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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.

©2007 Josh Waitzkin LLC (P)2014 Tim Ferriss

What listeners say about The Art of Learning

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Enjoyable Small Parts but Overall Unsatisfactory

Perhaps I had some preconceived notions of how amazing this book was going to be as it was recommended by a friend of mine who had a lot of praise for it. I didn’t think I was going to read so much about Josh Waitzkin’s life and while there were some tidbits I enjoyed ( the end of the Tim Ferris podcast at the end “don’t forget the love” the nod to something he calls the “Soft Zone” as well as the explanation between “Entity Learners” versus “Incremental Learners” ) the majority of this book simply felt like I was listening to a not so great friend tell their life story of chess and martial arts while I knew nothing about either of those topics but was too polite to interrupt. Ok book, if it’s been recommended to you, read it, if not, don’t.

1 person found this helpful

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Nothing learned but about chess and martial arts

I would stay away from this book if you are looking for anything practical. It's just a life story about chess and martial arts and the inner peace and mindset about each and perhaps how they relate. #Audible1

3 people found this helpful

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Importance of being present

This book really draws the listener into the thought process of an incredible athlete and artist.

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  • GT
  • 2020-07-31

Deceiving title

More of an autobiography. Too much reference to martial arts and chess. Should be called Strategies in chess and martial arts.

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pay attention!

Josh is somewhat of a unicorn. I've listened to this book 3 times now and I still feel like I'm rediscovering it for the first time. make sure not to speed through this absolute gem

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Loved Every Minute of This Audiobook

This was recommended by my personal trainer and glad that I listened to this audiobook. It's a really good item to listen to, and helped me during a challenging time in my life. Once you start listening to it, you'll listen to the very end. I finished it in about 4 days.

The podcast at the end of the book is awesome as well.

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Inspiration.

Just a well written and deeply thoughtful book. If something here does not inspire you, you must not be breathing.

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Engaging and insightful

Few people cross the threshold of excellence in more than one field. Fewer still do so in fields both cerebral and physical. Josh shares how he accomplishes this through passion, dedication and training, and the mental acuity to:
1. Focus on what really matters.
2. Fight the mental demons that hold you back.

Wonderful to hear his words in his voice.

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Really an autobiography

Really, this is an autobiography of the author's own learning process, generalized. Just the same, I think it makes compelling reading for those who like to understand their own learning process.

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Amazing

Really enjoy this book and all the incremental details on how to have more control over your learning experiences and of course recognizing what can be used as learning experiences

Congratulations on all your success. Would like to check out your bjj gym one day

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  • James
  • 2014-06-15

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.

121 people found this helpful

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  • Sergey Antopolskiy
  • 2016-04-27

Takes your introspection to the next level

This book in incredible, I honestly did not think it would be so profound. Perhaps its message and style wouldn't suite other people, but for someone like me, who is always struggling with motivation/procrastination, trying to deconstruct his own behavior and decisions, lifelong learners, parents, over-achievers... Yes, it is certainly worth it.

The book doesn't give you a solution, and it doesn't claim to. But it gives you a path and a glimpse of the solution.

Besides, it is just plain fascinating for Josh's story of chess and martial arts careers.

P.S. Beware that the book is actually only ~6 hours long. The last ~1.5 hours is a podcast-interview with Josh, done by (somewhat famous) Tim Ferriss. It is useful for sure, but I just wanted to make this clear, because it surprised me.

42 people found this helpful

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  • thomas
  • 2015-01-16

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.

26 people found this helpful

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  • ParkerWest
  • 2016-12-20

Now what I expected

This book is largely a collection anecdotal stories about how the author mastered chess and tai chi chuan. I many ways it seems like a long promotion for tai chi chuan. There are, however, some nuggets of wisdom on how to apply learning techniques for mastering other subjects. Overall, a good read but I think the title is misleading. One should also be aware that Tim Ferris owns the rights to this book, which is likely a big reason for his heavy promotion of it.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Adriana
  • 2015-01-19

Terrific and valuable

I read some reviews stating that this book was merely a biography of Josh . Yet this is one biography that is filled with many kernels of wisdom. If you are not receptive or it is not time for you to appreciate this it will pass you by. This is a very honest and hard-working account of a person who reached the highest levels of intellectual and physical prowess. At the end in the final interview with Tim Ferris you get a few more insights into Josh's life.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Scott
  • 2015-07-24

Great stories and amazing person - less rich in practical details

Amazing book and story. Thoughtful book that really makes you think about how you can improve your focus and learning processes. Light on practical details but picked up a handful of great pointers. Notes below!

Entity Theory vs. Learning Theory
Fixed Intelligence vs. Process oriented

Depth over breadth. The power f the micro to understand the macro. I.e. Writing about one small brick of a building versus the whole town.

Chunking - carved pathways
Allows you to see less but more. I.e. When you start compounding multiple chunks of patterns and pathways they give you the ability to breakdown complex situations easily by focusing on the "higher level groupings" and the underlying logic and other chunks that support each grouping are nearly subconscious.

Intuition
Reading and manipulating footwork
Your opponent moves, then you move first.

Setting a trigger to get in the zone - work backwards. Find out what soothes you (throwing ball with son). Then set up a routine ahead of that soothing moment then begin to physiology connect the two in order to routine.
Then gradually alter the routine to make the trigger condense add

Handling anger in peak performance (I.e. Getting head butted, dirty players, etc.).
Must channel our emotions and use them as deep pools of inspiration. I.e. Talking back to Jordan would actually expire him and sharpen his game.
Easy to be non-violent in a rose garden.

Best Practices:
Meditating
Ending work day with good work.
Journaling at end of work day

19 people found this helpful

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  • Kristine Calleja
  • 2015-01-17

a book to meditate on and with

listened to w/a speed of 1, not the usual 1.5 or 2. depth, not breadth.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Joe Who'sit
  • 2020-01-05

more Of a story

This was more of a story about a guy who's a chess player in a fighter it's not really a lot about how to learn. But it was a good story

3 people found this helpful

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  • hardgainer
  • 2014-04-05

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.

76 people found this helpful

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  • anon
  • 2014-04-05

One of the best books i have ever read

What did you love best about The Art of Learning?

The psychology behind mastering and learning anything can be learned from this book. If you are obsessive about whatever you put your focus into and are constantly reviewing yourself and performance trying to achieve always higher levels, this book is for you. Loved the ideas about chunking, and subconcious abilities in addition to focus and basics. Learned so much that i'm anxious to start trying in my own life.

What does Josh Waitzkin bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Amazing experiences told by a great story teller who has lived the adventures first hand. It's not often that someone is a master of chess and martial arts (at least from my experience). Interesting individual with remarkable ability to learn and master. Loved the interview with Tim Ferris at the end as well.

Any additional comments?

Seems that the principles in this book can apply to anything from boxing, learning piano, learning to draw, raising and motivating children to name a few.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Assalas
  • 2021-01-05

Disappointment !

This bokk is not about learning. It's about writer passion, Tai Chi. It's boring except some passages, where the writer try to justify the title... I wasted my time!

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  • Gael Gendre
  • 2018-07-28

Bonne orientation

Ce livre donne de belles pistes de travail. Après il reste à les exploiter !

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-06-01

Thank you so much

Many insights, really inspiring and human. As a quite impatient and motivated art student I would say, it was the book I needed to help me build strong bases and foundations for my learning process and pratices.

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  • Julien
  • 2017-10-24

Plus une biographie

Je m'attendais à un livre méthodique sur l'apprentissage, et j'ai été agréablement surpris par une auto-biographie entraînante et sublime à écouter. Je recommande à tous les gens qui cherche à atteindre une vision paisible et fluide de l'apprentissage et la performance.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2017-09-30

not a how to learn book

just a biography with no learning insides; the title is misleading, didn't like it at all

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  • Youcef
  • 2016-08-13

Absolutely beautiful

Thank you so much John, your book is as artful as your achievements in this lifetime.

Thanks