When Life Becomes an Inner Game of Chess
“In performance training, first we learn to flow with whatever comes. Then we learn to use whatever comes to our advantage. Finally, we learn to be completely self-sufficient and create our own earthquakes, so our mental process feeds itself explosive inspirations without the need for outside stimulus.” —- Josh Waitzkin
The thought of becoming an elite writer and purveyor of world-class book experiences featuring non-fiction authors and reading evangelists really excites me. Achieving this requires me to bring the best version of myself to the table every day, knocking aside any distractions intent on steering me off course.
I called this my “inner game” state, a place of infinite opportunities for personal and business expansion. This theme is reflected in a book that I’m reading entitled The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance. In it, author and chess guru Josh Waitzkin shares his remarkable story of personal achievement and incalculable success achieved through a series of learning and performance principles.
Josh reveals the secret sauce for being at the top of his game, all tied to his amazing milestone of winning a National Chess Championship at age nine. He was later thrust into the limelight during his teenage years when his father’s book Searching for Bobby Fischer was released as a major motion picture.
After making his mark in the world of scholastic chess at age nine, Josh expanded his footprint by immersing himself in the world of Tai Chi Chuan ultimately winning a World Championship title. When once asked how he reached such heights in chess and Tai Chi, two disciplines that appear on the surface to be vastly different, he responded:
“I’ve come to realize that what I am best at is not Tai Chi, and it is not chess,” he says. “What I am best at is the art of learning.”
With a story narrative that captures his uncommon martial arts journey and tense chess face-offs, The Art of Learning is a book full of life lessons that speak to us all. He shares in exquisite detail his deep wisdom around learning including key principles on what separates a life of success from failure.
Josh asserts that achievement, even in the world of pursuing championships, is predicated on a mindset that embraces a lifestyle of creativity and resilience. Instead of grinding our purposeless wins, he encourages readers to experiment with various elements of his everyday method thereby igniting breakthroughs opportunities for performance mastery
With humbleness and vulnerability, he shows how to embrace defeat and mistakes in a way that ultimately strengthens us. For he believes that roadblocks are not obstacles but challenges to overcome, all in the spirit of helping us turn our weaknesses into strengths.
He lays out a canvas highlighting the exact mental and physical routines he’s used in many competitions over the years so that you too can expand your peak performance zone in competitive and professional endeavors.
What I’ve enjoyed most about the book are Josh’s uncommon perspectives on the mental “inner game” aspects of living life expansively. With riveting stories about his early formative years competing with New York City chess opponents to the pressures of a film about his life; from high pressure, high stakes International Chess Championship rounds to epic battles against worthy martial arts fighters, The Art of Learning captures his highly competitive life in a compelling story narrative.
In an excerpt that captures the true essence of his message, Josh says:
“Whether it’s trading, endurance racing, rock climbing, jujitsu, or anything else. It doesn’t matter. If I’m doing it, then I’m obsessing over performance — and going to extreme lengths to improve and be better than the next.”