Are we doomed to living lives of quiet desperation, working jobs we either are ‘not engaged’ in, or ‘actively disengaged’ from? Or will we chose happiness and experience a myriad of health, quality of life and productivity improvements?
Another way to look this age-old question is, will we as a society flourish and reach our full potential? Or are we of doomed to economies of incremental, consumption-driven growth and societies that are continually on the brink of some Malthusian crisis?
According to Steven Kotler, we have much to look forward to. The solution, as presented in Kotler’s recent opus The Rise of Superman, lies in humanity’s ability to access that much sought after state called Flow. Drawing upon the analogy of kayaking Kotler states:
“Without question, paddling fast enough to catch a possibility wave like abundance means we’ll need the most capable versions of ourselves doing the paddling. We’ll need to be better, faster, stronger, smarter. We’ll need intrinsic motivation and incredible cooperation. Our imaginations will have to be deeply engaged; our creative selves operating at their full Picasso. In other words, if we’re interested in forcing a future of abundance, then we’re going to need flow.”
For Kotler, as with Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is what unlocks our ability to tap into our higher selves. It takes us out of our overly analytical, ever doubting, over thinking selves and put’s us into what only can be described as a Zen like state of total connectedness.
The majority of the book focuses on the breakthroughs in the field adventure sports, which have been truly astounding. Kotler does do a phenomenal job of framing the enormity these achievements in a way that drives the possibility of break-throughs in the non-adventure sport arena.
In the making the connection between flow and increased creativity, the Rise of Superman goes from being an incredibly entertaining book to a substantial contribution to helping humanity advance itself. Because if ever there was a time where we need to evolve, now would certainly be it.
“In the flow, we are at our resourceful, imaginative, ingenious best. Better still, the changes stick. According to research done by Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile, not only are creative insights consistently associated with flow states, but that amplified creativity outlasts the zone. People report feeling extraordinarily creative the day after a flow state, suggesting that time spent in the zone trains the brain to consistently think outside the box.”
Flow, in short, is the ultimate creativity hack.
The Rise of Superman is, if anything else, a call to step into that uncomfortable void of the unknowing, free fall into the existential abyss, unleash a creative spark and discover our best selves, because that is what the world needs more than ever—people who are truly alive.