The Brain at Work –Personal Development in Company Culture – Part 4 of an Interview with Dave Asprey

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

If you’re running your own business, your company is an extension of your habits and energy. However, you don’t need to be a CEO to see the effects of brain health on the workplace. In the last episode of this series with Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey, Dr. Amen and Tana discuss ways to increase performance at work.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back everybody. We're here at The Brain Warrior's Way. I'm here with Tana and our good friend Dave Asprey, author of Headstrong which is now available for pre-order, orderheatstrong.com. Dave is the founder and CEO of Bulletproof. He is the creator of Bulletproof Coffee. He is the host of the number one health podcast, Bulletproof Radio, the author of the New York Times best selling book The Bulletproof Diet, and he is an entrepreneur. He is the CEO of a fast growing company. I know that you believe in brain health and you have it go throughout your company. In this podcast I actually want to talk about the brain at work, and the CEO's brain, obviously, if it's not right the business is probably not going to be right, but your best asset at Bulletproof is the collective brain health of the people who serve with you in the mission that you have.

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen: As you set up Bulletproof, how did you think about the brain at work?

Dave Asprey: I believe based on my experience as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley as well as at Bulletproof, people often don't know this, that the company that held Google's first server when they were just one server, I was a co-founder of the consulting part of that company. Multiple times in Silicon Valley I've seen companies just good whoosh, whoosh, and take off. Even today, some of the infrastructures that we are talking over is stuff that 15 years ago I was working on which is just the coolest thing over.

So, I look at how a company culture forms, how a company grows and presents itself to the world is a direct reflection of the CEO's energy and thus the CEO's So, if you are calm, grounded, focused, and able to be the calm in the storm and be nonreactive to things that are not worthy of reaction, that are worthy of thought and then strategic movements, your company will grow, your culture will flourish, and your people will trust you. If you are instead a reactive CEO with ADD tendencies who yells at people and throws people around all the time, without meaning to by the way, you are not going to have the level of success that you are capable of, but more importantly, you're not going to have fun along the way. It'll be painful.

That struggle we talked about earlier, you'll struggle all the time versus be able to make it happen effortlessly. I succeeded in my early career out of a fear of failure. It was like running away from these automatic negative thoughts that you right about in your books and fear can be a powerful motivator. It just sucks. When you can turn that off and get your brain working right, what happens is the struggle goes away, and that's why I'm not just the CEO of Bulletproof, I'm also a New York Times best selling author, a Webby award winning podcaster, a dad of two young kids, a husband, and even for my own brain health, really appropriate to what we're talking about, I started a CEO five day intensive neuro-feedback thing called 40 years of zen that fore me has helped me.

Once I got my biology in gear with your scans and even with some of the recommendations in your huge number of books that really helped me and then eventually there was fine performance tuning with neuro-feedback that has been meaningful to me to the point that I wanted the world's best neuro-feedback that I could find. We ended up making custom hardware and software in order to tweak my brain and do it with a few other CEOs. What I find over and over is all of us have mitochondrial disfunction, which are brains that aren't working very well, but I sent everyone I talked to, Daniel, to your clinic to get a brain scan because what's the point of trying to train your brain or even going to meditation retreat if your hardware is having at half level.

Any personal development you do as a CEO, as a business person, will not be effective if your brain is not simply on, and that's what you're seeing. So, the advice that CEOs get when they go to the [inaudible 00:04:40] clinics is priceless because they get their hardware working. You talk them about breathing exercises and you talk to them about heart rate variability and all this, and then if they're going to do some performance tweaking or tuning, or go meditate, or go do any personal growth that reflects inside of company culture it's just easier to do that work when they've turned on their hardware and they've been able to see what's going on [inaudible 00:05:03].

Tana Amen: Oh, it's so true. You know, it's interesting that you say that Dave. One thing that I've noticed and I don't know if you experience this, I certainly did, before I got my exam I was a little bit nervous. I was like, "I don't know if I want to see what's inside my brain" because I'm a perfectionist and whatever it was I was afraid to see it, but the truth is it's only good news because if you are an executive or you are an entrepreneur, whatever it is you are already as successful as you are. The only thing you are going to get is information on how to make it better. So, you just want to go in with that attitude that I am going to learn information that is going to help me be more successful.

Dave Asprey: I was kind of terrified because I'm sitting here at business school and my brain isn't working very well. I'm concerned that I'm not going to graduate. I'm thinking I'm dumber than all my friends, and I'm like, "What if this test validates all that?" That's actually not what it does at all.

Tana Amen: No not at all.

Dave Asprey: And then [inaudible 00:05:55] was like oh, there's a hardware problem and I can do something.

So, what I do in the business in Bulletproof is almost everyone in the company has a heart rate variability monitor, and this is kind of a low end type of feedback that when you change the space between your heart beats, you take yourself out of fight or flight mode and into rest and recover mode so that everyone who does the training I recommend in the company will be able to feel when they go into fight or flight mode and be able to take themselves out, so we can have meetings where people won't yell at each other.

Then fifteen of my top people have been through the 40 Years of Zen $15,000 executive experience which is a huge investment for a small company, and then we also have onsite clinical grade neuro-feedback at our headquarters. So, people can sit down, we do a custom brain scan, and here's the deal. I encourage everyone to do breathing exercises in the company and people who read Bulletproof content or listen to the radio show and all that.

Breathing exercises, meditation, anything that is going make you more of what you are, it's really important for far more than company performance, but it does help employee performance, and if we can add those tools in so that if an employee is going to spend an hour of their precious life doing meditation, you might as well do it with some feedback so that you get more out of that hour. The return per hour spent is higher, so I am totally fine if someone schedules an hour in the middle of their work day to go into the neuro-feedback room, they put the 24-channel thing on their head, and they run custom protocols to address that parts of the brain connectivity that is most effective for them. That's the best investment that I could make, but they get to keep those changes for the rest of their life whether or not they keep working for Bulletproof.

So, it feels like it's a really good thing. More return on their time for them, more return on their time for Bulletproof. And that's not normal, but yes I believe it's not only ethical, it's a moral imperative to hack your employees' brains. I don't pick the settings. They get to decided what their brains are going to do, but I'll help them get the most out of their brain that they want to get out.

Tana Amen: That's brilliant.

Dr Daniel Amen: And do you have a story of how that has helped one of your employees or how that has helped Bulletproof?

Dave Asprey: One of my top employees who actually just transitioned on, but has been an integral part of our growth, he actually started reading Bulletproof content. He got on Bulletproof Coffee and he had been dealing with PTSD from his time as a veteran, and he actually came to the company and said, "You know, my brain is better now because of these things." And once he started, we got him hooked up with the neuro-feedback and he just had profound changes in his brain until the point that it shifted in his relationships at home, his ability as a leader in the company, and you see these just profound changes where people come in with procrastination which is just an unconscious fear, or they come in with a passive aggressive attitude, or they like to send angry emails late at night, which is something I used to be very guilty of. And all of these behaviors, they realized at some point they just naturally melted or if they are doing the full reset protocol that's in 40 Years of Zen they actually go back and find a root trauma, and then they go through and reprogram that.

What we are finding is that people can't do much meditation or brain training because they run out of energy. When we do mitochondrial enhancement strategies from Headstrong, we get two or three times more intensive brain training before someone just hits the wall and their just too tired. So, the idea is fuel the brain and then do the work instead of do the work and use will power to make the brain go when there is not enough fuel. That was a mistake that I used to make when I would do my own brain training or meditation was that I didn't pay attention to my energy first. So, in the case of this guy, that combination was transformative on a personal level as well as on a company level.

Tana Amen: I love that. So just to add some more validation to what you're saying, I actually have down heart rate variability training for a long time, but I have used it for a different purpose. It has been for athletic performance, and actually there is now Olympic athletes who use this, professional sports teams use it. Actually, a lot of them use it now, and it's really interesting the way they use it.

So, you can use it to actually train and work on your heart rate variability in the moment. You can also use it to see where you're at so that you know how to train so you don't get hurt, I'm sure you know this already, but I use it to see where I'm at, how I should train to get the most out of it, but then also if I notice that say one day it's showing that I'm way down in endurance, then you have a plan that you can use to start to build that back up to affect your parasympathetic system versus your sympathetic which is probably on overdrive. You start to learn how to manipulate it through being able monitor it, you can see how to change it and work with it. It's just fascinating. I did that for my black belt test. I used it a lot.

Dave Asprey: Congratulations on that by the way.

Tana Amen: Thank you.

Dr Daniel Amen: Dave is just a wealth of information, and you can listen to his podcast Bulletproof Radio. You can get his New York Times best selling book The Bulletproof Diet or pre-order his new book Headstrong at orderheadstrong.com.

Dave, I hope you'll come back. It's just been great fun ...

Tana Amen: Always fun working with you.

Dr Daniel Amen: ... to spend time with you and we are proud that you are our friend and excited for your success and wish you all the best.

Dave Asprey: Thank you Daniel. Thank you Tana. And for people listening, if you haven't had a spec scan yet to know what areas of performance improvement is possible for your brain, especially if you're interested in being a CEO or a leader, or just a high performance business person, or in some other part of your life, musician, actor, whatever, you owe it to yourself to get your brain scanned at one of Dr. [inaudible 00:12:13] clinics. It is one of the biggest things that put me on that path I'm on now, and I honestly would not be sitting here in front of all of you today if it wasn't for this [inaudible 00:12:23]. So, thank you for kind words about Headstrong, but for people listening, I truly don't know if anything is more important than understanding what's going on in your head, and you are the man for that.

Tana Amen: That's awesome. Thanks Dave.

Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you my friend.