I have always loved finding secrets in the world. By “secret” I mean something I believe has truth but is not widely accepted or well known in mainstream thinking. The word secret may not be exactly the right fit but it has the right feel. The following are among my favorite (and disclosable) secrets I have encountered over the years. Some of you will be privy to these. Some of you will feel your blood pressure rise with skepticism.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

I remember my heart pounding when I watched UFC 1. For the first time we would see fighters from the various differing and siloed martial arts compete against each other. The fighting world was turned upside down and forever altered by the success of Royce Gracie utilizing the beautiful and effective art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Royce would be on his back underneath his opponent in what looked like a vulnerable position. And then surprisingly he would easily win with a choke or an arm bar submission.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was developed by brothers Helio and Carlos Gracie. I consider them geniuses. They recognized a simple fact — that most fights eventually end up on the ground. And so they focused and refined their art to be highly effective in this scenario. Most martial artists ignored this fact and as a result they were helpless against a skilled Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner.

If you were lucky enough to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu prior to the early 90s you were privy to this wonderful secret and would have a significant advantage in any one on one fight. It allowed a smaller and weaker but more knowledgable practitioner to dispose of larger and stronger opponents. The secret was revealed to the world in the early UFCs and now every MMA fighter incorporates ground fighting into their repertoire.

Ben Hogan’s Secret

Ben Hogan’s swing is something beautiful to behold. There is a grace and perfection to it that is beyond description. He is widely regarded as the best ballstriker the world of golf has ever seen. His swing is also very unique and there are very few people who come close to swinging in a similar fashion.

Ben Hogan always claimed that he had a secret that he discovered which allowed him to strike a golf ball with effortless accuracy and power. He supposedly revealed this secret in a Life Magazine article. However, many believe that he did not reveal the full secret in the article or his books. There’s a little corner on the internet with golf enthusiasts who have intensely heated arguments about his secret. Many books have also been written on the subject. I personally believe he was a genius and he did find the secret to golf but I don’t think anybody has been able to solve this puzzle (at least publicly).

I spent 10 years of my life trying to find his secret on my own with zero success. In fact my golf swing deteriorated during the process. I’m a very terrible golfer in general and have little athletic talent (and the yips) so that has been a big hindrance in my search. I have an intuition that his secret was something he did in his setup prior to taking the club away as opposed to something he tried to perform during the swing itself. I believe his swing was perfectly preset in such a way that he just had to swing the club back and through without thinking or performing any manipulations. Although I have mostly given up the search, every once in a while I get an idea to try and go test it out. And inevitably, I abandon it as another failed idea. Perhaps some day.

Update: I may have finally figured it out after 14 years for golf and in general.

Bitcoin

I learned about bitcoin from a posting on an ex-google employee investing board. A friend whose opinion I respect, mentioned that it was the most asymmetric investment opportunity he had ever seen. This meant that while bitcoin may have had a pretty high chance of going to zero, if it succeeded its value could turn out to be very very high.

Bitcoin is very complicated to understand and requires an understanding of computer science, an understanding of what gives something value, and probably a healthy dose of dissatisfaction with the current financial system. If you were a computer scientist gold bug you probably had the best chance of appreciating the potential of bitcoin.

It was eye opening to see the reaction of mainstream economists and financial experts to bitcoin. There were very many of these so-called experts (from famous economists, to academics, to industry titans) who expounded on bitcoin with an air of authority and confidence. However, I could easily tell that they generally had absolutely no idea what they were talking about and did not understand the mechanics of bitcoin at all. Since then I have learned to keep an open mind in questioning narratives pushed by mainstream thought.

I believe the cryptocurrency movement is going to radically change society in a way that few people appreciate right now (although this seems to be changing). And how crazy is it that we still don’t know the identity of Satoshi?

Psychedelics

A few years ago, my friends Mike and Shin recommended that I read a book called How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollen. The book documents the current resurgence in the use of psychedelics for treating psychological disorders. There is mounting evidence that psychedelic therapy has incredible benefits for treating disorders like PTSD and depression. Johns Hopkins just recently received a large grant and opened up a center to focus on exploring the benefits of these profound medicines.

I had grown up sheeplike drinking the kool-aid and lumping most drugs as being equally bad and destructive. LSD and psilocybin were right down there with heroin and meth. But now I realize there is something special about psychedelics. These drugs have been used for spiritual purposes throughout history and across many cultures. There is something profound and I believe potentially very beneficial when they are used in the right manner. MDMA and psilocybin will likely be approved as prescription drugs within a few years.

After reading the Pollen book, I wanted to explore these personally. I was lucky enough to find an amazing guide and have experienced a few journeys. While some of them have been very difficult, they have helped me rewire my mind in a positive direction. I’m also possibly going to visit Rythmia in Costa Rica next year.

However, I caution anybody interested, to do their own research. These drugs are not to be treated lightly and can be abused.

Nonduality

Windhover at Stanford

This one is going to sound somewhat out there.

I recently attended a conference in San Jose called SANDs where I met a fellow named Akilesh Ayyar. He introduced me to the concept of nonduality. After a deep dive the last few months, I’m now of the opinion that there is a profound truth here.

Nonduality is basically another term for nirvana, enlightenment, liberation, moksha, realization. It’s a concept that seems to be common among segments of many different spiritual traditions (Advaita Vedanta and Dzogchen for example). Aldous Huxley describes this in his book The Perennial Philosophy. These terms carry a lot of baggage though and probably will turn off a large number of people. Sam Harris has recently been trying to bring this concept into the secular mainstream with his book Spirituality Without Religion and his podcast and app Waking Up.

I believe you can view nonduality from a secular and psychological standpoint. One way to look at it is as the opposite of depression. In depression, your awareness is intricately tied up with your negative thought patterns. With nonduality, you try to pull your awareness as far away from these thought patterns as possible so you can experience greater internal peace.

One thing I have noticed is that many of the proponents of nonduality are extremely intelligent and eloquent. I have been a very left brained person my entire life and have applied my logical mind and intense focus and effort to very scientific and logical endeavors such as computer programming. If you are interested in studying consciousness, you can take this same logic and effort and try to apply yourself with a scientific approach by studying the brain. However, you have direct access to one consciousness only and that is your own consciousness. So I feel that the practice of nonduality is to take that same logic and effort and turn it inwards into your own mind.

Nonduality is not just a philosophy but an actual meditative practice. In the last decade or so, mindfulness meditation has moved into the secular mainstream. Usually you perform mindfulness meditation at a particular time as a sitting meditation. The meditation for nonduality is something that you perform with effort throughout the entire day. Vedanta describes two practices — self inquiry and surrender. Loch Kelly recently wrote a book called Effortless Mindfulness in which he is trying to promote the practice of this new kind of meditation.

I personally have already experienced some benefits from practicing the nondual type of meditation. This has given me an intuition that there is something special and true here. Be warned though — you may realize something shocking about yourself and reality that is beyond words and will completely shatter and transform your perception of life. To learn more you can read my article Nonduality Algorithms.

Seeker