Touch Move and Self-Mastery
Many times in my life, I have had to sit across lawyers and have a conversation or two with them. The content of those conversations is at times of progress and at times of resolving tricky business and relationship issues. For decades, my lawyer to go to has been an old friend, Ranjeet Srinivasan, from my college days. In his younger days, he was chirpy, vibrant, and extremely intelligent. Not that he lacks any of those characteristics now but he has added on several whiskers of wisdom over the years.
On many occasions, I have seen him immerse into multiple, long-drawn, conversations with his clients while at the same browsing, marking, commenting, responding, and signing scores of documents that are placed in front of him. People bring him business scenarios, life stories bundled in tons of flak and noise while he sits there coolly hearing, absorbing, sifting, and sorting from facts from the fiction; gently, carefully, asking questions; making suggestions or requesting for time to think things through.
It is an awesome sight to witness. It is like watching a virtuoso working on multiple canvasses with scores of brushes held in tens of hands. It is a beautiful dance of conversations that convert chaos into works of art.
What does it take to be like that?
It takes living out the rule of ‘Touch Move’ from the game of chess before speaking, before taking action. It takes mastering the shenanigans of our own minds by our own mind. It takes accepting the millions of moments, opportunities, and annoyances as they present themselves without being controlled by the pain or pleasures those moments might bring towards us. It takes recognizing that we live in a beautiful world but it can become crazy and complex. It takes courage, compassion, and creativity to work in sync with nature and treating all other living beings fairly and justly.
The touch move rule is the most basic rule of chess. It means, when a player touches any one of his pieces, she must make a legal move. It means your word must be kept. It means you stay accountable for your actions and it means there is no turning back.
What does it do?
It prevents impulsiveness, regressions, and regrets. It influences players to think ahead logically, strategically, and creatively. It gives every player, every entity, and system a fair chance. It drives people into becoming sane, authentic, and influencers of a brand new and brave world.
German philosopher and chess player, Emanuel Lasker, could not have said it better with, “On the chessboard, lies, and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of a lie; the merciless fact, culminating in the checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite.”
There is no doubt that the pieces of our lives have to be influenced to win; to grow but the call remains for authenticity and ethics all the time. Therein lies self-mastery. Therein probably also lies the mastery of our domains.
I do not know if my friend, Ranjeet Srinivasan, plays chess but I do know he practices massive self-mastery all the time. There are five things that I believe he rigorously practices consciously and, maybe, unconsciously:
Self-awareness and Discipline: He knows his values and sorts facts from fiction created by his own mind with consistency.
Courage and Patience: He faces fear with clarity and is patient towards what might still be ambiguous to him on the road ahead.
Wisdom and Compassion: He knows what serves a value-driven vision and is forgiving towards whom he does not see eye to eye.
Fairness and Justice: He was schooled for the legal kind but age and experience have honed his moral compass to a higher degree.
Action and Initiative: He rarely sits on the fence of decision-making. After all the deep and broad thinking he takes action without fear and accepts all results without regrets or excessive excitement.
Life is no different from a game of chess. The playground for most everyone is this beautiful earth; this beautiful gift of life. We all start with a bunch of minimal resources from ground zero and then move up by inches or by yards. Some move forward with a twist, while others trudge along in straight lines. Many hesitate or haste or regress while others, those that touch move, take in the big picture and move their small pieces carefully, creatively, and confidently.
These last 20 months have been extremely tough for a large number of people across the world. We are all faced with a very persistent, tough, and ruthless opponent in COVID. Winning this war, at work or in life, will call us to think through every move multiple times before we touch the pieces. But move we must, and win we will, when we master ourselves first.
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