The Other Way

053: Exploring Consciousness: A Deep Dive into the Mind, Science, and Entrepreneurship with NextSense Founder Jonathan Berent

November 07, 2023 Kasia Stiggelbout
The Other Way
053: Exploring Consciousness: A Deep Dive into the Mind, Science, and Entrepreneurship with NextSense Founder Jonathan Berent
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What does the founder of NextSense, a former Google X director, have to share about the fascinating world of consciousness and the mind-body connection? Jonathan (JB) Berent – an avid practitioner of polyphasic sleep, lucid dreaming enthusiast, and someone deeply interested in altered states of consciousness – takes us through his journey in this enlightening conversation. We unpack his fascination for the interplay between subjective experiences and science, touching upon his spiritual practices and unique sleep routine.

Our conversation takes a deep dive into the world of altered states of consciousness, not just from a theoretical standpoint but from Jonathan's own experiences and observations. We also discuss the scientific measurements of these states and how they are clinically oriented around wake and sleep states. From Jonathan's personal experiences, we get an intriguing insight into the concept of flow and how it can bridge the subjective with the objective. We also touch upon the physiological processes that our brain undergoes during these states and how we can observe and comprehend what's happening.

In the latter part of our conversation, we examine the role of ego in entrepreneurship and how to mindfully manage it. Using his own experiences, Jonathan illustrates the power of dreams and the delicate balance between ambition and surrender. He also shares how the teachings of Saad Guru, a renowned yogi and visionary, have shaped his journey and helped him make better decisions. So, sit back and join us on this mind-expanding exploration of consciousness, science, and much more.

A bit about JB:

Jonathan "JB" Berent is a visionary leader who is passionate about exploring human consciousness and unlocking its full potential. As the CEO and Founder of NextSense, he has combined his extensive business experience with cutting-edge scientific research to develop innovative biosensing wearables.

Throughout his executive career, JB has managed teams of more than 110 people and overseen budgets of $50M or more at public companies Oracle and Google. However, in 2016, he decided to follow his lifelong passion for exploring the connection between the mind and body and left sales and partnerships to focus on developing brain-sensing technologies at X, the moonshot factory.

JB's innovative work has earned him numerous speaking engagements at prestigious universities such as Stanford and UCSF, as well as conferences such as the Chan Zuckerberg BioHub and the Stanford Medicine Big Data Health. In June 2022, he was featured in a long-read cover story in Wired magazine, which highlighted his groundbreaking work in the field of biosensing wearables.

JB graduated with Honors from Stanford University with a Philosophy and Religious Studies degree.

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To connect with Kasia

Kasia:

Hello and welcome to Nourish. My name is Kasia and I'm an entrepreneur, a long-time meditator and a student of Chinese medicine. My mission with this podcast is to share the tools and practices to help you integrate your whole self into every aspect of your world. As someone who is both a Taipei high achiever and a deeply spiritual, vulnerable and empathetic being, I know firsthand how it feels to be living a double life showing up one way at work a different way alone and struggling to reconcile the two. This disintegration of authenticity is one of the biggest causes of burnout, health flares and anxiety. For me, understanding how the mind-body connection is crucial to health and success, cultivating a strong sense of inner self and applying the healing philosophies of Chinese medicine and Zen Buddhism to my life has allowed me to lead from a completely heart-powered place, letting go of other people's judgments and finding peace in allowing my multi-dimensional being to shine. My hope is that this podcast may inspire you to do the same. I want to call out. It is a practice, it is a journey, but I believe it is the most important thing that we can do for our bodies, minds and our ultimate potential. Enjoy, hello and welcome to Wealthy. My name is Kasia, I'm a founder, meditator and spiritual seeker on a mission to find balance between striving for success and enlightenment. On this podcast you'll find inspiring interviews, research and tools for self-actualization. Now let's jump in. Today. I welcome Jonathan Berent, otherwise known as JB. JB is the founder and CEO of , a health tech company developing brain-sensing technologies to help understand and treat neurological diseases and monitor brain health. A couple of cool things about JB he's the former Google X director, which is a renowned Google division working on designing revolutionary solutions to huge world problems. He also teaches a course at Stanford on dreams, which is one of the university's most popular classes. But in addition to this objectively very impressive Silicon Valley business portfolio, JB has a fascination with, and has been exploring for years, consciousness. His journey to founding NextSense started with his fascination around lucid dreaming and a near-death experience. Today we cover a lot from consciousness and altered states of consciousness. We talk about that from the point of view of science and a bit of the metaphysical. We talk about the power of lucid dreaming, the reason why JB listens to his dreams, how JB has integrated his spiritual practices into day-to-day life as a Google leader and now CEO and founder. What is polyphasic sleep and why is it something that he swears by, plus some of the benefits he's noticed since starting this kind of sleep routine, and so much more. We have a lot to cover. This is definitely an episode for all my Type A people who are looking to go a bit deeper into consciousness and enlightenment. Without further ado, let's jump on in JB. Welcome to the Nourish podcast.

JB:

Thanks, Kasia, good to be here.

Kasia:

I'm so pumped to have you here from both fascination with your professional life and the incredible business that you're working on, but also a bit about your personal life and how some of the things that I know that you're interested in that go into sleep, and a bit more of the stuff that people would call consciousness how that seems to be converging. I have tons of questions about that, but before we dive into all of that, I'm going to start with a question that I ask everybody, and that is what are three words that you would use to describe yourself?

JB:

Curious, innovative and hungry.

Kasia:

Ooh, hungry is a new one, I got to say curious, seems to come up a lot, but I love the hungry part. That definitely sounds like you, based on what I know of you, which is amazing For a bit of a blurb for folks here that are tuning in and I know I mentioned this in the intro. But, jb, you have an impressive portfolio. You're the founder and CEO of , which is a health tech company developing brain-sensing technology to help understand and treat neurological diseases and monitor brain health. You're the former Google X director, a renowned Google division working on designing revolutionary solutions to huge world problems. You teach a course at Stanford on dreams. In addition to that remarkable portfolio, I know I'm emitting a few things like throwing some achievements at Oracle, pioneering the first web-based voting system at Stanford. You're a real deep thinker. I say this not just from the conversations that we've had, but just from reading some of your interviews and some of the stuff that you put out there At Google. For example, I know that you hosted a talk with the renowned, world-renowned teacher and wisdom guide, saad Guru, about developing an inclusive mindset. What I find to be so interesting is that a lot of the time, some of these kinds of very tech-oriented and science-oriented aspects of our identities can feel like they're in conflict with some of those deeper, perhaps more one could even say spiritually explorative aspects of self. But I know that when I read about your background, it was actually your fascination with polyphasic sleep and altered states of consciousness and a near-death experience that actually propelled some of the really revolutionary work that you're doing in the world. So could you share with us some of your background and how these two are coming together for you?

JB:

Sure, I think it really starts with a couple books from my childhood. There was one called the Shaping Room and it's just a fictional story but in it the character meets with somebody that has the title Metaphysics. So I remember not knowing what that word was, obviously as a kid, but asking my mom or looking up in a dictionary because we didn't have the internet to Google things. And the Shaping Room, this kid could put his hand in the clay and then he would immediately go into this altered state where he could. It was like a dreamlike state, but he could control the dream and he knew it was a dream. And so that was sort of my first sort of fascination with like oh, is this even possible? And then I would love to go to bookstores and kind of find in different areas and I came across Stephen LaBear's Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, and that was like wow, there actually is a way to have the experience that that kid had in the Shaping Room. It just happens at night and you have to train yourself. And so Stephen LaBear pioneered the work of lucid dreaming. And this is when I'm still in high school and I really think that that's sort of where my initial fascination with altered states of consciousness came from, and then just to forward just a little bit, and then I'll pause. As I got into lucid dreaming and began to have lucid dreams in high school I actually had a dream that sort of informed like a deeper part of myself told me to go west, and so Stanford was one of the possible schools. I was also looking at Penn, but that dream really did influence a lot of my thinking and it was very interesting. Stephen LaBear's was at Stanford and I met him my freshman year and I did my freshman paper on lucid dreaming and it was amazing to connect with him.

Kasia:

Oh my gosh, I kind of I got chills as you are describing this, because that's just kind of crazy to have a dream actually inform a career path that is so rooted in dreams in many ways. And you mentioned the word altered states of consciousness and I feel like this is definitely getting a lot of hype for many reasons. Meditation is super commonplace. I mean, I think people are getting more and more fascinated with the world of dreams, the world of psychedelics, and I'm curious how do you define an altered state of consciousness and I know this might sound like a weird question to throw in there as well, but is it real? You know, like, do you know what I mean? We kind of question all right, the dream like state, feels like it's not real, but there's so many elements of that that is happening that is real, and so I'm curious how you compartmentalize that in your mind when you think about an altered state. And really what is it? Let's start there.

JB:

That's a question that has a lot of different types of answers. So I'm here at , and probably 12 feet behind me is a clinical grade EEG system where we could hook up a bunch of electrodes to somebody's skull. Obviously we have our own devices that you just plug in your ears and you're measuring brain waves, and so there is a way to quantify different states of consciousness. So just to ground ourselves in the science first. When science looks at states of consciousness, they are primarily looking at very clinically orientated states around wake and sleep and then even within sleep there's different stages of sleep. So I think you have to at least understand that layer and understand that there's lots of validation that we can objectively measure various states of consciousness from that standpoint. So that's sort of a bedrock. And now let's take one step farther away from that. But keep tethered. There's even data that shows in meditation the brain does change and there are different states of consciousness that can be picked up in an EEG system. And obviously the muse made that very famous. You could wear the muse and when you get into a certain state which is looking, it's a proprietary algorithm of theirs, but probably some ratio of alpha and theta or alpha and beta ratios. You'll hear these birds chirping. And so many people have tried to build these novel algorithms to define some of these states of consciousness, like meditation. Now there's other states that are more subjective and probably less objective. And let's do another popular one, which is flow. So a lot of research has come around flow, mihai Kersenskihi, pioneer that worked decades ago and I think has gotten a lot of attention, the Flow Institute. And so they characterized that with like 10 plus questions that are more subjective in nature. And so I'll tell you just a little anecdote of how I'm always trying to bridge to the objective. Surprisingly, I mean, if you look at my back, I'm a philosophy major and I didn't go the hardcore science route, so it's a little bit surprising that I'm always trying to go back to that, but anyway. So one time I was with a VC and he said I want to see a demo of your device, jb, you say it's so easy, show me something. I put in the earbuds and I did what's called an eyes open, eyes closed test. Now, granted, this is not supposed to generate a different state of consciousness, this is just a basic EEG test to show that your system is working and you're getting brain signal, and so when you close your eyes, the observable region of your brain is processing less visual information. So it just slows down and it gets a nice rhythm that's typically in the 10 to 12 hertz range, what's known as the alpha wave, and so our protocol has one minute eyes open, one minute eyes closed. One minute eyes open, one minute eyes closed. So you can imagine what that's trying to do objectively is to show when your eyes are open, you got lots of visual information the visual cortex going to be processing. It might be at 20 hertz, 25 hertz, then you quiet it down and it's lower. So it's really just a test to say, hey, does this device you're using actually measure brain waves in ways that we expect? So that was the premise of the experience. Now, I had never done it in sort of a pressured situation I mean, it's a little pressure right with the VC watching you and so I did it and I was sure the device broke. I was sure like, oh, this is a demo gone wrong. I felt like 20 minutes. I'm like this is embarrassing, I should open my eyes, but I hadn't heard the chime, like the, you know, from one minute to the next. It just felt so long, but fortunately I didn't. I just said, okay, well, I'm just going to trust it. And when the last time went off, you know, I looked up and it had been only four minutes, but the time dilation was massive, and that's one of the characteristics of flow. And so I thought what does this look like? And sure enough, there was a completely different waveform, much slower in the theta range. So you know, theta range being from like four Hertz to eight Hertz, and so that, what, the way I talk about it, I don't claim that that is a objective biomarker for everyone in flow, but that is a personal biomarker for me. When I have the subjective experience of time expanding, I see that nice data modulation, and that would be, you know, one example of an altered state of consciousness.

Kasia:

Wow, first of all, that's such a cool story to actually have that real time experience of the altered state happening. It's almost like a kind of witnessing the matrix moment in a way, because you're watching your product actually work. I appreciate you grounding it both in the science and in the experience, which I think it's huge when it comes to sleep, what exactly is happening, and not so much from just the scientific point of view, but more so from the perceived difference in a state of consciousness. Right, and please, of course, you're welcome to share a bit of what's happening physiologically, the brain processing and whatnot. But I'd be curious to know, like how does that compare from a consciousness perspective?

JB:

Sure, Well, one of the things that got me intrigued about lucid dreaming was Stephen LaBearish's view that lucid dreaming really provided the optimal place to study consciousness, and so I think, with that as sort of the backdrop, let's talk about when somebody goes to sleep. First of all, it's kind of interesting, right, like if you want to raise your hand in assuming that you have no disabilities you can raise your hand. If you want to sit down, you can sit down. If you want to close your eyes, you can close your eyes. But if I say one, two, three fall asleep, you can't right. No human to our knowledge on the planet can just shut down on demand. So that's interesting in and of itself, that something we do every night, something that happens more easily for some, for sure, than others, but no one really has an off switch for their brain. So what does happen? Well, we have to sort of take off input, we have to take things away, we have to reduce sound, reduce light. People are starting to get aware of blue light. Jamie Zeitzer has done a lot of work on that and so as we start to reduce stimuli, the brain on its own finds a way to shut down. We just still don't fully understand this. I mean Dr DeMint, one of the pioneers in the sleep medicine field, would attend my lectures and he was very happy because at the time I was with Google and he was glad that Google was interested in sleep. But I had dinner with him before he died and he's like Jamie. After 50 years we still don't really know why we sleep, and I think Matt Walker's book why we Sleep is a great book and of course there have been advancements and there is more knowledge, but still I take Dr DeMint at his word that in some very fundamental ways, we don't really understand what's happened. So I think we should be very fascinated, I think we should be very humbled when we talk about trying to understand this. So now let's talk about what did LeBerge mean when he said we could explore consciousness, and I think researchers like Tononi are now looking at lucid dreaming as a vehicle for consciousness. Well, one of the things that I share in the class at Stanford in Sleeping Dreams are some of the experiments that LeBerge did and also Philip Zimbardo, who was a famous researcher at Stanford for many years, and they did an experiment that is quite simple but quite revealing, and it's just if you put your finger in front of your eyes and if you just watch your finger go in a circle, there's a reflex, a vestibular ocular reflex. That's called smooth pursuit. It's just very easy again, assuming healthy individuals to just sort of lock on an object and do that and the eyes can be measured, that they're just very smoothly doing that, versus when the eyes don't lock on something, they have these micro movements called saccades. So they had this hypothesis in a lucid dream. Are you imagining a finger moving in a circle or are you actually perceiving a finger moving in a circle? So with lucid dreaming you can actually train people to get into a lucid state in the dream and then they can remember oh yeah, I'm doing a science experiment even though I'm asleep. Dr LaBear wants me to hold my finger up and he wants me to watch my finger in my dream, my dream finger go around. And so they were able to do that. So they recruited lucid dreamers and they told them the task and then they put bio potential leads on their eyes, because the eyes are polarized, so like when you move your eyes you're sending electrical signals and you can pick that up. And so they measured that with people in real life doing it, people in a lucid dream doing their imaginary finger. And then, of course, the third experiment is you're awake but you just close your eyes and you just imagine a finger and you just imagine a tracing. And what's interesting is they found that the lucid dream matched. I could show you a slide that just shows you how smooth it actually is versus with the imagination. The saccades are all there and it's just very jagged. And so I mean that tells you that in the dream state you're actually perceiving, and so one of the things to think about is it's a bit of a play on words, but when you're dreaming you're actually perceiving without sensory constraints, and when you're perceiving, you're dreaming with sensory constraints, and I think that's really fascinating to think that our mind really has this ability to perceive, even in the dream state, something that is very near real.

Kasia:

Wow, that is crazy. And that last line that you just shared about when you are dreaming, you are perceiving in a completely unbounded state and when you're perceiving you are dreaming. Is that correct?

JB:

That's right with constraints, right like one only difference is that in consensus, reality is, you know, the mechanisms are constrained in some way, but the very same conscious mechanisms are in play during dreams. It's just you don't have to have a table in front of you for there to be a table, but it's so real, like you know, lucid dreams are a lot of times people describe them as hyper real, and so your question, you know, at the beginning of this, was kind of interesting. Like what is real? It's like? Well, you know, the Tibetans would say you practice lucid dreaming to help you realize. All of it is just a continuum that you know. They would say the dream state is no more unreal than what we're talking about right now, that this is just as unreal as any dream, or a dream is just as real as any life experience.

Kasia:

Mike, drop, just drop the mic. You can go ahead and do that. This is great. We can just end it right. Oh my gosh, wow, that is. There's so much there. I mean so much there from, I think, a lot of the spiritual philosophies and their encouragement Of enlightenment being kind of a state of realizing the interconnection and the continuum of all things to, in a way, being able to perceive that through the experiment that you're running, like a little snippet of that, if I'm hearing you correctly. That's wild, that is wild. So I want to talk about dreaming for a bit, because we mentioned the state of lucid dreaming and you and I have talked about this in the past. That you do, you still practice polyphasic sleep.

JB:

I do, I nap every day.

Kasia:

Okay, so tell me exactly what is that like? How does that differ than a regular sleep schedule?

JB:

So I mean polyphasic sleep by definition is, you know, having at least two periods or more when you are sleeping, and 85% of all mammals are polyphasic in nature. We come into the world, you know, we all know of babies that are just kind of sleeping on, sleeping off. Those of us that have dogs, we see our dogs, you know, kind of sleeping, getting up, sleeping. And in 2016 I met a Googler who had done polyphasic sleep in college and had just accumulated a ridiculous amount of decrees. It was just phenomenal how much he was able to do, and I think it took me actually meeting somebody that had accomplished it, because, you know, if you go on to Reddit or YouTube, you'll, you'll see all these things. But I was talking to somebody and he had proof that it could be done, and so that really intrigued me. That that's how I got my interest in it, and in 2016 I started a sleep schedule that was called every man. So you kind of dive into it, you realize there's the uber man, there's the every man, there's these different schedules, and the original sleep schedule I did was I go to bed at 1030, I'd wake up at 1.30 in the morning, I would jump into my pool, which was about 50 degrees, and then I would stay up for about four or five hours before I had my first nap, and then, you know, another three hours I have my second nap and then my third nap. So I would, I would sleep from 1030 to 130 so three hours and then I would take three 20 minute naps throughout the day, and I did that for about nine months in 2016.

Kasia:

Okay, so please share with us what happened during this time.

JB:

So the first 20 days there is an adjustment period, so it is. It is a bit brutal. I won't lie about that. I was helped by a few tips that I learned from him, and then one that was maybe just sort of the universe's gift to me. The one tip that he had was you really need to restrict your metabolic intake. It's, you know, as you start to just have all this time. You know, you, you think about eating, and he said that was really disruptive of the system. Like one value of sleeping Eight or nine hours a night is you're not eating. You know, during those times it's kind of like an easy fast. So I had to do intermittent fasting for about a year before I started my thing. Well, I guess I should say I was fortunate in that I had already gotten into intermittent fasting in 2015, and so I did that for four years. So when he told me that I'm like no problem, I will just, you know, keep to that regimen. The second thing is that jump in the pool while I was just doing it to wake up when I started to become friends with Joe Owens, who had his PhD in sleep and circadian rhythms. He's like JB you are hacking your circadian rhythm, like, first of all, your metabolic intermittent fasting that's one way to change your circadian clock and then raising your core temperature which, jumping into a cold pool of water, the exterior temperature obviously goes down but your interior temperature fires up. That also is affecting your circadian rhythm. So, because he was surprised, like how do you have any kind of desire to do anything meaningful at 1 30th morning? Like that shouldn't be possible.

Kasia:

But it's too hard, right.

JB:

So I think you know, for the first 20 days it was challenging but I was very motivated because at that time this is when I really did this career pivot I had started to get into reading of neuroscience in earnest. I wanted to learn machine learning, but then I also wanted to learn drums. And then I had a lucid dream that told me I needed to write a book, and so I'm like I need an extra four or five hours a day, and so I was very motivated. So after that first 20 days I was able to get into this rhythm. And then what did I do? I did all those things. So I asked you know, joe and a few others like if I were going to become a neuroscience major, you know what is the book I would read? And everybody points you to this book called the principles of neuroscience. It was called Neuroscience and it's initial thing. So I bought that and I would read that. During the time at Google they had drum lessons and I started taking drum lessons and then, only at Google, there is a whole building that had drums and I could go there 24 hours a day. So I would go at like two in the morning and I would play drums for about an hour Wow.

Kasia:

This is amazing. This is like seeing out of Silicon Valley.

JB:

So we're gone and then I would go back, I would take my nap and then I would go to Pete's and no Phills. I switched over to Phills by then and then I would write for 90 minutes because I wanted to get this novel written. Because, again, I had a dream. You know, I listened to my dreams. You know, go to go West, write a novel, and so you know, from 2016 to 2018 I tried various polyphasic sleep schedules and you know, I ended up kind of customizing one that worked really well for me. I would go to bed it doesn't have a name because I haven't I haven't published it but I would go to bed around 8 pm for about an hour, so from 8 to 9. And that would give me really good juice till about 2 in the morning and then I would sleep about four hours and then I would only need two naps during the regular workday, because I found that three naps during the workday, that was tough. I had an admin at Google. She found that difficult to schedule. It was a bit tough, but at 8 to 9 pm nobody's really counting your hours then, and so then I only needed two naps. So that that was the schedule. What's my schedule now? I do go through different you know cycles and so right now I sleep about five to six hours a night and then I take my one nap and so you know, like today I thought about, you know, our podcast and I want to make sure that I had my nap in before the podcast. So you know, right around 12, 40 or so, you know, I did a actually a 30 minute nap, which is kind of surprising, so maybe I needed a little extra.

Kasia:

Damn okay. Well, first of all, thank you for being so thoughtful about our podcast conversation and scheduling your nap in there. I mean, I want to know in terms of health benefits. Because you mentioned Dr Zeitzer, shout out to him. He was also a guest on the pod. We spent a lot of time talking about lights or kiddie rhythms. He talked about the importance of like regularity in your sleep schedule and, of course, waking up early and some early research. That's that he was working on around that. But we didn't really dive into this kind of pattern of multi phases of sleep and I'm curious like are there any sort of health benefits to that? Consciousness exploration benefits to that, or was it just purely a productivity hack at the time?

JB:

at now, yeah, it's a great question. There's a couple things that I'll say that I think maybe I didn't say in kind of 2016 to 2020 that I want to start, you know, first is there are ways that polyphase asleep can go really wrong and, you know, I don't want to overhype it or I don't want to over sell it, because the last thing I'd want to do is, you know, somebody listens to this and they say, oh, I'm going to try this podcast or I'm going to try this polyphase sleep schedule, and then, you know, get in a car wreck because they, they were, you know, sleep deprived. So you know, you really do have to be kind of thoughtful about this. So that's, that's the first thing. The second thing is there's very little research that's been done on polyphase asleep. So some of it is, you know, based on my own intuition. Part of it was when I thought about, you know, as we evolved and we're in the wild, like, do we really think we evolved to sleep seven, eight hours at a time? Like that?

Kasia:

we're so vulnerable 100% when I look at the.

JB:

you know the animal kingdom and that 85% of mammals are polyphasing sleepers and babies, and so you know, and a lot changed with the introduction of light. So in the lecture sometimes we talk about how light itself changed sleep. I mean, the whole term. Midnight came from a period of time when, without industrial light, we would work, we'd come back, we'd sleep for three or four hours, then we'd be up, and in fact they have some evidence that that's when a lot of procreation happened because people were too tired of the manual day, but that, you know, midsection that midnight was was a viable time under candlelight. So I think that my intuition gave me some confidence. But I will say that because our own device wasn't ready and hasn't been ready with automatic sleep scoring algorithms, I want to be a little bit cautious because I don't know how much REM sleep I'm getting, how much deep sleep I'm getting. The times that I have meticulously measured it, it's been very dense and so I could show you some, some graphs that say even when I'm getting only five hours of sleep through a polyphasic sleep schedule, I'm still getting the same amount of REM as you, I'm still getting the same amount of deep sleep as you. So we know that REM and deep sleep are really essential. So if it's actually true that you're getting the same amount of those things, right.

Kasia:

Because you know you think about.

JB:

REM is typically an hour and a half, maybe two hours on a really good night, deep sleep kind of similar, maybe two hours, maybe three hours. So you know you're talking about. You know four and a half hours of that type of sleep is massive. Most people don't get that, probably. But I found my sleep architecture getting very efficient. It knew there wasn't a lot of time and so it would just really get efficient and cut out in one sleep. People don't know, you know, how valuable whether you know in one sleep or even in two sleep is that value? So I think that I have to be cautious in saying like, oh, this has health benefits. I believe that it has cognitive benefits for sure. So when I take the nap, you know I'm consolidating memories that you know I've accumulated in the first half of the day. So I know for a fact, since I started doing this in 2016, my retention of materials, my memory, has gotten better. When you know at my age you know I turned 50 this year like it should be on the decline, not, you know, not increasing and I would say that the naps really help memory retention. So those are a few thoughts. There is one researcher, claudio Stampi, who researched naps in sailors because he was able to look at some competitive data there and it you know it definitely showed that performance was increased for those that were napping versus doing kind of long stretches.

Kasia:

Well, and also I was going to say like, in terms of research, I feel like basically every set of parents that has ever had infant children can probably be incredible research subjects, or at least just examples of humans who have survived living like this, because I mean assuming that they're actually napping throughout the day and not just trying to power through right. So, yeah, so you talk about the fact that you listened to your dreams, and I absolutely love this, because I know that you definitely listen to a lot of additional signals market signals when it comes to business things, data signals, all sorts of other signals but it looks like your dreams are also valuable signals for you to listen to, and I'm curious, from a personal philosophy point of view why do you choose to do that? I mean, is it based on the research from where the kind of spark of awareness can come from, like when you're dreaming? That kind of pull to do something has deeper significance, you think, or is it something that is just purely intuitive and comes from a place that you can't really identify, or something else?

JB:

But I think dreams go back to 2,000-plus years. I mean, there's dreams in the Bible where people are getting prophetic messages and it's been a part of almost every culture that I think has been studied. When I really started to look at dreams not just lucid dreams but just dreams in general I came across some very interesting facts, such as the song. Yesterday was conceived by Paul McCartney in a dream. It wasn't a lucid dream, but he woke up and he had the melody and he was able to play it and he was so convinced that there's no way it was his that he spent weeks with his lawyers trying to find the copyright and like what happens if I violated somebody's copyright? And the song is so different that the Beatles released it as a single separate. It's the most covered song in history and it came from a dream, right, wow Ramanujan. This Indian-based mathematician who had no formal education but studied math, developed mathematics, proofs, very advanced math, but he claimed that a Hindu god was giving him the proofs at night in dreams. Fortunately, an Oxford mathematician found him and brought him over and they spent years together, you know, doing mathematical proofs. It's the closest thing to the Goodwill hunting story, you know, in kind of real life, just a natural genius, and so you have many, many stories like that, even at Google. I met Ray Kurzweil, who's a futurist and often looked to for what's coming next. He and I chatted. He used a lucid dreaming state to really harness his creativity because he said, when I'm you know, he was trained as an engineer. And when I'm in a lucid dream state, part of my neocortex is shut down. Maybe some of that stuff that is more rule-based, more like, oh, this is engineeringly not possible and I'm more creative because I don't have all those things turned on, but I have enough things turned on and that allows for that space. So, you know, I think these are just, you know, some of the examples that propelled my interest over the years, and when I lecture on sleeping dreams, I really encourage people pay attention. I think it's just unfortunate that it's so common. You know, I think if nobody had dreamed in the history of the world, then all of a sudden somebody took you know a pill and said, oh, look, you take this pill and you'd have dreams at night. Look what happened. I mean, you know I use that a little bit facetiously because of course we know, with psychedelics people are taking pills to have.

Kasia:

That's exactly what I was going to say.

JB:

Business in the day, but this has been available to us naturally since time began, as far as we know right. Like these people, have been dreaming probably since you know 200,000 years when our neocortex really shifted.

Kasia:

I love that you mentioned that. I will say that perhaps now it's not as unconventional to hear somebody talk about that, especially a leader, a founder, somebody in you know who has worked at the places that you've worked, who is doing the things that you do, but it's still. It sounds, I guess, a bit unconventional in the best way. Obviously, this is me like super excited about that and I know that there are many kind of aspects of your personality and your interest that might be kind of pushing those boundaries. Like I know that you're a fan of Saad Guru, who is now kind of all the rage here. He was just in LA recently and he's a renowned yogi, mystic and visionary but, for example, you brought him into Google and you interviewed him, which is incredible. And I'm curious, you know, when you kind of think about the signals that you allow to influence perhaps some of your decisions or some of these things that might feel like they're pushing the boundaries a little bit of what we have structured as common day to day, how do you integrate those two in your life, especially in a position that you are in as a leader and you know you have been for many years?

JB:

Well, I would say that it's not always easy and I think at Google, on many ways I felt like I was coming home when I went there 10 years ago, like it was just my people. But I will say that some of the things that we've even talked about the polyphasic sleep schedule was difficult for certain people at Google to really embrace, and that's a culture that has nap pods right. So I think that it hasn't always been easy to sort of be myself, try to express kind of who I am and the creativity in a world that they like there to be some rule breaking and some non-conventional thinking. But then there's a point where people just get uncomfortable. Then they start to react. Just to give another example, I had a poster up on my wall when I was there and I felt like this distilled down what enlightenment is and it had two words resist nothing. And then it had this really nice flow and it's just a beautiful flow of why resisting things just makes no sense and it's just very simple words, right? Well, that got reported to HR because they felt like this was a dictator saying JB is the director, with 80 people underneath them is saying resist nothing. That I say right, and I just thought, wow, I really was just trying to share who I was. I was trying to give this gift of what enlightenment could be for some people and it was just totally interpreted the wrong way. So I think that's one thing I really like about being in the next sense is that I have the ability to really be more myself and, of course, I'm careful on what I share and how I share and who I share to you, I realize. I think some of the experiences are not everybody is ready for a full disclosure of who you are, and that's OK. You have to sort of find those close friends you and I have talked about in previous conversations my WhatsApp group and that's a safe space where I can leave a 20 minute message and I can say anything and they're not going to take it the wrong way. They're going to love me and they're going to embrace it, but even in the next sense I'm not going to share at the same level. So I do think you have to compartmentalize and I think the main thing is I do want to always feel a little uncomfortable, I don't want to just always play it safe. I think that the world goes around through vulnerability and trust and there is risk. So you do have to risk a little bit. But I think I have learned, maybe the hard way, that there's kind of wise risks and then there's sort of thoughtless risk that can backfire.

Kasia:

So good and I definitely want a snapshot of that poster. Do you have that anymore? I would love it.

JB:

Yeah, I will send it to you.

Kasia:

By the way, it's so funny because when you described it my reaction was like, oh my gosh, like obviously this sounds like something that I heard in a meditation class recently, right? Or I was at a Tasahara not too long ago, which is a Zen monastery, for five days on a meditation retreat. It's just so funny how the perspective from which I am perceiving that message, the bounds that I've said on it, just are completely different than whoever it is that reported you, and how it's like the same message just perceived so differently and that kind of speaks to what you were talking about earlier around the kind of boundless dreaming versus constraints and how that can influence how we experience the world, tangibly speaking, which is so powerful. I do want to ask one more question, and this is kind of maybe a little bit more of a tactical question, but you're in a space as the founder of this incredible business and revolutionary technology that is not just does this technology have practical applications, but there are business nuances every single day, like the economy shifting, investor needs shifting, business needs shifting, hiring, team members, perhaps having to let them go. These practicalities are difficult day to day and I'm curious, how do you, as a leader, kind of resist nothing for lack of a better word during these times, while making some of these difficult decisions and I think just to kind of rephrase that for a second one of the things that I personally have found that I am constantly working on in my meditation practice, for example, is like balancing that ambitious, striving action, taking side with just like surrender, like they almost feel like they're opposites, and I'm curious if you witness that to be the same sort of experience, or how do you navigate that in your day to day in this very critical position.

JB:

Right? No, I think it's a really important question and I think in the valley in particular, you have to have your own kind of perspective. I think I had an executive coach who I worked with for a number of years and they told me to survive in the valley you need to practice gratitude and Impatience and it's you know, it's an interesting duality. And so I think for me the way that I try to maintain that balance is in the morning I start, you know, my morning in a very particular way, and so Recently I've been reading from the book of awakening, mark Nepo's book. It's just a wonderful sort of book that actually that coach gave it to me, you know, a decade ago, and I've bought this book for other people, recommended it even recently to NextSensor Sensor, and it's just a wonderful two-minute reading to sort of see a meditation or see a you know kind of way of looking at the life through this brilliant, you know, poets and thinker and meditator, mark Nepo. So I do that. And then I've been a really a fan and adherent to headspace. I've used it on and off throughout the years, but for the last year and a half I've used the 365 day journey that Andy takes you on and this is my second time going through it and I just love how Andy sort of, you know, guides you through the meditation and you learn something and in fact that you know the one that we're doing right now is it's based on the Tibetan practice of called Tong-Luan, and Tong-Luan is when you imagine Inhaling kind of a dark smoke, you know, which is like the suffering of somebody and it very counterintuitive, but you know you picture somebody in front of you who's suffering and then you inhale and it's you just imagine You're, you're taking their suffering and then you give back love and loving, kindness, through, like bright light and you know kind of goes through that resist nothing, you know. So, like even during the day if you get stressed, essentially you can just imagine you're taking on somebody else's Stress, even though it's your own, and it just sort of helps shift that perspective outside of yourself. Oh, I must be taking on and now I'm gonna bless them, you know, with this light. So I think that the meditation practice, the, the Mark Nepo book, and then I usually pick one spiritual book that I will, you know, I'll commit to read through very slowly, you know, for maybe a year or two. You know, instead of kind of ripping through and just trying to glean new knowledge, I'll take something and I'll just kind of read a paragraph or two paragraphs and say, hey, I might finish this in the next year or two, but I just know it's gonna be very nourishing. So for me I start that way and then I think, you know, after that, you know, throughout the day I don't try to over spiritualize the day I think, yeah, I've gone through phases in my my 20s when I thought maybe I want to become a pastor and you know all kinds of crazy notions and and everything became sort of spiritual eyes and and I think that if I look back, while in many ways that was well intended, there was a lot of ego in that like, oh, I'm gonna be the most spiritual person, oh, I'm going to, you know, do this and and I don't think that's really that helpful either. And so once I have that base, then I kind of just trust myself to be hungry and Be ambitious and and look for, you know, people that are gonna help make Nick sense great. And I think that, you know, what that allows me to do is to be very committed and driven and expect Really a lot of things. But then when something fails, there's just not as much attachment, right, you know. You know I guess that didn't work out, but you know what? I bet there's something else out there that is gonna be even better. And I think that's where just the entrepreneur mindset. If you read about entrepreneurs, you'll see like we're kind of almost, you know, the opposite of a hypochondriac, where, like we just we just sort of believe everything that's happening is happening for a good reason, even if it's like well, that clinical trial failed, wow, that means that would have been a nightmare if we had actually productized that. So I'm so glad that it failed. We've got to do something else, and and so I think that is kind of how I approach the day to day, because there's constantly things failing, constantly. You know people saying, oh, I'm gonna work with you, and then they don't. And you know somebody that's with you for two years Finally decides to leave. I mean, you know just that stuff happens. But I think if you have a good base, you know you don't try to cling to any one thing, right. But at the same time it's not just a laissez-faire like oh you know, chill, let's just show up, see what happens.

Kasia:

You know it's not that either so well said and Since you threw it in there, I think I need to ask you this, and that is you mentioned kind of the ego motivations that you had experienced in your Early 20s, I guess, where you had per considered becoming a pastor, by the way. That was shocking, but not too shocking to me and like the coolest way which just speaks volumes about how really awesome and interesting you. How about when it comes to what you're doing today? And like the business side of things, because I think it's so easy To be tied to and attached and feel completely validated by the business that you're bringing into the world and I think a lot of Taipei people experience that, may it be starting a company or the role that they're in. Do you keep that in check? Do you actually find it to be useful? And it's something that you leverage, because I think that there's a lot of kind of negative connotations around being motivated from an egoic place but having your ego in the driver's seat versus some sort of deeper meaning behind what you're working on.

JB:

Yeah, I think that it's a lifelong journey. Can I say that my ego is not involved? That makes sense. No, I can't say that. I would say the ego, you know, is involved. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I think that even that's hard to say. You know, I wouldn't, I wouldn't necessarily say that ego involvement is Something to be avoided, because I don't think it can be right. You know, when I the the books that I've read and the teachers I've met talk about the ego in fairly nuanced ways and you know it'd be hard to distill that down in just a couple minutes. But I think that the consensus that I've heard that makes sense to me is we have an ego for a reason and it is helpful to have us a sense of purpose and when you take action that there is some, you know, personal gain or personal reward, like. I think that it's certainly built into us from an evolutionary standpoint and I think even from a spiritual standpoint. Yes, on some level you're transcending the ego, but in other ways you're not. You're just being aware of it. Right, you're being aware of it. Is that it's a coat, it's a, it's a, it's a coat that you can wear and you know you can change what coats you wear depending on what party you're going to. And so maybe it's just developing the flexible Approach to the ego that sometimes you need to wear really fancy coat and that you know the occasion calls for you to. You know, look a certain way when you go to a wedding, but then if you're just, you know, gonna go out and hit the gym, you need a different, you know, set of clothes to go on. And I think that on some level, the ego is like that. You know you're you're most the time you're wearing clothes, most of the time you're wearing your ego, but you're a little bit more mindful of it. And if you're, you know, in a tuxedo in the gym, you know that's probably not the right time to have a tuxedo on, and so if there's a, you know, a time when your ego is getting a little bit Of the better of you, you're probably gonna make a bad decision. You know and I've made some of this right you do sometimes Realize like, oh, you know, in hindsight I think I made that decision because it was kind of an ego boost, and then you kind of reflect and say let's not do that again. You know. Let's hope that next time I have a little bit more awareness and I don't make that same mistake.

Kasia:

JB, thank you for this incredible Conversation. I know that not all of your interviews are like this. I could definitely pretty much guarantee that and I appreciate you rolling with it, going deep, being so raw and real. Truly, it's been such an honor to get to speak with you. I know folks are gonna want to know where they can find you. All hyperlink everything below. So if you want to share anything cool you have coming up, share some stuff about , please do. Where can people find you and what do you have going on?

JB:

No, that's right. Well, I appreciate it. Great for the opportunity and, yeah, I'm happy to Get in touch with people that that want to find me on LinkedIn or other places cool.

Kasia:

Well, thank you so much. Thanks everyone for tuning in and maybe thank you so much for joining me. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of nourish. If you enjoyed this conversation, please leave a review. Five star reviews help the podcast grow and I'm so grateful for that. I publish new episodes twice a month, so hit the subscribe button to be notified and if you want to stay connected in between episodes, join my community on Instagram and TikTok at nourish underscore podcast. Alright, that's all I got for you today. See you next time.

Tech Entrepreneur Explores Consciousness and Science
Exploring Altered States of Consciousness
Exploring Polyphasic Sleep Patterns
The Power of Dreams
Balancing Boundaries and Creativity in Leadership
The Role of Ego in Entrepreneurship

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