Week 2: Flow and the Master Keys

Lesson 2-4 says:

It is through the subconscious that Shakespeare must have perceived, without effort, great truths which are hidden from the conscious mind of the student; that Phidias fashioned marble and bronze; that Raphael painted Madonnas and Beethoven composed symphonies.

I’m a big fan of a guy named Steven Kotler. His story goes like this: He contracted Lyme disease, which was so uncommon on the West Coast at the time that it went incorrectly diagnosed for years. After three years in bed, being too weak to do anything, he started to develop a plan to end his life, when a friend pulled him out of bed to go surfing.

He was weak and it was hard, but he felt better. When he was able to get out there again, he did, and eventually the Lyme disease went away.


“Surfing is not a known cure for autoimmune disease,” Kotler explains. So he went looking for answers.

What he discovered was something scientifically called “transient hypofrontality.” In laymen’s terms, it means the frontal lobe of the brain turns off for a short time, which allows instinct to take over.

You already see where this is going, as far as the Master Keys go, right? When we make things a habit, our conscious mind, the organ of which is the brain, shuts off, and the subconscious mind, the organ of which is the solar plexus, turns on.

In other words, instinct takes over. The researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called this state “flow.” It’s the thing that allowed Laird Hamilton to set record after record surfing big waves — including making moves no one had ever made before, some that saved his life. It’s the thing that allows big mountain skiers to helicopter in and ski 80-degree slopes. It’s what is commonly known in some circles as runner’s high.

And it’s what allowed Shakespeare to write, Raphael to paint and Beethoven to compose.

The brain shuts off and the body takes over.

And it’s totally trainable, as we’re learning during the Master Key Experience.

Kotler writes in his book Stealing Fire that there are ways to lasso flow, bringing it into your life to improve creativity, health, happiness, etc. Extreme sports are one way, meditation (think: our daily sit) is another, and he is a proponent of some psychedelics to bring about flow (disclaimer: ask your doctor and be aware of the laws where you live).

I am not a psychedelics guy, but I am a medium-distance (half-marathon) runner who is looking at possibly running my first full marathon in a year. I’m not fast, but it’s enough to kick me into flow and leave me there for hours.

Kotler and his Stealing Fire co-author Jamie Wheal run the Flow Genome Project, which tries to give all of us access to flow to help make our lives better through increased creativity and productivity, happiness and health.


Kotler has also co-authored two books with Peter Diamandis, an entrepreneur who recognized at an early age that NASA was unlikely to get him to space, so he started looking at ways to get the private market started.

It was his idea to start the XPrize.

The two books they wrote together, Bold and Abundance, seek to bring people together to build a better world, with the understanding that getting people together can create flow and greatly increase creativity and output. (If you want a shortcut, you can see my notes on Bold here and on Abundance here.

If you want a good book to start with, Kotler’s first book on flow is The Rise of Superman, which discusses primarily action sports; if you don’t do action sports, it still gives you some physical cues you’ll recognize, so I think it’s still a good starting point.

Here are some podcast episodes Kotler appears on, if you want to give a listen (I have no stake in these; I just enjoy listening to them, and you might, too):

Joe Rogan Experience
Unmistakable Creative
Front Row Factor
School of Greatness
Accidental Creative
The Psychology Podcast
Art of Manliness

What are some ways you increase your productivity and kick yourself up a notch?


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