What life skills does "Rules of the Game" teach us for achieving success?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this story, Waverly’s mother teaches her the art of “invisible strength.”  What that means is that sometimes you can accomplish more by quietly working toward a goal.  Waverly learns to do this with chess.  She learns not to brag or frets about her losses.

An example of this is when Waverly is learning to play from a mentor, one of the men in the park, Lau Po.  When she loses and throws away the pieces, he lets her know that this does not follow chess etiquette.  Part of being a good chess player is learning from your mistakes and not being a sore loser.

Waverly recounts some of the rules she learned about playing chess, including these.

Never announce "Check" with vanity, lest someone with an unseen sword slit your throat.  Never hurl pieces into the sandbox after you have lost a game, because then you must find them again, by yourself, after apologizing to all around you.

In many ways, these are also the rules for life.  Do not brag, especially before you are sure you have won.  Don’t pout and throw tantrums, and if you behave inappropriately, apologize.  These rules apply to life as well as chess.

Another lesson that Waverly learns is that it is okay to be underestimated.  She seems like she is just a sweet little girl, but she packs a powerful punch on the chessboard.  This is valuable for success in life because you can turn your weaknesses to advantages.

Waverly’s mother is not proud, but she does value her daughter’s skills.  She makes Waverly keep practicing even after she is good.  She practices, practices, and practices.  Her mother does not feel that there is such a thing as too much practice.

As she wiped each piece with a soft cloth, she said, "Next time win more, lose less."

"Ma, it's not how many pieces you lose," I said. "Sometimes you need to lose pieces to get ahead."

"Better to lose less, see if you really need."

As far as Waverly’s mother is concerned, appearances are just as important as reality.  She does not care about the actual rules and strategy of chess.  She does not want Waverly to give an inch.  Each piece lost is a little loss.  To Waverly, it matters whether she wins or loses.  To her mother, it matters that she is always winning.  This is another life lesson. You cannot focus too much on the end result.  You win the game a little bit at a time.  It is the same with success.  Success is earned bit by bit along the way, not in one swoop.


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Rules of the Game

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