Speaking at JW3 cultural centre in London on 10 October 2017, eight-time US National Chess Champion Josh Waitzkin told the audience that he actively seeks ‘discomfort and pain’ because it allows him to steepen his growth curve.
“It is only when we are at our stretch point that we grow,” he told his good friend and fellow chess master Adam Robinson in a lively interview on the JW3 stage.
“It is only when we are at our stretch point that we grow”
Waitzkin added that critical learning is often found on the knife’s edge before or after having made a mistake.
“This is why it’s important to really be engaged and pushing yourself, against the risks,” he said.
Waitzkin’s journey to winning his first National Chess Championship was made famous in the 1993 film Searching for Bobby Fischer, which was based on the acclaimed book of the same title.
Waitzkin told the audience: “People play chess in many different styles. For me, I would find a sense of harmony within the chaos. I would feel the flow within the complexity. I was never thinking about maths – I was thinking about flow.”
“People play chess in many different styles. For me, I would find a sense of harmony within the chaos. I would feel the flow within the complexity. I was never thinking about maths – I was thinking about flow.”
Waitzkin said when internalizing an art, it’s important to both practice the art and reflect on the learning.
He said: “I tend to think about the learning process… there are moments where you are in it and doing it, and there are times where you reflect on it and look back.”
“It’s important that one phase doesn’t take over the other. I’ve harnessed this undulation in my life.”
He said high-level performance is subtle and it stems from the deep internalisation of mental models through practice so that they become intuitively accessible.