March 2016 archive

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Performance


There’s a beautiful place where people go to create the some of the world’s most elaborate and innovative projects. It’s a place where people live in total bliss, all their worries melt away and nothing matters except the present. It’s a happy place where anyone can go—no velvet ropes or membership required.

Many of us have experienced this magical place and we spend most of our lives in search of it. If you’ve ever lost time working on a project and have forgotten about everything around you, then you know what I’m talking about. It’s a place of mindfulness. Some people refer to this state as “the zone”. Steven Kotler refers to it as “flow” in his book The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance.

Flow is the mental state that drives you to accomplish the project you set forth to do. Not only do you accomplish it, but flow is also what catapults average performers into the greats. Kotler describes flow as “an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we both feel our best and perform our best.” This is where people grow and develop to become the best of the best in their field. Flow is what drives musicians to perfect an instrument and athletes to win gold medals at the Olympics.

It’s empowering to know that we all have access. Many people dislike their jobs because they spend day after day outside this state. Imagine working at a job where time flies, performance and productivity exponentially increase, and self vanishes. It’s the state where the saying “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life“ was born.

It’s amazing that we have the ability to live in this natural state of bliss, but yet, many people choose to go with their daily lives unenthused about the project at hand and spend their day daydreaming about the future wishing their lives were different instead of living in the present.

Kolter intertwines research with stories on extreme sports. If you’re not into psychology or the inter-workings of your brain, then just skim the first chapter. I’m only telling you this because after that, it’s fascinating stories of athletes who will inspire you to find your flow.

It offers an interesting glimpse into why some people excel at certain activities and why other just coast. How well we rise above the rest comes down to our mental state and the rest of our body is just along for the ride.

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