In this episode, Doug Brackmann explains why traditional meditation may not work for innovators, entrepreneurs, and other highly driven individuals. Instead he proposes an alternative meditation style and productivity tools better suited to the “Driven” brain.
To find out if you are Driven, take the assessment at HighlyDriven.Life. If you want to learn more, pick up Doug’s book, Driven: Understanding and Harnessing the Genetic Gifts Shared by Entrepreneurs, Navy SEALs, Pro Athletes, and Maybe YOU.
Dr. Doug Brackmann is a dual Ph.D. in both clinical and organizational psychology. Over the last 30 years he has developed expertise in Driven individuals, roughly 10% of the population. The Driven exhibit a highly competitive and driven nature, are not averse to risk-taking and may struggle with finding balance in their lives.
Show Intro: Welcome to the Lawyerist podcast, with Sam Glover and Aaron Street. Each week, Lawyerist brings you advice and interviews to help you build a more successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. And now, here are Sam and Aaron.
Sam Glover: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.
Aaron Street: And I’m Aaron Street, and this is episode 136 of the Lawyerist podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today we’re talking with Doug Brackmann, co-author of the new book, Driven, about meditation and productivity hacks for innovators and entrepreneurs.
Sam Glover: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Clio legal practice management software. Clio makes running your law firm easier, try it for free today at Clio.com.
Aaron Street: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Ruby Receptionists, and it’s smart, charming receptionists who are perfect for small firms. Visit CallRuby.com/Lawyerist to get a risk free trial with ruby.
So Sam, last night we just got back from TBD Law number three, out in the wilderness, in the Ozarks. It was an awesome few days with some of the country’s most innovating and entrepreneurial small firm lawyers, and we had a really great time, as always, as we were anticipating, with lots of great discussions, and breakouts, and new ideas percolating, and lots of new relationships. One of the things we have built into the event is that we pick some cool books to give away to attendees, and one of the books we selected for TBD three was Doug’s book, Driven, and it turned out to be the, kind of fastest give away on the table at the event.
Sam Glover: They disappeared in no time, yeah.
Aaron Street: Yeah, it was very cool. I think in part because we pitched it pretty hard, ’cause we both liked it a lot. And so, one of the things we talked about, as we were giving away these books, was how this book is really cool in that it differentiates between a couple of different styles of, kind of meditation and brain productivity hacks, different from some of the stuff we’ve talked about in the past. I know 100 and more episodes ago we had our friend Jeena Cho on the podcast, talking about mindfulness meditation, and how it is a big, growing trend among lawyers.
And I think what’s interesting is, as you’ll hear, Doug and his book differentiate kind of the relaxation mindfulness meditation techniques that work really well for some people, and what he does with his more focused, what he calls driven, meditation is a totally different technique, and is designed especially for people who aren’t trying to relax, but instead are trying to focus their minds, and that it turns out that different styles of meditation can have completely different effects on your brain. And he spends half of the book discussing neuroscience and genetic trends, to describe how different brains need different kinds of things, and how most entrepreneurs are actually, have molded in a way that requires different inputs than a lot of other people.
Sam Glover: Yeah, I think it is meditation for people who can’t relax, or maybe aren’t particularly motivated to relax. I feel like it’s, if you aren’t connecting with mindfulness, or other forms of meditation, but you really want to experience the benefits of that thing that, you know, people talk about how great it is, and it just isn’t really working for you. Like me, I … If you go back and listen to my podcast with Jeena, I really tried to push, you know, I run instead of meditating, and she was kinda like, “Yeah, okay.” But I think after reading this book I’ve realized that part of the reason that works for me is because running lets me focus in a way that I can’t when I’m just sitting on the floor.
If that feels like you, if you have a hard time sitting on the floor, or sitting in a chair, and letting your mind wonder and just being okay with that, this is probably more your speed, and I really would recommend checking it out. I feel like I learned a lot about myself while reading it, and I’ve dabbled in the style of mediation that he describes in the book, and I’m trying to sort of get the feel of it. But I’m also really interested in signing up for one of his courses, ’cause I really wanna do the sniper training.
Aaron Street: Yes, which is one of the core practices of their meditation techniques, is learning to become a Navy SEAL sniper.
Sam Glover: Yeah, which is awesome. And maybe it needs no more introduction than that, and so maybe we should just hand this over to my conversation with Doug now.
Doug Brackmann: My name is Dr. Doug Brackmann, and I am a licensed psychologist here in the state of California, and what I do? I teach the highly driven to meditate at gun point, which … Kind of a anti-psychologist, anti-meditation, kind of disruptor is kinda what I’m going for, and it is actually a remarkable tool to teach my very particular type of clientele, really the benefits of meditation that they may have been missing most of their lives.
Sam Glover: So, thank you for being with us Doug, and my business partner Aaron says, “Hey, you should interview Doug, he teaches people how to mediate with sniper training.” And I was like, “Well I’m totally in,” like, “I’m in for that.” So, tell me, like, what’s the problem, what’s the issue herein that gave rise to this whole ting?
Doug Brackmann: So I work with a very particular type of client. I’ve been working in that field, started in the field of addiction about 30 years ago, and in the last 30 years it’s been just an amazing time to go through my education and become a psychologist, primarily because of the cracking of the human genome, and the functional MRI, I mean, things that we were theoretically trying to figure out 30 years ago we can actually pinpoint now, and it is just an amazing time to explore the human animal.
So the guys I work with are driven, and that is the title of my book. And, you know, the addiction, kind of model, has really fallen by the wayside in understanding what is happening actually, in the body, in the brain. And about 10% of the population have basically not adapted to the agricultural world that’s been in full bloom now for about the last 3,000 years. So about 10% of the people have maintained this, both neural structure, and genetics, of being a hunter.
And we really are different, and, you know, they call it ADD, they call it OCD, they call it addictive personality, type A personality, they’ve labeled it … And I keep saying they, the farmers have labeled it all kinds of different things, trying to make us feel like we don’t fit in. And often we don’t, but, you know, as you and I talked a little bit about before going on air, not everybody, at first glance, says, “Hey, that’s me.” So, some of us slip underneath the radar and can actually feel and look pretty successful, but actually underneath we are definitely driven. So we are different.
Sam Glover: And I like the way that you characterize this as sort of, look, society is basically made up of … I mean, there are more than two, but two big buckets of roles. One are the people who went out and killed the woolly mammoths and brought home the fur and the meat, and the other ones stayed home and tended, you know, wove baskets, and cured the meat. And it’s not that one is better than the other, society requires both, but over time society has required more basket weavers and fewer hunters, but obviously there are still hunters left. And the macho side of me is totally … this appeals to me of course, but-
Doug Brackmann: Yeah, and it’s, you know, four, five, six thousand years ago we were all basically in a much more dangerous world, and the need to survive, and this just chronic feeling that there’s something needed in our world, is really the underlying genetics of what my expertise is, and had developed a personality in our genetic genome that can tolerate basically an assembly line, is really in the last, at least 100 years it’s been just cherished in our society, while those of us [inaudible 00: 08: 15] make us wanna put a pencil in our eyes if we’re sitting in a cubical somewhere for more than eight hours at a time. You know, we just don’t tolerate it.
And the genetics of boredom, I mentioned that in the book, is dopamine receptor number two, DRD2, has an allele where 8%, 10%, 15% of the population just doesn’t tolerate sitting still for too long. That’s impulsivity, that’s the classic ADHD, the big H, and you try to get them to sit in a seat for 10 hours in a row, man, they lose their mind. The D4 is a much more interesting, and I, and you, and probably most of my clients, fall into that category.
And it goes back to the wandering gene, and about 10,000, about 15,000 years ago, you know, most of us were just beginning to spread across the globe, and this genetic kicks in, and this DRD4, the dopamine receptor number four, it makes us feel like the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill. And it’s chronic kind of searching, and craving, and clinging just for better. And, you know, when we finally get to that point on the horizon where we think the shiny object is, it kind of loses its shine and we jump to the next thing, and jump to the next thing, and jump to the next thing. So we seem to be much more productive in society, but we still have that same driven brain, and driven personality, so-
Sam Glover: Am I right that dopamine basically is motivation? It feels like that is pretty much what drives motivation for human beings.
Doug Brackmann: So dopamines, and all neurochemicals [inaudible 00: 09: 46] the body’s a trippy thing. We have, you know, 80% of your serotonin is in your stomach, and so it controls digestion and dopamine. You know, not enough dopamine is the cause of Parkinson’s disease. So, all of these neurochemicals do a whole bunch of different things, but the lack of dopamine, and believing that this thing in the future will give me dopamine, is what most often people experience as motivation, that if I finally get it, then I will feel okay and I’ll feel that reward. And the hunters, we just don’t feel as rewarded as everyone else, you know, it’s harder for us to get our dopamine.
Sam Glover: I guess maybe it’s worth stopping for a minute and helping people who are listening, and logically somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of the listeners are the people we’re talking about, how do they identify themselves?
Doug Brackmann: So, you may have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, you know, that really hasn’t come into fad for, you know, until the last 15, 20 years. And so, underlying it is really a inner world issue of feeling like there’s always something not quite right, feeling like there’s always something that could be better. And I have a bunch of attorneys in my practice; you finish a case and immediately your mind drifts to your screw ups, and you start to catalog, you know, to explain why you’re still feeling like it wasn’t good enough. And even if you did a great job, yeah, but it’s this underlying kind of ache inside that just feels like we could do better. And it’s subtle in some people and screaming in others, it varies.
Sam Glover: And you explain that, you alluded to this already, but this sort of inability to achieve that dopamine hit, or it’s much harder, leads people towards addiction, which is kind of the way that you, that was your door into this study and into this topic. Addiction is obviously a huge problem among lawyers, which leads me to think that maybe a lot of lawyers are on that spectrum, or scale, of D2 and D4, ADHD, or OCD, and maybe that’s what’s driving some of that addiction. That risk taking behavior is sort of inherent to a lot of what lawyers do in the court room, or in the negotiation room, and things like that.
Doug Brackmann: Yeah, exactly. And risk taking behavior is, you know, if you think about a classic farmer, they’re wired to not risk the entire crop. You know, what we did last year, and what we did the year before, and what we did the year before, if it’s not broke, do not fix it, don’t mess with it. Whereas the hunting wiring is, everything can be improved. And so, we’re willing to risk, and willing to take those chances, because we might get that hit of dopamine. And, you know, sometimes it plays of and sometimes it doesn’t, but in my experience working with all the attorneys I have it’s a, both the addiction thing, and it’s a lack of balance.
[inaudible 00: 12: 40] we get, you know, the hunters, man, if we think it’s a woolly mammoth on the horizon we get so driven and hyper focused towards that one thing, you know, the other categories in our life, the friends, and families, and everything else just fall by the wayside. And some of the trial guys I have just get into that hyper focus flow, and they’re dying on their desk, you know, they’re working 60, 70 hours a week.
Sam Glover: It’s that craving to get that hit. So, your book is about a set of tools, that includes this meditation which can be a part of sniper training, but kinda take us through what is the goal of these tools, and what are we trying to do in order to sort of get a handle on this drive and channel it in a more productive direction.
Doug Brackmann: One of the basic premises of the book is that being driven, having this reward deficiency, we essentially have to develop something called insight, you know, the ability to look into our inner world and really question what is our central nervous system telling us about what’s going on around us, and if we’re feeling like there’s always something missing or wrong, you’ll find it. So it creates this perpetual engine, so to speak, or drive, always just, you know, constantly driven towards whatever our shiny thing is.
The last 15 years, you know, about 15 years ago … A little personal [inaudible 00: 14: 05] disclosure on my own. So I’m finishing my dissertation and losing my mind with that, going through a divorce, and broke my leg, and basically had my entire world implode, which my central nervous system was telling me, you know, there is no hope. And that internal experience forced me to develop a meditation practice. And a great time to be in psychology, because mindfulness, as you mentioned, comes and goes. You know, in the last 30 years I’ve watched it kinda go through three big flourishing, you know, kinda gets real popular and then people figure out, “Whoa, wait a minute, this sucks, this is hard.” Then it kinda falls to the wayside, but then people start to suffer again, their inner worlds start to come up and attack them, and they try it again, because at first glance it does work.
But the misconceptions around what meditation is is just, it is one of the premises of the book. And meditations designed for farmers do not work for us, we lose our freaking mind, primarily because the brain of the hunter is really reversed, for the lack of a better way of explaining it, meaning that we have a, you know, the back of our brains is the occipital lobe, or where eyesight is, and hunters are primarily eyesight focused, and we use our eyes as the primary means of going through the world, which allows our frontal lobe to do something that, it is really quite remarkable, is we can attend to a greater number of variables at the same time. Where the farmer is two, to three, to four variable; we, seven, nine, 10, 12 variables at the same time.
And so, that’s the classic definition of ADD or ADHD, is that we multi-think, or our frontal lobes are hypo, or underactive. And combine those two things, you close your eyes as a hunter, trying to relax, your frontal lobe then just goes nuts, and all of a sudden your head’s filled with thoughts. And so, you know, these meditations that are traditionally, you know, a lot of the apps that are out, you know, close your eyes and listen to my nice voice, and you try to do that with a hunting brain and it just makes us feel discontent, and restless, and, you know, “This does not work for me.”
Sam Glover: I would just fall asleep, but …
Doug Brackmann: Exactly. So, you know, I’ve been looking for tools to teach meditation. What is true meditations is presenting, and presenting is the simple technique of actually getting your central nervous system, or your reptilian brain, attached to the time machine, which is up in our neocortex, up in our head, and when they’re working together, and, you know, once my resonating field is accurate about what’s happening around me, we call that flow. And it’s very appealing to any hunter that’s in it, whether it’s video games, or closing statements to a jury, you get into that flow state where you really feel, and experience, and you’re just present. Your head is working with your heart and your body, and everything is in this oneness state of being. That’s meditation.
Sam Glover: I always, I feel it when, like, I’m working on a website, and digging into the code, and I’ll find sometimes that if I start at 10 o’clock it may feel like I wake up at 2 o’clock, and I haven’t even eaten, I haven’t had anything to drink, I haven’t gone to the bathroom, and it feels like surfacing from the bottom of the pool, because I’ve just been fully 100% engaged in what I’m doing, for like four or five hours straight. And I think that’s what I associate with flow.
Doug Brackmann: And that is meditation. And those styles of meditation, or anything that holds us in the present moment, which, you know, the Sanskrit word for yoking, or holding back, you know, a yoke is something you put around a bull’s neck, is yoga. And these yoga type practices, whether it’s downhill skiing, or mountain bike riding, or surfing, or any of these activities that actually hold our presence to what’s happening around us, [inaudible 00: 18: 13] suited for hunters is the practice of meditation. And, you know, the shooting thing is just an amazing tool, because there is no recoil in the present. If you’re anticipating the recoil of the rifle, you’re not present, you’re worried about something happening in the future. So it’s a phenomenal yoga instrument, that really does show us how, as a hunter, when we hyper focus on exactly what’s happening now, you know, whether it’s code in your computer or whatever else, it is just a blissful, awesome state. Being able to elicit that when you’re sitting on a cushion is incredibly difficult.
Sam Glover: Let’s take just a few minutes to hear from our sponsors, and then I want you to talk about how to elicit that.
Doug Brackmann: Great.
Sam Glover: And make the connection between cushions, and coding, or downhill skiing, and sniper training, and all that kind of stuff, because that’s really interesting, and I wanna hear you talk about it, because I’m not sure that I got the full thing from the book. So I wanna take a quick break, and when we come back I wanna hear more about that.
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Sam Glover: Okay, so Doug, I wanna hear you talk more about, you know, the cushion style meditation, but also about other activities or things, and I’m particularly interested in how you integrate the, I’m calling it cushion meditation, with sniper, with long range shooting, because I’m super curious to hear about how that all works together. Not that I’m gonna run out and start shooting at things on my own, but I’d like to hear more about it.
Doug Brackmann: Yeah, it’s, you know, Buddhism and guns usually doesn’t go together, so it’s an interesting-
Sam Glover: But archery, yes.
Doug Brackmann: I get a lot eye rolls, yeah. Archery, exactly. And so that’s basically what we did is, you know, there’s an 800, 600 year old tradition in Japan where they’re using bow and arrow, and it’s called Kyudo, where it is an activity that is designed that, you know, a stepwise activity, the process that you’re following is actually the yoga container, that you’re just hyper focusing on what you’re doing right now, and you have memorized these steps, and that allows you to actually elicit, or create, this flow state.
And, you know, when meditation is applied to running, or coding, or any of those things, where you noticed your thinking drifting off to something else, and then you gently come back to, you know, the line of code, and you have to pay very close attention to all of these things. It actually integrates to … I promised wife that I’ll never say brain parts on podcasts, but it start to connect the parts of the brain that are normally, you know, were not connected. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing that we’re not connected, we obviously need to not connect sometimes, but being able to elicit this connection is gold for hunters, and gold for really anybody, ’cause it builds this capacity to actually just be present to, really, what’s happening around us.
Sam Glover: So as I’m reading about sort of the cushion meditation component of this, I’m struck by a couple of things that are different from what I’ve learned about mindfulness, and one is that mindfulness seems, most people who do it seem to go for a fairly comfortable seating position, and eyes closed, and you focus on an imaginary candle, or you have a word, or something like that, that you focus on, whereas your driven meditation is, the posture is a little bit more on the verge of action it almost feels like.
Doug Brackmann: Yeah, good.
Sam Glover: Which I, a, is more comfortable for me, but b, feels interesting. And you also have eyes open, and I assume that has to do with what you were describing about the visual orientation.
Doug Brackmann: Correct. And so, [inaudible 00: 23: 36] I go into some detail in the book, and the transcendental meditation practices, it’s a Hindu practice, and it comes out of a very old tradition that predates Buddhism, that predates the Buddha and his styles of meditation. Transcendental meditation, you’re trying transcend reality, you’re actually trying to get your central nervous system to resonate on a higher plane, and all this woo woo stuff, and so you’re actually trying to disassociate, or disconnect from what’s happening around you; and it’s bliss. I mean, you feel wonderful. But what’s the point of that? You know, you can take a Xanax and have a glass of wine, and it gives you that same euphoric, kind of, “Here I am, drifting off into space.”
Sam Glover: You’re trying to introduce flow?
Doug Brackmann: Correct. And so, the Japanese … And as these meditation traditions moved out of northern India and basically went east, and kept going east, and they finally got to Japan, and the Japanese, the efficiency that they are, really figured out how to get to the heart of the matter, as they say, and [inaudible 00: 24: 46] efficiency of trying to elicit this very, very, very intense presence, where your central nervous system is actually accurately reflecting what’s happening around you, so you’re associating. And, you know, that is where the real benefits of meditation, or this style of meditation that, true meditation if you wanna call it that, is most beneficial, and that’s proven over, and over in the functional MRI.
And it’s, you know, trying to transcend, or feel good, or feel blissful, is not the point. Trying to get an accurate reflection about what’s happening around you. You know, and mindfulness is often misunderstood as, you know, “Here I am in my mind, doing these techniques to get my body to feel very comfortable and very wonderful.” That is not it, and it’s actually bodyfulness. And so, you are really becoming curious about, “What is my central nervous system telling me, and is accurate about what’s happening around me?” Which is, you know, [inaudible 00: 25: 49] stuff, and all the emotional intelligence.
Sam Glover: And to bring it back, like, you talk about this as, you know, you use the example of, say, a stick versus a snake. People who are driven are primed to view the world as a dangerous place, and so they blow the stick out of proportion and see it as a snake, or potentially even worse, they see a snake as a stick and self sabotage-
Doug Brackmann: You got it.
Sam Glover: And what we’re really trying to do is get you to actually understand what’s actually going on in your life. You know, the small way that I have experienced this is, in the evenings, my wife goes to bed early, and so I have a few hours, usually, in the evening when I’m just sort of on my own, and I often experience this feeling of, “I got shit to do,” but I don’t have anything to do. And so I’m sitting there and I’m on edge, and I can’t just relax, I’ve never been able to just, like, watch TV, I need to be doing something. But like, you know, so I’m sitting there, feeling anxious about feeling like I need to be doing something, but there’s actually nothing I have to do. And over time I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I actually have nothing to do, and I think that’s a small example of what you’re talking about, where I just have to be fully aware, and honest, and comfortable with what’s actually happening, because what I’m sitting there doing is, essentially, manufacturing problems for myself.
Doug Brackmann: You got it. And you just defined DRD4 [crosstalk 00: 27: 11]
Sam Glover: All right, well there you go.
Doug Brackmann: So it’s, “I feel guilty when I relax,” is the classic definition I often say, and so it’s that inability to actually turn off our engine. It’s a huge gift, I mean, that’s why we are so successful, and if we are not lost in our addictions we wind up owning most of the stuff in the world, because it feels like more is better.
Sam Glover: I’m working on that.
Doug Brackmann: But it’s, you know, is it a snake or is it a stick? And, you know, this ability to go to neutral, and that it is a snake if, and it is a stick if, and that’s where the benefits of this style of meditation go into this decision making and not sabotaging, or sabotaging, and more importantly, you start to see others more clearly, and you’re able to see into others, and what is motivating them. And you can see their fear, and you start to see reality more clearly, and that’s really the point of, and the main benefits, of this style of meditation.
Sam Glover: There is a description, in the book, of sort of the point main in a Navy SEAL team, who is like, “Hold up, something’s going on,” and can’t really point out what it is, but usually once the team stops and fans out to try and look for it, there is an IED sitting in front of them, or there is somebody crouching in the grass, and it’s because they’re aware of so much more than they’re aware that they know, that they are aware of I guess-
Doug Brackmann: You got it.
Sam Glover: And it’s that perception. And once you quiet down the noise and let yourself experience that perception, you can be extremely emotionally intelligent, you just have to slow down and look at it, right?
Doug Brackmann: Correct. And yeah, and I go into it lightly in the book, and my dad’s 80 … Oh God, he’s almost 81 years old, and he’s never read a self help book in his life, and I think out of, you know, just out of sheer obligation he’s read my book twice, and this fact, and it is a neurological, biological fact, that we’re not living in reality, that we’re living in a projection, and when our central nervous system is feeling anxious, or feeling excited, we will actually project that and see, in a biased way, what we wanna see. And that was my doctoral research, was self fulfilling prophecy, or self sabotage; and it’s this ability to actually know that, that “No, wait a minute, what am I missing here?”
And it’s an amazing time to be a psychologist, ’cause of this thing called the vagal nerve, and I promise I won’t get too deep into it, but it’s our gut instincts, and listening to your gut, hearing your gut, “I’ve got a gut feeling,” all of these ways of trying to tap into this thing. The style of meditation I teach, and that’s really the main benefit that I see most of my clients experience within six months or a year of really making this a cornerstone of their life, is they’re starting to register something that they were missing before. And so you’re dropping your biased perceptions, and you’re starting to become curious, you know, it’s a classic mindful, curious about what am I seeing, and actually what am I not seeing? And that will start to open up our senses, and actually builds capacity in our gut instincts, or this dorsal Vagal system and ventral vagal system, to get a more accurate feeling about what’s happening around us.
You know, and human beings were just a herding or a tribal animal like everyone else, and we lived in little family groups and herds, and, you know, the gazelle at the front of the herd, when it gets scared, the whole herd feels this fear, but whose fear are they actually feeling? Is it mine, is it yours, is it my associate’s, is it the judge’s? And the ability to sort that out is a unbelievably powerful emotional intelligence tool. As you start to get into this, and you start to experience that in a way that is … As I always say, you can write about bubble gum, you can talk about bubble gum, but until you taste bubble gum you don’t know what bubble gum is. But once you start to taste it, and you really experience the benefits of this style of meditation, it’s like, “Whoa, game changer.”
Sam Glover: So do you mind talking about how you integrate the cushion meditation with the activity, the sniper training, or the long distance shooting, and how does it work if you wanted to integrate it into another type of activity? I don’t have access to a sniper rifle and a shooting range, and an instructor to make it safe, or even a bow and arrow, but I like to go running, I like to do other activities, and I’m wondering if I could do something similar until I have time to attend your workshop.
Doug Brackmann: So I say this almost every day, but one of the hardest things I do every day is sit in a meditative position, on a cushion, looking at a candle. And that’s a good day, if that’s the hardest thing I’ve gotta do today. But what makes it actually hard is that, you know, the split between my body and my brain, or my neocortex, my new brain, you know, the new brain is a time machine, and it’s constantly drifting off to the future, and the past, and worrying about what’s not happening right now. And as the Buddha talked about, you take refuge in your body, meaning that you become aware of what’s happening in your central nervous system, you know, reptilian brain, and what’s happening in the reptilian brain is always happening right now.
You know, I teach a very specific style of meditation, that actually triggers the vagal nerve to send up these calming impulses into the brain stem, and it allows us to actually calm our central nervous system down to this point of neutral. Then when you stand up, basically, from the cushion and approach the rifle, you start to feel all kinds of anticipatory adrenaline, and excitement, and all of these things, and you’re building this thing called interoception, or your ability to actually experience what is my central nervous system doing, and if you can do that without judgment, you can then gently come back to, you know, what is really happening now? And so, you’re basically learning to call bullshit on yourself, over, and over, and over, and over again.
And that learning to call bullshit on yourself, or killing oneself, as I talk about in the book, is the core of this style of meditation, to where I am no longer in my way of whatever activity I’m doing. And, you know, sitting on a cushion is by far the hardest thing, where, you know, returning e-mail meditations, or talking … I did a making breakfast for my kid meditation for years, where my head would drift off to where I’m supposed to be in 10 minutes, or two days, or whatever it is, and I gently come back to the French toast, and appreciate the whole experience of, you know, and this is core of what I talk about in the book, of mastery, is that we are constantly running over everything throughout our days; this is not important, that is not important as this other thing I gotta do today, and so we’re constantly not living life. Today is not preparation for some other day, today is today.
And so, when you apply this principle and this philosophy, that, you know, just return this one e-mail, your efficiency goes through the roof. Just apply [inaudible 00: 34: 23], or just explore this one bit of code, or just explored flipping the French toast. And it is difficult, but it’s actually way easier than staring at a candle. But staring at a candle, you know, while I’m sitting in this very specific posture, that I talk about in the book, it actually directly connects the mind and the body, is why posture is presented in that way. It is very difficult to be just in your body and present. Unless you’re actually in my body, present, making French toast, then I can notice the smells, I notice the flip, and notice all of this other things that are actually happening right now. And so, that becomes the container, the yoga that holds me there, and I gently drift away, and gently come back.
And listening to your clients, which, you know, as I say to all my attorneys, if everyone was living in reality we’d all be out of a job, because our job, as counselors or whatever, is to help sort people’s reality out. But if I’m in the way of that, if my reality is overpowering my ability to see their reality, then we got two problems. You know, the guys I work with, particularly the attorneys, where they can drop their own stuff that’s in the room and they can really hear or listen to their client, both what they’re saying in their words and actually what they’re experiencing in their body, you get a much clearer picture of what you need to do to actually help somebody. So it’s applying meditation to running, or French toast, or code, or listening to one of your clients, is actually way easier than sitting on a cushion.
Sam Glover: And so, in a way, sitting on the cushion is the preparation though, for that challenging task, as well.
Doug Brackmann: You got it.
Sam Glover: Okay.
Doug Brackmann: You got it. So it’s, you know, what happens on the cushion is, I say in the book, is what happens on the cushion is almost irrelevant, you know? How it’s applied to the rest of your life is where the gold is. And doing something that is so unbelievably challenging, sitting on a cushion, when I go to the French toast it seems easier, when I go to listening to a really interesting case or a client it’s really interesting, so it’s a much easier thing to engage in. And then when my thoughts come and drift off, and I think about what I had for breakfast, I am much more able to bring my mind back to what’s happening now.
Sam Glover: In your book, after … You talk about meditation, and then you start talking about some other tools, and I was surprised, but also pleased, to see David Allen’s Getting Things Done come up very quickly. And as soon as I read that, it made sense to me, because you’ve been talking about the importance of the process, not the goal. And, you know, over the last few Olympics they’ve talked about what takes to succeed, and the Olympians keep saying, “You have to enjoy practice. You keep the goal in mind, but you have to enjoy the practice, and you have to live for the practice.”
And I think in a similar way Getting Things Done is, it’s all about, you don’t have to accomplish the goal today. You don’t have to start the business, you don’t have to launch the product, you don’t have to sell 1,000 units, you just have to do the next thing, right? You just have to go and get the papers from the secretary of state’s office. You don’t have to found it today, you just have to go get the papers. And like, it’s that sort of backing off from the goal, and just keep moving, just keep doing the next thing. Intuitively it makes sense, and I was pleased because I feel like Getting Things Done was a moment that I can point to that changed my life in a really positive way, because it allowed me to channel my energy and my focus in a much more manageable way.
Doug Brackmann: Right, and that … Yeah, I know, I love David Allen, he did change my life too. And the resistance, you know, my doctoral research was done … God, almost 20 years ago now, and I wrote about the resistance to doing things. And, I talk about it in the book, and I start everybody I work with, whether they’re daily meditators or not, to feel the resistance in their bodies, of actually keeping a meditation practice. And I, you know, work with some really bring, incredibly motivated people, so this one minute meditation that I suggest everyone start with, it’s incredibly difficult to actually continue it.
January is just a horrible experience at the gym. Why? Because everybody’s monkey mind has convinced the-
Sam Glover: I hate Januaries.
Doug Brackmann: Exactly, because everybody in the world has got this great idea, this great belief system going in their head, convincing them that, you know, this year’s gonna be different. But what happens, is the central nervous systems, you know, human beings don’t want better, safer, faster, stronger, richer; what we want is actually the familiar. And that’s a subconscious or, you know, central nervous system biological fact, that as our world starts to change, we have a physical resistance to continuing that behavior. Continuance of behavior then is either rationalized, “It’s okay, I’ll go to the gym tomorrow,” or, “I’ll do it later,” or, “I’ll do it after dinner,” and once the mind is actually, you know, the neocortex and the new brain, is making some narrative about why this resistance should be there, we’re toast. And that is sabotage.
But that, meeting that resistance … And this is one of the key takeaways of my book, is meeting that resistance with curiosity, in particular not catching the narrative you’re gonna make in your head about why it’s okay not to return this e-mail right now, or whatever, but then experiencing what’s happening in the present. Because there is no resistance in the present, there’s none. There can’t be, biologically. And so, as you start to feel your feet gently walking towards the cushion, or you feel your hands going to just this one e-mail, and you just do this one thing, there is not resistance, and all of a sudden you just, as David Allen, you get it done.
But knowing what you, you know, and he does a masterful job at organizing your life in a way that you know what you need to do next and what are the big tasks, and the little tasks, and what buckets you should put stuff in, and then if you have no resistance, and you have David Allen, it is, I mean, it’s remarkable how much crap you can get done.
Sam Glover: Yeah, and you never notice you’re doing it, you just look backwards and you’re like, “Oh, I did all this stuff.”
Doug Brackmann: Right. You know, the whole day then becomes a meditation practice of getting things done. It’s a very, you know, Japanese … You know, you just chop wood, you just carry water, you just return the e-mail, you just make French toast. Or you just do this one, you know, whatever it is in front of you, and then if you organize your life in a way, with David Allen’s or, you know, I give some other suggestions in the book too, God, your world just becomes so different. And more importantly, you can tolerate the success, because you can feel that resistance, and you’re … I talk about bandwidth, you start to have the bandwidth, you know, that you can tolerate more in your body, without believing there’s a snake in front of you, or, you know, sabotaging. And so, it works.
Sam Glover: Well, if people are interested in finding out if this is a book they ought to read, you have a test, a survey, on HighlyDriven.Life, and the book was handed to me as something I ought to read, and then I took the test about halfway through to confirm for me that my suspicions were correct, and that I should be considering some of these tools. But if you’re curious, as you’re sitting here listening, go to HighlyDriven.Life, we’ll included the link in the show notes, and you can take the assessment and find out if you might benefit from the book.
And if you do show up as somebody who’s highly driven, I would recommend you take it. I think even if you ultimately decide that some of these things aren’t for you, I think the book will really help you get to know yourself better, because that was my experience in reading it. So there’s my plug for you anyway.
Doug Brackmann: I appreciate that Sam, that’s great. Thank you.
Sam Glover: Yeah. Well thank you so much for being with us today, and for taking us through this. And yeah, I mean, anybody who hasn’t really connected with traditional meditation, if they’ve tried it, I think this is a great thing to try. But the other tools in there, I think, will just lead to a better life, if you can get your head around them and start doing some of them.
Doug Brackmann: I appreciate that, and I agree.
Sam Glover: All right, thanks Doug.
Doug Brackmann: Thanks Sam.
Aaron Street: Make sure to catch next week’s episode of the Lawyerist podcast. If you’d like more information about today’s show, please visit Lawyerist.com/Podcast, or LegalTalkNetwork.com. You can subscribe via iTunes or anywhere podcasts are found. Both Lawyerist, and the Legal Talk Network, can be found on twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and you can download the free app from Legal Talk Network in Google Play or iTunes.
Sam Glover: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own, and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorse by, Legal Talk Network. Nothing said during this podcast is legal advice.