Everything is a Chess Game.
This essay has nothing to do with winning or losing. That is important to say up front. There is tremendous value in the desire to win, but it is also often a distraction.
I was talking about this with my friend who owns a lawn and landscape company. He started in high school, and when we were in college, I worked for him for a while when he was in that difficult stage between Soloprenuer and business owner, when there is too much work for one guy, and not enough for two.
One day I was struggling with trimming. Trimming, or edging, or weed-eating, whatever you call it, is one of those things that looks SO easy when you watch a pro do it, and is SO difficult to master. The first lesson my friend gave me was: “First, you have to decide on your Trimmer Theory” The questions that follow just scratch the surface of what he meant by that:
- Are you going counterclockwise or clockwise? One is easier and faster, and one naturally lifts the grass up and is better for longer grass and makes a cleaner edge. Also, one shoots stones away from you, and the other shoots them towards you.
- When are you going to break from the edge to trim around any trees or other obstacles that are away from the sidewalk’s edge?
- Is there a path that keeps the retracing of steps to a minimum?
- Does this part need a straight edge, or a flat edge? Sidewalks typically lend themselves to the former, asphalt driveways the latter.
These are just some of the big questions, but if you actually start trimming, and are mindful the whole time, there are countless little decisions that will impact how long it takes you and how good the job looks when you are done.
It seems like just “trimming”, but for anyone who cares to notice, there is a strategy. And if there is a strategy, then there are better and worse ways to accomplish the task, and if you continually test them, you will become a master.
I remember when I was deeply into Taekwondo in College. It was my 3rd year, and I was a High Brown Belt, one rung below Black. We were having an intra-squad tournament, and for just a split second I saw the strategy of the match open before me. I was sparring an opponent who kept dodging the same way when I threw a right roundhouse kick. Three in a row, same thing “head down and to my left” All in one instant I thought two things: “this is chess” and “I need to test it” so I threw another right roundhouse, he dodged, “head down and to the left” and the next kick was a feigned right roundhouse followed by a quick left that ended the match. Everything is Chess.
Now mind you, at this point I had been loving Taekwondo for almost 3 years, practicing 3-5 days a week, and it had just occurred to me to start paying attention to the strategy. You have to learn to see the Chess in everything, but often it will only truly reveal itself after years of practice. My friend had been trimming for 4 years by himself, and had been thinking “what is the fastest and best way to get this done” nearly the whole time.
And so that is the lesson. Everything is Chess if you can only see it.
Do you have a ton of boxes to break down and stack up? What is your strategy?
Do you have a ton of fallen leaves to rake up? What is your strategy?
Do you have a studio floor to sweep? What is your strategy?
Do you have a business that needs to reduce its ad spend? What is your strategy?
Do you want to spend more time with your kids? What is your strategy?
Everything is a Chess Game, the question is “Are you playing chess, or just messing around”?