The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

IBSN: 978-0743277464
Read: 16-07-2016
Rating: 8/10


“It is rarely a mysterious technique that drives us to the top, but rather a profound mastery of what may well be a basic skill set. Depth beats breadth any day of the week, because it’s opens the channels for the intangible, unconscious, creative components of our hidden potential”

This was the first physical book I’ve read in a while – smells much better than a kindle! Thin pages feel lovely.

The Art of Learning was an important book for me. I will return to it time and time again. I loved Waitzkin’s approach: Do more with less. Go for depth over breadth. Get into the micro and discover the macro from there.

It’s important to learn in a way that matches your unique disposition. Don’t try to fit a round peg into a square hole. The generally accepted way of the world is to do what your teacher / parents / friends say. There is a connection here to The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and his idea of the “domestication of humans”. We are told stories all our lives which we believe and buy into. Then we tell stories to ourselves and buy into them. To combat this and unlock your unique disposition, Waitzkin advocates meditation, deep introspection and presence:

We see more as we walk down the street. The everyday becomes exquisitely beautiful. The notion of boredom becomes alien and absurd as we naturally soak in the lovely subtleties of the “banal”. All experiences become richly intertwined by our new vision, and then new connections begin to emerge. Rainwater streaming on a city pavement will teach a pianist how to flow. A leaf gliding easily with the wind will teach a controller how to let go. A house cat will teach me how to move. This book is about learning and performance but it is also about my life. Presence has taught me how to live.

I loved the concept of the soft zone. We cannot control what happens in our lives. We can only control our response. We cannot impose our wishes on an unpredictable world. When we do, we get angry and frustrated – this is the hard zone. The soft zone is when we roll with what happens to us. Like at this particular moment in time for me – my girlfriend is watching TV and I’d prefer to be writing in silence. I feel a frustration in me but being present to that emotion and being able to witness it as opposed to being ruled by it is what the soft zone is all about.


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