“To Insure Oneself against Defeat is the highest Duty of a General; only after doing this should he seek a Victory over his Opponent.” – Sun Tzu, ca. 200 B.C.E.
There are three possible outcomes in a game of chess – a win, a loss or a draw. A win awards the winner one point and nothing to the loser, while a draw gives half a point each to both players.
A draw can be reached by agreement, where both players realize each does not have suitable chances of winning; or it can be a fight to a literal standstill, occurring when a player is not in check and has no legal move, or when neither player has sufficient material to mate the opponent.
And sometimes, a player may choose to settle for a draw even if he/she has chances of winning, simply to eliminate the risk of losing. If you can secure a pass to a higher Tournament round you might choose that option – to that player, it is more important not to lose than it is to win.
“Rule No 1: Never lose money. Rule No 2: Never forget rule No 1.” – Warren Buffett (the world’s most famous investor)
Most investors have found it difficult to settle for a draw in bear markets, but the best of investors know it can be better in this situation to break even than to hope for an overnight turnaround. Investing in the stock market is a tricky game, just like chess. A player must know how to weigh the risks involved and understand when best to pull out, even if it doesn’t amount to a win.
When is the Game a “Salvage Mission”?
Having this mentality is what keeps successful people on the winning platform for extended careers. It doesn’t mean there aren’t times when they didn’t have chances of winning; it doesn’t mean there weren’t times when life was really hard on them. What a prolonged series of successes means is that the player was able to stay in the game.
If you can hold together in bad times, you will shine in good times.
“The Good Days are easy, and are a pleasure to work. It is the pro that puts in high quality effort when things look bad. You get paid for the Bad Days.” – a former boss of the author
Settling for a draw in the game of chess, does not necessarily mean the game is unchallenged or that a player is trying to play safe. In fact, in most cases, it means that a both players own bloody noses – and are so thoroughly pummeled that the ability to be tactically accurate has been compromised. Instead of rolling the dice, it can be smarter to sit on the sidelines.
Sometimes you have to Fight for a draw too. Being brave enough to force a half-point draw can be the defining point of a career – or of a marriage.
Marriage can be tough sometimes. Bystanders may exclaim at how close the rocks may be. Settling for a loss at such times can be really disastrous. You, your spouse and kids may never recover from it. But the draw mentality; the not-to-lose mentality will help you stay the distance and surmount the difficult times.
Survival can indeed be more important than the good times ever were. Things may look dark today, but tomorrow the sun will shine if you keep playing a solid game.
Offense, going for the jugular, wins the praise of the critics but it sometimes leaves you very vulnerable. Defense doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win, but it can keep you in the game, which is more important. Staying in the game is priority Number One.
“Ninety percent of Success is Showing Up.” – Anon*
*quote originally attributed to Woody Allen that I am sure to have mis-taken. The concept is that being present at the game is a large part of being able to succeed at it. In the context of this post, that by defense you can insure that you at least can keep playing, and so enable future winning chances…
image: Washington Sq. P. – courtesy of George Eastman House – a Public Domain photo