Monday, 1 December 2008

Josh Waitzkin - Psychology Today Interview With Scott Barry Kaufman


Josh Waitzkin
Author of - "The Art Of Learning"

Subject of the book and film - "Searching for Bobby Fischer"

Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman has recently written a very interesting article called "Confessions of a Late Bloomer" (Psychology Today, Nov-Dec 2008) where he briefly mentions Josh Waitzkin. Kaufman also writes a blog for Psychology Today, called "Beautiful Minds", where he reports his recent profiling conversation with Josh Waitzkin (Official Site).

"Conversations on Creativity with Repeat Bloomer Joshua Waitzkin"

By Scott Barry Kaufman (Psychology Today Blogs) <Link>

Questions (please read article for Josh's answers):
  • Why did you leave chess at the top of your game?
  • Do you think being a child prodigy hurt your chess career in any way?
  • In general, do you see any disadvantages to being labeled a child prodigy?
  • If the movie of your life hadn't been made, do you think you'd still be continuing on in chess?
  • Do you think if you took up chess at a later age, you could have been a world champion in chess?
  • Do you think you will ever return to chess? And if you do, do you think you are still capable of being the world champion? Or have you missed your boat?
  • Were you a good student in school?
  • Did you like learning new subjects in school? Are there any subjects you had trouble with? Or that you just didn't like?
  • What does the term "late bloomer" mean to you?
  • Do you consider yourself a late bloomer in Tai Chi Chuan?
  • In reading your book, it seems as though your major strength in Tai Chi Chuan is the way you put your mind into the game. You were able to beat players much stronger than you by "getting into their mind." I find this fascinating. Why do you think you were so good at psyching people out? Was it because of your early chess experiences?
  • Do you think part of your ability to psych people out may have to do with your extraordinary intelligence compared to other players? You said something interesting in your book regarding your match with Buffalo. You say: "He was surely the greater athlete. But maybe I was the better thinker." Is it possible that you were just smarter than Buffalo (even though he was stronger)?
  • In your book you discuss Carol Dweck's work on how perceptions of the fixed nature of ability can affect ability itself. I do think that Carol's work is important and I appreciate you citing it in your book. I was wondering though: to what extent do you think so-called inborn ability determines success in learning a new craft like chess or Tai Chi Chuan?
  • How much do you think people can compensate for weak natural ability? It seems like a major component of your learning technique is learning how to play up your strengths, and exploit the weaknesses of others. Could you perhaps elaborate on this idea?
  • I read your book and thought to myself, "Wow, Joshua gets it. He really mastered the art of learning." Your writing is so good and your points are so well made that it seems by reading your book that what you've discovered can be taught to anyone (although, as you mention, customized to each individual's unique style). I can't help but notice though how fast you learn things, even in comparison to others who are attempting to learn (and I assume with equal determination). To what extent do you think raw IQ contributes to your fast learning ability? Research does show that those with a high IQ can learn nearly anything at a faster rate than others.
  • Have you ever had your IQ tested? Would you be open to me testing you sometime?
  • To what extent do you think your fast learning rate is due to your disciplined technique to learning?
  • How much do you think passion and devotion to learning contributed to your success?
  • In what ways did your chess skills help you with Tai Chi Chuan? What skills were transferable?
  • In reading your book, I wondered if you could become world-class at anything. You discovered that there are many similarities between Chess and Tai Chi Chuan. And it's clear that your abilities are well suited to whatever is common across these two domains. But to what extent do you think you could take your insights into learning and use them to become an expert in any field?
  • In your book you describe a moment in your match with Buffalo where you say: "I reached deeper than I knew I had and won the most dramatic point of my life." You then say: "I saw parts of myself I didn't know about." Could you please elaborate? In other words, can you demystify "reaching deeper" for me? Do you think most of us are capable of more than we realize?
  • What does it mean to "feel space left behind"? You use that phrase a lot in your book, but I'm honestly not 100% clear on what it really means.
  • In your book you say: "The only thing we can really count on is getting surprised." Can you please elaborate a bit on this?
  • What role do you think intuition and the unconscious plays in the learning process?
  • What role do you think flow plays in the learning process?
  • Do you think you'd ever consider taking up breakdancing? I have enjoyed learning how to breakdance and think you'd be quite good at it!
I learned many useful things from this article and it has also helped answer some of the lingering questions I had from reading The Art Of Learning. Many thanks to both Scott Kaufman and Josh Waitzkin for this interesting article.

Related Posts:

ALCHEssMIST - Josh Waitzkin on "Tackling the Multi-Tasking Virus"

Tags: Chess - Creativity - Josh Waitzkin - Late Bloomer - Learning - Psychology - Scott Kaufman - Tai Chi Chuan - The Art Of Learning

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