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Get Into Your Creative Flow

Lesson 28 of 32

Flow's Creative Trigger

Steven Kotler

Get Into Your Creative Flow

Steven Kotler

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Lesson Info

28. Flow's Creative Trigger

Lesson Info

Flow's Creative Trigger

Alright, now, I'm talking about flow's creative trigger. So, creativity, when we link ideas together, as I said earlier, you get a little release of dopamine, right? We fill out the crossword puzzle, you get that little rush of pleasure from getting a right answer, that is creativity. That is creative trigger for flow. So, pattern recognition, linking ideas together, gives you a little bit of dopamine. It is a little bit of dopamine. So, for example, one way to deploy this, I'm gonna start, I'll give you a sports metaphor, first, and then we'll jump into a different one. But, for example, when I work with skiers. Right? I always, you know... It's a bad idea to use risk to get into flow, so instead of going for that super-hard slope, progress it back, find a medium slope, a beginner slope, and interpret the terrain creatively. So, every terrain feature is an opportunity for a creative reinterpretation. Oh, this bump goes this way, maybe I normally jump left off of it. Today, I'm gonna j...

ump right. Every time you kind of reinterpret that, you're gonna get a little squirt of dopamine. If you can stack creative decision after creative decision, after creative decision, you can mimic the huge dopamine push that you'd get from risk, right? So, it will work as a flow trigger. It's a little slower. How does this look, for example for me, as a writer? So, one of the things I do when I write, is I always start my day by reading what I wrote yesterday. And the reason I'm doing that is, I'm reading it and I'm editing it. And, most of what I'm doing, is little bits of pattern recognition, I'm changing this word, so there's a little more alliteration, so it flows better, in the sentence. I'm building, I'm recognizing really tiny little patterns, because I'm editing stuff, and I don't have to face the blank page, right? I'm just redoing what I did yesterday, and making it a little bit better, a little bit better? I'm getting a little bit of dopamine, a little bit of dopamine. A little bit of dopamine, a little bit of dopamine. So, by the time I've worked my way through what I wrote yesterday, I'm at my new stuff, and I'm facing that blank page, I'm already deeper in flow. Coders, I've worked with coders who do the same thing. Fact check the code you wrote the day before, then move into the new code. Same, same idea here, you want to stack creative decisions on top of one another, to use flow's creative trigger. That make sense? Cool. Alright, so, if you want to really use the creative trigger, right, if you really want to use the brain's pattern recognition system, to drive yourself into flow, you have to feed the pattern recognition system, it needs raw material to make those connections. The best way to get that raw material is through reading, and the very best thing you can read is books. Nonfiction, outside your discipline. One of the biggest problems we have in the modern world, is we are specialists. The better you get in your career, the more you specialize, the narrower your field gets. And, you start learning only things inside your career. Pattern recognition actually requires some space between the ideas, so your brain can make those connections. If you're learning ideas that are right next to each other, little tiny micro dopamine implements, if you're finding patterns at all, not enough. So, what I suggest, is that everybody, every day, read 25 to 50 pages in a non-fiction book, outside your main discipline. Something that you are curious about, interested in, but it's not what you do for a living at all. It's just something that you're curious about, you're feeding the brain, your brain will start making connections between what it is you do for a living, and this other thing. You will start finding those connections. Why do I recommend books? You can read blogs, you could read magazines, you can read books. As a writer, when I write a blog article, it takes me about two hours. Usually, I'll start working on it for an hour one day, and I'll come back the next day, and I'll edit for an hour. So, it takes you about five to seven minutes to read a blog article, on average. And you're, in exchange... You're giving me five to seven minutes, I'm giving you two hours of my day. That's your ROI, that's your return. You're getting two hours of my life, for five minutes of your time. If you are reading a long-form magazine article, right? something in the New Yorker, something I wrote for the New York Times, that kind of thing, right? It's gonna take, on average, to read a long-form magazine article, 15 to 20 minutes. So, what are you getting in return for your 15 to 20 minutes? Well, if it's a 10,000-word article, say, that I wrote for the New York Times, you're getting, usually, three to six months of my life. And you're not just getting my brain. If I'm writing a blog, you're just getting my brain. There's no editors involved, it's just me. But, if I'm writing a magazine article, you're getting three months of research, A ton of interviews with other people, and then you're getting my editor, the managing editor, and the editor in chief, so you're getting more brains on the information, right? You're trying to create conditions for pattern recognition. You want the richest, thickest, deepest information you can get, that's as well-ordered as possible. So, if you give me 15 to 20 minutes of your time, in exchange, you're getting three to six months of my life. Cool? Much better than a blog. If you read one of my books, it will take you six to seven hours to read one of my books. About 250 pages, that's average for a book, it takes most people, to get through one of my books. Usually, if I'm writing a book, the actual book is gonna take about a year, year and a half. Um, but there's probably about ten years' worth of research that goes into that year and a half, and in those ten years, I'm talking to tens of thousands of people about these ideas. Every time I write a book, they're collaborative projects. If I'm writing a book, there are 10 to 20 other people who are reading it, and there's a professional editor, who's making pass after pass after pass, and a managing editor, and copy editors. You're getting massive returns, so, for six hours of your time, you're getting roughly 12 years of my life. That's the ROI on reading. That's why you want to read books. If they're well-written, you're getting so much more time compressed into much better, denser information packets. Non-fiction, 25 to 50 pages a day, outside your discipline. It will create the conditions for pattern recognition. Alright, so we're going to move back to another trigger. So, we talked about deep embodiment-rich environment, high consequences. Those are flow's external triggers. Those are things in the environment. Flow also has internal triggers. These three were all discovered by Csikszentmihalyi back in the 70's. We've talked about two of them. We talked about the challenge/skills balance, and we've talked about clear goals. The third one, is immediate feedback. Immediate feedback is, I need to know how to course correct in real time, right? If I know how to course correct in real-time, I don't have to wonder how to improve my performance, I already know I'm getting the feedback I need. One of the reasons action sports produces so much flow, feedback is incredibly immediate. You either set that ski edge, or you're on a face-first death slide to the bottom of the Kunwar. It's immediate feedback. This is tricky in the modern environment, right? Most of us don't get immediate feedback on our jobs, at all, we don't get anything close to it. If you've worked for somebody else, chances are you're getting quarterly reviews, if you're lucky, and probably annual reviews. That is not immediate feedback. That is not even... That's useless, from a performance perspective, it's almost completely useless. Immediate feedback is right here, right now. So, as I mentioned earlier...

Class Description

Do you want to learn more about flow? Take the Free Flow Profile to find out if you are a Deep Thinker, Crowd Pleaser, Hard Charger, or Flow Goer.

If creativity is already core to your life, then this program is perfect for you. This could mean you’re a copywriter at an ad agency, a scientist hunting a breakthrough, a coder designing software, an entrepreneur dreaming up your next start-up, a writer aching to finish that novel or a landscape painter trapped in the life of an accountant — all that matters is that generating novel ideas (and putting those ideas out in the world in some form or another) is core to your life and purpose.

Why Does “Flow for Creatives” even matter?

  • You keep losing the battle to be innovative in the rush to be productive.

  • You have writer’s block or coder’s block or painter’s block and the thing you used to love most in your life has become a source of pain and frustration.

  • You have trouble managing your emotions and fear keeps getting in the way of your good ideas.

  • You have trouble sustaining momentum on projects and tend to quit early rather than to finish what you started.

  • You have no idea how to gain access to groundbreaking insights and ideas when you need them most.

  • You don’t actually believe creativity is trainable.

  • You’re numbing yourself with substances and placating yourself with distractions as a way to ignore the fact that you’re not living up to your creative potential.

  • You get lost in the fixing to get ready phase, and never get down to business.

  • You keep bashing into creative walls but never breaking thru.

  • Your emotions keeping getting in the way of your desired outcomes. Fear of failure keeps you from committing to projects; perfectionism keeps you from making your work public.

Flow For Creatives can help.

It’s like an inspiration turbo-boost training program. It’s practical, experiential and experimental. You learn a new idea about Flow and Creativity, apply it to whatever problem you’re trying to solve, see what happens, then make it your own.

And, did you know…

  • When in Flow, your creative problem-solving abilities can spike by over 400 percent.

  • Research done at Harvard shows that the heightened creativity produced by Flow can outlast the state by a day, sometimes two—suggesting that Flow actually trains the brain to think more creatively over the long haul.

  • Creatives are more prone to depression than most people, but an understanding of the process can protect against this liability.

  • Creativity tops the list of 21st-century skills—meaning those skills that are essential for thriving in the modern world—yet 75 percent of people think they’re not living up to their creative potential.

  • The baseline brainwave state produced by Flow is also the ready condition for “Ah-ha” insight, meaning being in the zone makes you primed for breakthrough insight.

  • Fear blocks creativity, while Flow resets the nervous system, calming us down so we can avoid burnout and gain access to much-needed insight.

  • Unless you know how to train the brain properly, most people tap into their deepest creative potential at age 5.

  • Frustration is actually a built-in component of the creative process—it’s a sign that you’re moving in the right direction not a sign that you’re going about it all wrong.

Life is better than ever and we are feeling worse than evener. We are neurotic, stressed, unmotivated and it’s literally killing us. This class is for anyone that is serious about staying in their highest performing state.

*Warning: this instructor occasionally uses strong language. Viewer discretion advised*

Ratings and Reviews

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Jeremy Richardson

I've watched and participated in many webinars and online classes, and this was by far one of the best. The depth and breadth of information that Steven covers in this class is not only really important, but he structures it in a way that is engaging and most importantly: PRACTICAL. I'm coming out of this with a clear list of ways to improve my ability to get into Flow while accomplishing all of my creative endeavors. I highly recommend this to anyone who would like to do the same!


This is amazing. Steven is hitting so many pain point for me about reframing my fear. He is also an amazing presenter. Thank you, Steven! I am excited, I am excited, I am excited!

Isaac Freed

Utterly mind blowing. Wow. A few hours listening to Steven Kotler felt more like a few days. He has done his research, and offers so much practical application advice that I will review this material several times. Well worth it, and highly recommended. Thank you, Creative Live!