Psychedelic entrepreneurs Tiffany Liu, Tim Sae Koo, and Michael Costuros join Paul Austin in San Francisco for a conversation on the intersection of psychedelics and business. Can psychedelics help change our exploitative business mindsets, and produce more compassionate, fair practices?
0:00:27 Paul Austin: Hey, listeners, welcome back to The Third Wave Podcast. Again, I'm your host, Paul Austin, founder of Third Wave and co-founder of Synthesis and again, this week we're bringing you another live podcast from one of our Third Wave node events. This one, our inaugural event from San Francisco entitled Transitioning from Business As Usual with Psychedelics: Navigating Life and Business after Transformation. And really, within this evening of discussion we talked about life transitions and the role psychedelics play for integrating our personal lives with our professional ambition.
0:01:02 PA: And so within this I interviewed a panel of business and entrepreneurial leaders, each having experienced significant psychedelic transformations mid-career impacting both their personal and professional lives. The panel consisted of Michael Costuros, who we've had on the podcast before who is an executive coach who works with ayahuasca, leads something called Entrepreneurs Awakening; Tiffany Liu who's a former VP at LegalZoom and co-founder of two successful startups; and Tim Sae Koo, also a founder, who bootstrapped his first company TINT into a successful exit.
0:01:36 PA: So we get deep into particularly ayahuasca and what role ayahuasca plays in really helping leaders become more heart-centered. We talk about the pitfalls of ambition that come from a more ego-driven, achievement-oriented perspective and really what can be done when looking forward at creating a healthy container to integrate psychedelics into our entrepreneurial and ultimately capitalist culture, and what role psychedelics will play for just business in general when it comes to our culture at large. This was a fascinating discussion, I had a really good time doing this first event in San Francisco and I think you'll really enjoy this discussion.
0:02:16 PA: Now, if you wanna further support us at Third Wave, there are a few ways that you can do that. First of all you can donate by going to our website and clicking any button that says Donate. So you can support us that way and we're also looking for private donors, so if that's something that you are interested in supporting us at a higher level, please get in touch. Finally, if you're interested in working with psychedelics in a legal format, I co-founded a retreat center called Synthesis in Amsterdam and by signing up for a retreat and mentioning that you found us through Third Wave, you'll be able to support this podcast and all the educational work we're doing as a non-profit at Third Wave.
0:02:57 PA: So without further ado I bring you our Third Wave node event about from San Francisco, Transitioning from Business as Usual with Psychedelics.
0:03:13 PA: Let's go ahead and introduce our panelists, and the first panelist that I want to introduce is Michael Costuros, but he's right up on this screen. Michael is an executive coach and the founder of Entrepreneurs Awakening. He brings founders, CEOs, down to the Amazon to drink ayahuasca as part of a larger mastermind and so tonight he will talk about the experiences that those individuals have had with ayahuasca as well as something called Spiral Dynamics and how that's relevant to this waking up and growing up process. So if you all could give Michael a big round of applause, he's sick at home right now but still is making it through Zoom, so thank you, Michael.
0:03:56 PA: Our second panelist tonight is Tim Sae Koo, who is an exit co-founder of a bootstrapped startup that's based in San Francisco called TINT. I met Tim at this retreat a few months ago and we've connected both on a personal and professional level so Tim will join us to tell us about his journey and what transitions he's gone through recently as he's exited and is looking into what's next for him. So if you could give Tim a big round of applause.
0:04:32 PA: And our last panelist is Tiffany Liu. Tiffany is also a successful exit startup founder herself, but most recently has worked in the corporate world, working for both HP but also most recently was a VP/GM of LegalZoom. She left her job about four months ago and she will talk more from the corporate perspective in terms of what experience that she went through and how plant medicine has played a role in her own transition in terms of what's coming next as well. So if you give Tiffany a big round of applause.
0:05:13 PA: And Michael, I'd love to start with you as we get into this discussion. If you could just briefly introduce yourself, including what brought you to working with ayahuasca, particularly with founders and CEOS.
0:05:27 Michael Costuros: Yeah. Thank you, Paul. So I was a startup founder. I founded my company more or less in 2005 and by 2008 I was going through the, like just a burn-out, the intensity of having a tech startup in San Francisco and kind of a long story, but I found myself invited to go to Peru to do a reset with ayahuasca and it both seemed like the best idea ever and the worst idea ever. So I was really on the fence all the way up until the point where I actually got to the retreat center in Peru. I wasn't sure whether it was the right thing for me to do. I ended up doing the retreat and it turned out to be the best thing ever. I came back to my company totally reset, all my resentments and frustrations toward the co-founders and certain business directions and etcetera were washed away and I was able to fully engage with passion and enjoyment, but not have my ego attached to the outcome of the company anymore.
0:06:26 MC: So it really freed my ego and in retrospect I realized that I was operating in what I later described as an orange meme in spiral dynamics where my ego was attached to the company and the company's success and its logo was me and all this stuff. So I was able to leave the company in 2010 and started executive coaching, so what I learned I just loved most about having a company was mentoring and developing people and teams. So I started doing that as an interim thing to do between companies, presumably. And I quickly discovered that all the best executive coaching tricks in the world could only do so much and took a lot longer than a weekend or a week of ayahuasca in Peru. So I started pitching my clients, the ones that were already burners, had drank the Kool-Aid in one form or another. I'm like, "Hey, why don't we go and spend a week in Peru, go to Machu Picchu, have a total reset out. And I'll do the prep and integration for you, and a ayahuasca retreat." And as they started saying yes, it became clear that I should be bringing groups down, because there's so much more value in the shared experience.
0:07:39 MC: So in 2011, I actually moved to Peru to spend five months there drinking with all the ayahuasqueros I could find to figure out what's the... There's as many types and ways to do ayahuasca as there is yoga. And as you may know, not every yoga is your cup of tea or the right medicine for what your body needs at that time, and the same way with ayahuasca. So I drink with a lot of different shamans and found the right one for high-functioning, type A people who don't identify as sick, who are looking for a reset. And so, 2012, I brought my first group down, and I've been bringing down groups ever since. And the program I have is a three-month program. It includes six weeks of preparation, and then improve for two weeks, and then six weeks of integration. And the results, as you can imagine, have been extraordinary.
0:08:27 MC: And so, I'm working on scaling the programs that we're offering this year to be able to do three retreats in the Amazon this year. So that's a bit about the background on how I got where I'm at. This is where I would like to see your faces and know what you're interested in. So I'll just rely on you, Paul. What do you want me to say next? [chuckle]
0:08:48 PA: Well, thank you, Michael, we'll get back to you.
0:08:49 MC: Okay.
0:08:49 PA: Tim, let's move to you and talk a little bit about your own journey, and just tell us a little bit about what brought you into TINT as a co-founder for a bootstrap company. And where did you find yourself a couple months ago with the successful exit?
0:09:04 Tim Sae Koo: Yeah, so, hi, everybody. My name is Tim, and I just wanted to preface by saying my intention today sharing here is just to be vulnerable and share my story, I'm not an expert in all of this. I've gone through it from a, let's say, start-up business experience, exploring with psychedelics in a safe way. And I'm just here to share that story and connect with people who may be on that path or interested in learning more about that path. But as Paul mentioned, I started a company about seven years ago as an accidental project from my college course in entrepreneurship back in my undergraduate degree, and decided to start running with it ever since after graduation. And like Michael mentioned, as I progressed through my journey, I attached my identity and ego to the success of the company. And as many have experienced, it's a freaking rollercoaster. And so, when times go up, I'm just so present and happy; but inevitably, it'll fall down, and I was locked. I locked myself away or I just ignored people and fell into a state of just anger or sadness.
0:10:17 TK: And as one big momentous situation happened where we hit our first layoff situation, I was really, really angry and sad, and just fell into a spiral, and I couldn't really get out of it. And I remember one person said to just meditate. "Just meditate for five minutes a day. The only rule is you don't stop. And it might take you six months to realize why it'll be beneficial, but just keep doing it." And that was back in 2016, and I've stopped a few days, but been going ever since. As I've been doing that, I've been more aware of my own emotions and my own self. And then broke into this curiosity of learning more about what other modalities are out there that can bring more awareness to who I am. And that's when psychedelics came into play.
0:11:00 TK: So I started psychedelics in 2014, but more of a, let's say, concert, Coachella setting, like fun, fun, fun. And that's great and all, but after each session, I was like, "Okay, that's it," like, "Okay, that's fine." Until I was exposed to more intentional practices. And so, I ventured off into the woods many times by myself or with peers, and would have these safer experiences in nature to reflect on issues or things and questions I had for myself. And that's when I was really exploring just so much more and understanding more of myself but then, I explored ayahuasca about a year ago. And it was through these experiences multiple times in this past year that woke me up to what was my values and my alignment to how I would spend my time, that ultimately motivated me and pushed me to exit the company so that I could spend time on more aligned opportunities in the future.
0:11:58 TK: Which right now, I'm exploring safe psychedelic experiences for other entrepreneurs who may be feeling blocked or stuck in what they're doing, because I can empathize with them, and provide these safer experiences in legalized areas to work with them and sit with them and ideate with them on what it is that's more aligned with them, just purely from personal experience.
0:12:21 MC: Great, thanks, Tim. And let's move to you, Tiffany. Could you tell us a little bit about your background in terms of the start-up world, and then moving in to HP and LegalZoom, and where you found yourself a few months ago when you quit from LegalZoom?
0:12:37 Tiffany Liu: If only my mother can see me now. [chuckle] So I guess I should say first, just a little background. I'm the one San Franciscan that isn't a burner. Super straight-laced, thank you. [chuckle] I prefer wine and cheese versus being in the woods communing with nature. So for me to be here is really funny to me. So how this all started was because about, I wanna say almost a year ago, I was at the height of my career. It was everything that I'd dreamed of. I was building this incredible team, I had a wonderful boss, the sponsorship of the board. We just got the next round of funding, I was doing this inspiring do-good mission, I had an apartment in Austin, a house here in San Francisco.
0:13:39 TL: And I can't begin to explain to myself why even at that height of what everything that I wanted in my career, I was also at that time the loneliest and the emptiest I've ever felt in my life. I couldn't explain it, I didn't understand why. I was working for a pre-IPO company with a big equity stake. I mean, it was everything that everyone dreams of, right? Get into the right company at the right time and go IPO quick. I was in all those positions and yet I felt so lonely. It didn't make any sense to me whatsoever. And the only thing that sort of got me going in terms of going through the grind was to be of service to my team. That was the only reason. I said, "If I'm gonna leave, I have to leave it in a very successful place."
0:14:28 TL: I ended up making the one decision, thank God, that saved me, was I said that I have to quit because I wasn't happy, and I had to follow that feeling, and I knew staying in it wasn't the right decision. And so I ended up quitting, to the demise of a lot of my friends and family members who were thinking like, "Are you crazy?" And shortly after I was talking to, actually, Tim's sister, [chuckle] who is also an executive down in LA, and she told me, hush hush, she said, "Hey, I have to tell you about this thing that I went to a year ago, totally changed my life." And I was so thirsty, I was just craving for something, for answers, and so that began my journey.
0:15:18 PA: And we're gonna get a little bit deeper into both of those journeys, but before we do that, Michael, I'd love... We're hearing similar stories both from you, from Tim, from Tiffany. I think this is pretty common generally with entrepreneurs, type A ambitious people, and I'd love if you could just explain a little bit about the concept of spiral dynamics. Spiral dynamics is a concept that was popularized by Ken Wilber in talking about this waking up and growing up process, and specifically how spiral dynamics with psychedelics as a tool can be applied to these stories that we're seeing happening more and more in places like San Francisco, LA and New York in the tech startup and corporate scene.
0:16:06 MC: Yeah, it's actually a great tool to make sense out of this. So if anyone is not familiar with spiral dynamics, the easiest way to do this after the show would be to do a Google search for spiral dynamics, but look at images, 'cause there's these great poster images that explain the whole thing much better than reading a book. And essentially, I could spend an hour, and probably should at minimum spend an hour to explain spiral dynamics, so we're gonna take a lot of shortcuts here, but essentially, it's a validated model for looking at, there's currently eight primary stages of both individual human development as well as our collective of social development as human beings in the global society.
0:16:55 MC: And you have to move through each stage to get to the next stage, and the only thing that will propel you into the next stage is when your life has hit a level of complexity that the model of the current stage you're in can't solve, so you're kind of forced to birth yourself into the next stage. And the stage that most of us are in, by far most of my... I'd say almost all of my clients are in is the stage orange, which is the fifth stage. And orange is typified by the capitalism and the entrepreneur. Generally speaking, an orange plays a win-at-all-cost game or a win-lose game. They're seeking personal validation and recognition through success. They need to prove to the world what they're made of. They need to earn love, love is not something that's implicit or unconditional. It's conditional. And so they're constantly stretching to prove themselves, like Wall Street is just like the perfect archetype of orange.
0:18:00 MC: Now, there's a spectrum of orange. There's early stage orange, which is the more greedy type of Wolf of Wall Street-type orange. And then as they evolve you'll see more like the Zappos Tony Hsieh win-win-type entrepreneurship orange. Actually, Zappos is probably into the next stage, which is green. And so I'll use that to dovetail into the next stage, which is green, which is actually the only stage where the color makes sense for the behavior. So green is only interested in win-win games. Green realizes that climate change affects all humans. There is not like, "Oh, it won't bother me." And green is into human rights, social democracies, direct democracies, they celebrate differences, they're very classic stereotype Bay Area. In fact, a lot of the green movement was born here in the '60s.
0:18:55 MC: So as I described myself in my startup, in my story, I was operating in pure orange, where I just needed to validate myself, my ego was attached to the company, I was out to prove myself to the world. And not for the first time, it's just like, 'cause this cycle never ends. And then most of my clients, I've probably brought about 100 successful entrepreneurs through my program working with ayahuasca for the last eight years. Most of them are very successful orange who have felt empty, very much like Tiffany describes. Like, I've got everything I set out to get, and I feel lonely and empty. That is like systematically the same story.
0:19:37 MC: And that's when they're open to considering something like ayahuasca or intentional psychedelics, or a 10-day Vipassanā retreat, these kinda things. So I'm standing there at the gate, where orange entrepreneurs are looking for something deeper and more meaningful. And I think the fastest way to describe what a full-blown awakening experience initiated by psychedelics, particularly ayahuasca or 5-MeO-DMT, is that it puts you deeply in the green or stage six mindset; in the case of 5-MeO, it'll take you further than green, so you get to immerse yourself in a entirely different perspective that might have taken you a decade to realize on your own.
0:20:22 MC: And then you wake up and it drops you back where you started, in mid-orange, usually. And that's where the integration becomes key because otherwise you really can't do much with it. We've all had peak experiences with some colors for decades before we could actually make a difference, make changes. So what I see consistently with my clients, whether they're hedge fund managers with a billion dollars under asset or a VC with a billion dollars of capital allocating every year or a first-time startup founder is that they move like about 20% jump further through whatever stage they're at. It's usually from mid-orange to late orange stage or from late orange into green. And then as an executive coach, I'm very accustomed to coaching people through transitions, so I focus most of my attention on the post-experience and making it integratable and actionable, so that it doesn't just end up a flash in the pan that gets lost to history in your memory.
0:21:23 PA: This integration element is a really important part of what I wanna further dig into with Tim and Tiffany in terms of what then will business be responsible for in creating those new systems, so that when people go through these transformative experiences they actually have community and culture that supports their well-being, in terms of going up into green or what's beyond green, Michael, the integrated stages?
0:21:50 MC: Yellow and then turquoise.
0:21:52 PA: And can you just talk a little bit about yellow and what that represents?
0:21:57 MC: I can't, I'm afraid it'll get too abstract. And less than 1% of earth's population is operating in yellow.
0:22:04 PA: Okay.
0:22:05 MC: So it's pretty aspirational, but the quick and dirty on yellow is that your ego doesn't identify with anyone... Like, in a company of yellow founders, they wouldn't care who's the CEO, and the CEO role might rotate three times a year depending on what... Who's most appropriate, given the challenges they are facing.
0:22:25 PA: So they're very adaptable in that sense.
0:22:26 MC: Super adaptable and positionless, basically. They don't hold a strong position.
0:22:33 PA: So, Tim, let's go a little bit deeper into your story. I'd love if you could bring us back to that moment of recognition that the way that you were doing things wasn't bringing you the contentment or the happiness that you thought it was and what catalyzed that shift for you in terms of looking into this green way of perceiving things around us.
0:22:56 TK: So the moments I realized that there was not as much alignment freaked me out because, like I mentioned, I had attached my whole identity to the company, and so the company was me, and it didn't help that my friends or people I met glorified that I was a founder and that's awesome, so I loved to attach myself more to that. And what hit me was that I would wake up consistently on days where I wasn't ready to get to work and be like, "Alright, let's solve this or let's get this going." And if anything, the mindset of going to sleep to get re-energized to be able to come back up the next day to tackle the issue again wasn't happening. If anything, I would maybe numb feelings with weed and marijuana. I might distract myself with YouTube videos, or what not. I just started to slip down this road. But because I was practicing a lot of meditation, I was able to be aware I was doing that and I was like, "Okay, something's off and let's dive into this more."
0:23:58 TK: And as I... I tried meditation to kinda dissect that, and yes, it would take more time, but I was introduced to ayahuasca about a year ago, and so I was like, "Okay, I've done some research, enough that I feel comfortable and let's see what this is all about." And one key story that I can share around my experience that allowed me to feel into this green stage or be exposed to this green stage was my first one. And my first one, my intention going in was to understand who my best self could be, so I could start working towards that. It's a little bit of a type A kind of personality there, but I was like, "Alright, I don't know much about this, but let's see."
0:24:36 TK: So I asked the medicine like, "Can you show me who my best self is?" And I've... Once I drank, I remember I was like still type A like, "I got this. Like I meditate a lot, like I don't need a purge like I got this."
0:24:51 TK: And about 20 minutes after I start to feel really nauseous, and woozy and then I purge and long story short, I just... I forget my name and I forget how to breathe. I forget if I'm breathing, actually. And I was like, "Okay, shit."
0:25:08 TK: Control, like, I wanna control this, I got this, I was taught and I was told by social constructs like control it, I got it. And I remember one of my friends said, "Come... " Like, "Think of a mantra and repeat that during the ceremony in case of any crazy situations that happen." And the two words that came up was love and thanks. And I was like, "I'm coming in with this experience with full love. There's no mal-intention or trying to like... " There's a funny Onion article of people going to ayahuasca ceremonies to come up with the next billion dollar idea, I was like, "That's not me."
0:25:09 TK: That's not me, I'm here to just learn and understand more about myself, so I was like love and thanks. And I kept repeating that over and over and it transformed into like start of my best self is one who starts with love and gratitude in all things, because I believe that everyone is suffering in some capacity. And it didn't... It amplified when you hear everyone else purging around you, that they're going through their own pain, through the suffering that they've gone through or the traumatic experiences they've endured. And as I remember that, I was like, "Okay, my best self is someone who can start with love and gratitude in all things because everyone is suffering in some capacity, and it would be very shameful for me to add unnecessary suffering in that."
0:26:19 TK: And that, when I realized that, this pain of and nauseousness of like, "Did I breathe and what's my name?" turned into just pure laughter and smiling and tears falling off my eyes before I realized I was crying. And I was like, "This is it, that's my best self." And yes, truth is all subjective to the individual in that perspective in these experiences but I felt so aligned with that, and I was like, "Wow, how can I integrate that?" After the experience I was like, "I know this is core to my truth, but how would I integrate that?" And you can start with little things. What I did was I changed my email sign off to say, "With love and gratitude, Tim." I changed that. Just something very small.
0:27:01 TK: But even outside of that, in maybe on the other side of the spectrum, how could I practice that? And in business settings, that's tough when you are going up against negotiations or you're trying to compete with another competitor that's trying to fight for your lunch. And for me, what I did and I told myself this rule was, whatever I do, in any situation that happens, just be aware, the moments where you can practice love and gratitude. And so that means when I was, I remember negotiating for selling at the company, I felt a lot of frustration when people, when the buyer was like, "No, I'm gonna poke you there and jab you there." And I was frustrated and I was like, "You're doing this to me." And I was aware that, okay, I can understand why they're doing that, but I chose to accept and practice what I've learned from that truth, which was, okay, in this situation, which is absolutely frustrating for probably many of us, who, could be many of us, how can I practice this appreciation and gratitude for, "Wow, I am so lucky to be here in this position to sell my company."
0:28:09 TK: I'm so fucking lucky there and I'm so appreciative to be in a city where I have this opportunity to do so. Just changing that narrative was another small simple practice, but I chose to do that because I believed in the truth that I received. That's just one of many stories I was able to have, but that's just one I wanted to share with you.
0:28:31 PA: Great, so it's this idea of reframing, in a way, reframing, where instead of A, things are happening to me, now I've chosen, I've actually chosen to participate this and be active in that process, but also reframing in terms of gratitude, love, acceptance, understanding, these more positive qualities. And I'll also be first to say, even as someone who does have a very purpose-driven work relationship with Third Wave and also this retreat thing we're now doing in the Netherlands, Synthesis, I love my work, but there are still days where I am frustrated, I am angry, I am upset. And all of that is to say, although plant medicines can help with these peak experiences, with helping us to reframe, I think what Tim is emphasizing is really important, that it's still a practice. And it's still, in many ways, especially with the culture that we live in, a daily practice to remind ourselves of that.
0:29:29 TK: Yeah, the meditation practice on a daily basis is that reminder to keep integrating that into your day-to-day life, to be aware that that can be on top of mind for the situations that occur in your business life. But I wanted to re-emphasize it's this awareness that you have the choice to make, to integrate these truths that you downloaded from the medicine and making that conscious choice. There may be days and times where even though I know it's the truth, I'm just so frustrated, I'm like, "No, I don't wanna trust... I don't wanna believe that." And I may make those mistakes and I'll feel that pain of realizing that I'm not following that truth, but it's that choice, awareness of that that you have that choice to make to integrate that truth that you've downloaded.
0:30:11 PA: And so, that'll transition really well into a little bit about your story, Tiffany, because as we've hung out the past 24 hours, and I've heard more about your story, I think one big thing that comes up is reputational risk. And I think many of us here in terms of openly talking about psychedelics, how many of you can openly talk about psychedelics at work, in your profession? So, about half of you, which is outstanding. How many of you... How many of those people are entrepreneurs? So, for people in more traditional settings, we could say there's a significant reputational risk to actually publicly speaking about these substances, coming out of the psychedelic closet. And so I'd love to hear you talk about why you made that decision. Not only from a professional, but also from a personal perspective, to openly talk about the substances, to talk about your experiences, why do that?
0:31:04 TL: I haven't told my parents yet, by the way. [laughter] Actually, it's really funny. So I'm totally out of, what's it called, that the psyched... Closet? I'm out...
0:31:14 PA: The psychedelic closet.
0:31:15 TL: So, I'm totally out. I didn't realize that. So when Third Wave event was... I forgot on Facebook that I had some of my employees as friends and I published it and I got a text today, this morning, going, "Holy shit, you didn't tell me you were into drugs. You're the fucking coolest boss, OMG." And I was like, "Oh, fuck." I was like, "Dude, it's not drugs, it's plant medicine," okay.
0:31:44 TL: But fuck it out, so, yes.
0:31:45 PA: It's a classic response, it's classic.
0:31:47 TL: So yeah, so yeah, definitely. My parents still don't know so this is gonna be interesting. So, yeah, I think for me, it was more about understanding myself. So what ultimately got me to quit was because I couldn't silence this inner voice. We all have that, and it just gets louder and louder and louder. And so, it was causing this significant misalignment and incongruence in me, to the point where I was feeling all the emotions of anxiety and fear and all of these negative feelings and I couldn't figure out why. I knew that, you mean, unlike Tim, who just had ego, I had ego plus fear, which is even worse, I think.
0:32:30 TL: I had a lot of work to do. I grew up as an immigrant and so coming here when I was 14, my mom was always like, "You gotta make sure when you carry that backpack out today, you know what you're bringing home." It was like this huge responsibility. There was always this fear of disappointment, not wanting to disappoint my parents for all the sacrifices they had made, so that I could be here to pursue education. And then there was my ego who absolutely needed the external validation. I was like bright orange. I don't even know if that's a color. Whether it was through the kudos I got from my boss or whether it's a promotion or a job raise, I mean, I didn't care. I wanted it all. My ego needed that because if I didn't have that, I couldn't associate my identity. I didn't feel worthy. I didn't feel that I had any respect.
0:33:32 TL: My sense of respect for myself or even any sort of sense of worth was tied to this external cultural conditioning, right? If I was a manager, then I wanna be a senior manager, then it was director, then it was VP, then it was GM. And then it wasn't enough that I started my own company and sold it. It was like, "Okay, what's next?" There was always this stuff. I knew I couldn't keep going. It was just not sustainable. And the more that I listened to those voices and kept pushing myself, the more lonelier I got. And so it was really this pursuit to really understand, "Okay, then if not this, then.
0:34:11 TL: And so, when I went through the journey, it was actually quite... I mean, now I can laugh at it even though it was very profound and spiritually significant. It was like this big joke. What the medicine taught me was that the universe actually is very, quite simple. It's us that complicates it and so what I learned is really about this illusion of self. When we're born into this earth, we're all intact. And as we move through life, whether it's through the indoctrination of the beliefs of the society, going through education and learning that success is about power, wealth, influence and status and that we're just human, as we can't change anything. We're just a by-product of nature versus nurture. If we don't like who we are, who do we blame? Our parents. If we don't like who we've become, we blame the system, our upbringing, education, anything. Anything, but us.
0:35:09 TL: And so ayahuasca was so important for me because what it told me was that I fucked it all up and that while fear had been serving me, it wasn't the right way, because one of the things I've always wanted in life was flow. For things just to flow like when you're driving down every... Hitting Goff and every one is green. I'm like, "Yes, I wanted that in my life. Always green, green, green." And that synchronicity and what the medicine taught me is that flow, simply put, is following love over will. And so, like marathon, I was gonna do it. I was like, "Yeah, ultramarathon, no problem." Whatever it was in life, I was using sheer will and the medicine showed us that divine guidance comes from following our curiosity. It comes from the moment when we're inspired because that's when we're actually in spirit.
0:36:08 TL: And so the medicine, what it did was it showed me the green by taking every single moment that I had in my life, that I had those intuitions and it stitched this beautiful story. It's almost like all the breadcrumbs that we've had in our life, that moment, that inner, we've all had glimpse of that in our life. We just don't listen to it. We just said, "Fuck it." And so what the medicine taught me was, again, flow is following love over will, following what you love, following what makes you curious, all of that stuff.
0:36:40 PA: Intuition, in some ways, following that intuition, following that felt awareness and Tim, that's something I'm hearing with you as well, right? It's this intuition element. I wanna ping-pong this over to Michael in terms of how you work with leaders then through ayahuasca to develop that intuition, to help leaders get out of their heads, to stop just willing things forward and to really feel how they're feeling and to then guide and lead from that felt perspective. And I'd love if you could talk a little bit about that and then why you think that's critical in terms of the development of leaders going forward from a business perspective.
0:37:22 MC: Well, if I've learned the one thing, it's that nobody needs the same medicine. I personally don't have any agenda for my clients other than what they want for themselves and they go in with what they want for themselves and then the medicine reveals something better than that usually. And then it'll help them go get that thing that the medicine showed or shift the mindsets or hold the mindsets of the medicine. It is really... I just released my first podcast and we'll have 10 more coming. And the first one was a CEO of a YC company that's doing really well. They're on track for an IPO. It's called AirHelp, and he talks about the impact that ayahuasca had on him on one of my retreats, and he's kinda on the classic command-and-control, ex-military guy, so a command-and-control CEO and that was no longer working for him.
0:38:17 MC: He was miserable doing it. The company was really suffering under his style of leadership. And so he went to the medicine with the idea of like, "What is this anger, this need to control? Can I surrender that?" And the insights he received and the healings in letting go of those chips on his shoulder that he was holding allowed him to do that. So he wasn't looking for a flow state, so to speak, he was just looking for a different way that could work. Anything other than what he was doing, that was working. And it's very hard to give up what's working for something you don't know will work. But he essentially became a student of delegation and took over HR and doubled the HR budget and turned his company into a vehicle for transformation for his 600-plus employees, seeing that if they're all thriving and getting what they need for their personal development at the company and through the company then obviously the company is gonna succeed, and he doesn't need to be this kind of dictator CEO.
0:39:17 MC: And it's worked great. This is one of countless examples. Your experience will be as unique as you are and flow is nice and a great one to go for. It's not for everybody. What was your second... The second part of your question, Paul?
0:39:34 PA: Specifically with the work that you've done around leadership, what it is that you... The process that you coach leaders through.
0:39:42 MC: Yeah. My mindset toward leadership is... So I've mostly... I'd say I've probably coached about 300 venture-backed startup founders over the last seven years. And what I look for is, what are their inherent leadership skills? What are their unique qualities that would if matured make them into the best possible leader that they could be, and that's different for everybody. And then I look at what are the psychological blocks or PTSD or traumas from childhood that they haven't cleared that are preventing those great inherent qualities from naturally expressing themselves. And then through executive coaching techniques we'll work on removing those blocks and if they're willing to work with ayahuasca, then that usually gets those blocks moved out really, really quick. It could take nine months of NLP and executive coaching to do what ayahuasca can do in a week in Peru.
0:40:33 MC: And I emphasize it, I really, I'm a stan for the hero's journey of leaving this country, going to wherever the medicine comes from and doing it to... And in as close to the traditional way possible that's still relevant to the western mindset. If it's too traditional, it's a whole different thing, it's more of a cultural anthropological experience than what you need. And then having your transformation there and completing your hero's journey by coming back, there's so much to gain by that whole process of journeying and doing the cycle. But if a weekend locally is the best you can do, that's still a lot better than nothing.
0:41:13 MC: So to summarize. Each of you, each of us are unique leaders in the ways that we are. And if you've taken on running a company, then you have no choice but to get on with that really quickly. And the number one thing that's holding us back from being our fully self-expressed best version of ourself is this psychological crap that started the week after you're born and has been layered on ever since. And ayahuasca and other psychedelics will just peel off those layers of cultural and familiar programming and psychological trauma that we all get one way or the other, growing up. And with those removed then there's not much to coach. They're just present and engaged and alive and there's leadership techniques but anyone can learn those, that's what books are for. Yeah, it's an inside-out job.
0:42:04 TK: Appreciate that, Michael. Not to hijack this, but I was just curious, I've noticed that all we've talked about is ayahuasca, and there's a range of psychedelics and you working with psilocybin mushrooms at Synthesis for other execs and CEOs, I was curious if you've heard of other transformational experiences and how they've integrated from a psilocybin mushroom experience versus just ayahuasca?
0:42:28 PA: That's a great question. So my personal take on it and I don't have a lot of personal experience with ayahuasca. Most of my personal psychedelic experience is with acid and psilocybin mushrooms. And the reason we use psilocybin in the Netherlands is because it's legal there. But the stories that we hear of transformation, and there are some execs, but for the most part a lot of the people who are coming to this retreat center that we're running are in a major point of transition. And that transition might be similar to the stories that we're hearing today.
0:42:58 PA: So for example, we had a lawyer who came who was well on her way to making senior partner at a law firm in DC, was billing almost four figures an hour, had saved millions of dollars but was miserable. Came to Synthesis because she sensed something was not right and almost needed a push. Needed an ability to see beyond that and have the courage to make the next step. And then ended up after going through that experience, quitting her job and transitioning into what's next for her.
0:43:30 PA: So we have a lot of people who are unhappy in their jobs who are coming to transition. But we have a lot of people as well, who are, for example, retired. Who have been professionally very successful. And they want to do something with the last 20 to 30 years of their life and they're coming to psilocybin to have that insight about what might be next. And I think the common thing between ayahuasca, psilocybin, LSD is this sense of ego dissolution. And I'll frame it within that context, because many of you are familiar with that probably from Michael Pollan's book, where he talks about the default mode network. Which usually help, gets us to ruminate on the past and by interrupting that, by dissolving that we can see things for how they are.
0:44:17 PA: And I think that's the commonality between these high dose psychedelic experiences is, as you mentioned, Tim, they help us to recognize truth. And truth sometimes is beautiful and astounding and leaves us in awe, and truth sometimes is the shittiest thing ever. Because it gets us to realize that we were treated a certain way or that we treated other people a certain way. That we weren't as loving as we could have been, we weren't as kind as we could have been, we weren't as loving or kind to ourselves, not only to other people but especially to ourselves. And I think that, to me, is the commonality between all of these plant medicines that are being used is that process of ego dissolution.
0:44:58 PA: And seeing into quote unquote, and I'll be careful with how I use this, "the true nature of reality," which is this sense that everything is interconnected, that we are tied to everything around us, and that recognition and that understanding... And Michael, that's kinda what I was also digging in with my question about, is as more and more leaders recognize that from a business perspective, my big question is, how does that then change the business landscape? How does that change startup culture? How does that change the way that we decide to invest our money and time and energy transitioning from, okay, returns are what is most important, Uber is a really good example of this, win at all costs mentality. Or are we gonna decide to proactively start benefit corporations?
0:45:49 PA: So B Corps have written into their agreement, articles of association, their stakeholder agreement, the way they're all getting their board of directors on board that we're not only going to look at financial capital, but we're also going to look at social capital and ecological capital. Patagonia is probably the best example of a B Corp. Etsy is a B Corp. Kickstarter is a B Corp. Ben & Jerry's is a B Corp. There are a number of B Corps. And that's my big question. I don't know if we can answer that here, but how will the growth of psychedelics in places like San Francisco, LA, New York, London, in these creative entrepreneurial circles shift and help us shift away from destructive, extractive corporate culture that is ruining the environment to businesses that are actually re-investing capital into basically creating a world and a future that we actually want to live in?
0:46:45 MC: I have something to say about that.
0:46:46 PA: Please do.
0:46:47 MC: So now that I get your question differently, so, having worked pretty much exclusively with entrepreneurs, what I see across the board is they either... If they're between companies, the next company they start is a win-win social benefit company, impacts company. If they're in a company that isn't... And I had one client that was an arms dealer doing 30 million a year selling assault rifles at gun shows in the United States to civilians, wasn't feeling very good about it, but it's kinda like golden handcuffs in the extreme. And another guy who had... Was a co-founder of Four Loko, which is one of the fastest growing and largest new alcoholic beverage companies, targeting 24-year-olds, essentially.
0:47:30 MC: So these guys, for example, were really in the golden handcuffs stage, had realized that they didn't wanna be doing this anymore, but how do they leave? And through my program, they... And with the support of the other guys in the program, they got clear that they, A, were gonna leave at all costs, B, we're gonna do it in a good way, and, C, weren't sure what they were gonna do next, but it was definitely gonna be a give back. And within nine months, both of them had left. The one with the arms company started... Actually got behind a non-profit and... He's Israeli. In Israel that was doing extraordinary things for children that were victims of violence in Israel, conflict violence. And kinda became the entrepreneurial leader of this company to, for this non-profit, to make it sustainable and put a lot of his money into it, and also started a mini-Burning Man for 2000, maximum of 2000 people in Israel, which is designed to bring Jews and Muslims and Christians together for art and collaboration. And that's what he does full-time.
0:48:38 MC: And the other guy sold his stake in that company and took over as CEO, and invested enough to essentially buy a plant, a vegan protein drink company. Yeah. So he went from alcoholic beverage to plant protein beverage, and running the company like a B Corp. I don't know if it actually is a B Corp but that's just the attitude. And that was from... Both of them haven't done it again. That was one week of ayahuasca, three years ago, that has led to that income or that impact. And at various scales, it's the same story. They move toward from me to we, from win-lose to win-win, in the best way they can, given the resources and talent that they have across the board. So, the way I see it, the more people who do this, the more we're gonna have win-win businesses that are taking on the biggest problems that are facing humanity.
0:49:34 PA: Those are always great stories. And Tim, I wanted to dig a little bit deeper into what Michael was mentioning, which is, for a lot of these people, and I think this is common in the tech space, this is common in the starter space in New York, this is common for many other entrepreneurs that I've talked about, they often start their first project with, "Okay, I'm just gonna make a bunch of money, and then once I make a bunch of money, then I can do something that social impact, then I can do something that's good."
0:50:01 MC: The world can't wait for that.
0:50:02 PA: And so I'd love to hear you talk a little bit about, Tim, why do you think that is? Why isn't it that we have more people who are just starting non-profits or social impact businesses immediately? What have you been exposed to in the startup space here? And I just wanted to hear a few of your thoughts on that.
0:50:20 TK: So I grew up with a single mother, and my older siblings fought a lot, so I told her... I promised her, I was like, "Whatever I'm gonna do, I'm gonna make you proud." And I interpreted that as starting a business and making money. Because we grew up in a lower middle-class. And starting my first company, think of it like a blank canvas where you can paint anything you want, but what I painted, what the media painted on this canvas, was this, you gotta win at all costs, so and so raised this much money and how they did that was winning at all costs, a me versus we perspective. And so I was tainted with that. And unless that narrative changes, that's probably what will continually happen.
0:51:04 TK: Now, I will say that if you, as an entrepreneur, are realizing that that's what's probably happening, the canvas is being painted for you, and not by you, through traumatic experiences or media that you're exposed to. Psychedelics could be a very powerful tool to reset that. And what I mean by that is, from my personal experiences from psychedelics, motivated me to step into selling the company 'cause I knew it wasn't right for me to, now, in the next few companies I start, I know it's gonna be service-oriented, impact-oriented led and heart-led.
0:51:35 TK: Like I said, psychedelics provides this reset. This reset is... What I've seen is, like what Paul mentioned, this interconnectedness, this feeling that these people all around you, you and I here, even in ceremony, we're all just human beings, all have suffered through our own experiences, and you can feel that compassion for them in that moment. And when I started feeling that, I was like, "Wow, how sucky would it be if I kept adding unnecessary suffering or hurt to that in my daily choices? And how horrible would it feel if I made decisions that impacted the environment in certain ways?" And I just wasn't aware of that before. And so thanks to my partner, I'm more aware of just even daily choices I make around plastic consumption or fast fashion and all these other things. But it's until you... When you realize, and maybe psychedelics is one tool for accelerating that realization, that everything you do is connected in some capacity, that what you put out can impact the person to your left, two times over to your left in some way that you just don't know.
0:52:43 TK: Until you see that, you might just be leading with the social constructs that you were taught. But psychedelics can be that reset and that's how that reset in me to realize that that interconnectedness is the main motivation for me to start something next around service, around heart-led and around impact.
0:53:03 TL: So I'm gonna share what I was shown and taught through the medicine, because I grew up with parents who were entrepreneurs turned humanitarians. And so what I learned though them was in order to be spiritual, you have to sacrifice everything, give it all, and live on $20 US a day 'cause that's what they do. And so that scared me because I have all these attachments. Whether it's to material possessions or to my perceptions of what success means or the belief. 'Cause again, I had my gremlin which is the need for external validation, I was torn. In my world, I thought it was not possible to pursue spiritual enlightenment while being financially abundant, that these were two mutually exclusive things.
0:53:52 TL: What the medicine showed me was that that's not true. And that's not true and it showed me what's called a "paradoxical cycle of healing and wealth," which is really interesting. It's actually quite simple. So earlier, I said that they taught me that flow is, simply put, following love over wealth. When we are in the state of love, we have the capacity to be more open to our own pain. When we are able to focus and tune in and heal our own pain, we can then turn into the pain of others.
0:54:23 TL: In other words, when we turn into the pain of others, we are healing ourselves. And when we bring more joy to others, we bring more joy to ourselves. And when we bring more joy to ourselves, we're bringing more joy to others, this is the cycle. And so, what happens is that the moment when we choose to focus on others and serve others, what it does is... If you think about it, whether it's loving your children, loving your team, or building this awesome culture so that you can create a legacy for others... So, the moment when we focus on others, we find... We start to realize that if you start to tune in, that becomes this infinite source of joy, passion and inspiration.
0:55:10 TL: And so very quickly, when you continue to tap into that, you have this reservoir of joy and you have this pool of serenity and this inner peace. And so you start to shift away from this other cycle which is this pull of attachment that gets us really in this cycle where we feel discourse, distress, lack of fulfillment. And so, the interesting about all of this in terms of tying a batch to the green aspect is it's actually quite simple. Is that when you follow love, when you love others, you immediately heal yourself. When you serve others, you stay in this constant source of joy and inspiration. And again, inspiration, I've been taught is being in spirit. And that is the moment that those divine guidances get shown, those are the green lights that happen on Goff, like it never happens.
0:56:08 TL: So it's just interesting because it shows that it's actually possible to pursue financial enlightenment for yourself while being financially abundant. What it does require us to do is decondition and recondition all these beliefs. So, one of the things that the medicine plotted me was... And I'll take it, was tuning into the pain, tuning into the discourse I was feeling. Most of us will just say, "Let's forget it, suppress it, repress it, escape from it, let's not think about it." But really, when we lean in and we push into that pain and that feeling, all the answers is already within, is what the medicine was so brilliantly wise to show.
0:56:52 PA: And I think one point I wanted to touch on that you were making is this idea of wealth. Because right now, we've been talking a lot about financial wealth and numbers and millions and billions and things like this. And I think one thing to also recognize and conceive of is that the definition, our very definition of wealth is changing, in that financial wealth has for ever since the start of industrialization, been the significant, the primary marker of wealth. And we're now recognizing that concepts like social wealth, which is community, connection, friendship, love, relationships, and ecological wealth, which is living in harmony with the earth around us, these I think will become increasingly important compared to financial wealth.
0:57:39 PA: There's some of those research studies that show, for example, that after about 70K a year for the average person, their level of happiness really doesn't increase that much afterwards. And so that's also something that I often challenge people on is how are we defining wealth and if we can even change and come up with a more clear measure of what defines social and ecological wealth, 'cause that's very abstract still, it's very abstract, but if we can come up with definitive measures, then I think that is where the gift is in terms of helping people feel loved, accepted, nurtured, themselves.
0:58:17 MC: I can share a little subjective tool for measuring it that I think is super helpful. So if you imagine it's a spectrum, let's say social wealth, like community wealth, people that you feel have your back, that care about you enough to get up out of bed and go take care of you or show up for you if you really needed them. So however you wanna define community, but if you had a spectrum like a bell curve where the middle would be perfect, just the right amount of community, not too much community, because that's a burden, and not enough community, just right. And so, pick the three or four or five things that you wanna measure your wealth by, and one of them should be money just so you integrate this all together and plot where you're at on each bell curve with the goal of being in the sweet spots for each one. That's like a baby easy step for kinda making the intangible tangible, in a subjective place.
0:59:16 PA: Great, a little take-home tip from Michael Costuros. One last thing before we move to Q&A, and this is an idea that I've been thinking about, an idea that I would love to see happen, and maybe there are people in this room who have when thinking of a similar idea, but what I think would be really cool, in terms of helping to make B Corps more normative, is with the emergence of the cannabis space, which we won't get too far into, but I think beyond the cannabis space is the psychedelic entrepreneurial space, that's going to come up. And we've started a project, like I mentioned, Synthesis in Amsterdam, which is a retreat center there, there are a couple of other venture-backed companies as well, COMPASS Pathways is one, but what I'd love to see happen is an impact investment fund for psychedelics that only invests in psychedelic companies that become B Corps, and that incubate psychedelic companies to become B Corps, to then have within their mission to contribute back to society in specific ways, while still being able to generate profit and revenue to grow and develop the emerging psychedelic space.
1:00:21 PA: I think this is the significant opportunity in the cannabis space that is currently being missed out on. From what I know there aren't a lot of B Corps that are coming up, but I think, with the emerging psychedelic entrepreneurial space, there's a tremendous opportunity to make that a normative way of doing business, and I would love if someone somewhere who has a lot of wealth made that happen. So that's the note that I wanna end on and I also then wanna thank our beautiful panelists for all their contributions, if you could give them a big round of applause.
1:00:57 PA: We now have time for Q&A, we're gonna do about 30 minutes of Q&A.
1:01:03 Speaker 5: I think Michael clearly is still exploring his the medicine and sitting on a regular basis. But it's that question to you too. It kind of sounded like you sat and then we're done, and I'm wondering if you're still pursuing it, I'm a big fan of ayahuasca and have been for a number of years, but I just can't get enough. I'm wondering why you're just not clamoring for more?
1:01:30 TL: Actually, I am. [chuckle] So I'm not done yet. Sort of my intention was really starting off with someone wise was teaching us that, 'cause I was so eager, right? Type A, it was like, "Alright, I'm ready. What's my calling, what's my life purpose? So what am I supposed to do now that I quit?" But I was taught that you have to understand where you came from, so my intention was really help me understand what I've become and understand who I am at my core soul level and so, now that I'm there as sort of like the foundation of knowing my origin, the next phase is really then to go much deeper, really, really understanding who am I to be and what am I to do? So I'm actually going in December. [chuckle]
1:02:17 TK: Similarly, I'm not done. Like her, I'll be heading out in December as well. My only caveat that I kind of set myself for is definitely don't do it because it's cool to do it, but more so know that I have a question or a deep intention that I'm trying to explore, that I feel either blocked or can understand and receive more in these ceremonies or in these psychedelic experiences. So I'm trying to be very intentional with continuously exploring it, but not overdoing it to the point where I'm just, not saying that there's any dependence on it, but getting to that, anywhere near that point. But to answer your question, I'm still exploring it, continually exploring it. Probably, a lifelong like explorer, but being very intentional with that. So I still am grounded on this physical earth that I'm here and be able to, if I'm gonna talk about it, especially, in group settings like this, that I can set a proper example for that as well.
1:03:15 Speaker 6: I'm feeling full of hope and inspiration. I think every single person in this room can remember a time, even at my young age, when an event like this would not be possible. Tim and Tiffany, I'm really inspired by you both, because my story is completely opposite of yours. I was lucky enough to be born in the heart of the psychedelic community. When I was five years old, I was running around in Esselen with a group of 20 of the most important people in the psychedelic community. Rick Doblin, Jim Fadiman, blah, blah, blah, Bob Jesse, all the big names, and two things came out of that meeting. The two positions that came out of we wanna do research and the first bit of research is that we need to use psychedelics with people who are ill, who are terminally ill and those who have chronic conditions. The second idea, which was a minority idea that was kind of voted down was that we can do research with healthy volunteers and with healthy people and enrich people's life.
1:04:16 S6: My dad organized the conference. Bob Jesse was there, about 10 years ago he sent a cold email to some guy named Michael Pollan and said, "Hey buddy, I think you should write this book." And Michael was like, "Yeah. No, I'm not gonna do that," but I think we're living a dream right now. And there's a lot of work that we have to do in the world right now. And if we can find a way to get these medicines appropriately and safely in people's hands who are creative and have power, then we can work towards the world that we all wanna live in, and the utopia that we wanna live in. That's it, thanks.
1:04:55 Speaker 7: Good evening. Thank you for this fantastic opportunity to learn. I'm here because I benefited from the veteran discount that you offered for the ticket. So I wanna thank you for that. I experienced the 5-MeO-DMT this summer because I received a full scholarship. San Francisco is the epicenter of economic inequality. So you mentioned cannabis, a lot of people can't afford cannabis anymore. So in this third wave, in this psychedelic renaissance, how are we going to ensure for inclusivity so that it's not just the top Fortune 500 that have access to it?
1:05:32 S7: What are we gonna do for scholarships to get folks to Peru or to the Netherlands that can't afford that? So, thank you.
1:05:40 PA: I can tell you a little bit about what we've discussed as a team at Synthesis, just to give you some on the ground approach. So right now, the price point is about $2000 for a three-day retreat. So it's pretty expensive. And there's numerous reasons for that, which I won't get into at this point. But because of that we do have a lot of people who can come, who can offer a scholarship. So after they've had a transformative experience, they say, "Okay. Now I'd like to offer this to another person or another two people or three people." So I think the first thing that should be done is working with high net worth individuals who after they go through this experience want to personally give back by providing scholarships for individuals. I think that is one of the best ways doing it on the individual level.
1:06:26 PA: I think on the more systemic or higher up level, this is why I love the idea of a B Corp, because as you have more and more, for example retreat centers or companies that are getting into the psychedelic space and providing this, they can include in their mission statement that as part of rebuilding social capital, that they will offer X amount of scholarships per year to individuals who are suffering from whatever it is they're suffering from, or if they're just low socio-economic status and they need access to this. I think that's another one. The third thing that I think is something to be really optimistic about is that the major organizations right now who are working on this in the United States are MAPS, which is a non-profit. And MAPS the nonprofit owns a public benefit Corporation, which is a B Corp, where all the profits from the B Corp go back into the non-profit to continue to help facilitate research.
1:07:21 PA: Now, how that plays out, I don't personally know in terms of providing this, but that's another model to be aware of. And then Usona is also looking at how they can make this medicine, psilocybin... Usona is another non-profit, based in Wisconsin, making this medicine as accessible as possible. So those are the practical things that are happening. And I think this is why I wanted in this talk specifically to talk about how when we go from this concept of "me" to "we," then there are gonna be more and more leaders who wanna take care of the "we," and I think that will include taking care of people like you had mentioned. So I hope that provides a little bit of practical insight into it. Michael, did you wanna add anything to that?
1:08:03 MC: Yeah, I'm grateful that you brought this up. And I've been in such a get the basics handled mode for this new retreat that I hadn't thought it through. But just hearing you, I'm clear that I'm gonna offer a full scholarship to one person. And I'll set up an application for the scholarship on the page for the retreat at Entrepreneur Awakening. So thanks for reminding me how important that is.
1:08:27 Speaker 8: I have been around the ayahuasca world to some degree or another for about 20 years. And something that I've noticed... And so I'm asking particularly those of you who have done the sitting and facilitating work. One thing that I've noticed is that some people go into it with a very strong personality, and they come out and they've seen a whole new way of looking at life and things have changed for them. The whole world looks different, they're ready for a B corporation, etcetera. Other people go in with a strong personality and they come out and it seems like they keep going and going and going, and yet their personality, their ego gets stronger and stronger and stronger, rather than kind of seeing a larger perspective. And I was curious, from your experience, what you would say about that. Thank you.
1:09:22 MC: I'd say some people just have very strong egos. Some people are narcissists and unless their intention is to actually work on that aspect of their imbalance, the medicine isn't gonna really fix it necessarily. So they're all kinds of people. And in some ways, we need them all.
1:09:41 PA: To add to that, the larger point that I'm hearing in your question even is that these obviously aren't miracle-tools. These aren't necessarily going to "guarantee" a process of ego dissolution that helps everyone to see how inter-connected they are. There are, and we didn't talk about this in this event, but there are definitely downsides to psychedelics. As well outside of the fact that they're dangerous for people who are predisposed to things like schizophrenia, they also can strengthen the ego. Vice, I think recently wrote an article about how there's more and more competitive psychedelic trippers. And I was joking about this on an event in New York last week where you start with MDMA, and you're like, "Okay, that was nice." And then you go to psilocybin, and you're like, "Okay, that was a little deeper." Then you go to ayahuasca and then you're like, "Okay, there was something there." And then you go to 5-MeO-DMT, and that's what really, really destroys your ego.
1:10:33 PA: So, I think that mentality will exist for some, but that's also why it's important to create and engage in a discussion that creates a new cultural container. So that way, this way of perceiving the world becomes more normative, because psychedelics also help you to become more adaptable. And so depending on the situation, the context that you're adapting to, that will play a big factor in what happens after the fact.
1:10:58 Speaker 9: Quick question. Paul, thanks for organizing and for this very important topic. Panelists, thank you. As many people know, there's a lot of tension in the space right now as venture-backed for-profit arrives here. And without necessarily specifically going into that, I kind of think sometimes about it as this critical conversation that's happening. And then there's SUV that's just gonna zoom by and doesn't need to stop and doesn't need to listen. And what should the community do? What dialogue can be engaged and what maybe self-policing can we do when those interests that don't have the same incentive structure or value structure arrive and play that orange traditional capitalistic role in this space that is trying to be different?
1:11:40 MC: Don't buy their products.
1:11:42 PA: Michael says don't buy their products.
1:11:44 TK: When I was exploring some type of modality of light working, I was advised by this one person who told me something very important, and I still stick with today. In respect to what you're asking, it's always kind of like asking, I mean, this perspective, asking definitely like what is your story and why are you starting something like this, so you yourself can understand where that intention is coming from. And even within, let's say, plant medicine, and you speaking with the shamans that they work with, what's their lineage, what's their history that they have and please educate me on that so I can be most educated and make that conscious decision that I do trust and believe in what you're doing for the purest intention and I buy that and I buy into your service and product.
1:12:30 PA: I'd like to go a little bit deeper into that because that's a great question and although I wished you hadn't asked it, I'll still go ahead and at least provide a little bit of my own take in it. So, the thing that Dave is referring to is there's a venture-backed company called COMPASS Pathways that has received $33 million in funding. They're 25% owned by a company called ATAI, which is a life sciences biotech fund based out of Germany. Peter Thiel is a major investor in COMPASS Pathways or, I should say, Thiel Capital is a major investor in COMPASS Pathways. And the guy who runs Thiel Capital, Eric Weinstein, is actually a pretty cool, intelligent, smart dude. There are also a couple of other financial people who have major things. And COMPASS Pathways just received FDA breakthrough approval to treat treatment-resistant depression with psilocybin and they're enrolling 216 people in the United States to go through that process.
1:13:22 PA: And it's looking like they could get psilocybin medically approved to treat treatment-resistant depression, if all goes according to plan, by 2021. So, the upside to obviously having a venture-backed for-profit company like that is you can move fast and you can move quick and you can build infrastructure at an unprecedented rate. And that's really important in terms of how are we gonna make this medicine more and more available to as many people as possible. And one of the models that they're going off of, from what I've understood in talking to them, is, for example, in Europe, healthcare is covered by the governments. So, there's not a question of this person will receive it and this person won't, because as long as it's provided, it's safe, it's effective, then the government will provide it for their citizens regardless of the cost.
1:14:04 PA: So, it will be accessible to most people. This is what I understand. I could be wrong on that. It's convoluted in the United States, is the most simple way to put that. I'm not sure how that will play out. I think it's really great that we have organizations like MAPS and Usona that are non-profits that will make that the more normative way ideally of providing treatment. And this goes back to, I was talking to someone who's very involved in this space, what he mentioned was simple behavioral economics and game theory, is that you create this idea of co-operators and defectors. And so I think that on a very simple level is possibly what could be done to help instill some sort of policing of the community, is what's more normative and supported is something like a B Corp and what's not is venture-backed for-profit companies who just wanna make a shit load of money.
1:15:00 Speaker 10: I just wanna call something in real quick, which is this question of how do we develop an economy that works for people without getting co-opted by large capital? We're not the first community to ask that question. Like the psychedelic space is not the first community. I'll just wanna point directly to a book, Collective Courage by Jessica Gordon Nembhard, which tracks the black community's cooperative economics through time, and incredibly radical, strategic and effective solutions to these questions. I just wanna mention that so we can call on the solidarity that's available to us and the depth of wisdom that's outside of the room right now about how to build cooperative economics that goes farther than B Corps.
1:15:47 S1: B Corps are a really great step in the right direction. But last night, I was in a room filled with like 400 people who were all throwing down money to reclaim land and take it off the speculative market. So, that's happening too. So, I guess... And a thing I'm genuinely curious about, I just feel like it's important for us to hold how we're situated in relation to everything else. So, I wanna feel like I was holding. I wanted to offer. The thing I'm really curious about, from you all's perspective, is as you move in the psychedelic space, what have been some of the most effective ways to create relationships across boundaries of race and class and gender, and what are some of the things that have come into the... Made it a little harder to do that and how do you think we can kind of bridge some of these divides that exist inside of our society?
1:16:32 MC: I haven't done this specifically, but if you were to get a group of 15 people with different race and gender and background, etcetera, and take them through probably a six-weeks preparation for ayahuasca and then have them go do a journey together, like go to Peru or go to Costa Rica, and do a week of this really intensely bonding experience together. What I see across the board is that the people who go through this form of program stay deeply connected for a long time after, at least the ones that choose to, and it's such a leveler. Now, the caveat would be that also what tends to come up is all the traumas, so there would really need to be a staff that can handle the personal traumas, the interpersonal traumas that come up with all the issues that would naturally rise and use those as opportunities for bonding and connection, rather than disconnection among the members of the group. So it'd a great experiment. It would actually be a great documentary to do that experiment.
1:17:44 TL: I can also comment on that. So the one that I just went to back in October was in Costa Rica called Rhythmia. And our cohort of 80 I would say ranged from all sorts of different backgrounds, ethnicity, race, gender and definitely age. We had a couple that was there I would say in their early '70s or late '60s. One of the most beautiful thing about the plant medicine is as our own layers are being sort of dissolved taking all the way back to our core self and everyone is too, there's something about the lens to which we see others through their eyes and one of the most beautiful thing about that is there is no divide at that point. The sense of oneness and connectedness and so the concept I wanna say spirituality becomes really important because at that moment it's this understanding that we can all celebrate that we're all deeply connected to each other and that connection and the power to that connection is based on love and compassion. So this ego-centric world where we have a lot of judgment and prejudice, that does not exist in that world, because you see people for who they truly are from a spiritual essence perspective.
1:19:02 MC: Yeah, no, that's unique to ayahuasca is the intensive vulnerability that you experience through the purging and that it's all happening together in the room and you could engineer that with other psychedelics, but not nearly as successfully, I don't think, is what ayahuasca can provide, and that vulnerability is key to the bonding and trust that's built.
1:19:23 Speaker 11: So I'm loving this room and I'm loving this conversation. I [unclear speech] last week, I trained to be an anesthesiologist so I can provide the first legal psychedelics [unclear speech] ketamine and I've been researching and going around this whole week just trying to be in dialogue with people at MAPS who have ketamine clinics currently about how can we use psychedelics to actually address race-based trauma. And so I'm talking to the girl in my Uber ride this morning who has mermaid color hair and so she is in the vibration, [laughter] so and I'm just saying do you know any people of color who've done these things and how has this helped with race-based trauma?
1:20:05 S1: And what... I'm in these conversations, and there is just still such a huge racial disparity and even as we move toward legalization and that these things being medically available there just has historically been a really big disparity in care, psychiatric care, wellness care for African-Americans, and I've been making efforts just to try to start this dialogue and talk to people who have expertise. And all I can say is that sometimes that talk has been, like I wanna know, do you know some brown people who trip so I can talk to them about this question about how does it address race-based trauma?
1:20:40 S1: And we're not tripping together, people, 'cause they don't know any brown people they're trippy with, [laughter] so it's such an amazing opportunity because the medication creates wholeness, unity and wellness. And so if we're gonna do the work, and I love the idea how you're sponsoring people from low-income backgrounds and also just sponsoring people from racially diverse backgrounds, because this is such an opportunity to do such deep individual and social healing. So I'm really excited about the conversation being moved in the room.
1:21:14 S?: Time for one more question.
1:21:17 Speaker 12: I wanted to offer a little bit of hope. I am part of a network of 70 guides that we come together and actually about 150 of us have graduated from a training program and we are specifically trained, around 30% of our practice should be on a sliding scale. We just had a retreat up in 70 of us were in a retreat up in Ukiah talking about how to increase the diversity of both the guides and the client base. So the conversation is very much alive and well and you don't have to go to Peru, you can just come over to Paid Street if you wanna go on a journey and I work on a sliding scale, so you don't have to fly to some interesting place, you can do it here and there's lots of other guides in the Bay Area that you can get ahold of.
1:22:06 PA: And ketamine is legal and if you're interested in that, actually the first event that we did in New York for Third Wave's node series, I interviewed a psychiatrist who does ketamine-assisted psychotherapy and although we didn't talk about it all tonight, that is a legal, currently a legal treatment option, it's just careful. Be careful about who you're going to, 'cause some people will just give you ketamine and put you in a dark room and tell you to hang out. [laughter]
1:22:29 MC: Yeah, it's the difference between doing it with a psychiatrist and doing it with an anesthesiologist. You want the psychotherapy component to be there.
1:22:41 Speaker 13: Yeah. [laughter] I wanna thank the panelists for sharing and being vulnerable on stage. I think as a person who's pretty new to the community, it's really inspirational to hear people using this medicine very responsibility. My question is I'm really attracted to the healing power of the medicine and having some psychedelic experiences myself I just wanna go full in, go all out, but the one thing that kinda is holding me back is this is very powerful stuff here and just something that I heard Carl Jung, a famous psychologist, when he was asked about psychedelics, he said, I'm paraphrasing he said, "Be wary of unearned wisdom," and so I wanna go all in. This is amazing, fascinating stuff, but I was wondering if you guys could shed a little light about how we can go in more responsibly.
1:23:39 MC: What do you afraid of exactly?
1:23:40 S1: I guess like, I just... Is it okay to trip every day?
1:23:45 MC: Nobody is gonna trip every day.
1:23:49 S1: Yeah, but I mean... What should we be considerate of? How can we treat this medicine with respect?
1:23:56 MC: Well, when you say "this medicine," you're talking about any one of 20 options potentially.
1:24:06 S1: LSD, psilocybin...
1:24:07 MC: Everyone's gonna have an opinion and I'll just throw mine out. I think if you do two strong experiences a year and properly work with the insights and integration, that should should do it.
1:24:21 TL: I'll take it more from a spiritual perspective, because as you said, the medicine is incredibly powerful and when you're on it, you're really open. You're opening yourself up as an individual, but also to various other realms. And so to that extent, you're inviting both good and potentially some of the shadows, right? And so I think it's a good point to kinda check in with yourself, to understand to what Tim said is, what is your intention? Is it motivated by greed? Is it motivated by the pleasure of illusion, aesthetics? Or are you truly seeking something? Your mindset going in will be your best compass as to whether or not you are using this medicine with respect.
1:25:07 TK: And there's a metaphor that I'd like to use when talking about integration, and that's this metaphor of going to the dentist. So every six months you go to the dentist, and this actually aligns with Michael's recommendation, every six months you go to the dentist, and this is like a peak experience. So you get a deep... Not going to the dentist, the psychedelics, right? Doing it every six months or going to something like Burning Man, or going and living in the wilderness for a week or, name your peak experience. Doing that every six months about and then every day, you brush your teeth, you floss, you take care of yourself. And this is a practice of meditation, of breath work, or spending time in nature, of checking in, of journaling. So usually when we talk about integration, that's a really good metaphor to keep in mind when talking about peak experiences is just think of the dentist.
1:25:58 TK: And the last thing I kinda do for myself to check-in is, not to quote Timothy Leary because I know he said not to, but the whole tune in, turn on and drop out. I leave the drop out alone. I always... I'm tuning in, I'm turning on, I'm receiving and being aware of who I am, but I always ask myself, "What am I learning that could be of service for those around me?" So I always try to check in with myself to make sure that I'm not just running away from something or dropping out versus... Okay, I'm going in here. I'm curious about X, Y, Z about myself or I'm curious about what's blocking this and can I find ways to integrate that for my own healing, but also to be of service for others afterwards?
1:26:41 PA: So again, I wanna thank you for your attention, for your time and for your energy this evening. Thank you for showing up, thank you for being present. And I also wanna thank Matt for organizing and putting so much work and energy into this.
1:26:58 PA: And also one more round of applause for our panelists who did a fantastic job.