The Art of Learning - Notes

‘Nothing will be learned from any challenge in which we don’t try our hardest. Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what reality lies at the outer reaches of our abilities.’

Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world class performer, and it should be nurtured continuously.

The soft zone – A chapter devoted to getting into an optimal performance state which is both highly focused and resilient to intrusion or distraction.  Soft because it is pliable to outside forces where hard is brittle and breaks.  If you have to walk on a road covered in thorns do you pave the road or make sandals?

Key to avoid a downward spiral when focus is broken so performance is not just about the ability to focus but to re-focus after focus is disrupted or broken.

Breaking stallions – or the importance of how your unique character influences your performance. A stallion can be broken with coercion or as a partner in a journey. You can go with the grain or against it. Josh’s chess style was very aggressive and attacking a later Russian Grand master who was his teacher played a much more stifling type of chess that aimed to choke off every attack. More like an anaconda. Moving away from his natural voice as a competitor was ultimately detrimental but taught how better to navigate the narrow channel to excellence.

Tai Chi push hands was a new beginning for Waitzkin, progressing ultimately to win world championship titles in Thailand the importance of a beginners mind and a willingness to embrace failure as an integral part of learning and growth. You have to invest in loss because ultimately winning is not the only thing winners do, they also do a lot of losing in order to hone their performance.

Making smaller circles.  Its easy to land a strong punch when you are balanced and can wind it all up. Delivering the same force with a fraction of the movement is the skill.  This translates as a metaphor to many performance environments. We have to invest in depth over breadth.

The importance and value of adversity. ‘When aiming for the top, your path requires an engaged, searching mind. You have to make obstacles spur you to creative new angles in the learning process.’ Let setbacks deepen your resolve’.

The power of presence.  This is a key ingredient to effective practice, performance and focus. Presence has to become like breathing, instinctive.

Finding the zone.  The importance of stress and recovery.  The principle behind interval training. Bursts of intense activity interspersed with recovery.  Training allows the rest to become more effective more quickly. This pattern applies in all performance domains, the ability to turn it on and switch it off seemingly at will but in reality because it is possible to build routines and triggers that accelerate and compress the route into a performance state.  Cardio vascular interval training is exceptional at conditioning this accelerated recovery process where the physiology is then able to drive the psychology.