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Children learning to crawl approach their surroundings with unstoppable curiosity and an eager, joyful sense of adventure. They have no concern for how they look nor the judgments of others. What propels them forward is a general delight in all that is unfamiliar; an ability to be intrigued by the mundane; and a desire to probe the most minute details along their path, over and over again. The best learning results from this kind of openness—from being fully awake to the experience at hand, receptive to gaining even tiny insights from it and to refining one’s method in response. An inner willingness to adopt the nonresistant approach of a beginner and gradually perfect one’s knowledge manifests outwardly as forward movement and, over time, as graceful expertise.

In Josh’s Words:


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I think a life of ambition is like existing on a balance beam. As a child, there is no fear, no sense for the danger of falling. The beam feels wide and stable, and natural playfulness allows for creative leaps and fast learning. You can run around doing somersaults and flips, always testing yourself with a love for discovery and new challenges. If you happen to fall off—no problem, you just get back on. But then, as you get older, you become more aware of the risk of injury… Plunging off would be humiliating….
A key component of high-level learning is cultivating a resilient awareness that is the older, conscious embodiment of a child’s playful obliviousness….This journey, from child back to child again, is at the very core of my understanding of success. pp. 79,80

Further reading: Chapter 8: Breaking Stallions

When I watched my first Tai Chi class…the goal was not winning, but, simply, being…. Over the next few months, I learned the sixty basic movements of the meditative form. I was a beginner, a child learning to crawl, and the world began to lift off my shoulders…. A huge element of Tai Chi is releasing obstructions so the body and mind can flow smoothly together. If there is tension in one place, the mind stops there, and the fluidity is broken. p. 96

Further reading: Chapter 9: Beginner’s Mind

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


  1. Nidhi says:

    Dear whom-so-ever reading (I hope Josh), I want to thank you for the excellent book you have written. This book has changed my life immensely and even though I don’t generally go around recommending books to people, I have recommended and gifted yours to a lot of people. I used to do a few things that you mention in the book already intuitively but reading this book I realised the potential- how far I could take it further-so much I hadn’t explored. The physical aspects of my learning- particularly my martial arts practice and my sculpting hobby have seen much improvement. I am trying to imbibe the lessons from the book into my work as a data scientist as well. The results seem more tangible I think in the physical dimensions of learning just by virtue of them being physical and not internal until my knowledge achieves some sort of critical mass first. Anyway, thanks a lot again!

    • Katy says:

      Wonderful! So glad you’re seeing the benefits of The Art of Learning in your own creative work. It often is easier to internalize the learning principles through physical practice first, and then begin to translate them to more abstract fields.

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