Searching for Bobby Fisher
Recently I saw the film “Searching for Bobby Fisher”, a story not so much about Bobby Fisher, the famous chess genius, but more about a gifted boy who is on the way to develop his talent, which is misunderstood by the people around him.
The film is not very fast paced and I can understand why some perceive it as boring, especially measured by todays standards. But I found the lessons nonetheless very telling and I want to give you my take on it, because it is a wonderful tale for everybody who is based in abundance and has to grow up in a scarcity minded environment. The film illustrates a few important takeaways about how NOT to get crushed by a scarcity based environment.
Refusal to win
In an early scene of the movie the father keeps challenging the boy in chess games, but the boy keeps losing every time. The insight of his wife reveals that the boy is way more talented than his father, but he prefers to lose on purpose, because he does not want to see his father lose. This is one of the first indications that the boy operates from a completely different position than his father, who cannot understand his son. The father more or less represents the scarcity mindset.
Scarcity minded people often use fear and competition to get results. Being somewhat isolated in their world, they perceive competing players as enemies (“You have to hate your enemy, you have to crush him and dominate him!”) and they use fear and threats to push others into action and obedience (“If you do not win this competition, I will be very disappointed of you and will have to punish you!”)
Scarcity minded people are very dependent on the feedback of society and try hard to get recognition and social status that sets them above others. For a scarcity minded person a task is less fulfilling than the social proof that comes with it.
Scarcity minded people cannot understand why someone who has loads of talents, does not use it to strive for that same social proof, dominance and control that a scarcity minded person longs for. A scarcity minded person that wants to help an abundant person, like the boy’s father in the movie who tries to help the boy, will often increase the fear, competition and social requirements. This causes the opposite effect, namely destroying the abundant person with the best of intentions. More and more misunderstanding, resentment and separation will be the end result.
Joy for the task itself
In the film the boy is attracted by a bunch of rough people who spend their time chatting and playing chess in the park. He starts to play with them and makes friends.
However, the father and newly hired chess teacher despise the people in the park and stop the boy from seeing them again, because they argue that the park people’s chess tactics were not good enough for the boy. They fear that the boy would learn the wrong moves that are good enough to win games in the park, but not good enough to win games on a professional level.
The “boy playing chess for fun with unprofessional people in the park” illustrates an abundant mindset, because it does not exclude anyone, especially not friendly, adventurous, funny and exciting people who simply enjoy a task out of joy for the task itself, even if they are faulty, unprofessional or very different from the root environment.
Scarcity minded people instead tend to stick with proven methods and tend to avoid influences that they perceive as unuseful or distracting. Doing something just because it is fun without delivering quantifiable outcomes is frowned upon.
Whereas the hierarchy in the chess club of his professional mentor is clear and access is restricted, the park people invite anyone without any formal separation.
The movie pictures a few scenes that show the competition between the boy and another competing boy. It is all presented with an attitude of win-lose, keeping the distance, dominance and superiority, no matter what. It is clear that the boy has to win at all costs and there is only one option: Winning. A compromise is not possible. There is no in-between. When the boy faces huge expectations to win he refuses to comply: The only choice to protest is by losing.
The tragedy is that he sees no other way than to destroy his own success to rebel against the scarcity game.
Winning is a double bind
Winning is a double bind: If he wins, his win will cause anger, separation and frustration in his competitors. If the boy loses he creates anger, separation and frustration for his mentors and friends who expected him to win.
So what’s the point, you may ask. What is the alternative if winning? Staying mediocre? Isn’t that a lame alternative? Indeed, it is.
The film gives the answer in another scene. The movie explains that for Bobby Fisher, chess was not a game, it was art. Chess is not a means to an end, it is a means and an end. The goal is to excel in the art of the game. This has nothing to do with the social implications of winning or losing the game.
The film has a happy ending, because both the father as well as the teacher finally get it and change their attitude (even though not completely). But very true to abundance, the happy ending is not a win for the boy (which, I am sure, disappointed many scarcity minded viewers). Instead, it is a win-win ending. The opponent is losing the game, although he believes he is about to win. Then the boy offers him a draw, so that nobody would have to leave the table as loser, but the opponent refuses, thinking that he may still win. Again, it shows how the boy uses every situation to downplay the social implications that scarcity minded people instill into the consequence of winning.
The boy cares as much about the opponent as he cares for himself. He can see and acknowledge the abilities of his opponent and he has empathy for the despair and hardship that comes with losing a competition. He tries to make it comfortable for his opponent just as much as he cares for himself. The boy gets no pleasure whatsoever out of dominating another person socially.
I guess he knows that his opponent represents just another part of himself. Therefore any form of domination over his opponent would only create a conflict “within himself”. And therein lies no pleasure whatsoever for the truly abundant person.
I assume that being rooted in abundance and therefore experiencing the oneness of all things is the source of his genius. It is probably the absence of competition and the absence of narrow-minded distractions that allow him to use his full powers to excel in the art of the game.
Another beautiful element in the film is the way the boy finally outclasses his opponent. He wins by applying the lessons of both worlds. On one hand he mastered the lessons of his strict and professional chess teacher. But on the other hand he does not exclude the seemingly wrong and stupid moves that his unprofessional mentor in the park had thought him. Finally, and against the advice of his professional mentor, he uses a combination of moves from both worlds that irritate his opponent and make him stand out as the better player.
Independence of outcome
Instead of celebrating the win over an opponent, his mentor finally shows his appreciation BEFORE the boys enters the final competition. In other words, his mentors appreciation is independent of the outcome. He celebrates he mastery that the boy has achieved “in the eyes of his mentors”. The mentor hands him a certificate for the progress and mastery the boy has achieved in his art. He sets the boy free and allows him to be appreciated and accepted in oneness, independent of the social outcome of winning or losing. This way he reduces the separation between himself and the boy, which would otherwise only hurt the boy and sabotage his success.
The more the boy loves his mentor, the more he wants to feel united with him. The more the mentor avoids isolation and separation, the easier it will be for the boy to perform. Independence of the outcome is a major element of abundance.
The tragedy lies in the fact that by being true to abundance the boy will eventually win, thus he will automatically create the social situation of dominance which in turn will provoke anger, disappointment, fear and resentment in his scarcity minded opponents. This increases the experience of isolation and separation (scarcity) and will hurt the boy.
The hard part of abundance is that by being truly abundant, the success that comes with it will create a backslash of scarcity within the scarcity minded environment that will try to destroy abundance (and the people that are its representatives).
This explains why the good guys often sabotage their success and why it is the idiots that end up dominating many of the socially leading positions. You just need to look at all the destructive idiots that now dominate governments all over the world. Their abundance is only a lie that they carry on their lips while their actions show their attitude of scarcity, divide, isolation and loss.
7 Principles to Become a Champion of Abundance
So what is the takeaway? Is there something you can do right now? Of course. Here are 7 principles:
1. Do not isolate
Leave the back door open to discover other worlds, other disciplines, other ways or influences, even if they seem counter-intuitive. The boy is attracted by the park people for a reason. They serve as a way to complement the education he gets from his professional mentor.
2. Favor art over competition
Encourage art and the joy of doing something for the joy of doing it. Sooner or later competition cannot be avoided, but it should never be more than a side product of making art.
3. Stay independent of the outcome
Winning or losing should never be an issue. Winning is a side product of doing great work. Move your attention away from the outcome towards doing the right thing.
4. Celebrate mastery
Just as the boy’s mentor celebrates mastery before he knows if the boy will lose or win, you should express appreciation whenever it is due.
5. Never use fears or threats
Fears and threats never work to motivate an abundant person. They simply don’t. Don’t even start.
6. Avoid Win-Lose situations
Replace win-lose situations with win-win situations.
7. Walk away
If you are based in abundance and the people around you don’t get it, walk away. Refuse to comply. Walking away is usually perceived as weak and bad from a scarcity’s point of view. But there is no shame in walking away, because the best art is always produced away from fear based people.
Do you agree?