Josh Waitzkin knows what it means to be at the top of his game. A public figure since winning his first National Chess Championship at the age of nine, Waitzkin was catapulted into a media whirlwind as a teenager when his father's book Searching for Bobby Fischer was made into a major motion picture. After dominating the scholastic chess world for ten years, Waitzkin expanded his horizons, taking on the martial art Tai Chi Chuan and ultimately earning the title of World Champion. How was he able to reach the pinnacle of two disciplines that on the surface seem so different? "I've come to realize that what I am best at is not Tai Chi, and it is not chess," he says. "What I am best at is the art of learning."
The Art of Learning takes listeners through Waitzkin's unique journey to excellence. He explains in clear detail how a well-thought-out, principled approach to learning is what separates success from failure. Waitzkin believes that achievement, even at the championship level, is a function of a lifestyle that fuels a creative, resilient growth process. Rather than focusing on climactic wins, Waitzkin reveals the inner workings of his everyday method, from systematically triggering intuitive breakthroughs, to honing techniques into states of remarkable potency, to mastering the art of performance psychology.
In stories ranging from his early years taking on chess hustlers as a seven year old in New York City's Washington Square Park, to dealing with the pressures of having a film made about his life, to International Chess Championships in India, Hungary, and Brazil, to gripping battles against powerhouse fighters in Taiwan in the Push Hands World Championships, The Art of Learning encapsulates an extraordinary competitor's life lessons in a pause-resisting narrative.
©2007 Josh Waitzkin LLC (P)2014 Tim Ferriss
This book chronicles the life of Josh Waitzkin's rise in both the chess and martial arts world - becoming a world champion in both domains. Josh gives very detailed accounts of chess and Tai Chi - from learning the arts, to mastery to competition.
Essentially - his learning principles come down to a few basic concepts (note - this is not a complete list - but what I took as his main points):
1) mastering the basics: you can't perform dazzling moves unless you have internalized the basic ones until they become instinctive
2) Staying calm and relaxed (Josh describes various breathing patters he uses)
3) Being able to quickly recover in between rounds (micro recoveries) - Josh advocates High Intensity cardio training to help with this. (actually - I found the chapter dealing with this the most interesting - as he has worked with elite coaches and studied many elite athletes / learners and he said this was the single quality that separated the good from the truly great
4) maintaining focus / going with the flow / not getting frazzled even when things are not going your way.
5) having your form/style be an expression of your personality and not being unnaturally stifled (this comes after learning and mastering the basics)
The book reinforced some things which I knew and tried to work on. I can't say the book was earth shattering or gave me that 'wow - I never knew that' feeling. Also - there are many detailed accounts of chess and martial arts tournaments which set the backdrop for each of the principals. I felt this could have been boiled down into a white paper but, still, there were some good anecdotes. Anyone who competed in martial arts, or any sport, will relate very well to Josh's stories.
I decided to read 'The Art of Learning' after seeing that it was selected as the third book in the Tim Ferriss Book Club. As his two previous recommendations were so good, I elected to give this one a go as well. This book is more autobiographical in nature than a work that teaches you knowledge which you can apply to any skill that you may choose to pursue. Waitzkin espouses on the minutiae of chess and Tai Chi Push Hands martial arts, yet he spends little time delineating pragmatic knowledge that you can apply in your own life.
Simply put, the title is highly misleading. If you're looking for an autobiographical account of Josh Waitzkin's life, this is the book for you. On the contrary, if you're seeking a work on performance psychology and 'the art of learning', your time is better spent elsewhere.
Based on the misleading title, no.
The psychology behind mastering and learning anything can be learned from this book. If you are obsessive about whatever you put your focus into and are constantly reviewing yourself and performance trying to achieve always higher levels, this book is for you. Loved the ideas about chunking, and subconcious abilities in addition to focus and basics. Learned so much that i'm anxious to start trying in my own life.
Amazing experiences told by a great story teller who has lived the adventures first hand. It's not often that someone is a master of chess and martial arts (at least from my experience). Interesting individual with remarkable ability to learn and master. Loved the interview with Tim Ferris at the end as well.
Seems that the principles in this book can apply to anything from boxing, learning piano, learning to draw, raising and motivating children to name a few.
The joy the author clearly finds in the world of competitive chess and tai chi.
Frankly I was looking for an ending that summarized his insights on learning.
This was my first exposure to Mr. Waitzkin.
A Prodigy's Tale.
I really was looking for some real insights on learning I could apply to my autistic daughter, so I was a bit disappointed. The biography was enjoyable and I think I would like the author in a social setting.
His insights about the process of learning are so brilliant and thoughtful! Anyone would find something for himself
His ideas about mindfulness, concentration
I totally recommend the audiobook. It's great that the book is narrated by the author, he is doing it absolutely brilliantly. The book touched my very deeply.
Mark A Carbone
Yes I would. I'd also recommend going to his websites where you can download guides for teachers and students - you can take the role of student with the downloads at any age.
Josh, he's the author. I did love all the stories he told of others in the book. Many seem like very interesting people in life.
There was no performance. He did do a good job on the audio so I'd have to say he did a good job.
How to hack learning
"Deeply inspiring and thought provoking."
Josh is not only a brilliant chess player and tai chi master but, as it turns out, an excellent writer (and reader) too. This book blends a gripping true story (not unlike The Karate Kid) but an inspiring guide for improving your own approach to learning. Great stuff. One of the best books I've read this year.
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