I came across a quote from The Art of War, a book written 2500 years ago by Chinese military general and tactician Sun Tzu that has been rattling around in my brain. It’s this:
One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements.
One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes meet with defeat.
One who knows neither the enemy nor himself will invariably be defeated in every engagement.
There’s a heck of a lot of wisdom in those three sentences and although he was speaking about war, the words are applicable to most any situation involving conflict - relationships, schooling, work, and, my focus at the moment - games.
All games, whether chess, cribbage or football are substitutes for war. There are winners and losers (although the consequences of landing in either category are neither as glorious nor as dire as in war). If you underestimate your opponent’s or overestimate your own abilities, things are not likely to go well. Luck certainly has a part to play in any outcome but its importance diminishes proportionately with the players’ increased levels of skill, knowledge and preparation.
How to know an opponent? That’s easy. As my guru, Yogi Berra once said: “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Do as Yogi says. Watch them. Pay attention to what they do in certain situations, especially stressful ones. Before too-too long, their behaviour will become predictable, at least to a certain extent. Foreknowledge of an opponent’s behaviour is a terrific advantage in any situation.
Knowing yourself now - that’s a toughie and I know of no pat formula or short cut. I do know however, that it involves stripping oneself of pretense and delusion, those kissin’ cousins of deceit. It can be a painful process, glumly observing one’s psyche laid bare in a full-length mental mirror.
On the plus side, once you DO know yourself, you can then re-don whatever delusional duds you want to wear, since you know you’re kidding.
Kinda like Halloween.