Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin

A world chess champion and a world martial art champion - two fields of achievement that seem vastly unrelated, yet Josh Waitzkin is a master of both.  That alone should make you take notice and want to find out more.  It did for me!  This a book for learners and teachers of all fields and levels of ability.  Expect to be inspired!

I first came across Josh Waitzkin through Tim Ferriss on Tim's blog.  From there I read a digital copy of Josh’s very captivating autobiography “The Art of Learning” over a very short period of time.

With a focus on his learning, and how that learning transcends the specific subject being learned, be it physical or mental, Josh details his early life from the beginnings of chess through to the completion of his Tai Chi Chuan world title.

What I enjoyed the most about this book was Josh’s way of explaining complex principles and details of learning within the context of both physical and mental disciplines.  For example, he describes how to directly control the center of the chess board and then steps it up to show how masters of the game can control the center of the board without appearing to do so, with pieces that are positioned outside the board.

In the martial arts side, he explains how many of the so-called “mysterious” powers of martial artists are really a matter of mastery of very specific techniques and a higher level of physical fitness than most people have ever experienced.

Josh emphasises the mastery of basics as a necessary foundation to excellence, and shows that it is upon these basics that highly refined skills rely upon.  This has the advantage of reducing the complexity of the learning process, to a level manageable by almost everyone, in order to reach excellence.

Reading the last few pages, I was lifted up by Josh’s words to a point that motivated me to write up a plan to conquer the world (in a good way).  This is such an inspiring read that I would recommend it to anybody.  In fact, I recommend it to everybody!

You can watch an interview of Josh Waitzkin below: