Conversations with Myself: Life is like a Chessboard

Chessboard Metaphor (Accept_Change)

Chessboard Metaphor:

You can never make the same mistake twice,
because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice
– Anonymous

Do you sometimes have trouble accepting yourself for who you are? Is there something we can do about this? Let us see . . .

Maybe you could think of your thoughts and feelings like chess pieces on a chessboard. The white pieces could represent the thoughts and feelings you want (e.g. confidence, happiness, self-esteem) and the black pieces could be the thoughts and feelings you don’t want (e.g. anxiety, fear, self-doubt, hopelessness).

Just like in the game of chess, the white pieces will try to defeat the black pieces. We want to rid ourselves of our negative thoughts and feelings. When going through difficult times in our lives, it seems like we’re losing – the black pieces knock most of the white pieces off the board. At other times, it may look like we are winning – we knock most of the black pieces off the board.

Looking closely at your life experience, what happens when you knock those black pieces off the board? Do they stay off forever, or do they come back sooner or later? You could find that new black pieces take the place of some of the old ones? It’s a continuous fight, with no end in sight. When we battle the black pieces, we battle a part of our experience, a part of ourselves. We could literally set up a situation where, in order to get on with life, large parts of our actual experience must disappear forever. We can become absorbed with our internal struggles, and disconnect from the outside world and the things in life that matter most to us. We can become so absorbed with our internal struggles that we don’t “see” the outside world.

Is it possible to let go of the fight? When playing the game of chess, is the chessboard affected or damaged in any way, or is the chessboard simply an arena where match after match can play itself out – and the board remains solid and intact, ready for whatever comes next? What if you could focus your energy on doing what you want, and carrying the positive and negative thoughts with you?

Don’t forget: there is a distinction between your thoughts and your observer self. Think of the observer as being the chessboard – as being you. Think of your thoughts and feelings as being the chess pieces. The chessboard carries the pieces, but it is not equal to the pieces. In the same way, you carry your difficult thoughts, you observe those thoughts, but you are not equivalent to those thoughts.
Adapted from:

Living Strategically: 50 Lessons Chess Teaches You about Life

1. Purpose: In chess, every move has a purpose. Obviously we cannot live life with so much unceasing calculation, nor should we want to, but there are times when we need to align our actions with a predetermined strategy instead of just fumbling our way through it.
2. Play for the advantage: If you already have it, maintain it. If you don’t have it, grab it with both hands.
3. Everyone’s playing: Sometimes it’s a friendly game, often it is more serious. The problem is that not everyone knows they’re playing – even after they have made a move.
4. Seize the initiative: If you wait around for someone else to make a decision for you, they will . . . and you probably won’t like the outcome.
5. Learn to spot patterns: There are often clearly defined lines of success that work well. Learn to see these when they repeat, and take advantage of them.
6. Don’t get stuck on the formula: A little bit of creativity and lateral thinking can often take you to new heights.
7. Ignore what your opponent is trying to do at your own risk: We often get so absorbed in our own games and scheming that we ignore what is going on around us. Be aware of threats and alert to opportunities.
8. Simplify.
9. Take on challenges: If you only play beginners games, you never really improve – take on a few tough challenges, and even if you lose, try to learn something new.
10. Cut your losses: Sometimes you are going to lose material. Try to minimise your losses and move on.
11. Play the board, not the player: Don’t target your responses at people, target what they say and do. There is a difference.
12. When every move is a bad one: Sometimes you get stuck in a position known in chess as zugzwang: where no matter what move you make, it’s a bad one. This is just the way it goes sometimes, in chess and in life.
13. A discovered attack: There is nothing more satisfying than a discovered attack: pretending to do one thing, while attacking somewhere else. Learn to play and live less obviously and on more levels. This makes you less predictable and more interesting.
14. Sacrifice material for position: Be prepared to sacrifice material for position. Sometimes even the greatest material sacrifice can result in a winning position later on.
15. Care less about small victories: If you spend all of your time chasing lowly pawns, you may be on the receiving end of an opponent who cares less about small victories and more about winning the war.
16. Moves that improve your own position: A threat is best met with a move that improves your own position. Don’t get trapped into mindlessly trading moves and material in anger. Sometimes the solution is more gentle and rational.
17. Be better: You don’t have to be a devious cheat to win . . . you just have to be better.
18. Bad mistakes: We all mess up from time to time. This does not mean we should give up and run away. Often when you’re sure there is no way out after a bad mistake, you will be given a lifeline.
19. Making silly moves: When someone makes a move that you cannot understand, don’t read more into it than you need to. Sometimes people just make silly moves – that’s all there is to it.
20. Have a Plan B: Have a plan B, and a Plan C. If none of these work, you’re probably doomed.
21. Your opportunity will come: Play for the middle. Don’t hold back too much, and don’t push through too soon. Your opportunity will come.
22. Play wisely: How you start a game determines how you will finish it. Play wisely.
23. Seize the opportunity: If an opening appears, seize it immediately.
24. Don’t get pinned down: Where something more cherished cannot be included because it is stuck behind something trivial, make every effort to get it into the game – as soon as possible.
25. Anticipate what could go wrong and plan accordingly: In the end game, attack the King by focussing your attention on his escape squares: When you are in the final stretch, and about to win, anticipate what could go wrong and plan accordingly.
26. Be flexible: It seldom goes the way you planned – adjust and continue.
27. Boxed-in: If you are feeling boxed-in, free things up.
28. Trade inferior material and positions: Where possible, trade inferior material and positions for better ones.
29. Take care of the little guys: The little guys on your side matter. Look after them.
30. Small advantages: Accumulate small advantages.
31. Foregone conclusions: There are no foregone conclusions in life or in chess.
32. Ignore meaningless threats: Anticipate and deal with dangerous ones quickly.
33. Keep looking for new opportunities: Never rest on your laurels. Keep thinking, looking for new opportunities and trying to generate new ideas.
34. Rank and Titles: Don’t be overly impressed with grand words or titles. The only thing worse than being overly insecure towards those who outrank you, is being dismissive of those inferior to you.
35. Keep calm and move slowly.
36. Take action: Replace wishful thinking with action.
37. Learn one important lesson: If you lose, do so graciously and try to learn at least one important lesson.

I’ve learned so much from my mistakes . . .
I’m thinking of making a few more.
– Anonymous

38. Draw is better than a loss: Sometimes a draw is as good as a win, but a draw is always better than a loss.
39. Always have an escape route: Keep your options open and always have an escape route.
40. Creativity always has a purpose: Surprise and impress people with unconventional moves, but not with dumb ones. Creativity always has a purpose – doing something wild and crazy just for the sake of it may be fun at the time, but ultimately has no value. Break the rules – but only if it serves a good purpose.
41. Assess/Evaluate your position honestly: If it is bad, do something about it. If it is good, make it even better.
42. Don’t get swept away by distractions.
43. Narrow down your choices: and then decide. Take your time, but settle on one plan of action . . . and then DO IT!
44. Sacrifice: Sometimes you have to sacrifice in order to achieve a break-through.
45. Look at the bigger picture: Always consider the whole board when deciding on a move: decisions made with too narrow a focus are often bad.

What you see, depends on what you are looking for.
– Anonymous

46. Collaboration and co-operation: Connect your pieces cleverly. Collaboration and co-operation are the keys to success.
47. Look beyond the obvious.
48. Enjoy yourself
49. Deep and meaningful is always better than superficially pretty.

Success is not always what you see.
– Anonymous

50. Fake it till you make it: If all else fails . . . fake it!


Conversations with Myself – Somewhere in the world . . .


This past week, my thoughts and conversation with myself has been directed at time – how it is a changer of seasons. I’ve thought about having peace of mind and finding my place in the world. These thoughts brought me back to a song sung by Boney M called: Somewhere in the world which perfectly captures my thoughts for this week.

Somewhere In The World
Sung by: Boney M

Time, changer of seasons, time will see another flower growing.
Climb over the mountains, there you’ll find warm winds blowing.

Somewhere in the world there is peace of mind.
Somewhere in the world that’s what I must find.
Somewhere in the world there’s a place for me in this world.

I cannot believe it, everywhere I see lonely faces.
Why have we no answers, just some more empty places?

Somewhere in the world there is peace of mind.
Somewhere in the world that’s what I must find.
Somewhere in the world there’s a place for me in this world.

Time, changer of seasons, time will see another flower growing.
Climb over the mountains, there you’ll find warm winds blowing.

Somewhere in the world there is peace of mind.
Somewhere in the world that’s what I must find.
Somewhere in the world there’s a place for me in this world.
Somewhere in the world there is peace of mind.
Somewhere in the world that’s what I must find.
© 1994 by Far Musikverlag GmbH, Berlin

Conversations with Myself: Pockets of Excellence

Mickey Mouse hot dog cart

What are pockets of excellence and how do we create them?

Individual pockets of excellence are visible through people who have personally excelled, but what makes them tick and what makes them stand out from the crowd?

Corporate pockets of excellence are visible through companies that have excelled, but what makes them work and stand out from the crowd?

Pockets of excellence usually happen when:
• One or more groups are managing their processes brilliantly
• Documentation for everything they do exists
• Roles and expectations are communicated clearly and concisely
• Measures are in place to monitor and evaluate what works and what does not work
• Accountability is enforced – from the ground all the way to the top
Adapted from:

Pockets of excellence is about replicating the good that already exists rather than investing in yet another model to confuse everyone even more (

People and teams become excellent because they behave in a certain way i.e. they meet and/or exceed targets, they meet deadlines and they adopt an innovative and disciplined approach to everything they do. So how can we achieve pockets of excellence?

1) We need to be clear on our priorities and focus on them and nothing else. We should even become obsessive if necessary. Proof of this will be found in our habits and disciplines. What do we measure, how often do we measure and how do we act on what we have measured? How often do we meet with our team/partner and what do we talk about? What are the non-negotiable actions and behaviours that prevail?
2) Quality of communication in the team/partnership: How do we speak to or with each other? How do we handle e-mail communication? What do we do to ensure communication is open, clear, trustworthy and clearly understood in all directions? What happens when things are not clear?
3) Work processes and methods: How do we work that is different from others? How do we carry out our tasks? Do we have a particular methodology that sets us apart?
4) High level of engagement: are we as leaders behaving in a manner that makes the team excited about and committed to our objectives? What sense of progress does each team member have and how do they get information on the progress they are making against those objectives? How supported do team members feel? What does it “feel” like to be in the team? Is it a pleasant place to be? Are the interactions mostly pleasant and positive?
5) Customer relationships (internal or external): Is there something special about these relationships? What are we doing to create something special?

How do we create these pockets of excellence?
1) Identify what is good, seek to understand it and formulate a “theory of success” and find ways to copy it.
2) In copying these pockets of excellence, we are gathering evidence that tests the accuracy of the theory, we amend the theory as required, and we test the new theory, so we actively experiment in order to create more pockets of excellence.

Pockets of excellence takes discipline, critical observation and analysis skills and a certain amount of paranoia – a fear that there will always be a competitor who is bigger and better (always is!).
Adapted from:

Conversations with Myself: The Winds of Change

Church_Wind blowing trees_Animated

This post was written for publication last week but due to September being such a hectic month for me, I never got around to actually publishing it. My sincere apologies to all my loyal followers. I try my best to post weekly but sometimes “life” just gets in the way.

Have you noticed that change can be a tremendously upsetting and life-changing event, disturbing the fragile comfort of life as we know it? Moving from the known to the path of the unknown and new often requires a special mindset to dispel the negative thoughts that penetrate our minds and prevents us from embarking on the path of discovery with an open mind and positive outlook.

September 2013 has been one such month for me – a month of tremendous change and I have once again questioned my resilience to change. Let me explain:

Currently, the centre of my life is my mother. For the last 12 years we have shared a house and have become extremely close. We do everything together, go everywhere together – like twins attached at the hip. September started with mom having a Colonoscopy which revealed two polyps and a tumour on her colon – all cancerous and has been removed. She also had some cancerous glands at the base of the Aorta (just before it branches into the legs).

Needless to say, the rug has been pulled from under me. In my heart I knew mom would not live forever and her cancer being in the very early stages means that she could still live for a number of years, but it suddenly jolted me into the reality that death could be closer than we think. Anyone of us could die at any time, but I still fooled myself into believing that my mom would still be around for a very long time. Mom now has to live with a Colonostomy bag – a daily reminder of how fragile her life has become overnight. A major adjustment in both our lives.

While questioning my own resilience to change I was reminded of a book called “Who moved my cheese?” by Dr Spencer Johnson (no relation to me – not to my knowledge anyway).

The book is a tale about how to cope positively with change and deals primarily with change that takes place in the work-place, however, I think there is merit in applying the principles in all aspects of our lives, for example:

• Who or what is currently the centre of your life?
• What happens or what will happen when this centre becomes smaller and eventually disappears from your life?
• Will you go off in search of another “centre” or will you play the “victim” for having lost the “centre” of your life?
• Will clinging to the “old” be a help or a hindrance to you? How will you move forward?
• Does losing your “centre” mean the end of the world for you? Will it mean that the future will hold nothing but fear and uncertainty?
• Noticing the “centre” disappearing or fading away, have you prepared for the inevitable (physically and mentally)?
• Has your lack of planning for the inevitable left you feeling unprepared/angry/annoyed? Do you feel life has been unfair to you? Are you stuck in the victimised mindset? Do you blame others for your situation/problems?

Instead of seeing change as the end of something, we need to see it as a beginning: “If you do not change, you can become extinct” [a quote from the book]

Life demands a level of risk and adventure in order for it not to be wasted. If you are willing to live this way, change can lose its sting.

Breaking through your fears brings freedom and independence.

More quotes from the book:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
“When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.”

Some pearls of wisdom from the book:

Change happens:
They keep moving the cheese (life always sends new curve balls your way)

Anticipate change:
Get ready for the cheese (your centre) to move

Monitor change:
Smell the cheese often (review your centre often) so you know when it’s getting old (when your centre is about to change)

Adapt to change quickly:
The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese (the sooner you prepare for change, the sooner you can move forward)

Move with the cheese (move with the times, plan ahead)

Enjoy change!
Savour the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese (enjoy the ride – appreciate the good and face the challenges head-on)

Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again:
They keep moving the cheese – change happens!

Do you have a “big cheese” in your life that you believe will last forever? How will you adapt to losing this “big cheese”?