Therapy Blogging... the First Step!
The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? What's my dilemma? I refuse to give up on my dreams... Basically, I want to become a grandmaster! I need to become a grandmaster!! I will become a grandmaster!!! But why?
The GM title is, and has been, one of my "life goals" for as long as I can remember. I have been a true "Chess Professional" since I was 16 years old, and though the job description changes slightly from time to time -- from coaching, to playing, to organizing, to my latest "hat" (see picture ) as Director of Content for Chess.com -- the fact of the matter is that I still feel incomplete with my position or role in the chess community, and I will likely continue to feel this way as long as the highest title of the Game of Kings escapes me.
Why does it matter so much to me? I don't know sometimes... I am a very happy person. In fact, I am thrilled about my life: I play/teach a game for a living, work for the world's #1 website in the "niche market" that is chess (with an awesome team around me, I might add), and I have a wonderfully supportive family. My wife and I are expecting our third child in October (our first girl ), and all in all, I could not ask for more.
So why is there lack of contentment in my life surrounding the GM title? Do I really need it? Would it change anything about my current lifestyle? Do I have some other, deeper insecurity about myself that I must project feeling "less than" because there isn't a GM title next to my name?
My good friend and partner in crime, IM David Pruess, is one of my biggest fans and yet my harshest critic at times. David has told me, flat out, that he doesn't think I can become a GM. It hurt, and still does a little... but what I've realized through my relationship with David is this:
It isn't that he thinks I'm not good enough, or that I lack the "talent" to make GM and even improve past that, but more so that David sees the writing on the wall: I work full time for Chess.com (awesome!!!), I run my own tournament organizing/ chess instructional company in Arizona (American Chess Events LLC), and I lead a life unlike my peers (both in chess and in life) with a family of three at the age of twenty-five. I believe David has this opinion and makes it known to me because he sees my discontent and he wonders why. Like, "Danny - wake up and smell the roses. You don't have time to become a GM, but why do you care? Your life is so great!", etc...
He's right, but it isn't that simple. For me, earning the GM title means something not only for the future of my personal life and family (whom all continue to support me in my "mission"), but also to the chess community. If I am to continue being a chess coach who claims to his students that he knows what it takes to play at the highest level of chess, that he knows what it means to strive for nothing but the best, and that he has the ability to take them from "beginner-to-GM" if that's what the student wants -- then I owe it to the chess world to get there myself (or die trying).
That doesn't mean you have to be World Champion to teach, but rather, it's an acknowledgement that the "road the chess improvement" is a long one. It can be an evolving process, if you let it be. There doesn't have to be a time table on your dreams. There is always more to learn, and at my level, striving for GM is important because the process of striving itself is important... whether the goal is ever achieved or not.
It isn't my intention to pass judgement on all the the great chess players and trainers (and there are many) out there who don't feel the same way. There are "chess pros" in every aspect (from organizing to playing to coaching) whom didn't get the GM title because of their own personal life trials, or simply because they didn't feel the GM title was necessary to accomplish their goals. I am simply stating, in all honesty, that the title matters to me. So where do we go from here?
First, I have to stop "playing victim" to my life circumstances. If you want it bad enough, there is always time in the day to work hard towards your goals. Yes, I have enough going on between work and family to keep a small army busy , before even considering studying chess or traveling to tournaments. Furthermore, I don't think anyone ever looks back on their life when their kids were young and says, "man, I really spent too much time with my kids". Right? I could already be home more than I am, yet I'm talking about adding more. That said, I don't need to be a GM tomorrow, yesterday, or even at 14 years old in order for it to mean something. It seems in our "Western-American-Media-Headline-Go-Go-Go-Driven-Society" -- if you aren't breaking records with your goals, why try? "If you aren't a child prodigy anymore, what's the point Danny"?
Well, the point is to practice what I preach. There isn't, and has never been, a time table (outside of a self-imposed one). The journey, not the destination, is what you remember in the end anyway. If I woke up tomorrow with a "G" instead of an "I" next to my name, it wouldn't change a thing about who I am. On the other hand, if I obssess over the result, I might miss something important, enjoy the process less, and I certainly wouldn't be writing this article now ... Maybe I can become a GM sooner than I think, but even if I don't make significant strides until my kids are a little older - most my peers will just be starting their family lives - so it isn't out of the question to be one of the "stronger" players in the country at an older age. Besides, then Nash (my son) can come with me to play!
Like my family, I now see the game of chess as a "labor of love". To be consumed, enjoyed, and "improved where needed". Like life and family, sometimes chess can be a little more "labor" than it is "love" - but isn't that the way it's supposed to be? I think so... What do you think?
Thanks for hearing me out...