Chess, Coaching and Salesforce Development

What are some things in your life that are perfectly reliable and defined, but offer an unlimited array of experiences?  Chess, coaching and Salesforce development bring these qualities into my life.  These three things are all well-defined in themselves, but they are all complex enough that every interaction with them is unique.

I have enjoyed the game of chess since I was about 9 years old.  A neighbor boy across the street of about the same age taught me the game on a cool, wooden board that his parents let us use.  During those early games he would quickly steal my rook with his bishop on those long diagonals and force my king into positions that would yield a quick ‘check mate’.  But I was hooked. Here was a game where there was no ‘chance’ or ‘luck’ involved.  There are no cards that people are hiding that you have to guess.  There is no ‘luck of the draw’.  It did not matter if you were the tallest or fastest athlete. There is only a board with 16 total pieces and 6 unique pieces at your disposal in complete view of you and your opponent.  If you play well and win you can be proud of what you have accomplished.  If you do not play well and you lose, there is nobody to blame but yourself.  This makes chess a very humbling game.

It is mostly for this last reason that I think it is a great game for young people.  The game teaches concentration and planning, but the most important thing that it teaches is self-reliance.  It has been a pleasure to watch my daughter learn the game over her younger years and to now have joined a chess club at school.  It does not matter to me whether she makes a good move or a bad move.  It was her move and she is going to see the consequences whether positive of negative of that move.

With chess there are enough pieces that the permutations make almost every game unique.  I love to play other games with my family too, but with those games the beginning, middle and end games are usually always the same.  With chess each stage of the game can be totally different.

I have been around sports all of my life either as an athlete or as a coach.  With coaching football specifically there are a lot more things outside of my control than with chess.  Some things outside of my control are the quality of athletes, the weather, and what the opponent is trying to do.  But there is still so much that is under my control as a coach.  First, the game of football itself sets a framework for how the game must be played.  With football there are 11 players on the field at a time with certain rules as to how they can be positioned.  In chess there were 6 unique pieces at your disposal, but in football there are 11 unique players each with his own strengths and weaknesses.  It is this variety, like the different pieces in chess, that makes football so varied.  Flip around the TV on a Saturday or Sunday ( or better yet attend some local high school games ) and you will quickly see how many different strategies can be involved with 22 players running around on the field.  One of my coaching mentors would frequently say at the end of our game planning ‘The game will never end.’  By this he meant that the game is so complex with those varied 22 players that it will continually evolve and re-invent itself.  Just as in chess, each football game has a unique flow and conclusion.

Salesforce is part of the evolution of the computing industry.  Just like chess and football, the software industry is unbelievable varied and complex.  There are so many different ways to solve business problems and Salesforce has developed a platform to solve its share of them.  Salesforce to me is like a game of chess opening or a new set of football plays that has brought a lot of recent success.  Salesforce has looked at the business problems and has produced a solution to some of the modern business complexities.  But as we use Salesforce to solve business problems today we must always be on the lookout for the next best way to solve those problems.  Salesforce may continue to solve those problems well into the future, but as chess and football show us there is always an evolution in these areas that are varied and complex.  People will continually try to put the available pieces together in different ways to solve the next problem that they face.

Chess, football and Salesforce all involve complicated problem solving.  They each make you think critically about the complexities involved with each.  But together they teach us that all complex systems must evolve.  I am excited to follow the path of learning on each of them.

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