The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin - Book Summary

The Art of Learning (2007) provides readers with the most fundamental knowledge to improve mental performance. In the book, the author mainly refers to his experience through his career as a grandmaster and practicing martial arts, thereby showing readers the methods that we can apply to "force" the brain. work stronger, faster and more efficiently.

Target audience

From professionals who are looking to improve performance in their field to workers who need to better adapt to a stressful environment or anyone with an interest in psychological issues, this is a must. to which the Art of Learning is directed.

About the author

Josh Waitzkin is a chess grandmaster with 8 times worldwide champion, along with dozens of other martial arts championship titles. He regularly gives lectures on mental performance and is the president of a non-profit organization named after him. This organization primarily sponsors educational events to maximize the potential of young students.

To win, learn to lose first

It is obvious that none of us like to be a loser. Whether in a game of tennis, a contest for promotion or simply a game of chess, losing is not what the average person is all about. But should we assume that losing isn't sometimes as negative as we think it is?

The truth is, failure also has a good side. That was the first lesson Josh learned at the age of 10 when he entered the adult chess tournament. Starting the season with many defeats made him frustrated. And then, he looked back on his performance and asked himself, “Am I really that bad?” Then Josh realized, he lost because of lack of focus. In the adult tournament, the legal game length is twice as long as the junior tournament. At the age of 10, Josh is completely inexperienced and tough enough to match the intense concentration of older opponents. Losing the match made him realize that endurance was his only weakness and from there Josh focused on improving it.

If you want to improve your work efficiency, you must always go up against stronger opponents. Investing in failure is the return of opportunities to learn and improve. No matter what your area of ​​expertise is, this lesson holds true even for young children.

Today, teachers and parents believe that competitions have a bad effect on their children, but the opposite is true: the right amount of competition will equip them with the necessary equipment to cope. face difficulties later in life. So how many new contests is enough? One way to answer this question is to try to achieve short-term goals first to reach long-term goals, then we will know how much is enough.

The process of learning will always bring hurt

Natural talent will take you far, but to be the best you must always be willing to learn. That is, you will have to deal with mistakes and factors that hurt you. It sounds daunting, but it's an inevitable part of the learning process.

In the process of accepting new things, we almost always feel weak, exhausted and hopeless both mentally and physically. A boxer with a strong right arm but a weak left arm is sure to take dozens of punches and go through a string of tough fights while he learns to use his left hand more effectively.

Although we know that it is difficult to come up from reality, make mistakes and progress slowly, so each of us must make sure that we never doubt ourselves. If that happens, it will bring us downhill, causing us to berate ourselves for all the little mistakes. And from there, our ability to reach our goals gradually sinks into the deep sea.

Fortunately, there is a way to end this vicious cycle, taking a step back every time you make a mistake. If anything goes wrong during training and practice, first keep your mind clear and clear. Everyone has their own way of doing it, from taking a deep breath, soaking your face in cold water or running fast for the entire football field! Whether it works for you or not, each of us needs a secret of our own to keep positive energy flowing.

Stay abreast and increase learning

Of all the motivated and talented people in the world, only a few of them do great things. Why? Unfortunately, many people deviate from their path to success after just one mistake. This is the learning approach that should be avoided.

When you see your intelligence, skills, and talents as a mutable entity, success or failure seems to be the result of the amount of entity you have. This frustrates you very quickly when you face life's difficulties, because then you believe that if you don't get over the obstacles the first time, you won't be able to overcome them the next time. follow.

In short, the entity approach gives you a very misleading view of the concept of real learning. If you want to learn from the mistakes and omissions that are inevitable in training, you must develop a reinforcement approach.

Using intensive development methods combined with hard work allows one to grasp all the concepts and skills. In an elementary school classroom in the US, the teacher gave students problems so it was easy to see the difference between these two approaches. The whole class solved it very quickly and progressed to problems that were so difficult that no one could solve them. At that time, the children with the physical approach became frustrated very quickly, while the reinforcement approach showed great interest.

Finally, on the third turn, the teacher brought the class back to the easy problems. The reinforcement approach group once again showed superiority, on the contrary, the entity approach group could not solve this exercise due to the loss of self-belief.  

Practice turning skills into reflexes

Most of us think that the incredible speed and flexibility of a martial artist is unattainable. But is that true? These masters simply practice, practice, and practice every day to the point that they reach the level of competition intuitively. You can do it too, but how is it important?

People say, practice brings perfection. From patterns to tactics to techniques can all become natural and become your instinctive wisdom if you practice and apply enough. For example, everyone who is new to chess will find that each piece has many trade-offs – the Queen is sometimes equal to three pawns.

At first, the players will calculate the move in their head, but the higher they go, they won't do that anymore. To a certain extent, what seemed like machines gradually became intuitive and reflexive. The game is only really interesting when the combinations of moves eat into your blood. Skilled and experienced players apply tactics very skillfully with very small changes to confuse their opponents and thereby gain an advantage. The biggest benefit of practicing intuition is freeing the mind. When you don't have to remember how tactical models need to be deployed, you can free your mind to focus on the finer details.

Being bothered is a good opportunity to practice resilience

Imagine: You are very focused when the phone rings or your children run into the room to play with you or your lover asks you a very important question to her. Do you feel uncomfortable?

When you react to being bothered with irritation, stress or anger, you are in a negative zone. In that situation, you just want the world to fulfill your desires. But the world doesn't work that way! You have to learn to improvise with situations that are even beyond human imagination.

By entering the positive zone, you will face and accept difficulties no matter how daunting they may be. Along with that, the positive zone helps you become more resilient and tough.

For example, a player loses the most important game of the season because of a song playing in his head. The song distracts him. Under the intense pressure of the game, even a small detail can affect a player's ultimate concentration, reducing his ability to calculate. Realizing his problem, he started listening to music while playing chess at home. But instead of ignoring the song's melody, the player recited it. Singing while playing chess increases concentration by a factor of two.

Studying also needs a break

We all know that a good night's sleep is vital to achieving peak performance. But many students accept to trade that precious time to study at night. Let's leave!

Insufficient rest leads to an inefficient, inaccurate sequence of thoughts over and over. Our minds can only focus on a single thing for a limited amount of time. After resting, the mind will be purified and focused better.

High-performance players can recover full mental strength after only a brief rest, sometimes as little as a minute of relaxation between rounds of the game. Psychologists at the Human Behavior Institute (HPI) point out that training for short periods of time is the key to increased productivity.

So how to practice mind recovery? The method that the book offers is “Cardiovascular Distance”. This means that you will work at a high intensity combined with continuous short breaks. HPI found that this method helps you relieve stress very quickly and restore your mind effectively. Like cycling continuously to increase the heart rate, then gradually slow down to return the heart rate to normal and then accelerate again. Keep repeating.

The more you do, the longer it takes to raise your heart rate and the shorter it takes to lower it. Regular, intense exercise will increase your endurance, helping you to relax more effectively when needed.

Make a schedule to enter the ZONE

According to the definition of psychology, ZONE is a psychological state in which all your actions will be immersed in the flow of emotional energy. You are completely focused on what you do. The period of entering the ZONE is when your productivity is at its peak.

Did you have any difficulty entering the ZONE? Do you feel distracted when attending a meeting or facing a deadline? Have you ever wished with just one switch, you could go in and out of the ZONE as you please?

The good news is: this must also be impossible. By setting and practicing on a schedule, you can achieve peak performance. Think of the moment when you are 100% completely aware of pure focus, the moment when everything around you ceases to exist.

Take the example of a swimming competition. Try creating a short 5-step schedule: have a snack, practice breathing for 15 minutes and relax, stretch for 10 minutes, and listen to your favorite song. Then go swimming, you will see the difference!

If you repeat this process over and over, you'll create a link between your pre-swimming warm-up schedule and your competitive performance. Until this process becomes completely natural to you, try applying it to work, meetings. With a little change like a snack to a big breakfast, stretch periods, think down to a few minutes, and listen to music on the commute from home to work.

My words to readers

Anyone can achieve high performance with the right mindset, perseverance, dedication and strategy. Using different psychological methods, you can use your full potential to focus and relax. Entering the ZONE or exiting it whenever you need to is extremely simple.