I've compiled my favorite 5 MENTAL MODELS of his below.
WAITZKIN MODEL 1 - DEPTH OVER WIDTH
His life so far:
1. Chess prodigy + National champ
2. 2x world champion in Tai Chi push hands
3. The 1st black belt in Jiu-Jitsu under Marcelo Garcia (GOAT)
4. He's now in an unknown ocean town mastering surfing + advising elite investors
The Waitzkin paradox:
He's achieved more WIDTH across disciplines in 43 years than most could in 100 lives
His obsession with DEPTH over WIDTH.
His life is the testimony to deep work and singular focus.
He spends 5-10 years of his life dedicated to each craft
Even when he approaches a new discipline, he goes for DEPTH within the DEPTH
Most just play countless games
Instead, Josh insists on having only 3 pieces on the board - King & Pawn vs King
He drills micro positions until he understands them from first principles
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times” - Bruce Lee
Waitzkin's theory is that once you've understood one thing so deeply in the discipline - you understand the principles
Waitzkin turns the discipline into a video game
He then identifies what level 1 of that video game is (e.g. Guillotine in BJJ)
He doesn't start level 2 until he understands the principles of level 1 at a fundamental level
He continuously expands his circles of competence
1. Unconscious incompetence - "I don't know how bad I am"
2. Conscious incompetence - "This sucks. I know how bad I am"
3. Conscious competence - "I can do this if I focus"
4. Unconscious competence - "I don't remember the last 10 minutes of driving my car"
The area where most of us quit is No.2:
The feedback says you suck
So the ego comes up with numerous reasons to quit
Waitzkin defeats this stage early on by deeply understanding level 1 before moving on to level 2
In contrast, we often try and play level 100 of the video game
There's so much complexity at level 100
We don't feel like we're progressing + understanding it
Conscious incompetence hits us
So we quit
I'm always struck by the fact the LAST TIME most adults ever push through conscious incompetence is DRIVING LESSONS
A combination of:
1. Being busy
2. The embarrassment of conscious incompetence
We shut down the learning process after driving
Waitzkin is the polar opposite
WAITZKIN MODEL 2 - LOCUS OF CONTROL
Waitzkin argues that we internalise an external locus of control in our childhood
The first way is our parent's language around the weather:
"It's bad weather. We can't go outside!"
"It's good weather. We can go outside!"
"We're externally reliant on conditions being perfect in order to be able to go out and have a good time." - Waitzkin
Josh flips this on its head.
He insists he and his young son NEVER miss a single storm, rain, or snow.
They always go outside and have fun together in it.
His son now says to him: "Look Dada, it's such a beautiful rainy day"
Contrast this with the misery that sits in most households when it's grey, wet and cold outside
Josh uses the weather as a tool to teach his son about having an internal locus of control
During his martial arts career, Josh used to seek out the dirtiest training partners
And if they weren't dirty, he would actively encourage them to eye gouge and go for his groin
He wanted to be prepared to keep his composure in the worst possible conditions
WAITZKIN MODEL 3 - STRESS & RECOVERY
"Most people in high-stress, decision-making industries are always operating at this kind of simmering six, as opposed to the undulation between deep relaxation and being at a 10." - Waitzkin
👆 This is the best critique of hustle culture
Josh argues that in order to be at a 10/10 with focus, you have to be able to hit a 0/10 via relaxation & recovery
In order to switch ON intensely, you need to switch OFF intensely
If you never switch off, you can never truly turn it on
You end up burnt out and fatigued
Waitzkin uses the example of the 5x Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Marcelo Garcia
He states that he saw Marcelo deeply asleep 5 minutes before his world championship bout
He woke up, turned it up to a 10 and won the competition
He wasn't sat there burning adrenaline at a 6
When Waitzkin takes on a hedge fund client, he engrains this principle of stress & recovery via HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
He gets them to undulate between every few minutes:
A. 10/10 - Full out sprint
B. 0/10 - Complete relaxation
The beauty of stress & recovery is that:
1. You perform better
2. Life is more fun
3. You're less likely to die of an early death
Reminds me of @naval's advice to his younger self:
"Relax. You’ll live longer *and* perform better."
I'm bullish on the relaxation industry as the pendulum swings away from hustle culture
📈 Float tanks, sauna's and 'Think Weeks' are just the tip of the iceberg
The false dichotomy people make is that you can't grind if you relax
The evidence shows that you can grind harder
WAITZKIN MODEL 4 - CHANNELING THE SUBCONSCIOUS
"I find that most great thinkers are slicing through complexity like a knife through butter.
And then they arrive in an area of stuckness and they’ll spend a long time on that stuckness." - Waitzkin
"But they can also study everything involved with that stuck point, sleep on it, wake up, and just slice right through it." - Waitzkin
1. Waitzkin looks at an area of complexity at the end of the day
2. He identifies the most important question he needs to within it
3. He then goes for dinner and completely switches his mind off for the evening. He leaves it with the subconscious
4. He wakes up first thing and journals on the question before any input
He says using this formula he's managed to get "AHA" breakthroughs daily
Most people report their best ideas come from the shower - not the board room
The mind is completely switched off and the subconscious is free to bubble away
One of the best comics of our generation - Jerrod Carmichael - says he takes 35-minute showers because of it!
WAITZKIN MODEL 5 - DECONSTRUCTING COMMON ROOT STRUCTURES
"It’s not just what were our false constructs 20 years ago... but what are the common root structures to my current constructs and my false constructs 20 years ago?" - Waitzkin
Waitzkin wants not just to understand the mistake he made
He also wants to understand the gap between making the mistake and avoiding it
E.g. If you could've prevented a mistake by speaking to 5 experts beforehand - how can I ensure I speak to 5 experts moving forward?
Once Josh has identified previous gaps - he looks to see if he can see that common root structure with what he's currently doing
E.g. What mistake am I in the process of making that could be prevented by speaking to 5 experts?
A common root structure of mistakes according to Josh is:
"I didn't know before but I know it today"
Waitzkin tells the story of Tai Chi expert who had been training for decades who said:
"When I had been studying for 1 year I thought I knew what I was doing..."
"But after two years of studying, I realised my 1 year self was wrong. But now I understand
After 4 years of studying , I realised my 2-year self was wrong. But now I understand
After 8 years of studying, I realised my 4 year self was wrong. But now I understand"
"It’s so easy to think that we were in the dark yesterday but we’re in the light today... but we’re fucking in the dark today too" - Waitzkin
The same way you look back at yourself 5 years ago and laugh
You will almost definitely look back at yourself 5 years from now and laugh
Craig Ball - The Spinwit Gaming
Local HS Football Coach
Executive Director of Colorado's 8-Man All-State Game
Early Colorado Gaming Industry Organizer and License holder.
Black Hawk, Colorado is an old gambling town just west of Golden on North Clear Creek at 8,000 feet of elevation. Legalized Casino Gambling was reinstated on October 1st, 1991.
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Craig Ball a football coach, instructor, and former casino owner in the Gaming District. This site is used for sharing information about what I'm reading /writing on topics like casinos, leadership, finance, campaign strategies and football.