Book report: The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

Note: This is a work in progress, just finished this book and working on publishing my notes for this. Instead of waiting until I am finished to make this post live, I will just be updating it as I go.

Last update: 12/29/2014

This is just my type of book. I liked it so much I added it to my must read list. Reading List

The book is Josh breaking down what it takes to learn and embrace life and all its trials. I can totally see recommending this book after reading The Happiness Advantage.

What I hate about this book was finishing it. Recently I have been thinking about the goal of trying to read 2 books a week, but with this book I wanted to have it every day as it was really fun to read and great to start the day with. But like all things they have to come to an end.

One thing I will say, Josh, similar age, and man, I half want to hate this guy. He life seems amazing, but that is stupid thinking. I am pretty much just inspired by what his father was able to do, by helping his son have an amazing life, it really encourages me with what I can do in my kids lives.

I plan to do another post about this book, but this post will be my public notes and highlights on the book. More for me to review really but please read through them if you like, this book was a great joy to bring into my life. You should read it!


The vast majority of motivated people, young and old, make terrible mistakes in their approach to learning. They fall frustrated by the wayside while those on the road to success keep steady on their paths.

Children who are "entity theorist" -that is, kids who have been influenced by their parents and teachers to think in this manner -are prone to use language like "I am smart at this"

I like this thinking, for me I have never really looked at anything and gone, yeah thats not my thing, or I am not good at that. But I can see that easily happening. And I have been told that by my parents, but that didn't have much influence into my life. My grandmother used to always make me finish a sentence, she would say "I can" and I would have to finish it with "do all things through Christ who gives me strength". Now I am not much for the religious part but the I can part really changed my life. I know it is the source of me always knowing that I can do whatever I want to. It's like the quote from the movie The Edge:

What one man can do, another can do.

I really think its important to empower people with this type of thinking. For me its something that is important to teach my kids.

He goes on to say:

They see their overall intelligence or skill level at a certain discipline to be a fixed entity, a thing that cannot evolve.

A child with a learning theory of intelligence tends to sense that with hard work, difficult material can be grasped - step by step, incrementally, they novice can become the master.

More good stuff here to back it up with some science.

...research has shown that when challenged by difficult material, learning theorists are far more likely to rise to the level of the game, while entity theorists are more brittle and prone to quit.

I have always thought, that if things came easy to you in one subject or another that when you think you are working hard, you are looking at your peers and they are all saying wow that was hard, then you equate that to I must have been working hard as well, but it was easy for me. But when the hard finally comes for you, this is something new to you and a challenge to overcome that you have yet to learn how to overcome it. If people who had it hard from the start, push through it, when they hit these points, life is as normal. But when people who have yet to hit these points, but finally do, this can be the point where a lot of them give up.

The key to pursing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.

Someone stuck with an entity theory of intelligence is like an anorexic hermit crab, starving itself so it doesn't grow to have to find a new shell.

Successful people shoot for the stars, put their hearts on the line in every battle

I love this quote, I feel this quote is me in so many ways. I take all my work all my life and its a passion for me. I don't like to be apart of anything I don't love or care about. I have been told in the past that business is business and personal is personal or it is just work so don't make things personal. I believe in passion, I believe in making my work, my studies apart of who I am. There is no separation for me. This might leave to heartbreak at times, but it is the way of life for me. It lets me grow, it pushes me when others would stop and it lets me embrace the hard times, the now of the process of building something or being apart of something, the now of it is only appreciated if you have passion for whatever you are working on I believe.

...the real challenge is to stay in range of this long-term perspective when you are under fire and hurting in the middle of the war. This, maybe our biggest hurdle, is at the core of the art of learningBut one thing to know is that who you are if you

Short term thinking vs long term thinking. Thinking too much in the now, especially when the now is painful, will hurt you more long term, you need to always push to grow long term. Nows are special, but letting one small point in your life hurt you so bad that it changes a positive path for your future, that is detrimental.

The setbacks taught me how to succeed. And what kept me on my path was a love for learning that has its roots in my first chess lessons as a six-year-old boy.

It is important to understand that when you are in the middle of a setback, a loss, that you have to use that time to be a win in life. You have to take the moments no matter how hard it is, and use it to grow. It is not a time to quit, but a time to see why you had the setback and tighten your game.

One of the most critical strengths of a superior competitor is any discipline--whether we are speaking about sports, business negotiations, or even presidential debates--is the ability to dictate the tone of the battle.

The road to success is not easy or else everyone would be the greatest at what they do --we need to be psychologically prepared to face the unavoidable challenges along our way, and when it comes down to it, the only way to learn how to swim is by getting in the water.

Disappointment is a part of the road to greatness.

From one perspective the opponent is the enemy. On the other hand there is no one who knows you more intimately, no one who challenges you so profoundly or pushes you to excellence and growth so relentlessly.

In performance training, first we learn to flow with whatever comes. Then we learn to use whatever comes to our advantage. Finally, we learn to be completely self-sufficient and create our own earthquakes, so our mental process feeds itself explosive inspirations without the need for outside stimulus.

Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer, and it should be nurtured continuously. Left to my own devices, I am always looking for ways to become more and more psychologically impregnable. When uncomfortable, my instinct is not to avoid the discomfort but to become at peace with it. When injured, which happens frequently in the life of a martial artist, I try to avoid painkillers and to change the sensation of pain into a feeling that is not necessarily negative. My instinct is always to seek out challenges as opposed to avoiding them.

This type of thinking is important in many ways. It will turn any loss into a gain, it will turn anything hard into a growing moment. When others crumble this will be a point of growth for you.

The first mistake rarely proves disastrous, but the downward spiral of the second, third, and fourth error creates a devastating chain reaction.

This is so true, it can happen in many ways. One can be to drastically try to fix the problem, like when you are driving and something jumps out in front of you and you over correct the wheel and end up worse than if you just hit the thing. The other can be where you get hit with the loss/error or whatever and you soak, and you lose your confidence and mentally spiral into some weak state that is not really where you should be, the more you think on it, the more weaker you get.

...brilliant creations are often born of small errors.

In life, I worked on embracing change instead of fighting it. With awareness and action, in both life and chess my weakness was transformed into a strength.

I believe that one of the most critical factors in the transition to becoming a conscious high performer is the degree to which your relationship to your pursuit stays in harmony with your unique disposition. ... It is critical to integrate this new information in a manner that does not violate who we are.

Who you are is important, people will attack this on you from time to time, there will be many reasons behind the motivation behind an attack like that, there might be truth to that attack, but if that attack is something like, you care too much, you are too passionate about your work, you take your work to personally, something like that, then at that time its time to take it with a grain of salt, to pull what you can from the voice that is giving you this input, but spit the rest out. Take what you learned and add it to who you are, but make sure the core of who you are is protected.

Investment in loss is giving yourself to the learning process.