Book Review – The Art of Impossible by Steven Kotler


Imagine what it would be like to crush any goal you set with the power of four key skills. Skills such as motivation, learning, creativity and flow are under the microscope in The Art Of Impossible by Steven Kotler. This science-driven guide will teach how these traits can lead us towards our maximum potential; whether that’s reaching personal heights or achieving an impossible dream.

In The Art of Impossible, Steven Kotler argues that anyone can achieve the impossible if they are willing to think outside the box and take risks. He provides readers with a step-by-step guide to achieving their goals, drawing on case studies from history as well as his own experiences. Kotler’s writing is clear and concise, making complex concepts easy to understand. His advice is also based on solid research, making it credible and trustworthy. Overall, The Art of Impossible is an inspiring and practical book that will leave readers feeling motivated to achieve their dreams.

The book is excellent, and it ticks all my boxes as it contains biochemistry, neuroscience, physiology, and psychology. It brings together research in performance which I was already an advocate of in works such as Grit by Angela Duckworth, Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Mindset by Carol Dweck.

As mentioned in the introduction, The Art of Impossible is possible with the mastery of four key skills: motivation, learning, creativity, and flow. The book goes into great detail about how to develop and harness these skills in order to achieve your goals. They form a “blueprint”:

Step 1: Find a passion and purpose (Motivation)

Step 2: Fortify passion with grit and goals (Motivation)

Step 3: Amplify the results with learning and creativity (learning and creativity)

Step 4: Use flow to turbo-boost the whole process (flow)

Motivation is the key to achieving any goal, big or small. It’s what drives us to take action and keep going even when things get tough. For Kotler, there are two kinds of motivators, intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic drivers are external things like money, fame, food, and sex. Intrinsic drivers are psychological and emotional drivers like curiosity, passion, meaning, and purpose. Extrinsic motivators drive us to an extent when external need is met. Intrinsic motivators take over to survive beyond satiation and can be used in a “stack” to achieve the impossible.

Learning is essential to achieving any goal, as it allows us to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to reach our desired destination. To cultivate the skill of effective learning requires a growth mindset, according to Kotler. A growth mindset is one in which we believe that our abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching, and learning from failure. This belief allows us to persevere in the face of setbacks and continue growing and improving. On the other hand, a fixed mindset leads us to believe that our abilities are set in stone and cannot be changed. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness and discouragement in the face of difficulties. To develop a growth mindset, Kotler recommends taking on challenges, seeking feedback, practising mindfulness, and reframing failures as opportunities for learning.

Kotler argues that creativity is essential for achieving the impossible, as it allows us to come up with new and innovative solutions to problems. He decodes creativity to get to the core of what it is and how our brain works before offering a means of “hacking” creativity. This is how to use the brain work for you to increase your creativity. To increase our creativity, Kotler recommends using techniques such as brainstorming, mind mapping, and lateral thinking. He also emphasises the importance of taking breaks, getting adequate sleep, and exposing ourselves to new ideas and experiences.

Kotler defines flow as “the state of peak performance in which we feel our best and do our best.” In other words, it’s the sweet spot where challenge meets skill. We have reviewed the definitive book Flow previously.  Flow is often associated with athletes or musicians who are “in the zone” and able to achieve seemingly impossible feats. However, Kotler argues that flow is not just for elite performers; it’s something that we can all learn to cultivate. The book gives us a process to follow to get into and manage flow states as flow is the ideal condition for peak performance.

The book ends with excellent exercises, activities, and practices for us to bring the framework together and develop the skills required to boost our performance.

The Art of Impossible is an excellent book for anyone who wants to improve their performance, whether in their personal or professional life. It is an excellent resource for those who want to learn more about the science of performance and how to apply it in their own lives. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to improve their performance, whether in their personal or professional life. Overall, The Art of Impossible is an inspiring and practical book that will leave readers feeling motivated to achieve their dreams. I will be re-reading this and can’t wait to do so. It is immediately practicable.

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