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):

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]


Posted on: June 27, 2019.

Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.

Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.

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15 comments on “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. 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.