If you want more flow in your life, you need to find the frontier.
You need to adopt a pioneer mindset.
There are levels to flow.
There are flow states where you are immersed in the task-at-hand, finding the balance between anxiety and boredom as you challenge yourself. These require some type of stakes involved, whether it be social risks or physical risks.
Then there is the flow of your personal growth, where you are seeking to synthesize who you are, who you’ve been, and who you’re becoming into a unified effort.
And finally, there is the flow that is your life, ThE BiG PiCtUrE. The trajectory of your life’s story with you as the main character.
These levels all have their differences and their own nuances, but the one thing they all have in common is how they thrive with a pioneering mind.
It’s the trickiest relationship of all.
Both the lock and the key, this relationship is the hardest to harmonize and one we may spend our whole lives dancing with as it unfolds.
It helps to start with a thorough reality check-in on who you are and what you’ve been up to in present day. The more honesty applied, the more accurate your forgiveness and acceptance will be.
Once you’ve gotten a solid understanding on your location, you can turn your attention towards your past.
Not because it’s a place you ought to get lost in, but more of a way to learn more about who you are based one where you’ve come from and what you’ve went through.
There are tons of different modalities and practices to dig deep into your past, but if you want to skip straight to the heavy shit you can consider the psychedelic path. A medium version might be something like Expressive Journaling and a light version may be simply looking at family photos/videos and thinking back to those earlier times.
Plenty of people spin their wheels and analyze it to death, but it’s wise to dip in grab the gems and dip out. There’ll always be a future point where you circle back to the past for more.
Next is to turn towards the future and what it beholds.
My favorite aspect, although it’s both exciting and existentially terrifying.
A simple strategy here is to aim away from your version of hell and towards your version of heaven.
We all kinda do this anyway, just some are more specific.
Cautionary, it’s best to keep this in mind (although I’m not sure where I heard it):
“Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.”
Ram Dass famously said, “If you think you’re so enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”
Now, while that might be damn true and awfully funny, it shows you where the real work lies.
It’s all cool and jazzy to get your own shit straightened out, but it doesn’t do you much good if it stops there.
You’ve got to play in tune with your closest people, those that were there during your childhood.
I remember for a couple years there after I first ‘woke up’ coming back home from college and judging the absolute ever-living hell out of my whole family.
I judged what they ate. What they said. What they believed. How they acted. All of it. All of them. From the material level to the inner level.
Thinking to myself the whole time that I’m some ‘wise brilliant guy who sees how things really are’.
Thank goodness I kept eating mushrooms and doing that difficult inner work. Turns out there were/are infinitely more layers to peel back and shed.
It’s a classic issue I think in the spiritual communities.
We start off thinking we’re better than our parents, but eventually come to realize that, oh shit….they had parents too. And their parents had parents, who had parents, who had parents. And on and on it goes.
I feel sorry for anyone still stuck in that phase, it’s not an easy one to perceive through and I still get mixed up in it from time to time, but grace, patience, and love endure.
Back in the day when the frontiers of America were in full swing, you can imagine the flow states these pioneers were dropping into.
Anytime they were building their homesteads, forging new trails, or hunting, their lives were on the line in a lot of ways.
There’s an ethos in that frontier spirit, that pioneer mindset.
One we’ve seen played out across history and into the future with things like space exploration.
And most likely, we’ve even had a taste ourselves - flow for everybody.
Just past the basics of any art form lie the opportunity for flow.
Musicians catching their notes and ripping their cords. Painters pulling incredible pieces out of the ether. Poets describing the human experience with language not thought possible.
Bakers whipping up pastries with 100 layers of flavor and dialing in the process of dough to taste. Dancers moving their body just as fluid as the audio floats through the air.
These people had to practice A LOT.
But flow is accessible not just at the level of mastery, but much closer to the beginning of the path than you might assume. (They wouldn’t have attained mastery otherwise without that golden brain juice)
Some are meant to find their flow in artwork.
Others in games.
Sports are probably the most predictable way to get in the zone.
Art is a bit more abstract to judge and see progress, but with something like basketball, you see instantly your shots miss or make the basket and your stats post-game.
All this data, immediate feedback, social pressure, and sometimes physical danger combine to form a potent cocktail for flow.
In athletic endeavors, one doesn’t have do look too far to find where their frontier is. Study your past performance and continue to gradually lean into your current capabilities, pushing yourself incrementally.
There are patterns for picking up on the frontier where flow is to be found.
Extensive deliberate practice at a given sports skill and constantly going up against the perimeter of your current abilities will put you on the frontier in the cross eye of flow.
Flow’s not just for the athletes and artists, it’s for the working world too.
Across all fields, disciplines, and careers, there are places where the industry is on the cutting edge.
A place where there aren’t any experts yet, or if there claim to be, none that can keep up with the rapid change happening.
There’s still an opportunity to be a pioneer of sorts and THAT’S where you want to be.
Charlie Munger, billionaire and best pal of the also wealthy Warren Buffet, encourages us to follow our unique curiosity with what he calls our natural drift.
He recommends we let what stands out of interest to us be a navigating tool, a compass to keep us headed in the most authentic direction.
There you will find the most interesting people. There you will live the most exciting life. There you will be relieved of the muggle-filled world.
The best part about keeping your natural curiosity front & center is that you’ll tap into a reservoir of energy that is near-inexhaustible.
Imagine every entity, being, and soul in the multiverse stops everything they are doing to tune into the movie that is your life.
They are watching it just like you are. Seeing what you see. Hearing what you hear. Knowing what you know. The only difference is that you’re the one in control over your behavior & decisions.
Whether you’ve realized it or not, you’re the main character, and they are rooting for you deep down.
But today, this week, this year’s portion of the scene - are they tearing up? Are they throwing popcorn at the screen disappointed or in the air for celebration? Are they proud of you or wishing they could reach in a slap you straight?
I’m a truth-seeker at heart, but my own interpretation of truth has evolved in the last few years.
Before, truth needed to be objectively accurate, mutually agreed on, and stand on its own accord. Now, what’s true for me is what works. The results these so-called ‘true’ beliefs produce.
I see zero point in believing in anything as true that doesn’t produce a beneficial result - if not directly, at least indirectly.
It doesn’t have to be positive and made of rainbows, it just has to be useful to qualify as truth in my book.
So we you next spend some time introspecting, call up your current frontier, study where your known is touching up against the unknown. Because that’s where the action is happening and the gravity of magic & grace lie.
It’s where X marks the spot. The intersection of the here & now, the possible & the not-yet.
It’s where you’re most likely to come alive.
On the frontier, it’s where everything matters.
Turns out there can be a lot of overlap between building design and building a life. John Ruskin (unknowingly perhaps) tells us how to live life better.
It's never too late to stumble upon an underlying principle of reality. (Especially one that can be put to use immediately)