Investing in Loss

If you want to get good at something, you need to spend a lot of time being bad at it. View loss as an investment, rather than something to avoid.

Investing in Loss is a concept from Josh Waitzkin’s excellent book, The Art of Learning. Josh explains that absorbing any new idea or technique requires you to go through a prolonged period of being bad at it before you become good at it. In the context of martial arts, this usually means losing during our training sessions.

Unfortunately, our egos make it hard to put ourselves in embarrassing or humiliating situations. And what’s more humiliating than losing a training session when everyone is watching? Especially once you’ve picked up a colored belt, your ego is much more comfortable focusing on the things you’re already good at and avoiding positions or strategies where you’re going to look weak. Unfortunately, avoiding the areas where you’re likely to lose is precisely how you prevent your own growth.

Josh Waitzkin’s main insight is to view loss as an investment. Rather than being afraid to look bad during your training, identify and train your weakest areas, knowing that you will likely perform poorly and use. Eventually, through repetition and experience, these weak areas will become strong.

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