Surrender to the Flow


Marcelo Vergara | Mar 05, 2024

"The Helping Friendly Book, it seemed, possessed the ancient secrets

Of eternal joy and never-ending splendor

The trick was to surrender to the Flow."

Songwriter: Trey Anastasio

What's Flow?

Being in a State of Flow is special; without it, all creative output is limited (that is not bad; it is reality). Perhaps that’s just the nature of business. Production.  But when Flow is not limited, creativity and innovation flourish. Interestingly, the concept of flow is present in all facets of business. Project Flow, Cash Flow, Deal Flow...let it FLOW.

A very long time ago, in the 3rd grade, I was intellectually introduced to the concept of "Flow" through music class, Specifically by Mrs. Kelly, our Music Teacher at Green Trails Elementary, as we explored classical music. Then, later in life, her lessons were reinforced by The Grateful Dead. Then, again, by Phish.

Flow should matter to my fellow managers because it yields many returns. Flow transcends age and time and creates a force that, when harnessed, brings so much good out of our performances.

A photo of Kansas City Chief's head coach Andy Reid holding a trophy, with a Tweet overlaid that reads, "HC Andy Reid on the dogpile jump on Chris Jones: "I was so happy for him. I had been riding him for a bit. He was spent. He pushed himself further than he thought he could push himself. He pushed himself to a Flow State, you've gotta reach down in there..."
Achieving a Flow State can produce some pretty remarkable results. Just ask Coach Reid.
Via Chiefs.Hive on Instagram.

Why talk about Flow?

First, let's clarify. Here is what we are NOT talking about: How to make Flow happen on demand.

Flow is not something you can demand. It needs the right space and time and, more importantly, "awareness" and "presence" to recognize that you (or someone you work with) are entering a State of Flow. Be aware, you need to not fuck it up. Sorry for my bluntness, but nothing sucks as much as harshing someone's flow, especially your own. 

We are talking about recognizing and supporting Flow.

 I first entered the state of Flow through music. After Mrs. Kelly’s introduction, I became a sponge for music. When my Uncle Sergio left for college in 1977 and left his records and turntable at home, I had access to his music. He had a great collection, blew my little mind. I started playing some of his Grateful Dead albums and noticed that during live performances, I was being carried away with intense, focused thoughts.  That groove moved me towards creative pursuits, things like building models (Cars, Planes, Ships, and Tanks), playing music (trumpet and baritone horn), building amazingly contorted orange plastic race tracks for Hot Wheels, and practicing fielding a "baseball" by using a tennis ball against my garage door for hours. Practicing over and over again with no sense of time or space, just repetition and, at times, improvisational corrections, but never losing focus and energy. I'm sure you have your own stories of the moment you realized you were in "The Zone".

In Support of Flow

I learned early on to accept Flow without questioning it. In life and business, Flow works.

Here are a few things I think you as a manager can consider in support of "Flow."

1) Embrace the hybrid workplace. Creatives (in our case, our whole team, Devs, Designers, and PMs) need to be able to find "places" where Flow can occur for them, and it's not always at the office. I, for instance, always write at a busy coffee shop (Parisi on 80th); I think the energy and noise and people in and out put me in a focus state. And when Focus happens, Flow can take over.

2) Present your team with a diverse set of challenges and problems to solve. Flow can use tension as a catalyst. Creative pursuits create tension between the ears; we start to focus on the possible solutions, which creates the condition for a Flow State, where all things fade to the back, and all that is happening is happening as part of your energy.

3) Exhaust your curiosity before entering focus and then Flow. Entering Flow when curiosity is exhausted means you did all the pre-work and have a settled mind that is ready for depth, not just poking around serendipitously. Flow is singular. It's not 4 directions. It's 1 direction. It's deep, not exploratory or testing. There will be enough problems to overcome during Flow, and it's not that you won't be able to try different solutions; it's that failure is not redirecting to a new goal. The goal is the same, but during Flow, you may find a better thru-line.

4) Encourage and reward Flow. Recognize your team members who enter Flow and when they exit that state, notice that effort and thank them for allowing themselves to enter and exit it. Create spaces and circumstances that respect "The Flow State". Discuss Flow as a positive mental state and encourage your team to learn more about it. Encourage mindfulness and support the ways in which you can contribute to your team having time and space for this practice.

5) NEVER INTERRUPT A FLOW STATE. Just don't, OK, please? You will always regret it and you will do more damage than you know. Learn to recognize it in others and when they take a break, you can address anything you want with patience, care and respect.

Flow Never Disappoints

I have learned over the years about Flow, and I appreciate it as one of the most important mental states we and our teammates can achieve during our work together. This is a productive and rewarding mental state. There is so much we can do to support it in others and ourselves. If you are familiar with the concept and have basked in its warmth and benefited from its output, teach others to recognize and support your team in its pursuit.

Flow never disappoints! And if you need some help in recognizing it, holler; I'm here and happy to talk about it with you. Or just put on Grateful Dead's “One from the Vault” or Phish 9/1/17 or if The Dead and Phish ain't your bag, try James Brown’s, Motherlode and enjoy the next few hours of audio flow.

And another bonus tune. This one is a flow kicker. 

Marcelo Vergara
Marcelo Vergara, Owner + Operator
The bus came by and I got on... that's when it all began.