Art of learning

A few days back , I was strolling in the quiet Barnes and Noble on 14th St.  when I stumbled on to a book titled" The art of learning". At the outset, it looked similar to "Success Vs Joy", one of my all time favorite books , written by Geet Sethi.

This book is an autobiography by Josh Waitzkin, a chess prodigy on whose life, "Searching for Bobby Fischer" movie was made. I browsed through a few pages, read a couple of intermittent points and put the book down. Reason being, I did not have time to actually sit through and read a book on learning. I was in a hurry to get on with my daily schedule. Just as I walked out of the book store, something in me, made me retrace my steps to the book section. The book had a magnetic effect on me and  I ended up buying it. I read the book on  my travel back to my apt, forgot about my dinner and just kept reading it until I reached the end of the book.After a very long time I managed to read a book in one sitting. In this brief post , I will try to recap some of the points mentioned in the book.  I feel this should be read by any one who wants to live up to one's complete potential. Here are few points from the book
Making Smaller Circles:
It is extremely important to concentrate on depth than width. Josh gives a few examples to explain this crucial aspect of learning. We might learn all the fancy things in the world but fail to internalize some of the basic principles. Example from chess is , you can learn a gazillion openings and still crumble under a new attack for the simple reason that you have started your chess life with 32 pieces on the board. Why not start with just 2 pieces King and a Pawn, OR, King and a Bishop and then slowly look at King and Bishop Vs King and a Knight.  Incrementally build up the knowledge. The most important point is to understand each piece so well that you look at a opening , you just see that it is just one of the patterns when the individual pieces get together and move in a specific way. What do you gain by drawing these smaller circle ? Great perspective on things , on the depth of each move. I guess every one should ponder and ask a question to themselves, " When was the last time I was completely focused on a task and lost a sense of time, and in the end understood the beauty of the underlying principles.

An example from the every day life of let's say an analyst who uses stats in his work: How many times that an analyst makes a small circle and wonders , lets say, " What exactly is the difference between correlation and covariance ? Is one related to other ? What are the scenarios where they kind of give the same meaning ? what are the scenarios where each has its own meaning ? Can one calculate covariance between any 2 variables, lets say when both are stochastic, when one is stochastic, one is random, ? " The point is as long as one does not take time to really understand the basic principles of any subject, his / her learning , understanding and application will ONLY be superficial.

Other interesting ideas discussed in the book are Investment in Loss , Beginner's Mind and Slowing down time. Well there are a lot more than that….and my single blog post can never do justice to the book. It is a wonderful book and I strongly recommend it