Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Inner Fire of Joshua Waitzkin

Joshua Waitzkin was the basis for the chess movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, one of the most inspirational sports movies out there. After the movie was made he fizzled out and became disillusioned with chess, because it began to feel like a chore instead of something he wanted to do.

There's an awesome interview here where he discusses his anti-blank slate philosophy. He thinks that our successes are based not on our natural intelligence but instead on our ability to push through challenges and master the intellectual aspects of the game. These are some of his money quotes:
  • "The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability as opposed to resilience and hard work, we will be brittle in the face of adversity."
  • "I have found that people at the highest levels of quality in virtually all pursuits are somewhat unusual minds-and their 'brilliance' has usually evolved from working with their natural strengths."
  • "Growth only really comes at the point of resistance, but that is the moment that we tend to stop. Because it hurts. Whether we are confronting our psychological foibles or our physiological limits, it is much easier to turn back from the challenge than to push through the discomfort."
Waitzkin has since gone on to become world champion in the martial art of pushing hands, so he is able to practice what he preaches. I too have noticed that when tasks start to feel like work it becomes harder to complete them. If somebody had required me to blog as a school assignment three years ago there is no way that I would have poured so much effort into this.