“The Queen’s Gambit” has become something of a phenomenon since its October debut. The show also was one of the most talked about shows on the internet for the past month. It’s adapted from the novel of the same name by Water Tevis in 1983 and it did not let the audience down. In fact, it is so good I’m sure everyone’s going to be into chess after watching it.
The series follows Elizabeth “Beth” Harmon from her days learning chess from a janitor in the basement of Methuen Home orphanage all the way through her rise to the top of the male-dominated chess scene of the 1960s—but it’s not just about chess. And that’s why I wrote this blog post. The Netflix show is also about growing up, chasing dreams, earning money, becoming successful and overcoming obastacles. I’ve made a list of 7 life lessons that I’ve learned from watching “The Queens Gambit” and that I want to share with you. Enjoy reading (and be inspired).
1. Start before you are ready
Beth is a real life example of learning-by-doing, even showing up to her first tournament before she knows how it is structured or how to use a chess clock. While research and preparation are important, there is definitely something to be said about the power of taking action even when you feel unprepared.
Starting anything is risky. You might fail, you might get things wrong, you might lose time and money, you might be totally embarrassed. But if you don’t start, you don’t ever get to do the thing you want to do. Next time you are waiting for the “perfect” moment to do something you’ve always wanted to do, pull a Beth and start before you’re ready. You might just surprise yourself.
If you do start, you get to be the kind of person who starts things, who chases dreams, who experiments, who doesn’t let fear of failure stop you. It’s up to you to decide that the risk is worth the reward of having done the thing, no matter how it turns out.
2. Don’t let others’ opinions get to you
Beth was criticized at the beginning of the show as she entered into high school by the other girls that her outfits and shoes were hideous. However, even after she developed a sense of fashion and could afford the beautiful and fancy clothes she desired, she was then criticized for looking too “glamorous” to be a chess player. But of course, it didn’t matter how expensive the men’s suits were, a woman is always criticized. And that’s something we have to learn to not care about especially if it’s the unwanted opinion of men in our life.
We don’t have to fit into a perfect stereotype of how a woman is supposed to be either — I mean thank god it’s not the 1960s anymore!! People will talk. They always have. And they always will. No matter what you do or say, how you behave, the way you walk or dress, how you act, or the decisions you make, will always be scrutinized by others. It’s the nature of the masses. We allow other people’s opinions to not only hurt us, but oftentimes, to define us.
But it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. Their opinions have no basis in defining you. They aren’t the truth. It’s important to look the other way. For the simple fact that you shouldn’t give others the pleasure of insulting you. As long as you’re doing the right thing, you shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks or says. Be you. Do you.
3. “Maybe is a loser’s word” – Benny Watts
Coming from someone who does say ‘maybe’ a lot. I have to agree with him because Benny is right. It’s either yes, or no; do or don’t do. Being on the fence, being indecisive will reflect on your lack of confidence. This mixed word also shows that you cannot commit to something and have no intention of doing something.
The full lesson is: Don’t say maybe. Say no. Say no firmly, clearly and loudly to stuff you don’t want to do. Because that’s your right. And say ‘yes’ to stuff you clearly want to do. Because that’s also your right. When someone wants a yes, they don’t hear maybe as a no. They hear it as “So what you’re telling me is that I have a chance?” The attempt to get out of it by being less than direct only entangles you in it more.
Using ‘maybe’ too much will end up in finding yourself in places you don’t want to be, stuck doing stuff you don’t want to do, frustrated and resentful, overloaded and impatient, distracted and confused.
4. Prioritize your (mental) health
Beth struggles with addiction throughout the series, first becoming hooked on the tranquilizer pills given to her in the orphanage and later becoming reliant on alcohol and medication to get in the right mindset to compete. Even with chess, Beth’s intensity blurs the line between mastery and obsession, telling one reporter that chess is “an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it, I can dominate it. And it’s predictable.”
While having purpose and passion adds so much value to life, your physical and mental health shouldn’t suffer as a result. Look after yourself, give yourself grace, and know how and when to ask for help when you need it.
When you need help — no matter the kind of help you need, or the person you need it from — take the bass out of your voice, the stiffness out of your spine, and the captain out of your industry and just say, with sincerity and humility: “Can you help me?”
Also, be kind to yourself. Be aware of your critical voice. When you are anxious or depressed you may well have a voice that tells you negative things about yourself. Be aware of this and notice the way that makes you feel and how it affects your behaviour. Know that you can choose to do something different. If you are kind to yourself it encourages others to treat you in the same way. Surround yourself with positive people who are there for you when you need them most.
5. The importance of focus and determination
“The Queen’s Gambit” teaches you a lot about being determined and focused on your career. Beth’s determination and focus on the game of chess is inspirational because she didn’t care what others said about her being a girl and playing chess. And that helped her win every time — minus the tranquilizer addiction part, of course — but I think Beth encourages us all to be like that in our career.
To keep yourself determined, you would have to be very clear in your objectives. Keep in mind that it is always easy to move in the direction in which life takes you. It would not be interesting to follow the route which was made by others. Make an impression in your mind that it always matters when you sail against the difficulties which life throws at you. In order to set your path, you have to be determined enough to accomplish your goals. Imagine your bright future if you work hard now.
6. “A strong person isn’t scared to be alone” – Alice Harmon
Alice just gives the best advice. I also believe that towards the end of the show, getting glimpses of Alice giving young Beth advice made her stronger and able to get over her addiction to “vitamins” and accept herself.
We shouldn’t confuse ourselves with ‘being alone’ and ‘loneliness’. Physical aloneness is the objective form of being alone. A great example is living alone. Physical aloneness can be a risk factor of feeling loneliness which may lead to depression.
Some people are naturally happy alone. But for others, being alone is a challenge. Regardless of how you feel about being alone, building a good relationship with yourself is a worthy investment. After all, you do spend quite a bit of time with yourself, so you might as well learn to enjoy it.
7. You don’t need to understand something to enjoy it
It seems like it’s only right to end this article by saying that The Queen’s Gambit really opened my eyes to the fact that understanding something and appreciating it aren’t mutually exclusive. So, even though I will probably never be able to set up a chess board without Googling it, I truly enjoyed immersing myself in a new subject and adding a few new chess terms to my dictionary.
By believing that not all things require reasons and not all things are in our control. Sometimes, all you have to do is just ‘let it go’ and enjoy the moment.
The Queen’s Gambit was streamed no less than 62 million times in the first 28 days, making it the best watched mini-series ever on Netflix. I have aswell (binge)-watched the series and it taught me a lot of lessons. The cast, costumes and the setting is mind-blowing. If you haven’t watched this series yet, I have given you just enough reasons to do so! What are you waiting for?
Lots of love,