I first heard about The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin from Tim Ferriss’ podcast or blog, I forget which one. Either way, he had called it one of the best resources on developing the mind for competition, daily life, and mental focus. Taking it one step further, he actually invested money into acquiring the rights to the book. Since I’m a big fan of Tim Ferriss and his work, I decided to pick up the audiobook on Audible. Here is a brief summary about what this book is about, my thoughts on the Audible version, and why you should consider reading/listening to it as well.
If you have never heard of Josh Waitzkin before like myself, he’s a world champion chess player and world champion in push-hands Tai Chi. Two pretty monumental accomplishments, even if you know nothing about the two sports (like me). Josh was actually the star of the documentary “Searching for Bobby Fisher”, which was about the search for the world’s next chess prodigy, and Josh is definitely that prodigy. At the age of 6, he took up playing chess in a local park and began a long career competing at the highest levels of chess. At some point during his teenage years, he took up Tai Chi as a means of mental conditioning and took off running with that as well, eventually becoming a push-hands martial arts world champion.
While the book goes into great detail about the art of chess, Tai Chi, and the competition aspects of both, Josh uses these two as allegories to explain his thoughts and beliefs on developing mental focus, physical conditioning, and composure under stress.
Learning through The Art of Learning
No let me rephrase that, it isn’t just about his thoughts and beliefs. It’s a systematic breakdown of his mental processes and development. He has the uncanny ability to be keenly observant of his own body, emotions, and mindset. Like Tim Ferriss, he also likes to experiment, interpret, and figure out what works and why. He’s distilled years of insight in the art of learning into one book.. called.. well. The Art of Learning.
One of the big things that finally sold me on this book was Robert Persig’s endorsement of this book as one he “wishes he had found sooner in his life.” If you don’t know Robert Persig, he’s famous for his magnificent soliloquy “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance“, which is less about motorcycles and more a philosophical journey into learning, perception, and the development of the mind. (In fact, you should do yourself a favor and read that too)
I won’t delve too greatly into the wisdom of The Art of Learning for fear of watering down the lessons and narrative, but suggest you read it if you feel like tapping into the mind of greatness and improving your ability to compete, learn, and evolve. THis is one of the few books I would recommend to a friend who feels stuck in life, underdeveloped, or ill equipped, mentally, to take on problems, tasks, or their own personal growth.
So get it.