Sep

19

 Some thoughts about The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin.

1. The mother is a horse whisperer and horse trainer and the father is a world class fisherman and adventure writer. Much of his talent is genetic rather than environmental.

2. The book has a touch of Agassi's in it. He complains about everything and never lost a match that he should have won. However, it must be hard to play against the Russians when they are kicking you under the table with karate chops and talking to their trainer in Russian.

3. It is unusual to see someone very good at a mental game and also at a physical game. Usually one crowds out the other. And Tom Wiswell said he never saw a champion checker player from the old schoool that had a happy marriage as study of checkers crowds out the ability to be a good family man. I can still see him sighing when he came in every week saying, "Victor, the thing I regret the most in my life is that I never married a girl like ……, but then again if I had I wouldn't have written 30 books."

4. Josh seems to have had a very hectic romantic life. He apparently gave up his home life to follow a girl to Slovenia and then spent day after day fighting with her before going on the next tournament.

 5. There is no mention of the economics of what Josh did throughout the book, and this is one of the gravest defects. Who in the world could spend 3 years without any pay doing Martial Arts tournaments every other week around the world and training every day. He seems to have taken lessons from almost every great chess trainer also, and spent all his waking time studying variations. Who can afford to go to a 2 week tournament with 12 players of the top 1000 in some resort where you are lucky to get expenses if you don't win, which it seems he never did. He travels all over thee world to get lessons and keeps the lessons and training up for years on end with videos of his every practice session. Where does the money come from? And how could someone not completly sponsored or billionaire heir do this?

6. He seems to be a sore loser. Despite all the hoopla, training, talent, and practice he was never able to make grandmaster. He has no acknowledgment of his lack or the skill of the others that overtook him. And a very bad winner also. The book is replete with stories of his heroics in the various national championships he won and never a word for the losses and gaps. There is a video of him fighting a Garcia which shows I believe him getting totally outclassed the way a world champion never should be, but I may be wrong as I don't understand enough about push hands to be sure.

6a. There is interminable detail about how "tiger" played in various push hands "worlds" and I read every word with bated breath but think that most people would find it extremely boring and specialized.

7. I should know something about this subject because I was world class in several racket sports, and could have been a good checker player if I had put in the 10000 hours and 10 years that they say is required. I have a few wins from Tom among our games.

 8. Josh recommends an intuitive approach to learning. He believe you have to go beyond the numbers, develop intuition, play a mental game of deception and heightened awareness when crisis occurs. I had a completely opposite approach. I developed a good game, and it was good enough that I didn't have to go into mysticism. I think most would do well to improve the fundamentals and foundation of their game rather than trying to go into another zone.

9. The book is a great travelogue. He takes you to the Amazon, and to Florida and Taipei and I believe Alaska (I don't have the book in front of me) and I am impressed with his ability in fishing.

10. There is much about performance psychology in the book and he starts by saying don't worry about winning but concentrate on getting better. That part seems right but everything else seems highly specialized and not applicable to anyone but him.

11. I like the part in the book where he compares fishing in the ocean where you are always a wave away from death with his chess and martial arts career where he was always a throw or a move away from elimination. It's quite applicable to market people and I wish I had heard more about the fishing than then push hands.

12. It's amazing how much cheating he ran into. The Taipei people were always cheating the Americans and stacking the deck against them as did the Russians. I guess that's like our field and when I played, everyone wanted my opponent to win and the referees often stole matches from me when they could by calling double bounces against me. 


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