The Game Changing Attorney Podcast - Steven Kotler
The Game Changing Attorney Podcast - Steven Kotler

Episode 116 — Steven Kotler — Harnessing Neuroscience for Peak Performance

We’ve all heard the iceberg analogy that we only use 10 percent of our total brain capacity. But what would you do if you could use 100 percent of your brain? How would your life change?

Steven Kotler — best-selling author, Pulitzer Prize nominee, and founder of the Flow Research Collective — has made it his life’s mission to discover everything he can about our greatest assets: our brains. On this episode of The Game Changing Attorney Podcast, Steven and Michael sit down to discuss:

  • Why your genetics and background don’t determine what you can accomplish
  • How understanding your brain and body will take your far
  • What it takes to achieve the impossible
Episode 116 — Steven Kotler — Harnessing Neuroscience for Peak Performance
Show Notes:

What does it take to accomplish the impossible? “Most of the people I knew were not paradigms of peak performance — in fact, they were quite the opposite. They had sh*tty childhoods and came from broken families with very little money, education, and a lot of risk-taking and substance abuse. I was living in Squaw Valley, which has now been renamed to Palisades Tahoe, and it was a punk rocker mecca. No one there came from a good background, so it was hard to figure out why they were all so amazing at action sports and setting records that weren’t meant to be humanly possible. How was that happening? It was a neurodivergent community.”

Advantages and disadvantages. “There are all sorts of natural advantages, but they all come with built-in disadvantages. Let’s say you have a very fast brain: that means you have a lot of norepinephrine, which is great, but it also causes a lot of anxiety and fear. You are likely very neurotic because that’s a common pair. But something important to remember is that many people who accomplish the impossible didn’t start out extraordinary; they were mostly all quite ordinary.”

The four pillars of your brain. “Motivation gets you into the game. Learning allows you to play it. Creativity is how you steer. Flow is how we turbo boost the results beyond all recognition. The same goes for action sports or business decisions or anything that requires you to accomplish something amazing.”

Energy-saving tips. “Peak performers realize that too much fear is problematic — a little bit is good, but too much can lead to bad things like backing out. In this case, they have to be able to do a lot of emotional regulation work. That’s why you always see athletes practicing meditation, gratitude, or exercise in general. All of these things lower anxiety and pretune the nervous system. Peak performers do this because the brain is an energy hog using 25 percent of our total energy. We spend most of its fixed energy budget on focus. That’s why whenever you can get focused for free, it’s a big deal that results in huge energy savings.”

Feel the burn. “The harder the workout, the more you don’t like it, but the more you love it. Peak performance is not about how things feel, but rather about what you do despite those feelings. Goals are important to peak performance. The research shows that you need three levels of goals: mission-level goals, daily clear goals, and outcome goals.”

It’s so easy to forget. “Forgetting is a key neurological skill. If we couldn’t forget, we would have really significant problems. Stewart Brand once said, ‘The only sustainable level of happiness is a job well done.’ I believe there’s a lot to that. We are goal-directed machines. Listen to someone talk about what it would mean to win the Super Bowl, and then talk to them after they’ve won it. Sometimes we even love the awfulness of it, like when we are finally done with a super gritty day.”

Who’s in your sphere? “Our brains take in so much information constantly, and it’s hard to know what we should and should not pay attention to. One thing that makes that easier is our Sphere of Caring, and that includes all of the things we care about: our families, our friends, our pets, and everything else that matters to us.”

What does being a game changer mean to you? “The work we do at Flow Research Collective is all about discovering breakthroughs. A game changer, to me, is something of a flow master. I’m not sure how you could do one without the other.”

Johns Hopkins University
Squaw Valley/Palisades Tahoe
Jackson Hole, WY
Harvard University
Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work by Steven Kotler
Flow Research Collective
Mat Fraser
James Lawrence
Stewart Brand
Super Bowl
The Art of Impossible by Steven Kotler
The Devil’s Dictionary by Steven Kotler

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