Like many of you, I spent a fair portion of November binge watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.
I am absolutely no chess player, but it nonetheless put me in the mood for chess metaphors.
When I think of chess, and good chess players, what amazes me is their ability to visualize so many moves in advance. Chess involves a master strategy, and an aptitude for maneuvering all of your pieces into an optimal position.
I don’t know about you, but many of my days feel more like checkers.
Wake up. Look for the thing most obviously on fire.
Jump a couple checkers. Repeat.
And to be sure, there are checkers we MUST jump.
Answer the emails. Pay the bills. Take out the garbage.
But a year of playing the short game is likely to find us blinking and confused, wondering how we got ourselves into this particular position.
So it’s worth taking a step back and wholly considering the long view.
This being New Year’s after a rather historic (to put it mildly) year, today seems as good a day as any.
Where would you like to be on this day in 2021? Close your eyes and think.
Now: what series of moves might get there?
My SCORE mentor refers to this as being ON your business versus IN your business.
What can we do to shift our mindset from checkers to chess? How can we gradually improve the entire board, instead of continually moving the same few pieces back and forth?
Checkers is clearing out your inbox. Chess is researching and setting up a series of automations for sorting and responding to messages.
Checkers is hustling to keep work on the bench. Chess is deciding WHAT kind of work you want, and mindfully pursuing it. Chess is sacrificing pawns in pursuit of a queen.
Checkers is organizing your shop. Chess is labels and systems to KEEP it organized.
Checkers is getting the order done. Chess is documenting steps so someone ELSE can do it next time.
Checkers is scrambling to hire when your hair is on fire. Chess is regular tending to networking, so you have connections to lean on before you’re drowning. Chess is outlining a clear job description and dedicating time to hire and train your ideal candidate.
Checkers is worrying about our business only. Chess is investing in the health of trade infrastructure around us, recognizing that a rising tide lifts all ships.
Winning a chess match is a series of small moves dedicated to an eventual goal. Taken out of context, any one of those moves is insignificant.
But strung together with intent, little moves add up.
We can’t just play chess everyday – the trash still needs to go out, and unfortunately we should probably answer the phone.
But if you’re a student or professional reading this on New Year’s day, I hope you’ll take a moment to think about your long game before diving into 2021.
Because all the pieces of your year are going to start moving soon. And if you aren’t in charge, telling them where to go. . . who is?
Not sure where to start? Here are a couple of my favorite resources from 2020:
Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear: Actionable strategies for building better habits, on small change at a time.
Procrastinate on Purpose, 5 Permissions to Multiply your Time by Rory Vaden: For anyone who feels “maxed out”
Looking to optimize your upholstery skills this year? Start here: