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9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess

Like Monopoly, Chess is another one of those very strategic board games.

Whilst Monopoly had some valuable business lessons, it was not as intense as a Chess game.

Chess is one of the most competitive board games played by the likes of professionals such as Magnus Carlsen and had shows completely based on it such as the 'Queens Gambit.'

It's no coincidence that some of the world's biggest leaders both in business, politics and other fields, are advocates for the game of Chess.

Aging back to the 6th Century (AD), Chess has been a game played by 100s of millions of people yet not a whole bunch have managed to master it.

Designed to replicate war, Chess is all about strategically moving your pieces across the board in an effort to outmaneuver your opponents and take their king - known as a 'checkmate' in the world of Chess.

Similar in war, armies are essentially beaten once their leader or king is taken out. 

We all know that to achieve the same results as someone, you got to implement their habits, right?

Napoleon, Bill Gates, even Peter Thiel all play or played Chess making it hard to ignore as something worth exploring in your own life or business.

Scientifically proven to help with things such as your IQ, problem solving skills, your planning and projections, creativity, exercising your brain, and improving your memory, it makes perfect sense why Chess is such a renowned activity amongst many professionals.

In this article, we're going to discuss the lessons that you can learn from the game of Chess and how they can apply to your life or business.

But firstly, let's explore how the two are interrelated.

As a business leader, your goal is to make sure that you compete with your opponents and defend your business from losing the war (going out of business).

In some instances you'll be making a play for power - assessing the landscape and seeing what you should do to advance your business and escape the competition.

In other instances, you'll be an inferior force struggling to survive.

Learning both ends of the spectrum is important in both business and Chess.

Chess requires you to advance forward, outwit your opponent and be the last one standing - very similar to the world of business.

In both, you'll need to learn to make swift decisions based on your opponent's position whilst quickly assessing the threats that lie ahead.

So what are some of the lessons that entrepreneurs can pick up about business through Chess?

To break the rules, you must first master them

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess
Audemars Piguet once said in order 'to break the rules, you must first learn them.'

In Chess, there are many rules that one must follow.

Stemming from simple rules such as how your pieces are allowed to move on the board, to more complex rules such as castling. 

In business, there are many rules that one must learn to also follow - these can be as simple as legal laws that can result in penalties, infringements and fines if not abided by, to other rules that are only learnt through experiences.

Both in business and Chess, you'll have to play the game to learn it in the first place.

One cannot study the landscape and believe they've mastered it.

Similarly, in both business and Chess, following the books will never be the smartest way to get ahead.

You need to learn to assess what the opposition is doing and play the same game.

You can only fight fire with fire.

Plan three steps ahead

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess

If you've ever watched the Queen's Gambit or any professional chess player, you'll notice that they often take a while to make their move.

This is not because they don't know what to do - it's because they planning on what to do 3 moves later.

They run multiple scanrios in their head in order to forsee what possibilities can play out and then they plan accordingly.

Often, they will make certain moves within seconds of their turn commencing.

When you watch a complete newbie play, you'll notice how they make every move as they go along, not planning ahead and anticipating in advance.

Chess is a mental battle and so is business.

To beat your competition you need to stay ahead of them and know their exact next steps in order to beat it before it even comes.

Take some time to plan ahead and figure out the sort of moves that you may have to take later on in the game.

It's the only way to survive this type of game.

This article will also give you insight to what is truly needed for business success.

Are you someone who always plans ahead of trips, outings and are always organized?

This could very well be a strong sign that you're a critical thinker - essential for success in both worlds.

Sacrifice is necessary for success

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess

If you've already been in the business world, you'll probably know that you've had to sacrifice a lot.

When I first started in business, I had sacrificed the one thing I spent 100s of hours on weekly - playing video games.

It was a difficult sacrifice I had to make but it was necessary in order to get to where I want in life.

In order to win at anything, you're going to have to learn to make a sacrifice.

Athletes sacrifice their free time and their eating habits to make sure that they're in the best possible shape to compete.

Businesssmen sacrifice things such as their sleep, health, free time (which is not recommended in a previous article) in order to get to the prize before their competition.

People who settle for a low salary and retirement in their 60s may not have fully grasped this concept.

They never see the bigger picture.

To be where you want to be in life, you need to sacrifice some short-term pleasure for long-term success.

This is the same in Chess - you may often times see people sacrifice the one thing that has been leading them to victory.

Often times, this may be the queen.

To lots of normal players, parting with the queen is like accepting defeat - to professionals, parting with the queen is only a single piece of the bigger picture.

You have to learn to see the board at a birds eye view, not fixated on one piece at a single time.

Patience is key - but decision making wins 

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess
In Chess, we're quick to learn from our mistakes.

One move made quickly with a lack of judgement can backfire in a heartbeat.

This is even harder when you have the clock ticking in a professional match.

You must learn to take time to assess the landscape and only make informed decisions and moves based on what you think is right.

It's never a guessing game - going in with a mentality driven by hope will never lead to success in the long run.

In the realm of business, this cannot hold more true.

Rushing into the battle field to launch a business, product or service will always lead to lacklustre results or worse - none at all.

This is what entrepreneurs such as Reid Hoffman call 'launching too early.'

It's when you haven't done your research, or assessed the competitive landscape to proerply filter your decision.

I've made this mistake countless times.

First when I started my e-commerce business, I rushed to find a product that I liked without doing proper research on it's demand and the competition around it.

Another time was when I started the marketing agency - I didn't think whether supply and demand matched up properly.

I just started the business without thinking through it.

Most recently, I blindly jumped into a market where there are 10s of alternatives, some free and the competition is much higher than I anticipated to begin with.

When you act in desperation, your judgment is always clouded.

Make decisions with a calm head and only after careful thought.

But to win in both Chess and business, you must make swift informed decisions and live with the consequences of your actions.

Read the competitive landscape

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess

Going into anything, we're told to always go in with a solid strategy.

When I started Condensr, I heard many people talk about having a 'business plan.'

This is a 60 page document that details everything you're going to do in your business, your projections and all your research.

I thought this is completely crazy.

Why would you spend 100s of hours writing a business plan when things can change within a blink of an eye?

Going into business, you're walking into unknown territories.

Everything is a mere assumption and full of uncertainty.

You have to learn to adapt and iterate accordingly because things will happen that you just didn't know about.

This is the same in Chess.

You may play with a plan in mind, but that does not mean the plan will not change at any moment.

You're not the only person playing - there will always be competition or an opponent trying to get the upper hand too.

Learning when to bail on your sinking ship can be the decision you make that wins you the game.

Nothing turns out how you planned

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess

This is an add-on from the point above.

Going in with a plan will almost always lead to you having to abandon that plan or change it drastically.

This is why you must learn that the landscape can change based on what the competition does.

Although it's an advantage to be able to read the competition - it's impossible to know their every move.

This is why you must learn to also have a plan B if plan A doesn't work and a plan C in case plan B doesn't work.

OH and, plan B never works too.

Think outside the box - get creative

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess

"If it were easy everyone would be doing it."

This holds true for a lot of things - particularly business and Chess.

In business, you can't just read off of a textbook and expect to master business.

If this is your strategy to win in business, you'll be in for one big surprise.

This is why Elon Musk stated that "drug dealers know more about running a business than 95% of college professors."

College professors are textbook smart.

They know a lot... of what's written in the textbook.

People who have gotten their hands dirty and put in work, they know first hand how business really is.

In business, nothing ever goes by how the textbook explains it.

You'll always have to pivot and get creative in order to make some progress.

You must learn to think outside the box and try things no one has ever tried.

There's a saying by Les Brown that goes 'You must be willing to do the things today others won't do, in order to have the things tomorrow others won't have.'

Most people won't be willing to get up and do the hard work to get ahead.

This is the same in Chess - not everyone goes out their way to think creatively, and practise for hours on end to be able to do what the top 0.01% of players know how to do.

Don't rest on your Laurels

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess

There's an amazing book - 'Who Moved My Cheese' - that I read back when I was working my sales job as a door to door salesman.

The book is a parable that shows how getting too comfortable after a little success can be detrimental.

This is all too common in Chess and business alike.

There has been countless stories of businesses that have been successful for what seemed like a glimpse and lost it immediately.

This can be due to many reasons such as, competition catching up or product quality getting worse.

When you're at the top, it's very easy to get blinded by the bright, white light of success that you no longer see what's rapidly enroaching on you.

This is why businesses like Apple, Samsung and Amazon have managed to stay so successful.

Although they're at the top of their industries, they don't stop for a second and think 'no one can stop us.'

They know that they've bought themselves time, but in order to maintain this position of power, they must not rest on their laurels.

In Chess, this is vivid too.

You may feel like you're winning - you have most of your pieces on the board, you're surrounding the king and there's no way to lose now.

It's happened to me.

I've gotten too comfortable, that I no longer plan ahead because the fight is pretty much over.

But only in tough situations, do people usually get creative leading to me losing in bewilderment. 

Don't get complacent.

If you're winning, you've bought yourself some breathing room - so use it.

See it through

9 Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Life And Business From The Game Of Chess
The final, simplest lesson in Chess is to just see it through.

No matter what the landscape is telling you, there is only one way to reach the end of the tunnel.

"Any dog you put in the corner, no matter if they're vicious or not, they're going to bite back."

Don't back down from a little competition - just fight back.

Keep pushing forward and regain your footing.

Your comfort zone is where your dreams go to wither.

'Just Do It,' as Nike say it.

What did you learn from these Chess lessons?

Are you a fan of Chess?

Let me know below!

Till next time,


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