The Secret to Peak Performance Aging with Steven Kotler

by | Mar 13, 2023

This week, Steven Kotler, award winning journalist, Executive Director of the Flow Research Collective and New York Times best-seller, sat down with the Baby Bathwater Institute to discuss his secrets on peak performance aging that took center stage in his latest release, Gnar Country

We’ve taken a dig into some of the ground-breaking insights he shared into peak performance aging, how to optimize your senior years and the tips and tricks on how to apply this in your own life. Because whether you’re earning money in retirement or just want to improve your later years – it’s time to make the “impossible” possible. 

“If you want peak performance aging in a single sentence you wanna rock till you drop, you wanna regularly engage with challenging, social and creative activities that demand dynamic delivered play and take place in outdoor environments.”

What is peak performance?

(Read the interviewhere!)

Peak performance is something that Kotler has spent a lot of time refining, discovering that there is a universal mental state through which the possible becomes impossible. 

Peak performance helps us to come up with ideas faster and put those ideas into actions. It also helps us enjoy things even more when we’re at our best, and this is incredibly relevant for those of us reaching our “senior” years of life. 

Kotler has discovered that, by applying the factors of peak performance to even the most “impossible” achievement in his older years, he’s able to discover mind-blowing results that even he didn’t expect. 

Steven Kotler’s experience with peak performance aging, as voiced in Gnar Country 

Steven Kotler had been looking at peak performance in a clinical setting for a long time. The whole concept that even old dogs can learn new tricks. But after a long time understanding the science behind it, he wanted to put the theory to test. 

He decided, at 53 years old, to teach himself to park ski. 

This was something that was deemed impossible for anyone over the age of 35, and he figured he’d give himself 5 years to master the skill. He figured, if he could learn to do it by the time he was 60 – he’d take that as a major win. 

But Kotler was pleasantly surprised with the results (albeit incredibly shocked). 

It took only 3 and a half/4 months for him to master the skills of park skiing. 

Something that was previously hailed impossible for someone of his age became an easy, masterable skill simply by applying his learned skills at peak performance. 

Despite being obviously impressed with the results, he decided to come back next season to put this theory to the test yet again. He came back with an older group, spending four days on the mountain with folks that had little to no experience park skiing. And in four days, he was again shocked with amazing results. 
Gnar Country follows the story of this unusual study in peak-performance aging – with only one participant. It’s a book about applying the tools of peak performance to the hard challenge of aging and lays the blueprint for extreme performance improvement. It decodes all the secrets and lets you meet the elite performers who have challenged the definition of what’s possible in the second half of our lives.

Gnar Country follows the story of this unusual study in peak-performance aging
(And it’s definitely well worth the read if you’re looking to optimize your experience of retirement!)

Tips and tricks to challenge the definition of what’s possible in retirement

Steven Kotler himself acknowledges that it would take hours to dig into all the details of peak performance aging – a big part of why Gnar Country is seeing such great success. 

The main factor he points out is that you need to regularly engage with challenging, social and creative activities that demand dynamic delivered play and take place outdoors. Why? Because when we stimulate all of these factors of mind and body, we actually reverse the ill-impact of aging. 

But if you’re looking for straightforward tips and tricks to optimize your years in retirement and break down that statement, we’ve got just what you need:

1. Where do you start with peak performance? Mindset

Kotler acknowledges in this interview with Baby Bathwater Institute that mindset is the first step to getting started with peak performance. Ageism is one of the most common stereotypes in the world – we don’t even bat an eye when someone declares “you’re too old for this”.

But this negative aging mindset is incredibly damaging. 

He notes that the major difference in success of peak performance is this ability to break free of this stereotype to realize that the “long slow rot theory” just isn’t it. 

Sure, you can do your daily meditations and positive affirmations, but it takes a little more to get this through to your common-sense brain. 

Kotler kept a performance journal for this very reason. He could keep track of himself being challenged, to counteract the fear he held deep within his subconsciousness and prove to himself, through hard-copy reflection, how much he could actually achieve. 

The fact is: if you never stop training your skills, they don’t ACTUALLY decline like you’re told they will. And Kotler backs this up with a whopping amount of research.

2. How to unlock the “superpowers” hidden in your senior years

Kotler notes that there are 3 things to do before your 50s to experience the superpowers that aren’t often talked about. He discovered that, at around the age of 50, the two hemispheres of our brain that spend most of our lives competing, actually start to work together – but only if used properly. Here are the 3 things that will help you take advantage of the beneficial change in biology:

How to unlock the “superpowers” hidden in your senior years

These new superpowers will give you new levels of intelligence, new levels of creativity, new levels of empathy – but you have to access all of these parts of yourself in order to experience these superpowers. The same superpowers that will see anti-aging impact. 

3. Train away risk aversion 

Over time, we become more risk averse. Fear of falls, fear of failure, it all starts to pack on as we near retirement, but even throughout our earlier years. Can you remember a time when you weren’t afraid of certain activities for fear of injury?

But the truth is that fear actually blocks creativity, makes us selfish, turns off our empathy. And are scared people ever wise? Are scared people able to access challenging, social and creative activities that delay negative impacts of aging? 

4. Creativity is crucial 

To truly access your super powers, you need creativity to unlock all of your new thinking skills. And that’s an important factor to consider. 

While he encourages sports and physical activity to provide the kind of outdoor play necessary, he acknowledges that tight rule-bound sports, like sprinting or swimming in a lane on a daily basis, don’t offer this creativity. 

Find something that actually stimulates your creativity, and balances all the aspects needed to optimize your older years. 

Like tennis, which Kotler himself acknowledges can extend your life for up to 9 years!

While that’s all we have for now, we encourage you to listen to this podcast episode yourself here, or grab a copy of Gnar Country for a deep insight into peak-performance aging and how to make the “impossible” possible. 

It’s chock-full of scientific research Steven Kotler has spent years refining and is a welcome breath of fresh air into an ageist society. It proves that the later years of life don’t have to be the end, but the very beginning of a new way of optimized living in which you can still get the very best for yourself, and your life. 

And if you’re looking for more inspiration on how to age gracefully, make the most of your later years, or earn money in retirement (in a number of creative and stimulating ways!) explore our full range of blog topics here

We have a strong belief in making retirement the best years of your lives. Through our research we’re discovering one simple fact – that there are a number of exciting ways to turn the later years of your life into some of the very best. And there’s no such thing as impossible!