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The Art of Learning [best books read in 2018]

Oct 26, 2018 | Posted by Cristina in Newsletters

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As 2018 is getting closer to its end (we’re at 82% / 9 weeks left), I’ll dedicate the next Friday emails to the best books I read throughout the year. Please note that these are NOT books launched in 2018 – if that’s what you’re looking for, sorry to disappoint you. I don’t usually read books that are new and “trending”, unless they’re written by authors whose work I’m already familiar with. Instead, these are just some thoughts about the books that I learned most from this year and I want to share them with you.

Josh Waitzkin has dominated the world of chess since he was a child. He’s an eight-time National Chess Champion (title first earned when he was only 9 years old). At the age of 11, he was one of the only two children to draw with World Champion Garry Kasparov. Five years later, he became National Master, and at 16 an International Master.

As a young adult, he completely changed fields and dived into martial arts – another field that he mastered. He now has several National and World Championship titles in Tai Chi Chuan and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (with black belt under World Champion Marcelo Garcia). He’s the co-founder of The Marcelo Garcia Academy, a BJJ school located in NYC.

Josh has perfected his learning strategies and applied them in completely different fields. This is what his book, “The Art of Learning“, is about: a manual with the steps towards mastering any field you want, with lessons from Josh’s story and lots of performance psychology. It uses Josh’s life experience in chess and martial arts as a frame, and how he applied those strategies to become the best in two different fields.

Here are a few ideas, just to give you an idea of what this book is about:

  • Growth only comes from getting out of your comfort box. His whole career, Josh searched out opponents who were a little stronger than he was. This way, losing was a part of his regular experience and he was able to maintain a healthy perspective on the game, while learning a lot.
  • Mental resilience is one of the most critical traits of a world-class performers. Josh talks a lot about performance psychology and how to trigger a state of creative flow at will, without being distracted by what’s going on around. You can’t expect the whole world to be silent for you, so you need to train for a more resilient concentration and embrace with whatever’s going on around you. He started studying chess with loud music in his bedroom or training in parks, and found an inner focus that could exist despite the external environment.
    This is something I always struggled with, as I usually did my best work either early in the morning or late at night, when it’s quiet and nobody can interrupt me. Since reading Josh’s book, I learned how to better disconnect from what’s going on around me and get into a state of flow any time I want to.
  • The obstacle is the way. When he got injured as a martial artist, he avoided painkillers and changed the sensation of pain into a feeling that’s not necessarily negative. The next day, he was back on the mat, trying to figure out how to use his new situation to turn adversity to his advantage.
  • The importance of recovery periods. Those who are able to relax in brief moments of inactivity, instead of keeping engaged and focused constantly, are the ones who win. Regardless of the discipline, the better we are at relaxing and recovering, the greater potential we have to endure and perform under stress.

Besides his work to revolutionize education (he founded The Art of Learning Project, a non-profit dedicated to revolutionize education and how we approach learning), Josh is spending his days coaching some of the world’s top performers, from athletes to hedge fund managers. And he’s completely off the grid with social media.

After reading this book in February, the only regret I had was that I didn’t discover it earlier (it was released in May 2008). This is one of the best things I’ve read my whole life on the subject of training your mind, whether it’s for sports, work, or anything else.

And if I didn’t convince you to give a shot and read Josh’s book, at least go listen to this conversation between him and Tim Ferriss – it’s from 2014, but it’s still great.

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