🫠 Psychonaut POV

[6-min read] Q&A with Shane Heath, Designer & Founder

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When Shane Heath got his first taste of hustle culture, he knew something was off. So he launched his own company, MUD\WTR, to rewrite the rules of productivity and well-being with a new morning ritual.

We asked Shane about how psychedelics inspired him to pursue entrepreneurship; his thoughts on microdosing in the workplace; and what a healthier, more balanced approach to work looks and feels like.

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Shane Heath Psychonaut POV
Can you tell us how you went from being a burnt out Silicon Valley designer to founding MUD\WTR? Have psychedelics played a role in your approach to entrepreneurship or leadership?

For me, it all traces back to childhood. I grew up in Santa Cruz, with my mom working for the biggest mushroom company in North America. So, mushrooms were always around. My dad, a builder, constructed the homes I grew up in. I admired how he owned the full project pipeline, from architectural drawings to actual framing. I literally saw plans become reality, and I slept in those structures. These experiences shaped me.

At 13, I had my first psychedelic experience with cannabis. My friends and I built a massive bong, more for the challenge than the smoking. It was a mind-altering experience, but I lacked the language to describe it. Honestly, I felt disconnected from reality for about a year.

Later, in college, my roommate's suicide shook me. It prompted a deep dive into self-discovery, through modalities like Ayurveda, meditation, and yoga. I could no longer ignore the deeper questions about life and how we honor our precious time here.

After college, I started working in Silicon Valley. I quickly realized the hustle culture—particularly the obsession with caffeine—clashed with my focus on well-being. So I experimented with making a coffee alternative, eventually combining chai, cacao, and functional mushrooms, inspired by my mom's connection to fungi. This blend transformed my performance and ultimately led to the launch of MUD\WTR.

Psychedelics played a formative role for me along the way. They weren't just powerful in the moment, but in the behavioral changes they triggered. The most significant experience was a three-day ayahuasca ceremony that fundamentally shifted my relationship with myself. It allowed me to shed my inhibitions and fully express myself. This transformation gave me the confidence to start my own company, something I wouldn't have felt worthy of just a few years prior.

Now, I integrate practices like microdosing psilocybin with more conventional methods like breathwork and meditation. These tools have been instrumental in my journey of self-discovery and entrepreneurship.

It's pretty remarkable that you donate to nonprofits like the Heroic Hearts Project and support your employees who microdose. What are your thoughts on the potential benefits of psychedelics, particularly within a professional setting?

A lot of what keeps us stuck is ingrained patterns of thinking. To break free, you have to shake up the snow globe, so to speak. Traveling can do it. Practices like breathwork and meditation can also help. For many, psychedelics are one of the most effective ways to really jolt your perspective. They make you aware of those patterns and open you up to rewiring them.

Looking out at the world, it's clear we're facing a mental health crisis. It's pervasive, affecting people from all walks of life, from those facing severe conditions to high-functioning individuals like elite athletes or corporate leaders. They grapple with purpose, direction, anxiety, anger, and everything in between. Our collective internal worlds are in a state of disorder, and we see the ripple effects in how we treat ourselves, each other, and the planet. The businesses we create reflect our inner worlds. When we’re in balance, positive outcomes follow. It's the linchpin that sets everything in motion.

In business, a company can only truly thrive when its people are thriving. If they're stuck in patterns that no longer serve them, the company will mirror that. Whether it's through breathwork, meditation, or plant medicine, I'm always focused on supporting our team members.

I'm not here to enforce the law; my concern is providing context. Our office isn't stocked with psychedelics, but we do offer information and resources for those interested in using them safely and responsibly. It's a conversation I value and share with our team, without pressuring anyone to partake.

MUD\WTR has a unique practice of introducing new science-based habits to employees every quarter. Can you share some examples of these habits and their impact on the team's overall well-being and productivity?

Many of us dedicate a significant portion of our lives to work. Companies typically reward this dedication with a paycheck—and maybe an occasional pizza party—but after a few years of work, people often feel drained. They might have received a generous salary and promotions, but the job usually takes more from them than it gives back when you consider it on physical, spiritual, and emotional levels.

I consider this approach a missed opportunity. When a group of individuals comes together and applies their unique skills towards a common purpose, it creates a special environment. Especially in a growing company, the personal growth potential is immense. So when someone joins our team, we kick-start their journey with a one-hour breathwork session led by a trained facilitator. This tradition fosters deep connections beyond the scope of work. It sets a tone, an initiation of sorts. Now, we're all in this together.

Yes, every quarter, we introduce a new science-backed habit to the team. We create a supportive environment in Slack with information and shared experiences. For example, we’ve done meditation, cold exposure, and gratitude journaling. There's solid research backing the positive impact of all these habits.

Our goal with the quarterly habits is to encourage consistency. Even if a specific practice doesn’t stick with someone, sometimes it's that little nudge that empowers them to explore something new. Taking agency over one's actions and nurturing curiosity are small ways to shake up the status quo, leading people to think independently and feel deeply. The natural outcomes are a more vibrant team, a healthier company culture, and a wealth of creative ideas.

Requiring employees to take 46 days off per year and considering sleep as a key performance indicator (KPI) is a bold approach. How has this policy contributed to the company's culture and impact?

In today's landscape, the old notion of equating hours worked with productivity is evolving. Now, we realize that intangibles like quality of ideas and creativity are far more important. It's not just about clocking in hours, but about being well-rested and inspired. We're actively investing in preserving this mindset because it’s obvious that sustainable productivity requires a balanced approach.

We’re still experimenting and finding ways to instill a more creative, productive, and enduring work culture. “Unlimited” time-off policies often come with unspoken limits, which leave employees uncertain about taking time for themselves. I want everyone operating at their best, and optimal performance simply can't be sustained through constant full-throttle work. So I advocate for operating at 70% capacity—enough to stay fresh and engaged. Taking cues from professional sports, we've also implemented a policy of every other Friday off. And providing tools like the Oura ring to every new team member fosters a sense of care for our employees' well-being and reinforces the importance of what we measure, in this case quality sleep and readiness. It’s an ongoing learning process, but it seems to be working. We’re witnessing our team break free from old patterns.

In terms of key performance indicators, for me, one of the most important is employee retention. Losing a valued team member is costly and the expenses to replace them are substantial. So while our benefits package may seem pricey, it's an upfront investment in the long-term well-being of our team. This approach is more economical than bearing the costs associated with high turnover, burnout, and reduced performance. So far, this investment has paid off.

How do you see the broader landscape of mindful consumption evolving, and how does MUD\WTR fit into that vision?

As I see it, there are two major trends driving the surge in mindful consumption. Firstly, more and more people are seeking to heal their troubled minds. We can see it reflected in the growing interest in practices like meditation, journaling, breathwork, and the use of plant medicine and psychedelics. It's a clear indication that people are yearning to improve their mental well-being. They're tired of feeling unwell.

On the other hand, the evolving job landscape, with advancements in automation and AI, is reshaping the types of available roles. Jobs that don't heavily rely on creativity, agency, and human touch are gradually being automated. This shift is already underway. The differentiator in people's abilities will lie in their creativity, problem-solving skills, emotional intelligence, and capacity to handle stress and make thoughtful decisions.

These trends are propelling the creation of consciousness-oriented companies and a greater emphasis on mental health awareness, education, and accessibility. MUD\WTR sits at the intersection of both shifts. Some turn to our product on their doctors' advice to reduce caffeine intake and improve their sleep. Others use it to enhance their creativity and excel in what they’re already doing.

We're actively investing in both fronts, not just in our products, but also in content creation. We're providing educational content for those interested in psychedelics, focusing on safe and responsible usage. For those inclined towards other practices, we offer classes, recordings, and podcasts. Currently, I'm in a physical space set to open soon, where all these elements converge. We'll have a café where people can try our products. There will be a spacious area dedicated to meditation and breathwork, alongside rooms for classes and content premieres. And who knows? If legality permits, we might even have facilitators offering medicine sessions here. It's shaping up to be a vibrant community space for people to explore mindfulness in their own unique ways.

Want more from Shane?

Check out MUD\WTR’s blog and podcast, and get $20 off their products plus a free gift when you start a new subscription.

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DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. The use, possession, and distribution of psychedelic drugs are illegal in most countries and may result in criminal prosecution.

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