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48 Go after the king

My father taught me about life by teaching me chess. Although I achieved no proficiency, the lessons enriched my understanding. I remember them thoughtfully and fondly.

Dad was able to lure me into capturing one of his chess pieces at the expense of my position. I captured his lower “value” piece by moving my more powerful piece out of the place where it was needed for defense. Sometimes it was the other way around. I would lose a lower, to capture his higher, value piece. Early on, that looked like an exchange in my favor.

After some time, I learned that taking the bait enabled him to execute a sequence of moves leading to my defeat. Usually that involved several moves, and I could not think so far ahead. Like other beginners, I was gaining hypothetical “point value” while losing position strength. Weakened defense ultimately led to loss of my king, meaning loss of the game.

Dad did this in a gentle loving way so that I never felt put down. He made me feel good about being shown things I still had to learn. He developed my ability to reason ahead, protecting me from being tricked at some future time. The lessons were rewarding and always enjoyable.

We all wish more of life’s lessons could come so kindly. I have avoided many pitfalls by remembering my father’s phrase “go after the king.” In later life I am learning to identify the king. The business world calls this clarity and focus. Without it, I launched many beginnings with no achievements to show for them.

Ernstraud School includes this whole blog, together with a promise of enrichment materials for my supporters there. That school includes a longer version of this article. It adds a science laboratory story to reinforce “go after the king.” Indeed, the method applies to any setting requiring clarity and focus.

\From the stories I will draw a fundamental business principle. It was the beginning of today’s post. However, it is worth building expectation before revealing the punch. Please reflect on these stories through a brief suspense in preparation for Tuesday.


1. Years ago, an efficiency expert evaluated a new laboratory in which several scientists had been working for months installing and calibrating equipment. Although they were all keeping busy, none of them could tell the inspector what they were researching. They had no burning question to answer urgently, no singularity of purpose. If there was no scientific objective to all the work, why were they doing it?

2. A theoretical researcher in particle physics complained once about costly installations that were monuments to man's failure to think. He proposed that some of the most expensive experiments yielded little that could not have been reached by well-directed, clear theoretical analysis. This blog will leave that practical question unanswered, using it only to illustrate the importance of good judgment in advance of action.

3. Clarity and focus also apply to something as mundane as online marketing. Web designers realize that "if you build it" does not assure "they will come." Website success depends on events, conditions, needs, and actions that take place outside the site itself-and that refers to more than advertising.

Our life objective is not the laboratory and tools we build. Pursuit of meaning reaches far beyond that. To go after the king in our chess game of life, on Tuesday let us discuss the question, "then what are we really doing?"

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