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The Art of Learning and Unlearning

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. O. Wilde

Josh Waitzkin was a full time chess master and international martial arts champion. the art of learningHe authored a book called the The art of learning. His book is a must read for all those who believe that personal growth and evolution is not just an option but a philosophy of life. There are many lessons that traders can learn from The art of learning. Here are some of my takeaways.

World-class performers do not have any particular ability to learn and perform their craft better than other people. In fact, there is not an ideal way to learn something or do something. People that perform at the highest level are brilliant because they evolved and built skills on their natural strength. If you think, this is exactly the opposite of what most of us been told since since school – that is to work on our weaknesses. The lesson here is that there is something wonderful about building a learning process around our uniqueness, inspiration and personal characteristics.
Passion, introspection and the courage of throwing the heart and soul in thing that move us is fundamental to cultivate the creative mindset that will eventually bring to those breathtaking moments where we past our “limit”.  In these moments we are able to find connections and discover dynamics where apparently there is only chaos. In financial markets where a layman sees the random action and no sense a seasoned trader sees abstract patterns, has a “feel” of what the market is trying to do.

We all have our strengths, our weaknesses, our styles of learning, our personalities. Developing introspective sensitivity to these issues is critical to long-term success

The second big takeaway from the book is that our mind has the ability to be thematic interconnected-ness. This explains why a pursuit of excellence in a discipline has a positive reflection on the rest our lives. Josh Waitzkin is a living example of how the essence of mind processes go behind a particular discipline: for him chess, martial arts or trading is metaphorical. They are just a channel for internal growth.

the art of learning


The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.

Then the author goes into more philosophical aspects of life that have roots in Taoist meditation:

The secret is that everything is always on the line. The more present we are at practice, the more present we will be in competition, in the boardroom, at the exam, the operating table, the big stage. If we have any hope of attaining excellence, let alone of showing what we’ve got under pressure, we have to be prepared by a lifestyle of reinforcement. Presence must be like breathing.

Finally, what fascinated me the most was reading Josh – the master of learning – talking about unlearning. In other words, he believes that the path from good to great, from excellent to world-class, requires subtraction rather than addition: removing bad habits, removing weak and limiting beliefs, removing superfluousness.

Simply fascinating.

the art of learning