Success is often put in contrast with failure. It's "common sense" that you want more of one and less of the other. This kind of value dualism is binary thinking, seeing world in black and white.
If one follows this intuitive impression, the main pitfall goes unnoticed: seeing the world in black and white won't let you stick to just one part you desire. Dualistic vision of the world assigns absolute values to the opposing extremes, and we can't escape an absolute. But we won't survive in the middle of their battle either.
How do we survive then? Should we come up with a different worldview that makes our lives better, easier, and more successful? No, because that still implies that there's evil we need to escape from. And if this evil nature is assigned to something integral to the real world, we risk rejecting objective reality.
But we can't stop acting intuitively either! Unconscious behavior happens by itself, we can't just redefine our internal function. It's also intuitive to get immersed into big dreams, high hopes, to aim for revolutionary changes, quality leaps, etc. And while trying to reach those, we often underestimate complexity of the goal, and overestimate our abilities, leading to what we then consider a failure.
People in different fields of activity managed to solve those problems, and they tell us that big advancements are the results of lots of gradual routine work. The more patient and mindful you are while building your dream by hand yourself, the more it will meet your expectations, and the more robust it will be in the end. Pay attention to all the details that show up, and diligently account for them. If you don't have motivation for that, then you won't succeed.
Okay so where do we get this motivation then? The answer is the least intuitive: we shouldn't. If we don't have the drive to accomplish something no matter what, we will burn out in the process. Because we'd have to force ourselves to continue, and it's a dead end. But the flow state is when you need something so overwhelmingly that you can't stop trying.
And now we're nearing another pitfall: state of flow is not better than its absence. We shouldn't aim for it all the time, we shouldn't run away from normal routinely function.
So far, the key to success looks like embracing the low-level routine, figuring out how to not hate it, how to not have to force yourself.
- The first thing to learn is letting go of all the rhetoric that makes you do something. If you only do something because of the rhetoric, you don't eagerly need it (at the very least not yet), and the result will be unsatisfying, it will feel empty.
- The second thing is waking up every time you hit an obstacle and becoming self aware. Every time something doesn't go right, you need to recognize that very fact, to confess it to yourself. Every time you don't feel right, you need to spot the bad feeling and make yourself aware of it. You don't need to do anything about it! Because intuitive action is a third pitfall.
- So the third thing is ability to not do anything... until you figure out what would be the best thing to do. And this is probably the most important ability in the world. Because if we act on impulse, we are actively being insane.
Here's the gist of what we need to learn in order to succeed: ability to not lose our mind, ever.
Now people may think this is unnatural, because id is by definition unconscious. But let's not forget that the very concept of psyche structure was developed based on problems people were having. The nervous system is spread well beyond the brain, so there's really no reason to not be aware of your own feelings, because it is all connected.
So it's quite the opposite: acting on pure impulse is unnatural, because then we ignore our mind and morality, separating our own psyche into parts that are "important" and "not-so-important". It works in both directions: we should not tell our feelings to just stop and never return, we shouldn't ignore them either. Which is why multidimensional confession of a psychological fact is how we restore personal integrity and synergy.
We are incredibly complicated beings, so there's no reason to aim for maximal simplicity. But we won't be able to understand ourselves if we don't categorize and abstract. Restoring self-consciousness is how our psyche regroups. Losing self-consciousness, on the other hand, can be called the state of false flow. And we spend most of our lives in it. No wonder we find ourselves "doomed" to failure, with occasional "lucky" moments that we can't consistently reproduce.
Ironically, when we fully realize that we need all parts of our psyche to work together in synergy, to mutually immerse, the work this requires will finally lead us to the state of flow. And we will stop minding failures, because being an integral person is more more important, and pleasant, than constant winning. If winning naturally comes by itself as a result, well, that proves that we're doing it right. But it's not an inherent value or a self-justifying goal.
Therefore, success is just a result of something more important. Flow is when you've discovered the latter. And self-honesty is how you discover it.