The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler

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Book about ultimate human performance which as a state referred to as ‘flow’ (or what could be termed being in the zone). Flow induces transient hypofrontality, which provides maximum focus whilst also providing a creative spike due to a surge of gamma waves that spread across the brain.

If you are training achieve maximum flow you may gain a moment of insight. If you are taking risks including fear of death you are also more likely to induce a flow state hence why high performance athletes are main subjects of this book. Case studies such as mind over matter by a world class skateboarder who continued to perform despite fracturing his leg.

Situational awareness is enhanced in flow. Creative flow enhances lateral thinking this state is similar to being in love. Allows for rapid bounding of teams, such as with pilots. Flow is different from adrenaline rush the physiology of flow & neurotransmitters are discussed in this book. Draws on similarity with drugs of abuse that provide similar sensations but less positive outcomes in essence attempting to cheat the body into feeling like it is in flow.

Mentions marshmallow experiment and has hypothesis that risk takers (such as sky divers or rock climbers) may not be good at delaying gratification although can become the best in their field as they induce flow which propels them into a heightened state of learning. Unlike drugs flow provides positive benefits and is good particularly for those who delay gratification too much as it provides them with focus on the now.

Uncertainty a way of focusing on the now, so if an activity is high risk and the outcome is unclear you are more likely to achieve a flow state. Flow in that way is similar to mindfulness but can be induced quicker with extreme risks rather than mediation.

Suggests 4% increase in effort is required to make progress worthwhile but not overly challenging. Aim for the task at hand to be challenging but not overwhelming.  Aim to write a few paragraphs rather than the whole book.

To learn flow;
1. Struggle – learning phase intense learning
2. Release – take mind off problem therefore do something else to relax
3. Flow – when you keep doing it you will find this
4. Recovery – it takes energy to use flow and need time to remember this

Growth mindset helps both to manage through the learning, struggle phase and recovery.  Realise that the flow stage is not forever and the cycle will need to start again.

It can be hard to adjust to losing flow when stopping the high risk activity. Suggests the need to keep playing as an adult as an alternative path to mastery by inducing flow.

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