Never Miss a Storm

Josh Waitzkin Interview

Josh Waitzkin with Tim Ferriss standing next to him with a couple other Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters.

Josh Waitzkin does not do many interviews. He was the subject of the book and movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer and, after years of fame, he is now a private person. He is a chess and martial arts champion, and now trains a handful of finance industry execs for peak performance. Tim Ferriss is pretty much the only person who gets an interview with him every couple years.

In his 2016 interview, when speaking about parenting and learning, Josh observes that the need for people to feel in control and to act only when external conditions are “just so” are extraordinarily limiting factors to growth and learning.

He described how he used chaos to win in chess and he would train his brain to operate effectively in chaotic situations. He implemented chaos throughout his life. For instance, when playing cards, he would not organize his hands into melds (i.e. into groups of cards that go together like three sevens) so that he would be forced to think differently. He created competitive advantage by being able to be at peace in chaos.

He continues with a story about hearing other parents constantly characterizing weather as good or bad, and establishing a norm that they and their children only go outside and have fun when the weather is good. Whereas, with his son Jack, he makes sure that they “never miss a storm” whether it is rain or snow and they comment to each other, “look, it’s such a beautiful rainy day.” Josh intends to help his son develop an “internal locus of control.” That is, that Jack will determine his actions rather than external factors such as the weather.

I notice myself doing what he observed in other parents. During heavy rainstorms in San Diego a week ago, we scarcely went outside because the weather was “bad” but I am certain that if we had romped around in the rain we would have had a glorious time. Similarly, sticking to an exercise program has always been tough for me because I require numerous conditions to be ideal to prioritize it. Almost anything from work, weather, friends, food, fatigue, soreness, slight illness, etc. can derail my intentions to move my body.

It also seems to me that this is the dark side of being “authentic.” As I avoid exercise, I am being authentic because I do not feel like working out. It allows me to hide by honoring those feelings. But we grow by being uncomfortable. By being professional rather than authentic. By accepting that change does not feel comfortable. So far this year, I’ve been doing well challenging myself to be uncomfortable with my diet, movement, writing, and time management. I think it will also help me going forward to think about how important it is for me to bolster my internal locus of control.

Originally published at on February 1, 2021.



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