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048: Optimal Experiences and Manageable Environments of Risk

podcast Jun 15, 2021

Are you creating optimal experiences in your life? Are you encouraging your kids and others around you to seek out optimal experiences?  

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the grandfather of flow says that: 

 “It is not enough to be happy to have an excellent life. The point is to be happy while doing things that stretch our skills, that help us grow and fulfill our potential.  

One of the things that conflict with having optimal experiences is our need for safety and comfort. I’ve found myself naturally wanting to provide a safe environment for Miana and Hawk, so they are protected. It’s a balancing act of trying to shelter them from some of the harsh realities of the world and letting them explore, learn and grow on their own. But I have to remember that their optimal experiences and the real things that form lifelong memories are not going to come from structured places of safety. It’s going to be built in areas just outside of their comfort zone.  

But first, let’s clarify what I mean by optimal experience.   

Optimal Experience is essentially: 

Meaningfulness. They are highly valuable moments or periods that are significant to us and have a lasting effect on us. They can transform us, give us a sense of renewed life, or lead us to a deeper understanding and meaning in life.  

Similar to flow experiences, they can come about through total absorption and engagement, being focused on a single purpose, are self-validating, and are associated with intense feelings of happiness, joy, well-being, serenity, satisfaction, and exhilaration. 

As business owners, we have the opportunity to craft optimal experiences in both our personal and professional lives. Optimal experiences are tied to feelings, and unfortunately, the world has conditioned us to believe those things have no place in our work worlds.  

But, if you are going to lead a high flow lifestyle you need to understand that business is personal and the lines between work, play, and family are blurred. We are more effective, happy, and productive when we don’t adhere to a traditional 9-5 schedule.  

There are different phases of experience involved with building your business. If you are an entrepreneur in the truest sense then you might focus on the startup, build something to fruition, and then depart for your next venture. But most business owners don’t start with an end in sight, an exit plan if you will. And I’m not a big proponent of exit plans anyway, I’m more concerned with focusing on the present moment.  

In either case, you are building something and bringing something new into the world. Unlike other creative endeavors like songwriting, painting, architecture, or invention, your business is a continuous project and an ongoing experience. Your business is never static and your experiences are also forever changing. Key employees come and go, markets and public demand change, your standard operating procedures change, and so your products also change and adapt.  

This evolving optimal experience is unique to self-employed business owners because we are dealing with an evolving creation that has no completion date, that is until we decide to exit, sell the business or close up shop.  

As business owners, we have created a manageable environment of risk, which naturally forces us to focus. And when we focus flow can happen. We need to remember to encourage our kids and others around us to search for those optimal experiences by developing their own manageable environments of risk. This may not be in business, but it starts with exploring new hobbies, sports, climbing trees, trying new tricks on a skateboard, or kiteboard.  

You may not consider yourself a risk-taker, but I bet you have subtly pushed the limits of your zone of comfort. This helps you reach a flow state in your business and your personal life. The best thing you can do is encourage those around you to also create an environment of optimal experience and meaningfulness.  


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