DiscoverThe Tim Ferriss Show#245: The Magic, Misdirection, and Mindset of David Blaine

#245: The Magic, Misdirection, and Mindset of David Blaine

Update: 2017-06-08
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David Blaine (@davidblaine) is an American magician, illusionist, and endurance artist. He is best known for his high-profile feats of endurance and has set and broken several world records.

A while back, he taught a group of TEDMED attendees and me how to hold our breath for longer than Harry Houdini's lifelong record of three minutes and thirty seconds -- which still pales in comparison to David's own record of just over seventeen minutes.

This episode comes from the premiere of my new television show Fearless. If you want to watch the entire first episode, you can see it for free at att.net/fearless. (To watch all episodes, please visit DIRECTV.  Don't worry if you've seen it or plan on seeing it because we recorded three hours of material and only one was used for the show. This episode is almost all bonus content that you won't see on the show. Please enjoy!

Show notes and links for this episode can be found at www.fourhourworkweek.com/podcast.

This episode is brought to you by Exo Protein. These guys are making protein bars using cricket protein powder. Before you look disgusted, I bet they taste better than any protein bar you've ever had before! With recipes that were developed by a three-Michelin-star chef, the bars are paleo-friendly, with no gluten, no grains, no soy, no dairy, and they won't spike your glycemic response. In fact, they're less processed than any other protein bars you'll be able to find.

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starred chef and two Ivy League grads they have made a line of protein bars that war I think really blow your mind and so my friends were journalists even tested them with glucose monitors to see with the glucose response is because they have little bitty cars in them and it was flat line provoked no huge glucose or insulin response whatsoever so there you go you have that they combine the cricket protein with simple ingredients like cocoa all in butter and sew and create a bar that takes just about every box you could possibly care about gluten free soy free dairy free low glycemic no refined sugar the list goes on they're my go to bars and for all of you guys listening X is offering a sampler pack of their four most popular flavors for less than ten dollars while supplies last and that's not an infomercial while supplies last the last time there on the podcast the sold out in about a week I recommend checking out their startup very limited supplies go to X O protein dot com X O P R O T and dot com ports I still need can be one of the first to try the future of protein to check it out so protein come forward slash the podcast is brought to buy for Sig Matic I reached out to these Finnish folks young entrepreneurs very talented after a Acrobat introduced me to one of their products which is mushroom coffee the specific one includes China in lion's mane and it knocked my socks off I highly recommend if you try it you start with half a packet it's very strong and light up like a Christmas tree in the best way possible people always ask me what I use for cognitive enhancement and for them right now this is the answer I try to force this on all my houseguests is a hell of a thing if I have employees or people come over who are working on projects with me I always try to feed them because I'm going to get the limitless of fact I get a lot more out of them the first time I mentioned this product and for Sig Matic on the podcast their products sold out in less than a week so you may want to check them out soon if you're listening to this and the coffee tastes like coffee it takes just seconds to prepare with hot water and oddly enough only includes forty milligrams of caffeine so it has less than half of what you'd get a regular cup of coffee I don't get any jitters acid reflux or any stomach burn any of that it's very and very very cool so if you don't like caffeine they also offer very strong the caffeine free mushroom lectures which I will sometimes have in the evening I find Tioga specifically to be very very grounding and earthy so that is another option and I have a cupboard full of their products at the motor is right around the corner my kitchen you can try something new try sample pack which is great also right now by going for Sig Matic dot com ports iced him that's for cinematic F O U R S a GMAT I see dot com ports iced him and use the code it empty I am to twenty percent off of your first order another expensive anyway if you're in the experimental mindset I do not think you'll be disappointed to try the the this is to embarrass and welcome to another upset of that impair show where does my job to deconstruct world class performers whether they are entertainers like Jamie Foxx military like General Stan McChrystal or choco will link strategies like Just wait everybody in anyone in between who is the best of what they do in this episode is no different it is a bit of a hybrid I am interviewing it the master illusionist and endurance artist you have asked for four years David Blaine and it is a really fun conversationalist I had a blast and it is composed of outtakes what does that mean well these are bits and pieces it's about ninety percent of it is from a TV show that I felt and that we filmed for three hours and got cut down to an hour long TV episode and you can see this episode on a TV show called fearless and you can see the entire episode which does not really overlap with this audio at a T T dot net for slash fearless and I highly recommend the check it out people have been really buzzing about it and that this is all extras so you will hear all sorts of stories and bonus bits that didn't make it and we jump around quite a lot to various conversations stories and lessons with David and the very first conversation begins with the two of us talking about my second book for our body and learning to hold my breath which he taught me at the Ted med conference ages ago and I went for Macs press hold of forty five seconds to three minutes in thirty seconds or slightly longer so I am going to try to keep this somewhat short but two things number one I would love to check out the TV show the entire season is filmed and that you can find out where you can see all the episodes at Tim dot log fort slash fearless it steamed up log for such fearless and has trailers all the guests everything else and if you want to see the entire first episode at least for short period of time with David Blaine just go to E T T dot net for slash fearless and there are some issues it seems viewing it with Chrome to try Safari or Firefox or something else and that is it so hope you enjoy this conversation experience as much as I did please say hi David on the socials he's easy to find blame the L A I N E He does not disappoint thank you the the eye the most embarrass this stage will be deconstructing world class performers of all different types and cover the specific tactics and strategies they've used overcome doubt tackle the hardest decisions and ultimately succeed on their own terms let's take a look at my guests by the Numbers seventeen minutes four seconds his world record setting breath hold people believe that it's true forty four days telling survive without food in a plexiglass box fifty three hours forty two minutes and fifteen seconds amount of time spent encased in a block of ice for nearly twenty years he has risked his life for your entertainment please welcome to the stage world renowned illusionist and endurance artist David Blaine I I I I I uh uh uh the uh the the that he wrote about it here but I did which was super excited about the second edition of the poll had to pull it ok let me explain to them it turns out the I guess if you have an audience of X number of people with its million people one of every thousand is not going to the directions so I had people who just were the warnings but what made you want to put it in the book so badly is that it takes this impossible I can't do X then just obliterate that I remember his very next time after that and I paid a lot of attention your performances that are tracking you lot were close like a stalker creepy way but in a very diligent family and we knew that I don't wear was might have been at the summit events in DC but I sat down I noticed he had a tax you on the euphoria yes numbers here was numbers it's Primo levees Holocaust numbers he's he's one of my favorite writers because even though he went to such a terrible and her effect experience he wrote about it without any bias actually it's almost like you recorded a video camera and just documenting what he went through and the concentration camp and because he was a chemist he didn't look at new or different than me or this not as different than the stew elected everybody is biological composition of molecule you know everything is just a part of life so therefore he just studied humanity and it's it's one of its most atrocious incidents and he would say he would write things that you wouldn't by the way he started to write this book as soon as he got out his arm was working he immediately knew he was able to write he immediately began to write and people didn't believe him and because of the Holocaust still made up time and he would say things that because he was a chemist so before he went to Auschwitz it was a great canvas to paint factors where he worked but he would observe what certain people did to survive so he explained like you have to sleep with your head here your feet here you have your full packed like sardines basically anyone explain that somebody that might survive would be the guy laying in the box and I could listen to the level of the latrines the trains were being you know for the toilets in the middle of a Bach and when you would share between was filled to the top if you were able to sleep just enough but stay awake enough that you could listen when it was full to the topic say to the two people to your side if you have to go the bathroom don't go now and he would say that because he would listen to the level of latrines know how full it was and if they would have to go to the bathroom then they'd have to go empty it two miles away and while walking they would spill the urine and crap all over their feet and so when they came back and you had to sleep with your head next you get sick and we get second to camp you're killed you've done so was like he would explain things that you never think about in them when he became a very respected writer like pho broth and a towel covering all these guys say he's one of the most important non fiction writers of all time low he went back to working in the factories never moved out of the apartments Reno Italy that he grew up on he never travel for leisure use a really impressive and interesting person I remember asking you what you learn from the books I noticed the tattoo then you mention the books would you learn everything else I think I need to buy books so I went out and bought if this is a man in the true vine goes on to tell you guys talk about beautiful insightful writing I think highlights in that book alone for the next ten combined my shelf I still have it facing out of my books of living with a minor and actually read it when you open your refrigerator you're never going to think about food or anything saying wait a while look it's kind of like the stoic philosophers like Mark is really so these people they use negative visualization do with that is they imagine the worst possible scenario so let's say somebody has a daughter he's going to imagine that tomorrow his daughter might die and he might not see her ever again so therefore the time that he's with his daughter he's going to be very connected to ease I could be looking to his iPhone or watching TV is going to be paying full attention to it which is I think an amazing point of view where is the father that assumes oh my daughter's going to outlive men should be here forever when they're together he might be sitting there staring at the TV or reading the newspaper and not really giving her full attention so and it's also the same way he thinks like a glass of water so I think like instead of saying like oh this glass is half empty book while Lucky the water not just my luck in the water but haven't in a glass of actually will hold it and I'm not going to get lead poisoning from this class is going to be clean and skin taste good so it's like that's that's kind of what I learned from the other hand I've been on top of that is mention the start which is where my favorite topics ought not talk about the next like sending our guys but the fact that they viewed it as practice it was it was treatable it was a regular practice The and you have one hell of a collection of people considered pretty strange practices to talk about Coulter second so if this is correct with is not accurate but I know they're Hamilton and those guys Laird is the undisputed king of big wave surfing and he's married to Gabby Reece is equally impressed with Amy's killer Bible Clair amazing parents and they have these workouts at their house and in Southern California is not the words of a custom pool with stairs that go down the bottom and people do weight training under water among other things and then they have an ice bath which is a realize that you get and you have to wedge yourself through the eyes of the ice bath this on a twenty degrees they cycle through all three of these remember one point somebody that was workouts that are managed event here last week off was here when Hoff was called The Iceman is Dutch dare devil is twenty something World Records for his incredible ice exposures exert myself for two hours climb climb climb to altitude Everest in boots and shorts nothing really impressive guy lotta Love has a record swimming under these women rise in sales revenue for me and are not recommended by the way no matter how good your eyesight might seem that I was told that you guys started trading ideas and then start doing all sorts of wacky stuff is that what happened oh yeah we had fun but I actually never tried holding my breath under water and ice which you know i could i can resist really cold temperatures for pretty good amount of time but I do I always thought ok so when I first tried to learn how to hold my breath I actually read about the boy that fell under the ice river and he was trapped for forty five minutes he blacked out they pull them up and it was brought to full recovery smashed my initial thinking was okay if I put myself in a really in an ice pack and I dropped my core temperature that I'll be able to hold my breath long but it was before I really learn the technique so I got and I spent shivering and I tried to do the brothel that was in Boston but that was years ago but then when I hung out with them he was like let's let's try let's let's try this way and I did it his way under the ice bath and it was incredible what was his trick was that the breathing before her did you something else you know what it is here's what is it when you see somebody else do it right it's like you suddenly realize Oh wait there's a way to do the van you can push yourself to do things that you don't think are possible because you've seen somebody else to alter universe holding then suddenly on their breath holding and I remember interviewing robbery as he has no director writer everything extreme where he studies artist lusting artists and fans artist a German artist anyone figure out how does that actually flew all the way over to Europe sat the nest again given the lessons of the guys doing this like a dash of the chin a dash of the nose news have you know which one is next Robert you don't it's different every time the Roberts like what the hell I flew all the way here this is my last teaching me and then he sat down eat right and he can do just because he saw someone do it and it was possible now in his subconscious my items away ice on the flip that and talk about fire so rewind the clock how did you have one or multiple homes burn down the cave had three three fires in buildings lived and so by I mean obviously we got out but two of the money from Wake Up Mother carried me out running down the stairs and I didn't see any of it just found out the next day to lose you lose your stuff or Yeah and that's why I have so few pictures and stuff like that one child who is from those fires I have a handful of others but collection of photos did you did that affect how you relate to material possessions or my mother never really placed high value on material possessions things she taught me that she tied for the fire yet to talk a little bit about potentially using coal to hold your breath for longer and then he mentions fast well wait a whole doesn't it doesn't help to hold longer but it's an interesting concept that you can hold your breath lawyer trees so the fasting I also read Kafka The Hunger Artist and The Hunger Artist guys a dime circus performer and nobody wants to see him and he doesn't show in the body of her shows up see the sides is a little cage and he's going to go I think for a month or month and a half without food forty days I think about food and he gets the occasion to start fasting and people start to come and then as he starts asking for your skin is going in and crowd start to come at the end of the Kafka story there's tons of people are but he's gone from all the weight of the area but it was in a Kafka explains the whole curve of doing one of those things and really poetic and interesting way I think that plus a curiosity plus I just love like the kind of your brain changes because of not thinking about what you know like we spent a lot of time during their planning our next meal but Miami later my now in Miami tonight and we take that away because you know we that we are able to go a long time I don't recommend that you think we can go very long time without shoe and when you take that away it's like your brain starts to see things and really beautiful way actually we have a mutual friend fantastic staff comedian actor named Brian Cowen and welcome back to Brian but questions was or suggested topics to explore was suffering because you grow you had asked for her and Anna recently I found out that I have my my right coronary artery I've never said this but it takes in the regular path between my order or to my pulmonary artery so it's getting it's the noses of deeper sense to know so my heart it's basically the sum of blood flow but you get anybody yet so it's very obviously the same time I think that might be why I'm able to hold my breath for an extended period of time before I started training if you were to describe say how you interacted with other kids teachers or otherwise we like I was hyperactive little weird but I I mean that's not why we're here today is on the inside of that but there is we didn't have as much medication I wouldn't mind not the way they love going to do about it in how we do is get those definitely not hyperactive she was like your polar opposite as for the time I think it was kind of similar surge serious I love magic of learning I love reading Young had the bill the lava walls really quick in Brooklyn in the late seventies it was tough it was a tough environment for them so I learned how to defend myself I would take the subway alone to school and I was five or six I was much more mature probably as a kid and now I was also the kid that would get really good grades but then the teacher Mark class clown parent teacher conference neither I said and get it why does these great cause us to the lottery and she's like well he's he's a bit of a clown II was a crazy kid I know I I read from wrong to trade punches with kids walk to school in shorts and where can I talk about that somewhere I guess you must pay to how did you decide to do any of that wall no the lungs of the barefoot in snow running I had a karate teacher also the YMCA and imprints means and he for some reason it is likely Lord don't let nobody liked it so he would run barefoot through the snow and I were just too wet and then I started doing things like that on my own and then I would go all winter which T shirts on and I kind of liked and or a yeah so that's what led to that is so curious I had a couple weird things that I would do just to see if I could endure it was of the run in schools the only sport and being able to play with any success dressings is weak but I got my ass kicked up into like six credits I did we're hoping things to try to cut down on bullying like Hannah I moved my hand flat on table due to some people get the hand or outdo the bishop move and you like OK I get his ass but he's just crazy enough that will go after easy target but what led to the The enduring the cold remember decided to do that or is it justice after Prince's includes well known now to think about it technically speaking my mother got remarried about ten years old moved to New Jersey and her husband was always worried about in a sickening things like that so he would always on layered up so I think part of like my rebellion against having to follow any specific directions was to go around and wonder of the future the will definitely come back to mom because she's such a critical piece puzzle of which introduces you to show us my mother had a boyfriend at the time is now my Godfather and he taught me chess was really young and I think my biological father might of also but I don't know because I see him much when you draw it and that and the chase was sort of thinking if your master of misdirection and we can certainly talk about that that is similar to that developed there that come later what I mean I you know deck of cards has something different you know you can shop for back and the odds of shuffling in the same order you should have and you know trillion people shuffling cards for years and years and years will never match same or insist they are so many algorithms and mathematical features built into cars and as a magician that's that's what we use in the beginning so it's like the first tricks are served them with cards are simple mathematical tricks and my mother would go crazy once I started to really want to learn different things and started working I think that was the love of math I think the love of science logic chess I think it will all current year and when did it become and it just gather steam Stanley from their or their particular inflection points for you I just got working on it working I'm still working out of the same voice of non stop learning new things and trying things and becoming obsessed and outs of the we learn a lot environment to learn so much about performance because you learn sth and i guess it's related to the salesman ship almost like you learn if you're too close to the people who are sitting up to me one of the magic the two closer kind of like they're like that in a person's right but if you're too far away the kind that will throw you way very easily so there's like that balance point that you learned how close you need to be to the table who approach first do the magic that they're engaged and have them and I think they're somewhat Psychology applied to that last minute making the right person at the table see walk in a restaurant to get out of the personal space figured out how to be from the alphas in jail and then you politics or so you go to a table in a restaurant he said picking the right person had to pick the right person it's so hard to explain that a spider sense yeah it's like asking you a thousand times when it rejected me of times you start to learn it's amazing I heard a rumor the scandal story that when you work as a waiter at some point he would give you tips and give back the money that is why you did your research you did it because I would imagine just as I'd like to do to match it so they would often leave I was working at a health food restaurant New York but back then unlike ninety wasn't it was the only one was called Sue Ann and I would do magic to the people and they would leave me like fifty percent Off hundred percent double the bill and to give it back so I would say Just give me twenty percent because I can do magic for that just come back and so they would all come back and they became regulars at the rest just an I don't want people to think that like Oh this is for this which it was the the book that blows me away beyond anything the end it's hard to explain a savant texts a month and that guy has like zero time to go to in his life was the most thing for Writer writer's dream for even though it was horrific and terrible life so savant days was the son of a surgeon in Spain He died in sixteen sixteen The Singer Shakespeare but back then you revert or so when he was a big eighteen or something he joined the military to fight for his country he got shot and was named on the left side was paralyzed on his left arm but he won the one of the Purple Hearts the king gave him a letter on their trip back home in the bow Pirates basically took them captive she was made into a slave for five years and while they were trying to get ransom because you have this letter from the Kings they thought he was so important so wealthy which was and they were just abuse and torture finally his brother got the monks raise enough money five years later she went back home and the only job that you get was as a tax collector right government giving him this job because like I have such a big heart that want a tax on mother with five babies can feed them so she wouldn't do his job the way the government want to so they put him in prison and he spent twelve years in prison mall prison instead of riding donkey hope to finish that when he got out and became the Number one bestseller in Europe that was one of the most respected books Shakespeare wrote an entire play about one character that was burned in the fire caused about Cordelia but even with all the success the publisher of screw them over so he never saw panic savant taste I completely broke and he is one of the greatest most influential writers stay but when you read the book it makes sense because the characters about a guy that wants to make the world a better place is delusional because there's no way it's very difficult to do that so he's fighting windmills are living life like getting a hundred times you read that book I was I that feels like that's okay I lie I was
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#245: The Magic, Misdirection, and Mindset of David Blaine