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Stealing Fire summary

Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal

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

4 (184 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal explores how altered states of consciousness, achieved by various means, can help individuals and organizations achieve peak performance, creativity, and innovation. This book provides insights into the science and practices behind the "flow" state and its potential to transform individuals and society.

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    Stealing Fire
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    The quest for non-ordinary states of consciousness is thousands of years old.

    Nearly two and a half thousand years ago, Alcibiades, a young Greek politician and army general, threw an unforgettable party at his Athens villa. To get his guests in the mood, he served up a special drink called kykeon, which was normally reserved for a select few of Greece’s elite.

    See, this mind-expanding drink was meant to be part of an exclusive, nine-day ritual held each year called the Eleusinian Mysteries. Alcibiades wasn’t invited, but he managed to steal some kykeon anyway to ensure his own soirée was memorably wild. 

    Rumors spread. Alcibiades fled Athens and was sentenced to death in absentia for blaspheming the secrets of Eleusis. But just like the Greek myth of Prometheus, who was punished eternally for stealing fire from the gods of Olympus, Alcibiades’s fate didn’t deter those who came after him from seeking out ways to alter their consciousness. After all, he did get away with it.

    The key message here? The quest for non-ordinary states of consciousness is thousands of years old.

    We don’t know exactly what it was in kykeon that gave its drinkers such spiritual, cathartic experiences. One theory is that the barley in it was contaminated with the ergot fungus – the same one used to make LSD today. Regardless, this type of ecstasis clearly wasn’t intended for the plain Janes and average Joes of ancient Greece.

    Today, twenty-first-century Prometheans are changing that, but their own versions of kykeon take many forms.

    The authors met with all sorts of individuals – from military personnel and elite athletes to tech entrepreneurs and health-care providers. Their research showed that across the board, people are seeking ways to improve performance by changing their sense of reality and achieving some form of ecstasis.

    Trial lawyers have experimented with psychopharmaceutical drugs. Military officers have spent weeks at meditation retreats. And stock traders on Wall Street have shocked their brains into ecstasis with electrodes.

    When you add up the money we spend trying to get out of our own heads, you end up with an Altered States Economy of about $4 trillion annually. This includes legal substances like alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine; illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroin; and pharmaceuticals, psychiatric counseling, video games, action sports, music, and film. Throw in pornography and social media, and there you have it.

    But how well do we really understand the mechanics of ecstasis?

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    What is Stealing Fire about?

    Stealing Fire (2017) explores the controversial and exciting pursuit of altered states of consciousness. From tech entrepreneurs to BASE jumpers, meditators to festival-goers, it takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the revolutionary nonconformists trying to change the way they experience the world.

    Stealing Fire Review

    Stealing Fire (2017) explores the hidden possibilities of altered states of consciousness and their impact on creativity, performance, and well-being. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • By examining the use of cutting-edge technology and ancient practices, it reveals how individuals and organizations can unlock their full potential.
    • With insightful interviews and fascinating case studies, the book offers a thought-provoking exploration of human potential and the quest for peak performance.
    • It presents a new paradigm for understanding altered states and their practical applications in various fields, making it anything but boring.

    Who should read Stealing Fire?

    • Burning Man enthusiasts
    • Entrepreneurs curious about performance hacks
    • Psychology buffs interested in alternative therapies

    About the Author

    Steven Kotler is a New York Times best-selling author who specializes in human performance. He’s been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes and has appeared in over 100 publications, including the Atlantic and the Harvard Business Review. His other books include The Rise of Superman, Bold, and The Art of Impossible.

    Jamie Wheal is the founder of the Flow Genome Project, an international organization that researches human performance. He has given talks at Stanford University, Imperial College London, and the United Nations. Wheal is also the author of Recapture the Rapture.

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    Stealing Fire FAQs 

    What is the main message of Stealing Fire?

    The main message of Stealing Fire is the quest for achieving higher performance and altered states of consciousness.

    How long does it take to read Stealing Fire?

    The reading time for Stealing Fire varies, but it typically takes several hours to read the whole book. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Stealing Fire a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Stealing Fire is worth reading for its intriguing exploration of how individuals and organizations can optimize their performance and unlock their potential.

    Who is the author of Stealing Fire?

    The authors of Stealing Fire are Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal.

    What to read after Stealing Fire?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Stealing Fire, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler
    • The Art of Impossible by Steven Kotler
    • The World Beyond Your Head by Matthew B. Crawford
    • Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
    • Hyper-Learning by Edward D. Hess
    • Know Thyself by Stephen M. Fleming
    • Remote Work Revolution by Tsedal Neeley
    • Never Enough by Judith Grisel
    • Co-Intelligence by Ethan Mollick
    • Moore’s Law by Arnold Thackray