Steven Kotler: Master the Impossible | E138

Steven Kotler: Master the Impossible | E138

Steven Kotler: Master the Impossible | E138

Ready to achieve the impossible? In this episode we are talking with Steven Kotler, best-selling author, award-winning journalist and the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective, whose mission is to understand the science behind ultimate human performance and use it to train individuals and organizations. He is one of the world’s leading experts on human performance.While best known for his work on Flow, he also writes about the use of other unique states of consciousness in order to optimize performance. Steven is also the cohost of Flow Research Collective Radio, a top ten iTunes science podcast.

Steven is the author of nine bestselling books, including The Art of Impossible, The Future is Faster Than You Think, Stealing Fire, The Rise of Superman, Bold and Abundance. His work has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes, translated into over 40 languages, and has appeared in over 100 publications, including the New York Times Magazine, Wired, Atlantic Monthly, Wall Street Journal, TIME and the Harvard Business Review. In today’s episode, we discuss Steven’s new book The Art of Impossible and take a deep dive into its lessons. Some of which include the definition of “impossible”, Intrinsic versus Extrinsic motivation, and the core pillars of peak performance. We also talk about the importance of learning, why to-do lists are a must, and why reading books is the best ‘return on investment’ for your brain! If you want guidance on how to create clear goals and reach your optimal performance in life, keep listening!

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Check out our website to meet the team, view show notes and transcripts:


0:30- What is “Flow” According to Steven 

1:52- The Art of Impossible and What It’s About 

6:15- Steven’s Definition of impossible 

10:02- Why Does Motivation Matter? 

19:03- Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation 

26:12- How Much Autonomy Do We Need? 

34:35- Why Mastery is Important 

37:04- Why Goal Setting is Important 

46:35- Why We Need Grit 

50:20- The Importance of Learning 

56:37- What Creativity Means to Steven 

1:01:21- How Do The Pillars Tie Back to Flow? 

1:03:40- Steven’s Secret to Profiting in Life

Mentioned In The Episode:

Steven’s New Book: 

Steven’s First Appearance on YAP: 

Steven’s Website: 

Flow Research Collective: 

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#138: Master the Impossible with Steven Kotler

[00:00:00] Hala Taha: You're listening to YAP Young And Profiting Podcast, a place where you can listen, learn, and profit. Welcome to the show. I'm your host, Hala Taha. And on Young And Profiting Podcast, we investigate a new topic each week and interview some of the brightest minds in the world. My goal is to turn their wisdom into actionable advice that you can use in your everyday life.

[00:00:25] No matter your age, profession, or industry, there's no fluff on this podcast and that's on purpose. I'm here to uncover value from my guest by doing the proper research and asking the right questions. If you're new to the show, we've chatted with the likes of ex FBI agents, real estate moguls, self-made billionaires, CEOs, and best-selling authors our subject matter ranges from enhancing productivity, how to gain, influence the art of entrepreneurship and more if you're smart and like to continually improve yourself, hit the subscribe button because you'll love [00:01:00] it here at Young And Profiting Podcast.

[00:01:03] This week on YAP. We're chatting with Steven Kotler. Steven is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist and the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective, whose mission is to understand the science behind ultimate human performance. This is Steven's second time on YAP. He first joined us back in episode number 32 Flow into the Feature, and we couldn't be more excited to have him back on for another awesome conversation.

[00:01:26] Steve is one of the world's leading experts on human performance, while he's best known for his work on Flow. He also writes about the use of other unique states of consciousness in order to optimize performance. He's written nine best-selling books and is the cohost of Flow Research Collective Radio, a top 10 iTunes science podcast.

[00:01:45] In today's episode, we discuss Steven's new book, The Art of Impossible, and take a deep dive into its lessons. Some of which include the definition of impossible, intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation and the core pillars of peak performance. We'll also talk about [00:02:00] the importance of learning, why to do lists are must, and why reading books is the best return on investment for your brain.

[00:02:07] If you want guidance on how to create clear goals and reach your optimal performance in life. Keep on listening.

[00:02:14] Hey Steven, welcome back to Young And Profiting Podcast. Super excited to have you here today.

[00:02:19] Steven Kotler: Good to be with you again.

[00:02:20] Hala Taha: I love it. When you're on the show, my listeners love it. When you're on the show, you were actually with us back in episode number 32, we talked about Flow.

[00:02:29] That's called Flow Into The Future. We also had you on a clubhouse episode pretty recently, about two months ago, also talking about flow. So for anybody who missed it, Why don't we start off with a definition of flow and then if anybody wants to go really deep, we've got two great episodes on that topic.

[00:02:46] Cause today I want to focus on your new book, the art of impossible. So why don't we start off with a definition of flow?

[00:02:51] Steven Kotler: Perfect scientists define flow as an optimal state of consciousness, where we feel our best and we perform our best more [00:03:00] specifically. It refers to any of those moments of rapt attention.

[00:03:03] Total absorption, you get so focused on what you're doing. So focused on the task at hand, everything else just starts to disappear. Action awareness. They're going to start to merge your sense of self-consciousness. The voice in your head are going to diminish. Time's going to pass range. It's going to speed up five hours will go by in five seconds or it'll slow down.

[00:03:21] And you got a freeze frame effect. Meaning anyone who's been in a car crash and throughout. All aspects of performance, both mental and physical go through the roof. So that's floating and not show you may call it being the zone or runners high or being unconscious. The synonyms are endless flow is a scientific term.

[00:03:40] So we'll stick with that.

[00:03:41] Hala Taha: Amazing. And so from my understanding, your new book, The Art of Impossible was really a continuation of your research on works like the rise of Superman. So talk to us about how the art of impossible is an extension of that research. And what's different about that book than the [00:04:00] previous ones.

[00:04:03] Steven Kotler: Most of the previous books where I've written about Flow. First of all, I've looked at flow from a lot of different aspects west to Jesus looks at the relationship between sort of flow and mystical experiences. Stealing fire looks at flow and its relationship to other altered states of consciousness, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:04:22] I've done a bunch of that. This is the first time I've written how to book. So it's the first playbook I've ever written, but more importantly, and this is how it builds. And I got a slightly longer answer back in the 1990s when people first started trying to train other people in flow, they were depending on psychology, we had psychological definitions of flow.

[00:04:45] We had a psychological understanding of it. And as a general rule, people were lousy using the, what we use psychologically to train flow. Over the past 10 to 15 years, that's changed because we've now started to rely on neurobiology. Right? Psychology is [00:05:00] essentially mechanism or a metaphor. Neurology and neuroscience is mechanism.

[00:05:05] It's you know how the brain works and using mechanism to train up flow. For example, in my organization, we trained about a thousand people a month. We measure flow pre and post using the standard psychometric instruments. We'll see about a 70 to 80% increase in flow. And we have seen that for a while, 6, 7, 8 years where, oh, wow.

[00:05:24] This stuff is really trainable. What started to happen though? Early on. And this is where our impossible comes in is we saw we can produce using kind of the neuroscience of how flow works in the brain. This spectacular surge in flow, which is great on surge is not from the performance, but it wasn't stable.

[00:05:42] Like people would go way up 70% boost and glow, and then the crashing back down and flow one of its core characteristics. It's euphoric, it's joyous. It's, our favorite state on earth and it's massively addictive. So when you start producing a really addictive state in people's lives, that [00:06:00] gives them big performance and suddenly it goes away.

[00:06:02] They're pissed. And so the question was what's going on? What are we missing? And I started to realize it wasn't always the case that we returned to baseline certain populations. We will do a lot of work or have done a lot of work over the years with the us special forces, Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and professional athletes.

[00:06:21] They didn't return to baseline. A lot of other people did, but the people that, and I started looking at well, what was missing and we realized peak performance is more than just. It is nothing more or less than getting our biology to work for us rather than against us. That biology is actually four things.

[00:06:39] There's a set of skills under the heading of motivation. There's another set of skills under the heading of learning. So skills under the heading of creativity and finally flow. And when you think about peak performance, challenges, think about it. That motivation is what gets you into the game. Learning allows you to continue to play creativity, is how you steer and flow is how you amplify the results.

[00:06:59] That's the shorthand [00:07:00] version of what that core set of skills looks like. We started to realize that if we train up flow, wasn't enough, you could massively amplify the amount of flow in your life, but unless you trained up motivation, learning and creativity as well, it wasn't stable. It was like you got, we had a model T and we souped up the engine and suddenly the model T could go 200 miles an hour, but it's still other skinny ass tires and that old frame.

[00:07:22] And it would just explode and that's essentially what was happening. In our impossible, it's the full suite of peak performance tools. It's motivation into learning into creativity and to flow as a sort of how to, this is the art of peak performance. So that's, what's different, there's some flow and it's the first how to I've ever written one more flow in your life.

[00:07:41] This is the first time I've ever blueprinted it out in a sense, it's the textbook with which we use to train our clients as well. It's the foundational ideas that we build on with our clients.

[00:07:52] Hala Taha: Amazing. I think it's super useful. I personally love the book and that's how we're going to break down this interview.

[00:07:58] We're going to go over [00:08:00] it in four parts. So we're going to start with motivation then learning then creativity and flow. So we will get into all of those. Let's start off with the definition of impossible from my understanding, there's a lowercase I and an uppercase. I talked to us about that. I think it will set some good ground for our listeners.

[00:08:18] Steven Kotler: I spent my career studying people who have accomplished capital. I impossible. How do we know people? Performances, motivation, learning grit, right? That's that came out of 30 years of studying people who to accomplish what I call Capitola impossible, which the standard definition that which has never been done, that, which we don't believe can redone.

[00:08:40] But the book is really meant to be utilized by anybody interested in small lie, impossible. I call small line possible and a small line possible is all those things that we think are impossible for ourselves. And really simple example that I give him the book from my own life. I grew up in Cleveland, [00:09:00] Ohio in the 70's, it's a blue collar steel mill town.

[00:09:04] And I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a kid. I didn't know any writers and not how you became a writer. There was no books. There was no internet. There was nobody to ask. It was a small line possible because there was no clear path from where I was and where I wanted to go. And statistically lousy, odds of success, other examples of small lion, possibly rising out of poverty, overcoming trauma, becoming a successful artist or entrepreneur.

[00:09:32] Those are all small iron possibles, no clear path from A to B. success. There are more and more. The cool thing is this because peak performance is nothing more than getting our biology work for us rather than against us. The same biology that gets you to capitalize impossible is the same. Biology gets you to small iron plausible.

[00:09:52] And if you're listening to you're talking, you're like, dude, shut up small lion bottle, big eyeballs. I want to get Tuesday help me get through Tuesday. It turns [00:10:00] out that the same biology is at play. If you want to get through Tuesday, you want to go after small lion boss. You want to go after capital I implausible the toolkit is the same because there's just our biology.

[00:10:11] That's what we're working with.

[00:10:13] Hala Taha: Got it. So basically you're saying the formula works, whether it's something that seems like a really impossible goal for humans in general or whether it's just something personally that you're struggling with to believe that you're capable of.

[00:10:27] Steven Kotler: I wrote it in a sense. Because half of my books are on technology and I write about people doing impossible things with technology. And a lot of the impossible things people do with technology are of the save the world variety right there. They're going after grand challenges, energy scarcity, poverty, water shortage is stuff that we have to fix.

[00:10:44] Hala Taha: Things That have literally never been done before.

[00:10:47] Steven Kotler: Things that have never been done before. And I've written books about people using technology to accomplish these things. And, I always say that in my books, I feature people, and, but for every hundred people who make it into the book, there's 10,000 who [00:11:00] almost made it into the book and would had a world changing technology and didn't get there.

[00:11:06] And usually. When you look under the, what went wrong, it's very rarely the technology, the actual idea, the thing that could change the world, it's the people it's people tripping over themselves that tends to block most of this stuff that we really desperately need. And that to me is like small light stuff.

[00:11:26] So yes, it's useful across the board. I wrote it for people aiming at small lion possible. Cause I think that's the stuff that has to get done to fight global warming, to fight species die off to, those kinds of issues that I care deeply about.

[00:11:39] Hala Taha: Yeah. 100%. Okay. So motivation the first pillar, why does motivation even matter?

[00:11:45] And how does it relate to things like focus and action.

[00:11:49] Steven Kotler: Great questions. I've had to go quickly. Sort of start. What is motivation is defined? What a scientist mean it's defined as the energy for action, [00:12:00] right? That's literally the definition of motivation. When psychologists use the term motivation, it's a catchall for four different categories of skillsets.

[00:12:08] There's extrinsic motivation. This is stuff in the world. We're going to work hard to get money, sex fame, right? Intrinsic motivation. This is, there's tons of different intrinsic motivators, but these are the things that drive us from the inside curiosity, passion, purpose, autonomy, that desire to drive our own bus mastery, that desire to get really great at the things we do.

[00:12:31] These are all really powerful, intrinsic motivators that I just named the big five that we're going to focus on. There's also goal setting. There's three tiers of goals in there and find that there's six levels of grit skills. There's six kinds of different grit skills. All that gets folded under this heading motivation quite simply.

[00:12:50] If you're interested in peak performance, if you're interested in performance, if you're interested in anything, motivation gets you into the game. There's no, you can't start without the energy to [00:13:00] start. And what the science shows about motivation is it's actually meant to be cultivated in a specific order.

[00:13:08] Like all those component parts, they start at one place and they go to another place. This is, and they, it starts with extrinsic. Motivation goes to intrinsic, goes to goals and goals to grit. And you talk more about that a second point. Isn't that you can go out of order. It's just that if you go in order, this is the way the system from a biological perspective evolved to evolve, and it just makes it easier to just get farther faster if you do it in line, but it pretty clear that you have to start.

[00:13:35] If you trying to amplify motivation, if you're interested in peak performance, motivation is where you've got to start. If you want to increase motivation, you actually have to start with extrinsic motivation. You have to start with stuff in the real world. The data's pretty good. Daniel Common did all the Nobel Laureate did a lot of this research.

[00:13:49] It's not my work, but what the studies have shown is that we have to make enough money for that kind of like basic income and a little leftover fun before we can even consider [00:14:00] anything else. And the reason is fear can block peak performance blocks flow. It blocks peak performance, and it's too big of a detriment.

[00:14:08] If you have food anxiety, how am I going to feed myself? How am I going to feed my children? If you don't know where you're living, if you have rent anxiety, if you can't win, you have to solve that problem first. Then you go face all the other people's challenges. You don't need a lot of money. It's just literally enough to take care of my bills and a little leftover for fun.

[00:14:28] That's all you need. But if you're not there, it's really hard to do the other stuff. It's just, there's just too much fear. It's going to get in the way of too many things. So start with the extra and. What the research shows is. Okay. I've got extra extrinsic. I want more motivation. And what the studies show is that.

[00:14:47] You now want to reach for intrinsic motivation. If you want really big boost in productivity. Yeah. We'll still keep wanting things in the real world. It doesn't mean we stop wanting money, Saks bang. Of course, that just up, doesn't go
[00:15:00] away. But if you're really interested in people performance and amplify and productivity and motivation, intrinsic is the way to go.

[00:15:07] And as I said, there's five big ones and they design work in an order. So it starts with curiosity. Curiosity is the most basic intrinsic motivator. Curiosity is designed to be built into passion, which is designed to be built into purpose. I want to talk about the question you asked, which is what is motivation good for?

[00:15:24] What do we care about it? And what does it have to do with focus and attention? And this is that answer. So curiosity, passion, purpose, Tonya Master. These are all intrinsic motivators. What's the big deal. People make a really big deal in the world about passion and purpose and things like that. And we hear a lot about them and that may have a lot more to do with like virtue signaling than anything, like from a peak performance perspective, this stuff is very selfish actually.

[00:15:48] And the reason is simply this. When I think about curiosity, what do we get? Where are you curious about. When you're interested in something you pay attention to it automatically don't have to work hard. [00:16:00] Curiosity, syndicate, passion. You paid think about falling in love. That's passionate, how much the attention you paid to the other person, right?

[00:16:07] Ton of stuff, purposes, more of the same, et cetera, et cetera, focus for free is a really big deal. The brain is a huge energy elegance to want uses 25% of our energy at rest. So we're not even trying to do work yet just at rest. It's one quarter of everything you eat goes to run the tiny two, two ounce thing in your head.

[00:16:25] That's just, a tiny little bit of your body mass. So you energy hog and passion is more focused. Purpose is more and so forth. We get other things, but at a really basic level, that's the link. And each one of these is designed and built into another. Think about it. Curiosity builds into passion.

[00:16:43] Passion is once we have a passion, we couple that passion to a cause greater than ourselves. That's essentially the formula for purpose. Once you have purpose, the system wants the freedom to pursue that purpose. So autonomy becomes the next motivator that starts to matter. And finally, once you have the freedom to pursue your purpose, you want the [00:17:00] skills to be pursued well, right?

[00:17:02] So that's where mastery comes into play. And so that's the stack of intrinsic motivators. If you can get them properly stacked and all aligned and pointed in the same direction, which is what kind of art and possible teaches you, how to do in a sense, you, then you're bringing all your fuel sources to every problem counter.

[00:17:21] And that's the really big deal. If you think about an athlete, when an athlete goes into a game, They got enough sleep the night before. Cause rest matters. They have their proteins and their carbs and their hydration and their fats, everything was, they wanted all the possible fuel sources, so they could be at their best, but the same thing with mental fuel sources, with motivation. That's why you want all of your motivators pointed in the same direction, because it's the same thing. So you're stacking aligning motivator so you can tap every possible fuel source. It's free for the simple reason that peak performance going after impossible goals is. [00:18:00] It's unpleasant.

[00:18:01] It's difficult. And if you don't have all your intrinsic motivators pointing in the same way, the only tool you're going to ever have to reach for is grit. The sucks. I got to tough it out and this sucks. I got to tough it out is not going to get, you're going to get burned out. You won't get you. Can't this sucks.

[00:18:17] I'm going to tell if it out your way to the impossible it's too far, it's too hard. You have to have all these other fuel sources. I always tell people that grit, however useful it is the last tool that peak performers reached for not the first tool. And I think in a lot of society, we have it backwards on the especially younger generation.

[00:18:38] Cause they're tougher. They're resilient. You can stay up all night. Like a college teaches you to do that. Being a young or all the stuff you learn how to do. So just reach for grit because you're tough enough. You're gonna handle it. What you start to figure out pretty quickly as holy crap.

[00:18:51] This just allows you. I can't do this. I'm going to end up burned out because there's only so much grit to go around. And even if you train up all six levels of grit and [00:19:00] get them expert level, it's still, there's not enough of a fuels. There's not enough energy there. You have to reach for all the other motivators first.

[00:19:07] And then grit is your last result.

[00:19:10] Hala Taha: Okay. So let me try to recap this and I want to stay on motivation for a little while, because there's a lot to break down in just this one bit. Okay. So if I have this correct, it feels like motivation gives you this free energy sources like downstream. It's effortless. It helps you get you going.

[00:19:28] Like you said, it's the first step. You have to make sure that you have your extrinsic motivation, satisfied first. So your basic needs paying rent, being able to eat, getting food on the table that needs to happen first before you can be ready to start tackling your intrinsic values. And then there's five main ones.

[00:19:47] What are the five again?

[00:19:49] Steven Kotler: Curiosity, purpose, autonomy and mastery.

[00:19:53] Hala Taha: Okay. Now. Extrinsic values is like the carrot and the stick. Why is [00:20:00] it that the carrot starts to become not enough? Like why is it that extrinsic runs out and is short-lived while intrinsic is a longterm way to stay motivated?

[00:20:14] Steven Kotler: That is a really good question. Do we know a hundred percent? I don't know if we know a hundred percent, but what the science seems to show is you have to remember that we evolved to say safe and secure, and safe and secure. Once basic needs are met. You can get more of them in a certain way, but it can end up as a zero sum game.

[00:20:39] But if you can follow curiosity and follow passion and follow purpose, it leads to possibly more safety, more security, more stuff. It seems to unlock the adjacent possible innocence. So that seems to be from a really basic evolutionary standpoint. Some of the thinking around the answer to that [00:21:00] question, but I think the real answer is we don't entirely know other than this just seems to be how we're hardwired and it shows up again and again in fact Dan Pink's book Drive covers a lot of the kind of foundational research where economists figured this out.

[00:21:15] There are tons of different studies on it. We from a neuroscience perspective, you see slightly different things. So I'll give you one example. Autonomy turns out that autonomy and attention in the brain are coupled systems. So you cannot pay complete attention to something and attention drives all performance, right?

[00:21:37] It's the gateway into anything we're going to do. You can't pay attention to it. You can't do it and you can't give something your undivided attention. You're not doing it by choice if you don't want to do it. So even if you have to do something that you hate, you need to maximize motivation and productivity, you want to reframe it.

[00:21:54] So I used to, as a journalist, have to write stories, especially when I was coming up and I was younger that I [00:22:00] wasn't thrilled about, but I was right. I was paying bills. I had to sometimes have great stories about stuff. I was super interested in sometimes not as interesting, but I would always find something in the story or a way to write this story.

[00:22:11] Like maybe I would do things like, I remember writing a story about data caves for wire was a little interested in dedicated, but I didn't really care, but I tried to write it in the style of Charles Dickens and get it past the wired sensors. So they wouldn't notice that I was trying to learn because that made this thing that I didn't want to do.

[00:22:29] Wasn't motivated into a, I reframed it. I was like I don't want to write about dedicated, trying to write like Charles Dickens writing about data caves and getting in and sneaking into wired magazine. Now that's funny. Playful and curious, and I'll do that for a couple of days. Sure. And that's one way to think about that one.

[00:22:47] So that's another, a neuro-biological example.

[00:22:50] Hala Taha: Okay. So there's five intrinsic motivators. Why is it that they have to be in the same order? And why is it that you need all five? Like why is it that [00:23:00] just two or three of them won't work? How are they all interconnected and really that.

[00:23:04] So it's

[00:23:05] Steven Kotler: not the two or three won't work.

[00:23:06] Of course they will. It's that these five, then there are dozens more, right? Spite is an intrinsic motivator. Coaches in the NFL use bulletin board material all the time to motivate players. And that's an intrinsic motivator. These five are the biggest ones they produce. When we're talking about motivation.

[00:23:27] You're talking about neurochemistry. When we do a perform an action that kind of furthers our chances of survival, we get rewarded. And that reward is we call that reward motivation. Those rewards come in. The form of neurochemicals. Dopamine is the most familiar feel, good reward chemical. And when we're curious, we get a little bit of dopamine and a little bit of Nora.

[00:23:54] Basic motivators. The problem with curiosity is a, it's not powerful enough to sustain us [00:24:00] for the long haul, right? The reason you want all five is because you want as much fuel as you possibly can, long haul. And these five are the biggest ones mean they produce the biggest most neurochemical reward. The're why they're designed are one is designed, built into the next for evolutionary reasons.

[00:24:19] That's a evolutionary biology discussion that we could spend the next hour on and I'm happy to do it, but it's probably not where you want to go. So I'm going to park that for a second. Think about it this way. Curiosity is a little bit of doping, a little bit of nor epinephrine.

[00:24:32] Those are the two feel good performance in answering neurochemicals. You get that's your reward for curiosity being curious, passion, which is literally nothing more than the intersection of multiple curiosities. One curiosity just can't sustain you for the long haul. So what does passion it's where three or four or five of your curiosities meet each other?

[00:24:51] That's what passion is. So you, first of all, you can see naturally curiosity design built into passion because curiosity is baked into the definition of passion. What do you get [00:25:00] with passion much more dopamine and or app an effort, much more feel-good reward and neurochemistry purpose is the next step in the chain, simply because.

[00:25:12] You can't get any more nor epinephrin and dub. If I turn those knobs up higher above passion, I move you into schizophrenia and mental illness. So you don't want to do that. But what you do want to do is add more fields. Performance enhancing neurochemicals the equation. That means you need pro-social chemicals, that chemical, the neurochemicals that reward our pro-social behavior, right?

[00:25:35] Procreation is good for the species is neurochemically rewarded endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin. These are pro-social reward chemicals. They motivate social behavior. Once you have passion, if you can couple it to a cause greater than myself, something that helps other people, something that helps the planet, something that helps animals, plants.

[00:25:57] It doesn't matter. You start literally getting those [00:26:00] pro-social chemicals. Once you have those pro-social chemicals, then autonomy and mastery just fall. Because once you have purpose, you need the freedom to pursue it and you need the skills to pursue it. So that's why they stack that way. And it's literally just trying to get more neurochemicals to drive you forward.

[00:26:19] Hala Taha: Awesome. So I'm starting to really understand this. And I think my listeners are definitely starting to really understand these five intrinsic motivators. So autonomy, I feel can be relative. So how much autonomy do we actually need to be in control of our lives or feel like we're in control of our lives?

[00:26:37] Steven Kotler: It's an interesting question. As I said, you, our impossible, we don't have a scientific answer yet. What we have is great case studies. The first case studies everybody's familiar with is what Google uses, 20% time. They give their employees 20% to tap autonomy as a motivator. If you're an engineer, you work at Google.

[00:26:55] If you've worked there for over a year, 20% of your time, you can do whatever [00:27:00] you want with as long as it benefits the company, but it's you follow your passion, your own curiosity. And has it worked 50% of Google's highest revenue projects all emerged out of 20% time. So it works spectacularly for the employees.

[00:27:12] They're motivated for the company. They got what they wanted. Google didn't invent it. They actually took it from 3m who has been doing the same things since the fifties. I want to say the sixties with 15% time. Okay. Wait a minute. 3m just figured out 15% time is enough. That's about an afternoon, a week to follow your passion or purpose.

[00:27:32] So that is a rough way to think about it. Patagonia, the outdoor retailer. All routinely to tops charts, the best places to work at American and employee autonomy is why one of the big reasons why. And yet, if you work at a Patagonia, they have very limited autonomy. It's just very specific. And there's basically two thing.

[00:27:55] Rules of Patagonia. One is employees get to make their own schedule. We'll talk about [00:28:00] why that's important in a second. And the second is almost 30 works, depended on his action sport athlete. Their company headquarters is right on the Pacific Ocean and Yvon Chouinard. The guy who founded Patagonia as a surfer.

[00:28:11] So he has a, let my people go surfing rule. They had the autonomy to go surfing. Whenever the waves are breaking, you could be in a meeting. You could be on the phone. You can be at deadline, doesn't matter. You have the freedom to hang up the phone and walk out of the meeting and go surfing. So that seems weird, but it actually works.

[00:28:29] And it works for reasons, that little bit of autonomy is giving employees for peak performance reasons. So the schedule control allows you to do two things. We have natural circadian rhythms. I'm an extreme luck. I wake up, I'm wide awake at four o'clock in the morning. I do my best work. My wife's a night house.

[00:28:48] She doesn't wake up until seven o'clock at night. That's when she does her best work. And most of my friends are normal people. They wake up and do their best work. 8, 9, 10 [00:29:00] o'clock in the morning. It's hard to find your biology. So through the freedom to control your schedule, you can start your work day.

[00:29:07] You want to start, begin your Workday with your hardest tasks when you have maximum energy. So that's a big deal. The other thing about controlling your own schedule is you get to control your sleep schedule. And one of the foundational ideas and paid performances we need, we humans need seven, eight hours of sleep a night, and it's not really negotiable.

[00:29:25] They've done study, after study, and now we all need about seven to eight hours of sleep at night. And if you're interested in a high-flow lifestyle, we want to maximize flow cause optimal performance. It's a high energy state. So you really need those seven, eight hours of sleep.

[00:29:38] So the freedom to control your schedule is the autonomy to get as much sleep as you want, and to work in accordance with your circadian rhythms. Okay. On the flip side, when you get from the, let my people go surfing, then two things, one. Foundational paper performance says you got to regulate your nervous system, right?

[00:29:57] Fewer blocks performance. And [00:30:00] there are three great ways to regulate, to manage fear, a daily gratitude practice, a daily mindfulness meditation practice or daily exercise. And exercise is probably the most consistent of those like work for everyone all the time. The other ones are effective as well.

[00:30:22] Gratitude works. Doesn't work. It's not as effective kind of in terms of how it calms you down as exercise and mindfulness is very effective over time. So different tools, but giving employees the freedom to surf is, Hey, whenever you want to go exercise. So everybody's a lot calm because of their calmer, right?

[00:30:42] Less fear, better performance. The other thing is. Surfing is a high flow activity. It's packed with flow triggers, which stuff we talked about in your previous podcast. So they're giving their employees the freedom to pursue flow in their favorite flow activity. [00:31:00] Get regular exercise, get as much sleep as you need and work in accordance with your circadian rhythms.

[00:31:06] And those four bits of autonomy seemed to be enough as a place to start. If you're interested, if you've got more freedom, 15% of your time dedicated to your passion and purpose is enough to get started. The thing about it is it's deadly effective over time. Peak performance is compound interest a little bit today.

[00:31:24] It's a little bit tomorrow. It's not so it's 15% of your time every week, but every week. And it's the consistency over months and years that really produces the significant results. So yes, it's really easy. And that actually tends to work against it in the modern world, because we like things that are wizbang and sexy.

[00:31:46] And it works actually very fast and probably faster than any of the other shortcuts. You're going to try that. Aren't going to get you there and then you're going to come back and do it this way, because this is really the only, there's no other options. These are the only tools there are, but we're going to keep [00:32:00] looking for shortcuts because we're.

[00:32:03] Hala Taha: Let's hold that thought and take a quick break with our sponsors. This episode of YAP is sponsored by notion. I launched a startup last year called YAP Media. That's now over 70 employees, strong and services over 20 clients. The journey has been super fast paced and high growth, but behind the scenes we're dealing with so many apps, documents, systems, and tools.

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[00:37:09] People are still, a lot of people are still working remotely and. It must be amazing for people's productivity because me, myself, I'm an entrepreneur now, but for, I was working at Disney streaming and there was almost a whole year. I was working from home and I got a lot more sleep. I was able to exercise whenever I wanted.

[00:37:29] All of a sudden I could get my work done and six hours instead of eight and it didn't matter. So I feel like it's really good. This movement that we're doing for humanity overall, in terms of our productivity.

[00:37:41] Steven Kotler: COVID fantastic for that. And one of the things that's really interesting. So this making time for your highest flow activity, the surfing in the Patagonia case, one of the things that we learned during COVID is the people who had the least amount of stress during COVID the least amount of languishing [00:38:00] during COVID and the most flourishing then, and now are the people who have the most flow in their lives during COVID.

[00:38:06] And it's really about, did you make time for this high flow activity in your life? Seems to be like, not only did we learn really good habits, I think working from home, but we also got to double down on that high flow thing, and we saw that it made a real difference in people's lives.

[00:38:22] Hala Taha: So one more thing on intrinsic motivation, and then we'll move on.

[00:38:25] You say that mastery is the thing that people tend to forget. Why is that? And why is mastery important?

[00:38:32] Steven Kotler: I don't think they tend to forget it to me. It's the master motivator. So while all the other ones are potent, I think mastery consistently over time provides the most reward and is the most tied in with flow because walking the path to mastery is about pushed on your skills a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more.

[00:38:53] And that's a great rest recipe for a high flow lifestyle as well, where you're stretching the skills over and over again, in

[00:39:00] that challenge skills balance. We talked about last time we were together on a, which is one of flow's most potent triggers. So that is what allows you to walk the path to mastery.

[00:39:09] And I, I don't necessarily know if it's, if people forget it, I think people, sometimes don't think mastery is possible for themselves. So they don't push in that direction. Or they're impatient with mastery. And it's I think passionate mastery people have the same issue with like, when I think about, if I ask you to describe a kind of a passionate AF give me an example of passion or mastery you'll Serina Williams, playing tennis or LeBron James playing basketball kind of thing.

[00:39:42] And those things are true, but that's late stage passion and late stage mastery. We forget what it looks like on the front end, where it's just someone who learned how to play tennis for the first time somebody learn how to shoot a basketball if it was done. And that's what it looks like on the front end.

[00:39:55] And it doesn't matter where you are as far as you're walking the path to [00:40:00] mastery. We just like getting better and better at the things we do. It produces a lot of dopamine and that drives us forward.

[00:40:08] Hala Taha: Got it. So mastery is basically just continuing learning and wanting to continue to learn and learning new things.

[00:40:15] Is that what mastery is? Sorry. I'm just trying to be super clear about what that is.

[00:40:19] Steven Kotler: It is literally defined as the desire to get better and better at the things that we do that is literally what it is. It's nothing more of us. I want to get better at this stuff I do.

[00:40:29] Hala Taha: Okay. So then next would be goal setting, the three levels of goals and then grit.

[00:40:34] So why is goal setting important and what are these three levels all about?

[00:40:40] Steven Kotler: So same thing. Goals provide motivation. And if you want to maximize motivation. Energy for action. You want more energy for action, same reason because the five intrinsic motivators and your external motivator, if you've done anything significant and hard in your life, you need all the fuel, you can get it.

[00:40:59] Like those are [00:41:00] great fuel sources, but can you get more? Yes. How do you get more? You set proper goals. What are the three tiers human beings function best? When we have mission level goals, this is like purpose. I need meaning and purpose in my life. A hierarchy goals. These are, multi-year steps that lead towards our purpose and then clear goals, the daily action steps.

[00:41:21] So for example, I want to write great books. That's a mission level goal. A higher goal is I want to write a book called the art of impossible. That's a middle level goal, and a clear goal is I'm going to write 500 pages or 500 words in the book. They are impossible today. Clear goals are daily action plans.

[00:41:39] What am I doing? What am I doing next? Where do I put my attention? How do I declare victory when it's over? I know if I write 500 words, according to word count. Okay, cool. I'm done for today. I can declare victory. And once I can declare victory, I get a little bit more dopamine and thus more motivation.

[00:41:58] And so you want [00:42:00] much, like you want all of your intrinsic motivators pointed in the same direction. You want your goal. Aligned with your intrinsic motivators. So everything is pointed in the same direction to maximize motivation.

[00:42:11] Hala Taha: So in terms of your goal setting, do you recommend a, so there's three levels of goals for your daily goals?

[00:42:18] When are you, how are you creating your daily goals? Is it the day before? Is it the day of, is it in the morning? Like how do you do.

[00:42:26] Steven Kotler: I think everybody's got their own thing and their own way of doing it? I so clear goals, a flow trigger besides being a motivator. It's also a flow trigger flow follows focus.

[00:42:40] Clear goals. Tell us where to put our attention is what I'm focusing on. Now. This is what I'm focusing on. Next. My attention doesn't have to wander. I don't have to know also clear goals. When you write a clear goals list and writing by hand matters on this one, there's a relationship between hand, movement and memory that is different than if you type it's an evolution that we've just [00:43:00] been writing by hand for longer.

[00:43:01] It seems to work better. So I don't just, I write it in a notebook, right? This is my clear goal list for the day right there. And so all I do is I like to write them the night before so that when I get up to work at 4:00 AM, I know exactly what I'm doing. I don't have to wonder. And when I design a clear goal list, there's a couple of rules.

[00:43:24] I follow. One, you want to start your work session according to their circadian rhythms. And then you want to start, especially with your hardest task. The reason is quite simply that willpower burns out over the course of a day. It declines over time. You can replenish it a little bit, but it's never, higher than at the beginning of your extreme Lark.

[00:43:44] May at four o'clock in the morning. If you're my wife, it's eight o'clock at night, but whatever that is, you're never going to have more energy in this given work day. So I want to start my hardest task and my biggest wind, my biggest win, meaning like if I got it done, it's the biggest win for the day.

[00:43:57] What does that mean? It's going to give me the most freaking dope. [00:44:00] So the most motivation to go through all the items on other items. Am I to do this? How many items go on my clear goal list? My to do list. You have to run an experiment. How many things in a day can you do and be excellent. And anything you do, that's going to take energy.

[00:44:15] So if I got to walk my dog, that's going to take energy. So it's going to go on the list if, I do want to do a gratitude practice. It's going to go on with every new thing that I do. If I need to have a conversation with my wife, it's going to go on the list. Everything I can do that over the day, that it will take energy.

[00:44:29] Cause that's what you're trying to do. Preserve energy in a sense, clear goals, emphasis on clear here, especially if you're talking to Western audiences, they hear clear goals. They're all about the goals. And they like ignore the clear and actually from a cognitive load perspective and from a motivation perspective, emphasis on clarity, your brain wants to know what am I doing?

[00:44:51] What am I doing now? What am I doing next? Not how do I declare victory? In fact, declaring victory often takes your focus off like where it should be to [00:45:00] accomplish it all. You start you thinking about this thing that's going to happen in the future when it's done. No. You want to focus on the clear, what am I doing right here right now?

[00:45:07] So for example, Most of the time I can write my clear goal will say write 500 words in the new book. And that's what my goal list will say. But if I'm a little stuck, for example it'll say write 500 words that make the reader feel excited or make the reader feel fear or whatever it is. I'll give it a little more clarity, just so I know. And I like to set them, as I said the night before, because it prepares the container, the work container for the next day and the most important thing about a clear goal list for peak performance and sustaining motivation, check the shit off. You have to check it up by hand because that's literally your brain goes, oh, it's done. I can stop thinking about it. It lowers cognitive load, which produced releases more energy that you can then spend right on your next task. It also allows you to declare victory. And this is a real problem. This is an [00:46:00] entrepreneur.

[00:46:00] When the are you done working? What am I done? How do I know I'm done for the day? And if you don't know when you're done for the day, you can't shut off, you can't recover and you end up burning out. I know I can be excellent. Nine things in a day trying to do 10 or 11 is stupid because I literally can't be excellent at 10 or 11.

[00:46:19] I can't perform as a peak performer at those items. So I don't even try. That's an, it's an automatic. No, if I wake up and there's more than nine things to do on my to-do list, I'm like that's, I can't do that and be great at this stuff. Something's gotta give, I gotta move some stuff, that's what has to happen? So I know how many items go on the list. Cause I can be only excellent about nine things in the day. And I know what order they're going to go into. Cause writing is the hardest thing I got to do every day. It's going to go first and so forth on my day. And that's sorta how I think about it.

[00:46:47] And I want the list on the night before. So my cognitive load is already lessened. Like I want to export that out of my brain before I try to go to sleep. 'cause, I don't want it Wang on my brain while [00:47:00] thinking about this. I want to know what I'm going to do tomorrow. So my brain is okay, I know what I can do.

[00:47:04] I can start focusing on that. Not wondering about what do you have to do? You might have to call this person. You might have to write.

[00:47:10] Hala Taha: Yeah, I think honestly, guys, if you take one thing away from this episode, this is such a big life hack the night before, write down the main things that you need to do the next day.

[00:47:20] It will stop all these loops going on in your head. So you get better sleep and then, you know what you got to do in the morning.

[00:47:27] Steven Kotler: It's the hardest. It's so simple. It's so dumb. And it's so powerful. It's so unbelievably powerful. In fact, when we deal with a lot of really super stressed out C suite executives, fortune 500, I run up billion dollar company executives, and this is the first place when you're fighting burning.

[00:47:53] This is step one. If you're trying to fight, burn out, this is the very first thing you have to do to fight burnout. It gives you [00:48:00] so much control of your life back. And it's such a Don little, I'm going to write out a daily to do list. Okay. That really? Yeah. It's really.

[00:48:09] Hala Taha: You would get so much more ahead in life.

[00:48:11] I remember the moment when I started doing to-do list was the moment that my career like started to accelerate because when you don't do that, just a mess.

[00:48:19] Steven Kotler: It's amazing how far you get those like nine items at a time. That's how you go to impossible. And it's really hard to convince that people have that. I always tell people the hardest lesson to learn is that hard work works and works one checklist at a time.

[00:48:35] And I can't like if I could convince people of that ahead of time, like before they did it, this would all be really easy. That's the hardest thing for people to believe.

[00:48:45] Hala Taha: Yeah, that it could be that simple to make that much progress.

[00:48:48] So let's talk about grit because you said grit is your last resort. Why wouldn't just these intrinsic motivators be enough. Why is grit the last piece of the puzzle there?

[00:48:59] Steven Kotler: Quite simply [00:49:00] because we have bad days because life is hard just in general. It's hard. And if you're trying to get someplace.

[00:49:07] Difficult to get to statistically, odds are stacked against you. That makes it worse. You want more fuel sources. The fuel is going to run out at some point, it's just gonna run out and then you want to reach for Greg where I won't go through. There are six different kinds of grit that peak performers all need to train.

[00:49:25] There's the grit to control your thoughts. There's what we think of as persistence. The I'm just going to keep coming resilience. There's grit to negotiate with fear and a bunch of others. The last one that I want to talk about that I think is worth mentioning is in peak performance, recovery is a grit skill.

[00:49:43] So the grit to recover, we need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. We should have an active recovery protocol in place. Active recovery. Passive recovery is I worked really hard to Dan and go home, drink a beer and watch TV. And it doesn't work. It doesn't reset the body, especially if you're [00:50:00] working really hard, right?

[00:50:01] I burning a lot of energy. You have to replenish motivation. You have to replenish willpower and television, a beer, and I'm going to go to sleep. Isn't going to get it done. Active recovery is a sauna, an Epsom salt bath, the long walk in nature, restorative, yoga, breath work, all these are active recovery practices.

[00:50:21] And one of the reasons you want to be able to clear victory over your day is okay, this is now I can shut down right now. I can. Now I can relax for peak performers. People hate to shut it down. You're a hard-charging type, a entrepreneurial artists type. You will never shut up down right. As the burn out.

[00:50:40] So one of the great skills and the other ones are how you train them all that stuff's in the book, but the one that's less obvious is for peak performance. For our chargers entrepreneurs, grit recovery is a grit skill. Cause you really have to, it is, especially like I'm having a problem, writing a book or I'm [00:51:00] having a problem, at the flow research collective with a science project or, you know what I mean?

[00:51:04] I don't want to stop. I wanna I'll go all night, four or five days in a row. And then I'll just collapse and be burned out and that's good for nobody. And I can perform my best. And I don't do that anymore, but like I've learned now that shutting it down and saying, okay, I'm done for the day.

[00:51:20] This is all I can do. I'm done. That's hard. That takes practice. And when I say it takes practice, you have. What do you have to learn is that you'll actually get. Over time by stopping and recovering, then you will by trying to grit through it. That's the point. But you can't learn that again ahead of time.

[00:51:39] You have to go go through and then you're on the back end. You're like, oh, I get it. I get, I go farther, faster with a lot less bus with an active recovery practice.

[00:51:48] Hala Taha: Okay. So part of the grit, especially when you're super productive, especially when you're an entrepreneur is prioritizing self care and having the willpower to stop, even though you're so passionate about it and you want to do it to stop [00:52:00] and recover and get sleep and all that kind of good stuff.

[00:52:03] Okay. So let's talk about learning. You say learning is what keeps you in the game. Talk to us more about the importance of learning.

[00:52:10] Steven Kotler: We've walked the path like you've gone through the intrinsic motivation, got to mastery, right? The path to mastery requires skills, acquisition, and knowledge acquisition.

[00:52:20] So you have to, you want to continue to travel the path to mastery. You want to continue down a path of peak performance. That's the next thing in line, you have to learn how to learn and learning is a, it's a few more Metis skills that surround learning. So in the learning section, I've got a section on skills, acquisition, and a section on knowledge acquisition.

[00:52:40] I've also got a section on truth filters to filter things like the scientific method or I'm trained as a reporter. So there's a way we fact checks for them to fact check stories, Elon Musk, or philosophers. We'll talk about first principle thinking these are all truth filters. They're ways to, I need to learn to continue to walk the path to mastery for peak performance.

[00:52:59] How do I evaluate [00:53:00] what I'm learning quickly? How do I know I can trust it? How do I know it's bright? It's accurate, right? Because if you're learning from. Bad information. You're not getting anywhere. And so you gotta be able to assess that, and then there are questions of what material should I learn from what are the best, what's the best thing to learn.

[00:53:16] Those things get folded in under learning, but the really big point is you just, if you're interested in people performance, you have to learn how to learn.

[00:53:24] Hala Taha: I totally agree. I think learning is such an important skill. I thought it was really interesting. When you talked about the ROI on reading books, I thought this was super interesting.

[00:53:34] I'd love for you to share that with my listeners.

[00:53:36] Steven Kotler: Great. So this is the question of learning materials. What should you learn from? And I always tell people that if you want the most bang for your buck, you want to be reading books. And here's why you have to think about it from a, what I'm trading my time for your knowledge, right?

[00:53:57] That's the exchange that's going on when you're trying to learn something, [00:54:00] if you're learning, you're going to learn from. Let's say a blog versus a Magazine article versus a book versus a podcast or a lecture, right? Those are the main things we're going to learn from. Think about it. I always like to explore, think about it from a writer.

[00:54:16] I wrote a blog for four first five years. I wrote a blog for psychology today for six years across the boards. Every time I wrote a blog, I do about a day's worth of research and then spend a day writing the blog. And that's four hours of research in the morning and then four hours writing the next day.

[00:54:33] And then maybe I would edit it a third day. So you got about 12 hours of my hard work. In the blog and you can read an average blog. It's about 800 words, average human being reads 250 words a minute. So you read my 800 word blog in three to four minutes. So you give me four minutes or three minutes and I give you three days.

[00:54:57] That's the return on investment, the [00:55:00] ROI for a blog. Now take a Magazine article, like a art, a cover story I would do for wire or something like that. On average, it's about 5,000 words long. And it'll take you about 20 minutes to read average reading speed. So what do you get in exchange for the 20 minutes?

[00:55:18] You've got three days for about four minutes. What do you do for 20 minutes? Average magazine article. It would take me about a month of research. Before I found this story, three to four months worth of research to report the story and other three months to write the story. Then another couple of months to work with my editors and polish the story.

[00:55:37] You'd not just get my brain on it, but you've been all the other researchers I would call and my editors brain and the editor, and she is branded. So you give me 20 minutes and suddenly you're getting nine months of my life and a bunch more brain power. Wow. That's a better trade, right? That's a much better return on investment.

[00:55:57] You're getting so many more facts in [00:56:00] your head that you're learning from books are even crazier. So take take the art of impossible. The art impossible is I think it was 80,000 word words long or so it'll take the average person. Eight hours truly. Let's say that's probably a little under, maybe it's eight and a half nine.

[00:56:22] What do you get an exchange? That book is built on 30 years of research into the neurobiology of peak performance. Everything, I've learned over the past 30 years has been folded into that. And all the scientists I've worked with, as a journalist, running the flow research, collected the 70 people who are on staff with me, work with me, it's a lot of collective firepower. So yes, you give me eight to nine hours of your life, but you're getting 30 years in exchange. And the point is on books is they're the most information dense learning source on the planet. You can't beat [00:57:00] that value. And a lot of people want to listen to podcasts and a lot of people want.

[00:57:05] Go to lectures and I give lectures. I have applied gassed. I appear on podcasts. And I can tell you that the information density in podcasts in lectures is nowhere close to what books are. It's not like it's not your, you're not even in the vicinity. And let's say you can't learn from these other sources, but if you're looking for the maximum bang for your buck, if you're busy and you only have X amount of time books or the tool to reach.

[00:57:31] Hala Taha: Again, it's like you think you would realize this, but when you actually say you realize that wow books really are somebody's heart and soul, that they've probably researched for years and years.

[00:57:42] For me, I won't even interview somebody who doesn't have a book because I'm like, they don't have a perspective. They don't have enough to talk about. I don't know what I would even talk to them about. Cause I can't go deep enough. So I thought that was super interesting. So moving on to creativity. Creativity is something we can't see.

[00:57:57] And I feel like people don't [00:58:00] really know what it means. So can you explain to us what creativity means in your opinion?

[00:58:07] Steven Kotler: So there's one sort of across the board standard scientific definition of creativity, a lot of people they'll mutated and you'll see 70,000 slightly different versions, but it always comes down to the creation of novel ideas that are useful.

[00:58:24] And the useful part is what really distinguishes sort of creativity from imagination. If it's just novel ideas, I'm thinking of something cool. And it's neat. That's imagination once it's useful for other people in any way, shape or form. That's creativity. Creativity is defined as the creation of novel ideas that are useful.

[00:58:48] So it's just novelty. If it's just a novel idea, that's just imagination. That's not creativity. Once it becomes useful and useful can mean, I see a beautiful painting and having a static experience, that can be [00:59:00] useful as well. Then you're moving into creativity. So that's, it's nothing more or less than that.

[00:59:06] Hala Taha: And is there a way to hack that state of creativity or that's?

[00:59:10] Steven Kotler: So this is a lot of the work that's happened in neurobiology. The neuroscience of creativity has really exploded over the five past five to 10 years, and we have a really good understanding of how creativity works in the brain and how to get yourself to be more creative.

[00:59:26] And give you a sense it's not what you think it is. I'll give you a simple example. We talk earlier about the importance of staying calm for peak performance. One of the reasons is the more anxiety in your system, the less creative you're going to be. And the reason is quite simply that when you're anxious or scared, the brain wants logical, linear, safe, tried, and true solutions.

[00:59:51] So the more anxiety, the more logical, the fewer choices we get to make the extreme example is extreme [01:00:00] danger. And the brain says, okay, there's a tiger in front of you have two options. You can fight, or you can flee. You actually can freeze. There's three options, but doesn't want to give you a lot of choices.

[01:00:11] This is your three options. People don't realize is just a little bit of anxiety. We'll do the same thing. You don't get three, but maybe you'll only get 10. And when we're calm, brain goes, oh, let's consider all solutions. Let's think outside the box, there's no threat to your life. So I can be a little wackier.

[01:00:32] That is one way to stimulate creativity. There are ways to we know that when you look at the corners of your eyes and use your peripheral vision, this activates the parasympathetic nervous system, it calms you down. So looking out corner, your eyes will make you more creative. What does that mean?

[01:00:51] I'll give you an example when I'm writing in the morning and I get stuck, I walk outside and I live in Dallas, so I can

[01:01:00] look out and see the Sierras. And when they're not all on fire, it's a huge Y Vista. And I just look at the whole, the mountain range and, come back in more creative than I went outside.

[01:01:13] So I was stuck. I got outside and I can you, so what's happening is we shouldn't understand how creativity works in the brain. So now it's not this big, weird amorphous, what is this thing? How do we do it? And the thing is you have to practice parts of creativity, there's skills involved in a lot of creativity, but it tends to be, it's a way of thinking about what you're doing, right?

[01:01:37] We're now starting to understand the mechanism underneath that way of thinking. And that's a lot what I cover in the art impossible is like ways to the brand for more creativity.

[01:01:48] Hala Taha: Super fascinating. So last pillar is flow. How does this all tie back to flow.

[01:01:54] Steven Kotler: So it all ties back to flow.

[01:01:57] First of all, cause if you want more flow in [01:02:00] your life, you have to stabilize all this stuff, right? It's not just enough to get more flow in your life. As I said at the beginning, motivation gets us into the peak performance game. Learning allows us to keep on flying creativity is how we steer, especially if we're going through those Moscow goals.

[01:02:14] Like how do I get there? Where is it exactly right. Creativity is how we steer towards these impossible goals.

[01:02:20] Hala Taha: Creativity helps you creatively problem solve towards your goal. Is that what you mean by that?

[01:02:26] Steven Kotler: That's exactly what creativity, when we break it apart, it's dozens of different sub-components from problem identification, right?

[01:02:35] What exactly is this thing that I'm trying to solve? That's entrepreneurs spend years on that particular one? What is it exactly the challenge that I'm all the way up to like idea execution. Those are all aspects of creativity and creative decision-making creative problem solving. So there's a lot of sub components that feed into it and flow of just allows us flow amplifies.

[01:02:59] First of [01:03:00] all, it amplifies learning, it amplifies motivation. It amplifies grit, it amplifies creativity. So it boosts all of these skills at once. And so in a sense, motivation gets us into the game. Learning allows us to continue to play is how we steer and flows, how we turbo boost the results beyond sort of our reasonable expectation.

[01:03:21] As from the last podcast we did together, it's a pretty close up big boost and a lot of different skills. So it is a massive amplification and that's, to me how they, that's, how they tie together. It's one system as the real point, right? This is one entire system it's designed to work in an order in a certain way.

[01:03:39] And you. Given the right order, you can get more flow, going to get farther, faster. You're going to get the results you want.

[01:03:47] Hala Taha: Okay? Okay. So everybody, I want you to go grab that book. The Art of Impossible, like we just said, reading books is your best ROI on your time. If you want to learn. And the last question I ask, all my guests, [01:04:00] Steven, is what is your secret to profiting in life?

[01:04:03] Steven Kotler: It's not a fair question because the secret is everything I put in our Boston. What do you do? This is what I do. This is whatever the flow research collective does. This is the biology. I don't know if there's any secret beyond that. I will, I will. I'll end with, I'll give you one thought. I was, I think I out read most.

[01:04:23] The whole office is books. I wasn't a great student. I wasn't super smart, but I never stopped reading and I'll read 150 books a year kind of thing. And I've done that for a very long time. And it's amazing how far you can get by out reading people.

[01:04:40] Hala Taha: Can I ask you a question? Is the audio book version, just as good as reading the actual words?

[01:04:46] Steven Kotler: Interesting question. It's a tricky, so I, my, my gut is like flash response is no. And I'll, let me tell you why it's because. Most people when they listen to the audio stuff, [01:05:00] don't pause the audio stuff to think about things. They're trying to keep up with the speaker. If you were to pause it, cause that's what books really give you.

[01:05:09] It's not just that you're getting the same information density in both, but in books you can pause and you can think, and for a bunch of reasons that have to do with how the brain learns and other stuff that I talk about are impossible about the kind of learning I think for that reason books are primary.

[01:05:27] Now that said, if you are not a visual learner, if you are not really word centric, if you're an audio learner, there are probably going to be a lot of exceptions to what I just said. So I don't know the problem with what I just said. I don't know if it's just true for me or if it's true for everyone. And I try to, like, when I try to like, make statements about peak performance, I like things to be based on biology because they work for everybody.

[01:05:54] That one, I can't quite tell as a general books are going to work better than [01:06:00] audio about, but if you do actually take the time to pause and really think about those things, especially if you take notes, when you listen to the audio book, then I don't know if one can be better than the other, then I can't answer your question.

[01:06:10] And I'd have to see studies.

[01:06:12] Hala Taha: That goes back to what you said in your book, like personality doesn't scale biology scales. So that could be a personality thing. Okay. So where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you do?

[01:06:23] Steven Kotler: is everything from if you're interested in flow trainings, if you're just interested in more about flow and peak performance if you want to know more about me, and all over social media.

[01:06:37] Hala Taha: Awesome. Thank you, Steve, for joining us again. You're one of my favorite interviews. I'd love to have you back on every time you have a new book and something new to say. So thank you so much for your time.

[01:06:48] Steven Kotler: Thanks for your interest. Appreciate it.

[01:06:51] Hala Taha: Thanks for listening to Young And Profiting Podcast.

[01:06:54] If you enjoyed this show, make sure you take a few minutes right now to drop us a five star review. It's the number one way to [01:07:00] thank me and the team at YAP. What an amazing conversation with Steven. I always learned so much when he comes on the show and I really enjoy talking about his new book, The Art of Impossible and all of its amazing takeaways.

[01:07:11] I was so intrigued about the difference between impossible and how there's a lowercase. I impossible and an uppercase I impossible and how we do impossible things every day. Overcoming our everyday. Dealing with trauma, sticking to our goals and motivations that is small. I impossible and achieving the impossible is so much closer than we think our brain is hardwired with the biology to help us achieve both big I and small I.

[01:07:36] I impossible. It's working for us to reach those new Heights and we all have the capability to achieve the impossible, whether it be a personal struggle or a bigger goal for the greater good. Steven told us that his personal pillars on how to maintain peak performance to achieve our own impossible, our motivation learning, creativity and flow.

[01:07:55] Setting clear motivation is the first key to getting to where you want to go. Whether you [01:08:00] use internal motivators or external ones, the why behind your goal setting is so imperative in order to level up and become a master at our own peak performance, we have to constantly be acquiring new skills and knowledge and learning.

[01:08:13] It may sound simple, but learning to learn is a key pillar in being able to master a skill, reach peak performance, and ultimately unlock our creative potential. All of these lead back to flow, being able to reach that state of extreme focus and peak performance to achieve our goals. The biggest takeaway from me for this conversation was that.

[01:08:34] All capable of achieving the impossible. So many things in our day-to-day lives may think like an insurmountable peak. We can never conquer, but if we put the word impossible into perspective, there are many different types of impossible. And we can see that we've actually done many impossible things in our lives, and we're going to keep doing impossible things over and over again.

[01:08:53] In my personal journey, there's been so many times where I felt like I couldn't overcome something impossible, like trauma, grief, [01:09:00] different adversities, different rejections, but I did overcome them. And I'm sure you have too. My talk with Steven gave us so many tricks and tips on how we can hardwire our brains to achieve the impossible.

[01:09:10] And I hope you learned as much as I did from this amazing interview. Thanks again to Steven Kotler. And if you enjoyed this episode and you want to hear more from Steven, go check out my first interview with him on YAP, number 32Flow Into The Future.

[01:09:24] Steven Kotler: The best place to start is not with my definition of flow.

[01:09:27] It's with the technical definition of flow, that the scientific definition of flow, which is an optimal state of consciousness, where we feel our best and we perform our best. And as you pointed out, my definition is very similar to what you just said. It's a moment. It's those moments of kind of rapt attention and total absorption.

[01:09:45] We get so focused on the task at hand that everything else disappears. So action awareness will start to merge your sense of self-consciousness, self-criticism will vanish completely time passes. Strangely the technical term, is it dilates, which is a fancy way of saying [01:10:00] it either slows down, you get a freeze frame effect from an enemy has been in a car crash.

[01:10:04] Or more frequently, it speeds up and five hours go by in five minutes. You didn't even notice time was passing and throughout, as you pointed out all aspects of performance, both mental and physical, go through the roof.

[01:10:16] Hala Taha: Again, if you liked this episode and want to learn more about Flow specifically, go check out Steven's first appearance on YAP episode, number 32 Flow Into The Future.

[01:10:25] Now I'd like to move on and shout out one of my latest podcast for years, and I'm super grateful for everybody who has left us a review on Apple Podcasts. This one is from Pana, Emily Wala. Thank you. I just listened to episode number 138 with Stephynie Malik and wow, amazing. Some really interesting points for raise that I can relate to in my own life.

[01:10:44] I now have a better understanding of how I can deal with these issues. Thank you so much and keep up the good work. Wow. Thank you so much for that review and taking the time out to write it. And I totally agree that episode number 138 with Stephynie Malik, Spin It: Get Out of a Crisis with such a [01:11:00] great episode, what an amazing conversation.

[01:11:02] And if you guys are listening, check that out, you won't be disappointed. And if you're tuning in still, I want a five star review from you. You love the show. Take the time out to tell us I love to read your feedback. It is really important for us to get these reviews. And if you do enjoy the show, you can also share us on social media.

[01:11:20] You can find me on Instagram @ yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name. It's Hala Taha. Big, thanks to YAP team as always. I love you guys. I couldn't do this without you. This is Hala signing off.


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