My pal Bruce Gibbs loaned me a copy of The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. You may know something about Josh; he was the subject of a book and movie about a chess prodigy written by his father, Searching for Bobby Fischer. After his achievements in the world of chess, he turned his attention to Tai Chi Chuan earning the title of world champion.
In this book Josh reflects on what is required to achieve at the highest levels. His thinking is a fertile blend of western determination and eastern mysticism. This list of the titles of his chapters suggest the flavor of the book: "Losing to Win," "The Downward Spiral," "Beginner's Mind," "Making Smaller Circles" "Using Adversity," "Slowing Down Time," "The Illusion of the Mystical," "Searching for the Zone."
Waitzkin aptly describes what it feels like to lose oneself in the zone and merge with the activity at hand. Some passages in this book read as if written by Zen master Dogen; other passages read more like self-help books that fill bookstores these days. Waitzkin offers suggestions about how to travel into "The Zone."
He emphasizes living in the moment. Here's Josh to speaking for himself:
We don't live within a Hollywood screenplay where the crescendo erupts just when we want it to, and more often than not the climactic moments in our lives will follow many unclimactic normal, humdrum hours, days, weeks, or years. So how do we step up when our moment suddenly arises?Finally, for any teachers who might happen to this blog, Waitzkin discusses the distinction between entity and incremental theories of intelligence. Teachers strongly influence their students, and the best ones emphaisize process, effort, and a problem solving style that welcomes setbacks as learning opportunities. Lesser teachers simply praise students, "Way to go! Awesome job! You're so smart!" They don't recognize how their well-intended feedback harms students when their efforts fall short. In this, Waitzkin echoes Alfie Kohn in regard to the corrosive influence that a teacher's praise has upon his students.
My answer is to define the question Not only do we have to be good at waiting, we have to love it. Because waiting is not waiting, it is life. Too many of us live without fully engaging our minds, waiting for that moment when our real lives begin Years pass in boredom, but that is okay becuase when our true love comes around, or we discover our real calling, we will begin. Of course the sad truth is that if we are not present to the moment, our true love could come and go and we wouldn't even notice. And we will have become someone other than the you or I who would be able to embrace it. I believe an appreciation for simplicity, the everyday—the ability to dive deeply into the banal and discover life's hidden richness—is where success, let alone happiness, emerges.