Chess, Leadership, and a Polymath

I’m in medical limbo right now, waiting to get a neuro-EMG done, so I’ve been trying to take it easy in my free time. Normally, I’d be writing, creating something, or organizing another part of our home that probably doesn’t need to be organized (again). Lately though, I’ve been playing Runescape (not old school, sorry, traditionalists). For those of you who don’t know what Runescape is: it’s an online MMORPG that’s been around since 2001 and was created by Jagex. It has a massive player following and is incredibly extensive in story-line, mini-games, quests, and choices. So. Many. Choices.

The really fun thing about it is those choices. Don’t like to pick just one thing? Try 27 different skills to master. There’s so many things to explore in game it’s impossible to get bored. You can free-play, but a membership is completely worth it. I’m not here to advertise for them though; I really just want to talk about our society’s idea of choosing one thing.

My entire life, I’ve been told “you have to choose one thing to specialize in”, “you’re a beginner in everything and a master of nothing”, “you’ll never find a good job if you don’t pick something”, etc. the list goes on.

Well you know what? The list does not go on for me. I’ve never seen my way of thinking as a problem, I never considered my life was less because I enjoyed many things. If anything, it was better, because I always had something to do. Runescape was built with this “polymath” style that I love, and other people love it too. Why is it that in games, we all praise the well-rounded, do-everything players, but in life…that’s unacceptable? I love learning new things, and I hate being told that I have to pick one thing and stop learning about the others. Lately, there’s been a lot of talk on social media about how this is a product of late stage capitalism; how it’s because we’re seen as work-horses, instead of individuals with unique minds. I don’t know enough about that to say for sure, but I do know I’m not fond of it.

Finding jobs is difficult sometimes because unless the supervisor hiring me understands that my way of thinking is valuable, they won’t see my value. Even my social media sites for Lock, Stock, and Spoonies don’t stick to one thing and I don’t think anyone minds much. When it comes to job interviews? It comes off as wishy-washy. Which is a shame, because here’s why it isn’t: I know I like these things. I am not uncertain about any of it. I know what I enjoy doing, I know that I’m a hard worker, I know that I have skills that an employer would find valuable, but getting the chance to prove it isn’t always easy. I love organizing things, multitasking (I guess the new term is task-shifting), occasionally doing monotonous tasks which allow me to clear my head and gain some respite, but also doing things that give me purpose.

Research was fun, but I also had a hard time imagining myself in grad school and tied to the research other people wanted. Could I do it again? Probably. Finding the right lab would be crucial, with the right tasks. Microscopy, over animal research, sounds so nice.  I really enjoy maths, and I loved my courses in school, but I’m good at theoretical mathematics, so where do I go that wants that with just a bachelor’s and a basic knowledge? I loved the props, makeup, costuming, and hand and computer drafting courses I took in Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, but I wasn’t there long enough to master any of it. I would love to have the money to get myself AutoCAD again so I could play around designing things digitally. I’ve danced and I loved the physicality and joy it brought me, but my health conditions have made it hard to do regularly. Ballet will always hold a special place in my heart, and hip-hop was just the most fun if I was feeling creative. Filing basic medical records (the kind that follow a template and don’t require specialized education) for my job originally was actually awesome; I had purpose there, and it was exactly the kind of work I could do for hours and never notice how long I’d been working. However, the position was part-time, and I have bills to pay. I could continue listing things, since my list of enjoyable work is pretty long, but I’ve never quite been able to find that job that screams “me”. I enjoy being a housekeeper, but the downside is the physical requirements of the job are exhausting. I find I have little energy for much else given my tachycardia condition.

I want to continue growing, and learning, and problem-solving. I want to wake up every day knowing I’m doing what I love, and that’s not hard to find when it comes to me. I want to go through each day following my passions, and being myself; not fitting into a box someone else has made for me. I know that sometimes, jumping into that box is necessary. We all have things we have to do to survive, to help those around us do their best, even if those things aren’t something we enjoy doing. Life is full of bland, red-tape type tasks, and we do them because we have to. Taxes? I hate them, but I sit down and try to learn more about the system while I do them, because at least then it’s a little more fun than before. Bills? If you set a schedule, and follow a budget, they aren’t so bad as long as you’re making enough money (sorry to those who aren’t, that’s a whole other story that I hope you don’t have to live long). Paperwork you’d rather not do? I try to sit there and just take it one line at a time and think about the rewards that come with it being done: peace of mind, financial security, or job security etc. Need to care for someone else? Some parts of that job are hard and no one likes them, but we get to see another person thrive and survive, and that’s worth it. There’s nothing wrong with being the person who helps hold everything together by doing the job no one else wants. I’ve done that job multiple times, and I’ve enjoyed all of them.

The point is, I can love many things, and dream of the perfect job, while still understanding reality and necessity. I’m not wishy-washy, I’m a polymath. I’m not stuck, I’m traveling to my destination. I’m not giving up, I’m determined to find balance in my life. I’m not passionless, I’m so full of passion it can’t be contained to one subject. Our world is full of unique people, unique minds. Everyone processes information differently, and instead of embracing the unique talents our world is full of, a lot of people only want to surround themselves with minds like theirs. Everyone has that moment, where they’re tired and just want to talk to and work with someone who thinks like they do. It’s less stressful, so I get it. But when you stop and look at each person’s abilities, if you look at the larger picture of how each person fits together in a team, it gets easier to see a functioning whole. Every video-game has the right idea: your team is made of people with special skills and all have their faults.

Chess, the game of kings, is played around the notion that each peace has their faults, and their talents. The knight can travel the entire board very quickly, but he can also get trapped easily. The queen is versatile and an incredible warrior piece, but she’s weak to the bishop (and visa versa) and she can’t jump out of her own lines. The rook can jump to special defense of the king, but he can’t travel diagonally. The pawns have two special sneak attacks, but their straight forward moves put them at a disadvantage. The king is a slow and steady piece who changes the entire outcome of the board based on his moves, but if he’s captured the game is lost. In order to win, all pieces have to be used together, to form the perfect war team and overcome your opponent’s strategy. The reason it was the perfect game for kings, generals, and advisers, was because it mirrors real life leadership.

Leaders learn their team’s strengths and use them to their advantage. They don’t try to ask a fish to climb a tree (as the popular quote attributed to Einstein goes), they tell the fish to swim. If as a leader, you can’t get your team to mesh, maybe you’ve got them doing the wrong tasks. Sometimes, in our country at least, it feels like finding a job is about fitting into a box. The person interviewing you is looking for a specific person with specific skills; and this is necessary to a point. But there are only so many people, and only so many interviewees. Maybe some jobs wouldn’t have such high rates of turn-over if they started looking at their interviewees, who are eager to work and help, as an individual with a skill. If corporations started creating positions for the people who come to them, instead of fitting one person into a cookie-cutter job, they’d be fluid and adaptable to change. The world is changing quickly, our environment, our governments, our mindsets. The members of each team, whether it’s research, government, education, or corporations, they can play a role in helping those entities thrive, or fail. It depends on how willing our leaders are to adapt and play to their team’s strengths. If not, they may find their team breaks under the weight of change.

I want to find a job, a career, a team, that plays to my strengths and balances out my faults. I’d rather be on the team that can take change head-on, not the one that breaks underneath it. The hard part, is finding a team, that’s looking for a piece that looks like me. I’ll keep looking.

One thought on “Chess, Leadership, and a Polymath

  1. Thank you for such an insightful post, it spoke straight to my heart.
    Just a small point I don’t earn enough to survive, currently between homes have been for quite a while, but please dont hope I don’t live long. I’m determined to get back into society and it does seem my existence really annoys people who need annoying.
    Finding the niche that a diversely talented, hard working, creative person can fit into is near impossible in this reductionalist world.
    It looks like your predicament is simular to mine but our countries are different.
    I wish you good luck I hope you also wish me luck.

    Liked by 1 person

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