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BOOKCLUB: Gnar Country by Steven Kotler

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Steven Kotler’s latest offering, Gnar Country, explores how to become a peak performer in your 50s and beyond.

Kotler, an avid skier, learns to “park ski” far past his prime at age 53. Park skiing is essentially the x-games version of skiing, with enormous jumps, airborne choreographed movements, and more. A great deal of skill is required to park ski compared to downhill skiing. It was commonly thought that this skill couldn’t be well taught after 40.

The title word, “gnar,” comes from the word gnarly, meaning “any environment or situation that is high in perceived risk and high in actual risk.” This refers to tough, cold, mountainous terrains and dangerous ski courses. The environment in which Kotler took on his experiment. His experiment – simply put – was to go from a lifelong hobby skier to a world-class park skier.

The book is self-described as a “how-not-to-book”. As in “how-not-to-allow-age-to-stop-you-from-achieving-peak-performance.”

Interestingly, Kotler’s experiment was logged in his journals and was not intended to be a book. But when Kotler’s agent discovered the logs, he saw the idea emerge, and the book began to take its early form.

I personally like Kotler’s “to the point” style of writing in other books, such as The Art of Impossible. It often makes his works dense in the chucking down of various practices. But this book is different.

It’s a journey. You’re with Kotler each day in the moments of injury, the moments of close calls, and the moments of victory.

Kotler fills in the blanks between daily reports with the plans, thought processes, and intentions.

Personally, it’s interesting to consider what Kotler was up to while I was involved in his Zero to Dangerous course during the pandemic, offered by the Flow Research Collective (The course was life-changing).

Among countless interesting ideas in the book is the idea that as we age, how we enter a flow state may change. The triggers used are a bit different than when we were young. As we age, fragility and risk aversion are choices we make and not doomed destinies in which we are fated. Our physicality has a ‘use it or lose it’ nature which begins to become very important post-40.

There are skills that improve over 40 including pattern recognition, and pattern execution, as well as an increase in intelligence, creativity, wisdom, and empathy.

If you’re over 40 and chasing your peak performance. This book is for you.

Highly Recommended.

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