I thoroughly The Art of Learning, particularly the first half that explores the cerebral journey found in learning/discovering/troubleshooting. The backstory to this book is author Josh Waitzkin was thrown into fame as a child prodigy chess player. The book/movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is written by his dad (I just recently watched and also highly recommend). Around age 20 the author grew disenchanted with chess (likely due to the huge popularity of the movie) and made the abnormal shift from chess to martial arts. The book describes this journey, how there are similarities, and his approach to learning and mental tenacity.
Three points stuck out:
- It’s wrong to tell children “it’s just a game,” when they’re experiencing a loss. This is typical behavior for parents with competitive kids that don’t perform well during big events. If it didn’t matter, then why did they train so much and travel far for something that doesn’t matter? Children know this and it’s disingenuous to tell them their efforts were meaningless. At the time of this writing, Jim Carrey has been making waves saying how “life doesn’t matter.” This is an incomplete statement as it’s not saying who/what is experiencing the matter. Life may not matter TO YOU or TO THE UNIVERSE. But certain things trigger pain and joy– thus some things do matter to people regardless of the significance to others (BTW, I semi agree with Mr. Carrey’s message besides this flaw, maybe I’ll chat about that some other time).
- Sometimes the subconscious sees something before the conscious mind does. I’ve experienced this when looking at a coding, or logic problem at work. Sometimes there will be a small flicker that you can’t explain, but you get a hunch that there’s something there that should be continued to explore. I’ve had this sensation on many occasions and have grown to listen very carefully to my body whenever I “feel” like there might be a solution hiding right in front of me that I havent’ seen yet.
- The book details an experiment between two types of learners — Entity and Incremental learners. It explores how some children who believe they are smart by innate ability (entity) are less resilient to problem-solving after they are stumped than incremental learners. The study consists of giving kids a problem beyond their capability to solve, so they all fail. Afterwards, they are tested on a problem within their skillset and, predictably, the incremental learners did better. This study was referenced in the book The Fighter’s Mind which inspired me in to read The Art of Learning. This illustrates the biggest conflict I feel as a parent — forcing your kids to struggle/suffer is the one of the most effective ways to make them resilient, confident and able to live a healthy life. At the same time… what parent wants to allow their kid to suffer?
Regardless, a good read.