Season 2 Episode 5 - Sarah and Russ Strike an Attitude of Gratitude with Boomer Anderson
Boomer Anderson is the founder of Decoding Superhuman, a health consulting firm. Decoding Superhuman is dedicated to working with high performing professionals to battle issues like stress, sleep, burnout, and balance. He utilizes genetics and additional biomarkers to develop custom lifestyle modifications leading to increased physical and mental performance. Prior to starting Decoding Superhuman, Boomer worked for 8-years at a bulge-bracket investment bank in Singapore and New York.
After years of traveling, 200,000+ miles a year, Boomer was diagnosed with heart disease at the age of 30. The strategies and systems he developed to better his condition led to higher levels of physical and mental performance and the founding of Decoding Superhuman.
Boomer advises entrepreneurs, CEOs, consultants, bankers, executives, and companies on how to optimize performance through health. His mission is to make sure working professionals avoid his situation and to help the world’s decision makers make better decisions.
Sarah: Let’s start with the micro dosing or even macro dosing. I don’t know where you’re at right now.
Boomer: So just to give everybody a little bit of background on my history with psychedelic substances. It’s relatively recent, in the sense that my entire life I’ve been very hesitant to touch these substances, probably just from various personal experiences. Growing up as an ice hockey player. And the goalie, one of the most talented goalies I’ve ever played with developed a coke problem. Now, coke isn’t necessarily a psychedelic, but he ended up becoming a drug dealer and then eventually ended up, unfortunately, dying. And I had another person I was very close with, [he] took too many mushrooms and ended up putting a bullet in his head. And so I had this entire background with these substances that was quite negative. In the sense, that I always had this associative bias where I saw that these two people who I was close with, were ultimately affected and their lives ended early because of indirectly these substances. And so until really my mid-20s, I didn’t touch these things, because I thought it would derail me from my goals. And there is some credence to that. When you’re younger, and your brains developing... Probably it’s a reason not to use those, because you may affect your brain in adverse ways. But call it meeting the right people in life, etc. but also coming across certain problems, certain obstacles, you start to become more open-minded. And so about a year and a half ago, I met the right people. Since I had my sort of health renaissance, if you will, I came across a couple of people about a year and a half to two years ago, where
I was running into issues with predominantly anxiety and perfectionism and all of these things and the stuff that happens in the biohacking world that nobody talks about.
And just so happened that was at one of these events, and somebody told me to open my mouth, and they micro dose me with LSD at the time. And I was running through a very complicated business decision on that day. And it just seemed like whoa, there’s all this clarity all the sudden. It was micro dosing. And so it was just like a minor ego dissolution allowed me to see the business decision for what it was and make the decision fairly clear without much ego involved. Now since then, I’ve kind of gone all in as I tend to do with these things. And I know you do as well, Sarah. I have kind of gone headfirst into this and delved into experiences with large doses of either LSD, DMT, ketamine, MDMA, etc. And all of these have had profound impacts on my life. We originally met at biohacking Congress in London. And the person who would have talked to you then versus the person who you talk to now is a very different person. And a lot of that has been some of the realizations that I’ve obtained from these substances. They allow you to see what is possible.
And so I maintain a regular micro dosing routine. I micro dose twice a week, and it’s usually a Monday or Friday. It doesn’t interrupt anything that I do. In fact, those are the days where I get my “deepest work done”, but I can attribute some of these substances to relief of a lifelong battle with perfectionism and anxiety and just sort of an acceptance of what it is.
And I’m happy to go into a lot of the different types of substances. But I found, in particular, just because where I live in Amsterdam, the truffles are legal, psilocybin has been very helpful. And it has a lot of effects on something called the 5HTa receptor, which has results on anxiety, etc. and serotonin and a number of other things. And so I found these profound, and I like to try things that are a little bit more on the edge, a little bit more frontier, and though you are seeing this “third wave or psychedelic renaissance”, if you will, these are still not widely accepted substances. In fact, I always judge how on the edge I am by when I go to like a family reunion or talk to my family who’s largely in the Midwest. And you can tell their reactions when I say like, “Hey, I’m micro dosing on LSD right now.” And everybody’s like, “Huh, what’s going on?”
Sarah: Are you doing some kind of psychological technique? Are you doing lots of meditation? Are you doing lots of introspection?
Boomer: It’s a great way to frame that question, Sarah. If you go back to when I started this,
I began to look at the mental aspect of health optimization much more seriously, because when I got into health optimizing first it was, in all fairness, I wanted to know how I could sleep less, work more, and look good naked.
That led me into various fields of like high intensity interval training and looking at various substances, like nootropics, but eventually, you come around, and once you do enough analysis on yourself - and I was always from a data side in this whole health optimization thing - you eventually arrived to, “Okay, what I thought was my biggest, my Archimedes heel, if you will,
I thought it was sleep.” But then what was the cause of all my sleep issues? It was stress.
And so two years ago, allowed me to acknowledge, “Okay, I’m gonna have this kind of confrontation with you with the mental aspects of health optimization.” And so psychedelics came there. But to your point, I’ve been a meditator now for over seven years. But I got more and more into meditation, I’m getting very into or I have been getting very into just the studying of the elders and particular... I don’t want to call them philosophies, but when we look at things like Buddhism or Theravada Buddhism or even getting into some of the practices that like the toltecs use, and I think it was the “Four Agreements”... That’s the very popular book that everybody talks about here. And just getting into the studying of that and what is the wisdom that’s been passed down through the ages. All of that kind of touches on this mental aspect of health optimization. And so I would say, along with the psychedelics, of course, is the meditation, of course, is the breathing practices like you’re doing now. And using those more strategically, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in breathing, but I use them on a day to day basis to manipulate my state, if you will. And then getting into the study in the elders just because I am fascinated with history. And so if I could take the history of all of these different traditions, and find and glean little insights to help optimization, or whatever you want to call it, or just mental health optimization, in order to have a better experience of the game, we call, living, I found that to be a great pairing. And it’s just a way to both educate myself, but also to have a better experience of living.
Sarah: There does seem to have been a bit of a move away from this, like really macho high performance side of biohacking. Certainly, at the Finnish Biohackers summit last year, there was a lot of emphasis on philosophy. There’s a lot of talks about stoicism, for example.
Boomer: I have no problem with high performance. I still have goals that I want to achieve, but I want to make sure that I’m mentally there to enjoy it. Because I was this type of person that growing up, I’ve alluded to perfectionism earlier. I always had to be the first, the best. But in that whole process, was there a lot of enjoyment in the journey? Not necessarily! When I was in finance, I accelerated my career very, very fast. I got to travel to something like 50 different countries over the course of four years. And did I enjoy going to those countries? Yes. But in the day when I was there, was I enjoying that moment? Like, when I was in Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Indonesia or wherever it was, was I enjoying that moment? No!
You’re constantly just thinking about the next thing, next thing, the next promotion, etc. And at some point, you just kind of say, “Well, shit!” I would like to enjoy this life, because pretty soon it’s gonna be over.
Russ: Boomer, honestly, you’ve just touched on so many life experiences that I’ve been through as well. And I think it’s what’s drawn me to Sarah and now drawn to you. You set it up front and you nailed it. I think that the idea that you live your life as a younger person, and it’s all about performance, because that’s all that matters, because you got to climb that ladder. And then when you get there, you’re like, “Yeah, great. But I’m miserable.” And misery starts in your mind, not in your body. And I just love this idea of being mentally strong and mentally fit and mentally aware. You mentioned [that] you’re meditator as well. I’m curious how you start your days?
Boomer: It’s rare that I schedule any appointment before 11am. And even though I wake up at 06:00, I want to make sure that I have a good gap, a good run at the morning before the life for the matrix gets in the way. So I’ll take you through what is comprised in those five hours or so before I book appointments. The first thing, of course, is hydration. I want to make sure that I’m drinking a fair amount of water throughout the day because I’m still an athlete in many ways and train like an athlete. So I’ll drink almost a liter of water right away. Then I’ll jump immediately into meditation. And right now I like Sam Harris’s app. And I like the idea of non-dualistic meditation and particularly some of the philosophies that he gets into. And then from there, I’ll go to a planning session. There’s a long time where I would immediately check email.
Email is somebody else’s to-do-list for you. What I want to do is make sure that I’m in control of my day.
So I’m setting my priorities. I have a vitamin D lamp at home. I’ll spend my 10~15 minutes in front of vitamin D lamp. Doing that after setting my priorities. And then once that’s done, I’ll probably check in with California. So a lot of the work that I do right now is serving as the deputy CEO of a company called “Smarter, not harder”, which is the parent company of Troscriptions. And I know Sarah, you’ve had some fun with that one.
Exercise is still one of my favorite nootropics in the world, but also, it’s a good way to keep mentally fit.
Russ: I’m curious when it comes to diet and health?
Boomer: So I rigorously test everything, every six months, I’m running several tests. I’m running a metabolomics test which looks predominantly at micronutrients. I’m looking at the health of my gut. So three days stool tests, and I like three days stool tests over one day stool tests, because how many times do you go to the bathroom and completely clear out your intestine? It’s fairly rare for most people. And then I do a food sensitivities tests. I do a biological age test. And this year, I actually ran a few at the same time, just because there’s so many biological age tests out there. I was kind of curious how accurate they are.
Sarah: Did they give the same result?
Boomer: No, not at all. Actually, I have a 14 year variance on my biological age, depending on what test it is. So I take the youngest one. I’m joking.
The question is what the best representation of biological age? Because this is a relatively new concept. Telomeres have been around for a long time. Epigenetic age is a relatively new concept. And then I ran something called glycan age, which looks at glucans, which are relatively untalked about, and it’s a fourth macro molecule.
The company says it’s more predictive than epigenetic age even - with glucans, I’m 20 years old.
I’m looking at micronutrients heavy metal toxicities, I’m looking at oxidative stress, I’m, of course, gonna look at my hormones and then basic complete blood counts and those things. I’m looking at my gut health. I’m looking at food sensitivities. And that all allows me to create the ‘Boomer plan’. This is probably why I’m not such a great influencer because
there’s people out there that say, “Hey, go keto”, or “Hey, go vegetarian’, or ‘vegan’ or whatever”. And that’s such a crock of shit. Because we are all different.
The 7 billion people on this planet. My now wife (and that’s a term that I’m getting used to saying) is Korean. And she does very well with carbohydrates in her diet. If I have rice, I’m going to turn into a sumo wrestler. And so we have very different diets. But the reason why I am able to identify this and act on it is because I do a quite a lot of testing on myself. And so that enables me to identify what are the micronutrients that I need so that my Krebs cycle runs efficiently, so that I can produce the amount of ATP that I need to go out and kick ass and do what I want in the world. I want to make sure that those heavy metals are being addressed. I flew a lot for a decade. I have over a million miles with a couple of different airlines. And the amount of just toxic junk that you’re exposed to from that kind of lifestyle, you want to know about it. Luckily, I’m young enough that it’s easier to address. But I’m also addressing this through supplementation and lifestyle change.
Russ: What’s the trick to getting started and staying committed to a health program?
So micro habits are the answer here. And what do I mean by micro habits is starting small.
If you look at then the United States, which is close to 70%, overweight you’re talking about two thirds of the population is overweight. And so how do you get them started in an exercise regimen that they may or may not have ever done before? Well, if I tell them to go and work out for three hours a day in the gym, they’re going to probably get started and probably be very gung ho for maybe one or two days and then get sore and quit. And I generally don’t like men’s health and some of the recommendations.
The idea that you need to be in the gym for three hours a day or even a full hour is kind of a joke.
So there needs to be an acknowledgement of how much time do you have? And so let’s say you have 15~20 minutes a day, or even five minutes a day, well, can you do some bodyweight squats? Yes, of course. You don’t need equipment for that. Can you do push-ups? Can you do any sort of bodyweight movement whatsoever? That’s a great way to get started.
Can you start taking your zoom calls while you’re doing walks?
That’s great. So generally speaking, when I’m working with somebody who hasn’t really developed an exercise regimen yet, the first thing that I want to know is how much time can they dedicate? And then from there, it’s like, “Okay, what if I give you a goal, do a 100 air squats during the course of the day, on Monday? On Wednesday, do a 100 push-ups. And those can be on your knees over the course of the day. You could do 10. Like, you just do 10 in between calls. And not only does that allow you to start building in these micro habits, but it allows you to get your blood flowing, which allows you to get your brain working better, which probably allows those meetings to be a lot more efficient, which may end up freeing up more time at the end anyway. So start small, layered in and think of it more as a long game.
This isn’t get ready for summer, so that you can look good in that bikini. It’s let’s try and see what we can get you to in a couple of years what we can get you to.
And I only work with people if they have a six month commitment. Because for me, it’s very hard to make change in under three months. And so I want to have six months to be able to say like, “Hey, at time zero, you are here, you are an exercising. And now you can do a bench pressing. You actually want to go to the gym.” And what I would also encourage people to do is play. In the sense that find something that you enjoy and do that because
no matter what the latest magazine is going to tell you, no matter what the latest podcast is going to tell you, if you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to do it. So try and find something you enjoy and start there.
Sarah: We’ve been banging on this whole series about personal responsibility. But the motivation piece is something that often isn’t spoken about so much. But what about measuring how you’re kind of doing emotionally and mentally?
Boomer: So I love self-quantification. In fact, even before this whole biohacking thing happened knows more in the quantified self-world anyway. But there is an aspect of quantified self that is subjective and qualitative. You can sit there and you can note. And this is where things like journaling are extremely helpful. And so if you were building new habits, I find for me, personally, starting them in the morning is usually a good strategy, because you have that sort of tabula rasa moment. You wake up and as long as you don’t check your phone right away, the world is sort of brand new. You have that whiteboard. But when it comes to the whole mental health game, and checking in with yourself, you can look at HRV to a certain extent. And that’s a representation of your nervous system. And certainly stress does have an impact on that.
It’s nice to just do a self-checking. And every morning, so what’s going on? What are the thoughts going through my head? And I can tell you, just from personal experience, but also experience with dozens of clients, writing down those thoughts, helps you.
I think clearing your mind is an illusion. But it helps you sort of process that in a good way.
Taking stock every morning like, what’s my stress level on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10? Don’t pick 5. Nobody should ever pick 5, because that’s a cop out. But what’s my stress level on 1-10? What are a few thoughts going through my head?
And then it’s usually good. Gratitude loses its effect if you do it too many times. But initially, when you’re getting started just writing down three things you’re grateful for. Write down a relationship that I’ve had in the past. That’s usually something you can’t be repetitive with this. Otherwise, it’s just again, a cop out. It’s like choosing 5. But you take the person in the past that you’re grateful for having a relationship with, take an object nearby. Like I’m grateful for the San Pellegrino bottle because it tastes delicious. And then you take an event that is happening in the day, and you say,
“I’m grateful for having this conversation with my new friend Russ and Paul, and of course, my old friend Sarah.”
And so there you have your gratitude practice right there. And that’s a good way to take mental stock, but also to reframe your state. These little tricks can help you switch state very quickly.
Russ: Thank-you Boomer we’d love to have you back because we didn’t even scratch the surface. Maybe we do a part two. And we talked about cannabis and some of the other amazing things you have as well.
🚨7 day Rebel Scientist guest challenge🚨
Micro habits are an action that requires minimal motivation or effort to complete. The idea is over time; a micro habit will slowly build on top of itself and result in something significant.
Boomer’s suggestion to make micro habits has been useful in implementing some of the other hacks from previous interviews. For example – I did a 7 days breathing challenge after we interviewed the fabulous Kristin Weitzel – mouth taping and nasal breathing- however keeping up the good work requires time and dedication. I started bringing awareness to my breathing before every online meeting – so just a minute a few times a day I really focus on breathing slow and soft through my nose, I have noticed I more present – less frantic. Each night before sleep I now do 2 minutes of alternative nasal breathing - it has indeed become a habit. I now have something to build on.
The whole team are now doing 10 push-ups after each zoom call – we are doing that right guys? Paul? Russ?...........guys?
🚨An attitude of gratitude.🚨
Another practice Boomer reminded me of - is the gratitude journal. Now this is something I have resisted it is seemed a little trite and frankly unnecessary – I already think with gratitude about my amazing friends and family – and am aware of my privileged position in so many aspects of life. However – I did find it really helped writing down 3 things every day for the 7 days. I did it in the way of the Stoics - in that I related it to worse case scenarios – and this made it a little more real for me. Something that helped me in a surprising way was writing down reasons to be grateful for all the annoying and upsetting things going on right now – having these contrasts helped to become clear – and gave me a better understanding of my own boundaries, blind spots, and complacencies. It helped me to view life events in a more grounded way – and changed the energy around certain subjects totally (lock-downs, vaccines, social distancing, bias in main stream media) – in a way that gave me some lightness, and a sense of compassion for myself and for those around me struggling with the same issues. An enlightening week indeed.
Boomer social media:
Sam Harris app Boomer uses: https://wakingup.com/
Micro habits: http://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change