The Art of Learning – Josh Waitzkin Distilled | What Got You There with Sean DeLaney

Check out the What Got You There episode page

Key Takeaways

  • When you feel obstructed, you’re trying to fit into a mold that isn’t right for you
    • Unobstructed self-expression: high performance and personal satisfaction comes at the harmonious intersection of pursuit and unique disposition
  • The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic long-term learning process and not to live in a shell of static mediocrity, usually growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety” – Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
    • Live on the other side of pain – crave mental resistance, our greatest insights are found in our disappointments
  • Go all-in on chaos
    • Take every opportunity in your daily life to test the boundaries of your current comfort zone
      • “Reps hidden in plain sight” – Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
      • “It’s learning to completely love chaos till the tension isn’t grinding on you” – Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
  • The best performers understand the necessary, cyclical, and symbiotic relationship between stress and recovery
    • Life works in oscillation – In order to switch on intensely, you must also learn how to switch-off intensely
      • Many people live their whole lives at a ‘simmering 6’ rather than at 0 or 10
  • Depth over breadth helps you explore quality
    • If you fail to learn how to learn before exploring a subject, your knowledge is built on suspected (superficies) foundations
      • Once you understand the micro-factors of the subject that define quality you will be able to identify quality quicker at a macro level
      • This is the idea of thematic learning, transferring lessons across experiences. Once you know the principles of mastery, you can apply them quicker in the next pursuit.

Intro

  • Josh Waitzkin is modern-day polymath known for being a world-renowned chess player, martial arts competitor, and author of The Art of Learning. In this episode, Sean breakdowns Josh Waitzkin’s philosophy on how to learn effectively to achieve the delicate balance of success and happiness.
  • Host: Sean DeLaney (@Sean__Delaney)

Key Books Mentioned

  • The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin
    • Create smaller circles – “touch the essence (for example, highly refined and deeply internalized body mechanics or feeling) of a technique, and then incrementally condense the external manifestation of the technique while keeping true to its essence. Over time expansiveness decreases while potency increases– Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
  • Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
    • There is nuance to quality, cultivate and seek out the opportunity to see quality
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
    • How to maintain a growth mindset – being comfortable and reflective at points of resistance

Who is Josh Waitzkin?

  • Josh Waitzkin has the ability to apply the lessons he has learned across multiple domains, always in search of the foundational principles of wisdom
    • A child prodigy in chess, a national champion at the age of 9
    • World champion in Taiji Push Hands (Taiji Tui Shou) and a Brazillian Jui-Jitsu black belt
    • Avid eFoil surfer
  • By studying Josh, Sean identifies the characteristics and habits that lead to greatness:
    • Unobstructed self-expression
    • Thematic learning
    • Depth over breadth 
    • Go towards stress
    • Life works in oscillation

Learning Process

  • The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic long-term learning process and not to live in a shell of static mediocrity, usually growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety” – Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
    • The lessons learned along the pursuit of excellence are much more valuable than the trophy at the end
    • Successful people draw wisdom from positive and negative experiences
      • They understand how their minds work, and both cultivate strengths and take on weaknesses through their unique natural voice– Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
        • Self-belief is unstoppable, resilience is ignoring unproductive outside perceptions
      • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
        • How to maintain a growth mindset – being comfortable and reflective at points of resistance
  • Josh Waitzkin 4 phases of learning:
    • 1. Unconscious incompetence – “I don’t know how bad I am”
    • 2. Conscious incompetence – “This sucks. I know how bad I am.”
      • *(most people quit here)
    • 3. Conscious competence – “I can do this if I focus”
    • 4. Unconscious competence – “I don’t remember the last 10 minutes of driving my car”
  • We can’t guarantee the things that will happen to us in the future, the only thing we can guarantee is that there will be surprises – always be prepared for inspiration

Unobstructed Self-Expression

  • When you feel obstructed, you’re trying to fit into a mold that isn’t right for you
    • High-performance personal satisfaction comes at the harmonious intersection of pursuit and unique disposition
    • “Embrace your funk” – Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin

Go Towards Stress

  • Live on the other side of pain – crave mental resistance
    • Create a counterintuitive relationship with pain – you’re not reaching a new ceiling, you’re creating a new floor
    • Growth occurs on the edges of discomfort
    • Have the mindset that your greatest breakthroughs are one more step away
  • It’s very liberating to go into any painful or discomforting situation with the attitude that you will learn something
    • Disappointments provide the greatest insights
    • “It’s learning to completely love chaos till the tension isn’t grinding on you” – Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin

Depth Over Breadth & Thematic Learning

  • Depth over breadth helps you explore quality
    • Once you understand the micro-factors that contribute to quality you will be able to identify quality quicker at a macro level
      • This is the idea of thematic learning, transferring lessons across experiences. Once you know the principles of mastery, you can apply them quicker in the next pursuit.
      • This approach engages the unconscious, creative aspects of our minds, and we start making thematic connections that greatly accelerate growth. It is also important to point out that deep presence is required for a state of neural plasticity to be triggered—our brain does not remap effectively when we are skipping along the surface.– Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
    • Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
      • There is nuance to quality, cultivate and seek out the opportunity to see quality
  • We must learn to learn before we attempt to learn a lot of things
    • If you don’t invest in your learning at a high level, your knowledge is built on suspected (superficies) foundations
  • The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin
    • Create smaller circles – “touch the essence (for example, highly refined and deeply internalized body mechanics or feeling) of a technique, and then to incrementally condense the external manifestation of the technique while keeping true to its essence. Over time expansiveness decreases while potency increases– Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin

Life Works in Oscillation

  • The best performers understand the necessary, cyclical, and symbiotic relationship between stress and recovery
    • In order to switch on intensely, you must also learn how to switch-off intensely
    • Many people live their whole lives at a ‘simmering 6’ rather than at 0 or 10
      • We get our best ideas in the shower because we’re relaxed
  • There is the careful balance of pushing yourself relentlessly, but not so hard that you meltdown– Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
    • There is a balanced incline to growth. While you want to keep seeking tougher opponents, make sure you win enough to maintain confidence.

Principles of Learning from Josh Waitzkin

  • Find a teacher that listens first
    • Teachers typically teach the way they learn which effectively alienates a majority of the students (based on their specific learning style)
      • Teachers can not have egos
    • Feedback loops are only useful when each party respects one another; otherwise, you won’t receive accurate/honest advise
  • Intuition is our most valuable compass
    • Trust your unconscious thoughts, the random harmonization of relevant knowledge in any given situation can often produce valuable insights
  • Seek out better competition
    • Competition often rises to the level of their opponents. Again, growth occurs at the boundaries.
  • The soft zone
    • The hard zone – letting your current emotional state dictate your reactions
    • The soft zone – your entire perspective dictates your reactions, a fluid state of concentration
      • You flow with whatever comes, integrating every ripple of life into your creative moment– Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
  • Deconstructing
    • Embrace looking absurd, this is a hack to access a point in the learning process that most people tend to avoid (especially with the plausibility of going viral on social media)
    • Go all-in on chaos
      • “Reps hidden in plain sight” – Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
      • There are opportunities everywhere in our everyday lives to challenge ourselves
        • EX: Cold showers, doing the dishes by hand, saying no to your phone, etc.
        • It takes years of practice to control yourself in chaos
  • Presence must be like breathing– Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
    • Josh Waitzkin views presence through an existential lens, everything you do actively affects everything that happens to you
    • Peak performance is seeking out and understanding the results of our actions
  • True masters learn to love plateaus
    • Plateaus indicate that a massive spike of improvement is on the horizon
  • Have a beginner’s mind
    • Be awake to the full experience at hand, the tiny nuances can often be beautiful and insightful

Journaling Routine

  • Ask yourself: What’s the most important question in what I’m doing right now?
    • When you’re given a project or posed a question, your mind immediately stores that and is pondered both consciously and subconsciously
      • Think on it for the day, go to sleep and then brainstorm all these thoughts on a piece of paper
        • This will uncover patterns and principles on how you learn and problem solve if you cross-reference your journal entries
  • You’re training yourself, day in and day out, like water, to be an increasingly potent thinker– Sean DeLaney quoting Josh Waitzkin
What Got You There with Sean DeLaney : , , , , ,
Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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