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  • GM Avetik Grigoryan GM Avetik Grigoryan

Detachment: Focus on growth and not the result

GM Avetik shares how you’ll enjoy your chess journey more and grow faster by detaching from results and focusing on growth.

Improvement Hacks | 10 min read
Detachment: Focus on growth and not the result

The results don't really matter. It's the figuring out that matters. — Kobe Bryant

The article is devoted to my hero Kobe Bryant, whose memory and example will always be a source of inspiration for me.

Two days ago I opened FaceBook messenger and among the messages, I saw there, there was one starting with “F*ck…”
I thought it was spam. And even if it wasn’t, I didn’t care. So I went to delete and block it. But my curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on it…

2 months earlier…

We provide 1 on 1 bonus calls with a Grandmaster to all our Yearly PRO Members. We give them a personalized study plan on how to use ChessMood to maximize their growth.
Once I jumped on a scheduled call. The 1st thing I heard was “Whaaaat’s up GM Grigooooryan” 😅

When the picture on the camera appeared I saw a young man in a cap who had tattoos on his face. He was a baseball player who recently fell in love with chess and joined ChessMood. After a month of being with us, he finally “found time” to use his bonus call.

With a frustrated, but enthusiastic, voice he told me an interesting story.
I can’t remember everything he said word for word, but it was something like this:

“My friend and I learned how to play chess. When we were both 500 on chess.com we bet on who would get to 1,500 faster. I joined ChessMood. After a month I got to 700, I was very happy. Until I was at his place and saw on his computer screen he had crossed 900 already!”

He finished the story with “It seems I’m gonna lose the deal. I need help, Boss” 😁😁😁

When I asked him what he had done since joining us, he told me he had watched the Opening Principles course, part of the Tactic Ninja course, and some of our WhiteMood and BlackMood openings.

Sounded nice, and the +200 rating points were deserved.

Then I asked him if he knows where his friend is learning from.
He laughed and said:

“I don’t know. That b*****d didn’t tell me 😁 But I know his nickname.”

“Good,” I said. “Send both of your nicknames to our chat and I’ll call you back soon.”

I started to investigate our student’s games first.
And was pleasantly and proudly surprised.

He was playing very-very healthy chess for his 700 rating.
He was nicely developing his pieces in the opening, fighting for the center (mainly winning without any encounter), and was playing both strategically and tactically.
His foundation was not just to be proud of but to be very-very-very proud of!

The bad part? Just too many blunders… 🙁
Clearly, weak concentration and tilting.

Then I went to his friend's account. And from the first minutes, all was clear.
His friend was hooked by what I call a “YouTube trap.”

He was playing all kinds of trappy variations.
Often they were working and he was winning games in less than 15 moves. But when not… He had no idea about any opening principles, there was no foundation, no basic tactics…there was nothing of substance. All of his hope was his traps. If they worked, he won. If not he was randomly moving the pieces and hoping for the best.

I called our student back.
I explained to him what was going on. That his friend is too focused on quick results.

Many YouTubers know that most chess players want quick results so they record lots of videos focused on teaching traps.

I continued explaining:
“Your friend took the hook. Yes, he raised his rating. But without having a foundation he’ll soon reach a plateau.”

“And me?” - he asked.
“And you, my friend, were focused on your growth during this month. While your friend — on results, quick results.You would lose your bet if it was who would get 1,000 first. You might have lost if it was the first to 1,200. But 1500… Just continue focusing on your growth and you’ll win.”

Then I gave him direction for the next few months.

If you’re also below 1,500 you might find this guidance useful, so I’m adding it below. Otherwise, skip the next paragraph.

  1. I Sent him Kobe Bryant’s interview (I’ll soon give you the link too), and a few articles.
  2. I told him to finish the Tactic Ninja, and watch the BlunderProof course!
    I explained why these courses will be a game changer for him, and how they’ll reduce his blunders - the biggest problem of his games.
  3. I advised him to play a lot (you’ll know why if you’ve watched the BlunderProof’s 1st section), but keep the 9-game session method.
  4. Then briefly analyze his games to weed out the biggest mistakes.
  5. I recommended he continue the courses of the Rating Booster 2,000 section going through them one by one when he finds time.
  6. Start learning the WhiteMood and BlackMood openings, once he crosses above 800 rating.
  7. And watch the live training events when we play ChessMood openings vs below the 1,500 level.

He listened to everything carefully and took notes.

In the end, he asked:
“Are you sure I’ll win the game, Boss?”
“Yes," I said.” “If your friend doesn’t change his approach.”

He paused and then with a smile on his face said: “Okay Boss! But if I don’t win, I’ll find you and ***....” 😅😅😅

He was so energetic and nice, that I couldn’t be offended or take his “bad words” personally. We laughed a bit and wished each other good luck.

2 months later…

When my curiosity won me over and I clicked on the message which started with “F”, there was:

“F*ck, f*ck, f*ck. You *** *bit*h ***.... You were right!”

That was him!
That b*****d (I learned bad words from him, sorry 😂) won the bet just 2 months after our call!
They both raised their ratings from the moment of their bargain, but…

His friend grew from 500 to 1,000 in 2 months! And then plateaued and even lost some rating in the 3rd month.
My hero sprinted from 500 to 1,500 in 3 months!

They both had different approaches.
Well, in truth and without fake humbleness, I should mention that one was learning from random sources, and the other in a structured way from our Grandmaster courses, following our chess study plan.
But the main difference wasn’t ChessMood.

The main difference was the mindset!
One was focused on results. On quick results.
The other — on growth!

When we talked more, he said that after our call he wasn’t immediately ready to accept my advice. He didn’t have the confidence. But listening to Kobe’s interviews put everything into place.

Legendary Kobe Bryant’s advice

I don’t listen to theoreticians. I don’t read experimenter’s books.
I follow professionally successful people. And one of my heroes is Kobe Bryant.

Kobe always spoke about the importance of detaching from results and focusing on growth.
About shutting up the ego that is fed from results.

I remember the following words he said in an interview with Jay Shetty:
“I've seen a lot of players, especially now in Youth basketball, they're stronger, they're faster…
And their coaches are coaching them for results. ‘You just gonna use your size... to dominate today.’
They're focused on results, but they're not growing. They're not focused on becoming a better athlete.”

And then he said the following brilliant words:

Figuring out that matters!
Strong, isn’t it?

However, we constantly forget about it, and the results we badly want get most of our attention…

Rating and its shadow

In chess, there is a measurement tool called “rating.”
After each game, it goes up and down.
And it’s really really tough to ignore it, detach ourselves from results, and focus on growth.

When I was a kid, I worried about my rating a lot too.
And that would slow my further growth, as it stopped many of my peers, if I wasn’t so lucky to have my wise Dad who always guided me in the right direction.

He would constantly remind me:
“Son, just concentrate on becoming a better chess player, and your rating will follow. It will run after you and not allow you to go ahead alone.”

Quote by Dr. N Grigoryan on chess rating

I recall his advice throughout my life —  to focus on growth and detach from the results.
But often I forget it. Even now 🙁 And whenever I forget, I pay the price…

I was going crazy…

You might know from our other articles that I started ChessMood with very little money in my bank account.
And that I was covering expenses by playing online poker from 4-8 AM, 6 days a week 😁
But what you don’t know is how often I had bad days…

I was a good player. I played poker for many years and at one point, I had 5 coaches, who helped me to become really good.

But unlike chess, poker is a game of more than just skill.

You can be the World Champion, and lose to the weakest player…
In Poker there is a luck factor, and good players win in the long term, but not necessarily everyday!

I knew all of this.
Just like everyone, often I would play a good session, concentrated, creative and smart. But in the end, I lost money…

During all my poker career it was fine for me. I understood how math works. But not now! When you play to cover the expenses and salaries…

When the days come close to paying the bills, it’s not easy to forget about results and focus on performing the best.
I was focused on results and whenever luck wasn’t on my side, I would often spend the rest of the day in stress and start the next session in the same bad mood 🙁

I had a challenge. And here is how I overcame it.

I went to HoldemManager (it’s a program that poker players use, just like professional chess players use ChessBase), and hid the end result.
I couldn’t see how much I was winning or losing.
Yes! Just like that! 😊

I would play a session with no idea if I won money at the end or not.
Oh, I forgot to tell you that I was playing on 20 tables at the same time, on 2 monitors 😁 A few hundred tournaments a day 😊
So I had no chance to remember if I won or lost more.

With hiding the end $ result, all I had were my hands (chess games) to analyze, some statistics, and my KPIs…

The “KPI” technique

I created an excel file, where I had my KPIs - Key Performance Indicators.

I had:

  1. Concentration
  2. Energy
  3. Sharp mind

At the end of each session, I would grade myself, from 1-10, in each of them.
This made me focus on input. To play just as well as possible and not care about the end result.

All I could control was input. Output wasn’t in my hands.
But by maximizing my input, I was actually controlling the output as well.

I also made a sticker and put it on my monitor:

“You can control your input, but not your output. But by controlling your input you influence the output.”

Most of the chess world, including me and many of my students, are often too focused on results, on output. Instead of growing —  on input.

I use my KPI technique with them and it works very well!

They have excel files with their KPIs.
Below are some of them, which you can use as inspiration to create yours.

  • Focus during the training
  • Hours of training
  • Focus during the game
  • Discipline before the game
  • Discipline after the game

At the end of each day, they fill out the excel file, marking each of the KPIs from 1-10.
And I don’t care about the result of the game or tournament.
All I care about are their KPIs. How well did they score?

They don’t need to “answer” for their bad moves but they do need to explain when they have a “3” marked under the column “focus during the game.”

Try it, my friend.
You can make your own KPIs, as well as additional indicators that suit you.

I also use KPIs in areas I want to improve.
But as I’m retired from professional chess and my chess growth isn’t a priority for me, I don’t have chess KPIs 😁
But I have many related to ChessMood and coaching.

For each year, month, week and every day!
I measure myself every day, reminding myself to focus on input.
I even have KPIs for my rest days, where I measure the quality of my rest.

It may sound like a boring life, but it isn’t.
Actually, it's fun, when you’re honest with yourself, laugh at yourself when you do stupid things, fix them and see how you grow. And the biggest joy comes from seeing amazing results — the outcome 😊

Good luck

Often when you focus on growth, you might have setbacks. You get out of your comfort zone and focus where you’re weak. Your rating may temporarily go down but don’t worry about this.

Have you read my article “How I Achieved 2900 on Chess.com”?
Or Gabuzyan’s “Crossing the Plateau and Reaching 3000 on Chess.com”?

If you remember, we both made it, by stepping back and focusing on growth. Then the rating followed us like a shadow.

Hopefully, you’ll focus on growth and not results!
And if you haven’t read those articles, you might find lots of tips and inspiration there.

Wishing you the courage to detach yourself from the results, shut up the ego, and figure out what matters.

Looking forward to reading your success stories in our forum.

For your growth,
GM Avetik

Originally published Nov 21, 2022

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