Do you feel like you are stuck in your comfort zone and something really important is missing from your life? Would you like to learn how you can become more resilient to stress, stronger and healthier while feeling like a real life superhuman? Then this is the right episode for you.
In today’s episode, New York Times bestselling author, Scott Carney, discusses the role of pattern interrupts in developing human resilience. He shares his thrilling exploration of limits, and the potential of the human body.
If you want to find out how to get out of your comfort zone, learn what you’re really capable of, and live the life that you’re meant to live, tune in and get ready for a fascinating journey with Scott Carney! Listen now!
Scott Carney is an investigative journalist, anthropologist and New York Times bestselling author who worked in some of the most dangerous and unlikely corners of the world.
He is the author of best selling books like “What Doesn’t Kill Us”, “The Red Market”, “A Death on Diamond Mountain” or “The Wedge: Evolution, Consciousness, Stress, and the Key to Human Resilience”. His work blends narrative non-fiction with ethnography while he shares his thrilling exploration of limits, and the potential of the human body.
Carney also wrote for publications like Mother Jones, Men’s Journal, Playboy, Foreign Policy, Discover, Outside and Fast Company and his work has been the subject of a variety of radio and television programs.
- Thoughts on “What Doesn’t Kill Us” book and meeting the iceman Wim Hof
- What is the Wim Hof Method?
- The dangers of living a comfortable life
- About the book “The Wedge: Evolution, Consciousness, Stress, and the Key to Human Resilience”
- What happens when we push our boundaries
- How to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable
- The different types of breathwork
- The Wim Hof’s breathwork method and its major benefits on everyday’s life
- And much more…
Podcast Transcription: The Wedge: How Being Uncomfortable Builds Human Resilience with Scott Carney
Ted Ryce: In today’s episode, New York Times bestselling author, Scott Carney, discusses the role of pattern interrupts in developing human resilience. He shares his thrilling exploration of limits, and the potential of the human body. I mean, this guy has submerged himself in ice water and learned breathing techniques, from The Iceman, himself, Wim Hof, to going to the jungles of Peru, to experiencing Ayahuasca ceremony.
This guy has done so many things, to experience the limits of human potential and to come back, bring it to us in his incredible book, The Wedge. And today, it’s going to be all about getting outside your comfort zone, living the life that you’re meant to live. I mean, that’s what we push our boundaries for, to live the life we are truly meant to live.
So, if you want to become superhuman, learn what you’re really capable of, this is the right episode for you. And even if you feel that the pandemic hit you hard, and you’re finally ready to do something meaningful with your life, you’re going to get a lot out of this episode, as well. So, enjoy it. This is such a fantastic conversation. So, let’s step into it with no further ado, Scott Carney, my friend.
Scott Carney, thanks so much for coming back on the Legendary Life podcast, we’re going to be talking about your new book, which is called The Wedge, and I’m so excited to talk about this. It’s something I’m very passionate about. And the first thing I’d like to ask you, and I’m sure this is a common question, but for someone who learns that you were in a Latvian sauna, or drinking Ayahuasca in Peru, or juggling with kettlebells, why did you write this book?
Scott Carney: My last book, What Doesn’t Kill Us, was this journey where I sort of met Wim Hof. I was the first journalist to really meet Wim Hof and write about him. And when I went there, I thought he was a fake. I thought he was a charlatan making things up. But lo and behold, I’m hanging out with him for a week, and I can do all the same things that he can. I met him back in 2011. He wasn’t very well known at that point.
Now he’s like this huge international superstar. I’ve been doing the Wim Hof Method for 10 years. And that involves like a lot of cold exposure, a lot of breathwork a lot of sort of mental focus stuff. And I had found... and what I’d written in that book—I had a chapter called “The Wedge” in it where I described what you do in the Wim Hof Method, when you jump into ice water is your body wants to freak out, it wants to just like, go nuts and panic. And what you’re doing is you’re inserting a wedge, a mental wedge between the stimulus of that ice water and the way your mind wants to react, and you’re sort of propping that open and be like, “No, I can do it.” And when you do that, your body totally changes, like, it reorients its response to stressful stimuli, not just cold, but sort of like everything.
And so, I’ve been doing the Wim Hof Method for a long time. And I got to the point where I was like, “Well, what’s next?” Like, I’m a warrior in the cold, right? Last week I was in, you know, I cut through some ice, six inches thick, and I stayed in the ice water for 26 minutes. That was like three days ago.
Ted Ryce: Wow!
Scott Carney: I can do this stuff! Like, right now, I’m kind of like, “Well, should I go for a world record? Everyone else seems to go for a world record, should I...” I think it’s within reach. But here’s the thing, is that the Wim Hof Method is actually, in some ways very narrow. It’s about breath work. It’s about cold exposure. It’s about cultivating a certain amount of focus.
So, what other environments can we create, can we use to change the way our body works passively? So, if you jump into heat, how does that change your body? If you encounter fear, how does that change your body. And I wanted to really just blow the doors off of the Wim Hof Method and look at how we can tackle anything and change our bodies.
And the book, to some degree, it’s about encountering very extreme things like, you know, doing Ayahuasca, throwing kettlebells, and doing all these things that look really crazy. And I guess what I’m trying to point out is that these are not necessarily just about extremes, right? It’s not just about cultivating to the very edge of humanity’s ability to do crazy things. It’s really this opportunity to interact with your environment actually happens everywhere.
And those things that look extreme, actually don’t end up being that extreme. Like, there’s something that you do, and you’re like, “Okay, actually, I can handle it.” Because jumping into an ice bath is not actually extreme. It’s actually totally doable, like anybody can jump in an ice bath! I’m not superhuman, Wim Hof’s not superhuman, it’s just, know you can do it, it just looks bad. Because we are such creatures of comfort. We are such creatures of like, “Oh, no, I don’t want to go outside of that and risk anything, I want to just do what’s totally normal and safe, and I know works.”
And what I’m saying is that “No, let’s push our boundaries, let’s—” and I’m sure this is what you’re saying to in your coaching work—"let’s push your boundaries. Let’s get out there. And let’s watch how we respond in those new sensations.” It’s not just about throwing kettlebells to become a better kettlebell thrower. It’s about throwing kettlebells so that you can learn empathy and love. And you can learn how to be a better person. That’s what we’re aiming at. So that’s the long way of talking about, this now go. You guys got it, right?
Ted Ryce: Exactly. In your video that you use to promote your book, The Wedge, it shows you sitting at a desk, and doing what…well, most of us did before and like 99% of us are doing now because of the stay-at-home thing, work-at-home thing. And as you just sort of mentioned, we’re in these climate-controlled environments, we don’t have to get up and move too much. And, you know, I’m feeling a little lazy. I don’t want to cook, maybe a little Uber Eats, you know, and we’re living in these artificial environments that are very comfortable.
And in fact, you could argue, and I think there’s no counter-argument now, at least those of us living in the modern Western world, we are living the most comfortable we ever have, yet if you look at rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, skyrocketing, especially for the younger generation. And one of the arguments that is made for those rates, it’s like before, when our not too distant ancestors had a fight in World War One, World War Two, do all the things that they did for us to get to this point, the first astronauts that got killed trying to go to the moon.
Here we are, and we’re living in these… where we were benefiting from all the comfort, but it’s kind of taken a lot away from us. And so, what you’re kind of promoting here is, we need to… as you said, it’s not about throwing the kettlebell, it’s not about, “Hey, look at this cool trick I can do in the ice bath.” This is about becoming a better human being, about reclaiming our strength, being more resilient to stress, which, no matter how comfortable we make ourselves, we just all learned everything to get turned upside down very quickly, all over the world with a pandemic. This is about make ourselves strong and also about becoming better humans.
Scott Carney: Yeah, because who we are is who we are under stress. Like, you know who you are, your best self is not hanging out watching Netflix and getting Uber Eats. That’s not the way you want to think of Ted Ryce, right? You don’t want to be like, “I am the best Netflix watcher ever.”
No, who you are is like who you are when you’re stretching yourself, when you’re actually trying to do things in the world. And our actions are important. And when you can expand, doing things that are difficult, and yet when you do those difficult things, learning how to make those difficult things become easier, you’re expanding who you are as a person.
Now, I want to say that there’s nothing wrong with sitting on your couch and watching Netflix, I’ve done a lot of that in this pandemic. Most of us have done a lot of that in this pandemic, there’s nothing wrong with that. We can live our lives doing that, and if that’s really something you enjoy, there’s no reason you have to stress yourself because we do live in the most comfortable age of humanity and you can continue down that path.
However, if you want to be a person who is more than that, you have to stretch yourself and you have to stretch yourself by doing things that look uncomfortable, that look extreme, that bring you to new territory where you’re unfamiliar with, and then the process of learning is making the unfamiliar familiar.
So this can be a thing that’s extreme, like ice water, or like really long saunas or jumping out of an airplane or whatever. Or it could just be picking up a new book taking, you know, learning something new is also stretching yourself. So, in some ways, this was like, I launched the book on the very first week of quarantine in America. And it turned out to be the worst time to launch a book because everyone’s like, “Okay, let’s just sit in our apartments for the rest of next year,” and when my message is, “No, get out there and do things, right, connect with people.”
And hopefully, we’re going to get out of this pretty soon, but I really should have written a book called like, “Breath,” or something like that instead. And then save “The Wedge” for afterwards.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, I hear you. Because if you read your book—and I listened to it, not read it. And I love that you read it, by the way, because sometimes that connection with the person is really important. And sometimes you can lose it when someone else is narrating. But you talked about all these things you talked about...Also, one of my favorite actually stories from your book was how you and your wife took MDMA and did therapy, and how it brought you closer to each other.
And so, there are all these things that you can do too that are really exciting, the whole Ayahuasca thing, which a lot of people asked me about after my experience. I went to Costa Rica, not as hardcore as you in Peru, where you’re at the source, I was at a luxury place…
Scott Carney: That sounds awesome.
Ted Ryce: For people like me.
Scott Carney: I should have done the luxury one. Man, I was in the middle of this jungle getting eaten by mosquitoes and leopards and things, but all right.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, exactly. So I did the opposite of that. You didn’t do clamping, I did clamping. That’s where I was with that. But there’s also so many things that you can do on your own, the breathwork, for example. A quote that I love, and that I probably even say too much on the podcast is from Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist, the late American mythologist, “The cave that we fear to enter, holds the treasure that we seek.”
And that’s the thing that came up for me in reading about what you went after. You challenged yourself where you were experiencing emotional resistance, like having that experience with your wife doing the therapy, or drinking Ayahuasca. Man, I was trying to recreate the 60s in my late high school years, I had a lot of apprehension, a lot of fear about doing Ayahuasca at 40/41 years old...
Scott Carney: Well, as you should, because it’s scary as hell, right? It’s like, you know, we do these things... Ayahuasca is transformative for people, right? It can make people just take a right turn in their lives. And one of the things that I was afraid of when I was doing Ayahuasca was, am I going to...? I had this wonderful relationship with my wife, her name is Laura. She’s actually like the main character of the book because I take her on all of these crazy expeditions that I go on.
And she has oftentimes very different reactions, which I love, is sort of part of this journey is because it’s not like a one size fits all solution. But I did go down to Peru alone. And one of the fears is, “Am I going to blow up my marriage? Am I going to take Ayahuasca realize that I always wanted to be a shaman instead and sell all my things and then become like an Ayahuasca crazy guy?”
And the thing is, that’s a risk, right? Because you don’t know what happens when you go through that threshold. And usually, if that does happen, it’s probably because maybe there was some fundamental underlying problems, you actually did need a big change, and maybe it wasn’t as crazy as you might think. But I didn’t want to do that, because I have a great relationship. My wife and I are very, very close.
And, in fact, why I was very scared of this—and especially I did Ayahuasca three times over, I think, seven or 10 days. And my first time, it was dealing with this, “Am I going to blow up my relationship?” And basically, Ayahuasca was like, “No, your relationship’s great. And look, here are all the ways this is great, so don’t be an idiot.” And like, I’m sort of talking in third person there because when you’re doing Ayahuasca, it often does feel like an external entity talking to you, it feels like something outside your body, even though it was a drink that you took. It’s like a therapist yapping at you. Or my case, it was like that. So, it was like sort of this just discussion I was having in my own brain with something outside my body. It was very weird and amazing and transformative and wonderful, and I puked a lot.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, hard to get away from that part. And for me, I had this same experience where there’s a part of us, like the part of you that was saying, “Oh, I don’t want to blow up my marriage. I really care about my marriage. What if this affects my marriage? What if I want to leave my wife and become a shaman in the jungle?”
And what happens is that voice goes away. And then there’s another voice there, kind of your, you know, neuro psychologist might call it your hot cognition. Other people might call it your intuition, right? But there’s something there that comes out that’s, I don’t want to say more pure, but less clouded by the worries and anxiety that so many of us struggle with, especially high performers, especially if you’re plugged into the modern world.
And certainly, I had the same experience in that. A lot of people asked me about that. Do a lot of people want to know about your Ayahuasca experience, because it’s such a hot thing to talk about these days?
Scott Carney: Yeah, I mean, I think that things go through certain faddish moments, right. And that actually, I don’t think currently anyone’s talking about Ayahuasca because no one’s going down to Peru to go drink a communal jug of like poison together, right? We’re very much in our houses, but I would say leading right up to COVID... I mean, this is something that Elon Musk throws Ayahuasca parties up at his awesome ranches in California and Texas.
It was becoming like almost a fad in Silicon Valley to do Ayahuasca. I know several people had big Malibu parties with a shaman toted in from South America somewhere, who had robes and feathers, and all sorts of things, literally talking about really authentic as a billionaire sipped this potion to talk to their mother, or whatever it was. I think this is like, a thing that is interesting for people because we are looking for things outside of ourselves that give us meaning.
And Ayahuasca, you know, I’ve seen people have wonderful transformative experiences, I have transformative experiences, I think a lot of us are doing it. I am a little worried about the commodification of it to some degree, which is, again, something I guess I participated in, because I went down there, I’d wrote about it, right. And so, people are like, “Oh, this is cool, I should go down there and do it.”
But it’s tantalizing to want to go experience something fundamentally new. I mean, some of the most important experiences I’ve had in my life have happened on psychedelics, right. Like, when I was in my 20s, I did mushrooms, and I met God. And God was a ball of love floating in the blackness of my brain, or wherever I was when I was looking at this. And I was like, “That’s it! That’s the answer. It’s about love!” And it transformed me like, it was really interesting. And there was no opposite. There was just apathy on the other side. This is what I remember from this very important experience.
And I think, especially nowadays, you know, there are a lot of us who were in college 20, 30 years ago, and we’re like, “We had those experiences.” And then you go through this period, where you’re getting serious, you’re going to get your career up and running. And then we get our careers up and running, and we’re like, “Are we missing something?”
And I think psychedelics can be one way to find some of those things. But there’s other ways to do it, too. There’s also breathwork, there’s also exercise, there’s this need for transformation, and also just like questioning some of the assumptions that we’ve made about what it means to be a successful person. What it means to, like, is money the driver for us? And usually, almost everyone realizes, no, I mean, you want a certain amount, but you don’t want that to be the thing that you do. You know, “You can’t take it with you,” some Pharaoh said once when they built the pyramid.
Ted Ryce: Yeah. And you bring up something really important. So, I had a great experience, transformative experience at Rythmia in Costa Rica. It was incredible, changed the trajectory of my life. Then more recently, I was in Mexico and went to Tulum and had an Ayahuasca experience. This was when my dad got sick, and I was really struggling helping him through that process. He ended up dying last year in October, not from COVID by the way, but ended up passing away just 77, poor health.
And I went to Mexico looking to—we had gotten into a really tough point with each other where he had a lot of resistance about his health falling apart and he knew the end was near, he didn’t know when it was going to happen, knew it was near. And we were just clashing too much. And I realized this dude is at the end, my dad is not going to change. If I want to change this relationship, I got to change.
But I went to Mexico, got away from it, ended up doing some cavern diving and ended up doing a couple of other things. I actually went scuba diving with sharks, bull sharks, not nearly as scary as the great whites, but I ended up doing Ayahuasca, and it was a one-off thing. And it was actually not a great experience, it just became… instead of the transformative experience that you shared, and that you obviously had, and the one that I had in Costa Rica, it was more like, “Dripping hard, man. How long is this going to last?” “Just hang on. I’m not going to go crazy. It only lasts a couple hours.”
And that was the struggle. And so, I’ve been turned off of it. It was terrible. However, something that you’ve been passionate about for 10 years, breathwork is something that I’ve gotten more into, I don’t do it on my own. I work with someone actually online now. Can you talk a little bit about breathwork because that’s something that people can do in their homes, they can work with someone online, even.
But I want to know this: for me, I have these experiences with breathwork that are very cathartic. I end up crying a lot, you know, and having these crazy, almost psychedelic like visions, which breathwork people sometimes incorrectly say, “You’re activating DMT in your brain, man.” Which is not true. Or at least there’s no evidence to say that that’s true.
But with the way that Wim Hof, at least, I don’t know that much about the method, you’ve hung out with him and learned from him one on one. Do you have the cathartic experience with it as well? What can you tell us about 10 years of doing breathwork, about how it can help us beyond just climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and hopping in some cold water?
Scott Carney: Yeah, well, I would say that breathwork is the most profound practice any human can do. And that there’s not just one breathwork, there’s a million different types. One of the first meditations that the Buddha ever taught was watch your breath. I mean, that was 2,800 years ago. And there are so many different types. What’s popular right now is nasal breathing, which I write about in my book. There’s the Wim Hof stuff, which is essentially over breathing.
So, it’s hyperventilating, then holding your breath on an exhale. That’s the Wim Hof Method. There is just hyperventilating with no exhale, that’s the Holotropic breathing, they’re slowing down your breath, there’s box breathing, I mean, there are just tons and tons of different breath works, I could probably list 20 without too much trouble.
So, when you say breathwork, I know it’s very trendy right now just to say breathwork and assume people know what they mean. But it’s just too large of a territory to really understand. But essentially, breath was the first thing the Buddha taught, because it is the only process in the body where you can switch from autonomic, which means your automatic not thinking about it but it works, to conscious with just the edge of a thought. Right now, hold your breath. You can do it? It’s that amazing, right?
But if you’re not thinking about it, you just continue and you’re in your autonomic system. So you’re toggling back and forth between unconsciousness and consciousness. And yet, it is also, you know, if you don’t breathe, you die, right? So it’s also like the essence of life. So, to think that this would be profound is obvious, right? We are literally juking the tool of life. And if you hold your breath for a long time, you’re dealing with your reactions to death itself, right?
Holding your breath, you know that at some point, if you don’t breathe anymore, you will die. If you learn to hold your breath a lot longer, you’re like coming face to face with all of the physiological responses to death, right? You hold your breath, you’re going to feel that panic, you’re going to feel that tightness, you’re going to feel all this stuff. If you over breathe, you’re like grasping for life in a way, right? You’re trying to breathe in.
So, I mean, this is a very high-level picture of what’s going on. For me, I mostly do the Wim Hof Method versions of breathwork. I do some variations on that occasionally. But I wake up in the morning, my wife and I are lying next to each other and we say, “Do you want to do the breathing?” and we’re like, “No, not really.” “Come on. We’re supposed to do it, it’s a weekday.” “Okay, it’s a weekday, we’re going to do the breathing.” And then we do the breathing, and then we feel better for it.
And what I have noticed personally are two major everyday benefits from the Wim Hof Method: one, is anxiety goes way down. Like, if you’re in a funk, and everything feels shitty, do some breathwork. And what that does, it interrupts that funk. Like, your funk is being reinforced by both physiological things and mental things. Like, your thought, “Oh, I’m having a fight with my mom.” And then physically, I’m breathing in a certain way that reinforces this. So that’s anxiety.
Breathwork forces you to think about your breathing and you’re feeling your breathing. So it interrupts that and you can have an opportunity to change. And it reduces anxiety overall, for both my wife and I, it’s very well-known between us, and I’ve written about in my books and such.
The other thing that I’ve noticed is auto immunity. So, I used to get these canker sores in my mouth, these big sorts of white, horrible, painful canker sores, and they’d show up, and they just be painful. And essentially, what that is they usually are a response to a herpes virus when you’re a kid or something, and the herpes clears out, and then your body’s like, “Wait a minute, maybe you’ve got a little abrasion in your mouth, that’s herpes, and we’re going to go blow it up.” And so that’s why the scab gets really big in your mouth. That’s essentially where really, canker sores come from.
The breathwork stops it, because your immune system is actually connected to your emotional system, it’s connected to your endocrine system, it’s connected to the rest of your body. And one of the things that drives it is adrenaline. So, if you have too much adrenaline, like, let’s say you’re sitting at home and you see a spreadsheet, and your spreadsheet is telling you, you have not enough money or whatever, something stressful, right? And they’re like, “Oh, no, I don’t have any money!”
And then you feel that thing going on in your body that’s like “not a money” sensation. Well, that’s actually adrenaline coming around, because our body is not developed to respond to spreadsheets. The adrenaline goes somewhere. And in the olden days, you feel that sort of like sense of death coming, and there’ll be a fox or something—or not a fox, maybe it’s a wolf, and it’s chasing you. And then you’re like, “Oh, fuck you, well,” you’d fight the wolf, and you’d release your adrenaline and you deal with the problem.
In the modern world, our spreadsheets don’t get dealt with with adrenaline. It just gets dealt your with by sitting there and figuring it out, but you still release that adrenaline which then turns inside. And if your immune system is primed to fight wolves, you’ve actually turned macrophages and your killer B cells and T cells and these things into predators that then attack your body.
So, what the breathwork does, and the cold exposure does is gives you a stress that’s appropriate to the adrenal response you have, modulates it, and then that stuff goes away. Anxiety is also adrenaline with nowhere to go. That’s why anxiety goes away.
Ted Ryce: Yeah, and what’s important to think about in terms of what most people do to deal with their anxieties, especially in the West here—because I know you spent six years in India, and I spent two years living in Southeast Asia. In the West, we drink alcohol, we go shopping, we do other drugs, and we eat, and we do it. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Although, you know, someone might argue against that, very against recreational use of drugs or drinking, that’s fine.
But the point is this: it’s when it becomes too much that it becomes a problem. But it’s tends to be our go-to in Western culture. And when I was in Thailand, and I know you’ve been there as well, spent some time there as well. In fact, you were headed there last year until you got twentytwentied. And I was going to Peru until I got twentytwentied.
But in Thailand, what they do is in secondary school, or junior and high school, they teach meditation to their students. And man, just being in a Buddhist culture, in Thailand in particular, might be different in say, Myanmar right now, has some things going on there. But in Thailand, you don’t see road rage. It’s quite rare, at least compared to where I’m from in Miami.
And so, the point is this. It’s like we have these habits in the West that we turn to that usually end up being a problem to the point where my clients—and you mentioned coaching earlier, what I do is I do body transformation through fat loss, right? And so what happens is a lot of people are working so hard, stressed out, raising a family, they get overweight, then they have to hire someone like me. And then I end up teaching them some calming skills or techniques or practices to help them bring down the anxiety.
So, yeah, in your time in Asia, in your time learning all these techniques and what you’re talking about now, what do you have to say about the way so many of us we tackle our anxiety, stress, depression, these negative emotions, these negative feelings or as you so aptly put, you know, it’s heightened nervous system activity, heightened stress hormones What do you have to say about the way modern American say, handle it, versus what you’ve been able to learn and implement?
Scott Carney: The first thing I’d say is that I wouldn’t necessarily put Thailand up on a pedestal for being enlightened or something like that. I think this is a modern human problem versus to say that one culture is better than another culture, because we’re all just mucking about in this world, we all have a human body that we’re playing with. And although Thailand’s interesting – this is a footnote, because it’s one of the three countries in the world that was never occupied as a colonial power. And so it’s a really weird and awesome country, because the Brits never came in there and told them how to think about the world.
But I would say that, you know, when you would grow up, and we’re given this idea of how you’re supposed to live a life, right? You’re supposed to do good in school, you’re supposed to go on some dates or something in high school, but then you’re going to go to college, and then eventually, you’re going to find your mate in your race, you’re going to get your real job, and you’re going to have your kids and you’re going to work until your retirement age, and you’ll have funded your retirement, you’re going to die. This is the path that I guess is like the implicit path on how you’re supposed to live in, at least in America, but a lot of the world, this is like the preferred path.
The thing is, though, a lot of people don’t follow on this path. A lot of people take radically different journeys through life. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that, right? There’s nothing that’s a problem by saying, actually, let’s go question some of this stuff and go in a different direction for a little bit, because when someone else is giving you the answers, or some sort of larger cultural movement is giving you the answers, where is the moment for you to express your own life?
I mean, you might be an office drone by nature, and that’s fine, I guess. But we have this sort of one precious moment where there’s this path in front of you, and every time you stray off that path, there’s a risk. And I think that’s bullshit, I think death is going to suck no matter what. But if you acknowledge that this last moment is going to be difficult and hard, then what does that do to the rest of your life?
If we know that life is going to end in a minor key, no matter what life plan we go along, then if we do the retirement, the kid thing, the wife thing, the whatever, if we go on that path, are we going to die any differently? And the answer is no. And what I think is important here to remember is that we have an obligation to take risks of life, because no matter what risk you take, it’s not going to change that end result.
Ted Ryce: One of the things that happened to me when I shared the story of my dad dying, was people were thinking that, you know, I don’t know what they were thinking, but the impression I got was like, “Oh, yeah, okay, you’re going to lose it now.” And when you when your parents die, you get crushed, right, and you just never kind of bounce back from that. And I think that’s, to speaking to what you said, is that we push the death off to a crazy extent.
I feel like, at least in America, in particular, I can’t speak for any other country, except the other ones that I’ve lived for a very short time, but in America, we’re such a new country. And there’s two sides to that, there’s the side that anything feels possible: we’ll come up with these great ideas, we’ll come up with the internet, we’ll come up with the cars, we’ll put someone on the moon, we’ll come up with airplanes.
But at the other side, the darker side is like, we have a disconnection from the wisdom of the past, from a lot of the ancestors that people left behind in their countries when they came here. And it’s like, we’re a bunch of children, is what I’m trying to say, sometimes. And I feel that way personally. And I’ve had to work very hard to kind of deal with the adult things that you’re kind of bringing up right now, talking about that, talking about all this.
And so what you’re saying about The Wedge is like go live your life. Go take risks, no matter what you do, if you play it safe, you still end up in the same place. If you go out there and you drink Ayahuasca, which Costa Rica is open now. I don’t think Peru is yet, but yeah, you go out there and take risks. And where do you feel that this is coming from? The aversion to risk, because we all take risks, in some ways, in terms of what society lays out for us, the schools we go to.
Scott Carney: Well, it is a risk. Here’s what I want to posit, is that the normal life plan is still a risk, right? Assuming you go along that normal path, whatever that normal path is, the assumptive path, that is still a fucking risk, because you don’t know how it’s going to play out. You don’t know if that -- you’ve worked for your job for 30 years, and then the job was like, “Well, we’re laying people off, and we’re going to leave you out in the cold.” You don’t know that’s not going to happen, you don’t know that you cross the street, you’re not going to get hit by a bus.
Like, we’re in risk all the time. And so, the way you start realizing what a risk is, is by taking conscious risks, and doing it in a way, like, I’m not trying to get you hurt, right? I want you to take risks, because those are really sort of the litmus of where comfort and discomfort is, and what you feel is a risk is really about a sensation in your body saying, “Oh, my God, this is dangerous,” right? Whereas crossing the street’s not dangerous, even though that bus could hit you, you’d be like, “No, no, no, that’s not dangerous.”
But I’m saying you should be conscious of things, and you should actually look for the bus, and then, “No, that’s a risk, don’t get hit by the bus.” But when you go out there, and you do things that are potentially dangerous, that look, especially from the outside as dangerous, then you try to navigate that risk, right? You try to say, “Okay, I’m here, and there is a risk.” And now I have my agency to do something.
And that’s the amazing thing about The Wedge, that’s the amazing thing about life, is that when you decide to do something… I jump in the ice water. Now I’m in the ice water, which is you know, people could die of hypothermia, or whatever it is, you’re thinking before you get in there. I’m in the ice water. Now I’m going to navigate the ice water because I’m in the danger. And I’m going to say I’m not going to shiver. I’m not going to react that way. So now I’m training not only my brain to think, “Oh, ice water is not so bad.” But I’m actually training my body through the sensory system, like not with words, but through the sensory system.
The sensory system’s like, “No, that stimulus is not so bad.” And that changes everything. And if I can throw kettlebells or you could do, you know, whatever it is that you think is hard, like, travel to another country. “I’m going to go to Thailand. Thailand, that crazy place where everyone gets killed. No, you don’t, you go there and you realize that Thailand is actually really awesome, and they’ve got great beaches.
And you’ve now expanded your world. Even though, you know, you go on the streets of Thailand, you know the traffic’s insane. I lived in India for six years. The traffic’s really insane in India. I used to go to Thailand, be like, “I just want to go to a peaceful place where the traffic’s not so bad.” And I love this about India, as you get there, the first thing everyone notices is how crazy the cars are, just this zigzagging in and out of each other, millions and millions of cars moving at high speed.
So, there’s tons and tons of metal moving around, seemingly just criss crossing each other. And you’re like, “Everyone’s going to freakin die, I’m going to get in the traffic, I’m going to freakin die.” And India does have a very high traffic fatality rate compared to other countries in the world. But the amazing thing is, is that not everyone dies. When you’re there, and you’re like, “Oh, my God, that actually it sort of works.” I mean, it’s better to be in America with like, the more laws and whatever. But the thing is that people are taking risks, and they’re navigating them.
And one of the most deep spiritual practices I’ve done, probably, was taking a motorcycle across India twice, where every decision, you know, you’re on this motorcycle, you’re passing a truck, and there’s a truck coming at you and you’re like, “I can do this, I can get around it,” and you’re literally playing with death every second. And it’s scary as hell. And I probably would not do this anymore. I was in my 20s, so I was insane.
But you’re literally saying, “I can judge this, I can navigate this thing. I understand what the physics are of what I’m doing, and I can do it.” And I did it for weeks on end, going back and forth across India. And it’s really, really useful in the body and the soul to realize that no, you can face this danger and you can get through it. Of course, in India, they’d would be like, “So you drove across my country twice, who cares?”
Ted Ryce: So funny, you know, you’re talking about this, one of the things I made sure I didn’t do in Thailand in Bali is to get on a bike. But of course, 41, you were in your 20s, right.? And what you said, these people do it all the time, they don’t even think about it. And they realize at some level, there’s risk involved, but they just get used to it because of the exposure because of just growing up with it, they get used to it, which would mean they need to find something else to— if they wanted to grow. If they wanted to find the wedge for them, they’d have to find something different.
Scott, what would you say to someone listening now who’s like, “Man, you guys are talking about all this crazy stuff, I’m pretty risk adverse. I’m raising my kids. I’m working in my business or working for a business. Where should I start?” What direction would you give that person?
Scott Carney: I would start to look looking at things that make you feel uncomfortable and try to ask why they make you feel uncomfortable. And these can be social things. I feel uncomfortable talking with my wife about her mother, right? There’s a social thing. Like, you’re scared of certain conversations, or maybe you’re scared of physical things, like, I’m apprehensive of doing this physical thing. And lean into it.
I mean, you could start as easily in your bed in the morning like I do, and do breathwork where you simulate. So, the Wim Hof Method is interesting. If you look at the breathing pattern, it’s like you’re hyperventilating, it’s like you’re having a panic attack. So from the outside, if I had no context, I went in there, I saw someone doing this, I would think they’re out of control and having a panic attack.
So, you simulate a panic attack in your body. And the sensations are very important here, right? Because some people freak out when they breathe fast. Well, you’re saying, “I’m breathing fast.” And they’re like, “No, I can handle this fast breathing,” you exhale. And then you hold your breath, and now you’re fighting death. And so it’s panic or death and panic or death.
And you can have this very intense experience, and you’re just in the comfort of your own home. And I promise you, it’s not dangerous, you will not die, you will not, you know, I mean, I guess if you’re on the verge of a stroke right now and have a heart problems, maybe talk to a doctor first. But if you’re like a normal person, and you could navigate podcasts just fine, you’re probably going to be alright.
Ted Ryce: Important safety disclaimer there. So, find the things that you’re uncomfortable with, figure out why you’re feeling that discomfort, and seek to expose yourself to it in some way to take action towards conquering it in some way. And you came back to the breath, which is something that, as you said, it’s been taught for thousands of years. So definitely not going away. It’s here to stay. It’s something that we all have access to. You can live without water for what? Seven days. You can live without food for about 30, depending on your body weight. Oxygen, a few minutes before the brain starts to not be able to function and survive and starts to die. So yeah.
Scott Carney: Here’s what I would say to sum it up, I think I can do it. I thought about it, as you’ve been talking, it’s like seek things that are uncomfortable and then find ways to make those things that are uncomfortable comfortable, because that’s the ultimate wedge, right? This was hard, and now it’s not. And then you can find a new thing to work on. And you’ll find that there are relationships between things, like, the more uncomfortable things you do, and then get used to it, the more things you can do and find that they’re comfortable.
And it gets down to things, like, this is why these physical practices are so interesting, like jumping into an ice bath, that is uncomfortable for most people, right? So, you jump into the ice bath, and then you decide, “Oh, no, I can do this.” Well, that actually makes your taxes easier, right? I mean, because that same— you also feel uncomfortable when you’re doing your taxes, right? And you found one physical way to deal with it in one avenue. And then you found a way that helps you mentally in another.
And the more of these things you do… And you can start totally small, like we don’t have to start with the Ayahuasca shaman in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon. I mean, I’d say that’s sort of insane. And I am maybe out there on the spectrum of what is sane or not. And you absolutely do not have to do this. Because the concept of the book, The Wedge is not the 10 super awesome things you can do to make yourself super awesome. That is not what this is all about. It’s not a 10-step plan to becoming Scott Carney, that would be… I mean, no one would want to do that.
But what I’m trying to suggest in this book is that look, there’s always an opportunity to engage with your environment, engage with the things that stress you out, and you realize that sensation and emotion are actually sort of the same thing. You can work on your wedge in any context and for it, and anyone can do it at all times.
Ted Ryce: Powerful way to sum up the whole premise of your book, what you stand for, what you’ve lived. Awesome. Just incredible. Scott, your book, I read a bunch of books last year, all of them I think would be relevant to what we’re talking about here, because it’s just been something that I’ve been into for a while. But what I love about The Wedge are a few different things.
One, is it’s great writing, it’s really exciting, and it keeps you engaged. And some of the other books that I’ve read, you have to have more motivation to do it, let’s just say, you’ve really got to be motivated to go through those books, but yours, it was really exciting. It was great writing.
The other thing that I thought you did extremely well is in a time where, and this is before the more recent craziness, but in a time where it’s hard to know who to believe, when it comes— everybody is saying, “Oh, science-based, oh, evidence-based. Oh, this what science says.” You really did a great job of being open-minded enough to talk about some of the fringer ideas that are out there, but really stayed within the—when there was evidence to back something up, you stated it. And it was great, I really enjoyed that. And I know that my listeners feel the same way. Otherwise, they wouldn’t listen to this podcast.
Scott Carney: There’s so much stuff where it’s like, “Yeah, if you just take ketamine, man, your depression is going to go away forever.” It’s like, maybe, I don’t know. Or, “You know, the new coconut mushroom coffee that you’re supposed to take to make yourself brilliant, “Yeah, it’s a great business plan, but is it going to change my brain? I mean, let’s bear this out.” And they take one study that has three people who took it, and then they all seem smarter. So of course, I should sell you my coffee at $30 a pop, not speaking about anyone particular, just saying this is out there, as a thing.
Ted Ryce: Important, important information to consider one thing that I think you and I can agree on, or I’m more curious what you think, but based on what you just said, I think we’re on the same page here. It takes a lot to get yourself down to the Amazon, and to hang out with shamans or like me, even going to that, not this authentic, traditional place, it still took a lot for me to do that, and some of the other things that you’ve done. And popping pills, it’s too easy. Or I make jokes a lot about a certain someone who has told people or has promoted shining infrared light on his nether region to increase testosterone and feel-good chemicals.
Scott Carney: Yeah, I was like talking to somebody like, no, it was four days ago, some guy was telling me about how he bakes his balls in red light. And I’m like, “Cool, man!”
Ted Ryce: For me, it’s just procrastination. You don’t want to do the hard thing. You don’t want to get into therapy to fix the relationship with your parents. You don’t want to get out there and travel to a different country because you’re so scared, but hey, pop some pills, shine some baker balls, as he said, in infrared light. And there’s a whole business model around that.
Scott Carney: Yeah, it’s the thing about the one solution. Like, you know, at the end of a call with sort of a very famous biohacker I had once, he was like, “Scott, what’s the one thing you do that has had the most impact on your life?” And I actually respect this person. I’m not going to mention them by name. But I was like, “The one thing that I do, but I mean, there are things that I like that are transformative, but the one thing I do wouldn’t do anything for you. It might, but you have to find out for yourself.
So, the question of like, finding the one thing, and then I can package it, and I can sell it back to a person because I found “the way.” You know, it’s this type of ice that you need to use to get your ice bath. If you don’t use my ice, fuck off, right? No! It’s like, we have to go, and like you said, people are lazy, they want the pill, they want the nose light, they want the one breathing technique that’s not too hard to do, and then if you just do that, that’s it.
They want the hiit workout that if I just have to work out 15 minutes a day, or a week, or whatever it is, that I’m going to get the optimum optimized way to be perfect. And that’s all fucking bullshit! Anyone who tells you that, and then comes up with a business plan where all of a sudden, you’re paying them monthly or something, there is a real problem with this because all of us are on our own journeys. All those journeys end and death. And we have to decide for ourselves what we’re going to do.
And I’m not going to take your advice, you shouldn’t take my advice, just for me giving you advice. You should be like, “Ooh, Scott’s fucking insane.” I’ll be like, “Yeah, sometimes, maybe.” And you don’t have to listen to me. What you have to do is make decisions for yourself based on what’s important, and that’s what I’m saying.
Ted Ryce: By the way, back to what I was saying before we went down on a little bit of a tangent, but albeit, an important one, is your book is amazing. I highly recommend you get The Wedge by Scott Carney. You can find it on Amazon and wherever else you buy books. That’s where I get all my books. And also, if you liked this episode, check out Episode 285: Surprising Benefits of Cold Exposure and Extreme Altitude for our Health in Mind with Scott Carney, that was Scott’s previous interview on the Legendary Life podcast.
Also, your other book is amazing, man. And Scott, thanks so much for coming on the show. Just a pleasure to connect with you again. And I hope we have you back sooner than three years because I know this conversation, I feel like it’s more important than ever right now. And everybody’s feeling it, the quarantine, locked in home, what am I doing with my life? What have I been doing with my life? I was doing everything right, then I got Coronavirus. And so, what do I need to do to take the next road to go to the next level? And that’s what we’re really talking about today. And what you said, how we all end up at the same place. What are you doing to make your time here worthwhile?
Scott Carney: Love it. Yeah, let’s do it. Stay legendary. That’s what we have to do. We have to stay legendary.
Ted Ryce: I love it. Very cool. Scott Carney, thanks so much! A pleasure and looking forward to connecting with you soon.
Scott Carney: Sounds good. Let’s do it.
Ted Ryce: Thank you so much for checking out this episode of the Legendary Life podcast. If you haven’t done so already, please take a minute and leave us a quick rating and review of the show on Apple Podcast by clicking on the Subscribe button on your left. Then write a sentence or two saying what you love about our podcast. Please be honest! Tell us what you think, what you’d like to hear, what we can change to make it better. It will support this show and help us to keep delivering life-changing information for you every week.
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