Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Art of Learning

Do you remember the movie Searching For Bobby Fischer? It's about a child prodigy named Josh Waitzkin, who dominated chess matches from a tender young age. Well, he is the author of this book I just read, The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance.

You can't be blamed for thinking "What can an extremely talented guy teach me about learning? Things probably just come to him really easily." I don't think it's as simple as that, for two main reasons.

First, I doubt you can rise to the top of a field like chess without learning your way to the top. You have to study your own games, and those of other players, if you're going to adapt and grow as a player. If you don't, you're just reinventing the wheel as you play, and therefore will be passed by those who are learning.

Second, and perhaps more convincingly, Waitzkin has managed to become a top player in not just chess, but also in the martial arts. He is no one-trick pony, and so I would submit that his skill may not be some intangible talent but rather his ability to learn.

If you've read other books on learning, a lot of the material will be familiar to you. But Waitzkin puts his personal spin on all of it, applying it to examples in his own life where he has employed these methods and how they turned out for him. In some respects, the book felt like it was more about him than it was about learning. The material doesn't feel as generalized as in other books about learning, because Waitzkin applies everything very specifically to his experiences in chess and martial arts.

For anyone interested in learning how to learn more efficiently, I highly recommend the book.

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