I was lost for 5 hours
We’ve all experienced it. That state when our mind finds complete focus. Time disappears, hunger pains are non-existent, worldly troubles are far from your mind. You are in a state of “FLOW”, and you do your best work during these times.
I had a moment like this on Saturday. I woke early and decided to attend a fitness class downtown and since I was close to my office, I chose to go get a few things done before heading home.
I completed some items on my to-do list, was thinking about leaving, and then it happened.
I’ve had this idea percolating in my mind about a new strategy for my business. The idea actually came from another business owner telling me a story about one of the biggest challenges he was trying to overcome.
When he told me his challenge, I thought to myself, I could solve that. In fact, I’ve already built the solution, I just didn’t see applying it in that way.
So instead of leaving for home, I decided to flesh the idea out in full. I wrote out every aspect of how this business strategy would work, going through all the pros and cons. Figuring out how it would need to be managed, operated, and engineered so that it would deliver an exceptional outcome every time.
We all have ideas. I get ideas all the time that I think are good. But it’s not until I completely flesh it out, and then compare it to other ideas and strategies, that I see if it’s better or flawed. The goal being to determine if it’s a C-level business idea or an A-level idea.
I ask myself questions like:
1. Is it scalable?
2. Would I enjoy doing it long term?
3. What processes could be outsourced or automated?
4. What would it take to get started?
5. What are the margins?
6. Does the pricing model seem realistic and worth the effort to build the company?
7. What are the obvious bottlenecks to growing this type of company?
8. What software, personnel, would likely be needed to grow?
9. What would be this company’s biggest challenges or threats? Are there current competitors?
10. Can you test this idea out in the marketplace before investing great time and energy to prove if there is true demand for this model at our price point?
11. Can you envision a time when this product/service could be obsolete?
12. Do you think this is an A-level business idea? Why?
I started writing.
Hours went by.
I didn’t move.
I didn’t get hungry.
I had found “Flow”.
Five hours later I came up for air. Or so it seemed.
It was such a fulfilling experience that when I got home I googled “finding flow,” as I was curious to learn more about this state of mind to see if I can figure how to engineer it so I can get back into more often.
I found a book by, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, called “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”. I bought the audiobook and began listening to it the next morning.
I’m not far into the book yet, but one thing I can share is that the author describes flow being a state when you take on a challenge that is equal to your ability. They are harmonious. And it doesn’t just happen with work. It can happen during exercise or at play.
Here is a quote from the book,
“Contrary to what we usually believe, the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.
Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”
This makes sense to me. When I followed my curiosity for a business idea, I fell into a flow state that lasted for hours. When I took my last spin class, I fell into a flow state and performed far greater than I thought I could. When I edit videos of my family, I often get lost in flow.
Thinking of some great moments in my life, I can see that they have come from taking on challenges and seeing them through.
I remember our family trip to Australia years ago. When we walked off the plane and headed for our luggage, there was this overwhelming feeling that came over me. It was something along the lines of, Holy Shit, we actually did it. It was real. It had taken months of hard work, and the days leading up to the trip were incredibly stressful, filled with anxiety. The plane ride was extremely long and uncomfortable.
But I’ll never forget that feeling. It came over me like a giant wave. It’s hard to describe. I knew we had overcome a great challenge to be there, but it was more than that. I felt like I was achieving a life purpose, realizing something I had only dreamed about for many years. Making the impossible, possible. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about that moment because it was such a pivotal moment in my life.
What I didn’t know at that time was that we were about 20 minutes from being detained in quarantine by the Australian Government. It’s a crazy a story that my wife tells best in the first chapter of a book she wrote from that trip called “Vagabonding with Kids: Australia”.
But the point is, I agree with Csikszentmihalyi. The best moments in life are not the passive ones. They happen when we extended ourselves.
It’s clear that the opposite of finding flow is choosing to be idle, which leads to boredom. And we avoid that idle boredom by volunteering for challenges. Challenges that align with passions, ideals, or your curiosity, and that push your mind or body to its edges.
So I’m making a pact with myself to always have a specific challenge I’m striving for at any given time. It could be focused on health (like my current 20 pull-up challenge), or family and relationships (like taking my family to Thailand for 6 weeks), or for my mind (like my current challenge of writing every day for 90 days), or in business (like scheduling time to explore my entrepreneurial curiosities).
I hope you’ll join me in choosing challenges in your life. Because what would we rather have in life; idle boredom or a state of flow and creativity?
Choose challenge and find your flow.