You are reading my review and notes of The Art of Learning.
The Art of Learning is most like a memoir where the author, Josh Waitzkin, tries to distill out his most profound learning moments. In this regard, the book is a failure. I don’t feel I gained any deep knowledge by reading this book. Looking back through my highlights, there are only a few and many are of hilarious descriptions of Push Hands matches (see below).
To be fair, I think it’s tremendously difficult to communicate, through a book, your own learning lightbulb moments. The reader is simply missing too much context and too many micro-connections made by the author which led to the deep learning lesson. In fact, Waitzkin admits it himself when he said “brilliant creations are often born of small errors.” His ‘brilliant creations’ (learning moments or new strategies in chess or push hands) were developed through countless smaller experiences and errors he made through the years he practiced these activities. It would be impossible to communicate this to a reader 10 years after it happened.
The book is really well written and engaging. I felt myself going back to it over and over, preferring to read The Art of Learning over the half dozen other books I’m currently reading. The author has led a truly inspiring and accomplished life at an age when many of us, at most, can say we learned a second language or how to play an instrument outside the normal educational curriculum.
I found the author’s descriptions of Push Hands, a non-strike martial art, over-the-top hilarious. Think of Push Hands like Wrestling’s weak little brother. After each connection, the match is reset. I searched on YouTube about halfway through the book and was surprised at what I saw based on descriptions like this:
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