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The Art of Learning

An Inner Journey To Optimal Performance

By Josh Waitzkin
  • Read in 13 minutes
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  • Contains 8 key ideas
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The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey To Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin

The Art of Learning (2007) offers a crash course in improving your mental performance. In these blinks, the author draws on experiences from his chess career and martial arts practice to present a range of methods and techniques to make your brain work harder, faster and more effectively.

Key idea 1 of 8

In order to win, you have to experience losing first.

Sure, none of us like to lose. Whether it’s a tennis match, the fight for a promotion or a game of Monopoly, losing isn’t something we look forward to. But should we look upon losing so negatively?

The truth is, losing has its benefits. This is a lesson the author first learned when he was ten years old, when he began to compete in adult chess tournaments. He started off losing matches, which was frustrating at first. But he then started reflecting on his performance: why weren’t his skills up to scratch?

The author realized that he was losing matches because of a lack of concentration. In adult tournaments, matches were twice as long. At such a young age, he simply couldn’t match the focus and concentration of his older opponents. Losing helped him realize that endurance was his main weakness, so he began to work to improve it.

If you want to improve your performance, you need to seek out opponents that are better than you. By investing in loss, you can welcome the opportunity to learn. This is true no matter what your specialty or field, and it’s even true for children, too.

These days, many parents and teachers believe that competition is unhealthy for children. But the opposite is true: just the right amount of competition can equip children to cope with obstacles later in life. So how much competition is the right amount? One way to approach it is by using short-term goals to nurture a long-term goal.

If a child loses a sporting match or a competition in a hobby they care about, parents should first make sure to assure their child that it’s okay if they feel sad or disappointed. Parents should also show the child how proud they are of her, and help her identify ways to improve. From this, the child can develop the short-term goal of learning new skills and developing new strengths before the next competition.

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