014 | What Doesn't Kill Us by Scott Carney

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

They call him the “Ice Man”. He's set world records for cold water submersion and climbed the world’s tallest mountains bare-chested. He claims he can teach anyone to hold their breath for five minutes straight, and he even says he can teach you how to keep warm in the snow… naked.

His name is Wim Hof, and in his New York Times bestselling book, What Doesn’t Kill Us, investigative journalist Scott Carney gave readers an inside look into the mythic life of the Ice Man.

From the outside looking in, it’s hard for many to know what to think about Hof. At this point, the internet is filled with so many legends about him it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. After hearing about Hof’s exploits, Carney was intrigued - haunted even - so he did what any good journalist would do… he booked a flight to the Netherlands to go through the ‘Wim Hof Experience’. What he discovered was life altering.

The first test was Hof's breathing exercises. Lying flat on the floor, Hof told Carney to hyperventilate violently for thirty breaths. In-out-in-out, as fast and as hard as he could. The goal was to “oxygenate the blood”, or, at least that's what Hof told him. By the end of the session, Carney's results left him dumbfounded. He held his breath for three minutes straight and he did forty push-ups in a row without taking a single breath. Interesting.

Next on the agenda was a barefoot walk in the snow. And just in case you needed a visual, we’re talking the Netherlands in winter, by the way. The snow burned Carney's feet like a bed of hot needles, but he trudged on and finished the hike. Even still, you might be wondering...

What’s the point?! Why walk barefoot in the snow?! Why hyperventilate and hold your breath until you nearly pass out? Why subject yourself to such cruel and unusual punishment, on purpose?

According to Carney, it's because we need to.

“Human biology needs stress,” Carney says. “Not the sort of stress that damages muscle, gets us eaten by a bear, or degrades our physiques, but the sort of environmental and physical oscillations that invigorates our nervous system.”

“Every human alive today lives in a cocoon of consistency,” he continues. “The inevitable result of losing seasonal variation is obesity and chronic disease.”

We live in an air-conditioned, climate-controlled, Tempur-Pedic world, and as a result, we are chronically under-stressed when it comes to our environment. We are more comfortable than we’ve ever been, but according to Carney, it’s that very comfort that’s killing us.

“A plunge into ice cold water not only triggers a number of processes to warm the body, but also tweaks insulin production, tightens the circulatory system, and heightens awareness,” Carney says. “Today tens of thousands of people are discovering that the environment contains hidden tools for hacking the nervous system.”

In What Doesn’t Kill Us, Scott Carney went on a journey of personal discovery. He met with some of the world’s most rugged characters – men like Wim Hof, Laird Hamilton, and Brian MacKenzie – and he learned that sometimes it’s only by becoming uncomfortable that we can truly start living.

Feeling stuck? Does your life need a little shot in the arm right now? Then pick up this book and get reading, because remember…

What Doesn’t Kill Us makes us stronger.


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