The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence

The Art of Learning: A Journey in the pursuit of excellence

The above is the title of a book by Josh Waitzkin, who was the main character in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fisher." If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s worth the time to track it down. This review, however is about the book he wrote. It is basically a travelogue and a biography of someone who displayed mastery level performance in chess at a very young age – and then moved on to tai chi and more recently mixed martial arts. His book focuses both on his own story and well as his own internal process for learning these different disciplines.

First and foremost, this book was a rush for me to read. It was fun, exciting, embarrassing, honest, and it held my interest right to the end. A real page turner. He seems to have the knack for blocking out all the common obstacles to learning – and has developed the ability to soak in huge amounts of material and systematically take these bits and pieces to mastery levels of "unconscious competence" in record time. In short, this book is not at all about NLP but rather about a man who has developed a real love of learning – as well as a passion for transferring and sharing these skills with others. In the book, he breaks down his learning strategy into his own enigmatic categories such as making smaller circles, and beginners mind, and investing in loss.

1. The book is fun-to-read, conversational in tone, interesting, and adventurous.
2. The book integrates his life story with his ideas and lessons seamlessly. And the stories are often hilarious and highly memorable.
3. The lessons in the "art of learning" can be applied across disciplines. While gleaned from chess and martial arts, they can help people of all ages to learn just about anything.
4. The book has an empowering feel and logically discusses how parents and teachers often hinder/assist the learning process by focusing on scoring well (winning) vs. skill building (and enjoying the process).
5. There is a focus on identifying and nurturing our own unique style in whatever skill we are developing.

1. This is not a book about NLP.
2. The learning patterns in the book are easy to understand, but could be considered quite vague. What he lacks in precise description (it’s not a cookbook) – he tends to make up for with interesting and entertaining examples and explanations.
3. Many of the stories made me laugh so hard, people around me thought I was crazy.

All in all this book is not about identifying learning styles, or using NLP to help people learn faster. For me, it was a riveting story about a person who developed mastery across several disciplines, learned to map his own inner process for rapid learning, and has a passion for sharing his love of learning with people of all ages. Many of the themes in the book do have an NLP flavor and the author seems to naturally express what is often called an NLP attitude. If chess, martial arts, or the learning process are of interest to you, then this book is highly recommended.

The following are a few videos about Josh and the book:

YouTube – Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning

YouTube – Searching for Bobby Fischer’s Josh Waitzkin w/ Jim Clash


The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence

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