6 Learning Tactics used by Champions

Jul 8, 2021 2 min read
6 Learning Tactics used by Champions

Six straightforward tactics for getting the most out of learning and skill development.

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.
- Josh Waitzkin

Learning something new or building upon previous skills can sometimes be challenging without the right tactics and mental models. In this short article, we will explore some tactics that Josh Waitzkin, in his book "The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance," used to help him become a Grand Master in Chess and a World Champion in Taiji Push-Hands.

Embrace Losses and Setbacks

Losses can be much more beneficial than wins when you have the right mindset. In addition, failures shine a light on areas that need improvement. Make sure to sit down and take the time to reflect on mistakes or errors so that you can build upon any previous weak points or mistakes for next time.  

Perfectionism is the Enemy

Perfectionism is a form of procrastination. It will stop you dead in your tracks and prevent you from doing what you want to pursue or create. Avoid thinking everything needs to be perfect. It never will be. Rather than setting unrealistic expectations, remind yourself that the process of learning is a path of experimentation, trial and error,  and gradual improvements.

Perfection is the enemy of progress.  
- Winston Churchill
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better .
- Maya Angelou

Begin with the Foundation

It's easy to get into the weeds when learning any new skill. Begin with learning the fundamental concepts. If this is to learn how to draw, start with basic shapes and build from there. This is also similar to martial arts in Josh Waitzkin's experience. He began with simple movements and then developed his techniques once he had a solid understanding of the core concepts.

Make Curiosity a Habit

Making a habit of learning new things or skills starts with embracing your curiosity. Ask questions, explore different routes, make it a habit to try new things. These experiences may seem separate, but you will quickly discover commonalities from one skill to another as you learn more.

The most important skill for getting rich is becoming a perpetual learner.
- Naval Ravikant

Learn in Intervals

This concept relates to both physical training as it does with the training of learning. Having periods of focus and rest are beneficial for learning, recollection, and development. One option would be using the Pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 min and take a break for 5 min. Then repeat. Just how athletes take off at the end of a season, it is essential to define times of focus and recovery. Both are necessary.

Interval work is a critical building block to becoming a consistent long-term performer. If you spend a few months practicing stress and recovery in your everyday life, you’ll lay the physiological foundation for becoming a resilient, dependable pressure player.
- Josh Waitzkin

The Beginner's Mind

The beginner's mind refers to the point where you know little to nothing about a particular subject or skill. The ability to become a beginner in something new puts you in a state where your mind needs to stretch to learn new things or actions. This is not always a comfortable place to be in, but just like you would use weights to strengthen your muscles, learning new things helps enhance mental capacity.

Becoming a highly effective learner takes time, but using these six tactics will help make the learning process much more enjoyable and efficient.

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