In a classic example of podcast virality (or is it network effect?), I added the Tim Ferriss podcast to my pod catcher a few months back based on a recommendation on another podcast I listen to. I have really enjoyed the shows I have listened to (especially the conversation with Matt Mullenweg). The most recent episode mostly consists of an extract of audio book read by Joshua Waitzkin, the real life “chess prodigy” that the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer.
I have added his book to the top of my “read next” list (as soon as I finish The Power of Habit, another book I picked up from listening to Tim’s podcast – quick review coming soon) mainly because the idea of learning through the “smaller circles” technique that he discusses in this excerpt resonates with me.
As Joshua lays out how he approached Tai Chi Chuan (he’s way more that just a chess geek) using the idea of smaller circles, it reminded me of the way that I have described the basic value of the engineering process to non-engineers. Both approaches break things down to their fundamental elements, before building back up to a whole. To master the whole, you have to master the pieces. But when you reassemble the pieces they have the potential to become more than just the sum of the parts. I don’t do much “real” engineering any more (at least for work – the farm is a completely different story), but I still use the process every day. Meaning emerges from patterns, and I think its meaningful when there is a common pattern to learning how to win at chess, perform Tai Chi or solve engineering problems. Learning how to learn is at the core.