The Art of Learning

I have been reading a book (no, really, a BOOK!) called The Art of Learning. It is written by Josh Waitzkin who you may have heard of if you saw the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. In this book Josh writes about his thought process of becoming a Chess Grand Master in his childhood, and then his transition into a champion in the martial arts. It is absolutely fascinating and inspiring.

My biggest take away so far is how the way people perceive themselves can affect how they learn. He says that, “…the boy figures he’s good at math and bad at English, and what’s more, he links success and failure to ingrained ability. Learning theorists, on the other hand, are given feedback that is more process oriented.” p. 32. Instead of focusing on the result of a game or a test, focus on the process, and this will lead to improvement because it is independent of the results, good or bad. We learn the most from confronting our challenges, and too often people either give up when faced with a challenge, or they live their lives avoiding the challenge because of a fear of failure. He continues on p. 33, “So how does all this affect us in our day-to-day lives? Fundamentally. The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity.” Those who learn for the reward are often afraid to push themselves because they are afraid of losing. If you love learning, then the ups and downs, while still emotional and potentially devastating, don’t have to be so and can push one forward in their pursuit of excellence.

Michael Waski