When I think back to the lessons I’ve learned, the things that have shaped me as a person, one thing stands out more than others. The lessons of a game.
One afternoon when I was 2 or 3 years old, my father decided to play a game with me. I remember a small table and a chess board. There was a large man on the other side pointing to the pieces and repeating the way they move, over and over.
That’s the last of what I remember in the first person, the rest is the recollection of my parents. My father tells the story that we were quietly learning the game in the basement when my mother came home and walked downstairs.
“What are you doing!” she exclaimed.
“Just playing a game” he responded.
“He’s too young for that.”
“But he’s doing ok and enjoying it.”
They went back and forth for a while. During that time I was setting the board back up, putting all the pieces where they were supposed to be. Then I grabbed a pawn from each color and put them behind my back for a moment, moved them around, and held my hands closed in front of me. This was so my father could pick which color he would be.
I’ve told this story to several friends and, while some tell me that it’s not possible, I’ll trust my parents and my foggy recollection, because, in fact, we were there.
While I’m not an expert Chess player, and never have been, I do believe that I learned some very valuable lessons from playing that game at such a young age. ? As far back as I can remember I have thought of life as being a lot like chess.
From it I learned:
Think Ahead. Try to see all the moves available for all the pieces, and try to see the move after that, and after that. You need to understand all your options and plan for possible outcomes without being too committed to one sequence of events.
Every action affects all other possible actions. Some doors are opened, some are closed.
See opportunities before they are available. In the event a door is opened, make sure you are already set up to enter it.
Never back yourself into a corner. Always have a backup plan, mistakes will be made.
Make good choices.
Sacrifices must be made in pursuit of a goal. There are trade-offs with everything, do your best to leave yourself in a stronger position if you have to give something up.
And of course:
“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake” – napoleon
Thanks go to my father for taking the time to play the game that day and many days after. Also for not thinking I was too young to learn it. This is just one of a thousand things I received from him. I don’t know if he thought I would learn as much from it as I did.