The Art of Learning

  • by Josh Waitzkin
  • Narrated by Josh Waitzkin
  • 7 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.


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- hardgainer

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.
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- James

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-01-2014
  • Publisher: Tim Ferriss