Zen masters often have students who train with them for years. And after 10 years of training, a student may not be able to do what the zen master can do, but they can at least see what they are doing and recognize it. This is a core principle that has been true in my life. As I get more accomplished in all areas, what amazes me the most is not what I can come up with, but what I can observe other people doing. I have these passionate moments where I recognize what someone is saying, and the structure of it intrigues me, and generates a certain reverence for that line of thought.
As I’ve been reading Josh Waitzkin’s book (“The Art of Learning”), I can closely relate to how he feels in certain chess positions, observing the champions, and pioneering his own style. I personally have only glimpsed that in chess, but I have started playing the game again only because he is so congruent when he writes about it, and he taps into a part of my experience that I have felt is only available to “intelligent” people.
The irony is that our patterns, or our habitual ways of processing information, will inevitably shape everything in our lives for good and bad. These programs can cause us to become warm and loving or harsh and coldblooded. But these same patterns have a beautiful complexity to them. That when we stop and analyze them, they provide countless hours of entertainment, just as it is in a tough chess position, or developing an idea to change the world.