Steven Kotler: Peak Performance Aging, How to Stay at the Top of Your Game in Your 30s, 40s, 50s, and Beyond | E211

Steven Kotler: Peak Performance Aging, How to Stay at the Top of Your Game in Your 30s, 40s, 50s, and Beyond | E211

Steven Kotler: Peak Performance Aging, How to Stay at the Top of Your Game in Your 30s, 40s, 50s, and Beyond | E211

When Steven Kotler was a kid, he was skinny, klutzy, and often the last guy picked for any team or athletic contest. He spent a lot of his childhood losing fights to jocks. At 53 years old, he decided to conquer his past shame and push his own aging body past preconceived limits by learning how to park ski. In this episode, Steven discusses how to navigate peak performance as we age and how to keep our use-it-or-lose-it skills. He will also dispel myths about the aging brain and give insight on how to always stay young and profiting!
Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist, and the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective. He is one of the world’s leading experts on human performance. His work has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes and has been translated into over 50 languages. Steven 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 this episode, Hala and Matt will discuss:
– The long slow rot theory
– How we keep our “use it or lose it” skills
– Why old dogs actually can learn new tricks
– The importance of deliberate play
– Negative stereotypes about aging
– The 3 types of thinking as we age
– Benefits of cross-generational friendships
– Embracing authentic learning as we age
– Illustrating flow through Steven’s dog sanctuary
– And other topics…
Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist, and the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective. He is one of the world’s leading experts on human performance. Steven is the author of eleven bestsellers (out of fourteen 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 50 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 his latest book Gnar Country: Growing Old, Staying Rad, Steven tests his knowledge and theories on his own aging body in a quest to become an expert skier at age fifty-three.
Alongside his wife, author Joy Nicholson, he is also the co-founder of The Buddy Sue Hospice Home for Old Dogs, a canine elder care facility, and Rancho de Chihuahua, a dog rescue and sanctuary.
Resources Mentioned:
Steven’s Website:
Flow Research Collective Radio:
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[00:00:00] Steven Kotler: This is one of the most well established facts in peak performance aging. When you have a positive mindset towards aging. Second half of my life is filled with thrilling and exciting possibilities. My best days are ahead of me. It'll translate into additional seven and a half years of health and longevity.

[00:00:14] If you are morbidly obese and have a shitty mindset towards aging, change your mindset first. It actually have a bigger effect on your life and your health and your longevity, than losing weight. What really changes is not our ability to learn. It's how we learn when we're kids, we play. When we're adults, we have shame, we have embarrassment.

[00:00:36] We have time crunches, we have a whole bunch of other stuff. If you can shift back into that attitude of play, a lot of that motor learning window reopens.

[00:00:51] Hala Taha: What is up Young and Profiteers. You are listening to YAP, Young and Profiting podcast, where we interview the brightest minds in the [00:01:00] world and unpack their wisdom into actionable advice that you can use in your daily life. I'm your host, Hala Taha. Thanks for tuning in and get ready to listen, learn and profit.

[00:01:11] Steven, welcome back to Young and Profiting podcast. 

[00:01:26] Steven Kotler: It is so good to be with you again.

[00:01:28] Hala Taha: I am super happy Young and Profiteers, Steven Kotler has been on YAP three times and I still feel like I could have 10 more conversations with him given his breath of work. If you don't know Steven, he is the goat of Human Peak performance.

[00:01:41] He's the godfather of Flow. He's the executive director of the Flow Research Collective, and his work in this space has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes. Steven is an award-winning journalist. He's the author of over a dozen best-selling books that have been translated in over 40 languages. He's hands down one of the most reputable and well-known authors in the [00:02:00] world and his latest book, Gnar Country: Growing Old, Staying Rad.

[00:02:04] He tests his knowledge and theories on his own aging body in Aquest to become an expert skier at the age of 53. So in this episode, Stephen and I will discuss how to navigate peak performance as we age. We'll understand how to keep our use it or lose its skills. We'll dispel myths about our aging brains and we'll gain insight on how we can always stay Young and Profiting.

[00:02:23] So Steven, I'm super looking forward to this conversation. My podcast is called Young and Profiting, but I actually have avid listeners of all ages in their forties and fifties and beyond, and so I know they'll greatly appreciate this conversation. And to kick it off, I figured we would start with how you got the inspiration to study peak performance.

[00:02:41] So I learned that you were really shocked by the story of Antonio Stradivari, and he's a famous violin maker, and he had amazing feat of creating two of his most famous violins. When he was 92 years old, and this was in the 17 hundreds way before medical advancements. And so I'd love to understand why his story was so shocking to you.

[00:02:59] How [00:03:00] did he dispel the typical, thoughts around traditional aging and how did he inspire you to study peak performance aging. 

[00:03:08] Steven Kotler: Books have a lot of origin stories. There's 11 different things that come together. I've been working, researching, looking at the field of peak performance for a while in a totally unrelated project, right?

[00:03:18] I was gonna write a mystery novel and I wanted a cat burglar as a character. Who's gonna steal musical instruments, who made the rarest musical instruments in history. I went to Stradivarius and then I found, figured out what you mentioned, which is he made two of the rarest and most expensive musical instruments in his nineties.

[00:03:34] And I went, wait a minute. Everything I've been told about the about physical abilities is like the older myth about aging. Which most of us believe, and I believed at the time of this is what you could call the long slow rot theory. It's the idea that all of our mental skills and our physical skills, they decline over time.

[00:03:51] There's nothing we can do to stop the slide. So included in those skill physical skills would be fast twitch, muscle response, fine motor [00:04:00] performance, dexterity. It's all the stuff you would need to make a violin or a viola. In your nineties along with like expertise and wisdom and all that, like cognitive abilities.

[00:04:11] And I, it paused me and I was like wait a minute. If this is true, either Stradivarius is like the one in a billion or most of what we've been told about aging is wrong. I had already been looking at other aspects of it, but really lit a fire under me to really investigate our physical abilities and what happened to them over time.

[00:04:30] I've been looking at the cognitive stuff for a while. It's very related to flow how we age. Flow plays a big role there. So this is not new territory to me, the physical side. It's holy crap, could this possibly be true? And it is true. It's true across the board. Every one of our physical skills are user to lose its skills.

[00:04:48] And the research is really clear. We don't stop using these skills, both physical and mental. We can hang on to them, even advance them far later into life than any you thought possible. 

[00:04:57] Hala Taha: I love this. So you're saying the long [00:05:00] slow rot theory basically means that our physical, mental skills decline over time.

[00:05:04] There's nothing that we can really do to stop the slide. That's what inspired you to research this in more detail, understand performance, peak aging, and like you just said, you said that use it, lose its skills. We actually have control over them. We used to think that your, our physical abilities just decline, but there's a way we can actually keep those skills.

[00:05:23] So talk to us more about use it or lose it skills, what they are, how we keep them healthy?

[00:05:28] Steven Kotler: So there's a bunch of stuff on the cognitive side. Let's get back there in a second. On the physical side, there's five main categories that matter. And let me, since a lot of your listeners are younger, let me start here, which is peak performance aging starts young.

[00:05:45] Like the research is really clear. Like interventions in your eighties, even beyond matter, like really matter. You can really make changes right up to the end and they matter and they're gonna have actual big effects. But a lot of the stuff [00:06:00] that you want to start working on. You actually wanna start working on in your twenties and your thirties.

[00:06:04] And this is, the biohacking crowd is very aware of this, right? A lot of that crowd is twenties and thirties and they're doing a lot of the these things. Now I might argue that they're doing some of the wrong stuff cuz they don't quite understand what peak performance aging is. But besides the point, a lot of this stuff starts young.

[00:06:20] On the physical side, we want to train five skills that matter most. Strength, stamina, flexibility, agility, and balance. Those are the five skills that you want to train over time. And this is not new knowledge like the World Health Organization. Knows exactly how many minutes a week we should be training these things.

[00:06:38] But pre-performance aging is 150 to 300 minutes of heart aerobic training a week. Moderate to vigorous aerobic training a week, two strength training days a week, and three flexibility balanced in agility days a week. Or you can find one skill. I chose park skiing in the book that encompasses all that, [00:07:00] right?

[00:07:00] If I, in park skiing, I'm using strength, stamina, balance, agility, flexibility. There's other stuff you want to do. There's ways we have things called prime mover muscles, our big muscles, and then we have stabilizer muscles like your rotator cuffs or your hip flexors. Over time, the body gets more efficient and it will start using the prime mos movers, and not use the stabilize her muscles.

[00:07:22] So if you've been on the couch for a while and you come back to athletics. You're not gonna hurt your quad. You're gonna tear the stabilize, you're gonna tear your hip plexor, cause it's stop doing the work. Your quad, if you're walking around your ambulatory, it's working. Your flexor has started an atrophy.

[00:07:38] So there's ways you want to think about training that's a little bit different, if you've been away for a while. But those are the physical skills we need to train over time. On the cognitive side, it's a really long list and let me pause there, let you ask another question. Then we'll get to the stuff on the cognitive side cuz we'll spend the next 20 minutes.

[00:07:56] I'll spend the next 20 minutes talking. 

[00:07:57] Hala Taha: 100%. So on the [00:08:00] physical side, why are action sports and what you call dynamic activities so important to help us with these user lose its skills? Because I think a lot of people who are older we're used to going to the gym, taking group classes, whatever, but nobody's really thinking about action sports and you say that they're a great way, to leverage these skills.

[00:08:18] Steven Kotler: Okay, we gotta get to the full sentence anyway. 

[00:08:20] Hala Taha: Go for it. Just tell me.

[00:08:21] Steven Kotler: Throw it out there and then we'll break it apart and why it matters so much. 

[00:08:25] Hala Taha: Okay. 

[00:08:25] Steven Kotler: So if you wanna rock till you drop, if you really are interested in peak performance aging. You need to regularly engage in challenging creative and social activities.

[00:08:36] That is, you just pointed out that demand dynamic, deliberate play, and take place in novel outdoor environments. Now let's unpack what this big ass sentence and what it means and why it answers your question. So challenging social and creative. Lifelong learning matters for a bunch of different reasons, but short version.

[00:08:54] If we wanna preserve brain function. We need expertise in wisdom. Expertise in wisdom are these [00:09:00] very diverse neural nets in the brain. Lots of real estate, lots of redundancy and pervious to cognitive decline. The more expertise, the more wisdom. And this is why, one of the reasons peak performance aging starts young.

[00:09:11] Like literally the guy who did the core research on wisdom, Elkhonon Goldberg, his core advice is the more wisdom, the more expertise, the more we have cognitive reserve. The meaning, the more we can stave off Alzheimer's, dementia, cognitive decline. All the things that are gonna hap could happen to the brain over time.

[00:09:28] This is how we fight back. And his point was wisdom among the many things, encapsulated in wisdom are all like the unconscious rules that govern. How do systems work, how does behavior work? All the like, all that stuff. It's onboarded slowly over time. So you want to start training these things. You wanna be start learning challenging, creative and social activities.

[00:09:48] We learn a lot during. They also tend to drive us into flow. Social activities are really important as we age. Most important thing you can do for your brain is maintain social activity, cuz it keeps [00:10:00] the brain active in really important ways, and really lower stress levels. So a lot of stuff we're gonna be talking about, there are nine known cause of aging.

[00:10:09] They're all linked inflammation. Inflammation is linked to stress. So anything you do that fights stress. That lowers stress, that gives you more emotional control, is involved in peak performance aging. So social activities, lower stress. They give us these pros social, there's people around who love me, got my back.

[00:10:26] I can be a little less stressed. So there's a lot of that stuff. Dynamic deliberate play is the next bit. Dynamic is literally what we've been talking about. It's just a fancy way of saying it. Its all five categories of functional fitness, strength, stamina, flexibility, balance, agility, deliberate play.

[00:10:42] You've heard of deliberate practice. Andrew Erickson's favorite expertise. Repetition with incremental advancement is the fastest path for his expertise. And Anders wasn't wrong, but it, as he himself said, that's only true in certain very precise disciplines. And when faced with just general learning, [00:11:00] deliberate play works better than deliberate practice.

[00:11:02] Deliberate play is repetition. With improvisation, you're gonna do the same thing you did last time, but a little bit of flourish, little flower, little something fun. It's playful, meaning there's no shame, there's no embarrassment. If you're bad, who cares? You're having fun. But that feeling of play produces more neurochemistry, more endorphins.

[00:11:20] This one really boosts the immune system, lowers stress levels, but amplifies learning. So dynamic deliberate play says, I'm using all the physical skills that decline and I'm learning better than any other way. Novel outdoor environments. The last bit, why do we care? And this is back action, sports demand, dynamic, deliberate play, and they take place in novel outdoor environments and they're challenging, creative and social.

[00:11:44] So it's one stop shopping. The last bit is most important bit one, outdoor environments in general. Lower stress. We know this. This is well established in positive psychology. A 20 minute walk in the woods will outperform most SSRIs for treatment of depression. I can talk about why if [00:12:00] you care, but like we know that good for you lowers stress.

[00:12:03] So in itself, being in nature is anti-inflammatory. So it's better for healthy aging. But if you wanna preserve brain function, how do you do that? You want to birth new neurons and turn those new neurons into neural nets. That's learning. So the adult brain, contrary to what we used to believe for a long time. It actually does continue to birth new neurons.

[00:12:24] And in fact the adult brain will birth about 700 new neurons a day, even on basically until you die. But where do those neurons show up as the key question? They show up in a part of the brain numbs they hippocampus. The hippocampus does two things. It does long-term memory and it does location.

[00:12:39] Place. It's packed with place cells and grid cells. Why we evolved as hunter gatherers. When you were in the wild and something emotionally charged happened. You gotta remember where you were when it happened. That's survival. So where did I get attacked by that tiger? So I don't go back there. Where was that ripe fruit tree.

[00:12:55] So when it comes into season, I'm hungry. I can go there. This is survival. [00:13:00] This is what the brain is designed to do. Peak performance and peak performance. Aging is always getting our biology to work for us rather than against us. Our biology is designed to remember when we have novel experiences in outdoor environments.

[00:13:14] So that's what you want to use it for. Action sports gives you that. Now, I also say in the book that like if action sports aren't your thing. You can duplicate a lot of this by simply hiking with a weight vest. And weight vests are really key better than a lot of other things because they amplify bone density.

[00:13:31] Little known fact. Your bones, like where you store all your minerals. All your nutrients are stored in your bones and they're released into. So everything that drives the brain. Calcium, for example, which is in every, everything the brain does, it's stored in the bones. So as our bones become less dense over time. Which happens, it impacts everything for women.

[00:13:53] Really important after menopause. Where does most of your estrogen come from? Your bones. So wildly fluctuating [00:14:00] hormone levels. Which is a problem that most people have post-menopause. Exacerbated by bone density. If you wanna increase bone density, one of the best ways of hiking with a weight vest.

[00:14:09] There's lots of literature, there's lots of science on that. There's also a bunch of other benefits, but it hits all of those categories if you're not interested in action sports. That said, there's a lot to recommend in action sports. Especially a lot of our country, is about a new way of approaching these difficult, challenging physical activities late in life that's much safer, and much more well suited to progression.

[00:14:33] Hala Taha: Yeah! Because I have to say I'm in my thirties and I used to ski and I don't even ski anymore because I'm like, I've got too much slip for it. I don't wanna break a bone. I'm not into it. So I totally love that you're giving another option in terms of the weighted vest on hiking. So in your book you actually took on park skiing, and this is something that people used to believe. That anybody over 35 like really couldn't learn.

[00:14:57] So talk to us about learning that [00:15:00] activity at 53 years old and what you learned as an old dog. Learning new tricks. 

[00:15:05] Steven Kotler: There's a couple things you need to know to flesh this out a little bit, but you are right. Everything you said is totally true. Why did I think I could learn to parks ski? There's a whole bunch of new stuff in like flow science, my field and embodied cognition.

[00:15:18] A couple other wizbang fields that I was like, if these things are right should be totally possible for overdo adults to be able to learn really difficult skills. I'll give you like one random example. We have a motor learning window, like Beverly says, don't become a gymnast or a ballet dancer after 25, right?

[00:15:35] Because that window's closed and you can't just, that's true. There is like a lot of things in big performance aging. It's true, but, and here's the, but what really changes is not our ability to learn. It's how we learn when we're kids, we play. When we're adults, we have shame, we have embarrassment, we have time crunches, we have stretch of a whole bunch of other stuff.

[00:15:57] If you can shift back into that [00:16:00] attitude of play, a lot of that motor learning window reopens. So that's just one example. A lot of the skills that we used to think declined over time. We now know their user to lose it skill, including the skills we need to learn how to park ski. So that was it, where it came from.

[00:16:16] I was an expert skier. I just had never park skied. I knew no tricks, right? I was a big mountain skier. I could go in a straight line very fast, really well. But park skiing is it's a you take, it's. Doing tricks off jumps and on rails and wall rides. It's very acrobatic, it's very dangerous. So it was a totally not a new adventure for me.

[00:16:35] There were a lot of reasons to take it up. There's, there were a lot of advantages about like knowing how to park ski later in life. Was actually that what I was after. But it was just a great way to test all this science, and when we learned, and here's what's cool, so I made to to measure progress.

[00:16:52] I made a list of 20 tricks. This is zero to like intermediate matter because once you get there. You're you take the random shit out of the equation. Like you can [00:17:00] control your progress and not have these accidental falls or things that really can get you hurt early on. I figured if it took five years, cool, whatever.

[00:17:09] Like I didn't care. I served when I was 53. If it took me to 60, great. Whatever, who cares? I did it in under a season. In fact, I've never learned anything so fast in my entire life. And the cool part was my ski partner, who's your age? And was a former professional athlete who got very injured, retired, had a family, had his a job, came back this sport.

[00:17:27] He used the same methodology and got farther than he's ever gotten before we came back the following year. We took 17 older adults, ages 29 to 68. They were intermediate at best Park skiers or skiers and snowboarders. And we trained them up in four days on the mountain and they got good. But then, because as you pointed out, action sports, not for everyone.

[00:17:52] So the key thing here is mindset. What am I talking about? Let me tell you what we did and let me tell you what it was. We then [00:18:00] stripped out the action sports. We used weight vest hiking instead, and we put 300 adults, all ages, like 30 to 85. I think, through the same kind of training to see, if we could explode their mindset towards aging, and get them on what I called the nar style quest. Which is a challenging social and creative activity that demands dynamic, deliberate plane takes place in novel outdoor environments.

[00:18:26] I don't care what it is. I wanted them to just start on a quest that would lead to something that way. What I really wanted to do was explode the mindset of old, oh, I'm too old for shit. Shit. I'm gonna get hurt. got things I wanna hold onto. It sets up. It's really weird. Our biology is designed when we're young kids, teenagers, young adults, the seeking system drives our behavior.

[00:18:48] This is exploratory behavior, right? I'm gonna go out, I'm gonna check out something new. I'm gotta figure out who I am and what I do, and how I wanna live, and how do I wanna make all that stuff. This is about dopamine and norepinephrine. Those are very potent, feel good neurochemicals. They're [00:19:00] very addictive.

[00:19:00] Very addictive, right? Cocaine's the most widely addictive drug on earth. All that happens is it causes the brain to release some dopamine and it blocks its reuptake, right? So dopamine is really addictive. When we get stuff that we want to hold onto. I got the right job. I've got the right partner. I've got kids. I've got dogs. I've got a great apartment.

[00:19:20] I like my bike. Whatever it is, we no longer wanna be seeking. We want the stuff that is about conserving what we have, protecting what we have bonding. So we get endorphins and anandamide and oxytocin. These are like the prosocial neurochemicals that underpin strong family structures and things like that.

[00:19:38] Strong company structures, and they're great. We're trading our addictions, and what happens is it makes us very conservative. It shuts down the seeking system. We get the voice in our head that says, Hey, don't do that. You're gonna lose what you have. The truth of the matter is like old people are literally addicted to the wrong drugs in their bodies.

[00:19:56] You need all of these systems working together for pre performance itching, and there's [00:20:00] a penalty for having a mindset of old, and this is the point. There's a big health and longevity penalty. In fact, when you flip it, when you have a positive mindset towards aging, second half of my life is filled with thrilling and exciting possibilities.

[00:20:11] My best days are ahead of me. It translate, and this is one of the most well-established facts in peak performance aging. It will translate into additional seven and a half years of health and longevity. That's huge, that's like quitting smoking huge. In fact, if you're morbidly obese and have a shitty mindset towards aging, change your mindset first.

[00:20:33] It actually have a bigger effect on your life and your health and your longevity than losing weight. So it's really important. It's where peak performance aging starts. And one of the reasons that peak performance aging starts young is if you never develop this mindset, this isn't gonna be a problem.

[00:20:49] Like you're not gonna have to overcome it. One of the reasons the NAR style adventure is so useful for older adults is like for me, didn't matter what I wanted to believe about [00:21:00] aging. Once I got out on the mountain island, was learning how to do 360's and nose butter 360's and 180's and all the other stuff I learned.

[00:21:06] Like it just blew up all my limiting beliefs about what was possible in the future. Cuz I have just onboarded the most difficult physical thing, I've ever done in my life. And I did it at 53. And I've done a lot of difficult physical things along the way. This was definitely the hardest and I did it and I'm still park skiing at 55 now, cuz I wrote, the books a couple years old. In terms of when I wrote it. 

[00:21:26] Hala Taha: Let's hold that thought and take a quick break with our sponsors.

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[00:25:04] That's amazing. I have to say it's very inspiring, and I can feel your enthusiasm from the camera and like your vigor for life. And so it's really positive, that you're spreading this message in terms of how people can basically stay young at heart forever. And like you said, it's totally in your control.

[00:25:20] If you put yourselves in situations. Where you're activating your brain in certain ways. You're playing, you're dispelling any sort of internal beliefs that you have about your own abilities, by actually going out and doing these physical things. In turn, it's helping improve your cognitive performance.

[00:25:37] Just amazing. Really cool stuff. And nobody has talked about this on the podcast yet, so it's very exciting. Sticking on this point of mindset. I'd love to talk about this concept of dirty old shame. I know that you had to get over some internal trauma. From my understanding, when you were growing up, you weren't always this sporty.

[00:25:56] You were the last kid picked on the team at school. And you [00:26:00] mentioned in your book that part of you overcoming and taking on this challenge was you getting over these past traumas. So talk to us about that and how we need to do that as well. 

[00:26:07] Steven Kotler: Another reason, peak performance aging starts young.

[00:26:10] First we start with the good news. One of the reasons old dogs can learn new tricks, that we haven't talked about yet is as we enter our fifties, it's really in our late forties. There are a bunch of really profound changes in how the brain processes information. One certain genes only turn on with experience.

[00:26:26] We they'll only flip these switches later in life. Two. In our fifties, the two hemispheres of the brain, which essentially function and opposition to each other. Along the way, we start working together like never before. And finally the brain starts to recruit underutilized resources in our fifties.

[00:26:41] So as a result, we gain access to whole new levels of intelligence, creativity, empathy, and wisdom. And I go on and on about those benefits. There's a lot that comes with that, but these are not guaranteed. So psychologists talk about moderators is the technical term. It's an if then condition.

[00:26:59] You [00:27:00] get this only if you do this right, and if you wanna the access to these cognitive superpowers in our fifties, and we'll come back to it. But from a profit perspective, we really want to talk about those superpowers in a second. Let me finish this point. There are a number of gateways of adult development that you have to pass through.

[00:27:20] So by the age 30, if you really just want to enjoy and kick ass beyond 30. You have to have solved the crisis of identity, which sort of shows up around age 12. And Erickson thought he used to disappear at 18. It doesn't, but it does. If you haven't solved it by 30, you have a problem. The reason is by 40, you have, you need match fit.

[00:27:42] Match fit is an economics term, means there's a tight link between who I am and what I do in the world, right? If you just, so if you don't know who you are. You can't get match fit because there's no, if you don't know your strengths, your values, all that stuff. So that's has to be by 30 by 40. We need to be, we have match fit and [00:28:00] then by 50 we need forgiveness.

[00:28:01] We gotta forgive ourselves for like past embarrassments and past shames, and we gotta figure those who have done us harm. And as you pointed out, I spent most of my childhood losing fights to jocks. I was a punk rocker. The jocks didn't like us. I didn't like them. And this was back in, in the seventies and eighties.

[00:28:19] And you gotta understand like cars of football players would pull up on the side of the road, and they'd see a guy with a mohawk and they'd jump out to beat you up. And it was like five against one always. And it was not a great situation. So I had a lot of anger, and I knew peak performance aging, you've gotta put that shit down.

[00:28:38] You cannot thrive in your fifties. You don't get these superpowers, which is why old dogs can learn new tricks better than young dogs. It's why I, one of the reasons I learned park ski so fast is I have more intelligence. I've got more creativity. I've got this stuff I need, and you've got even more wisdom. Which is means, I could keep myself safer, than when I was making better decisions along the way.

[00:28:59] [00:29:00] That stuff is great, but I don't get it if I can't forgive those who have done me wrong. So the standard best way to do that, and there's tons of research, is love and kindness meditation and passion meditation. It's an incredibly potent tool. It's amazing for a ton of different stuff. It's been studied for probably longer than any other meditation style.

[00:29:21] We understand all the neuroscience, but when it came to people who I'd gotten fist fights with and worse for 10 years, it wasn't enough. Like all the love and ness meditation of the world. Like I could forgive a lot of stuff and clean out a lot. I was left with it just wasn't going away. So I decided one of the reasons I took on an incredibly difficult physical jockey challenge is, okay, I'm gonna go this is my problem.

[00:29:48] Let's go walk a mile in their moccasins. Let's take this on and it turns out it worked. By the way, I didn't think it was gonna work. I just knew I needed to do this to thrive. And I was like I'm out of [00:30:00] any other ideas. Loving kindness meditation, which is what everybody right is not getting it done.

[00:30:05] And there's still anger there. There's still resentment, there's still stuff there. So let me see if taking on this kind of putting myself on a physical mission could clear that out. And it did. And the story is in the end of the book and I won't ruin it.

[00:30:19] A spoiler alert, right? I'd be giving away that one, and I'm not going to. But, it was one of the neater things that happened along the way as I got to put down, like a bunch of shame and embarrassment and like stuff that, I've carried since I was probably 10 or 12. Definitely 12.

[00:30:34] Hala Taha: That's amazing. Do you feel like much lighter now, and that you just can approach things differently? Like how did it that impact you getting over that trauma like that? After so many years of having the same issue? 

[00:30:46] Steven Kotler: I always say that one of the myths, that a link a lot of people have about their life is that people think it's gonna get easier.

[00:30:54] Like you think, I'm gonna get older. I'm gonna get better at this. I'm gonna be able to. I know exactly what I like and I can manicure [00:31:00] my life. And it just doesn't get easier. It just doesn't, what it gets is more meaningful and more, and like life satisfaction and overall wellbeing.

[00:31:11] And that's what this really impacted somehow. Like it made life. More meaningful, like in those ways. I don't know. I do, I feel lighter perhaps, but what it just it closed that loop. Okay, done check. I don't have to worry about that anymore. And literally what it really does is when certain memories just pop into my head. Now, they just last a half second and I'm like, there's that thing, and it goes away.

[00:31:38] Whereas before, no, I could start to think on it and dwell on it, and then I'd have a problem.

[00:31:43] Hala Taha: Have you ever heard of Arthur Brooks? 

[00:31:46] Steven Kotler: Think so. 

[00:31:46] Hala Taha: He's somebody that I think you should definitely look into. So I had Arthur Brooks on the podcast in 2021, sorry, 2022, and he was like one of my favorite interviews.

[00:31:56] And he wrote this book called Cracking the Code to Happiness. He's a Harvard professor, [00:32:00] social scientist, and basically he talks about how your brain biologically is different. Four 40 and after 40. And he talks about fluid intelligence versus crystallized intelligence. And so this was like a big conversation, that we had on the podcast and something that made us think a lot.

[00:32:16] I had a lot of feedback from my listeners and I feel like what you say is pretty different from what he says. There are some similarities, but basically what he's saying is that you have a biological talk clock ticking your ability to reason, think flexibly, learn new things, problem solve, be innovative, that starts to decline in your forties and fifties.

[00:32:35] And that doesn't mean that your brain starts to go bad. You just start to have crystallized intelligence or you accumulate knowledge back skills. And you can use that throughout your career as a way to teach other people. And essentially what he's saying is you've gotta be ready for the second half of your career and not miss that and be like trying to.

[00:32:52] Your younger self and your younger brain essentially. So for example, the professional athlete becomes the coach, the star litigator becomes a partner. The [00:33:00] singer becomes an A and R exec, and you're basically teaching younger people your knowledge and taking on that second wave of your career. 

[00:33:08] Steven Kotler: So he is right and he is wrong as far as I could tell.

[00:33:12] Where he's really right is passing along knowledge is absolutely key to P performance aging. It's key to, in fact, the societies where people age the best. Two things are very true. One, they don't have negative stereotypes towards aging. So ageism is the most common and socially accepted stereotype in the world.

[00:33:33] I go out in a public these days with any stereotype. Somebody's gonna punch me in the mouth and cancel me, except for ageism. Ageism people are like, you're too old to do that shit. All we geezer each other red enough and it's crazy. Becca Levy list done tons of work on ageism and the stereotype of aging, and it's incredibly detrimental.

[00:33:52] In fact, you could go so far as literally we are killing older adults with how we talk [00:34:00] about them. So that is really clear. Societies where there's no ageism. There's also cross-generational friendships, so the old are passed along knowledge. This is a natural part of brain development. Now you have to put things into categories.

[00:34:16] He is not wrong. We do shift from fluid intelligence into crystallized intelligence. That transition does happen. But a bunch of the skills that we thought declined over time, like the fluid intelligence skills that we thought went away. No, it turns out that's not true at all. We get actually new levels of intelligence and creativity in our fifties, so that's not actually true.

[00:34:36] There's certain things. The article I like best Martin Seligman from Penn and Scott Barry Kaufman wrote a great article on creativity over time. Where they talk about what goes away from creativity and what stays or comes on. And the list of what comes on and stays is much longer than what goes away. 

[00:34:54] Now, there's stuff that does go away. So the question you've gotta now ask, is it [00:35:00] permanent? Is this real or have we just not figured out how to train it? So let me give you an example Adam Gazzaley is a friend of mine, he's on my board. We do a lot of research together. He's at UCSF and he had the, he's a neuroscientist, the Cover of Nature a bunch of years ago for a video game he designed.

[00:35:17] It's the very first video game to be approved by the FDA. It treats cognitive decline in older adults, and what it specifically focuses on is task switching. If you go back to fluid intelligence, one of the things that declines over time is task switching. Our ability to focus on this and then focus on this.

[00:35:34] And that's a real problem. He's got a video game that will take your brain. If you're 60, you play it literally, I think it's three hours a week or three 20 minute sessions a week for six weeks is the standard doctor prescription for this video game, and it will reset your 60 year old brain back to 20.

[00:35:51] So there's a bunch of stuff like that where it's user to lose it. We just had to figure out how do you train it up? The other side of [00:36:00] it is, so let's talk about the other weird, one of the things he said. One of the reasons our brain performance declines over time is white matter density decreases over time and we lose certain neurochemicals.

[00:36:12] So what he's not telling you is you can replace those neurochemicals. In fact, SSRIs, which actually suck for depression, turn out to be great for older adults, low level SSRIs because serotonin levels decline over time and SSRIs can boost them. If you don't wanna take a drug hike with a weight fest, most of your serotonin is manufactured in your bones, and one of the reasons the brain has less is cuz you're making less in your bones.

[00:36:36] And if you increase bone density. You get the serotonin back, you get a bunch of those neurochemicals back. The general thinking is true, but a lot of those skills are user to lose it. Either we've already figured out how to fix them or this stuff is also progressing really quickly.

[00:36:51] That's the whole other side of this is regenerative medicine, longevity science, all that stuff is moving at exponential rates. [00:37:00] So for example, five years ago, we could not deal with most tendon bone and ligament problems. Today there's very little you can do to tendons, bones. They're ligaments that exosomes stem cells, certain other things like we are good at that stuff.

[00:37:17] Now it's advanced really far. Now, if anybody's making you promises about stem cells that go like beyond bones, ligaments, and tendons? No. They're lying and they're exaggerating. What the what's real right now. But up to that point, no. No. We gotta dial. So technology's advancing and it's gonna solve a lot of those issues.

[00:37:36] A lot of those issues are not what we thought they were. And you can train a lot of that stuff in unusual ways, we're just figuring out. And some of the early ways, like all the brain games, that they're worthless. They're totally worthless. They train nothing other than the ability to play that game.

[00:37:54] That's not how this works. But learning a foreign language, learning to play a [00:38:00] musical instrument, learning a challenging dynamic activity like all that stuff. That's the real medicine. And that really actually does. 

[00:38:08] Hala Taha: I love what you're saying because I remember leaving that conversation with Arthur Brooks, although it was really enlightening and he said a lot of smart things.

[00:38:14] I felt depressed. I was like, oh man, I got less than 10 years to figure, like to do all my innovative stuff. And it's good to know what you're saying, that we are actually in control. Like of course you can be passive and the inevitable will happen with your cognitive decline, but if we're proactive and fight that natural tendency, that's gonna happen.

[00:38:33] Plus with modern medicine, like you said, there's a lot that we can do to slow it down, reverse it. So that's amazing. So let's dig deep on these three types of thinking. You alluded to them at a high level that we get better at as we're 50 and beyond. So you say it's realistic thinking, non-dualistic thinking and systematic thinking.

[00:38:53] Steven Kotler: So short version, our ego quiets down and our perspective widens. So [00:39:00] essentially we learn to see things from multiple perspectives. We learn that there are very few black and white truths and most things are gray. That's relativistic thinking and probabilistic thinking. And then the last category, we learn to see the forest through the trees.

[00:39:15] We get good better at systems thinking and seeing the big picture. And because it is these skills, this is where that extra intelligence, creativity, empathy and wisdom comes from and builds outta this intelligence. There's a huge business opportunity here and nobody's paying attention to it. So that little backstory, when I wrote A Bold, which is a book about like entrepreneurship and people like Larry Page and Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, and how to really use exponential technology and some human capability flow science stuff to really level up organizations.

[00:39:50] I spent so much years talking to CEOs and a lot of the time and a lot of those discussions we would talk about hiring. Who are the ideal employees? How do you find [00:40:00] them? What do you need for the 21st century? And over again, thousands of times I heard the same two things from CEOs. I need employees who are really intelligent and really creative and really innovative, cuz the rate of change is really fast and I gotta keep pace and stay ahead of it.

[00:40:17] Otherwise, I don't have a company, I don't have a business. I can't do any of that. The other thing I need is I need employees who are empathetic, and wise because if I don't have psychological safety, nobody can do their job. If I don't have psychological safety. I don't have great team performance. Now, team performance, you can't be a company.

[00:40:34] You can't do those things without empathy and wisdom. Most importantly, the mantra of 21st century business, and maybe we thank Jeff Bezos for this, but it's always been it's customer-centric thinking. And if you're not empathetic or you're not wise, nobody's thinking like a customer at all. So it turns out a well-trained 50 year old and it well-trained is key, right?

[00:40:56] There's a whole bunch we have, like you wanna, those gateways of adult [00:41:00] development. I've turned about these. It should be a hiring checklist. And in your fifties, you want access to these superpowers. You need to engage in creative activities that sort of unlocks these new thinking styles. That's another reason why challenging creative and social activities matter.

[00:41:14] And you need to fight off risk aversion and train down physical fragility, because if your body is rotting, what good is all this new mental skills? You can't use it. And risk aversion, which increases over time. This is why challenging activities matter so much. Risk aversion increases over time and has a lot to do with like literally white banner volume in the brain.

[00:41:36] We have to train back because the more risk averse you are, the more afraid you are, the more no epinephrine you're producing that will block creativity. It blocks empathy and it blocks wisdom. So like you have to train back race diversion to really flower in your fifties, sixties, and seventies. But if you get it right and you've got all that stuff, these are dream employees.

[00:41:57] This is a business revolution happen. And the very [00:42:00] people that are getting forced out of companies. No, they're the very people we need in our companies. Most overall. And in fact, this is not my line, I think it's Daniel Levitin might have said, it's the first person I heard, say it this bluntly.

[00:42:13] But Daniel Levitin is a neuroscientist who wrote a book called Successful Aging, in my book's sort of a fun adventure story. The sciences and the footnotes and at the end, if you really want every itch of the science. You can either take my peak performance aging training or you can read successful aging.

[00:42:28] And like he goes through all of it. We came to all the same conclusions, though I think I took my conclusions farther cause I ran a bunch of weird ass experiments along the way. But he said flat out is like the best. The best advice I can give you on retirement is don't retire. Don't ever retire. If you're interested in peak performance, aging retirement is a bad idea.

[00:42:47] Reinvention. Maybe, I don't wanna do the same thing, I've been doing my whole life and I wanna do something new. Great, fantastic retirement death sentence. 

[00:42:56] Hala Taha: So I have a couple follow ups to this. A lot of my listeners are young [00:43:00] entrepreneurs, business owners. So if we're gonna take your advice, give older people a chance. When it comes to hiring, I know there's a big ageism issue, especially in the tech world.

[00:43:09] I used to work at Disney streaming services, like you were old over 40, and like people looked at you sideways, and didn't trust you to do your job, essentially, if you were older than 40, 45. So I know there's ageism. So if you were to interview somebody in their fifties, what questions would you ask them to make sure that they've been training their brain?

[00:43:26] Steven Kotler: So I would ask one how physically active you are. If you're not dealing with somebody, who has been regularly exercising for a while and hitting all five dynamic categories, you don't wanna go near them. The number one correlate with health and longevity over time is leg strength, believe it or not.

[00:43:44] Hala Taha: I know. I was gonna ask that's one of my favorite facts. 

[00:43:46] Steven Kotler: It's wild and we can talk about why and whatever. I don't think you can ask incoming, employees. What do you squat? Maybe you can, but it actually, like if we're gonna ask, put politicians in office in their eighties, those [00:44:00] questions become really freaking relevant.

[00:44:01] Those are things you really wanna know. Are you engaging in challenging creative social activity? Are you, that those things become a checklist for folks over 50, identity match fit forgiveness of others. You don't get access to the cognitive superpowers without those things.

[00:44:17] So those are the kinds of questions you wanna poke at to make sure are being checked off. Those sorts of things. Are you engaging? Challenging creative social activities that demand dynamic, deliberate play and take place in novel, outdoor like that. Those things, not, they become a checklist and they become, if you wanna work here and you're over this age. You gotta do this cause we need you, but we need this version of you.

[00:44:42] And the most important thing is I look for older adults with much younger friends. I want to see those cross-generational friendships because older adults, over 40 50. One of the reasons they're not to be trusted is cause they don't get the job, [00:45:00] cuz they're just too out of touch. And things have changed and there's a lot of stuff that changes and stays the same and you want the older adults around for that reason.

[00:45:10] But you also being old is not an excuse for not keeping up either. What I'm telling you is you've got access to more brain power. So like it's really not an excuse as far as I'm concerned. So I think it's gotta be mutual, and I think the benefits are gonna be amazing if it can be mutual. 

[00:45:28] Hala Taha: We'll be right back after a quick break from our sponsors.

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[00:48:24] Steven Kotler: I wanna get into authentic learning and how older people can learn new skills. But let's go on the tangent of why we should never skip leg day. 

[00:48:32] So it turns out that both preserving physical abilities and cognitive function, leg strength is the single largest factor. Now, cognitive function is weird.

[00:48:43] Some of it has to do with bone density. Again, we're back to the bones and the big bones in your legs. And if they're dense, they're not losing their minerals, they're nutrients, they can feed the brain. The second part is that, if you're not mobile, you don't have a social life. It's are [00:49:00] a lot harder to have a social life.

[00:49:01] If you don't have a social life, you are not gonna aid successfully. And in fact, if you don't have a social life peak performance. You're just locked out of peak performance cause you social support for a lot of different psychological safety reasons, and just performance reasons. It's really important to have social support and part of that, like you can get really great social support on the telephone, on Zoom.

[00:49:20] We all learn that during covid. But there is something to be said for in-person oxytocin, right? I always tell people, if for whatever reason you're like stuck with the phone and zoom. Make sure you pet a dog for at least eight minutes a day. A dog or a cat, pet an animal for about five to eight minutes.

[00:49:37] Also releases oxytocin and some of those other prosocial chemicals. So if you're stuck on Zoom, like if you, we need social support for performance. We definitely need for pre performance agent animals are our friends here. 

[00:49:48] Hala Taha: I love that. I feel like you're giving us so much great tips in terms of how we can age gracefully and be impactful at an older age and still innovative and creative.

[00:49:57] So this is such a meaningful episode to me because [00:50:00] honestly we don't talk about this enough on the podcast. So we do need to learn as we're older. Obviously, it's possible you learned how to park ski at 53. So let's talk about how we can learn and embrace authentic learning. 

[00:50:14] Steven Kotler: So let's back up one step and talk about learning, like where you started.

[00:50:19] I just wanna start where you started, which is, so if you wanna stave off Alzheimer's, dementia, cognitive decline, right? Fluid intelligence, what matters, lifelong learning. Why is that? Expertise and wisdom are the two most important things, we can do to develop what's known as cognitive reserve. So if you have a high cognitive reserve, you could even have advanced Alzheimer's, meaning you die the autopsy of your brain. You've got tangles and plaques everywhere, and it just looks like your brain's mush and you're still, nobody would notice if you are alive.

[00:50:49] This was, so some of the early research that happened, they started brains and being like, this person advanced Alzheimer's. How the hell did they function so well up till age a hundred? What is it? [00:51:00] Expertise in learning and or to expertise in wisdom. Expertise which are two different things, but important thing here is they're big, broad networks.

[00:51:08] And they're in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is where it's most vulnerable cognitive decline. It's the newest brain structure from an evolutionary perspective, and it's the most vulnerable. You don't suffer cognitive decline like deep in your brain stem. It's impervious, but the prefrontal cortex is where it shows up.

[00:51:26] Expertise in wisdom live in the prefrontal cortex, and there's these diverse networks, lots of redundancy, lots of backup. So if this goes down, you got seven other copies over here, don't worry about it. So that's where you have to start with lifelong learning and you wanna do everything you can to maximize learning for that very reason.

[00:51:45] So what do we know about learning? One of the best ways to maximize learning is authentic learning. This is a big movement in education right now, but, and it's based on a whole bunch of different stuff. But let me just talk about one thing. So their [00:52:00] attention, you can't learn anything obviously without focus or attention.

[00:52:03] Paying attention is the gateway for learning. Attention is a coupled system. It's linked to autonomy, and autonomy means we like driving the bus. We like being in charge of our little knives, right? We can't pay maximum attention to something, if it's not by choice. Authentic learning means we learn based basically exactly on who we are.

[00:52:23] So it got a bad name early on cuz people started talking about learning styles. Are you a visual learner or an auditory learner or, and that's absolute nonsense. That's actually not true. No, we're all those things. It depends on what we're learning and how we're wired and it changes over time and that's not actually, but what is true is everybody shows up somewhere on the introversion, extroversion scale.

[00:52:44] Introverts need to learn in private. Extroverts wanna learn in public. We're somewhere on the risk aversion scale. Like we have all have, I'm this fearful and you can only be pushed so far and so those authentic learning is about like those kinds of [00:53:00] questions. The questions that really matter. And one of the most important things for me is I'm an introvert.

[00:53:05] I don't mind being baddest stuff, but I don't like being bad in public. So we, and most terrain parks are actually under chairlifts and very visible. So I would turn, take these park tricks into the side country, in the back country, in the woods, and I learned them out of sight with my friends. And then I could go back, like trying to do it the other way was impossible for me.

[00:53:26] I don't work that way. And you can keep, there's a lot more to authentic learning. But the big point here is also taking on these kind of nar style challenges late in life. Like learning how to park, ski, whatever, phenomenal for peak performance aging. But you need a lot of motivation. And it turns out we have we are driven towards authenticity.

[00:53:46] Car Rogers argued that it, it functions as a fundamental drive. A fundamental drive, meaning it's got as much power as our drive for sex or food or shelter. You have a drive to be yourself. Your authentic self, and if you get it [00:54:00] right, you get a huge boost in motivation. Which is crucial for all this stuff.

[00:54:04] So you learn better on the back end and you're more motivated to learn on the front end. And being that there's a lot to do in people performance, aging and it's challenge can be challenging. You want all the help you can get, right? In art impossible I talk about one of the things peak performers are really good at is they never meet a challenge on a single fuel source.

[00:54:25] We know this food-wise, right? Like you want carbs, protein, and fats before you're going into workout. Same thing with motivation. You want authenticity, you want autonomy, you want passion, purpose, all these big intrinsic motivators, curiosity. You wanna stack them on top of each other cause it maximizes our motivation.

[00:54:46] Hala Taha: I love that. So to wrap up this part of the interview. I'd love for you to just summarize what skills generally do you think older people are better at than younger people and older people. Who have trained their brain properly, let's say? 

[00:54:59] Steven Kotler: Anything that [00:55:00] requires seeing things from other people's perspectives and multiperspectival thinking you're just better at. It's harder to do when you're younger because of how the ego functions and how the brain functions.

[00:55:10] You're just better at it when you're older. You can meditate a lot to lower cognitive bias and do and do those things, but it's gonna start to happen naturally when you're older. So to me, the big one, the cool one, is the systems thinking part. Cuz like one of the commonalities among all the biggest brains I've ever met. All the real, the people who really can affect change in the world.

[00:55:35] They're all systems thinkers. And it's really hard to train people how to be systems thinkers. It's a tough skill to bring on it, certain careers force you to learn it in different ways. Writing, especially if you write books cuz you have to hold 400 pages in your head and move it around and be able to do stuff like that.

[00:55:55] You have to be able to hold the big picture. It's built into the job and it's [00:56:00] trained up over time, but it's not trained up in a lot of job. Mostly we specialize, especially in the modern world. We specialize, and one of the things that I wanna point out here is, and anybody who's ever worked in entrepreneurship, innovation all the big innovations are in the cracks between disciplines.

[00:56:15] It's very hard to innovate inside that same funnel that everybody's been in for 50 years. But you move adjacent to where that funnel touches something and suddenly there's a revolution waiting to happen. And that's how you build companies and world changing companies and everything else. You can't see that shit if you're not a systems thinker.

[00:56:33] It's completely invisible to you. So the thing that I think is the most exciting over is that. 

[00:56:40] Hala Taha: That was really inspiring to me. I'm actually writing a book with Penguin Random House coming out in 2025, and that little bit of information was really inspiring. I'm gonna include it in my book and credit you.

[00:56:50] Okay. So Steven, I wanna wrap up this interview talking about your research in the, about the blue zones, these long-lived communities around the world. [00:57:00] You alluded to some of it, but I'd love for you to dive deeper on what you found in terms of why these people live longer, happier. 

[00:57:07] Steven Kotler: Let me back this story up a little bit to tell you a story that's not in the book.

[00:57:11] That is where this actually starts. So people may know this or not know this. For almost the past two decades, my wife and I run a hospice care dog. So for two decades we've done hospice work with dogs. We have a healing methodology that's based on, it's very low tech. It's flows it's like lifestyle interventions in a sense.

[00:57:31] Some flow science and evolutionary psychology, nothing really fancy. Our dogs all get checked out by vets when they come to us, before they come to us. They come from shelters, but we specialize in the worst of the worst. So if you are a geriatric chihuahua with an abusive pass, three legs, one eye cancer, heart disease, mange and flatulence, you're our guy.

[00:57:54] That's who we work with. And the vets would be like, we did get these dog dogs would be like, don't get attached. [00:58:00] This dog is gonna live a month and a half at most. This is about a provider of very good death and we bring the dogs in, and mind you Over 700 dogs have passed through our facility and over 5,000 through our program.

[00:58:14] So big sample size. And on average, our dogs wouldn't live another month or six weeks. They would live another 3, 4, 5 years. You translated into that human numbers. That's right. You get seven years for every year. So like the top end of that, you're getting an extra 28 years, 30. Like what the fuck is going on?

[00:58:33] Pardon my language. So I started to ask questions like, what's going on? Why is this working? What are we doing? And will it work in humans? Would any of this stuff work in humans? And it turns out almost everything I were doing with the dogs exists in these blue zones. Which is what led me to the Blue Zones in the first place.

[00:58:52] So Dan Bueller's, a National Geographic reporter in the early two thousands, noticed that there were places on the planet, where [00:59:00] people lived on average of 12 years longer than everybody else. And they're all over the place. And he wanted to know what are the commonalities? And he did a whole bunch of research.

[00:59:09] The research is a little controversial. The controversy is not on the lifestyle stuff. There's some stuff that has been turned into supplements and is dietary. Those are the open, and those ques, those questions are open. There's no argument on the lifestyle stuff with the blue zones.

[00:59:23] and the commonalities are really like move around a lot. Regular exercise, right? De-stress regularly so have rituals, meditation, exercise, gratitude, practices, breathing, work, whatever it is, walking in nature. I don't have rituals to de-stress regularly. A ton of stuff on social belonging and connection.

[00:59:43] This is why challenging social activities matter so much. This is built into blue zones. There's also this respect for the elders and these cross-generational friendships. They're built into blue zones. There's some evolution. They eat healthy, they eat less than most people and they eat very healthy diets.

[00:59:59] [01:00:00] But there's no one diet across the boards that like works for everybody. But those are the commonalities and they live with passion, purpose, and regular access to flow. These were all things that we were providing for our dogs. In very like for example, they get social belonging and connection.

[01:00:15] They really emphasize it. You in the blue zones, some of them people will spend six hours a day hanging out with friends or family. So a lot of it with our dogs, we had enforced petting time. So when you have a lot of dogs, like we, at various times, we've had 40, 50. It's hard to individual petting time, you have to, I gotta hang out with this dog.

[01:00:34] But we would do it because we wanted these neurochemicals underneath it. Same thing with flow. We'd find ways to put our dogs into flow. Flow is really important to peak performance. Aging for a lot of different reasons, but the state still really positive. Powerful emotional state and some of the emotions that show up in flow, stimulate the production of T-cell and natural killer cells.

[01:00:55] So T-cells fight diseases and natural killer cells, fight tumors and [01:01:00] sick cells and other the diseases of aging. So when we get into flow, it lowers inflammation, which is tied to all the causes of aging. It per produces T-cell killer, natural killer cells, a lot of benefits and it boosts the immune system.

[01:01:13] So this was the stuff we were doing in our dogs. This is the stuff that's going on in the blue zone. This is the stuff we now widely know correlates to healthy longevity. This isn't really peak performance, aging. It's successful aging, healthy aging, right at this point. It's like it should be common sense for everybody really is really what it should be.

[01:01:32] But one of the things that's interesting is you also see a high, a lot of the places where there are blue zones. You see a lot of actions, board and outdoor athletes too Colorado, Pitkin County, Colorado and Eagle County, Colorado and Loma Linda, California are the four places in America with the, where people, these are the Blue Zones Summit, Pitkin and Eagle.

[01:01:51] This is Colorado, that's Veil, Aspen, beaver Creek, all the big ski areas. A lot of outdoor stuff. And in Loma Linda, that's a seventh day at Vannes [01:02:00] population, and they're very social, very flowy, good dietary stuff. A lot of belonging, a lot of, so like it's the same stuff. And a lot of outdoor activities, surfing and cuz it's California on the ocean, right?

[01:02:13] They, and they take advantage of that stuff too. 

[01:02:15] Hala Taha: So I'd love to get a couple examples here. First of all, what are examples of getting into flow aside from sports as an adult? That's number one. And then number two, what are some examples of creative social activities as an adult? 

[01:02:29] Steven Kotler: One, it is completely erroneous though myself and Miha Chick sent Miha are totally at fault for this.

[01:02:36] Like we are to blame. But the idea that flow only shows up in athletes and artists. Is not true. We've focused a lot on athletes and we focused a lot on artists. So people think it's only athletes and artists, but the most common flow state on earth is reading or interpersonal flow. Interpersonal flow is like the group flow.

[01:02:53] You and your best friend get into a great conversation and a whole hour goes by and you don't notice it's gone. That's interpersonal flow [01:03:00] happens all the time. So one of the reasons you want to engage in challenging, creative and social activities, they all trigger flow. So singing in a choir very flowy group flow, lots of research on that.

[01:03:11] Gardening, very flowy, long walks in nature. Nature hikes very flowy. Coding, architecture, drawing, drumming, dancing, on and on. There's a ton of flow at work. In fact, flow is much more common at work than it is during leisure. For a bunch of different reasons, but the list goes on and on.

[01:03:32] If we wanna enjoy the second half of our, if we wanna enjoy our lives in general, but if we really want to thrive during our second half of our lives, you can't do it without flow. Flow is actually the engine of adult development. It's how we grow up. We grow up by getting into flow states. It's coming out the other side is more complex, more skillful, more adaptive.

[01:03:49] More empathetic, wiser, and we move forward. It plays a big role in adult development and successful in performance aging. 

[01:03:56] Hala Taha: So just for on my Young and Profiteers, I'm gonna do a sort of [01:04:00] Stephen Kotler marathon. When this episode comes out, and I'm gonna replay all of our older episodes about flow, about all the different things that I've talked to with Steven over the past.

[01:04:10] So it'll be a great educational value for all of you guys. So Stephen, I end the show with a couple of questions that I ask all my guests, and then we do some fun things at the end of the year. The first one is, what is one actionable thing that our Young and Profiteers can do today to become more profitable tomorrow?

[01:04:27] Steven Kotler: You can double down on your primary flow activity. Which is whatever the thing you've done most to your life, that just drops you into flow. For me, it's skiing For my wife. It's long walks with the dogs. My best friend is playing guitar, whatever that thing that most likely drops to him to flow.

[01:04:41] Flow massively amplifi. Among other things, motivation, productivity, and creativity. And here's the cool thing. Even though a flow state lasts about 90 minutes, sometimes it can stretch out for longer. The heightened productivity and creativity will outlast the flow state by a day. Maybe two though. Also resets the [01:05:00] nervous system.

[01:05:00] It calms you down, flushes stress hormones outta your system. So emotional regulation, emotional management, fear blocks, performance on every level. Flow resets the nervous system. And the thing is, it's most people and especially all the people listening to this podcast, are gonna be like you. You got to your thirties and you stop skiing.

[01:05:20] You put down childish things, skis go away. The surfboard goes away, the skateboard goes away. You stop samba dancing and salsa dancing and all that stuff. And the research shows. That's a disaster. It's a disaster. In fact, we work with tons of people all over the world and burnout is a real big issue. The first thing we do to treat burnout is have them double down on the primary flow activity.

[01:05:42] Research shows that if you want peak performance. You need to have like about three to four hours a week on your primary flow activity. Just to keep your nervous system where it needs to be. 

[01:05:51] Hala Taha: I'd love for you to tell everybody about the Flow Research Collective and all the trainings you guys have available.

[01:05:56] Steven Kotler: Flow Research Collective is my organization. We're a research and training [01:06:00] organization. On the research side, we study the neurobiology of PCU and performance. So what's going on in the brain and the body when we're performing at our best. We did this work with scientists all over the world at Stanford and Imperial College, London and UCSC and UUCLA and UC Davis and USCSF and a whole bunch of other acronyms.

[01:06:17] And we take the science and we use it to train people. And we train people in 130 countries and we train everybody from like professional athletes, and members of the special forces to soccer moms and insurance brokers and teachers and folks in the Air Force. And we work with a lot of companies in between.

[01:06:33] So we're, I think now we're training Facebook or Meta, Accenture, Bain Capital, Audi, San Francisco Police Department, the Air Force wise watch people and are, trainings are for everybody. And if you're interested, if you go to, but nobody was remembering any of the others.

[01:06:50] So I've given in and it's now, despite the fact that I'm embarrassed to say it out loud. You can go there and sign up for a free hour long coaching call [01:07:00] with somebody on my staff. So you'll hear all about the trainings, you'll learn everything. Is it right for you? Is it wrong for you?

[01:07:05] No. My staff gets every, I'll fire somebody if they try to sell you anything. They're it's just an informational conversation. So it's really mellow and most people get a lot out of it and it's free 

[01:07:16] Hala Taha: Amazing. I'll stick that link in the show notes to make it super easy for you guys.

[01:07:20] Okay, last question of the episode, and this is where you can feel free to add something that we didn't get to talk about, or just something that's on the top of your mind. Doesn't you have to do with the topic of the episode. It's up to you. What is your secret to profiting in life? 

[01:07:34] Steven Kotler: It's just hard work.

[01:07:36] I'll give you an. I came up as a journalist and I figured out very early on that most journalists hated rewriting. They'd write their story, they'd edit it, they'd turn it in. The editor would make changes and they'd rewrite it once and turn it back in. I found that out. I was like, okay, you guys are doing it three times.

[01:07:53] Clearly, my job is to make my editor's job easier. Like my job editor has to like really comb through my articles and takes months. [01:08:00] He hates me. That's not, I'm not a good employee. So I started editing my stories 12 times. I just figured out what everybody else would do and I'd triple it or quadruple it for a really, I did that for years.

[01:08:11] It wasn't much of a secret. I just figured I wasn't as smart as well, connected as handsome and all the other things as everybody else, but I just figured out how to work. A lot of it is about smart hard work, not just hard work, smart, hard there's better ways to do it. I talk a lot about that in our country about the advantages of smart hard work, and smart hard play and the difficulties with just hard work is the only tool you reach for, but really there's no secret.

[01:08:36] I just put my butt in the chair and I did the work. 

[01:08:39] Hala Taha: I love that answer. Thank you for sharing that. Where can everybody learn about you? Where can they get in our country and how can they find more about you, Steven? 

[01:08:47] Steven Kotler: In our country? You can go to or Amazon or wherever books are sold, gets you to me. 

[01:08:54] gets you to the Flow Research Collective. Get more [01:09:00] gets you to our trainings. I think that's it. 

[01:09:02] Hala Taha: Amazing. Always. Such a great conversation with you. Steven. Thank you so much for your time. 

[01:09:06] Steven Kotler: My pleasure. It was great hanging out with you again.

[01:09:08] YAP Fam, Steven Kotler on Young and Profiting podcast for the fourth time. It's crazy that I'm even able to say that and that I've been able to interview the brightest minds in the world now for so many years. We're coming up on YAP fifth year anniversary in April, and I feel so blessed that people like Stephen think of my podcast first. When they wanna spread the message on a new topic.

[01:09:29] Today's conversation was especially eye-opening. I always say this motto that I have, you're never too old or too young to learn something new. And today's conversation was proof that's true. And especially for the older folks. A lot of people think that old dogs can't learn new tricks. And Stephen flipped that idea on its head today.

[01:09:47] The long slow rot theory of aging is the idea that our physical and mental skills decline over time. And there's nothing we can do to stop the slide. But as Steven explained in this episode, the good news is that it turns out that all the physical and [01:10:00] mental abilities. We used to believe declined over time are actually use it or lose its skills if we never stop using these skills.

[01:10:07] It's amazing what's possible later on in our years. In fact, in Steven's new book Gnar Country, he documents how he taught himself how to park ski at age 53. Which for a half dozen biological factors was considered nearly impossible for anyone over the age of 35. Steven defied all expectations, and what a great way to learn that action.

[01:10:26] Sports or dynamic activities are great for longevity. They're challenging activities that produce feelings of mastery and control, and these types of feelings have a huge impact on health and longevity. Action sports also demand fine motor performance, fast twitch, muscle response, strength, stamina, balance, agility, flexibility, and a tolerance for risk.

[01:10:45] That is the full compliment of use it or lose its skills that we need later in life. So Young and Profiteers, here's your sign to take up that action sport you've always dreamed of learning, or at the very least, hike with the weighted vest to get the same effect. Thanks so much [01:11:00] for tuning in to today's episode of Young and Profiting Podcast with the Godfather of Flow Steven Kotler.

[01:11:05] If you like this episode, tell everyone your favorite way to listen, learn and profit by dropping us a five star review on Apple Podcasts, and share this podcast with your friends and family. Spread the word about Young and Profiting podcast. You guys can find me on Instagram @yapwithhala or LinkedIn by searching my name.

[01:11:21] It's Hala Taha. We're also on YouTube. If you guys like to watch your podcast, check us out there. Thanks so much to the app production team for all their hard work behind the scenes. This is your podcast Princess and the LinkedIn Queen Hala Taha signing off.

[01:11:50] Darius Mirshahzadeh: Hope you enjoyed this episode. I'm Darius Mirshahzadeh, hosted of the Greatness Machine and part of YAP Media Network, the number one business and self-improvement podcast network. So what's the Greatness Machine? The [01:12:00] Greatness Machine. We are a badass podcast and we're about two things. We're while people are living their passions and those who are creating greatness in the world.

[01:12:06] Doing so despite the odds. Cause we know that creating greatness is not necessarily an easy road. What do I do in all my interviews and episodes? We're gonna be diving into origin stories. What makes people tick, and why they did what they did to get where they're going. I interview some of the greatest minds in the world, turning their wisdom and their experience into learning and advice that you can use in your life.

[01:12:26] So that you can level up and you can create some massive greatness in your life. You're also gonna get to hear solo episodes. This is like my greatest life learnings, the things I wish someone had taught me. Join me as I go deep with guests like Gabrielle Reece, Amanda Knox, former FBI negotiator, Chris Voss, Stanford Behavioral psychologist, BJ Fogg, and my boy NHL, hall of Famer and Olympian, Chris Pronger, and so many more.

[01:12:49] You can find the greatest machine on listening platforms everywhere, so be sure to check it out. We launch episodes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Listen now.

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