When life or death is on the line, any advantage helps. Elite German soldiers marching into the Soviet Union in 1941 took speed (amphetamine) to fuel their attacks. With that aid, they reached Moscow, captured most of Russia and conquered armies many times their size.
Today's modern warrior does battle in the boardroom, on a sales call, or while pivoting to a new business model. In droves, entrepreneurs are finding their edge with cognitive enhancing supplements called nootropics. These chemical compounds are natural and synthetic substances that help aid memory, focus, attention and creativity. Titans of Wall Street, Silicon Valley and entrepreneurs worldwide are making use of nootropics to get an advantage.
Goals and uses of nootropic drugs
You have probably had experience with nootropics without realizing it. The caffeine in coffee acts as a focus enhancer and it is one of most highly consumed beverages across the globe. But there are times when other advantages, such as improved memory, are more important to your business.
To determine which nootropics are best for you, consider your goals and plan accordingly.
1. Memory: Have you ever needed a specific task completed only to remember a perfect man for the job at the last minute? Having an improved memory can help bring various pieces of a business together more efficiently.
You might need to remember a specific tactic, marketing strategy or customer service platform that you once read. Whatever the case, there are many nootropics for that purpose. A synthetic drug discovered in the early 1970s called piracetam can be combined with choline for improved memory retention. It's one of Tim Ferriss' favorite smart drugs and it's a good place to begin for enhanced memory.
2. Focus: Having the ability to focus more intently on work can yield a higher efficiency and better quality work. Caffeine is the focus enhancer of choice, but there are ways to increase its effectiveness. Caffeine combined with an amino acid in green tea called L-theanine produces greater focus and clarity than caffeine alone.
3. Mood enhancer: Anyone in entrepreneurship understands the anxiety and depression that is associated. While prescription drugs are no way to handle these ups and downs, there are herbal alternatives. Mucuna pruriens is an herb from Africa that provides dopamine -- a chemical correlated to happiness -- for the brain. This combined with reishi mushroom improves happiness while decreasing anxiety and relieving tension.
4. Anti-fatigue: There is a saying in the business world: “The candle that burns brighter, burns shorter.” If you are drinking multiple cups of coffee and getting little sleep, sooner or later something is going to snap. People can only work so hard even if entrepreneurship requires long hours sometimes.
Bodybuilders popularized the use of creatine monohydrate, but it is a powerful mental anti-fatigue supplement as well. Smart Drug Smarts podcast host Jesse Lawler even said creatine was the best starter nootropic. Coffee can get you going, but creatine can keep you going.
5. Creativity: Ever wonder why musicians and painters always seem to be smoking a cigarette? It turns out, nicotine is a powerful enhancer of creativity, which is a necessary skill for entrepreneurs trying to escape a bind or make deals. Sometimes working harder or longer isn't the answer -- working more creatively can make the difference. If nicotine strikes you as too addictive, iodine can be a natural source of inspiration and creativity.
Getting started with beginner stacks
Nootropics are often used in “stacks," which are combinations of smart drugs that can elicit synergistic effects more profound than any one drug alone. For beginners, there are more mainstream options that you can choose from.
1. Caffeine + L-theanine: Combining caffeine with L-theanine can amplify the benefits of caffeine alone. L-theanine is responsible for improving alpha brain waves, which correspond to relaxation, a reduced heart rate and less jitters. If you combine 200 mg of L-theanine for every 8-ounce cup of coffee, you will have the best results.
2. Bacopa monnieri: Most of the best nootropics come straight from the earth. Traditional Indian cultures have used the herb bacopa monnieri to improve cognition for thousands of years. It is a powerful long-term and short-term memory enhancer. It can also reduce anxiety and help with focus. You can find bacopa monnieri extract in 200 to 300 mg doses (50 percent bacosides A and B).
3. Piracetam + choline: One of the strongest memory enhancers is piracetam, which helps to form memories and learn more efficiently. Because this substance increases usage of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, taking a choline supplement alongside piracetam is more effective than either alone. Try to get 1600 mg of piracetam with 200 to 300 mg of choline for optimal results.
What's the catch?
Taking nootropics does come with its drawbacks. For one thing, caffeine is evidence of how easy it is to become dependent on a powerful substance. Even if you are not physically dependent on a nootropic, you might enjoy the extra focus for your business so much, you don't even realize the addiction forming.
It's also easy for entrepreneurs to see movies like Limitless and have delusions of grandeur. If you can fit exercise, healthy eating and adequate sleep into your daily routine, these are going to have a bigger impact on your mental capacity than anything else.
Finally, as with any supplement, there is always the “does it really work” question. The supplement industry has pushed snake oil amidst quality products for so long that people are confused about what is effective. Luckily, you can take online tests to see whether something is really having an impact. NooTracker is a web app that tracks cognitive abilities while taking nootropics. Another option is Cambridge Brain Sciences for more comprehensive tests.
If you do want to get an edge over your competition, nootropics are a great way to do so. Don't buy and start consuming all of the above mentioned drugs at once. Try them individually depending on your goals, see what works for you in a safe environment and create your own combinations accordingly.