Impact Theory: Sam Harris Podcast Notes

Sam Harris talks about human belief systems, being mindful of thoughts, controlling emotions, meditation, and more with Tom Bilyeu on Impact Theory.

Sam Harris (@samharrisorg) is an American Neuroscientist, Philosopher, and author of five New York Times best-selling books including The End of Faith and Waking Up. He is described as one of the “Four Horsemen of Atheism” along with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett. He has debated on topics of religion and God with prominent people including Jordan Peterson, William Lane Craig, Andrew Sullivan, Deepak Chopra, and Reza Aslan. He hosts the Making Sense Podcast since 2013 and has a meditation app called Waking Up.

Enjoy the takeaways put together in this Impact Theory Sam Harris Podcast Notes.

Key Takeaways

  • According to Sam Harris, the definition of a good life is where one can effortlessly cooperate with strangers encountered in everyday life.
  • To change belief systems, people must be willing to be open to conversation, educating themselves, and open to other people’s thinking.
  • Sam Harris thinks that dogmatism is the default of faith-based religions.
  • All negative emotions dissipate quickly when the thinker stops continually thinking about the reasons why they should feel those emotions.
  • By simply turning the attention away on something else, the negative state dissipates.
  • Sam Harris rarely listens to music. He only gets to hear music inadvertently in places like stores or others where he happens to be.
  • Sam Harris listens to audiobooks while commuting and doing other passive things.
  • According to Sam, Meditation is a lot like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because the mind gets attacked by assumptions and delusions all the time, similar to being on a mat in jiu-jitsu and put in uncomfortable positions all the time. The power in both circumstances is to calm down.
  • Deriving from Daniel Kahneman, Sam talks about the Experiencing Self and the Remembering Self. He says that the Experiencing Self is the real self while the Remembering Self is a version of the Experiencing Self. Experiencing Self is the self that goes from moment to moment feeling pleasure and pain. Remembering Self is the self that remembers past events and decides if we are satisfied with what happened in the past and if we are on the right path. He says that people need to strike a balance between the Experiencing Self and the Remembering Self.
  • To people who feel they have no sense of purpose, Sam advises that if they don’t have clinical depression, they can improve their state by interrupting their negative thoughts, telling themselves a better story, and being grateful for all the negative things that could have but did not happen to them.
  • Sam Harris focuses his conversations on things and ideas in the areas of Science and Philosophy that are both interesting and consequential.

Sam Harris Quotes

  • “We have to be in a situation where radical ignorance can’t be bliss.”
  • “We have to be continually open to the possibility that we might be wrong and in fact, we’re likely to be wrong a lot of the time.”
  • “Dogmatism is just holding to an idea no matter what else comes into view.”
  • “If you’re not continually thinking about all the reasons why you should be anxious, the physiology dissipates very very quickly. And, that’s true for anger, it’s true for anything that’s classically negative.”
  • “Meditation is a lot like jiu-jitsu for the mind”
  • “You want your pleasures to be justified by good relationships and a world that cares about your inputs and outputs.”

Changing Belief Systems

Sam Harris thinks that one must be open to human conversations, educating oneself, and open to other people’s thinking to change belief systems. He says that we must be open to the fact that we might be wrong a lot of time.

Sam is against dogmatism which is holding on to an idea no matter what new views come into the picture.

Controlling Emotions

Sam Harris says that if a person does not continually think about all the reasons for him/her to feel a negative emotion, the emotion quickly dissipates. He says that this applies to all classical negative emotions.

He also tells listeners to put their attention on something else to dissipate the negative emotional state. This is wired into us and we are capable to do it. Sam gives an example of a person who in the midst of his anger gets a business call that turns away his negative emotion.

How Sam Harris Learns

With the increase in the number of books written every year, Sam Harris knows that he will not be around to read 1000s of really informative and interesting books. He treats books more like how Naval Ravikant treats them, like throwaway pieces of information if they are not interesting.

Sam Harris puts down books he is not captivated with in the first few pages. He listens to audiobooks while commuting and doing other passive things.

Sam Harris on Meditation

Sam Harris feels that meditation is like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for the mind. The constant attack of assumptions and delusions from the mind is similar to being constantly put in uncomfortable situations on the mat in jiu-jitsu.

He notes that a lot of people feel like they are passengers in their body and not the body itself. While meditating, he wants people to not worry about the past or future but to be present in that moment.

Experiencing Self vs Remembering Self

Borrowing terms from Daniel Kahneman, Sam Harris says that the Experiencing Self is the real self and that the remembering self is a version of it.

The Experiencing Self is the self that experiences going from moment to moment, experiencing pleasures and pains.

Meanwhile, the Remembering Self remembers past events and deduces if we are satisfied with what happened in the past and if we are living a good life.

Sam Harris says that we have to balance the experience of the Experiencing Self and the Remembering Self. Because, if there is a rich person spending his days on drugs and experiencing pleasure, his Experiencing Self is happy with him. However, when he thinks back, his Remembering Self wishes he would have devoted more time to do things that would have made him feel satisfied looking back.

3 Things to Help People Living Without Purpose/Meaning

Sam Harris mentions three things to help people who are not under clinical depression but are feeling that they are living a life without purpose or meaning.

  1. Interrupting Negative Thoughts in their Mind
  2. Telling Themselves a Better Story
  3. Gratitude for Bad Things that haven’t happened to them

Sam Harris says that being grateful for all the bad things like being diagnosed with cancer that could happen to anybody but hadn’t happened could help people who are struggling without a purpose.

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