Treading the Path Influencers Lay Out

Bobby Fischer, My Influencer

Thinking Deep Ahead, Evolving / Executing Win Strategies with Finesse and Time Management are Key

Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer

Late chess maestro Robert James Fischer (popularly known as Bobby Fischer), who I hold as the greatest player ever, is one person I have been influenced by.

To me, he is an Influencer but not in the LinkedIn way or in a business sense both of which carry an element of marketing. Influencers in business are those seen as enabling buying decisions of potential customers.

No Broad Brush: I admire, and have had respect for, many others. If I use a broad brush and declare they are all my influencers I may end up being dubbed irrational or, at best, ingenuous.

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. Have they helped you shape your ideas?
  2. What is the impact they have had on your behaviours?
  3. How have they changed your life – the way you work, think and act?
  4. They may be inspirational personalities but what have you done to embrace their ideas and what they represent?

Some of those I admire are:

  • Bill Gates – considered the greatest philanthropist ever (with Microsoft Magazine having marked my foray into the IT sector)
  • Alexander Graham Bell (the man who invented the phone but never kept one in his study room as he thought it could hinder his research work – got to learn a lot about him during my days at Lucent – parent company of Bell Labs),
  • Benjamin Franklin, a printer by trade, a scientist by fame, and a man of action by all accounts — His Well done is better than well said is one of my favourite quote
  • William Shakespeare

    William Shakespeare

    William Shakespeare – An inspiration for any student of English Literature and writer! One of his memorable quotes that have withstood centuries, remaining pertinent even now: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”

  • Johannes Guthenberg, publisher and inventor of the printing press – having started my career as a journalist, though in the offset era, he holds some relevance for me
  • Archimides – Who can forget Eureka, an enduring expression of spontaneous joy from inventions!
  • Mother Teresa, who had nothing but love for the poorest of the poor and dedicated her life serving them in India
  • Lady Diana, an epitome of beauty who was deep into charity work and is rightly remembered as the People’s Princess
  • Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes star in Baz Lurhmann's version of Shakespeare's ultimate love story Romeo and Juliet. Photograph: Allstar/20 CENTURY ...

    Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes star in Baz Lurhmann’s version of Shakespeare’s ultimate love story Romeo and Juliet. Photograph: Allstar/20 CENTURY …

    Mahatma Gandhi – his non-violent movement for India’s Independence caught the world’s attention and Indians remember him as the Father of the Nation, assassinated by a Hindu fanatic

  • Thomas Alva Edison, considered the most influential person of the millennium, with the light bulb being among many of his inventions
  • Copernicus / Gallileo / Pythagaros – Their finding that “Planet Earth revolves around the sun” triggered a conflict with the Church which was seen as abhorring science. Modern science, though, is seen evolving new theories. Change, after all, is the beauty of science where nothing is left unchallenged.
  • Bjorn Borg, tennis legend  who charmed fans with his powerful ground strokes, baseline effectiveness and a calm disposition

… and many more.

Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg

Did I go Down Their Path?: When I look at whether I tread the path they laid out I realize they have been my influencers only in a limited sense.

It will be an exercise in whimsicality if I consider them my influencers without even having an inkling of what difference they have made to me in terms of my ideas, attitudes and successes.

Brilliance and Eccentricities: I can, however, say with certainty that Fischer drew me to chess with his strategic brilliance and eccentricities that caught the world’s eye and popularised the game. He is an influencer because his games inspired me (and many others worldwide) to start playing chess.

It is his game and control over 64 squares that mattered, NOT the tantrums he threw up or his petulance or maverick verbal aggression.

I never had the opportunity to watch him make his moves live but have known a national champion who had played against him. At a tournament in Stockholm, eight times Indian national champion and International Master Manuel Aaron lost to Fischer, the eventual champion.

Game that Shook the World: During my chess-playing days, I got to closely review the games played by Fischer. He could think at least 15 moves ahead, confounding pundits with his daring, innovative and winning forays.

One of his games is still considered the game of the century. He was only 13 years old when he came up with that masterly display – offering a knight sacrifice on move 11 (that could not be accepted) and following it up in move 17 with a spectacular Queen sacrifice leading to a brilliant win. The two moves were considered the most magnificent ones made on a chessboard.

Young Fischer

Young Fischer

Chess and Corporate Success: In one of my blog posts earlier, I had argued that it is finesse, not fanfare, that is key to winning. Both chess and corporate success require strategic planning and a quiet execution with a readiness to pounce on opportunities that open up.

At the same time, a tactical approach can only be forsaken at your own risk. Thinking deep ahead, sound time management, a distinct ability to fortify your turf and attacking the opponent with finesse are some common attributes that contribute to the desired outcome..

Simultaneous Display: Incidentally, I had beaten Aaron in a simultaneous display he gave at the St. Mary’s Anglo-Indian High School where I studied.

He played against 20 of us and I was the only one to win. A simultaneous win, however, is hardly a success barometer as there is no level-playing field – a champion taking on 20 or more youngsters!.

Great gesture: My win was featured in the school magazine and one evening when I went to the Tal Chess Club in Chennai I was pleasantly surprised to find the report displayed at the notice board there.

That was a great gesture from Aaron, who was a source of great inspiration for all chess enthusiasts visiting the club that can take credit for grooming the country’s best players, including Anand.

Positive Impact: An Influencer, to me, is someone who can be an inspiration to others, someone who makes a positive impact by making people want to follow him or her.

Fischer, the Deadly GamesmanThough I stopped playing competitive chess long ago, I still have a go at the game whenever I have the opportunity to do so. Moreover, the skills I gained have professional application in the corporate world I straddle.

Fischer will always be one for me. It is a pity, though, that he remained a recluse running from one country to another, surrendering his American passport, leading a life in obscurity and spewing profanity against the Jews (his mother was a Jew) and the U.S.!

Modi an Influencer to Some: There are people in LinkedIn who consider the likes of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as their Influencers. They may have admiration for him or find him inspiring but holding him as an Influencer will require deeper thought.

If you like his ideologies and are trying to adopt them then that is appropriate. Listing out who you consider your influencers may give one an idea of who you are, the ideas you assimilate and your political affiliations.

Accepting what is relevant and leaving out what you do not condone is a mature approach though there is a danger of that resulting in some confusion. After all, Hitler’s leadership style has been written about in LinkedIn which also saw a thought piece from US Presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton recently.

Fan Club, an Individual Choice: If you want to make a professional networking portal a fan club that is your individual choice none can have an issue with.

Mr Modi was chief minister of Gujarat during 2001-2014 when his business-friendly policies transformed the State into a thriving economy.

But he was also considered a religious fanatic and a proponent of majoritarianism. He may have been exonerated by the courts but the taint will remain and continue to haunt him.

It was during his reign there in 2002 that more than 2000 people were killed in religious riots that made the U.S. and many other countries blacklist him and deny visas. Now, though, they are vying with one another to roll out the red carpet for him.

Sifting the Good from the Bad: In conclusion, I hold Fischer as an influencer in life as well as in my work. His ability to think deep ahead and quickly evolve win strategies made him the greatest chess champion ever. I have tried to keep that style in my clutch as it is relevant in my line of work.

It is not in my personality to exhibit any unorthodox behaviour in a free-spirited fashion that Fischer came to be associated with. His core strength remained chess and his aberrations are alien to me! They do not define him either!

G Joslin Vethakumar


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