Originally posted August 25, 2011
The Zone or Flow State is something we all have observed in other people such as supreme athletes or musicians in moments of peak performance — people doing something extremely difficult and doing it perfectly — it seems like magic or even a miracle — we are riveted, transfixed, watching it happen.
Science has begun to acknowledge that this state is real and measurable. Master Marvin Chun who heads Yale’s Neuroscience Department notes that what appears to be chatter crossing the corpus callosum between left and right brain dies down with the onset of the Zone. This is just one notable example of scientific measurements of the Zone in recent years.
In The Theory of The Conscious Universe, the Zone is the state in which information leaks in from outside the local self; as if the membrane separating you from the rest of the universe has suddenly become semi-permeable. We postulate that the heroic personages recorded by history who have moved us in the direction of more noble ideals were in the Zone when these ideas hit them, as were the great scientists who intuited amazing truths about reality. The Kabala uses a diagram of consciousness called The Tree of Life in which there is a dotted circle representing the Zone where one receives information in an extrasensory manner — “inspiration” as if breathing in information. This sphere is called Da’at or Da’ath. In fact the word Kabala means “to receive” and “the received”.
In an earlier post we postulated a theory of what we call Holosentience, which speculates that the Zone occurs when all parts of the brain and mind* are working together as a single unit, like a finely tuned orchestra. This contrasts in our theory of Holosentience with the everyday state of consciousness I call Emergency Oversimplification Procedure or EOP, in which a part of the brain and mind, a sub-sentience, operates as if it is the whole sentience. This sub-sentience has been called the ego. I see it as the software layer of the brain, which is built up of proteins into neuron clusters mostly in the early years of life. Experiences drive this buildup and in this way unassimilated memories become unassimilated motivations. Under the regime of Acceleritis™ — information overload generated by the type of culture we have become — EOP is now our dominant coping style.
EOP keeps us out of the Zone. The way from EOP into the Zone starts with the Observer state, an interim state in which we detach from identification with the voices of ego in our head, our thoughts, while remaining aware of these voices or thoughts for what they are — ingrained robotic reflexes. The Observer state combined with practicing an activity we love leads to the Zone. Emotional distraction by the ego’s excessive desire to win, or the ego’s fear of failure, is the final barrier to the Zone — that is, when our practice and training has reached the point where the Zone is physically within reach of our skills.
In To Have and Have Not, Hemingway’s protagonist Harry Morgan ultimately concludes that “one man alone… ain’t got no chance.” This has never been truer than it is today with the accelerating information overload totally out of control as we head toward a precipice of seemingly impossible economic challenge, miniaturization and increasing availability of weapons of mass destruction, carcinogenic environmental conditions, and spiritual bankruptcy. The world more than ever needs for people to be able to work together as high performing teams. And so the headline of this post, Getting Your Team into the Zone — even more important than getting yourself into the Zone because one person alone in the Zone might not be able to make enough of a difference. We need critical mass.
So how do we do it? How do we evoke Zone performance in a whole team, of which no single person is ever in total control, even if he/she is technically “the boss”? You dear reader are probably the boss of your team while you and your team are a part of your boss’s team — a common situation in corporate life. How do you get your own team into the Zone, and then how does your team get the larger team of which it is a part into the Zone?
Obviously you don’t expect this to be a one-trick answer. We are all too sophisticated to believe it could be that simple, or we’d all be there already. It isn’t simple, it’s incredibly complicated. But one can extract simple principles that work, and enough of these simple principles put into practice will produce a high performing team.
Let’s start in this post with one of the most mission critical principles. It’s about negativity.
Negativity is counterproductive to team Zone performance because it spills time and energy. The Zone is a state of ultimate efficiency and so anything wasteful is guaranteed to block the Zone. Explain it to your team this way: negativity gets in the way of solving whatever it is that has caused the negativity. Take negativity as an alarm that tells us we need to define the problem clearly, generate creative solution ideas, make decisions on an action path, and take that action. Negativity is just stalling that whole process and wasting time — which is no way to create team high performance.
The thing about negativity is that it does not emanate from the whole brain and mind. Negativity comes from the sub-sentience. It is a well-worn reflex. When confronted with a threat, the holosentience reacts with an optimal response to that threat, if the person is in the Zone. If the person is in EOP, the sub-sentience reflex is fear that may be compounded with a sense of helplessness, doom, defeatism, self-loathing, anger, frustration and other overlays, triggered by a cascade of energy lighting up interlocking neuron clusters. The negativity of these feelings is typically communicated to those in the vicinity including animals even if only by body language and the pheromones in perspiration. These micro clues of negativity further reduce the likelihood of an effective real world response to whatever the challenge is, by encouraging foes and undermining the support of potential allies.
Teams can engage in frequent training sessions to talk about the value of becoming high performing members of high performing teams, and ways to get there. Bringing in outside speakers helps overcome the inertia and subconsciously gives “permission” for sudden change to be realistically possible. The word “training” may or may not be used; some people feel that once they are adults there is something insulting and/or embarrassing about the word. Maybe call them Zone sessions to keep the goal in mind and remove the connotations of “training”.
Team members are directed to deploy negativity detectors within their mind at all times. When a person detects the auto-negativity, he/she should be able to remain in the Observer state by not siding with the negativity, not making it one’s own, but rather seeing it as a bodily reaction, an old habit pattern, and something that can be risen above into a state closer to the Zone (the Observer state being the access path to the Zone).
Now, something must be done with that negative energy in order to transmute it into something else, otherwise it is more difficult to overcome the feeling in oneself. Remaining the Observer one can look at the negativity in a new way, gaining insight into oneself and others, and creating conditions conducive to new solution approaches. Why am I being negative? What haven’t I tried yet? What is the goal? What are the obstacles? What causes each obstacle? Analysis is the place to channel the negativity.
Anything can be described as a game. And people and animals love games. By making more things gamelike, the possibilities for making a high performing team out of a demoralized griping bunch of cynics become realistic. Consider it a game to make negativity off limits in one’s own mind. You can’t initially stop the negative impulses from arising but you can get better and faster at judoing those impulses into opportunities for analysis and creativity.
You might hear yourself groaning inwardly in a meeting in which so-and-so repeats his endless habit of blaming everyone else for something. Quickly gain control of your inner self and do not identify with your inward groan but attribute it to a robotic reflex of certain neuron clusters. Okay thanks, neuron cluster, you did your job, like an alarm clock, painting a certain event as a clue that something needs fixing — in this case it is something that you never took it on yourself to fix because let’s face it, your chances of changing so-and-so seem pretty slim, so like everyone else you’ve just lived with it. Maybe that has always been a cowardly reaction that you’ve shared with everyone else. So maybe today is the day to start to consider the right action instead of dodging it.
That doesn’t mean impulsively jumping in and trying the first thing that comes to mind, although sometimes that works. It might be better to use the energy to run some simulations in your mind of what you could say and how it might be received. As long as you know you have successfully rechanneled the negativity and you are on the case with some fresh ideas as to how to help so-and-so out of his blaming mode, you needn’t rush into action in that same meeting. Just keep processing the action ideas until the time feels right and you are yourself feeling centered in a moderate frame of mind and in the Observer state without negativity or ego attachment — then you can flow with the moment and put out a new thought that might help so-and-so break his old negativity habit of the blame game.
If the team knows that high performance is the goal, this helps everyone look at things in a new way: it is more gamelike, more intriguing, it isn’t the same old.
The first two principles to move your team toward the Zone therefore are to set the goal, and to reveal the trick of rechanneling negativity inside yourself. More principles of high performing team creation in posts to come.
Best to all,
*The Theory of the Conscious Universe was the working title of my book, “You Are the Universe: Imagine That”, released in 2014 . In the Theory of the Conscious Universe, the brain is the energy emanated by the Original mind, wound into matter, and our experience transcends dependence on the brain as we are a part of Original mind (and the whole of its experience of selfness). In modern day materialism, the mind is an energy field emanated by the brain. In ultra-behaviorism, the mind is an impotent epiphenomenon of the brain, making believe it is calling the shots but is really just along for the ride.