Michael's Reviews > The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
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May 16, 2009

Read in May, 2009

Josh Waitzkin grabbed my attention with his experiences in two of my favorite pastimes--Chess and Martial Arts. World Chess champion and subject of the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer", he is the perfect person to talk about the pressures of both celebrity and success. He is also on the mark with his observations on martial arts success, as the holder of 21 national championships and a world championship title in taijiquan. In this book he talks about how to learn and achieve peak performance in high pressure, competitive venues; he imparts wisdom on the mental techniques and attitudes that carry a great performer to the highest levels of performance.
The lesson I think I will most take away from this book, though, is his comments about "recovery." I have often practiced hard, worked hard, rethought, and done much of what Waitzkin has to improve myself; but there is one thing I left out, and that is the magic of recovery--giving it a rest. I have had a tendency to think that if I stay on task and work the problem, it will buckle under the pressure, only to find that it's me that almost buckles. Waitzkin's revelations about letting it go, resting, then going hard at it again; using wait time to store up reserve energy, and taking the time to get it all back together after a failure is something I will immediately apply. There is much in the chapter on "building your own triggers" I inted to put to use, too.
Books like this are rare, a combination of wisdom, technique and philosophy, practically applied that imparts principles that can actually apply to your own situation. In the area of self improvement books, Waitzkin is a true gem. And as a biography, it's very unique. Read it!

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message 1: by Chason (new) - added it

Chason Like you I have learned the recovery lesson the hard way. Remember how you hurt your back a few weeks ago. Well, I hurt my back in a similar way last Thursday evening. My tendency is to try to push through the pain, but I know from past experience that only leads to more pain and additional recovery time. For those of us who like to stay in peak physical condition and who exercise regularly, it can be extremely difficult to take a day (or several days) off in order to "recover." Unfortunately, if we don't give our bodies time to recover they will surely let us know! By the way, my back is nearly back to 100%. Nice review.


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