Josh Waitzkin is somewhat an anomaly when it comes to performance: he is both a champion Chess player and in Tai Chi Push Hands (the martials art form of Tai Chi). How does someone go about being one of the best in the world at two disciplines which, on the surface, appear so different? In The Art of Learning, Waitzkin explains how.
To cut a long story short, this is a great book, and I’m very grateful to Breeze who recommended it to me. I recommend you all read it as well. Waitzkin goes through the principles he has come across in his lifetime which helps him to understand new disciplines and master them. If you read it, you’ll see tonnes of applicability; literally every page has something which you could relate to learning Daygame (or any other pursuit) whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced guy.
One thing that resonated with me while I read The Art of Learning is that I like to say I’m an advanced Daygamer but recently I started to learn how to ski and so am a complete beginner. It meant that I could read the book from two perspectives at different ends of the spectrum. It was easy to see how Waitzkin’s principle of “investment in loss” carried for both pursuits. In Daygame you can feel assured that you’re progressing if you’re losing now and then. That might mean pushing your comfort zone by going after slightly hotter girls and watching the number of blowouts you receive increase, or how you’re taking less phone numbers. For me, in Daygame right now, I’m learning to become comfortable with doing sessions without approaching. That might sound like a waste of time and weaselling but I can tell you with the straightest face that I know a good set when I see one and I’m not using a pre-approach filter to weasel out of doing them.
In skiing I could tell myself that every time I fell over it was because I was pushing to go faster with the current technique I was practising. It was very useful to have a flipped mindset where I knew that the fear of failure was a good thing. I saw myself as “investing in the losses I was about to receive;” acting in the knowledge that exposure to challenges will lead me to push myself to improve.
Here’s a great podcast which lays out the messages of the book rather than me going through each one (link here). It’s easy to see how all of these relate to Daygame; just stop the podcast for a minute and think after he describes each one and you’ll instantly relate to it.
Waitzkin is also a great writer and is very engaging. One complaint I have towards many self-help books is that the personal stories are formulaic and dull: the guy has a problem and he applies the technique described in the chapter… hey-presto! It’s fixed. Whereas Waitzkin builds the tension of each story and gets you to root for him, especially when he’s talking about Russian chess players using dirty tricks to put him off his game or Taiwanese officials not counting his points correctly during the Push Hands World Championship.
That leads me onto another reason why the book is an enjoyable (as well as relatable) read: that Chess and martial arts can seem like magic from the outside but Waitzkin has the ability to break down what goes through his mind. This comes from years of repetitive action – drilling the fundamentals down into his muscle memory so that they are a natural part of him – and is a key theme of the book: drilling down to the most basic form and going over it so that it becomes second nature. That’s how you go from beginner to intermediate to advanced.
So with that all said, just go out and buy the book! I got it on Amazon for £5.51 and read it easily in a few days. The pages flow by because Waitzkin is an engaging writer and you might pick up a couple of points that will help you not just with your Daygame but with anything you want to learn about. He’s also recorded four podcasts with Tim Ferris which I’m working through now so there are lots of opportunities to let the messages of this book sink in.
If you enjoyed this post and want to support me in making future content then please consider buying one of my books or hiring me for coaching. Follow me on Twitter for daily updates. Click on the links below to find out more.
> Buy the best of Thomas Crown, Volume One
> Hire me for infield coaching in the UK (London, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham and Edinburgh) and the rest of Europe (Prague, Warsaw and Belgrade)