Josh Waitzkin — How to Cram 2 Months of Learning into 1 Day (#375)

“From my perspective, the goal is unobstructed self-expression.”

— Josh Waitzkin

Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning, is an eight-time US National Chess Champion, a two-time World Champion in Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands, and the first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt under nine-time World Champion Marcelo Garcia.

For the past 12 years, Josh has been channeling his passion for the outer limits of the learning process toward training elite mental performers in business and finance, and to revolutionizing the education system through his nonprofit foundation, The Art of Learning Project. Josh is currently in the process of taking on his fourth and fifth disciplines, paddle surfing and foiling, and is an all-in father and husband.

The audio and video were recorded at The Sohn Investment Conference in the David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The Sohn Conference Foundation is dedicated to supporting innovative initiatives to cure and treat pediatric cancer. The Sohn Conference Foundation raises its funds through a unique strategy: Wall Street’s most successful investors offer their expertise on stage and inspire large audiences to give to the foundation’s cause. You can learn more about it at

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Watch the interview on YouTube.

#375: Josh Waitzkin — How to Cram 2 Months of Learning into 1 Day

Want to hear another conversation with Josh Waitzkin?In this episode (the second ever on The Tim Ferriss Show), we discuss The Art of Learning, what separates elite performers, and strategies for peak productivity. (Stream below or right-click here to download):

Episode 2: Joshua Waitzkin

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Josh Waitzkin:

Website | The Art of Learning Project


  • What song makes Josh ready to fight 10 dudes, and how did it become such a powerful trigger? [05:18]
  • Why — and how — does Josh lately feel like he’s cramming two months of learning into each day? It all started with a desire to surf in New York City. [06:45]
  • How foiling allows Josh to deliberately practice surfing in ways regular surfing can’t. [10:09]
  • Deliberate practice and the harnessing of unconscious learning: what did Olympic skier Billy Kidd consider the three most important turns of a ski run — and why? [12:15]
  • What types of biomarkers does Josh track in his coaching clients? [14:01]
  • What is a resonant frequency? [16:00]
  • What is trigger work, and how did has it helped Josh enter peak performance in the space of a breath? [16:43]
  • What tools does Josh use for tracking HRV? [18:04]
  • How might HRV training help someone attune their senses in a non-athletic capacity? [18:39]
  • Though he tailors his coaching for each individual, Josh has these suggestions for people who are looking to better structure their days looking toward higher performance. [21:05]
  • How do people identify their peak energy? Josh details one of his most important activities for ending the day and beginning the next. [24:29]
  • How might this exercise differ between individuals for more personalized results? [25:55]
  • One of the most important things a decision-maker can do. [26:58]
  • How can someone find their MIQ (most important question) if they’re struggling to identify one? How might an otherwise great thinker use this tool to move through something that gets them stuck? [28:45]
  • What Ernest Hemingway’s writing process and Marcelo Garcia’s pre-match naps can teach us about the timely art of letting go. [30:50]
  • Why being able to go from a relaxed zero to an intense 10 is better than existing at a constant, simmering six. [32:40]
  • As someone who’s moved his family away from the city noises of bustling Manhattan to a remote, coastal jungle in Latin America, how would Josh convince an always-on, FOMO-addled client of the benefits to similarly unplugging and learning to say no? [34:18]
  • Josh says your ability to determine what matters most is affected by your ability to identify your zone of genius. How does he recommend finding that zone? [38:00]
  • Final thoughts and thanks. [41:52]


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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52 Replies to “Josh Waitzkin — How to Cram 2 Months of Learning into 1 Day (#375)”

  1. I love when you manage to lure the bear out from his cave – amazing as usual! I’d love to hear how you’ve used triggers (Macho Duck by any chance?) or HRV in your day-to-day Tim, as they’re both something I’ve yet to successful implement.

    My favourite lesson was on cultivating your zone of genius – something he’s touched on but not delved deeply on the podcasts yet. I’d also love to hear more from Josh on how he helps people identify their zone of genius. It’s something I’m struggling with and would appreciate specific examples (other than the guidelines in his books).

  2. I love your interviews with Josh. I’m fascinated by his work and how he thinks about peak performance. I’d love to learn more about the MIQ (most important question) concept. I quick search on Google and YouTube didn’t reveal much

    Feel like this could easily be a full blog post I would eagerly consume and could help me mentally pivot.

  3. Heya Tim, amazing content as always.

    I’ve heard HRV being mentioned many times by previous guests. Do you have any recommendations to the best tools, resources and methods to get into it?

    Given that some of us do not have access to world class specialists in our neighbourhood.

  4. I am looking forward to today’s supporter Live Q/A session. If an email has been sent with instructions for submitting a question I have not received it yet. My question: “If you were to design the 2nd half of your career to be an order of magnitude more impactful than it has already been what changes would you make and how would you measure it?” I apologize if this is mathematically non-viable (infinity times 10 = infinity)

  5. Thank you for bringing Josh back!

    By the way, would be great if you bring Mike Shinoda back! Since your first interview with him a lot of things have happened and I think Mike changed a lot…

  6. Hi, I normally really like the podcast and the guests, but this talk was very superficial and the guest was particularly self referential. Seemingly talking like other guests about their learning (which is why we are here), and the way he tracks his heart rate, but leaving anything of substance out of the conversation, and just staying on the superficial aspects of it. Maybe there are profound insights on the things being discussed, but I couldn’t extract them.

    I hope this is helpful.

  7. Nice interview. I too would love to learn more about the HRV and specifically what parameters are interesting. There are simple apps and mobile devices out there (Inner balance and emwave2) but maybe I miss out the real deal if you dont go for the real deal?

    Isn’t it time for you Tim to test these products? 🙂

  8. I heard mention of “The Art of Saying No” but don’t see it mentioned in the links. Is this a book?

  9. Hi there Tim. Do you haven any advice on making quick (creative) decisions? I write music, but take way too long in deciding which pieces to use and which to throw away when writing. Thanks.

  10. Hey, diving into this but wondering have you entirely written off SSRIs, etc for MDD or other mood-linked disorders?


    Bummer, I‘d really like to get Kindle-editions of your books, but on amazon it tells me that the purchase is not possible.

    Could it be that it‘s a regional thing since I live in Cologne, Germany?

    I‘d really like to read them.

    All the best, cheers!


  12. So why as your interviewing this articulate, composed classy lady do you drop the F bomb so many times? Great episode though

  13. Hi Tim, quick question. cant find it on the donation page anymore, options are removed.. Which payment provider did you use for the support page, I would like to add the same one on my website, because I think it is a highly convenient one.. Thanks man!

    Kind regards,


  14. As an artistic skater I appreciate stylistic and feminine performance. Connected with the comment that Dita doesn’t need a stylist; that she knows what to wear.

  15. You investigate historical figures. Horitio Bottomley. One of the best orators England produced. Almost single handedly raised the bond funds for the First World War, then political winds changed and his ( likely champagne infused) accounting lead to prison time.

    An interesting life. There are good and bad books on him. His book of poetry written in prison is an interesting read. A bit flowery but interesting about how little has changed.

  16. “First find out what you are capable of, then decide who you are.” Tara Westover, Educated

    Consider interviewing her. I think she could provide a unique perspective on the power of education and who and what you have to give up in becoming.

  17. I was a former employee of the Koch regime for almost 15 years. They should practice what they preach when it comes to MBM. But they don’t. I was a plant manager who led my team to 10 consecutive years and counting of an accident free facility. My thanks for that deed was for my boss to terminate me, knowing that I had not even 1 negative thing in my HR files and knowing that I was going to retire in 2 years at age 65. My ex employees under me were as stunned as I was, as some of them still keep in touch. They tell me that my boss told them that he felt like I wasn’t pushing the MBM values down to them enough ! Really !! I had the only facility with that many years of no accidents, which is a big part of MBM. I’m a 63 year old Army veteran with nothing but good things on record and they got rid of me for no just cause. Makes you think of how 2 faced they really are.

  18. Given what is happening in America and the role people like the Koch brothers have played and continue to play in funding anti-democratic, racist, anti-immigrant, and misogynistic politics, it is incredibly disappointing that you would highlight the POV and thus line the pockets of the Koch brothers. This episode lost you a subscriber.

  19. Unsubscribe me FOREVER. This country needs interviews from people like Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard.

  20. I’m going to pause, for a bit, before I act on my anger at you for providing another platform for Charles Koch. His political activities and his funding of conservative policy are appalling.

  21. I appreciate your interview with Charles Koch. I love your podcast and appreciate the different views and opinions that are offered. I agree that we need to find common ground when possible and learn to respect differences.

  22. In listening to the Charles Koch Interview, You have confirmed your abilities as a talented interviewer. Charles Koch has certainly strained your abilities. We will reach across the “divide” but not with a man whose self awareness is almost undetectable. Compromise I require a strong internal compass. Self awareness is the best tool available for the job.

  23. Tim, my father has a terminal cancer diagnosis and is struggling deeply with his depression, purpose, motivation to live and feel any joy while he is still alive. I’m convinced of the efficacy of these tools. To your knowledge, are there trials, studies, access, etc available now for cancer patients to try these treatments or a resource you suggest to research further for myself? Simple online searches haven’t yielded much in the way of hard leads. Thanks for sharing the wealth.

  24. Hi Tim,

    I loved this episode with Safi and the part about depression and all the years-long, mostly silent, struggle really resonated with me. It’s so so good to hear that there are other people out there asking themselves the same question over and over…It’s not only dealing with those dark sides of our souls and minds but as you’ve said, it’s more about that repetitive question “will it always be and feel like this… with everyone and everywhere …am I really just not wired to ever be happy and joyful…” Thanks for your words, it’s comforting and encouraging in so many ways! Great episode, was listening to it while at Crete -Greece on my vacation.. and a beautiful beachview just gave it a perfect backdrop 🙂

  25. Hi, I used the link in 5 Bullet Friday to make a donation but there was no /tim or anything indicating my donation came via Tim Ferriss. ( Does that matter? Do you want that info for your match? I’ll take this opportunity to tell you that I am a huge fan but have only bought a couple of your books because it’s against my religion to purchase what I can borrow on my Libby (library) app. When you threw the crowdsourcing opportunity out there I didn’t participate in that either then felt a little cheap about it. Does donating to a worthy cause on your behalf redeem me as a loyal fan? Wishing you all the best in your endeavors.

  26. I enjoyed the ideas that make sense to solving our problems (empower people, bottoms up, principled entrepreneurship). Koch’s ideas don’t fit nicely into either the left or the right political side. So maybe his idea would actually result in fixes to the US problems? Great selection Tim!

  27. Well as an Alaska based nature photographer, and huge Tim Ferris podcast and book fan, I never thought I would see the two collide! Fascinating interview, and an amazing cause – thanks for bring more attention!

  28. Loved Mike Phillip’s response to Tim’s question asking do you ever want to give up hope?

    “I get up everyday ready to go. Determination is more important than Hope.” Mike Phillip

    1. Thank you for your donation, Barb. If you used the link Tim provided in the introduction above, it will automatically be added.

  29. Hey Tim, you are making a very very large mistake trying to force wolf reintroduction in Colorado. You obviously have zero clue what you are doing. They are not the native species for one thing. Two, they killed almost ALL the elk in Yellowstone. It’s mind boggling someone who I would have considered rational is going to ruin the entire ungulate population and entire rural economy to reintroduce a non native species that is a killing machine. Very sad you are so stupid.

  30. Hey Tim Ferriss!!! I wanted to reach out and say how much I love what you are doing with MAPS and it makes me really happy to see how passionate you are about it. I can relate. I just submitted an application for a job with MAPS and hoping for an opportunity to be apart of it. Happy Friday!!!

  31. Thank you so much for inspiring and sharing your thoughts and wisdom! I really enjoy listening to your podcast, it’s my favorite. Keep up the awesome work ✨🤩

  32. Hey Tim, I’ve read most of your stuff and thoroughly enjoy what you put out there. I can’t help but thinking every time I listen about an assessment that may be a solution for a number of the questions you’ve been asking and solutions you’ve been providing. It’s called the core values index, the most reliable psychometric tool available. It doesn’t measure personality. It’s hardwiring. I’d love to show it to you and give you a free demo. Not a sales pitch, but a genuine interest in what you seem to be interested in. Major game changer.

  33. Thank you for the link to quotes by Max Planck. I am currently reading Speaking Being, and I wondered if you have done the Landmark Forum yet?

    [Moderator: link removed.]

  34. You both talked a lot about technology doing the right thing. That resonated with me because I hear that so often from vmware. I’d love to hear you interview Pat Gelsinger.

    P.S Love the podcast, and I’m going to dinner at Alinea when I’m in Chicago in October. It’s my birthday present to myself, as I sit in the sun for a half hour this morning learning to put my screen to gray. Thanks so much for all you do and the incredible insights you bring from the people you interview.

  35. Not a comment on this podcast.

    An archive of the quotes you’ve given out on the newsletter would be awesome. Shit, an archive of the newsletters would also be awesome. I used to save every one, but it started taking up considerable room in my inbox—plus you shared the concern of saving emails in the 4HWW. Anyways, archived quotes and/or newsletters would be very much appreciated. I forgot to write down August 30th’s quote and now it’s driving me nuts!

  36. What Ken Burns brings to the table/ this table/ is the conviction that civilization ( of a culture, of an individual) is the courage to reflect on your own dark past/ darkness/ and get strengthened by that

  37. Hey Tim, big fan. Love all of the things. I’m looking to do legal psilocybin therapy. I checked online and I see there are retreat-style options in Jamaica, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. Are you familiar with any that you’d recommend? Or is there a better approach? Thanks!

  38. Hello,

    I am university film student working on a documentary about the reintroduction of the wolves. With your permission of course, I would like to use a couple of sound bites from this episode to use in the documentary. Please let me know your thoughts!
    Thank you

  39. Tim, I want to call your attention to a critical issue in the search for an effective Alzheimer’s treatment. I have been a care partner for my wife Geri for seven years. Together, we have spoken to over ten thousand people across the country and in Europe. Our objectives are to address the stigma of dementia, encourage individuals with the disease to live with purpose and joy, and encourage clinical trial participation. We work closely with the Alzheimer’s Association and Us Against Alzheimer’s, speaking at their events and participating in national AD projects. Our story was covered by a ten-page article in the New York Times of 5/1/16.

    As you know, federal research spending for Alzheimer’s has increased from $.5B to $2.8B annually over the past five years. This a magnificent accomplishment and much credit should be given to Congress and our support organizations for this increase. However, I fear that we may be wasting research dollars by not addressing the weakest point in the process to find a cure.

    When the significantly increased research funding begins to bear fruit in a few years, there will be many additional potential treatments which require testing in humans. But today fewer than one percent of those living with Alzheimer’s participate in clinical trials. One of the most exciting potential treatments, aducanumab, required three years in order to recruit the required number of entrants for the Phase 3 trial. Many current trials fail today simply because they are unable to secure the required participation. In a few years all the additional trials will be competing for the same small number of willing entrants unless we significantly increase today’s efforts to address the barriers to joining clinical trials.

    Some efforts are underway by Bright Focus and other organizations; the government has little action underway. Much greater focus is required to avoid a break-down in our search for a cure. There are many short-term and long-term actions that can address these barriers, but I have been unable to find funding to proceed.

    Please join me in this critical effort to increase Alzheimer’s clinical trial participation.

    James M Taylor
    FDA Patient Advocate for Alzheimer’s disease

  40. listened for 20 minutes, never got to what was promised in the title, so stopped listening.. Disappointed! Adds and bullshit, seems you’re far away from actually helping people being more efficient.