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I Was Stuck in the State of Flow — for 20 Years! This Is Both a Cautionary Tale and a Consumed Tragedy.
“When I wrote for the first time, it felt like a spirit possessed my fingers”— Ayodeji Awosika
The state of flow is dangerously seductive. You can’t chemically induce it, trick yourself into it, or jump up and down to will it — it shows up when it feels like it, unannounced.
Years ago, it kidnapped me, I think I was working at Microsoft at the time, not sure, it’s a blur. It is only now, 20 years later, that it has released me… I’m sitting on a small balcony in Barcelona, trying to piece together this mind-bending journey. Took me from Seattle to New York City to Paris to Portland, doing software, finance on Wall Street and data science. Maybe its the sun of Spain or its people and though I am still feeling dazed, I am free and able to contemplate again. For me, this is not a cautionary tale but a consumed tragedy, this is time I will never get back, for you… make of it what you will.
What is Flow?
“A ‘flow state’ is an almost mythical concept within business, art, sports and martial arts that describes a state of being wherein a person starts acting almost instinctively without distraction while focused intensely on a specific task or goal. The term was originally proposed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi but has since been ‘borrowed’ by just about every self-help guru, sports psychologist and executive under the sun.” — Adam Sinicki
You really, really have to love what you do to access flow. How else can you explain concert pianists or professional dancers practicing 8 hours a day? But back on earth and with more mundane professions like mine, a software developer, flow is available too. And let me tell you, I’ve abused it for all it’s worth! I am not here to glorify it, but to warn those getting too close that it often bears a heavy cost and may take you years to figure out the bill.
Some call it the zone or heightened concentration, and you only realize you were in that state after the fact. It is so powerful that you’re unable to recognize it in the heat of the moment. If somebody or something jostles you out of it, you will need time to regain your footing, tamper your anger, remember where you are and what day it is.
It isn’t given to everyone and that’s a good thing!
What’s My Beef?
Flow has a plan. It always has a goal in mind, a destination it hopes to reach. Are you OK with that? I was at first.
You may be able to do something with utmost concentration and surgical perfection, you will reach your goal or have given it your all if you don’t succeed, but it will consistently steal you of your time. Is it worth it? Is the goal something truly important for you? For your legacy? For your soul? Something bigger than family, friends, random experiences and conversations, a walk down the street? It better be…
“Our dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake we realize things were strange” — Cobb, Inception
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Author of “Fringe Tactics — Finding Motivation in Unusual Places”
Alternative Ways of Coaxing Motivation Using Raw Inspiration, Fear, and In-Your-Face Logic