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The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance Paperback – 21 Jul 2008

42 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (21 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743277465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743277464
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"This is a really superb book, one I wish someone had given to me long ago. The title is accurate -- at a profound level, it's about real learning from hard conflict rather than from disinterested textbooks. It will take a ferocious interruption to make you put this book down." -- Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance

"We all remember the portrayal of Josh Waitzkin in Searching for Bobby Fischer. He was a very impressive child who continues to impress with The Art of Learning. Through a unique set of experiences, Waitzkin has formed an original and outstanding perspective. From chess to Tai Chi, he provides tools that allow all of us to improve ourselves every day." -- Cal Ripken, Jr., 2007 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee

"Waitzkin's in-depth look into the mental side of his success in both chess and martial arts is an inspiring and absorbing read. I strongly recommend it for anyone who lives in a world of competition, whether it's sports or business or anywhere else. It's also a great training tool for kids aspiring to reach the pinnacle of their chosen fields." -- Mark Messier, 6-time Stanley Cup Champion

"Josh Waitzkin's The Art of Learning is a testimonial to the timeless principle of 'do less and accomplish more.' Highly recommended for those who want to understand the power of consciousness." -- Deepak Chopra

"Absolutely brilliant immersion into the phenomenon of human mastery. Waitzkin brings laser clarity and penetrating insights into the delicate mind, body, spirit interactions fundamental to extraordinary achievement in most any area of life. This is a journey worth taking." -- Jim Loehr, Chairman and CEO, The Human Performance Institute, and coauthor, The Power of Full Engagement

"The Art of Learning succeeds on every level, combining a truly compelling auto-biography with profound philosophical and psychological insights all wrapped in a practical how-to framework. This is a must-read for anyone wishing to achieve that rare combination of success and fulfillment." -- Paul Blease, SVP, Director, Team Development & Consulting, Citigroup Smith Barney

About the Author

Josh Waitzkin, an eight-time National Chess Champion in his youth, was the subject of the book and movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. At eighteen, he published his first book, Josh Waitzkin's Attacking Chess. Since the age of twenty, he has developed and been spokesperson for Chessmaster, the largest computer chess program in the world. Now a martial arts champion, he holds a combined twenty-one National Championship titles in addition to several World Championship titles. When not traveling the country giving seminars and keynote presentations, he lives and trains in New York City. He can be reached at For more information about Chessmaster visit

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By M. D. Beaney on 20 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback
I should start off by saying that I quite liked this book, but that it's probably not one I'd return to again and again.

Firstly, the good: the book is very well written; Waitzkin comes across as a likable character, and quite humble for someone who has so obviously been a high achiever in his chosen field. He does offer some good insights, in terms of being aware of the individual's underlying nature when learning and not trying to force onself down a path that contradicts that. Plus, the stories used to illustrate his points are largely engaging.

Where I think the book was disappointing, for me at least, was that a great deal of the observations about what makes a top performer (learning from mistakes, concentrating on gaining a deep understanding etc.) are, if not self-evident, then at least variations on things that have been written about elsewhere.

nevertheless, definitely worth a look.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ekowi on 21 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
This my first review ever on Amazon after probably almost a decade as a customer and dozens of books. I saw this recommended to be read by beginners to financial trading. I couldnt see the connection but it appeared to be an interesting book and I had a 16 hour return flight coming up.

I'm not going to wax lyrical about the content because other reviews have done that already. Suffice to say that if there is a discipline, job, or art that you are really keen to excel in and are truly drawn to - you will begin to see a clear road to achieving your goal and start to be much more aware of your innate powerful abilities. And be wonderfully entertained while your subconscious is being reprogrammed!

I plan to re-read it several times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Juliette on 7 Aug. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is pleasantly readable. It is part an autobiography of Josh Waitzkin's journeys playing chess and practising Tai Chi Push Hands and part his observations on learning that he has accrued along the way.

Many of his theories and ideas about learning are about performance psychology. He discusses ideas related to not being knocked off your game by your first mistake, making sure that you have periods of relaxation between periods of intense stress/concentration, how to harness your emotions and create triggers to put yourself in the zone. He also talks about using psychology against your opponent. These sections on psychology were for me the most interesting part of the book though much is only really applicable in a competitive context. The material on how to learn to be good at things in the first place was weaker in my opinion and essentially boils down to concentrating on the fundamentals (e.g. focus on really understanding endgames in chess rather than spending lots of time learning openings) and that if you spend time lots of time analysing and concentrating on details, your mind will gradually start to recognise patterns so that you can stop worrying about those details and then see things from a higher perspective.

Personally I quite enjoyed the autobiographical parts - I played enough chess in my youth to appreciate the sections on chess and also do Tai Chi and I imagine anybody who has played a reasonable amount of chess or done a martial art will enjoy the insider view of what it is like to train and perform at a high level in those. However there are quite lengthy descriptions of Tai Chi Pushing Hands matches and the like which I can imagine might start to bore somebody with less of an interest!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas on 4 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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Joshua Waitzkin was national chess champion in the U.S. 8 times, inspiring the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer," and more recently has earned two world champion titles in Pushing Hands, the martial arts version of Tai Chi. It's fair to say that he knows something about learning.

Waitzkin introduces a few vague lists of principles, but in essence argues the key to excellence is the gradual mastery of fundamental principles, over time interlinked into complexity and integrated into our subconscious. The key to such learning is to take the small things you learn and `chunk' them into larger ideas in your memory, ensuring efficient storage and retrieval. As a result, an expert martial artist and a beginner actually perceive different things. A complicated strike may be made up of six parts, but an expert perceives it as one moderately fast attack. The beginner, on the other hand, sees six different moves, all blindingly fast. Mastery of the fundamentals can actually change not just how you perform an event but also how you perceive an event.

Once you've achieved this chunking of basic concepts into complicated ones, he argues, you start achieving the deeper mastery critical for progress, and the correct decision can even seem intuitive. Studies of chess grandmasters, for example, have shown they do not see many moves farther ahead than weaker players. Instead, they have an intuition on which moves may be best, and so though they study the same number of possible moves, they study better quality ones.

Given Waitzkin's success, the book is certainly inspirational, and mixed in with the story of his life are a few seeds of wisdom. The book won't rock your world, or at least it didn't rock mine, but it is an easy read and at times insightful.
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