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The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance [Paperback]

Josh Waitzkin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 July 2008
In THE ART OF LEARNING, Waitzkin offers an inside look at two of the world's most intense subcultures while also sharing the principles at the core of his success. One must focus on long-term goals, Waitzkin argues, instead of the immediate thrill of victory or crush of defeat, enduring the difficult periods that result in growth to reach higher levels of achievement. As the details of his life are unfolding, Waitzkin explains how these principles apply to his own story, creating a narrative that is as inspiring and instructional as it is gripping.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Free Press; Reprint edition (18 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743277465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743277464
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,447 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"

About the Author

Josh Waitzkin, an 8-time National Chess Champion in his youth, was the subject of the book and movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer. At 18, he published his first book, Josh Waitzkin's Attacking Chess. Since the age of 20, he has developed and been spokesperson for Chessmaster, the largest computer chess program in the world, currently in its 10th edition. Now a martial arts champion, he holds a combined 21 National Championship

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fun read, but probably not a life changer. 20 Jun 2008
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
It is important to keep in mind that the material in this book indicates what Josh Waitzkin learned about learning during what he characterizes as his "inner journey to optimal performance" at the highest levels of competition in chess. The material centers on the process to his optimal performance. Had he competed in professional baseball, he would never have played for an MLB team. So, as other reviews have duly noted, this book's title is somewhat misleading.

However, although Waitzkin never became a world champion or even a grandmaster in chess, he was a better player than most of those with whom he competed. Indeed, he was a National Chess Champion at age nine and won other national titles again another seven times. He also became a master of Tai Chi Chuan and earned 21 National Championships and several World Championships. Finally, he was the subject a book and film based on it, Searching for Bobby Fischer.

In recent years, I have been grateful to Anders Ericsson and his research associates at Florida State University for all that I have learned from them about optimal performance. The key revelations correlate with what Maitzkin shares. For example, the importance of focus and commitment: "My growth became defined by [begin italics] barrierlessness [end italics]. Pure concentration didn't allow thought or false construction to impede my awareness, and I observed clear connections between different life experiences through the common mode of consciousness by which they were perceived."

Also, overcoming exhaustion during practice or competition as he did in finals against "the Buffalo" in Taiwan. Although "spent" and down 2-0 with only seconds remaining, he somehow battled back to tie.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing read!!! Was not what I expected! 21 Mar 2010
By Ekowi
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Author Josh Waitzkin has mastered two complex, esoteric disciplines: chess and tai chi, a martial art. He won national chess titles as a youth, and national and world championships in "push hands," or partner tai chi. In this book he presents his theories about learning and high level performance, using as a case study his own rise to excellence in highly competitive sports. Even without the theoretical speculation his story is engaging - but his theories make the book useful to anyone trying to learn a new skill. getAbstract recommends it to those who wish to raise their level of performance, find out about mind-body connections or enjoy a good story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes you think about how you learn 16 July 2013
By Wizzle
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Others have criticised this book as being more of a biography than a book which tells you how to learn. Although the book is presented in the narrative of the authors life, I think anyone who has attempted to learn a particular game or skill can very much relate to what the author is saying, its very easy to draw parallels between what is described in the book and your attempts to get good at something.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for anyone 27 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Brilliant book in the way of mental training intertwined with Waitzkin's exceptional life story. Echoing others, I can see why anyone who "competes" in anything, or anyone at all, would gain anything from reading it.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy read but not that enlightening 25 Sep 2008
A Kid's Review
Josh Waitzkin's The Art of Learning is an easy book to read. Waitzkin writes with a fluent style and fills his pages with anecdotes. What the book lacks however is true insight into the learning process. There are no real concrete actions a reader can take to become a better learner, it all just remains fuzzy and vague and never truly coalesces into a coherent vision.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 6 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent story and a good tips to learn new skills
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound, funny and useful.
To look at the difference between expert and GrandMaster through the lens of Chess and Push Hands is fascinating. Read more
Published 14 days ago by E. Timoney-White
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
All good, thanks
Published 2 months ago by Jimmy
4.0 out of 5 stars Good. I advise you to read
Good . I advise you to read it
Published 3 months ago by Abdullah .j. Almogherag
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Another pressy.
Published 3 months ago by Lynette Birch
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENCE
An excellent book on the subject of excellence and peak performance, viewed through the prism of Waitzkin's own experiences and achievements. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jet Lagged
5.0 out of 5 stars Book for re-reading
One day I somehow stumbled upon a video on youtube where Josh Waitzkin mentioned some ideas, that are explained in more detail in the book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into elite level thinking
whilst delving into complex topics the book never feels cumbersome or like dredging through a work book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Samantha Fowler
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Very good book about learning in general. Found the book difficult to put down and really found it helpful in my learning also as it really simplified the process.
Published 6 months ago by Rhys Henson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book!
This is a well written and fascinating book, chronicling one man's journey of learning and how we can potentially all do a more effective and efficient job of pursuing excellence... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is one of the most important books I have read. However to fully appreciate it you need to give yourself time to read it slowly and think about what you just read. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Maciej
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