The Rise of Superman

Disclaimer: This is a book review for a book I couldn’t finish. 

I heard a podcast interview with author Steven Kotler on the Accidental Creative, which inspired me to get his book The Rise of Superman, which is about increasing performance.

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler

On the podcast we learned that there are 17 flow triggers. Flow being the state of optimal performance. For his research Kotler looked at extreme sports. His reasoning was that performance in extreme sports such as skate boarding and big wave surfing has improved a lot in recent years. And these sports require a high level of “flow” to achieve these gains. Interesting thesis.

Now I personally couldn’t care less about extreme sports. All I care about learning are the performance benefits. My view of extreme sports mirrors my view of fitness and investing. We look are the outliers and try to extrapolate back a certain path to success, all while ignoring the failures that did the same thing. Survivorship bias again. In other words, if you give a million kids a skateboard every year for two generations, one will eventually jump the Great Wall of China on a board.

Can we learn deep insights from the most successful or is it a numbers game? I ask that question a lot. In life, I look for the actions that increase the probability of payout, which often not the same as actions which lead to the highest absolute payout.

Back to the book. I was hoping it would focus more on what the author learned and how us regular folks could apply that knowledge and less about how he learned it. Again I couldn’t care less how some surfer caught some wave. I would read a few pages about the athletes, get bored, skip ahead, read some more, bored again, skip and repeat. Maybe the second half was better? Eventually I just gave up on the book and decided to see if anyone online had written a good summary.

Thankfully the author did. There is a SlideShare presentation that outlines the 17 Flow Triggers.

My advice is unless you care about extreme sports, just read the SlideShare presentation, take 1-2 of the ideas that makes the most sense to you and implement them into your life. Don’t waste your time with The Rise of Superman. By the way, Steven Kottler co-wrote another book called Abundance, which I loved. It made my short list for the best books ever on my Stuff I Like page. Read that book instead.

1 Comment

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  1. Seems somewhat relevant, have you seen this clip yet? Interesting thoughts regarding lateral motion and brain states…

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