Chess is a thinking person’s sport designed for those who plan several moves ahead while having the patience to maneuver their pieces in place. I am not a chess player but chess is a sport that is played by many people including former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, and Don King. Chess teaches a player to anticipate their opponent’s moves and think ahead. For the athlete, politician, businessman or woman who plays chess, the sport develops their strategic thinking. Thinking strategically means understanding how your opponents or competition think and trying to anticipate what they will do. By thinking strategically, you can checkmate their moves.
In chess, there is no certainty, no “best moves,” for each game produces new situations. In life, uncertainty abounds and there are times that flexibility is called for. Those who are looking for formulas to lead them through life may find that sometimes those formulas do not work. Each day, like each sporting event, represent different challenges. A salesman once told me that what made his job rewarding was that he never knew what would happen. What makes each sporting event special is that you don’t know what will happen and for the business leader, each day is the unknown.
A person once told me that experience is not always the best teacher. This runs counter to conventional wisdom. Experience does matter in much of life. Experience may allow you to recognize certain patterns, but if you are in unfamiliar territory it may be a curse. Our past experience may blind us to new opportunities.
The businessman, who is used to doing things the old way, may be unable to adopt to new conditions or take advantage of new opportunities. The athlete may stop working and find himself out-hustled by the younger tiger, and the diplomat finds the world situation totally different from when he or she were younger. So in some cases, experience blinds a person from viewing the world as it is, not as a person wishes it to be.
Chess is no different. What may have worked in the past may not work in the present. Chess forces a person to think outside the square. And those who think outside the square are not afraid of change, and even welcome it.
Yet in chess, as in all sports, repetition and practice matters. An athlete must practice his craft so that in a game situation, it becomes second nature. Michael Jordan’s success was not due to natural talent alone, but to his practice off the court. Under pressure, he executed. When participating in the martial arts, my sensei would tell me that a move must be practiced 1000 times before it become a mere reflex.
The final lesson is that a chess player can never rest on his or her laurels. Life is not much different. An athlete must continuously retool his or her game. Late in his career, Roger Clemons added a split-finger pitch to his arsenal. This pitch not only extended his career but allowed him to continue to dominate late in his career. Michael Jordan became an excellent outside shooter to complement his already superior inside game. A manager once told me that the only thing constant in business is change. That is why studying the market allows businesses to adopt and anticipate change.
Chess forces one to think and anticipate and life is like that as well. We use the experiences that we have developed to react to the world around us but sometimes change produces surprises. We can never anticipate everything, but with knowledge of the past and an open mind, we can develop answers to those problems.Powered by Sidelines