Josh Waitzkin: How to Cram 2 Months of Learning Into 1 Day – The Tim Ferriss Show

Check out The Tim Ferriss Show Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • No matter what you’re practicing, always finish strong 
  • Align your peak energy periods with peak creativity work and actually schedule thinking time into your calendar
  • An exercise that’s helped Josh and many of his clients:
    • End your day thinking about an important question and then wake up the next morning (pre-input, before checking your phone or any news) and brainstorm on it (either on paper or in something like Evernote)
  • Practice the art of letting go and turning it on/off
    • “Most people in high-stress industries are always operating at this simmering 6, as opposed to the undulation between deep relaxation and being at a 10”
  • Cultivate empty space in your life to escape the noise and really focus on what matters most
    • “If you get away from a lot of the noise, it’s much easier to take that 30,000-foot view and see what really matters”

Intro

What’s Josh been up to?

  • Josh fell in love with surfing a few years back, but problematically was living in New York City
  • A year and a half ago, Josh and his family moved to “his favorite place on Earth” (an undisclosed place in Latin America where the jungle meets the Pacific Ocean)
    • While here, Josh took up foil training (AKA foiling – it’s surfing on a 5-foot surfboard with a short mast)
      • Josh has been using the Lift eFoil
      • “Foiling is at the cutting edge of the surf world”

Deliberate Practice and Harnessing Unconscious Learning

  • Josh used to ski with Billy Kidd, an Olympic champion
    • Billy told Josh that the three most important turns of a ski run are the last three turns before you get on the lift (where most people tend to be pretty sloppy)
      • “The last three turns are what you’re going to be internalizing on the lift ride up”
  • No matter what you’re practicing, always finish strong 
    • In theory, the last thing you do is what burns most deeply into your brain overnight

What types of biomarkers does Josh track in his coaching clients?

  • “What I’ve come to focus on most deeply is heart rate variability (HRV)”
    • Josh has a brilliant HRV specialist (Dr. Leah Lagos) who helps him out
    • HRV, in a sense, is an indication of relaxation
    • Josh says every person has a unique resonance breathing frequency (which a HRV specialist can help you discover)
      • Breathing to your unique resonance frequency raises your alpha waves, moving you from a state of stress to a state of relaxation
      • Ideally – you’d want to practice breathing at your resonance frequency every day in order to quickly be able to access it
    • How do Josh and Dr. Lagos track HRV?
      • They haven’t found something with “A++ software” so Josh is thinking about building some of his own
        • “I don’t feel like there’s an ideal performance training HRV software out there”
  • Josh also keeps track of sleep patterns, diet, and physical training patterns

How might someone use HRV to plan their day?

  • Using the Oura Ring for example, which gives you your heart rate variability data every morning when you wake up
  • Josh advises others to match their HRV data to how they feel on any given day
    • Over time, you’ll notice a corollary between your HRV and your overall state (mental and physical)
      • By doing this, you’re sharpening your intuition
      • You’re using the data to “train the ability to feel where you are”
    • This is similar to using a Precision Xtra to measure your ketone levels and relate the result to how you’re feeling
      • If you use the Precision Xtra, use these lancets these test strips
      • Eventually, you get to a point where you just tend to know your ketone levels without testing them

How does Josh think about structuring a high performers day?

  • “Everything I do on a coaching capacity is individualized”
    • Josh aims to understand someone he’s coaching with tremendous nuance before he starts tweaking anything they’re doing
  • But there are some core principles around day architecture that are really important (and also really challenging to embody in this technological age where everyone’s distracted)
    • “A proactive day architecture as opposed to a reactive one is really important”
      • You CAN’T jam thinking time in for 5 minutes in between meetings
        • It’s important to actually block out thinking time on your calendar
    • Align peak energy periods with peak creativity work
      • For example – scheduling thinking time first thing in the morning rather than just after lunch when people tend to be lethargic

Training Yourself to Focus on the Most Important Question

  • End your day thinking about an important question and then wake up (pre-input, before checking your phone or any news) and brainstorm on it (either on paper or in something like Evernote)
    • Josh wakes up every morning around 4:30 AM and immediately dives into this exercise (he did it on paper for most of his life, but recently switched to using Evernote)
    • This exercise opens the channel between the conscious and unconscious mind and trains you to focus on life’s important questions (Josh calls these the MIQ – most important questions)
    • You can also do this exercise throughout the day
      • Prior to going to the bathroom, pose yourself a question. Don’t check your phone while in the bathroom, and come back to the question afterwards.
    • “Most great thinkers are like a knife through butter in most things, but then there’s 1-2 places they’re stuck. Those places are a really powerful area to focus this tool.”
    • “It’s really breathtaking what happens. You get into a rhythm of waking up with the solution. And you get used to, after doing it multiple times a day, having the sort of miraculous realizations in your creative process you might have had once every 2-3 months otherwise.”

The Art of Letting Go

  • Just like Hemmingway used to end his writing sessions leaving something left to write for the next day (like ending mid paragraph), you need to end your day (for the above exercise) with the question in mind, and then LET GO (so you can get a good night’s sleep)
    • Don’t stress out about the question all night – release your mind from it
  • “The art of letting go is a big one… this is an industry where people are on all the time and exposed to constant inputs”
  • Great boxers and fighters are super relaxed when they’re not fighting (or even just before a punch/kick/etc.)
    • They’ve mastered the art of turning it on/off
  • “Most people in high-stress industries are always operating at this simmering 6, as opposed to the undulation between deep relaxation and being at a 10”
    • Being at a 10 >>>> being at a 6
    • If you’re always at a 6, you’re just at 50% battery all the time – that can’t be optimal

Questions to Continually Ask Yourself

  • To gauge someone:
    • “Do I intuitively feel this is an ethical person?”
    • “What’s my intuition about the quality of this person’s thinking?”
  • “What’s the biggest lesson to be taken from this?”

Escaping the Noise

  • Josh, as mentioned, recently moved to Latin America, really allowing him to get away from life’s noise
  • “The art of saying ‘no’ is a really important art to take on”
    • “This is a principle I’ve cultivated for many years that I feel like I’ve only begun to see the potency of since I’ve experienced the power of the empty space”
  • Ideas generators need to get away from the “group think,” thought constructs, and thought biases
    • “If you get away from a lot of the noise, it’s much easier to take that 30,000-foot view and see what really matters”

The Art of Introspection – Get to Know Yourself

  • Your goal should be unobstructed self-expression
    • “It’s not so easy to get to know ourselves, but I think the art of introspection is one of the most important we can take on”
  • Really spend the time to learn about yourself:
    • How do you best learn?
    • Are you a visual or auditory processor?
    • Do you like the rain?
    • Do you prefer nature or living in a city?
    • What are the patterns behind your greatest successes and errors? (personally and professionally)
    • What are the things that have driven your greatest insights?
  • “It’s really easy to follow the mental models or paths of others, and it’s usually disastrous”
  • “If you feel like you’re expressing your true self through your work, then it’s beautiful. If you feel like you’re living in someone else’s model… it’s just a different world.”
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