It is most effective to launch into the learning process by studying a discipline’s most fundamental principles. A devotion to mastering the nuances of these basics builds the foundation required for more complex understanding; creative bursts of inspiration; and higher levels of achievement, which result from an interplay between knowledge, intuition, and creativity. By studying and deeply internalizing core concepts we develop our brain in ways that allow us to achieve a more penetrating understanding of not just one subject or practice but also all others we choose to undertake. As we immerse ourselves in doing what it takes to absorb and build on fundamentals, we experience first-hand the joy of learning and reinforce for ourselves its value. Allowing ourselves to grasp the intrinsic benefit of personal development through what we do to achieve it enhances our motivation and equips us to take learning further.
In Josh’s Words
Bruce began our study with a barren chessboard. We took on positions of reduced complexity and clear principles. Our first focus was king and pawn against king—just three pieces on the table… Layer by layer we built up my knowledge and my understanding of how to transform axioms into fuel for creative insight… This method of study gave me a feeling for the beautiful subtleties of each chess piece, because in relatively clear-cut positions I could focus on what was essential. I was also gradually internalizing a marvelous methodology of learning—the play between knowledge, intuition, and creativity. From both educational and technical perspectives, I learned from the foundation up.
pp. 34, 35
From very early on, I felt that the moving meditation of Tai Chi Chuan has the primary martial purpose of allowing practitioners to refine certain fundamental principles. Many of them can be explored by standing up, taking a stance, and incrementally refining the simplest of movements—for example pushing your hands six inches through the air….
I practiced the Tai Chi meditative form diligently, many hours a day. At times I repeated segments of the form over and over, honing certain techniques while refining my body mechanics and deepening my sense of relaxation. I focused on small movements, sometimes spending hours moving my hand out a few inches, then releasing it back, energizing outwards, connecting my feet to my fingertips with less and less obstruction… the key was to recognize that the principles making one simple technique tick were the same fundamentals that fueled the whole expansive system of Tai Chi Chuan.pp. 117, 118
It is rarely a mysterious technique that drives us to the top, but rather a profound mastery of what may well be a basic skill set. Depth beats breadth any day of the week, because it opens a channel for the intangible, unconscious, creative components of our hidden potential.p. 123
Further reading: Chapter 3, Two Approaches to Learning and Chapter 11, Making Smaller Circles
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