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Publisher's Summary

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • thomas
  • charlotte, NC, United States
  • 01-16-15

Fascinating Memoir

What made the experience of listening to The Art of Learning the most enjoyable?

Josh has incredible passion for chess and martial arts. This came across in his reading and it is what makes this memoir memorable and inspiring.

What did you like best about this story?

This really isn't a book with a story. rather a memoir of his life experiences and what he learned from that. There is a complication to this that needs to be overcome by the listener. Josh is beyond brilliant and dedicated. His approach probably shares characteristics with savants and obsessive compulsive driven individual. this is not to diminish his incredible accomplishments but the listener needs to reconcile this. As an avid average amateur athlete and marital artists I identified with what Josh discussed. But it is simply not possible to put some of his approaches into practice. I personally do not posses that level of talent. However it is an inspirational memoir that resonated with me and I took a lot away from listening to it.

Which character – as performed by Josh Waitzkin – was your favorite?

Josh. He is a remarkable person. I found it fascinating that he was able to be successful at such a young age and be a fully functional

What did you learn from The Art of Learning that you would use in your daily life?

Ultimately I thought the memoir was a study in the practical applications of Buddhist thought. Define your own path, nurture it and dedicate your self to its perfection. In this way I found the ideas presented inspirational to myself as a martial artist and amateur athlete.

Any additional comments?

I would recommend this book since the concepts could be applied to anybody in any walk of life. Whether you are trying to be a better parent, student or professional there are ways you can focus and learn how to develop your personal skill set. This is a short book, but I am glad I read it.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Good overview with interesting backdrop

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.

38 of 41 people found this review helpful

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Takes your introspection to the next level

This book in incredible, I honestly did not think it would be so profound. Perhaps its message and style wouldn't suite other people, but for someone like me, who is always struggling with motivation/procrastination, trying to deconstruct his own behavior and decisions, lifelong learners, parents, over-achievers... Yes, it is certainly worth it.

The book doesn't give you a solution, and it doesn't claim to. But it gives you a path and a glimpse of the solution.

Besides, it is just plain fascinating for Josh's story of chess and martial arts careers.

P.S. Beware that the book is actually only ~6 hours long. The last ~1.5 hours is a podcast-interview with Josh, done by (somewhat famous) Tim Ferriss. It is useful for sure, but I just wanted to make this clear, because it surprised me.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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a book to meditate on and with

listened to w/a speed of 1, not the usual 1.5 or 2. depth, not breadth.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Great stories and amazing person - less rich in practical details

Amazing book and story. Thoughtful book that really makes you think about how you can improve your focus and learning processes. Light on practical details but picked up a handful of great pointers. Notes below!

Entity Theory vs. Learning Theory
Fixed Intelligence vs. Process oriented

Depth over breadth. The power f the micro to understand the macro. I.e. Writing about one small brick of a building versus the whole town.

Chunking - carved pathways
Allows you to see less but more. I.e. When you start compounding multiple chunks of patterns and pathways they give you the ability to breakdown complex situations easily by focusing on the "higher level groupings" and the underlying logic and other chunks that support each grouping are nearly subconscious.

Intuition
Reading and manipulating footwork
Your opponent moves, then you move first.

Setting a trigger to get in the zone - work backwards. Find out what soothes you (throwing ball with son). Then set up a routine ahead of that soothing moment then begin to physiology connect the two in order to routine.
Then gradually alter the routine to make the trigger condense add

Handling anger in peak performance (I.e. Getting head butted, dirty players, etc.).
Must channel our emotions and use them as deep pools of inspiration. I.e. Talking back to Jordan would actually expire him and sharpen his game.
Easy to be non-violent in a rose garden.

Best Practices:
Meditating
Ending work day with good work.
Journaling at end of work day

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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More minutiae of chess and Tai Chi Push Hands than

What disappointed you about The Art of Learning?

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.

Would you ever listen to anything by Josh Waitzkin again?

Based on the misleading title, no.

59 of 74 people found this review helpful

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Mind Blown

Was expecting this book to lift my mind. But I did not expect it to completely blow my mind.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Adriana
  • La Crosse, WI, United States
  • 01-19-15

Terrific and valuable

I read some reviews stating that this book was merely a biography of Josh . Yet this is one biography that is filled with many kernels of wisdom. If you are not receptive or it is not time for you to appreciate this it will pass you by. This is a very honest and hard-working account of a person who reached the highest levels of intellectual and physical prowess. At the end in the final interview with Tim Ferris you get a few more insights into Josh's life.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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One of the best books i have ever read

What did you love best about The Art of Learning?

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.

What does Josh Waitzkin bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Now what I expected

This book is largely a collection anecdotal stories about how the author mastered chess and tai chi chuan. I many ways it seems like a long promotion for tai chi chuan. There are, however, some nuggets of wisdom on how to apply learning techniques for mastering other subjects. Overall, a good read but I think the title is misleading. One should also be aware that Tim Ferris owns the rights to this book, which is likely a big reason for his heavy promotion of it.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • MR PETER R BRAY
  • 03-19-15

Inspiring

Recommended by Tim Ferriss. Great if you're a fan of his and are interested in the process of learning told in a biology format. A fascinating life, climax got me almost teary. Very very profound and inspiring.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-07-15

I didn't ask for an autobiography

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

People who just want to listen to an autobiography of a successful chess player and push hands champion.

Would you ever listen to anything by Josh Waitzkin again?

Probably not. He might be a successful chess play and push hands champion but his story telling is dull.

What didn’t you like about Josh Waitzkin’s performance?

His descriptions of everyone were bland and the same. Everyone he meets is always amazing at what they do and he always gives them a bland and over the top description. The stories that he does tell are often quite boring and he seems to remember them in great detail, despite them happening some years ago. One particular example that stood out for me was a story about a guy in the rainforest who was almost killed by a large cat.

In addition, what few learning points exist in this book are lost inbetween Josh's reminiscing stories and I can't remember any practical methods that he suggests to achieve his methods. It's just, I was in situation 'x', so I did 'y' for hours on end, and got the result I wanted. Well thanks.

In addition, the book is based solely on his own experience with no academia to back him up. I did think he was going to touch on Self Determination Theory as early on in the book he uses the same keywords like flow, and incremental learning theory but it doesn't go anywhere.

And I guess the worst part is that having listened to the book, I'm struggling to remember anything useful to take home, which isn't great from a book that's supposed to teach you about learning.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

It would be nice if you just wanted to listen to an autobiography of a successful individual.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • charles knape
  • 06-05-15

Brilliant

Excellent book gives a great insight to what is going on in his head and what it takes to become the best at something

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Patrick
  • 12-24-14

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • R. Homer
  • 04-12-15

Good content

Would you listen to The Art of Learning again? Why?

The key content is interspersed throughout a long book. I'd want to listen again and take notes at key points.

Any additional comments?

The book tells the story of Josh's life, focusing on his mastery of chess and taichi.
It's a really inspiring and interesting life story. His perspective is fascinating to hear, he works incredibly hard at things and then deconstructs why he failed\succeeded at them so he can perform better the next time round. He approaches it with an analytical mindset, but also has an appreciation for meditation and eastern philosophy.

The minor negative to this book is that the information is not always explicitly stated, it's interspersed throughout a very long story, so while I enjoyed the book, I will need to listen again and make notes to recount the key points he mentions and actually make sure to focus on them in my life.

If you're a fan of Tim Ferriss you will likely appreciate this book. The last hour of the recording also has a podcast where Josh is being interviewed by Tim.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • David Sammel
  • 08-07-17

Excellent apart from some overkill on techniques

If you want some gems that can help you think about learning this book is first class. It is also a life story of someone who achieved at the highest level and therefore authentic and easy to listen to and special praise to Josh for doing his own narration.

Highly recommend.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-02-17

Gratuitous Self

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

can't think of anyone who would.

Has The Art of Learning put you off other books in this genre?

No, the content of the book was not reflected by the title.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Josh Waitzkin?

who cares, the content was so poor no body could have saved i

What character would you cut from The Art of Learning?

The author

Any additional comments?

Couldn't help feeling the author must have been masturbating over a picture of himself while writing this book. The entire book was an excuse for the author to self praise, and rather than cover any meaningful material related to the title, inanely describe the most boring minutia of detail of his own obscure interests in the style of a 15 year old teenager watching enter the dragon for the first time.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-31-17

Great, Pushed me to excellence in my own life

Inspiring and informative. I could not recommend this book more to any one looking to achieve excellence in their own lives

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-01-17

Misleading title

I expected a book on learning techniques, psychology, neurology. Josh doesn't go much into this. Instead it paints a picture of a man using mass learning and the book is more a narrative biography.

Josh Witzkin is an interesting person, so still his biography is worth a read and overall it's a good book. I enjoyed it.

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  • Harry
  • 06-15-17

Inspiring!

This is the first audio book that I've finish and wanted to start again immediately.

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  • Jenny
  • 05-10-17

Challenging.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The author needed to speak more clearly and slowly. Far too many technical words in the story.

Has The Art of Learning put you off other books in this genre?

Yes,

Any additional comments?

The title of this book is about the art of learning, however the first two hours was about this persons experience, nothing about learning for the purpose of another person gaining learning skills.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew
  • 04-18-16

Rocked my world

What an amazing book.
Recommend for anyone who is trying to learn about or is passionate about anything at all!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 01-18-16

Not about the goal but it's journey

What made the experience of listening to The Art of Learning the most enjoyable?

Read by the author. Josh was really engaging

What does Josh Waitzkin bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Intensity of his chess matches and martial arts tournaments would have been boring and dry if I were to read it myself. Josh made it an ' on the edge of my seat ' experience.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Laughter, anger and joy, It feels like the very emotions josh felt in his chess and martial arts tournaments

Any additional comments?

Very enjoyable. Waitzkin teaches us to love the grind as there is blood sweat tears and magic goes on in the journey towards mastery.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ant
  • 09-19-17

A great read

Loved the depth of the lessons in the autobiography, an inspirational individual. Recommended for anyone interested in what it takes to perform at an elite level

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-15-17

Amazing

Wow, what a book. Loved it. So much in here. Need to listen to it again. Josh is an inspiration. Also loved the interview at the end, but Tim lots of background noise ;)

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-15-17

loved it!

The last chapter was my favourite, but I was captivated throughout the whole book. Josh's voice is soothing and he does a great job as the narrator.

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  • Sharron
  • 06-29-17

Interesting but different to what I expected

This book contained more of the author's story than his ideas about optimal performance. But I found his story unusual and intriguing. The main take away for me, is about his precision and deliberateness of his training and how I can apply those principles. There were also some interesting perspectives on education. Worth the read.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-27-17

Listen More Than Once

Do yourself a favour and get listening to this book. There are principals in here that offer a great framework to starting any new journey.

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  • Anton
  • 01-29-17

Hard to critique this one

maybe it wasn't my thing. this guys lived an extraordinary life but for one reason or another it didn't resonate with me.

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  • Andrew
  • 01-19-17

Priceless information with subtle egoism

The lessons and wisdom shared in this book is valuable and worthwhile. I found it engaging and educational throughout and it points a way toward one's own mastery of learning. However throughout the book I felt there was something slightly off with the author's perspective. Luckily the interview at the end of the book highlighted it: The author while talking of egolessness and objectivity is in fact a little bit of a narcissist and a little bit sexist.
Take what you can use and throw the rest in the garbage.

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