Gretchen Bleiler and Chris Davenport Speak on the Power of ‘Flow’
Originally Published: Aspen Daily News, July 1, 2015
Author: Andrea Kaufman
Appearing at their first Aspen Ideas Festival, locals Gretchen Bleiler and Chris Davenport discussed the power of “flow”: a state of hyper-focus or hyper-concentration that they credit with the success in their careers and lives.
Jerry Murdock, a trustee at the Aspen Institute, introduced Bleiler and Davenport – an Olympic silver medalist in snowboarding and an extreme skiing pioneer, respectively – as “innovators and pioneers in their fields.”
“Flow state is actually the process of tapping into and accessing our own human potential,” said Bleiler, adding that she and Davenport believe flow state is everyone’s birthright as human beings.
“Most of us can just drop into flow state in our everyday lives and a lot of us have actually experienced that,” added Bleiler.
To better explain flow state, Bleiler said it is like when you walk on the people mover in an airport. You get to your final destination much faster, but are still exerting the same amount of energy if you had walked unassisted.
Davenport challenged everyone to think about his or her everyday activities and to place him or herself in this framework of flow.
When they asked if anyone in the audience had ever tapped into flow, quite a few people raised their hands.
Davenport then introduced a chart of fundamentals needed to achieve flow. In the center of the circle chart were the most important aspects: curiosity, passion and purpose.
Davenport’s own journey with flow began when he was 13 and had fallen in love with skiing. He decided it was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. This was the first spark of his passion.
As he grew to be a big name in the sport, Davenport said he did not realize that what was getting him there, aside from physical skill, was flow.
Bleiler’s journey was different; she started with a purpose instead of a passion.
Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Bleiler knew from age 4 she wanted to be an Olympian. She just did not know how she was going to get there.
Jordan Curet/Aspen Daily News
When her family moved to Aspen at age 10, she discovered snowboarding.
However, they said their biggest journeys could not have happened without the power of flow.
When Davenport was considering retiring, he decided to climb and ski the Colorado Fourteeners instead.
“I completely shifted from this mode of almost going into retirement,” said Davenport. “I had to come back into the middle of that circle – that curiosity, the passion and the purpose – and realize, no I can’t do that. I have to stick to who I am.”
He then spent the next year climbing and skiing all the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado.
Bleiler also spoke about her flow journey that culminated at the Winter X Games in 2003. In her first run of the qualifiers, she fell when she threw the crippler, a move where she flips and spins at the same time.
Before her next run, she took herself aside and realized “where she really was” and realigned herself with something bigger.
“I dropped into my second round of qualifiers and ended up going from last place to first place and ended up winning my first X Games gold medal,” said Bleiler.
“I had decoded my own flow state,” added Bleiler. Davenport called it a great demonstration of the power of flow.
When Bleiler announced her retirement, she was still ranked as one of the top five woman snowboarders in the world.
Her next endeavor would cross her and Davenport’s paths by taking on climate change. They became involved with Protect Our Winters, an organization that unites the global snow sports community to fight climate change.
“The idea here is that this whole thing is a full circle,” said Bleiler. “As you have the courage to act on your passions and your curiosity, you are going to constantly evolve. As you evolve, so are your passions, your curiosities and your purposes.”
It was Murdock, however, who got the last word:
“Most of us are brought up believing that a leader is somebody else in the room. We’ve just heard from Chris and Gretchen that you, and us, can all be leaders of our lives everyday.”