Flow and Animal Chin

I heard about this book through The Joe Rogan Experience #873, where Steven Kotler was a guest. Rogan talked about playing pool and mentions a term called "stroke". Being in the zone. You're hitting shot after shot without thinking about it.

Once you realize you're in stroke, you're knocked out of it.

If you think about flow you'll get knocked out of it. Which could be frustrating if you're chasing flow. Especially trying to achieve flow at a desk. There's less physical activity to keep your focus away from deliberate thoughts.

In Sick in the Head, Kotler writes about The Search for Animal Chin, a 1987 skateboarding film with a bunch of legends. People were able to see the top level of the sport and practice the tricks on their own. One of the first steps to doing something is knowing it's possible in the first place.

Skate videos through the 80s and 90s let people see what was possible. Now it's a little easier to see top level performers.

Any smartphone or tablet computer opens these same possibilities up to everyone. Want some Animal Chin in your own life? Join an online community. Watch videos. Read stuff. Get smarter. Try stuff. Get into flow. Use flow to do something amazing. Post videos. Teach others how you did it. And repeat. That’s what action and adventure athletes did, that’s one of the main reasons they went so far so fast.

One of the chapters talks about Danny Way jumping over The Great Wall of China. Just a few taps and you can see it online.

If you're learning anything, YouTube probably has something useful to watch. When I was learning to draw1, I searched for artists drawing at comic conventions.

Some things don't make as much sense to watch in process, like writing2. But you can watch interviews with writers. Even long form ones from book tours. One of my favorites is a discussion between George RR Martin and Stephen King. I wrote more about it in an earlier post.

The internet connects so many people. You can see top performers and you can teach people out there who you're further along than. Take advantage of it.

While you're at it, check out Animal Chin in its entirety. No need to ask your buddy to mail a VHS tape across the country.

  1. I still am learning to draw, so I'll get back to this. ↩︎
  2. A couple years ago, James Somers made Draftback to replay Google Docs revision history. This did of what skateboard videos did. I watched some of it and an immediate takeaway was seeing him use a TK in place of someone's name. I learned it in seconds and still do that to this day. Using placeholders helps a lot for staying in the same context, which in turn helps you stay in flow. ↩︎