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The Neuroscience of Peak Performance

with Steven Kotler



with guest Steven Kotler #MakingBank S6E9

Boost your brain instead of burning it out.

On this episode of the Making Bank Podcast, Steven Kotler chats about his research and latest book, The Art of Impossible. As a best-selling author, Steven has researched into the neuroscience of peak performance, particularly flow state. He discusses the behavioral and cognitive steps to avoid burn out and anxiety. His advice on motivating yourself, reaching flow state and building grit are needed now more than ever.

Listen to Josh and Steven discuss the biology of burn out.

The Art of Impossible (3:07)

Steven describes his new book, The Art of Impossible. Unlike other books on peak performance, The Art of Impossible tackles the subject using neuroscience. Compared to psychology, neurobiology is concrete, reliable and repeatable. The book combines years of research and is divided into four sections.

The Science of Motivation (6:45)

Steven breaks down the science of motivation, explaining the difference between extrinsic, intrinsic, grit and more. He covers the five intrinsic motivators, such as curiosity, and what chemicals your brain releases in certain states.

Getting into the flow (10:45)

Steven explains how motivation and the flow state are closely linked. He emphasizes the importance of flow, as a state that can allow you to be 500% more productive than when in a regular or unmotivated state of mind.

Everyone is a Peak Performer (14:02)

Some days, you feel like you’ve done nothing. However, Steven argues that everyone’s brain is wired for peak performance. The trick is knowing how to unlock that.

Burn out (15:02)

Burn out is real—and avoidable. Steven covers the physical and cognitive actions you must do in order to not burn out. Sleep, nutrition, and hydration are imperative to your brain, as well as socialization, and decompressing. He touches on how these help you perform and what fear does to the brain.

Lowering Anxiety (22:24)

It seems like everyone is talking about anxiety and for good reason. Steven relays how modern society fuels our anxiety, and the three exercises you can do to reduce it. A daily gratitude practice, mindfulness practice, and regular exercise are all ways to help you and your brain decompress.

Goals and Recovering (24:19)

Two more extremely important things to avoiding burn out, anxiety and even depression are good goal-setting and healthy paths to recovery. Clear goals help your brain organize itself, whereas recreation time allows you to recover from stress. Watching TV and drinking may feel good, but they aren’t good recovery activities for you. Listen to the episode to hear what to do instead.

Flowing Frequently (25:05)

While getting into flow state is the main goal, so is finding a way to do so frequently. Steven encourages listeners to reincorporate those activities that would make time fly when they were kids—either sports, gardening, reading, knitting etc. Finding things that get your brain going and bring you joy can translate to work.
The Mental Health Crisis (30:21)

The pandemic has caused another epidemic of mental health problems. Steven breaks down misconceptions about anxiety and depression, and connects anxiety to intrinsic motivators or lack thereof.

Building Your Grit or a Prison? (33:03)

Steven distinguishes a special kind of burn out that entrepreneurs and creatives experience if they get into too much flow. He clarifies that while flow is ultimately what you want, it can sometimes imprison you, or get you stuck. That’s when grit takes over to get yourself out of that situation. However, if you don’t build your grit, you’re building your own creative prison.

What Happens in Flow? (38:20)

Steven discusses how your creativity, motivation and concentration spike in flow. Not only does it provide those valuable production tools, but your nervous system will also calm down. The best part? Your creativity can last for days after a certain flow state. He stresses the benefits of breath work, reading, and sauna time.

Links mentioned:
Making Bank – Website

Steven Kotler – Website