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HABU Yoshiharu’s “The Big Picture”, Part 3: From Mutually Assured Destruction to Self-Assured Victory

  • 負けたくなければ勝負をしない事。
  • If you don’t want to lose, don’t play.
  • 負ける=まける
  • 勝負=しょうぶ
  • 事=こと

The only way to guarantee not losing at a game is to not play it in the first place 1. But then, of course, you lose something else. The joy of playing. The camaraderie. Any and all chances of winning…

Now, it probably isn’t apparent right here and now, because this quote has been liberated from its original context 2 but what it’s saying is this: shogi’s GOAT has freed himself from the need to not lose. He is free of desperation. He has accepted that loss is a part of the equation also. But this has not stopped him from being the GOAT. In fact, the relaxation, the calmness and sense of ease that this state of mind produces may, paradoxically, have helped him become the GOAT. It’s like a Greek tragedy in reverse: the things you do instead of caring about winning actually make you a winner.

This idea reminds me of the book Organize Tomorrow Today (OTT), which, despite its title, literally is not a book about personal organization or time management. You know how some books have awesome titles but then are just kind of “meh” inside? This book is the polar opposite of that. In many ways, relative to its quality, it’s possibly the worst-titled book in the history of human writing. And yet, I cannot myself think of a title that would do it justice 3. Anyway, in OTT, they talk about how both professional sportsmen (whom they’ve worked with as personal consultants) and professional regular adults (ditto), and even children, will do their best when they focus exclusively on the things they can control.

The irony is that ignoring the things we cannot control actually gives us more (not complete, but more) control over them than focussing on them does. And, if you’ve been paying attention more than I have (not a hard thing to do, BTW), then you’ll have realized that this is exactly what the late Stephen Covey was talking about it in 7 Habits with his concentric Circles of, respectively, Control (green), Influence (yellow) and Concern (red)).

Don’t run red lights. Or even yellow ones. It’s not impressive and it doesn’t make you a baller. At best, it merely puts you at risk of great suffering. Focus on your circle of control.

You know, I used to think all them Greek tragedies were stupid and negative and fatalistic and ignan’t — and maybe they are — but maybe they were actually trying to teach us something, and I’m only just now finally waking up to the lesson. After all, it’s not just in a Sophocles screenplay that the things you do to prevent bad thing X happening (e.g. your son murdering you and screwing your wife, who is also his Mom, because she’s literally a MILF) actually produce bad thing X: in water, being and acting afraid produces the very results that people who haven’t yet learned how to handle themselves in water are afraid of. Perhaps Sophocles and his colleagues in the Ancient Greek entertainment industry wanted us to learn about self-fulfilling prophecies and self-efficacy and directing our mental focus in productive directions.

Games involve winning and losing. If you don’t want to lose, don’t play. If you want to win, play against yourself. Come correct. Come prepared to lose and improve: paradoxically, this will make you a winner. Take that home and smoke it. It’s good for shogi, it’s good for SRSing, and it’s good for life in general.

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  1. There are games that can only be won by not playing them, but that’s not quite what we’re talking about here.
  2. For more context, get the book itself; you know I’m not going to type it all out for you 😛
  3. Keiko once joked that I was terrible at titles, and she might be right 😛

  1 comment for “HABU Yoshiharu’s “The Big Picture”, Part 3: From Mutually Assured Destruction to Self-Assured Victory

  1. Luke
    August 30, 2017 at 13:33

    Hahaha I just picked up and finished listening to the audio version of OTT a month ago and I totally agree! Worst Self-development title ever haha

    But the advice is GOLD and, like your website, I keep going back to it 😉

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