Got it. After years of deliberate practice of Go, I now can pinpoint the reason why it has stayed with me, and perhaps why Go has sustained its place for thousands of years.
The reason is simple: the ability of the game to cultivate much needed deep learning through intense focus and concentration. That’s it.
After reading the book “Deep work” by Cal Newport, the benefits of the carefully cultivated ability to focus and to concentrate on a single tasks are overly evident: better neurons connections, creating meaningful and high quality work, being extremely productive, living a meaningful and ultimately a satisfied, happy life. In other words – winner in the new economy, learning quickly challenging new things and produce at elite level.
The Go board offers free from digital distraction space for doing deep into focusing on solving problems, survival of groups, claiming larger territory, seeing the bigger picture, connecting ideas and making sacrifices. All of these, simultaneously require the highest level of concentration. The complexity of the simple classic game was well documented through the development of the Alpha Go Deep Mind Challenge – an AI technology tested against human only a few years ago.
The reasons for playing Go, unlike other games, are not necessarily winning. The benefits are the ability to transfer the focus skills to your daily life, professional career and personal commitments. I would like to add playing Go as one of the superpowers of the 21st centuries. In the book ‘Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know about success is (mostly) Wrong) Eric Baker identifies ways to stay focused and to increase your attention span. I would add one more to the list: playing Go.
In her book ‘The Economics of Superstars’, Rosen Sherwin makes clear why we, humans, need to be able to work well with machines and to be able to add something extraordinary to already existing performances.
The role of deliberate practice is to let your mind be the lens of intellectual pursuits. Sophie Leroy examines the psychology of optimal performance in organisational behaviour and human decision process (2009) where the ability to focus on a specific task plays a crucial role.
The game of Go requires a concentration so intense, that there is Go proverbs saying: proverb “Go players are late for their own funeral”. Little surprising is that Go has survived in the same form for millennia and continues to teach humans not only ‘hard’ skill son logical and strategic thinking but also life-long skills of cultivating the ability to go deep and to transplant those skills in every-day life. This is what I call a superpower of 21st century in a world of distractions.
And don’t forget to have fun – Go is just much a game, as it is an art to master.