Josh Waitzkin

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  • , ,al

    JOURNEY IN TH

    UIT O F EXCELLE

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    C ON TEN TS

    I o tro< h ,et jo o

    I

    T H E FO JJN DATI ON

    I. Innocent Movo

    2 . L ,sing tu Win

    5. Two Approa

  • l! 12!C , lO'~~Vi ii

    C() ~ Tl ~ JS

    1.'1 . SI"wi o,L; Down Ti me

    14. The Illusion of the Mystical

    ill

    B R IN GING IT A I I IOC ET HFR

    15. The Power of Presence

    16 . Searchi n,L; for the Zo ne

    17. Ihll Jd ing Your Trigger

    18. ,Ma king Sandals

    19. Brin,L;ing It All Togt'rher

    20 Taiwan

    119

    167

    IS>

    199

    2 17

    +Aft" [\\'om 26 1

    +Ackncwlcdgmc nrs 2(,j

    Abour rhe Author 265

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    I NTR OD UCTI O N

    O ne has ro mvcsngare the principle In one thing or one

    l'vellt exhaustively . . . Things and the setf art' govefnoo

    by the same principle. If you understand one, you

    understa nd the other, for the truth with in and the

    truth without are identical._ E, Chc!l~ Yi.lln , 11th (entury

    FiNals: Ta j Chi Ch",m Push #la nds World Champi"m hip s

    H ,b" h",m g ~lad;um . Taipei. Ta;" ""l

    fJu em her 5, ! rl04

    Fort)' saonds before round tU'I}. and f lll /yin[!, on III)' l;ark h)'inKIf)

    lmulhe. Pain all thro/l}!,h Ilk. DI/I:P breath. La it Ii!/. I 10'1)11', beabltto lift !II)' shoulder tomorrou ~ it Iron " heal for orer a year: hilt 'WI/'iT pu" e,. aIn't. and Jfixl the air I,jhmting ,lnmnd III(. fix Jtad l /l1/1shakinr. u.ith rhann. i" Ma ndarin. IIIlt fir lilt'. Aly teammates arekmeli llf!. a hOI'f me. "John!!. u-arried. Thf:J m b IIi) a rms. my shOll/-den. III)' legs. The hell rings , I hear Illy dad's una ill /he stands.

    * Wilhorn Th~"d()f. d~ 11M}'. lOll,, '" of ( ,'bi"" , h"ditio~. V" L I . 2nd ed ..Columbi. tln;Wf

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    I ~ T R ll U U C T I lJ !'J. So a kid aces a math test, comes home,and hears "Wow, char's my boy! As smart as they come!"T hen , next week J ohnny fails an Eng lish tes t and hears"W hat's wrong With you' Can't you read?" or "Your Mommy

    never liked readi ng eirher-c-obviouxly, it's not )'Imr thing."So the boy figures he's good at math and bad at English, andwhat 's more, he links success and failure to ingrained ability.

    Learning rbcorisrs, on the other hand, arc given feed back thatis more process-oriented . After doing well on an Eng lish

    essay, a little gi rl m ight be cungrarulan-d by her reacher with"\'1ow, great job Ju lie! You' re really becoming a wooderful

    writer! Keep up the good work! " And if she does badly on amath tes t, her teacher might write "Study a litt le harder forthe next one and you' ll do g reat! And feel free to ask me

    questions any time after class, that's what I'm here for!" SoJ ulie karns to associate effort with success and feels tha t she

    can become good at anything with some hard work. She alsofeels as though she is on a journey of learn ing , and her

    teacher IS a friendly asstseanr in her growth. Johnny thinkshe's ,l;()(xl at math and bad at Engfish, and he focuses onquick results as opposed til long-term proress-c-bur what

    happens when he does badly on a hard math test down theline' Will he be prepared to learn the right lessons from life'sineVItable challenges! Unfor tunately, he may not.

    It is d ear that patents and reachers have an enormousresponsibility in formi ng the theories of in relhgence oftheir students and children-and it is never tOO late. It is

    cri tical to realize that we can always evolve in our approaches

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    Tw o AI'PH1A Clli S T O L rAR NIN C

    to learn ing. Scudies have shown that in just minutes, k rds

    CJn be conditioned into having a hea lthy learning the ory fi lra given situat ion . In one study, children were g iven different

    insrrucnons about what the aim of their rask was. Some kids

    were told that solving certain problr-ms would help them

    with thei r schoolwork in the future. and other kids were told

    that they would be judged based on their results. In otherwords. half the kids receival "rnasrery-onerued" lnsrruc nons,

    and half the kids received "helplessness-producing" instruc-

    t ions. N eed less to say, the kids who were temporarily mas-

    tery-oriented did much berrer on the tests.

    So how does all this alle(( us in our day-to-day lives ? Fun-

    darnemally. The key to pursumg excelle nce is to embrace an

    organic, lung-term learning pw

  • '''.no lll / o' , . , '"2..~

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    " Iury. In

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    T w o A I' PH1A C Il l. S TU Lr ARNINc

    might never see again. Thi s method of study gave me a feel-

    ing for rhe beauuful subdecies of tach chess piece, because inrelativel y clear-cut posi tions I could focus on what was

    essennal . I was also g radually internalizing a marvelousmethodology of learning-the p lay betwee n knowled ge,

    inruirion, and creativity. From bot h educat ional and techni-cal perspectives , llearned from rhe foundation up.

    Most of my rivals, on the ocher hand, hegan hy stll

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    TIlE ART O F L EAR:-l II\"G

    to win" ) Chess becomes one-dimensional-winning and

    winning fasr.Child ren who begin (heir chess educat ion b y memorizing

    openings (end to internalize an enri ry rheo ry of inrelll-

    gence. Their d ialogues with teachers, parem " and ocher

    children are all abour results, nor effort . T hey considerthemselves winners because so far (hey have won. In school,

    they foc us on what comes eas y to them and ignore t he sub-jeers rhar are harder. O n (he playg round , they use thefamou s "I wasn't rrying" after missing a shot or striking our.

    O nce I was in Arizona g iving ,I lecture and sim ultaneous

    exhibition * to a large group of young chess players andparents, and the organizer of the event picked me up at the

    airport bmgsing that his son hadn't lost a chess game in overa year. Ohviously this was a record the whole family wasproud of, I knew what was coming- -dassic anorexic hermit

    crab. When I met t he child , he was a moderately ralenred

    boy who was the besr in his school. H e had learned somequick opening attacks and had a natu ral feel for basic chesstactics. Clearly he had started winning and had been praised

    effusively fo r his genius. As a resul t, the boy refused toplay anyone outside of the circ le of friends and competi torswhom he knew to be inferior (his favo rite opponent was histather, who was a weak player and no challenge ar all). To his

    *A ,imul..,,,, ,u, ,xhibi,i"n, al" , n'korR'd tl> "' ""'n ul: i' an ,v,nt ...ht,,,, m""""'J,:" d"" " lay co"'I""" aJ,:ai"" a b ell' " umber "f "pp"n,,,", Wb,n I!live , imul, . u, ually ,10."" a pCI:J i"!l c" mp"i,i"n ,,, Jtt"",,,,, ,",'b" ,""i llplay m, _Th,,, 20,5U b".ru, art sot up i" la'J,:e S'J uarc of a hanqu36

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    Tw o AI'PH1A cIlr s T U L rAR NIN c

    Sd1001 buddies, th is boy was a chess god, hut compared to

    serious chess-playing chi ld ren around the country, he had a

    long way to go. l ie was a big fis h in a small pond and heliked it that way. The boy avoided chess throughout my visit.

    He didn't wanr to play in rhc simultaneous exhibi tion andwas (he only child at the event who was resistant to inscruc-

    tion. H is win ning streak and the consranr ta lk ofit had himall locked up---he was terrified of shanering rhe facade of

    pt:' rfen ion . T his chi ld was paralyzed by an ever-deepeningcycle of enri ry indoctr inat ion.

    Many kids like this are quire ralenred , so they excel ar fi rst

    because of good genes- but rhen they hi t a roadblock. As(hess struggles become more intense and opponents putlip serious resistance , they stan to lost:' in terest in {he game.

    They try to avoid challenges , but eventually the real worldfinds them , T hei r confidence is fragile. Losing is always a

    crisis ins tead of an opportun ity for growth-if they were awinner because they won, th is new losing mus e make them

    a loser.The long-term effects of "opening madness" are dear,

    but there are also serious immediate weaknesses in youngchess players brought up in this environ ment. j usr as {hereare lllevi(ab le ups and dow ns in a career, t here are a lso

    moment um shifts in individual games. Most of my earlyrivals were gifted children, and they were prepared with

    hund reds of n aps with which they could win right off thebat. Playing agai n., ( these kids was like walking through aminefield , hut I was good enough on my feet to navig ate

    most of the danger. I often came out of the openings in a lir-t le bir of trouble, but then I rook control. As our games pro-gressed, my opponents moved away from thei r area of

    comfort while I g rew stronger and more confident. T hey

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    ,,,mm,,... "" 1"",.ibih.y in n''''''''''/I .~ '''~ .nJ,.1",,,,,, "1< ,It< . i,, 11t ,......h. lf . ~'"u nll r...k...l>.oll pl.yt. i" ~Ullh ,,h. , ...",,, in/:",, tho only thi ,,~ th.. wi"".", do, rt ....,nl< ,hat fin' s ..,OROJ Champion

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    Tw o AI'PH1A CIll S T U L rAR NIN c

    remember being crus hed by m~' a rch rival in a sudden-death

    playoff of the U.S. J unior (Under 21) Cham pionship a year

    befo re I wo n the rc urnamenr ou t rig h t. T hen there was the

    final ro und of the U nder 18 World Chess Championship in

    SzegeJ , H ungary I was on board one co mpeting aga inst the

    R ussian for the world t it