The Art of Learning: The Tool of Choice for Top Athletes, Traders, and Creatives

This post is about the third book in the Tim Ferriss Book Club, which is limited to books that have dramatically impacted my life. Enjoy!

“I strongly recommend [The Art of Learning] for anyone who lives in a world of competition, whether it’s sports or business or anywhere else.”

– Mark Messier, 6-Time Stanley Cup Champion

“[This book] is a testimonial to the timeless principle of ‘do less and accomplish more.’ Highly recommended.”

– Deepak Chopra

“Josh provides tools that allow all of us to improve ourselves every day.”

– Cal Ripken, Jr., Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee

How do the best performers in the world become the best in the world?

The newest book in the Tim Ferriss Book Club provides the answers and blueprint: The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Joshua Waitzkin, the subject of Searching for Bobby Fischer. It’s been one of my constant companions since 2007, and I’m THRILLED to shine the spotlight on it.

  • Want to dominate sports? See the quotes from Cal Ripken, Jr. and Mark Messier above. There are many more.
  • Want to dominate business or finance? Many of the Forbes 100 work one-on-one with Josh. I personally know hedgefund managers, with $10-100 billion under management, who have The Art of Learning on their bedside tables.
  • Want to maximize creativity? Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, says “This is a really superb book, one I wish someone had given to me long ago… It will take a ferocious interruption to make you set this book down.”

Want to up your game, no matter the game? This book is your guide.

The Audible version of the audiobook can be found here.

This post includes several things, including:

  • A brief personal story about Josh
  • A sample chapter, both in audio and text
  • A video overview

But perhaps you’re in a rush. Want the book synopsis in one sentence? Here it is: Through stories of martial arts wars and tense chess face-offs, Waitzkin reveals the inner workings of his everyday methods, including systematically triggering breakthroughs, cultivating top-1% technique in any field, and mastering the art of performance psychology.

The Art of Learning encapsulates an extraordinary competitor’s life lessons into a page-turning narrative.

Download or stream the book here!

My Story with Josh — Love at First F-Bomb

I first met Josh Waitzkin at a coffee shop in Manhattan.

Having just read The Art of Learning, I was as giddy as a schoolgirl that he’d agreed to come. I don’t have many heroes, and he was one of them.

About 15 minutes into sipping coffee and getting acquainted, I realized that he dropped as many f-bombs as I did. He was no Rain Man, and I felt silly for half expecting him to be. 15 minutes turned into nearly three hours, and he’s since become one of my best friends.

If you’ve read the bestselling book Searching for Bobby Fischer (or seen the movie), then you know of Josh.

Wandering through Washington Square Park with his mom at age six, he became fascinated with the “blitz chess” that the street hustlers played at warp speed. He watched and absorbed. Then he begged his mom to let him give it a shot. Just once! Soon thereafter, dressed in OshKosh overalls, he was king of the hustlers.

Josh proceeded to dominate the world chess scene and become the only person to win the National Primary, Elementary, Junior High School, Senior High School, U.S. Cadet, and U.S. Junior Closed chess championships before the age of 16. He could easily play “simuls,” in which 20-50 chessboards were set up with opponents in a large banquet hall, requiring him to walk from table to table playing all of the games simultaneously in his head.

He was labeled a “prodigy” (more on this shortly).

But how did he really become so good?

Partially by breaking the rules. Bruce Pandolfini, Josh’s original chess teacher, started their first class by taking him in reverse. The board was empty, except for three pieces in an endgame scenario: king and pawn against king. Memorizing openings was forbidden at the start.

Learning chess in reverse?

Yes, and this is just one of the many accelerated learning techniques Josh has refined and perfected over the last 20 years.

Calling Josh a “chess prodigy” is a misnomer because Josh defies pigeonholing. He has a PROCESS for mastering skills — one you can use yourself — and he’s applied it to many fields, not just chess.

He tackled Tai Chi Chuan after leaving the chess world behind. 13 Push Hands National Championships and two World Championship titles later, he decided to train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Now, a few short years later, he’s a black belt under the Michael Jordan of BJJ, Marcelo Garcia.

As Josh has put it: “I’ve come to realize that what I am best at is not Tai Chi, and it is not chess. What I am best at is the art of learning.”

If you want to get the most out of life, you need to get his book.

You won’t regret it.

I’ll also be creating a message board so we can discuss this book and others.

Download or stream the book here!

Sample Chapter — The Introduction

[Below is just one of 20 chapters in The Art of Learning.  Audio is embedded first, followed by text for the same chapter.]

Finals: Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands World Championships

Hsinchuang Stadium, Taipei, Taiwan December 5, 2004

Forty seconds before round two, and I’m lying on my back trying to breathe.

Pain all through me. Deep breath. Let it go. I won’t be able to lift my shoulder tomorrow, it won’t heal for over a year, but now it pulses, alive, and I feel the air vibrating around me, the stadium shaking with chants, in Mandarin, not for me.

My teammates are kneeling above me, looking worried. They rub my arms, my shoulders, my legs. The bell rings. I hear my dad’s voice in the stands, ‘C’mon Josh!’ Gotta get up. I watch my opponent run to the center of the ring. He screams, pounds his chest. The fans explode. They call him Buffalo. Bigger than me, stronger, quick as a cat. But I can take him — if I make it to the middle of the ring without falling over. I have to dig deep, bring it up from somewhere right now. Our wrists touch, the bell rings, and he hits me like a Mack truck.

Who could have guessed it would come to this? Just a few years earlier I had been competing around the world in elite chess tournaments. Since I was eight years old, I had consistently been the highest rated player for my age in the United States, and my life was dominated by competitions and training regimens designed to bring me into peak form for the next national or world championship. I had spent the years between ages fifteen and eighteen in the maelstrom of American media following the release of the film Searching for Bobby Fischer, which was based on my dad’s book about my early chess life. I was known as America’s great young chess player and was told that it was my destiny to follow in the footsteps of immortals like Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, to be world champion.

But there were problems. After the movie came out I couldn’t go to a tournament without being surrounded by fans asking for autographs. Instead of focusing on chess positions, I was pulled into the image of myself as a celebrity. Since childhood I had treasured the sublime study of chess, the swim through ever-deepening layers of complexity. I could spend hours at a chessboard and stand up from the experience on fire with insight about chess, basketball, the ocean, psychology, love, art. The game was exhilarating and also spiritually calming. It centered me. Chess was my friend. Then, suddenly, the game became alien and disquieting.

I recall one tournament in Las Vegas: I was a young International Master in a field of a thousand competitors including twenty-six strong Grandmasters from around the world. As an up-and-coming player, I had huge respect for the great sages around me. I had studied their masterpieces for hundreds of hours and was awed by the artistry of these men. Before first-round play began I was seated at my board, deep in thought about my opening preparation, when the public address system announced that the subject of Searching for Bobby Fischer was at the event. A tournament director placed a poster of the movie next to my table, and immediately a sea of fans surged around the ropes separating the top boards from the audience. As the games progressed, when I rose to clear my mind young girls gave me their phone numbers and asked me to autograph their stomachs or legs.

This might sound like a dream for a seventeen-year-old boy, and I won’t deny enjoying the attention, but professionally it was a nightmare. My game began to unravel. I caught myself thinking about how I looked thinking instead of losing myself in thought. The Grandmasters, my elders, were ignored and scowled at me. Some of them treated me like a pariah. I had won eight national championships and had more fans, public support and recognition than I could dream of, but none of this was helping my search for excellence, let alone for happiness.

At a young age I came to know that there is something profoundly hollow about the nature of fame. I had spent my life devoted to artistic growth and was used to the sweaty-palmed sense of contentment one gets after many hours of intense reflection. This peaceful feeling had nothing to do with external adulation, and I yearned for a return to that innocent, fertile time. I missed just being a student of the game, but there was no escaping the spotlight. I found myself dreading chess, miserable before leaving for tournaments. I played without inspiration and was invited to appear on television shows. I smiled.

Then when I was eighteen years old I stumbled upon a little book called the Tao Te Ching, and my life took a turn. I was moved by the book’s natural wisdom and I started delving into other Buddhist and Taoist philosophical texts. I recognized that being at the pinnacle in other people’s eyes had nothing to do with quality of life, and I was drawn to the potential for inner tranquility.

On October 5, 1998, I walked into William C. C. Chen’s Tai Chi Chuan studio in downtown Manhattan and found myself surrounded by peacefully concentrating men and women floating through a choreographed set of movements. I was used to driven chess players cultivating tunnel vision in order to win the big game, but now the focus was on bodily awareness, as if there were some inner bliss that resulted from mindfully moving slowly in strange ways.

I began taking classes and after a few weeks I found myself practicing the meditative movements for hours at home. Given the complicated nature of my chess life, it was beautifully liberating to be learning in an environment in which I was simply one of the beginners — and something felt right about this art. I was amazed by the way my body pulsed with life when flowing through the ancient steps, as if I were tapping into a primal alignment.

My teacher, the world-renowned Grandmaster William C.C. Chen, spent months with me in beginner classes, patiently correcting my movements. In a room with fifteen new students, Chen would look into my eyes from twenty feet away, quietly assume my posture, and relax his elbow a half inch one way or another. I would follow his subtle instruction and suddenly my hand would come alive with throbbing energy as if he had plugged me into a soothing electrical current. His insight into body mechanics seemed magical, but perhaps equally impressive was Chen’s humility. Here was a man thought by many to be the greatest living Tai Chi Master in the world, and he patiently taught first-day novices with the same loving attention he gave his senior students.

I learned quickly, and became fascinated with the growth that I was experiencing. Since I was twelve years old I had kept journals of my chess study, making psychological observations along the way — now I was doing the same with Tai Chi.

After about six months of refining my form (the choreographed movements that are the heart of Tai Chi Chuan), Master Chen invited me to join the Push Hands class. This was very exciting, my baby steps toward the martial side of the art. In my first session, my teacher and I stood facing each other, each of us with our right leg forward and the backs of our right wrists touching. He told me to push into him, but when I did he wasn’t there anymore. I felt sucked forward, as if by a vacuum. I stumbled and scratched my head. Next, he gently pushed into me and I tried to get out of the way but didn’t know where to go. Finally I fell back on old instincts, tried to resist the incoming force, and with barely any contact Chen sent me flying into the air.

Over time, Master Chen taught me the body mechanics of nonresistance. As my training became more vigorous, I learned to dissolve away from attacks while staying rooted to the ground. I found myself calculating less and feeling more, and as I internalized the physical techniques all the little movements of the Tai Chi meditative form started to come alive to me in Push Hands practice. I remember one time, in the middle of a sparring session I sensed a hole in my partner’s structure and suddenly he seemed to leap away from me. He looked shocked and told me that he had been pushed away, but he hadn’t noticed any explosive movement on my part. I had no idea what to make of this, but slowly I began to realize the martial power of my living room meditation sessions. After thousands of slow-motion, ever-refined repetitions of certain movements, my body could become that shape instinctively. Somehow in Tai Chi the mind needed little physical action to have great physical effect.

This type of learning experience was familiar to me from chess. My whole life I had studied techniques, principles, and theory until they were integrated into the unconscious. From the outside Tai Chi and chess couldn’t be more different, but they began to converge in my mind. I started to translate my chess ideas into Tai Chi language, as if the two arts were linked by an essential connecting ground. Every day I noticed more and more similarities, until I began to feel as if I were studying chess when I was studying Tai Chi. Once I was giving a forty-board simultaneous chess exhibition in Memphis and I realized halfway through that I had been playing all the games as Tai Chi. I wasn’t calculating with chess notation or thinking about opening variations…I was feeling flow, filling space left behind, riding waves like I do at sea or in martial arts. This was wild! I was winning chess games without playing chess.

Similarly, I would be in a Push Hands competition and time would seem to slow down enough to allow me to methodically take apart my opponent’s structure and uncover his vulnerability, as in a chess game. My fascination with consciousness, study of chess and Tai Chi, love for literature and the ocean, for meditation and philosophy, all coalesced around the theme of tapping into the mind’s potential via complete immersion into one and all activities. My growth became defined by barrierlessness. Pure concentration didn’t allow thoughts or false constructions to impede my awareness, and I observed clear connections between different life experiences through the common mode of consciousness by which they were perceived.

As I cultivated openness to these connections, my life became flooded with intense learning experiences. I remember sitting on a Bermuda cliff one stormy afternoon, watching waves pound into the rocks. I was focused on the water trickling back out to sea and suddenly knew the answer to a chess problem I had been wrestling with for weeks. Another time, after completely immersing myself in the analysis of a chess position for eight hours, I had a breakthrough in my Tai Chi and successfully tested it in class that night. Great literature inspired chess growth, shooting jump shots on a New York City blacktop gave me insight about fluidity that applied to Tai Chi, becoming at peace holding my breath seventy feet underwater as a free-diver helped me in the time pressure of world championship chess or martial arts competitions. Training in the ability to quickly lower my heart rate after intense physical strain helped me recover between periods of exhausting concentration in chess tournaments. After several years of cloudiness, I was flying free, devouring information, completely in love with learning.

Before I began to conceive of this book, I was content to understand my growth in the martial arts in a very abstract manner. I related to my experience with language like parallel learning and translation of level. I felt as though I had transferred the essence of my chess understanding into my Tai Chi practice. But this didn’t make much sense, especially outside of my own head. What does essence really mean anyway? And how does one transfer it from a mental to a physical discipline?

These questions became the central preoccupation in my life after I won my first Push Hands National Championship in November 2000. At the time I was studying philosophy at Columbia University and was especially drawn to Asian thought. I discovered some interesting foundations for my experience in ancient Indian, Chinese, Tibetan, and Greek texts — Upanishadic essence, Taoist receptivity, Neo-Confucian principle, Buddhist nonduality, and the Platonic forms all seemed to be a bizarre cross-cultural trace of what I was searching for. Whenever I had an idea, I would test it against some brilliant professor who usually disagreed with my conclusions. Academic minds tend to be impatient with abstract language — when I spoke about intuition, one philosophy professor rolled her eyes and told me the term had no meaning. The need for precision forced me to think about these ideas more concretely. I had to come to a deeper sense of concepts like essence, quality, principle, intuition, and wisdom in order to understand my own experience, let alone have any chance of communicating it.

As I struggled for a more precise grasp of my own learning process, I was forced to retrace my steps and remember what had been internalized and forgotten. In both my chess and martial arts lives, there is a method of study that has been critical to my growth. I sometimes refer to it as the study of numbers to leave numbers, or form to leave form. A basic example of this process, which applies to any discipline, can easily be illustrated through chess: A chess student must initially become immersed in the fundamentals in order to have any potential to reach a high level of skill. He or she will learn the principles of endgame, middlegame, and opening play. Initially one or two critical themes will be considered at once, but over time the intuition learns to integrate more and more principles into a sense of flow. Eventually the foundation is so deeply internalized that it is no longer consciously considered, but is lived. This process continuously cycles along as deeper layers of the art are soaked in.

Very strong chess players will rarely speak of the fundamentals, but these beacons are the building blocks of their mastery. Similarly, a great pianist or violinist does not think about individual notes, but hits them all perfectly in a virtuoso performance. In fact, thinking about a “C” while playing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony could be a real hitch because the flow might be lost. The problem is that if you want to write an instructional chess book for beginners, you have to dig up all the stuff that is buried in your unconscious — I had this issue when I wrote my first book, Attacking Chess. In order to write for beginners, I had to break down my chess knowledge incrementally, whereas for years I had been cultivating a seamless integration of the critical information.

The same pattern can be seen when the art of learning is analyzed: themes can be internalized, lived by, and forgotten. I figured out how to learn efficiently in the brutally competitive world of chess, where a moment without growth spells a front-row seat to rivals mercilessly passing you by. Then I intuitively applied my hard-earned lessons to the martial arts. I avoided the pitfalls and tempting divergences that a learner is confronted with, but I didn’t really think about them because the road map was deep inside me — just like the chess principles.

Since I decided to write this book, I have analyzed myself, taken my knowledge apart, and rigorously investigated my own experience. Speaking to corporate and academic audiences about my learning experience has also challenged me to make my ideas more accessible. Whenever there was a concept or learning technique that I related to in a manner too abstract to convey, I forced myself to break it down into the incremental steps with which I got there. Over time I began to see the principles that have been silently guiding me, and a systematic methodology of learning emerged.

My chess life began in Washington Square Park in New York’s Greenwich Village, and took me on a sixteen-year-roller-coaster ride, through world championships in America, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Brazil, and India, through every kind of heartache and ecstasy a competitor can imagine. In recent years, my Tai Chi life has become a dance of meditation and intense martial competition, of pure growth and the observation, testing, and exploration of that learning process. I have currently won thirteen Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands National Championship titles, placed third in the 2002 World Championship in Taiwan, and in 2004 I won the Chung Hwa Cup International in Taiwan, the World Championship of Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands.

A lifetime of competition has not cooled my ardor to win, but I have grown to love the study and training above all else. After so many years of big games, performing under pressure has become a way of life. Presence under fire hardly feels different from the presence I feel sitting at my computer, typing these sentences. What I have realized is that what I am best at is not Tai Chi, and it is not chess — what I am best at is the art of learning.

This book is the story of my method.

Video Overview

Below is a short video overview of The Art of Learning. Don’t miss the hilarious outtakes starting around 4:45:


Download or stream the entire book here!

Alternatively, the Audible version of the audiobook can be found here, but the author earns lower royalties than purchases through the link above.

QOD: If you’ve met or studied any world-class performers, what did you learn from them? What lessons have you learned from observing the greats? Please share in the comments!

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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160 Replies to “The Art of Learning: The Tool of Choice for Top Athletes, Traders, and Creatives”

  1. Love his Chess and Martial Arts background. This will have to be one of the next on my bookshelf!

    Appreciate the thought put into your book club selections. It’s a nice change from the standard recommendations published on every (other) blog!

    1. Thanks for the kind feedback, David! I really want this club to be special, and part of that is being super-selective.

      Hope you enjoy the book!


      1. I’m looking forward to the audible version as well. Would purchase the version as is but its “not available” in Afghanistan.

  2. I should have guessed that this would have been next on your book club! You originally put me on to Josh, and I’ve been a huge fan of his ever since. I’ve listened to his talk at Google at least 4 times. 🙂

  3. Just finished this book last week, man was I surprised to see that it was your choice for the Book Club!

    Incredible, incredible book. What’s great about it, is that it’s not just “theory” per-se, or very abstract in its language. Waitzkin lays out, step by step, what one should do to attain a high level of performance + knowledge in any discipline.

    Worth more than one read for sure.

    1. Nice pick! Yes, it’s definitely a book to reread and reread again. I’ll be sharing my own notes from the book soon.

  4. Hey Tim,

    Sounds great. Will there be an version? If so, when is it going to be released?

    Either way, I’m in. Thanks for sharing/producing this.


  5. I train karate, I’m in my seventies. Josh inspires me to train EVERY day. I do Forever Young Rituals in his honor!

  6. Hi Tim,

    This is one of my favorite books! I’m going to enjoy re-reading it as part of your book club. After I read it the first time I actually started playing chess just to start deconstructing and analyzing my thought process.

    Really enjoying the book club!


    PS — It’s so “Sympoh”! (I had to give a shout out in case you actually read this 🙂 )

  7. I’ll be getting the book as soon as I know it is out-I loved the 4HWW and had learned a lot about living differently as a result.

      1. it would be helpful to get a 2 minutes sample of the audiobook. I think you should put it on the landing page too.



  8. I think if you can learn to play chess, which is a hard game to learn well. you can use strategies in chess as you do in life and business.

  9. I grew up in a show business family. My step father was a professional opera singer and others in my family were in broadway shows. I learned that excellence begins with a decision – a decision to obtain mastery of something. Yes, of course, as I observed, there were lessons, lessons, coaching and more lessons, there were trips to Europe to audition for opera insiders and there was a lot of disappointment (not getting a part in Phantom of the Opera), and other little nuances. But ultimately the best successes I saw came from being in that sweet spot where mastery became 2nd nature, confidence was just there and not thought about. My step father was in an opera with Luciano Pavarotti, one of the greats of all time. Decisions paired with the right actions make dreams come true.

    Loved the first chapter and cant wait to read the rest! Thanks for another great article!

  10. Thanks for this review brother. Josh’s story is similar to mine, but the magnitude of his fame and success surpassed mine by light years. I was an online writer for a now-defunct online site called AC. My writing struck a chord with many people, I became a consistent Top 1000 producer with well over 500 fellow online contributors as fans, millions of page views, and made some decent money (for online writing, that is).

    I, too, became so caught up in my minor degree of celebrity that I began thinking less about the substance of my writing and more, way more, about wowing my audience. Worse yet, I became obsessed with trying to not piss anybody off, constantly obsessing about how many comments I could rack up, and whether or not they were positive. My writing suffered immensely, and the stress of it all caused me to quit over 4 years ago. And not just online writing, writing became just another chore to me, and I quit altogether.

    After hitting the wall, so to speak, I too discovered the Tao-te-Ching, and it changed my outlook on Life, and led me towards the philosophy of Zen. After several years of dormancy, I have started blogging again, and I can safely say that it has a whole new level of mellow, insight, and Love that my previous material never knew. I don’t care if a single person follows me or not, because I have returned to the act of writing purely for its own sake.

    I am definitely going to own a copy of Mr. Waitzkin’s book. As an avid reader, and student of Life, I have always lived to learn, and after reading the introduction, I know his fine book will be an asset to my library. Thank you for finding me; the information you dispense is truly valuable!

  11. I read this book years ago (most likely after you recommending it) and absolutely fell in love with it. I haven’t read it since then, but will have to pick up another copy and reread it many times.

    I feel wonderful knowing that I’ve read all of your Book Club recommendations before you gave them more attention. I was in the library about 6 months ago and stumbled across Daily Rituals and fell in love with it. It was thrilling to see it in the Book Club. And now this one. All of these books are brilliant in their own way. I look forward to many more suggestions!

  12. Hi Tim,

    Is The Art of Learning going to be available through Audible?

    I’ve really enjoyed Daily Rituals and Vagabonding (and thanks for the signed Vagabonding copy via Quarterly as well!). Great choices!



  13. What’s interesting is that the technique that is how he learned to play chess is actually a very old method – if never the most popular method. One of my top 5 books that have had the biggest impact on my life is a great and very old chess book – Emanuel Lasker’s Manual of Chess. In it he takes this very approach to teaching chess (and along the way teaching philosophy) – he starts at the endgame and works his way, slowly, to the opening. It was written in 1925 by one of the true masters of Chess (multiple time world champion). See this review of a modern update to the book for a sense of what it includes – highly recommended by anyone seeking to learn chess.

  14. Anybody know how this compares to Josh Kaufman’s “20-hours” method? It seems they both are extremely adept at breaking down skills to the molecular level, and figuring out what piece of the puzzle is most essential to master.

    1. There’s a lot of crossover, but Kaufmann is more about getting the basics quickly, while Waitzkin is more about pushing to the limit. Both are very good books.

  15. Thanks for putting this Book Club together, Tim! Both books you’ve recommended so far have been great.

    Definitely looking forward to downloading this one from Audible as soon as it’s available.

  16. Read it about a year ago and have revisited it several times since. It’s a brilliant book.

    If you haven’t already read The Fighter’s Mind by Sam Sheridan, you’d probably like that. One of the chapters focuses on Josh and has an interview with him.

  17. Exactly what I needed. I love learning and now a bit frustrated about muay thai. Want to get forward faster than I am doing now. Thanks Tim.

    By the way, saw your interview (of a year ago) on Entrepreneur website. So inspiring!

  18. Bravo for the new book Tim! I was wondering if i could promote it to my community, would love to chat with you about that… Cheers, Greg

      1. Promoting is what I did immediately after reading it right after it came out. When I wasn’t managing pedicabs or selling organic pecans in New York City I was rooted in the Borders, the one that was in Columbus circle at the corner of the park, taking advantage of their open reading policy. My favorite seat while reading manga(I read all of Ranma 1/2 and Dragonball there) was right next to the bottom row chess section and the title, THE ART OF LEARNING, caught my attention. So I put manga down for a couple of days and read it through and through. Since it was in the chess section and not on the display racks I started placing it on the display racks at the end of rows. I bought it some time later, but left it at my mothers in Missouri.

        See it now made me realize how I have been adapting to the local mentality of the Hawaiian Islands and need to get back to challenges.

        I DON’T want the audio book. Paper between the fingers and the visual connection with words helps me connect better with it.

      2. Hey Tim

        more precisely about my previous comment since i have not heard from you, i am building a community of runners/athletes/sport players and i think your book could be great to share it with them. so if i can give signed copies away, it could benefit your promotion and the cimmunity. I am not asking you to give books away, they will be bought but just to be signed and/or at a discounted price. i am talking about thousands of people so it is a pretty large community… let me know if interested and feel free to write me in private so i can explain in more details if you wish…

  19. I just read the chapter now. WOW, oh my god. Not what I expected. Now I know what you mean by expecting to meet Rain Man. Fascinating. I am left without words.

  20. I’ve devoured your books and enjoyed your ideas, energy and insights,but your endorsement of “Daily Rituals” floored me.

    What gives?This is a poorly written work ….wow.

    Who is Tim Ferris?I’m really saddened.

    1. Hi Derek,

      Really? I thought it was very well written. What didn’t you like about it, specifically? I’d love to know.

      All the best, and thank you for the comment,


      1. Tim,

        I agree with Derek…

        The book was boring after 10 bios or so. It was more of the same.

        I love all your books, and the first one I read from your recommendation was Black Swan.

      2. It sometimes felt a bit simple and not worked through enough, but at the same time it was very motivational, I ended up reading it twice.. great stuff to start your day with

      3. Are we all talking about the same book here??? The Art of Learning, right? I’m completely mesmerized by it…best work I’ve read in years

  21. Sigh. This is one of top 5 books. You guys will love it, just sad there’s no new material for me this time around.

  22. Watching Josh speak in this video: it’s just so soothing. He seems so calm. Am I the only one noticing this?

    And Tim, when did you read and eventually meet Josh? As in, when does this book and Josh enter your journey?

    I have already ordered the book. Happily, it is available here in Lahore.

    I’ve come to realize the importance of deep work only recently, after ten or so years of working on my own. I realize I’m a novice and that bothers me; you decide to become a novice after years of “working” – it’s not appreciated no matter where you’re from. Reading about Josh’s journey and his love for being a novice again, rings a bell. I am almost giddy as a schoolgirl here, and I haven’t even read the damn book.

    Thank you Tim.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Momekh! I know the feeling. We all need to rediscover being a “novice” 🙂

  23. Tim,

    I have been “lurking” on your site for almost 4 years now. Sorry it has taken me so long to comment on your blog.. (I haven’t commented on any blog at all for that matter) But I just wanted to say that your fucking awesome man.

    Before i read your book I was lost in life, i had no direction and had no idea what kind of life i wanted to create for myself. I remember the day i dropped into Barnes and Nobel and picked up your book.. I was so absorbed that i read half of it sitting on the floor before security kicked me out because they were closing. I feel that that day my life truly started.

    i am not where i want to be yet, but i am almost there. Everyday i wake up and try and take aggressive action forward, I deal with obstacles, take risks, measure weaknesses, measure improvements, creating good habits, surrounding myself with the best people i can, trying to read as much as i can, taking calculated movements, reaching out and poking life, instead of just reacting to it. Before i “existed” now i am “living.”

    I really truly appreciate everything you, your a leader by both example and words. I am grateful there are people like you in the world that drive it forward and selflessly pave the way for others.

    Too sappy??? Sorry mate, just sayin’ you’re a beast keep going man I am with you 🙂

    – Mark

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Mark. I have a bit of insomnia tonight, and this made my smile. In fact, it made my entire week. Thank you 🙂

      Kia kaha!


  24. I ordered the Art of Learning after reading about Josh Waitzkin in 4HC, and I wasn’t disappointed. As someone who got good enough at chess as a kid to know I’d never be really good at it then later did a lot of t’ai chi, this book was right up my street, but Waitzkin writes so well that you’d probably get it if you’d only played checkers and watched a few kung fu films. It’s an interesting complement to 4HC. They’re both about learning, obviously, but while 4HC is about learning to be in the best 5%, The Art of Learning is about learning to be the best, period. Sure, you can apply the techniques in a more selective, laid-back way (I’m definitely more of an 80/20 guy myself) but Waitkzin’s burning ambition to be the best (then forget it and go and be the best at something else) is part of what makes the book so riveting.

    By the way, for those who think t’ai chi is just about New Agers waving their arms around in the park, the book starts with Waiztkin breaking his hand in a pushing hands match!

    1. Experiment 🙂 The author makes a LOT more if you buy it from Gumroad (current link) than on Audible.

      1. Tim,

        There are books whose audible versions don’t exist. Can there be a business where I can order an audio version of a book of my choice?

      2. Please do more of this. I have serious issues with audible, there DRM makes reading books a nightmare.

      3. Gumroad, by the way, freakin rocks! I started using it recently – thanks to Nathan Barry’s recommendation – and have dropped Clickbank and 2Checkout in favor of its utter simplicity (and lowers fees of course).

        Great to see the link here.

  25. QOD: If you’ve met or studied any world-class performers, what did you learn from them? What lessons have you learned from observing the greats?

    Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

    This proved to be true in magic, singing, acting and everyday relationships.

    1. Wow… I LOVE that. So true. I’ve been thinking of writing more about internal conflict and the problems it causes. Great expression.

      1. As an entrepreneur, internal conflict is by far my biggest obstacle and weakness. I’d love to read more about your experiences (good and bad) in dealing with this, Tim. 4-Hour Mind?

      2. Isn’t it better to read up on Eckhart Tolle instead of waiting for Tim to become enlightened? Just sayin..

      3. Are you sure your internal conflict, though annoying and stressful, isn’t fuel for your greatest strength?

  26. I really like Chris hadfield’s book, ‘An astronaut’s guide to life on earth and Georges St Pierre’s book ‘the way of the fight, to be especially useful in the art of learning.

    I think that the importance of low-stakes practice, weather that be using hitting pads, using a toy gun, paper trading. Which allows you to experiment and find out what does and doesn’t work without the high cost of failure.

    also randori, or free sparring is very important. The act of doing dry runs, practice tests ect, to see if what you’re doing is working and if not, make corrections and try again, is very important.

    I think the vein that runs through chris hadfields, tim ferriss, Georges st pierre and richard branson is visualising failure. Looking at the worst possible situation and knowing what you can do when it happens and how to minimise the downside in advance. Once you do that you won’t be held back by fear of failure.

    And of course using 80/20 and other 4HC tool to break down and find the most effective techniques to focus on is important too. I think in this age, when there is so much information, you have to really throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

  27. Oh, by the way, talking about books. I noticed you like “Blade Runner” and appreciate the feeling Asian cities like Beijing has, their neon shine and glimmering lights in rain. A book I am reading now is “as rich and shocking as William Gibson’s vision was in 1984”. It is call “The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi. Action happens in Bangkok.

    First fiction book I am reading in a long time.

    Something for a pleasure read during rainy days in big city (rainy day in Taipei now).

  28. Reading this makes me reflect back on my own journey of learning how to learn. And as I sit here and think back, it didn’t happen in a ‘global’ way for me until 2005-2006 (this was 10 years after college). Up until that point, I had been quite successful by most standards.

    I was a highly sought after HS football recruit who consistently made the ‘dean’s list’. I turned down Princeton University’s invitation to play football for them out of HS, and accepted a ‘full ride’ to what has been called a public ivy – there I played 5 years of Div. I football. Following that, I got another degree while earning more dean’s list accolades. During all of that time, however, everything I did had a ‘labored’ feeling to it. I had to ‘will’ myself to do everything. It felt as if I was always ‘fighting’ myself.

    I don’t know that college, or high school, or the many of the amazing coaches that I had along the way taught me how to learn. I certainly knew how to fill up my short term memory in order to pass an exam or to prepare for an opponent. But non of it felt like ‘learning’.

    I progressed quickly after college, moving from my initial job where I made only 21K to one where I was making 6 figures. Still, it felt very labored.

    During that time, I was looking for relief from some pretty serious chronic back pain. It was definitely sports related, as running head first into other 300 lb. behemoths for 5 years will definitely compress your spine a bit. (If you’re curious, the diagnosis was a bi-lateral herniation of L5/S1 with degenerative disc disease in the 3 discs above that area). Physical therapy didn’t help, and I was popping over 100 vicodan a month (along with some pretty heavy muscle relaxers) and was f’ing miserable.

    In early 2003, I stumbled across an article about “learning how to use yourself better’. It intrigued me. I read voraciously about it. I have to admit that it sounded too good to be true. The ideas were based around the work of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. He was a physicist, an engineer, as well as a black belt in Judo. How he came to be a master judoka is an amazing story for another time.

    The gist of his work was that he was using movement as a tool to develop awareness. He postulated 50 years before neuroscience proved it that the brain is plastic – the actual physical structure of the brain is altered through our experience. From my understanding, he actually thought he was going mad because it ran counter to the accepted scientific viewpoint at the time.

    Well, after reading about his work for over a year, I sought out one of his closest students – Anat Baniel. She is, not only in my estimation but in others as well, a genius in this domain. I immersed myself in her 4-year long training. I became pain free. Movement no longer seemed labored. I had my most successful year yet at the time in my career – I was learning how to learn!

    What I eventually discovered through thorough self examination, as well as dissecting my own path of growth and development, was that I never learned to crawl – I went straight to assisted walking. You know, the kind where parents and caregivers hold on to the arms of a baby and encourage walking before it looks like the child is ready. This is the first time I’ve openly written about this.

    From that, I ‘learned’ that to accomplish something, it had to feel hard or difficult – that was my experience. I never went through the developmental stage of crawling. There’s something wonderfully glorious, I believe, that being able to developed in an un-rushed state affords us as human beings.

    Time, as it is my understanding, is the most important means for learning.

    When un-rushed, we are able to learn what is necessary – and what isn’t. We learn to weed out the superfluous and to enact only that which serves our intention. Anything more than is necessary is actually detrimental to us.

    With only reading the author’s intro (thanks for providing, Tim), it seems as if this was part of the authors path. I believe movement based learning is essential. The body is not just a vehicle for our brains to cruise around in – the relationship is reciprocal. All of the sensations from our skin and body are our mind’s true foundation. It’s how we interact with the world around us, and is responsible for our ability to become a thinking, self-aware human being.

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful book (I will be purchasing it) along with Josh’s story.

    Be Well,


    1. Chad, thank you for such a wonderfully thoughtful comment! I have been wondering about Feldenkrais for a long while, and I think I’ll start looking for a local teacher today.

      Have a great weekend,


  29. Tim,

    I’m a (very) young software developer about to go into last round interviews with a small VC-Backed, Y-Combinator alum that is interested in bringing me on in recruiting/hiring capacity. I have little hiring experience but I am super passionate about the work they do and I really want the position. Do you have any advice for someone in my position?

    1. Hi, Justus…

      I must say, you must be lucky to have such option. I know you asked Tim, but I believe you answered your own question. If you love it, go for it..


  30. This has been one of my favorite books I’ve read in the last 5 years. I grew up playing Bruce Pandolfini’s chess game, and Josh has been one of my “idols” for many years. As a new parent, I’m reminded of the lessons of this book, and try to encourage my son as being a “good learner” and not just “smart” or “talented”. I’m glad you recommend this book so highly, it is in my top 10 for sure as well.

  31. Tim,

    Thanks for this recommendation. I’ve been listening to a few of Josh’s interviews all morning and now am absolutely intrigued. Super stoked to get the book.

  32. Mastery has so many nuanced components that it’s no wonder most people have no idea how to achieve it in anything! Yet, as far as I can tell any mastery will always involve learning about learning.

    I can say that at least two of my friends have ‘mastered’ meeting and dating women. They can explain things that most other men never notice. How a woman stands, her voice, the difference between what she says and what she means, who to greet when you enter a room, how women assess and remember men, etc. Their level of expertise requires a greater level of self-discovery and self-improvement than most people ever want to achieve and maybe this is the secret of all ‘mastery’.

  33. Hi Tim

    Here is how you helped me on my way towards my life’s purpose while simultaneously getting ripped in 30 days!

    Had just read your book ‘The 4HB’, and was especially excited about the part introducing the kettlebell swing exercise. Loved that I could work out my entire body in just one movement and that it didn’t take much equipment (build it myself) or skills to get started.

    I’m 24 studying in Copenhagen, Denmark and has always been fit, eating healthy and playing all kinds of sport especially soccer. Despite my focused efforts on getting ripped it never quite happened, which is why I was ready to try out something new.

    As I read your book, I quickly decided to make a commitment to myself. For 30 days, I would follow the slow-carb diet while doing the kettlebell swings three times a week for a total of 50 reps per session.

    It worked like magic! I just finished the 30 days period last Sunday, with a total fat loss of 2,8 kilo grams while adding muscles, making my body and especially my abs looking leaner than ever. All this despite doing shots and partying hard in the weekends 😉

    The big AHA moment came this Monday as I uploaded my before and after photos in my soccer-group on Facebook. People were giving me all this positive feedback, texting and calling me to let them in on my secret to the killer abs. After giving them all the advice and tips I learned from you as well as the ones I picked up along the way, I realised this is it! This is what I want to spend my life on, learning cool stuff that interest me and share it for the benefit of others.

    So thanks to you Tim, I have now discovered and implemented not only a healthy habit into my life, but also a much clearer idea of what I want to do in the future. Actually already working on my next project, since my parents had a break-in, I want to figure out how to protect their house against burglars.

    Thanks for the awesome read and for generously sharing your wisdom!! Will keep you updated on the burglar protection project 😉


  34. I’m a little jealous–I’ve been trying to get an interview with Josh Waitzkin for about three years now without any luck. His book really changed the way I approach pretty much everything.

    1. Haha… The only reason Josh puts up with me (he dislikes being thrust into the public eye) is because we’re close friends 🙂

  35. My favorite quote:

    “…successful people shoot for the stars, put their hearts on the line in every battle, and ultimately discover the the lessons learned from the pursuit of excellence mean much more than the immediate trophies and glory. In the long run, painful losses may prove much more valuable than wins–those who are armed with a healthy attitude and are able to draw wisdom from every experience, ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ are the ones who make it down the road. They are also the ones who are happier along the way. Of course the real challenge is to stay in trance of this long-term perspective when you are under fire and hurting in the middle of the war. This, maybe our biggest hurdle, is at the core of the art of learning.”

    1. Tim,

      I will have to check it out next, I just started Rise of Super man so soon as I’m done I will check it out next appreciate the recommendation


  36. In México there is this chef who is totally revolutionizing chocolatery, he has even been included in the Salon de Croqueurs du chocolat, has a book that has been awarded by the gourmand world cookbook awards and also unesco as world heritage, needless to say he is one of my personal heroes.

    His name is Jose Ramon Castillo, he was a pretty successful chef before that in Cataluña, then he met his mentor there.

    Now he is leading an effort to rescue Latin American cacao from a plague, of which i dont remember the name.

  37. Tim,

    This is exactly what I needed right now. It sounds funny, but this book found me, not the other way around. Opened it up thinking I would read a few pages but I’m 58 pages through and can’t put it down. Hoping to finish it in one sitting. Josh is an incredible writer and story teller – he has a gift for sucking you in and tremendous wisdom. Keep up the great recommendations.

    1. Khuram Dhanani,

      I had the same experience as you, except in the audio version. Was going on a family trip to Houston and figured I would buy this for the ride. Hours later I wouldn’t leave the hotel room as I wanted to get through it in one sitting!

      Thanks for this recommendation Tim, I prefer modern stuff like this in your book club, keeps it interesting for people like me, keep it up!

  38. Read this book when it first came out and will definitely get your audiobook version – Josh’s approach is not just inspirational it’s useable by anyone wanting to better themselves. All of the books in the series have all been awesome, and I can’t wait to see what the next one will be.

    I’d love to see you get Michael Gelb into the mix, his Thinking Like Da Vinci and other books remind me a bit of how you approach things.

  39. Hooked by the introduction, I bought the book for Kindle and have made my way through about 30% of it so far.

    Josh’s relating his life experience is fascinating and I’m finding it very entertaining on its own. What a cool guy.

    Great choice for the book club. Thanks!

  40. I was always a big fan of the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”. I will definitely make sure to pick up this book, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  41. Hi Tim,

    I bought this audiobook several years back (when it was released). Is there version you are selling any different from that one?


  42. I’m very excited to read this. Books about learning are some of my faves – especially when shown through the lens of specific activities; make its incredibly accessible.

    I currently workout at a crossfit box with two skilled athletes who will likely be at the crossfit games within the next two years. One thing I’ve noticed about the female athlete is that she has a deep understanding of how the body works, and it’s interesting to watch how she dissects each move based upon how each of the parts of the body work together to make the movement happen. It’s one of those things where you know you could throw anything at her, even something she’s never seen or done before, and she’d be good at it within an hour because of how she’s able to apply her outside knowledge to her sport.

  43. Hi Tim (and All) – I’m excited for your promotion of the Art of Learning! I’ve read this book maybe half a dozen times in the last two years and given away more copies than I can count. I’ve found Josh’s perspectives on learning from the ground up to peak performance invaluable. An inspiration for learning the gymnastics Giant (as an adult), trying a dozen martial arts in a week in San Francisco (so much fun!), and the last 6 months training BJJ. Thanks for sharing the Art of Learning (for me it is all about the love of learning) with a much larger community!

  44. Tim,

    You never cease to amaze me. This is GOLD and strangely serendipitous. I had a session with a business coach on Monday where I discovered what set me on fire, more than anything else, was my crazy dream of creating a new framework for learning. Precisely today I ran across an article on the Spritz App which purports to increase reading speed from an average of 250 to 1000 wpm. This in turn inspired me to finally start writing an essay on accelerated learning that’s been kicking around my head for a while. I spent two hours on Google docs at a cafe without a functional wifi, synthesizing my notes. I come back to my house and my laptop decides not to upload any of it, so I lose all my work. I’m strangely calm about this. I decide to start fresh by finally checking your post about The Art of Learning book on your blog. It blows my mind. So I buy the audio book. I’m of a mind that having to start from scratch was a blessing and not an unhappy accident. If anything does come out of this Mr. Ferris I just want to say thank you and hopefully sometime in the near future I’ll be talking about this moment as the tipping point in the pursuit of that dream. God Bless

    – J

  45. You asked for lessons learned from world-class performers, so I will try to put into a few sentences what I have learned from being raised by a father and uncle who were both Olympic freestyle wrestling Gold Medalists in the 70s.

    You can be a truly good guy and still be a fierce competitor in one of the world’s fiercest sports.

    You can have a life outside sports – in fact you better have a life outside sports or the life inside sports will literally eat you

    You can’t predict the road, but you must Master the Basics! The 4-hour books and this book is right on in focusing on a few basic techniques over and over. This is THE separator of the average from the master.

    Average competitors consume and consume without refining down to the handful of techniques that fit them and then drilling those basics religiously. My dad and uncle both have moves that even average wrestling fans connect with them. Everyone in the wrestling world knew they would do those basic moves and yet they still did them successfully. The art came in all the various ways to open, finish and bail out of those basic moves.

    I have coached in college for several years now, yet most high school wrestlers can name more moves than me. Most of my prep time for practice is spent trying to figure out how to make these mind-numbingly basic movement patterns and zen-like philosophies (creating waves, spine position, physics basics, quieting the conscious mind during competition, etc) something my wrestlers will actually get excited about practicing.

    Many of the opportunities that separate the average from the masters are beyond your control. Namely other people who invest in your either through focused knowledge, facilitating your practice, or “mere” encouragement. Give those things faster than you get them! Dad and uncle John had coaches, each other, parents, and Dan Gable to train with. Not many people have those opportunities, but they earned that support because they “gave back” in real time, not just after they had reached the pinnacle. Now much of their living is derived from the good-will they established while competing.

    Take the moral judgment out of the sport. Does it work or not?! My dad and uncle never pressured any of us sons into wrestling because it was never how they identified themselves or gathered self-worth. The joy of learning and struggling in practice against each other and with other elite training partners was where they derived joy. Any way we could find that joy of learning and wrestling with obstacles was blessed by them. One of my cousins never even wrestled competitively, but have learned from them how to pour his energy and priorities into other things.

    It’s almost funny that our family is identified with a religious denomination that is notorious for placing moral judgments on a lot of truly non-moral issues, and I am constantly shocked at how many people in all competitive realms (especially wrestling) place moral judgments on everything from whether you are a wrestler or not (you had better be or you are somehow less manly) to what techniques you choose to use and what “style” of wrestler you are.

    For a long time I attached moral judgment to certain moves and styles – basically the harder to perform the better. I’m much more of a pragmatist now. My dad and uncle avoided all that morality garbage. They were too busy spreading their actual spiritual good news in countries where it wasn’t politically welcome to attach morality to a sport! It either works or it doesn’t.

    There are no elite people. Only elite habits and training environments. Uncle John was a nobody in small college wrestling. Dad was much more successful as a national champ at the big college level and he had to convince John to join him in training with the World Team. Purely because of the repeated exposure to great coaching and partners (throw in an intense summer of training 24-7 at Dan Gables home) John went from an unknown to completely dominating the 76 Olympics.

    Wrestling is the purest every-man sport and he was truly average until he subjected himself repeatedly to elite habits and environment.

    Dad tells wrestlers often about sitting in a gym as a college freshman as his older teammates returned to a hero’s welcome after winning the national team championship. And it hit him that these were just average guys. Just like him. They just happened to spend a lot of time training with other average guys who had an abnormal interest in wrestling.

    That’s all 🙂 Kept it short 😉

    Huge thanks for the post. I haven’t read Josh’s book yet, but the sample audio chapter was awesome, especially if you have already glimpsed the completely average, non-descript world of the elites.

  46. Tim, I have seen you apply your techniques for fast learning to many physical tasks, but mastering physical tasks is not as important in the modern world as mental tasks. Also, with a physical task, you can see exactly what someone is doing, and videotape it in slow motion if necessary, thus making it much easier to copy. With a mental task you can’t see what is going on in someones head with an fMRI machine, and even then it is very blurry.

    I had a fun challenge which you might want to try. Try to break a 45 second time on a 40-line tetris sprint.

    I have been playing this game for a few weeks now and I started around 3:30 and now I am down to 2:03. This is a good challenge because tetris is a simple game whereas something like chess requires essentially reprogramming your brain in order to be optimized for chess. They have done fMRI studies and found that chess players utilize the facial recognition part of the brain in order to recognize chess patterns.

    Another thing you could try, although this is not necessarily skill as much as innate cognitive ability is a website called This website is cool because it gives you percentiles for every test. The tests are also very short and fun. I would be interested to know what your scores are on the Spatial Span, Digit Span and Monkey Ladder. My best score on Spatial Span is 10 locations, which is the 99.7%.

    I once met a girl who had a masters degree in physics and said she had an IQ of 170. I asked her to take the cambridgebrainsciences Monkey Ladder and I was astounded when she got 22 on her very first try. I have done the Monkey Ladder dozens of times and have never been able to break a measly score of 9, which is about average. The 99% on the Monkey Ladder is probably about 12, so the fact that she got 22 is absolutely astounding, and proved to me that there are in fact geniuses out there with phenomenal capabilities. However, she claimed to have a photographic memory which is why she said she was so good at it, which makes sense since there is no way her working memory could be that good. On the Spatial Span which is more indicative of working memory, she got a score of 12 on her first try which is still probably 1/10,000.

  47. OMG!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH TIM…I started to read this book. I finished the first two chapters…And, I AM LOVING IT…It is like talking to me!…

    Please recommend books like this..but they must have an audible version!

    Thanks much!

  48. Hello All!

    I’ve got two bits to share. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking shop with Rick Maue. Rick is one of the top mentalist/bizarre magicians in the field. I had

    asked him how I would know when I was ready to produce the show I was been working on (he was gracious enough to consult on the script for free). He told me that he was also an amateur astronomer. He said that he would build his own telescopes and part of that involved grinding and polishing the mirrors used. He went on to say that one day he was grinding and grinding a mirror, each time getting closer to perfection. He friend observed this and asked him, “Rick, when the hell are you gonna stop grinding and use the damn mirror?” Rick went on to say, “Jeff, sometimes you just gotta stop grinding and use the mirror.” That is to say, along with what Tim says in the 4HWW, the timing is never right. One must simply act. I remember that advice every time I feel like I’m not quite ready to pull the trigger on something.

    Bit #2: I had the pleasure of working with Byron Ferguson (I was working on his website at the time.) Byron has been declared “Super Human” by Stan Lee. If you don’t know, check out his videos on youtube. He can shoot baby aspirin out of the air without a sight. Byron is considered the master of the long bow. I asked him what he thought the key to becoming super successful at whatever one may endeavor to do. He, like Josh, described an almost zen like state that is derived from practice, focus and the passion for what one is attempting to achieve. He (Byron) then went on to tell me that when he started with archery, he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.

    So, it seems that what they are both saying is: Action, Execution and the ability to just “go” are integral in becoming one with the art. That’s my two cents. Anyway, Cheers! Tim thanks for everything you do, you are a constant inspiration. (but you knew that.)

  49. Hi Tim,

    I just wanted to thank you. After years of following you and changing my life with subtle changes that have lead me to leave my job, start my own business, close it down, move to a new country, I can say I love this book. I also love your other books and most of them I’ve put them in practice in some way or another.

    But the Art of Learning, although I’ve read half of it in two days, is inspiring in many ways. A couple of years I took on yoga, seven years to be exact, I’m not an expert but I found myself through certain processes that I hadn’t seen put into words until I started reading this book. I’ve invested in loss in my personal life in many levels; to the extent that my general perception in life is to grow from failure or defeat; to review in my mind what went wrong and correct it for future projects. To understand that everything is a constant evolving processes guided by myself.

    There is also an important aspect that I wanted to ask you about, if you read this, ¿how do you change a limiting belief? (it is present in most of the books I’ve read but none of them have commented on how to change your beliefs; at least not effectively.)

    Either way, I love all of what you do! I’m inspired to change my life from 80 hour work week to something different. I’m still not quite sure what it is or where it’s going but I’ll get there; A balance between work, freedom and calling. Thanks for cultivating the seed of questioning the existing model.

  50. Tim, how come this book was of any use to you? Seriously, I tried to read it because of you, but I found absolutely nothing, zero content in this books that could somehow be of any use in learning at all.

    If it was all about triggers to certain emotions, Tony Robbins and Richard Bandler made a far better job, and actually, YOU did a far better job in deconstructing learning. I expected the same approach from this Josh guy.

  51. Tim,

    Thanks for reviewing this book. I was a Bobby Fischer fan growing up. Loved the movie about Josh. His Art of Learning is fantastic. I’ve been in leadership for four decades and this is a great leadership and skill-building book, in fact, one of the best I’ve seen. Sometimes you have to mine a little for the gold — but it’s there. And if you mine enough you’ll be rich.

  52. Checked out some of the 3-star reviews from Amazon for this book and people described it as a pretty dull book on how to learn in general, but a great autobiography.


    1. Chase Doran

      That is true. I can sum the book in few concepts with not more the 5 pages. For example, drive our threshold higher by using stressful situations to your advantage (invest in loses).

      However, the guy likes to write with so much details. He is one of those who I call “Harvard Experts” But,Experts in expressions and details..Sometimes, he takes few paragrpahes to write very nice smooth words and cricle about main point.

      I like it for few reasons one of them is Improve my expression and writing style for blogging.

      let me know if that helps..

  53. I took a private class with national and world IDPA/IPSC champion Bob Vogel.

    What I learned was the following:

    1. Don’t leave anything to chance.

    Example: When you load your gun, check to make sure it’s loaded, take out

    your mag and look to make sure it has the correct round count.

    2. Visualize the course of fire many times before you shoot it.

    3. Know exactly why you do something, don’t do it just because that’s how you always do it or because you were taught that way. I derived this from his detailed knowledge of why he does things a certain way. From the his gun setup, grip, stance, to clothes. He is amazingly thorough and logical.

    4. The reason the same people keep winning again and again is because they believe they deserve to win and be part of that elite group. He talked

    a lot of the psychological aspects of shooting and winning.

    5. He recommended the book “The Winning Mind by Lanny Bassham.”

    6. It’s better to be really good at one thing then mediocre at many.

    Tim, if you have the chance I highly recommend you take a class with Mr. Vogel. I’ve taken classes from other top people and he is light years ahead of them. He can do things that truly seem super human and teach it.

  54. This book is next on my reading list after I finish Thinking, Fast and Slow. I read the first chapter of The Art of Learning a while back and was really intrigued. I’m hoping I can take this and The 4 Hour Chef and move forward with a better learning system.

      1. I have been enjoying it so far. There is a lot we have yet to figure out about how our brains are wired…especially when everyone is wired differently. It’s hard to believe that the study of psychology has only been around for about 150 years.

  55. Why do people quote Deepak Chopra? Even the guy’s son jokes about him being a fraud. OK, “fraud” may be a tad bit harsh, especially because most of the people he has attached to him are Hollywood hypocrites. Anyway, seeing that quote ruined it for me, but the Cal Ripken quote made up for it, so well played. Baseball died for many when Ripken retired and that isn’t zealotry, that’s just fact.

  56. Haha…this book is the only book I’ve read where I can consciously recall the author using the word ‘maw’.

    That, and another author we know and love talking about letting the perfect steak sit for 6 minutes to retain the juices 🙂


    Great book though Tim…really amazing. Not on part three yet…but really looking forward to it.

      1. Ninos,

        Those of us asking about the Audible version are talking specifically about Many of Tim’s readers have subscriptions to that give us monthly credits for audio books. We’re waiting for The Art of Learning to be available there. It’s typically less than half the cost of the Gumroad link and integrates nicely with iTunes, Kindle, etc. Check it out.


  57. Wow. What a fantastic book.

    Dunno if anyone is interested, but here’s what I took away from it personally, in no particular order.

    Forest/Neural Pathway

    Love this analogy. Never really heard it before, that story about the jaguar wearing the guy down was awesome too. Will be using it with my clients.

    Jumping between Chess and Push Hands

    This was really cool, and I think the core of the book. From the last little chapter it’s apparent he’s trying to convey excellence in a digestible format for everyone. We’re not all athletes. We’re not all logical geniuses, but chances are if you are reading the book you can identify pretty well with one or the other.

    It also demonstrates the strength of reusing your old neural pathways or strengths, instead of throwing them away and labeling things ‘this experience’ or ‘that experience’ and ‘never the twain shall meet’.

    Presence, slowing time, the internal, and external world.

    This was a lot of fun for me. After reading Tolle a few times, and practicing ‘Nowness’ (now with 20% more Now); it’s quite obvious you get a stronger build up of neural pathways, and basically more experience.

    If time is an illusion; then being ever present is an automatic leg up on everyone else, because they are at the effect of their environment; in a constant limbic response rather than experiencing the moment for what it is.

    Being present gives you more time; and therefore more experience over your opponent. Just taking a deep breath and recognizing the ‘problem’ you have is in your head, and the now is…well…now. There’s a lot of power there, and a fantastic advantage. It stimulates faster learning because the stimulus is more present in the eyes of the individual rather than whatever wanky problem you are playing in the background.

    The Internal and External worlds, I think Josh is more a master at than his ability to be present, and is indicative in the naming of the book. Converging the physical world with his emotions, and the revelations upon practicing this kind of awareness has really opened up my eyes to more information. I like the idea about reading a book, but being aware of the room around you.

    Or like Tim’s speed reading, focusing on a word, and the words on either side of it. I personally notice that my specific focus of attention will pick up ‘naughty’ words, or what I think are naughty words half way down the page. I’ll notice the naughty word half way down the page while I am reading the first line….(in an attempt to be Fonzi, I will not demonstrate those words…use your dirty imagination).

    I also think it’s interesting, because I suck at it, to notice your central emotion, and peripheral emotions as well. It’s been a fun activity to simultaneously notice my visual and emotional central and peripheral focuses simultaneously. I’m not particularly good at it, but I notice presence is required to do it.

    The internal and external world are things Wilbur talks about pretty extensively too in his AQAL. I think Josh eludes to converging the different quadrants; but with complete presence it’s unclear which he prefers.


    Great story. Loved the fights. Loved the chess battles. And loved how he switched between story and theory to spice it up.


    The only thing I was really bummed out was his conditioning for being in the ‘zone’. This is my own problem obviously; but I was expecting with two mystical forms of art, there’d be some mystical form of experiencing the zone. Turned out to be good old fashioned Pavlovian, stimulus response conditioning; but….if it works it works right!?

    I just pumped up Part 3 in my head a bunch and was a little deflated. But I guess that’s a good thing; anyone can build up and remove stimuli. That’s actually a great thing.

    Fantastic read Tim. Thank you very much.


  58. Tim I read this book when It was released and shared the same excitement. Just Yesterday I was going through the book and all the notes I took and today I found your blog. Thanks!

  59. I have just read the 4-hour-workweek and I loved it. I devoured it in less than two days. The concepts resonate with me as an entrepreneur, even though they are obviously tailored for the US market (perhaps an opportunity in broadening it exists). I am based in South Africa and digitally we’re not there yet, even though we’re getting there fast. We have a number of successful e-commerce sites, but not nearly enough.

    Therefore I had to think about a muse that is half on-line and half physical.

    The one thing I would like to contribute on though is in your recommendations of retirement locations. You specifically excluded the whole of Africa, which, for a well traveled man, I found strange.

    As I write this, i sitting in a coffee shop in Johannesburg, and out of the 15 or so people sitting here, South Africans are in the minority. We have a large population of expats in South Africa, especially from the UK & US.

    An Italian friend just got his permanent residency here last year. A business associate, an English man, who was based in Hong Kong, moved to Cape Town permanently after a few weeks visit. He’s now in Johannesburg, and he says he just couldn’t believe the quality of life and value SA afforded him.

    I think Cape Town has consistently done better than most of your recommendations over the years. Cape Town even made it to the top of New York Times’ 52 Places to go to in 2014.

    Mos Def, the highly acclaimed rapper and actor, moved to Cape Town and has been living there for a year.

    Brad Pitt and Jolie have hired a house in Johannesburg and will be living here for 6 months.

    This is not a complaint, I however believe it is important for us, as readers based outside of your favourite spots to share useful information about ours.

    I travel extensively in Africa, and I would venture to say that South Africa isn’t the only country suitable for this. A friend spends half the year in Kenya & Tanzania.

    I am sure you are aware that Mt Nelson Hotel has consistently been in the Top 10 worldwide for years. With people such as Al Newharth putting it in their top 10. We also have a world Top 50 restaurant.

    Lovely book, very much down my alley.

  60. Hello everyone, this book is a must-read. Even if you say, “But I’m not in any high-end competitive field.” The principles outlined in the book can be applied to your daily life. How’s this for a lesson: In sports (competitive fields) and in life we often take on the “victim mentality” when someone crosses us. Then we use that mentality to justify failure. We say things like, “But that person cheated throughout the game!” or, “They took my sale, I sold the product!” We always have a choice and we usually choose “justified indignation” as Josh puts it. But Josh clearly points out the other choice is to use the cheaters to you advantage, he teaches you how to use these cheaters as fuel for your fire. After reading the book and applying the principles you’ll be seeking out ‘dirty players’ to train with.

    The only drawbacks I found were that a lot of very important points are not highlighted enough, they are somewhat subtle. Also not knowing much about chess will hinder your understanding of his examples. But applying his principles to these ‘drawbacks’, I went back, read the book a second time with better presence, and really soaked in the information. I play a lot of racquetball, and I’ve already begun to apply these teachings, and THEY’VE ALREADY YIELDED RESULTS!

    As I said, it’s a must read. I just recommend that if you don’t know much about chess, that you look up youtube videos on basic chess principles, and BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THE IMPORTANT LESSONS while reading/hearing the book.

  61. Tim,

    I really like you entered the audiobook publishing business. Here’s a quick tip: why not also team up with eMusic, largest distributor of indie, DRM-free music and audiobooks as well?

    People like me hate DRM.

    If proceeded with my recommendation, please just note it under this comment.

    Many thanks!

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  64. I loved this podcast. I read Waitzkin’s book 2 years ago and absolutely loved it then. The interview was high quality and my interest was really piqued by this Marcello guy – who is this genius?! More episodes like these please!

  65. Tim

    One thing I notice is the advanced mindset/higher plane of consciousness of all the greats and masters. Richard Bandler (NLP creator) has discussed this and I’m surprised I haven’t seen you expound upon his creative work in your writings. Have you ever noticed the immense amount of creative talent and energy out of the West Coast? It’s like the stale old Atlantic guard fresh off the boat vibe still runs and ruminates in the East Coast thought centers- its the difference between transformational leadership and scientific management as car as the vibe and flow of encountering these two places. Vibe matters-Joe Del Mar

  66. I was looking for a forum to pose this question and I hope you will all help me. I’m the type of person who beats the odds. I’ve made the decision to “re-learn” how to play the violin. I want some ideas on how to practice efficiently and effectively so that I can prove one can become an excellent musician without having started at 3 years old. I’d love any tips and guidance you can provide. I’m really excited about this experiment. The end goal is to audition for a professional ensemble and get accepted. Cheers to the rule-breakers and dream-makers! Anabel

  67. I really loved this episode, particularly when the topic turned to meditation as I’ve recently started including a short, basic breathing meditation into my daily routine. Can anyone share any tried and tested resources to help me learn more? Particularly keen to cut through the crap and get right to the good quality, trusted stuff. Thanks, Lee 🙂

    1. Lee, not sure if you’ll receive this, but the app “Headspace” is what you are looking for. Basic, guided, (and totally secular) meditation. It has been extremely helpful to me, as I was initially very confused about what I was doing thinking with my eyes closed. Meditation is a profound tool. Basic stress relief and well being and the very outer layer of the surface. Wish you the best.

  68. Love all your podcast Tim. Josh’s spirit to learn and share is very similar to yours and I appreciate you both in your passion. Thanks. I’ve purchased Josh’s book and audio and am indulging daily. Josh mentioned that he preferred a specific translation of the Tao te Ching and I can’t find it in the Podcast. Do you remember which translation he was referring to? Thanks.

    1. I’m replying really late here because I was searching around for it as well and thought this page would have it (but it doesn’t — until now! #pow)

      It is “Tao Te Ching Translations by Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English” First published in 1972, but which is surprisingly not available on the Kindle. There is an “updated/refreshed” version of this specific translation that is available for the Kindle, but the reviews aren’t quite as good.

      So you might want to pick this one up on paperback! 😀

      1. Thank you Justin! I just discovered this reply through my Wordp Press account, which I obviously do not check very often.

  69. I’ve been lucky enough to learn under masters of two very different sports worlds, Coung Nhu and rock climbing/adventure racing, as well as engineering professors at the best public university in the world. My sports teachers gave me far more valuable and widely applicable advice and philosophies to live by. As most masters will likely agree, the only true limits to growth and capability are what we set for ourselves, and there is always room for more learning and mastery. The mind is far more powerful than the body, and the limits of our bodies are largely limited by our minds – we only learn what we’re truly capable of when we are pushed beyond limits we did not know existed.

    Thanks for sharing Mr. Waitzkin’s book. I look forward to rereading your 4HWW and other transformative works with his hard earned insights in mind.

  70. Hoping this is an ok place to post a question… trying not to contribute to the blitzing of Tim’s inbox. I’m looking for some quick suggestions on learning (I own this book on audio, and love it).

    I’m a full time magician. I work off-Broadway, in Hollywood, Vegas, etc. I’ve just fallen in love with a different genre of magic called manipulation. I’m giving myself one year, and am going to enter a competition to become a world champion manipulator. I’ve just started learning manip. this week.

    Does anyone have some suggestions for articles I can read, tips/advice, etc that would help me fine tune my practice routines/learning habits that would help me achieve this wild goal? I’d be forever grateful and would be happy to update any interested parties on my journey.

    I apologize if this isn’t the place for this type of request. I’ll be happy to re-post somewhere else is someone wants this moved. Thanks!

  71. Hey Tim, thanks for having Josh as a guest on your show. After listening to your podcast, I created a blog on WordPress. Since Feb. 1 I’ve made 86 posts. I learned so much from hearing Josh talk about scheduling “creative bursts” throughout your day. Thanks again for creating rich content like this and making it available on the podcast.


  72. The chess and martial arts background got me super interested. I think these are two activities that require a lot of focus, concentration and the drive to achieve something or to win — the same things you need to learn and succeed.

  73. Hard to believe this book actually has a few haters! I’ve been studying it (really — read it cover-to-cover several times while taking pages of notes, listen to the audiobook over and over, and still get something new out of it every time). I’m a professional bowler, and I can state categorically that The Book of Joshua is THE reason I’ve improved my game steadily over the past several years — and that at 52, I’m bowling better than ever before and am STILL getting better. There is no end to how much you can improve — at whatever you do — by applying what Josh lays out. Also, Tim, your podcast interview with Josh from a year or so ago is great — I call it Josh 2.0, because he brings out several important concepts beyond what he wrote about in TAOL. I hope he writes another book!

  74. –The Holy Grail of Education: “Rushers” vs. “Thinkers”–

    Dear Tim (or anybody who can answer this question),

    Inspired by a lot of your ideas, I’ve been living in Bogotá, Colombia for five years and am living a dream life of having my friends pay me to talk to them: I do intensive seven-day English courses where I take a Spanish speaker from zero to conversational in that time. The course is heavily based on the principles of the “Michel Thomas Spanish Course” (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) and Direct which include (1) a curriculum based on the Pareto distribution, (2) total responsibility of the teacher for the student’s results, (3) and a higher level of repetition than what you find in traditional methods. I’ve broken down the English language as far down as I possibly could.

    It works. When students take standardized tests after the course, they are usually rated as low-intermediate to intermediate. However, there’s a problem that I haven’t been able to resolve after all this time and even Daniel Kahneman–a world-authority on this subject–couldn’t give me an answer.

    There are two types of students: “Thinkers” and “Rushers” — thinkers learn the material in about fifty hours while rushers learn the same material in about two hundred. Here’s the difference between the two:

    I ask the student (using Spanish), how do you say “tengo que tenerlo” in English? It’s a question intentionally designed to be easy to mess up if you aren’t thinking about it.


    He breaks it down…

    “Tengo que” = I have

    “tener” = “to have”

    “lo” = “it”

    So… “Tengo que tenerlo” is “I have to have it”.

    They get it the first time, develop good habits, and the thinking process slowly becomes automatic… Just like Michel said it would.


    Without even thinking, he blurts out, “I HAVE IT!!!!!!!!”

    I tell him to break it down… How do you say “tengo q–“…?

    Interrupting, “I HAVE TO HAVE!!!!!!!!!”

    The students speaks from what “sounds good”, using an untrained intuition rather than being methodical. And after a few exchanges like this, trying to get the student to slow down, they finally get the right answer — but on the next question, the whole process repeats again.

    To put this into math terminology, it’s like asking a student, what is “2 + (2+1)” and they blurt out “NINE”!

    I’ve tried so many techniques to get students to think rather than react, but none of them have been able to get consistent results.

    So the question is… How can you turn a “rusher” into a “thinker”?



    1. NLP gurus have gone a long way to unpack people’s “automatic” responses, and install new strategies that work better. If you are really serious about trying to crack this, you might like to dig out a copy of the Emprint Method by Leslie Cameron-Bandler and others, which goes into fair detail. That is an old book (1985) so there may be something much newer and better by now. It deconstructs people’s thinking habits, and shows how they can be offered new and more effective habits. I am a language learning nut, as well as an NLP master practitioner (though I haven’t practised NLP professionally)… [Moderator: Skype name removed]

    2. Many face this same problem in everything as you know yourself already. What you can do is, not tell them the answer, but record them, play it back to them and have them struggle through it, over time they will slow down and get used to thinking, because they had to struggle through it, that is, if they don’t give up, because they never really learned to struggle or think through something.

      The need to realize what they are doing, since they are probably not even aware that they are not thinking. This is just a simple trick that I have used with a few of my students and myself.

  75. Josh is also one of the few “Heroes” that I have and I have read this book about 8 times (including the audiobook which you thankfully produced with him!)

    I have a story from my mentor, one of the best poker players in the world. He is the master of creating big sample sizes and feedback loops that give binary feedback, he sits with everything he does for as long as needed to solve the matter AND, he single tasks the F. out of everything !

    Thank you Tim, I have all of your books and love them, the 4HB was a great read (I especially liked that one can create their own concepts using the methods in the book, like MED, Kettlebells, never had a Harakuju moment though), but since my favorite topic is the art of learning, I really loved the 4HC.

    I have some great tips for you, if you don’t already know them, specifically on associative training, passive learning and bi-sociative training. As well as Language learning (but you are already pretty good at that it appears). I also really enjoyed your Tim Ferriss Experiment. As a Poker player I enjoyed the urban escape one the most hehehe, but the episode with Josh could have been 20 hours longer imho 🙂

  76. Hey Tim! Thanks again for yet another great book. I also gave a copy to my son, and this was the first ‘adult’ book that he actually enjoyed and read in its entirety.