startup.

0:29:12.8 Scott Omelianuk: It was actually... We were quite successful for a time. Had a patent for our technology that I wrote, won a global innovation day at a hotel chain and ultimately came down to something that I think haunted me from my past is that I couldn't compromise with my co-founder. I couldn't see him as another person who didn't have an ulterior motive. Sweet guy. Lovely man. None of that is true. My lens from growing up in the circumstances I did. And the week after we won that innovation competition, which would have put us in tens of thousands of hotel rooms, I walked away from the business because I couldn't, in a non-conflict way, get along with that person.

0:30:00.5 Scott Omelianuk: All of that happened. And, again, me never wanting to return to media and out of the blue, I got a call for this job to run the Inc. Brand, Inc. Business Media, and I felt like that at first what seemed like a burden like, well, I've gotta return to that media world but at least I get to bring a little bit of my entrepreneurial interest and desire here. And then what turned into just the most remarkable thing. And that is because I got to meet all the remarkable people who are building startups and founders of businesses who are creating our future. And it's been the most, like, I can't stress enough, like how honored I am to actually sit in this chair, 'cause it's pretty amazing to get to meet who I do and to see what they're building.

0:30:51.4 Paul Austin: That's beautiful. So the unexpected, not. You open the door, now here you are. What have you learned just being in that seat from when you started to where you are now? What have been some of the key lessons that have come up or challenges or... Yeah, what does that look like for you?

0:31:14.4 Scott Omelianuk: Well, so I know that I do not have the entrepreneurial gene and I don't think all of the days of medicine in the world are gonna give it to me and that is just how innate the self-confidence or the belief founders have to have in themselves or convince themselves they have is and ultimately how much we owe to these people. We're talking about a group of people. We think about business. We think about the Fortune 500 and big corporations and businesses that don't pay taxes and downsize and lay people off and all of those things, but half of our economy exists on the backs of people, people like you who've got an idea and decide they're gonna see it through and they're gonna hire people and they're gonna change the way we live, they're gonna change our future. And that's amazing. It's exciting and inspiring every day.

0:32:15.5 Paul Austin: I love that. So this then dovetails, I love that partially just 'cause you complemented me. And I also love that because it is very true Nassim Taleb is one of my favorite authors. And he often talks about the fact that entrepreneurs have skin in the game, and that even though the majority of them fail, the collective of the energy that's moving through them is responsible for all of the innovation, growth, development, and that they are here heroes in their own right. And sort of a 21st century modern context. We can no longer reenact gladiator, but we certainly can...

0:32:58.7 Scott Omelianuk: I think that's absolutely right. And by the way, I exist as an entrepreneur, because I worked really as an entrepreneur within the world's largest media company at Time Warner, and I saw that it didn't make a difference with the gladiatorially speaking. The bosses I had were concerned about the next quarter and the reporting for the next quarter, not for the innovation that was possible. And the lovely thing about entrepreneurs. So in that role, I innovated a lot, I brought a lot of ideas to the table that we use in a lot of places, whether it's user generated content or QR codes. Lots of lots of things like that. But it wasn't wanted because it could disrupt the quarter. The lovely thing about entrepreneurship, the exciting thing about entrepreneurship is that the next quarter doesn't matter. The idea matters. Yeah, sure. You've gotta make payroll. Obviously then that's always a struggle. But it's in pursuit of something bigger than just your paycheck.

0:34:01.8 Paul Austin: I'm gonna pull up a quote quick by Seth Godin. And I was sent this by a friend a few years ago. Public companies are too often out of alignment. And he basically goes on to say that public companies are owned by people who might sell out at any moment, and new ones can take their place in an instant. The flexible ownership is part of the attraction of the stock market, but it also means that you can't count on the people and institutions that own your organization taking a long term view. So as a result, the others at the organization seeks to serve the environment, their customers, the employees, the culture often lose out. And because of Milton Friedman's mythology, the primacy of the shareholder, it means that every time these companies seek to serve one of their other constituents, they have to do a dance explaining to shareholders why after all, really and truly what they're actually doing is serving the shareholders.

0:34:56.3 Paul Austin: Not just serving them, but serving them right now. And so, thanks to the short term interest of many people who trade stocks, there's pressure to own shares that go up the most today, not a company you're proud to own for the long run. And so sometimes the enlightened and powerful leadership of a company is able to ignore the whining of the shareholders, but over time, that resolve often fades. So if you wanna run an organization you're proud of, choose your ownership as carefully as you choose your employees. And I think that's what you're speaking to. It's like these short-term incentives are rampant, within our current capitalist environment. And while that is in some respects necessary in a publicly traded stock market, it doesn't allow for long term a view of things. And I think if one of the core lessons that psychedelics have taught me is to not be reactive to recognize that there's an illusion in short term thinking and to always hold sort of the generational vision in mind.

0:36:05.6 Paul Austin: And it's hard to hold the generational vision in mind for a lot of companies that have public ownership. This is actually just happening right now in the psychedelic space where a lot of these companies went public. They're now dropping like a missile and they just have to, they can't really raise more money right now because of where the economy is. And so many of them are just going to fail. So I think it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. There's something to be said about slow organic growth. There's something to be said about long-term vision. There's something to be said about how you manage and choose ownership, even who you let in versus who you keep out.

0:36:48.6 Scott Omelianuk: I think so. It's hard. But and what, and again, on one of the things that's exciting to me about entrepreneurship is that and when I, when I think about it, my great grandparents, most of my family has been here for three or four generations, but when they arrived in the United States, they didn't get to participate in the regular economy. They didn't go to school. They were at that time, forced into entrepreneurship. But that was a path. And entrepreneurship is still a path for people. So having to react quickly, or not. One of the exciting things for me is seeing entrepreneurs, and even in the Inc 5000, 30% of those people are immigrants. They weren't born here. But they're doing two things. One is like they're seeking generational wealth for their own family. So that's not something that happens overnight. That's something that's long term. So that's one thing, but two, they're creating jobs for other people. They're adding jobs, they're in a growth place. They're not in that place cynically, trading reputation on the market for dollars. And so entrepreneurship for that reason remains, quite special. And yeah, there is this sort of, this metaphorical connection to plant medicine in that way, isn't there? That's kind of cool.

0:38:15.6 Paul Austin: It is kinda cool. So one thing we touched on before we went live is you had mentioned that you've been listening to this podcast for about a year now, that you've enjoyed it, you've enjoyed a lot of the conversations and interviews, and that a lot of the reflections on where... Let's say the psychedelic space, for lack of a better term, is going are interesting, insightful and maybe feel a little more certain than is warranted. And I'd love just before diving too deep into that, I'd love to just hear kind of your reflections or your perspective on the space at large, with clinical trials through the FDA with decriminalization, with states like Oregon and Colorado legalizing psilocybin. What are just, what are some of your observations, perspectives on the psychedelic space in 2023?

0:39:15.2 Scott Omelianuk: So I think there's a lot to be excited about obviously. And I know that the research is clearly there and I really do applaud people, it's at Johns Hopkins, whether it's through MAPS, just how rigorous they've tried to be in the science. Because ultimately, I think it's really important to show the efficacy. I think we can look at cannabis and what has happened in the cannabis world in the last say dozen years, how you can think you're getting it right and then getting it wrong. So from an entrepreneurial perspective, there's been devastation in the cannabis startup world. A black market still exists that's just as significant as it was before dispensaries were made legal. Decriminalization might be great, but damn, sometimes I get pissed off that I'm walking down the street and like it's constant dodge of a contact high.

0:40:22.4 Scott Omelianuk: So all of these, 'cause I just don't want that right now. So all of these cautionary things I think have to be paid attention to. Things I'm excited about are sort of the nonpartisan approach we're seeing right now to a lot of psychedelic legislation, particularly unfortunately, maybe because of returning veterans and things like PTSD. But that's okay because the military often paves the way for things we do as...

0:40:54.8 Paul Austin: From a technology perspective, right?

0:40:57.2 Scott Omelianuk: Citizens, right? So that's not necessarily a bad thing. I think that's encouraging. I think people asking the questions are encouraging. At the same time, the practitioner, the therapist that I use is quite concerned about the idea of creating a pharmaceutical version of plant medicines. On the one hand, that's great because there won't be the stressors on plants that we have no idea how robust they are or how many exist and the harvesting of them.

0:41:28.0 Scott Omelianuk: So on the one hand, that's great, but on the other hand, what do you lose when you take away the, organic properties of something like that? What do you lose when, because you now have a pill or an injectable, can be done in a very quick, almost production line way? I have seen a lot of people who've gone to ketamine therapy, initially have had terrific results, but haven't had the therapeutic support after the integration, after, and have lost all that they sort of gained during the therapy. What benefit really is that it lasts for a couple of weeks, a month, six months. So I think there are so many questions that are open and it's an exciting time because of that. And there're reasons to be very hopeful. But I was listening to, you mentioned Tucker Max, right?

0:42:25.4 Scott Omelianuk: I listen to that podcast and if you go back and you'll hear it, there's a time when he talked about how great it is to live in Texas because they have their own power grid. Like that Tuner you're like, we actually don't know what we're talking about. I guess. So everything that seems exciting, like CBD oil and like, it is like, does it really cure all the things we claim? I can remember when Orphan was a thing and none of us were gonna have heart disease because of Orphan. If you look historically, whether it's cigarettes or X-ray therapy or codeine and cocaine and sort of patent medicines. There are all of these things that have seemed exciting for us and then haven't been quite as in the end.

0:43:11.7 Scott Omelianuk: Now I think we have to be that excited and this is the role entrepreneurs have, this is the role that you have. And what I think is just so exciting is sort of you just like bring all of these folks here together, let them talk and it shakes out. And ultimately that's what will happen. And I'm hopeful that we shake out in a good place. I'm a little concerned, there's too much enthusiasm too soon, and we have a new Timothy Leary, on the other side of the stage of a new Richard Nixon. That could be bad, we don't want that to happen. So ultimately, yeah, that's what I mean when like, we really don't know what we're talking about right now, like, I can tell you, I would've said, if we just stopped at my first couple of journeys, I would've said, psilocybin is the greatest thing in the world.

0:44:00.0 Scott Omelianuk: Everyone should do it all the time. I can't wait to do it again. And then I had some really difficult journeys, journeys that I thought I was just being destroyed in ultimately because I was in a therapeutic setting. I think I got the value I needed to get out of them, but they weren't auras and warm feelings necessarily. So I think it's early days like that, it's the first few journeys I did, not many more I've done since then and we have to get to that other place. So lots of reasons to be hopeful, lots of reasons to think that we have medicines at our disposal that can make the way or change the way we think, that can change the way we approach mental health that would change the way we approach leadership and creativity in really positive ways and in ways that are even already shown to be more efficacious than traditional pharmaceuticals. All of that would be amazing. And I'm hopeful much of that stays true. At the same time I think about, like, gosh, we're two white men talking. It is a very much right now a privileged person's turf to explore, and we have to figure out how to get past that too. So there's so much which makes it fertile and interesting. And I'm hopeful that... You've done this for a long time, but I'm hopeful you're not growing tired of it, because I think there's so much more to go.

0:45:32.1 Paul Austin: Oh no.

0:45:32.8 Scott Omelianuk: And I...

0:45:33.6 Paul Austin: I'm continuing to take acid pretty consistently. So that's helpful.

0:45:37.1 Scott Omelianuk: Okay. [chuckle] I see you as crucial in the...

0:45:39.8 Paul Austin: Thank you.

0:45:39.8 Scott Omelianuk: Continued exploration and bringing people together and seeing the community that's been built around you. But again, so early, who knows? Lots of reasons to be hopeful, thousands of years of reason to believe useful. But we'll get there when we get there and with the knowledge that maybe, yeah, this isn't right for everybody. Some people have good experiences with certain medications, really terrible ones with others, some might just not gel at all, and there'll have to be other ways for them. So just not a panacea.

0:46:15.3 Paul Austin: Not a panacea.

0:46:17.0 Scott Omelianuk: Not today. One day.

0:46:17.8 Paul Austin: There's a lot to unpack there. So I wanna... And I want to unpack it because it's... I think it'll be fodder for the rest of our conversation. So there's an author who you may have heard of, Alvin Toffler. He wrote a book called Future Shock. He also wrote a book called The Third Wave in 1980. And in that book he outlined... And by the way, I had not heard of this book until about a year after we started The Third Wave. A reader reached out, was like, "Paul, interesting name that you've chosen. Did you know there's a book precisely by the same name by this guy Alvin Toffler?" So I was like, Oh, interesting. And what Toffler lays out in there is the first wave was the agricultural era, the second wave was the industrial era, and the third wave is the information era. And what he doesn't emphasize, but what I kind of knew intuitively, just from being a student of history, is that psychedelics were the technology that helped us to shift from the industrial to the information era, because early LSD use in the 1950s and '60s was quite, as we mentioned already, influential in the computer revolution, and that computer revolution allowed for greater connection, almost this mycelial network, to develop.

0:47:41.1 Paul Austin: And what Toffler emphasizes is that what is key to the information era... I mean, he talks a lot about remote work, he talks about these work cottages. But what he also mentions is there will be no separation between the producer and consumer. There will be what he calls a prosumer. So he's really... And he uses that as an example to essentially say there will be this integrative approach, this way where we recognize how everything is interconnected, and we will build and create new systems of interconnectivity simply because it's a more efficient way to allow energy and resources to be distributed, held, and supported. And so when you're talking about psychedelics as a pharmaceutical, it's a short-term path because essentially all these biotech companies are attempting to almost repackage psychedelics as a pharmaceutical, and yet pharmaceuticals are a symptom, let's say, of the industrial era. It's a very biological, it's a very machine-like orientation. And psychedelics help us to remember sort of the essence of the soul, the essence of what it means to be human, sort of shifting our metaphysic from being materialist into maybe panpsychic or even idealist.

0:48:58.1 Paul Austin: And so that orientation of, Oh, psychedelics remind us of what it means to be whole, what it means to be integrative, and then ideally, as you mentioned, we've never been in this situation before. We've never had this sort of globalized technocratic, uber-connected world with psychedelics. The way psychedelics have been used historically is underground, in ceremonies, very private, don't tell anyone, or in indigenous communities where it's been very localized to that region. And so all of a sudden we have the opportunity for a globalized psychedelic renaissance, and everybody is like, hold on a second. Because we don't necessarily have, and this is what happened in the '60s, we didn't have the sort of ecstatic, non-dual literacy to hold all of the ahas from psychedelics. We have a little bit more of that now than we did in the '60s, and I feel like, this is where I wanna land it and then offer it back to you to hear your thoughts on it, this is where microdosing, I feel like, is a really interesting avenue, because a lot of folks, Aldous Huxley believed this, Albert Hofmann believes this, Terence McKenna believed this, psychedelics are probably, high-dose, mystical experiences where you confront the nature of reality, they may be... Those experiences may only be good for 5%-10% of folks. The rest of folks don't necessarily have the capacity to hold all of that complexity.

0:50:35.2 Paul Austin: And yet, what we're seeing with microdosing is microdosing doesn't necessarily bring you to meet God, but it can be physiologically beneficial. It can help you with a little more mood, a little more energy. And it seems to be, we're still exploring this, but it seems to be much healthier than, for example, SSRIs or benzodiazepines or some of these conventional psychiatric medications. So I'd love, especially 'cause your focus has been on business so much, leadership, psychedelics, microdosing has been a huge thing in... What are your thoughts and perspectives on microdosing, and also if you have any other things to share on what I just went off on.

0:51:08.4 Scott Omelianuk: Yeah. I think that's absolutely right, the 5%-10% idea. For me, the jury's out on microdosing. I think there needs to be a lot more research than I've seen supporting its efficacy. It's sort of too much of it feels to me, and admittedly, I speak from a place of not total knowledge and, in fact, great ignorance, I suppose, but I see too much of it where the beliefs are anecdotal. The research is on sort of that same... A par of, or maybe just above of that sort of placebo effect or presumptive effect. That might be better, ultimately, than the SSRIs or other medications that have presumably more side effects or more detrimental aspects of them, which sort of, again, have that same percentage of effect and cost a lot more.

0:52:11.2 Scott Omelianuk: That might be okay in the end. But again, this is sort of, right now, for me, microdosing feels a little bit like oat bran in the '90s where as long as we put it in everything, everyone was gonna be good. And so I think, again, I'll just go back to we don't know. I think it's possible, I've done a little bit of microdosing myself. I'm not sure how I felt about it or what I felt or even if I felt.

0:52:37.9 Scott Omelianuk: But ultimately, I think if we can get to a place, again, where it supported and I think it has to be supported in some fashion, otherwise, we always have people who are willing to be reactionary, and we don't wanna lose the progress we've made, I think, more than anything. What's interesting to me about this high dose or deep dive aspect of mushrooms is that it sort of re-orients me. It takes away all of the things I've sort of created in my head that aren't useful and lets me see with fresh eyes. I just wonder, as organisms that have evolved in the environment that we're in why we would need to have every single day for the rest of our lives the equivalent... Not every single day, but you know, [chuckle] whose protocol you're following, why we need to have that to function optimally. I don't have to have oranges every day to function optimally, or every three days, three days on, four days, or whatever it is. So I just... I'm not saying no. And again, I think it is another tool worth exploring, just don't know, just don't know.

0:53:57.9 Paul Austin: And maybe even a way to reframe it is... We've talked about this at length on the podcast, and obviously this, is microdosing placebo, is microdosing not placebo, is a hot topic of conversation in my world as you can well imagine. And maybe the reframe is simply low doses versus high doses, to move even away from the term microdosing because I think there's an... Or a connotation of sub-perceptual.

0:54:24.8 Scott Omelianuk: Right. The exception, right, yep.

0:54:25.9 Paul Austin: Right, and what we even know from the '50s and '60s is there was a methodology called psycholytic therapy where individuals took low doses of LSD in these clinical trials combined with psychotherapy, and instead of this classic like the protocol that you went through, three high dose sessions over 12 weeks prep and integration, that's the classic psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy model. And it's tested, tried, trued, well established, it works, great efficacy. The psycholytic model is you do it twice a week for maybe 12 weeks, lower doses, and when you do it, you're engaging with a therapist or a body worker or someone actively as well. And we have not as much clinical research on that, but we do have a substantive amount that points that also being useful and helpful. So I suppose my ask or invitation... And I make this ask or invitation more often than I would like, but my ask or invitation is that we really explore that as a cutting edge modality because particularly in American culture, there's this orientation in our manifest destiny ethos to go big or go home.

0:55:41.5 Scott Omelianuk: Yeah, yeah.

0:55:42.8 Paul Austin: And I think there's a lot that we can explore in these lower sub-threshold, sub-intoxicating, maybe even slightly threshold doses, where you're in the liminal space but you're not necessarily seeing God or visiting your ancestors, or having that deep experience, and I'd love to see, especially when it comes to business, the leadership flow, creativity, how could we potentially marry those two things so people feel like I have a really great ally, and I don't necessarily need to set aside eight hours in a deep journey session in order to find a way to work with it beneficially?

0:56:23.9 Scott Omelianuk: Yeah, I think this... I know someone who with micro-dosing feels just a little sharpness. Makes him he thinks a better leader, makes him a better speaker, makes him more creative. I'm not in his head, so I don't know for sure. I know how I feel when I go to visit my therapist for a day of medicine and I'm dressed differently than I am now, and think about things that are not at all like we're talking about today. And yeah, and then the reflection and integration that accompanies it. Yeah, I think, again, though it may feel like you've been on a long journey, Paul, already, we're still early days of all of this, and so that liminal space might be useful too, but I think we're still in the place where we're exploring it all, and we're doing the product-market fit for our minds, basically. And they're all different, so the product-market fit ultimately might be all different too, and we might end up with all of these modalities and having to decide which is right for which person. Again, I come down to the thing that is probably most concerning, and even when you just talked about the middle path. You talked about body workers, you talked about therapist.

0:57:46.2 Scott Omelianuk: As soon as... Unless AI removes most of the job opportunities for us and we have to do something else, the body workers, the therapists, the psychologists, they're all the most expensive and time-consuming part, and so business will try to eliminate those ultimately. Hopefully, we get to a place where all of these maybe modalities work together so that whoever needs whatever aspect of it can have it because there's not so much pressure on the system. Not everyone has to be on Prozac or Wellbutrin because we don't have enough and therapists cost too much maybe the people who need each one of these pieces that we've talked about gets it.

0:58:35.0 Paul Austin: And there's something to be said about group work as well in that dynamic that we are so used to one-on-one work. One-on-one work is exorbitantly expensive, especially with how fucked up our healthcare insurance system is here in the United States. So even looking at communities group work, taking care of one another, I think there are a lot of emerging models, even when it comes to these new churches that are being set up and they have Psilocybin or Ayahuasca as the sacred plant medicine. I'll be really curious to see how this sort of defines a new era of spirituality even.

0:59:14.2 Scott Omelianuk: Yeah. That, will be really interesting to see. And I can't say that there's any way I imagine it being any worse than the one we've had. So...

0:59:23.1 Paul Austin: Right. Right.


0:59:27.3 Paul Austin: Yeah. Oh, too funny. Alright, so as a final kind of wrap up, I'd just love to hear what you're most excited about, what creative projects you have in the horizon. Just sort of like as Scott, as you look to the next three months, six months, year from either a professional or personal lens. Like what has you just excited about life?

0:59:49.5 Scott Omelianuk: I have to say there, just, and I'll try to do this quickly, but one of the things is a direct reflection of, the therapeutic work I've done. And that is actually being able to be out with founders and holding events for them and recognizing their successes in various ways and actually being fully present there for them. So, on a personal level with respect to psychedelics, I feel like I am able to be present, accepting of a compliment, willing to extend a compliment, not worried about the lighting, worried about the experience for people. And I'm excited to see how much more benefit comes from that. I'm excited to continue my own journey of personal development. Like I said, I'm a better person than I was, but there's a long fucking way to go before I get to the end.

1:00:46.4 Scott Omelianuk: And I am excited about that, especially I have an 11 year old son and I want to be the better father for him. I know I'm not the father that I had, but I wanna be an even better one 'cause I know how much better his life could be for that. At work. I'm also really excited about our, we're fortunate here at Inc to be owned by a billionaire who sees support of entrepreneurship as his mission. That's Joe Mansueto, the founder of Morningstar, among other things. And he's, made money available to do mental health research on entrepreneurship. And I'm really, really excited to dig into that because I think it's incredibly important. And if we can, like, you know, we've discussed all day, help founders be better people as they go about being founders. The world can only benefit from that. So that, I would say, from a work every day perspective, that's the thing I'm most excited about.

1:01:49.1 Paul Austin: That's super exciting. The mental health research, I'd be really curious, I'm sure you're thinking of this, but even something like ketamine-assisted psychotherapy now through companies like Mindbloom who's also featured in that piece, Dylan's a good friend. Like what are those outcomes? What is that efficacy? And even just as another thing of exploration even beyond mental health. Like something that I've really been interested is how do psychedelics help leaders become better communicators? How do they help with strategic vision? How do they help them run companies better? All those sorts of things as well.

1:02:21.0 Scott Omelianuk: Absolutely. And I have a small glimpse of that through my own experience. And the idea of that writ large is kind of amazing. The problem, creative, problem solving, we could have the human interactions and how different, people could be just addressing the troops, every day and what that means. Getting back to the Chief Emotional Officer idea. There's so much to be excited about. But at the same time, yeah, we don't wanna be CBD, we don't wanna be oat bran, we don't wanna be X-ray therapy. We wanna get it right.

1:03:00.0 Paul Austin: Exactly. Scott, thank you. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for coming on the podcast and so vulnerably telling us about the process and journey that you've gone through. Your mind is incredible. It really was an honor to be able to sit down and and jam with you for an hour.

1:03:15.1 Scott Omelianuk: Honor to be here. Thanks so much.

1:03:17.1 Paul Austin: Absolutely.


1:03:25.3 Paul Austin: Hey folks, this conversation is bigger than just you or me, so please leave a review or comment so others can find the podcast. This small action matters way more than you can even imagine. You can also go deeper into this episode at thethirdwave.co/podcast, where you'll find full show notes, transcripts, and all the links that were mentioned in this conversation. To get weekly updates from the leading edge of this Third Wave of Psychedelics, sign up for our newsletter at thethirdwave.co/newsletter. You can also find us on Instagram at Third Wave is here or subscribe to our YouTube channel at youtube.com/thethirdwave.

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