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The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance Hardcover – March 4, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 279 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

**Wall Street Journal Bestseller

**New York Times Bestseller

“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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: New Harvest; 1 edition (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1477800832
  • ISBN-13: 978-1477800836
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (279 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Todd B. Kashdan VINE VOICE on February 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This was a tough book to review. One reason is that I have read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's 1990 perennial bestselling book Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experience, his 1993 book The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium, and his 1996 book Creativity, Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. Flow, the psychological research behind it, the relevance to sports, business, and life, have been around for decades. Jimmy Johnson, the once coach of the Dallas Cowboys gave some credit for his superbowl wins in the 1990's to reading Csikszentmihalyi's book Flow. With this background, I opened this book on the relevance of flow to action adventure sports with trepidation.

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.
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If you are interested in flow, as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this book is absolutely worth the five bucks (Kindle edition).

However, Csikszentmihalyi's groundbreaking book, Flow, is a better introduction to this topic, and a better one-stop shop on this topic. Dr. Cs was the scientist behind this concept, while Mr. Kotler is a journalist providing mostly human-interest stories about extreme athletes.

The overall thesis of this book is that flow puts the brain in a state where pattern recognition and learning happen at much faster rate, giving rise to superhuman achievements over relatively short periods of time. So consistent flow is a shortcut to mastery, esp. compared to the popular 10,000 hours of conscious practice.

Unfortunately, the author focuses entirely on extreme sports enthusiasts: big-wall rock climbers (free soloists), white-water kayakers, giant-wave surfers, BASE and bungee jumpers, freedivers, X-games-winning skaters, acrobatic skiers, etc. I say unfortunately because (a) I could not identify with people who dedicate their life to these pursuits and many of whom die as a result and (b) it is fairly obvious that these pursuits produce flow, while trying to achieve flow in a more productive daily-life activity is difficult and not addressed here.

The author mentions a McKinsey study that executives who experienced flow were five times more productive. I would have loved to read more about that, rather than about how a ski bum tore his rectal muscles while trying to stop himself from terminal velocity by grabbing a rope with superhuman strength.
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The Rise of Superman is ostensibly Steven Kotler's book about Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, as experienced through extreme athletes. In reality, it seems to be Kotler's attempt to break into the corporate consultancy/sponsorship world, using pseudo-scientific words (such as his organization's name: The Flow Genome Project) to try to get corporations to buy into his brand of "mindfulness extreme" as the next big competitive advantage.

The way you can tell Kotler's a poseur is that he uses terms like "source code" inappropriately through the book, as though trying to show that he has some deep insight that he is uniquely qualified to tell. No engineer or computer scientist worth his salt would use the words "source code" the way he does, and on closer inspection, it appears that Kotler did a "search-and-replace" for "source" with "source code" throughout the text.

I'm not dismissing Flow or Mindfulness in any way. Nearly every unimpoverished human has experienced flow at one point or another in his life. I've threaded harrowing descents down Italian mountains with inches to spare between my handlebars and a pick up truck coming up on a narrow winding road, and piloted boats out of ports with sidewinds where mistakes would mean disaster, but I don't claim to have any deep insight to flow that are inaccessible to others. More prosaically, nearly every video gamer that has played a perfect level of Tetris or say, Naughty Dog's sublime
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