My father was teaching me chess back when I was a kid. About 9. He and my mother always played, and I suppose they thought it was time for me to learn. I had my ass handed to me, but I always got back to the chess board – and I was always playing, even alone I would play myself. The habit of playing against myself would stay with me for about a decade, and taught me much about seeing different perspectives at the same time.
My father taught me not to lose pieces because they were valuable. I saw that his strategy worked for him and that it didn’t work for me and, one day on the back patio of a 1970s suburban home in Ohio, I sacrificed my Queen. He shook his head, frowned at me in the way only a disappointed father could, and in 3 moves I had him in checkmate. I celebrated, having finally beaten the champion of the house.
He would not play me again for 30 years. I would see later that in beating him I had created a divide. That’s him on the left in the picture.
I had sacrificed a part of the relationship with my father when I beat him that day – his identity was tied to winning at chess and his son, using a strategy that he didn’t want his son to use, had beaten him fairly. I would go on to play chess in the house with anyone and I would and typically win (we remember our successes and downplay our failures, I know that). The only person I really wanted to play with was the old man.
Sure. I was only 9 and I wasn’t the adult, and my father – like everyone else’s – was imperfect. I refuse to blame him, instead taking the lesson from it.
What I learned, though, was that to become good at something, or to achieve something you want, you have to sacrifice. I would later learn that what you want isn’t necessarily for you, that you can want something for someone else and make the same sacrifices.
Sometimes you protect the ones you care most about by sacrificing your own wants and needs. It might mean a white lie here and there. It might mean hiding your feelings for someone you care deeply about, knowing that showing them would make their situation worse.
We talk a lot about strategy and winning, but we don’t talk enough about deciding what we want to win, or deciding what is best for those around us. Taken too far, it can be selfish – robbing others of choices. Taken not far enough, it can also be selfish – adversely affecting things just so we get some short term gain.
In the end, we decide what we sacrifice – and sometimes we don’t and have unforeseen things crop up. That’s called life.
Sometimes we make tough decisions and hope for the best.
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