Crippled CEO Blog #048:
I take chess lessons from Russian International Master and chess coach Vitaly Neimer. 60 minutes every Sunday, and recently 45 minutes each Tuesday and Thursday.
For homework, I complete 9-18 challenging chess puzzles per week.
I play several games every day online.
My goal is to be a National Master in five years.
You are probably thinking right now that I must be pretty good at chess.
I’m really not.
I get beat by low rated players every day.
I do incredibly stupid moves that make me wince almost immediately.
I’m kinda bad.
So, if I’m not good, if I don’t have some natural chess talent, why am I doing all of this?
Because I suck at it, because it’s hard, and because every time I do something stupid and lose, I have to talk myself out of quitting entirely, that this is a pointless pursuit and a waste of my time.
That feeling of being bad at something, doubting myself, and continuing anyways is literally the point. I am training that muscle.
I am teaching my brain that if you don’t quit, success is on the other side of failure.
This isn’t a concept that comes naturally. Our brain wants to protect us from failure. When we were cavemen living in the forest, being bad at something and failing normally meant that you died.
We are evolutionarily hardwired to avoid that feeling. It takes training and practice to get past it.
Also, learning hard things — like chess, or a new language, or dancing, or jiujitsu (what I would have picked if I was physically able) — actually improves the health of the physical structure of your brain. You are enhancing your neuroplasticity.
And, just like learning to suppress and overcome that feeling of wanting to quit something we are bad at, when you have examples you can recall of being bad, practicing, improving, and then succeeding, you can lean on that the next time it happens. Getting better at new skills is a skill unto itself, and it’s better to get good at it when it doesn’t really matter, when the stakes are low (with something like chess), so you are ready for when it really does matter.
I don’t know if I will be a National Chess Master in five — or ten — years. But even if I do achieve that goal, the process of getting there will be far more valuable than the goal itself. The reward is in the work, not the prize at the end.
PS: If you’re interested in also learning from International Master Neimer, he is accepting student applications at PowerfulChess.com.
(Maybe you found this helpful. Maybe it wasn’t helpful for you, but you know exactly who it is helpful for. Be a good friend and send it to them. They will appreciate it, and so will I. If you have benefited from three or more of these blog posts, you should take nine seconds and send a text message to the number 484848 with the word CRIP as the message. That will subscribe you to get a text from me every week with a link to the latest post. Making a commitment to learning new stuff is good for you.)