April 3, 2023

Steven Kotler | Aging and Peak Performance: How Flow Can Help You Thrive at Any Age

Steven Kotler | Aging and Peak Performance: How Flow Can Help You Thrive at Any Age

Tune in to learn how Kotler's advice and personal journey can help you push past preconceived limits and achieve your own impossible, whatever it might be, at any age.

In this episode we interview Steven Kotler, an author, journalist, and entrepreneur who has been studying human performance for thirty years. Kotler shares his cutting-edge discoveries in embodied cognition, flow science, and network neuroscience, which have revolutionized how we think about peak performance aging. Tune in to learn how Kotler's advice and personal journey can help you push past preconceived limits and achieve your own impossible, whatever it might be, at any age.

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Steven: No problem. It's a pleasure to be here.

Srini: It's great to be talking with you again. So, what have you been up to lately?

Steven: Well, I've been busy working on a lot of new projects and ideas. I've also been doing some traveling.

Steven Kotler: It is so good to be with you.

Srini: Yeah, it's my pleasure. You're like one of those rare guests, and I think at this point, you might be on par with Danielle Port for being the most frequently-appearing guest on Unmistakable Creative.

Steven Kotler: Oh, that's awesome. Thank you for saying that.

Srini: Yeah. And there's a good reason for that. You have had a profound impact on my thinking and my way of working. I think millions of people probably could say the same thing about your work on flow research. And you have a new book out in our country, which we will get into.

And I was thinking about how we could start this conversation given that I've talked to you so many times. I was thinking back to what questions I have not asked you, but given the subject matter of this book, I thought this would be an interesting place to start. What was your very first action sport, and how did that end up influencing everything you ended up doing going forward?

Steven Kotler: Oh my God. It was escaping. So the way we rode bikes, I grew up in Ohio, and we rode like we were trying to do what like BMX jumps and things like that but on seven 1970s hardtails or banana seats. So I think that was probably my first attempt at an action sport. I got my first skateboard; I want to say when I was 11 or 12. It was literally some of the very first skateboards they made. They were like polyurethane death traps. I got my first broken bone from that skateboard. But I think skiing was also like right around; I learned to ski right around. And from reality, I guess the answer, here's the answer you're looking for. The first time I went skiing, mogul skiing was expert skiing at the time, especially in Ohio, where we didn't really have much else. And I saw a guy show up at the ski area. They were having a ski contest, and it was like a standard mogul skiing race contest. And this guy showed up in a top hat and tails and was like a new school freestyle. Crazy. He did; he just did crazy. I remember he had a

Steven Kotler: They are, and they aren't. And this is, so in our country, the new book is about peak performance aging. And this is one of those myths surrounding aging. And like many of them, there's a big portion of it that's true. And then there's a caveat at the end that changes everything.

Srini: Yeah!

Srini: Yeah, it's funny; I had a feeling it was a skateboard. 'Cause I remember you referencing that in our previous conversations, and I started with that in particular because of all the toys that my parents would not buy me that were within their means. A skateboard was the number one thing on that list. My mom would always say, "Kids who skateboard break bones." And of course, now you know, I'm 40-something. And I remember when I was staying at my parents' house, and I brought home a skateboard, they're like, "What the hell is that?" And I was like, "It's a skateboard. I'm 40-something. We're not gonna have this conversation." My dad went to Costco, bought a helmet, and I was like, "This is a helmet. Please wear it." One thing that I wondered, as somebody who learned how to both surf, fence, and snowboard later in life, why is that when you look particularly at kids on the mountain or, for that matter, any other action sport, they seem to be able to recover from damn near anything in seconds? Like I see these kids riding park who is like six years old, and they just.

Steven Kotler: The thing you're talking about is essentially a motor learning window for performance that is open in childhood and starts to shut down. And it was almost completely closed by around the age of 25. And that's the theory, right? And there is truth to that in terms of brain development and whatever. What is actually true, though? That window does shut. So they tell you, don't become a ballerina after age 25. Don't try to learn gymnastics. After age 25, math gets harder, and foreign languages get harder. And there are lots of different things going on in the brain that make this true, but the biggest impact is that when we are kids and when we are younger, we tend to take a playful approach to learning, and there are a lot of benefits to a playful approach to learning. And a lot of things it actually does in the brain and the body. And if you're really interested in peak performance aging, part of the formula that you need to know about is that you want to be engaged in sort of dynamic deliberate play activities on a regular basis. Dynamic is a fancy word for saying it hits all five aspects of physicality: strength, stamina, balance, dexterity, and flexibility. The

Srini: So the natural sort of follow-up to that is, why don't we take that same playful approach to learning when we become adults? And I'll give you an example with Daniel Coyle here, who wrote The Talent Code. And this is something I've mentioned before. So I learned to play the tuba in ninth grade. I know I started in seventh grade. By ninth grade, I missed All-State by one chair. By 10th grade, I was ranked number one in California. And I played probably for about nine years. I had no natural musical aptitude. And to this day, anytime I've tried to pick up a musical instrument, the process is so frustrating. There's a part of me that gets annoyed because I got that good that fast. And I know, and I think that's my own ego in the way, but Daniel Coyle said something to me that has always stayed with me about that. He had said, you know, when we're thinking about something like musical instruments, he said, can you get so good that you impress the hell outta your friends and family? Yeah. He said, are you gonna open for Guns N' Roses at their next concert? No.

Steven Kotler: So what he's talking about is things we used to believe declined in time, and he's really an expert on myelination and white matter in the brain, which declines over time. This is true, and as a result, processing speed slows. Where this really shows up most, where everybody sees it in their life, is in risk aversion. Risk aversion is actually directly tied to processing speed; processing speed slows, so the brain is a little bit behind what it used to be. We tend to get more risk-averse over time. Now, there are ways to fight against that. If we keep exercising, especially in a dynamic way that utilizes all the skills that have declined over time, that can actually protect that. And the hippocampus, which does a lot of long-term memory, can shrink over time similarly, and you can rebuild the hippocampus with that. So anything you lose to age can be rebuilt through exercise.

There's also a bunch of new research that shows that brain decline seems to be tied to bone density. Our bones are the mineral factories of the brain; where do you think a lot of the calcium the brain uses to make decisions is stored? And there's bone-brain communication. This is the

Srini: Okay.

Steven Kotler: Kick it back to you.

Srini: Yeah. It's funny because I was somebody who learned how to surf after the age of 30. I started snowboarding consistently at 35, and, to this day, I remember when I was in my twenties and in college, I was the only one in my group of friends who couldn't even get down the damn mountain. Now, I don't think any of those friends would even bother snowboarding with me.

So I've seen that in my own life, but having moved away from the water and trying to learn how to surf again, I've actually resisted it because I'm like, damn it, this is gonna be going through this whole learning curve again. And I got back in the water when I was in Brazil after two years, and I was stunned at how difficult it was. I was just like, oh my God.

Steven Kotler: So, let me tell you a couple of things

Srini: Yeah.

Steven Kotler: Of all, you're stunned at how difficult it is. If you had stuck with it for two or three weeks, you'd be stunned at how fast you actually progressed.

Srini: Okay, let's get started.

Srini: Yeah, it's interesting when I hear you say that, 'cause I think about how I practiced when I was learning the tuba, it was borderline obsessive to the point where I drove everyone in my family crazy 'cause tubas are not pleasant to listen to. But I was talking, we're talking three to four hours a day, and now I'm realizing, oh, yeah, that would make sense that I can't just sit around and play the guitar for four hours a day.

Steven Kotler: Flow, right? Like you can't do it without flow. And the problem with the guitar, with all this stuff is, and the, and here's the thing, over time, right? Like we, there are correlations between learning - right there, patterns exist in learning to play guitar and learning to surf and learning algebra. There are patterns that overlap for sure, but there's also a lot of individual variation, and we start to think, oh, wow. I, I learned this really fast. I'm not learning this nearly as fast. Something's probably wrong with me. I maybe I'm not built for this. And suddenly, you're messing with your mindset, and the minute you have a fixed mindset, it's getting harder. So there's a lot of stuff that sort of works against us, which is why this idea of trying to go one step at a time, we call it one inch at a time, right? And that was my model. Go one inch at a time. When you're aiming for less, it actually tempers a lot of that in weird ways.

Srini: Nah, let's get specifically into the book. I think the moment I read that first chapter when you mentioned you decided to learn how to park ski at age 53, my first sort of thought was, holy shit. Because I literally probably said to my friends a dozen times, I'm like, riding a park on a snowboard looks amazing. I'm 40. If I break a bone, I'll be out for the season. It's never gonna happen. But after reading your book, it made me rethink the whole concept. And I was like, okay, what in the world made you want to ski? I figured you're already pretty much an expert-level skier right now. Does that make a huge difference?

Steven Kotler: Yeah, you'll see; it'll come back really fast. I've come back to surfing on three different occasions after a very long break, sometimes 'cause I moved away from the ocean and whatnot. So yeah, you can come back to it. You'll actually be shocked at it. But one of the things you have, this is actually the answer to the question, part of the answer to the question, one of the things that happen is one of the secrets to learning across the boards is flow. Right? When we are in it, there's a huge increase in the amount of neurochemistry in our body. The more neurochemicals that show up during an experience, the better chance it'll move from short-term holding into long-term storage. So time and flow really impact learning rates. One of the reasons kids learn so much faster is they're developmentally more flow prone, so it's easier for kids to get into the flow. This is another thing that happens. This is one of the reasons play matters so much for older adults. Play has a bunch of built-in flow triggers, and it blocks some of the stuff that blocks flow, and play massively amplifies learning. Where this gets tricky for adults

Steven Kotler: No, I mean it, I literally mean it helped with some of the stuff, but I also brought a bunch of bad habits into the terrain park with me. So it helped, and it hurt, and it was interesting. I like, there are eleven different things that went into why I chose park skiing, and one of the most important is that this kind of challenging quest later in life is really important, but it's really important to align whatever your quest is. You want a mission, and it's very important to have one for successful aging. Regular access to passion, purpose, and flow matters, right? That's that part of what gets you into this door, in a sense. And then sustaining it over time really matters. And as an expert skier, my only entrance into flow was big mountain riding, more challenge, more risk, more. Park skiing, even though it seems ridiculous. What I was trying to do was I was trying to learn how to creatively interpret terrain features. Some of those terrain features were in the terrain park, but really I wanted to be able to use the entire mountain, like a slopestyle course, if that makes sense to you.

Srini: Mhm.

Steven Kotler: The reason is this risk is a flow trigger, so it is a novelty, and that's what I was getting as an expert skier. What I wanted was creativity. So creativity, when you put ideas together in a new way, you get pattern recognition that works as a flow trigger, and it's a much safer flow trigger than risk. And if by learning how to park ski, I would learn a million different ways to creatively interpret the mountain and get into the flow.

So I was learning to move my body in new ways and use the terrain in new ways, at all levels of terrain. And what I was doing was actually giving myself a million more entrances into flow than I actually had before as a skier. So this was actually about maximizing flow, which is so crucial for peak performance.

At the Flow Research Collective, we train people on all this stuff. We bundle our standard zero to danger, our regular flow training, with our peak performance aging training because you almost want to come in with the flow stuff already down into the peak performance aging stuff.

It's useful because the flow is so fundamental for peak performance aging. And I can talk, there are a million different reasons, and we can talk about what those are, but I

Srini: Yeah, more than having an element of risk. And one of the things that you actually say in the book is that basically, Stanford neuroscientists and Huberman said that you could fight fear with peripheral vision. Because I think that, like when I look at the park, I see opportunities to be creative, but like the whole thought of, eating shit scares me to death because I'm like, I'm gonna break a bone. Explain that to me. As I said, I wrote off the idea of ever being somebody who could ride park on a snowboard until I read this book, which made me start to think maybe I can actually do jumps and all the crazy shit that I see.

Steven Kotler: Okay, so let me tell you what we did, and then I'll talk about Andrew Huberman in a sec.

Srini: Hey, Stephen, I'm looking forward to our meeting later.

Steven Kotler: They're slightly different, though. They're related in a cool, important way. First, it's important to understand that a brain is a prediction-making machine.

Srini: Okay.

Steven Kotler: How, what we did with park riding, we didn't try to teach people to do tricks. We started, we broke parks, skiing, and snowboarding into eight foundational movements. A hockey stop, excuse me, a snow grind, a jump, a crouch, a slash 180 could be done on the surfaces slowly. So you could do a sliding spin or a surface swap, 180, right? A 360, and there's one motion I've forgotten that'll come back to me in half a second.

And our goal was to teach people two new ways to move their bodies and practice their bodies, and the goal was to start with an established motor pattern. Something you do a hundred percent of the time with no conscious interference and zero fear. And here's the thing, skiers and snowboarders know how to hockey stop.

If you're at the intermediate level, you can hockey stop. If I raise the angle of the terrain and you try to hockey stop on a tilted surface, that's a grind. I knew everybody in our study group, everybody who could at least be an intermediate, had something they could do a hundred percent of the time. Hockey stop, 'cause that's basically

Srini: Yeah. So when you say a milder version of the trick, just for clarity's sake, let's say I wanted to go and attempt a jump or something like that, or one of those things that looks like a jump. So rather than doing the jump, I would just go up the ramp and go down it like I normally would.

Steven Kotler: I'd start you off with the first one. You have to understand how your body learns. So this is about pattern recognition and embodied cognition and affordances and a bunch of Wizbang science. But the point is you have to learn the shape of the features in the terrain park before your body even starts to get vaguely comfortable.

So I'd tell you to start by skiing up and then down the jump very slowly so your body actually gets a feel for this is what it looks like to come down, this is what it looks like to ride over that knuckle. I'd give yourself five or six runs through the terrain park where the first couple of things you're doing, nothing.

Then you've got the knuckle, right? You've got the rounded mound of snow that the jump sits upon. And then you've got the big jump. Start by jumping the knuckle, just like coming up the rise of the knuckle and popping and getting like an inch over the knuckle. We had one of the people in our study; she was a woman, 66 years old. She had never jumped off anything, and we started her this way, and by the end of camp.

Srini: Oh shoot!

Steven Kotler: I, we, I literally, I was down in the park. I was just watching people that I had told my partners. I was like; they're getting really excited. There's a lot of progress today. Keep people dialed back, and make sure they're staying at 1% and they're not pushing. And the next thing I know, this woman runs into a knuckle of a pre, like a medium to large size park. And jumps the entire knuckle, just like she's only a foot off the ground, right? Air-wise, she's only a foot above it. But she took off at the front of the knuckle and landed on the downhill slope, and the entire flat part across the top, she floated across. She had never done anything like that in her life. She was so ecstatic.

Srini: I can only imagine. You're speaking, of which you say that it appeared that our NAR country approach was addictive. Once people realized there was an accessible entry point to park skiing, the sliding SPIN 360, their fear was replaced by curiosity, and dopamine did the rest. The neurochemical amped up, pattern recognition, fast-twitch muscle response, and willingness to take risks. The result, someone who'd never done a sliding spin 360 nailed one on their first try. And then you say that most of us arrive in our fifties feeling the cage has gotten smaller. What's shrunk is our mindset. We're in a prison of our own making. Once we discover we can keep learning later in life, that mindset shifts, and the cage vanishes.

And I think the other thing that struck me most was what you say about it in terms of that people tend to think that slowing down is a good thing, and you say it's safer to go fast. So explain that to me.

Steven Kotler: People don't realize this, the gear in action sports across the board, pretty much everything you're buying beginner gear, is made for experts. Mountain bikes, snowboards, water skis, wakeboards--take your pick--at much faster speeds. And so the equipment is designed to work at speed.

If you are riding a mountain bike at two miles an hour along a very bumpy trail, you're gonna get sucked into every rock, and you're gonna get bounced around. It's gonna be like you're on a frickin' Bronco. If you're going 15 miles an hour, you skip over the surfaces and never dive into those holes, so it's a much smoother, safer ride. And because the bike is designed to work at speed, you have full use of the suspension, which allows you to be very agile, so it's a lot safer. It just takes a little while to get to those speeds. The same thing is true with skis. Most skis are made to work above 25 miles an hour, 20 miles an hour. You see that because most people don't ever learn how to ski that fast. But when you get to that speed, input goes away.

Srini: Okay. That makes sense. So one thing that you pointed out in the book was that you say, the neurobiological changes unlock three types of thinking that were mostly inaccessible before our fifties. Moreover, all three types of thinking continue to improve with age as long as we continue to cultivate creativity.

And you talk about relativistic thinking, non-dualistic thinking, and systematic thinking. So explain how those all work together in terms of peak performance.

Steven Kotler: Yeah. This is so cool. It's so cool. So the old idea, the traditional idea of aging, one part of it is the old dog can't learn new tricks. And it turns out it's totally wrong. It turns out old dogs are actually better at learning a whole slew of tricks than new dogs.

I'm crushing this metaphor, but here's why. So as we enter our late forties and our fifties, there are certain genes that turn on only through experience. The two halves of the brain start working together like never before. And normally, they're in opposition, but they come together in our fifties. And this increases into our eighties.

And finally, we gain access. The brain starts to utilize underutilized resources and real estate, right? It colonizes new territory. And the result is these three kinds of intelligence that you talked about. So let's talk about what comes online, and then there's a whole bunch of stuff downstream from it that's important. So relativistic thinking is we learn that there's no such thing as black and white. Everything is gray, and everything is shades of gray. And if you really wanna be paying

Srini: There's one other thing that struck me here, and you say, for the past 18 months, while skiing 88 days, I also launched a book, edited a second, wrote a third, and almost finished writing a fourth. Additionally, I helped steer the research collective through a pandemic. Gave over 200 speeches and interviews, led half a dozen research initiatives, and managed to stay happily married throughout.

Also, my dogs still like me. That matters for one big reason. Being busy is not an excuse. And then you go on to say that too often, the siren song of adult responsibility is where our dreams go to die. We have an alphabet's worth of excuses. I can't do X because I'm already doing Y and Z. Talk to me about that because it got me thinking about how much time I'm not spending on the mountain when I read that, even though I have my season pass and I'm just...

Okay. Yeah, like I'm making excuses here. I know I could easily go and spend a day on the mountain. I could probably do two or three days a week if I wanted to.

Steven Kotler: So the bunch here, and it starts with this peak performance aging is possible for all of us, but there's a lot to do. There's stuff you gotta do, and what the research shows is once you reach your fifties, if you're not moving forward, you're going backward. So if you're not training the skills you need to be training, they're declining, right? So it becomes much more imperative later in life. My big point is that there were a number of big points. One is that this is a standard flow thing. So flow massively amplifies performance, as we know, right? McKinsey did that 10-year study of top executives in flow, and they found that top executives in flow are 500% more productive than out. That's a huge boost in productivity. One of the reasons I was capable of doing so much while spending so much time park skiing is that park skiing kept dropping me into the flow; the heightened productivity and the heightened creativity that shows up in the state will outlast the state by a day, maybe two. So it bled into all the other stuff I was doing, first and foremost. So getting more flow on the mountain allowed me to get more flow at what the science shows.

Srini: Yeah. I mean, it may, sorry, go ahead.

Steven Kotler: Let me take it one step further 'cause this is crazy but worth saying. When we are subjected to negative mindsets around aging—meaning when we are subjected to stereotypes around aging, like when someone says, "Ah, you're too old for that shit," or the voice in your head says, "You're too old for that shit"—know from work done by Becca Levy at Yale, very rigorous great work, that being exposed to negative mindsets around aging, or exposed to bad stereotypes around aging, by the time you're 60 years old, if you've grown up around and gone into adulthood with these ideas, you'll have exhibited 30% greater memory decline than people who aren't subjected to negative mindsets around aging.

Srini: Wow. Yeah, it makes sense as to why when I was surfing so regularly, writing just seemed to happen so easily because the flow just carried over consistently.

Steven Kotler: Over.

Srini: Yeah.

Steven Kotler: Carries over. It's the other thing I think that nobody talks about, but I think this is really important. When you are in a bar, you're doing this kind of challenging physical activity. And it doesn't have to be, we, I mean, we're all up in action sports, but you...

Srini: Yeah, learning salsa dancing, or you could be learning tennis for that matter, and you still get a lot of these same carryovers 'cause they're dynamic activities, and they do a lot of the work you need doing. But the physical challenge, because we're physically embodied creatures, always has priority in the brain in terms of survival. And when we have, like, reach, and exceed physical goals, it does a number of things for us. But one thing it does is it really calms our nervous system down. So what happens is if you're out surfing and you, let's say, you're comfortable in four-foot surf and a five-foot wave comes in, and you take it, right?

Steven Kotler: You push yourself a little bit and take it, and you surf it, and you're fine. That extra bit of confidence. That shows up in surfing translates. When you run into a writing challenge, you actually have more confidence because a writing problem doesn't seem as scary as that five-foot wave.

Srini: Yep, totally.

Steven Kotler: Even though we both know a five-foot wave isn't gonna really do much damage, and a writing problem could threaten your career, and that's totally not right--that's not true, right? It's an illusion. It's not true. And yet the brain prioritizes the physical stuff. So, what ends up happening is work stuff, which is actually often a lot more survival-critical, gets less reactive attention. And as a result, you know this when we're calmer, you get amplified learning, amplified creativity, amplified performance, better access to flow--all the stuff you need comes from that calm. So, there are a lot of different benefits that overlay here. And yeah.

Srini: So basically, you're making me think, like, I'm working on this new book called The Artificially Intelligent Creative, which is all about AI and creativity. And, like, I've gotten a significant amount done way faster than I ever thought I could, but I've been stuck lately. So I'm thinking, after hearing you, it's like, I know what goes next.

Steven Kotler: By the way, I go flee, go to the mountains, go snowboarding, etc., etc., etc. Where are you? You're in

Srini: I'm in SoCal at the moment. So Big Bear is my closest mountain. Yep.

Steven Kotler: Yeah. I think you'll find you'll start finding some crossover, especially if you go in open with, "I'm gonna learn." That sort of thing.

Srini: Totally.

Steven Kotler: The kind of thing where you're not judging yourself, you're not self-conscious, you're just in the flow.

Srini: Yeah.

Steven Kotler: Set yourself up well for flow, and you'll start to see a blurring.

Srini: Yeah. You're making me think I should just go.

Steven Kotler: Southern California, with all the snow they've been getting, you

Srini: Yeah, I could go. Yeah, man. No, you're making me think I should just go rent a cabin for three days and stay up there rather than drive back and forth.

Steven Kotler: I think that's a good idea.

Srini: Yeah.

Steven Kotler: That.

Srini: One thing you wrote about in the book was getting hurt. Talk to me about that and recovery and how you deal with that.

Steven Kotler: I think there are three or four things worth talking about here. The first is the fact of the matter: older adults take longer to heal than younger. That's a fact, period. So you really don't want to get hurt if you can avoid it. That's just primary. So how, one, that's why I always tell people, don't just jump into these things, right? There I took a year to train for park skiing before I went in full-time, right? Like, I literally took a March to March before I was full-time in the park to do this. I also did all the smart things that people don't do because they get impatient on the front end. Good movement professionals will watch you walk and say, "Oh, you broke your ankle when you were 12, and you're overcompensating by doing this and this. Let's fix these smaller muscles that you're probably not paying attention to." You want to do stuff like that so you don't get hurt, right? You also want to go slower inside of it.

You want to have a very rigorous recovery protocol. Right? TV and beer aren't going to get it.

Srini: Yeah. This is just a question out of morbid curiosity that I meant to ask you earlier in our conversation. You're talking about children and how they easily get into the flow. I have a five-month-old nephew, and it's just been fascinating to watch his motor skill development like these very small things.

We were he has this like a little jungle gym, and I was at my sister's house last week, and I put his Curious George monkey on top of the Jungle Gym just to see what he would do. And I was like, "Hey buddy, can you help Curious George get down?" And the Jungle Gym has other toys attached to it.

So this kid literally looked at it for a few minutes, yanked the little toy, pulled it down, and just pulled George off. So what is happening in terms of flow at that age?

Steven Kotler: So there are two things going on at that age; one, states have precursors, right? Things that there were things that happened in the brain that produced more flow. There are changes in brain waves when we move into flow. Our brain waves are much closer to the alpha-theta borderline. Normally, naturally, developmentally, we're prone to alpha, so they have an easier time getting into an alpha state than adults. Flow is right on that borderline, so that's part of it. Their prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, and the ability to turn off parts of the prefrontal cortex is critical for flow. So these kinds of things make kids developmentally flow-prone, as a result. The other thing you're looking at is embodied cognition.

You gave a really great example, the old I, so talk about if, in traditional psychology or neuroscience, you'll hear people talk about the action-perception or the perception-action cycle. I perceive the world, and then I act upon my perceptions. And it turns out that's exactly backward. We don't perceive the world and act on our perceptions. We use our actions to test our perceptions. It's the action-perception

Srini: Yeah.

Steven Kotler: Go crazy. And they only go crazy with the leg that's attached to the mobile. So they learn, they wanna get this action 'cuz they're trying to learn. This is how kids learn. They test the world through movement, eye movement, and physical movement; certain kinds of conscious thoughts qualify as a movement. If you're talking, this is embodied cognition and a bunch of stuff downstream from that. So the way they think about the brain, sometimes movement is internal as well. Unconscious thoughts don't really count as movement, but conscious thoughts can qualify as movement sometimes; it doesn't matter.

But my point is this is actually how we learn. So one of the other things that happen, one of the reasons we can pry open this motor learning window and re-open it in older folks, is by making, by having, teaching them new movements and letting them investigate the world with movement. First, this feeds directly into how we learn.

In fact, just say you wanna learn a foreign language. If you couple the words with gestures, right? I'm trying to learn; it is. And when you're saying the word to yourself if you coupled the meaning with a gesture

Srini: Wow!

Steven Kotler: And this massively has an impact on how children learn. Talk about wild mind-body connections that you don't think about.

Srini: Yeah, right? Yeah. All this stuff comes; this is stuff that I used to help train older adults, right? But it all comes, a lot of the research on body cognition and this sort of stuff, it came out of like how do infants learn?

Steven Kotler: Actually, what's going on when infants learn?

Srini: Yeah!

Steven Kotler: That was where a lot of this early research started coming from.

Srini: When you mentioned tying the mobile as one of the things that we would do with my nephew, and one of my sister's colleagues told her it's, oh, buy a helium balloon and tie it loosely to his feet. It'll be like hours of entertainment and is exactly what you talked about. It was just fascinating. As we call it, playing soccer. Every time the balloon would go off, we'd be like, go.

Steven Kotler: That's cool.

Srini: Yeah. Look, as always, you and I could talk for hours and hours about all of this stuff. You're a wealth of knowledge. As I said, this book was different than some of the other books. But it also filled with really interesting insights and, as I said, made me start to rethink the idea of the writing part.

But in the interest of time, I want to finish with my final question, which I've asked you before, what do you think it is that makes some writing something unmistakable?

Steven Kotler: Unmistakable. That's interesting. I always, to me, the answer is style, but I gotta let myself define what I mean by style. Style is a conscious choice. Somebody's made a choice. So I've got a good friend who works at a big company, and he's a vice president; every day, he goes to work in a button-down and khakis, right? It doesn't look like a very stylish choice, but he's got great style. Why? Because he knows that he's a much more effective manager if he blends in rather than if he stands out in his environment. He dresses how he dresses out of work very differently at work. He wants to blend in. He's making a style choice, and he's making a creative choice. That's what I think makes somebody unmistakable when you see that kind of intentionality and that kind of choice over time in a lot of things. That's what I think makes somebody unmistakable: their creativity has bled out of their primary art form into everything they do, and it's visible in the choices they make.

Srini: Amazing. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your story, your wisdom, and insights with our listeners. Where can people find out more about the new book and all the work that you've been up to since you were here last year?

Steven Kotler: The new book, "Nar Country," is also available on Amazon or anywhere you buy books, so support your local independent bookstores. If you're interested in training for flow, which is foundational to peak performance, aging, or training for peak performance, then the best URL - and pardon the cheesy URL here, but it's easy to remember - is getmoreflow.com. So at The Flow Collective, if you wanna train with us at any level or learn more about our training, just go to getmoreflow.com. You can sign up for a free hour-long coaching call. And all we'll do is get on the phone with you and talk to you about flow and flow training and peak performance, aging, and all the stuff we do. And it's a one-stop shopping, and people love that call. They learn a ton. And it's super fun for folks.

Srini: I might have to sign up for one myself.

Steven Kotler: Yeah, get moreflow.com. We'll get you there. And "The Rise of Superman" is the book if you want to learn about Flow. Gina of Flow Research Collective is the company in general, and stevenkotler.com is me.

Srini: Amazing. And for everybody listening, we'll wrap the show with that.