Transcript #158 – Maneesh Sethi: Hacking Habits, Accountability, & Time Management with Pavlok
Dave: Hey, everyone. It’s Dave Asprey with Bulletproof Radio. Today’s cool fact of the day is that the way your brain works is actually shaped by your culture. For example, people from Western cultures, when we see a picture, we’ll focus on the objects in the foreground, what’s right in front of you, but people who have been raised in Asia will most likely focus on the context of the photo and the background, sort of more the peripheral things.
Brain scans will show that people from different cultures even recruit different parts of their brains to process the same picture, so we literally see the world differently based on our cultural context. Your perception of reality is the reality that you lived in. This is profound. It also means that you can train your brain and even train your vision, and I’ve done work on both of those, in order to teach you to see things in a different way or even switch between perspectives and to use the soft vision that’s more peripheral versus the very focused one. Amazing stuff.
Today’s guest is a friend and a fellow entrepreneur. His name is Maneesh Sethi, and he’s CEO of Pavlok and editor-in-chief of Hack the System. He’s also written an international bestseller when he was 14 years old. He writes about hacking fame, hacking productivity, languages, exercise.
Today, we’re going to talk about hacking human behavior because Maneesh is doing something really, really interesting around using negative feedback instead of just positive feedback. In my own experience as a bio-hacker, there’s parts of the brain and parts of the body, the less conscious parts, they respond really well to negative feedback, but we know the parts of the brain respond well to positive feedback. It’s not like negative’s bad and positive’s good. It’s that you want the right signal for the right part of the body, and that’s one of the things were going to be talking about here.
Maneesh: That’s absolutely right. You got it completely right. Hey, Dave. Nice to see you.
Dave: Maneesh, it’s good to see you this time over Skype instead of in person, which done just last time we met. I regret that I didn’t meet you when you were a famous DJ in Berlin, 90-day famous DJ hack. It’s entirely unrelated to hacking human behavior, but you just got to tell me and our listeners, how did you get to become a famous DJ in 90 days?
Maneesh: I wouldn’t say it’s unrelated to human behavior whatsoever. It’s about identifying what works from a larger … We were trying to hack our way into fame in different cities. I lived in Berlin. I was there with a friend. Both of us were interested in electronic music, and we said, “Well, I’m here for 90 days. I had just figured out a way to get a full-time salary and outsource my work, so I had no work with passive income.” I said, “Let me use that money to become a DJ in Berlin.”
What we did is we started off by … we created a sound system that we played in the streets and we played in subway stations where we get people to start dancing 4 and 5 in the morning, and then we’d have a friend, the other, our partner, would be DJing a club, and we would just start [wheeling 00:03:08] them in. We would get a group of people in the subway, who we’re drunk out of weekend. Get them to start dancing in the subway station. Then we had a street car, like a shopping cart sound system, and we’d roll them over to the club and bring over a ton of people.
Clubs in Berlin started to invite us to play because even if we weren’t that good, we were definitely bringing in a lot of people, but then we started to buy Facebook fans, and we decided to do this as a test. We bought Facebook fans to create this idea of social prestige. I created a website. I created a fake identity. I called the clubs around Europe saying, “Hi, I’m Will from Regal World Entertainment. I represent DJ Maneesh. He’s famous in America for House and Dub Step. Would you like to book him for shows?”
Literally within 45 days, we’re being flown around Europe, being paid to play shows for up to 500 people at a time. It was a fantastic. It was a really good 90-day experience. You can see that at 90days.tv. That was just a fun thing we did back in the day, in college.
Dave: It’s an interesting hack of what people will do from a societal perspective and how people get fame and prestige, so call it your hacking society. The other thing, in fact the reason that I first got to know you was because you got to be well known because you hired a girl from Craigslist to sit in your home office and slap you every time you used Facebook. What the hell? Explain this.
Maneesh: This is actually one of those big things that change the way I live. I was doing productivity experiments while I traveled. I found that travel ruins your ability or focus. On my blog Hack the System, I decided to do an experiment where I took, I hired a Craigslist. Her job was to watch me. Whenever I got off task, whenever I used Facebook or wasn’t writing my article, whenever I got off task, she just would slap me in the face.
It was that simple. It started off as a funny experiment, but it ended with my productivity quadrupling. You saw recently Rescue Time, Dave, and my productivity percentage of the day that was productive before the experiment was 28%. While I had her with me, it was up to 98%. That means 98% of my time was spent in write room writing the words that would become a blog post or a pitch or whatever I wanted to do.
What’s interesting here, and Dave, I think you’ll understand, is that slap was a potential fear, the potential pain motivated me a little bit, but also having the accountability. Somebody sitting down next to me with who I would say, “Hey, could you grab an image from this website to put in my blog post while I write the article? How does this sound?” Then I would say the words out loud. I found that having the negative reinforcement of the potential shock, potential slap plus the accountability together, helped quadruple my productivity ends. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing today.
Dave: Let’s talk for a minute about what you’re doing today. I see a lightning bolt behind you. I know what it is because I’m an investor in Pavlok. Just full disclosure there, like I’ve been working to help advise you with your start up, and I am intrigued because what you’re doing is so in the face of the super positive things people are doing.
There’s two things I want you to talk about. First is just overall, what is this Pavlok change device. Your very early stages. You can’t go out and buy this thing right now. This isn’t a pitch so much as what is the new bio-hack that’s coming down the pipeline. I find it fascinating, which is why I’m willing to spend my time on helping it succeed.
What is Pavlock? Because it came out experiment. Just walk people through it so they know how you’re seeing the world, then I want to talk some more about that other software you just mentioned about how you’re tracking your productivity, and then we can talk more about changing behavior. Pavlok 101, what’s the deal with what you’re doing?
Maneesh: Realistically, it all comes down to how do humans change behavior in the brain. I myself grew up extremely ADD. I’ve managed to be successful in things because I have out-of-the-mindset thinking capability, but I’m never good at executing. Because of that, my productivity has always suffered.
I decided to start doing experiments, and we found that things like pets are extremely motivational for people who are bad at getting on task. Not just ADD people but people who have trouble finishing the loops that they open.
I would start to make bets with a friend, like if I don’t finish my article by 5 PM, I owe you $50. I started to notice that this was really powerful. I started to notice that rewards could make it more automatic. If I set a trigger and said, “After breakfast, I will write it in a journal before I walk to leave the door, or else I pay money. I can make this a habit that didn’t need the money to sustain the habit.” It became automatic and part of my daily routine.
Once I started to hack my brain, technology, fortunately, caught up with us at the right time because sensor technology and 3D printing and all of these things that make hardware, smart hardware possible have only come into existence in the last 2.5 years. October 2011 is when the real revolution came of Bluetooth 4.0 that made wearable devices possible.
Because I happened to stumble upon some interesting brain stuff, and I had studied also at Stanford University on bad habits to an extent. I did two classes that were very interesting. I was able to put those two together, and I decided to take Pavlok and create a device that helps people form good habits and break bad habits using the most modern psychological and scientific experiments and data, as well as the most recent developments of technology as well. This is Pavlok.
Dave: The idea behind Pavlok is really you do something you don’t like, and it’s brilliant. You didn’t do what you said you can do. It could track you automatically, but I think the most impressive thing is that it could post to Facebook and let your friends shock you. There’s some level of ego involved there. Like, “Oh, for God’s sake, now I have to admit publicly that I failed,” and then someone, and I won’t even know which friend it is like ha ha, pushing the button. It’s kind of evil in some … not necessarily evil, like super bad, but it does put you in a weird mindset, doesn’t it?
Maneesh: I think it puts you in a competitive mindset. It’s more of a game than a potential like this is a bad thing, but you should understand that there’s two ways in which Pavlok works or which more importantly habit change works. People often want to form new habits, and people want to break bad habits. Those are two very different things. In general, Dave, what are you most interested in? Forming new habits or breaking bad habits?
Dave: For me, right now, probably forming new habits would be more interesting.
Maneesh: Do you have any habit in particular you or someone you know might want to form?
Dave: New habit? I’d like to make it rain money. That’s a great habit. I haven’t figured out I don’t know.
Maneesh: It’s a good habit.
Dave: To be honest, what I’m working at is better management of a limited calendar. I’m finding that I’m not doing as good a job as I’d like to do on following up with people that I really want to spend time with just because I have this deluge of email and messages. I’m building systems in there, but there’s a certain habit, the things you do that make your calendar work. I’m not sure if I’ve identified the perfect habit there, but I do know that relentlessly checking my email all the time is not a good habit, and I should consciously schedule it and things like that.
Maneesh: You’re coming at this from the perspective of a lot of people, which is they have some big shift they want to change, but they haven’t broken it down to the smallest form of what that habit really is. People think that they smoke cigarettes because they smoke cigarettes, but sometimes it’s because they want to break and they want to take a walk around the park, and that’s the self-habit that they didn’t realize they fixed that, and they just started taking a walk. They wouldn’t need a cigarette at all.
You’re very [inaudible 00:11:27] stage, and with forming new habits, the best and most powerful way to do it is to use operant conditioning. That’s BF Skinner’s method of adding positive rewards if something good happens. If you go to the gym, you will earn a dollar or you will get a cupcake afterwards. It’s instantaneous reward. It’s a trigger action reward if you’re familiar with Charles Duhigg’s work.
A side section that Skinner worked on was negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is positively adding pleasure, adding something good. Negative reinforcement is not punishment. Negative reinforcement is taking away something bad. From a psychological perspective, we’re saying the active going to work everyday because if you don’t, you’ll get fired. They’re taking away your salary if you don’t go to work, that’s negative reinforcement.
What we’re doing here for a change, performing new habits. For example, I want to exercise each day. Or I want to walk 10,000 steps. I want to do one class on dual lingo a day. I want to do one … I want to my measure my HRV with the HRV sense app. If somebody wants to create this habit, I want to check my daily HRV level, or anything about nature.
How it works is you would say, “All right, I want to make a commitment to do this. I will reward myself if I do this, but for the first few days, because I know it’s hard to get started, I will potentially inflict the penalty if I don’t do it, because that will motivate my ape brain, my animal brain to do the habit while the positive reinforcement catches it and turns it into a habit. Does that make sense?
Dave: It does make sense.
Maneesh: It’s kind of confusing.
Dave: I think human behavior changes confusing because we have different levels. There are conscious behaviors. There’s things you want to do, and then there’s things that you wanted to do but you didn’t do it, and you don’t know why you didn’t do it. At least in my own understanding after the 40 years of Zen program and just learning to have a very detailed awareness of the inner dialogue in my mind and from reading various works of research and whatnot, you have a set of very, very fast automated behaviors that are actively conflicting with the human behaviors that you want to do.
The prime example this is, today I’m not going to eat a cookie, and then you eat the cookie anyway. What the hell? Then you’re frustrated, and it’s because you have a [speed 00:13:59] mismatch between the human brain, the prefrontal cortex and this really older parts of the brain that are there like [inaudible 00:14:07] going to eat my tigers.
That thing, different levels of that seem to want different levels of positive and negative reinforcement. Have you mapped that out using a train brain model or anything like that?
Maneesh: I have mapped out a model, but we call the Pavlok habit formation model, which uses the brain frontal lobe, the prefrontal cortex versus the basal ganglia where habits are stored, and identifies what makes habits stick. I’m totally happy to share that, or I can explain it in a manner that you want.
Dave: Let’s explain that. People driving in their cars, not everyone knows how to spell ganglia, much less what they are, so don’t get too science-y, but be science-y enough that people who are into this are going to get what they want from it.
Maneesh: To form new habits, there’s two layers. Hold on one moment. I can actually show you how it works. Let me share my screen. Can you see this screen?
Dave: I can, but keep in mind that a lot of people are [inaudible 00:15:07]. Walk through in words everything that the rest of people on iTunes, video, or on YouTube the stuff they’re seeing.
Maneesh: To change behavior, basically you need to change two layers. You need to improve the ability for somebody to do a task, and you need to improve their motivation to do a task.
If they have the motivation to do a task, for example, if I go to the gym everyday this week, on Friday I get to get myself a massage. That motivation of positive reinforcement is one important factor. The other motivation is ability. If you have to drive an hour away to get to the gym, even if you’ll earn a cookie or get a massage, you don’t want to drive a mile away to the gym. However, if it’s on your way to work and/or if you’re a gym instructor and you just aren’t at the gym all the time, it’s almost hard to not work out because it’s just so easy. It’s right there for you.
The two ways that you can improve this is to make sure that you improve the ability and you improve their motivation. Right here, what you can see on some of your screens is the Pavlok habit model, which is talking about how we break down habits, like I want to get my systems in check, or I want to learn a language. We break it down to the easiest possible iteration of what you’re doing. What we do is we break down a habit the easiest version itself. For example, if you wanted to go to the gym and exercise every day for 30 minutes a day, if your goal was to exercise for 30 minutes a day, you’ll start off by saying, “How can I make this so easy I can’t fail?”
In our experiments that we’ve done on a bunch of people, on our Facebook group, we had people commit to after, “I finish breakfast, I will walk outside of my house in my gym clothes and lock the door.” That’s it. That was the first step on their path to the exercising everyday.
If they did this, they would receive a reward, but if they didn’t, for the first few days, they might be penalized. Like, “I will pay 10 bucks if I don’t go outside and lock the door, but I will earn a dollar if I do.” Because it’s so easy that they can’t fail and because they’re motivated to do it, it turns out that it’s just stupid to not do it. They’re like, “I’m going to earn a dollar if I go outside and lock my door. That’s so easy. I’m just going to do it, and I’m not going to be paying out 10 bucks because that’s stupid to just not lock my door.”
They do that for a week, but what happens is that the brain’s willpower reserves get attenuated. It starts to form a neural pathway habit that begins to form when you start to do the same action everyday at the same trigger. The first seven days, you’re getting used to going out and walking the door, but on the 7th day, you don’t think about it anymore. You’ve just began putting on your gym clothes and you’re out the door, and that’s when the second micro habit might become effective. “After I finish my breakfast, I will walk out the door in my gym clothes, lock it, and then go to the gym and swipe my card. I don’t have to work out, I just have to wipe my card, and that’s the work out.”
For the first seven days, they’ll swipe their card, and in fact, they’ll probably end up working out because they are already doing it. They’re already there at the gym. The next week, you might make it a little more difficult, like, “I’ll have to do this activity for 15 minutes.” Then the 4th week, you’ll do, “I will exercise for 30 minutes a day.”
Because it’s become slowly and motivationally improved using positive and negative reinforcement, the habit becomes absolutely automatic in the brain so that weird feeling where they feel strange if they don’t go to the gym. All they think about all day is, “I need to go to the gym because my brain is saying I’m used to doing this.” That’s with up only 30 days of time can take to form a new habit.
Dave: I’ve seen some research, and when I’m coaching people using variability training, things in fact like the hard math or things like Stress Detective, what I do is I say, “Look, the habit changed when there was about six weeks.” It’s funny because if you look at Western psychology, it’s four to six weeks, but quite often six weeks is pegged. If you look at Ayurveda or religion like 40 days and 40 Nights, it was like 40 is the Eastern number and 42 is the Western number, but somewhere a little bit more than a month. That’s when you just automate these habits.
I have a question here. I was successful years ago when I said, “All right, I’m going to lose my 100 pounds. I’m tired of having knee surgeries. I had three [inaudible 00:14:31] before I was 23. I said, “I’m just going to get really help.”
I made a habit, and I start with it for 18 months. I would work out for an hour and a half a day, six days a week. Exactly what you described. I didn’t feel good if I didn’t do it and all the stuff. The problem is the habit that I formed didn’t work. I didn’t lose weight. I’m sure my cortisol levels went up. I got strong but I stayed fat, and then the first time I did a non-exercise activity, just the fun thing, I played laser tag, and I twisted and I blew my ACL.
Eighteen months of habit.
Dave: I didn’t lose weight and didn’t even achieved the goals because I was actually causing inflammation because I wasn’t recovering enough.
Maneesh: Your HRV sensor would have been useful there.
Dave: It would have been great, and this was before [inaudible 00:20:19] doing HRV, but what I’m concerned about is you have great power to make habits, but how do you know what habits to make?
Maneesh: I’ll answer that question. There are particular keystone habits that are really, really important. Things like exercise is one of the most researched and powerful keystone habits. A keystone habit is one that once you do something, other things that are naturally good fall into place. If you exercise, you tend to sleep better. You tend to wake up earlier. You often start eating better.
It’s one of those things that causes a humongous shift in your life. Quitting smoke is another habit. The ones that I’ve tested that I found to be very effective are writing down what you are going to do, and then doing them can make a massive shift on your life. Meditation was I think the biggest one of my life, and then food tracking has been a massive shift in my mindset.
I’m extremely ADD, I mentioned, and I cannot believe that I’ve managed to form the habit of entering in every single thing I eat for over three months because I used the Pavlok habit method, and I never thought that that would work on me, but I’ve done it for so long that if I don’t enter in the food, all I can hear for the rest of the day until I type in the food is two ounces of guacamole, two ounces of guacamole. Put it in my fitness [inaudible 00:21:28]. It was really hard over at the mind share, some of them we met up at in LA because I was just like so much food I got to measure my scale with me.
What you mentioned was about the time it takes to form a habit, and I have a really interesting piece of research on how much time it takes to form a habit. A study out of London did an experiment where they looked at how much time it takes to form different habits, and they found that based on the difficulty of the habit, it would take a different amount of time. For example, a habit like doing, drinking a glass of water after breakfast would take 20 days to form before it required more willpower to not do it than to do it.
Dave: Twenty days. That’s cool.
Maneesh: For easy habit like drink a glass of water. For the most difficult habit, it was 50 sit ups after breakfast. It took 66 days, which was way too long. I’m sorry, it took 84 days, which is the longest experiment, but it’s a very difficult habit. I will do 50 sit ups after breakfast. The average-
Dave: Do you have to do that?
Maneesh: Someone actually did.
Dave: You don’t. Okay.
Maneesh: I don’t.
Dave: Someone who once did 50 sit ups after breakfast was like, “Weh.”
Maneesh: No, but they did it. They formed a habit of this. This lasted. The average is 66 days, but hey, 50 sit ups after breakfast is hard. One sit up after breakfast is not hard. If he had chosen the habit to be one sit up, his 84 days would have shifted drastically towards 20 days, where-
Dave: That’s important what you just said there, like very small changes to form habits, to form big habits. That’s really the main driver we’re having on the podcast is making people understand that it’s powerful stuff. You got the data right there on the screen.
Maneesh: It’s amazing. Let me tell you a little bit about breaking bad habits because I think that that’s really interesting and no one talks about it.
People, if you read habit literature, you’ll read a lot about how you cannot break bad habits. You can only substitute it for another habit. That is another method that changed bad habits, but there’s consistently one piece of scientific literature, which comes up about breaking bad habits, which is Pavlovian conditioning. That is, associating a negative stimulus at the same time as you do in action you don’t want to perform can cause you to break bad habits.
For example, if I got shocked every time I used Facebook or bit my nails, after a while, my brain would start to stop thinking about the act of biting its nails because it associates the shock with the biting of nails. It thinks that the biting of nails is causing the shock. Subconsciously, it’s broken the habit. In fact, this has been tested with smoking addiction. The Shadow Treatment Center in Seattle does aversion therapy to help people quit smoking, and they basically have you stand in a phone booth-sized glass jar, and you smoke a cigarette, and a doctor shocks you repeatedly for 15 minutes to 30 minutes or more a day for a few weeks.
They found that after a year, more than 50% of those people did not desire cigarettes a single time. They didn’t smoke a single cigarette over the next year, which is better than any type of behavioral smoking cessation therapy ever. It is the best. Aversion therapy effectively removed the desire in the brain to do the smoking. I think that’s really interesting.
Dave: It is really interesting. That will work for bad habits, but it won’t work for core things, like some really dark times and [inaudible 00:24:51] and cure homosexuals with electrical shock using that same model, and it just didn’t work.
Maneesh: That’s an intrinsic versus … It’s like a genotype versus a phenotype kind of experience. You know what I mean? You can’t intrinsically change things like that, and I don’t want to use shock to help you do things like that, but-
Dave: No, and it doesn’t work is the thing, so how do we know? The reason I bring that up is like how do know whether something’s an intrinsic thing, like my brain does this kind of thing because it’s my gift but also my curse, or whether it’s a bad habit.
Maneesh: The majority of things that the direct stimulus that you use shock for anything. For the homosexual studies, they were looking at photos of homosexual acts, and they would feel aversion to that photo. They don’t want to look at that photo because that photo was directly correlated in their brain with the stimulus. It wasn’t, it couldn’t be correctly, a completely identified with the act of being homosexual because that’s a bigger thing, but the act of looking at the picture would cause an aversion.
Dave: Something like a porn aversion, but I get it.
Maneesh: Taking the same example, imagine that every time that you put a dish in the sink without washing the dish immediately, imagine that every single time that happens, you would get a vibration and then a beep, and after a few seconds, shock if you didn’t put that in the drain and wash it.
Because it’s a robot, you program, that you set I want to learn this habit. It’s not like somebody’s forcing you to do it so you don’t have that push back like you might have in a familiar or a family situation because it’s a machine that you pre-committed to, the shock will actually start to make you remember every single time to wash that dish.
If you did, if you couldn’t cheat at all, would you eventually just start washing the dish and putting it in every time rather than get shocked each time that you forget? You probably stop forgetting.
Dave: In fact, I couldn’t cheat probably. Here’s a really rough question, one we haven’t even talked about from a Pavlok business model thing. If the California Institute of Corrections call you tomorrow and said we want to order 2 million of these for our prisoners, what would you say?
Maneesh: I probably would not do that. I think that it’s a very powerful, self-improvement technique.
Dave: You better own the button if you’re going to use this kind of technology.
Maneesh: Actually, Pavlok, if I haven’t really explained it yet, Pavlok is a wearable device that helps you form good habits and break bad habits using feedback and punishments and rewards. To help you break bad habits, we use vibration, beep, and electric shock. It’s connected to your phone, iPhone or Android, and it lets you connect to any world of API. Any piece of data can cause you to get shocked.
For example, every time I go on Facebook, I get shocked. I train myself with this for a week.
Dave: Every time? Wow.
Maneesh: I did it for 10 days before I met you in California, and I checked my Rescue Time, which I used two to three hours a day on Facebook. When I got to California, I realized I hadn’t checked it in four days, not because I was trying to not check it, but because my device had broken the habit while I was on the East Coast. I still rarely check Facebook because the habit was broken through the shock, if that makes sense.
When a habit is when you just sit down and find yourself doing something, it’s about awareness a lot of the times. I don’t try to go on Facebook. I just sit on my computer, and the first thing I do is my hand reaches over and automatically types in Facebook, enter, and then I’m stuck in there. I’m trying to reverse engineer that using positive conditioning. If I get shocked every time I do that and I want to because I want the awareness to stop being on Facebook, after a few days, my brain just stops going there. I start off by saying I don’t want to go there, and then I just forget to go there.
Pavlok is a device that lets you do that using any piece of data. If this then that, you can.
Dave: That [crosstalk00:28:55].
Maneesh: If I enter a McDonalds, I get beeped and shocked. If I open a refrigerator door, it texts my phone and beeps me saying, “Are you sure?” As new sensors come out, we use that data for breaking bad habits, so we’re looking at experimental sensors that have you put on your tooth, that knowing sugar and tobacco smoke passes through it, and the goal is to make it shock you at the moment that sugar passes through your teeth, so your brain subconsciously will begin to associate the taste of sugar with the pain of shock and ideally, we haven’t tested this yet but all science points to it that your brain will stop desiring sugar and actually the taste will not taste good. That’s what we’re working towards.
Dave: There’s great danger if you program yourself with the wrong habit. You could train yourself to get an aversion to saturated fat, which 10 years ago you might have said because we didn’t understand a lot of these. You might have been like, “That’ll be great for me so I’m only going to drink canola oil.”
You could wreck yourself with the wrong allegedly healthy habits, so it becomes even more important that we use [inaudible 00:29:58] big data to make sure that the habits we think are the right ones are the right ones, because I know people who train themselves to have an aversion to salt and fat. It doesn’t serve them to have that aversion, but it’s there.
Maneesh: What was their method of training the aversion?
Dave: Mostly lots and lots of low power. I’ve never interviewed them, but an example, my grandmother. She’s an advance degree in engineering. Worked on a Manhattan project, and to this day she, whatever, 30 something years ago just decided that those are bad … Did the cognitive loop that was like, “I’m just going to learn those are bad. I’m going to tell myself they’re bad.” Then to this day, I don’t like that the things.
Maneesh: Absolutely. Yeah, man. I’m excited. We’ve been basically building up this thing for the last year trying to focus on what really makes habits form, what really makes habits stick, and can we create the behavior ego system that will make it happen? I think technology … We haven’t solved it yet. We’re early stage, of course, but we have extremely cool results, really interesting results. We’ve figured out a way to take data, put them together, and help you choose who you want to be, and then have that device basically be your accountability, personal coach buddy, who gets you there, just step by step rather than massive change after massive change.
Dave: It’s really cool that you chose this negative feedback. I do a lot of feedback, and some it’s 40 years of Zen is very much … How do you reward yourself for controlling the reinstate positively? I’m very choosy about what kinds of neuron feedback I believe our safe because there’s danger of taking out a really amazing A student brain and making into an average brain even though if you’re an F student brain. Maybe an average student brain would be an amazing gift. It’s a slippery slope.
The type of neuron feedback that I carry on the site if you go do it at home is also negative feedback base. Instead of saying this brain state’s bad, which we don’t actually know what brains states are bad for you. What it does is it provides a negative feedback in the form of static. You’re listening to beautiful music, and then as soon as your brain is about to flop from one state to another, it basically puts a glitch in the music. Then glitch in the music is plus.
You’re floating on this music and it’s like keek, “Oh, man. That was really irritating.” It’s that minor irritation though that’s not communicating with my conscious brain. It’s communicating with the based on the audio processing part of my brain to go every time I’m about to flop from the data, or whatever the states are, I’m just going to get a signal ahead of time. Pretty soon the brain is like, “Oh, I can stick in the state for a longer period of time because now I know what it feels like to comet to the edge of the state.”
It’s not to tell the brain being state A or state B. It just says whatever state you’re going to be in, stay there until you’re ready to change, and then change consciously, so you change unconsciously. It’s negative feedback driven, because those are systems that I don’t see because they’re fast they all respond to negative feedback. It’s like they’re a little virtual machine, or maybe I’m a virtual machine. There are separate consciousness that’s way faster, and way dumber than what I identify as me.
Maneesh: They’re way faster and it control your brain far more importantly, but what you’re talking about is [inaudible 00:33:18], because we’re not talking about pain. We’re talking about feedback and instantaneous feedback. Pavlok it’s like a behavioural training device that’s, of course, you have on vibration. Yours is a negative feedback, but it’s not negative. It’s just awareness. It’s a switch.
We’re actually looking at different used cases for ours, and one used case is really interesting is if you start to follow out of a meditative state, the right gamma wave or alpha wave. It slightly vibrates your wrist. The more out of that you are, the more powerfully it vibrates. It adds to a training element. There’s used cases you can imagine for that all the time. If you’re trying to signal a friend, to a coach who’s teaching basketball, and they want them to train them to be better at follow-through, it can automatically, ideally not identify their follow-through and vibrator beep accordingly.
Dave: We call that feedback.
Dave: Soon as you pulled that notice, I was CTO of Basis, the wristband company. You got your Basis there.
Maneesh: I got it here.
Dave: Before that, I was a Senior Adviser to a company called [Corventis] that had the first stick-on bluetooth, a heart rate monitor, in history. I’ve looked at this a long time. Most of the time, people are looking for auditory and visual cues, which suck as feedback mechanisms compared to haptic feedback. I had fantasized, and hopefully some bio hacker engineering guy out there is listening to this, about not just the vibrational stuff which we finally have, but the best thing of all for feedback would be a tongue sensor.
They have these tongue displays for people who have severe neurological problems. We have the most nerves there. The sense of touch isn’t the oldest most primordial thing. Maybe smell is even older. This, as a way to communicate with your nervous system, and I say you’re a nervous system but not with you because you are not your nervous system.
That kind of communication is amazing, and we never could do that because the feedback which is so long, you might have feedback from an old zen master, you’re sitting there, and you wobble and then he whacks you over, whatever they whack you with, I don’t know. Something that’s unpleasant. That was the kind of feedback that they’re reacting back then, but this little electric shock, it doesn’t actually hurt that much, but it’s enough that your nervous system’s like, eeh.
That’s how you want … It’s that little bit of revulsion. Not like severe pain and smoke, the smell of burning flesh. That’s not what it’s about.
Maneesh: Dave, did you try the shocking business cared yet?
Dave: I just opened it last night …
Maneesh: Try it out. I already have.
Dave: If you’re watching, it’s like this …
Maneesh: It’s a business card.
Dave: What do I do? Press the button?
Maneesh: Yeah, you touch the button twice, and you hold those … At the same time you hold those two, the metal part, the gold part. You see the gold part?
Dave: The one on the top and the bottom?
Maneesh: Yeah, one on top and the bottom. The …
Dave: I just shocked myself. Did you see me jump?
Maneesh: Yeah, do it again. I got myself, too. Ah!
Dave: There. Got it.
Maneesh: Shit. You hold it on at the same time. We basically … using like a small [inaudible 00:36:08] electric shock. It’s pretty fun. These business cards are really entertaining.
Dave: Did I show anything when I shocked myself? Could you see it?
Maneesh: I don’t know. I got shocked.
Dave: Here. I got shocked, but I use the electrical simulation,
Maneesh: [inaudible 00:36:18]
Dave: … like super heavy duty –
Maneesh: Press it three times then.
Dave: Does that turn it up more?
Maneesh: Yeah, it does.
Maneesh: Keep your finger on it the whole time. Like that. Press it the same time.
Dave: There I felt it. It’s a little bit no-brainer. It’s shocking me, but did you see like …
Maneesh: Yeah, you’re good. I get caught by it. Different people has … Yeah, exactly. But, hey –
Dave: I didn’t use but I ran very high current. One of the guys I know who uses electrical simulation has been Tasered by two people at the same time as a test, not because he was breaking into a bank or something. He just stood there, and was like, “Yup.” He pulls them out. The cops were testing it.
Maneesh: [Crosstalk 00:36:56]
Dave: It’s interesting to be trained to handle electricity, but I felt it and it wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t like, “Ah!” I’ve seen other people. They touched the business card, and they yelped and jumped back.
Maneesh: It’s not designed to be painful device, [inaudible 00:37:08] device to train you.
Dave: It’s a device.
Maneesh: But we’re actually live on Indiegogo right now.
Dave: What’s the URL and all that stuff? I normally ask this at the end of the show, but if you’re interested in this new way of communicating with the nervous system, I’m a very small investor and I’m an adviser, and I’m a supporter of what you’re [inaudible 00:37:26]. I’m totally happy to share you URL. What is it?
Maneesh: If you go to Pavlok.com, P-A-V-L-O-K, you’ll see it there, Pavlok.com, you’ll get to see what … You get to the website and sign up. There’s Indiegogo campaign for crowdfunding. The status is, the product works. We’re going to start shipping in early 2015, and we have early 2014 models that you have at your house already, I believe.
Dave: I have, let’s see,
Maneesh: We’re working towards that.
Dave: … limited edition 14 of 50. This is a super early one. I have the limited edition muse headband number 17. Another cool thing, just because if I can support an early bio-hacking technology on Indiegogo, you’ll often see me like, “Oh, I have dinner with Dave,” if you’re a big investor, just because I think it’s important that we as bio-hackers and as people that we understand these technologies and we control them because I really don’t like the idea of big marketing companies owning these technologies and building them into our phones and just basically using them to control the hell out of us. I want to be the guy with the finger on the button.
Maneesh: On the big red button.
Dave: On my big red button.
Dave: Anyone else’s finger on that button at the same time is me.
Maneesh: I’m fairly sure that I’m going to ask you if we can do dinner with Dave for one of our cheers, but …
Dave: We can do that. It might take a little bit of scheduling. I’ll have to make a new habit about that.
Maneesh: We’ll figure it out, but just to be fun, we have been playing around with the idea of shock prints. You pay 150 or something you pay, 10 bucks you get a shock credit, and you get to shock a celebrity or shock me on TV or on Skype for the price of two shock credits or three shock credits. Then the joke idea is spend a lot of money, like a $100,000 to your Indiegogo. You get to shock everybody in the world at the same time with the big red button. That’s just a joke. I don’t think we’re going to do it, but it’s a joke around the office.
Dave: That was just wrong. I suppose if it’s for charity, you could let people opt in, who have their but then again, it’s like, “I wouldn’t want to spend money on that because why would I want to shock people. I’ll just donate the money if I want to donate the money.”
Maneesh: Won’t you also like to shock.
Dave: I think that I would.
Maneesh: That’s a Guinness record I’m pretty sure. First person to-
Dave: That’s true. The largest number of electrically stimulated people at one time.
Maneesh: Man, I’m not sure that’s a good category to be in. That’s the side. It should be fun. I think it’s a cool product. I think it’s changing habits. It’s really cool. If you’re interested in learning about habit change, check out Pavlov.com and Dave, also I have a alpha version of the app that if anyone’s wanting to start using the positive reinforcement where you can earn money or choose accountability partners, there’s a link, Pavlov.com/alpha. We’ll get you a cool little app.
Dave: That’s awesome. I’m really happy to support for you, guys. Really happy to support the work you’re doing. I think it’s groundbreaking. It’s interesting stuff, and kudos for all the press. I think you’ve been in Forbes recently.
Maneesh: We’re on Jimmy Fallon, too.
Dave: And Jimmy? You, too? Jimmy Fallon was talking about Bulletproof Coffee the other day. I’m like, “Jimmy!” I’ve never met you, but you’re right here, like.
Maneesh: I want to set it up so we can do a Jimmy Fallon thing where you use Pavlok to help people form a habit of drinking Bulletproof Coffee because you absolutely could.
Dave: It’s pretty habit forming all by itself. Reinforcement.
Maneesh: It’s the crack cocaine that really makes it a habit.
Dave: First one’s free. That’s hilarious.
Maneesh: Thank you for all the free Bulletproof Coffee you sent me, sir. I understand now.
Dave: When you told me how ADD, where we first talk, I’m like, we got your metabolism cranked up a bit so you can have more control and more energy to change habits. You’re not going to get away without answering the question that I asked all the guests on the show, and we’re coming up on the end of the show. Let me hit you with that. What are your top three recommendations for people who want to kick more ass? You want to perform better at life, not just at work or whatever. Three most important things you’ve learned. It doesn’t have to be Pavlok. Divide it by the if you want.
Maneesh: Now the first thing is to really identify the habits, then start working on the habits that’ll make you transform. It’s about optimizing your willpower to do the right things, and if you pick the right things today when you’re in your human state brain and you create the system that will let you, that will make, reinforce those habits when you start to slip back into your ape brain, what will happen is over time, you’ll just get used to exercising or get used to writing every morning, or get used to painting until it becomes a completely transformed you a year from today.
The guy who spends 15 minutes a day writing a novel versus the person who spends 15 minutes a day using Facebook will be drastically different people a year from today.
The secret, I believe, is to form the right habits and break the right habits. The three habits I would highly recommend people get into would be to first kick ass, start meditating everyday. That was a humongous shift to my life. Use the app Headspace. It’ll change your life, and it’s a great app, and it’s free, and it really helped me, meditation app.
The second thing is to, again, exercising, and the way you do that is really simple. Just make an easy between. That’s, I will go to the gym by 5 o’clock tomorrow or I will pay my friend 10 bucks. Just say that tonight to your wife or loved one or whatever, and say, “I’ll pay you 10 bucks if I don’t walk to the gym and just go inside tomorrow.” I guarantee you you’ll notice a shift in your brain, where it’s like, “I’m not going to lose 10 bucks just because I didn’t walk across the street. I might as well go.”
Once you see the power of that, the negative feedback, you’ll see how powerful it is to change your habits.
Then the last one is really to make sure that you form the habit of writing what you will do each day and then doing it. The way that I engineered this, and this system I believe has changed my personal productivity and broken my ADD-ness enough is I have to write down the three things that I will do by 10:30 AM in base camp, or else my assistant deducts $150 from my salary. If I haven’t written the three things down by 10:30 AM, the salary is deducted. At the end of the day, if I have not completed at least two, I owe $100 to my salary company, to my company.
If I did at least two, I earn $50. If I do at least two of my three things, I earn money. If I don’t do at least two, I lose money. Then if I finish all three things, I get to … I have a list of positive activities I can do if I finish all three that day.
The act of doing that has cemented me to the point that I have, even through my ADD-ness, I have the ability to know light at the end of the tunnel. These three things must be completed or else I lose money. Those three things will get down and regardless of anything, like I had to meditate one day, and I was at a movie, and I left the movie to sit in the bathroom and meditate for 10 minutes so I wouldn’t lose the $150 or $100. That was so motivational, my life has completely shifted.
Those are three things I would add to their calendar. In summary, like I said, meditation, exercise, and write down what you will do and do it.
Dave: I’m really curious, especially as an Pavlok investor, what you’re going to do when you have, quote, enough money that you just don’t give a crap about $150.
Maneesh: It’s not about the money. The money is irrelevant.
Dave: It’s about the loss.
Maneesh: It’s about the loss of money, because I don’t … The money doesn’t affect me. I’m fine, but it’s the fear of paying … I physically take the money out of my hand and hand it to a friend often. That physical hand motion is the embarrassment. It just works. I can’t really explain. It just works so powerfully.
Dave: There’s another thing there. When there’s a chance for your nervous system, we’ll call the ego here, to have control or something, it’ll fight for control, but when you handed that control to someone else, you’ve cut it out of the decision-making loops, and it knows. “Oh, that’s not in my control because someone else is doing this,” and it stops fighting. I’ve certainly noticed that in my own behavior change, like having others help you become … Just the whole basis for executive coaching, when they’re helping to hold you accountable, it’s like, Crap. I can’t convince myself I shouldn’t do it because I told this guy he’s going to hold me accountable so I might as well do it.
There’s a lot of really deep social and psychological awareness in the advice that you’re talking about. When people understand more and more that there are behaviors that are invisible, and then are coming from the nervous system, but it can be trained the same way you train dog. I think that’s profound.
Maneesh: Dave, I gave a keynote speech at the Royal Society of Madison Conference recently on a talked called How to Form Good Exercise Habits in the Brain. It’s by far my most eloquent, best version description of how a human being can massively shift their life step by step. I bet your readers will like it. If you’re interested, I’ll just give you the link.
Dave: Send me the link. We’ll put it in the show notes because that would be really cool. Maneesh, thanks for coming on the show. I’ll drop the Pavlok URL one more time so that people who are interested in your work there can do it. Also, Hack the System URL because you blog about this kind of stuff, and you’re behavior change system who happens to have a product. This isn’t the pitch fest at all, but it’s [inaudible 00:46:39] stuff.
Maneesh: My name is Maneesh Sithi. The website is Pavlok.com. P-A-V-L-O-K .com. We are doing a crowdfunding campaign right now to get the Pavlok wristband, which I honestly … I think you’ll love the video and I think you’ll learn a lot about how habits form from that campaign site. My other website you mentioned was HacktheSystem.com, which is where this idea came from, the product came from. Hack the System is a website about how to hack your success, hack your productivity, hack your body, hack your business, and hack your minds in order to become a whole new you.
Dave: That sounded practiced and awesome because that’s really what it is about.
Maneesh: That was the first time I ever said that, man. I was like, “I should have recorded that.”
Dave: Sounds like a professional pitch, man.
Maneesh: Thank you.
Dave: Maneesh, hey, I’m looking forward the next time we get to hang out in person. This has been a really cool.
Maneesh: At your conference. I’ll see you at your Bulletproof Conference.
Dave: We should mention that by the way. You’re one of the speakers at the Bulletproof conference in three weeks. I need a habit of remembering that. It’ll be a chance. You’re going to have a few of your shocking business cards and show people how stuff works there.
Maneesh: I’ll just give you a similar presentation on how to form good habits, so if anybody’s going to be there, you’ll see me and we can do a push up competition or a shocking competition, see if you can get stronger.
Maneesh: Thank you.
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