Podcast #109 – Steven Kotler & The Rise of Superman – Bulletproof Radio

Dave: Hey everyone. It’s Dave Asprey with
Bulletproof Executive Radio. Today’s cool
fact of the day is that size matter when it
comes to the world economy. Studies done over
a 25-year period found an unusual and unlikely
relationship between average male genital
size in a certain country and the country’s
gross domestic product. Apparently once it’s
over 16 centimeters, the GDP crashes. No explanation
as to why.
Today’s guest is someone I am so excited
to be interviewing. We’re both having a
hard time not laughing about that cool fact
of the day. It’s Steven Kotler who is the
author of a book that’s just coming out
called Rise of Superman. This is a book about
flow states and about the quest for increasing
human performance.
If there’s ever any guest who’s been on
the show, and we’re doing 100 episodes,
who epitomizes this kind of research at all,
it is Steven. Steven’s also cool because
he lives in Taos which is right by where I
used to live, where I grew up, where I blew
up my knee when I was a kid. He also had lime
disease which he and I have in common.
Steven, welcome to the show. I can’t wait
to hear more about your book and about the
flow state. Let’s just jump into it.
What is the flow state, the way you define
it? I’ve heard lots of different explanations
from pro athletes or from other things. How
are you using the word flow state and where
did this come from?
Steven: Let me define it first and then I’ll
give you a bit of the history. Flow is technically
defined as an optimal state of consciousness.
This is a state of consciousness where we
feel our best and we perform our best. Most
people have at least a passing understanding
of flow, right? If you’ve ever lost an afternoon
to a great conversation, if you get so sucked
into a work project that everything else vanishes,
then you’ve tasted the experience.
In flow tension gets so laser focused that
everything else falls away. Your sense of
self, your sense of self-consciousness, they
disappear completely. Time dilates. Sometimes
it can slow down like that freeze frame effect
in a car crash or can speed up. Five hours
will pass by in like five minutes. Throughout
all aspects of performance, mental and physical,
go through the roof.
Where the term comes from, historically: the
research on flow goes all the way back, modern
research because there’s other research
going back before the Greeks and what not.
Modern research on flow goes back at about
871. It was called different things until
University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi came along.
He performed what now we’d call the largest
global happiness survey ever. He kept asking
people about times in life when they felt
their best and they performed their best.
He talked to everybody that he could possibly
imagine, from Detroit assembly line workers
to Japanese teenage motorcycle gang members,
elderly Korean women, Navajo sheep herders,
expert dancers, expert neurosurgeons, and
the list goes on and on.
Everybody agreed that when they felt their
best and were at their best, they felt flowy.
Every decision, every action led perfectly,
seamlessly, fluidly to the next. That’s
where the term comes from.
I kind of like to think of flow in short hand
as near perfect decision making. To me that’s
the very short short definition. I gave you
the long one, I put it in context. It’s
a thing for good, yes?
Dave: It makes great sense to me. It’s a
state of peak performance. It’s interesting.
I’ve certainly felt it at different times
in my life, but the most dramatic one that
I have felt was actually from a friend, one
of my friends from school. He’d decided
to write a book right after Steve Jobs had
died, about Steve Jobs. He put one together.
He was late for a meeting. He’s like, “Dave,
I don’t know what happened. I started writing
and I just wrote the whole thing in five hours.
I missed meetings and I missed all these things.
Time just went away.” It was almost like
a verbatim description of what you’re saying.
He was so excited, not just about creating
a book for an icon but that time had disappeared
for him and that he just experienced this
massive state of flow. Certainly it’s something
that when I write, when I really get into
one of my research posts, same thing. “Wow,
it’s 3:00 am and I just didn’t really
pay attention to the last three hours. They’re
Did you do this when you were writing your
book? Did you hit a state of flow for the
Steven: The best flow in writing a story I’ve
got comes from a book a wrote a bunch of years
ago called A Small Furry Prayer which is about
the relationship between humans and animals.
Turn in the first draft. backed me and they
liked up to page 110. Pretty much everything
after that they said basically, “Throw it
out and start over.”
I’ve never had writer’s block in my life.
The book was due in October. I get this sent
back in April, plenty of time. May comes along;
I still can’t get anything down. June, July,
by August I’m absolutely blind with panic.
I have 250 pages to write in a month and I
can’t write a word, at all.
I go skiing, I go mountain biking for the
very first time downhill mountain biking for
the very first time, kick into a flow state,
come back. I’m still in flow. I sit down,
I start writing. I write for two and a half
weeks straight, finish the book. I turn it
in as I’m out of time. It comes back to me.
They’ve got notes on the first 110 pages.
They have not a change on the next 250.
Here’s the crazy thing. The book was a huge
bestseller. It was nominated for a Pulitzer
prize. That last 250 pages were written in
a sitting, in one two-week period of writing.
I slept a little bit and would eat a little
but I’d wake up and I was still in that
state. That’s the most powerful writing
flow experience I’ve ever had.
Dave: That is remarkable. When I was working
on the very early days I was thinking about
writing The Better Baby Book, the only book
I’ve had published which had a ton of research
and all. I came out of a neuro feedback chamber
in a very deep alpha state, I was literally
buzzing, was kind of pulsing around me.
I sat down. Without any effort I picked up
a pen and I wrote the whole outline for the
book. It came out of my subconscious. It was
one of those things I didn’t have any awareness
of it around me. It was just like flowing
onto the page. That was actually the outline
that I went with for the book. There was no
thinking or logic or planning. It just came
out on the page.
Steven: By the way, when you look under the
hood of flow and you look at the neurobiology,
what’s causing flow, everything that’s
coming out, everything we’re talking about,
what’s really amazing is, of course there
is but it’s still amazing to me. There’s
absolute precise neurobiology. We know why
all these things are happening.
For example, we do know that your subconscious
is taking over your conscious mind and flows.
One of the things that happens, the prefrontal
cortex shuts off in flow. The extrinsic system
is what’s it called turns off and the intrinsic
system takes over. It’s an efficiency exchange.
During focused attention, when you need all

Brain has a fixed energy budget. It’s 2%
of your body weight but uses 20% of your energy.
It’s a big energy hog. It’s got a fixed
energy budget. When energy is needed for concentration
and attention the brain performs an efficiency
exchange. It flips from conscious processes,
when it’s slow to very energy intensive,
time conscious processes.
In flow … normally this happens at other
times. What gets to watch it happen. That’s
one of the reasons it’s so strange, because
you’re essentially watching your self-conscious
mind process reality; and normally you never
get to see that.
Dave: It’s remarkable what you can do when
you’re in that state. How can people turn
that state on?
Steven: What’s really interesting about
flow is, when Csikszentmihalyi did his original
work, he identified seven conditions that
describe flow. We’ve just kind of gone through
them, time dilation, vanishing of self, concentration,
and blabla. He also identified at that point
three, what I call flow triggers. These are
preconditions that lead to more flow.
Csikszentmihalyi identified three psychological
preconditions. These have since been extremely
well validated. They’re kind of at the heart
of expert performance theory at this point.
That was back in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.
From that point forward the next thing that
happened was a guy named Keith Sawyer came
along. He was a neuro-psychologist, the University
of Washington in St. Louis.
Keith figured out there’s a group version
of flow called group flow. A whole bunch of
people get in a flow state together. This
is really common in a start-up sort. If you’ve
ever witnessed a football team, you’re looking
at group flow. Everybody’s on the same page.
When a band hits their groove and everything
just sounds amazing all of a sudden, that’s
group flow.
He figured out there are ten social triggers
that lead to more group flow. The work we’ve
done at the flow genome project, which is
the research organization that I cofounded
that looks at this stuff, we’ve identified
three more environmental triggers and one
creative trigger.
The creative trigger, it is very early days
on the creative trigger research. I would
assume as time goes on, and we can kind of
break creativity further and further apart
neurobiologically that will expand it to more
than just one creative trigger. Right now
we call it the creative trigger.
We can go into more detail about what these
are later if you want. The way to get more
flow is to essentially build your life around
these triggers, which I always tell people,
“This is very radically different from self-help.
You get far more benefits.” Most of the
self-help, human optimization stuff, they’re
saying, 5% to 10% improvement. It’s great,
it’s fine.
Flow is a step up the work of change. I’ll
give you a couple of examples. McKinsey did
a ten year study of top executives. They found
them five times more productive in flow. That’s
a 500% increase. It means you can go to work
on Monday, take the rest of the week off,
get as much done as your steady state peers.
Learning is massively amplified in flow, essentially
a quick short hand for learning memory. The
more neurochemicals that show up during an
experience, the better chance that experience
moves from short term holding into long term
storage. Flow is a huge cocktail for firing
the most potent neurochemicals the brain can
produce, for memory.
In studies run by DARPA with military snipers
for example they’ve found they can artificially
induce flow. They did this two ways. Once
they did it with transcranial magnetic stimulation.
They knocked out the prefrontal cortex. They
found that snipers trained this way learned
230% faster than normal. Different non-military
study run by Advanced Brain Research in Carlsbad,
I don’t know if you know these guys …
Dave: I do.
Steven: Chris Berka’s company.
Dave: In fact she spoke at my first conference
on bio-hacking.
Steven: Oh, nice. She did a different exercise
where they used … Sorry, I didn’t mean
to jump out of the frame. They used a neurofeedback
to draw up into flow. That’s the one you
took part in, right?
Dave: No, it wasn’t that. I do a program
called 40 Years of Zen. It’s a week-long
residential, serious heavy-duty brain hacking
thing. It’s related. You’re moving all
your alpha to the back of your brain so there’s
less in the front and then you let it pulse
from the back to the front.
Similar thinking around letting the brain
do its thing.
Steven: Chris found in their research they
could train novice marksmen up to the expert
level in less time. You’re literally getting
a 10,000 hours needed to get to mastery. Flow
can literally cut it in half. That’s amazing.
That’s different from everything else, we’re
talking self-help-wise.
Dave: I’ve got to call her because I’m doing
tDCS to train myself to be a better archer
right now. I wonder if I need to talk to her
about it.
Steven: They’ve worked with archers. If
you could watch, she’s got a TED talk that
just came out. They’ve got archers in the
TED talk. She supports the archers.
Dave: I’ve got to call her. She’s awesome.
Sorry to take you off track. That’s beautiful.
Keep going.
Steven: The thing to know and we can come
back to this later because I’m sure you want
to talk about brain hacking. There’s a flipside.
The five neurochemicals. These are the most
addictive neurochemicals the brain can produce.
Flow is the only time the brain cocktails
them all at once.
These are very very addictive. If you start
going down this path and you start producing
more flow in your life and you don’t know
what you’re doing and something goes away,
you can find yourself in the deepest darkest
most suicidally dangerous depression possibly.
You really need to know what you’re doing
on flow.
I always say, as kids we were not taught how
to play with fire. We’re told not to play
with fire. We don’t know. Flow is definitely,
it burns twice brightly. You will get from
A to B far faster but you’ve got to know
what you’re doing because there are consequences.
This is not, take two pills and climb Everest
in the morning.
Dave: We’re still looking for those pills
though, right?
Steven: Of course we are.
Dave: There’s five neurochemicals and there’s
some lifestyle design things. I see you live
in Taos. You run a dog sanctuary. What have
you done to put your own life, or to engineer
a flow state in the environment around you
in your own life?
Steven: Before we talk about the specifics
of the triggers, which are gateways into flow.
Creativity, there’s a creative trigger,
huge gateway into flow. The environmental
triggers, all of our work there was done by
studying action adventure sport athletes which
is kind of the core idea We can talk about
One of the things we’ve learned is that
risk is an exceptional trigger. This can be
physical risk, mental risk, creative risk,
social risk. For big wave surfers it means
paddling into a 60-foot wave. For the shy
guy it means crossing the room and talking
to the pretty girl. It’s relative to everybody
else. You can use it every which way. Risk
is a trigger.
We don’t know exactly why, though I think
it just has to do with focus and attention.
Altruism is a trigger. There is a altruism
based flow state known as helper’s high
that Allan Luks who founded Big Brothers Big
Sisters discovered back in the ‘90s.
It’s a little weird. Normal flow states
for neurobiological reasons usually only last
20 minutes to a couple of hours. The neurochemicals
drain out. It takes a lot to replenish. One
of the great mysteries of flow is helper’s
high can last for days. When we talked about
my flow state for A Small Furry Prayer that
lasted for two weeks, nobody quite knows how
that’s possible. Same mystery as nobody
quite knows how helper’s high lasts for
To answer your question, what I did is I threw
everything out in my life. I only do things
that and I only basically do three things
in my life: I write, I throw the me carcass
down mountains at high speeds either I’m mountain
biking or I’m skiing, any other way I can,
and I work with dogs, very very sick and elderly
dogs. Altruism, creativity, risk. That’s
essentially most of my life.
I have basically built my life around the
state. When we talk later, we’ll talk about
action adventure sports athletes and I’ll
refer to them as the best flow hackers in
the world and we’ll talk about why in a
second. When you look at what they’ve done,
the reason they have become the best flow
hackers, the reason they’re so good at this
is they’ve surrounded their lives …
If you spend time with these guys, not only
… The day is spent on the hill. They get
off the hill and they go play music or they
do other creative things, on and on and on.
You surround yourself with flow triggers.
Businesses, by the way, that are really good
at this do the same thing.
Dave: This is fascinating. A lot of the spiritual
traditions talk about how service to others
is a key to being in better states for lack
of another word. Do you think that’s because
of flow state connections?
Steven: For sure it’s because of flow state
connections. What’s interesting here is,
it’s twofold. Because one of the things
that happens in flow …
Some of the neurochemicals that show up, you
get dopamine, norepinephrine. These are performance
enhancing reward chemicals. You get endorphins.
You get anandamide. You get serotonin. All
performance enhancing reward chemicals. They
all serve social bonding functions.
Norepinephrine, dopamine, that’s romantic
love essentially. Serotonin is a social bonding
chemical. Endorphins is maternal love in children
and familiar love and friendship love in adults.
Anandamide is essentially the psychoactive
that’s released when you smoke pot. It gives
you that, “Bro, I love everybody,” sense.
All of these chemicals really expand social
bondings. The important thing about altruism
is, not only does altruism put you into a
flow state but it expands empathy. The flow
state itself expands empathy.
Psychologists talk about this and they say,
people are more complex on the other side
of the flow state complex. It’s a fancy
way of saying you’re fundamentally altered.
One of the ways you’re fundamentally altered
is by becoming more empathetic.
What’s interesting about this: we were talking
earlier about soldiers is obviously the military’s
crazy about hacking flow. It’s massively
enhancing performance. They want super soldiers.
What’s interesting and where I don’t think
they’re going to get as far as they think
they’re going to get or not for a little
while at least is you can’t make a super
soldier super empathetic. It’s working across
purposes. A super soldier can shut that portion
of the brain down, not be more robust.
Flow may actually not be the super soldier
cocktail that the military thinks it is.
Dave: There’s a neat story about a samurai.
I can’t quote the exact source of this,
but this is from Japan obviously. This is
a samurai whose master was killed. He went
across and hunted down all the people from
the other group that had done this. This could
be a fable too.
When he was about ready to strike down the
final leader of the clan that had killed his
master the guy spit in his face. He immediately
stopped and put his sword away and said, “I’m
not going to kill you now because when you
spit in my face it made me angry. I’m not
going to kill in anger. I’m going to kill
you tomorrow, not in anger.” He walked away
and of course the next day he came back and
killed the guy.
I do tend to think for military applications,
if you can teach people to not go into the
fight or flight mode that it’s written about
so much and to remain conscious and aware,
and if they are doing something that that
believe is in the best interest of the world,
that they probably can be in a flow state
and do that. It would be a pretty radical
departure from the survival mode that most
people find themselves in. That would be a
different kind of training.
Any thoughts on that idea?
Steven: Yeah, you hit on something. Flow follows
focus. The first thing you need is massively
amplify focus. We know, when people talk about,
“You need passion to create flow,” or
“You need a lot of belief to create flow,”
maybe. What you really need is to pay a whole
lot of attention. It turns out that we pay
a lot more attention to things that we believe
in and are passionate about.
The idea that we’re really deeply passionate
about it, it’s nice. It’s important, but
it’s really a focusing mechanism. We’re
using that emotional energy to drive focus
and that’s why it leads to more flow.
Dave: That makes really good sense.
Steven: It’s a good point. You believe patriotism
perhaps could override the empathy but at
a certain point … Flow is really different
in terms of … All right. Let’s talk a
little more neurobiology and get a little
deeper answer.
Dave: Center yourself on camera just so people
watching on youtube can see you. You’re
off to your right pretty far. There you go.
Steven: This better?
Dave: Other way, sorry. Your right … There
you go. Now you’re good.
Steven: We talked about this earlier. The
frontal cortex shuts off. It’s called transient,
meaning temporary, hypofrontality. Hypo is
the opposite of hyper. It means to slow down.
Frontality is the prefrontal cortex.
One of the reasons, for example self disappears.
Your sense of self, your inner critic, that
nagging defeatist voice in your head, that’s
your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. It’s
a specific part of your brain. It shuts off
in flow. We feel this. There’s a liberation.
It’s freedom.
One of the reason creativity gets so massively
amplified in flow is because the part of your
brain that’s always second guessing your
good ideas gets turned off. It’s also one
of the reasons you can perform at a higher
level because the part of your brain that
would go, “Hey, don’t do that. That’s
probably really dangerous,” that’s shut
off too.
Dave: That’s the core of the training that
I do. It’s you’ve got to get a hold of
that voice and have a finger around, a grip
around its neck all the time.
Steven: Totally, absolutely. Time changes.
Time slows down or speeds up on a flow state
because time’s calculated all over the prefrontal
cortex. When parts of it start to wink out
you can’t separate past, present from future.
You can plunge into a, what psychologists
call, the elongated now, the eternal moment.
If focus and concentration stays really … If
you stay in that flow state for long enough,
the activation of the shutdown can go out
of your prefrontal cortex and into your other
lobes. If it goes into the right parietal
lobe, what happens is the part of your parietal
lobe that helps you orientate in space, its
nickname is orientation association area,
the OAA. This is what helps you navigate through
a room.
People who have brain damage or a stroke to
this area, they can’t sit down a couch because
they don’t know where their leg ends and
the couch begins. In flow this portion of
brain, deep flow, can totally shut down. When
that happens you can no longer separate self
from other. That notion of becoming one with
everything, that oneness that spiritual leaders
talk about, experience of unity, cosmic unity
that’s a real thing. It’s a part of your
brain that differentiates self from other,
turning off. At that moment in time you feel
one with everything.
That is a byproduct of standard biology as
we know from all the world’s spiritual traditions.
That’s a fairly powerful empathetic experience.
Yes, patriotism and belief in those … can
prompt some of the empathy some of the time.
In really truly deep flow experiences you
literally are going to feel one with everything.
It is going to be a very real and profound
experience. We know this because every mystical
tradition [inaudible 00:23:29] to the world
has this experience at its center.
You’re not going to be able to overwrite
that. Ultimately flow will win, will trump
the patriotism, I believe. I have no proof
but I’m kind of talking out of my butt to
just think about this. That is a definite
Dave: When I talk with soldiers, a few of
my coaching clients are former military. Just
from talking with various experts, it seems
like even more so than patriotism it’s,
“My brothers, the guys next to me.” The
idea of being selfless, the idea of service
to others, like you’re doing this because
it’s survival not of you but of your tribe.
Steven: It’s one of the great hacks the
military figured out in the latter half of
the 20th century. You’ve got to remember.
Go back, look at Patton. Look at Patton’s
speech, the point of war is to go out and
kill the other motherfucker before you get
killed. That’s what he says.
That was what the army was, go on and kill
the enemy. They realized that, “Kill the
enemy,” is not at all that motivating. They
switched the whole theme and it became, “Protect
your brother.” Protect your brother is terribly
motivating. It’s a simple flow hack. It’s
a good example of a flow hack, by the way.
Dave: It’s really interesting this service
to others thing you brought out because you
made me understand something. The reason that
I started writing The Bulletproof Executive
was because I just thought it was frankly
unfair that I had the money and just the ability
to learn a lot of the things I learned. I
was just regretting that I didn’t have any
info to guide me to speak of.
I’m like, I’m just going to write it all down
and charge people. The writing happens often
in flow. What also happens is people would
send me an email, “Oh my god. Everyone in
my family just lost 30 pounds, including my
teenage daughter,” stuff like that. I’m
like, wow. I feel those when they come in.
I realize that the knowledge is helping people.
That increases my state of flow. It’s self-replicating
because every time you help someone and they’re
like, “Hey, it helped,” at least for me,
I feel more motivated to do more writing and
all that.
Steven: I’ll be totally honest with you.
I like animals more than I like people most
of the time. I used to run a phenomenal non-profit
that worked with teenagers in the inner city.
It was with the LLA, it was organization,
it was a great thing. Except I had to work
with people. I hated it. The dog thing came
after that.
Literally my level of flow has always been
about the ideas. I want more flow for myself
and my friends, things like that. Really my
altruism goes towards animals. I gave a speech.
This was, let’s say 2011. I think it was
one of the first major flow talks I ever gave.
I’ve given smaller talks in smaller groups
and done some consulting work but I’ve never
given a big talk.
There were all these people in the room. I
gave my talk. This 70 something year old woman
who had been in a horrific car crash and could
barely walk came to me afterwards. She was
like, “You know, I was all ready to give
up. Then I heard you talk. If you can do that,
I can do that.” Something dawned on me that
this stuff, this fetish of mine that I was
obsessed with, for totally personal reasons,
actually had an application in the real world
for other people. I was totally shocked by
Dave: You ended up inspiring people kind of
despite yourself.
Steven: Despite myself, absolutely.
Dave: You said totally personal reasons. I
have a pretty good feel about what actually
drove you to start looking for the flow state.
Are you up for talking about that?
Steven: Yeah, sure. Happy to tell the story.
You know the story. When I was 30 years old
I got lime disease. You know. You’ve talked
about this.
Dave: We have that in common.
Steven: We have this in common. If somebody’s
listening doesn’t happen to know what lime
is, let’s just talk about it. Picture the
worst flu you’ve ever had crossed with paranoid
schizophrenia. That’s pretty close. I was
in bed for three years. I was 10% functional.
My brain was totally shut off, no short term
memory, no long term memory. I couldn’t
write, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t
even read because I couldn’t remember the
beginning of the sentence by the time I got
to the end.
So much physical pain I couldn’t walk across
the room. The doctors had pulled me off drugs.
This was early days in lime research. There
was really one drug. My stomach lining started
bleeding out. That was the end of it. They
were like, “We don’t know if you’re
ever going to get better.” I essentially
bankrupted myself looking for alternate cures
and nothing was working.
I was going to kill myself because all I was
going to be from that point on was a burden
to my friends and my family. I was not a functioning
human being at all. I was lucid for half an
hour a day. The worst point of it, a friend
of mine shows up at the front door and says,
“We’re going surfing.” I looked at him,
I was like, “You’re out of your mind we’re
going surfing. I can’t walk across the room.
I can’t make it to my kitchen.” “We’re
going surfing.”
She wouldn’t shut up and wouldn’t shut
up and wouldn’t leave. Finally I was like,
“You know what, I don’t care. We’ll
go surfing today. What is the worst that could
happen?” They literally had to walk me to
the car. They put me into the car. This was
in LA. We went to a place called Sunset Beach
which is really like the wimpiest beginner
wave in the entire world. It was summer so
the top waves were even smaller.
The tide was really low. It was a crap day.
The waves were two feet high. They gave me
a board the size of a Cadillac, the bigger
the board the easier it is to catch a wave.
They literally had to walk me out to the break.
People had to hold my arms and kind of carry
me out to the break.
I got out there. I was at it about 30 seconds.
The wave came. It had been a really long time
since I had surfed at that point. Muscle memory
seemed to take over. I spun my board, on a
paddle place and I popped up. I popped up
into an entirely new dimension. I’m standing
on my board and I’ve got near panoramic vision,
time has slowed down, and most importantly
I feel great. I feel better than I’ve felt
in three years. My muscles don’t hurt. I’m
clear headed.
That way it was astounding, quasi-mystical.
I caught four more waves that day. After that
I was so disassembled. They took me home.
They put me into bed. People had to bring
me food for 14 days. The 15th was the day
that I could move again. I got back in my
car and I went back to the ocean and I did
it again.
Over the course of about six months, when
the only thing I was doing differently was
surfing, I went from 10% functionality up
to about 80%. I didn’t know what the hell
was going on. Worst, when I was surfing I
was having these quasi mystical experiences
in the waves. I’m a science guy. I don’t
have mystical experiences. Lime, as you know,
is only fatal if it gets into your brain.
I was certain that the lime had gotten into
my brain. Even though I was feeling better
I was losing my mind and I was actually dying
anyways. That started out as a giant quest
to figure out what the hell was going on with
me. Very quickly I realized a couple of things
about flow states.
One, they jack up the immune system. All the
neurochemicals released in flow amplify the
immune system. More importantly, to a guy
with a chronic autoimmune condition. Lime
is this; it means your nervous system is going
crazy. Flow also resets the nervous system
back to zero. It calms it back down. It’s
incredibly calm. All the normal stress chemicals
in the brain, cortisol, norepinephrine get
flushed out during a flow state, so the nervous
system calms back down, which is why I came
back to health.
Very quickly I started to see the same things.
Once I started to get these flow states while
surfing, they started to show up when I was
writing which was a big deal to me because
I could work. I had bankrupted myself during
the time to cure myself of lime. I couldn’t
work. There was no way to make money, but
suddenly I get into these flow states while
Flow is more like neuroplasticity if anything.
You train it. The more flow you have, the
more flow you have. The flow I was getting
while surfing was helping me get into more
flow while writing. Suddenly I went from half
an hour a day of writing to four hours a day.
I suddenly had a career again and I could
begin to fight my way back.
You can’t play around with … I had used
flow to get from totally self-opt-out back
to normal. Once I got back to normal we discovered
that, wait a minute, this is pushing me really
far really fast. Weird things were happening.
I was seeing it in my surfing. I would go
out there and I would do moves that I didn’t
know how to do. I had no idea how to do moves.
I’d get in a tricky situation in a flow
state and suddenly I was doing floaters and
weird … things I could not do, didn’t
know how I was doing. They were pouring out
of my body.
I was like, I wonder if you could get those
effects in writing. Obviously the A Small
Furry Prayer story’s answer is yes, you
can get them anywhere. It took me a while
to know that. This was the beginning of the
flow research. Over 15 years this is what
led to the Flow Genome Project and everything
Dave: Wow. I’m really glad you mentioned the
Flow Genome Project. Can you tell me a little
bit more about that? I think people listening
in their cars and all may not know about it.
What is the Flow Genome Project? What does
it have to do with mental cognitive and physical
Steven: Let me start off a little bit about
what Rise of Superman is about because it
will make the Flow Genome Project make a little
more sense. Rise of Superman starts with action
adventure sports athletes. The reason it does
is if you look at action adventure sports,
surfing, skiing, rock climbing, etc. as a
data set. We take out all the glamour, everything
else. Just look at the data.
What you see over the past 25 years, or past
one generation, is nearly exponential growth
in all performance. That’s performance from
when life is on the line. The most rigorous,
exacting, dangerous forms of performance that
there is. Nothing like this has ever happened
Sports performance, as you know, is governed
by evolution. Slow, steady plot in the curve,
you get a linear line. Nowhere in history
do you get an exponential curve. It doesn’t
happen that way. The question is, why is it
happening now in action adventure?
Let me give you an example by the way because
it’s helpful. Surfing. Here is a sport that
is 1000 years old. From 480 to 1996, the biggest
wave anybody ever surfed was 25 feet. Because
above that is considered impossible. You just
can’t do it. It’s beyond the laws of physics.
It’s just unridable.
Today’s surfers are pushing the waves that
are well over 100 feet.
Dave: You get guys like Larry Hammilton. You
can see that. It makes my spine tingle.
Steven: Snowboarding is another one. This
is, 1990, the biggest thing anybody’s ever
jumped is the Baker Road Gap. It’s Mt. Baker.
It’s a 40 foot gap over a road. The biggest
thing anybody’s ever jumped. Shawn Farmer
cleared it. People thought they’re out of
their mind.
From 1990 to today, I was just telling you
about Travis Rice, another pro snowboarder,
a couple of months ago when we were shooting
our videos. He told me that he believes he’s
cleared stuff that’s 220, 230, 240. When
in the history of the world does athletic
performance quintuple in a decade or quadruple
in five years? It’s absolutely nuts.
Freestyle motorcrossing. At the beginning
when they mention the motorcycle to almost
the middle ‘90s, the backflip. The Holy
Grail, it’s impossible. Nobody’s this
is the way of the bike. Then in 2002 two different
guys lay down backflips which is amazing enough,
but within four years, four year later they
get to the double backflip.
We went from the birth of the motorcycle to
the backflip. This impossible thing, it takes
50 years. Then we get to the double backflip
in four years. Are you kidding? The question
is of course what the hell is going on.
The answer is, as we’ve alluded to it earlier,
these guys and gals have gotten better at
hacking the state of flow than anybody else
in the rest of the world. It’s really fundamentally
… Necessity is the mother of invention.
What has happened, the level of performance
has gone up so high and so fast, literally
these guys if they’re not in flow they’re
in the hospital or they’re dead.
I say in the Rise of Superman it’s flow
or die. That sounds like this gross hyperbolic
exaggeration. It’s absolutely not. You’re
either in flow or you’re going to the hospital.
These folks have gotten really good at hacking
You asked what the Flow Genome Project was.
Flow Genome Project was a collection of people.
We came together originally because we wanted
to advance flow state research. It was until
fairly recently, one of the things I’ve discovered
… Two things I’ve discovered.
One I discovered, nobody was looking at action
adventure sport athletes. There was data that
said … I’ll give you one example. When
they look at regular bat and ball
sport athletes. They found that flow was an
occasional rare experience in an athlete’s
career. It always shows up during gold medal
performances, world championships, always
there when somebody’s winning. It’s pretty
rare and they tend to define them very specifically.
Pele, in this great interview he gave with
the New York Times years ago, talked about
having one massive flow state for his entire
career. They did a study on the Cheat River
in West Virginia where they looked at every
kayaker, novice to expert, who got in the
Cheat River in a 24-hour period. Every one
of them experienced flow.
You’re talking about rare and occasional
to almost near constant. We wanted to a, use
action adventure sport athletes as a data.
We wanted to study them, to figure out what
they were doing because it was clear that
they were the best at this and we didn’t
know why. That was one thing I wanted to do.
The other thing, in those 15 years of research
both myself and the other people involved
in the Flow Genome Project, we discovered
that the psychologists were not talking to
guys working on neuroelectricity, were not
talking to people working on neuroanatomy,
were not talking to neurochemists, on and
If we’re really going to map flow, we need
to map psychology onto the neurobiology onto
the physiology, for the complete map.
Dave: The whole system, not just a piece of
Steven: That’s the goal of Flow Genome Project,
to create that. We’re calling it a heat
map of flow. The reason is we only know about
these 15 flow triggers, but if we get the
whole map laid out, we can figure out where
anyone, any personality, anyone … We know
it’s ubiquitous. We just know it’s certain
type of people get it in certain ways.
We want to create a map that says, this is
the exact way. You can get in right here right
now. Basically open source ultimate human
Dave: That is a grand and amazing goal, Steven.
That’s exactly what needs to happen. The
fact that you’re pulling people together
from different disciplines like that is critical.
I certainly know some things about creating
it from an electrical perspective. I wonder
about drug perspectives. You can increase
those five neurotransmitters through a variety
of things like.
Steven: As you probably know each of those
neurotransmitters has a drug analog. If you
snort cocaine all that happens is dopamine
gets released in the brain. Brain, serotonin
is ecstasy, blabla.
Here’s where things get interesting. These
five neurotransmitters, if you were to cocktail
the street drugs, be it coke, speed, ecstasy,
marihuana, and heroin. You’d end up in a
coma or probably drooling dead in a coma,
take your pick. They don’t cocktail artificially.
The brain cocktails them naturally. For example,
if you go out and you do cocaine and ecstasy
at the same time, the cocaine, the dopamine,
is more powerful than the serotonin. It will
swamp it. You won’t feel the ecstasy at
all. You’ll feel the cocaine.
Somehow you can get all these things naturally
from the brain. My answer to you is it does
seem pharmacologically that there’s a way
to hack this stuff. I think we will get there.
The problem as you know is we’ve gotten
very good at neuroelectricity because we can
now do all kinds of great stuff with EG. We’ve
gotten much better at neuroanatomy, fMRI etc.
They’re getting better.
Neurochemistry, we’re good. We’re a whole
of a lot better than we were. We still can’t
measure neurochemicals in the brain beyond
the blood-brain barrier. We’re working on
microsensors. Who’s on our board and works
at, they are working on really high level
microsensors that can detect all kinds of
neurochemicals in the brain.
Even if they get them, can I implant them
in you? You know what I mean? How you’d
run the test? We don’t know how to get the
information we need to do the pharmacological
hacks yet. That said, I probably shouldn’t
say this on air, but what the hell, we’re
going to have this conversation honestly.
If you go out and you talk to people, what
is the most frequent flow hack out there?
Everyone will tell you it is a long bit of
aerobic exercise. You basically run or jump
rope or bicycle up until you get that endorphin
Basically the moment pain goes away you stop.
You then follow that in espresso shop with
a bong head. They call it the hippy speedball.
It’s in every ski town. Why would this cocktail
actually work? Because you’re getting endorphins
from the aerobic exercise. The cava coffee,
as you know, you get a little bit of a dopamine
firing and also focuses attention. Then anandamide
is what you get from the THC. It’s essentially
an artificial flow state.
Ski athletes use it all the time. People in
ski towns use this stuff all the time before
they go skiing. If you mix these cocktails,
this particular cocktail, with risk, with
physical risk you get that big dopamine push,
it’s tied in an instant flow state.
There are hacks for this. You can do pharmacological
interventions or all that stuff. I’ve been
in a conversation, I don’t know who I was
talking to recently, about precursors. Could
you preload your body with all this stuff?
Dave: That’s my approach. Tell me more about
precursors because it seems like this is doable.
Steven: I have to tell you, honestly to the
best of my knowledge nobody’s done the work.
One of the big things I wanted to start doing
in the next year is figuring out what are
the most important neurochemicals on the front
end of flow. We kind of know what they are.
Can you stack the deck by preloading with
totally a mingle over the counter precursors?
Dave: It’s mostly amino acids. I know the
people. I know the research. We’ve got to
talk some more after this podcast.
Steven: I know. I was going to say. We can
team up on this one because it’s a big area.
It’s a big blank spot on the map as far
as I … We have great matrix for determining
whether or not people are in flow states.
Those have been really well developed at this
The tests are not hard. These precursors,
take them. Don’t give them the precursors,
see who gets more flow over a one month period.
Dave: I’m fascinated by your hippy speedball
idea there. Obviously I know a thing or two
about coffee. I believe there are some nuances
in coffee that have an impact on this very
peak state.
Steven: By the way I think you may … one
of the other things I was thinking is we could
… Because I think that your coffee, just
looking at it, I haven’t looked deep enough
under the hood, it seems like it boosts dopamine
a little bit more, like an exaggerate …
Dave: I would love to do a lab study on that.
Steven: What I’m thinking is maybe the hippy
speedball with Bulletproff Executive coffee
works better than regular coffee. Who knows?
Dave: I would bet a lot of money on that based
on my own experience of flow states. Part
of the model for flow states in my own work
is that we have a reptilian mind. You can
be in a coma and you’ll still somehow breath
and your heart will beat most of the time.
You have your mammal mind which is where a
lot of people spend a lot of the time. If
you’re in a sympathetic dominant mode, that’s
where you are. Then you have your prefrontal
cortex called your human mind. Energy in the
body is going to go towards survival and replication
of the species first.
Which means you fill these from the bottom.
The reptile brain gets what it needs first.
The mammal brain gets what it needs next.
Then the human brain. If you want to be at
the very peak performance levels, using all
of your human brain as much as you know how
to use, you need to remove impediments to
progress along the way.
The experience that I’ve seen and enough other
people have seen with the way I process the
beans is that those little nuances at the
very top when you’re trying to reach a flow
state, you’re trying to be in peak performance,
there are things that can take you out of
there, that appears in some coffee and not
in others. This drove me nuts for years.
There’s one more hack on top of this that’s
worth talking about. Getting endorphins can
take aerobic exercise and all that stuff.
The sleep induction mat which … I’m not
trying to push my products at all here. It’s
a mat with spikes on it. you lay on it and
you feel like you’re going to die because
your body’s like, “Oh my god, there’s
all these spikes that are going to penetrate
my skin.” They don’t.” After about three
minutes it stops hurting and then the body
goes into this profound relaxation state,
creating the same endorphins that you’re
getting from this exercise.
I use it to go to sleep at night. Because
you want to have this wave.
Steven: I will tell you also. This I learned
along the way of flow. The strange things
you learn along the way. In the S&M community
there is an S&M, pain triggered flow state
they call flying. It’s heavy heavy on the
endorphin release brought on by pain. It’s
essentially pain triggered.
Even S&M at the root at that, you’re still
looking at flow.
Dave: You must go to all the good parties,
Steven: You’ve lived in New Mexico. You
know nobody has parties here. I live in the
middle of nowhere.
Dave: Great answer. That’s hilarious.
Steven: We climb mountains.
Dave: I did not know about that. That’s
super funny.
Steven: I didn’t either by the way but when
I started doing the research … It was funny.
Actually in coding, computer coding produces
tremendous amount of flow. If you go to the
Oracle developers’ series.
Dave: I’ve never thought of that. My background’s
computer science. Oh my god, it’s been here
the whole time. That’s awesome.
Steven: Let’s take it one step further.
One of the people I interviewed who’s a
big tech executive who’s been around Silicon
Valley for a long time said, “Look at Silicon
Valley. The three things that built the Valley:
software design, network design, and circuit
You cannot do well without flow state. What
he said is, “If you’re looking for a non-athletic,
non-action sport exam of what happens when
a bunch of people start getting the flow regularly,
Silicon Valley’s not a bad place to start.”
Dave: You just taught me something I never
understood. I taught four nights a week during
the rise of modern web as we know it about
web and the internet infrastructure. The reason
now, in addition to the giving back, teaching
a room full of people who are advancing their
careers, but also you’re drawing stuff on
a board. You do it and make it as doing network
I was getting that high and I was getting
the high from teaching people, helping them
in their careers at the same time. I was buzzing
when I was done with that. I’m like, I’ve
never even done this. This is a killer.
Steven: Anybody who’s got a career whatsoever
in public speaking. People think the lure
of public speaking is ego gratification.
Dave: No, it’s not.
Steven: No. You get up on stage. Your conscious
mind is gone. Every time I give a talk invariably
I’m at the end of my talk and I’m like, looking
at my last slide. There’s a, and I come
back in my body and I go, I must have skipped
half the speech because there’s no way I’m
It’s a total deep flow experience. The addiction
to public speaking is the flow. The ego stuff
is all besides the point. You get into deep
flow doing it.
Dave: Wow, you get it. In fact I have to look
at a video of one of my talks because I don’t
usually remember what I said. There’s peaks
and valleys in there. It doesn’t all stick
because you’re pouring everything you have
into it. I guess like a pro surfer would although
I never thought of that before.
Steven: The goal of Rise of Superman … We
did it with Rise of Superman. We said, look,
we can basically take code what these athletes
are doing and apply it across all the in society.
That’s essentially the goal of the book.
It’s to say, these 15 triggers these athletes
harness, here’s how you apply them anywhere.
We see this. You see companies like Toyota,
Patagonia, when they were around. These companies,
Microsoft even, they have flow at the center
of their corporate philosophy.
They’re not as great at it because there’s
a lot of things that are off. People don’t
understand about flow and we really didn’t
get a neurobiological picture for the past
five years or so. I think more and more, flow
is …James who is a VC guy at Greylock Partners,
venture capitalist at Greylock Partners, wrote
an article in Forbes where he talked about
flow state percentage which is the amount
of time employees spend in flow as the number
one management metric for building great innovation
teams. I think it’s just the number one
management metric period.
Now that this is becoming measurable and hackable,
it’s going to start. I think we’re looking
at the next giant business revolution. It’s
going to be interesting because you talk about
something that massively amplifies creativity,
individuality. A lot of the things that don’t
sit exactly square with business the way it
was done last century. It’s really going
to forward businesses into the 21th century.
Dave: One of the things that I think Google’s
doing in that space is fuel for flow state.
They’re feeding their people reasonably
well. You go to Google. You can get access
to much higher quality nutrition. It seems
like athletes are always looking at diets
and all, that when you give the brain the
things that it wants, I’m not talking precursors
here. I’m talking fat and protein and glucose,
things like that, especially when they’re
relatively free of the things that tweaks,
small, negative changes in brain behavior.
At least it increases the odds of flow happening
if it’s not a cause. Do you buy that line
of thinking?
Steven: I absolutely buy that line … My
partner, Jamie, I cofounded the Flow Genome
Project with, who has done way more of the
flow consulting work with businesses than
I have, one of the things he always says when
he talks is, “A great deal of what you need
to know about flow you learn in kindergarten.
Get plenty of rest. Eat right,” really basic
If you’re not dialed that way it’s not
going to work. For example, let’s talk about
getting plenty of rest. You talked about the
fear response. The amygdala runs the brain.
Your fear reaction runs the brain. Flow, you
have to get past the fight or flight response.
You’ve got to be able to focus through that
to get into flow.
When you have not slept well enough, when
you don’t have proper energy reserves and
you’re facing a difficult challenging dangerous
hard whatever task, your fear level is going
to rise because your body is not prepared.
It’s going to be harder to pass through
that and get into flow.
Dave: It makes so much sense. Amygdala dominance,
which is certainly a state where I lived a
lot of my life younger and a state where obviously
lime disease can help you to be. It’s unpleasant.
It’s so common. I think a lot of things
people do on a daily basis encourage that.
Steven: Amygdala is funny. Just so your listeners
can walk away with one flow hack that is useful,
one thing that they can take away from this
that will really make a difference in their
lives. It’s interesting because it has a
lot to do with fighting against the amygdala.
The biggest mistake most people make about
flow is they think it’s a binary: you’re
either in flow or you’re out. It’s like
a light switch. Not true at all. Flow is actually
a four-stage cycle. A number of these stages
don’t feel flowy.
At the front of a flow state you’re in the
stage named struggle. It was Herb Benson,
the Harvard cardiologist, who named it struggle.
He did a lot of the neurochemical work on
flow. It’s a struggle because you’re overloading
the brain with information. As a writer this
is my research base. This is where I’m trying
to figure out the structure of what … You
are getting frustrated.
If you’re an athlete you’re learning a
new skill. You basically want to take this
almost to the point when you’re about to
lose your mind and then pull back. This is
when all your stress hormones, cortisol, norepinephrine,
adrenaline, these are all rising during this
Second stage is … By the way amygdala dominance
… The second stage is relaxation. You have
to take your mind off the problem completely.
If you’ve been working on an article all
day, you’ve got to go for a walk or a run
or go build an airplane model, whatever would
shut the mind off. If you don’t have enough
self control over your amygdala you’re not
going to be able to get your mind off the
You need that level of fortitude just to get
the relaxation response. What happens during
the relaxation response, you’ve got a global
release of nitric oxide, which is a gas, a
signaling molecule everywhere in your body.
It drops all the stress hormones out of your
bloodstream and instead forces the release
of dopamine, serotonin, anandamide, etc.,
all the good chemicals that you want. [inaudible
00:53:52] Then the third state, the flow state.
Here’s more amygdala stuff, and this is
the most important thing: after the flow state
there is a fourth stage in the cycle. It is
a memory, learning consolidation phase. As
we know flow massively amplifies the learning
and memory. We know this. There’s a catch
to this.
Those neurochemicals are expensive to produce.
It takes a little while for them to replenish.
You go from feeling like absolute superman,
“I can do anything,” in a flow state to
feeling absolutely horrible because all the
feel-good neurochemistry is gone and you no
longer feel like superman.
This is a good and a bad thing. We’ll come
back to the good in a second. The bad news
is most people don’t understand that there’s
a cycle going on. They get to the point where
they don’t feel like superman anymore. Everything
they’ve imagined their life could be in
a flow state comes crumbling down and they
get really anxious, really gripped. You have
to get back in the flow which is what you
You want more of that superman feeling. The
only way to do it is to move from this memory,
this consolidation down into struggle. If
you’re super upset about not being in flow,
you don’t have the emotional fortitude to
just kind of push through that, you’re never
going to get up for the flight of struggle.
It is a good thing because you get crazy wild
ideas in flow. It’s really good to check
them out in the cold light day. After the
flow state is done, and brainstorming in the
flow state, you always want to go back and
read your stuff again and just see what’s
good and see what’s bad because not every
idea you’re going to come up with in flow
is great.
This state actually gives you … There’s
a recovery period where you can do that. There’s
an upside to this stuff intellectually. The
downside, and where most people get really
hung up, we’ve talked earlier about the
dangers of flow. People don’t know about
the flow cycle. When they start using these
15 triggers to produce more flow in their
life, they don’t know that there’s this
fourth stage in the cycle. If you can’t
locate yourself on the map you’re not going
to get into flow easily then because you’re
going to not be able to check your amygdala.
Dave: Wow. This is useful, really useful information
for people so that after you’ve fallen out
of flow, you want to go right back to struggle
so you can jump back in.
I think this might be one of the longer podcasts
of the last 100 or so because normally we
would go around 40 minutes, 45 minutes. We’ve
gone just about an hour. I feel like I could
talk to you for about two more days. Steven,
give us the url for your book and the launch
day. We should send an email out to the people
who are Bulletproof because I can’t imagine
anyone who listens to this podcast or reads
the Bulletproof blog, who wouldn’t just
completely salivate over reading your book.
This is as totally targeted as anything I’ve
ever seen. Give us your url and how people
can find you.
Steven: Where you want to go is riseofsuperman.com.
If you go there now, from now until March
4th when the book launches, huge crazy presale
campaign. We’re giving away everything from
flow diagnostics to invites to live events
to a full swag bag of cool stuff.
Riseofsuperman.com, preorder copy. I think
you can get 20% off right now. Book’s out
March 4th.
Dave: Lovely. Steven, thanks again. If this
podcast’s benefitted you and you’re listening
right now please just take a second to go
to iTunes and tell other people that you like
it, or go to Facebook and click ilike. These
are the things to let other people learn more
about amazing stuff like what we’ve just
heard from Steven Kotler today.
Steven, oh, I almost forgot. You would have
been my number two time ever. The question
I ask everyone, we’ve got to do this even
though we’re over time. The top three recommendations
for people who want to perform better. It
doesn’t have to be just from your work.
Your entire life’s experience, for people
who want to kick more ass, three things.
Steven: Oh my god. Really, and we’re out
of time?
Dave: Oh yeah. No pressure.
Steven: One, read Rise of Superman. More flow,
more flow, more flow. Two, drink Bulletproof
Dave: Oh come one, really? I love it but …
Steven: Top three things if you want to perform
better. First thing, it’s all about flow.
People compete against the wrong things. People
compete against their peers. Never compete
against your peers. Figure out who’s the
very best in the world at what you want to
do, that’s your competition. Everything
else is besides the point.
To me it’s extreme goal setting, relentless
hard work, and I don’t know. I’m going to
give you one final tip that I think is real,
that has worked very well for me.
I have discovered in myself and I think any
successful person who I’ve ever talked to
… Things that you succeed at are just the
things you stick with. Eventually you will
always try it out as long as you stick with
it. What I did, is I reduced my life to six
core things. All of them produce flow. Literally
everything else, if it’s not one of these
core things, I don’t bother. It’s a waste
in my time. I’ve reduced it down to the things
that matter most to me, the things that for
my success are absolutely important. I don’t
do anything else.
All those things except for one, which is
the marketing, PR component of all this that
I have to do, and that’s the part I don’t
love, though this is fun, a lot of fun. That’s
my number one tip. Beyond that it’s more
flow, more flow, and drink coffee.
Dave: Love it. Thanks again, Steven. We’ll
make sure to put links to your book on the
site as well. This is going to be an exciting
podcast for people to hear. Thanks again for
jumping in with both feet and for the work
you’re doing. This stuff is incredible.
Steven: Thanks so much. It was fun being here.
Flow Genome Project
The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science
of Ultimate Human Performance
A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning
of Life
McKinsey & Company: Increasing the ‘meaning
quotient’ of work
40 Years of Zen
Upgraded Coffee
Bulletproof Sleep Induction Mat
Better Baby Book
Bulletproof Toolbox
Podcast #109, Steven Kotler
© The Bulletproof Executive 2013

William Babineau


  1. I've been waiting for this for two weeks! Had two awesome conversations with Steven and he mentioned this was going to come out soon.   Amazing research guys!

  2. I saw Steven's presentation at OMX. Very excited to for this podcast!! AWESOME!

  3. I love a rip and a bulletproof coffee before physical activity. If thats flow then i approve 🙂

  4. What role do nootropics play in this, re: nicotine? Very thought provoking podcast!

  5. very cool podcast. As a surfer, I know exactly what he is talking about. Sometimes when I am designing (graphic) I lose track of what is going on around me and if there is even any music or anything playing. I also do some public speaking and have experienced it there as well. 
    To be able to cultivate it in more parts of my life would be amazing.

  6. Amazing Podcast! I had week long flow state after I smoked Ayahuasca. Keen to try the Hippie flow stack LOL. Exercise, Coffee, Bong…Boom 

  7. i wonder. all great troops are very humane. i was an anglico marine. my peers are marine snipers and recon marines. we are all ivy league grads and we give back to society outside of the war zone.  i created a free medical tourist military program for iraqi kids and it helped me be a greater warrior.  we must love all that we do w, whether in the dark or in the light. this is true flow. no judgment….  

    this guy seems confused.   

  8. i was also a monk for 10 years.  the thai military has many monks in their ranks. you must as a young adult go into the monastery and the military.

    patton was a kook and was not accepted by most. the military has always preached brotherhood and sisterhood.

    it is the spectacle of media that shows this as a new dynamic.  the truth is that you are in love with your country and your brother and sister.  but this love is not blind, for your battle buddy can screw you too much like a nation.  so,  you fight on kantian imperative of duty. and take on the consequences and progress: whether in a body bag, or in an inpatient setting, or  a fictional place the tv super bowl  ads call "home' 

  9. if you experience fragging, you will know that war is not always the myth of brotherhood.  you fight because that is all you have.  you do look at others in the mix but there is a haze in war.  and the many military authors, movie folks, etc. miss this point…

  10. empathy is important but you must find it at a transformative level while using context.  specific context.

  11. fyi during the first japanese invasion of korea, the monks led the guerilla war and suppressed the samurai. 

    the monk warrior archetype is an eastern discovery and cannot be accepted in jansenist influenced western euro thinking.

  12. when did the military change to protect your brother?  martial tradition embodies this concept.    

  13. maybe we can have a dialogue about biohacking ptsd.  i have been on this road of transcending my iraq readjustment issues since my return from iraq.  i survived a separation. i am great dad to my son, i am a top student an ivy league doctoral program and i have a full-time job.  essayons  

    i do appreciate your philosophy and am thankful to you david asprey.  

  14. Very interested in Mr. Koetler and considered buying his book until he repeatedly confused "empathy" with "apathy". Realizing that people make slips but I Can't get over that from a writer. Killed his credibility for me.

  15. Reminds me of Rodger Bannister and breaking the 4 minute mile. 

  16. Okay. That introduction is just plain wrong. The data sample was clearly skewed by the likely inclusion of African countries.

  17. Marijuana almost always gets me into flow when I'm active. Either doing martial arts, training or surfing.

  18. I really don't like how he generalizes all flow states into experiences of strong addiction.. He's not totally wrong, but really guilty of generalization.

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