Friday, December 19, 2008


Frequently we hear people talking about winning the “game of life”, which ultimately is fairly accurate. Essentially a “game” is a competitive activity with rules, and without question life is competitive in nature while surrounded by laws. Like all games, there is strategy involved in order to succeed and typically the most strategically prepared are the ones who experience success the most often.

Dating back to around the year 1100 modern chess and checkers were played. Despite their origin in a much more primitive time then today, chess and checkers are very well related to how we go about our lives and provide us a blueprint on how success can be achieved.

The game of checkers is a point A to point B strategic game where the goal is to get to the other side of the board so that you can have a checker that can move both north and south, therefore making it easier to jump your opponent. The nature of checkers primarily keeps our focus external and vertical because the game is one dimensional in the majority of its movements. Checkers only move one place at a time unless an opportunity lands in our lap where we are allowed to double jump. How we got to this double jump has little to do with strategy, and is usually the opportunistic benefit of a mistake made by our opponent.

Many of us relate very well to this order of thinking; we have such a tight focus that all we can see is getting to our destination so that we can restructure our thinking. Yes we see the dangers that surround us, but our main strategy is to reach the end with the idea that our lives will become easier. Because our vision is so narrow we are forced to move in a step by step process unless an opportunity falls directly in front of us. We most definitely can succeed with this approach, but much of our success has more to do with constantly looking forward and less to do with reflecting (therefore learning) on what we have accomplished.

Also rooted in strategy, chess is a multi-dimensional game with pieces that all have different functions. In the game of chess our focus is not on immediate success, rather it is on action that will ultimately set up greater success in the future. Because the majority of the pieces can move in every direction, our focus has to be internal and external as well as horizontal and vertical. This consistent movement within focus forces us to look ahead to opportunity, yet be willing to take a step back and reassess when necessary. Our success in chess is directly related to our ability to create opportunity where we force our opponent into mistakes rather than waiting for them to make a mistake. Since we create more opportunity in chess than we do in checkers we are more likely to become empowered through our decision making process.

Again, this is an order of thinking that we can relate to, but also understand that success not only takes more time but takes more sweat equity as well. While our success might be the same as that of a single focused person, our future opportunity is greatly more vast because we not only saw the dangers around us but addressed them before we simply moved forward. With a multidimensional focus we didn’t just move forward step by step, we moved around the board thinking about every potential implication that our next move would hold to the north, south, east, and west. When we did reach success it was primarily the result of our own vision and our ability to execute within that vision.

There is no exact recipe to success in any game. A great checkers player will be a great chess player the majority if the time and visa versa. In our success it is more important that we understand three things, 1) what game are we playing, 2) how we intend to play the game, and 3) what do we expect to get from playing. If we can understand this then we can create the focus necessary to succeed in the manner we see fit, therefore play the “game of life” with purpose and conviction.

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