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The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance Hardcover – March 4, 2014
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“A thrill ride of a book, empowering in its implications of what any individual can achieve.”- Kirkus Reviews
“A fascinating primer on how athletes of extreme sports use flow to accomplish what seem like impossible goals, such as skiing down cliffs or surfing 100-foot waves. But a close reading of the book also provides great insights into how everyday athletes can use flow in their workouts and the rest of their lives.” - Financial Times
“Kotler takes on the latest research on flow through the lens of action and adventure athletics…. [writing] primarily about flow in high-stakes sports like surfing — where focus and concentration can be the difference between a tubular ride and a watery death — but the concept could also have big implications for the business world.” - Fortune
“In this high-octane study, Steven Kotler explores ‘flow’, a neurochemically rich state in which cognitive and physiological processes mesh. The stupendous physical feats of the late ski-base jumper Shane McConkey and others are riveting. Equally surprising is what we know of flow science, such as how the brain’s superior frontal gyrus deactivates to speed decision-making”- Nature
“The Rise of Superman is full of scientific explanations about why flow helps athletes perform at their peak, why this is on the upswing in recent decades, and how almost anybody can better tap their ultimate potential.”- Surfer Magazine
“Kotler focuses on extreme sports for good reason. These athletes face a constant choice, “flow or die,” and his book contains some compelling characters…Flow is rooted in the brain, and Kotler does a good job of explaining that science.”- The Washington Post
“In Kotler’s riveting and beautifully written book, he explains the neuroscience behind the mystery of the flow state, and provides the key to unlock innovation, creativity and ultimate achievement for leaders, entrepreneurs and anyone interested in the big and bold.” - Peter Diamandis, New York Times bestselling author, founder of the X Prize, co-founder of Singularity University.
”The Rise of Superman is an electrifying book about a potent state of mind. If you aren’t inspired to brainhack your way up to the next level, start again at page one.”- David Eagleman, Neuroscientist, New York Times bestselling author of Incognito.
“The Rise of Superman is a page-turning, game-changing account of the secrets of ultimate human performance—a must read for anyone interested in seriously raising the level of their game.- Ray Kurzweil , Director of Engineering at Google, author of How to Create a Mind and The Singularity is Near
”In THE RISE OF SUPERMAN, Steven Kotler breaks down the elusive and ecstatic ‘flow state’ that so many high performance athletes, musicians, and artists refer to as indispensable to their creativity and virtuosity – and in doing so, offers us a map to achieve massive upgrades in our capacities and potential.”- Jason Silva, futurist, host of National Geographic’s Brain Games
THE RISE OF SUPERMAN is a tour de force. Rare the book that is learned, clever, fascinating, and useful. This book is all four. Inspiring, impeccably researched, and supremely practical, Kotler’s book is a must-read for everyone who wants in on the secrets on how to surpass their personal best. - Ned Hallowell, New York Times best-selling author and Harvard Medical School psychiatrist
About the Author
Steven Kotler is a bestselling author and an award-winning journalist. His books include the non-fiction works: Abundance, A Small, Furry Prayer, and West of Jesus, and the novel The Angle Quickest for Flight. His articles have appeared in over 60 publications, including: New York Times Magazine, Wired, Discover, Popular Science, Outside, GQ, and National Geographic. He writes “The Playing Field,” a blog about the science of sport and culture for PsychologyToday.com.
Kotler is also the co-founder and director of research at the Flow Genome Project, an international organization devoted to putting flow state research on a hard science footing, and the co-founder of the New Mexico-based Rancho de Chihuahua dog sanctuary.
He has a BA in English/Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and an MA from the John Hopkins University in Creative Writing.
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The book seems filled with lots of talk of flow state with the very occasional timid suggestion of reproducing the state. Weak read.
The strengths in this book are also some of the weaknesses. You will gain a new appreciation of action sports heroes that deserve greater recognition. Discover the accomplishments of legendary surfer Laird Hamilton, skateboarding sensation Danny Way (although you will gain more from watching the documentary "waiting for lightning" which is available on Netflix), rock climbing fanatics Alex Honnold and Dean Potter, among others. I knew many of the stories but Steven Kotler is a journalist and knows how to trigger intrigue. The concept, science, and applications of entering into the deep psychological state of flow plays second to Steven's attempts to draw you into the death defying feats in sports. Let me be absolutely clear - if you are uninterested in adventure sports, you will not enjoy this book.
I'll give you a few examples of what I mean. Kotler describes amazing physical feats that only someone familiar with the sport can visualize:
In describing a skateboarding move by Danny Way, he writes, "Moments later, he kicks off the contest with a seventy-foot, 360 mute grab over the gap and a McTwist - an inverted backside 540 with another mute grab - out of the quarterpipe."
In describing another skateboarding move, he writes., "In 2011, Bobby Brown threw the world's first Triple Cork 1440 - which is four spins and three flips, and all off-axis."
Or there is Alex Honnold's climb up Half Dome where he writes, "Up a zesty finger crack, then a few easier pitches, then one of the route's trickier sections - a nasty boulder problem above a small ledge."
It is tough to describe a kayaking, surfing, skateboarding, mountaineering, or skydiving journey and many times, I had to re-read sections over and over to get a visual image. It was because of this that I ended up putting this book down several times. And when I returned to reading, I usually received ample reward. Perhaps the best chapter in the book is Chapter 2 with the focus on revolutionary accomplishments on two separate occasions by Laird Hamilton on a surfboard. Completely immersed in huge waves, Laird instinctively attempted moves that no surfer had ever talked about or seen before. These moves changed the landscape of surfing and you can envision every detail. In this particular chapter, you could understand how Laird in the state of flow transformed his skill set, himself, and then everyone who heard about the events. (years of training leading to moments of deep concentration, a loss of self-consciousness, a sense of control in a task that slightly exceeded his skills)
In other sections of the book, I wasn't fully convinced that flow could be given credit for innovation. More accurately, I felt as if flow was being oversold as the panacea for reaching our potential.
So why did I give the book four stars? Because this book is one of the best on the topic of flow. The description of the conditions that increase the likelihood of flow states ("flow triggers") are clear and distinguished from the actual experience itself. The neuroscience research and discussions of the quantified self offer a new window into what it feels like to be in flow. You won't learn much about how to apply the knowledge about brave action sport characters to your own life, but then again Steven Kotler doesn't make this promise. This is an interesting read, the author is an excellent writer (despite the caveats listed above), and I walked away thinking more deeply about the importance of entering into this state of flow when I write, work out, and spend time with other people. For this, I am grateful for the time spent.
The Rise of Superman is like the Clark Kent PHONE BOOTH on FLOW. Inside of Rise, Steven Kotler, through his incredible gift of story-telling, somehow finds a way to illustrate how one can become SUPER in their own lives using the extreme case examples of action-adventure sport athletes and the latest in neuro-sciences.
Missing from past literature on flow, perhaps because it was too taboo or perhaps because no one had ever made the connection until now, is FLOW's Dark Kryptonite side. Steven shows that the FLOW PROCESS is not a Binary, like an on/off switch. But rather, he states, "that it's a four-part cycle in which two of the four stages doesn't feel very flowy at all."
Knowing the dark side of flow while finding your own personal Lois Lane (passion) and flow triggers, one can FLOW like Kotler's version of Superman that can ultimately save humanity from its own insanity...
I am currently writing a thesis on action and adventure sports (closely looking at how these athletes learn and develop new skills). I've studied and come across the concept of flow a number of times, especially in relation to sports, and in particular action and adventure sports: The Rise of Superman does not entirely "decode" the science of ultimate human performance (as there are other influencing factors in this modern society - David Epstein's TED Talk posted April 2014 offers a nice little insight).
In saying all this, however, I thoroughly enjoyed Kotler's writing style and the sharing experiences of renowned athletes - I devoured his book! Thank you for publishing.
#1 - By triggering a flow state, I can get more done, be more productive and have a better time doing it. I realized that I already do this... I eat healthy, I manage distractions, I use music, and some other things, all with aim of locking into a state where the world fades away. The book breaks down flow states in the context of action and adventure sports. Many of the insights can be applied to daily life.
#2 - I need to do more fun stuff. I love snowboarding but I haven't been in a long time. This book gave me a huge kick in the ass... I should be doing more fun stuff. I've hit the business with a newfound fury so I can create more time to go snowboarding and race motorcycles.
Finally, this book is REALLY easy to read. I couldn't put it down.