The Art of Learning is a book by Josh Waitzkin, the kid from Searching for Bobby Fischer. He talks about his struggles dealing with the competition and publicity he faced as an elite chess player, why he ended up quitting the game and how he applied the lessons from that experience to become a world champion martial artist. It’s very cerebral and focuses on competitive psychology and dealing with and growing from the challenges of pursuing excellence.

Waitzkin draws on his journey to argue for an incremental approach to success as opposed to an entity approach to success – the difference being that while entity theorists attribute success or failure to an ingrained level of ability, incremental theorists attribute success or failure to effort and preparation. Waitzkin believes that incremental theorists are more likely to deal with challenges effectively and resiliently while improving their skill levels over time. He discusses the importance of maintaining a long-term perspective, being at peace with imperfection, and taking risks. Finally, he discusses how his approach manifested itself in his training methods – why “depth beats breadth any day of the week” and how he tailored his approach to suit his personality while sustaining his inspiration and focus.

Peter Lawrence (W&L ’08)