Microdosing to Macro Flow with Steven Kotler: MakingBank S3E15
with Steven Kotler
Why did you become an entrepreneur? What made you say, “I’m gonna strike out on my own, do it myself, build a business?” Was it independence? Was it creative freedom? Did you crave autonomy and leadership?
How is that going? At the beginning, building a business can be full of excitement. The possibilities seem endless. You’re flooded with ideas for the future, groundbreaking plans to turn your industry upside down. But eventually all that fresh energy wanes and the day to day slog creeps in stripping your reserves and leaving you feeling depleted, tired, and bored. Lost in a creative drought.
Steven Kotler and his partner Jamie Wheal wanted to break that cycle. They were looking for a method to reach ‘total absorption, rapt attention, where you get so focused on the task at hand everything else vanishes and performance goes through the roof.’ They were looking for a way to create those “Flow States” — optimal states of consciousness where you feel your best and perform your best.
Everywhere they went they found people hacking consciousness to improve performance. From biohacking with nutraceuticals to zapping their brains with electrodes, microdosing on psychedelics to meditation retreats people were hungry to break the boredom cycle and boost insight and inspiration.
What did they discover? Flow is definable. It’s ubiquitous, universal, it shows up in everyone anywhere provided the right conditions are met. And the people with the most flow in their lives are the people who test off the charts for overall well being and life satisfaction. Sounds nice, right?
The question then was, how do you create it? Get in “the zone?” Firstly, they discovered flow follows focus. Your attention needs to be focused on the right here, right now. It may seem counterintuitive, and initially the companies they worked with resisted and gave a lot of push back, but you need to block time for uninterrupted concentration. Ideally, you need 90–120 minute blocks. Which may sound like a lot, but in reality, when giving themselves those periods of focus they found drastic spikes in productivity, motivation, learning, and creative problem-solving.
Second, you follow the Golden Rule of Flow, what they call the Challenge Skills Balance. If you don’t push yourself you can’t grow. You need a task that is slightly outside of your skillset, the goal is to ‘stretch but not snap.’ You’re gradually building, challenging yourself on a minute level—4%. That’s all it takes a 4% challenge increase, which may seem too small. Steven says, “by getting past that 4%, you’re raising fear levels, anxiety levels, and that will actually block flow. You get bursts of norepinephrine, little bit, great, rise in focus makes you feel awake. Too much, and you’re absolutely screwed when it comes to high performance.
What are the benefits of reaching this flow state? Creativity spikes 400-700%. You take in more information per second, and you link ideas together. Your anxiety levels decrease and your critical problem solving abilities increase. It breaks your cyclical thought pattern and allows for new perspective.
Everyone gets stuck in ruts. Even animals get stuck in ruts. They find themselves doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results—Einstein’s definition of insanity. According to Kotler, “the only way to stop doing that is to turn off the self, the part of your brain that is still stuck in that rut. Get that widened higher perspective you get in these non-ordinary states of consciousness.” Stop training yourself on skills and start training a state of mind.
If Kotler’s research peaked your interest as much as it did ours, head over to this week’s Action Guide and learn how to take steps to implement Flow in your life. It may just be the breakthrough you’ve been looking for!