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
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 07-12-15

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.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By charles knape on 05-06-15


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

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By thomas on 16-01-15

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.

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16 of 16 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By James on 15-06-14

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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48 of 51 people found this review helpful

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