Thursday, June 01, 2006

Commentary on MBA & Chess

Before I went back to school to work on my MBA, I played lots of chess. I would go running in the morning, get into work by 7:30am and be home by 5:00pm. We would eat dinner and hang out and play with the kids. Then after the kids were tucked in and asleep, I would dial-up, fire up Winboard, log onto FICS and play chess. Eventually, there were little reprimands from my wife about how long I was on-line playing chess. This was completely understandable since she wanted to use the phone and I was clogging it up (we couldn't quite afford high-speed in those days). But we came to an understanding and worked it out.

Anyway, I eventually joined a couple of slow time-control on-line tournaments and I would play my games on the weekends. I enjoyed the slower time controls. I could think, reason and calculate without pressure. I won a few games and lost a few games. Our team did average.

On occasion before a game began, I felt that I was going to win. I was confident that I could beat my opponent and win all the glory for our team. I made my moves carefully ... making sure not to blunder or mis-calculate. But despite all my efforts to play a tight game, I occasionally blundered. Sometimes that blunder occured with about 10 to 15 minutes on my clock. I knew I would lose the game, but I played on and eventually lost anyway. I would get so angry and frustrated with myself. I just couldn't believe what a patzer I was! How could I do such a thing! What an absolute waste of time!!

This last rant bugged me the most. I felt that after spending over 2 hours playing a careful chess game, only to throw it down the drain ... it was almost unbearable. I began to think of all the things I could have done in those two hours that would have been "better." I expressed my frustration to my wife and she would just agree that it was a waste of time ... that I should be working on something more meaningful. Out of this line of thought (and plenty of prodding from my wife) came the desire to get my MBA.

Instead of studying and playing chess, I could devote those two or three hours a night to studying the GMAT and working on homework. The guilt from playing chess and not working on my MBA was unbearable, so I did something about it.

If I always won those games, I don't think I would have started my MBA.

As odd as it sounds, the main (deep down) reason I decided to get my MBA was so that I didn't have those feelings of guilt of wasting time. I was motivated to get my degree so that I could focus on chess without the guilt. I wasn't motivated to get that MBA so I could earn more money or to move up the company ladder. I did it so that I could play guilt-free chess.

There now ... I've admitted it. I am addicted to chess.

It does not disrupt my life, but I do think about it a lot.

However, my addiction to chess just may turn out to be one of the best things that has occured in my life (that and the fact that I am a totally horrid chess player). Because of my addiction (and lack of ability to play real chess), I became motivated to go out and get that MBA degree. Upon graduation, I will have accomplished one of the biggest events in my life. I will be a Master of Business Administration! It will undoubtedly affect my career and has already affected my competitiveness.

After December 2006, I will either focus on moving up in the IT world or I will make a lateral jump over to the finance industry. With those moves I hope to find greater fulfillment in my career and be able to make a greater contribution to the company. Regardless of the move I make, my salary will increase significantly. With that increased salary comes greater financial freedom and security for my family. I might even be able to afford a subscription to Playchess and ICC as well as register with the US Chess Federation.

Besides affecting my career, my MBA has affected my competitiveness. My competitive spirit has always been mild. I like to compete, but I am no shark, who when smelling blood goes for the kill. That has changed now. I took a few classes that have turned me into a more tenacious competitor. The class that helped me the most with this aspect was the negotiations class with Pinckley. That increase in tenacity helped me become more mentally tough and less of a wallflower. I am thick-skinned now and I can handle a lot more crap and then bounce right back and ask for more.

I have matured. I have matured more by earning that MBA than if I hadn't.

When I play and lose a game of chess now, it just motivates me more to get back into the game and improve. My hunger to improve my tactical prowess grows each day. I am looking forward to devouring those 7 (or 10) circles of tactics. When I waste a bunch of time losing in chess, it doesn't affect me like it did a few years ago.

I view losing a game of chess like I do losing a game of pickup basketball. I play three times a week and our games get very competitive. The Saturday morning group is the most competive ... there are about 5 Harvard grads who play in that group. When our team loses a game, usually no one is upset. Rather we are eager to get back in and beat those bas****s! I've learned from MBA school and the Saturday morning bunch to channel those frustrations. This has not only helped me in chess, but in my work and home life.

So you see, my addiction to chess is a good thing.

Some might say as Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother." Although I too can say that of my mother, I can also say, "All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to chess!"

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