7 min read ⌚
How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work
Steve Jobs once said that taking LSD was not merely “a profound experience,” but also “one of the two or three most important things” he had done in his life.
“Stealing Fire” may hold the answer as to why.
Who Should Read “Stealing Fire”? And Why?
If you are living on this planet, you probably know who Malcolm Gladwell is and what the rule of 10,000 hours he popularized refers to. Put plain and simple: if you want to become a master at something, be sure to spend years and years training to do that something.
Well, “Stealing Fire” is about those who believe in shortcuts: according to Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal, high performance is nowadays much more linked to states of altered consciousness than it is with grit and habits.
Those who simply want to learn more about altered consciousness are welcomed to read this book as well.
About Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal
Steven Kotler is an American journalist, author, and entrepreneur.
One of the leading experts on high performance, he is most famous for his several nonfiction books, three of which are already considered classics in the field: “Bold,” “The Rise of Superman” and, especially, “Abundance.”
He is also the co-founder of the Flow Genome Project.
Jamie Wheal is an American author, an expert in leadership and peak performance.
He has advised numerous executives, owners of sports teams and athletes.
A historical anthropologist by degree, Wheal’s studies have been published in peer-review academic journals and anthologies.
“Stealing Fire PDF Summary”
The myth of Prometheus stealing the divine fire and gifting it to mankind is probably one of the most famous myths in history.
No wonder it has inspired numerous authors to call Prometheus a champion of mankind and think of fire as the fundamental building block of progress and civilization.
In “Stealing Fire,” Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal use this myth as the underlying metaphor to make a rather controversial case: just like Zeus in Greek mythology, the governments and the corporations of today are keeping “the fire of altered consciousness” to themselves – and we need a few Prometheuses to steal it!
Because we have science on our side, and they are consciously preventing us from experiencing one of the most beautiful states a person can experience in his or her life: a state the Greeks referred to as ecstasis, and one that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi decided to rechristen it as “flow.” (Kotler and Wheal stick to the ancient terminology.)
Namely, the state of fully immersing yourself in the present in such a way which will make you experience it in all of its richness, completeness, and timelessness:
In case you still don’t know what we’re talking about, ecstasis is something you have/can/will experience while having sex or, if you practice it, during a session of deep meditation.
And, yes – after taking psychedelic drugs.
All of these things lead to a state of altered consciousness which is defined by four characteristics, neatly grouped under the acronym STER:
#1. Selflessness: your prefrontal cortex is a quite recent formation designed to separate you from the rest. However, this means that it is constantly anxious; in the state of ecstasis, people shut off their selves and are capable of experiencing “collective awareness.”
#2. Timelessness: unfortunately, no matter how many books have been written about the power of now, we are evolutionarily designed much too imperfectly to be able to live in the present:
Under normal conditions, with an active prefrontal cortex constantly scanning scenarios in the past and the future, we spend very little time living completely in the present… When our attention is focused on the present, we stop scanning yesterday for painful experiences… We quit daydreaming about a tomorrow that’s better than today. With our prefrontal cortex offline, we can’t run those scenarios.
In the state of ecstasis, however, time is suddenly non-existent, and everything there is in the world is the present moment. Already breathing a sigh of relief, ha?
#3. Effortlessness: in ecstasis, your brain releases six neurochemicals: norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, and anandamide. These make you feel as if you are a master of your craft and as if you are on your way to producing a masterpiece.
#4. Richness: in the state of ecstasis, you are able to make connections much faster than in a normal state; thus, you are able to see things in a new light and bring disparate ideas together in a way which should help you generate an abundance of completely original solutions and new ideas.
We have terabytes of information available to us,” note Kotler and Wheal; “we just can’t tap into it in our normal state.
Now, before you say “a completely unsubstantiated apology for using psychedelic drugs,” bear with us for a few more moments!
First of all, do you know that humans are not the only animals who take drugs? (Before you say anything: yes, we are animals!)
Strangely enough, despite the potentially adverse health effects, it seems that many members of the animal kingdom use drugs in one way or another.
That’s the reason why dogs lick toads and why cats like catnip so much. Goats have been known to eat magic mushrooms since the dawn of times. And bottlenose dolphins toss puffer fish back and forth to, well, get high: the process helps them ingest micro-doses of the puffer fish’s neurotoxins!
Much more interestingly, it seems that some drugs are not as harmful as some other substances, which, for some reason, have been legal for centuries.
And this is not a claim merely thrown out there, but something David Nutt, one of the most respected British neuropsychopharmacologists maintains, backing it up with proper studies and data.
It seems that alcohol does more harm to both its consumers and society than do even heroin and crack cocaine, while tobacco is unhealthier than both cannabis and LSD!
See for yourself:
So, why are tobacco and alcohol allowed and LSD and cannabis forbidden?
Possibly because, unlike the former two, the latter pair tends to make people less manageable and more empowered, just like sex does, just as meditation does. And not because psychedelic drugs are more harmful than cigarettes or whiskey!
Now, don’t get us wrong: everything comes with a caveat.
But, then again,
The ecstasy will always come with the agony; that’s the human condition.
Key Lessons from “Stealing Fire”
1. The Altered States Economy
2. Eric Schmidt and the Burning Man
3. Constant State of Flow
The Altered States Economy
At a time when you are expected to deliver great results on a daily basis, not only distractions aren’t your friend, but also the normal, default state of your mind may be your enemy.
That’s why, everybody wants to experience something more, obtaining a state of ecstasy and euphoria, a state of the perfect workflow.
Many of the ways to achieve this are perfectly legal: sex, meditation, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, legal drugs, VR, other types of immersive experiences, social media.
Combined, these account for about $4 trillion of the US economy on an annual basis.
And that’s how fabulously much “the altered states economy” is worth.
Eric Schmidt and the Burning Man
You probably know who Eric Schmidt is.
If not, here are the two most important highlights: he is one of the richest people in the world and the CEO of Google from 2001 to 2015, as well as Alphabet Inc. the next two years.
Now, do you know how Sergey Brin and Larry Page finally settled on him?
Believe it or not, because he was able to prove his courage and determination by attending the Burning Man festival.
Don’t know what that is?
Bearing in mind the subject of this book, you already know that it’s an altered-consciousness related festival.
But, please, google it to find out more. And while doing that, have in mind that it’s where Elon Musk’s hyperlink train was first conceived!
Constant State of Flow
Ecstasis is a state during which one is able to experience selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness, and richness. Needless to add, it’s something few would argue to experience at least five to ten times a day.
But, try to imagine having sex as many times, and you’ll see why a constant state of flow is not a goal to be desired. In the cases of some other ecstasies-inducing experiences, it may be even worse: a lot, lot worse.
Which is something you should never forget, since, nowadays, ecstasies lie within your grasp and it is just too tempting?
So, choose your moments of ecstasy wisely. And use them to enrich your life – not destroy it.
Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“Stealing Fire Quotes”
Our Critical Review
Controversial and provocative, “Stealing Fire” is – to quote its blurb – “a guidebook for anyone who wants to radically upgrade their life.”
Well worth (at least) a read.