The book’s title “Stealing fire” refers to the Prometheus from Greek Mythology. Prometheus is known for being quite a tricksy fellow, he defied the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity. The fire Kotler refers to in the current day is “ecstasis”.
Similar to but not the same as “flow” ecstasis refers to when we reach a higher state of consciousness. When we are so in the moment we reach an effortless state of higher performance, as if on auto-pilot.
The beginning of the book explains the concept of ecstasis as well as how people can work together and achieve a connected consciousness and ecstases. Through Kotler and Wheal’s research and their quest to make ecstasis more accessible and sustainable, they explore the four ways in which people harness ecstasis; psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology, and technology. They study how different groups such as military units, extreme athletes, captains of industry and innovative teams all around the world work towards harnessing and leveraging this state of high performance.
There is an enormous body of research that the authors go through that I could never do justice in a review so I won’t. But I’ll leave you with a couple of my takeaways:
Whether you believe in ecstasis and the improved higher performance it can provide, we can all agree that we have had great periods of focus and the benefits and enjoyment of such focus are pretty notable. I think even if we actively seek out ecstasis or not there is a part of all of us that desires it.
The tail wags the dog
A large part of accessing a higher mental ability or focus comes from simple physical processes or exercises. Often, if I’m having a bad day or I’m in a low point, I’ll start with the simplest thing by cleaning my surrounding workspace. From there I might go g for a short run or doing some stretches. Through this simple physical processes, I am able to shift my present state.
An important point the book makes is that as strong as the mind is in driving the body, the body plays just as strong a role if not stronger in creating and sustaining your state of mind.