Finding Flow: Just 4% Harder

mountain bike photoIn The Rise of Superman, Stephen Kotler talks about finding the sweet spot of flow. Not too easy, not too hard. Just right.The state of flow he’s talking about is that “in the zone” state people talk about when they’re extremely engaged in what they’re doing. Creatives talk about it with writing, painting or drawing. Athletes talk about it when they’re surfing, skiing or mountain biking. Hours can fly by in what feels like minutes. It can happen anywhere and any time but there are a few requirements that have to be in place to make it happen.One of the requirements is the difficulty of what you are doing has to be just right. What does he mean by just right?I’ve heard this one called the goldilocks principle of being just right. It refers to the difficulty of the task being hard enough so it's not boring but not so hard that it’s frustrating. It’s in the zone down the middle.Of course it changes over time as you get better at what you do. As you engage in something at a level that increases your skill (not so easy it’s boring) then you’ll get better at it. That will raise the level of difficulty that you need to really engage your interest.If you are a skier that loves black diamond runs, then black diamond or a bit above that is going to be engaging for you. It’s going to require a lot of focus to not crash but it’s still a lot of fun. Where as if you were going down a green run, that’s probably way to easy for you and you’ll get bored.It can be hard to gauge where exactly you want to be so your engaged without getting frustrated. Stephen says to go no more than 4% higher than your current skill level. Any higher than that and you’re going to hurt yourself or get frustrated.I’ve been there myself. Surfing with friends that are far better than I am, they look for waves and conditions that are interesting to them. What’s great for them is going to be too much for me. I’ll get throttled in waves they have fun in. Instead of being 4% higher than my current skill level, they might be 20 or 30%. That’s going to hurt.Stephen tells his own story about mountain biking with a  bunch of pro friends. They were amazing downhill riders, flying through the trails, getting huge air and nailing everything. Stephen spent a year trying to learn and keep up but just couldn’t do it. He was just injured all the time.Taking a step back, he realized he was too far above his 4%. He started riding by himself and with friends that were at a similar level. He gained more experience that way and was riding with his pro friends within a year. He had to reduce the skill level jumps to less than 4% and then his learning really picked up.Instead of being frustrated (and injured) when he was trying to ride too high for his skill level, he toned it down and rode within his 4%. He found more flow and learned faster at the same time.

Random March 14, 2014 Edition

So much cool stuff, so little time. These are some things I've collected from around the web lately.Work musicIt's hard to find music to fit your mood. It's even harder to find music that fits your mood when you are working. Digitally Imported comes close.http://www.di.fm/ResonateDo you write, present, speak or do anything that needs to connect with people and change their minds. You need to read this book. Nancy Duarte goes through exactly what makes famous speeches and presentations resonate with people.http://resonate.duarte.com/Ultra-runner adviceI think I'll be picking some of this stuff up. It's good.

  1. 1 legged practice - do everything on one leg
  2. Bridges
  3. Planks

And do them daily!http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/the-current/raising-rippers/The-cross-training-secrets-of-ultrarunner-sally-mcrae.htmlTrelloBest thing I've found for managing tasks. It keeps them clear and the feeling of actually moving things around is like moving stickies around on a whiteboard.Tips 1: Make a main board that links to each project board that shows your high level view for each context, home, work, personal projects.Tip 2: Add attachments to Google Docs to store information. Don't try to store things in Trello cards.https://trello.comMurallyThe dashboard for your life. The closest thing I've been able to find online to a whiteboard. You can drag and drop Has a "catcher" app for Android and iPhonehttps://mural.lyMicro Clearfix HackIf you have spent any time in HTML and CSS you know the floats are a bugger and getting rid of them is even worse. The Clear-fix hack has been around for a while but it just got even smaller.http://nicolasgallagher.com/micro-clearfix-hack/CrossFit Open 14.3 ReleasedWe're in the middle of the CrossFit Open Competition right now. I just did this one today. A 8 minute AMRAP of box jumps and deadlifts. I made up into the 275 pound deadlifts. Going to be sore tomorrow.http://games.crossfit.com/workouts/the-open/2014#tabs-3Deliberate practice, flow to performI've been thinking and reading a lot about Deliberate Practice and Flow. Deliberate Practice is the hard error-wrought practice time that you have to push through to get good at anything. You have to continue to push hard if you want to become the best at anything. It's very difficult but required for being the best. Flow is less frustrating and exists where too easy and too hard meet. It's the goldilocks of task difficulty where it's right in the middle and just right. Too easy and you get bored, too hard and you get frustrated. Deliberate Practice is pushing through flow where you may not be learning much and getting frustrated, but learning more.