The Struggle Phase
So we're gonna start the first stage of the flow cycle which is the struggle stage. We talked earlier about how when we move into flow the prefrontal cortex deactivates, right? It turns down, shuts down. It becomes hypo frontal. In struggle, the exact opposite happens. Here, your massively using your prefrontal cortex. It is all fired up. It is extremely, extremely, extremely active. Oh. When we're in struggle, brainwaves, beta right where we are today, cortisol, norepinephrine, alright? This struggle is actually signature of 21st century normal. Most people in this century are locked in to struggle all the time. That's where we spend most of our time as human beings. Struggle has frustration built in. Remember, I said earlier that to be really good at high performance flow hacking, you're gonna have to shift what you think your emotions mean. They're gonna start to mean different things. So when we are in struggle, it is a loading phase. You are loading the brain with information. Alr...
ight? So if this, if you're an athlete, this is basic skill acquisition. This is learning to keep your eye on the ball, learning to close your hand or on the ball when it lands in your mitt. As a writer, I am in struggle with the front end of a chapter, or I'm interviewing hundreds of people, I'm taking notes, I got vector diagrams all over my office that map out which direction I'm going next and whatever it is that I'm writing. It is unflowing. It is not a fun thing. When I say frustration is built in, what I mean is, we have what's called a working memory. Your working memory is basically the storage place of consciousness. It is all the things we can think about at once. And we've known since the 50s that most people's working memory can hold seven, plus or minus two items. So nine is the absolute maximum that we can hold. Why are phone number seven digits long? Because most of us are pre-hardwired to remember seven digits. When you are trying to think about things that are more complicated than a simple number, most of us can tap out, we can hold on to three or four, but once you get above four items you go into frustration. You've overloaded the carrying capacity of your working memory. In struggle, flow is what happens, and we'll get more into this in a second, but you are trading conscious processing for subconscious processing. Flow is what happens when things get automatized. It's what happens when you learn to do something so well that you can actually do it unconsciously. Alright? Learning to do it consciously is difficult. Once you are learning past, once you've gone past learning four things, stacking them into your brain, you are going to start getting frustrated. It's biology. There's nothing you can do about it. It's not a personality trait. There's, you're not doing anything wrong, it is built in. We get frustrated when we can't learn when we wanna learn. And we can't learn what we wanna learn because your working memory is limited. There is no way really to extend it. Memory tricks, all that, no. Working memory is sort of, you're sort of stuck with what it is. Frustration is normally a sign that we interpret as, hey, I'm doing something wrong, I'm screwing up. Turns out frustration, when you're getting frustrated and you're in the struggle phase, that's actually a sign that you're doing exactly what you need to be doing. So when you get frustrated, yeah it's still going to feel like frustration. Does not change. This knowledge will not change how you feel, at all. It'll still suck. It'll tell you, (chuckling) to emphasize this. So at least once or twice a book I find myself facedown on my office floor punching the ground. This happened for years. And for years I never talked about it. I thought, oh my God, if anybody would see me now I'm nuts! Right? Then I was listening to an interview with David Foster Wallace before he killed himself, which should tell you something (chuckling). And he said, "Yeah, it's funny. "At least once or twice a book I find myself "in my office, face down, "punching the floor." (all laughing) And I was like, See! Thank God it's not just me! Alright. It is built in. You are going to get frustrated. There's no way around it, especially with flow hacking. If you can feel it that and not really get attached to the emotion too much, you are going to have a much easier time in struggle. To get through struggle, alright? There's no, there's no real fundamental hack here. You're still going to feel uncomfortable. It is unpleasant. But there are ways to struggle more gracefully. So we're gonna talk about how to become a little grittier than we are now. And there are three categories of grit. Three ways to hack into grit, that I wanna talk about. We'll go into a little bit of detail in these. The grind, the mind and the most.