The flow state is amazing when you wake up from it.
It has many names. It’s “being in the zone”. It’s the no mind. It’s poetry in motion.
It’s a dream that you only perceive when it’s over. It’s getting in the car and arriving at your destination without ever remembering driving there.
It’s the flawless execution of a dance, a karate move, or shooting the winning goal.
We all know it and want it because it makes us feel alive and brings us happiness.
Getting to the flow state is hard sometimes. It’s incredibly addictive but hard to turn on when you want it. People just say “it comes naturally” but you and I know better.
It’s like a muscle, if you don’t use it you lose it. You always have to hustle to keep it. It could take months or years to get it back if you lost it, just ask Tiger Woods about that!
Achieving the flow state is one of the hardest things you can do, so how do you stack the odds in your favor? How do you find your flow state and use it? How do you use it for your obsession?
The answer is that it takes practice, a lot of practice.
The no mind
When I was actively practicing Karate my Sensei would talk about the “no mind.” The “no mind” is just another name for the flow state but it’s when your body takes over on autopilot.
It’s like a switch turned on in your body and instead of second-guessing yourself, you just act.
It’s action in the purest form.
It’s where practice and execution meet.
It’s like the scene in The Matrix where Neo becomes “The Chosen One” and proceeds to kick the butts of Agents.
The no mind/flow state is only achievable by practice and activity. In Karate it’s practice, practice, practice. Then it’s sparing. It’s testing, it’s getting your ass kicked, and it’s trying again.
It’s losing, evaluating where you went wrong, and then correcting your mistakes before you practice again.
It’s practicing till your mind and body align. It’s when muscle memory is achieved and it’s when the switch to turn it all on presents itself.
Build your obsession
No matter what you decide to do in life: writer, Internet entrepreneur, artist, etc. You’re only going to be mediocre at best if you don’t put in more time and energy than your rival.
It’s like the bell curve in statistics.
If you just show up you live inside one standard deviation of that bell curve. You’re part of 67% of the population, that’s the herd. That’s the followers.
If you work harder than them, it gets you to two standard deviations. That’s 90% of the population. You work a tad bit harder than that and you’re in the top 10%. A worthy goal indeed and you’ll go far in life if you decide to stop there.
The flow state for creatives and makers starts here. They catch it once in a while. They ride it and make something wonderful. They’re recognized for having talent when they know deep down it was hard work, really hard work, that got them there.
The magic really happens just past three standard deviations. Three standard deviations capture 99.7% of the entire population and it puts you in the top 0.3%.
Those people can turn on their flow states and create their art, their words, their music, their whatever and they do it by practicing all the damn time.
They practice their art till their hands, eyes, and bodies bleed.
It becomes an obsession. They practice and work harder than 99.7% of the population on their obsession.
Obsession can trigger a flow state with practice.
Let’s be real
Let’s be real, life is about odds and probability.
We hear sayings like “you can’t win big if you don’t shoot your shot.”
On the surface, I like that quote because it tells us to take a shot. It tells us to risk something to gain a reward!
The retired day trader in me would follow up that question by asking about odds and probability. I would ask myself, if I took that shot, what are the odds I would win big?
Would taking that shot and failing at it hurt me in any way?
What if I decide to become an Internet entrepreneur, what are the odds that I will fail in the first year? The answer? It’s pretty high in the first year but gets less with every year you stick around.
What are the odds that you’ll become a famous Medium writer and make tons of cash? Right now? Pretty low. There are 1000s of Medium writers on the platform today with more joining every day. Everyone is vying for eyeballs and earning pennies.
The trick is to do things that put the odds in your favor. How do you do that? Simple. You work harder than anyone else.
You find new opportunities, new channels, and new friends. You look at the writers, creators, artists, and makers that get into the flow state. You learn from them. You adopt their work ethic and you hustle.
You find out everything in your industry, genre, or niche that can put the odds in your favor for success. Then you obsess about it, you turbocharge that all with practice by working your ass off with singlemindedness.
Practice > Obsess > Flow State > Happiness
Happiness and work
A word of warning.
I’m not advocating a toxic work life. I know that creative people like to be productive and they get passion exploited for it. Noncreative people view obsession as a weakness and exploit obsessive people for it.
I hate exploitation.
That strategy always fails because the creative person doesn’t give a fuck about what they want, they only care about what their mind, body, and soul have to do.
We have too many leeches in the world, looking to steal from creative people and their flow states.
You have to be on guard for that and be ruthless with your time.
Your flow state, the cultivation of no mind, and your creative expression are so valuable that the leeches will come to you to divide up your time. They put you and your work in an office cubicle and sell your labor to the highest bidder. Then they pay you peanuts and keep the difference.
That’s their entire plan. Act as a middle “man” by leeching off your practice, your flow state, and your no mind.
You’re worth more. A lot more.
Don’t let them do it!
Happiness is telling them to fuck off and keeping your integrity and soul intact.
If you want to be a photographer then you have to shoot photos. You have to learn everything about cameras, film, digital manipulation, etc. You have to work on days when you don’t want to. You have to push yourself way beyond what everyone is doing.
If you want to be an artist you have to work every day. You have to draw, paint, experiment, and think about the message you want to convey. You have to work harder than your contemporaries. You have to produce more artwork than them.
If you want to be a writer then get your ass in the chair and write. Stephen King writes a minimum of 2,000 words every day.
“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book — something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
You have to be obsessive with your time, protect it, and dedicate a minimum of time to it every day.
Find your flow state for your obsession and let it guide you to your bliss.
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