Flow State

Posted on April 15, 2013. Filed under: startups, venture capital |

Lately I’ve been thinking about flow state.  For a Wikipedia definition of flow state, click here.  In my mind, flow state transcends any specific activity or task.  There is a more generalized form of effortlessness that a person can carry from one task to the next..from one realm of life to another.  At the core of flow state I believe is a surrender…A few years ago I wrote this post about dropping into the zone…at the time I was just discovering and getting to know this state of mind…I was so excited by it that I kept trying to “hack” my way back…actively constructing reminders and triggers that would keep me in an unconscious state of flow.  More recently, however, it is clear to me that surrender is much more powerful than control in the pursuit of flow state.

I was riding the subway the other day and I saw an advertisement for a casino in Rockaway Beach.  Two large red dice tumbled almost out of the poster, rolling in my direction.  I was reminded of my days as a college student when I could not get enough of gambling…it wasn’t about winning or losing, although of course I loved to win…rather it was about dropping into this zone of chance, playing games in my head, trying to become one with the game, see around corners…literally to participate in this perfect rule of chance that I could not influence but could act in.  There was a meditation in the turn of a roulette wheel or the flip of a blackjack shoe that I craved…To gamble was to surrender completely to the forces of chance…to a rule of the universe that I could not control…I could almost drop into the rule, or that energy, and ride it….

I believe people “pleasure seek” to areas or arenas where we can fully surrender to a rule or law of the universe that is, again, completely out of our control…and although we don’t realize why, it is the surrender to this rule or law that brings us closer to flow state.  Riding a wave, in fact, when referencing the ocean, is yet another example of flow emanating from surrender.  We paddle and position and work and exert, and then, as the wave takes us, we surrender completely to the force of the sea.  We jump out of planes to drop into the law of gravity…again, surrendering completely to a fundamental state or law where we cannot influence or act upon it, but can become a part of it.

As we walk through day to day life, it feels that we are interacting with many forces, as universal and fundamental as chance or gravity, but perhaps more complex and less visible…we have a choice to either participate in surrender or attempt to control the daily moments of our lives that are tied to these rules or forces…our instincts, or at least my instincts, have always been to control…to exert my will on the way things happen, believing that control to be a path to success and happiness…but as I grow and learn to surrender, I find so much more grace and success and happiness in letting things happen as they will, in “dropping into” the forces that pull me in various directions or situations, more listening and riding waves than paddling or controlling them.

In work, it is so hard to surrender.  The very word “work” seems at odds with surrender. Brute force seems like such a powerful tool to get to where we want to go.  But surrendering to the self, listening to the fundamental rules and forces pulling on you, your company, your team, your market…and simply “dropping in,” participating, instead of pushing…I think is where the flow state lies.  Sometimes the market will ask you to push, to force, because that is the way it expects to interact with you…I haven’t fully resolved how to surrender even in these moments that seem to command an exertion of my will. Sometimes it really feels like controlling for an outcome is necessary…but every time I let go, and surrender without fear, the outcome trumps that of control.  The games that Michael Jordan owned were not the ones he stepped onto the court trying to control…it was when he was “unconscious,” listening to himself and to the forces and rules around him, to the physics of the court… in which he chose to participate, but not control, that he did the greatest damage.

I hear the market asking me to write my future story.  I hear the market asking me to begin exerting my control…but my heart says fuck control…seek surrender…and my story will emerge.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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