Do you want to understand the art of learning? Know the science of how to think more clearly and perform better? Improve your mental performance and become the best student you can be. Then read on for StudyStream's summary of the incredible book The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin.
About the author
The author of the book Josh Waitzkin is an eight-time national chess champion who has won many world titles in martial arts. He is well known for giving seminars on performance psychology and enriching the lives of students with his knowledge of maximizing potential and mental performance.
Losing must come before winning
Losing and failure are a part of life. None of us like it but it’s part of the process. But Waitzkin reveals the positive benefits of losing and how without it, we never truly understand what it is to win. He realized from his own experience that he was losing matches because he lacked the same focus as his older opponents, he realized that it was his weakness, and he began to work towards improving his mental performance. One way to improve this level of performance is to find someone better than you and aim to become just like them. This is a true way to learn and test yourself, no matter what subject or study, or job you have. Losing must come before winning, you have to learn to fail before you can experience the win you are searching for.
Presence of mind
To perform at a high level, we must focus on the present moment. This is a skill that needs to be practiced and when we are truly in the moment, our brains are more focused, absorbing more information, and ready to work. “The secret is that everything is always on the line. The more present we are at practice, the more present we will be in competition, in the boardroom, at the exam, at the operating table, the big stage. If we have any hope of attaining excellence, let alone of showing what we’ve got under pressure, we have to be prepared by a lifestyle of reinforcement. Presence must be like breathing.”
Develop a growth mindset
Josh Waitzkin believes that all things are connected and when you see things this way it will accelerate your ability to learn. When you see that your losses and wins, success and failures are all part of the same journey and it doesn’t matter what happens, it’s the experience that matters, you free yourself up to gain invaluable knowledge and skills. “When aiming for the top, your path requires an engaged, searching mind. You have to make obstacles spur you to creative new angles in the learning process. Let setbacks deepen your resolve. You should always come off an injury or a loss better than when you went down.”
Be clear about your goal
Be clear about your goal and expectations of yourself. “There’s a big difference between people who are decent at what they do and those who are great at what they do and those who want to be great and those who want to be among the best.” Ask yourself, what is your goal? Are you aiming to be the top surgeon in your field? Do you want to be the greatest human rights lawyer? Are you wanting to be a world-class psychologist? Whatever your goal, be clear about it and know if you want to be a decent version of yourself or if you want to be the greatest possible version of yourself. Do you have high standards for yourself? Are you pushing yourself enough?
Stay true to yourself
There is no one right way to learn or gain a new skill but there is a wrong way and that is not staying true to yourself. To sustain your love for learning and the subject you are passionate about, you need to be the unique person that you are and embrace it. “Our natural voice is what grounds us as we encounter challenges and opportunities along the learning process.” Focus on what captured your interest in the first place and ask yourself why you do what you do. Sometimes going back to the beginning and realizing what brought you to your current subject or chosen profession is the best way to stay grounded and true to yourself and your life purpose.
Read more about the best ways to become a better learner by reading The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzin. And we will leave you with this quote by him “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. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.”