Flow State & Speed Learning How To Drift

flowstate figure

I figured since I am out there in interviews and the media claiming I have some magic formula on speed learning that I would start to share it with you here exclusively on the blog and go into detail that only those who attend will receive.

I want to talk about by far the number one tool for speed learning, crazy thing is most people don’t even recognize that it is such a powerful growth tool yet almost all of us have experienced it at one point or another.

I am talking about FLOW state, what top athletes call “being in the zone”. This is a state of consciousness where time distorts (either speeds up or slows down), sense of self falls away, all the inner chatter quiets down and answers to the questions that have stumped you now are crystal clear.

Chances are you have experienced this, on that long car ride where you seemed to get to your destination and didn’t remember how you got there, all the turns and lights just seemed to blend in and before you knew it you were there. Maybe this has happened when you were heavy in study, editing/designing or creating on the computer, heck even as I write this the sense of flow comes over me and I drift away….

Now don’t let my esoteric talk of this magical state throw you off, it’s actually a measurable brain wave pattern called Gamma. It is the 5th discovered brain wave pattern our brain can access and by far the fastest in terms of frequency.

The reason this is so important for sport, like drifting is that there is no time to think- your reactions should be instinctual and happen naturally, drivers aren’t using conscious decision making while out there going 60-90 MPH sideways in a car, just like a wingsuiter, big wave surfer or rally driver- it’s all coming in automatically, decision and decision maker have merged.

My bookmarks folder is riddled with first hand accounts of people talking about flow without actually knowing that is what they were talking about, one story specifically pops out in my mind from Vaughn Gittin Jr doing an interview after his bad crash back in 2015.

He talks about how “time slowed down” and when he knew things were going bad he had the instinctual response to move where the hit was gonna happen into the wall.

vaughngittinjr 2015 drift crash

You can read more from that interview here

FLOW state is something that can be traced back to Einstein and his crazy imagination games, Mozart and his powerful musical compliations and even Tesla’s mental blueprints of machinery that would run in the back of his mind are all examples of FLOW.

Beyond extreme sports, the business world is starting to tap into this and take notes, according to a McKinsey study top executives in flow were 5 times as productive than out of it.

I have tested this out on myself quite a bit pushing the line of challenge and skill to access this elusive state. I even helped a friend out last year when visiting Australia who competes in the Hi tech Drift series- Matty Hill. He was finishing consistently at the low end of the top 16, after I told him to access flow through recalling a fun memory that same night he finished 2nd and actually medaled in that competition.

Now you may be ok with writing that off as “luck” or “coincidence” however I am not, the simple fact that he was able to vividly recall a memory of being in the moment, having child like fun and being in flow his body instantly started to go back to that place and point in time. His brain started to release the chemical cocktail like it did the first time it happened and in the moments that followed he was taken back there.

Here is a simple way to test this….

Think of any trauma or highly emotional thing that has happened in your life, when you recall it now and walk through the memory in vivid detail, you naturally start to feel like you did during the actual event, your body starts to tighten up, the emotion starts to run again- same thing is happening here.

Leaders in the “flow state” space are people like Steven Kotler (best selling author of “The Rise Of Superman”) and Jamie Wheal who run the Flow Genome project, where they plan on not only educating the general public more on flow, they plan on building Flow Dojos that will allow everyone to experience flow at new levels without having to risk their life in extreme situations or sport.

Here are more top athletes like Danny Way talking about FLOW…

Look for them on the Peak Experiences Podcast at some point!

Flow was originally talked about back in the 1960s by a guy named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who wrote the book FLOW:The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Flow State- The Mechanics

There are 4 phases to flow

  1. Struggle
  2. Relaxation
  3. Flow
  4. Memory Learning & Consolidation Phase


*the following is pulled word for word from The Good Men Project

During flow, 5 neurochemicals are released in perhaps the most potent physiological response humans can have:

Norepinephrine: Speeds heart rate, respiration, increases arousal, attention, neural efficiency. The pleasure inducing effects are similar to speed.

Dopamine: Increases attention, information flow, pattern recognition, muscle timing – it essentially acts as a massive temporary skill booster. It feels similar to taking cocaine.

Endorphins: A potent endogenous (made inside the body) opiate. 100 times more powerful than medical morphine.

Anandamide: An endogenous cannabinoid that produces similar feelings to marijuana. Amongst other effects, it amplifies lateral thinking and inhibits our ability to feel fear.

Serotonin: Aids the person in coping with adversity. Essentially, it prevents you from “losing it” during a difficult period, and provides a hefty afterglow as it is one of the last neurochemicals produced from a flow state.

So we have a neurochemical response that allows people to simultaneously (and at a massively increased level): Increase their brain efficiency, attention, physical skill, problem solving ability, and ability to piece together new solutions on the fly, inhibit their fears, predict the immediate future (like a skier knowing which line to take on a previously unseen run), and keep themselves under control.

-End copy paste (read full article here)

I couldn’t of said it better myself!

This is the first piece but by far the most important because it packs the biggest punch. Let’s talk about how this applies to driving directly…

Now what I have noticed talking to and working with many top athletes over the years is many of them have no idea about the process they follow before they execute but they all 100% use a process, it’s just unconscious and habitual, so it happens automatically they just do it without consciously being aware of it.

As a driver if you were to start turning awareness towards this process you would start to pick up on what it is that you are in fact doing as what I call your “pre-game” process.

Being in tune with flow and the inner process you use is a huge advantage that really sets apart the top athletes from the rest. The better you know your process, the more you can get in there and refine it down to get you an even better result. (it’s the little tweaks at that level of performing)

If you’re brand new to driving like many of those who are coming to the Drift Japan Experience, then part of our job will be to install a pre-game process that involves getting them into flow and out of their “thinking mind” that will over analyze, judge and guilt away the new information. When we can move out of that thinking mind and into this flow state we pick up the learning that much faster.

Just like how flow affects productivity, it will compound like interest on your learning of new things, drifting is no different.

I have found that what really slows people down on learning is not only the assumptions they come in with (this has to be hard, has to take years of learning, have to study a lot, have to practice a lot before I am considered good etc) but the inner critic and judgements they hit themselves with during the learning process.

Just like how a pro athlete can screw up a short pass and bomb a touchdown pass halfway down the field in the same game, it is required for you to keep a short term memory on mistakes during the learning process, this will also keep you in that state of flow.

Remember inner critic, judgement, frustration and anything that is not 100% presence will pull one out of flow.

In the weeks to come I will write more about flow, how to access it quickly and the other building blocks to the speed learning process we will be using in the Drift Japan Experience so stay tuned.

If you have not already subscribed to the updates on this blog, you should- if you don’t want to miss new posts of course.