“The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin

When we are present to what is, we are right front with the expansion of time, but when we make a mistake and get frozen in what was, a layer of detachment builds. Time goes on and we stop. Suddenly we are living, playing chess, crossing the street with our eyes closed in memory.


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. You might crack your head or twist your knee. The beam is narrow and you have to stay up there. Plunging off would be humiliating.

When a child can make the beam a playground, high-stress performers often transform the beam into a tightrope. Any slip becomes a crisis. Suddenly you have everything to lose, the rope is swaying above a crater of fire, increasingly dramatic acrobatics are expected of you but the air feels thick with projectiles aims to dislodge your balance. What was once light and inspiring can easily mutate into a nightmare.