I've been a huge fan of the Joe Rogan podcast for a while now. Joe Rogan is a comedian and he's also that guy you might know from Fear Factor or hosting UFC fights. His podcast is called The Joe Rogan Experience and it's basically these two, maybe three hour conversations between Joe and a couple other people. The people that go on the show are from all walks of life, from scientists and professors to comedians and artists. It's the most sincere and honest source of entertainment I know and the passion of the people on the podcast is something I think I've only seen rivaled in big sports events and amazing movies or TV shows.
Anyways, Joe has never hidden his love for his isolation tank. What's an isolation tank you may ask? Well, it's a closed chamber filled with water heated to body temperature. The water has 800 lbs of epsom salt dissolved in it, which makes you float in the water. If you've ever been to the Dead Sea, you get the idea. The tank is pitch-black and dead silent. The combination of the water temperature, the salt concentration, and the complete darkness results in complete sensory silence, leaving only your thoughts; another name people have for the tank is a sensory deprivation tank.
For the longest time, I've been scared of trying out the experience of the isolation tank. It sounded claustrophobic and overall just seemed weird. But Joe spoke so highly of the tank on his podcast that I had to understand what was so great about it. Also, a friend of mine recently floated and he said I would love it. Since you can only learn by doing, I went ahead and booked a 10am session for 90 minutes in the tank. Funny enough, there's a yoga/health spa a few blocks from where I live so I just walked over there.
Here's how it works. You leave all your clothes and stuff in a locker, shower down, and walk over to the tank. You get in the tank, close the lid, and lay down with your head on the far end of the tank (also the same end of the tank where the fresh air is pumped in). It's by far the weirdest enviroment I've ever experienced and it took me a good few minutes to get comfortable.
The weightlessness in the tank makes you slide within the tank like a Hockey puck on ice. A tiny push off the wall sends you gliding within the tank. The hardest part about the physical sensation is that your muscles are essentially useless. My arm even fell asleep towards the end of the float, which was pretty odd because no pressure was being exerted on it (although you could say gravity was pulling down and the saltwater was pushing up).
About 10 minutes into the float, I became still and found myself in a comfortable position. At that point the whole idea of being in a tank just disappeared and my mind went totally quiet. I felt like a painter staring at a blank canvas, trying to figure out what I'm about to draw. Naturally, I started thinking about my life. My friends, my work, my move to San Francisco, college, family, all of it. I replayed the happiest moments of my life and drew on those experiences to decide what to think about next. It blew my mind how vulnerable I am on a daily basis to thinking about things driven by other people. The tank had none of that. I was in full control of what I was thinking about and had 100% of my brain devoted to one thought at a time, which essentially means you're zoomed in and can play around with any idea. All the while, you're floating in darkness, silence, and weightlessness.
I came to some pretty insightful realizations about myself in the tank. For one, my experiment with deactivating my Facebook account was a total act of weakness. Rather than learning to harness the good aspects of Facebook and ignore the negative sides of it, I decided to put the thing away altogether. This was the wrong approach; the site is an awesome way to curate memories, experiences, and relationships. I'm going to reactivate as soon as I'm done writing this.
Another realization I had was about this blog. I started it with no main clear purpose but just as an avenue for me to put thoughts down and see what happens. I think the blog took a pretty preachy and cynical tone recently, and as you know I haven't been writing as much. I think the problem has been my tendency to establish extremely firm beliefs through the blog, and then I'd feel committed to defend those positions in my mind, ultimately disabling true flexibility on the topics I write about. Basically, I've been writing one way speeches rather than trying to get a conversation started. Which leads to my next point.
I'm going to continue writing the blog when I have something to share, but I'll be writing with a more curious and open tone. I don't know everything, not even close to it. This is a good forum for me to learn more, not just to share what I know.
I noticed a certain pattern in my behavior. I enjoy both playing soccer and watching it. I enjoy reading as well as writing. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actor probably becaused I loved movies. I gravitate towards working on things I enjoy (duh, right?). What I mean is I want to build things I enjoy using. Perfect example is the TEDxUF conference. I dedicated a little under a year of my life to producing the whole event, likely because I just enjoyed watching TED Talks. Amazingly, that simple hobby of mine turned into the largest TEDx conference on the East Coast, with a budget of $20k and 1,200 people in attendance.
After reconciling these parts of my life, my brain moved on, "okay, so what's next?"
The first thing that popped in mind is working on a new project. The blog is fun, but I want something more interactive.
Low hanging fruit: I love Joe Rogan's podcast, why not try to start my own?
It would be an unbelievable amount of fun to host a weekly 2-hour podcast and host interesting people and talk about random stuff. Searching for potential speakers for TEDx, I sat with complete strangers for hours at a time and tried to piece their life together.
I asked Jacob, a Lost Boy of Sudan, what it was like crossing a river filled with crocodiles in order to escape the murderous killing machines chasing him. I asked Dr. Okun and Dr. Foote what it's like to drill into someone's brain, insert an electrode, and fix a malfunction. I asked Michael what it was like to teach in Cambodia. I asked Kristen what it was like building the largest maid service in Gainesville, all starting from her wanting to buy an expensive pair of jeans.
I asked Dr. Ford what it was like looking at the stars as a little kid, and now being at the forefront of planetary exploration and one of the only people in the world privy to fresh data coming from the Kepler telescope.
I asked Morris what it was like being orphaned not only once, but twice, and how he overcame that to run his own motivational speaking practice. Morris is actually the one who got me energized enough to start this blog!
I asked Matt how his business is revolutionizing education in the digital age. I asked Abhi how his business is bringing back photo printing and changing the way we interact with our pictures altogether.
I asked Dr. Blachly why he loves theater, music, and why he supports cancer research. I asked John why he screwed up in college and how he recovered from that. I asked Cynthia why she cares so much about the Springs in Central Florida and how in the world that is connected to hypertext.
I ask a lot of questions, because I love hearing people's answers. You can google just about anything these days, but I don't care about that. Nothing beats a good conversation.
I was skeptical of the isolation tank, but not anymore. I had a ridiculous thinking session and left the experience supercharged with ideas. I highly recommend trying it, though I'll understand if you're hesitant.
That's all for now, folks. I'll keep you posted about the podcast.