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As children, we have a natural love for discovery and new challenges. Learning and ambition are playful adventures rather than dizzying experiences fraught with a sense of danger; whenever we fall, we get right back up again. But, as we mature, we begin to attach a sense of risk and fear to learning and performance and seek the comfort of old knowledge and methods. To learn and perform at increasingly higher levels, especially under stressful circumstances, we must reconnect to the experiences of our youth—to those times when our natural approach to discovery was light-hearted and being a beginner and a learner was joyful. At the core of success lies the journey from childhood back to childhood again. It is by taking this journey that we can discover how to maintain a harmonious balance between our pursuits and our own unique disposition.

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Chess was a constant challenge. My whole career, my father and I searched out opponents who were a little stronger than me, so even as I dominated the scholastic circuit, losing was part of my regular experience. I believe this was important for maintaining a healthy perspective on the game. While there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders, fear of failure didn’t move me so much as an intense passion for the game. p. 43

A heartfelt, empathetically present, incrementally inspiring mom or dad or coach can liberate an ambitious child to take the world by the horns. As adults, we have to take responsibility for ourselves and nurture a healthy, liberated mind-set. p. 47

My chess career ended with me teetering on a string above leaping flames, and in time, through a different medium, I rediscovered a relationship to ambition and art that has allowed me the freedom to create like a child under world championship pressure. This journey, from child back to child again, is at the very core of my understanding of success.p. 80

Further reading: Chapter 4: Loving the Game, Chapter 8: Breaking Stallions

From THE ART OF LEARNING by Josh Waitzkin. Copyright © 2007 by Josh Waitzkin LLC.
Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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