Showgirls playing chess backstage at the Latin Quarter nightclub - New York, 1958

Showgirls playing chess backstage at the Latin Quarter nightclub – New York, 1958

I was introduced to chess when I was a kid. I was a member of the chess club at school and although it wasn’t the most popular choice amongst the student body, for me it was super cool. Growing up I found it very hard to comprehend text and often zoned out during the lesson, not because I was bored,  but because I felt so stupid that I couldn’t keep up with my classmates. I worked extra hard only to receive average grades and it totally made me feel defeated. To help raise my self-esteem I joined sports teams and clubs.

At first, I thought, “Man I can’t do this.” It was challenging to say the least because there are so many rules to remember but I have a competitive spirit and the game held my attention long enough to stay focused until I got the hang of it. Chess quickly taught me not to be afraid of the opposition, look beyond the obvious moves and how to see the bigger picture. I learn differently than most people. I’m more of a visual thinker. I need to see the information in order to learn from it.

Visual learning is a teaching and learning style in which ideas, concepts, data and other information are associated with images and techniques.”

Chess isn’t just a game, I use chess as a metaphor for life and business because it requires strategic planning. Anthropologist Robert Desjarlais explains in his recent book,”To begin a chess game is to step into the unknown …. A game is like a highly simplified version of everyday life. One’s decisions have consequences for the future. We know that each move we make, in life or in a game, determines a unique path for the future.”

It’s the simple things that can prove to be the most extraordinary. Below are 5 entrepreneurial lessons I’ve learned from playing chess which has changed the way I navigate my life.

I’m going to quote Lauren Hill when I say that it could all be so simple but we rather make it hard. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Nothing. When you hit a road block all you really need to do is focus on the next positive step. Sometimes you just need to slow down and stay calm because the answers are right in front of you.

At some point you will have to make very hard decisions, but if you learn to follow your intuition you will always know what is “best” for you. Life is not about winning or losing; it’s about continual growth. My primary focus is to build upon my problem solving skills to better equip myself for the battles ahead. Because there will battles. The world can be a very dark place sometimes but when you understand how to play to your advantage, identify your options and seize the opportunities available to you, you will always be two steps ahead from the rest of the pack.  Remember, the quality of your life is made up of the sum of all your choices. Focus on where you want to go, not where you currently are. Have a plan but be flexible.

To experience the best wins in life and business, confidence will be your secret weapon. It will give you the fuel to take the next shaky step and trust that God will provide a net to catch you. But your confidence levels are dependent upon how prepared you are. Train to be the best at what you do. Train outside of the average 9-5 hours that everyone else puts in. Be intimidated by the fear of being average, and then rise above it and be extraordinary. Maintain this mindset and you will be amazed by the results.

I love engaging in a game of chess because it keeps my brain active and provides challenges that can only be overcome with extreme focus. Successful people use their time very wisely. They don’t get sidetracked by people who are not on track and they don’t ever quit until the job is done. Laziness may appear attractive but will derail you from your end goal. Prioritize your life, identify what’s most important and eliminate everything else. This is the formula I used to climb the career ladder to success. Learning to say “no” to that party, dinner with girlfriends, reality television is a power that you need to use more often.

It has everything to do with being smart. There is only one female piece on the chess board which is the Queen. She is the most important and powerful player. She has the most options in the game because she is allowed to move in one direction, as far as possible, forward, backward, sideways and diagonal. When she is ready to attack her a opponent, she does so with  formidable force. My interpretation of this situation is that the queen seeks new experiences, proceeds without permission and forges her own path. She understands that every move has a purpose and plays to her advantage. This is by far the greatest lesson of them all because it clearly illustrates that the secret to getting ahead is to remember that success is tied to action.


Peace & Love,