How Psychedelics Boost Creativity In The Silicon Valley
For the past several years, tech entrepreneurs looking for new ways of gaining a competitive edge in performance and generating business success, have found an affinity with psychedelic plant medicines. Psychedelic microdosing - although still illegal in the U.S. - is now a popular practice for enhancing focus, clarity, and creativity in much of the Silicon Valley while some also choose to opt-in for deeper explorations of consciousness through ritualistic and ceremonial ingestion of larger doses of plant medicines.
Psychedelic substances once frowned upon and considered dangerous like LSD, Psilocybin Mushrooms, and Ayahuasca are growing in popularity as more and more scientific evidence emerges linking these substances to powerful positive shifts in brain functions and the ability to regulate emotions. Various studies suggest that these substances improve creativity and problem-solving, improve neurogenesis with the potential to prevent Alzheimer's Disease, help treat severe depression, and facilitate positive reframing of past negative experiences. Considering these incredible findings, it is no surprise that entrepreneurs are finding great benefits from using psychedelic substances.
The Second Psychedelic Renaissance Is Here!
"Groundbreaking research in placebo and nocebo effects demonstrate the astonishing power of our beliefs and perception on our physical and emotional health which are directly linked to our capacity to succeed in business."
Having worked in the technology sector for 12 years and now as also a Performance Coach for tech entrepreneurs, I have found that although there is a seemingly endless obsession with achieving peak performance in the industry, very few know how to get there. While the latest neuro-hacking techniques, gadgets, and podcasts offer a fascinating perspective into the inner workings of our minds and bodies, the most powerful shifts indeed happen in the mind. Groundbreaking research in placebo and nocebo effects demonstrate the astonishing power of our beliefs and perception on our physical and emotional health which are directly linked to our capacity to succeed in business. This is where things get very interesting with plant medicines and the fascinating ways they alter self-perception, creativity, and control.
Whether you are looking to boost your performance and focus, find new ways of creative problem-solving to gain a competitive edge in the industry, or discover the mindset micro-tweaks that will take your business to the next level, this second coming of the Psychedelic Renaissance offers a rather unorthodox but nevertheless fascinating opportunity for advancing the human potential. What was once predominantly linked to the Woodstock hippie culture and festival party scenes is now finding a foothold in the Silicon Valley with a new emphasis on the therapeutic uses of these substances. While much of the mainstream is still skeptical of the reported benefits, the new and on-going FDA sanctioned research of psychedelic substances for therapeutic and medical uses is demonstrating very promising outcomes with the potential to shift public perception in the years to come.
How Do Plant Medicines Help Entrepreneurs Succeed?
"What plant medicines help us achieve is the ability to zoom out of our current reality, turn it upside down, hit the refresh button on our perception, and expand our capacity to examine every angle of the issue."
So how do plant medicines help entrepreneurs succeed? I have been researching and working with plant medicines in ceremonial and therapeutic settings for the past decade, what I have found to be possibly the most profound and impactful benefit of working with these plants is a systematic and lasting shift in perception. We are so accustomed to a certain way of processing thoughts and emotions that we rarely - if ever - pause to consider the different angles of the issue at hand. We are trained to think in a linear and logical fashion often with an intense laser-focus on the subject matter, for example, a team of designers who have been designing a software product staring at the screen day after day for a couple months, often lose their ability to notice opportunities for improvement and creative design because of the tunnel vision they develop throughout this process which is why having a fresh perspective on your product helps you achieve better outcomes and make the small yet impactful tweaks that can mean the difference between a good and a great product. What plant medicines help us achieve is the ability to zoom out of our current reality, turn it upside down, hit the refresh button on our perception, and expand our capacity to examine every angle of the issue. Regardless of whether the subject of your interest is personal, relational, or business related, the ability to maneuver in and out of varying perspectives you hadn’t considered is the potent x-factor with incredible potential for finding new and creative ways for problem-solving, self-mastery, and gaining a refreshing insight on life as a whole. Furthermore, this gift of perception is often a powerful facilitator for removing old traumatic memories by allowing the participant to reframe their past negative experiences in a new positive light. So much of our suffering and inner/outer conflict is rooted in past experiences where we felt that we were wronged or we failed our ideals; when left unresolved, these memories become mental blocks that prevent us from advancing and achieving our full potential for success and fulfillment in business and personal life. Plant medicines often surface these past blocks to get processed in a fresh context that helps facilitate the development of a compassionate perspective towards oneself and others allowing the negative emotional charge to release as one finds new insights and meaning behind what was once a challenging memory. Although many of the conscious mental blocks - like past failures in business - can be resolved with effective coaching techniques, access to the subconscious and unconscious mind which account for 95% of our mental processing remains elusive under normal conditions; this is where plant medicines offer the unique opportunity to identify and release mental blocks previously unknown and inaccessible.
Imagination and Creativity
"This is the dilemma for many entrepreneurs; how to strike a balance between logical and linear thought processing critical for predicting business needs and outcomes, and the need for expanding imagination and creativity to fuel critical leaps in business innovation."
Imagination is indeed the grandfather of creativity. Every thought, idea, and solution must first exist within our imagination. As children, we are incredibly imaginative; fascinated by the world surrounding us and uninhibited by the constraints of conventional logic, we are free to explore the depth and wide spectrum of imagination available to the human mind. As we grow into adulthood, we are encouraged to employ logic and realism in approaching life’s challenges to minimize risk and improve predictability. Yet, when it comes to creativity, innovation, and out-of-box solutions, we find ourselves constrained by the limits of our own imagination. Consistent and impactful innovation is dependant on our ability to dream and allow our imagination to run wild, especially in a fast-paced industry like technology. Without imagination, there can be no innovation in technology. The now infamous reference by Steve Jobs on how using LSD helped him expand his imagination to design better products than Microsoft, is a great point of reference for tech entrepreneurs looking to expand the limits of their imagination in service to the development of more impactful solutions. So how do psychedelics expand imagination? In order to answer this question, I consult findings in neuroscience and the concept of “divergent thinking”; defined as the ability of our brain to make unusual and rare connections between different concepts enabling creative problem solving and innovation. One study suggest that Ayahuasca increases brain activities associated with divergent thinking while another demonstrates the effects of psilocybin mushrooms on “flexible thinking”.
“Neuroplasticity” is the ability of our brain to change itself. One of the principles of neuroplasticity is that the more we use a neural connection in our brain (repetition), the stronger these connections become. Think of them as muscles, the more you train a muscle, the stronger it becomes. Conventional linear thought involves a series of neurons firing at the same time which forms connections between these neurons, this is how habits are formed. Through consistent and deliberate practice, we become accustomed to a certain way of processing thought and imagination. The more repetitive and predictable our daily life, the more predictable our imagination, thoughts, and problem-solving abilities, new types of input are hence a requirement for developing and sustaining innovative thought. This is the dilemma for many entrepreneurs; how to strike a balance between logical and linear thought processing critical for predicting business needs and outcomes, and the need for expanding imagination and creativity to fuel critical leaps in business innovation. Although we are at the beginning stages of understanding the exact mechanisms by which psychedelics promote creativity in the brain, the unpredictable and hallucinogenic nature of psychedelic substances are potentially some of the most unique and powerful ways of providing new types of input to the brain to facilitate the firing of neurons that wouldn’t otherwise fire together under normal circumstances. Another one of the core principles of neuroplasticity is that “neurons that wire together, fire together”. This means that in the context of psychedelic substances, deliberate and periodic introduction of these experiences under controlled conditions facilitate the development and strengthening of new types of neural connections in the brain associated with expanding the brain’s ability to form new ways of thinking and expanding the limits of our imagination. For the curious and daring entrepreneurs who look to discover and expand their ability for wild and creative innovation, psychedelics offer a rather unconventional but nonetheless highly effective pathway to gain a competitive edge in the form of original thought. Innovation is indeed an inside job!
"...deliberate and periodic introduction of these experiences under controlled conditions facilitate the development and strengthening of new types of neural connections in the brain associated with expanding the brain’s ability to form new ways of thinking and expanding the limits of our imagination."
"As the nervous system moves through more positive experiences with releasing control, the strong emotional charge and stress associated with the experience begins to subside and eventually dissolve. What emerges is a strong sense of resilience and invincibility in the face of unpredictable and often destabilizing challenges of entrepreneurship."
The Role Of Control
No conversation about plant medicines will be complete without also assessing the role of “control” or rather the ability to let go of control. Every entrepreneur at some point must come into terms with letting go of some level of control in their business. While loosening the reins of control come naturally to some, the classic entrepreneur profile is often challenged with the notion of relinquishing control. Let’s face it, control, perfectionism, and overachieving are coded into most entrepreneurs’ DNA and rightfully so, the level of dedication, commitment, and discipline required to achieve success is not for the faint-hearted, yet although these qualities help lay a strong foundation for achieving sustainability in business, there comes a time that business growth is dependent on the ability of the leadership to relinquish some level of control. It might seem counterintuitive and downright terrifying to let go of control after finally achieving sustainability and positive growth potential, yet as many discover along the way, it is indeed the only way to grow the business into the next phase. One of the first things a brave psychonaut (explorer of the psyche) learns from plant medicines is how to relinquish control, let go, and trust the process. Although at first quite terrifying, often with the right guidance and perception, participants are able to relax into the experience and discover that the only way to gain control over the experience is to let go of control. As the nervous system moves through more positive experiences with releasing control, the strong emotional charge and stress associated with the experience begins to subside and eventually dissolve. What emerges is a strong sense of resilience and invincibility in the face of unpredictable and often destabilizing challenges of entrepreneurship.
"...one critical factor to consider is the importance of set and setting; the expertise of the facilitators, the source of the plants, the location of the experience, the energetics of the people involved, and personal mindset at the time of the experience and leading up to it are extremely important factors that will determine the outcome."
Psychedelics are powerful tools for exploring and enhancing the human potential whether in business or personal life. With that said, these experiences are not to be taken lightly, one critical factor to consider is the importance of set and setting; the expertise of the facilitators, the source of the plants, the location of the experience, the energetics of the people involved, and personal mindset at the time of the experience and leading up to it are extremely important factors that will determine the outcome. You have likely heard of horror stories and “bad trips” where matters get out of hand and there are no trained and experienced guides available to help the participants. If you are going to venture into the world of plant medicines, make sure you have an experienced guide you trust and have done the mental and sometimes physical preparation required to allow for a smooth and safe experience.
The use of psychedelic substances carries a risk for individuals with a heart condition, blood pressure, and those with a history of certain mental illnesses. If you are considering diving into the world of plant medicines, make sure to consider all the risk factors before experimenting with these powerful substances.
Unfortunately, psychedelics and plant medicines remain illegal to possess or use in the United States, it is my hope that the results from the currently ongoing research trials will offer a new pathway and perspective to support legalization of these substances for therapeutic purposes.
Lastly, you might be wondering if there is a way to tap into the insights and perspectives psychedelics have to offer without ingesting any substances. Although the unpredictable nature of these experiences is what makes them unique, it is entirely possible to identify the mental blocks and opportunities for micro-tweaks that will deliver you the successful outcome you seek without using psychedelics. A guide who has extensive experience working with psychedelics in a controlled and ritualistic manner and a solid understanding of the dynamic perspective they offer will often possess the ability to help you navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship and support you in reaching your full potential for long-term success and fulfillment.