The way of making the impossible possible

Maciej Wolski
Aug 15, 2021 · 12 min read
Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Achieving great things requires extraordinary preparation. Otherwise, you can just be a fool chasing unrealistic dreams. If you don’t realize this very quickly — you will follow the path of very painful experiences.

The world is shaped by people who deeply understand reality and can transform the present into the future.

Sometimes you need to prepare your body, sometimes the mind — but in most cases, it is beneficial to optimize both. To have rich supplies of energy, mental resilience and clarity on what you aim to achieve.

As an independent researcher of Artificial General Intelligence, in the past years, I had truly ambitious goals. I needed to understand the principles of natural intelligence governing its source — the human brain. And as you may know, this is one of the most complex objects in the universe — therefore understanding its operation is a hard task.

In addition, I had to master programming skills and due to the nature of challenges — also the basics of hardware design, especially processing units that will be working better than the current ones. So I needed to combine expertise from some of the most demanding areas of human knowledge — neuroscience, biochemistry and computer science.

Usually, when I set a goal, I realize it much ahead of a deadline. When I assumed that I will write a 300+ page book in 10 weeks, I finished it in three. When I gave myself half a year to learn the basics of hardware design, I saw satisfying results just after one month of intense studying and practicing.

But how can you do such things?

Well, Elon Musk would say:

And it is true to some extent because I worked hard as hell. Up to 16 hours per day. But the true secret lies in the optimization of the mind and body. And the answer to a question: how to get the most from the time you invest?

The body

It is a very complex topic, but extremely ambitious goals require unusual methods. Necessary expertise and experience, but also a strong will to become the absolute best version of yourself.

It starts from a brutal realization that you are not a machine running on pizza and coffee. You are a complex organism or as I prefer to see it — you are equipped with really sophisticated biotechnology. That can be understood and optimized.

And you should treat your body seriously. During each second there are billions of biochemical reactions that allow you to live and perform any task you want to accomplish.

Many of these processes depend on enzymes that require specific nutrients. If they are not available — part of your body simply does not work or perform suboptimally.

You see, diet and nutrition are not about calories. It is just a virtual term describing the amount of heat as a result of burning something. What your body needs and uses are nutrients.

Some of them, called macronutrients are indeed providing energy or serve as building blocks for body parts and various chemical substances. But there are also micronutrients that take part in these biochemical activities each second of our lives. And it is all about their absorption and proper utilization. Because putting something in your mouth does not mean it will end supporting your body.

As human beings, we like simplicity. Let’s just drink a cup of coffee to feel energized.

But then it starts to work worse and worse, to the point that even several cups per day are not making our performance the way it could be. Followed by crashes and a feeling of exhaustion.

There are multiple reasons for such a situation — depletion of raw building blocks for dopamine and adrenaline, decreased sensitivity of receptors, hormone imbalance — just to name a few of them.

A cup of coffee is like a debt that sooner or later you need to pay back.

Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

In my case, I managed to optimize my days in such a way, that I was able to work 12–16 hours per day with full performance and a single cup of coffee, but supported by a whole range of other components.

It worked like a charm for a year and a half, until I experienced a total breakdown of my adrenal and hormonal system.

Another lesson, another area to explore, learn from mistakes and make conclusions.

First of all, I spent way too much time in front of a computer. My physical endurance was too weak, but I thought that I will manage to realize my goals without maximally caring about my body. I exercised daily, but it was not enough to keep my peak performance.

Our bodies simply are not made to do a similar thing all the time. They need rest-active cycles. Even if everything worked fine for many months — my body was producing so much cortisol that in the end, it disrupted the balance of my hormones.

In addition, fueling my mental work required a stable supply of glucose. Even if I was eating very healthy for years, still I gained a lot of visceral fat that negatively affects the performance of the internal organs.

There are so many aspects of body operation that it is just not possible to reduce it to simple rules like:

  • eat less and exercise — you will be in a good shape or all forms of exercise are healthy;
  • coffee is your friend and the ultimate source of energy in the body. It is not, it just spends all resources you have, until you are broken. That is why I like the financial metaphor of debt.

First of all, we are more hungry if we lack the necessary nutrients. This is a natural reaction, initiated by the body — to make us eat more to refill them. Second, exercises are only a small part of daily energy expenditure. Therefore there is a need to combine diet and exercise, with the first factor having much more influence on the general fitness of the body.

The only way how the body is making fat tissue — is through elevated insulin and a high intake of glucose. The only way how body intensively burns fat — is when the glucose is not available and instead it is necessary to use the fat reserves to make ketone bodies.

It is very helpful to have this metabolic flexibility to avoid insulin resistance and be able to effectively burn both fat and glucose for energy.

But to control the body and effectively communicate necessary actions — it is required to have building blocks for hormones, neurotransmitters and transfer various elements through the cellular membrane. All of it does not come for free, even if it looks like this from our high-level perspective.

Without tyrosine, the body will not make dopamine and noradrenaline necessary to stimulate the mind to act. It is available in food, but it takes up to several hours to digest various protein sources.

And if raw building blocks are not available to the body — it can’t make the desired substances out of thin air. It is very efficient at recycling internal resources, so it regains some building blocks daily, but it is just for minimal maintenance. And not optimal performance.

Without sufficient dopamine and noradrenaline levels — you will lack motivation and energy to do the work. This is how you welcome procrastination. In fact, all things that people hate about themselves are related to insufficient levels of energy in the body.

The other important factor is that when you eat meat or vegetarian protein sources — there are many amino acids out there and they all compete for resources necessary to make and utilize enzymes — the causative factors in the body.

Therefore if we have a specific goal in mind, it is often way more effective to take an isolated substance in a powder form as it starts to work in 15–30 minutes instead of hours and in addition with a reduced effect.

Imagine that you want to have full mental and physical energy in the morning, but the tyrosine in your meal will be available at noon after the digestion of breakfast. Assuming that you have found time for it in your constantly busy lifestyle.

Besides communication through hormones, neurotransmitters and other substances — the body needs to utilize carbohydrates or fats and transform them into a usable form of energy resource.

No, it is not that the cell just gets a unit of glucose or a ketone body and uses it directly. There are complex procedures at each step of our life maintenance. But the final and most basic one for energy extraction is based on getting electrons from a reaction that changes ATP molecule into ADP. And then possibly regenerate it back to ATP.

There are also other paths of getting these electrons, but I consider them out of the scope of this article — you just need to be aware of the general rule.

We may consider ourselves as beings that are powered by electricity produced in a series of biochemical reactions that derive energy from the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Personally, I like the concept of seeing the human body and mind as advanced biotechnology.

And the stuff that when lacking will kill you faster is the most important for your energy levels and life itself. So air and oxygen first, water and hydration second, food and nutrition last but not least. In addition, the lack of versatile movement makes all biochemical processes harder.

The blood flows in our veins through magnetic forces and the work of the heart, but the extracellular fluids require pressure caused by movement. Otherwise, the delivery of nutrients and oxygen is slowed down and the same applies to waste management. You get weaker and weaker.

Several factors may influence the amount of energy derived from food. Besides our habits that train our body to be prepared for specific metabolic paths — there are also nutritional factors, like the availability of niacin or creatine to boost the energy level available.

If all you do for physical activity is jogging, aerobics or any single activity — your body will be accustomed only to specific ways of operation and energy production.

We need mixed activities including low-intensity aerobic and high-intensity anaerobic ones. We also need to be able to effectively burn both glucose and fat for energy.

The mind

If you have ever seen professional athletes — you know that absolutely the best treat their bodies with unbelievable care. And more often than not — they also work with psychologists and advisors on their mentality.

You may also look at mentors that combine physical activity with mental resilience. The choice is yours, but just to give you an example — you may pick from one of the following extremes: a former Navy Seals officer — Jocko Willink, a perfect example of a tough man from the West or Shaolin Monastery Master — Shi Heng Yi that is a warrior monk raised in Eastern philosophy, depending on your preferences. In my case, I read and listen to both.

They can teach you about discipline, embracing the pain, power of will and the path to self-improvement or self-mastery that never ends. You just need to strive to become better and better every day.

Because the truth is that when you enter the realm of things that seem to be impossible — you need the courage, patience and skill set to jump directly into the void of the unknown. And you need to feel absolutely comfortable in your discomfort zone. You need to embrace the pain.

You need to find the balance between two extremes: being both calm and dangerous in your area of expertise. Because the better you become — the calmer you are. And vice versa.

Having your body and mind in optimal shape boosts your confidence. And a belief that you can overcome any obstacle and face any challenge. Because there are always surprises and things impossible to predict upfront.

Another thing is the ability to explore the environment related to your challenge. We live in a specialized world — where people usually prefer to expand their knowledge and skills in one selected area.

However with big challenges, things that are considered to be impossible… well, at least until they are done — you need to be able to look from multiple perspectives. You need to understand multiple layers where you can provide new value or avoid mistakes that others would make.

When you are a part of the big team — there is always someone that can support you. But when you are an innovator and a leader — intending to achieve previously unachievable — you need to know a lot more. Not only to be able to do work for yourself, but also to inspire, lead or manage others.

For example, a person that took the standard path to develop Artificial Intelligence will try to improve on what is already available. It will be harder for such a person to realize that a specific path may lead to a dead end.

On the other hand, if you can see the way through the same perspective, but then compare it with alternatives — based more on neuroscience, biochemistry and other disciplines — you may see that some paths are not realistic to the goal of making Artificial General Intelligence, but others are.

So you start by thinking strategically and then fill up the details. This requires a big picture view, an open mind and the will to question absolutely everything. For years.

It requires reading hundreds of books and thousands of scientific papers. Endless hours of experimentation. And the unwavering faith in the final success.

When you combine expertise from multiple areas, physical and mental endurance — you need to ask yourself — am I ready to spend many years pursuing my goal, even without visible external signs of success? Am I ready to do whatever it takes?

These are very important questions because making impossible things possible requires an unbelievable amount of willpower and a very high pain threshold. You can’t doubt yourself, your team and your strategy even for a moment. Otherwise, you will fail.

And at the same time, you also need that ability to fail. There are many factors that you simply can’t control. But you need to focus on those you can. That is yourself and to some extent your team. You need to believe, but completely accept the risk of failure. To deal with the circumstances.

Having absolute clarity where you want to go, the awareness of risks, unlimited amounts of determination and perfectly prepared body and mind — you may take your chances and try to achieve the unachievable.

The summary

In life, we hardly ever experience miracles, rather the consequences of our actions. You either choose comfort or try to feel comfortable in your discomfort zone. You choose to avoid pain and difficulties or embrace them to at least try to get to places where no one has ever been before.

You may choose to live some years like no one would like to — to live the rest like no one could before. The greatness is built when no one is watching.

It is ultimately your choice what you do with your life. But if you dare to choose the hard path, you should be prepared.

In my case, I was forced to understand almost everything about the body and mind. 14 years ago I had trouble doing the most basic things we all take for granted. I couldn’t even breathe, sleep, walk or talk normally. I was not able to remember most of the things that I read or heard.

But by the necessity of regaining everything from the point of being at the lowest level possible — I gained knowledge, experience, faith and skill set to make the impossible possible.

Today, understanding so much about body and mind — I feel truly ready to continue my path of self-improvement and to provide the world with Artificial General Intelligence. Now with another investment secured, many things are finally in my hands and control. And I don’t fear those that are not.

The future will be beautiful and filled with many things considered to be impossible. If you have the courage, go there with me. Maximize your potential, become the person you always meant to be. And give the world your gifts.

Gamma Waves

A state of the highest human potential

Gamma Waves

Gamma waves are the fastest brain waves — they occur when you’re highly alert and conscious. Especially, while you experience joy and satisfaction coming from doing the work you absolutely love and which leads to realization of your full potential.

Maciej Wolski

Written by

Founder & CEO of AGICortex. Futurist. Independent AGI researcher. Neuroscience enthusiast. Extreme learning machine. A book author. Python/Julia developer.

Gamma Waves

Gamma waves are the fastest brain waves — they occur when you’re highly alert and conscious. Especially, while you experience joy and satisfaction coming from doing the work you absolutely love and which leads to realization of your full potential.