Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

For someone who enjoys strategy games, both virtually and in reality, I've given a bad rap to chess. Somehow, I never really was into the game. Ironic, since I was mostly an introvert as a child (hours of wondrous mental wandering, lost in books). I'd play the occasional game with a friend or a relative and would inevitably lose. It was probably losing that turned me off, if my lack of patience didn't get to me first, that is.

It surprised me back then and it still surprises me today. I spend a good part of my day anticipating problems and thinking up solutions - especially the kind that can be applied at scale. Another chunk of time goes into reflection - reviewing my actions, tracking and analyzing my performance, and planning tweaks or upskilling to improve my output. Failures and rejections, to some extent, are also unavoidable in entrepreneurship. Moreover, patience and persistence is the name of the game in my line of work. On paper, I should take to chess like a fish to water. So, what was missing?

I played chess last weekend, after many years. Played against the computer on Difficulty level - 2/10. Played four or five games. Lost every one. Today, I played chess again. Four games. Lost my first two games. Decided to try the coaching mode. Played 666T by Bon Iver on loop in the background. Cut off all other distractions. Won the next two games - albeit with significant handholding. I felt very refreshed, almost like I was coming out of a long session of meditation. My brain was in productivity-ville (this blog post is a result of that) for a couple of hours.

I like chess a little more, now. I think I'm going to commit a little time every week to work on my game. All it took was a little nudging from my AI chess coach and my first couple of small wins. Life's a lot like chess - it's easy to feel beat when the deck seems stacked against you. Maybe you're just a Pawn in a world of Kings. But there's no reason to wage war as a lone warrior. The playing field is level for everyone. Find good mentors and peers to build a little tribe of your own. Sometimes, the one little move that can really spur you on to those big hairy audacious goals is getting a mentor or a coach who delivers frank feedback, gives good advice, and brings the wisdom that comes with experience.