#1685 Magnus’s Mental Toughness

Lessons in Chess and Life

One of my life’s greatest joys is listening to Emerson talk about his chess heroes the same way I used to talk about my favorite baseball players.

Magnus Carlsen. Hikaru Nakamura. Wesley So. Fabiano Caruana.

Those are some of the greatest chess Grandmasters alive and some of Emerson’s favorite players.

Emerson has watched dozens and dozens of hours of Hikaru streaming while playing—narrating his every move and providing an incredible insight into how he thinks and plays.

Then there’s Fabiano and Wesley—two extraordinary players who also seem to be really good, thoughtful human beings.


Then there’s Magnus Carlsen.

If you know anything about chess, you know that he is considered the greatest chess player of all time.

I highly recommend the documentary (appropriately called Magnus) on his life and family. It’s fantastic and has inspired how we’re approaching life and chess with our big guy.


What I find *most* inspiring about Magnus is what is arguably his most underrated secret weapon: his mental toughness.

Here’s a fun story to make the point…

Not too long ago, Emerson and I were watching the Champions Chess Tour.

Although not quite at the level of the NFL or NBA or MLB, millions of people love playing (and watching!) chess and the production value of the broadcasts sharing these big matches is already really good and constantly getting better.


For this tournament, the pre-match announcers are in a studio *right* next to the players.

As the players enter the area where they’ll be playing, they can hear the announcers talking about them and their upcoming matches.

(Imagine that!)

Of course, as pundits in all domains tend to do, these guys are making predictions about who is going to win WHILE the players who are about to play are so close they can HEAR their predictions.

(Imagine that!)


The tournament ends.

Magnus wins.

He’s being interviewed by those same guys who were doing the pre-match commentary.

They clearly all like one another.


At the end of their chat right before he’s about to leave the studio, Magnus says something along the lines of: “Btw. I heard you guys predict I was going to lose to so-and-so.”

The announcer guys get a little uncomfortable and say something along the lines of: “Oh!! THAT?!? We just had to say something interesting. You know… Uh… We can’t predict you’re going to win EVERY game!”

To which Magnus smiles and says something along the lines of: “Don’t worry about it. It made me play better. I was fired up to prove you wrong.”


What’s interesting is the fact that there was ANOTHER guy who ALSO heard the announcers predict HE was going to lose.


He didn’t take it so well. In fact, he got super annoyed and… he wound up being eliminated from the tournament early.


I was chatting with Emerson and Eleanor about this on one of our weekend drives to Whole Foods.

We were talking about Magnus Carlsen’s mental toughness and his ability to use people’s criticisms as FUEL to enhance his performance not diminish it.

Then Eleanor tells a story about a kid at the park who told her she couldn’t run fast enough to tag her.

To which, apparently, Emerson said: “You shouldn’t have said that.”

To which Eleanor followed up with: “Oh yah?! Watch me.”

Then she smoked him. (Hah.) (Proud dad.)

To which I said: “That’s EXACTLY how Magnus approached it. Well done. 👏”


That’s Today’s +1.

Do you have some critics/pundits barking in your ear about how you can’t do the thing you know you CAN do?


It’s all fuel.

Flip the switch.

Focus your energy on dominating your protocol.

Forge your antifragile confidence.

With a smile.


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