Several months ago, the CEO of Decision Point, Steven Figner, sent copies of The Art of Impossible out to the team and recommended everyone give it a read. It had been some time since I had dug into any reading that was not directly related to work and I was eager to do myself a favour and pick up a good book.
The Art of Impossible is essentially a handbook designed to instruct you on how to achieve extreme performance improvement. While the book came highly recommended, I admit that I had some hesitancy. Previous books I have encountered about performance yielded long and somewhat irritating reads for me as they were filled with winding, abstract discussions of concepts like motivation and passion that provided no concrete know-how. What I was looking for, and had yet to find, was a methodology. Enter Steven Kotler.
Kotler splits the book into four sections for each of the skills he views as vital to the achievement of peak performance: motivation, learning, creativity, and flow. Within each section, he decodes the skill at hand, breaking it down into bite-sized pieces hinged together with clear logic and supported by scientific explanations. One of the elements that I especially appreciated about the book is the depth to which Kotler explains the underlying psychology and neurochemistry at every turn. In doing so, he takes some of the ambiguity out of seemingly abstract concepts like flow. He then takes everything one step further by explaining how each of the factors he discusses in the book stack together to yield consistent states of peak performance over long periods of time.
As working professionals, we all have days where we are utterly unfocused, feel burnt out, and are in no mood to tackle anything remotely resembling a challenge. On the flip side, we also have days where we are switched on from the moment we sit down at our desks. Focus, decisiveness, and efficiency are in full swing, and there is nothing that cannot be handled. I have often found myself picking apart the possible reasons for this variation, usually after a particularly inefficient day when I am feeling superbly frustrated and tired. Taking the time to read The Art of Impossible really changed the game for me in that I now have a much clearer understanding of how this variation in performance can arise.
Moreover, Kotler’s book includes highly actionable suggestions for flushing out and triggering each component of the peak performance equation. While some of his ideas do take more time than others to action, each one is thoroughly explained, backed by the underlying science, and very doable. Ultimately, I cannot recommend this book enough – a must-read for the working professional or anyone looking for a boost in performance!