If you could bottle up my curiosity and excitement in the autumn of 2000, while impatiently awaiting Paul Dempsey to hit the stage at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Melbourne, how the world would be a different place for us all.
I was 22 and had just reached a career high of 11 in the world when I blew out 2 discs in my lower lumber, L5 and S1, playing in Belgium against World number 4 Paul Johnson. The injury saw me relocate back to Melbourne to go through rehab for the next 8 months.
This time off competing and full time training allowed me the luxury to jump into a plethora of novelty and explore different parts of my life that were on the peripheral of competing and training at a high level.
I had never been to a solo acoustic gig before. I had been fortunate to see the big concerts of my favourite bands like Motley Crue, KISS and AC/DC - Oh yeah and George Michael, but i normally keep that to myself!- but never experienced a small intimate gig like this. So I was pretty excited to hear one of my favourite lead singers of my favourite Aussie band Something For Kate.
I expected the show to be great but what happened the moment Paul started to play was something I could not have expected. I was immediately transported to a different universe. The 2 hour gig sped by without any awareness, my senses were heightened and it was like I could feel everything he was doing. His voice and guitar fell on my ears so clearly and crystal-like and it felt like I was in a constant state of goosebump moments.
The gig ended with me in a blown away state of amazement and euphoria at how someone could do and sound that way with just a voice and guitar. The only thing I consciously remember thinking and saying to myself throughout the experience was at the end... "I want to do what he does"
I woke early the next day full of energy and clarity, seemingly unaware of the hungover state that should have been present, and continued to ride the wave of ecstasy straight to the guitar shop to buy an acoustic guitar so I could start writing songs. Wait, what? You can't even read music and don't even know the name of the chords you are playing most of the time. What do you know about writing songs? You don't even know how to sing! These should have been the things that stopped me in my tracks and saved my money and the imminent failure ahead. But nope, none of that. Not at all.
I've never really thought too much about this moment outside of random conversations when I am asked about how I started to play music. I've always just put it down to being totally inspired and just had to do it because it was something I woke up thinking about.
Fast forward to today. I have always had a major interest in what makes people wake up and achieve amazing things. Things most people dream about doing but actually don't do. In my experience I have always come to very surface related answers that make sense but don't explain things in depth. Over the past year I have been fortunate to dig deep into this area for two reasons.
1 - For myself to reignite my passion and zest after losing it.
2 - To work with people around unlocking their true potential to find what truly lights them up, which has been amazing to experience.
During this work, study and research I stumbled across the science of flow state and have been obsessed with the intricacy of it, the elusive nature of it and my own personal experience with it. It has reignited the very thing it relates to inside me and it has given me an extremely deep understanding of the highs and lows I have experienced in my life. The basic knowledge and understanding that none of these moments of rapt attention and deep focus highs and some of the dark lows have occurred by accident. They have often occurred because of my biology and psychology.
In my next blog I'll go into more detail about the 'what of flow', but know this - It is described by the Godfather of Flow research Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as "an optimal state of consciousness, where we feel our best and perform our best". As an athlete I knew this as "being In the zone". And for the longest time, I believed, as many others did that the zone was purely reserved for athletes and creative artists such as musicians. NOT THE CASE! This state is available to all of us and shows up in many different areas of our life. This flow state explains my entire experience during and after the Paul Dempsey show that totally shifted the trajectory of my life in a small window of a few hours. Chances are that you too have already experienced it on many occasions throughout your journey.
So for now, take a moment to reflect on when you may have felt the following...
>Moments of rapt attention and total focus.
>Moments of time when you get so focused on the task at hand that everything else disappears.
>Where action and awareness merge.
>Your sense of self vanishes.
>Your sense of time distorts (either, typically, speeds up; or, occasionally, slows down).
>And throughout, all aspects of performance, both mental and physical, go through the roof.
Feel free to drop a note, I would love to hear about your 'flow' moments