THE FIGHTER’S MIND: THE WILL TO WIN AND ENTITY VERSUS INCREMENTAL LEARNING FORMS

Posted on December 11, 2011 by

I am reading a really good book called the Fighter’s Mind by Sam Sheriden. It is a compendium of interviews of fighters and their trainers but it also tries to give insight into what motivates individuals to engage themselves in difficult endeavors which they would never attain without pure drive, staying power and a will to win. This issue, personal motivation, seems to be a growing obsession of my own as I see its tangible results in daily life and think it a poorly explores issue and one worthy of study. Sheriden speaks about Josh Waitzen, a chess geniu and martial artist who wrote a book called The Art of Learning. In it he speaks about entity versus incremental types of learning. Entity learners think their skill is born in them, in their genes. Incremental learners think they learn incrementally, stp by step, through hard work. Waitzen would give his students impossible problems, far beyond their level that all would fail. Then, he would give the students a more manageable problem. The entity students would struggle as they had broken mentally and were unsure of themselves. The incremental kids would go back to work, slogging away. entity kids were brittle, incremental kids believed in the power of labor and would keep digging when faced with difficult problems. I believe in this thinking and that something happens when a person is willing to stay the course and do what it takes to learn, to get the job done, no matter the cost. LEarning, any kind of learning can be attained through focus and diligence, without regard to innate capabilities–all of which can be developed. One needs the will. There is another interesting line of thought in this book relating to the internal will to success and it’s about dealing with loss. The writer interviewed a number of successful mixed martial artists, considered the most successful and highly skilled. They talk about dealing with loss as an essential component of overcoming adversity. It runs something like this: “Just because you lose doesn’t make you a loser.” Once you understand that there will be bad times but a consistent attitude of overcoming will bring you to a better day, the frustration is diminished. The key is to maintain the fire to keep learning and finding ways to succeed. You have to love the game–whatever it is and stay with it. What lights that spark? Its obviously different in everyone. I recall reading an interesting article about a mother and father of a 9 year old who was sick with a metabolic¬†illness that is ill understood by the top physicians. Over a period of three years, their unbridled love for their daughter caused them to confer with scores of researchers and medicinal chemists worldwide and they ultimately helped one scientist start a company and raise funds for the development of a new drug which ultimately cured their own daughter. Little sleep, constant focus, refusal to give in to those physicians who told them it was hopeless. Above all an attitude of constant learning, reading and a knowledge that there would be really bad days but they could by their will make something happen. This issue of personal will is really worth examining, especially in these times. I am looking for more research¬† and thoughtful writing on the topic. Please let me know if you read anything worthwhile.

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