Lifestyle Design

I recently listened to two episodes of the Tim Ferriss podcast where he interviews Joshua Waitzkin. I've been thinking about their conversation since.

Josh is a former child chess prodigy who became an International Master at age 16. He then pivoted into the world of martial arts and became a Taiji Push Hands world champion. He makes the case that even-though chess and Push Hands seem like unrelated disciplines, performing at the elite level requires the same mindset. Josh has reflected on this topic since. He currently coaches world-class performers, mostly managers of multi-billion dollar hedge funds, to operate at their best.

Josh believes that operating at the highest level requires an individual to deeply understand and cater to their own being.

The first step in his methodology is to work with clients to find the exact preconditions that make them tick. Then, once they have identified patterns that lead to their deepest and most creative work, they systematically design a lifestyle around them.

On a concrete level, this plays out in the day-to-day life of the individual: when they sleep and wake up, how they structure the first few hours of the morning, when they set aside time for individual work and meetings, and whether they have a meditation or journaling practice.

The process of observing ourselves to pinpoint what makes us tick, and then designing a lifestyle to reliably create those conditions can be applied by anyone. This does require a certain level of self-awareness and discipline to pull of.

Josh explains his approach in working with high-level hedge fund managers in the first episode:

What I do with these guys is – after I do my initial diagnostic process – I have ways of revamping their daily architecture, the way they live their life. So that they’re, for example, aligning their peak energy period with their peak creativity work. They are building lifestyles that are just relentlessly proactive. As opposed to reacting to inputs, they’re building a daily architecture which is based on maximizing the creative process. When you think about this relative to most people – a simple case in point – is email checking. Most people when they finish a break, and even top guys in the industry, and they finish a break, whether they wake up first in the morning – what do most people do? They check their emails. When they come back from a workout, they check their emails. When they come back from lunch, they check their emails. So what you see is whenever they’re coming back from something after a break, they’re soaking in input and they’re living this reactive lifestyle. Their creative process is dominated by external noise as opposed to internal music. And a lot of what I work on with guys is creating rhythms in their life that really are based on feeding the unconscious mind, which is the wellspring of creativity, information and then tapping it.