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One of the most fascinating books I’ve read: Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning. Waitzkin is the chess champion (once a child prodigy) who was the subject of the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer (also good). As an adult, he moved from chess into martial arts and chronicles the correspondences he finds between the two disciplines.
This book changed my life and my parenting by pointing out a contrast between ‘incremental’ and ‘entity’ learners. The one, when she fails, thinks, “I need more practice, more work,” and the other, the entity learner, thinks, “I’m not good at this, so I’ll stop.” Well, guess which one I am?? No wonder I have always hesitated to do anything I don’t already do well! These are not innate, but learned learning styles and I am here to tell you they can be changed!
Thanks to Waitzkin (and he didn’t invent this, but pointed out the research to me, showing the fact that his own amazing discipline isn’t just for superheros) I got through the task of formatting my book, Souls at Rest. There were times I was brought to tears on the steep learning curve of margins, mirror indents, dropped capitals and the like. (I know, “What a wimp,” but this stuff was new to me and I had a heck of a time!) I had just read The Art of Learning and over and over I thought about the image of Josh getting back up for more practice after bouts with other martial arts experts that had left him battered and exhausted. “I can get back in that ring and make one more attempt,” I’d think, and then back I’d go, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to ‘invest in failure’ as this author had taught me.
My kids now hear, “I guess you’ll have to work harder on that,” instead of “I guess you’re just not good at that,” when they do poorly. Without Waitzkin, I might never have realized how debilitating it could be to give that ‘entity learner’ response. So, I thank God for him, and I know of several people who’ve bought his book after my lofty praise, so maybe he’ll buy me a cup of coffee if he’s in town, someday!