This I Believe

Vincent - New Hope, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 22, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: humility

This I Believe

Life and Chess

I believe failure is underrated and winning is overrated. I believe it’s better to set a goal and fail, than to never set one at all. Because what you learn in the process will help you achieve bigger goals in the future.

When I was in middle school, my father and I would play chess for hours every day. And I would lose… everyday. But he always insisted on teaching me a lesson, as he did with everything in life. So, with every defeat he would say, “Learn from your mistakes” or my favorite, “The only way to win, is to lose.” I understood him, but normally brushed his proverbs aside – I just wanted to win! I always lost to him; he never played, unless he played his best. My goal, my dream was to beat him, and with every loss, I became a stronger player. Until finally, after years of grueling bouts, I won.

After that we played chess less and less. The intense desire to defeat my father had faded, and in turn my skill ceased to grow. But I was able to take my playing elsewhere, as a new chess tournament started at my school – I wanted to be the champion. But while all of my peers were busy winning against eachother, I was busy losing to my father. To my surprise I took the first place trophy quite easily. But I know now, that I won simply because I had lost the most.

A couple of years after later, I found out I wasn’t the great player that I thought I was. I played a friendly game against a kid in my summer camp, but it was more like playing against a smart computer. I knew from his first three moves that he was going to win; he moved quickly and never hesitated. I couldn’t even fathom being as good as he was. He must have lost even more games than I had.

When I look back on those days of playing chess against my father, I admire the person I had become. I was purely self-motivated and had transformed into an exceptional learner, simply because I had set a goal. And I learned valuable life lessons in the process. But that day I got beat in summer camp was my biggest wake up call of all. I realized the irony of success: failing teaches you everything, but winning teaches you nothing.