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Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  6,035 ratings  ·  569 reviews

CNBC and Strategy + Business Best Business Book of 2017

It’s the biggest revolution you’ve never heard of, and it’s hiding in plain sight. Over the past decade, Silicon Valley executives like Eric Schmidt and Elon Musk, Special Operators like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets, and maverick scientists like Sasha Shulgin and Amy Cuddy have turned everyth
ebook, 304 pages
Published February 21st 2017 by Dey Street Books
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Thomas I had to force my way through - usually ten pages per sitting. I don't think it was worth it. You could do just as well reading Psychology Today artic…moreI had to force my way through - usually ten pages per sitting. I don't think it was worth it. You could do just as well reading Psychology Today articles.(less)
Andy I am now on chapter 4 (again), listening to the audiobook. I finished the book and now found myself listening for a second time. Great reader and I am…moreI am now on chapter 4 (again), listening to the audiobook. I finished the book and now found myself listening for a second time. Great reader and I am finding more connections and better understanding of the theme of the book the second time through.(less)

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***I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway***

This book doesn't really say anything. It gives a lot of anecdotes about people trying to reach ecstasis through drugs, religion, music, jumping out of planes, etc...but doesn't really tie it all together into a cohesive argument. Also, it desperately needs fact checking. For example, the authors claim that more copies of 50 Shades of Grey were sold than all 7 Harry Potter books combined. A quick Google search shows that to be false. It makes me quest
May 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm a psychologist, and I was hoping this book would build on my knowledge of how to leverage empirically based principles of behavior science to enhance performance and well-being. Although I found the "altered state" information interesting (and aligned with work I'm familiar with about group dynamics and bonding), the main point of the book seemed to be: Do some drugs.

Now I'm not a puritan who casts judgment on the use of controlled substances, BUT I do think this advice is completely impract
Bernie Gourley
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in optimal mental performance and altered states of consciousness.
“Altered states of consciousness” conjures visions of rogue scientists hitting hallucinogens and then sealing themselves up in sensory deprivation tanks until they either have a breakthrough or a breakdown. This book may touch on such activities, but it’s about something else--something broader and in some sense, and yet narrower in another. What it’s about are the states of consciousness in which the part of the mind that is critical, cautioning, and always creating worst case scenarios fades i ...more
Frank Carnevale
Entertaining read, but lacks practical tips.

Maybe I came into this book with improper expectations. I kept waiting for practical steps on how to reap the benefits of ecstasis. Aside from some suggestions on how to schedule consciousness altering practices into one's life, the book lacked practical tips. I'm already convinced that a flow state is beneficial to me. I didn't need 98% of the book to convince me of that. If you need some convincing, this book is for you. If you need a practical roadm
Mario the lone bookwolf
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 0-technology
Enlightenment, intelligence enhancement, mental invulnerability through neurobiological and pharmacological tuning, ... Superhero fiction? Yes too, but in this case military and commercial research.

Please note that I have put the original German text to the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

Four ways lead to the goal. According to the severity of invasiveness psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology and finally technology.

Psychology in this context means to come to the status of
Brad B
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Stealing Fire opens with a story from ancient Greece, so surely that proves what an important book it is. The anecdote is about the mysterious, psychoactive beverage kykeon and its use during the time of Socrates. While the authors acknowledge the probable presence of the mind-altering substance ergot, they also claim “uncovering the ingredients of kykeon has become a Holy Grail kind of quest.” These guys should really learn about Wikipedia, or any of the many web sites that describe the ingredi ...more
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
People have known for a long time that there are a whole lot of ways to experience consciousness outside the every day way we experience it. Every society sorts these ways that are either acceptable or “beyond the pale” as it’s described in Stealing Fire. Up until recently, Western culture has been quite wary of anything that changes our experience of the world too drastically. Lately though, maybe since the 1950’s, this has started to shift, and in the last few years in particular, altered stat ...more
Sep 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
I was ready to give this two stars, but after getting home, I have to go with one star.

What do the following have in common? Google. Navy SEALs. Joan of Arc. Monks. Brain waves. I'm not entirely sure even after reading this.

This book is all about altered states of consciousness and cognitive enhancement....yes, that includes drugs. He then plays the "everyone who is anyone is doing it". It is entertaining enough, but I kept feeling "played" all throughout this. Every time the author wants you
Charles Franklin
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING BOOKS THAT I HAVE READ THIS YEAR! "Stealing Fire" is an exploration of man's journey through altered states of consciousness. The authors, Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler explore thins topic from a variety of perspectives that you wouldn't expect-mind gyms, exterme sports, neurotheology, Navy SEALS, mind control as well as the stuff that you would expect, mind-altering substances. The book isn't a straightforward and boring academic book, though, it's a story-dri ...more
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help
This is about altered mental states and how they improve life. It seems a little too much like a commercial for their web site and their classes. It doesn't tell you how to make any of this help in your regular, everyday suburban life. Like you can go to Burning Man, or climb mountains on the weekend with your extra time and money and then come back on Monday and everything will just be magically improved. It wasn't bad, but I didn't get out of this what I was hoping for. ...more
Mar 31, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book talks about the latest trend in using 'alternative state of mind' to make ourselves more creative, train harder or just for fun. Basically getting high, and mainly through psychedelic drugs. He explained that all the Silicon Valley elites and Davos 0.01%-ters are doing it.

The author invoked Csikszentmihalyi's 'flow' states of high performing athletes and artists which feels timeless and blissful, and is also a high-performance state. Similarly, Buddhist monks can enter similar state o
Emma Sea
Aug 03, 2018 marked it as dnf
Shelves: pn-library
this book was highly recommended to me but my concentration continually skidded away like it was Teflon-coated. dnf at p. 109
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I came across this book on recommendation from podcast, and it sounded interesting - but from the cover and initial impressions, I thought it'd be another sort of self-help "using flow state or mindfulness to be a better worker bee." While I want to be good at my job, it wasn't my main interest, but when reading it anyway, this book presented so much more! Sure, it talks about efficiency and flow states, but it explores cultural backgrounds, different paradigms and approaches - from psychedelic ...more
Alecsandra Litu
It seems like this year the typical book that falls in my hands is the one that takes your beliefs and ideas about the world, laughs at them with that "Disney witch" laughter and then smashes them with a hammer into thousands of pieces. This is one of them.

As most of my friends know, until recently I was your basic "boarding school" type of girl: no drugs, no drinking, no smoking, no coffee… (Yes, I used to do other stupid stuff, just not those ones).

So this book puts things in a whole new per
Three and a half stars, really. This title deals with the benefits of attaining a 'flow' mentality, which the authors claim has long-lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. Science has already shown that many activities discussed within provide positive effects for us, such as meditation, prayer, and the liberating "rush" of performing extreme sports. Any act which unleashes an epiphanic episode provides us with a distinct and ultimately useful view of ourselves, and by extension of ...more
Noel Burke
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: general
I have to admit, I would have likely never listened to this book had I known the premise. I thought it was going to be about technology advancements in the Navy Seal community. While I guess you could kind of make that connection, the premise is far less about them and more about how the Silicon Valley is accessing high performance through very unconventional ways. The Seal community is connected for the reason that they are studying how groups "get in the zone" and become high performing teams. ...more
Alin Pinta
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An exuberant and vital study on the neurochemistry of 'flow' and 'altered states of consciousness' that brings a modern ontological perspective on what many of us still consider shamanistic mysticism. ...more
Bogi Takács
(Just a few quick sentences, not a lengthy review...)

This was so badly fact-checked that it made me wonder if I could have asked for a refund, had it not been a library book. It just had a *lot* of random inaccuracies (no, hemp seeds are not psychoactive... the power pose research did not replicate... not all painkillers have psychological effects etc.).

Otherwise the book is basically about using spirituality to increase work efficiency when you are a businessperson - with a lot of namedropping
Wojtek Erbetowski
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
As author brings Maslow's hammer: when the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. I think that the author felt under this trap as well, seeing key role of extasy in too many domains.
On the other hand, I've got a variety of interesting stories to share, thanks to the book (especially on Burning Man).
Overall - 2 stars, as I don't really know if it will influence my life in any way.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The sociocultural importance of this book far outweighs the depth or technical accuracy of its commentary. You can find much more extensive and precise descriptions of each of the fields it covers, but what this book brings together is a holistic portrayal of a movement spanning many communities and activities. I feel this is an extremely important milestone on the path to gaining widespread acceptance of non-ordinary states of consciousness.
Raz Pirata
“When free from the confines of our normal identity, we are able to look at life, and the often repetitive stories we tell about it, with fresh eyes.”

A story as old as stories themselves is the one of a man seeking answers in altered consciousness. From Leary’s appeal to ‘tune in, turn on and drop out’ all the way back to Alcibiades theft of ‘kykeon’ humanity has chased and cherished the opportunity to ‘step out of oneself’ for pleasure, purpose or both.

With Stealing Fire - How Silicon Valley, t
Lukasz Nalepa
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-work
Wow... I can't remember previous book that made me think so much. Very, very intriguing lecture. Personally for me, the best part was beginning of the book, where most of the ideas and assumptions were introduced. I was moved to the level of really pittying the fact, that I'm not i.e. working for Google, living in California and Rave culture with a Burning Man festival is just something I can read about in such books :)

But seriously, It got me really consider meditation, mindfulness and impact t
Dima Yousef Jadaan
Oct 20, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is about ecstasis, "altered states of consciousness" and the various means through which these altered states can be achieved, such as music, religion, extreme sports, drugs, near death experiences, and technology.⁣

The book consists of 3 parts. The first part makes the case for ecstasis; how ecstasis can improve performance, inspire creativity, and accelerate learning. The authors explain the concept of ecstasis, the four traits of ecstasis, and the relationship between flow and ecsta
Steven McDonald
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
An absolutely fascinating insight into the world of ecstasis filled with explanations that anyone can understand. I've never dabbled with any form of drug, let alone anything that would elicit an "altered state" or so I thought.

The authors did a great job explaining how things like drugs, sports, meditation and prayer effect our brain's chemistry. They're also careful to list the "rules" to abide by should you want to explore an altered state.

Now that I'm done with this book I'll be spending t
Mirek Jasinski
It took me some time to read it (over a year) but it is a good book, forcing you to think and reflect. It seems that the main objective is to get more people to buy the courses but I liked most the warning at the end of the book and the conclusion. Everything in moderation. :)
Jonathan Lu
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book by the founders of the flow genome project on a topic that has consumed my mind for the last 2 years. This book presented greater background, context, and summaries of research (70+ pages of footnotes! this book is incredibly well researched) for me, a wannabe human performance junkie. I've dabbled heavily in meditation, lucid dreaming, and technological stimulation through tDCS, tACS, and gamma wavelength stimulation... I'm starting now to try a few nootropics, but have never h ...more
Kai Fawn
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I REALLY wanted to give this book a more positive review. But, as others have noted, it has some very basic issues... and one very significant character flaw for me as a female reader (oooo, foreshadowing).

First, there is little in terms of practical applicability. Yes, hedonic calendar in the last chapter, I hear you. There is also a final page directing us to the Stealing Fire book's website for additional tools. These tools are all offered as "bonuses" to a package purchase of the book, so l
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recently-read
“Some revolutions begin with a gunshot, others with a party." ...more
Gary Parker
Perhaps the most hyperbolic celebration of the trust fund class I've ever encountered, Stealing Fire is its own worst enemy. What could be a genuine effort to introduce the masses to the practical usefulness of ecstatic practices instead feels more like one long humble-brag about hobnobbing with the upper echelons of the en vogue nouveau riche - hot-tubbing with Richard Branson on his private island; hanging with disguised dignitaries at Burning Man; skiing the Utah powder with Tony Hsieh - all ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it
This is an interesting and quick read about how states of selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness, and richness (STER) can be achieved through various means and activities. As one may expect, many of these states are either unachievable due to the absence of skill or illegal due to federal and state drug laws. If you have any interest in the boundless nature of the human consciousness, I would recommend picking this up, but don't expect to get much in the way of advice. ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Please update the ISBN 2 11 Mar 07, 2019 04:18AM  

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Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and co-founder and director of research for the Flow Genome Project. His books include the non-fiction works "The Rise of Superman," "Abundance," "A Small Furry Prayer" "West of Jesus," and the novel "The Angle Quickest for Flight." His work has been translated into more than 30 languages. His articles have appeared in ...more

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