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The Art of Impossible

A Peak Performance Primer

By Steven Kotler
15-minute read
Audio available
The Art of Impossible by Steven Kotler

The Art of Impossible (2021) is a science-driven guide to reaching your maximum potential. By developing four key skills –⁠ motivation, learning, creativity, and flow –⁠ you’ll gain the power to smash whatever goals you set. With enough time, you may even achieve the impossible.

  • Aspiring movers and shakers
  • Go-getters driven to achieve their maximum potential
  • Anyone who wants to boost their performance and be at their peak

Steven Kotler is a journalist, entrepreneur, and author of both fiction and nonfiction books. He’s the cofounder and executive director of the Flow Research Collective, an organization that studies the science behind optimal human performance and trains its members in the techniques it uncovers. Kotler’s work has appeared in over 70 publications, and his book Abundance was a best seller.

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The Art of Impossible

A Peak Performance Primer

By Steven Kotler
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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The Art of Impossible by Steven Kotler
Synopsis

The Art of Impossible (2021) is a science-driven guide to reaching your maximum potential. By developing four key skills –⁠ motivation, learning, creativity, and flow –⁠ you’ll gain the power to smash whatever goals you set. With enough time, you may even achieve the impossible.

Key idea 1 of 9

Intrinsic motivators drive us toward the impossible.

There are no two ways about it: your journey to impossible is going to be long and arduous. As with any long journey, you’ll need fuel to keep you going. That includes food and sleep, but you also need psychological fuel –⁠ in other words, drive.

Drive, or motivation, nudges us toward action. But what creates drive in the first place? From an evolutionary perspective, it’s all about surviving in a world where resources are scarce. Drive is evolution’s way of getting us to either fight each other to obtain the resources we need or to use creativity to make more resources.

But drive doesn’t consist of just one thing. There are various drivers, like fear, curiosity, and passion. All of these provide psychological fuel –⁠ and you can harness them to achieve the impossible.

The key message here is: Intrinsic motivators drive us toward the impossible.

All psychological drivers are divided into one of two categories: extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic drivers are things like money, fame, food, and sex. They’re external to ourselves, and we chase them to win the evolutionary survival game. Intrinsic drivers, on the other hand, are within us. They’re psychological and emotional concepts like curiosity, passion, meaning, and purpose.

Psychological research tells us that extrinsic drivers only motivate us to a certain extent. They get weaker once we have enough money to pay for food, clothing, and shelter. After we’ve met these basic needs, it’s the intrinsic motivators that take over. It’s those intrinsic drivers we’ll be focusing on in these blinks.

The five most powerful intrinsic motivators are curiosity, passion, purpose, autonomy, and mastery. You can stack them together so they feed off one another –⁠ and so you can achieve the impossible.

Let’s start with curiosity, the first element in the intrinsic motivator stack. You can start building it by making a list. Write down –⁠ by hand –⁠ 25 things you’re curious about. What might you read a book about or attend a lecture on? Be as specific as possible. For instance, don’t just write down football or food. Instead, write down: the specific mechanics and maneuvers necessary to play the left tackle position or the potential for grasshoppers to become a primary human food source.

Now that you have a list of things you’re curious about, it’s time to start hunting for overlap between the items on it. This will help you identify your passions, your next intrinsic motivator.

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