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The Rise of Superman by New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler, at first sight, seems like a fan book about the much loved DC Comics Superhero – Superman. However, within its pages lies something far more potent – the secret to becoming Superman by ‘decoding the science of ultimate human performance’.
The book explores the state of consciousness known as ‘flow’, an optimal state in which humans perform and feel their best while focusing on some of the greatest adventure athletes of all times. The Rise of Superman explains how extreme athletes are accelerating their flow states to perform better by continually outdoing themselves and how regular people can use the same tactics to accelerate performance in everyday tasks.
Kotler writes with a great understanding of adventure sports. As someone who isn’t keenly interested in these sports, not only did I learn a lot about them but gained a new found appreciation of action sport heroes who deserve greater recognition – big wave surfer Laird Hamilton, skateboarding sensation Danny Way (who’s jumped off the Great Wall of China on a skateboard), rock climbing fanatics – Alex Honnold and Dean Potter, among many others.
Having never heard of any of these great men before and with little understanding of these sports, Kotler writes engagingly and simply so that even a layman can follow. The concept of ‘flow’ is fascinating and the book explores all its facets – the scientific, emotional and dark side of achieving such a state of consciousness. Most interestingly, Kotler explains how in a state of flow, the brain shuts down certain parts of itself to increase efficiency and reduce self doubt.
Think back to any time when you were so engrossed in playing a game that your body reacted before you even realised you were doing anything: that is flow, and that state of higher consciousness is possible in everyday life through a few hacks. The book also dabbles in psychology and will be admired by one who is keen on studying different theories of how the human brain functions, how motivation works and how much risk-taking is too much.
What didn’t work?
The Rise of Superman is a book that can only be finished by those who are consistently curious.
While the personal stories are interesting, the science is at times too complex to keep up with. Despite being one of the best books I’ve read in ages, it can be dull for those who aren’t into adventure sports and prefer the comic book Superman.
Flow is a state we all seek but just weren’t aware of until now. The Rise of Superman shows us but a glimpse of what humans are capable of achieving when the limits are removed and it makes me want to get up and get going.
You don’t have to be in the ‘Danger Zone’ to enjoy this book. Where ever you are; whether on mountain or wave or couch – from this book, you can take away key learnings to improve your productivity in life and learn to unleash your own untapped potential.