The Pull: Steven Kotler, Author and Flow State Expert

This week my guest is writer and flow state expert Steven Kotler. Kotler is a New York Times-bestselling author known for his work decoding the neurochemistry of flow. What began as a series of articles for Discover Magazine led to his first book of nonfiction, West of Jesus, a tale of surfing, spirituality and a reappraisal of mystical states.

His book The Rise of Superman explores how flow states lead extreme athletes to progress at a rate that is unheard of in other sports. He breaks down how chasing flow leads to progression in ability, no matter what the realm is. He goes on to identify flow triggers so that anyone can improve the frequency and quality of flow in their own lives. Rise was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction.

While flow is a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it was Kotler’s work in West of Jesus that first aggregated all the research that had been done on flow, creating the first portrait of the experience at the biological level. For me, finding out that flow was a verifiable, tangible phenomenon, and not just some cute name for a good mood made a huge impact on me, helping to legitimize many of my life’s pursuits, and my ongoing love of the bike.

In 2017 Kotler and then-business partner Jamie Wheal released Stealing Fire, a book that explores how altered states of consciousness—not just flow—lead to breakthroughs and optimal performance. It’s a book that asks the reader to suspend judgment on commonly held beliefs about psychedelics and what they may offer us as a tool to a richer, more rewarding life.

He’s also the author of a new novel, his first in 20 years, Last Tango in Cyberspace. As much as I wanted to discuss Last Tango with him, we ended up devoting the entirety of our conversation to flow, which may not be much of a surprise to regular readers of RKP. Be sure to listen to the end; Kotler hints at something in store for RKP’s audience.

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The Pull is brought to you by the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, the world’s premiere gathering of frame builders and frame building enthusiasts. The 2020 show will take place March 20th to 22nd at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas Texas. We hope to see you there.

Show links:

Steven Kotler

Flow Research Collective

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