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Performance expert and coauthor of “Peak Performance: Elevate your Game, Avoid Burnout and Thrive with the New Science of Success,” Brad Stulberg explains how the psychological concept of “flow” can help you get in the zone at work. Following is a transcript of the video.
“Flow” is a term introduced in the early ’90s by a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. And the easiest way to describe “flow” is it’s being in the zone. So, it’s when you are completely present with what you’re doing, and it’s like the outside world disappears. So, your perception of time might change, your perception of space might change, you’re just completely latched on to what you’re doing. It’s a wonderful feeling. Although there’s no recipe for entering a “flow” state, there are a few things that can help elicit this beautiful feeling of being in the zone. First and foremost is to try to pursue activities that are ever so slightly outside of your comfort level. So, I like to think of it as if you have a skill set, and then a challenge. And you want the challenge to just be ever so slightly above the skill.
Let’s say that you have very high skill. Well, if the challenge is low, you might be bored or apathetic. If you have low skill, but the challenge is high, you’re going to be overwhelmed, maybe anxious, you won’t be able to do it. But if you have a high amount of skill for something, and the challenge is really high, that is a really important criteria for being able to get into the zone.
I think a second foundational element is just trying to be fully present and focused with what you’re doing. And, that helps if the challenge and the skills are both high because you almost have no choice but to be present.
So, to recap, it’s activities that put you ever so slightly outside of your comfort zone, but that you’re still quite skilled for, and a type of full focus and presence where you really bring your all to that activity. If you’ve ever played any type of sport, the flow or zone can be described as a slowing down of the things around you. Some believe that in these moments, the brain is processing information and reacting at such a faster rate that it seems like everything is slower. In my opinion this natural state can be obtained through mindfulness and meditation. The importance of achieving this state is to increase your productivity and efficiency in work and life.
A dozen years ago, the largest internet company in China wasn’t Alibaba or Tencent, but game developer Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd. Its founder was a young man named Chen Tianqiao, who had become a billionaire at 30. Chen was more prominent than Alibaba’s Jack Ma for much of the last decade — then he disappeared. He left China, dropping out of public view almost completely. He took his Nasdaq-listed company private in 2012. Chen is finally ready to talk publicly again. Now 44, he’s living in Singapore with plans for his next act. During a visit to his office there, he explained what led him to give up his life’s work and cede the market to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., whose founders are now the country’s two richest men. It started with panic attacks in his 30s, then escalated amid the rising stress of competition and government regulations. He eventually decided he had to salvage his own health. His mental struggles and Buddhist beliefs lead him down a new path, which was research on the human brain. He set aside $1 billion to start the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience. The concept for the school is unusual to say the least: It will bring together academics in everything from neuroscience, biology and psychiatry to philosophy and divinity studies, and encourage them to work together. Chen thinks it’s time to focus on improving humans’ emotional well-being after centuries of effort to increase living standards. “This will be a university whose mission is to try to answer who we are and where we come from,” he said. “For thousands of years, we improved our happiness through changing the physical world. We now have to solve this problem by exploring inward.” Chen was born in 1973, and started Shanda in 1999 not long after meeting his wife Chrissy while working at a securities firm. Chen and his wife made their own way through creating an online gaming company. His company saw success over the years at the consequence of his health via panic attacks. A devout Buddhist who studied ways to transcend suffering, Chen decided to change course for good: The family relocated to Singapore in 2010 and began to withdraw from the business. In 2011, they offered to take Shanda Interactive private for $2.3 billion. They later sold off their stock in Shanda Games and Chen resigned from its board. For three years, Chen and Chrissy considered what their next step would be, which ultimately lead to the brain. The couple sees enormous business opportunities in understanding the brain, especially in the areas of researching debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s. His Singapore based investment firm has invested in 100 advanced technology ventures throughout the world. Chen sees virtual reality as the best form of technology to connect with neuroscience. He has used his assets to make investments well beyond the cerebral. He is the largest shareholder in peer-to-peer giant LendingClub Corp. and in the rural U.S. hospital chain Community Health Systems Inc. He also holds chunky stakes in Legg Mason Inc. and KKR & Co. He’s even bought up more than 700,000 acres of timberland in the U.S. and Canada. Chen’s influence in China endures. Several of his lieutenants have gone on to become stars in their own right, including Daniel Zhang, who was Shanda’s former chief finance officer and is now Alibaba’s chief executive officer. Even though he is no longer the person he was, Chen accepts his current reality with little regrets and seeks to move forward to a new future. Growing up in a Buddhist home, I learned many of the principles of Buddhism and in some ways, I look at life through a middle way lens without attachment. In my mind, it’s important to continue to move forward to make a lasting difference for the future and eternity. If a billionaire can make a conscious choice to change direction in his life, then I believe anyone can change the course of his or her life.
This week, I’ve included The most motivational video Ever! 2018 will not be the same after watching this from the Video Advice YouTube channel.
“If you think you know it all, you’re a fool for sure; real survivors learn wisdom from others.”
Proverbs 28:26 MSG