First and foremost,Ariel Garten, I sincerely appreciate for this great interview opportunity to share your wisdom with people.
The reason I got interested in her project is simple. It is because I am interested in the brain. The thing is that people often see it as something complicating to understand. What Ariel Garten does lowers the barrier for people to have an interest in this field.
Ariel Garten is the CEO and co-founder of InteraXon, which creates thought controlled computing products and applications. She is also know as the “Brain Guru” that she works to close the gap between science, art, business and technology. Today, she shares her wisdom with us to boost our creativity.
-----For those who are not familiar with you, please let us know more about you. How did you become a science driven artist/CEO?
My background has been science and art and business my entire life. My mom is a visual artist. She would make these beautiful oil on canvases, and so as a child I knew that you could just imagine things and make them and have them come to life. Both my parents were self-employed. My father was in real estate, so business was literally in the blood from infancy. My dad would drive me around and ask me the price of houses on every block, from the age of maybe four years old and on.
Science is something I stumbled across myself; it’s not endemic in the family. I was always fascinated by the world and how it worked, and how one process could beget another. How molecules and particles would interact to create different substances, like the table in front of me, and the glass that I can see through. I stumbled upon neuroscience when I took that fascination with the world and how it worked and applied it to the self.
-----What do you try to achieve through your company?
AtInteraxon we create brain sensing technology. We create devices, applications, and experiences that enable you to live a more actualized life, with greater degrees of freedom, by allowing you to understand and interact with your own brain. So we try to create applications, products, and experiences that let people touch their own mind, literally interact with their brain in a way that they’ve never been able to before. In the course of doing that allows people to discover themselves; allows people to learn new tools and techniques that allow them to improve their thought processes, their life, their ability to be generous, their ability to self-regulate; become these innovative spaces for discovery, both self-discovery and world discovery; and ultimately, hopefully make the world a better place through this.
-----You often state knowing yourself and being yourself. What exactly do you mean by that? For you, what was the motivation to start thinking of it?
So we are existing now in a world that is increasingly more disconnected, where the vast majority of our time is spent tethered to devices and in digital realms. There’s a really outward experience of the self, and often that outward experience of the self is generated through the curation of other’s content. Knowing the self is about a turn inward and a return inward, and the ability to understand yourself, be connected to the self. From that fully kind of grounded, connected place we are able to engage in the world in a way that is not hollow – and just acting as an automaton, and just reacting to the world around you – but from a place of purpose and self-determination.
So I was a psychotherapist for many years and people act in all sorts of ways, often ways that don’t serve us, or ways that can be confusing to the self. It is because we have internal motivations and triggers that we don’t yet understand, or because we have thoughts and feelings that motivate us in ways that really aren’t positive and really hide the true self. So when you are able to uncover those, know the self, you can allow yourself to shine through without having those thoughts and feelings kowtow you into being afraid to actually be who you are; to be afraid to act in the world in ways that are happy and consistent with you.
-----What do you try to achieve through providing people with an opportunity to see their brain wave patterns?
Seeing your brain wave patterns is really cool. We call it kind of the “first kiss” experience: the first time you can see that you have something that emanates from your brain. It is happening all the time, and you see this touch with your own brain. Seeing your brainwave patterns, in and of itself, is exciting and a kind of transformational moment, but long-term, that is not the meaningful part. The meaningful part is actually being able to learn about your own brain, learn its activity over time, and then learn how you can, through that information, get deeper into the process of self-discovery. And ultimately make choices from that information that you have to live a happier, healthier, freer life.
-----You have been working on lots of challenging projects. When you create something new, what kind of processes happen in your mind?
So typically when I’m creating something new, I have a sense of it first, and then I see it, and it all galvanizes in front of me, then I can feel it. There’s also an embodied process, and I can see the steps that are required to get there, so I bring on people in different teams to come and fill the roles in the project. Then, I really also listen to the people around me as they bring their ideas, because, often, I’ll come in with something that I see so clearly, and it just makes sense, and then, my team members, as they bring in their own ideas and inspirations, just make it better. I can never have all the solutions, so it then becomes a team effort, where really inspired, intelligent individuals are additively interacting to make it all of our vision. The process of working in Interaxon with my co-founders Chris and Trevor has been absolutely amazing because our ideas and inspirations always compliment one another.
-----How does your experience as an artist help your business, and vice versa?
So obviously being an artist is about being creative. It is also about being in touch with your emotional sense. For me, when I create something artistically, it is embodied. I feel it in my body, and then I am creating something that follows that feeling often. As a businessperson there is discipline, and there’s an ability to clearly interact with others around you and create an organized structure. So these two processes actually play really nicely into each other. I think the creativity to business allows us to come up with better, more human, more caring solutions. Adding the business to art allows me to have a process that ensures that there will be outcomes in a method of bringing it out to the world.
-----Challenging projects always bring obstacles and resistances. How do you deal with these difficulties, and how do you overcome difficult situations?
Perspective. Perspective. Perspective. Things that seem really difficult or challenging or painful are because you are so deeply instilled in the moment of that pain or problem. You can’t see outside of it. You can’t see that it’s only a small little piece of a much larger issue or circumstance. So when I find myself maybe pained by something in a really tight spot, I jump up a level, and I see the relationship between it and the things around it. In doing so see solutions, see ways to go around it. I see that there are multiple other options, because there is never only one option. When you are in the problem stage it feels like that problem is the only option, and you have to stay in that problem state to fix that and make that option work. Whereas really, the world is so filled with opportunities that there are always other paths to get to the same solution.
-----You’ve created your own unique lifestyle. For most people, it is scary to follow their intuition or passion. How can they take a leap of faith to select a life path that they really want to take?
I encourage all of you to take a leap of faith and select the right life path that you really want to follow. I think for most people there is an economic fear, which can be really real. “If I do this, will I have enough money to eat?” Then there is the psychological fear, which is not so real, which is, “Oh my god, can I do this, will I fail?” When you put aside that psychological fear, you can take steps and actualize, and do what you really want to do.
Most of us come from a place where we have a sufficient enough safety net, if we just ask. It might seem really scary to do a job transition because you are afraid that you may not have the money to survive through it, but if you galvanize that support of the people around you and know that you have their support to take that next leap, then it can become much easier, and the transition is not going to be as hard as you think.
You can also know that, for most of us, whatever you do, you will find opportunities. So when you start to take a step in one direction, if it is the right step – and I don’t mean that in any sort of metaphysical way – but if it’s a step to creating a product or service that the world likes, people are going to respond positively to it. So when you start to take a step in one direction and talk to people about it and engage people, you’ll know pretty quickly if the step is good, because people around you will start saying: “’Yes, that’s a good idea.’ ‘Wow.’ ‘Cool.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Yes, I want this.’” That positive reinforcement is going to be very helpful to get you on the next leg of your journey.
-----If you could make a call to the 20-year-old Ariel Garten, what kind of advice would you give to her?
I would tell her not to worry. We spend a lot of our time worrying that things are not going to work out. That worry is really not productive, and only degrades your quality of life. Imagine how much easier, how much freer, how much more productive, how much more you’d get done if you didn’t worry, and if you just did. Like I would tell her, I would also tell you, don’t worry; plan, but don’t worry.
-----If you can leave one message to make the world better, what would be your message?
This is going to sound really cheesy, but love everyone. When you love everyone, you treat people with respect and humanity. In doing so, you make the world a better place, and “Love everyone” includes love yourself.