We all want to be our best possible selves. And to do this we must push past our body’s limitations. At the root of these limitations is the brain – a complex organ that creates narratives of self-doubt and procrastination. Overcoming the brain is no easy feat, which is why brain enhancement, smart drugs called Nootropics are rising in demand.
Big Waves in the Nootropics
Have you ever heard that the average person only uses 10% of their brain? Unlocking the rest of the brain would mean having the mental power of the Einsteins and Newtons of history.
Although this 10% fact is actually a myth, it doesn’t stop us from wondering,”what if?”
As a result, we have movies such as Limitless, which glorify this fantasy of taking a pill that unlocks the rest of the brain. With the “limitless” pill, Bradley Cooper finishes writing a book he’s struggled with for months, turns $100,000 into $2 million on the stock market, and finds himself advising a finance tycoon.
The next twist in the story? These limitless pills actually exist and they are known as Nootropics.
Nootropics cover a wide array of over-the-counter supplements, prescription drugs and unclassified research chemicals, such as modafinil, armodafinil, adrafinil, and others.
Personally, those are some pretty intimidating names for something that promises focus, motivation, clarity, and memory…even though, Nootropics are supposedly a safer alternative to mental stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin.
There is, however, a crowd of people that are interested in smart drugs and they reside in the Silicon Valley. Startup employees and entrepreneurs are attracted to smart drugs because in their mentally competitive environment, gaining a little edge in brain enhancement is the difference between an Airbnb and a Meerkat App.
At the center of brain enhancement innovation is HVMN (pronounced human), where they are driven by the belief that the human body is a system which badly needs to be better optimized.
However, the main concern around Nootropics is that nobody really knows the long-term effects of these brain enhancement smart drugs.
Smart Drugs Get Stupid-er
Nootropics are classified as a dietary supplement, which really means they can slide right past the jurisdiction of the FDA.
For this reason, there is little testing on Nootropics – leading to many unanswered questions. Do smart drugs cause memory skips, where your brain isn’t actually encoding new knowledge? Does the body become tolerant of them, forcing you down a rabbit hole of dependence?
These unanswered questions haven’t stopped “biohackers” from experimenting. And with tools such as Biomarker.io, biohackers can record some of the effects of Nootropics on their own bodies through wearable devices. So, in a way, they are making their own clinical trials.
Ironically, the place where most of this brain enhancement craze is happening, the startup world, has birthed another polar opposite craze, mindfulness apps. These apps help people unplug from the productivity grindstone to sit and explore their consciousness through meditation.
In my opinion, prescribing to polar opposite lifestyle “medications” doesn’t result in balance. Just ask the 70s and 80s rock stars who took stimulants to perform and then depressants to go to sleep.
Our culture is increasingly headed toward one of maximizing productivity, whether that means downing your daily dose of smart drugs or merging your body with technology.
But, that doesn’t mean you have to prescribe to either of them.
Natural Brain Enhancement
There are natural ways encoded in your biology to achieve more motivation, memory, and creativity.
If you are looking for that morning motivation, my friend replaced his morning three cups of coffee with cold showers. Not only does he still get his burst of energy through increased blood flow, but he also doesn’t crash after lunch anymore.
If you’re not crazy enough to do the cold showers, then exercising in the morning is said to have the same energy and motivation benefits.
And maybe motivation isn’t your problem. Perhaps your memory is always failing you. Well, there are easy memory techniques dating back two-thousand years that allow London cabbies to sear 25,000 streets into their heads and World Champion Mnemonists to memorize tens-of-thousands of digits of Pi.
As Joshua Foer explains in Moonwalking with Einstein, the secret to memorization isn’t being born with a “photographic” memory…it’s about creating memory palaces.
Essentially, memory palaces are familiar locations you can fill with visual representations of whatever you are memorizing. Instead of forcing lists of words into your head by saying them over and over again, memory palaces transform your To-do list into an eventful walk through your household. Don’t believe me? Let Josh show you how to memorize the first 100 digits of Pi.
So, what’s the biological secret to creativity?
Idle time. A 2014 study found that bored people were more likely to have “divergent thinking styles” – coming up with creative ideas.
Increasing your creativity means carving out time to lay in the grass and look up at the clouds – putting your technology away and embracing the boredom.
A friend once told me you can’t overcome writer’s block by distracting yourself. You just have to write through it.
This speaks volumes for many of life’s struggles.
Easy isn’t Always Rewarding
There will always be shortcuts that eliminate the hardships of solving problems. However, you’ll find that shortcuts are far less rewarding because you cheat yourself of the journey.
Amelia Earhart agreed, “You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
Reframing success as learning allows you to enjoy the process and not depend on the “solution” for gratification.
There will always be get-rich or get-fit quick promises out there. And they will be tempting. But, the real achievement isn’t even the achievement itself. It’s the pursuit of the achievement.
Thanks for taking the time to read this week’s Quick Theories.
If you are itching to express your thoughts on brain enhancement, Nootropics, and smart drugs, I’d love to hear your thoughts (reply directly to this).