Are You a Human Being or a Human Doing?

Pedram Shojai
5 min readJul 7, 2021


The Urban Monk

My friend Dhru believes our brains are broken. If you know me well, you know I don’t disagree with him.

Dhru uses his and Mark Hyman’s podcast, Broken Brain, to dig into the secrets of neuroplasticity, epigenetics, biohacking, mindfulness, and functional medicine.

His theory is if we attack the problem from as many angles as possible, with the best experts in those fields, we’re bound to find myriad solutions for the innumerable ways our brains aren’t functioning the way we want them to be.

So when he brought me on to talk about my experiences biohacking the brain, the body, and the spirit…

I confess that for me, that all boils down to one thing: a fundamental misunderstanding of the central role focus should play in our lives.

We all have the same amount of time available to us every day — 24 hours — and yet everyone says they don’t have enough time. (Although the common point is true – the wealthier you are, the more hours you have in a day. No public transportation, not having to shop, clean, or cook, etc… Well, it adds up.)

We all have an internal economy that fuels the autonomic functions of our bodies — digestion, immunity, brain health — and requires energy. Yet everyone says they don’t have enough energy for their wants, their goals, their visions.

I believe that’s because we’ve forgotten that we’re human beings — not human doings.

When you think about it like that, saying “no” more often makes complete sense.

More than anything else, we, especially as Western householders, have a clarity issue.

The health and wellness industry is huge.

Everyone’s got the answers and everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing. There’s an unbelievable amount of free information out there, and aside from regularly scheduled scientific breakthroughs, the truth doesn’t change:

Don’t eat processed food. Moderate your alcohol. Move your body. Meditate. Eat vegetables. Sleep well. Love often.

But even if we do all of that, what good is having the energy we earn from optimally running our operating systems if we have no clarity of purpose? No action plan?

We Don’t Actually Make Any Choices

There’s a huge emphasis in the West on making the right choices — we obsessively track the lives of billionaires and celebrities, thinking if we can figure out what they did right and make similar choices, we’ll be set, too.

But the thing is, most of us have weak prefrontal cortexes.

Even when we think we’re making a choice, we’re really just reacting.

As a kid, I used to pretend to do homework when my dad would walk by — even if I was legitimately finished doing homework.

I couldn’t commit myself to the choice of relaxing, or playing basketball or playing with my friends.

I was reacting to the possibility of worrying my dad — instead of making a choice about how to spend my own heartbeats.

I was just a kid, but I was already internalizing a message so many of us carry with us well into adulthood: Choices are dangerous. It’s safer to react.

So when I got older, enrolled at UCLA, stayed active in martial arts, and started making what I thought were choices about the rest of my life, I was still just reacting.

And after I discovered Taoism, and spent four years traveling to the East to learn from the ascetics, I learned about the biohacking the ascetics do…

Which has been pressure-tested for thousands of years by very pragmatic people who simply won’t continue to do something if it doesn’t work. Not for thousands of years, anyway.

It was incredible. It was such an awakening from the life that I’d been living. Patients and clients often remind me that I’m a monk, so this is all different for me and easier.

But I wasn’t a monk until I was.

What’s missing for so many of us is a matrix that’s calculated by the personal math of our lives…

In a word, it’s focus.

Analyzing Choices so We Can Make Them

Your life won’t look like mine. Mine won’t look like my neighbor’s.

My math won’t mean anything to you, except that we might share the same guiding principles of love, friendship, good work, integrity, etc.

There are some steps I get into during Dhru’s podcast, and even deeper in the actual blueprint for this that I’ve written — Focus: Bringing Time, Energy, and Money Into Flow — that basically outline what has to happen for you to even be capable of making choices, let alone honoring your words and living in integrity.

Steps like…

  • You have to balance your body health first. When unhealthy things are going on in your body, they’re drawing energy away from the parts of your brain that you need to strengthen in order to put yourself back in the driver’s seat.
  • You have to decide what’s going to be important to you. Family? Career? Fitness? Intellectual elevation? Choose the plants in your life garden.
  • You have to recognize that if you’re seeking out a distraction, there’s an imbalance somewhere. Learning how to identify those imbalances is key.

Everything that’s gone right and everything that’s gone wrong in your life is because of focus — because you found it, or because you couldn’t access it.

Dhru and I talked a lot about that, and so much more, during the hour I was on his podcast.

I love talking about this stuff — I think it’s the main blockage holding Westerners back from inner peace as well as making us sick.

The book that I wrote, Focus, is available on Amazon. You can click here to order it if you’d like!

Basically, I wanted to write a blueprint, a course, a framework to help people wind their way to the track, and then stay on it.

I’m really proud of what it turned out to be. If you’re someone who finds themselves constantly reaffirming your internal bias that you can’t do the things you want because you’ve failed before, you’re a promise-breaker, you’re XYZ…

You’re who I wrote this for. Check it out here.

If you enjoyed these thoughts and think we’ve got something in common, I have a feeling you’re going to love the streaming service I launched last year — It’s my answer to the dilemma of conscious consumption, where you’ll find ALL of my documentaries and series, as well as more from renowned thought leaders like Nick Polizzi, Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. Tom O’Bryan, Dr. Mark Hyman, and more. Try it for two weeks — on me.



Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling Author, filmmaker, and founder of