Human as we are, we can't help but compare ourselves to other people. It is so easy to think that they have it better than us, that we can't ever be in the same place and mindset as them. Tony Lister is well familiar with this feeling. In this episode, he spills to us the times he used to simultaneously envy those who seemed to always be in flow and condemn himself for frequently falling out of it. But it was not until he started coaching guru after guru that Tony quickly discovered that they are just like us. Here, he breaks down the myths and lies that surround the flow state, moving us out of the illusion that anyone is always in the flow. Tune into this great episode to get past the fake news of social media and learn how to consistently get back into the flow after life happens.
We're going to be talking about something I think is important to get out right away. Before we get any further into this discussion about the flow state, it's the myths and lies of the flow state, the misconceptions, the unrealistic expectations that bring suffering that keep you and other people from experiencing the flow state more often in your life. That's what we're going to talk about. The reason this is important is that if you have some unrealistic expectations, then you're going to punish and shame yourself along the way and you'll miss out on all of these opportunities for experiencing moments of flow. I want to stress this idea of the flow state. That's why I talk about the other WTF stuff because that's also part of the game. It's also part of the flow state. When shit happens and it doesn't work out for us and life doesn't turn out the way that we want it to, what do we do in those instances?
I run into a lot of people that have some expectation that they go, “I'm down on myself because I'm not always in the flow state.” I had this one woman in one of my seminars that she was like, “I can't accept myself because I don't always like being with my kids.” I'm like, “Raise your hands if anybody has kids in the room. Is there anybody that sometimes doesn't like me with their kids? Do you still love your kids?” She was like, “I hate making lunches for them. I have to make lunches every day and it's the worst fifteen minutes of my day,” or whatever. I was like, “What kind of expectation is that?” Some other guy was in the room and he goes, “I don't feel good about myself because all of my business ideas don't turn out. Some of my businesses are bad. They fail.” I'm like, “What kind of expectation have you had on yourself? That you're going to go into business and that every idea you have is going to work? That is madness and insanity.”
What happens is when you have a realistic expectation is you can more often get into a flow state. The more often you get into a flow state and the more you train your brain, that's a welcomed state. That's something that becomes easier over time. You begin to develop a form of radical intuition and the ability to sense what move is the right move step-by-step as you move forward in your life. This is critically important as we move into the future. Changes are going to be happening much faster than humanity's ever seen. We have to have this skill, this ability to navigate uncertainty with calmness. I'm not going to suggest that we're going to stay in a state of calmness all the time. That's ridiculous. I'm at a park near my parents' house. I'm staying in their basement because my family had a business ripped out from under them. I'm here to help them start up a new business and get it going. This is a volunteer thing. This is what I do for my family. This is what we do for our tribe.
When my business failed years ago, they were there for me. When other people have had a crisis, we come together. It's what we do. We choose to do as a tribe for each other. To think that in the rebuilding of a business and in the lawsuits that are happening, the accusations, the threats and the complete uncertainty, about a dozen people lost their jobs. Here's this whole group of people that are basically unemployed going, “Shit, what are we going to do?” The idea that in that uncertainty and putting it in 15, 16, 20-hour days going until 1:00, 2:00 in the morning, day-after-day, this starts to grind on a human being and it starts to wear people down in there. They start to get into some negative emotional states, doubt, uncertainty, friction and all those different things.
If we don't have this ability to tap back into the flow, state, life is going to beat us down. When we have this, we can recharge on a regular basis. We can step away and we can get certainty and clarity and we know what step to take next. I was talking to a couple of people about this one and they're like, “It sounded like a yoga class. Breathe in, breathe out.” I love yoga. It's great, but this is not about yoga. This is about getting shit done and doing it effectively and doing it predictably over and over again in your life. With that said, this is about the myths and lies of the flow state.
The first one I want to talk about is this myth that this flow state is unpredictable. Contemplate this in your life and think about the times when you've been in a place of clarity or maybe you had some creative activity that you got into and you had so much centeredness in you. Ideas started flowing to you or something came to you in that space. Most of us have experiences. If you haven't, then stick around. I'm going to teach you how to do this predictably, but often what happens is someone will have that happen. I've worked with several artists, musicians and creative people. The same thing with business owners because they have to come up with new ideas and marketing ideas and they have to solve problems. The executives that I've worked with where they have these incredibly grinding long schedules and they have to figure out what to do next for the business and get stuff done.
In this world of mobile parenting, I have five children and there's this need for an intuitive awareness of what each child needs from the little children to my adult children. One of them has moved out of the house. Having that ability to know what answer to give them is critically important. There's this idea that often people say, “I can't get into that state,” or, “I experienced that one time.” They need drugs, alcohol or some substance to do that. I'll talk about that in a little bit. What I experienced with these musicians, I started to experiment with these years ago and I wanted to identify what were the markers that they had had in place. What were the core components of the experience that they had when they had been in a creative burst or in the zone, in the flow?
I would start to work with a musician. I would say, “Let's look at that time that you got into the flow. What did you do the day before? What time did you go to bed? What did you do before you went to bed? What did you do when you woke up in the morning? What did you eat? What did you not eat? What music did you listen to? What was your circumstance? What were you doing? What did you do during those times when you had that clarity and that certainty?” We would start to recreate their creative moments. One of the big factors is scheduling it. I think it's very important that you actually schedule your creativity. This one artist that I'd worked with, I'd helped her create a CD and she'd been able to get in the flow state a bunch of times over and over to create this cool album. She hired me again. Two years later, she was like, “I want to do this.”
We've built a structure around flow state and she would schedule it. She would get babysitters. She would do it away from her house. She had little office space that she would go to and she would go to this space at a certain time of the day when it was her most alive time of the day, which has been this one of the factors. Write these things down for yourself. Identify for yourself what has gotten you in the flow state in the past and then recreate this. There was this one time when she called me up and she was super frustrated. It's 10:00 in the morning. She's like, “I'm here at my office. I had a babysitter for my kids. I slept well last night. I ate the food that I eat when I'm going to do my flow state. I listened to music that gets me inspired. I'm here and I'm trying to write music and I can't write anything. There's nothing coming and I'm beating myself up because I'm using my family's resources and I'm not even creating anything.”
In that case, I said to her, “Close your eyes and get present to what would feel alive to you now.” She thought about it. She's like an eccentric dresser, the way that she likes to dress. She says, “There's this clothing store downtown that has the most extreme eccentric dresses. They're leftover from plays and performances and all these different things. I would love to go and try on dresses and twirl around in the mirror. That would feel alive to me. That would feel inspiring to me. That would feel good to me.” I'm like, “That's your assignment.” She goes, “That's not creating music.” I'm like, “No, that's not what this is about. It's about tapping into alignment with what you need and listen to your intuition.” She did and she went and tried on dresses.
The next day, she came back into the studio refreshed and wrote a song. This is something that can be predictable, and I'll teach you as we go through this course and if you have some of the advanced programs that I have for those of you that want to tap this radical intuition and this creativity to take your game to the next level. I'll handhold you and step-by-step take you through the process of predictably getting into this flow state. I was about to say every day. That is not true for me. I am not able to get into the flow state every day, but I am able to get into the flow state on a predictable basis. I don't want to set unrealistic expectations.
The next myth is that it feels radically different than ordinary life. There's this idea that I always had as an entrepreneur that at the next level of my business, life was going to feel radically different. My body was going to feel radically different if I had X number of dollars in the bank. I thought when I was a teenager like, “If I can have sex, then life is going to feel radically different. Everything's going to be incredible.” I think sex is a magnificent experience as a human being. When that activity is over, life feels like life. It feels like ordinary life. One of the misconceptions is that if we start operating from a flow state, that life's going to feel different. In the moments of flow, there's a heightened sense of awareness, there's greater clarity. There's the example I give because it's contrasting this with feeling drunk or high. I went to a football game, had a couple of beers, laughed, had a great time and it was fun, which is a different feeling than the flow state.
There's almost a disassociation when we use substances versus an alignment and a connectedness to self from the state of flow. If you could compare it to a heightened state of awareness, almost a level of being turned off or being aroused a little bit versus orgasmic. The flow state is not some incredibly explosive experience when someone gets high. It looks like I got something coming up around that. Anytime a speaker has things come up in their voice and into their throat when they're talking about a subject, then they have something that they have to clear on that. I have to clear something around sex and being high. Something came up for me. We'll talk about that at another time, but if we have this expectation that it's going to be explosive, amazing and mind-blowing, then we're going to get let down most of the time. That's not what this flow state and this creative state is about. Having that realistic expectation is important.
Another misconception is when people say, “I have too much chatter inside me. I have too much noise inside me to get into the flow state.” I'm going to have you consider that the people that have the greatest amount of chatter are those that will benefit the most from the flow state and that the flow state is not going to eliminate chatter. It's going to channel the chatter and it's going to help us channel it for little bursts of time, little windows of time. This is the next myth is this idea that I can stay in this flow state forever, that I can get into the flow and I can stay in the flow. It's this idea that we can stay high forever or that we can stay turned on or feel in love forever. We all want that. It feels amazing. It's not realistic. The idea of the flow state is not to stay in flow all day long. I've been at this for some time now with my family's business and I was hitting the wall. I was feeling horrible. My head was foggy. I couldn't get myself to do in the more.
After I had this brain injury, one of the things I'll have to do is what's called a brain break, which I'll lay underneath the pillow for twenty minutes to put a pillow on my head and it resets my brain. I took eight brain breaks and I ended up going on four bike rides and bike rides every way that I reset myself. I did this over and over throughout the day to see if I could get another little burst of the flow state. It's not this idea that I could stay in flow for fifteen hours straight. I could get in. I could have these bursts of that clarity and bursts of the intuition, focus, get something done and then hit that wall and then know the tools to hit the reset button. To have a realistic expectation for yourself that you're not going to stay in this flow state forever. You're going to hopefully tap into it early in the morning as a ritual, as a habit, as a way of addicting yourself to tapping into that flow state and then being able to go back to it when you need that clarity predictably.
Throughout your day when you hit the wall, get burned out, get tired, when your body starts craving the carbs, sugars, caffeine, Adderall, substances and all those different things that happen when we get out of alignment, we get too tired. You have a way to get yourself back into alignment, back into connection with self, back into a flow state and a place of clarity. You can do this over and over predictably throughout the day. Sometimes you won't be able to get there. This is one of these ideas. There are some days that I flat out get there. There’s so much stress or uncertainty and I'm experiencing crazy anxiety, fear. There’s this toxic inner stuff that happens or there's conflict in my relationship that is so much. It's the noise inside me that I can't find that flow state and allowing that to be what is not making that wrong, not beating ourselves up and going, “I don't feel well. Therefore, there's something wrong with me.” Accepting that sometimes we're not going to be able to get there and that's okay, but if we take the steps on a regular basis, we can get there on a regular basis.
Another myth is that there isn't a shadow side to this process. People think that they're going to start to get into the flow state and they're not going to have to deal with their shadow side. They're not going to have to deal with sabotage patterns that we have as a human being. This is completely ridiculous. The nature of the brain is to keep us where we are. Change is dangerous to the brain. The brain is going to do everything I can. I'll do one on this, on the brain science of flow, what it means to get into the state, but the nature of the brain, it's to avoid change. Change is dangerous. That's why this skill is critically important for us now because change is happening, it's going to keep happening, and it's going to keep happening faster. This is not something that we are wired up for on an evolutionary standpoint. We have to become dynamic in our ability to rewrite our story, to change, adapt with change and to flow quickly with change or we'll get crushed by that change.
There's a shadow side to this. There's this shadow that kicks in of a shame-based conversation particularly when we have a hard time getting into the flow state, we're not tapping into it and we're trying to find creativity. We're trying to find answers. You're trying to find solutions. I remember when all my business had failed and I'd gone from having made a couple of million dollars to I was down to $200. I had to give my house back to the bank and sold all the cars, the toys, houses and furniture or even sold the silverware. I got $15 for my silverware. I was trying to scrap things together and figure something out and let's try to start a new business. I had this experience. It was living in this little rental house in the backwoods of Virginia and in the basement down in there was this laundry room basement thing. It was cement walls and there were snakeskins all along the rafters, like hundreds of big, 7, 8-foot long snake skins that the snakes had molted in the basement when it changes their skins or whatever. You turn on the pipes in the house.
I went from living in this beautiful, new, luxury house with a shower that had fifteen showerheads. We called it the carwash. We roll the kids through it, turn on all fifteen and roll them through it. We get to this house where when you turned on the water, the shower, the pipes would be banging in the wall. This house didn't originally have a bathroom. It didn't originally have plumbing and so they built onto the porch. They turned it into a bathroom. The master bathroom was this odd-shaped rectangular room. It was a big-sized room. Over on one side is the shower and the toilet, then there was a 10x8-foot section this big, rectangular area. That was my office. As I started my new business, my office was in the bathroom and the kids would come in and I'd be on a phone call. They'd come and run in and they'd use the bathroom. I'd be like, “Don't flush.” They would flush the toilet and I had to mute the phone because I was working from the bathroom.
I'd put everything into this new business and I got down to where I had $200 left in this PayPal account. That was it. I didn't know what I was going to do. It costs us $125 a week to eat. I knew my rent was going to come up in a few weeks. I wasn't going to have the rent money. I had built a bunch of websites and all my websites were going to get shut off. I was two weeks from the end and I get this notification on my phone. It's this notification from PayPal and it says, “Transaction declined. Walmart, New York,” and it was $474 or something. I'm like, “What the hell is that, New York? I'm not in New York. What's going on?” I was looking at it and about two minutes later, another text came through. An email comes through and it goes, “Transaction declined. Walmart, New York, $376.” “What is this?” “Transaction. New York. Declined. Walmart.” The numbers kept on coming down. $350, $320 and it starts doing this and I realized somebody has my card and they're going to run these charges. Once they get down to that magic number of the last $200 that I had, I was screwed.
I'm calling PayPal. I'm like, “Can you guys stop this transaction?” They said, “We can cancel your card and then it will stop all transactions. We'll mail you a new one.” I said, “How long is that to take?” They said, “We'll get it to you in two weeks.” I had to get this money. I'm like, “I'm going to go to the grocery store, I'm going to take the money out on the ATM and cash and then I'll cancel the card. I'll figure things out after that.” I run outside and it's pouring rain. If you've ever been to Virginia, it rains. It was coming down. I jumped in my car and the battery was dead because it was going down. I didn't have the $90 for a battery. I'm sitting there pounding my head on the steering wheel. I feel like my life was imploding on me. I had this little motorcycle, this little Honda trail bike. I go and I jump on this little trail bike. We lived on this dirt road.
It's about a mile long next to the cemetery. I'm going along on this stuff. It's nearby and the back tire is slipping out in the mud and I've got my feet down as I'm splashing along in this mud puddle screaming like, “God or the universe, whatever it is, what do you want for me?” I had this moment that I don't know how to explain. I don't know what it means. I don't know what it was. I'm not even going to try to build a story around it. I had this incredible experience of peacefulness. It was suddenly like I was in this cocoon and I don't know what it was. I don't know what it means. I don't know what I believe about it, but I had the experience of it and it was this incredible peaceful feeling. This thought, this little voice in my head is like, “I want your heart.” I'm like, “I don’t know what that means. You could have asked before I lost everything.” I was in such peace. I had this knowing that everything was fine.
I ride to the store and I get the cash. I buy some groceries. I come back out and the rain had stopped. The road was steaming. It was this incredible steam. I rode back and it was this flow. I was one with the road as I rode this motorcycle and everything was completely calm, Zen and peaceful. I get back to the house and my wife was freaking out. She's like, “What are we going to do?” I'm like, “I don't know. I don't understand. It's going to be fine.” She's like, “What do you mean it's going to be fine?” I'm like, “I don't know, but I got food. Let's make food.” We made dinner and we played as a family, watched a movie. We had this beautiful night and I got up the next day, totally unsure what I was going to do next.
I get a phone call in the morning and it was a former client and they said, “You worked with this person in our office and we need them to finish this project. They're totally in their head. I don't know if you have time in your schedule, but could you work with them, help them get over their block and what's going on? We still have your routing number. Why don't we wire you some money? We'll deposit it in your account. Can you start now? How about we put $1,000 in your account and you get on the phone and start working with them?”
I'm going to teach you this principle. I'm going to teach about negotiation. The negotiator in me was like, “Let me check my schedule. Hold on.” I put the phone down and cried a little bit. I'm like, “I think I can work with them this afternoon.” They're like, “That’s great. Here, we'll deposit the money.” It's like this reset in my world of learning to get back in touch with something in me, this radical intuition, certainty, a calmness that I had gotten out of the flow state. It was total chaos and total self-sabotage. I'd burned my business to the ground. I started to follow this intuition, started to get into this flow state, and allowed myself to trust the next step. That was the restart of this process. There is a shadow side to this. We shame ourselves and sometimes we can't get into the flow state. Sometimes we can't stay in the flow state. Sometimes we'd beat ourselves up for it. That's part of this journey.
A couple of other myths and lies I want to talk to you. One of them is this idea that everything is going to flow to you magically if you do this. I believe because I've witnessed this with thousands of people, that you will start to have synchronicities in your life as you get into this flow state. The right person in the right place at the right time. You'll think about some of them. They'll call you or you'll need something and that person will show up in your world with exactly what you need and things start to come together, but you have to get off your ass and do something. Maybe if I could figure out how to lie around, do nothing and let this stuff come to me by thinking about it and imagining it, I totally would do that. I haven't figured that out. What I had figured out is how to get into this flow, get into alignment with those things and allow them to show up my life while I'm in massive action.
As you do this, you're going to need to take the massive action. You’ve got to do something. Getting in this flow state is not something that happens to you. It's based on the actions that you take. I think it's critically important that you develop rituals, that we develop rituals in our life or daily activities for the nature of the brain. I'll talk about the nature of change in the brain, but we need to do this like we need to eat food every day or we need to breathe every day. We need to do our steps and our rituals of this flow of getting into alignment with ourselves. Changing our way of thinking, following the rules in the body, the natural laws of the body. There's a whole bunch of steps to this that can be simple steps. You make them a lifestyle and then you become addicted to those. The flow state becomes a natural state for you, but it has to become rituals in your life. I hope this was helpful for you to have a realistic approach to taking on the flow state in your life and starting to create this as daily steps.
What I would invite you to do is take a look at what has been your recipe for flow? What have been the things that you've done to get into this flow state? The time you go to bed, what you do the night before? The time you wake up on the days that you're in the flow, the food that you eat, the food that you don't eat, the way you move your body, the way you don't move your body. Do you take phone calls? You're not taking phone calls, do you have media? Do you not have media? Do you have social media? Do you hide from those things? Are you in nature? Are you in a building? Are you in a house? Are you lying down? Are you on a bike? There are all these different things. You have a recipe for getting into the flow state. I want you to examine that and explore that so that you can start to recreate this on a regular basis. I look forward to talking to you next time. In the meantime, create yourself a fantastic day.