I'd always been interested in loopholes, 'cheats' and ways to get ahead. I always thought it was smart ambition. Maybe I was just lazy!
But as technology and information availability has soared in the Internet era, this whole area of success and achievement has spiralled into just part of the huge personal development industry and has its own "poster boy" sites such as lifehacker.com and lifehack.org.
As people have more and more to do - either through huge personal drive or demanding bosses - the need for new ways to "get the edge" has never been greater.
Some of the more mainstream ways of looking for that edge have been focused more on the usual "success" mainstays of optimizing productivity through the use of systems and tools. And you can see the appetite for this kind of thing that exists with the number of apps for To Do lists alone, where there are literally hundreds of variations on an already tight theme!
Apps, Rituals and Systems
And it doesn't stop at To Do apps. There is a whole host of products and services and seminars based round each part of the success eco-system. For example it's not only the area of To Do lists, there is the whole area of "rituals" that also exists.
I like rituals as a concept and discipline and I have also invested in several courses in this area - and yes it did have a positive impact on my results.
So much so that I even have my own course launching soon in this field. Founder member discounts are available here.
But still it wasn't enough, as my motivation and energy were often lacking even if I did all the rights things and systematized myself to death with rituals and affirmations and lists and all that good stuff. David Allen would still probably have given me a hard time for just not Getting Things Done.
I blame Mark Joyner personally.....
Yes the marketing legend that is Mark Joiner, founder of Simpleology (and allegedly inventor of and author of the first ever ebook) happened to get me on a hangout webinar with himself and Dave Asprey of Bulletproof coffee fame.
At that time I had never heard of Dave Asprey but that Google Hangout quite literally changed my life. His input into my lifestyle started with changes to my morning routine and worked up to encompass many other areas of my life. My mind was opened to the possibilities and effects of alternative nutrition and the nascent discipline of Bio hacking and I wanted to learn all I could about it.
The fact that Dave had spent so much money (he claims $300k) "hacking his own biology" really intrigued me and I wants to lead more. This was especially as I really like the effects of bulletproof coffee right away.
Not only did it taste really nice - like a creamy latte - but I loved the coconut oil formulation too, especially the Brain octane oil as I could feel my mind literally working faster.
And so - inspired and quite literally spurred into action by the bulletproof coffee - I went on a quest to find out more about what else was out there that had performance enhancing qualities but was preferably natural.
And that led me - naturally - to Natural Stacks.
Abelard Lindsay was the man I heard on a podcast and he was the "brains" (sic) behind his own brain supplement called Ciltep.
Now Ciltep wasn't just a supplement by itself, it was actually a Nootropic Stack which is the industry term for a combination of compounds, or nootropics in this case, that work synergistically together for even greater effect. The old concept of the "whole being greater than the sum of the parts" applied to chemistry.
So what were "Nootropics"?
Nootropics, also known as smart drugs, are substances that can enhance cognitive function and which have low to zero side effects. In fact caffeine is a nootropic, yet millions (maybe even billions) of people use it every day to help improve focus and decrease fatigue but would never consider it as a "drug".
Ciltep was recommended to be taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, so I did that, followed of course by my daily Bulleprpoof coffee. Then I jumped in the shower.
Then - Oh My God - I felt like my brain was on overdrive, spitting out what felt like one Archimedes style revelation after another. I literally couldn't wait to get out of the shower and get to work.
And then followed an amazingly productive day and lots of things crossed off my to do list. I was already in love with Ciltep. I fact I loved it so much I waned to buy the company but decided instead to just sell it from this very site and spread the love and knowledge.
So as my love of Ciltep and my knowledge of nootropics grew I started finding other things of interest related to stacks and synergies. The next nootropic on my list was a bit back to basics and was actually caffeine capsules but with added theanine, which aided focus as well as took the edge off the jitters sometimes caused by caffeine consumption. It was recommended as an addition to Ciltep and again was alleged to keep the effects of Ciltep going a bit longer throughout the day.
I have since found out that this caffeine / theanine combo is often recommended as a starter nootropic stack and I can see why. Quite simply because it is an everyday 'drug' like caffeine it is less scary and also because it does work well. It is a simple yet effective and not too far "out there" for the nootropic newbie.
And caffeine / theanine is a low cost starter as well which helps make it less of a financial risk.
It's Not Just For Business...
It's also important to add that the applications for supplements like Ciltep extent beyond business and into the realms of sport and gaming.
For example Martin Jacobson is a world champion poker player and he used Ciltep to give himsel the edge in a game where memory, focus and concentration are key to success.
Another user is AQ Shipley, the NFL player, who claims to feel more rested with Ciltep. So again it is not just a single benefit that people get from nootropics and it does depend on an individual too as to what works best and what gives best effects.
So what came next in my Nootropical exploration?
Well as always with these things, you become more aware of the information around you on a subject as your interest grows. I found a lot of j formation on Reddit.com who have a whole "subreddit" devoted to nootropics, and I became aware of more business people using them.
The what type that was flagged up to me was that I found out that a well known marketing guru was using a supplement called Cannibal Genius, just one of a range of the Cannibal- branded line of products. As well as some well-known vitamins and natural herbal ingredients, the main nootropic in this formulation is Noopept which has had some decent reviews in terms of effectiveness.
As I searched online for a stockist that was preferably UK-based , there were none I could easily find and in fact the only one that had a .uk email address was actually based in Poland!
So I ordered anyway and a few days later my package arrived. On opening the jar packed with blue pills I initially thought they looked more like some kind of viagra (which was not really my need at this point in my life) but tried them anyway.
My experience of Cannibal Genius has been OK but not as powerful or as sustained as other nootropics IN MY EXPERIENCE AND WITH MY BIOLOGY.
Now that last phrase is key; because as with anything that is ingested or taken, each individual experience can be very different.
I mean the same is true about even everyday 'drugs' such as alcohol and we all know the friends who can behave really differently after a few drinks where some of them get sad, some get happy, some get aggressive and so on.
So Cannibal Genius is not my perfect nootropic but it did have a stimulating effect (which is what ultimately my main need is). But it was not as good for me as Ciltep. So, what next?
The Limitless Life
The next stop on my journey was when I found out more about Modafinil. This was one of the major types I found discussed on the forums and in many countries it needs a prescription to get it. Now I am not recommending you go and take it without medical advice and research, as I am not a doctor, just a reporter.
As with literally anything new that you put in your body it is important to run it past a doctor.
But with that said, it has worked really well for me and I am not the only fan. Here's what it says at Dave Asprey's site over at bulletproofexec.com :
"When I first started taking modafinil, I felt more like myself than I had in years. I took it just about every day in varying doses for 8 years (with a physician’s prescription). It gave me energy and changed my life. I would not be the biohacker I am today without modafinil.
"There’s a slight risk (about 5 in a million people) of having a life-threatening immune reaction to modafinil. It’s the same reaction that happens with ibuprofen and other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), so if you know you don’t react well to NSAIDs, talk to your doctor before taking modafinil."
There is more information at Dave's page here.
There are many unknowns with any nootropics but from what I have researched there is very little evidence of major side effects from modafinil use.
And Modafinil was also the drug that NZT from the film Limitless was allegedly based on, so I was certainly intrigued to try it.
So what is Modafinil and what does Modafinil do for me and others?
Well it is a wakefulness agent and short term cognitive enhancer. It was originally designed for people with narcolepsy, to help them stay awake longer.
It makes me more focussed and productive, and it does help me stay alert and capable of work later at night as i am feeling less tired. It is great for knocking out tasks or doing involved work such as coding or long content tasks that really need sustained concentration.
It can be a bit of a slow burn to get going though, as it sometimes will not fully take effect for about 2-3 hours.
In terms of tolerance it is early days for me to say. Some people say that it loses potency when done every day and that 3 days a week is optimum. Others, such as Dave Asprey above, used it daily for many years.
But, as with anything, it is not universally great among the bio-hacking community. About 25% of users seem to have negative experience with it, such as headaches, over stimulation or conversely brain fog of some kind. I have occasionally felt a headache come later in the day and can sometimes feel an effect almost like blood rushing faster through the side of my head but that is the limit of my negative experience.
And there have been some interesting rumours of high profile modafinil users online and in print, such as the story at: https://modafinilstar.com/celebrities-who-uses-modafinil/ which is one of several articles to suggest that Modafinil is even used at the very top level of the White House!
Students Are Heavy Users
And from Washington we move to the dreamy spires of Oxford in the UK. An online survey in 2014 by the students website The Tab showed that almost 1 in 5 students (out of a sample of almost 2000 UK students), has taken Modafinil to enhance their studying. There was a particularly high incidence of use at Oxford University where 26% of students in the survey claimed to be Modafinil users.
Interestingly enough, of these student Modafinil users, 9% think it is "cheating" but they still continue to use it. Sounds a bit like drug use in athletics in that respect!
So in summary it's been an amazingly interesting and eye opening journey through different experiences of a range of nootropics. Of the types I have tried, I will continue to use most of them - depending on my specific needs and situations - as I think it is good to mix up different supplements to stop any possibility of dependence or decrease in effectiveness through over use.
Do I agree it's like cheating? Maybe in exams it is, but not in my own business. I'm trying to be my "best self" and anything that can help me get through more work, while also giving me some great insights and ideas, can only be a good thing.
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