The Golden Rule Of Flow🏆
And how to apply it before, during, & after the game (boffum 😉)!
Thanks for all the positive feedback from the first edition of this lifeletter.
Please don’t forget to share this with anyone in the student-athlete development and athletics ecosystem.
I took a month off after posting the first edition, to prepare for all the travel I’m about to do with the fall term starting at schools—and to get my coaching program together.
One of my goals is to reshape how we think about life after sports transitions. This lifeletter is a big part of that and I can’t do it without you.
The Golden Rule Of Flow🏆
We covered the definition of flow in the first edition of this lifeletter, which is an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.
And the end of the day, flow is a mechanism evolution designed to enable us to survive.
Imagine back to when we were hunters and gatherers, roaming jungles when danger was lurking 24/7.
If you’re in the jungle hunting for dinner and you hear a twig snap—it could be a feline cat or a lion that’s considered the king of the jungle.
The 22 flow triggers we covered last edition are all things the evolution deemed important to pay attention to so we can immediately feel our best and perform our best, to survive whatever challenge we’re about to encounter.
We’re not roaming literal jungles anymore; but there are still business, technological, psychological, and emotional jungles we face daily that these triggers can aid us in.
The one we’re going to cover today, that’s the golden rule of flow, is the Challenge-Skills Balance.
Mastering The Sweet Spot🎯
Flow demands task-specific focus. We pay attention to the task at hand when the challenge of that task slightly exceeds our skill set. If the challenge is too great, fear swamps the system. If the challenge is too easy, we get and stop paying attention. Flow appears near, but not on, the emotional midpoint between boredom and anxiety, in what scientists call “the flow channel.”
It’s the spot where the task is hard enough to make us stretch but not hard enough to make us snap.
If our goal is to stay in the challenge-skills sweet spot to maximize the time we spend in the zone, then we need to be constantly stretching ourselves to the edge of our abilities.
This means we are constantly learning and improving and, as a result, constantly increasing the size of the next challenge.
A proper Clear Goal (another flow trigger we'll dive into in a later edition) sits right inside your challenge-skill sweet spot, meaning it’s hard enough to stretch you to the edge of your abilities, but not hard enough to push you beyond, into that demotivating realm of anxiety and overwhelm. It forces you to bend, not break.
Now, let’s talk about how you can apply this before, during, & after the game.
BEFORE: TIME BLOCKS ⏰
Let’s say it takes you an hour to study the playbook for the week, review a scouting report, or do something as simple as packing—cut it down to 30 minutes. This challenges your skill set slightly beyond what it’s used to and forces you to focus on the task at hand and drop into flow.
DURING: SPIN THROUGH IT 🌪️
I was a point guard when I hooped in high school and there are two instances where I’d spin or spin the ball.
I’d get trapped in the backcourt before I could cross halfcourt. In order to beat the defenders, instead of using my speed or a cross-over to slip the trap, I’d dribble hard at the outside shoulder of one defender and then spin to split the trap.
I’m 5’5 so I had to get creative to finish sometimes. In some cases, hitting the corner of the tapped square on the backboard wasn’t good enough because it could still get blocked. I would have to kiss the ball off the top corner of the entire backboard and spin it in a way so it could go in.
Both of these moves are “risky” and they weren’t moves I really practiced often. However, they’re challenges in the game that forced me to focus on the task at hand to peak my performance. So get creative when you need to in order to get the job done. Just don’t get benched!
AFTER: THE RECOVERY RACE 🏁
For this one, I’ll take a quote from my mentor, Steven Kotler, and his book “The Art of Impossible”:
It’s hard for peak performers to relax. If momentum matters most, sitting still feels like laziness. And the more aligned with passion and purpose we become, the more “wasteful” time off starts to feel. Yet, since burnout leads to significant decline in cognitive function—making it one of the most common enemies of sustained peak performance—you absolutely have to get gritty about recovery.
One thing I learned from Mat Fraser, who is the GOAT in CrossFit as the 5X Fittest Man on Earth, is that the CrossFit Games is a game of recovery. There are so many events set back to back and it comes down to who can recover the fastest to consistently perform at an optimum level.
This is true about the finite game of your specific sport and the infinite game of life.
I remember when I first got in sales, we’d have conferences offices/teams would go to during division, region, and nationwide competition periods.
The championship reps/managers would leave the conference Sunday afternoon, take the day to rest, and be in the office first thing Monday implementing what they learned. While other reps or managers would take a couple of days or a week to rest or go through the motions to implement what they learned—if they ever got around to implementing it at all.
Exhaust all the resources and resourcefulness you have to get gritty about recovery and win the recovery race.
On a neurochemical level, the challenge-skill balance flow trigger works because when we are pushing on our talents and advancing our abilities, we are walking the path to mastery—and the brain notices. It rewards this effort with dopamine. And because dopamine enhances focus even more, this increases our chances of getting into flow, and the cycle continues.
My favorite example of this is hearing Kobe Bryant speak about the challenge he faced figuring out how to get better at guarding Allen Iverson.
“We’re fortunate that Allen Iverson isn’t 6’5, otherwise it would have been over for the league. Pack up and goodbye.” - Kobe Bryant
Take the challenges in your life and be sure you lean into them. Use them as moments to flex the skills you’ve worked to sharpen and slip into flow to feel your best and perform your best!
Hope this added the fuel to ferociously launch your week! ♾️🔥🚀
See you next Monday! 😎
And when it comes to the infinite game of life…
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