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Andrew Huberman (00:00):

Welcome to the Huberman Lab Podcast, where we discuss science and science-based tools for everyday life.


I’m Andrew Huberman, and I’m a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine. Today, my guest is Rick Rubin. Rick Rubin is credited with being one of the most creative and prolific music producers of all time. The range of artists with whom he’s worked with and discovered is absolutely staggering, ranging from artists such as LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Beastie Boys, Jesus and Mary Chain, Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Green Day, Tom Petty, System of a Down, Joe Strummer, Kanye West, Johnny Cash, Adele, and many, many more. Not surprisingly, therefore, Rick is considered somewhat of an enigma. That is, people want to know how it is that one individual is able to extract the best creative artistry from so many different people in so many different genres of music.


Well, as today’s discussion reveals, Rick’s expertise in the creative process extends well beyond music. In fact, our conversation takes us into the realm of what the creative process is specifically and generally across domains, including music, of course, but also writing, film, science, and essentially all domains in which new original thought, ideas, and production of anything becomes important. Our conversation ventures from abstract themes, such as what is creativity and where does it stem from, to the more concrete, everyday tool-based approaches to creativity, including those that Rick himself uses and that he’s seen other people use to great success. That took us down some incredible avenues ranging from a discussion about the subconscious to how the subconscious interacts with our conscious mind and how the subconscious and conscious mind interact with nature around us and within us, indeed, our conversation got rather scientific at times, but all with an eye and an ear toward understanding the practical tools that any and all of us can use in order to access the creative process. We also spend some time talking about Rick’s new book, which is all about creativity and ways to access creativity. The title of the book is, The Creative Act, A Way of Being by Rick Rubin. This is a book that I’ve now read three times from cover to cover, and I’m now reading it a fourth time because it is so rich with wisdom and information that I’m applying in multiple domains of my life, not just my work, but my everyday life. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


Rick has an incredible ability to translate his understanding of the creative process in a way that is meaningful for anybody. So if you’re in music, if you’re a musician, it will certainly be meaningful for you, but it is not about music, it is about the creative process. And so, I’m going to read this book because it is about the creative process. And so, whether or not you consider yourself somebody creative or not, or whether or not you seek to be more creative, Rick’s book in today’s conversation sheds light on what I believe to be the fundamental features of what makes us human beings. That is, what allows us, unlike other animals, to look out on the landscape around us, to examine our inner landscape, and to come up with truly novel ideas that thrill us, entertain us, entertain other people, scare us, make us cry, all the things that make life rich are essentially contained in the creative process. And to be able to sit down and learn from the Rick Rubin, how the creative process emerges in him and his observations about how it can best emerge in others, is and was truly a gift. So I’m excited to share his knowledge with you today. One thing that you’ll quickly come to notice about today’s conversation is that Rick is incredibly generous with his knowledge about the creative process. In fact, he very graciously and spontaneously, I should add, offered to answer your questions about creativity. So if you have questions about the creative process for Rick, please put those in the comment section on YouTube. And in order to make those questions a bit easier for me to find, please put question for Rick Rubin in capitals, then colon or dash, whichever you choose, and then put your question there. I do ask that you keep the questions relatively short so that I can ask Rick as many of those questions as possible. We will record that conversation and we will post it as a clip on the Huberman Lab Clips channel. Before we begin, I’d like to emphasize that this podcast is separate from my teaching and research roles at Stanford. It is however, part of my desire and effort to bring zero cost to consumer information about science and science related tools to the general public. In keeping with that theme, I’d like to thank the sponsors of today’s podcast. Our first sponsor is Maui Nui, which I can confidently say is the most nutrient dense and delicious red meat available. Maui Nui spent nearly a decade building a USDA certified wild harvesting system to help balance invasive deer populations on the Island of Maui. I’ve talked before on this podcast and we’ve had guests on this podcast that have emphasized the critical role of getting quality protein, not just for muscle repair and protein synthesis, but also for repair of all tissues, including brain tissue on a day-to-day basis. And the general rule of thumb for that is one gram of quality protein per pound of body weight per day. With Maui Nui meats, you can accomplish that very easily and you can do that without ingesting an excess of calories, which is also critical for immediate and long-term health. I should say that Maui Nui meats are not only extremely high quality, but they are also delicious. I particularly like their jerky, so their venison jerky. I also have had Maui Nui venison in various recipes, including ground venison, some venison steaks, and I love the taste of the venison. It’s lean, but it doesn’t taste overly lean or dry at all. It’s incredibly delicious. So if you’d like to try Maui Nui venison, go to slash Huberman to get 20% off your first order. Again, that’s slash Huberman to get 20% off your first order. Today’s episode is also brought to us by Thesis. Thesis makes custom nootropics. And as many of you have probably heard me say before, I am not a fan of the word nootropics because nootropics means smart drugs. And frankly, the brain doesn’t work that way. The brain has neural circuits for focus. It also has neural circuits for creativity and neural circuits for task switching. And for imagination and for memory. There is no such thing as a neural circuit for being smart. And therefore the word nootropics doesn’t really apply to anything specific neurobiologically speaking.


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Whoop is a fitness wearable device that tracks your daily activity and sleep, but goes beyond activity and sleep tracking to provide real-time feedback on how to adjust your training and sleep schedules in order to feel and perform better. Six months ago, I started working with Whoop as a member of their scientific advisory council as a way to help Whoop advance their mission of unlocking human performance.


And as a Whoop user, I’ve experienced firsthand the health benefits of their technology. It’s clear based on quality research that Whoop can inform you how well you’re sleeping, how to change your sleep habits, how to change your activity habits, even how to modify different aspects of your nutrition, exercise, sleep, and lifestyle in order to maximize your mental health, physical health, and performance. So whether or not you’re an athlete or you’re exercising simply for health, Whoop can really help you understand how your body functions under different conditions and how to really program your schedule, nutrition, and exercise, and many other factors of your life in order to really optimize your health and performance, including your cognition. If you’re interested in trying Whoop, you can go to joinwhoop, spelled W-H-O-O-P,.com slash Huberman. That’s slash Huberman today and get your first month free. The Huberman Lab Podcast is proud to announce that we are now partnered with Momentous Supplements because Momentous Supplements are of the very highest quality, they ship internationally, and they have single ingredient formulations. If you’d like to access the supplements discussed on the Huberman Lab Podcast, you can go to Live Momentous, spelled O-U-S, so slash Huberman. And now for my discussion with Rick Rubin. Great to have you here today, Rick.


Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure. So of all the topics in science and in particular in neuroscience, I confess that creativity is the most difficult one to capture because you can find papers, scientific studies, that is, on convergent thinking versus divergent thinking, and there are definitions to these. I mean, they take on different forms. In a strict definition form, it seems that creativity has something to do with either rearranging existing elements or coming up with new elements.


But as I went into your book, which I’ve done twice, I’ve read it twice, and by the way, I feel so blessed and honored to have gotten an early copy from you, or a final copy early, that is. But having gone through it twice, I’m now convinced that it may not actually be an internal source of creativity that exists on its own, right? And the example that you give that, for me, really is serving as an anchor, and tell me if I’m wrong here, is this idea that ideas and creativity are a little bit like a cloud. If you look at it at one moment, you might think that it looks like one thing, where it has a certain shape and texture, but then you look at it a moment later, it could be quite a bit different, and if you look at it an hour later, it very well could be gone. And the reason I think that serves as such a powerful hook for me to think about creativity and why I think neuroscientists and scientists in general have never actually captured a way to even talk about creativity, stems from somebody that you knew in person, but that, as you know, I greatly admire, I don’t have many heroes, but I would put Joe Strummer among the short list of heroes that I have, and I remember once an interview with him, fairly disjointed, he was sort of off in different tangents that I couldn’t follow, but at one point, he just kind of blurted out that if you have an idea, you have to write it down. And you may end up throwing it away, but if you wait, it will be gone. And I remember that, and as a consequence, I have a whole system that I use to try and capture ideas, but what are your thoughts on what Joe said, this cloud idea that comes up in one form in one area of the book, but then I think is thread throughout the book in different ways, how did that come to you, and how does it serve you in trying to, I don’t want to say extract, but trying to access creativity?

Rick Rubin (11:05):

I think the best way to think about it is like a dream. It’s like if you think about your dreams, they don’t necessarily make sense. When you wake up, you might remember part, but not the whole thing. Then if you start writing them down, they’ll come back, and they may not make sense to you. They’ll be a series of abstract images.


And maybe someday in the future, you’ll be able to look back and understand what they mean, and maybe not. And that’s sort of how the art making process works, is like we’re making things, and we’re looking for feeling in ourselves. And it could be a feeling of excitement or enthusiasm, a feeling of interest, a feeling of curiosity, I want to know more, feeling of leaning forward.


And we’re following that energy in our body when we feel this, there’s something here, there’s something here, I want to know more, I want to know more, I want to know more. But it’s not, I’ll say it’s not an intellectual process. It’s a different thing. That’s why it’s hard even to talk about it, because it’s so elusive, you know?

Andrew Huberman (12:29):

Recently, I was listening to a podcast by our friend Lex Friedman. I think it was an episode with Balaji Srinivasan, where this, with Balaji, who’s an investor type guy, thinker type guy, this is like an eight hour episode. He says something at the beginning that I’d love your thoughts on. He said, look, you know, we can train a rat to lever press every other time, or to expect reward on every even number press, or every odd number press, or even every fifth number press. But a human and a rat can’t do that for like prime number presses. You can’t actually train that. And then you think about the reward systems and the way that we follow life from when we get up until we go to sleep.


And what he said is the fact that we can’t do that means that we may not actually be in touch with the best schedules of doing things. Like every time I’m thirsty, I take a sip. I assume that’s the right way to do it, but it might not be optimal, right? Optimal for whatever purpose. When I was reading your book, I was thinking about, there’s a set of things to follow, things to pay attention to. You talk about this, things to access, that none of the creative process comes from just within us. It can, but it’s always being fed by things outside of it. And so what I started to do is the second time I read through the book was think about it through the lens of what Balaji was saying, was that there may not even be a language for this thing that we call accessing creativity. I mean, there’s a process, but that language in the form of words is a little bit like trying to use even numbers to try and access prime numbers. Like the math becomes so convoluted that we end up in a conversation like this where I’m confident that we can get to the kernels of it because what’s remarkable about the book is that you do. You show and inform the process, but there may not be a English or any other language for saying, do this, then this, then this, then this, and you’ll have something of creative value. Does that capture it?

Rick Rubin (14:48):

Yes, I think language is insufficient to drill down on creativity. It’s more, it’s closer to magic than it is science.

Andrew Huberman (15:02):

So when kids come into the world, do you think that they have better access to this creative process than we do as adults? Because we start to impart role plays and books like, will it get likes? Will people like it? But also like all the things that are available to us that we’re not paying attention to, like the texture of this table, right? They, we’re discarding things kind of systematically. We get quote unquote set in our ways. Do you think kids are more, are just by definition and by design more creative than adults?

Rick Rubin (15:37):

Yes, kids are, they’re open and they have no baggage. They don’t have any belief system. They don’t know how things are supposed to work. They just see what is. And if we pay attention to what is, we learn much more than if we, most of us select from an endless number of data points available to us to, well, as a species, to make sure that we don’t die and to procreate and to feed ourselves are probably the primary functions first.


And then we learn things about what’s right and what’s wrong. And we learn things about how to do certain things or we’re inspired by someone who makes something we love and we want to do it the way they do it.


And all of those things undermine the purity of the creative process. They can be tools to build your skillset to be able to do it yourself. Like if you’re a singer, you might imitate a singer you really like for a while to get good at it. And then eventually come to find your own voice. It doesn’t always start with your own voice. But if you’re three years old or five years old and you try singing, you’re not singing like anyone else. You’re singing with your own voice. And when you make something, you’re making it based on not knowing.


And I think I had the advantage early in my career of starting making music without any experience, which was helpful because I didn’t know what rules I was breaking. And so it wasn’t intentional breaking of rules. I just did what seemed right to me. But I didn’t realize that I was doing things

Andrew Huberman (17:35):

that other people wouldn’t do. I mean, there is this idea that there are no new ideas. You know, I sort of disagree because every once in a while I’ll see or hear something that at least seems different enough.

Rick Rubin (17:47):

I think it’s a combination of, a new combination of existing ideas presented in a new way. I think that’s how it works. I don’t know. But I will say it does seem like the things that are most interesting to me have a series of familiar elements joined together in a way that it’s creating something that I’ve never seen before.

Andrew Huberman (18:12):

You mentioned that when you are close to or you see hints of creativity, that is of real value, that it’s a feeling. And I also believe that the body is a great source of information. Which, you know, once people realize that the brain of course is in the skull, but the nervous system extends everywhere in the body, the whole mind-body thing just falls away. You know, philosophers have argued about this forever, but it’s a silly argument. It’s also true that, you know, God forbid I were to amputate all my limbs, have them amputated, I’d fundamentally still be me.


Right, the same is not true if we took out big enough chunk of my brain and I still survived, I would be fundamentally different human being. I’d still have the same name and identity and social security number, but I would behave very differently. Who knows, maybe better. The signals from the body, we know or at least we assume are pretty generic. Like, I can think of 50 different ways or 100 ways that we could talk about creativity today and we could define it and redefine it and carve it up and serve it up like sushi in a bunch of different ways.


But the body sends signals that most of us are, we have a kind of coarse understanding of. It’s like, oh, my stomach hurts or my stomach feels good or I’m not sensing my stomach. Or, oh, that feels good, it feels warm, it feels cold. Like, most of us aren’t trained in understanding how to interpret those signals. So it’s almost like you have a few vowels, a few syllables, and there isn’t a lot more. Whereas when we talk about our thoughts and our experiences, depending on how hyperverbal somebody is and how much emphasis they put on different sounds, it’s kind of near infinite, right? Not infinite, but near infinite.


So for you personally, when you know that you’re on the end of a thread of creativity, maybe you’re listening to an artist or you’re hearing something and you’re like there and your antennae start to deflect in a certain way, right? Do you feel that in your body as a recognizable sensation or is it a thought and a sensation? It’s a feeling in my body. Is it localized?

Rick Rubin (20:34):

No, it’s a feeling of, I would say it’s like a surge of energy.

Andrew Huberman (20:42):

Do you remember the first time you experienced that?

Rick Rubin (20:46):

Probably, you know, hearing the Beatles when I was three or four years old.

Andrew Huberman (20:50):

Three or four years old? Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Is there something wrong with me that the Beatles have never done it for me?

Rick Rubin (20:56):

No, maybe just weren’t exposed at the right time in the right way. There’s no right or wrong way. And everyone, I can love the Beatles and you can not, and we’re both right, you know?

Andrew Huberman (21:06):

There’s not a- I’m glad that we can still be friends. I was a little concerned. I was a little scared to ask you that question. I know my taste in music is a little bit obscure, but, and kind of fragmentary, but okay, good. I’ve always felt like, gosh, there must be something wrong with me. I like their songs, but they don’t, there’s no juice for me there.

Rick Rubin (21:24):

I think maybe we’ll watch, there was an eight part series called The Beatles Anthology, which is out of print, but I can try to find it somewhere and we can watch that together. Maybe that’ll make the case for the Beatles.

Andrew Huberman (21:38):

Okay. Yeah, but I mean, nothing against them. It’s just, and I’m always bothering you for story, but like Ramones, I saw that and I was like, wow, like jeans, aviators, everyone had to change their last name to Ramone. A lot of them hated each other. There’s so much drama in there and three chords and just, but to me, it just was like, wow, like kids from New York, that energy. So I think different things for different people, right? Absolutely. So that brings me to a question of when, when something feels creatively right and you’re sensing it and you’re there, let’s say in the studio, or maybe even you’re listening to something that somebody sent you, how do you translate that given the absence of language?


How do you translate that into a conversation with the artist? And again, this could be about writing or comedy or, you know, or science or podcasting for that matter. How do you say that, keep going that way when they might not even recognize that they did it? And I’m guessing a lot of times they don’t.

Rick Rubin (22:41):

Yeah, sometimes they don’t, it depends when we’re in the, I’ll try to be in a, in a setting where, as we’re talking about it, we can engage with it in that moment. So it’s not much good. Let’s say I was producing your new record and you played me something and I had some thoughts about it, it wouldn’t be so helpful for me to tell you what those were. It’d be better for us to wait till we were in a place where we could try things and see where it goes. So the first thing is I wouldn’t rely on language to do it. It would be more of a making a suggestion of something that’s actionable. We try it and then we have more data and either we’re moving in the, moving away from it, we’re moving towards it or away from it and we never know. And so it’s always an experiment and maybe a simple way to talk about it would be like, if I gave you two dishes of food and asked you to taste them and tell me which one you like better. It’s pretty, usually it’s pretty straightforward. You know, when you have two choices, which you like better. And I think most creativity can be boiled down to that.


That’s very different than, I wonder how this is gonna perform on certain social media platforms. That’s different than, what is it? When I’m tasting these two things, which is the one I wanna finish eating. And if I would say, hmm, I like this one better, but it needs a little salt and then put a little salt on, it’s like, hmm, maybe I put too much salt. And you know, when you taste it, it’s like, it’s that simple. Being in tune enough with ourselves to really know how we feel in the face of knowing that other people might feel very differently, which is part of the challenge.


It’s like, if everyone tells you A, A, A, A, A, A, A, and you listen and you’re like, that’s B. As an artist, it’s important to be able to say, to me, it’s B, and it’s a disconnect because so much of, you know, when we go to school, it’s to get us to follow the rules. And in art, it’s different because the rules are there as a scaffolding to be chipped away as need be. Sometimes they’re helpful, sometimes they’re not.


And sometimes we’ll even impose our own rules to give something its shape. So we can decide to make a, we’re gonna make a painting, but we’re only gonna use green and red are the only colors we’re allowed to use. We decide that in advance. And then how do we solve the problem knowing all we have is green and red? It can, because otherwise, if there’s an infinite number of choices, anything can be anything. You know, it’s like it’s sometimes more choices is not better.


So limiting your palette to something manageable forces you to solve problems in a different way. Now in our digital age, music-wise, you can make anything digitally. There’s no, like in, there was a time when if you didn’t have a guitar in the studio, you couldn’t record guitar. Or if you didn’t, if you couldn’t hire an orchestra, there couldn’t be orchestra on your recording. Now you can just call any of those things up. So there’s infinite choices and infinite choices don’t necessarily lead to better, better compositions or better final works. Understanding how you feel in the face of other voices without second-guessing yourself is probably the single most important thing to practice as an artist or skillset to develop as an artist is to know how you feel and own your feelings. And the key to that is not, I know, so I know what’s right for you. It doesn’t work that way. It’s just, I know for me. And the reason I chose to be an artist is to demonstrate this is how I see it.


If I’m undermining my taste for some commercial idea or it defeats the whole purpose of doing this. This is not, that’s not what this process is about. This process is I’m doing me and I’m showing you who I am and you can like it or not, but either way, this is still how I see it.

Andrew Huberman (27:47):

I love that because in science, having trained graduate students, having been a graduate student, I was very blessed to have mentors. One of who was a real iconoclast, he’s dead now. Actually, all my advisors are dead. Suicide, cancer, cancer. The joke is you don’t want me to work for you. They were all had a morbid sense of humor. So they’re laughing about this someplace right now. I thought you were going to say they all ate the poison mushroom. No, but the last one said to me, you’re the common denominator, Andrew. And I thought, oh my goodness. And he said, kind of just kidding, but not really. So that’s a little bit eerie. But in any case, he always said, his name was Ben.


He always said, the one thing I can’t teach is taste. And the one predictor I have of the people who will never develop it are the ones who are perfectionists. Because they’re filtering their perfect, perfectionists that filter their perfection through the feedback of others. He was always looking for the person that was putting up a little bit of a middle finger to feedback, not so much that they would get things wrong, because it can be badly wrong in science. You can be wrong for the right reasons, but you can also be wrong for the wrong reasons. But people that just had almost a compulsion to do it their way, or to believe in what they were doing. And I’m hearing some of that, or I’m hearing that in what you’re describing. I also think that there’s something about the human empathic process or the emotional process where when we see somebody doing something and they seem to really not be paying attention to what anyone else is doing. I mean, I guess that the crazy person on the street is one version of it, where we go, they’re just in their experience and it’s just crazy.


But when somebody seems to be enjoying themselves, or the emotion seems to be real, I think there are a good fraction of people who feel a kind of gravitational pull. They go, yeah, that. And the best example I have of this is I remember growing up in the skateboard thing, we were the first, we were the first to start doing the baggy, like sagging the clothes thing. We got teased endlessly one year in school.


Then there was a bunch of hip hop that came out and guys were wearing, sagging their jeans or their shorts. Next year we come back and the very same people who were making fun of us were all doing it. And that’s when it clicked for me. I was like, most people don’t actually know what they like. They like what they like because of the certainty of the people that they like.


And so the question then is in this landscape of creative stuff, what’s real? What’s not real? It’s almost like whoever can create the most convincing story at least captures a good number of, a good fraction of audiences, but that’s not what the creative artist needs to do. They need to actually depart from that. Do I have that right?

Rick Rubin (30:43):

Yeah. Well, they’re just two different things. Like coming up with a story with the purpose of pleasing someone else is a skillset, but it’s more of a commercial endeavor than an artistic endeavor.

Andrew Huberman (30:58):

It’s like tactical. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I was seeing it in your book. You describe, again, when you’re thinking about the creative process as the cloud. For me, again, it serves as such a powerful anchor. And then I think about the biology, the neurobiology of like strategy formation or strategy implementation. And then almost by sheer luck or miraculously, I turn a few pages later into the book and there’s a description of how animals that are trying to accomplish something, eat, mate, find water, accomplish the requirements of living. It requires a narrow visual focus. This is something my lab is kind of obsessed with and I’ve been obsessed with. And in that more narrow visual focus, we know that the playbook becomes more narrow. The rule set is more narrow.


Now, at some point in order to come up with a new creative idea, that means that broadening vision is essential in some way or broadening thinking.

Rick Rubin (32:04):

Well, it could either be a broadening or a narrowing, but it’s changing the aperture from the standard. The reason we do this is to present something new that knew it. And for that to be the case, if to be looking at it, it’s not unlike what a comedian does. Comedian makes you laugh. Usually what they’re saying, it’s outrageous, but you know that it’s right. Just no one says it that way or no one has said it that way before, but it’s always the truth in it that makes it funny.


It’s like that. It’s the same idea as recognizing something that seems really obvious once you see it, but seems like nobody else sees it or no one else points it out. And I feel like science is like that too, because how much of science when once the light flashes over your head, it’s like, I got it. It just seems like, well, we knew that forever. No one knew it, but do you know what I’m saying? It’s like, it’s so obvious. It’s so obvious. And I think another superpower of artists is this accepting we don’t know anything.


When we think we know things, that also limits our world. We think we know, it’s only like this. This is all that’s possible. We’re mice in this little box. But in reality, who’s to say that’s the case? Who’s to say any of the, we could take all of what we believe in science now and decide to throw all of that away and start from scratch. And we’d probably create a different,

Andrew Huberman (33:54):

a whole different one. I’d like to take a brief break and acknowledge our sponsor, Athletic Greens. Athletic Greens is an all-in-one vitamin mineral probiotic drink that also contains digestive enzymes and adaptogens. I started taking Athletic Greens way back in 2012. So that’s 10 years now of taking Athletic Greens every single day. So I’m delighted that they’re sponsoring this podcast. The reason I started taking Athletic Greens and the reason I still take Athletic Greens is that it covers all of my foundational nutritional needs. So whether or not I’m eating well or enough or not, I’m sure that I’m covering all of my needs for vitamins, minerals, probiotics, adaptogens to combat stress and the digestive enzymes really help my digestion. I just feel much better when I’m drinking Athletic Greens. If you’d like to try Athletic Greens, you can go to slash Huberman. And for the month of January, they have a special offer where they’ll give you 10 free travel packs plus a year supply of vitamin D3, K2. Vitamin D3 and K2 are vital for immune function, metabolic function, hormone health, but also calcium regulation and heart health. Again, that’s slash Huberman to claim their special offer in the month of January of 10 free travel packs plus a year supply of vitamin D3, K2.


In a offline conversation one time, you asked a good friend of mine who’s been a guest on this podcast, Eddie Chang, who’s Chair of Neurosurgery. And I would place him in the top, top 1% of neuroscientists. You know, he’s pulling speech out of people who are completely paralyzed with Locked-In Syndrome, et cetera. And you asked him what percentage of what’s contained in medical textbooks and training. Today. Today.

Rick Rubin (35:31):

Yeah, if you went to medical school today and you learned what was in the textbook, what percentage of that information is accurate and what percentage is not. And he said, maybe half.

Andrew Huberman (35:41):

Right. And you asked, and what is the consequence of that? And he said, incalculable. And I completely agree. And I asked him a second time and he still came up with the same answer. So that’s a good sign. Reliability from experiment to the next is good. Yeah, I think that the, there is this idea that we really know things. In science, I mean, you’ve seen, we’ve observed amazing discoveries from chance. We’ve observed amazing discoveries from incredible bouts of hard work. In both cases, people were spending a lot of time in the lab. Like no one walked into the lab, saw something one day and had a Nobel prize winning discovery or fundamental discovery.


They were all hanging out in lab a lot. Just some of them came up with something that they didn’t expect. Others were drilling toward an answer.

Rick Rubin (36:34):

And in all those cases, when the breakthroughs happen, I’m guessing, I don’t know this, that considering we assume this information, then this discovery is true based on everything that came before it. But if everything that came before it is wrong, then the discoveries are probably built on a, do you know what I’m saying? It’s like the context, everything that happens takes into account that the context that it’s sitting in, it fits in that context. Maybe that context isn’t right. Who knows? We don’t know. So I’m saying we’re too close to most things in thinking when we think we know things, where there are a lot of assumptions that go into it and that any new discoveries are essentially built on top of these beliefs, you know? But they’re beliefs.

Andrew Huberman (37:35):

I remember, you know, of course I listened to the BC boys growing up who didn’t, I was a child of the 90s and they were in the, you know, sabotage, you know, sabotage was, you know, sort of an outgrowth of a skateboarding movie like Spike Jones and like the girl movies and those worlds that BC boys and skateboarding were really closely interwoven for a while. Some people know this, some people don’t and Spike sort of formed the bridge and then Spike went off and started making more bigger movies that more people watch.


But let’s just use them as an example. I heard you say once before that, you know, you guys were kind of joking around like BC boys, like, you know, these guys doing hip hop but it was kind of like the hardcore scene in New York, the punk rock scene and it was sort of a joke. There were a lot of inside jokes. When you were working together, was there the thought that people might love it, might hate it or you just weren’t paying attention at all?

Rick Rubin (38:32):

Weren’t paying attention at all. Never considered it. They would know at that point in time when we were making Licensed to Ill, hip hop music was a tiny underground thing. There was no one making hip hop at that time thought it would ever mean anything. It was not a realistic thought. So we were making it really for our crazy friends and that’s it.

Andrew Huberman (39:00):

So do you think nowadays the fact that one can create something and quote unquote release it quickly, I can put something out onto Twitter or Instagram now, I can do it in 10 seconds from now and I will get immediate feedback which is external feedback of course but then I can iterate on the basis of that feedback. Do you think that’s problematic for the larger opportunity for creativity? In other words, if we were to go back 20 years or even 15 years, when the opportunity to create was certainly still there but you really didn’t know how it was gonna land until you quote unquote released it. It seems to me there was more opportunity to stay in that magical rainforest that is the creativity itself.

Rick Rubin (39:47):

I don’t think it’s wrong or right. It’s more information that you can use or not use and use it in a useful way. And you can make something and put it out and people could not like it and you’re like, oh, they still don’t get it. I gotta go harder. You know, like I gotta go harder in that direction and not, do you know what I’m saying? It’s like not to react away from information. It can be helpful. It can be helpful when there could be different stories that happen at the same time where you’re making something and you have an idea of what it is and then other people engage with it and they have a different idea of what it is and they like it for a different reason than you did or dislike it for a reason different than the reason you like it. We can’t control any of those things, you know? The only part of it that we can control is how we relate to the thing that we make.


And any external information that undermines the clarity of that connection is probably bad for the art, is my guess. And again, I’m only saying this from my experience. Like I try to make things, all I’ve ever tried to make were something I like or something that I felt like was missing as a fan that I wanted and nobody was making it. So I’ll make it, you know, but it wasn’t, it was always in the service of, I love this thing, I want something like this, no one else is making one, I have to make one.

Andrew Huberman (41:28):

Yeah, it’s beautiful because the word that keeps coming to mind is this, it’s almost like a compulsion. Like there are other options of ways to be and to behave and to function and work in life, but if something’s a compulsion, it yanks us away from those other opportunities just enough that we have to get back to it. You’ve talked before about, and you talk in the book, this notion of the source.


And to me, again, I can’t help but put my neuroscientist lens on this, I think of the source as not one brain area, but some function within the brain where we are in touch with our bodily signals, like what feels right, what doesn’t, sort of like tasting the two foods, I love that example. And that it’s a playbook that is far more vast than the short-term adaptive playbook, like this is how I’m going to get from point A to point B. And yet, when I listen to an album or a song, I mean, I have to assume that there, at some point, it becomes not strategy development or creativity, but strategy implementation. Like there needs to be, like the songs are going to come in this order. And like, I don’t know much about music. My musician friends are always, you know, laughing.

Rick Rubin (42:50):

Okay. It’s not so much about music.

Andrew Huberman (42:55):

Right, well put. But the ordering of the sequence of the melodies, et cetera. So at what point does one decide, okay, like now’s the time to get into that more narrow focus of effort. Like, we’ve got it. Let’s run with this. Because there is a component of the creative process that involves packaging and finishing. Is that part less satisfying to you, or is it just all part of the same larger arc? It’s all part of the same.

Rick Rubin (43:25):

It’s nice. There’s a good feeling. There’s usually a good feeling when something is done. On the one hand, it’s a commitment because up until the time that you say it’s done, you can keep experimenting and changing it. You know, if you think, well, maybe tomorrow I can make it better, then it’s not finished. And you keep thinking that for a long time, you can do that forever and never put out anything. So getting to the point where you’re ready to sign off is a good feeling. And it allows you, one of the things I talk about in the book is, because it is a difficult thing to do, because it’s fun to play and it’s fun to, maybe it’s not the best it could be yet, you know, to use whatever the next project is going to be as motivation to finish the one you’re working on now. Like, I’m working on this. I’m spending all of my time on this thing.


It’s really good. I believe it can be better, but there’s this other thing that I really want to make. And if I keep tinkering with this one, I’ll never get to make the other one. So using other projects as a impetus to finish something and release it into the world’s a good one. And you said your description of source as something within us, I don’t know if I would accurate, if I would say that was accurate. It’s definitely in us too, but it’s not only in us. And it’s, I think of source as the organizing principle of everything.


And it’s how everything exists, how the trees grow, and why there are mountains and anything that we can see in the outside world and every discovery and every piece of art and every new design and every machine are all outgrowths of this source energy. Our part of it is the antenna that like connects to it. And maybe we’re the vehicle for source to allow things to happen in the world.

Andrew Huberman (45:51):

And thank you for that. Cause I did indeed miss speak because I recall very distinctly in the book, you described how the physical world is constrained by the laws of physics and certain things. The imagination is unconstrained. And I think I have this right, that you said the work sits somewhere between those. It’s neither of one nor the other, that ultimately what feeds into all of that, our imagination and the way indeed that our brain is a physical entity, nature and the outside world provides at least what appears to be near infinite, if not infinite options. And I love the example of the color palette, that if we restrict me to whatever sorts of paints or medium I have, then it’s restricted. But in nature, there’s an infinite number of shades and tones and combinations. And even on one,

Rick Rubin (46:42):

you know, if you pick up a rock and look at the color of the rock and tried to find a paint to match that rock, it would never match. There’s too much, there are too many variations in nature within a single color rock for us to get close. There’s too much information. We scratch the surface. We’re only scratching the surface.

Andrew Huberman (47:09):

And we love when we are able to peer in at different scales, spatial scales, time scales too, but spatial scales, the delight that comes from that, you know, like these nature pictures. Seemed like there were more of these in the 80s, like where you’d see a drop of oil shot at very high resolution. There’s beauty in a drop of oil. And then you’d see the earth and the galaxy. There’s beauty in that too, right? These extremes. And of course, our daily perception is mostly through the filter of these kinds of interactions, walls and sometimes outdoors. There’s a brilliant neuroscientists and not surprisingly, he has a Nobel. His name is Richard Axel. He’s at Columbia University.


He’s an outrageous personality. Chews Nicorette nonstop. You guys would get along great, not because of the Nicorette, but because his perspective on things is very abstract for a guy who’s solved, he won the Nobel for solving a great problem within how we smell, perception of odors and taste.


And he says, you know, everything that the brain does is an abstraction. Like I could take a photograph of your face and show it to you and say, yeah, that’s me. Or let’s say for the moment, I call myself an abstract artist. Let’s just play a game because I’ve never been accused of being an artist. But, and I do three dots and a squiggly line. And I say, that’s you. And you say, well, that doesn’t look like me. And I say, but that’s my abstraction of you. Okay, well, the brain essentially does that because we’re something in between that, because there’s no actual photograph of you in my brain. It’s just a bunch of neurons playing what we call an ensemble, like a different keys on a piano. And we go, Rick, I recognize you, Rick Rubin. And so everything is an abstraction. And it’s only once we start tinkering with the parts, and this is the essence of science to remove and add and manipulate. And the best example I can come up with would be Rothko.


And I only come up with this example because I started off in vision science and maybe this will make the most sense to everyone, except the folks who’ve been blind since birth. And they can swap something in here. That if I show you a Rothko, and I don’t tell you it’s a Rothko, you may or may not actually think it’s that impressive. It depends on your taste in art. But what Rothko did, which was amazing, even if you don’t like Rothkos, and I happen to, is that he removed all the white and high contrasty stuff. And when you do that, you alter color space. And so the colors look very different. Some people saw that dress a few years ago. Is it orange or is it gold or whatever? That was a little bit of the same phenomenon.


I doubt, in fact, I’d be willing to bet my left arm that Rothko knew nothing about the neuroscience of color perception, but somehow got to this place where if there was no canvas showing and no high contrast, and the paintings were large enough and on the appropriate wall, you saw them a certain way that tapped into something fundamental. And this is where I think art and science really converge, is that every once in a while we see something that feels amazing to enough people, and not just like the baggy pants phenomenon, not just because other people think it’s cool, but there’s something there. And again, this defies language. And I have to imagine that in your years of life and music and other creative endeavors, that you’ve, that every once in a while, have you ever encountered something where like something fundamental keeps showing up in different form or there’s something like almost like a rule or a principle? Does it ever come about? Because in science, we think of this as like, this is reveals something about our limitation to abstract the world. I hope I made that clear.

Rick Rubin (50:55):

Not exactly, but I have a thought. You talked earlier about the drop of oil, the photograph of the drop of oil and the photograph, or we could use the, on the other side, like Hubble telescope images of these vast things and high definition. What we see every day is as impressive as those things, but we’re numb to them because we see them all the time. And if we were to look at drops of oil every day in a microscope a month from now, we would not find wonder in that image. So it’s, sometimes it’s the novelty of not seeing it from that perspective before.


That’s really thrilling. You could, and I could imagine, and this probably relates to the Rothko idea, that you could see something from a particular angle and have this magical experience and then walk three feet to the side and see it from a different way and it just evaporates. It only works, it only triggers this thing in us when we look at it just the right way. There was a paint, an experiment I just heard about, heard about the other day that sounds fascinating, that a painting teacher recommended where instead of painting, you know, having a model in the room and painting the model that you have the model in the next room and you go into the next room without your equipment, you don’t have your equipment, and you can study the model for as long as you want and then you go into a different room where you can’t see the model and paint the model.


Instead of, and it changes your relationship where it’s not, we’re not just painting the lines. We’re painting what is interesting enough about what I saw, what are the data points that stuck in my mind? And when I string those together, what do I get? And what do I, how do I form it to get as close to whatever that the experience of that person was, which the closest of getting to the experience of that person in the painting might not look like a photograph. You know, it might look more different than more the same to really see what you see. If we think about the Picasso paintings that were inspired by African art, where the eyes are on different levels, they may give us more information than a photograph would give us. I’m thinking about the, when you were describing the sensation of when something takes your breath away, and we all have that when we see a dramatic sunset. Anyone you know, when there’s a really dramatic sunset, or if there’s a whale, and if anyone’s on the beach and there’s a whale, everybody’s really interested that there’s a whale. It’s, do you know what I’m saying? These feelings of wonder, we get to experience them depending on where we are, or, you know, a dragonfly, or a bird flies into your space. These things happen. And when they happen, it’s like, we’re confronted with the mystery of the world when we change the perspective. Normally, we don’t think of whales in our backyard or birds in our house, you know, flying freely, but they do happen. These things do happen. And they like break us out of our trance when these things happen. It’s like, oh yeah, there are birds like this everywhere.


I’m just not paying attention. This guy’s coming in to like tap me on the shoulder. Like, remember me? Here I am.

Andrew Huberman (55:11):

No? So I would say that the whale example and what you’re describing is it’s revealing to us how, in a delightful way, how deficient our perceptual filters normally are. Yes. It’s a little bit like the Rothko is revealing how, I’ve never thought about it this way until this moment, is revealing to us how color normally looks is actually, first of all, not the only way it looks. Those colors we think are one way, but all color, this gets into the biology of color vision is all about contrast. What something is next to dictates what it looks like. And that’s the origin of that dress meme or whatever you call it. I still can’t figure out exactly what a meme is. Someone will eventually tell me.


But in the same way, when you see a whale and it’s delightful, I think it’s revealing to us the extent to which those whales are, the ocean is vast. There’s a whole universe there and we are blind to it all the time. And I think the misperception or the misconception, excuse me, is that we’re delighted because we see the whale. We might be just as delighted because we’re getting hit with the contrast of how little we recognize all the time. And in that way, it reminds me a little bit about comedy where I’ve been watching more comedy lately and sometimes it’s the shock. Sometimes it’s the absolute truth that’s revealed. And then other times what I’ve noticed, and I saw Rogan do comedy at the Vulcan Club in Austin, which he does every once in a while and it was small club and he was, leading out the story during his routine or bit, I think, right? This bit he’s leading, and everyone knew where it was going. We all knew. And then when he finally told us, it was exactly where we thought it was going and it was hilarious. And it felt good. And it felt amazing. And I thought in that moment, I was like, wait a second, how did he pull that off? That was masterful because normally it’s this thing like you create one story. There’s like a scripting out almost like a courtroom lawyer. And then they kind of pull the curtain and it’s something different. And if you look at the science, the neuroscience and brain imaging of laughter and humor, which I’ve looked into, to be honest and no disrespect to the people in that field, it’s pretty lame.


It’s lame because it’s always the jarring nature of a surprise. But what he led us to was something that, oh no, he’s actually going there. Oh wait, he’s really going there. And it was this anticipation with a beautiful delivery at the end. And so I’m convinced that based on what we’re talking about here, that there’s something about when we see something, we think it’s about that, but that the delight that we feel could be about all the other experiences that now become in a subconscious way, kind of like, ha, it’s almost like laughing at this perceptual deficit that we have. It’s almost like laughing at how little we actually know, which is what you’ve said.

Rick Rubin (58:13):

Yeah. It could be that it also could be the sense of community of when you think it’s gonna go a particular way and it goes that way, it’s like reinforcement of you. You know, it’s like, yeah, he’s saying it, but in a way we’re saying it together. I’m listening, he’s saying it, but we’re in this together. And that’s a good feeling.

Andrew Huberman (58:41):

To think about that for a second, I was trying to think about why certain music still can evoke such powerful emotions in me. And there does seem to be something special about the music we listen to when we are teenagers, you know, from about, you know, 14 until about 25, it seems to get routed into our nervous system in some way, maybe because that phase of our life is really one of identity crisis. I mean, you don’t find too many 40 year olds, some who are wondering like who they are occasionally, but almost every young teenager or preteen and it’s kind of like, who am I? You’re defining personality. So I always likened it to that, but leaving out the sort of critical period biology stuff, what do you think it is about the music that we hear at that time? Are we that much more emotionally tuned? Have we not shut down our sensors quite as much?


Is there, the songs and the artists don’t matter because they’re very individual to me. For other people, it will be the Beatles or something. Now I just really wish the Beatles did it for me too. But do you think that’s important? Because I could see how it’s really terrific. I could also see how it sets up one of these, what I’ll just use nerdy language and call the, like a semi-deprived filter. Because if I’m only looking for the way that like a stiff little fingers track made me feel the first time I listened to when I was 15, the feeling is worthwhile. But if I’m looking for that, I’m missing all the other stuff. I’m missing the Beatles, I’m missing Fleetwood Mac, which never did it for me either. I’m like, I’m missing all this stuff that, people I love and respect, really love.


So I’ve never worried about it because there’s kind of a infinite treasure trove of other things that I do love. But I do sometimes wonder whether or not my life experiences diminish because I’m not allowing kind of range. And you’ve obviously worked in a huge number of different genres of music. Punk is one thing, hip hop is another. I mean, Neil Diamond too, right? Eminem too, Slayer too, right? And in some senses, I list these off. I mean, just think about how much in high school, maybe nowadays less so, even in college and as an adult, we societally, we’re sort of asked to constrain ourselves to one of these groups. Like, I didn’t know it was okay to love Bob Dylan and love punk rock as much as I do until I heard Tim Armstrong said he loved Bob Dylan. And I was like, and recently he told me he loves The Grateful Dead. And I was like, whoa. But to it, I remember when you had to pick.

Rick Rubin (01:01:14):

Both The Ramones and The Clash loved The Beatles. So we could- Okay, I got work to do. No, but we’ll do it together. Okay, so- I have a feeling part of it is, the reason it gets in at that age is, it’s at a time when we’re defining who we are and the music is part of the definition of how we see ourselves. So it’s like the music that we hear before that might be the music that’s on the radio or our parents’ music or our older brother or sister’s music. And then when you’re 14 or 15 and you start choosing what you’re listening to, it’s like, now it’s finally mine. And my parents might not like it. And my older brothers and sisters may or may not like it, but this one is mine.


And it always has that impression in us that this is ours. That’s my thought of why it continues to last.

Andrew Huberman (01:02:17):

How do you wipe the slate clean then? So for instance, if you’re going to go in and work with somebody new, and again, as people are hearing this, I hope that they’re transplanting this to whatever it is that they do. Because in the realm of science and podcasting and communication, it’s not music, but there’s a contour and a way, hopefully this podcast will look nothing like it does in five years. That’s my hope, that it will still have the core features of the beauty and utility of biology coming through, but I hope it doesn’t look anything like episode two.

Rick Rubin (01:02:47):

And I think it’ll evolve as you evolve. It’s just the truer it is to what interests you. And if you’re not interested in biology in the same way in five years, I would hope it’s not the same.

Andrew Huberman (01:02:59):

I’ll be doing psychoanalysis in real time here. We’ll get therapy, we’ll all be lying down on couches. Whatever it is, whatever it is. Yeah, we probably won’t be on psychedelics, but we might be levitating. I’d like to take a brief break and thank our sponsor, InsideTracker.


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All right, I’ll spare you the daily routine question. It’s very cliche, but you and I are both lovers of sunlight, of horizons, and not as a trivial source, as an amazing gift of energy, right? And there aren’t words for it, really. Aside from your daily routines, when it comes to, you know, somebody, you’re going from project to project and you know you’re going to be doing work with somebody, could be your own worker, and we’ll talk about the writing of this book and its structure, which is very unique. I’ve never encountered a book with this kind of structure before. And it’s the most facile read ever, and yet every single page I underline, took notes, starred, and like, as you’d notice, it’s very worn, very, very worn already, and only more so over time.


Do you have a process for, you know, removing the functions of the day and what you were doing last week, and what’s going on, and in order to get more access to this, I’m going to think of it now more as a receiver inside of you, right? Almost like tuning a radio. And then it comes in, like the beginning of like a strummer clash, right? You love the radio, Joe loved the radio, right? And then it comes in clear, and there it is. How do you clear the static?


What are some of the operational steps that you think might be more generalizable to regardless of where somebody in, you know, Africa is listening.

Rick Rubin (01:06:03):

I would say when I engage in a particular project, whatever it is, I dedicate all of myself for that period of time, whatever it is, whether it be 20 minutes, or whether it be five hours, whatever it is. Total focus and no outside distraction whatsoever.


And when I leave that process, I do my best not to think about it when I’m away from it. I don’t bring any materials with me. I don’t leave the studio with works in progress and spend time listening to them during the day or looking for ideas. I stay as far away from it when I’m not directly engaging in it as possible. And in the best of situations, I have something else to totally engage myself in, in between. So instead of working on project A for five hours and then leaving and doing nothing, I’m hoping to engage in a project B or B, C, and D with all of myself before going back to project A again, which might be the next day, let’s say.

Andrew Huberman (01:07:17):

So this relates to an amazing chapter and series of writings of your book that I’m not going to describe because I want people to find it for themselves about disengaging, about disengaging from the process. One question I had as I read that chapter, and as you’re saying this now, is even though you’re disengaged, do you believe that your subconscious is working it through? I believe so.

Rick Rubin (01:07:39):

I believe so. And I think in general, to stew over a problem is not the way to solve a problem. Think to hold the problems lightly. And when I say a problem, you know, when we’re starting a project, there’s usually this feeling of, there’s a question mark at the beginning of every project. I’m always anxious when I start a new project because I have no idea what’s going to happen. I never know. I never, I may have, in some cases, a potential backup plan if, you know, if nothing works.


But I really try not even to have that. I prefer not to have that. I prefer to go in, maybe to calm myself down enough to be able to show up. There’ll be an idea of like, nothing works. Maybe we could try something like this. But that would only be for my own anxiety. That would, it wouldn’t be for actual practical use. But there’s always a sense of anxiety because I know whatever’s going to happen is completely out of my control. Something’s going to, something either interesting or not will appear.


And then we’re going to follow that wherever it goes. And until something appears for us to follow, I have a lot of anxiety. Even though it has never not come, you know, it has come every time, but there’s something about it. Because I also feel like there might be expectation on me that I’m going to make it happen. And I know that’s not happening. That’s not how it works. It’s, it’s, I show up ready for it to happen and I’m open to whatever we have to do to find that first thread. And once we find the thread, then it’s like, okay, we have a, and that thread may lead us to anything, you know, could lead us to in a million different directions, but something about having that glimmer, that it’s not a blank, we’re not looking at a blank page. You know, we’re looking at, okay, we have a, we have the beginnings of, I would say a map, but it’s a map that we don’t know where it takes us. And it’s just the beginning. It’s just like, it’s just the start, you know, you are here. Once you have a map and it says you are here, even if you can’t see the directions, knowing where we are feels okay.


And once we get, and usually, again, usually in the first day, first couple of days, it happens. But up until then, it’s really an anxiety producing situation. And then I can’t, I can’t remember the original question. It’s like, that was the beginning of, of something completely different. But I, do you remember what you asked? I don’t remember.

Andrew Huberman (01:10:50):

Yeah, well, we were talking about disengaging and as your subconscious into it, and you were, and then we were talking about, I love this. So like, what are, what is your process of wading into this thing? And you’re revealing that now. I mean, I, I think of anxiety as readiness, you know, I mean, think about the characteristic features of anxiety. It tends to be a bit of a constriction of the visual field into more of a narrow vision. But that’s appropriate because you want to shed the, what’s going on elsewhere. And then, you know, even when people talk about the shakes or this, like not feeling okay, sitting still, anxiety was designed to mobilize us and not always to run away. This is one of the, I could, you know, rarely do I talk about the work in my own laboratory, but one of the things that frankly, I didn’t discover, but it was done in my laboratory, but this brilliant graduate student, Lindsey Saleh, who’s now at Caltech was that, we can often observe animals or humans in very high states of anxiety as they move forward toward a goal. And we always think of moving forward as like this calm thing, you know, we, these heroes, you know, Rosa Parks telling people like, F you, like, I’m not getting off the back, I’m not leaving the, giving up my seat on the bus or Muhammad Ali, I bet you, they were experiencing tremendous anxiety, but it was in the forward tilt. And so, I think anxiety is least comfortable when we are forcing ourselves to stand still. So, it’s an activating energy. And, you know, that brings up a word that, you know, I have written in my notebook as an extraction of a lot of themes from within the book that you and I have talked about before, which is, and here I’m going to sound very West Coast woo, but I mean it as seriously as it can be stated that I feel like everything is energetic.


We can do things from a place of anger. We can do things from a place of joy. We can do things from a place of delight. I’m, I like to think maturing into the idea that joy and delight and love is kind of the ultimate reservoir of energy. But, you know, a lot of the music that I liked from when I was younger, it was because of the anger that was thread into it or the sadness.

Rick Rubin (01:13:06):

If you think of your relationship to that music, it’s a relationship of love. You didn’t listen to that to get angry. You listened to it because you loved it.

Andrew Huberman (01:13:15):

Yeah. And I felt loved by it because it matched where I was at at the time. It was true to who you were and where you were. I know that collaboration, there’s a wonderful chapter on collaboration, but it’s collaboration, as you mentioned before, with the universe, not with others. But in terms of the, especially the kind of work that you’ve done and do, when it comes to working with artists, I do wonder, and here I’m not looking for any gossip or stories. I’ve never been interested in gossip. I love stories, but I’m not interested in gossip.


But once you see that thread kind of dangling there, and you’re going to, you guys are going to go after this, or you grab onto it and you’re like, okay, now you have a little bit of a map and an orientation within that map. I often wonder, you know, scientists are complicated people. People think they’re very boring, but they’re actually very complicated because they’re often living in one limited rule set of the prefrontal cortex. That’s how you get good at getting degrees, is by understanding the rules of academia and playing by those rules. Yes. People tinker with the rules. You get your Richard Axels, who are very playful in how they go about it, but they are systematic. He’s known for rigor, rigor, rigor, right?


When I think of creative artists and musical artists, I think of a bit more zany or loose, or you watch the documentary about the Ramones and you’re like, wow, there’s all this chaos. How, because so many of the brilliant artists, musical artists that are out there seem to have some chaos inside them, or their lives aren’t always structured. Oftentimes, and science too, by the way, there are substance abuse issues and personal life issues. How, since you don’t have 100% control, they need to play the instruments, sing, et cetera. How do you work with people who have it in them, but are getting in their own way, right?


And do you think that that kind of the internal chaos that a lot of artists seem to have, do you think that sometimes is actually an essential piece of the creativity picture,

Rick Rubin (01:15:23):

that you can’t disentangle it? Yeah, I don’t think it’s an essential piece in general, but certain artists, that’s how they do it. I would say I rarely get to see the chaotic part of artists for whatever reason, they rarely show it to me. And most of them, like most comedians I know, are much more serious about what they’re doing than what it looks like from if you see them on stage. There’s much more to it, and there’s much more focus on craft going on and digging deep than would necessarily be obvious seeing them jump around on stage.

Andrew Huberman (01:16:04):

Yeah, I’m a fan of boxing, track and field and boxing, the sports nobody really cares about now that UFC is so popular. And track and field, it’s a little bit like wrestling. When you go, the people that are there, because they really love it. We’ll talk about wrestling in a little bit, professional wrestling. But Floyd Mayweather is obviously a colorful character and one of the best records in boxing of all time.


And a few years back, I got into watching his stuff. And what one sees is the cars and the money, they literally call themselves the money team, and the spending, and there’s all the outrageous stuff. But I know someone who was in camp with him who actually was a sparring partner for him, and the lore has it, they have very closed door sparring or camps, but the lore is that he would do, because nowadays it’s 12, three minute rounds, right? With a minute in between, used to be 15, but now neuroscientists stepped in and it turns out a lot of the deaths were occurring when it was more than 12 rounds. For whatever reason, you cut off at 12, really seemed to truncate the death. There are other things too. If the dad is apparently a corner man, we have someone else here at the podcast who knows more about this than me. But yeah, the kid not wanting to disappoint the parent correlated with death, I’ll get some of this wrong and then they can come after me. But in any case, this guy who was in Floyd’s camp said that he would do 30 to 60 minutes of sparring, bringing in fresh sparring partners with no rest.


That he would run three or four times per 24 hour cycle, despite all the critical need for sleep. That his training was unbelievably intense to the point where he would just chew up and destroy all training partners. And yet the perception that we see is it’s kind of, it’s playful for him. So it sounds very similar. Like what we see is often not what goes into it, that people are intensely rigorous.

Rick Rubin (01:17:60):

Yeah, and I think in a way from a psychological perspective, if you knew you were fighting someone who wasn’t taking it seriously, that would give you some confidence and that would not be a good thing if the person was actually working really hard outworking you, do you know what I’m saying? Like it’s from a psychological perspective that makes sense to me.

Andrew Huberman (01:18:27):

So what I keep coming back to is that I’m imagining in my mind kind of two ends of the continuum. One that is about fairly narrow focus, training, training, strategy, implementation, cultivating craft, building craft. And then the other side is this, the cloud. It’s very nebulous, right? And there’s this word that I learned from a colleague of mine when I was down at the Salk Institute when my lab was there, because he studies this. There’s this phenomenon that I don’t want to mispronounce because then it sounds like something else, but the correct pronunciation is pareidolia. And pareidolia is our tendency to look at an amorphous shape like a cloud or a tree and think that it looks like something else. An ice cream cone, the man in the moon. And that again, reveals the extent to which the brain wants to place symbolic filters on things. And we need this, right? Because I see you walk in the door and, Rick, I recognize you. In fact, we have a brain area called the fusiform face gyrus. Literally is a face recognition area. And you could be at any orientation or I could just see your eyes and know that it’s you. There’s a phenomenon called propriocegnosia where people can see faces, they can describe everything in the face, but they don’t know, for instance, that it’s JFK or Madonna or Lex Friedman.


It’s quite the list. Quite the list. There you go, Lex. Run for office, Lex. Just kidding. It’s hard enough to get you to respond to my texts as it is. So we have these filters. And so we’re taking this cloud and we’re deciding what things are. Yes. And what I want to drill into your process a little bit more deeply, when you approach a project, so everyone meets each other, shakes hands, here are the engineers, we’re going to sit down, everyone knows what they’re doing.


Because you work with professionals and you start going, are you trying to be with the cloud or in the implementation? Like, where are you in that continuum? And forgive me if I’m like trying to surgically go into your process in a way that would disrupt it in any way, but I trust you’ve been doing this for a while and there’s no threat in that.

Rick Rubin (01:20:41):

I’m in the cloud with the exception of, I’m aware of what could go wrong on a technical side. And I might, like, if something good is happening, I might look over and make sure that we’re rolling.

Andrew Huberman (01:20:59):

So that’s a leap over to here momentarily, but…

Rick Rubin (01:21:01):

Maybe. Maybe. If I feel like, if I was in the moment, I would be in the cloud and if something good starts happening, it would trigger something in me like, oh, I hope this is, I hope we’re really doing this because I don’t know if we could ever do this again. That would be a thought of when the first time the real world would come into the picture would be something good is happening. Let’s not lose.

Andrew Huberman (01:21:36):

And when that happens, do you, never been in a studio besides a podcast studio, do you say, hey guys, that sounded good, more of that? Or do you wait, you let them continue? Because obviously you don’t want to break their flow.

Rick Rubin (01:21:51):

We’d never want to break any flow once it’s happening. Yeah, once something’s happening, just kind of sit back and watch.

Andrew Huberman (01:21:58):

And do you think there’s resonance, like the team of engineers and other people know when it quote unquote is happening?

Rick Rubin (01:22:05):

If everyone’s paying attention, yes. When everyone’s paying attention, it’s usually pretty obvious. Sometimes the thread will be something different than expected and maybe not everybody would pick up on it. And that might be a particular, that might be particular based on my taste or an artist’s taste or someone involved might say that was, let’s listen back to that. I think that was better than what we thought that can happen. You said several things and it was like, you said enough for there to be several conversations.

Andrew Huberman (01:22:38):

I tend to do that, sorry, especially with you. I don’t get to see you as nearly as often as I would like. And so when I do, I confess that I’m a little bit of a kid in a candy shop.

Rick Rubin (01:22:47):

Now in the brain tells us stories. So you talked about I walk in certain data points, you recognize me, but it’s a real like looking at a cloud shorthand. We go through our lives doing this all day with everything we see. And the shorthand, in the case of me, you know me, the shorthand turns out to be right, it checks out. If it’s something we don’t know and something we’re not familiar with, something happens, we experience something on the street, something happens, and it doesn’t make sense.


Something out of the ordinary happens. First thing is, this doesn’t make sense. Then what we do is, again, subconscious, unconsciously, I don’t know if it’s unconscious or subconsciously, without thinking, we create a story that explains what just happened. A hypothetical that makes it okay that what just happened, happened, and oh, maybe he’s running because his dog ran away and he’s chasing his dog, maybe that’s why he’s running.


And as soon as we have that thought of what it might be, we relax because now it’s not just a guy running and this is weird, but it’s a guy running, oh, he’s probably running after his dog. And now we register that story that we just made up without even knowing we were making it up as what happened. And then later in the day, if someone says, yeah, do you see that guy running out of the box? Yeah, he was chasing his dog, I saw that. And you won’t even realize that it was the maybe hypothetical story that was the first possible explanation that allowed you to continue walking. Do you know what I’m saying?


That’s our whole lives. Our whole lives are reacting to things, making up a story of what we think may have happened without realizing that’s what we’re doing, and then living the rest of our lives as if that thing that we made up really happened and we never know. I completely agree.

Andrew Huberman (01:25:05):

I completely agree we confabulate from birth until death. There’s this well-observed phenomenon in people who have memory deficits. So there’s the sad example of this, and then there’s the everyday typical, not, who knows, sad or not sad example. So for instance, if somebody has a slight memory deficit or someone has Alzheimer’s dementia, they’ll find themselves in the hallway at night and say, what are you doing here? And they’ll say, oh, I was going to get a glass of water, but they’re walking away from the direction that would make sense. People who, alcoholics who drink enough develop something called Korsakoff syndrome where a certain brain area gets messed up and you’ll ask them a question like, oh, what are you doing here? And they will come up with incredible stories, sometimes interesting stories that have no bearing on reality. You ask them who their name is. But do they believe that’s what happened? With 100% certainty. And this actually relates to a lot of the now better understood controversy around repressed memories. You can, especially from young people, you can pull memories from them of things that never happened. This has been demonstrated over and over again. So courtrooms know to be very cautious now about this whole notion of repressed memories. That’s good to know. Yeah, very, very complicated area of the law, as you can imagine, because we want, we tend to want to trust victims for understandable reasons. But in terms of accuracy of details, two people have very different accounts of the same experiences. And this has been shown over and over again. That you can do well in the laboratory. It’s pretty interesting. So again, because of these selective filtering and storytelling, and we are, I think it was Salman Rushdie who said we are the storytelling species. He probably- Wow, I was going to say we’re storytelling machines. That’s great. Yeah, I think we are. Story, I would say that the big five, if I had to pick up sort of brain function, is we are very limited filters. The mantis shrimp sees 67 shades of red for every one that we see. So they have access to things we don’t have access to. They’re not, as far as I know, releasing albums of the Red Hot Chili Peppers caliber, but who knows, maybe down there they are. I did see something, by the way, as a relevant tangent recently. And I don’t know if it’s, look, even if it’s crazy, it’s super cool.


If you take a device that amplifies the electrical signals coming from cactus, and you just translate that into a simple rule of conversion to two or three pitches of sound, the music that comes out of it is beautiful. Nothing short of beautiful. And when I saw that, the teenager in me thought, you know, when we hear whale song, we think it’s so beautiful. Like, what if they’re just like cursing at each other the whole time, right? I mean, maybe they’re in there, like a Rogan episode when he invites all his comedian friends in there. Who knows? Maybe it’s a psychoanalytic conversation about their childhood traumas. I don’t know. But we decide whale song is beautiful. We decide cactus,

Rick Rubin (01:28:03):

they’re just plants. And it’s beautiful to us. And we’re right that it is beautiful to us, but it doesn’t mean we know anything about it.

Andrew Huberman (01:28:12):

That’s right. Yeah, so we have these filters, perceptual filters. We only can see and hear, smell and taste what we can. And then the brain likes to work in symbols. We tend to like to match that person whose shoes are messed up must be homeless. I’ve had a couple instances in life where I saw what I thought was a homeless vagrant inside a building at an academics institution. It turned out it was the most accomplished person in the field. That’s always cool. Yes, that happened at Berkeley.


Then the other thing that we do is we tend to put, you know, symbol, so we said perception, symbol representations, and then our memories are entirely confabulated based on already deficient symbol and perceptual representation. And so I never liked the statement that we don’t know how the brain works. I think we do know how the brain works, but that it works through very limited filters. Okay, so knowing that and accepting it, and it seems to me that this idea of looking to nature, looking outside us is so critical.


And in fact, I hope you won’t mind me sharing this, but a few years back, I had sent you something by text and I was kind of in disbelief about something I’d seen in the media. I was like, they got it all wrong. And I knew the person involved and it was not a good situation for them. And I was like, they got it all wrong. And you wrote back and you said, it’s all lies, back to nature, the only truth.


And I wrote that down, I put it over my desk. And I still, you know, I tattooed it on my forehead if I didn’t already have it well committed to memory. But I think, I know that’s true, right? Nature we can look at and it’s-

Rick Rubin (01:30:08):

But when I say it’s all lies, you just talked about our ability to, how limited our facility to see and understand what we see. Yes? Yes. So based on that, that leads us to, we can’t know much, do you know what I’m saying? Our resolution is so low on everything. We’re really just like, we’re grasping at straws. We have no idea. We have no idea. And there’s great power in knowing that. Because if you think you know what’s going on, chances are you’re being deceived.


Not because somebody’s deceiving you, but because they’re telling you what they see and they don’t know. It’s all, do you know what I’m saying? It’s all made up. Everything that we, everything we know is made up. Maybe, maybe it’s true. This brings us to pro wrestling. It’s the reason that pro wrestling is closer to reality than anything else we can watch or any other content. It’s, we know it’s made up, we know that it’s a performance, it’s storytelling, and that’s how everything is, except we think wrestling’s fake and the world is real. Wrestling’s real and the world’s fake. You talk about in the book,

Andrew Huberman (01:31:38):

we’re definitely going this direction. In the book, you talk about the op, this notion of entertaining the idea of the opposite being true, as it, and there’s our not only emerging, but established fields of psychology that are making great ground, I think, into the human psyche, Byron Katie’s work and others, where you take a statement and you start playing with that statement before you poke at its authenticity. And when I first heard that, I thought, this is kind of hokey, right? It’s just words. And then I realized how foolish I was being. Because she’s really onto something, and there are others too, of course, but in science, that’s exactly what you do.


You don’t really ask questions in science. You are forced to raise hypotheses and try and say true or false. Now, there are limitations to that approach, certainly. I mean, pure observational studies have been incredible in terms of what they’ve revealed to us, especially in medicine. You know, a patient that has a bullet hole through a certain area of the brain, you don’t go in and say, oh, I hypothesize that person will have a deficit in seeing faces. No, the person wandered into the clinic and they go, this person sees faces but can’t make sense of them. And then you forensically arrive at an understanding. But in general, we go about things in this way.


And considering that the opposite might be true, well, that’s a little bit, I suppose, of like seeing the whale at the surface of the water. It’s like, well, the opposite of my experience, which is all above water for the most part, is maybe not the complete experience of life. You start seeing the inverse all the time. So I wanna- Consider the inverse all the time.

Rick Rubin (01:33:21):

And it really relates to the way that you described how you were able to see the universe that you described how we see colors is based on contrast. So maybe blue’s only blue in relation to yellow. So if blue is our choice, if we’re not considering yellow, blue doesn’t exist. Do you know what I’m saying? It’s like, we talk about night. It’s only night because there’s day. If there was no day, there is no night. In all of our cases, it’s like the yin-yang.


There’s the light and the shadow always. There’s always another side for everything. And we focus on one aspect, but if we look at the other aspect, chances are we’ll learn something too.

Andrew Huberman (01:34:14):

The nervous system is not just able to do this. It’s the way it does everything. At two experiments, I’ll just briefly describe my scientific great-grandparents, David Hubel and Torrance de Wiesel, showed that if you force a person to look at something for a long period of time without moving their eyes, there’s a way that you can do this, the image disappears. Because normally your eyes are making little micro saccades and you’re comparing what you’re seeing to what’s right next to it, pixel by pixel, pixel by pixel, pixel by pixel.


If we don’t even have to use the example of pressing on the arm, we’re sitting in chairs right now. And until I said, what’s going on at the level of sensation on the backs of your thighs, you were unaware of it because if you experience a pressure or a smell in a room, you ever walk in, the smell is either good or not good, pretty soon the smell disappears. The neurons are still firing like sledgehammers on a bell, but we become blind and deaf to it because the nervous system likes to habituate the value of that signal when it’s there often. And it’s only the stuff that comes through, signal the noise that kind of jolts us into, you know, attention and awareness. And I want to return to attention awareness, which are prominent themes in the book. And I think in an important way, not just, oh, attention awareness is important, but you also give insight into how to pay better attention, how to pay awareness with the understanding that people are going to go about it differently.


But I do want to ask you about wrestling because when I was growing up, I was not, I lived south of the Cow Palace and there was some wrestling going on there. I think back then it was WWF. And there was a short stint in my childhood where I paid attention to, in particular, was it Coco Beware, the guy that had a macaw? I was obsessed with tropical birds. And he would come in and he’d put his tropical bird on the thing. And then who’s that, George the Animal Steel, the guy that would eat the ring. Okay, so, and-

Rick Rubin (01:36:08):

I believe he was a professor.

Andrew Huberman (01:36:10):

Seriously, seriously.

Rick Rubin (01:36:12):

Was he really? In real life. Amazing. He was a professor, but he played George the Animal Steel as a wrestler.

Andrew Huberman (01:36:18):

And I loved the movie, The Wrestler. The Wrestler. Darren Aronofsky movie. It was Mickey Rourke. Yeah, one of the reasons I liked it is I once visited Asbury Park. Isn’t that where that was filmed? There’s a vacant, he goes to visit his daughter. There’s a vacant amusement park or abandoned amusement park scene there that was really eerie, still kind of haunts me a little bit. There’s something about the East Coast in kind of fall, all the places that people normally go just for the summer that we don’t have out here on the West Coast. People on the East Coast are just tougher than we are. It still haunts me. Great movie.


But I remember watching wrestling and it was at that age, I think I was probably about 12, 13, maybe 11, 12, 13, where you’re kind of entering puberty. So, and puberty is a fundamental landmark of development. It’s the most rapid period of aging. It’s also when we start to change our rule set, like certain people and certain kinds of interactions take on profoundly different meaning, right?


It’s not just a reproductive competence time and when kids change, their bodies change. The rule book changes fundamentally. Our understanding of the world changes in that moment. Oh yeah, I mean, the moment that a child understands really what sex is and kind of how they got there and that a lot of the stuff that we see in the world is kind of passively or not so passively being sent through that filter. It’s like, it’s something. It changes the rule or the rule book of perception. I view this age from about 11 to 13, at least for me, was a unique transition point where the gap between what I perceived as reality and fiction was kind of blurry. This is captured pretty well in that movie, Stand By Me, where they’re hanging around the campfire at night and the kid says, who do you think would win in a fight between Superman and Mighty Mouse? And the other kid says like, you idiot, Mighty Mouse is a cartoon. Of course, Superman would win.


And like, to me, that’s being 11 1⁄2 or 12 years old where your understanding of reality as you know it is changing, but it’s not completely crystallized into an adult form reality.

Rick Rubin (01:38:38):

That sounds like a really healthy place to be to me, like that, not letting it crystallize. I think that’s the, there’s where the downfall happens.

Andrew Huberman (01:38:48):

So I have a question specifically about wrestling, but it’s really about process. I want to know whether or not you watch wrestling because it allows you to access the energy state in your body and mind and that kind of mode of thinking in which reality as one conceives it is somewhat blurry or is it for a number of other reasons, which is fine, is that the energy you’re trying to export and bring to the creative process elsewhere to life? Is it that anything is possible or that we’re dealing with archetypes? Because it doesn’t matter if it’s Coco Beware or Randy Macho Man Savage or George the Animal Steel and the lovely Elizabeth. I guess I did watch a little bit of wrestling.


But they are archetypes much like the Greek myths or the Bible or no disrespect to the Bible or to Greek myths or to wrestling for that matter. Archetypes are a powerful filter for humans, but we know that they’re a very limited filter too because people aren’t built like square wave functions. We have curves and contours and complexity. So what is the deal with your relationship to wrestling?

Rick Rubin (01:40:00):

I think it maintains that kind of playfulness. Anything is possible. We expect the unexpected all the time in wrestling. And it’s a way to have a kind of a feeling of the energy of a sport with no competition. Everyone is working together to put on the best show they can. So it’s more like a ballet than it is like a sporting event.


And there’s great skill involved. It’s one of the few things that I can watch and really feel relaxed. It relaxes me. I don’t feel like I have to think about it. I can just relax and enjoy it.

Andrew Huberman (01:40:46):

This brings up a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, which is this notion of dopamine schedules. I never want to reduce everything to dopamine, but dopamine is the universal currency of delight, pleasure, motivation seeking. There are other chemicals involved too, but there’s a beautiful experiment and a couple of examples that I’ll use as a foundation to more questions about wrestling and why it’s powerful and why other people may want to use wrestling or some other endeavor as a way to access creative energy and source.


Earlier, we talked about you can train an animal to press a lever three times and then get reward, and it will learn three’s the magic number for reward, and then it can switch. It takes a little bit of training and then it can switch, but they can’t do prime numbers. They can’t do high abstraction schedules. Humans either. We’re not very good at figuring out the rule set for optimal foraging. We do it well enough to persist as a species, at least for now, but it’s very likely that we are not tapping into that system as well as we could. And how would we know if we don’t know? It’s one of those, you don’t know what you don’t know.


There’s a beautiful experiment that explored when dopamine is released in the context of watching sport or watching comedy, believe it or not. And with the comedy stuff, it was every time there was a surprise, it was kind of that jarring like, ha-ha, and they’d measure people’s dopamine output. They were also brain imaging. In a game of basketball, it’s a beautiful opportunity experimentally because every time one team gets the ball or shooting free throws or something, they’re going down court and it’s either going to end up in the basket or it’s not.


Might end up on the free throw line, but it’s never not. So what they found is that the schedule of anticipation was every time there was a switch of which team got it. So you’re waiting, waiting, and then it’s, ah, you’re waiting, waiting, yes. Waiting, waiting, three-pointer, ah, awesome. And if something happened where it looked like they were going to make the three-pointer, but then somebody basically swatted the ball away and then went for a half court shot, like you don’t expect that very often, bigger dopamine release, okay? So that’s kind of how the dopamine thing works. When you describe wrestling, I wonder, because you don’t know the script, it’s not one team gets it, then the other team gets it. You don’t know who’s going to win. Anything could happen is what you said. Yes. The availability of that dopamine surge or drip, which is a powerful thing, it’s completely out of your reach in terms of anticipation. You don’t know when it’s going to come, but it must arrive often enough that you return to it 11 hours a week of watching.


In many ways, the way I’m starting to conceptualize the creative process is a little bit the same. You don’t know where those nuggets of gold and those loose threads are, but you have enough experience, and in this case, I am referring to you specifically, to know that they are in there. The people walking in this room have a certain level of ability and talent to create.


The map will form itself as we are going through the voyage and those nuggets of, here I’m calling them dopamine, but they are out there. And that knowledge is enough to get you to come back again, and again, to trust the process. So I actually think the way you described wrestling as it’s the energy of the sport. It’s not whether or not it’s this move or that move or who wins or who loses, it’s the energy. And I’m guessing it’s the energy that it creates in you

Rick Rubin (01:44:24):

as an observer. Yes, it’s the energy it creates in me and the reality that it’s honest in what it is in a world where seemingly nothing is honest at what it is. And again, not because people are lying all the time. We have a little data, we make up a story to explain it, and then we say, that’s what happened.


And we have trusted sources who do exactly what I just described and who pass this down as gospel of what we teach. And maybe it’s true and maybe it’s not. With wrestling, we know maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. We lean towards it not being true, but what’s really interesting about wrestling and maybe one of the most fun things about it is that sometimes real life works its way into the story, like two wrestlers get married. Now- In real life. Well, we don’t know. It’s like you never know. It’s like in the storyline, they’re getting married or getting divorced or best friends turn on each other.


And it could be part of the story and it could really be happening because they do, right, someone gets, someone breaks their leg. So they’re out because their leg is broken. Did they break their leg? We don’t know. They’re out. Do you know what I’m saying? The, we’re told they broke their leg. So there’s always this like, I wonder what’s true. I wonder where the line is. We know that it’s scripted and or predetermined.


That’s how they say it’s predetermined, but we don’t know where reality is and isn’t. And in some ways, that’s our real experience of the world is this. We don’t really know where reality is and isn’t. We have an idea maybe. I think in some ways wrestling’s more obvious. I think in some ways wrestling’s more honest or legitimate because we start with the idea that it’s, that it’s fixed.


When we go to a boxing match, we don’t go to a boxing match thinking it’s fixed, yet it might be. And historically it’s happened, you know, or there was just something in baseball where, was it baseball? I don’t follow baseball. I should know. There was just a big sports, one of the teams that-

Andrew Huberman (01:47:03):

The plays, basically. Yes. Was it the call signals of the catcher? Yes. Yeah, you’re not supposed to deprogram or deconstruct the call signals of the other team. And I guess maybe a team got caught doing that.

Rick Rubin (01:47:19):

Yes, and the team that won whatever the, you know, World Series was. So it’s like with wrestling, you know, that wouldn’t be a scandal. Do you know what I’m saying? It’s like- Because almost anything goes. Anything goes. And that’s what the world is really like. So in some ways it’s comforting. And there’s still this mystery of like, wow, I wonder if that’s true or not. Because we never really know. Someone gets hurt. Did they really break their back? Or are they just going on vacation? We don’t know. We don’t know. Fascinating.

Andrew Huberman (01:47:51):

It is fascinating. And I feel like there are certain people who show up in a way that is surprising in not just one direction, but in all directions. Like it’s one thing for a celebrity to come out and make a statement. That can be interesting or not interesting, depending on the celebrity and the statement and the delivery. But, and I’m probably going to get this wrong because I’m terrible at pop culture things, most of them anyway. But as I recall, Lady Gaga showed up to some event wearing an outfit made of meat. And I can’t tell you for the life of me whether or not that was a statement against meat or for meat. Maybe it was a statement for the carnivore diet. Maybe it was a statement for veganism. I don’t know. Either way. Or maybe neither. Or maybe neither. But it was definitely a statement in that it broke with the norm.


And it said to me, okay, she creates different rules for herself or sort of breaks boundaries that other people had. I never heard of anyone doing that before. It doesn’t mean they hadn’t, but I never heard of anyone doing it before. But we do tend to associate outside the current playbook with quote unquote creativity, unless it crosses a line, in which case it becomes something else. It becomes almost theater for sake of theater. But what you’re telling me is that within the realm of wrestling, theater is the goal at some level. And everybody knows it who goes into those arenas, who watches it. Yes. Everybody. Yes. And everyone agrees to kind of suspend outside reality and say, this is reality. Yes.

Rick Rubin (01:49:30):

And they boo for the bad guys and cheer for the good guys, knowing that backstage they’re probably friends.

Andrew Huberman (01:49:36):

Except for the kids that are 11 who think it’s really real.

Rick Rubin (01:49:39):

I don’t know. I don’t even know if they know. I’m not sure.

Andrew Huberman (01:49:43):

The only other person I know who has vocalized their love of professional wrestling to the extent that you have is Lars Frederiksen, the rhythm guitar player for Rancid, who loves wrestling. But his statement, and forgive me, Lars, if I’m getting this wrong, is that because he grew up in an area of the South Bay where there were no teams, like now there’s the San Jose Earthquakes, but there was no football team in San Jose. He’s from Campbell. But there were no good teams, no sports teams, but they had wrestling. And he had it where?


On the television set. And so if you didn’t have a, like I didn’t grow up with any organized sports thing. The 49ers were up the road, but for me it was skateboarding. And I love it for the same reason. You actually never really know what’s going to happen. There is no rule book. The rule book is made up. But they are very, it’s a unique sport in that, and surfing’s a bit like this too, in that they are absolutely maniacal about making things look a certain way. It’s not about just doing it. It’s about doing it and making it look good.


Smooth, catching it with the front foot. And the trends change. Style. Style. It’s a style. Style is this like nebulous thing of like, you know, in fashion or in sport. Whereas with a football, there’s some amazing catches. There’s even like the catch, which I happen to know is a 49er, the catch during the Super Bowl. But in general, it’s like the goal is get in the end zone, win the game. And I’m sure football players are like cringing as I say this. But it doesn’t matter if you run ugly, if you run fastest. In skateboarding, that would never fly. In fact, you basically be ridiculed out of the sport. In wrestling, is it the same? Are there, is there style to wrestling?

Rick Rubin (01:51:28):

Yeah. It’s all, it’s all performance. It’s all the charisma of the people involved. There’s the physical ability, the ability to talk and tell a story, and the, how charismatic the performers are. Whether you want to watch them, whether you want to see them win, whether you want to see them lose, and whether you’re interested in cheering or booing for them.

Andrew Huberman (01:51:51):

I was going to say it reminds me of opera, but opera get released over and over again. You know the story and how it ends when you walk in, if you’ve listened to it before. So wrestling does seem to be unique in that way. It’s real-time iteration, at least from the perspective of the-

Rick Rubin (01:52:08):

And it’s real-time iteration based on, because people get hurt all the time, they’re doing really crazy physical stuff. So if someone gets hurt, the story has to change, because in real life, they can’t show up next week and do what was planned in the script. So it’s, it’s very alive. And there’s a lot of, something interesting and unexpected is always happening.

Andrew Huberman (01:52:37):

Well, in a much more calm form, I’ll share with you something, I’ll just like your perspective on it. For years, I used a tool in order to try and access ideas, since I was a little kid actually, because I have a little bit of OCD, a little bit of a Tourette’s. When I get tired, I’ll do that. And like very like strategy implementation oriented. I had that when I was a little, little kid, I needed all my stuffed animals arranged in a certain way. Legos had to be, you know, a little neurotic or a lot. And then science is very much about, you have to do things with a lot of precision. And I discovered that the ultimate reset for me when I was in graduate school or a postdoc, if I couldn’t make it to a really good, like agnostic front show or like chaos, like the chaos of a punk rock show for me was a kind of this reset. It was like, could like release all this thing. And I got energy from it. First time I saw transplants play and, you know, it was like, wow, cause you don’t know what’s going to happen. And it was scary and I loved it.


The other thing that I used over time to kind of reset this ability to think in a structured way without it feeling like it was overcoming me, maybe even access the same thing in some ways that you’re accessing with wrestling was I like to stare at Aquaria. Like I like to go to aquariums or I’d build aquariums and I would just sit there because you never know which way the fish are going to go. You think it’s going that way, but then all of a sudden they’ll turn and go the other way. It’s completely unpredictable. And I love Aquaria because of the tranquility and had them in my lab for a long time.


I just adore aquariums because of the non-linearity of it. It’s not A, B, C, it’s A, Z, Z, Q, you know. And I think this is what some people try and access through psychedelics, but that didn’t seem to me like a very good way to do it on a regular basis. Whereas with Aquaria, you just, the tanks are there. So in your book, you talk about something that I also share a love for, which is how the ocean and aspects of nature, like clouds and ocean, they have a predictability to them. We know where they are and where to find them. Fortunately, the sun rises and sets every day, at least for now. And we can count on them with a hundred percent reliability. And yet they are from the perspective of like what physicists would say, they’re very chaotic. You can’t look at a wave and know exactly how the foam is going to roll out. You know, it’s going to roll in and roll out. We have the tides.


But when I hear about wrestling and I think about my love of Aquaria, and I think about my love of punk rock music, for instance, or I think about the ocean, I think of it in that way that we actually have a need to source from things that have both a combination of structure and no structure.

Rick Rubin (01:55:26):

I think it’s interesting that there are some places that don’t change and some places that change a lot. And I can remember thinking about this, I was walking, there’s a beach that I walk on in Hawaii that I walk on every morning when I’m there. And if you walk on the same beach every day, you kind of get a sense of what it’s like. And I remember I was in Hawaii, walked on the beach every day for a year, however long it was. And then I left for six months and I came back. And the next time I walked on the beach, it was an entirely different beach, entirely different.


And I remember thinking in that moment, this is an unusual place because I pictured the house that I didn’t even grow up in, the house I was, I lived in maybe for the first seven years of my life. And I think about what the backyard looked like. And I think about a particular old tree that was there. And I don’t know this for sure, but my sense is, if I were to go back to where I grew up and go to that place and look in that yard, it would probably look pretty similar.


Yet here was this beach that I was walking on in Hawaii that in the course of six months completely changed its face. And just how interesting both of those things are. And that depending on the project we’re working on to be able to go to a place that we know has the potential to change a lot and what that would do to our connection with the earth when we’re experiencing that, versus going to a place that has very little change. And you can kind of count on it being the way it’s always been. That both of those are interesting things to be able to draw upon, depending on what we want to open in our psyche.

Andrew Huberman (01:57:23):

I have an almost unhealthy fascination with New York in the mid 80s and 90s.


You didn’t live there though. No, but since I was a kid, I went there when I was a little kid and I was fascinated by it. There’s also a very interesting migration of East Coast to West Coast creatives, including yourself, that played an important part of my life. Just seeing things and hearing things that were meaningful to me. But I like, for instance, I love the movie. I haven’t seen the documentary, but the one about Jean-Michel Basquiat, because of the characters that are in it and the huge number of people in that, like Parker Posey, Dennis Hopper, and Christopher Wall and on and on. Those images of New York at that time were so exciting and what was happening. I wish I could transplant myself to that. If I had a time machine, that’s where I’d land first.


But I hear a lot of people say, New York isn’t what it used to be. San Francisco isn’t what it used to be, whatever. LA isn’t what… There does seem to be something that feels a little bit disruptive to people about cities changing. But the idea that natural landscapes change is actually, we even accept like, hey, fires sweep through places and assuming they weren’t started by humans, we accept that. That change and the reordering of landscapes is normal and healthy. And I always tell myself, they have the kids growing up in New York or San Francisco or Chicago now, they only know it that way. So to them, it’s as cool or as uncool as it’s ever going to be, right? They either want to get out or they’re loving every piece of it. And this happened for all the people that came before us. So my question is a very basic one.


Do you miss the New York that you came up in? Are you somebody who is attached to the past? I’m not attached at all.

Rick Rubin (01:59:02):

I’m not attached to anything in the past. I don’t look back at all.

Andrew Huberman (01:59:06):

You don’t think about like, oh, in my dorm room at NYU, Beastie Boys, this, like I miss, no, your optics are forward. Present and forward. Only present and forward. Is there a process to that or it just happens to be where you default to? I don’t know. I’m not sure, but that’s how I do it. Nostalgia is not in Rick Rubin’s brain. No. Oh, lucky you, man. No. I say that with genuine admiration. So you can hear a song that maybe you had a role in producing or not, something from the past and you’re accessing a state, presumably, but you’re not pining for or wishing how it was. Never. I’m no psychologist, but I’m going to venture to say that I think that’s a very unique quality. I think a lot of people wish for or wish that things did not happen the way they did, that there’s a lot of living in the past. There’s a lot of this notion of like people future trip. I don’t actually think that’s the default state of the brain. I think a lot of people live in emotional anchors to the past, good and bad.


I have none. And watching wrestling is one way that you cleanse the palate. Yeah. That’s true. When you go to a meal and they pass around this, I don’t know if they do this anymore, but pass around a little bit of sorbet to cleanse the palate. Turns out there’s a biological reason for that. There’s a kind of neutralization of the taste receptors between savory and sweet, et cetera. So if wrestling is your palate neutralizer.

Rick Rubin (02:00:44):

I know that if I watch wrestling before I go to sleep, it’s going to be a good night’s sleep.

Andrew Huberman (02:00:49):

Do you dream about wrestling?

Rick Rubin (02:00:53):

But it’s just relaxing.

Andrew Huberman (02:00:58):

It’s relaxing. Do you anticipate when you watch it? Like here comes the dopamine hit. Sometimes.

Rick Rubin (02:01:04):

Sometimes when it happens, it’s exciting. It’s going up for the three-pointer. Yeah, sometimes it’s exciting. But do you enjoy it? But even men, it’s like the stakes are low. It’s like, I don’t really care what happens, which feels good. You know that I’m just being entertained.

Andrew Huberman (02:01:20):

Do they actually get hurt sometimes? You said they do.

Rick Rubin (02:01:23):

A lot. Often. I mean, they’re basically stuntmen. So imagine stuntmen getting hurt doing a crazy stunt. Happens all the time.

Andrew Huberman (02:01:31):

When the movie, The Wrestler, I remember he got staples stapled into him. And I thought that’s pretty intense. I once went and saw, I guess they called it Mexican wrestling. I don’t know if they call it that anymore, where the guys dip their hands. Yeah, they dipped their hands in glass. This was in Sacramento. And I went and saw it. I honestly didn’t have a stomach for it. I really didn’t. I couldn’t believe it was legal. It might not have been legal.

Rick Rubin (02:01:50):

Yeah. But I thought. There’s crazy stuff in wrestling sometimes.

Andrew Huberman (02:01:56):

So before sleep, is that typically when you watch wrestling? Yes. Do you think it’s useful for people to have some activity that allows them to kind of clear their mind and create peace before heading off to sleep?

Rick Rubin (02:02:10):

I think so. And I think yoga nidras would be good. It’s like yoga nidra, pro wrestling, any of those type things.

Andrew Huberman (02:02:17):

Yeah, not watching the Dalmer thing. I won’t watch that.

Rick Rubin (02:02:20):

I don’t watch any horror, anything, or I don’t like violent things. Yeah.

Andrew Huberman (02:02:26):

I know it exists. I know horrible things happen in the world, but I certainly don’t want to do that before sleep. I think these liminal states before and emerging from sleep are very powerful. When you wake up in the morning, are your thoughts immediately structured or do you enjoy the kind of clearing of the clouds?

Rick Rubin (02:02:45):

It’s a slow process for me to wake up. And I like that. I like not engaging too much too soon. I also, another, I usually fall asleep listening to a lecture or something speaking because if I don’t, I can get caught in my own thoughts and listening to something is enough of a focus point that it stops me from talking to myself.

Andrew Huberman (02:03:16):

I do the same. My grandfather listened to the radio, to sports on the radio, and he would fall asleep. Oftentimes, he was a smoker with a cigarette in his mouth. His wife’s responsibility was to stay up later than he did to make sure he didn’t burn everything down. And then when you wake up, when you wake up, you said it’s a slow process. Is it an hour or two before you feel like you’re?

Rick Rubin (02:03:39):

I would say probably an hour. I usually wake up and try to get in the sun as soon as I possibly can and hope to spend, hope to spend about an hour. And then I’ll usually go for a walk on the beach for another hour or 90 minutes, depending.

Andrew Huberman (02:03:57):

Are you with family members and other people at that time?

Rick Rubin (02:04:02):

No, I’m usually focused by myself. Phone? I’ll be listening to something. I don’t look at the phone, but I listen. I listen to, again, a lecture, a podcast, or audio book.

Andrew Huberman (02:04:14):

I like audio books a lot. Yeah, I do too. If an idea comes to mind, do you write it down?

Rick Rubin (02:04:18):

I may, it depends. I like to. I usually would do a note in my phone. I don’t usually carry pen and paper with me when I’m walking.

Andrew Huberman (02:04:30):

Yeah, I do the same. I do a long Sunday hike or jog, and I will audio script into my phone. People sometimes give me funny looks because I’m talking to myself.

Rick Rubin (02:04:39):

That’s a nice way to do it, though. I’d like to learn more of the audio methods of doing it instead of the typing methods. Right now I type, and I don’t think it’s the best way.

Andrew Huberman (02:04:47):

The voice memos function in the iPhone and other phones is really good, and there are now companies like that will turn those into Word doc scripts that are fairly well corrected, fairly inexpensive. No, they’re not a sponsor of the podcast. I just happen to use it. It’s great. I actually learned that trick from Richard Axel, the Nicorette chewing wild man Nobel Prize winner. He writes manuscripts by walking around his office, pacing and talking into his phone. I always think of the Woody Allen movie

Rick Rubin (02:05:25):

where the Alan Alda character is talking about, talking about, yeah, he’s speaking comedy ideas into the phone. It’s really pretentious.

Andrew Huberman (02:05:36):

I liked that movie about Harvey Milk, that Sean Penn played Harvey Milk, because that all took place before I was alive, mostly in the Bay Area, but there’s these beautiful scenes of him, as I recall, sitting there at his kitchen table talking into a tape recorder at night, talking about how he predicted that he would be possibly assassinated, et cetera. And this goes back to the Strummer thing about writing things down. I think that a lot of people, including myself, feel a little bit of like egotistical guilt around like, who am I to think that my ideas could be worthwhile or something?


But I think over time, I’ve come to realize that the ideas about experiments or health, questions I have about health, they don’t always, but oftentimes can lead to real seeds

Rick Rubin (02:06:25):

that grow into big trees. But it’s something that’s interesting to you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, you know? Like most of my notes are not for anyone else’s, you know, for anyone else’s use. Like I hear about something that’s interesting to me and I think about, okay, I want to learn more about this, whatever it is. And then sometimes those things work their way into things I’m doing because the universe seems to work in that way. But I rarely am learning something with the idea of using it.


I learn things with the idea of, this is what I want to know. This is what’s interesting to me. And then often those things that are interesting to me can find their way into other projects just because they do.

Andrew Huberman (02:07:09):

Yeah, that’s almost like Kohler kindling. But the moment that you think of it that way, it sort of, it sounds so extractive, right? But if you, so you take this walk and you’re writing down the occasional idea perhaps, and then what is the next sort of the way that, here are less than do this, than this, than that. I’m interested in like, where does your mind shift to? Does it become more structured as the day goes on? Does your thinking become more structured around projects and plans?

Rick Rubin (02:07:42):

I try to deal with things that need dealing with after that and in preparation for going to work. And then when I go to work, it’s more like free, this free thing where I’m, again, hoping something good comes, welcoming something good, paying attention and maybe trying to will it to happen, but never, but knowing I don’t have the ability to make it happen. I can just be present for it and be ready if it does arrive.

Andrew Huberman (02:08:17):

Some of the more surprising, and I found really interesting and useful features of the book were about dancing with structure and lack of structure. So when I think of structure, I think of like deadlines. So when you are in the process of creating something, obviously deadlines are relevant, time of day, right? There’s only so many hours in the day where one can stay in the groove or this like readiness to receive.


Have you ever found yourself in that mode where you’re kind of grinding, like, ah, like here we are, like, okay, I’m not coming home for dinner tonight. It’s the next, you know, we’re going to push, we’re like, put on the coffee pot kind of thing.

Rick Rubin (02:09:01):

A lot, a lot in the, over the course of my life, a lot, not as much now. And one of the things that I discovered through working on the book was the phases of work. We’re not required to treat the different phases of work in the same way, whereas before I did, before everything was in this state of play. Everything had a wide open time schedule. It happens when it happens.


And if it takes two years or three years, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about that. It’s only about this thing has to be great. And what I came to realize in working on the book is that there are different phases. And the first phase is this seed collecting phase, which is kind of an ongoing part of life in general. I do that, I do that always, whether I’m working on something or not, I’m always in the seed collecting phase and there’s no deadline or just anything that interests me that I think I want to learn more about or has potential to be something, anything, something, I hear something, think, hmm, I’d like to read more about that. Or I wonder if there’s a movie about that. Is there a movie about that? If not, maybe there’s a movie to be made. Again, I want, this is something I want in my life. Let’s see if it exists. If it doesn’t exist, then maybe that’s something interesting to pursue. But I know that the desire is there because I have it.


So in the seed phase, there’s no deadlines. It’s just a wide open part. And then the next phase is called the experimentation phase where you start experimenting to see what the seeds want to do. You’re involved, but you’re more of a, you’re not really dictating the action. You’re setting the stage for something to happen, but it’s not about you yet. So it’d be like the equivalent of you’d plant the seed, you would water it, you would make sure it was in the sun, and you’d wait.


So you’re involved, but you can’t make it grow, you know? And then when it sprouts and it grows, or if it turns into a plant, then you can look at the plant and say, okay, how does this plant, what’s the potential of this plant?


And then the third phase is the crafting phase where it’s like, okay, I have this plant. Maybe I’m gonna trim it, or maybe I’m gonna combine it with these other plants to make something else with it. Now it’s like material that you have. And then finally is the completion or finishing phase, which is the final edit, getting to the version of it. The version of it that’s the one that you can share with the world if that’s something you’re gonna do.


And I’ve come to realize that by the time you’re going into the completion phase, you can have a deadline, and it won’t hurt the project. In fact, it might help the project. And I didn’t know that before. So I’ve worked on projects that have gone longer than they necessarily needed to, and maybe not in the best interest of the project because I didn’t know that. I didn’t understand the timing of that because I am so aware of the necessity in the experimental phase to not have a deadline that I assumed that that held through the whole project. And it’s not a clear phase one finishes, and then you start phase two, phase two finishes, and then you start phase three. You move back and forth between them. I’m collecting seeds all the time, I’m always in phase one.


And then probably to some degree, there’s always some version of experimentation going on. Maybe not now, but if something’s on a list of things I wanna look at, hopefully I’ll get to the list and give them some experimentation and see what they can turn into. And then if they do turn into something, then they get to the crafting phase where it’s more, okay, now I have this thing. What do I know about this kind of thing? What can I match this with? What can I use this for? How can I be involved as a craftsman? And by the end of the crafting phase or deep into the crafting phase, you can start seeing the end. You can start seeing an end and then you can even dictate an end. But I recommend if you do just dictate it for you, not for anyone else, because if something comes up where you learn, if you set a deadline, a public deadline, and then a new discovery happens along the way and you realize, oh, this could actually be much better than I thought, but I need more time. It’s harder to do that if you set the deadline. So I would say have an internal deadline to get to finish it.


That said, if an unusual situation comes up and it’s better for everything not to meet that deadline, it’s one of those rules that you set the rule to break it if it’s what’s best for the project. But that was a new thing for me and it helped me a lot.

Andrew Huberman (02:14:31):

When did you realize that?

Rick Rubin (02:14:32):

In collecting the material for the book and thinking about it, when I realized that it was phases, I didn’t know any of this. When I started writing the book, I didn’t know hardly any of the things in the book. Most of it would be reverse engineering something that I had experienced, a successful experience, using these methods without knowing they were methods, just following my instincts got me to something good. And then I would look back at why did I want to do that? And is there a principle at play that could be of use outside of this case? And how do I explain that? And that’s what the book is, is these reverse engineered principles that have led to good decision-making in trying to make things.

Andrew Huberman (02:15:33):

The chapter on self-doubt was really interesting to me. It was really interesting to me.

Rick Rubin (02:15:37):

Tell me what it says, because I can’t read it.

Andrew Huberman (02:15:39):

Well, I’ll read the first sentence of it, which is that self-doubt lives in all of us. And while we may wish it was gone, it is there to serve us. And it goes on to describe how to dance with self-doubt in not so many words. I think there’s a saying that is actually from the landscape of psychology, which is generally discussed in a kind of pathological context, which is if nothing matters, anything goes. This is usually the phrase used to describe people who feel as if like there’s no use in living, so just go crazy, often to self-destruct.


But there’s a light version of this, I realize, where in some sense, the creative process seems to have something to do with, if you’re not paying attention to what outcomes are, like who likes it, who doesn’t like it, and you’re just doing it for you, you make the rule play, I want to delight myself. Well, then anything goes, and you have an infinite rule set there to extract from, at least initially.


So, as one gets better at their craft, you can imagine self-doubt goes down. I think that’s the perception of a lot of people, right? You get better at what you’re doing, you can land more free throws as a basketball player, you can hit more home runs as a baseball player, you can produce more platinum albums as an artist, self-confidence goes up, self-doubt goes down. But I think you and I both know a number of people who are successful enough to know that oftentimes there’s a mirror image to that where people feel pressure because they did it once, now they got to do it again. Yes.

Rick Rubin (02:17:23):

Or that you think you’re so good at it that it comes easily and you don’t have to apply yourself. Arrogance. Yeah. So, self-doubt, it’s like a, it’s a check on yourself. It can either be really helpful or it can undermine you. So, it’s something we all have. And if we let it undermine us, then we don’t make anything and that’s not good.


But when used as a balancing tool in our lives, it serves a great function where we really do. It’s okay to have all the confidence in the world and still second guess, is this the best it can be? You can doubt, I think the phrases in the book, you can doubt your way to a great work, to a masterpiece. Sometimes that questioning allows you to push further than just accepting I made it so it’s good.

Andrew Huberman (02:18:33):

Yeah, I’ve encountered more people that seem to be driven by self-doubt and the need to constantly perform and perform again than I have real arrogance. Just that’s been my experience, fortunately. I’ve met some arrogant people in my life, but, and of course we never, as a psychiatrist who I admire a lot and bioengineer, who was a guest on this podcast, Karl Deisseroth, said, you know, we never really know how other people feel.


I mean, most of the time we don’t even know how we feel. Again, language is a very deprived format for explaining feelings. So we think somebody feels one way, but we can observe, and it could be another, but we observe their behavior. So in the sense of returning to the work, you know, just always returning to process. It sounds like your routine is fairly scripted, at least now, but the things that you are getting in touch with, wrestling, sleep and dreaming, the ocean, there’s a predictability of them because you can access them in a predictable way, but they seem to have a lot of unpredictability in them. The ocean is completely unpredictable.

Rick Rubin (02:19:40):

I also listen to a lot of music that I don’t know. So I listen to a lot of classical music and less so, but some jazz and a lot of old music that I never heard before. And I like being surprised by music. And sometimes it really catches me off guard. Like I shazam a lot, you know, when I hear something I like.

Andrew Huberman (02:20:10):

Have you ever encountered music that really works well live, but just does not work in a recording? Or that is that much better live, but the recording is sort of, meh.

Rick Rubin (02:20:21):

You don’t have to name names for it. Yeah, I don’t think so. I feel like maybe there are some artists who are great live who’ve never captured it well on record. Example would probably be the Grateful Dead’s good example of a band where I feel like their albums are not their strong point, but if you hear live recordings, they’re really interesting and really different from each other. And that’s kind of part of what makes the Grateful Dead interesting is their unpredictability.

Andrew Huberman (02:20:48):

I confess, I had a sister who listened to Grateful Dead and I got taken to a few shows when I was younger and they would do that, what is it called, space? It was like these drum solos that would go on for hours and hours. This is like the antithesis of punk rock shows where songs are like 90 to 120 seconds. And I remember thinking like, what is this? What is this? But people I know who love the Grateful Dead, love that uncertainty about where that drum thing, I think they do call it space. Forgive me, Deadheads, I’m not enough of one to get it right.

Rick Rubin (02:21:22):

They’re looking for something and sometimes they find it. And if you’re there when they find it, it feels exciting because it’s not just following a script. It’s like something is really happening. It’s a real moment. It’s something that I aim for in the studio is to create real moments that when you hear them, they don’t necessarily sound perfect. They sound like something that really happened. And in that moment, something happened and it’s a special moment. And you can feel that if they were to play it again, it wouldn’t be like that. There’s something really exciting about that. It’s really how jazz works as well. And I think bringing some of that jazz mentality into other types of music is really interesting, makes for compelling things. Because when you hear them, there’s a certain amount of, you really have to pay attention to do it. When you’re doing it, you’re really paying attention.


It’s like, I don’t really know. There’s no music, there’s no map to follow. And now we’re working together to make something. Do I play or not play? When do I play? And you’re really paying attention and can I add, or you go to start adding something and someone else added something, and you’re like, oh, I can’t do that. And it’s like, everyone’s just in this thing, in this moment, experiencing this thing at once that you can feel as a listener. And we get to hear their excitement of finding it. And it’s thrilling when it happens.


So I like that experience. I feel like that’s kind of what the dead do live. They’ll play songs in different ways. And again, I don’t know very much about the dead and it’s sort of a newer, it’s newer for me to listen to the dead. Growing up, I never listened to the dead. But probably because I heard songs on their albums and thought, this doesn’t really speak to me. But I think that the albums don’t really reflect what’s special about them.

Andrew Huberman (02:23:47):

I think a lot of their shows were recorded, right? Or videotaped. Yeah. But by fans, which they supported,

Rick Rubin (02:23:53):

they supported that everybody come, everybody tape, everybody trade tapes. It made sense for who that band was. They redefined or they defined, excuse me,

Andrew Huberman (02:24:04):

the notion of the dead. They redefined or they defined, excuse me, the notion of followers. I mean, people literally gave up their lives or spent much of their lives literally driving from city to city to follow them.

Rick Rubin (02:24:16):

Because it’s not like going from city to city to watch a movie over and over. Because it’s not a movie. It’s different every night. It’s changing.

Andrew Huberman (02:24:26):

Pretty incredible phenomenon. I don’t know of anything else quite like it except cults. And those often don’t end well. I think a guy that mixed the punch for the Jonestown massacre went to my high school. That was the- Is that true? I think so, yeah. That’s amazing. My sister is really good at all this kind of like 70s, 80s, like dark psychology trivia. She’s a very light person, but- Did you read season of the witch?

Rick Rubin (02:24:54):

No. It’s about San Francisco in the 60s. It’s great. You’ll love it.

Andrew Huberman (02:24:59):

One- Great book. I’ll have to check it out. The way you describe experiences going by in time or things emerging in time and the creative process being a way of sort of grabbing, catching, capturing those moments, maybe rearranging, maybe watering, et cetera, I thought was beautifully captured in the analogy you gave about a kind of a conveyor belt going by of things, right?


That we think of the creative process like it’s going to land in us or we’re going to enter it or that we’re going to sit there in a chair and like grit our teeth. You know, there’s like some Hemingway quote where you just sit there and stare at the page until the beads of blood form on your forehead or something. Maybe it was him. Maybe it was, sounds like Bukowski or something. Anyway, I’m going to get this wrong. People tell me in the comments. Maybe no one said it. It was a dream. But I love this conveyor belt thing. That reminds me of being in laboratory, doing experiments, thinking I was trying to solve one thing and then seeing something else and then having to make the decision. Like, is that really cool enough to drop everything and go that direction or to kind of spend a night or a week or a career going that way? I mean, these are kind of big decisions given that at least as far as we know, we’re going to live 100 years or less.


But this idea that we have, you know, thoughts and experiences in our past and we can draw on and like try to make good decisions. Do we like grab these things off the conveyor or not? I’m hearing you and I’m starting to realize that being attached to the past might be the worst thing that one could do in terms of being able to make good decisions in this context. Because if we have a kind of a playbook of what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, but you actually talk about this. There’s a passage in the book, you know, that I’ll just read it. To be aware of the assumption that the way you work is the best way simply because it’s the way you’ve done it before.


I sat with this page for almost 10 full minutes, which is not something I do very often. Maybe you could elaborate on this a little bit. I mean, we want to have, you know, mechanisms and routines we can trust, but this is, I think, an important warning. Yeah.

Rick Rubin (02:27:20):

When something works, it’s easy to be fooled into believing that’s the way to do it, or that’s the right way. It’s just a way, and it’s just a way that happened to work that time. And this plays into when you get advice from people who have more experience than you. You explain your situation, they tell you their advice. The advice that they’re giving you is not based on your life or your experience. It’s based on their life and their experience.


And the stories that they’re telling are based on experiences they’ve had that have very different data points than yours. So maybe they’re giving you good advice, but maybe they’re giving you good advice for them and not giving you good advice for you. And it’s easy when we try something and have a result, a positive result, thinking everybody can do this. You know, I was vegan for a long time, 22 years, and then I started eating animal protein, and then eventually changed my diet a few times to the point where I lost a lot of weight. The way that I did it worked for me.


Right before that happened, I did something that I was told that everyone else who did what you did, they all lost weight for whatever reason I didn’t. So the idea that we know what’s right for someone else, I think it’s hard enough to even figure out what’s right for ourselves. And if we do somehow crack the code of what’s right for us, be happy we have it, and then still know, I wonder if that’s the only way. Maybe there’s an even better way that we’re not considering. You know, like not to get comfortable with thinking we know how it works. Just because we get the outcome we want.

Andrew Huberman (02:29:42):

I was raised in science with a principle. It was literally dictated to me as a principle, almost like a rule of religion, which was that the brain is plastic. It can change and learn until you’re about 25, and then the critical periods end, and that’s it. And this was a rule, essentially, it was dictated a Nobel Prize, which was very deserved, given to my scientific great-grandparents. They deserve it. But I was told there was no changing of brain structure function in any meaningful way after age 25 or so. It turns out that’s completely wrong. Sorry, David and Torsten, but they knew it was wrong. Wow, that’s interesting. Yeah, it was actively suppressed because of the competitive nature of prizes and discoveries at that time. And a guy, I don’t know if you’ve ever met him, but there was a lot of prizes and discoveries at that time. And a guy named Mike Merzenich and his student, Greg Reckin’s own, were showing that adult plasticity exists.


And only now is this really starting to emerge as a theme. Just crazy. There were so many reasons, and the textbook said it. We were all told it, and it changed our behavior. Now we know this to be completely false. There’s plasticity throughout the lifespan. We’re in there, but it’s just far and away a different story. So why would that be the only time that ever happened? Right, exactly. But the field was run by a very small cabal of people

Rick Rubin (02:31:07):

at that time. All fields are run by a very small cabal of people who have an investment in things being the way they are now because they’re in charge.

Andrew Huberman (02:31:15):

And one of the great things about getting older is that, well, fortunately, everyone eventually ages. And I hope that, you know, David unfortunately passed away. He was lovely. Torsten’s lovely. He’s still alive. And they would say, I think Torsten would say, yeah, we should have been a little more open or kind in allowing these other ideas. But I think that-

Rick Rubin (02:31:35):

But just think about all the years that were wasted with this misunderstanding.

Andrew Huberman (02:31:41):

Absolutely, absolutely. And it went beyond that, and there were BBC specials that helped propagate this. And, you know, one of the goals of the podcast has been to try and shine light on ideas that at first seemed crazy. Like, I know you and I are both semi-obsessed with the health benefits of light. And you hear about this stuff like negative ion therapy. It sounds crazy, right? Sounds like something you would only hear about at Esalen or in Big Sur. Turns out negative ionization therapy for sleep and mood is based on really amazing work out of Columbia by a guy named Michael Terman. The Nobel prize, I think it was in 1916, was given for phototherapy for the treatment of lupus.


Like this idea that certain wavelengths of light can help treat medical conditions is not a new idea. But somehow we see a red light. We’re not used to seeing red lights, except in sunsets and on stoplights. And somehow it bothers people or it makes them feel like-

Rick Rubin (02:32:39):

Well, it undermines a business model that doesn’t take red light into consideration.

Andrew Huberman (02:32:46):

Right. Until it does, and then it’s co-opted there. And the place, what I look to is acupuncture. You know, for a lot of years people said, well, acupuncture, this is like no mechanism, no mechanism, no mechanism. There’s a lab at Harvard, a guy named Chufu Ma, who I know reasonably well, whose laboratory is dedicated to trying to figure out the biological mechanisms of acupuncture. And they’re discovering what everyone has known for thousands of years, which is that incredible effects on anti-inflammation, the gut microbiome. So-

Rick Rubin (02:33:16):

I have a friend who was having a terrible back problem, and I suggested that he see an acupuncturist. And he went to the acupuncturist that I suggested, and his back problem completely healed almost instantaneously. And I asked him, you know, have you been keeping up? Because he had another flare up. He’s like, no, I can’t go back there because acupuncture doesn’t work. I said, well, you saw it work for you. He’s like, yeah, but there’s no science.

Andrew Huberman (02:33:49):

Yeah. He’s got it. Now there’s good science. And published in premier journals, it, you know, what’s interesting is, this is a little bit of science editorial, but since we like to exchange information about health and things of that sort, the editorial staff of a journal dictates what gets published and what doesn’t. And the premier journals have an outsized effect on what the media covers. And so, the beautiful thing is the journal staff now is of the age that they grew up hearing about acupuncture. Hypnosis has a powerful clinical effect, if it’s done right. Yoga Nidra and similar practices. And so, the tides are changing, but I sometimes like to take a step back and think, what are we confronted with now that seems crazy that in 10 years, the kids that will be the, because to me, they’re kids, will be journal editors. I’m like, oh yeah, absolutely. You know, I’m making this up, but putting tuning forks against your head or something like that. Like sound wave therapy.


I think when one adopts a stance of, we have to filter everything through the limitations of our biology, but also through the sociology of like the way culture goes, it becomes a different story. How do you deal with that? Not just in terms of health, but in terms of thinking about anything. It sounds like you don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about what people are going to think is cool or not.

Rick Rubin (02:35:19):

No, I can’t. You’re a punk rocker at heart. Yes. You still are. Yes, I can’t. I just know what I like and what I don’t. I know what works for me and what doesn’t. You know, I try things and I’m constantly looking for new, better solutions to anything. And wherever they come from, it doesn’t matter. It could come from Stanford or it could come from the guy talking to himself on the street. If it works, I’m good. You know, it doesn’t really matter to me at all. I don’t hold any of it tightly.

Andrew Huberman (02:35:55):

Well, fortunately there’s now a division of the National Institutes of Health called Complementary Health, Complementary and Alternative Health. And it’s amazing. NCCIH is run by a woman who has published on, this is interesting, some of the anti-cancer effects of things like acupuncture. Not that acupuncture can cure all cancers, but real, you know, real data that I think for a lot of people, you know, certainly the generation above us, you know, they just are like not interested. It sheds new light on the Andrew Wiles, the Paul Stamets, you know, the wild ones.

Rick Rubin (02:36:41):

Ozone therapy, or there’s so many, there’s so many we can look at. I mean, for a long time, nutrition was just thought of as something that doesn’t matter what you eat. It’s what medicine you take and what, you know,

Andrew Huberman (02:36:56):

it’s like food is everything. Food is a powerful, powerful variable. In the landscape of online nutrition, it’s sort of one of the third rails for anyone like myself who’s out there on social media. You do a very good job of putting out posts on Twitter and Instagram, but each day you take it down, you put up a new one.

Rick Rubin (02:37:16):

And I don’t talk about any, I only talk about, you know, I talk about creative ideas. I don’t talk about anything specific related to anything other than, you know, maybe something like, don’t believe what you hear.

Andrew Huberman (02:37:30):

That’s right, exactly. Well, in the landscape of nutrition, sometimes I now place it through the filter of professional wrestling. You’ve got your vegans and your omnivores and your carnivore MD, and you’ve got liver king, and you’ve got everything in between, right?


So you could translate that to any number of different areas. Fashion probably has its people, I’m just not aware of who they are. Music has theirs and sports has theirs and science has theirs, characters. So are we all just pro wrestling like characters in these different domains and we’re taking ourselves and each other way too seriously? Yeah, it’s all, we don’t know anything.

Rick Rubin (02:38:12):

It’s all, if someone has an idea and it sounds interesting to you, try it. And if it doesn’t work, it’s okay. Try something else. You’re an empiricist. Yeah, whatever works, whatever works. And if something seems interesting to you and you’re excited by it, why not try it? It’s, you know, I try very fringy things. I like, in some ways, the more unrealistic it seems, the more interesting it is to me. Because I feel like that’s getting closer to something that somebody doesn’t want me to know.

Andrew Huberman (02:38:51):

But you’re not a big drug guy, like the big psychedelic craze that’s happening now and that happened some years back.

Rick Rubin (02:38:56):

I’m not against it. It just has never been something that I’ve done.

Andrew Huberman (02:38:60):

Yeah, yeah, it’s an interesting area that’s definitely making it headway inside of standard academic science and medicine now, so that.

Rick Rubin (02:39:10):

I’m interested in non-pharmalogical approaches to things,

Andrew Huberman (02:39:16):

whatever they are. Well, I’m a big believer that also that behavioral do’s and don’ts first are the, they’re the most fun to explore. Because in general, unless it’s something like, you know, jumping between buildings, doing parkour or something, most of the time you’re not going to injure or harm yourself. There’s more room for iteration than there is with a pill or a potion. Although, you know, certainly pharmacology has its place. You’ve had creative works, certainly within the realm of music, also comedy and producing film and other things. For somebody out there who, of whatever age, that they, maybe they’re creating, maybe they know they have this creative antennae, not to, the source is outside.


What was it that Strummer said? I actually wrote this on the wall of my laboratory. No input, no output. That’s Strummer’s law. It’s written in my laboratory. The people in my lab were so like, what’s going on here? I think one guy under knew what that was, but it was a picture of him and picture of my bulldog. And you know, no input, no output. I don’t think I can just stay in a room with four walls and a ceiling and nothing else and create. I mean, I know that there are a certain number of things in here, but I do think accessing the world is important.

Rick Rubin (02:40:33):

The world is giving us clues all the time for paying attention. That’s another part of it. Like, if you’re paying attention, the thing that you are looking for is being either whispered or screamed at you in the outside world, if you’re paying attention.

Andrew Huberman (02:40:53):

Well, and I forget the exact title of the chapter, but there’s a chapter about staying open to clues or being on the lookout for clues. Yeah. Now I feel tempted to look for the exact title of that chapter, but- It’s probably look for clues. It was look for clues. Sounds like it sounds right. And since you wrote it, I’m guessing that’s right. It’s something like that. So do you think there are clues in everywhere? Yes.

Rick Rubin (02:41:22):

I think there are clues everywhere. If we pay attention, we’ll hear a phrase, we’ll trigger a thought, we’ll see something unexpected. If someone recommends something to you, maybe it’s a coincidence. If three people recommend the same thing to you, maybe it’s not. Who knows? Who knows? I do believe the universe is on the side of creativity and the universe is supporting things to happen and they can happen through you or they could happen through someone else. So if you’re paying attention, maybe it’ll happen through you.

Andrew Huberman (02:42:10):

We had a guest on the podcast named Justin Sonnenberg. He’s an expert in the gut microbiome and he applied something that without knowing, he applied the opposite principle. The opposite is true principle. We were talking about these trillions of gut microbiota that clearly are doing amazing things to create neurotransmitters and govern our brain and even decision-making, how much sugar is in our system, driving appetite, et cetera. And he said, you know, we think of them as cargo, but maybe we’re just vehicles and they’re in charge that all of our interactions, like every time we shake hands or touch our eyes, we’re exchanging gut microbiota. And we think of intelligence as thinking and intelligence. And he’s a microbiologist and in all seriousness, he said, maybe we’re the ones being manipulated. We’re the house cats and we think here we are, we’re falling in love and kissing and shaking hands and washing hands and doing all sorts of things to isolate or connect with one another. And maybe the gut microbiota are really trying to optimize their survival.

Rick Rubin (02:43:15):

That’s what Laird Hamilton said that one point in the sauna, that when you’re in the sauna, it’s really hot. The feeling that you have of wanting to get out could be the bad critters in your body that can’t handle it. Like, let’s get out of here. Are trying to convince you from the inside to get out. Maybe that’s where the, that feeling of being compelled to get out comes from.

Andrew Huberman (02:43:41):

So Elon getting us all to Mars might be a bit of, maybe they just want to get to Mars. And so they’re, maybe I’m starting to feel like I’m channeling Lex Friedman here for a moment. No, I think this considering the opposite is really key. And while it might sound mystical to people or a little bit like we’re just playing with ideas, that’s exactly what you do in science.


Someone walks in with a result and says, I found this, this is true. And you say, but what if it’s all something else? A good example might be here, I’m pulling from podcasts episodes that we’ve had, but Aaliyah Crum is this amazing psychologist who works on belief effects. Your knowledge strongly shapes the physiological outcome. And she had this amazing graduate thesis where she said, what if all of exercise is placebo?


All of it. Yeah, it burns some calories and does some things. Turns out this isn’t the case, but it turns out a lot of the effects of exercise, positive effects, lowering blood pressure, relieving stress, positive, are placebo. But nobody thinks of it like that because we’re so attached to calories burned, et cetera.

Rick Rubin (02:44:48):

I think that’s a big point that the belief part of it is a huge part of the conversation about everything. You know, what we believe has power. If we believe we can make something great, the chances of us making something great are better than if we don’t believe we can. So I would say any ability to harness your belief on your behalf is a really healthy thing to do.

Andrew Huberman (02:45:16):

And one thing that you make very clear is that while our own abilities may come into question from time to time, you absolutely believe that the elements from which to create are out there. Absolutely.

Rick Rubin (02:45:32):

Absolutely. All the elements are here. Everything is here. We get to pick and choose. We get to, the conveyor belt’s going by with the little gifts, and we can first, first we have to notice there’s a conveyor belt. Then we notice the gifts, and then that’s the starting point and then we may even feel empowered enough to grab one of the gifts and open it up and see what’s inside. And then maybe that’s started something really beautiful that we wouldn’t have, we wouldn’t have done.


Everything, everything that I make or have made has always been based on something that I see or hear that allows me to see something that I didn’t see before.

Andrew Huberman (02:46:25):

So I was gonna ask you whether or not it’s important to be happy in order to create, but certainly a lot of people that were unhappy were still able to create. But the more I listen to you, it seems that it’s really about an ability to pay attention. Yes. So if I’m unhappy or if I’m happy may not be as relevant as whether or not I’m able to stay undistracted. Yes.

Rick Rubin (02:46:50):

I would say that’s, I would say being able to stay present in the work is probably the most important part of it. And how you feel is less of an issue unless how you feel gets in the way of you feeling how the work makes you feel. Do you know what I’m saying? If you’re in a lot of pain and you’re looking at a piece of art, it may be hard to know how that art makes you feel because the big signal in your body is the physical pain. I’m sure there are some people who can do that too, who can even through the physical pain can feel it.

Andrew Huberman (02:47:31):

There’s this idea of transmutation, of taking one emotion and contorting it and co-opting it into another action in an adaptive way. But this idea of distraction being a problem, this really resonates, I think, when I think of times of great productivity is when I was able to be undistracted. I could also see how success can be its own distraction. This is often discussed in the context of fighting sports where someone starts making a lot of money and pretty soon their focus becomes all the things they can access with their success as opposed to the thing that got them there in the first place. Keeping an underdog mentality.

Rick Rubin (02:48:07):


Andrew Huberman (02:48:08):

Before we conclude, I do want to ask you about one other aspect of process, which is meditation. Meditation is interesting to me because when we close our eyes, as most meditations are done, and we focus on our brain, our brain has no sensation. Like if we- I wouldn’t say we focus on our brain. Oh, or we focus on something other than our normal experience? Is that, how would you define meditation?

Rick Rubin (02:48:34):

Well, it’s different. There are different types of meditation. Usually, either way, I would say there’s no form of meditation where we’re focused on our brain. Okay, good. I’m glad we disagree. I would say, here are the things that happen. We either are engaging in a mantra, which would be a version of a, almost like a creating a trance for ourselves, not unlike listening to something when we go to sleep that would distract our conscious mind from participating.


We would be overriding the talking mind with just a sound that we’re generating, or a word, or a phrase, series of phrases. A meta meditation is a loving kindness meditation with phrases. Could be that. Or it could be focused on the breath. But the purpose of being focused on the breath is to not hear the self-talk that we normally have.


It’s a single-pointed focus exercise in those that I described. The other version is an awareness meditation where you’re closing your eyes and you’re being with whatever is, and noticing.


So if we were to do it now, and you could do it eyes open or eyes closed with an awareness practice. But the first thing that I would do is I would feel a little ringing in my ears, might be from the electronic equipment around us. And I don’t mean that I hear the sound. It’s like a vibration. I hear cars passing in the distance. See what else comes up. I can feel a feeling in my chest.


I can feel this part of my face. Not sure why. Feels like it’s related to my jaw. More car sounds. I’m aware of a little feeling of warmth. So now I would say the room feels a bit warm. I wasn’t aware of that before when I wasn’t just being with what’s happening.


Feel a little itch on my left shoulder. So that would be an awareness practice, which is another kind of meditation where you’re just paying attention to what’s going on. There’s no story. There’s no this means this, none of those things. Just like an inventory almost of everything that comes up when it comes up. And you do that for a period of time. But in all of those cases, in the example of doing the awareness meditation or doing a mantra meditation or focusing on the breath, in none of them am I thinking and none of them am I concentrating on.


I’m being aware of sense perceptions in the awareness one. Or in the other meditations, I’m doing a practice so that I’m not aware of thinking about anything else.

Andrew Huberman (02:52:08):

When did you start meditating and how often do you meditate now?

Rick Rubin (02:52:12):

I learned when I was 14 and I started with TM and that’s probably the meditation that I’ve done the most in my life. And I come back to, although I tried many different kinds and also different physical forms of meditation, Tai Chi, things like that. I meditated for five or six years and then I stopped when I went to school to university. And then I started again several years later. And when I started again, I realized how profound it was in me that I had done it when I did it. So I usually have some sort of a practice.


In some ways, the beach walks could be a form of meditation. But for me, typically I would wake up, it’d be the first thing I would do during that sort of in-between time.


Maybe go out in the sun, close my eyes and meditate before starting my day. If I’m doing it twice a day, the second time would probably be right before dinner if I’m doing it on a regular schedule. Then if I find myself on an airplane, I might meditate for an hour or for the, I can remember one time meditating the entire flight from New York to LA just was a great opportunity to do a deep dive.


And time passes, you lose track of time. You know, you don’t even know. It’s like going to sleep and waking up. You don’t feel like that was eight hours. You know, it’s just time stops. Not always, but when it does, it’s a great feeling.

Andrew Huberman (02:53:53):

Yeah, you’ve sent me some meditations including the one that you did on that transatlantic or transcontinental flight. And I’ve been trying to do longer and longer meditations, but I’ve always meditated a little bit, but your meditation practice is one that I’m starting to adopt. Maybe we could convince you to give us suggestions of one or two and we can link out to them for listeners. I’m sure they’d appreciate that.

Rick Rubin (02:54:17):

There’s also meditation-like practices to do that involve, like there’s something called the surgical series from the Monroe Institute, which I used when I had a surgery. You listen to this recording and it both allows your body to heal much faster and remove some of the trauma that goes on when, you know, getting cut open, it’s traumatic.


But just through listening to certain things, you can have a really powerful effect, heal much faster. I remember I was about to be put under for a surgery and my eyes were closed and I wasn’t communicating with anyone there because I was going inside and my wife was with me and they came in and they said, oh, so they already gave Rick the sedative because he’s ready to wheel in. She’s like, I didn’t give him anything. He’s like, but look at his numbers, like, yeah.

Andrew Huberman (02:55:32):

I love it. Yeah, it’s an amazingly powerful practice. I like, because anyone can cultivate, you know.

Rick Rubin (02:55:42):

Absolutely, absolutely. And there’s no good or bad version. It really is just, if you learn a technique and show up and do it, it works.

Andrew Huberman (02:55:53):

Well, I love that you’re so willing to share what you do and your process. And listen, I just want to say thank you for a number of things. I want to thank you for the music you’ve created and that you are to create because we want to be still ongoing. Certainly for your time today and sharing your thought process and a bit of what goes into this incredible creative process. And I want to thank you for writing the book. You know, I don’t talk about or feature many books on the podcast. It’s just not something we typically do, but I’ve seen a little bit of the evolution of it and then I’ve seen it now and read through it in its final form twice, as I mentioned. And I’m going to continue to read through it again. It is one of those books where it is so filled with gems, like every chapter, like I could take notes on this and take notes on this. And it’s assembled in a very digestible way that allows people to extract the meaningful parts in every chapter. And there’s so many in a way that’s very straightforward. So I love the book. So thank you for doing it because you certainly didn’t have to write a book, but I’m so happy that you did. And I know that I’ve already benefited. I know so many people are going to benefit. It’s an amazing book and I couldn’t help but put my neuroscience lens on it. But I also, about halfway through, I learned to discard my preexisting lens a bit and start to see things through what I think is a different perspective. So I just want to thank you for being such an incredible portal and also for being an amazing friend.

Rick Rubin (02:57:28):

Thank you. I love you. I’m so happy to be here with you. And anytime I get to see you, it’s a good day. Likewise.

Andrew Huberman (02:57:33):

Thank you for joining me today for my discussion with Rick Rubin, all about creativity and the creative process. Please also be sure to check out his new book, The Creative Act, A Way of Being by Rick Rubin. As I mentioned earlier, it’s an incredible book and such a wealth of knowledge for you creative types out there, for those of you that seek to be more creative or to understand the creative process generally. And as I mentioned at the beginning of today’s episode, Rick has very generously offered to answer your questions about creativity. So if you have questions for Rick Rubin about creativity or the creative process or anything else for that matter, please put those in the comment section on YouTube by writing in capital letters, question for Rick Rubin, and then please put the question there. That will make it easier for me to find those questions. I will record the conversation where I ask Rick those questions. And of course we will post his answers to those questions on our Huberman Lab Clips channel. If you’re learning from and or enjoying this podcast, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. That’s a terrific zero cost way to support us. In addition, please subscribe to the podcast on Spotify and Apple. And on both Spotify and Apple, you can leave us up to a five-star review. If you have questions for us or comments or topics that you’d like me to cover or guests that you’d like me to include on the Huberman Lab podcast, please put those in the comment section on YouTube. I do read all the comments. Please also check out the sponsors mentioned at the beginning and throughout today’s episode. That’s the best way to support this podcast. Not so much during today’s episode, but on many episodes of the Huberman Lab podcast, we discuss supplements. While supplements aren’t necessary for everybody, many people derive tremendous benefit from them for things like enhancing the depth and quality of sleep, for enhancing focus and for hormone support, and many other aspects of mental health, physical health, and performance. The Huberman Lab podcast is proud to announce that we are now partnered with Momentous Supplements because Momentous Supplements are of the very highest quality, they ship internationally, and they have single ingredient formulations, which turns out to be important if you’re going to develop the most cost-effective and biologically effective supplementation regimen. If you’d like to access the supplements discussed on the Huberman Lab podcast, you can go to Live Momentous, spelled O-U-S, so slash Huberman. If you’re not already following us on social media, we are Huberman Lab on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. In all of those places, I talk about science and science-related tools, some of which overlap with the content of the Huberman Lab podcast, but much of which is distinct from the content of the Huberman Lab podcast. Again, it’s Huberman Lab on all social media handles, all platforms, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If you haven’t already subscribed to our Neural Network newsletter, that’s a monthly newsletter. It’s completely zero cost and includes summaries of podcast episodes, as well as toolkits for things like enhancing your sleep, enhancing your focus and ability to learn, hormone support, fitness, and on and on. You simply go to, go to the menu, click on the menu and scroll down to newsletter, provide your email, and you can start receiving our monthly Neural Network newsletter. Thank you for joining me for today’s discussion with Rick Rubin, all about creativity and the creative process. And as always, thank you for your interest in science.


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Episode Info

My guest is Rick Rubin, one of the most renowned music producers of all time, known for his work with a wide range of artists, including Run DMC, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, JayZ, Adele, Johnny Cash, LL Cool J, Slayer, Neil Young, Kanye West, Tom Petty, and many more. He is also the author of a new book, "The Creative Act: A Way of Being," which explores the creative process and how to access creativity. We discuss topics such as finding inspiration, the role of feelings as guideposts, learning from observing nature, balancing self-doubt and anxiety, and adopting new perspectives to channel the creative process. Rick also shares his thoughts on using deadlines, eliminating distractions, and how our experiences and emotions influence the creative process. Additionally, we discuss his love for professional wrestling. Our conversation can be applied to any activity or profession to access creativity.

For the full show notes, visit

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(00:00:00) Rick Rubin

(00:04:08) Maui Nui Venison, Thesis, WHOOP, Momentous

(00:08:23) Creativity & Ideas, Cloud Analogy 

(00:12:26) Language & Creativity; Kids

(00:17:36) Feelings & Creative Ideas

(00:22:01) Rules, Choice & Art; Personal Taste & Other’s Opinions 

(00:30:20) Changing Perspective & Creativity

(00:33:55) AG1 (Athletic Greens)

(00:35:04) Scientific Knowledge; Opinions & Art

(00:41:27) Finishing Projects; The Source & Nature

(00:47:40) Perception Filters, Contrast & Novelty

(00:58:42) Music & Identity, Evolving Tastes

(01:03:03) InsideTracker

(01:04:14) Focus, Disengaging & Subconscious; Anxiety 

(01:13:22) Collaboration, Art & Rigorous Work

(01:18:26) Process & “Cloud”; Perception & Storytelling

(01:29:13) Limited Resolution, Considering the Inverse

(01:35:38) Wrestling, Energy & Reality; Dopamine 

(01:49:43) Wrestling, Style & Performance

(01:52:40) Resetting Energy & Nature; Nostalgia

(02:01:56) Sleep, Waking Up & Sunlight, Capturing Ideas

(02:08:16) Creative Work Phases; Structure & Deadlines

(02:15:32) Self-Doubt & Performance

(02:19:13) Predictability & Surprise, Authenticity  

(02:25:02) Past Experiences, Other’s Opinions 

(02:29:42) Public Opinion & Science: Light, Acupuncture & Nutrition 

(02:39:44) “Look for Clues”, Belief Effects 

(02:46:25) Attention, Emotion & Art

(02:48:07) Mantra Meditation, Awareness Meditation 

(02:57:33) Rick Rubin Questions, Zero-Cost Support, YouTube Feedback, Spotify & Apple Reviews, Sponsors, Momentous, Social Media, Neural Network Newsletter


Title Card Photo Credit: Mike Blabac

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