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The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
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The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  3,861 ratings  ·  352 reviews
An exploration of how extreme athletes break the limits of ultimate human performance and what we can learn from their mastery of the state of consciousness known as “flow” In this groundbreaking book, New York Times–bestselling author Steven Kotler decodes the mystery of ultimate human performance. Drawing on over a decade of research and first-hand interviews with dozens ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by New Harvest
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Darth J
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was ok

This is the book in a nutshell:
Q: How do these athletes beat the odds?
A: They push themselves further by ignoring the statistics telling them that they can't.
Q: Yeah, but how do they do that?
A: By ignoring everything telling them that their dreams are impossible.
Q: Okay, but how do they accomplish this?
A: By pushing themselves...

That's it, folks. That's the whole book. The author gives lots of examples and statistics of why something seems impossible at first and then (view spoiler)
Chris Chester
Dec 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I think it's important to first note that the author Steven Kotler is the "Director of Research" for the Flow Genome Project. So although he is indeed an award-winning journalist in other contexts, he has skin in the game he's pitching with this book.

That said, I don't think what Kotler is pitching is snake oil.

The "flow" state for which he's evangelizing is essentially a wholehearted immersion in the present. Modern society too often distracts us from living in the moment, the argument goes, b
Mario Tomic
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was hoping that the big idea of this book would to give a few "hacks" on how to master flow in your life but the book really didn't deliver. The main value I got out of it were the stories about the pioneers of extreme sports and how they used flow to push beyond what was considered possible for a human body. Extreme sports are definitely great for getting into flow but not something most of us can apply in our lives.
To sum it up, from this book you'll get a dozen examples displaying the power
Alex Linschoten
Nothing really new here. Kotler rehashes Csikszentmihalyi's concept of "flow" with examples taken from extreme sports. The book is too long / badly edited, so the reader is beaten round the head with many more stories than this simple concept needed. This book could have been about 1/6 the length and still got its message out. The real thesis that the author proposes (that we're in some sort of special age of superhuman performance) seems an unnecessary imposition as well. You could do worse tha ...more
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
The rise of superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
I was very much fascinated with the title “The rise of superman”. No wonder I wanted To know what are those super powers which make a normal person to a superman and ready to take that journey to krypton.
Steven Kotler has beaded all the best experiences he had as sports journalist.
As book gave himself a awakening of human capabilities and left him no choice to go on journey to find the what is secret behind. Book is very wel
Dominick Quartuccio
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing

This book caused a shift in the way I interact with the world, and I don't think I'll ever go back.

Having never been introduced to the concept of "Flow," Kotler enlightened me from multiple vantage points: the emotional angle, the scientific element, and the dark side.

He uses the extreme sports arena to explain how we've gone from nobody being able to free climb (no ropes) a 1,000 foot mountain 20 years ago, to hundreds of people doing it today. The same with surfers riding 50 foot waves
Steve Mueller
i thought I was really going to like this book when I first started reading it. The ideas were exciting and the promise of investigating the neuroscience was appealing. The stories of the of the extreme athletes were engaging at first and then it became some sort of worship of the gods. It quickly devolved from there. Maybe if Kotler had a better editor, the book might have held my interest to the very end. I only was intrigued for about the first 1/3 of the book and then it became a chore to fi ...more
Benoit Lelièvre
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book tries to break down the psychological concept of "flow" and asks the question: can we master and trigger flow to improve the human experience. If anything, Steven Kotler made me optimistic about the future. We've all experienced flow at least once in our lives without knowing what it was and Kotler here breaks open the mystery like a treasure crate.

I was annoyed at the quantity of examples that padded the book, but I couldn't argue against the science of the roadmap of human improvemen
Frank Ruscica
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“Flow or die,” author Steven Kotler writes. In our times -- The Second Machine Age -- the choice is that stark.

From The Rise of Superman:

“Flow's two defining characteristics are its feel-good nature (flow is always a positive experience) and its function as a performance-enhancer. The [neuro]chemicals described herein are among the strongest . . . the body can produce.”

“A ten-year study done by McKinsey found top executives reported being up to five times more productive when in flow. Creativit
Xavier Shay
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's more "history of extreme sports" but I'm ok with that.

"The fight-or-flight response—a.k.a. the adrenaline rush—cocktails adrenaline, cortisol (the stress hormone), and norepinephrine. It’s an extreme stress response. The brain switches to reactive survival autopilot. Options are limited to three: fight, flee, or freeze. Flow is the opposite: a creative problem-solving state, options wide open."

"Studies have found that in professions with less direct feedback loops—stock analysis, psychiatry
Bernie Gourley
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is NOT a book about the comic book hero. It’s a book about a mental state called “the flow” and how adventure and extreme athletes have used it to make tremendous strides in their sports. The characteristics of the flow include extreme focus, time dilation / time distortion, a vanishing sense of self, extremely high performance, fearlessness, and a falling away of everything non-essential to the task at hand.

Kotler is by no means the first author to write about the flow. The term was inaugu
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished, 2014, 2015
I am really tempted to say, that "flow" is most probably the meaning or purpose of life. There I said that :-)

All this time this phenomenon has been called by different terms: "mystical experience", "peak awareness" and even "happiness". It has also been approached in different ways: mystical/spiritual traditions, philosophy, arts, collective movements, drugs etc. We caught a glimpse of what it feels when, for example, having a good conversation with friends when time dilates (feels faster or st
Apr 22, 2015 rated it liked it
The book potray yhe life and achievements of several incredible extreme athletes and introduce the concept of "being in the flow" as the reason for their amazing achievements. I would have liked a much more elaboration on this flow concept and how we can apply it in our own life.
Karel Baloun
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Kotler is a fantastic, talented story teller — must more powerful than watching a “real” video of the described events, especially for surfing and skateboarding. His storytelling extends to the internal experience of the interviewees, of which we obviously can’t have any video, so the engaging descriptions are valuable.

Unfortunately, I believe these stories and internal experiences are both exaggerated for dramatic effect, but also simplified to fit with Kotler’s world view. ESP is absolutely no
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: consciousness
This is now my favorite book on flow, mastery, and finding and staying in your zone ever.

It explores the history of ultimate performance from the work of William James, to Maslow's deeper work on human thriving, to Jung's Analytical Psychology, to David Eagleman's work in time dilation after fear states during exhilaration.

It explores the role of imagination, visualization, mental rehearsal, letting go of ego so that the part of your brain telling you limiting identity stories can shut off crea
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, 2-stars
This was sort of a disappointing book. It started well but seemed to focus on how to achieve state of flow in sports. It seemed like author tried to go deeper into topic but somehow it always came back to athletes or just people involved in sports... So I find title quite misleading. Decoding ultimate athlete performance would have been a better name.

If you haven't read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, skip this and read the original one because Csikszentmihalyi nails it all. This...nothing new. Nothing
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wasn’t expecting flow to be the major theme in this book. The stories about the extreme sport athletes were interesting and inspiring. They really do know how to take things to the next level! They are constantly improving and coming up with new variations to tricks, new routes in climbs, and even new kinds of sports. Flow is the tool these athletes use to accomplish this and finding happiness in the process.
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and entertaining!!!! Our brains are amazing
Stephen Porter
Feb 02, 2020 rated it liked it
A combination of extreme sport stories and an examination of “flow”. The author uses some interesting science to describe various aspects of flow. The stories are iconic moments in extreme sports history which he uses as examples of flow, and would be entertaining to the action/adventure/extreme sport enthusiast.
Calvin ewashkiw
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Super awesomeness about the athletic abilities. The flow state is something else. I know when you drop into it for a hour focus is amazing!
Alex Timberman
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
The author wrote a fascinating account on how the concept of flow has pushed the limits of man, especially in extreme sports like base-jumping, mountain skiing, or extreme kayaking. He goes into the theory of flow and on how it allows people to do the unthinkable. The theoretical part of flow is well described using the work of Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who is one of the most famous psychologists in the area of positive psychology.

In extreme sports, people are put into the state of flo
Dec 22, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoy Steven Kotler's writings. In true Kotler journalism style, this book is written in an intriguing and convincing manner with lots of references to and examples of death defying extreme sports as the baseline theme to support the scientific merit to the concept of “Flow” – which is the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people do it even at great cost, for the sheer state of doing it, or in shor ...more
Erik Price
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read Kotler’s “Stealing Fire” before I read “The Rise of Superman.” I really liked both books, and am trying to learn as much as I can about flow states. I am seeing so many examples of people experiencing peak performance in other books I’ve read, and while they may not describe those experiences as “being in flow” there is no doubt that is what they are experiencing.

I thought “The Rise of Superman” was a great book, but for me the real meat was in the last hour. Don’t get me wrong, all the s
Tadas Talaikis
Jan 01, 2017 rated it liked it
"Csikszentmihályi argues the first reason that flow does not occur is that the goals of one's job are not clear."

For me, this "flow" thing is another oversimplified invention to explain something you really don't understand. I know this state, but life is much more complex than one simple robotic task/ goal (like for sports) and all in all, on average, when all flows and "outflows" summed up, you are like everyone else ("theory of zero").,One achievement in one field is compensated by another di
J.F. Penn
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read in ages. Amazing insight into the world of extreme sports and the pinnacle of human achievement in flow states. The stories of surfing, skiing, skateboarding and more had me eagerly turning the page, despite not being a follower of these sports. The language is authentic but still understandable and you'll be 1080-ing pretty soon! Flow is a state we all seek & this book has done pointers for practical application but mainly it's truly inspirational to catch a glim ...more
Adam Billing
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Rise is simply fascinating. I loved this book and would recommend it to everyone. It delves deep into what the causes and effects of flow on human performance are.
Flow can help anyone from the office employee to the base jumper. Hacking flow and bringing flow into my life is now a major goal. Read this book with an open mind and throw out what you thought was possible for human (and your own) performance.
Eric Franklin
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book that takes a look into the phenomenon of flow, as exhibited by professional athletes pushing boundaries previously thought beyond the realm of human capability. The subject matter applies to other fields in the arts and sciences, but those areas are covered less in the book. If you are trying to develop new skills in any arena, this is a worthy read.
Aaron Goodwin
Don't be fooled by the topic

This is a deeply applicable book to anyone, although I'm not sure Kotler did the best job of explaining it's use to laymen. I am certainly not an extreme sports athlete, but the concepts still apply. I recommend this to anyone looking to enhance their abilities.
Mar 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Loved the concept and the thesis, but found the writing a drag. Took me six months to get through it, which was a lot longer than I'd expected.
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A fascinating read! Insight into what makes extreme sport athletes tick from a psychological, neurological and sociological perspective.
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Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and co-founder and director of research for the Flow Genome Project. His books include the non-fiction works "The Rise of Superman," "Abundance," "A Small Furry Prayer" "West of Jesus," and the novel "The Angle Quickest for Flight." His work has been translated into more than 30 languages. His articles have appeared in ...more

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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
50 likes · 13 comments
“If we are hunting the highest version of ourselves, then we need to turn work into play and not the other way round. Unless we invert this equation, much of our capacity for intrinsic motivation starts to shut down. We lose touch with our passion and become less than what we could be and that feeling never really goes away.” 14 likes
“And the dark night of flow is an issue that society has not made particularly easy to handle. How many people have stopped playing guitar, writing poetry, or painting watercolors—activities packed with flow triggers—because these are also activities that do not squarely fit into culturally acceptable responsibility categories like “career” or “children”? How many, now grown up and done with childish things, have put away the surfboard, the skateboard, the whatever? How many have made the mistake of conflating the value of the vehicle that leads us to an experience (the surfboard, etc.) with the value of the experience itself (the flow state)?” 7 likes
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