Way back in 1981, Peggy Maats brought her newborn son from King Fahd Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to the house of Big Mike and Vickie Callen. There their young son Bryan had probably zero interest in this baby. Fast forward a quarter of a century, Bryan was a sometimes working actor and stand-up comedian and Hunter was a Harvard biochemistry grad who was paying his bills tutoring. Thanks to Bryan’s friend Joe Rogan, Bryan had gotten into podcasting and thanks to the shared culture in which they had been raised Bryan and Hunter had an interest in the big ideas that could solve the defining problem of childhood spent travelling around the world. In Bryan’s words, they had seen great poverty from inside an air-conditioned car.
Why were Bryan and Hunter inside those cars in comfort while those other kids were outside starving and struggling?
In the end, Mixed Mental Arts began as a personal search for those answers.
Since Bryan was kind of a big deal, his podcast had some downloads. And so, one day over a conversation about Larry Lessig’s Republic Lost and Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, Hunter made an off-hand suggestion. Bryan with his download numbers could actually talk to all these authors. “Really?” said Bryan. “They would talk to me??” “Sure,” said Hunter, bullshitting out of his ass. And so, Bryan proposed that Hunter start booking guests and that he could sit in on those guests. After 200 interviews with many of the world’s top academics, it became clear that the answers to the world’s problems did exist. They were just trapped in books and not being applied in the real world. Moreover, most academics had a very narrow focus. Their culture had trained them to atomistically focus on one tiny piece of reality. The result is that science practiced in academia had become like the blind men and the elephant.
They knew their tiny piece of reality and had formed a warped view of the world because they wouldn’t put all the pieces together to form a coherent view of reality. Since Bryan was a big Mixed Martial Arts fan, Hunter suggested that they call what they were doing Mixed Martial Arts. Set aside our egos and let the ideas battle it out. The ideas that held up against reality would make it to the next round and ultimately we would evolve a better way of thinking.
However, MMA has one huge advantage over academic science. We don’t test things in the lab. We test them in the real world. If your science is so great, then it should be able to work in reality and at scale and so we decided to bring the principles of agile development to our global society winning hearts and minds wherever we could channeling the talents and energies of anyone who was interested in participating in the most meaningful project possible: evolving a global village with ikigai for every member of the human family.