Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Flying Pigs, Self Fulfilling Prophecies and Doubt.

"When pigs fly" is used to describe an impossibility so regularly, I wonder if pigs understood what we were saying, without the underlying meaning, they would eventually start flying.

After all, I believe self fulfilling prophecies are very strong indicators of what we achieve or don't achieve in life. If you believe in something, it becomes achievable, and if you believe you can't do something, then you won't.

As an example, many people believe learning languages is impossible as an adult. They think their natural talent which manifests itself as kids goes away as we get older. Multiple polyglots have proven this statement wrong by learning over 8 languages, without speaking a second language before they were 20. Fluent in 3 months - Language Hacking and Travel Tips is a great example of that. Think about it, who tells a kid that learning a language is hard? Who expects them NOT to learn their mother tongue? Everybody expects them to, so they DO!

As we grow older, people begin telling us some things cannot be done. And it seems to be the case with chess. Everywhere I look it seems that the odds are massively stacked against you.  It is believed that if one has begun your studying of chess as an adult, it is more likely pigs will fly than one becoming a grandmaster of chess in a few years time. Some GMs go as far as claiming that as an adult, 100 points of FIDE rating a year is the maximum you will ever achieve, and you should consider yourself lucky to have done so. I call bullshit. Why should this be so?

Just because the majority of GMs were lucky enough to take up chess at a young age, and become GMs by their early adulthood, it does not mean this should be the only way. When I was growing up, I kept hearing that learning languages is harder the older you get. I wish people would stop saying that, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and thus your destiny. One of my favourite Chinese proverbs goes like this “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny” 

I've heard so many times that it will take me at least 10 years to become a GM due to my age. I keep seeing so many GM profiles begin with "...started playing chess when he was 3...". Doubt has been creeping into my head about whether or not I've set myself a realistic goal.

My prophecy: I will become a FIDE Grandmaster of chess in 3 years since the beginning of this blog. The sooner, the merrier, but 3 years in my opinion is a realistic goal.

Our minds are very good at doubting and questioning things. That's the brains job! So it's fine that mine is doing that for the last few days but soon it will stop. It will have to accept the fact I am a firm believer that anything is possible in life and it will play along to my tune. I believe in my goal and I am hoping that this blog will be a testament to that. I will keep working hard to make that happen. Don't let self fulfilling prophecies affect you, I won't, and neither should you.

I welcome your comments on what you have achieved that people said couldn't be done.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Measuring progress, A long way from GM!

Whether it's the right thing to do or not, I am currently judging my progress by the way I play 15|10 games of chess. At least for the time being, as long as I can see results on it, that is what I will do. So below, is how I have progressed in the last month.

As you can see, I had a steep fall recently, where I could not seem to win a game, I really think this was a result of a little "tilt" phase, just like in Poker. However, I am recovering now and I am quite confident that I will stabilize at just above 1,500 sometime soon. I will make the next post once I can reach that level, so hopefully it won't take me a whole month ;)

I have tried to limit games with faster controls but every now and then I throw a few 2|1 and 10 minute games in there. I do seem to be doing better at those as well and my rating is increasing there too. I believe that playing those faster games is more fun, however, they are probably completely rubbish to improve your skills. I've read posts that argue you need to play OTB to get concrete results, but aside from my awesome brother, I have not found anyone to play regularly with.

I do not yet want to join a proper chess club, mainly because my German is not that great (chess is getting in the way of studying german!). Secondly because I believe club level chess will be just a tad too hard for me now. I like to set goals, achievable goals! Upgrading to club level chess now, could be a blow to my morale. I shall do so when I can reach 97% percentile on chess . com. However, if I am not able to reach 97% within 3 months, then I will join a chess club, because perhaps that will be  exactly the last missing piece of the puzzle!

Meanwhile, I will keep doing the mix of instructional videos, books, tactic puzzles and chess mentor courses that seem to be paying dividends. Hopefully, it will work!

Chess aside, I must admit that all the chess is getting in the way of everything else. I've started studying less and less German. I completely stopped Duolingo (but then again it was boring me!). I still practice on Memrise because it is awesome. I also resent going to the gym because it takes 2 precious hours of chess away but I think the mental health from being fit is probably reflecting well in my ability to bounce back from a fall.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Roller coasters are fun. When you are a kid.

So by now it seems pretty much official that I will not be working on a new start up. That crazy roller coaster ride of emotions, filled with amazing highs and horrifying lows. From making £50,000 a month profit to basically bleeding money. Roller coasters are fun, but maybe I am a little bit too old for that now! After all, 5 years in a start up seems to have accelerated my life by at least 10 years, if not more. Life is too short to do that all over again.

Of course, I have a few little ideas here and there that I may set up at some point. These ideas will be based on the principles outlined in "The E-Myth" and popularised by authors such as Tim Ferris. Principles that basically should free up my time to do whatever the hell it is I really want to do, and at this moment, that is mainly playing chess.

My goal is to have at least 6 months off every year. While I unfortunately do not have any crazy savings from my start up adventures, I am quite confident one of the first ideas I implement will make enough to make this lifestyle choice sustainable. After all, most of the western world's working force, does spend 6 whole months working just to pay their taxes. Meanwhile, for my first 6 months, I have just enough saved up (kind off), my bank balance flirts with £0 all the time. But that's another story.

Okay, so I will have tons of free time, what will I do with it? The plan is I will study chess really hard to hopefully become a chess grandmaster. I realise most grandmasters start as kids, but well, I kinda played a few games back in the day! I will learn languages. I will learn new skills that I do not yet possess. I will climb mountains. I will read books. I will travel. I will rock climb. I will play tons of footie. Lastly, I will definitely try really hard to keep writing this blog, just because I need to get better at writing ;-) (see learning new skills goal above).

To close off my first post, I would like to document where my chess skills are at the moment. I started playing chess seriously about a month ago and in that time frame I've gone from 75th percentile on chess . com to about 88th on timed and non-timed settings. This was achieved mainly by playing a lot of games to get some match fitness! However, that is not the way to become a grandmaster so since last week I started taking it really seriously and studying it properly. At the moment, since I am managing my budget tightly, I am studying solely on chess . com. Once I hit a roadblock there, I will probably study with a coach. I also plan to read some more instructive chess books and have a second read of Philip Ochman's "The Process of Decision Making in Chess".

Wish me luck. (and if you follow me on my journey, I will reciprocate and follow yours!)

PS. Please follow this blog, go on! Thanks :)

Book I'm currently reading: Jonathan Dimbleby - Russsia