GO for it! Mastery and What it Takes to Become One

Segoe Kensaku GO Master Segoe

I subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. This allows me to access any book in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited library provided that I don’t have more than 10 checked out at any one time. I honestly don’t know if it pays for itself because a lot of the books that I end up reading are quite inexpensive but what it does do is introduce me to books I would probably not have been aware of and results in me reading some I would never have considered purchasing.

An example of this is Go with the Flow: How the Great Master of Go Trained His Mind by Hunhyun Cho. Cho is a Go master. According to Cho, Go is a 4,000-year-old game that requires great concentration, training, practice, intelligence, and skill to master. It is played extensively in Japan, China, and South Korea. Cho was born in South Korea but at a young age moved to Japan to train under a Go master referred to as Master Segoe. 

Go board

I love to read about mastery and what it takes to become one, regardless of the field, and how those experiences and lessons might apply in my life and career. And while Cho of course talks a lot about his Go experiences, he does a great job of applying what he has learned on a more universal basis so non-Go players can learn from him and use his wisdom to better their lives. I thought I would highlight ones that resonated with me.

Cho believes that everything starts with training the mind to think positive thoughts and to block out those thoughts, desires, and habits that get in the way of clear thinking. 

Every day must be filled with thoughts that fuel one to carry on happily; thoughts that emanate optimism, creativity, self-confidence, and sound judgment. When one transforms the way one thinks, it triggers a chain reaction in one’s behavior and in the daily routine, which all weaves into a story that ends on the right note. The mind is the most powerful force that brings out the best in oneself.

When we train our minds and develop a solution-oriented mindset, then we begin to see the world as problems to be solved and not roadblocks that prevent us from getting to where we want to go.

In this respect, every single professional Go player is a master in problem solving. To Go players, every problem in the world is bound to have a solution. We are trained over and over, from an early age, to challenge ourselves with seemingly impossible problems but we have always found the way out.

And while it’s important to study the masters and their decision-making processes and how they played their games and the mistakes they made, If one wants to make it to the top and become a master then one must develop one’s own path and creativity and apply it aggressively in one’s own unique way. We have tried to learn from others at CWS while also carving out our unique path that has worked for us for over 50 years. We must always remain humble and flexible recognizing that we can always learn from others but it’s also important that we put our own stamp on the way we do things given our unique culture and history as these have served us so well over the years.

However, once a player has a solid foundation in the basics, it is necessary to go back [to] being an unleashed horse. The game is over at the moment the player decides to play only by the patterns…Go is a mind game, ideas of two players fighting against each other. A player must think differently to play effectively.

The strongest competitive edge is having a style or an approach that sets oneself apart from everyone else. This is something not to be forgotten. At the same time, one needs to be abreast with the next rising approach to doing things.

Like Steve Jobs, he goes on to elucidate that monumental change and improvement only comes from those fearless individuals with enormously creative minds that cannot accept the status quo. They are the ones that catalyze change.

Who changes the world and makes history? History has shown us over and over that it’s those who question the status quo and make the fierce attempt to fix the problem. Likewise, Go survived 4,000 years during which patterns have been continuously developed and discovered. It would not have made this far if it were not for the players who wanted to find out the ‘why’s and the ‘how’s of the established patterns.

The following is something that I can relate to as I find myself thinking a lot about our business and the variables that can influence it for good and bad. Some are obvious and some not so obvious. I am always trying to make connections between things that are not seemingly related which may lead to powerful insights that can help us to avoid risk and capitalize on opportunities. These insights can suddenly appear as epiphanies but they are almost always the byproduct of countless hours thinking about the business and world at large.

“How do you come up with a new move?” Ask any Go player and they will give the same reply; it’s a discovery at the end of a tenacious wrestle with a problem. It is never planned or intended, but hours of grappling with the problem culminates in an Eureka moment.

In order for a particular approach to be well received, it has to win. And a fresh successful approach is never created overnight. It is the manifestation of tirelessly analyzing the opponent, the ability to catch the rival’s weak spot, and the fearless readiness to target that weak spot. The new approach is a creative one, something nobody has had the capacity to imagine before.

Everything and anything we do in our daily life can use some creativity. Sometimes one can be surrounded by ingenuity and not realize it…The mind has to be curious and willing to go through trials-and-error until the expected outcome is achieved to its satisfaction.

This next insight I found to be particularly powerful related to the distinction between book smarts and those who are deep thinking synthesizers of knowledge. The latter is much better equipped and prepared to come up with big ideas that can change the trajectory of a life, firm, industry, country, or world.

Memorized information is volatile and short-term whereas the knowledge acquired through inquiry is stable and long-term. It becomes a strong foundation that improves performance and develop [sic] a well-rounded personality. The answers to the inquiry may not always be what is looked for. However, there is little to regret and more courage to take responsibility of the choices one makes based on those self-earned answers…The joy of enlightenment is overwhelming. When such inquiry-based approach in life becomes a habit, and not to mention, the more it is repeated the better we become at it and the faster we can get to the answers. Above all, it becomes a fortress that guards one against any troubles in life and gives the space to strategize and launch a counter-attack with confidence.

[T]he general of an armed forces is called a ‘general’ because that individual has the outstanding ability to read the situation and anticipate how events would unfold at the battlefield. Such ‘general’ approach is much needed in every corner of our society.

Being a master means understanding the intricate invisible links between the territories and being able to build new links.

I have to agree. It is infinitely more satisfying to come up with a powerful insight or idea then to regurgitate a fact like a piece of trivia. To survive and prosper over numerous economic and financial cycles requires having the ability to look at the big picture and scan the environment for relevant data and inputs to help gain some level of clarity to make strategic choices that guide the direction of the firm and our capital allocation decisions. This can never be accomplished from textbooks but takes a great deal of experience and broad thinking. Of course, we need focused sharpshooters in the firm but the strategic decisions almost always emanate from broader levels of thinking and corresponding insights. 

As a political science major, I particularly like what Cho has to say about the importance of studying the humanities.

The humanities have an important role to play here. They serve as a framework to gain in-depth understanding of the world and humanity. We get to trace the footprint of mankind in history, philosophy, science, and the arts and look at the world and our future with a wider perspective. When we put things into perspective, preludes to larger events become visible, giving insight and moving us to prepare for what is to unfold.

Cho goes on to say that once you’ve developed the skills, creativity, and persistence to rise to the top, then one now has to develop a powerful sense of self and mental fortitude to stay on top to compete against and beat the top players. To do this requires a very strong character, a subject to which he devotes a fair amount of time.

Above all, a player must have a strong core or the mental strength to bear the pressure of playing with the best players. The skills will take the player to the top, but to stay on the top, one needs the character to bear the weight of the crown…Character is revealed in one’s every word, gesture, and behavior, therefore, it becomes the yardstick of one’s reputation. One’s reputation is established before one realizes it.

Character allows one to use intelligence and talent in the right way. Without the befitting character, one is bound to think in ill-disciplined ways and make destructive decisions. Without  [a] righteous mind one is unable to choose the right thing to do, chances are one ends up with facing ruins…So it is crucial to train oneself to think right. One’s choices and actions are [a] reflection of how one thinks. To get a better idea of a person, pay attention to the choices that person makes instead of what is spoken. A single decision will give a more accurate picture than a thousand words.

One’s thoughts grow like a tree, branching out in the direction of the sun. But one wrong turn can forever change the course of the branch. I believe rules and the moral code, no matter how trivial they may seem, must be internalized every day, so that they make up the strong foundation of one’s character to think right and act right.

Along with proper training, strong mental control rooted in great character, it’s vital that players tame their emotions so they can learn to become even-keeled when it comes to winning and losing.

Training to control emotions no matter under what circumstances precedes perfecting skills. Only those who can keep calm get to climb to the summit.

Master Segoe warned that those used to feeling flattered from winning are not able to bear being defeated. In order to win, one must have the experience of losing one thousand times until one becomes strong enough to treat victory and defeat as business-as-usual.

Two important lessons I’ve learned at CWS is to always focus on the long game and don’t sacrifice that for short cuts and seeking instant gratification. In addition, one wins as much by not losing (i.e. not losing money) as making money. Of course, you can’t make money if you lose money so you have to cover the downside first and then focus on the upside. Cho addresses these two points.

When one is blinded by immediate gains, one fails to foresee three or four moves ahead, compromising the positions on the board. A Go master never becomes too excited when a position that can bring immediate advantage comes into view.

Victory is reserved for those who avoid making a bad move, not those who make a move akin to the stroke of a genius. In the real world, however, one may be forced to make a bad move with knowledge that it may bring more harm than good because of circumstantial issues, or to stick to one’s principles.

Victory is reserved for those who avoid making a bad move, not those who make a move akin to the stroke of a genius. In the real world, however, one may be forced to make a bad move with knowledge that it may bring more harm than good because of circumstantial issues, or to stick to one’s principles.Click To Tweet

GO and Investing in Apartments

One of the great things about investing in apartments is that one can be more deliberate and thoughtful when deploying capital. Of course, there are times when one has to act swiftly in order to beat out the competition for a deal or to take advantage of attractive financing that might be short-lived, but these can be actions that are a byproduct of a thoughtful strategy and methodical approach to growth and capital deployment. Cho speaks to this as well.

The pursuit of speed came with a price. Speed gives the pleasure, the thrill, and the excitement. But quick games have no place for vigilance and foresight. The habit of playing speedy games does not prepare one to think it through when caution is required. Instead, the disposition to rush through making a decision kicks in. People have become too spontaneous often these days. They put feelings before reason and allow their emotions to be in charge of their behavior. They act on impulse and make mistakes they regret afterwards.

Life is long and to be successful in life, much thought has to be given to each move. Over time, one will be in control of one’s thoughts and become capable of making optimal decisions even at the face of pressing issues. Those who play with fast hands have been incubated for tens of thousands of hours, training to think through their moves. Likewise, our mind can be turned into a faster powerful thinking tool with training.

Cho has a lot more to offer but those are some of the most important insights that I found to be the most relevant. Now it’s time to GO for it by putting them into action!

2 comments on “GO for it! Mastery and What it Takes to Become One
  1. Jason Ewell says:

    Great thoughts! I’m intrigued to give the book a study!

  2. Mark Skowronski says:

    Perhaps less philosophical is Steve Jobs take on learning how to win. He simply said “Success is a lousy teacher”.

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