How a Search for the Flow State Can Lead to Flow States

tl;dr: Increasing automation and AI will change work as we know it. Instead of bemoaning that, we have an opportunity to consciously and intentionally create Flow states in our lives. Here’s a bit of what I’m doing

Out of all of the work experiences I’ve had over the past year or so, one of the most rewarding was the project I did with the team at Dapper Labs.

This is a team with a strong and impressive record in many industries, but they are legends in the crypto space as they are the inventors of the most significant blockchain application after Bitcoin, Crypto Kitties.

I enjoyed working with them and I learned a ton about the technical aspects of decentralized systems, but that wasn’t the thing that I enjoyed the most.

What really made an impact was how they worked.

I found myself, more often than in other situations, in a state of Flow.

For me, at least, the environment, the way the team operated with each other (5 minute daily stand-ups, for example), and the culture put me in a position to do my best work.

Not surprising given that the parent company is named Axiom Zen.

Flow States

I first became aware of the concept of flow as many people did through the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience which I read soon after it came out.

However, I didn’t really do much with the information other than, on occasion, recognize that I had been in one (say when writing one of my e-books).

Over the past year or so, since I had the experience with the Dapper team, I’ve been exploring the concept of Flow.

Machine Learning vs. AI, Important Differences Between Them

I’ve been studying the inputs that increase the likelihood of Flow. I’ve read a lot about the brain and the mind (reading list below).

I’ve also spent time measuring the impact on myself to see how I can intentionally -and with a higher degree of probability (possibly predictability)- set myself up for Flow.

Recently, I rewrote my Life OGST and for strategy, I wrote down:

“Optimize for flow through atomic habits.”

Conscious Benefits of Flow

There are many tangible, practical reasons why optimizing for flow makes sense.

In a world of increasing automation and AI, the value that humans can provide in an equation increasingly comes from contributing creative and innovative thoughts and problem-solving to a situation.

Those don’t happen just by following a script. They happen by providing your mind with the right internal and external environment to do what it does best.

The world in which we all increasingly live in (and part of the reason why there’s increasing income inequality) is because “it’s not about time, it’s about value.” This is why someone can charge a client $30 million dollars for 11 minutes of work.

But it’s more than the money.

It’s the feeling that comes from being fully engaged in a project, being immersed, being focused– “dialed in,” as some would say.

Optimizing for Flow

Over the last few weeks, I undertook a renovation project on my home office.

The purpose was to create an environment that would increase the likelihood of a Flow state for me.

I studied Hemingway’s studio in Key West and reflected on what it was about the Dapper experience that-physically- impacted me in a positive way.

Over the last few months, I’ve also increased my self-discipline as it related to my routines for

  • wake-up time
  • meditation practice
  • cardio and strength exercise
  • food intake (quality, quantity, and timing)
  • prayer
  • blogging and journaling
  • reading
  • practicing gratitude
  • being charitable
  • developing compassion
  • bedtime and sleep discipline (very much a WIP on this one)

Another aid has been a recommitment to organization. Now, I have systems and locations for supporting materials, ranging from where I put my keys and computer bags every time to pens, notebooks, coffee supplies, hats, clothes, etc. The end result…less time looking for the things I need to support the things I want to focus on.

On the digital side, I’ve relentlessly unsubscribed from email lists that don’t have enough value, have been on a Facebook Fast for 8 weeks (and counting), haven’t visited CNN or ESPN in that time either, and have cut back on TV, increased reading. Plus, I’ve turned off all but the most essential notifications on all my devices.

I’ve also been exploring increased forms of self-measurement thanks to sites like Quantified Mind and Flow Genome Project.

And recently, thanks to Anand Thaker, I became connected with Carlos Hidalgo who introduced me to the idea of the Ultradian rhythm. It’s the cycle that regulates the time you need for work vs. rest.

As I understand it, it’s like a governor on a golf cart or clock speed on a computer.

I’ve already seen some of the benefits.

Nothing massive (and no multi-million dollar phone calls yet), but an increasing awareness that I’m able to hit Flow with slightly higher regularity. T

he tangible benefit is that I’m able to do higher-quality work in smaller time increments.

“It’s not about time, it’s about value.”

The intangible benefit is that I feel calmer, though my type-A, neurotic, old-school Jewish mentality has years of embedded DNA so that’s going to be a lifelong pursuit to unwind.

Ultimately, this is about living in harmony or as Lao Tzu might say “in accordance with the Tao.”

Of course, he also said,

“Those who know of the TAO do not speak of it.

Those who speak of the TAO, do not really know it,”

so feel free to ignore that last comment

Adapting to Technological-Driven Change

Back in the dot com era when I was selling e-commerce solutions for Snickelways, I remember thinking two thoughts really distinctly.

The first was that “the retail environment is going to change dramatically.”

The second was “call centers and factories are going overseas.”

The sad part was that even though I, and many others, saw this, we were unable to help our elected leaders understand the significance of the long-term impact of the technology on society.

We’re still dealing with the repercussions and will for a while.

The waves of technological-driven change have only grown larger since the Internet’s arrival.

AI, automation, blockchain, 3d printing, and many others will create similar upheavals in our lives and culture in the near future.

If there’s an alarm to sound, it may be “it’s time to help people optimize for their personal flow states.”

Bonus: It should come as no surprise that the team at Dapper just released a brand new blockchain, based on their experiences with Crypto Kitties and Ethereum.

The name? Flow.

We’ll see if they choose “Optimize for Flow” as their go-to-market messaging.

Mindfulness/Brain Reading List

  • How to Create a Mind Ray Kurzweil
  • Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work
  • Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills
  • The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being
  • Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI
  • The Untethered Soul

How a Search for the Flow State Can Lead to Flow States was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.