Goodbye Artificial Barriers

By Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin 


Have you ever not achieved a goal due to limiting beliefs? If you have, you

are like most other people on the planet. This past Shabbat,  Rabbi Yehoshua Lewis, Director of Mesorah NJ, explained how in 1954, Roger Bannister did a 4-minute mile, a record that most professional athletes thought was impossible.

Since then, the four-minute barrier has been broken by over 1400 athletes. Would have any of those 1400 runners made the feat had Bannister not done so- who knows? Similarly, Abhimanyu Mishra recently becomes to the World’s youngest grandmaster, at the age of 12 years, 4 months and 25 days, beating Former World Championship Candidate Sergey Karjakin’s record. Proteges like Bannister and Mishra teach us that most of our goals can be possible if we put our mind to it. We can do so by avoid saying “I don’t know”, living by the idea of “Ufaratzta” and abiding by the 50-point rule.

One answer I never accept from students is “I don’t know.”Teaching students of all ages and skill levels, I have a great idea of what questions are too hard or easy for each one. However, often students will tell me “I don’t know” or “I haven’t learned that before.”, not realizing the answer is well within their wheelhouse. To the contrary, Social Worker Carrie Cohen, MSW, LCSW once shared how in stead of saying “I don’t know” to a question, they should say something a long the lines of “Can you explain the question more”, “I need some more time to think about it”, etc. They should not jump to conclusions that they do not know the answer; they should spend as much time as they need to figure it out, confidently. Stronger players will often rush doing puzzles, clicking through the moves on Lichess or Chess.com, without figuring out the answer completely on their own.

Music Video – Ufaratzta from Yeshiva Darchei Torah on Vimeo.

“Ufarazta” means to spread out in Hebrew. More loosely, it means to get outside of one’s comfort zone. My mentor Peretz Chein, Director of Chabad of Brandeis, first taught me the idea when I learned about him running a ½ marathon after only a few months of training, when he hardly ran a day in his life before him. Despite the fact that most people did not believe he would be able to do it. He proved everyone wrong and ran the race. The next year, he ran with a group of students, named “ Team Ufarazta”.

Yesterday I was teaching a beginner student and he was so proud to tell me all of what he knew about chess- piece movement, basic opening principals, pins, etc. Since he has not played in over a year, he forget parts of the rules, like the difference of check and checkmate. As he tried to regurgitate the rules he did not know, he was actually not learning. Rather than try to stay what one knows, he should listen as much as possible and soak in as much information as possible. It is also important to be open to trying new activities, places, foods, etc. Never did I think I would end up taking a ballet class ever in my life but I did the other evening; that was definitely an ufarazta experience for me.

A few weeks ago I asked a class if Magnus Carlsen was a strong chess player; of course all the students said  he as of course as he is a strong grandmaster and current world champion. I then asked if he was good, relative to Stockfish and very few students said “yes.” The truth is even our world champion is not as strong as our top silicion friends thse days. No matter who you are playing, it is easy to either overestimate or unederstimate your opponent. No matter what rating your opponent actually is, you should pretend as if he is 50 points higher rated; that way you give him a little of a respect but not too much. For more ideas regarding confidence, see this old post.

If your instinct is that you cannot do something, do not think it is impossible. I personally did think in the first two months of our business in 2017, we would have 10 instructors working in 14 schools but we did. Some times, you just need to avoid artificial belefis and, as Nike says, “just do it!” Avoid saying “I don’t know”, live by the idea of “Ufaratzta” and abide by the 50-point rule.

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