Learning to Play and Lose at Go

Go is Hard!

This may sound obvious to experienced players, but it’s difficulty caught me by surprise.. I’m talking NES hard. I was visiting some good friends in Boston a two weeks ago when I was introduced to the game. I challenged my friend to a game of chess and scoffed at the idea that some of them didn’t even know how to play. From my handmade pedestal I laughed as he told me that chess couldn’t compare to Go, an ancient Chinese board game with only 2 or 3 rules. Intrigued, I had him teach me this seemingly simple game, and planned to beat him before the nights end. On move 3 of my 4th or 5th game with him, he said the words I’d heard 100 times in one night.

“Bad move!”

He mopped the floor with me, over and over and over. After he finally went to bed, I watched videos and read some articles, and in the morning I was rewarded with a new phrase.

 “Oh, that was good… but still a bad move.”

 I then lost again. Since then I’ve been playing SmartGo on my iPhone, practicing and reading, and still losing. I’ve yet to win a single game, even on the simple 9×9 board (the full board in 19×19). So if you’re looking to sink your teeth into a real challenge without a lot of commitment, pick up the game of Go. It has kept me busy for at least 2 weeks, and it looks like I have a long way to go before I’ve even scrapped the surface of the content available on it.

But, among the frustrations (very vocal frustration at that) I have learned a lot in the last two weeks:

  • I’m impatient
  • I don’t know how to build a proper architecture for long-lasting growth
  • I’m easily enticed by quick wins (often at the detriment of the long game).

But I’m working on those!

Quitting Isn’t Just For Losers

I drew this back and college, and it sold for more than any other piece I ever made, $800:

About a semester or so later, I quit drawing.  It was time for something new.

Too often we’re told to that we should figure out what we want to do with our lives early, and then do it forever.  According to the last generation, we should leave school, take a job, and stay there for 40 years or more.  According to this one, if you want to start a blog the typical advice is to find a niche and only write about that one topic for a long as possible.  For the most part anywhere you look, the average word of wisdom is to choose one thing and never look back.  But I disagree.

Let’s explore the idea of focusing on one thing for a bit.  Professional sports and rock stars are a good example.  You can’t really expect to become either if you spread your focus across too many things.  It’s not often that you become a pro basketball player and cure a disease at the same time.  So if your goal is stardom, to be the best of the best, then yes, set your path early, and never look back.

But how likely is it that you will become a professional athlete?  Cure cancer? Win a Nobel Prize? I’m not trying to discourage you, I’m simply asking:

Is your goal to earn one really big gold medal? 

For the average person, I don’t think it is. So why is it that the average person heads the advice that best suits someone with such a specific goal? 

I’m a quitter– not because I fear difficult things or failure, but because I have no desire to win a gold medal in any particular field.  I love the rush of starting something new, difficult, and exciting.  I love that feeling of learning, stumbling, and then eventually succeeding.    But eventually, I get to a point where I have to make a decision.  Do I continue onward, honing this particular craft to perfection?  Do I spend thousands of hours perfecting the subtleties involved, things that only other professionals would notice and appreciate?  Do I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to this one thing, or do I go find another mountain to climb?  One that will teach me a little bit more about who I am, and what the world has to offer?

Each time I become pretty good at something, a magical thing happens.  I receive an all access pass to a whole new room of people to meet.  I spent years learning to draw, filling exhibitions with my work, and earning spots in highly competitive gallery shows.  I now have a lifetime pass to the art community, and whenever I stumble across a charcoal or pencil artist I can connect with them in a way only another artists can.  Same goes for anyone having gone through business school, or learned a second language.  Am I a world famous artist? No, but would I have become one if I stayed the course? Probably not, if we’re being honest.  Instead, I decided to follow another path.  One that would allow me to me more people.  And when I get to that all import crossroad again, I’ll likely change direction again.

Hopefully I’ll stumble across your profession one day, and we can chat at length about it.