The Tim Ferriss Show with Josh Waitzkin, The Prodigy Returns

On Waitzkin's near-death experience after doing breath-work while swimming, and blacking out at the bottom of a pool:

It's made me rethink these questions of risk. On the other hand, it's been very important to not oversteer. One of the most important learning lessons that I've learned for myself in training elite mental performers is people oversteer all the time. They over-calibrate. And so I've been very careful to sit with this and try to draw the right lessons out of it, not the wrong. And not too big a lesson and not too small a lesson.

Why is the tactile component important in chess?

I think it's hugely important in mental disciplines...

That's the foundational training. Why? First of all, we can't just separate our mind and our body [...] but we intuitively can feel things way before we are consciously aware of them. The chess player always sense danger before he sees it, just like the hunter will sense the shark or the jaguar before he sees it, right? And he'll look for it.

So the chess player's process is often to be studying a position to sense opportunity or danger, and then to start looking for it, deconstruct what it is, find what it probably is, and then start calculating, right? But that sense comes before.

If you're a great decision-maker, or if you're an investor, you can sense danger, you can sense opportunity, but you need to have stilled your waters internally to feel the subtle changes inside of you that would be opportunity, or the crystallization of complex ideas, or danger, or the onset of a cognitive bias, for example, which is hugely important as a chess player or as an investor or anything else. 

On cultivating and listening to the signal from the noise:

When we're thinking about cultivating the awareness, I think that a lot of this relates to a return to a more natural state. This isn't so much about learning as unlearning, getting out of our own way, releasing obstructions. I think about the training process as the movement to an unobstructed self-expression. 

We have so many habits that are fundamentally blocking us - the phone addictions. People are constantly distracted. People don't have the ability to sit in empty space anymore. People are bombarded by inputs all the time. They're in a constantly reactive state. One way that you can frame this out is cultivating a way of life which is fundamentally proactive in little things and big.

On meditation:

We don't ultimately want to be meditating in a flower garden. We want to be able to meditate and have a meditative state throughout our life, in a hurricane, in a thunderstorm, when sharks are attacking you.

I was creating chaos everywhere to train at being able to be at peace in chaos. 

On parenting and language:

One of the biggest mistakes that I observed in the first year of Jack's life, or year or two, that I observed with parents is that they have this language around weather, weather being good or bad. And whenever it was raining, they'll be like, "it's bad weather." You hear moms, babysitters, dads talk about,  "It's bad weather, we can't go out." or "It's good weather, we can go out." And so that means that somehow we're externally reliant on conditions being perfect in order to be able to go out and have a good time, so Jack and I never missed a single storm.

On bursting through pain and discomfort for the richness of life:

People tend to bounce off of discomfort whether it's mental or physical. If they run into internal resistance, whether it's in meditation training, or someone exposing a weakness, or if they're training and someone might be better than them, whatever it is, they bounce away from things that might expose them.


The flipside of this is to learn the way I talk about living on the other side of pain, pain being mental or physical discomfort. Much of life that's so rich comes on the other side of it, the other side of challenge, internal or external challenge. 

On jiu-jitsu master Marcelo Garcia:

He is the greatest transitional player in the history of sport, maybe. He is incredible. The essence of his game is to not hold, to allow people to move and to again embrace the chaos and get there first. He just has cultivated the transition so systemically that he has ten frames in the transition where somebody else might be moving from one position to the next, but that transition itself is something is like, that's his ocean.

On habits and principles:

The habits are what we can actually train at. The principle is what we're trying to embody. We'll train at two or three or four or five habits which are the embodiment of a core principle, but the idea is to burn the principle into the hundreds of manifestations of that principle become our way of life, right?


Most people think they can wait around for the big moments to turn it on, but if you don't cultivate turning it on as a way of life in the little moments, and there are hundreds of times more little moments than big, then there is no chance in the big moments.