The All or Nothing Mindset: The Paradox of Passion, Addiction, and Dark Side of Flow

The All or Nothing Mindset: The Paradox of Passion, Addiction, and Dark Side of Flow

Can we ever truly have it all? It’s a question humans have been asking for centuries yet we are still looking for a solution to the passion paradox. This is episode 189 on The All or Nothing Mindset, a solo dive into passion, addiction, and the dark side of flow. Welcome to Forever Athlete Radio, where together we go far. I’m your host Cory Camp, life optimization coach and Forever Athlete founder. 


A quote to start us off “Fully Alive and Deeply Committed is a risk business that costs not less than everything.”- Steven Kotler


Today, we are exploring what’s been called the Passion Paradox. What do Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, and Andre Agassi all have in common?


They’ve been celebrated in their lives for being at the top of their sport. From Wood’s 15 majors, to Phelps’ 23 Gold Medals, and Agassi’s 8 Grand Slams, there is no debate these men are greatness personified in their arenas of expertise. But did it come at a cost?


Each of these men have had their own share of struggles with various addictions outside of the sport. The question the passion paradox poses is, do we need an all or nothing mindset to become the greatest of all time?


In short, I don’t think so, and today I’m going to show you why.


It first starts with unpacking the word passion: a strong and barely controllable emotion is how it’s described in the Oxford dictionary. But the word gets its root from the Latin word “pati” meaning to suffer. 


Over the years, we’ve come to our more modern definition, but the athletes we highlighted earlier are just a drop in the bucket of countless examples that suffering exists for those who boldly chase after their passion.


That leaves us with a choice, do we throw caution to the wind and chase after our passion, even if it means an area of our life will suffer? Or do we play it safe and live a life with regret.


The dilemma we are faced with stems from a fundamental lesson we were taught very young. You probably remember your parents teaching you not to play with fire. Where were the lessons on how to play with fire?


I ask because when we are enrolled in our passion, we are often in flow-state, and it feels like we’re on fire like Tracey McGrady in NBA Jam. It feels good, it feels addicting, it feels like we are fully alive.


How many athletes tell you they feel most alive when they’re out on the field? It’s because in flow, all our problems go away, and we become singularly focused on what’s immediately in front of us. All those other things we need to get done? Yeah they don’t exist when we’re in flow.


We praise athletes for their ability to do this. Brett Farve throwing for 399 yards and four touchdowns the night after his Father passed is an example of a great sports story. Yet what does this ability cost us? Is it always a good thing for an athlete to get lost in their primary flow activity and disassociate from problems in their life? To a degree it’s a coping mechanism, but when it becomes the default habit, then we have a larger issue at hand.


This is the root of my passion for Forever Athlete and why I encourage so many athletes to explore other flow activities while they’re still in sport. I don’t want them to go through the same feeling of not recognizing themselves in the mirror everyday that I went through. When we are in flow, we feel the most like ourselves. When we can’t find flow, we don’t feel like ourselves, we become a stranger in our own body. That’s the dark side of having only one way to express ourself.


The passion paradox is simple, when we are pursuing a passion we are more likely to find flow, but too much of it can leave us burned.


To learn how to play with the fire, we must know the 6 characteristics of the dark side of flow to look out for as we pursue anything we are passionate about, and more importantly, a solution if we find ourself resonating with any of these.


  1. Continually pushing the challenge level. I had a client tell me a story once of how he found himself mid-ironman training going for a 3 hour bike ride along the highway in the early morning pouring rain because that was when he felt the most alive. When our passion exceeds our safety, that should be a red flag. The solution is to take a step back and detox. When you’re in a sober state of mind, objectively analyze what it is you’re doing and ensure there is calculated rational thought at the foundation.
  2. Feelings of Painlessness, Invincibility, and Avoidance. We condemn addicts for using drugs to achieve these feelings and cope with life, yet celebrate athletes for their perseverance to the same point. Using flow to kill pain and getting a distorted sense of your own capabilities while avoiding uncomfortable feelings needs to be addressed. A quote that helps shift your mindset around negative emotions “The level to which you allow yourself to feel negative emotion is the level to which you’re capable of feeling positive emotion.” The solution here is to confront the uncomfortable emotions and avoid masking them with flow. This can mean going to therapy, getting a life coach, journaling, meditating, whatever you need to do to work through the emotion.
  3. Workaholism. The most sociably accepted addiction. How many of you ever experience discomfort when not working or engaged in a passion activity? It often makes relationships and recovery between work bouts challenging. The solution here lies in slowing down to speed up; getting okay with the come down from work and learning to sit with a lack of stimulation. The kicker is if you can tackle this, you’ll become a more efficient worker. Work smarter not harder, take a step back.
  4. Losing the key to the lock of flow. This is what happens when we become reliant on the job, the sport, the identity to find flow. When we retire, get injured, benched, or otherwise sidelined, we find ourselves locked out of flow with no way back in. The solution lies in creating multiple access points to flow, the key being they are varying. Try new things, identify what you like and don’t like, and do more of what lights you up.
  5. Becoming a bliss junkie or requiring flow to get good work done. It’s like the athlete that only gives their best effort at practice when they feel good. While it sounds simple, often times humans can become reliant on flow for any  productivity. If you find yourself in this category, go back to the basics. Take care of hydration, sleep, movement, daily gratitude, mindfulness practice, and social interaction first and foremost. You’ll see that flow is an emergent property that sits on top of these things.
  6. Sense of Self Inflation, aka your head is too big for your own shoulders. The ego can become inflated and we become overconfident when blindly diving into our passions. This can result in us becoming sporadically “manic”, excessively excited, a distorted perception of one’s worth, or excessive sense of what we are capable of. The solution lies in staying grounded in relationships, gaining perceptive and discipline. It pays to have people in your life to call you out on your own BS; they keep you in check from becoming the aloof woke spiritual friend you know that’s done one too many ayahuasca retreats.



To play with passion is to play with fire. A slow controlled burn as you build out your whits is the best way to go about pursing a passion that allows you to have it all. 


While an all or nothing mindset can be the golden ticket to success, it can also be the kryptonite of some of the most successful of all time like we’ve seen with the likes of Tiger Woods and countless others. I can’t express enough the importance of having a support system around you that can help you check yourself. That’s one of the many benefits of the Forever Athlete social club, our new membership launching September 1st. The first place of it’s kind, the Social Club is designed to help you experience well-rounded flow, giving you the support you need to pursue your passions, without burnout. Head on over to for your first week on us and see what the club is all about.


And until next week, flow on my friends.


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