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Get Into Your Creative Flow

Lesson 20 of 32

Hacking the Most

Steven Kotler

Get Into Your Creative Flow

Steven Kotler

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Lesson Info

20. Hacking the Most

Lesson Info

Hacking the Most

The last thing, "Hacking the Most." The third thing, that you can train to be gritty; to increase grit, you want to control your thoughts, you want to be more perseverant. You also have to learn how to train to be at your best, when you're at your worst. It's a different kind of grit. Or to be at your best when it matters most. This is a different kind of grit: it may sound like the same thing; it's actually a different thing and you have to train it a different way. Four ways I've found to train, being your best when it matters most, or being your best when you're at your worst. First of all, you want to train your weaknesses. If you don't know what your weaknesses are, ask your friends. Ask your friends where you blind spots are, where your weaknesses are. Ask like three or four people; don't trust any one person, but if you're hearing the same thing from a couple of people, it's a weak spot, right? You have to be training them on a daily basis, you really do, there's no way around i...

t. The other thing is you need to get physical. I believe there is no way to be a successful creative over time without being physically active. If you're just running around as a head on a stick, there's a lot of different cognitive reasons why this isn't going to work; we'll talk about those in a minute. But it is just not possible. And one of the main reasons it is impossible is you cannot train to be at your best when you're at your worst, or when you need it most, without pushing yourself physically. We tend to privilege physical activity more, from a cognitive level. So even though, interestingly, like fear for example, financial fear and physical fear are processed by the same brain structures. They're treated in the brain as the exact same thing, but physical fear still feels scarier to a lot of us, right? That's based on the fact that we're physical creatures; we're in our bodies and risking our bodies really scares us. So I've found that the easiest way train yourself to be at your best when you're at your worst, is if you work out, instead of doing 10 reps, add an 11th rep when you're exhausted. So, I'll give you a couple of examples of things I do along these lines. One of the things I do is, as an action sport athlete, the secret to action sports is can you keep your balance under conditions of extreme exhaustion? If you can keep your balance under conditions of extreme exhaustion, you can survive as an action sport athlete without going to the hospital too frequently. You're still going to go; it's going to happen, but not too frequently, says the guy who broke 82 bones. But what I tend to do is for example, when I'm at the end of my workout, I end my workout with a bunch of high speed jump-roping sets and then I get on a balance board and I put like two songs on my iPod, and I don't allow myself, if I touch the ground I have to start over. So I practice balancing under conditions of exhaustion. Yes I'm training balance and it's prepping me for action sports, but I'm really training my mind to perform under really difficult conditions. So when I practice speeches, when I practiced this class, I write it; I do it a couple of times out loud in my office. I'll then usually call a friend and do it in front of them, and then I will go out and hike my dogs up a mountain, and do the speech then. So I figure, if I'm hiking up a mountain and I can actually remember the speech, I can do it under any conditions. So, I finished Stealing Fire this year. And Stealing Fire was a hard book, and I worked myself to the point of not only exhaustion but I was very, very, very ill. I had burned out my stomach lining, which, I didn't know it could happen, but it can happen: you can burn out your stomach lining. And let's just say, things came out of all sides of me, for a very long time. I ended up losing like 22 pounds. I couldn't control my bowel movements; I was puking all the time; and I had a lot of public speaking to do in this period. A very important speech happened to be on technology, but a week before the speech, five days before the speech, after it's all ready, I get a call from the company and they start kind of going through everything they do at their company and I realize that all the stuff I was planning on talking about, all the whiz-bang technology that I was going to talk about, they all do; that's what they do on a daily basis. So I had to throw my entire speech out and start over. And rewrote the speech and learned it again, and practiced it running up and down the mountains. And I got there, and as it turns out, my stomach was not doing very well, and let's just ... It was unpleasant, shall we say? On top of the fact that it was unpleasant, as soon as I walked onstage they had a massive tech failure. So by the way there's like, 10,000 people in this audience. This is a huge speech; there's 10,000 people out there. Things are leaking out of me (chuckles). I've had to rewrite my speech in the past week, and so I've just barely memorized it, and suddenly none of the tech works. I've got no slides; I've got no microphone. I've got nothing. It was a killer speech, perfect. Why, because I've spent a really long time training myself to be my best when I was at my worst. And because I have given that speech while I was hiking up a mountain with my dogs, okay yeah so I was a little sick onstage and didn't have any slides? Fuck it, who cares, right? I'm just going to go right through. Really matters, and you're going to spend a lot of time doing this, training to be at your best when you're at your worst, and the situation is never going to come up, it's never going to come up, and then that one day it will show up. You're going to do this for one or two or three days in your life, but those days will be critical and it's worth doing. And more than anything else, knowing, knowing inside that you're capable of being your best when you're at your worst, really fundamental. Cold immersion is another way that you can train this. If you are not interested in physical exercise, cold showers. This is what Wim Hof does; this is how he trains it, right? Ice baths, put yourself in very uncomfortable, painful situations, right? Extend the time: a little bit longer, a little bit longer, a little bit longer. The extra rep, with micro tests. This is, again, when I'm in the gym, I'm exhausted; instead of doing 10 reps I'm going to add an 11th in. Now the micro-test, this is where it actually starts to apply in our lives. So, we talked about this earlier, that the best time to multitask, which you can't do, is sort of at the tail end of that flow state. What I have found is, I've got my clear goal list, right? There's always a couple of those goals that are little things, right? So let's say I've put a tremendous amount of energy into my writing, and then I've got a couple of really annoying things. Rather than breaking right after my writing, when I want to break, when I really ... I add in one extra task; I make myself do one more task than I would normally like to do, just one, right; 4% push. It doesn't have to be big, just a little step forward, but you want to do that kind of stuff on a daily basis, so you're constantly teaching yourself that you can go farther than you think you can go. We are all capable of so much more that we think we are capable of, but most people never even get to the point of exhaustion where they figure out that there is a second wind, let alone a third, fourth, fifth, or sixth. But you can keep going and keep going and keep going if you train for it.

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*


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!