written by
Srinivas Rao

The Neuroscience of Flow w/ Steven Kotler

2 min read

These are cliff notes from an episode of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast

1. Steven noticed a pattern among many people who created disruptions and pursued interesting careers and it was ferocity, focused pursuit of a goal or a vision with energy and enthusiasm.

2. The first stumbling block to creative success that many cannot surmount is poverty. It is difficult to make living early on and allow enough time for creative practice and many people are not able to juggle that.

3. The second stumbling block of creative life is that for a long period you need to be creative on other people’s terms and inside of their boxes. You need to make your bosses and editors happy and still keep creative spirit and sharpness.

4. Steven mentioned that in terms of writing over the course of his career he produced a high volume of diverse work, including marketing campaigns, articles, and books. When we observe someone’s creative success, we often see just the peaks and highlights and easily dismiss that it is founded on the mountain of other work that you haven’t seen.

5. A big theme of this conversation was self-reinvention and reincarnation. Steven mentioned that he adds another layer into his professional pursuits every decade or so. We live in times when we have to learn consistently and the theme of self-reinvention is coming up for all of us on a regular basis.

6. Steven talks about his creative work as about something he cannot not do, because avoiding it makes him irritable and not pleasant to be around. It is noteworthy that the sense of necessity is a big motivation and a trigger for the flow state.

7. Key triggers for flow are simple and relatively obvious: necessity, passion, and purpose, clear goals, eliminating external distractions. People who achieve flow consistently have built their lives around these triggers.

8. Digital distractions are a huge enemy, especially in the workplace. Steven helps companies achieve more flow state among their employees and he says that eliminating distractions and expectations to respond to every email in a few minutes is essential. If a company does not do it, it can easily be outperformed by a company that does by a large margin.

9. While there are many mental triggers of flow, physical components of it are the key if you want to get serious. Steven emphasizes that a clean diet and a healthy lifestyle are also very important but that the exact details of it are individual.

10. To be unmistakable, according to Steven, you must have a perspective, which is a combination of voice and courage.

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