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The Art of Learning: A Journey in the…

The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence (2007)

by Josh Waitzkin

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5521528,217 (3.88)6
In his riveting new book, The Art of Learning, Waitzkin tells his remarkable story of personal achievement and shares the principles of learning and performance that have propelled him to the top--twice. 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." With a narrative that combines heart-stopping martial arts wars and tense chess face-offs with life lessons that speak to all of us, The Art of Learning takes readers 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. Through his own example, Waitzkin explains how to embrace defeat and make mistakes work for you. Does your opponent make you angry? Waitzkin describes how to channel emotions into creative fuel. As he explains it, obstacles are not obstacles but challenges to overcome, to spur the growth process by turning weaknesses into strengths. He illustrates the exact routines that he has used in all of his competitions, whether mental or physical, so that you too can achieve your peak performance zone in any competitive or professional circumstance. 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 page-turning narrative.… (more)



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Interesting and engaging book, inspires me to re-watch the movie and check out the book behind the movie as well. Will be doing further reading on many topics introduced in the book, very thought-provoking.
( )
  danhibbert | Sep 9, 2019 |
Josh Waitzkin talks about performance psychology and how to get your head into the game. The author is quite familiar with being in competition, so his insights are quite valuable. The first section talks about his experience in the Chess world. It discusses his relationship with Bruce Pandolfini and some other masters along with the psychological aspects of competing. The second section talks about his experiences in Tai Chi Chuan. The third section gives more general advice for other things.

Waitzkin also talks about cultivating the proper attitude towards competition and losing in particular. He doesn't have a perfect record in either Chess or Tai Chi Chuan, but his attitude allows him to rebound and take his losses as learning experiences. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Josh Waitzkin is something as unusual as a (former) elite chess player and a world champion in a (no-bullshit) martial art. In this book, he tells about his strategies for learning and dealing with challenges in these endeavors. Waitzkin's story is interesting in itself and many will probably take away some things they can use for themselves. He thinks focusing on chess openings in an early learning stage leads to an unhealthy focus on simply winning as opposed to learning and mastering the game and that it is better to learn the endgame first. At one stage, he was distracted by noise, etc, but then learnt to play with them and practiced with loud music. Interval training good to improve recovery from exertions and release tension. Has a fairly detailed exposition of how he worked with a guy, "Dennis", working in finance to develop a "hot button" for focus: First, combine a cue with good feelings with something one has been in the desired state when doing, combine several times to strengthen, then use as trigger for focus at work or in other arenas. First long routine, then shorten gradually. Learnt to ignore emotions, then to use them. Use temporary setback, e.g. injury, to develop other, perhaps surprising areas. Many of Waitzkin's strategies are nothing new, but he also does not present them as revolutionary, what is interesting is how he has applied them to perform at high levels. And, as mentioned, his story is interesting in itself. At the end, I learnt that he is also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, further strengthening his credibility. Recommended. ( )
  ohernaes | May 2, 2019 |
Josh Waitzkin spent his childhood becoming a master of chess and in adulthood he has become a master of the martial art of Tai Chi Chuan. In The Art of Learning he explores the principles of learning that have helped him succeed.

Waitzkin spends a lot of time telling stories about his experiences that illustrate how he came to learn these principles. These are great stories, however, I would like to focus on the principles he gleans from them. I definitely suggest reading his book to gain more insight into these concepts and how he came to learn them.

These are great principles for adult learners seeking to improve their skills, learn new mental or physical techniques, and gain confidence. I am most intrigued by the concept of stress and recovery and how interval training for the body can also affect the mind. ( )
  debs4jc | Dec 17, 2018 |
This book is part auto-biography and guide on becoming an elite performer. The author Josh Waitzkin is known for being a world class chess player AND a world class martial artist. He is most known for being the inspiration for the movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer. He writes about his chess beginnings and his development into a chess Grandmaster. He also elaborates on how his chess knowledge and thinking enabled him to become a Push Hands Tai Chi world champion. While some of his thinking is too spiritual for my tastes, he does offer a look into his thought process, how he trains and prepares, and how he competes. It's a fascinating glimpse into the mind of an incredible high performer. ( )
  trile1000 | Jul 1, 2018 |
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One has to investigate the principle in one thing or one event exhaustively . . . Things and the self are governed by the same principle. If you understand one, you understand the other, for the truth within and the truth without are identical. - Er Cheng Yishu, 11th century
For my mom,

my hero,

Bonnie Waitzkin
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Forty seconds before round two, and I'm lying on my back trying to breathe.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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