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people playing chess

Life is like a game of chess

Christian challenges us to take a new path


Written by Christian Tierney and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


"Don’t be afraid to break the rules and make your own moves, all of the greats did."

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In many ways, life is similar to a game of chess. Every move you make will somehow affect the overall outcome of the game and many of these moves are irreversible. If life is a game of chess, I feel like the standard system of life that society has given us and told us to follow is like a handbook of how to never lose a game of chess, a step by step guide of moves that if we make without any mistakes, will almost eliminate the possibility of failure.

Ever since you were a child, you’ve been forced into this system because it’s the “right” thing to do and it’s the “safe” thing to do. You were given the handbook with all of the steps on how to never lose your chess game and you were told to follow them meticulously. The steps go something like; go to school, work hard to get good grades, get into college, get a degree that will allow you to settle into a job that will pay well, pay taxes, have children, pass on the handbook, retire and then ultimately, die. Notice how there’s no mentioning of dreams, interests or personal aspirations in this foolproof plan, that’s because they’re considered to be risky moves that may throw your game off course.

This system that I’ve just described was designed by normal people like you and me as a means of security and comfort, as a way to never lose. I see this as being the same as drawing in a game of chess. If you draw in every game, you can never, ever lose. That’s a fact. Some people are happy to take the safe option of following the steps and drawing in every single game, and that’s absolutely fine if that’s what you want to do. The only thing about always drawing is, you can never win either. If you follow the steps without ever making a single mistake you’re almost guaranteed to have a comfortable life but only in some extreme cases will you reach your full potential and win.

Many people are led to believe that there is only one single path to success in life. As someone who recently finished secondary school, it broke my heart to see people stressing themselves out to the point of depression and panic attacks to get into a college course that they have no interest in, just because their parents told them it’s the correct and only way to succeed. Just like there are millions of combinations of moves you can make to win a chess game, there are a million different paths you can take in life to succeed and get where you want to be, not just the one you’re given.

You don't have to follow the status quo

Don’t get me wrong, these steps can be important and helpful in getting you started, especially in the beginning, I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to school. What I’m trying to say is that to achieve greatness and to reach your full potential, I think you eventually have to ignore the steps set out for you and start making your own moves, even if that means breaking the rules. The point at which you put the handbook down and start playing for yourself completely depends on who you are and what you want to do.

If you want to be a surgeon then you obviously have to study for many years and follow the steps of how to become a qualified surgeon, similarly if you want to be a pilot then you have to take all of the tests and learn how to properly fly a plane, but many careers and goals don’t require such a linear path to success.

There are teenagers failing exams in school who are building world changing apps and machines in their bedrooms because they ignored the steps, took the initiative to teach themselves coding on the internet and are now way more successful than all of the people in school who told them they were crazy and all of the teachers who told them they were failures.

Before The Beatles, bands didn’t play their own songs, an A&R person would find songs written by others for them to play. The Beatles decided that they didn’t want to follow that system so they wrote almost everything themselves and were turned down by every record label in Liverpool at the time. Eventually they prevailed and became the biggest band in the world. If they had done what they were originally told and played songs that were written by someone else then they never would have succeeded on the scale that they did.

If Steve Jobs did what everyone else in the computer industry was doing at the time he started Apple, it never would have grown to be one of the most recognised and successful brands in the world.

People might laugh at your idea of winning but they’re the ones who will draw or maybe even lose when you win. Don’t be afraid to break the rules and make your own moves, all of the greats did. How life greatly differs to chess is that you only get to play once, you don’t get any rematches so play your game exactly how you want to play it, and don’t let anyone else play it for you.

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Published January 12th, 2016
Last updated January 21st, 2016
Tags opinion life
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