I’ve been learning to play the game Go for the past few months. For those unfamiliar, Go is a strategy game that originated in China at least 2,500 years ago. Like many strategy games, it focuses on controlling territory. Its rules are fairly simple, and it has a huge number of possible combinations of moves.
I was sitting in a cafe playing Go yesterday, sipping on my pumpkin spice chai and pushing my brain through the equivalent of a complex gymnastics routine. And as I struggled to choose my next move, I realized how so much of what I was learning on the board could be applied to life.
So without further ado, a list of insights inspired by playing Go:
1. When there are a huge number of possibilities, it’s harder to decide what to do next.
2. Sometimes focusing in tightly on one area means you lose sight of the big picture. This can end very badly.
3. Cultivate humility, because there is such a large number of possible mistakes, as a beginner you are bound to make a whole lot of them.
4. Feeling cocky is usually a sign that something is about to go horribly wrong. (If nothing else, it tends to lead to a loss of the necessary focus.)
5. Sometimes you need to play further out than you feel entirely comfortable with.
6. If you get stuck playing a largely defensive game, it is harder to achieve any of your real goals.
7. It’s easy to become distracted, either by something shiny or by your opponent. This also makes achieving your real goals more difficult.
8. Mistakes and experimentation are both necessary in order to learn and improve.
9. The entire board can change very quickly when you are inexperienced. Situational awareness is invaluable.
10. To become a strong player, it’s better to play with and learn from more than one person.
11. You have to find balance between risk and safety and between expanding outwards and consolidating what you already have.
12. Discomfort is a sensation that can be practiced and settled into.
I suspect I’ll be learning a lot more from Go in the coming months. Maybe soon I’ll even graduate to a larger board!