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004: Passion as a Flow Trigger and Exploring Your Curiosities

podcast Nov 10, 2020

Hey flow fanatics, on this episode of the High Flow Lifestyle podcast we go deep on passion versus flow and exploring your curiosities that can lead to passion as a flow trigger

Khin saved his whole small village from being slaughtered in the jungle forests by the Myanmar army, somehow lead them to safety to Thailand where they moved around in small refugee camps, and is now one of our best prep cooks in Buffalo, NY. The Karen are one of the many small ethnic groups that have been persecuted and officially unrecognized by the government, and I can’t begin to understand what the torturous journey here must have been like, and what they had to do to stay alive, let alone find small moments of happiness to keep them going.   

At one of our Japanese restaurants he can always be found with a smile on his face moving swiftly and with purpose. Like many of the Burmese refugees we employ, he has very little English skills so we often have to rely on a few members who are able to interpret and translate some of the important details. But when my wife Satomi teaches him a new technique, like folding gyoza dumpling skins, it usually takes him about a week to become the fastest and most efficient prepper in the kitchen. We love Khin’s attitude and atmosphere and can see he enjoys his work, he seems to like most of the food, although he does need a lot of hot sauce on it to bring it up to a flavor that fits his tastes a little better. That’s fine.

Watching him work I can see he is often in some state of flow while working. The demands of the job and the environment seems to have ticked enough boxes off on the flow triggers checklist, but I think this is a good example of the differences between Passion and Flow. Beyond the task at at hand, he wasn’t curious about enough different aspects of the job.

Differences Between Passion and Flow

Dr. John Hagel, the cofounder of Deloitte consulting’s Center for the edge, describes how he sees the differences between passion and flow:

Flow describes an “optimal experience,” which is frequently felt by those pursuing their passion. When someone is in flow, they concentrate deeply on “the moment,” caught up in the pleasure and challenge of an immediate task; they clear their minds of all else.

Both flow and passion welcome this state because it offers intrinsic satisfaction and enjoyment in our everyday lives.  However, the differences become apparent as soon as one moves beyond the moment itself and attempts to identify the factors that lead up to “optimal experience.” 

Passion is not about finding work bearable. It is the process by which people get in touch with their true loves in life and fearlessly pursue them, motivated by the opportunities and spaces for development, which often require that they ignore any rules that get in their way of achieving that potential. It is about love. - Edge Perspectives

For Khin, I know it’s not his dream to fold dumplings or make ramen noodles for us, nevertheless he has found enough interest or curiosity in the job that he focuses on the details and is able to enjoy his work day for the most part. I know he has no desire to open a restaurant or even pursue a career in the culinary arts, but he has found enough flow to enjoy his work.

Breaking the Rules in Flow

John Hagel previously mentioned the breaking of the rules, or at least ignorance of the rules, when we are deep in a passion project. And I understand from that way of looking at things that if we all got lost in our passions then there would probably be chaos, with everyone doing things differently and in their own way. In a job where there needs consistency there may not be a whole lot of room for passion, but there is still plenty of room for flow.

I think it’s important for people to realize that you may not find passion at work, and that should be ok. If you can manage to find a few moments or activities in your job that bring you flow you should appreciate these things. You should also realize that flow and passion may take time to develop, you can develop new passions in life if you allow curiosity to run amuck.

On a previous show I talked a little bit before about intrinsic motivation, and passion definitely plays a role in motivation, but its flow that pushes us past the point of motivation with a sense of effortless. It’s when both your intrinsic motivation, or passion, and flow collide that you produce better and faster.

Flow Neurotransmitters - Pleasure Chemicals

And scientifically speaking, during flow is one of the only times you can access most of the pleasure chemicals at the same time. In flow, in varying orders and amounts, there are 6 neurotransmitters that are running the show: Dopamine, norepinephrine, endorphins, serotonin, anandamide, and oxytocin.

When these ultimate pleasure chemicals all kick in it’s this state you naturally remember and want more of. So it becomes a base for intrinsic motivation or developing a passion because no one has to tell you to do it. You just want to do it for the sake of doing it, and sometimes subconsciously to recreate those experiences of flow when those 6 neurotransmitters are all interacting. 

A Hope for Passion and Flow

Buffalo now has around 10,000 Burmese refugees, and we tend to refer to them as Burmese because this is how they refer to themselves, even though they came from war torn regions of Myanmar. To go deeper, some people even say they are Karen, and not Burmese, even though Karen doesn’t refer to a specific area, many of them don’t want to be considered Burmese. 

The parents have been trained in various skills and many of them work in restaurants or on farms, and I hope more people like Khin are able to find some flow in their work and even find some passions in life.

With their kids in local schools, the Burmese parents are hoping that the children will be able to grow up with many more options than they had to discover their passions in life. 

Your Flow Exercise

Steven Kotler says that Flow follows focus, and we pay more attention to things we believe in.

“Passion is a place where 2 or 3 curiosities intersect. One curiosity alone, probably not enough curiosity there. But if you can find a place where 2 or 3 of your own curiosities intersect, well there is a lot of energy there and you can build from there."

He simply recommends you start by making a list of 25 things you are mildly curious about. If 25 seems like a lot then break it down into a few large groups of 5, something like outdoor sports, environmental issues, cryptocurrency...whatever piques your curiosity. Then go back and see what areas overlap or intersect. It’s a starting point and something you can build on from there by going deeper.

I like to think that you’ve found something you are passionate about when it seems like an onion. Every layer you peel off there is another intriguing layer underneath, naturally keeping your curiosity, with no end in sight, and no one forcing you to peel the next layer. The more you learn about it the more you realize that you have only begun to scratch the surface with its complexity and fascination. When you find this, you have found a passion, which is a flow trigger in its own right.

If you want to find your passion and develop it into a purpose, and then begin to access flow consistently then I encourage you to check out some of the free training at High Flow Lifestyle and engage with a community of like-minded flow fanatics who are all taking their purpose to the next level.

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