The challenge of life is…
- to develop skills without building egos around them,
- to gain greater strength and confidence while staying humble,
- to attain success without feeling shallow pride and emptiness inside,
- to work hard toward goals while being happily fulfilled already.
We can tackle this challenge by learning how to take action without action (that is, effortless, egoless action), how to do in non-doing (wu wei), and how to have a powerful will without having to exert willpower. This type of action, of doing, and of powerful will emerges when we enter a flow state, when we get fully immersed in an activity that makes us forget everything else: forget ourselves, forget the ego, forget goals, forget time.
Flow is a state of mindcoolness because it requires the mind to be cool, free from worries, anxieties, and overthinking. In flow, we are intensely focused and truly alive. Flow is the optimal state of consciousness and the force that unites the powers of Joy and Will. In flow, we experience freedom through strength.
Flow is the ultimate form of thriving. Just look at any artist or athlete who is completely in the zone. What could arouse greater admiration of a man! And this includes every master who has made his profession into an art: salespeople, charismatic leaders, surgeons, teachers, firefighters, whatever performers you can think of—everyone who excels at what they do and enters a state of blissful flow when they do it. When they take action without action, they have moved from measured control into creative spontaneity and superhuman excellence.
Thriving without striving
To be in flow is to be in thriving harmony with nature, and flow is the purpose of life. Flow is also, by the way, what makes a man captivatingly attractive to women. Yes, I am making some bold statements here; call me out on it if you dare. In fact, I even say that we can use the concept of flow to define every type of human greatness, for instance:
- maximum productivity = working in a flow state
- peak performance = performing in a flow state
- having fun, joking around = socializing in a flow state
- game (getting laid) = pulling women into your flow state
- wild, loving, passionate sex = fucking in a flow state; flow fucking
- being kissed by the muse = entering a flow state of artistic expression
- spiritual enlightenment = living in a constant state of flow (not that I’d know, but that’s my guess)
I believe that the greatness of a man’s life can be measured by the proportion of flow states he has experienced (or is it breath alteration?). But of course, flow is not a state for weak-willed, lazy people. We must work hard and take effortful action to develop skills that then allow us to experience flow and do in non-doing. Since we have to acquire a solid base of skills first, the initial path to flow is self-discipline.
Now ask yourself, “What activities put you in a flow state and what activities do you want to put you into flow?” More precisely, think of all the skills you want to develop at this point in your life; write them down. Prioritize those skills and cut out everything after number three, five tops (you do not have the time to become good at everything at the same time). Then, design your weekly and daily life around your top three or five skills so that you can practice them as much as possible. Naturally, you must get rid of all distractions and all the bad habits that lead you to practice unwanted skills (keep in mind that everything you do, especially on a regular basis, develops a skill).
For example, my personal top five skills are lifting weights, jiu-jitsu, breath-body awareness, writing, and speaking. As I have been lifting weights since 2010 and my deadlifting, pressing, and squatting skills are well advanced, I can challenge myself hard and creatively, which allows me to enter a flow state easily when I have a barbell to train with. Conversely, although I have trained MMA in the past, I am still a white belt in jiu-jitsu and my grappling skills are accordingly undeveloped. Therefore, rolling on the mat does not always put me into a flow state—I often fail to get out of my head because there are too many situations and techniques I am not familiar with yet, which makes the challenge of sparring too hard in relation to my novice skills. My goal and True Will, however, is to be able to shift with ease into a flow state by means of any of those five skills: lifting weights, jiu-jitsu, breath-body awareness, writing, and speaking. Hence, I plan my life, every week and every day, around their development.
The more versatile you are with a skill, the more you can challenge yourself and the easier you can enter a flow state by doing what you are good at, by doing what you love. So break up your True Will into specific skills you want to develop, and then work on those skills until they become your agents of flow and fulfillment and freedom through strength!
- How to Live Your Life: On the Glory of Flow
- Alan Watts on Self-Discipline and Self-Acceptance
- Searching for the Perfect Masculine State of Being
- Will Vs. Flow: Can You Force Yourself to Do Something?
- Taoism and Martial Arts: On Non-Doing and Fighting