Scott Carney is an interesting guy doing fascinating things.
I first had him on the podcast to discuss his New York Times Bestseller What Doesn’t Kill Us, which took an investigative look at “hacking” our bodies and using the environment to stimulate our biology.
Specifically, Scott went on a journey with biohacking legend Wim Hof, using special breathing techniques to push the limits of strength and endurance, submerging himself in ice water and climbing a freezing mountain with only a pair of shorts.
Scott decided to take what he learned from Wim even further in his newest book, The Wedge, where he explores controlling mind and body to hijack stress and experience life in a whole new way.
In this podcast, we discuss . . .
– How too much comfort can actually be unhealthy
– Developing unstoppable grit
– Using kettlebell tossing to enter a flow state
– Creating new neural symbols to change your experience of sensations
– And so much more . . .
Let’s dig in!
4:47 – What is The Wedge and why did you write it?
7:44 – Is there a spiritual or paranormal component to how you respond?
9:42 – Can you change the way your body instinctively reacts?
14:14 – How do you change the way your body instinctively reacts?
18:52 – Does controlling comfort enhance other aspects in your life?
27:34 – Can change your emotional response to danger?
37:24 – Are there other interesting techniques that you discuss in your book?
48:44 – What do you mean when you say there is a spiritual element to your practice?
Mentioned on The Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: Hello fellow Earthlings. I’m Mike Matthews. This is Multiple Life. Welcome to a new episode, and this one is an interview with Scott Carney, who is a neat guy who makes a living doing neat things and then writing about them. So I first had Scott on the podcast sometime ago to discuss his New York Times bestselling book.
What Doesn’t. Kill us, which was an investigation into the world of Wim Hof. You’ve probably heard of this guy. So he’s the guy who uses breathing techniques and cold exposure to do some extraordinary things to climb mountains in his underwear, for example, submerge himself into ice water for extended periods of time, and even.
Willingly exert control over his immune system. And so Scott had set out, I believe, if I remember correctly, he said it was a commission from Playboy and he set out to debunk Wim Hof and show how this guy was just a charlatan. And in the end though, Carney actually became an advocate of Wim Hofs and like a protege of his and spent years.
Practicing whims ways and eventually climbed a mountain with whim in his underwear. So that was what doesn’t kill us. And then when that journey was over, Scott decided to take what he had learned from that and to also explore some of the questions. That that whole experience raised for him and that journey culminated in his newest book, which is called The Wedge.
And in this book, Scott explores controlling your mind and your body to hijack stress, the stress response, and use that to push your limits and to experience life in a whole new way. That’s what we talk about in this podcast, including why too much comfort is unhealthy and harmful. Scott’s thoughts on developing an unstoppable mindset, developing that level of grit and resilience.
Scott talks about a fascinating. Kettlebell tossing routine that he says is one of the best ways to enter a flow state. We talk about what that means. We also talk about how you can create new neural symbols to change your experience of different sensations and more. Now before we get to the show, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, and if you wanna help me help more people get into the best shape of their lives, please consider picking up one of my best selling health and fitness books.
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Scott Carney’s back. Hey man.
Scott: Hey. How you doing? Great.
Mike: It’s been nice catching up offline. It’s been a couple years last time for people listening, we talked about Scott’s previous book, what Doesn’t Kill Us? That’s it. Yeah. Yep. That was a couple years ago, and now he has a new book coming out called The Wedge. So here we are. Scott’s an interesting dude doing interesting things, so I thought it made sense to bring him back and talk about this new book and some of the key concepts in it.
Scott: Thank you so much for having me on again. It’s such a weird time we’re living in right now, and I’m really excited to sort of add my 2 cents into it with the wedge
Mike: You’ve been up to interesting things. I remember when I was talking to you after our previous interview and I asked, what’s next for you?
And it was this project. It sounds out there, right? So why this book and why the title? What is the wedge?
Scott: So let me actually go back a little bit to the last book because they really do speak to each other. So in what Doesn’t Kill us, that started when I met this sort of Mad Man slash Prophet named Wim Hof.
You’ve probably seen him around. He is the guy who spends more time in ice water than anyone else on it. Earth, you know, he has developed this method by putting yourself under controlled stress. And with him it’s ice water and it’s a breathing technique whereby he gains control of the automatic functioning of his body.
And initially, I went out to meet him at his training center in Poland in 2011 when he was pretty much unknown on the global circuit. And I was on a commission from Playboy Magazine and I thought that what he was doing was gonna get people killed. And he was a charlatan guru. With this fake method to put people in ice and they were all gonna freeze to death.
So I wanted to go out there and debunk him as this fake, but instead what happened is I was the first real journalist to cover him, and in a matter of probably about six days, I went from a complete skeptic to somebody who was climbing up mountains in my underwear in two degree Fahrenheit weather.
Realizing that we have this internal strength that all of us can access if we expose ourselves to uncomfortable conditions. And you know, the culmination of that book is me climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro after about six, seven years of studying his method with him in a bathing suit. It’s negative 30 degrees outside.
You know, my skin is just bare to the environment and yet I persevere and I make it up this mountain, you know, it’s been this epic journey. That book was like a New York Times bestseller, and I get emails every day from people saying that it changed their lives. It made them realize that they could connect with the environment and change the way they work.
It was a wild ride, but at the end of it, at the top of Kilimanjaro, I’m thinking, well, I could expose myself to ice water. I can control my reactions to ice water. I can do this breathing technique that sort of really. Gets me deep into sort of a breathing meditation. But what else is there? What can I reduce out of my experience with Wim Hof to further the field and apply a general principle that affects everything?
You know, I wanted something really big, and so I spent the next three years exploring this concept called the wedge. Which is the fundamental principle of just about everything that you do, anytime that your mind interacts with your body, there’s sort of a conversation between the stimulus, that hard thing that you’re up against, whatever that is, and your mind saying, oh, I can do this, or I can’t do this, and how do we dig deep into that and create space between that stimulus and your response so that you have choice.
In how you respond, and that’s what the wedge is all about.
Mike: It makes me think of resilience to use kind of a trendy term or totally grit, right? Being able to persevere despite hardship. I’m remembering you were telling me at the end of our last interview that you also were kind of curious to explore if there was a possibility of, I guess a term could be a spiritual component.
Mm-hmm. Or maybe a paranormal or paranormal component to all of this.
Scott: Yeah, it’s definitely not paranormal. Um, it is absolutely a part of the life process. Like this is not prana coming down from heaven, that you sort of like Qigong your way into some sort of superpower. It’s an evolutionary power that every sort of biological creature has to respond to environmental stress in different ways, but there is a spiritual component to it as well.
You know, you mentioned grit and Americans fucking love grit. Like the idea that you’re at a parch desert and you’re just gonna. Fucking go across that desert and you’re gonna do it. ’cause you’re gonna express your will on that desert and push your way through it.
Mike: Alexander the Great did it. I’m gonna do it too.
Scott: That’s the thing that we love. And while I think that there is a place for grit and that is something that you absolutely do want to explore in your body and your abilities, I am much, much, much more interested in the idea of flow. These are two actually diametrically opposed physical and mental processes.
Sensations, right? It’s like I wanna focus on the sensations you feel and how you can use those to accentuate your experience in the environment, accentuate your feelings of stress so that things happen naturally, versus expressing your will on something which is ultimately a. Often sort of self-destructive, like, I mean, you were a big weightlifter, right?
And you know that if you lift something that’s too big, you can do it right? You could do it at the expense of part of your body as you do it, and that’s the wrong way to do it, right? Essentially what you wanna do is find ways to use those sensations, pay attention to those sensations, and then push yourself into a new place because of it, it’s more about cooperation than it is about.
Expressing your will and force.
Mike: So let’s get down to specifics of, okay, how most people respond to normal stressful situations, and how do they change that and what are they trying to change it into according to. What you have discovered and what you talk about in the book.
Scott: One of the main concepts that I found by actually going to Stanford University and meeting with um, Dr. Andrew Huberman, as well as some neuroscientists about Wayne State University. The first question that I wanna know is how do you experience stress in the first place? What is stress? ’cause you know, for me, something that might be stressful for you is just a walk in the park. Park. And I like to think about like the experience of like a soldier who had just come back from Afghanistan, who had a really rough time in Afghanistan and comes back and watches a fireworks display in the States.
And now this is a sort of a more stereotypical soldier. I don’t know if this is necessarily a real one, but let’s use this concept for a second. The fireworks display goes off and one person sitting in the audience loves it. And it’s just this ecstatic experience of community and watching these explosions.
And for the soldier who associates those noises with. Trauma that could spike P T S D. Now, the issue is not with the fireworks, it’s with the human response. So how do we encode those responses in our body in the first place and how can we take advantage of them? And it comes down to the nervous system.
And this is something that if you think about the brain where it is sitting in, like this ball of fluid in your skull, it can’t sense the world directly. All of those sensations that you have ever had in your life. First come through your peripheral nervous system. It comes from your fingers and your eyes and your nose in these ways.
And it transfers through chemical and uh, physical pathways into your brain and gets translated into sensation and emotion and whatnot. And I had to really do a deep dive into this and it’s this concept that I call neural symbols. Now, when you experience something for the very first time, and I’m gonna use the example of ice water, ’cause I think people can really envision that very easily when you first jump into ice water.
That cold hits your skin, right, and it travels through all of your skin pathways into your spinal cord and up into the lowest area of your brainstem, which is the limbic system of your lizard brain. And your brain receives that signal as just data. It doesn’t have any meaning as it comes in. And there’s a volume button, it’s a loud signal.
And I like to think of the limbic system as something like a library of all other sensations that you’ve ever had in charge of this library is. Limbic librarian. Let’s imagine some sort of nerd sensing the world from this sort of data port. The information comes in and the librarian looks at this signal of ice water and is like, Hmm, if you’ve never felt it before, if you’ve never been in ice water before, it looks at this thing is like, Hey, that’s a novel sensation.
It’s really loud, but I’ve no idea what it means. So the limbic librarian kicks that sensation up to another part of your nervous system called the Paralympic system, which is only about a centimeter away. And the Paralympic system picks this up and says, oh, well, what does this sensation mean? The librarian kicked it to me, and so it attaches your current emotional state to that sensation and then kicks it back down to the librarian.
And the librarian says, Cool. The current emotional state, which is in ice water, it’s unmitigated horror, right? You’ve never felt this before. It’s just this terrible thing. And it says, ice water means unmitigated, terror and horror, and it files it in a way in the limbic library, and that’s how you respond to that ice water.
Now, here’s the real magic with the neural symbols, is that the next time you feel ice water, you get into that thing. The limbic librarian does not kick it up to the Paralympic system. It says, look, I’ve already experienced this. It pulls that book off the shelf and it pulls off also your previous emotional state off the shelf, and it says, okay.
Ice water unmitigated terror. No need to do any more work. And what this means is that every single one of us, no matter what we’re feeling, is we’re feeling past emotions and sensations no matter what you’re looking at the past. And what I’m trying to do with the wedge is create new neural symbols so that we take control of that process and attach whatever emotion we want to those sensations because ultimately, All of cognition emerges first through this sensory system, everything you’ve ever done, these are the bits and bites like in a computer of everything that you experience, including complex thought, like if you’re contemplating right now.
I was like, why am I listening to this guy talk random stuff on a podcast right now That was enabled. Because of neural symbols, because all of the grammar, the very base of the human consciousness is built on this process.
Mike: How do you do that though? So somebody who has taken an ice cold shower before?
Probably many people listening. I’ve been doing it for a while, not because there’s anything really in the way of health benefits. Even if I’m up there, I’ll get up to like a few minutes in the shower. Yeah, it’s super cold water. I live in Virginia, uh, winter. I can’t pretend that that’s the same though as.
Take research on how winter swimming can impact the immune system.
Those are people who are out there for a while though, it’s a bit different than me taking a cold shower. I just do it ’cause it wakes me up in the morning and I think there’s maybe a little bit of psychological value to doing something that I don’t particularly want to do at seven in the morning or whatever, and it’s become a habit.
And I wrote about it and I recorded a podcast, so I’m sure a fair amount of people listening have tried cold exposure and never really got used to it. I remember one of the guys who worked with me, he would hyperventilate that initial, that sheer kind of terror response seems to be, I. Almost hardwired, but what you’re saying is that it’s not necessarily, and you can change that.
And if you can change that with something as raw as exposing your body to something that is very uncomfortable, that you could do the same thing with a lot of other situations in your life that you instinctively are just repulsed by, but then you can learn how to turn that into. Would you say going back to the term flow, which I assume you’re using it in the cheeks and MHA sense, or is that something that needs to be clarified?
Scott: It’s very. Related to him and I’m very glad that you’ve pronounced his name ’cause I can’t do it ’cause it’s spelled crazy. I was like, huh. That’s how it’s pronounced. Yeah, it’s very similar to that. So with what doesn’t kill us, the amazing thing about that whole journey with Wim Hof is that I dunk myself in ice water and I don’t freeze.
I actually get warmer. I actually hijack thermogenic. Properties in the body and shift my heating response from shivering, which is the natural response to burning fat in water. You can actually master your biology and master the unconscious biology that you have by simply relaxing in that environment and forcing your body to do something else.
So there are actually huge benefits, even when you’re doing your cold shower in Virginia. There are huge benefits, even if it’s just for a minute in that shower, because with the first experience you have in it, that cold water goes on your back and it’s horrible. Right. It’s like ah, and you tense up. But what you’re supposed to do, most people eventually will do is you relax in that environment.
Yeah. And when you do that, you switch from your fight or flight responses, what they call the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is your rest and digest. And by doing that one switch, you actually alter your entire experience of being in there, where you go from what could be panic, you know, mentioned this guy who’s hyperventilating to someone who is resilient.
To a stress that is standard coming from that faucet. And when you do that, you don’t only master, I mean, who cares if you can fucking stay in a cold bath for a while? Like that doesn’t matter. What does matter is what that does and how that rewires your nervous system, how it rewires the way you fundamentally respond to every stress that’s out there.
And ice water is one way. And I love the ice water stuff. I’ve done that for 10 years now. But you could also do this with heat. You can do this with sex. You could do this with sleep. You can do this with psychedelic experiences. I mean, you can really go out there and find anything that causes a sensation externally, then modulate the way that sensation affects you, because that is where you have choice.
You have choice in how you feel something, and then when you have choice in how you feel, something. You also learn that you have control over the automatic parts of your body that you didn’t think you had control over.
Mike: That’s an interesting thought. I hadn’t thought about it that way. And a couple comments.
One is from the beginning of doing the cold shower routine, I always was pretty relaxed. And so I only remember shivering a couple times. And again, I live in Virginia in the. Summer. The water’s not that cold to be honest, but in the winter it is cold. It is ice water. And now, yes, I get in and I’m like, for the first second it’s like, uh uh.
That’s my response. Uh, but then I just kind of get into my routine. I time it in the beginning. I don’t time it now, I just do it until I actually don’t really feel the temperature of the water anymore. It just kind of feels like a shower. And then I’m like, okay, that’s enough. That makes me think of what you were saying with if you can kind of.
Hijack the process that usually runs on automatic, and that was kind of, I guess, my basic theory in the beginning when I looked into the research on, okay, could this have explicit health benefits? I, I came away thinking now almost certainly not, it’s not enough exposure, but there could be psychological benefits.
I didn’t take it further. I didn’t do the breathing. I didn’t try to like tap into anything deeper than just, Hey, I can become comfortable being uncomfortable. I do think there’s value in that because that. Does seem to be a transferable skill. Which brings me to my next question for you is, so if I’m hearing you right, the idea that if through different methods, if you can learn to control a very fundamental process again, that normally runs on automatic, that that can then touch and enhance many different aspects of your life, where you experience things, is the common denominator here, discomfort in any form?
Scott: So it’s anything that’s. Powerful and sends a signal that’s strong into your nervous system and discomfort is one that I think that many Americans just fundamentally don’t have much control over, you know,
Mike: or very, very averse to. Right? Like avoid at all costs.
Scott: Right. You know, we are so epically comfortable right now.
If you think about where our ancestors came from, you know, 300,000 years ago.
Mike: You don’t have to go that far back, man. Just go back a couple hundred years. Totally. Ironically. Take someone who is in the 50th percentile of income, they live better now than Kings did just a few hundred years ago. Yes, all things considered,
But our nervous systems are fundamentally the same as they were before. And here’s the thing that’s super important, is if we lived. In a time where there were constant variations in temperature and various stress levels and you know, actual threats. Not like worry about my 4 0 1 k right now in an economic downturn, but I’m worried that that night is gonna chop my head off, or that lion is gonna come and chase me down.
We’re dealing with those threats that we have now, or declining 4 0 1 k with that archaic body. So that means. You look at your 4 0 1 k dropping, you release cortisol, you release adrenaline, you release your fight or flight response, but you’re sitting at your desk watching a big lion go down. We right?
And what does that mean? Like, yeah, that’s a threat, but it’s like a remote threat, whereas our bodies were actually meant to respond. When that lion ran at you, you don’t look at the graph of your declining life to respond, right? You fucking run or fight the line, or you probably get eaten, let’s be honest.
But your body was primed to respond. And now when we sit and we watch that declining line and we release that cortisol, we release that other stuff. That energy that that produces turns inward and wreaks havoc on your body. And this is why the Wim Hof method, and actually all of these techniques that I’m looking at have this unexpected benefit not only for anxiety, but actually autoimmune illnesses, things like arthritis and Crohn’s disease, lupus, and anything else along those lines.
Because a lot of those things are caused by sort of a haywire relationship between the environment and your body. So we’re giving you correct or at least more correct stimulus so that you have that. Physical output that you can take control of these automatic things. You know, one thing that we often talk about in this world about human health, right, is that there’s two pillars of human health.
There’s the way you move your body and the stuff that you put in your body, and there’s this general idea out there that if you eat the right things and you move the right ways, you’re gonna get to some combination of good health. What I propose and what doesn’t kill us more so in the wedge, is that there’s this.
Third pillar that we just don’t fucking pay attention to, which is the environment, the way stress affects you and the way that you also have to respond to that because you could have the best six pack in the world, but if you can’t go outside and handle a small temperature change, then you’re pretty fucked up.
Mike: Actually, I used to give one of the guys who works with me shit about that. So when I started doing the cold showers, he’s this big strong dude, right? A big beard. But he is such a pussy with cold weather. I mean, if it’s under 70 degrees, he’s coming as if it’s gonna be a blizzard. He comes in with the full jacket and sweatpants.
Right. And so I was giving him shit over and over, like to do the little cold shower thing with me. He tried one time and he came to work late that day. He was like, dude, it was. Awful. Right. I sat in there for 20 minutes after with just blistering hot water. I was like,
Scott: something’s wrong here, dude. This is not
You are made for more than this.
Scott: Come on, man. I mean, that’s the scary thing about comfort. He’s that kind of person. He likes to be comfortable. I mean, we all do. Even a fucking caveman wants to be comfortable. Like if you drop somebody from 300,000 years ago, brought them into our world, they’d be like, yeah, I love the thermostat.
Fuck you guys.
Mike: They’re just, they’re just gonna sit by the air conditioner all summer and sit by the heater all winter and. That’s gonna be it. Their life is made
Scott: because no one wants to do that stuff. But we need to. And that’s the thing. And that’s why we try to improve ourselves. That’s why we try to go out there and do things.
There’s a whole type of training out there that you can get into. So I wanna talk about a. Kettlebells with you guys, because I think that’s something that’s a very physical thing. Now, obviously I go into a lot of different places in the book, but I found this kettlebell workout that to me, spoke to something a lot deeper than just getting good muscles, right?
I don’t know
Mike: what could be deeper than that, but I’m listening.
Scott: I’ve seen your photos. I know your six packs have six packs, but go with me here. So I am not a mega super athlete, but I was walking out of a lab. At Stanford talking about the way neural symbols will get wired together, and he tried to put me into a virtual reality simulator where I was swimming with virtual sharks to trigger my fear response so that I could try to take control of fear.
The problem is that I’m not actually scared of virtual sharks, so I was like swimming with these things. I like, oh yeah, there’s a great white coming at me and I don’t care. So I left the Huberman lab a little bit let down because I wanted to be a little scared because you need to have a stress that you believe in in order.
To have something to control. ’cause otherwise, what are you pressing up against?
Mike: Diving in a cage might be a bit freaky, and I’m not an easily spooked person, but I could imagine that being a bit disconcerting. Oh
Scott: yeah, sure. That’s a real shark. I was with first Rule shark. If that didn’t work,
Mike: you could have hopped in a cage and see how that hit your
Scott: heart rate.
I a hundred percent agree with you, but you know, I didn’t have a cage available, so I was walking out of Hoberman’s lab and I get this phone call. Actually, it was a text message from my friend Tony, who was like, dude, you gotta go meet my friend Michael Castro Giovanni, who can put you into an instantaneous flow state with kettlebells.
And when I got that message, I was like, that sounds lame, because honestly, I’m not a kettlebell guy. I don’t even really like gyms. There’s things that I love doing. I love hiking, I love biking, but like I’m not. A weightlifter or anything like that. And I saw kettlebells, I was like totally turned off by it, but I had this feeling that I might as well see what he’s talking about.
So I meet Michael. So I go up from Palo Alto to San Francisco and I meet him on this hill, and Michael’s like a gorilla, right? Like he is this just really. Big dude, you know, if he was angry at you, you’d be scared. You know, I’m not built that way. And he’s standing across from me with a kettlebell, which if you think about it, when you’re facing another dude and he’s got essentially a weapon in his hand, a cannonball, this thing that could fucking kill you, and he says, I’m gonna throw this at you.
It should spark a little bit of fear in you. It should. That is the correct response. ’cause he’s like, I’m gonna throw it at you. You’re gonna catch it and you’re gonna throw
Mike: it back. This is his one weird trick. The first
Scott: flow. I love it. Right? And so there’s this sense of danger, even though I know he doesn’t actually want to kill me, and he takes it between his legs, you know, it goes back, we’re looking at each other’s eyes, and this is sort of like, you know, somewhat of an aggressive stance between people.
He lifts it up, goes up to like chest height with it, puts it back between his legs and does this three times. And on the third time you go from looking at each other’s eyes to the bell and it flies through the air. And I’m, you know, my asshole fucking puckers up and I’m like, oh, here it comes. And I grab the kettlebell, it goes between my legs and I.
Pass it back and all of a sudden this potentially confrontational moment turns from something that’s sort of fear-based into a dance between two people. Because when you’re throwing a piece of iron between two people, no one can be the winner. Right? Usually we are competitive against each other. We try to.
Best people, but if you try to win with kettlebells, it’s gonna land on someone’s foot, it’s gonna break someone’s knee, it’s going to be a bad thing. So instead, you’re both mutually visually tethered to this kettlebell as it flies through space. And because there is this threat, there’s always gonna be a threat of that kettlebell hurting you.
You maintain absolute focus on that object, and because you’re in focus onto a threat, you enter into a flow state where both of your movements are coordinated automatically. Because of that threat. And it is honestly a magical and almost spiritual experience. And when Michael Castor Giovanni throws this kettlebell, he says to you, I love you.
He says to you, you throw this kettlebell with love. You don’t throw it with competitiveness, betterness, anything like that, because you can infuse those physical motions and those sensations of f. Fear, you can give it whatever emotional valance you want on top of it. Remember these neural symbols that I was talking about before?
The neural symbol that’s initially created is fear of being in confrontation to then being in cooperation with somebody, and it becomes a way to develop trust with another human. It is an amazing.
Mike: Exercise. And from there is the idea that if you’ve broken that negative kind of automatic response by doing something like this that allows you to associate a different emotional response to physical danger, I’m assuming this is not something that you’re saying, oh, well you need to do this every day to maintain, or is that what you’re saying?
Are you saying if you do it just even one time? It can allow you to kind of break through and then in other situations where you might perceive some sort of danger that because you had this experience, you’re now able to respond to it in a more positive or productive way than you would
Scott: otherwise. Sure.
Absolutely. I do throw Kettlebells regularly with. People, and I find that it’s a great way to build physical communication between people that fosters a trust between anyone. Probably could be a good workout
Mike: too. Are you doing kettlebell swings? Essentially, but you’re throwing
Scott: them, you’re throwing like three or 4,000 pounds in like 15 minutes.
If you got a 50 pound bell, that is not. Easy
Mike: work, which makes it more fun. I mean, that’s more fun than just doing swings by yourself. So much more fun,
Scott: right? And then you start free styling. Like if it’s not just like a two-handed pass with your leg, you’re throwing with one hand. You’re going behind your back Google kettlebell partner passing, and you’ll see it’s almost like a dance.
It’s crazy to think of it that way because we don’t usually think of workouts as dances. And that sounds sort of like less cool in a way. But I tell you, it makes it so much more fun, so much more fulfilling. And Michael, who’s been doing this for years and years and years, Says he finds the most interesting kettlebell partner passing when it’s between couples.
When it’s two people who’ve been dating for a long time, or married or whatever, and he says, I can see their whole relationship play out in how they throw those kettlebells. And honestly, it’s hard to do it with your partner because all of these unspoken things, you know, think about any relationship that you’ve ever been in and there’s areas that you don’t wanna talk about because you know it’s just not worth it.
You just don’t wanna like talk about this whole side of things, whatever that might be, and then all of a sudden, You’re literally throwing something that could break their foot and your trust issues come out in that moment. And then as you continue with the practice, you learn to both trust each other again without ever using any words.
It is amazing.
Mike: Get fit and functional bodies and relationship. That’s a good twofer. This reminds me of something you were just talking about. A little bit ago that there was a time when we were exposed to mortal danger multiple times per day. That was normal living, and we evolved in that type of environment.
And now our modern world is drastically different, but evolution moves very slowly. So we’re still working with this old hardware and old software that has been calibrated to. This time in the past and certainly has not caught up yet. So do you think it’s just healthy to expose ourselves, to take calculated risks almost, or expose ourselves to danger without doing it recklessly because then we just die.
And that would be kind of silly, right?
Scott: Yeah. You’re not chasing death, but you are chasing that sort of limit where something goes from stress to danger, and you wanna be able to push yourself right into that. Place where something could cause you damage so that you have the maximum range of physical emotional movement.
You know, as you said, you have to be responsible, but if we are just so comfortable all the time, we are constantly narrowing the band of where we can be comfortable, right? If you think about temperature, the 1890s in your house, it was 55 degrees, you know, with your Woodburn stove or whatever. Now the average temperature.
Is 72 degrees in a house. I’ve given my
Mike: wife shit when I’ve dropped the temperature to 68 or 69. It’s so cool. It’s so cool. I’ve brought this point. I was like, you know, it’s really not, she’s 105 pounds or something and mm-hmm I’m 200 pounds, so there’s a difference there, but you’re completely. Right in that if comfort is taken too far, it actually becomes unhealthy.
Right? If it’s pursued too much to the exclusion of anything else, especially discomfort, it is unhealthy. Right. And
Scott: what is comfort anyway? Is it a thing like you have comfortable or is it really just a response to uncomfortable? Right. I’m not even sure there is something that is like absolute homeostasis where you’re comfortable everywhere.
Are you in a flotation tank? Is that the ideal human state where you. Everything is taken care of by a perfect environment. That’s not human anymore. The
Mike: calories are just fed into your mouth ’cause you have to taste them still. You don’t want it to just go right into your blood because that’s extra comfort.
You know, you gotta get the fat and the sugar and the salt.
Scott: The whole point of being alive is to explore and act in the environment with as much range as. Possible and as needed, like honestly, not everyone needs to climb up Kilimanjaro in their bathing suit, right? That’s a little extreme. But you do want to be able to say, look, if I need to go do something, I can do it.
And the problem with comfort is that as you proceed to some sort of Arista, Deal. Ideal of comfort. You narrow your range constantly. So we wanna be able to push back against those borders. It’s just like with weightlifting, if you never do any physical exercise, you’re going to get weak. That is the nature of the human body to be like, okay, I’m gonna shed muscle ’cause I don’t need it.
I don’t use it. And then you’ve narrowed your range of what you can do now, apply that concept to absolutely every sensation you can experience, and now you understand what I’m talking about with the witch. This just
Mike: occurs to me that there’s a bigger picture here too, of. Contributing some good genetic material to evolution.
And the reason I say this, ’cause you know, you look at again, modernity and how easy it is to survive and how many people are alive now, who would not be alive just even a hundred years ago. And that’s good in many ways. But there’s not as much evolutionary pressure now as there once was. And that’s good in some ways, and it’s bad in other ways.
And by doing this, what you’re talking about, I feel like you can take some pride in that. You are, I. Willingly applying that pressure to yourself, maybe that’s gonna be part of your legacy that is gonna live beyond you, you know?
Scott: Well, I don’t think that’s quite how evolution works. Like if I never work out and I reproduce, or I work out all the time and I reproduce, that shouldn’t affect the genetic profile of the child.
That could affect the epigenetic profile, which is the sort of environmental changes.
Mike: That would be my response to that though, is it starts somewhere. Right? And correct me if I’m wrong, but what I’m saying is if you have. A population of people of declining fortitude, let’s just say, and they keep on reproducing and making themselves more and more comfortable.
And weaker. And weaker and developing more and more autoimmune issues that in time some of these changes become more and more permanent and more and more fixed.
Scott: I don’t really wanna go down this route because if you really push that logic, you end up in Nazi eugenics
Mike: programs. Ironically, the Eugenics program started here in the Nazis, just copied true what we were doing.
That’s absolutely true. Eugenics is an interesting subject in that you take the Nazi stigma out of it, and the concept makes perfect sense. Now, how it was implemented starting here in the United States, that’s where it goes wonky. I mean, nature has its own eugenics. Even women being biologically programmed toward hypergo, like.
Yes, that’s a eugenic function.
Scott: I have some thoughts on this, but I think what’s more important, eugenics or evolution, these are things that take place over multiple lifetimes, right? That has to do with the reproduction, transmission of genes, and then the fitness of the genes in the environment. What I’m saying is that you have genes right now that you inherited from a legacy of 300,000 years, and this sort of comfort addiction that we have is really just a short.
Run and we’re really talking like a hundred years, and it’s been really bad in the last a hundred years. In the last 2000 years, it has slowed and thousands of years before that we were actually really robust and really could exist in many environments. But what I’m saying is that you can use a stimulus to unlock your evolutionary resilience that you have already.
We’re not really talking about what you’re gonna pass to future generations. Hopefully it’s habits. Hopefully it’s ways to interact with the environment and ways to use your sensations to navigate. The world in a way that isn’t so complacent. And that’s really what I wanna do. We’re not really talking about altering genetic lines.
’cause when you’re talking about that level of think, you’re talking about altering mutation profiles, which is not really something that I get into at all. Makes
Mike: sense. And I think your pitch is a lot more enticing. It’s just something I’ve actually thought about in other contexts and they’re like, this actually kind of reminds me of this.
And my mind goes to, there’s also a bigger picture, but I totally get what you’re saying.
Hey, before we continue, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, and if you wanna help me help more people get into the best shape of their lives, please do consider picking up one of my best selling health and fitness books. My most popular ones are Bigger, leaner, stronger for Men, thinner, leaner, stronger for Women.
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More interesting, entertaining. Productive now, if you want to take audible up on that offer and get one of my audio books for free, just go to legion athletics.com/audible and sign up for your account. Are there any other interesting techniques that you talk about in the book? So like the kettlebell, the partner swinging.
That’s great because that’s something that people can do right away and they can get a good workout from it and get an experience of this flow state in overcoming this fear response to danger. Is there
Scott: another example? Well, throughout the book I’m looking at. Ways to generate a larger library of neuro symbols that we have by putting ourselves in stimulus.
So I look at roughly 10 different sensations that you can create to change your literal experience of the world. Then you apply a new emotional value to it. So at one point, I go into float tanks and I see how float tanks by radically reducing the stimulus from the external world, you can turn to look inwards.
And it turns out that is an amazing thing to do to counter anxiety, depression, and P T S D, like the psychological benefits are amazing. I also end up learning how to stay in a sauna for a crazy amount of time. I did this five hour sauna in Latvia. With my wife and two shamans, they call them niks, which is, you know, think about like the Druids in England, but the Latian versions of that.
And these people are so fascinating because you’re in the sauna and right as that point where I feel claustrophobic, I wanna get out of that room. Like it’s just too intense for me. They take cold water and they just pour it on my feet and it brings me right below my red line so that I can stay in longer.
And over the course of four or five hours, they’re doing these like, Weird shamanic rituals where they’re adding different sensations into my sensation profile by like giving me a food, which has a very interesting flavor profile, like sort of like a bread made out of pine needles, which is super weird taste, right?
But then they rub pine needles on my body as I’m in this very hot I. Area and I start to experience synesthesia, which is the blending of senses, so that I smell sound, and I feel taste, and it’s this totally bizarre experience. But what they’re trying to do is confuse the way that I sense the environment to create entirely new ground up neural symbols, and we get out of it and like the world is brighter and fresher and cleaner than I had ever experienced it before.
At the end of the book, I go down. Peru, maybe you’ve heard of ayahuasca. I do three ceremonies of Ayahuasca with a shaman where the ceremony isn’t just about the psychedelic that you’re taking, but it’s about creating space and sounds, smells, and touches, and all of these things at once so that you can facilitate a really profound psychological and physiological change.
You know, the whole journey with the wedge, it sort of cracks open a way to think about your body in space in entirely
Mike: different ways. And I guess the human experience entirely different ways. Let’s just talk about the general types of stimuli. I have a pretty narrow range of stimuli. My life is pretty boring.
It’s funny, when people ask me, they’re like, oh, you can ever do any vlogging or behind the scenes of Mike’s life? I’m like, it’s not very interesting guys. Like I wake up, I go in my sauna, I read, I go and work out. I go and work all day for, I don’t know, however many hours. I go home, I eat some food. I eat the same food every day ’cause it’s healthy and the way that I want to eat, put my kids to bed so of the time the wife go to sleep, rinse, repeat, like, that’s it.
It’s a healthy routine, but it just makes me think of how narrow that experience is. And a lot of people have their own version of that. This is the exact opposite of
Scott: that. Yeah, I am a big fan of routines and I’m a big fan of breaking routines.
Mike: You know, you have to have routines if you’re gonna be a high producer,
Scott: minimally, right?
And I do a lot of the same things every day, but I also will find moments to have radically different experiences so that I can taste a lot of the world. Like one of the things I talk about in the book a lot is our nervous systems. Ultimately anxiety, stress, these sort of negative feelings that we have boil down to evolution.
It boils down to the fundamental stress point of evolution, which is. Death, right? You know, you have the fight or flight response because you’re fighting or fighting something that will kill you, and that turns into a sensation that you experience as a human, right? Those experiences are supposed to move you to action, but ultimately, everything you ever feel, the thing that forges those binary neural symbols is that pressure of death.
You know, whether it’s fear or even something like love. Because love connecting with somebody who is very close to you fosters community, right? It fosters something that helps you survive. And thrive in the world in this way. Like everything out there comes down to that experience of being alive, the attempt to prolong, the ability to have experiences in the world, to push death a little bit further out.
And one of the really interesting insights that I’ve had for a long time is that death is the most important teacher we will ever have because no matter what, none of us are gonna live forever. Like. Death is freaking coming, and I will promise you that if life were a song, it ends in a minor key because death is going to suck.
And if we know, and if we’ve truly inhabited the knowledge that we have lost this game of life, that no matter what we’re coming up against that hard limit and it’s fucking over, then what does that say about what you should be doing right now? Should you try to insulate yourself? Should you try to like protect yourself so that moment doesn’t come?
Or do you say, well, I know it’s coming. I know I’ve lost. So that gives me freedom to have as many experiences as I can to cram as many experiences as I can into my life so that when that comes, I will at least say that I have done much. I have tried things, I have experienced things because we know at the end of the day, it’s a lost cause.
It’s going to happen and whatever happens. After you die, we don’t really have any say in what that is. Like, I know Heaven, hell, Buddhist, rebirth, whatever that is not for us to decide. That is for whatever the fundamental mechanics of the universe are, but we have this moment, this life right now to take risks, to go out there and try to become more rather than becoming less.
Mike: I love it and it speaks to one of the things. That I don’t like about, I would say the fitness industry or fitness culture. And what turned me off initially almost made me not want to get into the industry and just stick with publishing. I wanna do with publishing company. And that is the aesthetic obsession with the body.
The kind of narcissistic side of it, right? Of wanting to look a certain way, but taking it too far where. It just becomes unhealthy. But then there’s also just the obsession over caring for the body and as opposed to using it more as a tool that we can experience life with and that we can use fitness to help us better experience life.
But if we get too wrapped up with taking care of the tool and forget to live life, like for example, if somebody is restricting their social life, Because they’re just too afraid of eating extra calories. Let’s say that it’s not because they have some kind of competition coming up, although this would be the type of person to do that, but there’s no real good reason for it.
They’re just worried about something related to their workouts or related to their abs or whatever. That that doesn’t resonate with me at all, and that’s not something that I would recommend. It is just not a mindset, it’s not a healthy mindset. Amelia Earhart, I think it was she quip that she always would think with her stick forward, right?
So the metaphor of like, you know, the throttle is always forward. And we’re always moving ahead and we’re willing to take risks and we’re willing to figure out things and and overcome obstacles and change plans. And I totally agree with that mentality and
Scott: that approach to living. Yeah. We wanna be flexible, we wanna be able to respond to situations, we wanna be able to thrive in situations and.
At the end of the day, if we fail at whatever we’re doing, we can pick ourselves back up and we need to know that failure’s part of it, like not everything we do can work out. Amelia Earhart’s a great example. She died right, but she’s also a legend because of what she did in her life, and I’d rather be a legend than somebody who had an extra 10 years on the end of his life.
Other people may make different decisions and that’s totally fine. But you also said something about the six pack life, right? I’m gonna get my core to look as awesome as possible. And like that is somehow a value that is important in and of itself. And I think that if you’re working out for your six pack, then that’s the fucking problem.
Like no one fucking needs a. Six pack. If you do want a six pack, you want your abs to be able to let you do things that you couldn’t do normally. Like I want to be able to go on big hikes. I wanna have adventures. I want to go do things. And what I look like shouldn’t be the thing that affects the experiences.
You know, think about working out, like if you’re working out just for the. Aesthetics of the working workout, what you’re doing is essentially saying, I don’t like my body right now and I want it to look better. And you actually hardwire with neural symbols, anxiety into your workout. So the workout becomes work rather than fun, rather than something you enjoy
Yeah, absolutely. And that can apply to many brass rings that we can try to reach for. Right. The same type of pathology kind of flick. People with money and chasing status and material things. I’ll say that when you get a six pack for the first time, it’s pretty cool. You look in the mirror and you’re like, oh, that’s cool.
I like that there is some instinctive positive response to it, but it’s also just a matter of doing it. Which kind of comes back to more of the frame of reference that you were talking about, which is it’s a goal and it doesn’t really have to mean much of anything necessarily. I’d say you probably even agree that some of the wild things that you’ve done in the scheme of things, you did them because you wanted to do them.
Scott: believe it or not, I did them without a six pack. Life
Mike: can be lived without a six pack. I did it, I did it. It’s true. Uh, but, but yes, it’s one of those just, just in my personal experience where people
Scott: I. I’ve seen your photos. I’ve seen your
Mike: photos. You do it the first time and you like it. I’m not gonna lie.
Trust me, what you’re gonna notice, and it’s cool to hear from people. I hear from people all the time who go through this experience where they get in really good shape for the first time and they do like the aesthetic of it. That’s probably half of it, right? But then the other half. Really becomes obvious to them that it’s not so much about having the six pack, it’s more, let’s take for example, that a lower level of body fat, unless it’s taken too far, is generally healthier than a high level.
There’s a range. Obviously, if you’re a guy and you’re in the range where you can start seeing your abs, you’re in a healthy range. And if you came from a very. Unhealthy place before. It’s not just what you see in the mirror, right? They’re like, shit, I have more energy. I have more self-confidence because let’s face it, like I look better now and people treat me differently again.
And I hear from people all the time. That’s, uh, one of those kind of hidden benefits of let’s say, getting. A six pack or getting in really good shape is it does positively impact your life in many other ways? For me, I would say maybe it’s also, I’m just used to the way I look. But yeah, sure. There’s still a point of vanity of why I’m in the gym, lifting weights.
I value a lot of the other stuff I. At least as much, if not more. And it is more to the point of what you’re saying about how fitness allows me to more engage with the various people in my life that matter to me and the activities that matter to me, and to be able to more richly experience the experiences that I do have.
Even though right now I’m very much in a routine. But anyway, I’m just sticking up for us. Six pack four.
Scott: That’s a group that definitely needs defense these days. Us people
Mike: who are still watching our
Mike: and maybe I just need to break free of it
Scott: all and stop caring. No, we need to put you on the pot belly.
Mike: fit to fat to fit thing. Yeah. I, I don’t think I would make it too far, dude. I’d be like, fit to maybe a little bit fatter and then like go back to fit.
Scott: Absolutely. Fitness is important. I’ve never been unfit and I think that there is a balance. I just think living in balance is the most important thing overall, and it’s how you interact in the world, which I care about much less than aesthetics.
Mike: understand that. My last question for you is, you had mentioned there was a spiritual element to all of this. What does
Scott: that mean? So it’s realizing that one, we’re not as important as we think we are when you get into a flow state, when you’re really connected. When I got up to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, my realization was that, and I know it sounds cheesy, so just like, forgive me a little bit of this cheesiness, is that I thought to myself, I am not on the mountain.
I am the mountain. Like a zen cone kind of thing. Absolutely. And I was living that and even as I said it, I was like, I’m gonna think this is cheesy later, but at the moment I’m on this thing and I realized that the way I’d gotten up to this top, this very difficult physical feat, remember negative 30 and my nipples are out in the world, right?
I’m doing a physical feet, which is crazy, and I get up there and I realize that I didn’t get up there by fighting the sensations, by fighting the mountain. I got up there by letting those sensations. Flow through me by letting myself connect to that environment. And I realized at the top, Alan Watts, I begin the book with a quote where he asks this very, very big question, which is, who would you be without the sun?
Right? Who would you be without that large ball of exothermic reactions happening, you know, way off in space. Who would you be without that? And if you take that, not as a silly statement, but actually as a serious question, the sun has allowed everything to occur around you. It allowed the earth to form.
It allowed history to happen. It provided energy for the plants. It allowed you to exist in the first place. And to think that we are at all separate from those processes of nature is absolute hubris. Because we are the products of our own personal genetics. We are the products of our own personal histories.
We are the sum of every interaction with every other person. When I speak with you on this podcast, I’m a very different person than who I speak with my wife on this afternoon, or with my mother, or with my best friend. We are our contexts. Who we are is about being part of what is essentially a super organism of this planet.
And when you really think about that, it’s a profoundly moving. Thing. You realize that my own personal triumphs and whatever, I can experience the world as me, but I am also you. Whether you like it or not, you have listened to me and those words had some sort of impact on you. Whether it is, I hate this guy, he’s stupid, or this guy’s amazing and I believe everything he says.
Somewhere between that you cannot deny that me saying something has had some sort of impact on you. It has changed you in some fundamental way, positive, negative, doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that we are all connected in everything you do. Also effects the people around you. And that trickles out as sort of like waves in a pond where people are throwing rocks into this pond.
Every action is a rock, and those ripples go out everywhere. And that’s gonna echo
Mike: into the ages though too. And it comes back to the point, what I was bringing up, and this maybe is a word that’s unpalatable to people, but then if you have an awareness of that, there’s almost a responsibility that comes with that in terms of how you act.
And realizing that the ramifications are a lot more. Extensive than maybe how the average person thinks about their life and their existence. Yes,
Scott: and you know what the key, the core interface between all of those things is your sensations, because I know that I am experiencing you and we are all sort of like one thing, but the litmus, the definition of our borders, of our consciousness are our sensations of that consciousness, of those stress.
Points. And as we learn to expand our stress levels, how we respond to the environment, how we respond to things outside of us, it actually expands who we are as people. It makes us bigger, makes our consciousness more, you could say, important, more impactful, more.
Mike: Human. And that also then affects the collective Yes.
Consciousness as well to one small degree. And that matters. People don’t vote. Say, what? Does one vote matter? No, it does matter because collectively, if you have enough people to think that way, oh, that matters now. Right? Or if you think the other way, then that matters. So you need to do your part. It doesn’t have to be voting or giving money to politicians.
Same thing. One of the guys who works with. Me, he’s a fan of Bernie Sanders, right? And he voted for him, and he’s a busy guy, so he mostly is just working, but he really likes what Bernie’s doing. And I asked like, have you ever given money to him? No. That’s the number one thing politicians need. They need money, right?
And he’s like, oh, well, you know, what? Does my $50 matter? I’m like, no, it absolutely matters because how many other people think that way? And then he misses out on, who knows? It could be tens of millions of dollars of funding. So it’s more a matter of acting in the way that you know is right and contributing to this collective movement in this case.
And I do agree. Agree with what you’re saying about us being all connected in ways that we still don’t understand. It’s interesting to study the history of mass movements and there might be something to the more people taking certain actions. It could be invisible. It could be unspoken, but the more people are doing things or thinking in certain ways, the more contagious that behavior becomes, whether good or bad.
So my comments on agreeing with what you’re saying, I think it’s interesting to think about.
Scott: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for having me on. This has been a lot of fun and I suggest that anyone who is out there is interested in learning more. Obviously you can get a sample chapter of the wedge, the first chapter on my website, scott carney.com, c a r n y.
And I’m not all the other social media places. But yeah, go download the first chapter and see if you think that I’m crazy or not. ’cause actually I need to know. And when does the book come out? Uh, April
Mike: 13th. Well Scott, hey, thanks for taking the time. This is a fascinating discussion. I was looking forward to it and you did not disappoint.
Great. Well thank you
Scott: so much for having me on. Uh, you know, next book I’ll be back.
Mike: I like it. All right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from?
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