March 10, 2018
[05:52] About Maneesh Sethi
[18:50] Why Maneesh Hired a Girl to Follow Him Around and Slap Him in the Face
[22:25] The Inside Story of Maneesh’s Shark Tank Experience
[26:20] How Maneesh Created a Wearable That Reinforces Both Good Habits and Punishes Bad Habits
[37:55] How You Can Use Pavlok to Very Quickly Cut a Sugar Habit
[45:25] How You Can Use Pavlok to Teach Yourself How to do Squats
[46:35] Why Ben Chews on an Apple Tree Stick
[59:52] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, it’s Ben Greenfield. I shared a hotel room a couple of years ago with my guest on today’s podcast and he wildly entertained me in a good way. So he’s on the show now and he’s gonna wildly entertain you with a shocking episode. I’ll leave it there, you’ll understand later.
Today’s episode, just like each and every episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness show, if I can pronounce the name of my own freaking show, it’s brought to you by Kion. What is Kion? Kion is my playground; it’s where I take some of the best formulas, ingredients and supplements on the face of the planet along with coaches who I train to use my methods to get better results to everything from longevity to health to fat loss. It’s really good content, we’re churning out great articles over there. If you like the articles I write over at bengreenfieldfitness.com, you’ll like the ones at Kion even more because they’re honestly even better researched and they’re more professional and they have less photos of me dancing around in the forest in my underwear. So it’s called Kion and one of the coolest things over there, in my opinion, is the anti-aging skin serum. When you put this stuff on a wrinkle or a scar, it disappears within 30 days. Yes, I know that sounds like snake oil but it’s not snake oil. It’s patchouli oil, lemon, juniper berry, turmeric, palma rosa, geranium, wild oregano, lavender, triphala, amla, jojoba, and aloe vera. It is the best thing you will ever put on your skin, guaranteed. You can check it out if you go to getkion.com. I use it every day, skin so beautiful. Getkion.com, check it out. It has the Kion serum, getkion.com.
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In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Yeah, legit he was [beep] and I thought that was vindicating. I was like if you ask for money and then turn someone down and the first thing they do is they curse you, that’s clearly an indication of the reason why you turned them down.” “And in fact it was a type of science that was pretty common in the 1980s and early 1990s of America, clinically tested, called aversion therapy where they would use either nausea or electric shock while doing a bad habit to create a long lasting Pavlovian aversion.”
Ben: Hey folks, my guest on today’s podcast is Maneesh Sethi, and I actually had the pleasure of getting to know Maneesh when somehow, we got stuck staying in a hotel room together at a health conference. It’s actually, Maneesh I dunno if you recall but it was actually a pretty nice, it wasn’t a hotel room it was more like a villa that we had in a mountain in Arizona.
Maneesh: It’s a villa in a mountain and staying in a room with you for two nights was pretty freakin’ eye-opening, as you are insane, my friend.
Ben: Well so are you.
Ben: I mean to put this in perspective for people listening in, Maneesh and I are gonna talk about, coz he’s basically like an inventor and an entrepreneur and he’s made this really interesting device that you may or may not have heard of. I’ll tell you about it in a second, but I think this was after you had been featured on Shark Tank, Maneesh, and I know you’re into Pavlovian responses and I think in this case you had your computer set up to “ding” every time you sold one of these units.
Ben: And your Shark Tank episode went live and so every time I’d walk into the room where your computer was, all I would hear was just “ding ding ding ding ding ding ding”. So that was…
Maneesh: I think it was actually triggering on my Pavlok at that time. “Beep beep, beep beep.”
Ben: Yeah, may have been on the thing on your wrist. Yeah.
Maneesh: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]
Ben: Yeah, so you invented this Pavlok and I definitely wanna hear the story behind that, but for those of you who don’t know who Maneesh is, he actually studied psychology under a relatively legendary psychology professor named BJ Fogg, and I believe you became pretty intrigued with behavior change at that time when you were at Stanford, right Maneesh?
Maneesh: Mmhmm, yes.
Ben: Yeah, launched the website hackthesystem.com, and I’ll link to all this in the show notes if you just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/maneesh. And for those of you who don’t know how to spell Maneesh, it’s M-A-N-E-E-S-H, you should know that, shame on you if you don’t know how to spell Maneesh. Anyways, so bengreenfieldfitness.com/maneesh, I’ll link to a lot of the stuff that we talk about, but Maneesh wound up, after he left Stanford, inventing something very interesting that I’ll let him tell you about, and it’s kind of had multiple iterations since then. I’ve gotten my hands on a few of his crazy little inventions, and the story behind how it actually launched is pretty interesting too. I’d love to hear about the person you hired to slap you in the face and all that stuff, Maneesh.
Ben: So let’s dive in, welcome to the show, man.
Maneesh: Hey man, it’s a pleasure. I always enjoy talking with you coz you’re one of the few people who actually uses the tech that people like me make.
Maneesh: Yeah, so I was always fascinated by human behavior. I grew up pretty ADHD, very 98th percentile of lack of focus, and I always had trouble committing and finishing stuff. But I noticed very rapidly that when there was a set deadline or if I was working with somebody else in the room, that I would finish tasks always just on time.
Maneesh: And this was pretty consistent, my entire life growing up, that deadlines and a fear of consequences would make me finish stuff. As I started Stanford under BJ Fogg, I did a class with BJ Fogg on Facebook apps. I’ve been a programmer, I wrote a book on game programming when I was 14, became a bestseller, it was called Game Programming for Teens, and it was translated into a bunch of languages and actually became a textbook in Poland for every kid who went through Warsaw’s middle and high schools, they used my textbook which is pretty weird. And I was really intrigued by human behavior and I had experience in tech, and my brother, Ramit Sethi, was a blogger. He runs the website Iwillteachyoutoberich.com.
Ben: Iwillteachyoutoberich.com, I’ve heard of that website.
Maneesh: Yeah, he’s pretty successful.
Ben: Iwillteachyoutoberich.com, I think I visited that before. What exactly is that website all about, not to make you talk about your brother on the podcast, but…
Maneesh: No it’s okay, most of the conversations I have are about my brother anyway. I’m just kidding.
Maneesh: But [laughs] he was very inspirational to my life and definitely set me down this path. His website and his blog and his book, his New York Times best-selling book, are about helping people get control of their finances, take care of their spending and then earn more money by finding their dream job or becoming a freelancer.
Maneesh: And so he’s very inspirational because of his research as well with human psychology. And so I actually left Stanford, I took a leave of absence to travel the world. I left for about four years total, I travelled and started a blog called Hack the System, and this blog was about doing experiments on myself. So my readers would vote on where I would go and what sort of experiments I would do, what project I would do in each city. I lived in like 20 different countries over a span of four years, South America and Asia and Europe, and I did a bunch of experiments that, I could talk about that for hours but towards the end of my blog…
Ben: Yeah, fill me in. Tell us about a couple of the more crazy experiences, dude. You can’t skim over that, I wanna hear it.
Maneesh: Alright, cool. Yeah, I guess I started travelling in Italy and then I moved to South America, Buenos Aires, Brazil, and India and then Berlin. I went to a lot of places, but the experiments that were really fun included… my favorite one by far was Berlin. It was an experiment called “90 days to becoming a famous Berlin DJ.” So me and a friend had no experience DJ-ing music, but we were both and Berlin and decided to try to hack the Berlin DJ scene. So what we did was we first created a shopping cart music sound system and started playing parties in the subway in a metro station. And we would get groups of 100 people dancing to [0:10:54] ______ on a shopping cart, so we ended up making deals with bars and clubs around the entire city where we would just wheel in people. They’d follow us and we’d just wheel them in, and ended up booking our first few DJ gigs like this. Then after we had our first few gigs, we started buying Facebook fans and calling up clubs pretending to be “hi, I’m Will from Regal entertainment, I represent DJ Maneesh, he’s really famous for house and dubstep.” And so it took about 45 days before we were being flown around Europe, being paid to play shows for 1000 people.
Maneesh: So that was really fun.
Maneesh: The second experiment which is really cool was I started an NGO in India, so I lived in a village in India for about 9 months and I raised money online to help wire up a village with electricity. I raised money to wire the village with electricity, buy computers for kids and then teach kids how to use computers, so that was really, really inspirational and moving for me. I also got to buy a camel, and own and travel by my own camel named Jiminy, so that was a really cool experience when I was 22.
Ben: Did you say a camel?
Maneesh: Yeah, I bought a camel. It was cool.
Ben: Oh wow.
Maneesh: Sometimes, you get a camel.
Ben: That’s interesting. Did you know that camel milk is very, very good for you? Did you ever drink its milk?
Maneesh: I did not drink its milk, it was male.
Maneesh: But I actually only heard that from… I think I saw a mention you put on Facebook about camel milk. What’s it good for?
Ben: Yeah, I was drinking it for a while. There’s a company called Camel’s Milk, [laughs] fittingly enough, that was sending me camel milk from California.
Ben: It’s actually really good, my kids liked it too. We have goats, we do a lot of goat milk because it’s very thermodynamically favorable, meaning the protein in goat milk or camel’s milk is better absorbed and results in fewer immune issues by the human body.
Maneesh: Does it have lactose in it?
Ben: So, you should be kicking yourself now for not (a) owning a female camel and (b) milking it.
Maneesh: [laughs] Definitely, I think that that would probably be the thing I sleep to sadly tonight, that little regret that pops in at night.
Maneesh: And then do you know if camel milk has lactose in it?
Ben: It does but it has, also present in it, a lot of the probiotics that predigest the lactose.
Ben: So it’s almost like it does the work for you.
Maneesh: This is just a side bar, but I found out when I was 25 I think or 26, that I was lactose intolerant, and I never known that my entire life. And when I discovered I was lactose intolerant, I did not realize how much it affects your entire life. It’s like a sugar high, you always need more of it and you’ve never gone a day without lactose, you think that that’s your normal state.
Maneesh: That you are a binge eater, that you always fart a lot.
Maneesh: And also that mental fog was very consistently high, and that was really intriguing to me because they say that over 95% of Indians are lactose intolerant.
Maneesh: And every [0:14:02] ______ in India I drink some milk tea mixed with chai every day. It’s like milk is part of our culture, so I’ve always really been interested in the macro effects of mass lactose on an entire billion person population who has lactose intolerance. I have no idea…
Ben: That’s why everyone’s walking around India with dementia, which I don’t know is true. I may have just made up that statistic, but you know, what’s fascinating is I had the same deal going down, Maneesh. I used to drink a whole gallon of 2% milk every day growing up, and I would go to bed with stomachaches so my parents used to think I was just a kid who got stomach-flu a lot. And they’d give me antibiotics and they’d give me medications and they never actually really hypothesized about the fact that I might have actually been intolerant to the milk. But when I got to college and started studying nutrition and learned about lactose, that’s when the lightbulb kinda turned on for me. But yeah, same thing for me, I went forever drinking milk thinking it was perfectly to normal to just basically fart and have stomachaches every night.
Maneesh: Same thing, it’s crazy how that happens.
Maneesh: Yeah, and so then back on Hack the System, the third experiment that I ran is actually that one that led to Pavlok. And this third experiment, basically I always knew that I was really bad at finishing stuff and… you know, I’m gonna add one more experiment that I thought was really cool before I tell you this one, and that was I read Seneca and he was talking about how you should spend at least a week or two each year living your biggest fear.
Maneesh: Because once you do that, you’ll understand that fear is nothing to be afraid of, and so I read that actually while I was doing the DJ-ing in Berlin and I decided that right after I would try to live in the wilderness and learn how to survive outside. And so I did a 28-day course with Boulder Outdoor Survival School.
Ben: Oh, cool. That’s funny, I’ve actually done stuff with Boulder Outdoor Survival School before.
Maneesh: They’re amazing.
Ben: I went down there and did… I’m part of an entrepreneurial mastermind of a bunch of other guys and we went down there for a week and they kinda put us through the wringer for a week.
Ben: And we’ve been wandering around the forest with GPS satellite devices to find treasures.
Ben: It’s actually a really cool experience.
Maneesh: Yeah, my experiment was the hunter-gatherer experiment. So it was 28 days, no backpack, no sleeping bag, no tent. You hike between 12-15 miles a day, you have no technology, and you just kinda have to survive. And that was extremely eye-opening to me because 1. I had never spent even 24 hours without tech and I wrote more during that period than any other time except for the experiment I’m about to tell you with the Craigslist Slapper. The lack of distraction was actually the secret that really let me unlock my potential, but that was really cool when you realize you can live in the wilderness and survive, then nothing else scares you anymore.
Ben: Oh yeah, well one thing that I’ve found, I discovered this when I hunt for 6 or 7 days, is you get super lean, dude. Did you lose weight during the survival course?
Maneesh: I lost like 23 lbs. in 28 days. I wrote an article about it, yeah.
Ben: Yeah. It’s like the best diet ever which is find your own food.
Maneesh: Mmhmm, yeah. One of the things I noticed is you can’t eat cookies if you live in the middle of wilderness, right?
Maneesh: You can’t smoke cigarettes if there are no cigarettes in your continent.
Maneesh: And one of the best solutions to stopping habits is to remove triggers, so all of these experiments I’m mentioning are all part of my mental model for the world. And I’m sure every single individual here listening to this has developed a mental model based on their experiences. But I think this last experiment was one of the most effective parts of changing my mental models and that was the Craigslist Slapper experiment. So I had this blog and I always had trouble writing. I had nothing to do except write and I never wrote more than two articles a week. And I saw you Ben, and the speed at which you write is just freakin’ mindboggling. I think your personality is fundamentally a different sort of finisher type than I am, but you’re freakin’ out of this world, man.
Ben: Writing’s like a muscle in my opinion, I mean I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid and it just flows out of me. It’s like people who’ve been playing the violin for 20 years and they just pick it up and make it sing. It’s kinda like that.
Maneesh: I think I’m more perfectionistic where it’s like unless the deadline is finalized, I will never finish it because I think it can always be made better. And so what happened with this experiment, I hired someone to just follow me around and make me write. You know like when you go to the gym and you have a personal trainer, the value is actually in going to the gym. The trainer herself or himself is not always the most important part, it’s the fact that there is someone there waiting for you.
Maneesh: That makes the personal trainer so valuable. So I did an experiment where I tried to improve my productivity, and I hired a girl to follow me around, her name was Kara. And every time I wasted time or went on Facebook, she was allowed to slap me in the face. And she started off by, whenever I went on Facebook specifically, she would slap me instantly. And if I ever started to waste time, she was just looking over my shoulder and would remind me. And so what I noticed is number 1, this became like a social experience, it was like “hey, does this sound good?” I would say as I was writing, or “do you mind looking up photos while I type this up?” And number 2, I started looking at the results. I wrote about four or five months of content in like five days.
Maneesh: Just having somebody next to me just made me close in writing mode and I couldn’t get out of it. Know what I mean? And I was blown away but then I posted the article online, I posted it on my blog and sent it out to my email list, and the next day, I remember I was getting off a plane flight…
Ben: Now before you say what happened the next day, how hard was she slapping you?
Maneesh: Oh, there’s a video of it online. As hard as she wanted, really. I think slaps, like you can find a video of me and Tim Ferris doing a slap battle. The slap is like the best kind of punishment because it makes a loud noise but it doesn’t actually hurt.
Maneesh: And so I love slaps because it’s a showmanship thing more than it is actual pain. It’s like the Pavlok shock, it startles you but it doesn’t hurt.
Maneesh: So I found that it’s also hard to get people to slap you, you have to pay them to do it. [laughs] So anyway, what happened was I wrote so many articles and I post this article online, and the next day NPR gave me a phone call and they’re like “hi, are you Maneesh, the guy who hired a slapper?” It turned out that the word slapper means prostitute in British English.
Ben: [laughs] That’s true. I think I’ve actually come across that phrase before in old Sherlock Holmes books, the slapper is a prostitute.
Maneesh: [laughs] Yeah so the title accidentally got really popular in England, and by the time I was on Good Morning America, I was super famous that day. I was getting phone calls from everybody around the entire country, and for like three days I was like “wow, this is awesome, this is really, really fun.” And of course then the news died down, and I was thinking about it. I was thinking about how I could make another story to go viral. And what I decided to do with a friend, I was like “yo, what if we made like a dog collar that shocked me every time I went on Facebook?” And my friend said “let’s go to RadioShack.” And so we hacked together this little dog collar, we broke it apart, this dog collar that could vibrate, beep and zap with a remote control, and we hooked up the remote control to a computer, an art that we know. And so basically every time I went on Facebook, it would signal the zap. And I was about to post this video online and right before I did, I thought to myself “this is actually really interesting. There’s a million wearables out there that are tracking what I do, but this one’s actually changing what I do. Maybe there’s something more deeper to this [0:22:05] ______.” And that was kinda the idea for how Pavlok came.
Ben: Interesting. Okay so when did Shark Tank get into the picture, when did you go on Shark Tank?
Maneesh: So the story from there, that event happened end of 2012. I found a company in Boston, in August 2013 I moved to Boston into a hardware facility where a company offered me a little bit of money and some space to help build my product idea. It’s called Volts, and I worked there for about a year, so from 2013 August until about a year later in 2014, launched our IndieGoGo in 2014. So as soon as we were live and out IndieGoGo campaign for Pavlok 1, that raised about $280,000…
Ben: Wait, the Pavlok 1 just basically being the device that you wear on your wrist that will monitor whatever you want it to monitor and then apply that mild shock when you do something you don’t want to do?
Maneesh: Yeah, so it’s extremely difficult for me to articulate what Pavlok is but I think you articulated it in a way…
Ben: That’s ok. It’s for you.
Maneesh: [laughs] Thank you, yeah. Essentially it’s like a smart dog-shock collar for humans, but yes. So the idea was that it would punish you when you do bad habits and then reward you when you do good habits. So we went live on IndieGoGo, raised a bit of money, we went super viral so I was on Steve Harvey’s show, Jimmy Fallon, Steven [0:23:34] ______. And so Shark Tank called.
Ben: Oh wow, I didn’t realize that. You actually got around quite a bit.
Maneesh: Yeah, and it was all organic. I didn’t call in any people. And so Shark Tank ended up calling me and asked me if I’d be interested on putting Pavlok on Shark Tank. And the first year was just too fast, product development takes years and it wasn’t ready. So we went through the process but then decided to turn it down that year, and then the next year we went on Shark Tank 2016, so I’ll get there in a moment. But the IndieGoGo was live end of 2014 and during that campaign I stumbled on a type of science called aversion therapy. And so, have you ever gotten drunk or sick off of some kind of food and you just never wanted that food again?
Ben: You know what, for me no but my brother that happened with Texas black bean chili, my mom’s famous Texas black bean chili that he vomited all over our Suburban and had to sit in his own vomit for a two hour car ride, and for the next ten years whenever mom made Texas black bean chili, he would have macaroni and cheese or bread.
Maneesh: Yeah, and you’ll see this happen a lot with people who drink a lot of tequila during college and they get sick one night.
Ben: Oh yeah.
Maneesh: They experience a thing called an aversion. It’s this feeling in the pit of your stomach that’s visible in the brain and what happens when you get a Pavlovian association with any behavior plus a stimuli. And in one night, a habit can break for good. And in fact it was a type of science that was pretty common in the 1980’s and early 1990s of America, clinically tested, called aversion therapy where they would use either nausea or electric shock while doing a bad habit to create a long lasting Pavlovian aversion. And I stumbled on this word, started googling about the science, and I found that in one study with smokers, the average success rate with nicotine patches was 7.5% and the average success rate with aversion therapy with smokers was 70%.
Ben: Wow. How are they doing the aversion therapy in the smokers?
Maneesh: So what they would do is the smoker would come to meet with the psychologist, the psychologist would have them imagine the blackness of smoke in your lungs and zap. Now bring the cigarette to your mouth, zap. Now light it with the lighter, zap. Now start to smoke the first puff, zap. Now smoke the second one, zap. And so at each step of the process they would receive a series of zaps.
Maneesh: And they want to put it down, coz nobody wants to get zapped, but they overdo it such that the brain creates the association.
Maneesh: And we started to experiment on this, we reproduced this in a study with the University of Massachusetts at Boston. We took a small pilot study of people who were a pack a day smokers, and 75% of them quit smoking after 6 months follow-up. So that was really cool to see that we were actually able to make this work at numbers that were astronomical. 75%.
Maneesh: Yeah, and so that was the first like “okay, let’s start focusing on bad habits.” This was late 2014-early 2015. I was very deep in habit science so I realized that the secret to breaking bad habits was pretty simple: zap someone when they do something that they shouldn’t do. But to form a good habit, you need a positive reinforcement, you need a point system. A good thing.
Maneesh: And to me it was pretty obvious, back in early 2014 I realized this, that the secret answer would be blockchain, would be creating and mining a new currency where users would earn money for doing healthy habits. But as I tried to describe this to a lot of people, they thought I was insane. They thought I was crazy.
Ben: Wait, they would earn money or they would earn cryptocurrency?
Maneesh: They would earn cryptocurrency which is money.
Ben: Okay, yeah I guess so. So they’d own some form of value, something that could be used as a trading medium?
Maneesh: Yeah, but back then it wasn’t very clear what it was.
Maneesh: Right now if I told you you got a Bitcoin for going to the gym, you know what I’m talking about. But back then when I said you can earn…
Ben: I’ll take $12,000 for going to the gym.
Maneesh: Right? Exactly, but back then I sounded nuts especially when I had to talk to investors and people. They thought I was crazy. And so I realized that I would have to table this conversation around the blockchain while I focused on bad habits, builds the infrastructure properly, and started my own blockchain which I thought was gonna take years. I thought I’d take ‘til 2019, but it turns out it speeds up a lot this year. So anyway, getting back to the point, Shark Tank happened and so we released the product in 2015, we released in the same month that Shark Tank filmed, so we won a competition at Shopify. Shopify’s Build a Business 2015 challenge, we ended up getting to go to Necker Island and spend a week with Richard Branson, Daymond John who happened to be on Shark Tank, Seth Godin, Tim Ferris, and Marie Forleo.
Ben: Wow, cool.
Maneesh: And that was really cool. And there I met Daymond John who actually became a very avid user of Pavlok. He’s broken two addictions, but because I hadn’t met him they wouldn’t let me be on the episode or show with him. So I had to film with other users, other people on the show.
Ben: Oh yes.
Maneesh: Yeah, I really messed up. So anyway…
Ben: Right, you were his boy. So all of a sudden there was a conflict of interests?
Maneesh: Yeah, if I just hadn’t mentioned it to Shark Tank I think I would’ve had a very different Shark Tank life.
Maneesh: But so a week later or two weeks later, we film a show in L.A. The show went very weird; if you watch it online you’ll see it’s the most viewed clip of all time but not always for positive reasons. It’s very interesting, I think it was two alpha dogs in the room. Mark Cuban doesn’t like other alpha dogs in the room, but [laughs] I always describe it as Mark Cuban is Mufasa, Mr. Wonderful is Scar, and the other three are hyenas, and they follow whoever’s in the lead. So Mark Cuban instantly didn’t like the product, then the other three didn’t like the product. Mr. Wonderful was sitting there with his Mr. Burns fingers. He offered me half a million dollars in exchange for a portion of my company, and I turned him down because he’s not the kind of investor I would wanna work with. He’s pretty well known for how he defrauded his investors out of money when he sold his company to Mattel, and specifically he was on a video saying that 3.5 billion people living on a dollar a day is a good thing because it makes people try harder. So that video kinda…
Ben: Did you tell him this when you did Shark Tank? Were you just “I don’t like you bro”?
Maneesh: I did tell him “I don’t like you bro.” I think I described why, they definitely didn’t air the reasons but they did air me turning him down and him yelling at me “F you, you a-hole, F you.”
Ben: No way, he said that to you on Shark Tank?
Maneesh: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: Was that just for TV or do you think he was actually legitimately upset?
Maneesh: He was tearing up, man. I think I hurt his feelings.
Maneesh: Yeah, legit he was [censored] and I thought that was vindicating. I was like if you ask for money and then turn someone down and the first thing they do is they curse you, that’s clearly an indication of the reason why you turned them down. But if you add enough lights and zooming logos and Shark Tank music, you can really make me look like the bad guy. And so I came across as the bad guy, it was very unfortunate but for the next year, actually, I was getting phone calls, I was getting death threats, man. I was getting emails, I was getting legit people calling my phone and threatening to kill my mother and naming her by name. Pretty [censored] dark.
Ben: Wow. It’s funny how TV can do that though, I mean I’ve done some of these TV shows where they sit you down for a good week before they even start filming and they get all their B-roll of you saying certain things, like they cue you to literally say phrases like “I’m the brains behind this operation” or “they don’t stand a chance”. That’s where a lot of these TV shows I do, they’re competitions, but then they’ll string all those together to literally… they’ll take something you said and copy and paste that into a completely different scenario. There’ll be like some, let’s say an extreme example would be there’s like a handicapped person or somebody that I would personally never ever discriminate against but then they’ll show a photo of me smirking or something after that person talks when the smirk was actually filmed in a completely different scenario. They’re very, very good at making you whoever they want to make you.
Maneesh: It’s infuriating, and if you watch my episode you’ll see my facial expressions and people think I am those facial expressions, and I’m like “come on, you’re doing zoom in.” They choose what they want you to sound like and make it sound like that. It’s unfortunate but it is what it is.
Maneesh: So that happened in and aired in April 2016. It was very destructive for our business for awhile, we got 39 fake 1 star Amazon reviews instantly, dropped out score from 4.8 stars to 2.9 on Amazon. Never been able to get past that, and it really made me take a step back because I realized that we were gonna be getting hate for a while and that I needed to build our product to be perfect. We launched a product called the Shock Clock at that time. It was an alarm clock that makes sure that you wake up on time including motion tracking, so if you don’t get out of bed you get zapped and the way to turn it off is to do jumping jacks.
Maneesh: Yeah so that was out from 2016 until 2017. This year 2017 has been a pure focus on building Pavlok 2, which is not just for bad habits cessation or waking up but also for good habit formation. And with the speed of the blockchain revolution this year, it really brought what I’d been working on much faster to where we are today, which was the creation of our digital currency “Volts” where people earn points, they earn volts for doing healthy habits. And it becomes the glue in our entire ecosystem, so that’s where we are right now, we just launched Pavlok 2. Pavlok 2 is a hardware plus software plus behavioral currency solution that the aim of it is to help every single person who commits to a goal achieve 0% failure.
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Ben: Okay, so I wanna know a little bit more about kinda the practicality of how to use this. So first of all for a bad habit, can you give me an example, I guess what I’d like to hear about is something that you’ve actually seen Pavlok people successfully utilize this device for breaking a bad habit. How does it work, like from start to finish, I get this thing, it arrives in my house, it’s in a little box or whatever, how do I then break a bad habit?
Maneesh: Sure, so let’s start with something simple, let’s say, do you wanna do smoking or sugar?
Ben: I don’t smoke, pick something more sexy than smoking. Everybody knows smoking is bad.
Ben: Yeah, let’s say sugar, yeah.
Maneesh: Sure, so sugar. I’ll give you an example of how we have a lot of users who got over or lost between 20-150 lbs. using Pavlok, and the way they did it is either by cutting out a specific food item or snacking in between meals or eating food late night. And so the way that we help people with these eating issues is very, very similar. So what happens is they purchase the Pavlok and it arrives, they download the app and they pair the app to the phone, and as soon as they log on there is a course. And the course describes how the process works, it’s a 5-day course and the way it works is the first day we kinda just teach you to track your urges.
Ben: And you’re looking at this course on the app while you’re wearing this thing on your wrist and it’s talking to the app on the phone?
Maneesh: Exactly, it’s talking to you by audio and it’s talking to the device by Bluetooth.
Maneesh: And the app starts off by saying today’s day one, welcome to the situation, like welcome to Pavlok, today I just want you to start noticing when you’re feeling these cravings. So simply press the button which will give you a slight vibration for the first day, and it tracks the time of the day and where you are while you’re doing the behavior. So that first day, you’re simply tracking whenever you feel like eating sugar or whenever you eat sugar. Then the next few days, we have a meditation audio which I found helps people pretty much get in the mindset of noticing their thinking and continue to track it. And then on day four and day five, we start them down their aversion therapy process. So let’s take snacking between meals, what you’re gonna do is actually buy some food and you’re gonna snack in between meals. In fact, buy all the best foods that you eat, you’re gonna get and actually have to snack for the next at least 2 to recommended 5 days. And what you do is, let’s say you’re snacking between breakfast and lunch, what you’ll do is after you finish your breakfast and then you start that craving of wanting to snack, you’re actually gonna get up and listen to the audio and the audio will say “begin doing the habit, go to your refrigerator”. And you go to your refrigerator and it gives you a zap. And it says “open the refrigerator”, zap. “Now grab some food”, zap. “Now make the food, sit down”, zap. And then it says “now take one bite”, zap. “Now continue to eat for the next few minutes” and you’re gonna have to stick through with eating even if it’s painful. Does that make sense?
Ben: Wow, so basically you’re making the decisions that you already might know deep down inside to be a poor decision. Is it automatically zapping you or are you having to zap yourself when you make that decision?
Maneesh: The Pavlok 1 was manually zapping, with Pavlok 2 we can auto-zap.
Ben: And how does it know? How does it know that I’m reaching for whatever, like sugar on the refrigerator?
Maneesh: In this example it’s timer driven, so straight up an audio file that’s like “go and grab the food”, timer zap.
Maneesh: But with Pavlok 2’s actual motion tracking, it can tell when you bring the food to your face.
Ben: Oh wow, interesting. Have you shown that this actually works? Coz to me it seems like when I’m opening up the refrigerator, I’m grabbing something from the refrigerator, it almost seems contrived versus me just… I guess knowing that I’m consciously zapping myself, it seems contrived but it actually works, huh?
Maneesh: It seems contrived, people think “well, why don’t I just take it off?” And I’m saying “well, why don’t you just stop biting your nails?”
Ben: Yeah exactly, it’s like why wouldn’t I just take it off, it’ll quit zapping me, I’m good to go and just stuff my face with all the coconut ice cream I want.
Maneesh: Well why don’t you just stop stuffing your face, right?
Maneesh: I’m sure you know this as much as anybody but there is no “you” in your brain. There’s at least a few billion neurons all fighting for consciousness, but specifically if you think of the reptile brain and the prefrontal cortex, your thoughts are in the prefrontal cortex, your habits are in basal ganglia, a reptile part of your brain. And your habits have much more control over your behavior than your thoughts do. And what we found is that just like a dog collar gives the owner control over the dog, the Pavlok gives the prefrontal cortex power over your basal ganglia. The Pavlok acts as a way to control your own behavior, makes yourself the personal trainer of yourself, that’s all.
Ben: Okay, what about for good habits?
Maneesh: Sure, so lemme just, coz I didn’t finish exactly describing how the habit gets broken.
Maneesh: Basically the end of this, you do this a few days, you’re gonna start to notice that you don’t want… most people think they quit on day 2, that they don’t wanna do the behavior anymore, and then what we do is we recommend that they do two more days to make the habit feel dead in the brain. Kinda like your brother who had to sit in his vomit for so long that he didn’t want it for years, in the same way you wanna make sure that that goes away and goes away extra, and then if it ever comes back, we recommend you just push the button a few times to make sure it doesn’t come back again. There’s a pretty measurable extinction curve which is pretty cool to work with because we get to see it in our users. And the best part about this is that it’s all measurable and we know it works, we have 60,000 users of the product, we still have around 70-75% cessation rate for most serious bad habits like smoking and nail biting. And my favorite one is negative thoughts. We really found that pressing the button whenever you have a negative thought or anxiety feeling or… did you see my video with the paranoid schizophrenic, Kendrick, who used Pavlok to get over his schizophrenia?
Ben: No, I haven’t.
Maneesh: Basically I met a homeless guy outside, he was asking for money. I found out that he had paranoid schizophrenia for about 10-20 years, and I read an article about aversion therapy for paranoid schizophrenics. I gave him a Pavlok and he was able to get over his symptoms instantly because whenever he had the negative thought, the voices in his head started to play, he’d press the button and the voice just went away. He was able to snap himself out of the thought.
Ben: Holy cow.
Maneesh: Yeah, and so this guy, he’s now my roommate, he’s homeless so I brought him in and he lives with me now. And he didn’t have an I.D. or a bank account, he lived on the street and I’m like “of course you have negative voices in your head.” If I lived on the street and didn’t know where I would go every night, I don’t even know what’ll happen to me. But working with him and living with him has been mind-blowing coz I found that a lot of what we call mental illness is just a lack of control over your thought patterns, and that possibly Pavlok is just, at its core, good habits or bad habits, what it really is is just influencing thought, and that’s kinda powerful for people trying to change.
Maneesh: Yeah, so I’ll stop there so I can answer about forming habits.
Ben: Yeah, so good habits. Let’s say I want to do, three times a week, I wanna squat and I hate barbell squats. How would I use the Pavlok to cause me to get into the habit of doing squats?
Maneesh: Sure, so when you think about reinforcement, you think about operant conditioning. Operant conditioning has positive and negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is more effective at getting you started to do a habit and positive reinforcement is more effective at making the habit stick. Specifically a habit is, how I define it, is when it’s harder to not do something than to do something. This is kind of important because you think about brushing your teeth, right? If you forget to brush your teeth one day or you don’t have a toothbrush with you while you’re travelling one day, you’ll feel this weird feeling or sensation in your mouth and you really wanna get rid of that sensation. And that doesn’t make any sense because toothbrushes have only been around for 75 years.
Ben: Oh really? That’s it, huh?
Maneesh: Last hundred years of humans, they didn’t have toothbrushes.
Ben: But I do know that they used sticks. I have one, actually, a tooth cleaning stick. I got it off an apple tree, actually works pretty well. Not kidding.
Maneesh: Oh really? Does it feel good?
Ben: It does feel good, it’s kind of addicting. I’ve got it right here on my desk, you just kinda like stick it in your mouth. It’s like a toothpick but it feels a little bit more natural coz I got it off an apple tree, damn it.
Maneesh: Yeah. [laughs] So you got that habit of the apple tree stick now.
Maneesh: So what I found in my old research of habit formation is that the way to form a habit is very simple. Do an action consistently for a specific amount of days. If you do 50 sit-ups everyday after breakfast, eventually you become the kind of person who feels uncomfortable not doing 50 sit-ups after breakfast. So to form a habit, do any action consistently. To get somebody to do the behavior at least once and then you wanna keep them doing it, add negative and positive reinforcement. So bringing that into Pavlok, here’s how it works. When you buy the app, you buy the product, and it’s delivered to you… you download the app, I guess you don’t have to buy the hardware, you just download the app. What happens is we start you off with a point system, these Volts. You have the ability to earn more by doing healthy habits, so you earn actual points which we believe next year will be a crypto that’s exchangeable for cash by doing good behaviors. That becomes the incentive structure, and then we allow you to add negative reinforcers and negative consequences as well. So you can add of course vibration, beep, and zap if you don’t do the behavior on time. But also, you can commit by putting down money that you lose if you fail, and win back if you succeed, and if you succeed, you win from the other people who were in the community who failed. So it’s like a betting pool on your own behavior.
Maneesh: And so that allows us to add the negative reinforcer plus the positive reinforcer in one fell swoop. Think about it this way, you have digital courses, right Ben?
Ben: Yeah, you mean courses where I teach a series of classes online?
Ben: Yeah, then I’ve done stuff with CreativeLive and Udemy. One of the ones I did on Udemy was, it’s super niche, I did a course with a guy named Ari Meisel, we did like a 12 part course on fathers who have twins and how to raise healthy twins and stay fit. It’s a pretty niche audience but yeah, I’ve got courses out there.
Maneesh: That’s very niche. Also, I know your Pavlok 2 is gonna arrive today. If you open up the book, the how to guide, you’ll see Ari’s story on how he quit sugar using Pavlok.
Ben: Oh nice.
Maneesh: His picture’s right in the that’ll you get.
Ben: Oh cool.
Maneesh: But yeah, it’s a pretty small world, actually. Oh man, what was I just saying?
Ben: You were talking about these Volts and how you’re creating a cryptocurrency within the app.
Maneesh: Oh yeah, yeah. And specifically about courses, right?
Maneesh: So we noticed very early that when users went through our course, that they would succeed at breaking their habit. It’s very easy to get people to want to do a course or even pay for a course. It’s very hard to get them to actually do the course. Motivation doesn’t tend to persist after the purchase is made, and so we started doing a small experiment where instead of just unlocking the course, would you like to commit, put down some cash at the moment of purchase and if you do the course, you will earn back your bet plus the amount from the people who didn’t do the course? And we found that by adding a slight disincentive plus a community, plus an incentive if you do a well or good job, created massive success rates.
In our current Gratitude app, we have like 70+% of people who wrote the three things they’re grateful for every single day this month, which is like unheard of results for people who are trying to form good habits. And so to summarize or to close out this long branch of thinking right now, the way that we help people form habits is by allowing and creating a proper psychological protocol for that habit and for that user, utilizing negative reinforcement plus positive reinforcement plus rewards plus commitment plus accountability, all that stuff. But essentially, we just created the right environment that allows us to measure and help people change their behavior and it will learn over time such that this becomes what I want, which is 100%. I want it to be the product that makes every single user who ever commits to an action achieve it with no chance of failure.
Ben: So could I lose volts if I keep up a bad behavior? Would it be able to take currency away from me?
Maneesh: Yeah, of course.
Ben: Oh wow, okay. So I get volts added to my account that I could use on apps and products and to buy goods and services and to unlock things within the Pavlok app, and those would be generated by me engaging in healthy behaviors that I enjoy, or maybe I don’t enjoy them but I’m trying to learn to enjoy them. And then when I do a bad behavior or I mess up, then I can get volts taken away from me, negative reinforcement.
Ben: Interesting, wow. I know my audience is gonna wanna know about this so tell me, coz they’re all health nerds, all trying to live until they’re 150 years old. Tell me about the potential for electrical exposure, EMFs, stuff like that. Am I just constantly gonna bombard my body with WiFi or Bluetooth using this thing, is it only talking to the app when I have it turned on? How does all that work?
Maneesh: Sure. Actually, we brought you up pretty recently in one of our firmware calls because when I met you I was pretty blown away at how much you really didn’t like signals of WiFi and Bluetooth.
Ben: Mmhmm. Yeah, that’s why I wear my tinfoil hat, baby.
Maneesh: [laughs] Yeah and you do look a lot younger than I do, so you’re not wrong. But your question was about the health effects. So the nice thing about the electric shock is that it’s localized to a 2 inch space on the bottom of your wrist and it doesn’t pass through your entire body, and most importantly it just passes across the skin. So we have seen, like if you get zapped a bunch, a little red dot will sometimes occur under the place where the zap occurs, but it goes away in a few minutes. It doesn’t itch and there’s no rash, and there is no long term side effects. Obviously we’re not a medical device and we’re not claiming any medical thing as a doctor or whatever. But the product uses a very, very light electrical sensation that’s programmable to the level that you like and it just goes across the skin not inside of the skin so it’s extremely safe.
Maneesh: And it doesn’t have side effects like taking drugs or medicine, it’s not ingested.
Maneesh: Yeah, so the new Pavlok 2 has the ability to have airplane mode, so it won’t deploy any sort of signal if you choose to. Of course the product is designed to remind you when you do stuff so gestures can be stored and programmed directly on the device, as well as timers. That means that you could set up to vibrate or beep whenever you bite your nails and not have it in Bluetooth signal. But for other behaviors like location or if you wanna send messages and signals for wasting time on Facebook or anything like that, that requires a Bluetooth connection to be in the moment. So that’s that I guess.
Maneesh: You’re able to set it to beep on airplane mode.
Ben: Okay, got it. Cool, interesting. So this thing, this Pavlok 2, is this something people can get right now?
Maneesh: Yeah, definitely. There should be a link on your show notes, I’ll make a link at pavlok.com/bengreenfield.
Maneesh: To redirect to you, and then I’m sure you’ll have notes as well.
Maneesh: So it’s P-A-V-L-O-K.com/bengreenfield for everybody listening.
Ben: Okay, are you gonna put a… I’m just gonna put you on the spot right now, are you gonna give people a discount or anything on that page?
Maneesh: I will absolutely…
Ben: Take care of my folks, take care of my peeps?
Maneesh: I’m gonna give people a big discount, it’ll be at least 20%.
Maneesh: I’m just trying to make sure that I’m committed to what I’m committing to, but it’ll be a very big discount.
Ben: Okay, alright. Cool.
Maneesh: And also…
Ben: Once that happens you better turn that ding-y thing on on your wristband coz it’s gonna ding-y a lot. Maybe not as much as Shark Tank but talking to me on a podcast isn’t quite as epic as making Mr. Wonderful cry.
Maneesh: I dunno man, you’re [beep] Ben Greenfield.
Ben: Aww, I’m getting a big head.
Ben: Cool, so my Pavlok 2 will arrive today, then. And I’m looking forward to trying it out. For those of you following me on Snapchat or Instagram, there’s always links on my website at bengreenfieldfitness.com and all that jazz. I’ll probably be doing a few experiments in my house. I just gotta figure out what happens when I wanna give up. There are certainly vices in my life that I would say are beneficial but that I’ve always been curious how hard it’d be to give up. Like I have a glass of wine every night, sometimes it’s not a glass of wine. Sometimes it’s a Moscow mule or sometimes I put a little bit of vodka into my wife’s kombucha. And it’s good for me but at the same time I’ve thought “gosh, am I addicted to having a drink every night?” Or same thing with vaping CBD or THC or plant-based medicine, is that something that a Pavlok could help me to break. I honestly think that both of those things are healthy for me but I’m always curious on what habit I could break. I’ll identify some kind of a vice, I dunno Maneesh, you got any vices? We’re friends on Facebook, do you have any vices that you know of that I have that I could break?
Maneesh: Dude, you know you’re like a freakin’ perfect paragon of man. There’s no chance that you have any vices.
Ben: Definitely not true.
Maneesh: But I will say this, I think for someone like you, the best use case of the Pavlok app is either most likely for memory, so if you learn someone’s name and don’t wanna forget their name, a slight zap while you learn their name makes it kinda crazy actually.
Ben: Oh, wow. So I just reach down as I’m introduced and then touch that little lightning bolt on there and I’ll go zap.
Maneesh: Yeah, you know how it’s a function of memory. You know how the way that you learn, if I say a word and I show you a word, you’re gonna learn it much faster than if I just say it or just show it?
Maneesh: So the way that you learn is through multiple sensory stimuli, and so the zap adds a new sensory input. So I found like… actually I think at the summit that we met, the Consumer Health Summit, there was a special dinner. There was like 22 people there and I zapped as they introduced themselves and I got all of their names right in a certain order, it was pretty cool.
Ben: No way. Okay I’m gonna have to try that kind of stuff.
Maneesh: I’m not guaranteeing that for you but yes, it gives you a tool for memory which I think is powerful.
Ben: Okay, so I have a little challenge I’m gonna issue those of you listening in. If you have a specific thing that you want me to try with the Pavlok whether it would be reinforce a good habit of punish a bad habit, leave a comment in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/maneesh, same place where you can get the fat discount code Maneesh is giving everybody on this thing. And I will pick the top comment that comes through that looks like a pretty compelling thing for me to demonstrate on Instagram or Facebook. I’ll do a little video for you guys if you wanna see how this thing works and I’ll figure out some kind of bad habit to break or some kind of good habit to reinforce. So there you go, leave a comment over in the show notes or if you have questions about this thing for Maneesh or me, leave a comment over there as well.
Maneesh, this is fascinating stuff, man. You live an interesting life and I also would encourage people to go visit hackthesystem.com and it’s been a while since I’ve looked into what your brother’s up to but I’ll encourage people as well to go check out Iwillteachyoutoberich.com unless that just irks you, Maneesh, when people bring up your brother coz apparently he’s far more famous than you are.
Maneesh: [laughs] Despite really bad reviews!
Ben: yeah, far more famous than you, bro. But who knows, you might eventually…
Maneesh: It’s okay. To be clear, Ben, your brother I like more than you, so I understand. It’s the same kind of situation. I love Zach. [laughs]
Ben: I’m giving you the digital middle finger right now.
Ben: Alright well cool, so folks it’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/maneesh. You can also go to pavlok.com/bengreenfield and Maneesh and I, between the time that I’m recording this and the time the podcast comes out, we’ll get a nice little discount up there for you. And like I mentioned, leave a comment if you want me to try out this Pavlok 2 I’m receiving later today on any fun and interesting project. And in the meantime, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Maneesh Sethi. I have a pneumonic now, Maneesh. It’s “Sat-ee”, like Satan.
Maneesh: [laughs] I’ll take it.
Ben: [laughs] Yeah that’s right. Exactly what you wanna be associated with. We’re signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com, have an amazing week.
Meet Maneesh Sethi.
Several years ago, Maneesh invented a device called Pavlok out of necessity: since he was young, he has had trouble concentrating. Maneesh studied psychology at Stanford under the legendary BJ Fogg, where he learned the basic principles of behavior change. He left Stanford to pursue a successful stint as a nomadic blogger (hackthesystem.com), during which his struggle to concentrate on writing led him to hire an assistant to sit next to him and slap him every time he got off task – leading to a viral video that garnered hundreds of thousands of views and a productivity increase of 400%. Inspired by this, Maneesh set out to create a less painful but just as effective way of boosting productivity and breaking bad habits, and in 2013 he started Pavlok.
Since I first met Maneesh when rooming with him at a health conference, and learned of his “Pavlok” device that we delve into in this episode, he's been trying to make Pavlok a full solution for behavior change. This means asking what someone wants to change, adding reward and punishment, and keeping people accountable. Pavlok 2 is the next evolution of what he is trying to do: upgrade humanity.
The latest iteration of Pavlok Ecosystem includes The Device, The Software, and the Behavioral Currency: Volts. Maneesh recently rebuilt Pavlok 2 from the ground up, adding 7+ days of battery life, customizable stimuli, motion and gesture tracking, and upgraded bluetooth connectivity. In addition, Pavlok 2 tracks your sleep, learns your gestures and patterns, and can remind you with a vibration, beep, or zap to start and stop doing behaviors – like a personal coach, on your wrist. He also created the milanese magnetic strap, which he claims makes it the most comfortable wearable you've ever felt, and is also tying the Apple Watch to the Pavlok Band.
Pavlok connects to your phone via Bluetooth (iOS/Android App). The Pavlok Core App connects the device to your phone. The App itself is similar to an App Store: you start off with the basic apps (Alarms, Sleep Tracking, the Bad Habit Intro Course). Maneesh has about ten different Pavlok Apps available right now. New ones are constantly being made by him, his partners, and his developers.
He's also added what he calls “Volts”. Volts are a digital currency that rewards you for positive behaviors. Volts are earned by contributing to the community and performing healthy behaviors that you enjoy Volts can be used to unlock apps and products in our platform or to buy goods and services – for example: courses, coaching, entertainment, and more.
How are Volts related to Pavlok? 1. The Pavlok App is includes community and resources for positive behavioral change; and 2. The Pavlok wearable (not required) tracks and trains your behavior automatically. Maneesh calls it your “24/7/365 personal coach.” Volts are a digital currency (buy-in only) for the next six months or so. Afterwards, they will become a crypto currency (buy-in, cash-out).
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-Why Maneesh hired a girl to follow him around and slap him in the face…[18:50]
-The inside story of Maneesh's Shark Tank experience (and how he made Mr. Wonderful cry)…[22:25 & 30:30]
-How Maneesh created a wearable that reinforces both good habits and punishes bad habits while tying in a cryptocurrency…[26:20]
-How you can use Pavlok to very quickly cut a sugar habit…[37:55]
-How you can use Pavlok to teach yourself how to do squats (and any workout) more consistently…[45:25]
-Why Ben chews on an apple tree stick…[46:35]
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
–IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com (Maneesh's brother Ramit Sethi's website)
–HackTheSystem.com (Maneesh Sethi's website)
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Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Maneesh or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!