The Art of Learning Podcast with Josh Waitzkin and Tim Ferriss

Maybe you are familiar with the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer.”

That movie is based on a young world class chess player who went on to become world class in martial arts as well (Tai Chi).

That person is Josh Waitzkin and he is an expert at learning at a very high level.

The guy interviewing him is Tim Ferriss, who is a self help guru, but Tim is more about how to get from “zero to competent” with the least amount of effort possible. (80/20 principle).

But Josh is more about how to reach that top .01 percent, how to go from being an expert to being world class, or even the best in the world.

Josh also took his learning skills in chess and martial arts and took them to the finance world in helping people who manage billions of dollars.

You can find the podcast here on Tim’s website.

Among other things, they discuss:

* Input creep and how that destroys your creative process. Wake up, check email, check voicemail, check phone, etc. Bad routine, this is a reactive lifestyle. They suggest instead: Wake up, skip all of the inputs, then unleash the creative mind on that task that your subconscious mind has been pouring over all night while you slept.

* How to nurture the creative process. “Unlearning.”

* Addiction to a past position in your experience, how to evaluate the present in a clean way to make best decision (avoid the sunk cost fallacy).

* How to meditate in order to create from an original place, rather than just reacting to the world.

* Ending your work day with high quality in order to carry that theme forward, start out strong tomorrow, subconsciously program that quality approach, etc.

* Meditation plus interval training, learning how to turn on and off your creative juices at will. They hint at the idea that simply watching the breath is perhaps the most powerful form of meditation and anyone can do this right now.

* Using meditation to channel fear, use the fear as power.

* Using meditation to observe your addictive relationships in your brain, the way your brain gets addicted to certain topics, things, etc.

* How “armchair philosophers” get it wrong when it is most important, and the actual people who achieve excellence often have a counter-intuitive process (discipline, hard work, love).


So I have not necessarily achieved “excellence” in my life, but I have accomplished a few things (built a business, ran a few marathons, etc.) and I would say that when I was engaged in a process with these things, I find that I am in agreement with the concepts that they are discussing here in this podcast. For example, when building up a huge website I seriously reduced my “input creep” and would not even check my email or turn on my cell phone sometimes until my writing was finished for the day. Thus I trained myself to become a fast and prolific writer, and today I am able to “turn it on and off” just by sitting down at the computer. I never sit down and freeze up any more, because I went through this process where it was almost like I taught myself how to force creativity. I taught myself how to write on command, how to flip the juices on, and a big part of doing that was eliminating inputs.

I mastered this process by doing it first thing in the morning. I would outline an article that I wanted to create at bedtime, right before going to bed. Then I would wake up, grab my coffee, and within ten minutes of waking up I was pounding out an article. Looking back now I realize that I was using some of their ideas that they discuss–some quick planning at the end of the work day, let it percolate overnight, then wake up and get right to the most creative task of the day while eliminating inputs (no email or cell phone until writing is done).

Anyway if you are looking for a way to get to that next level, or if you want to master the creative process yourself, I recommend that you go check out this podcast.

Radio Shack and Mortal Kombat Taught me How to Choose Yourself

I used to work at Radio Shack.

Each morning, another male coworker and I would show up early in the morning to open the store.

The first thing we would do each day is to put that song (from the video above) on the big speaker system in the store and blast it as loud as possible.

Then we would grab these Frisbees in the back room (why were there Frisbees in a Radio Shack store?) and then we would run around the store and try to whip the Frisbees at each other while the song was jamming. We were ducking behind various displays and trying to dodge the flying Frisbees while also looking for an opening to attack the other person by throwing our weapon of Kombat.

Inevitably, something would break in the store as the Frisbees were flying around like crazy. At that point we would stop the epic battle and clean up the wreckage. We would feel bad about whatever had broken, hide it in the back room, and get back to our real job at that point (By the way, what in the heck does a Radio Shack employee even do all day? I mean, really?).

I think we even got the store manager to battle with us one time.

Pretty immature, right?


I think we all do this.

You do this too. You have your own version of “Frisbee Kombat.”

Years later, I was working in an office job, and instead of running around and chucking Frisbees at each other to cheesy techno music, we were gathered around the break room eating a box of donuts. Or we were gathered around a computer and looking at funny pictures of cats.

Or whatever. Avoiding work.

It’s all the same thing.

You’re at work, you are stuck in a day job. You need an outlet.

You need some way to feel alive.

Most day jobs don’t give you that feeling of being alive. Instead they are slowly killing your spirit.

And so we invent Frisbee Kombat. Something to distract us. To get us through the day.

Frisbee Kombat was keeping me stuck.

And since then I have had various jobs in my life, and I have always found different ways to try and cope and deal with the monotony of working (some more than mature than others, but nothing was as epic as those frisbee battles).

Fast forward to today, roughly two decades post-Kombat.

Today I am lucky enough to be “choosing myself,” in the style of James Altucher.

How am I doing this? I created a job for myself, basically. Which involved quite a bit of luck, I admit.

But I can also remember being stuck in a day job that I hated, and I can remember the exact moment when I made this decision for myself. It was an EPIC decision that was worthy of true Kombat.

And the decision was this:

“I am going to keep building businesses until I find one that creates enough income for me to kill my day job. PERIOD. I will never stop until I succeed at this. I don’t care what it takes. I don’t care if it kills me.” (Insert shot of me with fist raised, screaming “Mortal Kombat!”)

I really had those exact thoughts one day in my past and I remember my level of conviction. It was fierce determination.

At the time, I had a video game system. I have always liked to play video games. I grew up playing video games.

And do you know what I did when I had that fierce moment of conviction?

I went and sold my video games on eBay. All of them.

Because I had no need for them any more, until I was free from my day job.

My path was clear to me. FOCUS.

I had to create my own business, something that could sustain me so that I would not have to go to work and comply with a boss and an HR department and state guidelines and so on and so forth.

I wanted OUT.

If you suddenly realize that you are living in chains, you don’t want to do anything else until your chains are removed and you are finally free.

Therefore I made freedom my priority.

This was focus. It was how I chose myself.

And I realized that Kombat Frisbee and all of the other things like it (eating donuts at work, watching funny cat videos with coworkers, etc.) were part of the complacency. They were keeping me stuck. They made it OK for me to keep showing up to a job that I hated.

And that day job was slowly killing my spirit.

How did I get unstuck?

How did I choose myself?

Extreme focus. Seriously hard work. Yesterday I actually wrote over 12,000 words online, and that was just a faint echo of the real work that I did when I was gearing up to quit my day job. During that time I cranked out over 25,000 words online in a single day. That is some serious focus. Serious intensity.

That is someone who really, really wants to quit their day job.

Call me a fan boy, but I don’t care… one says it better than James Altucher. You might read his book if you are looking to escape from your own Kombat zone. It will cost you all of .99 cents on Kindle.

So go ahead, click on the video, turn up your speakers as loud as you can, and grab a Frisbee.

Time to break free from this madness.

Time to escape the day job.

Time to choose yourself.



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