Five Motivators That Fuel Peak Performance – Steven Kotler with Dave Asprey – #784

Get your biology to work for you and achieve the impossible with motivation, learning, creativity and flow.

In this episode of Bulletproof Radio, my guest Steven Kotler believes there’s a formula for the impossible and that the answer lies in our biology. He’s spent a lifetime researching and looking for ways to achieve his own peak performance, and today we get his advice on how you can achieve yours.

In Steven’s newest book, The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer” he’s combined neuroscience and decades of research to make a playbook for extreme performance improvement and an exploration of the frontiers of human possibility. He lays out four components to maintaining peak performance: motivation, learning, creativity and flow.

He’s a New York Times-bestselling author, an award-winning journalist, and has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes. He’s also the executive director of the Flow Research Collective, an institute that researches the neuroscience of flow states and trains individuals to harness their own flow-state, so they can achieve more, faster.

“One of the qualities of a flow state is this quality of effortless effort,” Steven says. “Bottom-up attention is really what it is instead of top-down attention. It’s happening automatically.”

While you can’t live in the flow state, we talk about how you can maximize your time in that state and stay in touch with your motivation.

“When you talk about intrinsic drive, you’re really talking about curiosity, passion, purpose, autonomy, and mastery,” Steven says. “Those five are our big five intrinsic motivators.”

Once you have those five things, he explains how it becomes easier to begin setting goals and finding ways to constantly tune into your willpower in order to make them a reality.

“Sometimes in peak performance you’ve got to go slow to go fast,” Steven says. “Learning to turn curiosity into passion and passion into purpose. This is one of those places where you got to go slow. Because once you get it right, these are three huge intrinsic motivators. If they’re pointing in the same direction, it unlocks a tremendous amount.”

Oh, and then we also talk about the time he flew a MIG-17 Russian fighter jet — without knowing how to fly.

Steven has lived an incredible life and has a ton of great knowledge, experience and insight to share. Listen on to learn about what it takes for you to achieve your own brand of impossible.

Enjoy! And get more resources at Dave.Asprey/podcasts

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Follow Along with the Transcript

Five Motivators That Fuel Peak Performance – Steven Kotler with Dave Asprey – #784


Book: The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer  
Bulletproof Radio:
Steven Kotler: The Rise of Superman – #109
Jamie Wheal & Steven Kotler: High Consequences, & Hacking The Flow State – #216

Key Notes

  • There is motivation, productivity, grit, creativity, and learning, innovation, cooperate. It’s this huge set of things. This is a study flow. – 2:02
  • Peak performance always starts with motivation, which is, as you know, a psychological catch all term for intrinsic and extrinsic drives, goals, and grit. – 3:43
  • Willpower declines over the course of a day, unless you can reset it. – 7:30
  • I hear from so many people like I don’t know how to find my purpose, like why I’m here – 11:39
  • Learning to turn curiosity into passion and passion into purpose. This is one of those places where you got to go slow.  – 14:14
  • What we didn’t realize, autonomy, what we now know is that we always want it.   – 22:21
  • It’s a rule that Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, calls let my people go surfing.  – 24:05
  • Late ’50s, Maslow was doing a giant study on a high achievement. When he says high achievement, he doesn’t just mean success, he really means like, are you a good, kind person?  – 27:56
  • The Art of Impossible, it’s a book written, because I spent my career studying people who have accomplished what I call capital I Impossible, that which has never been done. It’s meant to be utilized by anybody who’s interested in what I call small I impossible. – 32:04
  • The ability to automatically and instinctively lean into a challenge. You lean into a challenge before you even know you’ve leaned in. – 37:17
  • Steven:
    you end up getting to a point where you’re living a life where you’re constantly exceeding your own expectations for what you thought was possible.  – 41:58
  • You talk about five not so easy steps for learning almost anything. – 45:03
  • One of the things that I think is really, really true is peak performers know. It’s always crawl, walk, run.  – 50:35
  • The size of the vision really, really matters. The actual work itself is the same.  – 55:04
  • When we’re faced with a crisis, the brain doesn’t want to make millions of choices. It doesn’t want to be creative, it wants simple solutions.  -57:33

If you like today’s episode, check us out on Apple Podcasts at and leave us a (hopefully) 5-star rating and a creative review.

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