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In this week’s ATD episode of “The Future is Now” series, we sat down with Flow Genome co-founders Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler to dive deep into the neuroscience and cutting-edge research that has characterized the groundbreaking leaps in human performance. For Wheal and Kotler, “flow” is not just a professional crusade — both men have credited the state with saving their lives. Steven suffered from a debilitating illness, bed-ridden for three years, and living at 10% functionality. He found himself in a state of consciousness where he encountered what felt like “mystical experiences,” and he thought he was dying. When he recovered, he wanted to find out more about this state and ended up publishing two books on “flow”, including the forthcoming book The Rise of the Superman. Jamie, on the other hand, describes himself as that “prototypical angry young man,” courting death with high-risk behavior -“Either I was going to find something more worth living for, or I was going to continue taking bigger and bigger risks. I was going to keep going until I got it, or I was content to let it get me.” Through “flow”, he was able to channel this existential crisis into a career, designing and delivering dynamic outdoor educational learning experiences to everyone from children to business leaders. Kotler’s research into the scientific side of flow was a perfect match with Wheal’s focus on experiential learning to build out the Flow Genome Project.
Wheal and Kotler have huge plans for their flow Dojos in major metropolitan areas, where they will offer MacArthur style fellowships to scientists from related fields. Wheal believes, “One of our core intentions is almost a sort of revival of Plato’s Academy, where you bring together the best and the brightest, you train, you think, you play, and you go out and you seed culture.” They have already attracted high-profile advisors and board members such as James Olds from the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study from George Mason University, Redbull’s High Performance Director Andy Walshe, best selling New York Times author and world-renowned ADHD expert Dr. Ned Hallowell among others. Of course, one can’t be in a “flow state” all the time, they’re part of a cycle that involves gearing up, entering flow and a coming down recovery period. But Kotler and Wheal hope that helping people access flow more regularly will enable them towards not only greater productivity, but greater happiness. For Wheal, the question he seeks to answer is “how do we unlock that possibility, not just in the best of the best, but allow it to actually be our own birthright and to reclaim that, and to not simply say voyeuristically, ‘Wow, that’s awesome, but I could never,’ and actually say, ‘That’s incredible, and I can too!.'” Projected completion for Dome 1 is around the corner, and I’ll be the first in line. To learn more about Flow Genome visit http://www.flowgenomeproject.com/about/