Big moves

A few times during the course of a game of chess, you have these big moves that change not necessarily the final result but the structure of how the game is played.

Maybe it’s when you push that pawn an extra space, altering the progress of your opponent’s opening system. Maybe it’s when you trade off your dark squared bishops, or maybe it’s even a queen trade.

You haven’t necessarily gained any material advantage, but you’ve set yourself up to play differently. And maybe playing differently in this way means you’re able to lean on your strengths because this is how you like to play.

The same goes for real life too. You make these moves that, from the outside, don’t necessarily create any material advantage. They’re small moves, seemingly subtle tweaks in your position, but they change how you get to play.

When I signed up to start my Master’s program, that was a big move. I just got online, clicked some buttons, transferred some money I didn’t even see, and that was it. But it started me down a path to play differently. Over the following months, I poured hundreds of hours into the program, but when I finished, tons of other options opened up for me.

Before that, when I first started applying for teaching positions abroad, that was a big move. I just sent in my updated resume, attached some info about my passport situation, and waited for responses. But it started me down a path to play differently. That next year, I realized I didn’t have to work in Louisville, not even Kentucky or the United States.

Before that, when I enrolled in almost twice the normal course load as an undergraduate, that was a big move. Again, just a few clicks on my mouse, but they started me down a path to play differently. Those clicks meant, if I studied hard and consistently, I could graduate a year early, boosting my confidence in the process.

In each case, I was scared, scared to the point of putting off clicking that mouse and dialing those phone numbers, scared more than anyone knows because I knew those moves weren’t just mouse clicks and phone calls. And even once I finally did make the moves, they didn’t necessarily equate to an advantage. But like big moves in chess, they changed the structure of how I could play the game.