In former chess and Tai Chi world champion Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning, he essentially concludes that his greatest talent is learning:
What I have realized is that what I am best at is not Tai chi, and it is not chess – what I am best at is learning.
As an MMA fan, I read frequently about UFC Welterweight World Champion Georges St. Pierre (GSP). While GSP is an amazing athlete and a relentless worker, I have come to believe that GSP’s greatest skill is his ability to learn.
He analyzes his fights and skills and seeks new learning opportunities. His home gym is the Tri-Star Gym in Montreal, but he also trains in Albuquerque with Greg Jackson. When he started, he drove from Montreal to New York to train his jui-jitsu with Renzo Gracie, and now he also works with Canada’s Olympic wrestling coach. This week, he visited Los Angeles to train with famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach. While other fighters (athletes) grow complacent with success and comfortable with one trainer who elicits satisfactory or even great results, GSP continually seeks experiences to learn from the best.
â€œGeorges is such a tremendous athlete, and heâ€™s such a fast learner,â€ Roach said. â€œWe were working at different distances and different angles than heâ€™s used to fighting in MMA, but he picked it all up so fast.â€
Most MMA analysts marvel that GSP is MMA’s best wrestler even though he does not come from a wrestling background. While other fighters in his weight class like his Josh Koshcheck and Jon Fitch are decorated high school and collegiate wrestlers, GSP added wrestling to his martial arts’ game, and now his wrestling is as good as anyone in the UFC.
In February, after training with Strikeforce fighter Gegard Mousasi, GSP said:
“If I could have a choice between money, fame or wisdom and knowledge, I would take wisdom first, without hesitation,” St. Pierre said. “I’m already a better fighter than I was before the practice. I have more knowledge.”
This is the key to his success: he is humble, constantly learning and always seeking improvement. While his success is a testament to his work ethic, athleticism, dedication and trainers, much of his success can be attributed to his ability to learn.