We are all capable of so much more than we know. It doesn’t matter what the “more” you want is—maybe you want more productivity; maybe you want a more meaningful life; maybe you want to be the first person to live on Mars—the formula is always the same.
Why? We’re all human, we all share the same biology, and the secret to peak performance is getting our biology to work for us rather than against us.
History reveals moments in time when the impossible became possible. Moments such as athletic impossibles like the 4-minute mile, intellectual impossibles like Einstein’s theory of relativity, or cultural impossibles like Rosa Parks sitting at the front of the bus, or innovative impossibles like the Wright Brothers flying for the first time.
Over the past three decades, these moments have been the focus of my work. I’ve spent thirty years studying how people pull off the impossible in every domain imaginable: sports, science, technology, business, art, music, culture, even in “impossible” altruistic endeavours like environmental cause work (saving a rainforest or protecting a dying species) and animal rescue etc.
During this period, I have worked with the very best of the very best in all of these domains and done extensive neurobiological research into what allows individuals and teams to pull off such extraordinary feats. Everything I’ve learned over this period has since been systematized into an easy-to-follow, how-to format that anyone can use to improve their lives and performance significantly—this is what The Art of Impossible discusses.
We are all capable of so much more than we know—this is the most consistent lesson from all my time on the front lines of extreme performance improvement. All of us contain everything we need to tackle the so-called “impossible,” and far more of us than we would ever suspect have the ability to actually achieve the so-called “impossible.”
Put differently, with very few exceptions, while all the people I studied in that period became exceptional human beings who accomplished remarkable things, very, very few of them started that way. Sure, you will occasionally meet someone who won the genetic lottery—a superstar, naturally-gifted athlete; a legitimate Einstein-ian genius—but this is so rare that it’s almost not worth talking about.
As a rule, most impossible slayers start just like you and me. But what ends up making them exceptional is the hyper-development and extraordinary devotion to and application of four cognitive skill-sets: motivation, learning, creativity and flow.
Everyone is hardwired for peak performance. There is NO secret. Human beings are biologically-designed to tackle enormous challenges. In fact, everything we might consider “peak performance” is quite simply getting our biology to work for us rather than against us. That’s it.
This is also why my book, The Art of Impossible, takes a “neuroscientific approach” to human performance. If you want more of a skill—say flow or motivation—neuroscience gives us basic biological mechanisms: How the system works, how we can get the system to work for us, and how to get it to work for us in a reliable, repeatable manner (by anyone, at any time, ever).
What’s more—and this is a crucial point—the system wants to work that way. Humans are built to take on large challenges, and when any system isn’t used for its designated purpose, bad things happen. In fact, a great many of the “dis-eases” that plague our modern world—anxiety, depression, overwhelm, burnout, lack of meaning, lack of purpose, loneliness etc.—stem from people not fulfilling their potential.
The brilliant psychologist Abraham Maslow once explained it this way: “Whatever a person can be; they must be.” We are hardwired to exceed our limitations and fulfill our potential, and doing anything less is, quite literally, bad for us.
Simply put: Not going big is bad for us.
To learn more about Unlocking the Impossible, see Steven’s sessions at the 2021 CPTN Online Summit.
Steven Kotler, MSc.
Steven Kotler is a New York Times-bestselling author, an award-winning journalist, and the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective. He is one of the world’s leading experts on human performance. He is the author of nine bestsellers (out of thirteen books total), including The Art of Impossible, The Future Is Faster Than You Think, Stealing Fire, The Rise of Superman, Bold and Abundance. His work has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes, translated into over 40 languages, and appeared in over 100 publications, including the New York Times Magazine, Wired, Atlantic Monthly, TIME and the Harvard Business Review. Steven is also the cohost of Flow Research Collective Radio, a top ten iTunes science podcast. Along with his wife, author Joy Nicholson, he is the cofounder of the Rancho de Chihuahua, a hospice and special needs dog sanctuary.