Lessons from my Psychedelic Barber

Posted on June 7, 2012. Filed under: startups, venture capital |

Yesterday I got a haircut from a new barber.  Kenny doesn’t believe me and says I look like an insane professor, but it’s true…I did.  Conversation with the dude who’s cutting my hair typically makes me pretty uncomfortable…I’m always reaching…I’m terrible at small talk…how much eye contact do I need to make?  Is eye contact through the mirror satisfactory or do I need to crank my neck every once in a while? Usually I end up silently nodding my head as the dude riffs on leftist ideals or the importance of the arts over business…but yesterday was a bit different…and weirder.

Somehow in the first 5 minutes of conversation, we arrived (not by my doing) at the merits of psychedelic drugs…for the first few minutes on this topic I thought to myself “great, my barber is a burnout…glad he’s got a straight razor to my neck…” but then he said something that made me pause: he said “it baffles me how most people go through life not even trying to tap into the brain…that’s where everything is happening…and most people don’t even try to explore it.”  Granted…there are many different ways to explore the brain…beyond mind altering drugs (i.e. meditation)…but there was something intriguing about this spirit…it was suggestive of a non-software based incarnation of hacking culture…a culture pervasive in technology and startupland that to date hasn’t really reached the massive processor that is powering human experience…I think about all the experimentation that occurs on machine processors…how we poke at the limits of what a computer can do…experiment on the edges…to unlock previously hidden value or possibilities…and I wonder if my psychedelic barber isn’t just a different type of hacker…his curiosity around the experiences that his brain creates/experiences was very similar to a sentiment that runs through our engineering community…which leads me to wonder…how far am I pushing my brain?  What can it do that I don’t know yet?  How do I really “open up the engine” and experience it’s full potential?  I don’t think I’m scheduling my barber’s recommended voyage to the Mayan jungle for a Shaman guided 7 day psychedelic trip…but I am going to start looking for other forms of experimentation on this “hardware” in my head…in some ways I think the quantified self if a form of measurement/scrutiny of this subject, that when coupled with corrective/transformative actions (my friend Andrew Kortina would call this hacking your brain) is a step in this bio-explorative direction…but generally speaking…we are pretty passively consuming or accepting the “applications” of our minds….perhaps it’s time to be more proactive…what can this thing do beyond what I am using it for is a question I will now ask myself every day.

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9 Responses to “Lessons from my Psychedelic Barber”

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there’s a reason LSD and Crystal Meth came out of SV & that one of them was funded by DoD…

in lieu of having to break the law and get addicted to things that make ferns morph into wood nymphs and show you the path to enlightenment, you can try this simple trick… make yourself stay up for 40 hours straight. during the night between day 1 and day 2 when you would normally be sleeping, put headphones on and let UR itunes library go. stretch out somewhere but not on your bed. when you feel like you are going to sleep, don’t. get up for a few minutes, walk around, get some fresh air. keep the headphones on. repeat if you have to but as much as you can try to stay stretched out.

eventually, your hyped up mind monkey will spin into a full blown fiery crash… and your quiet mind takes over.

that’s where the magic is. no drugs needed.

try this once every couple of weeks or so. will freak you out in the best way about how your perspective changes. kind of like bringing a regime change to the dictators in your head.

whoa…sounds pretty wild…i will put this in my asana to do list…

it’s extreme asana for type A’s :O) works for me…but i’m weird.. :O)

Might be worth quickly browsing “The Doors of Perception” by Aldous Huxley. A blow-by-blow account (pun intended) of his experience with mescaline. He tried to do exactly what your barber suggested and communicate his experience to others. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Doors_of_Perception.

For me I’m finding that prolonged exercise by myself (run, hike, bike, etc.) provides more than just the release of anxiety and increased energy. It gives me more empathy, creativity and the solitary time I need to tap into those areas. I’ve never done anything like a marathon or crazy long distance biking but that could be my next step.

Maybe one of those solitary no talking retreats? I wonder if people who’ve been on those would compare it to hacking the brain as you’ve mentioned.

The objective seems to be “let go the conscious mind and let the unconscious take over”, and the hypothesis is that the unconscious mind is more creative.

Many brilliant minds have experimented with “mind hacking”. Kekulé famously discovered benzene in a dream of a snake biting its own tail, Salvador Dali lounges on a chair holding a spoon in hope to catch the glimpse of creativity right before he falls a sleep when the spoon drops.

People also have been experimenting with “lucid dreaming” for a while, and there have been many books written about it. But just recently hackers started getting involved, check out a kickstarter project called Remee.

What other “mind-altering” hacks have you guys seen?

saw this CNN interview with Dave Gahan (DM — i “heart” them… still…) http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/07/showbiz/music/dave-gahan-depeche-mode/index.html?hpt=hp_bn9

my fave part was when he said this:
“Presence of God” {song] is really that understanding that sometimes when you step out of your own shoes and just open your ears and listen to what’s going on around you, you get answers to the questions you were asking. The title “The Light the Dead See” works so well because sometimes when you’re still and not trying to steer things in a certain way is really when the magic can happen. It’s when I’m trying to figure that out for myself that I get into all kinds of trouble.

amen, brother…

idk about anyone else, but I’m gonna miss the long flowing locks of love.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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