Jim Kwik Logo

Steps to Achieving the Impossible with Steven Kotler

Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author and an award-winning journalist. As the Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective, he is one of the world’s leading experts on high performance. His most recent work, Stealing Fire, was a national bestseller and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It documents an underground revolution in peak performance that is rapidly going mainstream, fueling a trillion-dollar economy and forcing us to rethink how we lead more satisfying, productive, and meaningful lives. Steven’s work has been translated into over 40 languages and appeared in over 100 publications, including the New Your Times, Atlantic Monthly, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Wired, and TIME. He also appears frequently on television and radio and lectures widely on human performance, disruptive technology, and radical innovation.


This content contains affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase something, we may earn a commission. Thanks.

What does it mean to be doing the impossible?

If you’re looking to push the limits of your capacity to do what others perceive to be impossible, then this one is for you. 

I’m excited to welcome back our exceptional guest, Steven Kotler. Steven is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and the leading expert on peak performance.  He’s here to discuss his new book, The Art of Impossible. Steven is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and the leading expert on peak performance.  

After 30 years of researching the moments when the impossible became possible, Steven reveals that there is truly a syntax to success. He also shares that peak performance is nothing more than getting our biology to work in our favor. 

Tune in as Steven shares the “proof that we are hard-wired to go big”. Along with the necessary steps for achieving the impossible.

*** Do you want to stay up to date with every new episode and get my brand new Kwik Brain Accelerator Program? Go to www.KwikBrain.com/podcast to get instant access. ***

"Peak performance is nothing more than getting our biology to work for us rather than against us."


Subscribe To My Podcast:


  • For 30 years of researching the moments in time when the impossible became possible, Steven has been using the tools of neuroscience and psychology to figure out what happens in people’s brains when doing that which has never been done before.
  • “Capital I – Impossible” – The things that have never been done before.
  • The Art of Impossible features lessons learned from people who have accomplished the “Capital I – Impossible”, but it’s meant to be used by anyone interested in doing the “small i – impossible”.
  • “Small i – impossible” – The things that we perceive to be impossible for us as individuals like overcoming deep trauma, rising out of poverty, getting paid to do what we love, or if you are a teen, how to get a boyfriend or girlfriend. It includes those things that typically do not have a clear path between point A and point B and show statistically small odds to success.

If you happen to be interested in doing what has never been done (Capital I – Impossible) here is what Steven has learned in all his research:

  • The only way you get to “capital I – impossible” is one “small i – impossible” after another.
  • No one sets out to do “capital I – impossible”, they get really good at doing the “small i – impossible,” and it almost becomes automatic. “Capital I – impossible” is just what happens the next day.
  • Peak performance is nothing more than getting our biology to work for us rather than against us.
  • No extraordinary person who has done extraordinary things starts out that way. They start like everyone else but have figured out how to get their biology to work for them rather than against them. Once you do that, the turbo boost is enormous.


  • People have to get their internal world to be able to meet the demands of external challenges.
  • We all have intrinsic motivators, i.e. curiosity, passion, purpose. These are all part of a single system and they are designed to work in a specific order and specific way.
  • Curiosity is our foundational motivation. It causes you to focus for free (with little to no effort). Curiosity is designed to be cultivated into passion and passion is designed to be attached to a purpose greater than ourselves.
  • Once you have your purpose, then you need the autonomy and freedom to pursue that purpose.
  • Once you have the freedom to pursue that purpose, the system needs mastery or the skill to pursue that purpose well.
  • Once that path is complete, there are 3 tiers of goal setting that our biology demands.
  • Humans are goal setting machines. If you give the human body the right goals, it will do much of the work for you along the way, but you have to do it in a specific way.
  • Once you have your goals locked in, you need levels of grit. There are 6 different levels of grit.
  • Once you get all of these things lined up and working, you get into flow.  Flow is optimal performance. It is a state of consciousness when we feel our best and perform our best. It’s an enormous boost in motivation, productivity, creativity, learning, focus, and grit. Everything you are working on gets amplified in the flow state.
  • When you start lining up your intrinsic motivators and setting goals in the proper order, in the way the system is designed to work, you start getting a lot of flow which provides a turbo boost for everything.
  • We’ve all heard about pieces of the puzzle, but what neuroscience has done in the last 5-10 years is advance to the point where we are able to identify the entire system and how it is designed to function properly.
  • Many peak performers have been able to do much of this intuitively, now researchers know enough to shortcut the process.
  • There is a syntax to success.


  • All peak performance works like compound interest. A little each day leads to a lot.
  • There are 3 levels of goals that you need that result in what Steven calls “massively transformative purpose.”
  • Mission level goals – “I want to be the greatest writer in the history of the universe.”
  • High-hard goals – “I want to get a degree in journalism.” “I want to write a book on learning.” (1-5 year implements)
  • Clear goals – The goals you have for today. (To-do list)
  • **All goals must point in the same direction. Clear goals point to high-hard goals, high-hard goals point to mission level goals.**

If you properly set high-hard goals, it will automatically give you a 11-25% boost in motivation.

  • When you get the motivation triad of goals, grit, and intrinsic motivation stacked together, you develop the “habit of ferocity.” This is the ability to rise to and lean into any challenge.
  • When challenges rise up, world-class attackers do not dither, they instinctively lean in.
  • Consider this:
  • Most people face about 5-6 challenges on any given business day and spend 5-10 minutes dithering on what to do about each challenge.
  • 5 minutes per challenge = 25 min per day = 3.5 hours per week = 3.5 weeks per year
  • By having motivation stacked properly, you put yourself 3.5 weeks ahead of the competition.

If you have ever wondered how top performers like Elon Musk get further faster, this is how.


  • We are hardwired to go big. The proof that we are hard-wired to go big is that not going big is actually bad for us.
  • There are 8 major causes of depression, two of which get all of the attention.
  • Genetics or Trauma
  • It turns out the genetics alone cannot cause depression.
  • Most of the time trauma actually leads to post-traumatic growth, not post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • One of the other 6 major causes is lack of meaningful work which is work that does not align with an individual’s passion and purpose.

Abraham Maslow said, “Whatever humans can be they must be.”

  • When we can get the process right, there aren’t many limits to what can be achieved.
  • Being limitless is not about being perfect, it’s about advancing beyond what you think is possible.
  • We have no idea what we are truly capable of, but peak performance is possible for everybody.
  • The early action sport athletes Steven studied from “The Great Era of Impossible” accomplished more things in history than people ever thought could be done. As a general theme, these men and women came from broken homes and horrific childhoods, had very little education, had very little money, and their communities were riddled with drugs and alcohol. If you were to bet against any particular group of people, it would be those that had odds stacked against them, but these people reinvented the limits of our species. They overcame every single limitation that society says leads to jail or death and that’s what you see over and over in the literature on peak performance.
  • For more, get Steven’s book, The Art of Impossible, here.


  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us on social media (@StevenKotler & @JimKwik), and share your greatest “aha!” moment from this episode with us.
  • Find out more about Steven and his other books, here.

Similar Episodes