“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” - Muhammad Ali
Organizations that have implemented flow-based solutions are typically among the most differentiated and the most successful players in their industry or market. I have written about the importance of movement and flow in terms of designing the optimal customer experience, but I had not considered the power of flow as it relates to achieving optimal performance.
Steven Kotler, is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and the co-founder and director of research at the Flow Genome Project. Kotler’s new book is STEALING FIRE - How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work is a sure bestseller. Kotler’s previous books include Tomorrow Land, Bold (named top 25 books by Corporate America in 2015), The Rise of Superman (a New York Times bestseller), Abundance (voted one of the “top 5 must read books of the year” by Fortune Magazine), A Small Furry Prayer, West of Jesus, and The Angle Quickest for Flight.
Kotler’s work has been translated into 40 languages and his articles have appeared in more than 80 publications, including New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Wired, and Forbes. You can find him online at www.stevenkotler.com. You can follow Steven on Twitter: @steven_kotler
Kotler’s new book STEALING FIRE is a provocative examination of how today’s influential individuals, organizations, and you can achieve the highest human potential. STEALING FIRE is about today’s $4 trillion revolution in using altered states to achieve ultimate performance.
To better understand the science of ultimate human performance, and to learn more about Kotler’s remarkable personal story of overcoming extreme hardship, I highly encourage you to watch this short video.
Kotler was diagnosed with lime disease at the age of 30 and he literary spent 23 hours a day in bed for three years. He was severely disabled during this time and then he coincidentally discovered the power of flow and limitless performance when he friend forced him to go surfing. After 10 months of surfing, he went from being 10% functional to 80% functional. This was the beginning of the genome project research - a giant quest of discovering flow-states. Flow is the optimal state of consciousness. After watching Kotler’s video you will be inspired and it will set the context for our interview with Kotler.
Kotler has identified four accelerating forces and fields of study that drive ultimate performance —psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology, and technology. “Studies show that altered states boost motivation and creativity nearly 400 percent, while cutting learning times in half. And similar results are showing up with collaborative skills as well, to say nothing of the enormous healing benefit these states can also provide. This proven revolution in human possibility will impact and improve all of our lives,” said Kotler.
“The mindset impacts emotion, which alters biology, which increases performance. Thus, it seemed, by tinkering with mindset—using everything from physical to psychological to pharmacological interventions—one could significantly enhance performance.” ― Steven Kotler
Kotler starts by telling us that people and organizations are hacking consciousness to achieve ultimate performance by using psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology, and technology. All four domains surround the topic of altered state of consciousnesses. An example is the changes in biotechnology and neurobiology, which is advancing 4X faster than Moore’s Law. The study and advancements in these areas are much deeper and with more precision than ever before.
What do Tony Hsieh, Elon Musk, and the Green Berets have in common? Kotler notes that all of these these high performers have turned everything we thought we knew about high performance upside down.
“Instead of grit, better habits, or 10,000 hours, these trailblazers have found a surprising short cut. They're harnessing rare and controversial states of consciousness to solve critical challenges and outperform the competition,” said Kotler.
Kotler and his co-author Wheal spent four years investigating the leading edges of this revolution—from the home of SEAL Team Six to the Googleplex, the Burning Man festival (which inspired Tony Hsieh), Richard Branson’s Necker Island, Red Bull’s training center, Nike’s innovation team, and the United Nations’ Headquarters. The research discovered that although these highly inspirational environments differed, the inspiration and flow state of mind led to the boost in insight and inspiration that altered states provide.
Kotler discovered powerful healing properties during his recovery journey. Kotler also discovered the state of consciousness that was helpful in getting him back to his feet was also leveraged to achieve hyper performance, like Superman.
What is group flow? Flow is an altered state of consciousness - its being in a zone. Group flow is when an entire group performing at their best. Great politicians can transform and create group flow. Rhythmic speech can produce group flow. Kotler provided deep insights on the concept of group flow and its powerful effect on the shifting a group mindset.
Kotler and I discussed the incredible 2017 Super Bowl comeback by the Patriots as a beautiful example of group flow. No NFL team had ever come back from a 10 point deficit in the Super Bowl, yet the Patriots were able to overcome a 25 point deficit, late in the second half, to win Super Bowl 51. Kotler said the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 51 was the best example of group flow. Quieting the inner critic is what Tom Brady and the entire team needed to achieve to overcome impossible odds - a clear benefit of group flow.
Why is it important to pursue the altered state as the 4th evolutionary drive - how big is this? “The desire to change our state of consciousness is, as UCLA's Ron Siegel suggests, a "Fourth Evolutionary Drive"—meaning it’s as powerful as our drives for sustenance, shelter and sex. It occurs in almost all birds and mammals, and has shown up throughout human history as well. In the metrics of hard dollars—people annually spend $4 trillion pursuing these changes in consciousness. That’s 1/16th of the global economy we already devote to this practice. But that number is going to grow,” said Kotler. We keep trying to train up a skill instead of training our mindset.
What is the impact of flow state in business? According to Kotler, a 10 year study by McKinsey found that executives in a flow state are 500% more productive. In the military, soldiers in flow states can learn 470% faster than normal, according to DARPA research.
When doing what we most love transforms us into the best possible version of ourselves and that version hints at even greater future possibilities, the urge to explore those possibilities becomes feverish compulsion. Intrinsic motivation goes through the roof. Thus flow becomes an alternative path to mastery, sans the misery. — Steven Kotler
What can people do right now to get into flow state? Kotler said that we need to shift our consciousness to achieve flow state. The simplest way is to turn off the activity and improving our respiration practice: if your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, given the brain’s fixed energy budget, can improve the flow state. Your brain will calm you down with as little as three breaths through mindful practice. Four days, at 20 minutes of mindful practice per day, can accelerate your ability to achieve flow state - getting into a zone. The Malcolm Gladwell’s research of 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery can be cut in half, according to Kotler.
I do hope that you watch our video conversation with Steven Kotler. Kottler is a genius and his work is transforming individuals and businesses into high performing entities.