Flow is defined as an optimal state of consciousness and is considered to be the optimal experience of life. This episode helps you to understand and increase your time in flow, so you can get the most out of every aspect of your life. Flow dramatically increases every measure of performance you can imagine, as well as your subjective quality of life experience.
Our goal in this conversation was to get your hands on the knobs and the dials and the levers of your own psychology. By the end, you’ll have a strong understanding the principles involved so you know how to tweak and improve your experience on an ongoing basis to have more flow in your life, and be able to apply these principles in a wide range of circumstances. And that’s important, because as you’ll hear about in the episode, the science here is very clear — flow dramatically increases every measure of performance you can imagine, as well as your subjective quality of life experience.
This is part one of a two-part conversation. You can find part two here.
In this conversation, we discuss:
- Conor’s background and transition into data work
- Rian’s background
- Starting a company in flow
- What is The Flow Research Collective
- What is flow?
- Flow Research Collective goal
- What are the 21st century skills?
- States are activity or task independent
- The ultimate competitive advantage
- The autotelic personality
- How to find flow in new activities
- Why is flow important?
- The skin bag bias
- The astronaut syndrome
- What is a flow trigger?
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES
Transcripts may contain typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Andrew 00:02:27 I usually like to kind of start on on more of a personal note, and then we’ll sort of guide it into the, the essentials and we’ll just see where it goes. Um, but one of the questions I had for you, Connor was I saw that you actually have a, a background in international development and economics and that you worked and I’m guessing this is how you got into like the data work you do now. But I’m curious if you could kind of tell us the story, but how did you go from writing grants for like Subsaharan Africa, economic development to being the chief science officer flow research collective, because that is like, those seem worlds apart!
Conor 00:02:56 That happened. So how time do we have, let’s keep it on the brief and then we’ll just see where it goes. So actually I got into data science for a number of different reasons. Um, and so two main things happened at around the same time. And so first, uh, there were, uh, uh, two individuals as to do flow, uh, in Apogee energy. Um, so there are two economists out of, um, MIT. They both wound up winning the Nobel prize for some of their work in behavioral economics. And so basically those individuals were the first people to apply the randomized control trial, right, which we know from pharmaceutical interventions, right? Where you take two different groups of people, you give one of them in intervention, you give one of them, you know, some sort of active placebo. And then you look at the difference between them. Um, their main innovation was they took that strategy and applied it to international development. And so if I go into Subsaharan Africa, if I go into rural Kenya and I give this village to this intervention, this village something else, and I look at the difference between them that way I can start to validate the difference between different interventions.
Conor 00:03:58 Um, and so this was a paradigm shift in nonprofits. I mean, nonprofits are horrific at using data, right? And they’re getting a hell of a lot better. A lot of the reasons why they’re getting better as thanks to bill and Melinda Gates foundation, because they’re pushing randomized control trials harder than anybody else’s. Um, and that’s been incredibly, incredibly impactful. Um, but I started to get more and more involved in this idea of, you know, how is it that you use data to have a bigger impact in what you’re doing? Um, and so I was just really inspired by what was happening there. Um, so I was actually on the other side of the equation from grant writing. So I was working for our foundation. I was working for the rotary foundation at the time where I worked for about three and a half years. Um, and so I was evaluating, uh, different grant proposals, giving feedback for how they can modify that in order to be more impactful.
Conor 00:04:44 And so my goal in that period of time was to use those best practices from these, uh, especially MIT researchers and one researcher in particular coming out of Princeton as well, um, to try and make those grants more impactful. And so I started seeing just how powerful data is, uh, when you’re in those environments. And like there was a huge market gap at that point because nobody in nonprofits was using this particularly well with the exception of bill and Melinda Gates. Um, and so that, that started to change more and more as time went on. But, you know, still, you know, obviously, you know, when I talked to, you know, friends at Facebook who are PhD researchers who are researching, why when you start to write a status update and then you deleted, they’re trying to figure out all the nuances of why that’s the case, right?
Conor 00:05:25 Like that’s how advanced Facebook is. And that’s only scratching the surface of all the different things that they’re doing. And then nonprofits are sitting here doing some more rudimentary techniques. Um, but that just got me incredibly inspired by how data can Inforce human potential. And so like, that’s that, that, you know, set off a whole chain of events. That was one aspect of that journey. The other aspect of that journey, um, is I became really interested in tracking data on myself and seeing how it correlated back to, uh, my mood and energy levels. Um, and so like, this is, you know, relatively quantified self project that, you know, I’ve talked to a ton of people who have done very, very similar things. Um, but I started tracking all of this data on myself and then I was like, Oh shit, like, this is really insightful, but I don’t have any statistics.
Conor 00:06:07 I have no idea how to actually interpret this. I can plot some basic plots, but I don’t know how to actually interpret this in a rigorous way. And so as time went on, I started taking more and more statistics classes started learning more and more advanced machine learning techniques. And then one thing led to another. And then all of a sudden I’m in this room with you guys where I’m, you know, continuing to use data and technology to reinforce people’s best selves, except for, at this point, instead of doing this in the context of sub Saharan Africa, I’m, I’m doing this in the context of, you know, anybody who’s interested in some level of peak performance.
Andrew 00:06:41 I love that. That’s so interesting. Oh man, what’s up. And I’m trying to remember the name of the book, but Rian, when I was getting ready for this conversation, I remember there was this re this book he referenced so many times in some of your other conversations that you said was like, when you talked about as a teenager, right? Like you had that, you had the accident and that took you out like physically for, for years. And you’re trying everything under the sun to like get back to normal basically and get your life back. And you talked about this one book by Michael site. I think it was Matthew side blink. I believe it was. And it was just exactly what did that book do because you’ve referenced it, it clearly had a huge, what was that like? What did it do for you?
Rian 00:07:25 So yeah, when I was 13, I’m not sure if you know this. I think when I was 13, I had a really severe head injury. I went down a hundred foot water slide that was basically vertically pointing at the ground, did a somersault stupidly off the bottom of the slide, Sammy rotator, and then crack the top of my head of the concrete bottom of the pool. It was like Croatia, Croatia, Bri EDU. So the waterpark wasn’t very well regulated or me and my brother were like going up to the top steps. It was like broken planks. We were like, this started off here, put in the air. The is like rotting. Um, anyway. Yeah. So how’d that really, really severe accident for the next year had super bad amnesia. Couldn’t remember the name of my, so my close friends couldn’t remember the name.
Rian 00:08:13 My favorite band was totally debilitated. Mr. You’re a school went back to school that still had really severe symptoms the year after that at age 15, and then found that book randomly in like this apartment I was living in on my own at 15 and Dublin whose book it was still, maybe it was the previous owner or something and just read it. And I wasn’t even a big reader at the time, but he basically does a similar thing to Jeff Colvin and the talent myth, um, and tries to make a case against the idea of inherent talent, of any kind and argues that we are essentially just a product of nurture when it comes to our abilities. And I got like so obsessed with that idea and the way I’ve described it previously is that it sort of like implanted a growth mindset and gave me the sense of agency and Oh my God, talent is not a fixed thing. It’s not static. You can actually develop an extra incentive to you
Conor 00:09:13 Right here. Yeah, exactly.
Rian 00:09:15 Yeah. I remember like at that I looked 15. I would like purposely try and get my friends to argue the talent was a thing. So I could
Conor 00:09:24 That it wasn’t one of those, you got a philosophy degree bullshit.
Rian 00:09:36 Um, but that, but I read that and then became obsessed with the idea that I’m like, God, if you’d like, if you do things, other things can happen as a result of those things. So I started studying properly in school, started reading more. I read another book that was sort of similar to that was the monk who sold his Ferrari, which is a book by Robin Sharma a super simple sort of stuff. But when you’re first introduced to that whole world, it’s like kind of revolutionary to realize that if you get a good morning routine, you feel better for the rest of the day, these kinds of things. Yeah, exactly. Um, so yeah, that was my intro to the whole world of like peak performance. Self-development, you know, personal growth if you want to call it that or whatever. Yeah. Yeah. And the rest is the rest is kinda history.
Rian 00:10:17 So one of the things I was really curious about, um, and we’re gonna, we’re gonna talk a lot more about all the things and all these topics. We’re gonna go deep on flow and, um, performance and its potential and exploring a lot of this stuff. Cause it’s, it’s so fascinating and cool. Um, but one of the things I was really in, we’re gonna talk a lot about flow research collective as well, which you guys obviously, you know, come together with Steve and to start over the last about a year or so. Right. Just coming up on a year, 11 months. Yeah. I mean, we worked together for a long time before that, but the company in its current iteration has been around for coming up on a year, coming up in a year. That will, first of all, congratulations. Thank you.
Conor 00:10:50 Thank you your once a year.
Rian 00:10:55 Um, but uh, yeah, I mean, one of the things I’m really curious about just is how has the level of understanding you all have developed around the ideas of flow and like flow applied to everyday life and work. How has that actually impacted your experience of starting this company in the last year? Like what, why, why, in what ways is flow research collective? How would it have been different if you didn’t know all the things, you know? Right. That’s a great question, man. Yeah. It’s a great question. In other words, if we were doing it all, like not in flow, you weren’t experts in flow. Like how would this look different? It’s a great question. I mean, I personally, at least I have my own routine and processes and protocols very much so now sat and refined that drive me into flow. So I can, I feel like pretty consistently systematically drive myself in a flow.
Rian 00:11:44 I start work normally at about 4:45 AM and just pretty much go until usually five straight and I’m able to drop into that state for the entire duration. And it just feels phenomenal, incredibly enjoyable, satisfying. And I go to bed like sometimes so excited to wake up and work again that I can’t sleep. Um, and I assume that that positively contributes to, you know, results in the momentum we’ve been able to gain pretty fast and the movements we’ve been able to make. So I would imagine one thing is we’d be a little further back, um, with respect to where we are wise training wise, client-wise products wise, otherwise. I mean, it’s tough to imagine running the flow research collective, unable to get into flow.
Conor 00:12:35 You’re talking, I’m just thinking of, you know, a conversation that’s, uh, the three of us had you, me and Steven, um, uh, many years ago when we first started, when we first started doing our first research together, which was a creativity study. And so basically it’s looking at the impact of flow on creativity. And so we’re sitting here, you know,
Rian 00:12:53 Great just for the listener, since Steven’s not in this conversation, when we refer to Steven, do you mean Steven Kotler who, and we’ll link to him in the show notes, but one of the preeminent writers and thinkers about flow in the world and co-founders with Riananne and Connor in the right.
Conor 00:13:04 Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. So Steven’s our, uh, the CEO of airflow research collective has written many different bestselling books. Um, a lot of them having to do flow, a lot of them having to do with exponential technologies, his most recent book being the future is faster than you think, which launched, I believe officially last week. Um, but so, um, as I was saying, when we were initially doing this creativity study and we’re trying to figure out like, okay, if it is the flow that you experience in creative States, is it distinct from flow that you experienced, if you’re, you know, skiing down a mountain or, you know, inflow in your, when you’re in some sort of business environment or whatever else the case may be. And we’re sitting here trying to figure out the best way to suss this out. And we’re like, actually I don’t think I’ve had any creative moment that wasn’t in flow. Right. And so like when you’re talking about like where we would have been, had we not been able to have, you know, really strong personal habits, a really strong sense of productivity and drive, like, I don’t think we would have been able to do any of this crap and maybe we would have been able to, but like on, you know, give it a three X multiple on how long it would have taken. Right.
Rian 00:14:05 And the other big one actually that you just made me think of is I think there would have been much larger, unnecessary sacrifice. So all of us have been able to live pretty balanced, nice healthy lives while building the company in the last 11 months. And I think unfortunately when people have slightly less robust habits and practices around peak performance, they end up sacrificing everything to get to the end, result their health, you know, their relationships, everything. So because of it, I think we’ve been able to keep other areas of life pretty intact while still making great progress.
Conor 00:14:40 And that balance is huge. I mean, like so much of what you see you and, you know, quote unquote peak performance is like the raw, like push yourself all the time. Yeah. But balancing that with, you know, a strong sense of recovery, a strong sense, you know, the stuff that makes your life valuable. I mean, for Steven it’s skiing, you know, for me, it’s, you know, skydiving, um, you know, without that like sense of balance, right? Like it’s, it’s hard to maintain that in the longterm. Yeah.
Rian 00:15:03 Yeah. That’s something it’s, it’s really, it’s actually really impressive. Cause I mean, as someone who I’ve been a part of starting companies, and I have to say that it’s so distinct from the experience I had, I’m actually like envious and I’m like, okay, that’s the goal for the next one? You have to say in a year in what you, what you were saying right now. Cause that’s amazing. And I think it’s probably probably something that most entrepreneurs probably wouldn’t say a year end. So the fact that I think there’s probably something really valuable you’ve tapped into not just for performance and what the results you’re creating, but also your experience of, of your life and what you guys are creating, which is fantastic. And, and just, I realized just a second ago, we didn’t actually didn’t lay a foundation of what the flow of research collected is. So maybe, maybe you could give just a quick overview. I know it’s a research and training organization, but maybe you just give a quick, um, quick download for the listener of like, what is, what is flourishers collective cool. You take the training, I’ll take the research. Okay, perfect.
Conor 00:15:51 Yeah. That’s how we operate anyways. Yeah.
Rian 00:15:54 That’s how it goes. So yeah, it is both a research and training organization. Connor will touch on the research side. On the training side, we work with entrepreneurs and executive teams, um, teaching them and train them to be able to reduce burnout, stress and overwhelm and access flow state more consistently to improve their output, their performance, the results they’re able to produce in the business. And then in, in their lives, we’ve got a team of peak performance coaches and all of our coaches that are either psychologists or neuroscientists. So the vision there has been to build the world’s most effective experienced, and academically credentialed team of peak performance coaches. Oftentimes the coaches industry is very sort of unregulated. There aren’t necessarily any barriers to entry. There’s no, you know, standards really for what makes a qualified coach. So we wanted to kind of flip that on its head and go to the other extreme and primarily have our coaches be psychologists or neuroscientists depending.
Rian 00:16:55 And so a lot of our training involves usually a client coming on board wanting to get some results that they will generally self-defined a little bit. Um, and we pair them with a coach. Coach works usually over an eight week period to implement habits, you know, changes in their own life changes, mindset wise that are going to help them be able to drive themselves into flow more consistently to get whatever result again they want to get. Well, that’s, you know, reducing the amount of time they have to spend working. Maybe it’s being 10 acts is productive and working even more totally depends on the individual, but we just help them get to that end result.
Conor 00:17:32 Right. And I think one common denominator amongst our coaches is they’re all very interested in positive psychology, right? And so they’re individuals who are, you know, oftentimes train clinical psychiatrist, um, and they focus so much like so much of psychology does on abnormal psychology on the downside of human life. And they’re all people who have kind of come together around this idea of, you know, what, what makes human flourishing possible. Um, and so they’re focused on that is one common denominator under all of them. Um, and I think it provides a lot of rigor to a field that, um, is squishy in a lot of ways. Exactly. Like positive psychology can be that way, but also like the, the trend that we’re seeing right now is towards the life coaches and like, you know, with life coaches, like it’s in a sense it’s watering down a lot of what used to be the domain of clinical psychiatry. Um, and so like it’s, um, I think individuals who benefit from that, I think that’s fantastic, but like at the end of the day, like there are a lot of challenges with that domain of, you know, credentialing, how can you actually have science back approaches that allow you to, you know, um, empower people to unlock their potential in some capacity or another?
Rian 00:18:40 Yeah, well, yeah. And that relates to the biology versus personality thing, which is that, you know, we really demarcate from trying to tell people what works for us or like coaching or training barista based on personal experience and rather based on, okay, here’s what the actual research or literature says about what works. Let’s try this systematically for you run an Antwan experiment, see if it works for you, see if you can produce results of your own life with, and if so, great, continue on rather than, you know, deriving our methodology from personal experience. So rather than being like super prescriptive, you’re, you’re kind of sort of coming to the table and saying like, here’s what science has learned about what flow is and how, how it can be access here’s the menu basically. And then let’s start working with the menu and find what works for you.
Rian 00:19:24 Exactly. Rather than me know, giving you my weird rituals. Interesting. As an example of like this stuff in action, but ultimately you got to figure out how to do it for yourself. I mean, the other side of, yeah, the weird rituals thing is being kind of, um, you know, blinded by science or constrained by science. So one of the, one of the phrases I love to use at least with respect to the coaching is that we want to be consistent with science, but not constrained by scientists. So for example, if there’s no empirical data behind an intervention that is working for an individual and producing great results for them that, you know, they should obviously still continue to do that thing and the science will catch up. And that’s one of the things we say is, you know, normally coaches or clinicians are 50 years ahead of the research because they’re constantly running Antwan experiments with their clients all the time. And they’re gaining this sort of observational data around things that are actually happening. And it’s a very pure, direct, immediate form of in parasitism as well. It still is, you know, a form I think of in Paris is in. And so we tried to ensure that where yet consistent with the science, but you know, not telling people not to do things because there’s no paper yet written about it or whatever the case may be for sure.
Conor 00:20:34 Right. And then in terms of the science, so, um, uh, my background is more the science side of things, right? And so I’m one of, I guess, a tagline to start with the tagline of the organization, right. It’s uh, decode, float, uh, Recode humans. Right. And so one of the main things that we’re trying to do is drill down from a scientific perspective, deeper into what we understand about flow. And so Flo dates back to the seventies when, um, uh, Mihai chick sent me high, the so called, uh, godfather of flow. Um, I started publishing his research on what makes people’s lives meaningful, um, what makes people’s lives, uh, productive. Um, and he, you know, found this state of consciousness known as flow. And so, um, a lot of the research that’s been done in flow has been on the psychology level, right? So it’s been on, you know, what is the subjective experience of flow?
Conor 00:21:21 How can we make difference, uh, psychometric instruments in order to be able to assess flow? Um, what are the different dimensions of flow, right, as a flow, when you’re in a group of people in a social setting, is that different from if you’re, you know, an individual doing some sort of cognitive tasks, um, like those were the domain of questions that were being answered for a long time. Um, and so now we’re starting to move more into the neuroscience of flow. And so what’s actually going on in your brain and your body when that happens. And so how can we map this subjective experience to what’s actually happening within your brain and your body? Um, and that is an incredibly complex, um, uh, subject matter as you would expect. I mean, so much of neuroscience, right? Like, like one interpretation of neuroscience, it’s like the goal was to, you know, solve the brain mind problem.
Conor 00:22:04 Right. And so how can I like match up your subjective experience with what’s actually happening in the structure and function of your brain? So it’s an incredibly complex domain, um, flow intersects with so many different domains. And so for instance, you know, flow is an attentional task, right? When you’re in flow, your attention is completely focused on the present. Um, and so there’s a ton of neuroscience research on attention, right? Uh, flow is similar to meditation, but it’s different from meditation. There’s a ton of neuroscience research on meditation. And so a lot of what we do on the science side of things is we try and drill down into that equation, um, and get a real solid sense of what exactly is going on your brain and your body when you’re in that state. And once we have more of a sense of what’s going on there, we know a lot of things there still a lot of things we don’t know. Um, once we get a better sense of that, then you can use that knowledge to better build training mechanisms, to better build technologies, to better build a pharmacology pharmacological, like inter interventions that allow people to have more flow in their life.
Andrew 00:23:03 Yeah. So actually really quick, I want to like, let’s take two minutes and just lay a foundation. So, you know, everybody knows flow, even if they don’t realize they know it, right. Everyone’s had this experience at some point in their life, even though they may not know it by the label flow. So maybe you could just take a second. And for those who aren’t familiar with that term, just like, what is flow and also, what does it not like? What do people, what are the misconceptions about it? Yes.
Conor 00:23:25 So let’s start with just high level, what is flow. And then we can drill down into how to make that really personal and applicable to many people. Because one thing that I commonly hear is when I’m discussing, um, especially with, um, random people that I meet, right. Because, you know, I live in the Bay area Bay areas and echo chamber, just like any other place like you might live in. So flow is a bit of a more, you know, a common piece of the vernacular. Um, but when I talk to people who are completely outside of like that bubble, um, then like they have like these weird aha moments. They’re like, Oh, I’ve had that experience, right. I never had a language for it, but now I have a language for it. And so that’s really exciting for me. Um, but at a high level of flow is an optimal state of consciousness where you feel your best and you perform your best and the easiest way to get people, to like click and like, know what flow is, is just imagine a time that time passed radically differently.
Conor 00:24:21 Um, and so maybe you got lost in a conversation and all of a sudden you look at the clock and it’s two hours later, um, think of like the like car crash, freeze frame effects, right. That doesn’t exactly flow, but it has that same sense of time distortion. Um, and so those moments, right, the, the original research from chicks MEI, um, indicates that like those moments are among the most meaningful, happiest moments that we have. And so the reason why flow is arguably the centerpiece of positive psychology is because those are the most meaningful, powerful moments of our lives. And so the goal of the company began like became, you know, how is it that you decode these moments and how do you make these more accessible to other people because there’s a science behind it, right? Like we know things about this and because we know things about this, we can manipulate different parts of that process in order to get people to tap into flow. Um, and so, um, uh, yeah. I don’t know if you,
Rian 00:25:15 Yeah. There’s a point there that I love, which is, I kind of talk about it as a necessary paradigm shift. You need to make, to understand what we do as a company in the first place and what our goals are, which is the idea that you can take a state of consciousness, which flow is reverse engineer it, or look at, you know, how it tends to occur and then put things in place to systematically recreate that state of consciousness within your own life. So such you can train and tune your state of consciousness, which I think is quite a radical realization for a lot of people just in general.
Conor 00:25:50 Exactly. And like, yeah, just piggybacking off of that, like, um, so really, really big picture, right? So like the entirety of your life, um, oftentimes the most meaningful happiest moments are when you’re in flow. Um, but if we also, we were talking about future thinking a moment ago, um, like for like, if you’re thinking insanely future oriented with these things, right? Like what are 21st century skills? And this is something that, you know, we talk about with some frequency, right? So like 21st century skills are like your ability to be creative, your ability to innovate, right? Your ability to do things that are you at this point in time, uniquely human. And so, like, that’s the goal that we’re we’re looking to accomplish is by using something like flow, you’re training a state of consciousness rather than individual skills. And like, we are systematically awful at doing this as a species. We don’t know how to train creativity. Right. We know how to take a bunch of art school students. We know how to put them in the same room. We how to put them in different environments that they might be a little bit more creative, but by and large, we don’t have a systematic understanding of these things. And so education of the future will likely be more focused on how do I train you into a given state, much more so than how do I give you this discreet set of
Rian 00:26:58 Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. And not a nice way to conceptualize that I think is primary and secondary competencies. So a primary competency might be writing or coding or project management, but then you’ve got the secondary competency which drives or influences the quality of the primary competency. Another way to think about it as like a meta skill. And that might be creativity that might be flow that might be an ability to adapt or learn or synthesize new ideas or think critically. And so in that respect, we’re focusing on a secondary competency that drives and enhances all of the primary competencies or specific skills or things you do in your own life. It’s the flow seems like it’s one of those really interesting things, because not only does everyone know it, it’s that thing that we’re all addicted to without even realizing you addicted to it. I think about it as I was getting ready for this conversation and over the last couple of weeks and thinking about flow and, you know, you start to see it everywhere when you start looking for it.
Rian 00:27:56 And one of the things that stood out to me or struck me was I’d be having conversations with people and they would just, you know, I would ask them, how’s your day going? Or, you know, we, we get into a conversation about something they loved. And it would be really interesting to think about like, why do they love that? Like, so, you know, I was talking to Fran and she just loves yoga. I mean, like loves yoga. And I was just like, I was like, well, what is it about like, what does yoga do for you? Like what you, what is it about that, about it that resonates with you so strongly, she starts describing all these sorts of things. And I realized the middle of a conversation. Yeah. She likes yoga, but she likes the reason she likes yoga is it’s her, it’s her doorway to flow exactly.
Rian 00:28:30 Fall in love with the doorway, but we think we love the doorway, but we really love is what’s on the other side of the door. Another, yeah, I love thinking about that is that like, people do things for the state that they get into when they do those things, but the state is activity or task independent. So the reason a surfer will get up at 4:30 AM and drive four and a half hours to go catch. Some waves is because of the state of flow usually, or whatever the state may be that they can drop into when they’re on those waves. But when you can then take that stage, deploy certain practices and habits and protocols that can drop you into that state at any activity, then you get the same effect and the same draw to that other activity. So for example, if you can learn how to drop into that same state that you’re in, while you’re surfing from a neurophysiological standpoint, while you’re working, then work can begin to have that same like pull and draw and desire and excitement around it. And that’s where you can do when you can reverse engineer flow and then learn how to recreate it.
Conor 00:29:28 And the more flow that you have in your life, it draws out, um, you know, the technical term is an autotelic personality, right? It’s a person who does something for the sake of doing that thing. Right. And so if you like, really like drill down on your friend and be like, okay, but why do you do yoga? Why do you do it? Why do you do it? You know, eventually you’ll get like, you know, I do yoga cause I like doing yoga. Right? Like you get to this point where it’s self referential and it’s like, Oh, that’s the autotelic personality speaking. Right. That’s like that. Like, I don’t know why I do this thing, but I drive, I drive a tremendous amount of value from it. And I can talk about like this in terms of flow and say like, Oh, I want to get as much flow in my life as I can, but why do you want more flow in your life?
Conor 00:30:02 It’s all because I want more flow in my life. Right. And so like when you have a lot of flow in your life and you can send you to go down that path, the reason why you do it is because you like doing it. Right. Um, and so like flow creates this sort of, uh, autotelic personality over time because, you know, um, if I think of my own personal development, you know, I was very logical and rational, you know, for an extended period of time until I started having more and more flow in my life. And then I started doing things more just because I want it to do the things. Right. Exactly. And like, we were talking about entrepreneurship earlier, like, you know, that’s like, you know, the quintessential entrepreneur, like why does the entrepreneur go and create another company? Right. It’s not because they need the money, right?
Conor 00:30:41 Like if you look at the stats, right. Entrepreneurs, like in general, do not make more money, make less money than, you know, a salary person who’s, you know, continuing to like move up in their career. Um, and so like, you don’t do the thing because of the reason why you think you do the thing, you do the thing, because you know, it has a certain level of seduction for you. And if you ha if like, if your mind operates in that way, then odds are, you have this thing called an autotelic personality, which is a fantastic thing to have, especially if you’re an employer, if you’re an employer and you want productive employees, you want people who are audited technically motivated because they’re going to be driven and their doctor’s going to be, you know, punching the clock. So that’s,
Rian 00:31:17 It’s like a core of intrinsic motivation. Right? Exactly. Exactly. And it also related to that, I think is the ultimate competitive advantage. You know, it’s, I think it’s impossible to compete with someone who is pulled into their work like that and has that, you know, and in itself flavor to what they do, if you’re having to, you know, draw on willpower and sheer discipline alone to get things done, there’s just, there’s no way you can compete against someone who’s just like pulled through it. And so like strongly autotelic driven. And I often think of video gamers as analogous to what you can get into with a flow set, like a video gamer exerts effort sometimes for 12 hours straight. And there’s no inherent difference, really. You know, they’re using cognitive faculties, they’re spending time focused on one thing, but they’re able to do that effortlessly.
Rian 00:32:09 But then why, when it comes to sitting down to try and do their email or work is it’s so tough and an hour feels like, you know, endless amounts of time, but they were exerting effort technically in a very similar respect while playing video games. Oftentimes it’s, they’re solving harder challenges, they’re doing more challenging things, but it’s because again, they’re in that state while video gaming, but not able to get into that state while at work. But when you can relay that into other areas, you can just like rocket ship off. For sure. I think a lot of the we’re going to kind of lay
Andrew 00:32:40 A foundation here and then really where I want to spend a lot of the conversation is exploring some of the ways people can do this. Like I want to talk more about like developing that sort of, I think you’ve called it flow proneness, and then how people can start to map this into their lives more. Um, but you know, really making sure we have a good, a good foundation first here. So people will really kind of get what they’re, what they’re working with here. And one of the, one of the things that I found interesting, what you just said, Connor, what I’m curious about was you said that you talked about like the autotelic personality and I’m curious, I could imagine someone listening to this going like, Oh, well I just don’t have that kind of personality. What would you say to that person?
Conor 00:33:14 I mean, um, the easy answer is, you know, as, you know, a human like subject, right? Like you’re like you’re able to change adapt over time. Right. Um, and so like, there’s like the people who have like a strong autotelic personality, you know, are people who kind of fueled that day over day, week, over week, month, over month, year over year. Um, and so like, like the heart of having a growth mindset, right. You know, everybody’s talking about fixed versus growth mindsets right now. I mean, the heart of having a growth mindset is the like expectation that you can change given enough time and effort. Um, and like, like that’s at a high level that makes a lot of sense, but like really drill down into what that means. It’s like, you can change like some of the most like essential parts of the way that you function given enough time or effort.
Conor 00:34:03 That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Right. Like just read the Buddhist. Right. You know, for the Buddhist, like, you know, the hardest thing like the heart of, you know, human suffering is the fact that change is hard. Right. Um, I mean, that’s paraphrasing slightly, but that’s the sense of it. Right. Um, and so like, you know, change is exceptionally difficult and it’s one of the hardest things, if not the hardest things you can ever go through as a human being. Um, however, like you are free as a human being to change these different types of your personality and these different foundational types of your, uh, aspects of your experience given enough time and effort. Um, and so should the autotelic personality be something that you’re shooting for? I’m not sure that’s a really big goal and I think that’s really hard to achieve, but should the goal be like, Hey, I want, you know, a 10% improvement to the amount of flow that I experienced on a weekly or monthly basis.
Conor 00:34:49 I mean, that’s a totally like, you know, doable, actionable goal. And then as time goes on, you’re slowly going to cultivate that personality, whether you like it or not. And it’s crazy seeing like, like, like one thing that really stuck with me is, um, so one of the reasons why I’m in this space is because I read, uh, Stephen’s book rise of Superman, um, many years ago, I forget how many years ago, maybe four or five years ago now. Um, and that book is about flow States in action and adventure sports. And so the, the main thesis of the book is that in no domain, other than an action sports, have you seen evolution as quickly? Um, and so he goes through a number of different action sports, just take big wave surfing. So the amount of time it took us to go from, uh, surfing 10 foot waves to 30 foot waves, it’s just astronomically small in the grand scheme of things compared to any other domain of human activity.
Conor 00:35:37 Right. Um, and so I became very inspired by this and this convinced me that I should start skydiving. Um, and so I went on one skydive, uh, like, uh, loved it, uh, went through a Chicago winter. I was living in Chicago at the time. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And then, you know, as soon as the season started the next year, um, I went and got my license and it became a whole big thing. Um, but when I first got my license, I’ll never forget. Uh, one of my coaches said to me, um, which was, you know, I was incredibly thankful because he had worked with me like extensively. And he was just like really excited about working with me. Um, and I just got a lot out of that relationship. Um, and so at the end, like I was, you know, thanking him for all this.
Conor 00:36:16 And he’s like, no, this has been my pleasure because I just made one more person I can skydive with. And it was, it was the most interesting fucking comment because, you know, this is somebody who, you know, lived far away from where that airport was. And so, you know, he’s, you know, driving out there every weekend, he’s somebody who, um, you know, was, uh, incredibly frugal yet. He was, you know, partaking in, what’s arguably the most expensive sport in hobby you can do outside of motor sports. Right. And so he, he’s putting so much time and effort into this and he’s doing it just out of, you know, the fact that he really likes doing it and like his reward for all of this was like, okay, great. I’ve one more person. I can do this. And like that extent of that, like autotelic personality is something that always stuck with me. And I’ve always just had a tremendous amount of respect for, but it’s not like he was born that way. Right. Like, you know, odds are that this was something that was cultivated, you know, weekend after weekend of like doing the thing that he loved. And then slowly he developed these personality traits that allowed him to, you know, continue to not only do that thing, but also, you know, allow other people to have access to that thing that he loved.
Andrew 00:37:21 Yeah. I love, I love that idea because that I, that I find it. So revolutionary, just that simple concept that like, not only can you change the, that we’ve proven now through, through various domains in neuroscience, that you can change your most fun, some of your most fundamental aspects like your, your intelligence. Right. Which seems for a lot of people, like are really fixed thing. It’s like, no, you can, you can actually, uh, you can actually change that. Um, but then even relating to that is this idea of what you just described, which is that I think one of the big misconceptions, I think re and we were talking about this a week ago or something, but the idea of this misconception in our culture, that passion is this thing you just like uncover, you know, like you’re just gonna open the closet one day. Oh, Holy shit. There’s my, I missed, I misplaced it. It was just isn’t it the whole time. But like, what you just described was it was built, right? Like you started with his spark and you, you, you fan those flames and you engaged with this topic and over time it became like, you love it.
Conor 00:38:14 Exactly, exactly. It’s amazing. Like, I don’t know if I look at like, where I was like take skydiving, right? Like, like my first year of skydiving, I mean, it was incredible. And I absolutely loved like all different dimensions of this. Um, but it only scratched the surface of what I did the season after that, which only scratched the surface of what I did the season after that. And then I got into base jumping and then I got into like these other domains that like were incredibly exciting. And I was, you know, skydiving at places that I just felt were like the coolest places to skydive on earth. And like, and so like, you continue to scale those things like time after time, but like that longterm thinking is absolutely key. And so in, this is one of like the main things that I oftentimes talk to people about when they’re first getting involved in flow is like sometimes, Oh, I had kind of a flow experience where like, you know, I had this interesting conversation with a colleague, um, yeah, they’re weak.
Conor 00:39:01 And you know, my recommendation is always like set your sights insanely high. Right. So they take a huge step back and be like, okay, over the course of my entire life, you know, what were some of the deepest flow experiences? What were some of those most powerful experiences? Like what were the main contributing factors to it? Because oftentimes when people think about flow, they’re thinking they’re really thinking about micro flow. Um, and so I think one common misconception is that, Oh, micro flow is flow, right. And micro flow is one part of flow. Right. So what’s the difference. So I, so think of flow is a spectrum, right? And so if I’m like one common microflow experience is, uh, endurance running. So, so you’ve been jogging for 20 to 30 minutes. That’s normally when you start to feel some sense of flow, right? So you, you start to feel much more in tuned with your body and your surroundings, your mind is wandering less.
Conor 00:39:48 That’s a state called exercise induced, transient hypofrontality. And so your prefrontal cortex, right? Like the front new part of your brain is becoming a less active, um, uh, cause in large part by that exercise. Um, and so like you can like think of that as just like scratching the surface of this much larger domain. And it’s really helpful to get a sense of like, what are especially like the action sport athletes doing or like the surgeons doing are these people who are just performing these incredible feats, because if you look at what some of the things, the action sport athletes are doing, right. They’re not flukes, right? Like they’re able to reproduce these incredible, incredible results that takes so much attention to detail. I mean, think about wingsuit base jumping, right with these guys with square squirrel suits who are jumping off like the Alps in Switzerland.
Conor 00:40:35 Right. Um, so when like they’re actually doing that, they’re moving their ground speed is, you know, it can be a hundred to 200 miles per hour and their feet off the ground. Right. And so like the level of like the depth of flow that they need in order to be able to accomplish that is huge. Um, and so like when you’re initially getting involved in this field and you’re initially saying like, Oh, I want more flow in your life. Like take a huge step back. Maybe not set your sights that high, like jumping shouldn’t be what you, uh, what you set your sights for. But the point is that this is a very, very large spectrum and odds are, if you’re less familiar with this space, you’re going to set your sights really, really low on this. And so, um, try and set your sights as high as possible and then work incrementally through fundamental habit shifts, um, so that you can get,
Rian 00:41:23 Yeah, I think just generally people underestimate the degree to which they can shift or manipulate their state of consciousness without ingesting anything. And that’s kind of what Conner’s talking as well is that you can have radically different experiences to what your everyday default experience is through activities and through doing certain things that drive you into these States versus having to, you know, exogenously consume some substances or whatever it is. Um, yeah, exactly.
Conor 00:41:53 Exactly. Oh, so I was just going to add to that and say, you know, one thing that’s really interesting from what I’ve seen in this space, right. Which is, you know, I’ve been involved in, um, action sports for a number of years at this point, um, is people get so fixated on their individual activity as the way that they get into flow. And then if their individual activity is dangerous and they continue to do that, it’s, it’s going to be problematic to say the least. Right. Um, and so like having the self-awareness to divorce what your specific activity is from what the underlying psychological state is, allows you to find flow in, in new places. And so for instance, you know, we had somebody at, uh, we were just in Seattle for a training event there. Um, and we had somebody who was a skydiver himself, um, and was having a lot of difficulties finding flow in his life because he quit skydiving because he had a pretty major accident.
Conor 00:42:45 Um, and so he was having a lot of trouble being like, okay, I’m locked out of flow because I no longer have this thing. And, you know, I was trying to make this point of, you know, this is just a state of consciousness, right? Like, you know, you can flip that switch doing skydiving, but you could flip that switch and any number of different, um, domains as well in like, if like risk is a potent flow trigger, but it’s obviously a risky one. Right. Um, but like one way that you can trigger risk really, really easily is through any sort of social risks. Um, and I mean, people systematically rate public speaking as the most like scary thing that they can do. And so like fucking use it, right? Like that, that is a risk you can use in order to get yourself into flow.
Conor 00:43:25 And like early on, like that’s what I was doing is like, I like, like I mentioned, this quantified self project that I did before, where I was tracking all this behavior. Like one thing that I learned from that, that I didn’t know before is that I really liked public speaking. I thought I didn’t like public speaking because I would get stressed as hell before I would actually have to speak in public. But then I would look back on my mood over time and be like, actually I would have an elevated mood for, you know, a day and a half afterwards. Um, and I actually really liked it before I like looked at the data. I was overemphasizing like the stress associated with it. And so I started like seeking out more and more public speaking engagements, um, because I just really, really like, you know, like enjoyed like that level of pressure.
Conor 00:44:03 And like, I don’t know when you like make a joke in front of an audience and it hits really well. And I like all, like all of those things are just, you know, immensely, like, um, I don’t know, powerful for me. And so like understanding that like flow is a state of consciousness that, you know, you can change based upon environmental conditions based on, based upon your outlook, based on like your habits, based upon all these other things, you can manipulate these things in order to tap into more flow. You’re not married to doing the thrill seeking dangerous thing eventually is going to get you killed if you keep on doing it.
Andrew 00:44:33 Yeah. I think it’s just a matter of learning what the knobs and levers are and then learning how to play with them. And again, yeah, it’s not inherent or embedded into any activity. Although certain activities like public speaking, like skydiving, like surfing are inherently more rich in flow triggers. So they have maybe knobs and leavers that are kind of easier to play with. But ultimately is, it is just a matter of getting a set of variables in place and shuffling them so that, you know, you can drive yourself into that state. I think I love that idea because I think it’s actually a super empowering idea. Like thinking about that guy, you’re talking about the skydiver who he, he doesn’t, you’re not going to do that anymore. Right. That’s on some level that’s crushing, right? It’s like when you meet, um, like a surfer who loves surfing so much and they got injured and they can’t serve for six months and they’re like depressed, right.
Andrew 00:45:19 And you’re like, that sucks. I don’t want to see a human being depressed. And so I think this is super empowering for people. If they can start to understand, as you just said, Ryan, like the knobs and the leavers, what can I, you know, how do I get my hands on this thing so I can make my whole life better. Right. Cause if the flow from what you all are telling me and what the research shows is not only an optimal state of consciousness, it’s like somebody asked me that I’d be like, cool flow. Yeah. I know the name, but like, why do I care? You care? I can think of at least a couple of reasons, like reason, one, you’re going to feel the best. You feel reason two you’re going to perform at, you know, take any performance metric or measure you want.
Andrew 00:45:53 It’s going to go through the roof. And number three is it’s, you know, it seems like these are pretty reliably, the most meaningful, rewarding, inherently rewarding experiences of your life. It’s like you fill your life up with that. You’re going to have a pretty good life. Right? Exactly, exactly. Period. Your life is going to just get better, full stop. So it’s like, all right. I think it’s really exciting for people to start to that’s what I hope we can get in this conversation is to hand people, some of these, these, these, this understanding and the things they can do in their lives to have more of that.
Conor 00:46:20 Right? Yeah. It was funny like, um, Steven called me a number of months ago and it was like the most interesting conversation. Cause we were talking about our, our newest training program and um, like Steven’s question was, um, what is it that, you know, now that you wish you had known, you know, years ago when you kind of started, you know, incorporating more flow in your life? Um, and so like, pardon me for being totally esoteric, but like the, the, like the response I gave was, you know, like what I wish I had known at a much earlier age was that a, you’re a programmable person in being, you’re the person who gets to do the programming. Right. That’s the weirdest fucking thing about being human, right. It’s like, you’re your programmable, right? Like you can change over time, reprogrammable in reprogrammable. Exactly. Um, and you’re the person who gets to like, decide the fate of that.
Conor 00:47:06 Um, and so if, if you like, like, it’s kind of like a really esoteric way of like saying it, but like, if you kind of keep that back, if mine, then, you know, it doesn’t matter whether you’re doing skydiving or anything else, you know, you can find your way back into that state. And like th the conversation back in Seattle with that guy, it was really interesting because like, there was a palpable sense of anxiety from like, what the fuck do I do? Right. And it’s like, well, you divorce your psychology from like that particular activity. And that’s not easy to do, especially like, you know, if you’re doing skydiving, right. Like you’re just getting this fucking blast of like neurochemistry, right. And it’s, it’s a highly, highly addictive neurochemistry. Um, but you can duplicate this in any other different domains. And so there’ve been times that like, you know, I like, um, you know, my focus is on data. Right. Um, and so I do a lot of coding and statistics. And like, there were times in those projects that I couldn’t sit deeper flow States than I get with skydiving. Um, and so like, I’m sitting behind a computer. Right. But like, that’s like, I’m still able to access that same state. And so like divorce your psychology from your activity.
Rian 00:48:05 Yeah. I have a friend just as an example of that, who used to be college level football player. And obviously he was able to get into flow, you know, massively, while playing football. It was his primary source of it. And then for about five or six years after that, he got an injury. He couldn’t play any more and felt, you know, quote unquote, locked out of flow and had this gaping void in his life. Then I went to a breathwork class, dropped into that same state. It was like, Oh my God, I remember this feels like I’m doing breath work and then became a breath work teacher. And that’s his whole main thing now, because simply he’s able to recreate the same state, you know, through a totally different means. You know, one is like an active form of meditation, which is breath work. One is playing college football, but the, you know, the Andrews all these doorways into the same, we’re always looking for that same place where to get to that same inner inner space, that inner experience to what you were just saying, kind of about like, it’s, it’s probably the most addictive thing ever.
Rian 00:48:55 I mean, I remember listening to, I was doing some research and I listened to a talks to you. Steven gave it at Google, I think. And he was talking about like the it’s this crazy chemical cocktail in the brain that like, if you tried to make a street drug cocktail, it was like the big five where like dopamine, which is basically what cocaine does serotonin, which is MBMA LSD and Annamite, which is from THD PK, weed, nor epinephrin, which is speed. And then, um, endorphins, which is like hardcore, synthesize that in fucking kill. Yeah. Right. Exactly. Exactly. We get it like automatically. It’s like, wow, that’s amazing. I think a way that I found at least extremely helpful for thinking about this, that Steven and Jamie talked about in stealing fire, they call it the skin bag bias. So most people assume that you can only manipulate your neurochemistry through absorbing something exotic, honestly.
Rian 00:49:52 And they’ll realize that, you know, endogenously through deploying flow triggers or getting into these activities or whatever it is that you can drive yourself into a state that neurophysiologically is very similar to the state. You would be in if you had, you know, ingested something. And so the skin bag bias is just assuming that, you know, there’s a like distinct, inherent difference between consuming substance, the tweaks neurochemistry versus doing a thing. The tweaks are neurochemistry, but on the inside the Saturday, you know, it’s all the same essentially. And the experience can often be very similar as well. For sure. For sure. I think that’s fascinating to me. It’s like, when you, when you think about, I mean, I haven’t, I’m not an expert in like addiction or any of the science around that, but I anecdotally heard from a lot of different people. If you look at it, a lot of times it’s, it’s people are, um, feeling disconnection and seeking certain States because it’s, if they feel alive, right. And it’s like, wow, if you didn’t have to go to a substance to feel that like, that’d be good. Yeah. That would be really good.
Conor 00:50:49 Yeah. No, I mean the one thing I think a lot about is astronaut syndrome. Um, what’s that? And so, so astronaut syndrome is, um, something that’s happened, uh, something that happens with astronauts who go and, you know, effectively, they’re, they’re building their entire careers, then go to space. Right. And so they like work on that. The entirety of their career, their entire being is focused on that. And then, you know, they get to space, they come down, they shake hands with the president and then like, they go back home and they’re like, now, what the fuck do I do?
Conor 00:51:20 And so like, like, like the rate of opiate addiction amongst, uh, astronauts who have returned from space, it’s just off the charts and you see this with like, especially impact sport athletes, like, right. Like if you see this with NFL players as well, where it’s like, Oh, I did the sport now, I’m no longer doing this sport. What do I do? Um, and so it it’s such like an important thing to be able to like, uh, first, like, recognize that that’s a thing, right? Anytime you get involved in any sort of peak States, you’re like, okay, great. I found like this peak state and it’s wonderful. I got this through skydiving, I got this or whatever. Um, and then now that I have to deal with my like, you know, default, okay. Life, like I’m bored, I feel locked out of something. Um, and then like people get into trouble, right?
Conor 00:51:59 People get into substance abuse, people get into cults because of this, because maybe a cult is the only way that they can get back into that state because effectively what exactly, because effectively what culture doing are, they’re manipulating a lot of this chemistry in order to give you a sense of, you know, um, peak States or flow or community or whatever it might be. Um, and so they get into all sorts of problems. And so part of it is just like a self awareness. Like you need to know that, you know, your psychology is independent from these different things. And then not only will you be happier longterm, but you can avoid some of these pitfalls, which, you know, includes substance abuse and call it and whatever.
Rian 00:52:32 Yeah. Sebastian younger in his book, tribes talks about the same thing happening to a very, very severe degree with soldiers where they come back from war. And they’re just, again of this gaping gaping void in their lives because they were in such a deep, immense state of flow that also had belonging and things like that, all intermingled in it while it wore on, they literally would rather be, you know, you know, horrific war zone with the risk of death, because they’re able to be in that experience, then be at home and kind of locked out of that experience. So again, related to what you’re saying, it’s extremely important. I think for people to have multiple access points in their life that are risk-free. So for example, you know, you need a, you need a cognitive route into flow. Oftentimes it’s good to also have a creative route into flow.
Rian 00:53:19 You want an embodied route into flow like skydiving, but, you know, Steven even was talking about the fact that he was the phone with me. Hi Sammy, hi, who’s the godfather of flow and kind of coined the term into the original psychological research who, and he recommended to Steven that he’d take a piano because in his older years, you know, in Stevens, in his late seventies, early eighties, and maybe he will be skiing, but I don’t know, it’s not definite. So he needed another gateway into that same state. So he’s students taken off the piano, just drive yourself into that state up to, you know, is very, very late, much, much later years from, Oh, it’s important to have.
Conor 00:53:53 And just add to what you said, a social way of getting into flow. And so I think that’s something we normally like discount is oftentimes our like model for somebody in flow is, you know, an individual who’s hucking it in some capacity. Um, and that’s not necessarily the case. Uh, so a lot of people that we find within the people who, you know, are within our larger group, um, are very, um, attuned to social flow. Um, whether that’s, you know, like managers who are in meetings or whether that’s just individuals who are, you know, a little bit more on the social butterfly side of, yeah.
Rian 00:54:25 Yeah. So let’s, let’s, we’ve used this word a lot flow trigger, and I want to actually take a second and talk about those. What is so, so for those, or what is a flow trigger, and let’s talk about some of the, some of the common ones, so they can start to understand kind of what’s on the menu. Yeah. So, so,
Conor 00:54:40 Oh, start with like the 80 20 rule. Um, and so like what gives you the biggest bang for your buck? This is a concept that like people normally get right, as a way, as soon as you talk about it. Um, but they don’t necessarily associate it back with flow, which is the challenge skill balance, right? And so that’s like the so called golden rule flow. And so if you imagine, um, uh, your level of challenge that you have at any given time and the level of skill you have at any given time, if you have too much challenge and not enough skill, you’re going to be overwhelmed, right. You’re going to be in this anxious state, if you have not enough challenge and too much scale, you’re going to be bored, right. Because you’re better than that. Um, and so flow happens at the midpoint between those two things.
Conor 00:55:23 And so there’s the so called 4% rule. Um, the 4% rule was kind of hand wavy. Um, but think about it, like the amount of challenge that you have should be just above your current skill level. So some people put this at about 4%, how do you really quantify it? That’s a nebulous, nebulous thing, but it’s directionally accurate. And so generally you want a little bit more challenge than the amount of skill that you have at any given time. And not only that, but as you get more and more skilled over time, the amount of challenge and the amount of flow that you need, or the amount of challenge that you have goes up, obviously, but the amount of flow that you give goes up, goes up as well. And so you can imagine if you have the perfect challenge skill balance, and you’re playing Tetris and you don’t give a fuck about Tetris, right? Like you’re, you’re gonna, like you, you’re not necessarily going to be able to find flow with that, but as you are in a, um, a domain that you’re much more proficient at, you’re going to continue to find more and more flow as your skill level improves over time. Right?
Rian 00:56:18 Yeah. And just to kind of paint a broader picture as well. So flow are preconditions basically for people who are listening that drive you into a flow state and there’s different categories of flow triggers is what 21 identified in literature at the moment. Is it 21, 22? Depends on how you want it to be the overlap between them.
Conor 00:56:37 The original research is there’s nine main characteristics of flow. Three of those are considered preconditions. And then there are a number of other things that you can, uh, right.
Rian 00:56:46 That’s a really good, just to clarify something, when you say a precondition, is that like, it is mechanistic. Like if this occurs flow will happen or is this more like I’m setting the stage and I’m increasing the odds of getting into flow, but it’s not guaranteed. So yeah. So it’s, it’s a good question. I think some of them are cyclical and then some of them are preconditioned. So in other words, something like passion, passion can be a trigger for flow, but that flow also enhances and drives passion, you know? So it like feeds itself, but there are different categories of triggers. So psychological triggers, there’s environmental triggers, there’s social triggers.
Conor 00:57:22 Yeah. Let’s just make it insane and concrete. So like first to respond to your question directly, I’m like, none of this is mechanistic, right. And so all of this is probably a stick. Okay. And so like, I can’t like necessarily drive you into flow by doing this, this and that
Rian 00:57:35 Button for flow. There’s no like formula, you do this guaranteed. You’ll be in flow. It’s just increasing the odds.
Conor 00:57:41 Exactly. Like this is always a probability game. Um, and so like, what you’re doing is you’re manipulating these different dimensions to increase the probability that you’re going to get into trouble. Uh, but we can’t determine that you’re into flow. Um, you’re going to get into flow. And so just to be really like, you know, insanely practical with some of the triggers. So challenge, skill balance is one of them that I mentioned immediate feedback is a big one as well. Um, and so with immediate feedback, we talked a little bit about my background in nonprofits before. One of the reasons why that was so challenging for me is, uh, because I had a one year, uh, clip on my feedback mechanism. So I would basically make a decision about a grant that was taking place in some country in sub Saharan Africa. And then one year later I’d get a report back.
Conor 00:58:25 And when I got the report back, maybe I would remember that grant possibly, but I would never remember my decision making process. Maybe I’d go back and take a look at it. But that feedback loop was so long that it was not a very flow prone job at all. Whereas like I got big into technology and, you know, a big part of working with data is, you know, actually coding and coding is, you know, one of the best forms of immediate feedback, right? Like video games is great for it. Um, like, ah, but coding is excellent. Excellent for it because I can write a line of code. I can run it, I can see the output. I can see like how I did. Um, and so like, uh, having, like building in those immediate feedback mechanisms are huge. Um, and so anything that you can do in order to have a faster way of getting feedback on what you’re doing, um, is huge, right? And that’s, you know, for me at the time it was like email communication was the main way that I was communicating with people. I had to just drop that off and call people. Right. And like, I was like switching to like phone calls rather than email was way that I could just speed up the feedback loop so much so that it increased that probability of me dropping into flow.