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Get Into Your Creative Flow

Lesson 18 of 32

Hacking the Grind

Steven Kotler

Get Into Your Creative Flow

Steven Kotler

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Lesson Info

18. Hacking the Grind

Lesson Info

Hacking the Grind

So, when we talk about grit, if you listen to Angela Duckworth who is considered the world's leading expert on grit, she will define grit as the intersection of passion and perseverance. Sort of true, that is one kind of grit, there are other kinds of grit that are equally important. Interestingly, they all have individual hacks. So there's not any across the board grit hack, but hacking the grind means hacking, when I think of the grind, when I think of this kind of grit, what I'm talking about is straight ahead perseverance, this is kick me in the teeth, knock me down it doesn't matter I am still coming, that's the kind of grit we're talking about here. Bunch of things you need to know about grit, one of them was mentioned earlier. So every day, you wake up with a certain limited amount of willpower. Willpower is a finite resource on a daily basis that is coupled directly to your energy level. You have the most willpower, you have the most grit first thing in the morning when you hav...

e your highest energy. Why do people stick to their diets all day long and then binge on Ho-Hos 10 minutes before they are going to sleep, it's because willpower has declined all day long. So when you're at the bar and you're like I really shouldn't have that third drink I should go home and you have no willpower to resist you're gonna have that third drink, right, it's because willpower has declined over the day. So when we talk about that 90 to 120 minute period of interrupted concentration, unless you're a serious night owl, and you totally control your schedule so you can afford to do it that way, you wanna try to make that 90 to 120 minute period first thing in the morning, because your willpower is at your highest. If you are actually a significant night owl, you may have the most perfect perseverance late at night and you may wanna move and try to make your, via noun please, can I learn to talk. The end of the day, but other than that, know that willpower is a finite resource tied directly to energy, this is also why it's good to remember to eat along the way and things like that it helps keep willpower up. Mindset. So this is critical. Two key mindsets. Fixed mindset, growth mindset. Fixed mindset is the idea that you were born a certain way and you're all that. So mindset is, there's nothing you can do to change your performance, you're either a natural born great athlete, or you're not. You're either naturally born as a creative, or you're not, right. None of those things are true, but if you believe that way if you think that way, if you think your talents are fixed, if they are set in stone when you are born and they are limited, you're gonna find yourself stuck there, what we find over and over again is a growth mindset, which means that I can improve my talent base at any point just by learning and training, is what you need. Growth mindsets are extremely highly correlated with flow, without a growth mindset, very difficult to get into flow. Now here's where it gets tricky, especially as you move along in your career. If I call you up, Isaac and I say, hey I've got a question for you, I need your expert opinion in blah blah blah, you keep going and I ask you for some, and you speak as an expert, right. Just acting like an expert, will kick you into a fixed mindset, so I find, for example, by the way some of the hardest people to train up in flow are accountants and lawyers. And one of the reasons is because they are backwards facing careers, they're always rear guard actions, they are always protecting us from the past, tends to produce a fixed mindset, very very hard to break people out of that. When I do interviews, when I'm being interviewed, people are asking me lots of questions, I'm in a fixed mindset. When I walk off stage, I've been an expert for an hour or whatever, I'm in a fixed mindset. That's a bad mindset for producing, you can't get from one to the other. So one of the key things about struggle, keep yourself in a growth mindset, that child's mind, that curiosity to learn and grow and get better, you need to really cultivate that all the time. Alright, passion and purpose. I talked about this earlier. Passion and purpose only matter here, because they focus attention. That's what really, really matters and as I've said for those of you guys looking for a passion recipe who don't know what you're passionate about, there will be some bonus material at the end, it'll help you get there and if you aren't spending money on the course then you don't get to learn that. (audience laughs) Alright, so, other ways to hack your way through a struggle. Motivation theories. Study of motivation. Back in the 60s and 70s, this guy named Gary Latham discovered that simply setting a high, hard goal, a big, meta goal over your life, I said I do three things, right. I do advanced flow science, make the world a better place for animals, those are my big goals. Simply having a big goal will increase motivation by 25 percent, simply by setting a big goal. So when I talked about earlier, write a mission statement for your life, figure out what you're here to do, you're here to build cathedrals, figure out exactly what kind of cathedral you wanna build, you want those big goals, they're really important. We'll talk about a little bit later more about why but just know that now. Clear goals, so this is a flow chart, this was on the list of flow charts. The difference between a big goal which is something that looms over time and a clear goal, is a clear goal is right here right now. Flow follows focus. The reason clear goals are important, I wanna know what I'm doing now, wanna know what I'm doing next. So if you're talking about surfers for example, goals are really small, my goal isn't I wanna go surf pipeline, it's I want to paddle into this wave, I want to get to my feet, I wanna make it to the bottom turn, right, very small chunks. My clear goals every morning, usually involve I wanna write 700 words a day. It's a very clear goal, it's a goal I set for myself every single day as a writer, is I'm gonna write 700 words. Now, what I will tell you about clear goals is and you gotta conduct this experiment yourself. I've found in my life I can do roughly 6 to 8 things in day, you know, in a workday. So at the end of every workday, I make my clear goal list for the next day, it's my to do list. What goes number one is my hardest thing, so I'm gonna write 700 words, and then in diminishing order of difficulty, because willpower is decreasing, so your goals have to get easier as the day goes on, but you have to have those clear goals so you know what you're doing and what to do next. That way if you kick into flow while you're in your 90 to 120 minutes of uninterrupted concentration, you don't have to wonder oh what am I gonna do next after you've finished doing your thing. You already have it mapped out so you can save some of that flow energy and use it to your next thing. Clear goals are really really critical that way. Peak exits. So this is the idea that when you are working on your chosen task in your 90 to 120 minute concentration period, quit for the day when you're excited. Do not work all the way to the end. If you guys are familiar with Josh Waitzkin anybody familiar with Josh Waitzkin here. Okay, Josh Waitzkin if you've ever seen the movie searching for Bobby Fischer, it's based on him. He was the little kid chess prodigy. He was a chess prodigy, world champion, then became a world tai chi champion, and then a Gracie jiu-jitsu champion, so he's one of the very few people in the whole history of the world who's managed to kind of master a cognitive and a marshal art at the same time. Really impressive, he talks a lot about this. People talk about Hemingway, he used to say quit when you're most excited, so Hemingway would stop writing mid-sentence. I learned it from Gabriel Garcia Marquez in an interview he once gave, the same thing. Here's why. If you can quit when you're most excited, first of all, by the time you actually notice you're really excited, you've probably been excited for a little while already. Excitement as we know from earlier, is norepinephrine and dopamine, primarily norepinephrine. Those chemicals, at their peak saturation levels, can only last 20 minutes. Why are Ted Talks 20 minutes long, because most of us can only focus at a peak level for 20 minutes at a time. Makes you feel very comfortable now that you're sitting in a six hour class, right. (audience laughs) How much are you gonna get out of this, right I know. But it's really true. So what happens is usually by the time you notice you're most excited, you've pretty much burned out a lot of your norepinephrine and dopamine anyways, and you're gonna have diminishing returns after that. So stop it at a point you're really really thrilled and you're really excited. Means the next day when you come back in you get to carry that excitement. You're gonna start working and you're gonna be like oh I just stopped and this is really, oh right suddenly you're focused, you're into it, it's a really good way to hack it. The other reason this is important is all the narrow comes up that show up and flow, and we'll talk about this a little bit more later again but all that come up to show up and flow, they're not free, they're expensive for the brain and body to produce, they require sunlight, vitamins, minerals, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Dopamine is a very precious resource. When you can and you'll notice this in-flow, your brain starts finding connection after connection after connection and you don't want to stop you want to follow that thread all the way out as much as you possibly can. If you do that, if you indulge that urge, you're pulling all the dopamine out of your system, so when it comes time to get through that next flow state when you've moved all the way through the cycle, you're gonna have less dopamine to work with. Leave a little in the tank. You'll actually get way more done over the long term. Remember this is about going slow to go fast right, you will end up getting way more done if you can manage your peak exits. So clear goals get you into the process, peak exits get you out. Knowing these six things, applying them on a daily basis, really, really, really will help kind of drive perseverance through the roof.

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

Student Work

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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!