The Art of Impossible

Steven Kotler has delivered one of the most intense primers on peak performance that I have ever read.

Where most authors or teachers try to motivate with hyperbole and aspirations, Kotler lays out the specific, practical steps that you can take to achieve the Impossible (with an uppercase I).

In some instances, he distills the knowledge of his sources in such a way that it packs MORE of a punch with less fluff. His chapter on grit is a prime example of this.

This book is worth ten times its weight in gold.


My Notes:

Intrinsic motivation stacks — Multiple curiosities can combine into a passion.

Passions become purpose when you use them to help others. Massively Transformative Purposes are guiding stars.

Flow is easiest to achieve when the challenge is just beyond your current level of skill.

Having a clear passion and purpose helps you develop the grit to pursue mastery.

Goals on multiple scales take the guesswork out of your day. Easier to achieve flow.

  • High-hard goals should move you toward your purpose (Longer timeline)
  • Clear goals are described on a more daily basis, but I think there are intermediary goals that could simply be called “Projects”
  • Beneath projects, have clear actions planned daily.

Kotler also explores the limits of human potential and the dangers of burnout and addiction, and provides practical strategies for balancing challenge and recovery.

  • Have a clear ceiling. Sometimes we want to over-do it. Quitting before you’re empty makes it easier to get started the next day.
  • Flow (especially group flow) is one of the most addictive states of human consciousness. Will lead to burnout.

The end of the book closes with a flow hacker’s checklist.

Update: I still love this book for its practical application, but I’ve since discovered that flow tends to happen more when we’re NOT chasing it. I can see how a flow junkie would want to have a checklist like this, but it’s not entirely practical.

What works for me? I make sure the conditions are right, then I allow flow to happen.

Kind-of like happiness. The pursuit of happiness makes it impossible to acquire. Because you’re always pursuing it. But if the conditions are right and you allow it to happen? Magic.

The same applies for flow. I’ve updated my score on this book from a 10 to a 9 as a result of this realization. It’s a great book on goal-setting, mindset, grit, and flow, but it’s not a “must-read” if you’re already going with the flow of things. 😁

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