Teach & Serve IV, No. 28
Do Not Play Chess, or Checkers for that Matter
February 13, 2019
Looking back, very little … maneuvering ever worked.
In the past, I have spent many hours (too many hours, frankly) trying to plot out my professional destiny. These designs have sometimes been small in scope – determining how to get noticed in a faculty meeting or how to be appointed to an after-school duty I found desirable or how to get to teach the classes I want to teach or the department chair role I wanted. I often angled for these sorts of things, hoping that, if I did the right things, said the right words, acted in the right ways with the right people, I could influence outcomes in subtle and, sometimes, not so subtle ways.
I often schemed in a more grandiose fashion.
All too frequently, I attempted to play the long game, to play chess (three-dimensional chess at that!) while I thought everyone around me was playing checkers. I tried to line up the pieces in positions that would lead to being recognized and promoted, to being asked to chair think tanks and processes and committees, to being singled out as a great leader.
Looking back, very little of that maneuvering ever worked.
The reality is, I spent more time trying to find the jobs that would get me to level up in my job than simply doing a good job at my job, which is what wins us recognition in the first place.
Here’s the thing: you can try to play chess with your co-workers and bosses and colleagues all you want and you can assume they are just playing checkers. You can convince yourself that you are putting yourself in the best positions possible and you are winning the game. You can tell yourself you are smarter than the room and you are the master manipulator. Hey, go ahead and tell yourself you are winning.
Most likely, however, those around you are not even playing the game and your only opponent is yourself.
On reflection, that seems to me I spent an awful lot of wasted time – time I could have used getting better, sooner learning more about myself and being more genuine in my work and my leadership.
Let the real work begin.