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Get Into Your Creative Flow

Lesson 25 of 32

The MacGyver Method

Steven Kotler

Get Into Your Creative Flow

Steven Kotler

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Lesson Info

25. The MacGyver Method

Lesson Info

The MacGyver Method

We are gonna teach you the MacGyver method. I told you earlier, well, I mentioned my friend Lee Zlotoff. Lee Zlotoff was the creator of MacGyver, and MacGyver for those of you who didn't watch it, is about non violent problem solving. That was his thing. No guns, he's gonna solve crimes, and fight the bad guys using the power of his brain. Lee, MacGyver is hugely popular, and Lee, I think this actually happened when he was in Tunisia of all places, and people found out who he was, the creator of MacGyver, and women were bringing up their babies so he could kiss their babies. He was like, what the fuck is going, what is happening to me, right? He's not, he wasn't even in the movie. He didn't actually even write the series. He created the idea, wrote the pilot, and then walked away. Now he's back involved with the new series and everything else, but literally, and he's a hero in a lot of countries, and he got really obsessed because of this with the question of problem solving. How do we...

problem solve? So he studied the creative process of the incubation period and he figured out there is a way to hack the pattern recognition system. You can program yourself to answer questions and here's how you do it. To hack the pattern recognition system when I like to do this, I take about five minutes after my kind of 90 minute session, 120 minute session, I, and I do it to figure out what I wanna write the next day. So let's say I've come through the 90 minute session. You want to hand write a question for yourself. You want to do this by hand, all right? Again, there is a really direct link between hand writing and the brain, so you wanna write it out, and you wanna be as specific as possible, even if it's very vague. So I will say I finished a chapter and I wanna start a new chapter in the next day. My notes to myself will, tomorrow morning I would like to start a new chapter and I would like it to be pretty funny and maybe a little sexy and maybe it's about elephants and blueberries and ladders, and I would like to make a philosophical point about the nature of consciousness, whatever. Be as specific as possible, but you can just put it that way. It doesn't really matter. Then, take your mind off the problem. In the beginning when you're doing this, starting out, when you're first learning this exercise, and you're taking your mind off the problem, A, you want to do something in the release category, a low grade physical activity. Lee, in his research, and he conducted this with psychologists at Princeton, they found that building models, as I said, airplanes, dinosaurs, whatever, seems to work the very best. Who knows? I, you know, gardening, long walk, take your pick. Then, on the other side of the release phase in the beginning you wanna make sure you have a release phase and then sleep. Go to bed at night, wake up the next day, and you're going to do a five minute automatic writing process. So you wake up, and you sit down and write the answer to my question is and just keep writing for three to five minutes. Just, if you don't know what to write, write, I have no idea what to write. This exercise is really fucking stupid. I can't believe Steven made me do this, blah blah blah. What you will very quickly discover is your answer. Your answers will start showing up with astounding regularity. Now, if your eye as a writer, right, for those of you who are writers, I don't even find the need to do the automatic writing exercise. I just jump into what I'm writing and the answers tend to show up. If you're not a writer, do take five minutes to journal it out, right, if that-- One way or the other. Now, it will allow you to use the release phase to your advantage. As you get better at this, you can shrink the time down a lot. So for example my day starts with get up at four, I write 'til eight o'clock in the morning. I then do my MacGyver method and I take my dogs for a hike. That's what I do every day, take them into the back country for an hour long hike that's 45 minutes to an hour. Mellow, fairly. It's a release hike. It's not, this is not my physical activity for the day. This is me just taking my mind off the problem. I'm gonna walk 20, 25 minutes 'til I've got exercise induced trance stand point until it's quiet up here and then I'm gonna turn around and I'm gonna go home. That's all I'm doing, all right? I will then, you know, I'll work for a couple hours. I'll take a nap. Usually I'll eat lunch and I'll take a 20 to 40 minute nap. 20 to 40, if you're going to nap, if you're going to try this, if you're gonna include, I will advise you to include naps in your day if you can. Try not to sleep past 40 minutes. If you don't let yourself go into REM sleep, right, you kick into REM about 45 minutes. Once you've kicked into REM you actually have to go through a full sleep cycle. So you have to stay asleep for a long time to get the benefit. If you sleep for 20 to 40 minutes, it's enough to kind of get the brain out of beta. It'll drop down to alpha, maybe it'll get to the edge of theta. It will reset you and then I have a second writing session in my afternoon, and usually the answer to my problem that I set for myself in the morning shows up in my second writing session, and then when that one finishes I give myself another, I go through the MacGyver method again and set myself up for the next day, for the next morning. Josh Waitzkin, who works with a lot of VC guys, a lot of high finance guys, has got people so good at this that they can do it when they go to lunch. They start, they'll, they'll just take a lunch break, right? They'll write themselves a question before they go to lunch. They'll take a lunch break, get involved in engaging conversation, come back do auto-- You can use the MacGyver method all day long. You can program your subconscious to answer questions for you and solve problems for you all day long if you want to. Most of us don't do this 'cause we don't realize the brain can do this, or will do this. Once you start using it, it will be an invaluable tool. It's also critical for release 'cause it gives you permission to go through this, right? Your urge when you're totally gripped is, I'm gonna fight it out, I'm gonna fight it out, I'm gonna fight it out, why? Get some exercise and let your brain solve the problem for you. If you're trying to grind through it, you're literally trying to grind through it with your working memory holding onto four items at once. Your subconscious can hold onto millions of items at once. Which one do you think has a better chance of solving your problem for you, right? All right, that said, the last thing now, let's go back to protecting your day. 90 to 120 minutes for uninterrupted concentration, right? Five minutes for the MacGyver method. Five minutes to write your clear goal list. 25 to 45 minutes for release. So again, as I said in the beginning, if you guys have employers, if you're not working for yourself, et cetera, et cetera, this may seem crazy. You may be sitting there thinking, fuck you, Steven, there's no way I could possibly do this in my life. You're out of your mind. Who's got that much time? Don't worry, it's gonna get worse as we go along. This is the goal, right? It will also, even if you are working a job, and you have to do this before you go to work or after you go to, it will move you so much faster. You will end up getting that 500% boost in productivity from flow. It's worth taking the extra time. Remember I said earlier we gotta go slow to go fast. All right? Sorry for all the questions. The previous slide you had, you know, protect your day with a, you know, yeah, the focus, MacGyver, goals, release. Is that necessarily the order, because-- No, no, no. Okay. That's just the order that I, that I threw it up there. Okay. I, now it tends to be how I, I actually tend to do it this way, right? So I'll do my 90 minutes, right? Then I will do my MacGyver method. I like to write my goal list for the next day at the end of my, you know, at the end of my-- So I wanna write it before I wake up the next day. So I'll do it there, and then I tend, you know, and then release.

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!