Checkers, Chess, and Politics

There are few games that don’t have some kind of strategy, from tic-tac-toe on up. Sometimes we take the time to master (or try to) the strategies, sometimes it’s enough to just play. If you just play though, and then decide to play against someone that takes the time to learn the strategies, odds are you’re going to lose.

I enjoy chess. Chess is war. Chess has no secrets, you can see the board, see all the moves, and the intent is there for all to see – if you can see it. I’m not a great chess player, lacking perhaps the ability to be one but also lacking the interest in spending thousands of hours playing and learning all the patterns that allow the truly good players to short circuit the analysis and therefore spend more time on deep thinking.

Deep thinking is the key. I meet a lot of people that are ‘one move players’. They look at the board (and life) and make the move that seems best right then. That works most of the time, but it doesn’t always work, and it certainly doesn’t work if they are thinking many moves ahead and you are not.

I added politics to the title in part to get your attention, but also as a way to remind you that work and life are games. Serious games without a doubt,but games with rules nonetheless. Politics can be done well or done badly,but there are strategies there too, and if you don’t think deeply then you react to the strategy and you lose in the end.

I was talking to a friend about this and his first take was that this bordered on evil, was manipulative. True enough in some ways, but I think that over simplifies it. Think about a job interview when you get to the salary discussion. Neither side wants to go first. Both sides have a goal that is obvious, why not just put the goals on the table? Sometimes that happens, but more often it’s a dance. Neither side being evil, but both sides playing to win.

If you just like playing the game, that’s fine. Just understand that all games have strategies and the other player has no obligation to even the odds by sharing their strategy with you. After all, they invested the time to learn and plan, and you didn’t.

There’s also an old saying that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”. Having a strategy, being a great player, none of that guarantees a win. Given a choice though, would you rather think a few moves ahead, or just wing it?

One thought on “Checkers, Chess, and Politics

  1. One old phrase that changed my thinking a few years ago was:

    If Your Not Cheating Your Not Trying Hard Enough!

    Although I like to compete and I enjoy a challenge, I rarely – if ever – cheat. When I say “cheat” what I mean is purposely, and without my opponent”s knowledge, stack the deck in my favor. This could mean going into a sales meeting knowing what my competitors have already bid, or lying when knowing that I can”t be disproved.

    While that is good and all, I think it perhaps draws to blunt of a line between developing an effective strategy for winning and walking blindly into a situation. These days, I now try to stack the deck in my favor, but only using information that is available to all parties involved. It”s fair[-er] and often gives me an upper-hand. On my list of things to do, is to review the course material for a good game theory class. This is something that was not available to me throughout my studies that I think would really be helpful in networking and dealing with people in general.

    As a side-note. One of my goals as a father is to teach my son that it”s fine to take advantage of a situation, but note to take advantage of a person.


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