Michael Pollan — Exploring the Frontiers of Psychedelics (#365)

Photo by Ken Light

“An overactive ego is a tyrant.”
– Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan (@michaelpollan) is the author of seven previous books, including Cooked, Food Rules, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and The Botany of Desire, all of which were New York Times bestsellers. A longtime contributor to The New York Times Magazine, he also teaches writing at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley where he is the John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Science Journalism. In 2010, TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

His newest book is How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, which will be available as a paperback in May.

And if you haven’t yet, check out “Trip of Compassion”, which is the most compelling movie I’ve seen in the last year. It documents one unusual approach to healing trauma that might astonish you, an innovative treatment involving the psychoactive drug MDMA (commonly known as “ecstasy”). As you will see firsthand, if the therapy is well designed, true rebirth and transformation can happen in a matter of weeks and not years. Find out more by clicking here.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.

Want to hear another episode that explores science and psychedelics? — Listen to my conversation with Paul Stamets, an intellectual and industry leader in the habitat, medicinal use, and production of fungi. Stream below or right-click here to download.

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Michael Pollan:

Website | Twitter | Facebook


  • What are psychedelics? [08:05]
  • Why are so many declaring a renaissance in the field of psychedelic research, and what caused the dark age preceding it? [10:46]
  • Psychedelic applications Michael finds most promising. [16:30]
  • How do the effects of these substances linger long after their physical presence in the body? [22:33]
  • What compounds have most captured Michael’s curiosity, and why? [28:41]
  • Have any of Michael’s psychedelic excursions had a lasting effect? [33:37]
  • Michael describes his guided high-dose psilocybin experience and brush with ego death. [36:00]
  • What is the opposite of spiritual? [46:25]
  • What kind of pushback — and support — has Michael received since How to Change Your Mind was published? [47:34]
  • While some medical professionals decry psychedelic therapies as unquantifiable by science, Michael points out a lot of currently accepted treatments are equally mysterious. [52:25]
  • What is the default mode network (DMN), and what are the pros and cons of having an ego? [55:45]
  • A look at the path forward for therapeutic access to psychedelics: from federal approval to financing. [59:50]
  • While current press seems positive about the merits of psychedelic therapies, what can we do to avoid a ’60s-style public backlash and subsequent dark age? [1:05:28]
  • Are psychedelics physiologically safer than Tylenol? What are the psychological risks? [1:07:49]
  • What progress has been made in the acceptance of psychedelics as a topic of mainstream discussion since How to Change Your Mind was published? [1:11:32]
  • Psychedelics are not a panacea: a look at what they’re good — and probably not so good — at treating. [1:14:12]
  • In this field of study that’s so woefully underfunded, where might a potential investor best allocate their funds? [1:18:11]
  • Two recent documentaries anyone interested in this field should see. [1:25:27]
  • Worthwhile resources Michael recommends. [1:27:03]
  • How to find a guide for whatever journeys you may decide to take. [1:29:24]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:34:06]


Posted on: March 21, 2019.

Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.

Who was interviewed? Here’s a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.

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