The Multitasking Virus and the End of Learning? Part 2

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In this continuation from Part 1, Josh Waitzkin further explores the “multi-tasking virus” and learning. At the end of this post, he also responds to readers’ comments and elaborates on his own experience.

Bio: Josh was the subject of the book and movie Searching for Bobby Fischer and an eight-time National Chess Champion in his youth. He also holds a combined 21 National titles in addition to several World Championships in martial arts, and now trains hedge funds and other companies in high-end learning and performance psychology. I became friends with Josh after reading his book, The Art of Learning, which presents his learning strategies and approach to skill acquisition.

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I know what it is like to be disengaged. In fact, the crisis that played a large role in ending my chess career was rooted in becoming disconnected from my natural love for learning.

Throughout my youth, I had been a creative, aggressive chess player. I loved the battle, and wild, dynamic chess felt like an extension of my being. Then, in my late teens a coach urged me to play in the opposite style, his style of quiet, positional, cold-blooded prophylaxis. Instead of cultivating my natural strengths, he boxed me into the cookie cutter mold he knew. In time, I lost touch with my intuitive feeling for chess, and without an internal compass I foundered in the swells of fame and high-pressure competition.

I see myself in the eyes of so many kids today. Too many primary, elementary, and high schoolers are being boxed into the mold of conformity required by big classes, competition for grades, tests with multiple-choice questions.

The first grader who leaps to his feet when he figures out the math problem is diagnosed as ADHD and medicated to sit quietly with the class. Young learners have immense pressure to perform, to get good grades, but no one is listening to the nuance of their minds. They feel suppressed, they are suppressed, and by the time students get to college, they have become disconnected from the love of learning. Then they are asked to read 1000 pages in a week and skimming is the only solution. Many of the students who actually were engaged in the Gandhi lecture, the ones who wanted to learn more than to shop, were taking notes on their computers in a frenzy, researching events online while Dalton described them, typing every last word of the lecture. But Dalton had already supplied them with a detailed course packet with all the relevant dates and facts. His classroom is an environment for reflection, introspection, and letting resonant themes sink into your being. Unfortunately, to these college students, the notion of delighting in the subtle ripples of learning is almost laughable. Who has the time?

The societal implications of this educational crisis are huge and the issue must be addressed creatively.

We cannot afford to lose a generation to apathetic disengagement. Part of the responsibility lies in public policies like No Child Left Behind, the standardized tests that are turning education into a forced march, and a culture that bombards us with so much stimulation that it is difficult to know what to focus on. But part of the burden also lies with parents, teachers and coaches, and with students themselves. I recently tried to persuade two smart 11-year-olds to give up video games for three weeks. One agreed to the experiment and also agreed to send me a description of how the process felt. The other simply couldn’t imagine life without the PSP, even for a day. Here was an eleven-year-old self-proclaimed incorrigible video game addict!

This story has a happy ending. In the final month of classes, Dennis Dalton discussed the issues of multi-tasking with his students, and many responded. Last week when I went back to hear the final lecture of Dalton’s Barnard career, there were only a few kids surfing the internet—nearly all the students seemed riveted. Many told me they were relieved to have turned off their computers and relaxed into listening. A number of my old classmates came, and afterwards we threw a party for our teacher. After four decades inspiring college minds, he has decided to nip apathy in the bud by teaching younger kids. He will start with high school, but Dennis Dalton, one of our culture’s greatest minds, dreams of teaching kindergarten.

Afterword from Josh:

Thanks to all of you for the powerful responses. I want to address a couple of the issues raised.

We obviously live in a world that bombards us with information, and we feel the need to respond to stimulus as it comes in. The problem with this is that we get stretched along the superficial outer layers of many things. I believe in depth over breadth in the learning process. Let’s say we have three skills to learn. The typical approach is to take them all on at once. It is much more effective to plunge deeply into one, touch Quality, and then transfer that feeling of Quality over to the others. A martial artist, for example, should internalize one technique very deeply instead of trying to learn 10 or 15 superficially.

This approach engages the unconscious, creative aspects of our minds, and we start making thematic connections which greatly accelerate growth. It is also important to point out that deep presence is required for a state of neural plasticity to be triggered—our brain does not re-map effectively when we are skipping along the surface.

As for Jose’s question—“How do you remain focused all the time?”—you don’t. It’s useful to build triggers for the zone, so you can slip into it at will. Then, once we know we can attain a state of intense concentration, we are free to let it go and recover.

I learned this lesson in my late teens/early twenties trying to stay concentrated for 8 hours a day, two weeks at a time in world chess championships—I would burn out. When I started taking mini breaks, my endurance and quality of focus surged. Stress and recovery should be our rhythms, and physical interval training can be an excellent tool for improving mental recovery. One of many problems with multi-tasking is that the frenetic skipping leaves little room for relaxation, and thus our reservoir for energetic presence is constantly depleted.

Tim, now I think it’s important for us to home in on the root of the problem. Multi-tasking, in my opinion, is just a symptom of a broader cultural disconnect that emerges from too much rigidity and too little creativity in our educational and corporate worlds. If we love what we are doing, odds are we will want to focus on it. So the solution is two pronged—help people discover the love, and arm them with strategies to zone in when they want to. The second I addressed above. The first, I will tackle below:

The path to mastery and to engagement is highly individualized—this is a truism that much of our educational system ignores. Those who succeed at the elite levels of any discipline have built relationships to learning around subtle introspective sensitivity. They understand how their minds work, and both cultivate strengths and take on weaknesses through their unique natural voice. They have learned to open communication between their conscious and unconscious minds, and construct repertoires around moments of creative inspiration. They have built triggers for their peak performance state, learned how to funnel emotion into deep focus, turned adversity to their advantage as a way of life—and they have done all of this in a manner and language that feels natural to them. That is how they seem so unobstructed, so fluid…they are just being themselves. Like children.

My road from innocence to alienation to a renewed childlike love for learning is the catalyst for my writing, my educational nonprofit, and my commitment to helping kids shine. As parents, teachers, and coaches, we must reach children when they are young, nurture their natural curiosity, help them understand their minds. Teachers have a responsibility to listen first—is a child auditory, kinesthetic, or visual? Are they naturally extroverted or introverted? What excites them? What gets their creative juices flowing? How can we take that unique potential and help it grow? How can we help our child enjoy learning instead of being paralyzed by external pressures?

In my case, I had to let go of a life’s work and start over. It wasn’t until I left chess behind and became a beginner again, meditating, studying philosophy and psychology, and ultimately taking on my second discipline, Tai Chi Chuan, that I began to regain a feel for the art within the learning process. I had to release myself from the desperate need to live up to the expectations of others, and in its place grew presence to a natural creativity that had been smothered by baggage. I started discovering connections again, chess and the martial arts became one in my mind, and I could transfer my ideas, my feeling of Quality from one to the other. Learning became an expression of my being. After years of slogging, I was being true to myself once more. Hopefully, the lessons gleaned from the painful end of my chess career can help others avoid similar pitfalls—and perhaps my rediscovery of a passion for learning holds some solutions to the crisis we face in our schools.

A note for teachers and parents: I am researching the effect of video games on young minds. If you think it might be a healthy experience for your kids, please ask them to give up video games for two or three weeks, and write me about the experience at TheArtofLearning(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thank you!

-Josh Waitzkin


For more: Josh at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA. Length: 50 minutes

Posted on: May 26, 2008.

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71 comments on “The Multitasking Virus and the End of Learning? Part 2

  1. This is powerful stuff.

    For the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to multitask work with other projects and ideas floating around in the back of my mind. But work & its related stress has always extinguished creativity for me – sometimes for hours, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks.

    Thanks for the reinforcement that there is nothing wrong with experiencing learning and creating in your own way. And also for the reminder to focus on one thing at a time.

    Like

  2. Hi Tim/Josh

    Great post.

    I have a 1.5 year old baby boy and another one coming in August and my wife and I are very conscious about letting our kids express themselves creatively. And definitely not boxing them in to what the ‘system’ and others dictates that they should do. We want our kids to question the status quo and ask ‘Why’ as Tim suggests all the time.

    Side note – Tim, it was great meeting you at your Sydney book launch recently. I was the one who asked about lifestyle design case studies of parents with young kids under two.

    Keep up the great work evangelizing your message,
    Andrew

    Like

  3. Hey Tim -

    We met while I was working the door at the Red Poppy Art House the other night (I already passed your email on to Marina Lavalle, the singer that night, otherwise I’d have written you directly). After checking out your blog I laughed that we chatted only a little and never touched on your 4 hr week idea, since my path the last the last 5 years has been planning out my life towards pretty much the same goals (I’ve figured it out so far as a stock trader, something I originally started doing just for fun – now I can work from anywhere with fast internet, have no boss, travel when I want, enjoy my work more than anyone I know, and have some time to volunteer for things like the Red Poppy…and I never started with a fraction of the money most people think you need to be a trader). So far I’ve had a year long trip traveling through most of S. America, and most recently 2 months “working” in Brazil and Argentina. Anyways, I’ll be picking up your book to get some new ideas. Hope to see you around the Poppy again some time.

    - Brian

    Like

  4. Very interesting stuff. I am appalled that surfing the web is done in class, but I sure know this is true. I have nieces that can not or will not do homework without a chat window open at least, and often 2. Heck how can you keep 2 conversations going and still be learning something? Obviously the task in the homework is just that, a meaningless task handed to them to just be accomplished. Having said that they are both honor role students all the time, so they are meeting the bar for sure. What does this say about high school education in general?

    But I struggle with this notion of no multitasking. I agree with engaging yourself fully in what your doing, but I feel I’m engaged in writing this right now. However before I sat down here I put a load of laundry in a fully automatic washing machine and it’s running in the background. I’ll need to move that laundry to the dryer, but if the clothes stay there till the morning no harm done so that task is not engaging me at all. I’m breaking the rules here and I pondered this while I read Tim’s book and saw that he schedules laundry. Tim are you still using a washboard and tub? If not and your like the rest of us owning fully automatic equipment why would you consider doing laundry a task that needs to be in a time slot?

    To me this is just like having a VA. If you give your VA a task is not the purpose so that you can use that time to do something else? You leave them be to get it done and schedule the results for you next e-mail reading time. My Maytag is is my LA (laundry assistant) and my ‘task’ is just to assign the work. Then I walk away and do something else – fully engaged – and schedule the changeover to the dryer for right before my next computer check.

    Now if I was standing in a tub squishing laundry between my toes while typing this I’d have to say I was wrong. :)

    Like

  5. Amazingly insightful 2 part post. Great work, Josh–thanks to Tim for introducing us to you.

    I see and interact with people every day who are living their lives on such a superficial level. Not as in vain, but as in lacking depth. Even the most important of tasks, such as driving or being with a loved one on a romantic date, is done at a disengaged level. Their minds are somewhere else. Sometimes it’s the crackberry, sometimes it’s their phone or the newspaper, but either way, they are checked out for all intents and purposes.

    I now turn the TV off instead of keeping it on as sound wallpaper. I don’t read while I eat anymore. I let my cellphone go to message if I am having lunch with a friend. I don’t have the radio on when I am writing my blog. It felt weird at first, like I was being lazy or reclusive, but it has helped my state of mind and productivity tremendously. I intend to do more similar corrections to cure me of multi-tasking.

    It will be interesting to see the results of your study for kids and video games. Great work!

    Together, we are stronger.
    Vicki Flaugher, the original SmartWoman

    Like

  6. In the last 2 years I have unplugged my cable service 4 times. Obviously that means at some point I signed up for it again. What would happen, since I love information even if it isn’t useful, is that I would fill up the DVR. My girlfriend jokingly, maybe not, that I would stay up late watching TV so I could clear room for more shows.

    I have been without cable for at least two months. If I want to watch TV I have to grab the cable coming out the back of the TV to get a decent signal. That is when you learn what shows were really important to you.

    I don’t know which came first, me dropping the cable or getting busier at work earning more money but they happened at the same time. I couldn’t imagine keeping up on TV while this has been going on. But if I had cable I know I would have been watching TV while I worked on the computer getting half as much done.

    In that case I thought I was getting the best of both world when I was engaged only slightly more in one than the other giving 60/40 attention. Being engaged in the moment has helped my retention and enjoyment of the things I do. I no longer have cable or internet at home diverting my attention.

    I love it.

    Like

  7. Wow! This whole thing is right where I am at. My wife and I were discussing today how we can simply focus in on our TRUE objectives and values. Probably going to axe Cable TV and possibly our home internet. Tired of feeling scattered and like I have partially done way to many tasks, without feeling like I really finished one. There is no fulfillment there. Thanks Josh and Tim!

    sjw

    Like

  8. I wanted to first off thank Josh Waitzkin for answering my question. I found this not only a satisfying answer, but a very useful one. It is amazing at how much things get done better when they are given the right dose of focus. In conjunction with this I would also like to add that I have tried a few of Tim’s techniques on focus and have obtained great results. The key seems to keep a constant discipline on doing things consistently. Next, I also noticed that by chunking all phone calls on certain hours one gets better results. This I think is because when you are totally focused on just doing one thing at a time you are able to really give it your 100%. For example, when a friend calls me and I am checking emails, I rarely listen to 50% of what is said. I don’t do this out of disrespect but due to the lack of focus on the task at hand. Solution(for me): call them back and put your ringer on silent.
    Finally, these are just some thoughts that have flowed through my mind. These last two posts that Tim has displayed carry with them much more than meets the eye. Oh and , The Magic of Thinking Big by Dr. Schwartz, has been a huge help to me.

    I hope everyone had a safe and fun Memorial Day!!!!!

    ~Jose Castro-Frenzel

    Like

  9. This is really interesting and as a teacher I agree with many of the sentiments expressed. Multi-tasking is a bit of an alter in UK education and does lead I believe to a lack of engagement resulting in many kids totally turned off what we as teachers are trying to teach. I have a strong image in my mind of the kid who says ” I hate music” but as soon as they leave the music lesson on go those headphones… funny old world!!!

    Like

  10. Tim,

    Even after reading your book several time, a barrier bars
    us from letting go. How do we break it?

    Alexander,

    PS: enjoy Hellas, visit Meteora in the Macedonian region
    and Patra.

    Like

  11. How do you know that you wouldn’t have done worse if you hewed to your former untutored style of play?

    “The first grader who leaps to his feet when he figures out the math problem is diagnosed as ADHD and medicated to sit quietly with the class.”

    People with ADHD have a hard time doing math problems at the same rate as normal students, so I can see why this would be a problem–the rest of the class has moved on to the next problem.

    Learning is not typically enjoyable, it is more frequently a painful and arduous journey. “Enjoying learning” is often a sign that a student is not being challenged.

    Like

  12. Hi Tim

    Are you still in Sydney???? I just read your interview in the Sydney Morning Herald.

    Are you appearing anywhere?

    Here’s hoping,

    Michelle

    Like

  13. Is there not research to support the value of listening to certain music while studying or doing tasks?

    Or is there not the theory that the unconscious mind will absorb information deeply or perform outstanding work if the conscious mind in occupied?

    I work in a office that has occassion chatter and distractions…I find listening to trance on headphones while programming tends to make me more productive.

    Like

  14. Totally agreed that excessive multi-tasking could only jepordize the quality at work, especially nowadays many working environment try to drive you insane by push you to do many many things.

    We should be concentrate what really productive with good quality

    Like

  15. @Steve – If someone enjoys learning they’re not being challenged enough? wow. someone’s got some baggage.

    Tim, I haven’t commented in months, but this post is central to one of my pet peeves – I waltzed my way through high school with honor rolls grades and complete boredom. I skipped more class than I went to my senior year and still graduated in the top 15% of my class (yes, I know I could have done better if I’d been there).

    I got better grades in my Advanced Placement classes than I did in easy classes like drama and home ec – I had more fun because I was being pushed and challenged. I enjoyed the challenge.

    Josh, thank you so much. I’m going to run out and get your book this week!

    Like

  16. Could someone help me understand what’s is he all about?

    Multitasking is bad, ok. Do one thing at a time. Figure out the 20% and then do them relentlessly. It’s in the 4HWWW book.

    Maybe it’s just something in me, or I’m a completely different kind of guy, but what is he trying to get at? What would be the 5 major key points he’s trying to teach?

    (Yar, I crave for practical stuff…)

    Like

  17. Fascinating post.

    I especially appreciated the one-hour video where he explains how he sees what he does. This gentleman seems like someone one can learn a lot from.

    Tim, the fact that you became friends with this gentleman is great news. Let’s hope you’re not going to throw away that nice friendship by using the dubious tactics you described in your post titled “How to Test-Drive Friends and Irritate People.” ;-)

    Guy Giffard

    Like

  18. I have been a longtime student of chen taijiquan and I appreciate Josh making the connection between learning processes in chess and the martial arts. Also, I appreciate how he has said (in the google video) that martial arts is “technique” driven — as opposed to some mystical art that many teachers promote.

    Question for Josh — a lot of martial artists criticize push hands tournaments as not a true test of peng or any other energy — that someone like Tim, for example, could train for a just a couple of months and win a push hands tournament. That winning in push hands is divorced from any martial skills. What is your thoughts on that?

    Like

  19. TV, Video Games, and Computer the cause of ADD/ADHD!
    Anyone ever thought that these might be the cause of ADD/ADHD in the younger generation. We are able to sit still and stare a tv or play a game on PC or TV and have an immense amount of visual stimulation, and have been doing this most of our life.

    Then when we get to a task such as reading a book or watching a teacher lecture the lack of visual stimulation is too much to take?!?!?

    Like

  20. Hey Brian Donahue,

    I was wondering if you could recomend some how-to books on stock trading. I’m looking for book that tell you how, what to analyze, and gives real life practical advice.

    For example; Avoid microstocks because they don’t have enough historical data and are really high risk.

    What do you consider is the best internet tool to analyze charts?

    By the way, related to this post, I have to say; I have been going through this transition of reading about how the brain works as well as how to become more productive. It has been an interesting experince since I feel all weird out at times. I guess it is normal to feel weird during the transition to reprogramming your brain and the whole process of elimination of sociatal expectations and breaking out of non-sense society structures.

    Be free, Think out of the box … really, don’t just say, push yourself to think out of the box. It is though, it is very difficult but it is the best thing I have ever done. I have accomplished many things in the last six months that I wouldn’t have if I haven’t stop listening to the societal inertia. Stop the madness start looking into yourself. The finger really should be pointing at you. It is no one else’s fault.

    Have a wonderful day !!

    Like

  21. Hi Tim / Josh,

    are not some fundamental differencies in your phylosophies?

    You Tim, talk about becoming good / not perfect at something, like learning a language where you become 80/90% proficient in 6-months to 2 years, instead of becoming 99-100% proficient which may take a lifetime.

    Josh suggests to internalise very very deeply one or two techniques in the martial art instead of focussing on 10-15…

    Are the two perspectives not completely different?
    I hope you have time to answer because I found the post terrific and your blog just keeps getting better and better, my hat off to you.

    Thanks

    Daniele

    Like

  22. Hi All,

    Thanks for the great comments and questions on both of Josh’s posts!

    A few things:

    @Daniele: Josh’s approach of deeply focusing on a few techniques or principles vs. many is very similar to my own. “Deeply” doesn’t mean 99.99999th percentile, necessarily. I, for example, focused almost exclusively on footwork and lead embrace in tango vs. accumulating sequences for 4 months in preparation for the world championships. Josh and I am on the same page with this one.

    All: I am no longer in Sydney, but I’m glad you enjoyed the Sydney Morning Herald piece! Back in Nor-Cal for a few days before Greece…

    All the best,

    Tim

    Like

  23. I think the video game experiment is a great idea. I remember when I was in fourth or fifth grade our elementary school had a no-tv week where they urged parents to cut out the tv viewing for one week a year, and I think they rewarded us with some type of small prize. My parents decided they liked the idea so much they decided to try it out for a year. So for one year we had only 60 minutes of screen time during the school week (tv or video games) and could only watch sports events and movies on the weekends. My siblings and I actually didn’t fight it too much after the first few weeks and after the initial year was over my parents decided to continue the policy until late into high school.

    The result is that 15 years after the no-tv week experiment I still watch substantially less tv than most all of my friends. I’m the only one of the last 4 roommates I’ve lived with who hasn’t had a tv in their bedroom. I still like watching a few shows during the wee like “the office” and “man vs wild” and some golf action on the weekends….but if i happen to miss them one week its not a huge deal.

    Another result though, was the tv ban led me to become interested in other things, like computers. When I was at college for a business degree I spent most of my free time teaching myself web development instead of watching tv shows. I now work full time doing web development, and do freelance web projects on the side, including one for a local brewery where I now get to travel with them to beer festivals and get free beer for life!

    I still find it much more fun trying to create something (usually web related) on my computer or reading a book rather than spend my time watching time-filler tv series like CSI Miami. I think the no-tv week had a lot do to with this!

    -Dan

    Like

  24. Thanks Tim and Josh for the great post.

    One of the best books I’ve read regarding education and learning, is “the Disciplined Mind” by Howard Gardner. Some good sections associated with the flow of learning and allowing kids to follow their interests while weaving an education around a topic of interest.

    Cheers.

    Like

  25. Hi 4hww bloggers.

    Interesting piece by Josh. As a child who played chess, I was made to watch “searching for Bobby Fischer”, and I remember his commentary on chessmaster. Kind of surreal to see him pop up again in something I am interested in.

    I have a question that it slightly off topic, so read on only if you are interested in helping:

    I have a mate who is 21 and never held a job for more than 2 weeks. He is a uni dropout but it is has now been a year and a half and he still does not have a job, refuses welfare on principle(lives on about $70/week from inherited shares at his parents), put on 30kg, always talks about money making schemes but never follows through with action and spends most of his time at home on the couch watching tv or on the internet. I am worried that he is simply falling through the cracks in society and that he will end up as a bumb on the streets, involved in crime(probably drug trade) or in jail for assault.

    Also, my mate disturbingly embraces ultra-nationalism more and more. He believes (no matter how much I tell him the attitude is self defeating) that he is being deliberately overlooked for menial jobs(to give himself a start) so that employers can “import more anti-union immigrant workers and drive down 1st world wages”(his words). What makes this disturbing is that previously he was one of the first to stand up against racism and give a fair go to everybody, but now he thinks that that was an Orwellian mind construct that was created in him.

    He is wasting his potential and life, because, before it all fell apart, he had so much to offer. He had almost always come 1st in things at school that were athletic and had been placed in special classes for kids with high aptitude, occasionally topping subjects at school.

    For reasons I can’t go into, I can’t just walk away from him. I owe him my life and before it all fell apart for him, he was the best bloke a man could know. He really brought out the best in those around him.

    What do 4hww lifestyle designers advise that I do to help him? What do you think he should do to get a job and a life? I will pass all helpful comments on to him(I actually found 4hww through him and it had so much in it that I agreed with conceptually, outside of the buissiness stuff that I do not really get).

    Like

  26. Isn’t it amazing how new innovations are created and launched in the name of “productivity” or “effectiveness”… and really end up doing the opposite of what they were intended to do.

    Usually, the answer to problems tends to be the simplest answer… but we like to increase the difficulty on ourselves just because we think we can.

    Anyhow, I used to be a big multi-tasker… but found myself (just like most of us) spinning my wheels and not effectively doing any one thing… but rather ineffectively doing multiple things and incompletely processing information through the flawed learning philosophies taught to us by today’s education world.

    Once you can break free of the multi-tasking virus… things really start to clear up and life becomes a lot more fun and rewarding.

    Hey Tim, keep up the great content!

    Chat w/ ya soon.

    – Trevor

    Like

  27. Hey Everybody, Thanks again for the fabulous comments/questions. I want to respond to a few ideas.
    @Vicki: Beautiful points, I couldn’t agree with you more. Awesome to tackle the issue head on like that.
    @Steve: My style of chess play in my late teens wasn’t “untutored”—it was classically sound and the result of well over a decade of intense work. It was just aggressive—that was my personality—and then I was jammed into a more conservative mold. That said, I completely agree with the current running beneath your comment, which is that we must have a solid foundation. The key is that there are many ways of internalizing that foundation, and we should do so in a manner that is consistent with our personality. One way I like to think about building a game or a repertoire it to envision dropping a pebble into a pond. We are all naturally drawn to a certain element of a discipline, and to the techniques or ideas that surround that element. That is where the pebble lands. We can then learn the surrounding ideas like concentric circles expanding from that initial focal point. Everything is internalized in relation to what feels most natural to us. This approach is based on the understanding that everyone at the top of their fields has deep technical knowledge, so it is rarely knowing more that proves decisive. The ones who succeed are the ones who can navigate the information fluidly, efficiently, and uniquely—they play with what might be common knowledge among the elite, and combine it into tremendous creative eruptions that others couldn’t dream of.
    On your other point– I find that learning gets more enjoyable the more I am challenged, as long as I don’t get pushed dangerously past the breaking point. When things are too easy or way too hard in the classroom, kids disengage. A love for learning involves finding the middle way on this navigation—and we have to be able to enjoy sweating a little.
    @John: Check out this interview for my take on your martial arts question: http://www.onthemat.com/articles/Josh_Waitzkin_Interview_01_25_2008.html

    @Daniele: Great question, and I see where you are coming from, but I agree with Tim that we are on the same page here. Part of what is so powerful about his method is that he zones in on the critical area or two of focus instead of taking on everything at once…and of course he has a phenomenal eye when it comes to figuring out what is critical and often being overlooked by others. The way he won the San Shou Nationals is a great case in point.

    Like

  28. Cory: “@Steve – If someone enjoys learning they’re not being challenged enough? wow. someone’s got some baggage.”

    No, I left some wiggle room, “Learning is not typically enjoyable, it is more frequently a painful and arduous journey. ‘Enjoying learning’ is often a sign that a student is not being challenged.”

    Surely you’ve experienced many grueling and frustrating nights of study or research, or perhaps your courses were easier than you thought. There is also the sacrifice of other activities when you are studying. Most people would rather spend time in leisure rather than trying to memorize formulae, writing papers, or reading x amount of pages a night to keep up with their courses. I know, because I graduated in the top one percent of my class.

    There certainly is such a thing as fun, enjoyable learning, but getting out of your comfort zone is essential if you seek to achieve in any endeavor. The “pain period” is common. I suggest you read the address, “You and Your Research.”

    http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html

    Like

  29. RE The On The Mat article — great q/a. I’m out in the SF Bay area and we got a group of about five teachers who teach Chen style from a very martial perspective without any of the hyperbole. My teacher is very “anti” push hands for the reasons you outlined in your article.

    J.

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  30. Somehow this conversation reminds me of an article about the great violinist, Joshua Bell, published at the Washington Post (Pearls before Breakfast – it’s worth a read, but I don’t know if I’m allowed to link or not). The question for the article was, what happens if you take a master violinist and insert him into the DC rush hour commute? How many people will stop and appreciate? The unfortunate answer? Not very many.

    Josh’s story about his professor made me a little sad because not recognizing the brilliant teacher, or the great violinist is so easy to do. Maybe I walked by the equivalent today – maybe I was busy with (focused on) the task at hand, and just didn’t notice. The people in rush hour weren’t multi-tasking, they were focused on getting to work. The kids in class – maybe they were focused on the relationship they were building in the chat room, the cool pair of shoes on sale. Maybe what happened is that they didn’t realize the amazing thing they were missing because they weren’t where they were, they were somewhere else – in their head, the chat room, the store.

    Is multitasking the virus, or just a symptom of something else?

    Like

  31. What do you have against video games to urge “two smart 11-year-olds” to give up playing them?

    What if that is their form of expression? The extension of their being?

    I’ve always felt a connection to video games all my life, I attribute a lot of my becoming to them.

    Many games now are entirely skill based where players have to overcame a lot and grow internally to achieve their goals just if they were playing “chess”.

    Many pro-gaming leagues exit to acknowledge this trend rewarding high skilled players with large amounts of money. High skilled players are called “cybe-athletes” and after winning large tournaments they go “Pro”. Visit : http://www.mlgpro.com & http://www.evo2k.com/ and you’ll discover how gamers evolve with what they love to do. South Korea has dedicated tv channels just like ESPN to broadcast video game tournaments with millions of viewers.

    You call the elven year boy an “incorrigible video game addict”, but weren’t you a “incorrigible chess addict” around the same age? Maybe someone should of urge you to quit playing it.

    Regarding multi-tasking I completely agree with you but with regard to learning – well, you lost some “cool” points.

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  32. Tim, thnaks very much to you for connecting with Josh Waitzkin and thank you Josh for your insights. I have your book The Art of Learning on order. :)

    @ Tom Davis: Very sorry to read about your friend. If a good friend of mine was habitually underachiving, embracing right wing ideology (seemingly as a way to justify his lethargy), and essentially living life on a superficial basis to an extreme (the antithesis of Tim and Josh, really) I would be deeply concerned too. One book I came across which may help your friend is “Your Own Worst Enemy” by Ken Christian. In fact I think 4HWW readers who feel or have felt the same sense of disengagement Josh had experienced will find the book useful as well. Best wishes to all, and with gratitude for this blog, Mike

    Like

  33. What a fabulous two part series. The analogy I use is that I often feel as though I’m a dog in a park where eight groups are playing frisbee. I no sooner make it five feet when I spot another frisbee and go chasing it. It’s nearly impossible to complete one train of thought or course of action without being bombarded with yet another.

    This has provided me with some excellent information and I thank you.

    Like

  34. Hi all, Two quick things–Theresa, the Joshua Bell story you mention is tremendously important. Robert Pirsig (absolutely brilliant man, author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” which is a direct commentary on this issue) sent it to me a couple months ago and it blew my mind. There are youtube clips up about the experiment.

    And here is a link to an article that was just brought to my attention–also about the situation in Dennis Dalton’s classroom, but from a slightly different perspective: http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=a_crisis_of_attention_and_intention

    Like

  35. Josh,

    This article is great. I have done a fair bit of climbing and mountaineering, and what really drives me to do it is that feeling of being entirely in the moment. It is one of the few times in life that my brain is entirely focused on the task at hand and not multitasking at all. I am excited to read your book and see if I can start bringing some of that focus to my everyday life.

    Like

  36. Great thought provoking post. Yesterday, I wrote a very brief reflection on a quote by Mary Pettibone Poole which resonates with this. “To repeat what others have said, requires education; to challenge it, requires brains.”
    Her book was written in 1938 so doesn’t deal with the digital aspects of fragmented learning. However, in some respects, we’re still faced with the same dilemma – the danger of creating an education system that pushes everyone into the same mould rather than teaching them to find their own way – and in the process, become independent thinkers. Whether its a result of computer games, multi-tasking online, or simply teaching systems that put everyone in the same box – the results are not great.

    When we skim superficially over information without understanding the depth of it, we often fail to see significant connections. It would be interesting to know how this ‘learning style’ correlates with the ability to innovate by challenging the status quo. My guess is that, to do that effectively, greater depth of understanding is necessary. I’d be interested to know what others think.

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  37. Wow, Josh. I was just about to post a comment about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. For those of you that haven’t read it, please do. I think it fits in very well with the 4HWW philosophy.
    A question for Josh, are you framiliar with Neils Bohr’s theory of Complimentarity?

    Awesome post by the way.

    Like

  38. Hello everybody,

    Today, while seaching for a book in the library on how to buy a house, i stumbled across the “the four hour workweek”. Well, since i picked up the book i have been dreaming about travelling again. I am based in Groningen, a city in the north of the Netherlands.
    And although i cannot outsource in my profession, being a primary school teacher, i do try to make my self as invisible as possible in the classroom. Once the year has started i want to mould my class into children who can be independant thinkers and solve most of their own problems. I of course move around and help the children that need extra attention or the ones that are extra smart and often are forgotten in our system. It is nice to read something about education on this site. Everday i take my best shot at teaching but often i feel it is not enough. There is too much work too little time too many children, parents and collegues that need my attention at the very moment they see me.
    16 Of the 18 children in my class are from different nationalities and cultures, only 2 are Dutch. I can say i have the world in my classroom.
    I have traveled quite a bit, lived a year in Norway, some months in Ireland, half a year in Suriname (South America) and recently two year in the north of Ghana (West Africa) where i was teaching pre-vocational skills at the Art department of a teacher training college. Last year i almost made it to Timboutou (Mali) (unfortunatly some of my money changed hands without me knowing and i had to head back to Burkina Faso for a working ATM.)
    If you ever visit Burkinba Faso you will have to go to Bobo Dialouso it is such a great place….
    I do not think i will come to any conclusion today…i am sorry….
    So instead of finally finding a husband and buying a house i am now dreaming of Asia, the continent i have not visited yet…and i have the four hour workweek to blame for it. Thank you for writing the book.

    Like

  39. Terrific article, and I hope to see posts similar to this one in the future — not that I don’t enjoy your own words, Tim, but it’s great to see the ideas of people with such different backgrounds and experiences.

    And Josh, all I can say to your accomplishments is wow! As a former martial artist, I know that ascending to the highest ranks is as difficult and time-demanding as making a major achievement in gymnastics, dance, or any other sort of competitive sport… I can’t even imagine balancing that with a championship-winning chess career. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for your book.

    Keep up the great work, both of you.

    Like

  40. I am the tech coordinator for a k – 12 school. I agree with all of this. Kids see a computer as a toy, not a tool. I have tried in so many ways to teach them to use them in a way that would make learning fun, but they end up just trying to figure out ways to bypass the firewall so they can poke someone on facebook.

    Like

  41. If it is okay with you, I would like to read part one and part 2 (with credit to you of course) on my radio show today as my show is about technology, parenting, and education.
    If this is some legal breech, I will remove it once archived.

    Like

  42. @ Tom Davis: Hi Tom. Thought about your problem a while before answering. I was trying to figure out how to answer and not appear like a weirdo or at least “not cool” as Tim requests we are on his blog.
    This meant forcing myself to cogitate and express in direct but non-shocking language, so thank you for the exercise. I obviously need it.

    It would take a much longer post to get into more details of this however my advice to you would be to engage his anger. Anger is often overlooked as a tool for promoting positive outcomes. Now I don’t know anything about you or him the situation etc. I can tell you what I would do if it were my friend and I owed him my life and hope you can parse/filter my response in terms that will make sense for you. Keep in mind I was involved in martial arts and some rather serious close protection details for a number of years and this undoubtedly affects my approaches to life (which may not always be the most subtle or diplomatic or smartest).

    If it were my friend i would organise a trip like a week long hike, write my friend a long letter before the trip explaining how I love him, care deeply about him and want to help him through the apathy that has seemed to set in. Then I would grab him and take him on this camping trip. Knowing me as I do I would do it by deceit if I had to (let’s go to the store….) or by force if it came to it. I know this sounds extreme and it is. I am NOT suggestiing you do this. I am telling you what I would probably do. I remind you that kidnapping is illegal everywhere and if you do this you will probably go to jail and ruin your life. Now that I have explained that… I would then get his lardy butt moving over the hills. He would hate my guts if he needed to but we would go on this trip and be separated from civilisation. For me this is important as humans get disconnected outside nature but you can’t disconnect in nature. You do and you die. And I wouldn’t be overly nice to him. It would help him to reconnect if he has to cook his own food, look after his own clothes etc etc. I would intentionally make the trip difficult physically. And I would then further irritate him to breaking point by challenging his flawed ideolgies, overweight unhealthy lifestyle, slowness of walking or whatever. Please keep in mind I also have extensive experience at working with all sorts of people as a clinical hypnotist. (And I know it may be harder to believe as I go on but I am not psychotic, insane, or a sadist)

    When he reaches that breaking point it could play out dangerously so I’d try to make sure he’s not too close to any weapons (I sleep lightly too. Lucky for me given my personality huh!?) but he’s my friend so I’d take my chances, besides like I said I have years of experience in physical confrontations (not just in gyms) so this would not worry me too much.
    I would also use whatever other elements of brainwashing (overexertion, sleep deprivation, incessant talking on certain points) to create certain changes. But I do know what I am doing here and if you do not doing these things would be dangerous for your friend rather than helpful for him in the long run.
    At the end of this trip (and I would be flexible about it but I would not end it until certain changes were so deeply anchored in that I was satisfied they were to all intents permanent) I would finally sit down with him. (preferably without him knowing the trip has ended yet) be polite, change my whole attitude drastically to one of a loving caring, compassionate friend but in no way a soft squishy one. And give him the letter. Then I would listen if he wanted to talk and keep quiet if he didn’t and mostly keep quiet even if he did. Then I’d put him back in the car drive him home and tell him I’ll be round the next day (or day after depending on physical condition) to go for a brief jog (even if it’s only 10 minutes it’s fine). I would tell him I love him and go home.

    If you understand WHY I would do these things then you probably have some training in psychology or better yet in clinical hypnosis or maybe just enough life experience to know certain things. If this looks baffling to you then I would suggest you stay very far away from doing any of the things I said I would probably do. You are not me and vice versa.

    I don’t know if I have done any kind of a good deal here in trying to help your friend. It may have come accross all wrong. Be responsible whatever you do. It’s you doing it. Your actions. Your friend. And everything has consequences. So think a lot before you act a little.
    I wish you and your friend well.
    G.

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  43. Greet post Josh! And thank you Tim for introducing it! This is a poignant subject for me and consequently upon reading this I felt a charged mixture of emotion (it actually got me teary eyed to be honest). I will definitely be reading The Art of Learning soon. I wanted to comment on the intense emotionality of this subject: learning. You speak of “love” and intense curiosity and the enrapt attention we have when we are purely engaged in learning something of interest. To me this is the pure positive opposite of the anxiety and time-bound pressure we acquire from external forces (our environment and people mostly) and thusly take into ourselves to “get more stuff done” and “right this minute”. This is the contagious factor of the “multitasking virus” and is not an idea that originates within us but rather a reaction to the outside world. Being a sensitive, open, and intensely creative being unfortunately puts one at risk to infection because just as one is very open to “learning” and is passionate about soaking in that information those external pressures and forces can rush in as well. So that prompts a question of what is one’s mental “immune system” in this process of learning? As one takes in information that is nourishing and enlivening how does one filter and protect the mind from the onslaught of superfluous information OR more dangerous “misinformation”?

    This is a question I ask myself all the time, especially as I fight my own anxieties to “do more” “be more” and “get it all done now and fast”.

    Again, thank for this post, very timely and powerful.

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  44. I agree that there are serious issues with our education system. The schools teach our children to be good little students. Sit still. Don’t talk. Don’t be creative or think differently. Take this pill.

    Government intervention has just made things worse (surprise!). Mandatory testing-now the teachers teach to the test. Increase spending-the schools just want more. None of this has improved the system.

    Add in drugs, sex, and violence that is rampant in public schools…

    Lots of families are turning to homeschooling, but this isn’t an option that works for everyone. About 50% of the homeschoolers I know should put the kids back in school. In our case it works. The proof…our 14 year old son who already has a semester of college under his belt. Note: he is smart but not a genius. His sister is fast following in his footsteps.

    Why does it work? We focus on learning. We provide the structure and guidance and have nurtured a love of knowledge.

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  45. @Josh

    “On your other point— I find that learning gets more enjoyable the more I am challenged, as long as I don’t get pushed dangerously past the breaking point. When things are too easy or way too hard in the classroom, kids disengage. A love for learning involves finding the middle way on this navigation—and we have to be able to enjoy sweating a little.

    Right. I think the concept of finding a balance between “overtraining” and “undertraining” is key–something I picked up from the book, Toughness Training for Life, by James E. Loehr, and which I’ve read read other supporting evidence for in educational contexts

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  46. I liked and disliked the article.

    I didn’t like the rant about videogames because it changed the tone of the article from borderline insightful and interesting to a descent into a brief rote-repeated summary of the view of videogames from the perspective of who did not grow up with one in his hand.

    I really want to learn more about the focusing concept, and the perils of multitasking, but that was quickly glossed over, with no real explanation given as it was assumed we all agreed and he was just repeating it all for us to hear.

    How do you get focused? How do you stay focused on a project until it’s finished? I usually start on one assignment, and wake up ten minutes later at digg.com because I had gotten excited about a new idea and forgotten that I was trying to focus.

    How do you focus on a slow speaking speaker?

    Just some questions from the ignorant.

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  47. Josh and Tim: Thank you.

    It’s great to hear these book names thrown around, it’s great to see these communities form. (I got here from ZenHabits in fact, I read both feeds).

    Yes we are failing our children in the manner we teach them. But honestly, we are mostly failing ourselves in the way we treat and teach ourselves. I’ve been telling this to people these same things for years. But at an administrative level, at the highest levels, there has been no interest in generating anything other than worker drones (now at their appropriate levels of mental capacities).

    This isn’t a minor problem, it’s a failure of agreement at a societal level.

    And video games are not the key. Bombarding kids with bad video games is no better or worse than bad TV or “bubblegum books”. Reading 100 different Nora Roberts novels isn’t going to make you the next Hemingway any time soon. Of course, playing Brain Age or DDR is clearly going to have benefits.

    This isn’t an ADHD problem or an “information overflow” problem. It’s a boredom problem. Most kids spend most of their time inefficiently at school, but it’s not like their parents are doing much different.

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  48. Recetly I had to replace my dead PDA, and had the following insight.

    I think that the current trend to add entertaining features to the newest PDA’s is more of the same trend to provide distractions to what used to be devices whose sole purpose was productivity.

    When we don’t know what it is to either focus in the moment, or over a period of months on something we love, then we don’t learn what it feels like to be really productive.

    Somehow, we have gotten productivity confused with convenience. I was surfing a Blackberry forum the other day and asked the question “Are you more productive because you have a BlackBerry? Why?” Someone responded — “yes– because I can check email on the train home.”

    It was a real non-answer, but that’s the direction PDA manufacturers are heading i.e. towards greater distractions, and less of what I’d call real productivity.

    Distractions vs. productivity — that’s the unnamed battle that is underway in the MTV generation. It’s impossible to accomplish much by bouncing from one distraction to another simply because nothing really gets built over time.

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  49. I remember old truisms like “A stitch in time beats nine” and “A thing worth doing is worth doing well,” and I wonder what has happened to them. I work with several multi-taskers on a regular basis, and what I’ve observed is that both they and those who have to work with them quickly become multi-half-taskers. I think there are two basic causes for our situation today: insecurity and self-delusion. Insecurity is the root cause.

    When we look at a classroom full of kids surfing the net, instant-messaging and buying shoes, our temptation is to blame the technology. But these are the same kids who had to change their French lessons from Tuesday because soccer practicing was starting and they couldn’t do Wednesdays because they already had piano but if the piano teacher could see them on Friday then they could take French on Monday because they could move their tennis lessons, at least until track started again and then… I run into children like this all the time (I work at a language school), and it’s not that they can’t sit still for five minutes that is the problem. The problem is that the whole society is caught up in the idea that we have to have and do everything or we’re missing something, and we labor under the self-delusion that if we do enough things poorly, we’ll be well-rounded and versatile, as opposed to simply being crazy. People love to point to the internet, instant messaging and video games as the problem here. But the real reason kids get hooked on these technologies so easily is that they work just like their real lives only 1) they’re faster and 2) the kids have the feeling that for once they’re in the driver’s seat – they have greater immediate control over the ways in which they’re going to be overstretched.

    I’m starting to see stay-at-home moms who are too busy coordinating their kids’ schedules to pay attention to the kids. The streets and shops are filled with kids crying out, “Ma, look! Look, ma!” but mother is too busy networking – discussing car pooling arrangements or the best summer camps with another stay-at-home mom – to pay attention. Dad brings his Blackberry to the Little League game so he can physically leave the office before seven. And then we’re surprised that our kids can’t figure out what’s worth paying attention to and pay attention to it?

    The second issue here is self-delusion – the delusion that you can have it all, and that you should! It feeds the first problem – of insecurity – because people start to think they’re shortchanging themselves, their families or their kids if they try to set limits. And once they get in the rat race, they’re too busy trying to keep up to ask themselves if they’re really enjoying it or getting anything out of it. Likewise, in the world of work, the multi-taskers commend themselves for always working on something, but are afraid to slow down to find out 1) if any of their projects are actually finished, 2) if those projects were done correctly and 3) whether the sum of those projects is actually building toward a larger goal. They’re too busy for that, and if they routinely let things slip through the cracks we should cut them some slack in recognition of how much they’re doing – or at least seem to be doing.

    In the past few years, I’ve learned that one of the greatest things life can give us is the things we’ve missed out on. I am a lover of languages and used to be forever looking at two or three languages, which tended to vary from month to month. At the time, I was afraid I’d miss out on Dutch or Chinese or Mongolian or whatever so I would try to squeeze in a little more time here or there to superficially glance at this or that. I didn’t know how much I was really missing out on until I dropped back to maintaining a few and only learning one. With the extra focus, I feel a real connection to what I’m working on now. I’ve noticed in work as well that when I give something more attention, I can radically improve results in that area. I think we miss out on a lot in work and in life when we try to see how much more we can do, rather than how much better we can do.

    I think there’s one other bit of delusion tied to insecurity in here, and that does relate to the computer. But again, it’s not the computer itself, but how we relate to it. In an era of instant communication and where computer automated tasks seem to happen instantly, we have developed the delusion that it’s the machine, not us, that does the important stuff, and the insecurity that there’s something wrong with us if we don’t answer our messages and give the computer input as fast as things happen on screen. We forget about garbage-in/garbage-out, and get the sense that the value is not in the thinking that goes into what we type in, but in the speed with why that typing is acted upon. In the next few years and decades, we’re in for some rude shocks as we discover that with all the communications we’ve completed and data we’ve gathered what we have is not a clearer picture of what we’re doing and how it relates, but so much data that no one knows what it means and so much communication that no one is sure precisely what has been communicated or agreed upon.

    Fortunately, the human species is adaptable. This is one of several articles I’ve seen of late on the problems of multi-tasking, which means that the smart set is already starting to get it. In another fifteen years, simplify won’t be the mantra of back to nature types, it will be the new buzzword. And streamlining processes won’t be about cost-cutting, but about working out which data points are worth tracking and which one’s aren’t, even if the computer can make graphs of all of them in the blink of an eye.

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  50. Tim,

    I read a lot and sometimes come across books that alter the actions of my life. Your book “4 weeks” is one such book.

    I am 43, have 6 boys, a beautiful wife, own a consulting company, live in a great city, have completed Ironman 3 times, am healthy, and am completely clueless about what to do next. Your book stirred up some brain matter that hasn’t been stirred in such a way for a long time. I have spent the last few evenings madly trying to figure out how to fold your concepts into my life.

    I will keep you posted on my progress.

    Thanks for being a builder.
    Mike in Edmonton

    Like

  51. You may also read an interesting article on Multitasking insights by Sw Dhyan Vismay

    An Insight Into The Perils of Multitasking
    8th December, 2005, Times of India, New Delhi
    by
    SWAMI DHYAN VISMAY

    Our life is comprised of two kinds of energy. When we observe silently and eyes closed, we notice only those activities we have control over. This is conscious energy with which we function cons-ciously.

    The other energy that operates in inner body organs and is not noticeable is unconscious energy. This unconscious energy is common to all living beings, as we are all connected to the cosmos through breathing.

    Animals, birds and plants breathe as we do without any control over this. So the pool of uncons-cious energy is common and we are given our share rhythmi-cally, as determined by the beautiful but chaotic rules of the cosmos.

    Buddha called these Dhamma. We don’t breathe, the cosmos breathes for us. Unconscious energy is multi-tasking. Don’t you see inner body organs of so many creatures functioning simultaneously?

    Conscious energy, however, normally, is uni-tasking. That is, it cannot do more than one task (action or thought) at a time. If you are reading this fully focused you may not have noticed anything that is happening near you.

    You can, on your own, see the speed and variety of thoughts in your mind at any time. You can also notice many of us shaking some body parts unconsciously while doing or thinking of something else.

    This non uni-focused state of an individual’s conscious energy demands additional energy which is stolen from the uncons-cious domain which in turn cuts short the share of energy of unconscious parts and builds up stress in those inner organs.

    Consider your body in anger. When your conscious energy drives your hazy-thinking-attention-divided-control-engine of the brain and so many outer body parts simultaneously, it is obviously multitasking.

    This requires more energy than can be supplied fully by the conscious domain. Therefore, it steals some energy from the unconscious domain which in turn tries to compensate by breathing more and by increasing heartbeats.

    In anger we stress the conscious-self and unintentionally stress the unconscious energy causing our breathing and heartbeat to become abnormal. If we are awake and fully alert we do not stress the conscious-self.

    When our cons-cious-self indulges in multitasking we get stressed, exhausted and irritated in addition to the pain we inflict on the inner body organs.

    These pains are noticed only in the long run if multitasking habits continue, in the form of a number of ailments. In fact, depression happens to the sensitive minds due to repeated indulgence of multitasking.

    Meditation is a tool for the multitasking humanity to free itself from what causes stress, anxiety, depression and a large number of other ailments. While meditating sit relaxed, close your eyes, observe the total comfort and state of your body parts and keep watching your breath. With every breath try to make it more easy.

    This focused and prolonged observation gradually makes you watchful of your breath which is an indicator of a stress-free mind-body.

    This practice, with a pious feeling for your surrounding, and love and care for the same, eventually leads you to immense peace and makes you liberated and fearless.

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  52. @ Mike in Edmonton – Mike, I also live in Edmonton and am trying to figure out how to implement all of these great ideas into an habitual lifestyle. It’s not exactly rocket surgery, so you’d think a couple of bright guys might be able to find a fit with our hectic Alberta lives!

    Tim,

    The energy and patience you’ve put into both this project/book/blog is immensely appreciated. I sometimes have a difficult time believing that you are sharing such great advice on living REALLY well, so freely. Then I remember, you sold it as a book…good for you.

    Josh,

    Thank you for the energy you’re placing in young minds and the growth of a real, productive culture. I know, had I started school 10yrs after I did, I’d have been pumped full of coma inducing drugs that would surely have stripped me of my creativity and my soul.

    Upon reading my old report cards, they contrast starkly with the real life experiences I’ve enjoyed. Grade 4 for instance, C’s and a D, yet mom told me in confidence after a Parent/Teacher Interview, that she was told that I had Grade 10 Comprehension and Grade 11 Spelling abilities. In post secondary, I flunked a couple of time-filler courses, yet was conditionally accepted into Mensa, based on the outcome of one more exam. I’m sure my parent’s money would hev been lost to the bookies had bets on my future been waged when I was young.

    Gentlemen, I commend your efforts in your endeavours to shape the world, nay, anti-shape it, in the benevolent manner you’ve already displayed. I believe my role in our coexistence is to do what I can to keep growing, thinking, learning and loving these 83 spins around the sun as much as is humanly possible…so I’m gonna get to that, while you two get to yours.

    Thank you,

    Ted
    31 spins down, 52 to go

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  53. I recently discovered the Pulse smartpen from Livescribe, and it has tremendously helped me better engage in my college lectures. The pen records what I write and here and saves it for either instant review or for much later. I can either use the pen and paper, or digitally store everything on my computer and then use it with the software that comes with the pen.

    Anyways, I thought it would be cool to let other interested students in on the Pulse smartpen.

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  54. Josh and Tim- thank you for talking about this! I am especially connected to your statement,
    “If we love what we are doing, odds are we will want to focus on it. So the solution is two pronged—help people discover the love, and arm them with strategies to zone in when they want to.”
    Whether we’re helping children to fall in love with learning or empowering women in business, we’ve got to help people not only find their passion, but hold on to it as well. You can only hold on a passion or love for something when you get a chance to really spend some time on it (with it, around it…), develop your gift and see some fruits from it. That comes from being able to focus! I love this post and look forward to passing to others, including women in business who really need to learn to stop multitasking and start focusing! Thank you.

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  55. Thanks, Tim, for introducing me to Josh. I like what he says about focus and the fact that we´ve got to love what we´re learning. But what really resonated with me is when he said teachers need to listen first. We´re about to start transforming how kids who´ve been excluded from mainstream schools are taught in the UK and the first principle is that teachers can´t begin to teach until they´ve mastered understanding the kids. We think we´re onto something that can revolutionize learning. I certainly hope so and will let you know our results!

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  56. Thanks for the great post! When I was in school, I would sigh at the bored, impassive faces of the students listening to a lecture. Learning is supposed to be fun, engaging, and fulfilling…not that I am too thrilled about going to school everyday, but there are just days when materials in a text or words in a lecture leaped out at me, leaving a dent in my mind. I would say “wow! this is very interesting! and it actually have something to do with me!” In fact, learning has everything to do with yourself. You are the one learning after all. You will make the choice of whether to make use of that knowledge.

    I could only nod at your observation of the two boys who played video games. It is true, and many many kids today are becoming addicted to different form of entertainment, whether it be TV, computers, gaming systems, MP3 players, cellphones etc. It annoys me to see teenagers listening to their Ipod or text messaging while their parents are talking to them. They are “disconnected” from their surroundings.

    I went to a private high school in northern California, in a small city called Ukiah. It is located inside a Buddhist monastery and the majority of the students lives in the dorm. The school, called Developing Virtue Secondary School, is famous for its strict codes. We cannot, at anytime during our stay in the school, have cellphones, mp3s, or computers. We can only use computers at home. We also have limited internet and only accessible on school computers. The internet blocks out facebook, myspace, youtube, and such sites used for socializing. The school wanted us to concentrate on our studies instead of playing games, listen to music, or chat with friends. For the four years I spent there, I realized there are so much more going on around me and so much to do when I’m not in front of my computer. WIth the long abstinence of internet, I can control my usage and overcome the addiction.

    I felt lucky to have gone to that school. I made me see how dependent most people are on their cellphones, computers, Ipods and gameboys. Without it, they would almost seem lost. We need to connect with each other more, have real conversations, send REAL mails, give hugs and kisses….

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    • Beneath that mild-mannered exterior, Josh is riveting. You continue to be a nexus of fascinating people with uncommon insights and vital information. I’m researching single vs multitasking now, and–as usual after reading a 4HWW post–I’m off in several promising new directions. See you on the flipside!

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  57. Re: Disengagement and video games and crackberries/laptops, etc.

    I made a funny observation the other day while sitting in the student lounge. The place was packed, but as I peered over the shoulders of crackberry users and laptop/wi fi users, a large number of them were on social networks or chatrooms.

    A roomful of living, breathing people not interacting… all on social networks ‘e-socializing’ while ignoring the ‘live’ people surrounding them.

    I mentioned it to someone next to me. He looked around, chuckled, and then went right back to his online chatting. End of our conversation.

    It was an eye-opening realization.

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  58. I forgot where I read this, but I am a believer in the mind can only focus on one thing at a time. An experiment that was suggested in the reading was that if you are emotionally upset, close your eyes and try to stand on one leg. If you focus on the upset, you lose your balance, Focus on your balance and you temporarily forget your upset.

    I’ve used this little trick countless times to center myself and regain perspective when upset or aggravated and it has always worked for me.

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