Aug. 4, 2019

Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin: How to learn anything

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About the Author

Josh Waitzkin first caught a glimpse of a chess set while 6 years old and walking with his mother in New York City’s Washington Square Park. He was going to play on the monkey bars, and instead he fell in love with the art that would dominate much of his young life.

Josh’s first teachers were down and out hustlers–street virtuosos who took Josh under their wings and cleaned up their acts when their protégé came to play.

At twenty-one, Josh began to transition away from his early career in chess and into the study of the chinese martial art, Tai Chi Chuan with Grandmaster William CC Chen.

He was drawn into the art by his love for eastern philosophy and meditation, and by the desire to begin a learning process anew, as a total beginner, away from the spotlight that constantly followed his chess career.

Initially Josh had no intention of competing in the martial arts, but there was no stopping the inevitable. He’s gone on to win countless medals, international competitions and acclaim as a competitor.

In 2008, Waitzkin founded The JW Foundation, an educational non-profit dedicated to an individualized approach to learning, and he currently serves as president of the organization. In addition to consulting internationally on the subjects of performance psychology, the learning process and creativity, Josh is currently focusing on his third art:
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Don’t try and follow Josh online, he’s famously anti-social media.


Click here to buy on The Book Depository

About the Book

In 2007, Josh released his second book, The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance.

The book is an autobiographical discussion of the learning process and performance psychology. Drawn from Josh’s experiences in both chess and the martial arts.

In The Art of Learning Josh reveals his unique systems of thematic learning, idea generation, building resilience, and mastering the art of performance psychology.



Listen to some very deep interviews with Josh here:

Listen to the latest Tim Ferriss interview with Josh. It’s all about learning to surf (this isn’t yet uploaded to Josh’s website in the link above)

Read the first chapter of the Art of Learning here: learning

Join Josh’s Art of Learning project here:

BIG IDEA 1 (3:46) – Excellence is in the long game.

Josh talks about fixed and incremental (or growth) mindset. The incremental mindset is the key to getting better. He saw many kids playing chess growing up whose self worth was wrapped in something that was very fragile (them winning). Therefore struggled to cope with losing.

When he was little he practiced a lot and was regularly thinking about performance, psychology and resilience. He thought about how he can maintain resilience, good mindset and how to get better. He talks about going from the safety of playing against mediocre players to playing with players who are more challenging in order to improve.

BIG IDEA 2 (6:02) – Embrace chaos.

This about the fact that conditions can’t always be perfect. Therefore top performers need to be unrattled by imperfect conditions. He saw particularly in the kids circuit that some kids launch psychological warfare on their opponent in order to rattle them.

Josh learned how to switch on almost immediately when faced with unexpected circumstances. Whether it’s listening to a particular song or taking a couple of breaths, whatever it was, he needed to get back into the flow state and quickly. Because conditions will not always be perfect, you need to learn to adapt to that.

Find what gives you order but also learn to live without it. If you have things that you need for the condition to be perfect, you are potentially not as adaptable as you could be, and can be thrown easier. 

BIG IDEA 3 (9:35) – Find coaches and the beginner’s mind.

All the way through his different arts Josh found the right coaches. He found people who are masters of their field and learned from them. They were very carefully chosen and it was always very intentional when he chose to leave them. This is when they didn’t challenge him enough or came to a plateau where he couldn’t be taken forward any longer. 

He talks about his coaches and how they are a fundamental part of his success. If you look at elite performers in business, sports or whatever field, all of them have had mentors, coaches etc. helping them along the way. 

The point on the beginner’s mind is about breaking skills down. It’s about breaking down the component parts and the skills needed to be excellent. 

Josh also talks about creating the discipline for the elemental practice. It’s the mastery of the basics that make you good. The beginner’s mind is also about putting your ego to the side and looking at things from a fresh sense.

Music By:  Vuelta al Sol Song byTomas Novoa

Click here to buy on The Book Depository

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