Why has generating “flow” and getting “into the zone” become the goal of the world’s most elite organizations? Why are business moguls attending Burning Man? Why has meditation become a billion-dollar industry? Why are technology gurus turning to psychedelic drugs to unlock creativity? Stealing Fire combines cutting-edge research and first-hand reporting to explore a revolution in human performance – a movement millions of people strong to harness and utilize some of the most misunderstood and controversial experiences in history. Building a bridge between the extreme and the mainstream, this groundbreaking and provocative book examines how the world’s top performers – the Navy SEALS, Googlers, Fortune 100 CEOs – are using altered states to radically accelerate performance and massively improve their lives, and how we can too. Ultimately, Stealing Fire is a book about profound possibility – about what is actually possible for ourselves and our species when we unlock the full potential of the human mind.
The book shed some light onto altered states and how they seem to play an evolutionary role in our species. It investigated the role these states play in organisations ranging from Google to the SEALs, along with its pioneers and more mainstream applications through events such as Burning Man. It was enlightening and documented the risks and rewards of ‘getting out of your head’ (so to speak). If you have watched the Fringe TV show, much of the content of this book won’t be new to you but it will be put into context.
Although the book did discuss the role of pharmaceutically induced altered states, it also looked at psychology, neurobiology, and technology and discussed each in its own right. Forming a sort of guide book to the realms of ekstasis (ecstasis), it shows us what we may feel we are missing and how to get a fix.
Extreme sports are often pursued to help ‘throw the switch’ and find our oneness, our flow, our own zone within all that is, but the book also provides alternatives as there are so many pathways which are now much better understood, and repeatable. The book offers an equation for understanding the risk of an activity and the reward you may receive from it, and a tool for Hedonic Calendaring to help you plot out your experiences to help you achieve ekstasis. Whether you decide these to be base jumping or yoga is up to you (risk vs reward vs time).
Is it true? Well, the authors have started a training program to help you pursue ekstasis (and excellence) better, faster, and for longer. And, based on some limited (low risk) techniques I have tried (binaural beats, meditation, etc), I support biohacking ideas. However, I am more risk-averse so you won’t see me jumping off any mountains soon!
Whether you’re an inner explorer or not, this book is a fascinating journey into fringe science which is steadily becoming mainstream, even if it is also being used by megacorps to better understand and manipulate us into buying more stuff!