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Six lessons we can learn from “The Queen’s Gambit”5 min read

Set in the 1960’s, an era which is considered as the dawn of golden age to most Americans, Queen’s Gambit is a story of a child chess prodigy Elizabeth “Beth” Harmon. Having lost her mother at the age of 9 and a father not present in her life, Beth grows up in Methuen Home orphanage where she is first introduced to the game of chess by janitor Mr. William Shaibel.

At the same time in the orphanage, Beth is introduced to a tranquilizer named Xanzolam that is used to treat anxiety, seizures and insomnia which later becomes Beth’s addiction. The series is an interesting depiction of how Beth discovers her interest in chess, chasing her dream in an all-man’s game while struggling to overcome her addiction to drug and alcohol. Despite all this she emerges as the world’s no. 1 chess player.

While I enjoyed every bit of the historical drama tightly wrapped in a seven-episode Netflix series, it is practically impossible for me to leave the series behind without noting down six learnings from the Queen’s Gambit. So here they are (partially inspired by an article on theeverygirl.com)

Warning: spoiler for those yet to watch

  1. Do not give in to other’s opinion about you:

While pursuing your dream there could be many giving their personal opinion about whether it is meant for you or not. In the case of Beth, she was told that “girl’s do not play chess”. Her adopted mother too was not very encouraging until she saw that Beth was winning all the games. She was continuously undermined and not considered as a strong contender, being a woman, since chess was considered as a man’s game back then. Beth’s quest for knowledge of chess led her to pursuing it despite many hurdles. She did not let other’s opinion hurt her in anyway. If you want to pursue your passion then have the courage to own your dream and be proud of it. Let other’s opinion of you not stop you from pursuing your goals.

2. Don’t be afraid to create your own identity:

If there something that bothered me in this whole series is the disconnection between Beth’s expression and action. Beth was poker faced and failed to express her emotions. Obviously, this had to do with her childhood trauma and the condition she grew up in. I later realized that this is what Beth’s character was supposed to be – her own self and not fit into the typical image of a rising prodigy. Beth would not do the typical things that other girls her age did like dancing or dating. Absence of such interest in a growing girl may seem uncanny, but this does not mean that Beth was wrong as her focus was her game alone.

We often evaluate ourself with the meaning other’s give to a particular situation. We end up doing what others expect us to do – for example deliver a speech in a particular manner. Let us understand that if this has worked for someone before you it does not mean that you cannot break the mold and create your own style. Every person or style has the ability to make a difference in their own way. Struggling to fit in will only take away your authenticity.

3. Perfection is a myth, learn as you go:

Beth in the series starts participating in championship even before she is fully prepared. There is one instance where she is not even aware of how to use the clock and learns it on the job. While her focus is to get better at the moves and the technique, attending different championships helps her to ace her game. We all know that preparation is the key to success but waiting endlessly to be perfect will only slow down the process.

4. Be open to Feedback

Contrary to Beth’s serious demeanor, she is always open to feedback from others. Although she meets some tough players who are not very kind to her, she has always worked on herself, asked questions thus making her game better each time. She also goes to the extent of learning Russian language before participating in the championship in Moscow. The famous author and management consultant, Ken Blanchard once said “feedback is the breakfast of champions” and it helps you to adapt, improve and evolve.

5. Take care of yourself first

The queen is the most powerful piece in the game of chess. Metaphorically the position of queen in a game of chess is you in your own life. While chasing your dream is important, taking care of yourself is imperative. Everything else gets its meaning when you are in your best form, both mentally and physically.

Beth struggled with her addiction to alcohol and pills because of her past trauma putting her chess career in jeopardy. It is with her own effort and few friends that she was able to overcome this habit as well as emerge victorious in the game. Therefore, working on yourself is your own responsibility and this must be consciously done on regular basis.

6. You don’t need to understand everything to enjoy it

In a world where logical thinking over powers the little joys of life, we often search for meaning in everything we do or see. The simplicity to living a peaceful life is enjoying the moment and not trying to understand everything. I have absolutely zero knowledge of chess but yet, I loved to watch the different moves and techniques making me feel that I was a serious audience to every game Beth played especially the one with world champion Borgov.

Ah! I forgot to mention that “google” was my confidante while I was binge watching the drama. You know what I mean 😉

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