Brain Power – working as an artist at Truscribe requires enormous amounts of it. From creating visual concepts based on client scripts to communicating effectively with creative agencies and coworkers to executing the final drawings under the scrutiny of the video camera – the demand on my brain power is considerable. So it’s imperative that I’m able to recharge my mental engine and stay sharp. But how?
Relaxation and downtime are essential to recuperating, but developing mental habits that keep one’s faculties fresh goes a long way in maintaining mental acuity. There are many approaches to this – going to the gym, reading, working on a puzzle, and meditation to name just a few. Whatever method you end up choosing, it’s critical that you enjoy doing it – otherwise you’ll find yourself not only bored, but likely frustrated as well.
As for me, I enjoy playing games to hone my edge. In my view, games are a way of developing one’s mental faculties without spending a lot of money or engaging in the repetitive exertions often associated with work. And after all, the whole point of games is that they’re fun! With so many designer tabletop games available today it can be difficult to choose one. For me though, the most fun and challenging game by far is also one of the oldest – Chess.
Chess has been around a long time, and though it’s not my purpose here to tell its history, it’s worth mentioning that it has been played in virtually every country on Earth for hundreds of years. Chess features many of the very same aspects that make modern tabletop games so exciting: planning, resource management, position, observation, problem solving, creativity, quick thinking and a point system. There is even a new version of chess called Chess960 wherein players begin the game in random starting positions.
To the uninitiated chess may appear dull and complex, and with good reason. The dullness comes from its lack of color, I think, and from the seemingly tedious placement of the pieces. The complexity of the interactions of those pieces can be daunting to learn; to these criticisms I often respond with an analogy. Chess is like a grand piano – though colorless and expansive in its potential variations, the music and raw emotion that a skilled player can evoke from the keyboard can leave one breathless. And while it’s hardly likely that you’ll find yourself moved in such a way while playing chess, the game holds much of the subtlety, rhythm, and symmetry found in music.
Ultimately, I hold chess in high esteem because it’s both fun to play and it thoroughly engages all of my mental faculties. Since beginning to play years ago I’ve noticed several things owed to consistent playing: First, there’s the thrill of strengthening one’s raw cognitive power – critical reasoning and lateral thinking. I’ve found that even though chess is merely a board game, the skills I’ve learned from playing are applicable to many real world situations. Secondly, chess teaches one to be observant. In much the same way drawing can be described as “truly seeing,” chess makes obvious the often obscured forces of cause and effect. Thirdly, chess is competitive in the best way – it is fundamentally a contest against oneself. One is constantly driven to outdo oneself and learn from mistakes, searching for the next preconception to conquer. Finally, above all else, it’s taught me the value of patience.
With 10^40 possible legal positions and 10^120 possible unique games (that’s more atoms than in the known universe!!), chess is hardly in danger of becoming boring or repetitive anytime soon. What’s more, since chess is a game with enormous global popularity you can play people from all walks of life. I’ve played folks from Greece, Ethiopia, Russia, Sweden, France, Denmark, Mexico, and Brazil to name a few.
There are many ways to maintain and grow your brain power. As we age it is critical to maintain an active mind. No matter which method you find most appealing, its important to stay mentally active and engaged. Challenge yourself – and grow your brain power!
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