Art of Manliness Podcast Episode #58: Flow and The Rise of Superman with Steven Kotler

by Brett on February 22, 2014 · 9 comments

in Podcast


In this episode of the AoM podcast, I talk to science journalist Steven Kotler about his new book The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance. In his book, Steven takes a look at the world of extreme athletes and discovers that these so-called adrenaline junkies are truly pushing the boundaries of human performance, and that it actually isn’t the adrenaline that’s driving their advances. Rather, it’s the concept of flow — an optimal state of attention that slows down time and makes life-or-death decision-making possible.

In The Rise of Superman, Steven gives examples of extreme athletes — like big wave surfers, solo rock climbers, and base jumpers — who are tapping into flow to do the seemingly impossible. What’s more, he shares research-backed ways that Average Joes can hack their own flow so that they can improve their performance across all facets of life and truly flourish.

Show highlights:

  • What exactly is flow?
  • How flow changes our perception of time.
  • How flow saved a base jumper from falling to his death.
  • How you can “hack your flow” and become the best man you can be.
  • And much more!

The Rise of Superman comes out March 4, but right now Steven is holding a pre-launch promotion for the book featuring a great discount and lots of bonus offers.

Listen to the podcast!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Matt February 23, 2014 at 8:59 pm

It was an interesting podcast, but it sounds like old self help methods re-branded and repackaged to sound modern and ‘full of science’. There is a large contrast between the Ungifted podcast and this podcast. Ungifted preaches hard work/apprenticeship stages for mastery. Rise of Superman is saying we can short cut this using ‘flow’. All the statistics like “500% increase in productivity” etc, sounded more like a sales pitch, but I do understand that there is only so much information that can be given in a podcast. I will read the book though. $6 for an e-book is very affordable. But very unlikely you’ll see me at a ‘flow training center’ with ‘flow experts’ showing me my best ‘individual flow style’.

However, it is a very interesting concept. Who wouldn’t want to unlock their own ultimate performance at any time, instead of waking up and praying you’ll be productive today :P

Thank you for the podcast and your fantastic website Brett.

2 Sonny February 24, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I agree with Matt in that while the podcast covered an interesting topic (one I wasn’t too familiar with at least), it did ring a bit like a pitch to me. I think what did it was the fact that it was less dialogue than it was a lecture, and it seemed like Brett couldn’t get a word in edgewise before being cut off. Nonetheless, top notch work on always finding interesting topics for these podcasts Brett!

3 Jaredd Wilson February 25, 2014 at 5:56 am

I think what both the previous commentors missed was the part where he talked about the long road of skill acquisition. I know he said mastery time could be shortened, but if I’m interpreting this right, this is after the skill set has been learned.
My frame of reference for this is martial arts. We call this state of mind “mushin” which means No-Mind or Nothing-Mind. Both of which sound exactly like what he’s talking about. This can only be achieved after long training, to where the physical skills have become ingrained. I’d be curious if MMA fighters can obtain this state. There seems to be all the requirements, the physical risk, etc. Traditional martial arts does this, but only after, again 10 years or so of quality training.

4 Kenneth February 25, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Jadredd Wilson, I could not agree with you more! Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, martial arts, and yoga are some example of where “flow” has been taught for thousands of years. Flow, mushin, wushin, and mindfulness are all the same. In order to obtain flow, a person must practice flow, in every area of life, and in every moment of life. Also, there different types and levels of “flow”.

5 Robert February 25, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Jaredd and Kenneth….This was my thought as well…with a given skill set whether it’s tennis, martial arts, music performance, surfing, cycling…once the subconscious takes over one can tap into ‘the zone’, Ki, flow, channeling,,,,,I’ve heard many people talk about this state where time slows down and one can perform at a high level for some period of time…I does feel really cool. It makes one want to get into that place again…I might check out this book! Nice podcast Brett!

6 pete February 26, 2014 at 7:45 am

my first thought was “wanted” from 2008

7 Kenneth February 26, 2014 at 3:31 pm

In my humble opinion, flow should not be hacked. In these modern times, we want to hurry the process of life. Should life be lived in a hurry? Life should be lived efficiently; however, this does not mean life should be conducted in a rapid manner. “Life is short. We must move slowly.” Talmud

8 Joey E March 1, 2014 at 9:59 am

Brett — I loved your question about the issue of this being something that helps better-resourced people. Sure, a lot of this can be “free,” but it’s still a matter of educating people to attain these skills.

9 David Tindell March 2, 2014 at 12:44 pm

I listened to this podcast on the way to broadcasting a high school basketball game. As a former athlete myself and a long-time sportscaster I can tell you “flow” is no joke. Even many years later I can well remember those times when me and my teammates were in a “zone” on the basketball floor. Nowadays it happens (sometimes) during a broadcast, when everything is clicking and the game is exciting. It happens more often for me on the martial arts mat, but overall it doesn’t happen enough. So the e-book is on its way to me. Thanks, Brett. Keep up the good work.

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