64 Squares Of Lessons

I play chess. Not at the Grandmaster level, but well enough to enjoy the game. Of course I prefer to win, but while recently watching a match slip through my fingers, it hit me: I learn a lot more when I lose.

Shortcomings–even failures–can be great teachers. And the surest method I’ve found for getting every ounce of value from those experiences is to focus on what comes next … after the defeat.

It’s sadly common to find some other person or circumstance to blame. In chess it could be that the opponent has more time to study or owns better instructional books. On the job, the excuse might be that a colleague didn’t get back to me or a competitor acted unfairly. These approaches lead nowhere, because they put us in a victim role, with little or no way to change the predicament and thus the results.

If instead, I take responsibility, it becomes clear that the amount of effort I invest in chess, or improving any other part of my individual or professional self, is up to me.

Serious chess players record the moves of their games, using cryptic markings like dxe4, 0-0, etc. This provides a chance to later review and see where better decisions could have occurred. Patterns emerge which become warning signs for future situations. Specific weaknesses are revealed, leading to precisely directed study. Areas where effort can be exerted for maximum impact are made clear.

Likewise, recurring problems in any of life’s roles should be analyzed. What will I do when I face a similar challenge again? Do I need more education in a particular area? How can I best spend my time to realize my full potential?

Showing the recorded games to a stronger player or coach and asking for feedback is helpful as well. Likewise, it is wise to find someone who exhibits the personal and/or business characteristics and final outcomes we want and ask how he or she got there. Giving that person permission to speak into our lives, making recommendations and even pointing out shortcomings, can lead to powerful change.

As I discovered on the 64 squares of the chess board, losing isn’t all bad. When I win a game, I feel great. When I lose, however, I have the opportunity to improve. There’s value, therefore, in both.

7 comments on “64 Squares Of LessonsAdd yours →

  1. J R StJohn says:

    We have a phrase in TaiJi: “Invest in Loss!” The better players make swiss cheese of your style and force you to improve!
    Always seek out the most powerful player and let them wipe the floor with you. You will be better next time!

  2. Steve, your articles are very enlightening!
    This last one is better than a therapy’s session… Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom!

  3. Does winning or losing matter or is it how you played the game that matters most? Great article!

  4. An excellent reminder about avoiding the victim mentality. It can creep in very subtly, but its presence is easy to identify…hmmmmmm…. or is it?

  5. So true, Steve. After a lot of self-flagellation and pointless perfectionism through the years, I’ve more recently come to view failures and mistakes as rungs on the ladder to my potential. I discover what works by finding out what doesn’t work, so I embrace the lessons of failure and the wisdom they can lead to. Today, my focus isn’t so much on what’s to blame for an unsatisfying experience, but what are the solutions that can take me in a new and better direction – and the quicker the better.

  6. Tonya Beck says:

    It is amazing how much control we really have even in situations out of our control. We have control over how we respond and this article reminds us we can either choose to be a victim or find a solution to rise above and learn how to win next time. Thanks Steve for sharing your insights!

  7. Great article Steve and your conclusions are right on! How I wish in real life I could have held my finger on a decision like on a chess piece not hitting the clock for a second longer, to contemplate the outcome and allowed to retract my play. While most of my split second decisions have been sound, I could have retracted a few along the way! (Grin)

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