4 Blunders That Cost A World Championship Title

Michael Rosenberg had just won the World Teams Bridge Championship. Right after this victory, he was playing the finals of the world pairs bridge championship with Bob Hamman, widely regarded as one of the greatest players ever. 

Rosenberg played a deal badly. One that he should have gotten right any day of the week. He recounts coming up with several excuses. He was tired from having just played in the World Teams Championship. He had to be up at 7 AM. The playing time was cruel. Etc.

And this mistake cost them the World Pairs Championship and he finished second.

Later, he was sitting with Hamman in a restaurant. They discussed the above deal. Instead of being disappointed at not winning, Hamman asked a technical question about the end position. It turns out that even after starting the hand incorrectly, Rosenberg could have salvaged the deal. In Rosenberg’s words:

After having butchered the hand so badly, the opportunity was still there to do something really good.

And what about Hamman? After watching his partner murder the play and lose the event, he was still able to put his finger on a fascinating aspect of the hand. Not only a great player, but also a true ‘student’ of the game. If I ever grow up, I want to have his attitude. 

Me too. If I ever grow up, I’d like to have Bob Hamman’s attitude.

And while we are at it. Michael Rosenberg is known as the expert’s expert for his technical knowledge of bridge. He puts that label aside, and writes candidly about an incident where he made a mistake. This strikes me as humility at its finest.

If I ever grow up, I’d like to have Michael Rosenberg’s attitude.

Comforting a Person In a Layoff

The dot com bust affected all companies in Silicon Valley. Netflix was no different. They were spending more money than they were bringing in and had to make cuts.

In particular, they had to do a round of layoffs.

In his book That Will Never Work, Marc Randolph recounts the day at Netflix when the layoffs were made. (By the way, Swamiji’s article on this book is a must-read). The day was filled with much crying and a surfeit of emotions. It was terrible for the people doing the firing as well as the people being fired.

Getting fired has to be one of the worst experiences in a person’s life. Their self-worth is undermined. They feel powerlessness. There is a sense of insecurity – how will they pay their bills? What will they tell their family? Will they get another job? If yes, when?

After the layoffs were done with, Randolph and his colleague Joel Mier just sat there and tossed a soccer ball back and forth. An employee walked up towards Marc. It was an engineer Marc had hired many years ago. A hard worker, a skilled coder, a nice guy. He had one of those who had been fired.

In Randolph’s words: 

“Sorry Marc”, he started. “I don’t want to interrupt you, but I wanted to come back and make sure you were okay. This must have been really tough on you.” 

I held the soccer ball and cocked my head. I didn’t know how to answer. It didn’t make sense. He’d just been laid off and he was wondering if I was okay?

Allow me to get this straight. The person who got fired came and consoled the person who did the firing. 

If I ever grow up, I’d like to be that person.

Maintaining Serenity when Abused

I was returning from a trip and exited the Central railway station in Chennai. I noticed a middle-aged gentleman was pushing his suitcase (with wheels), and it hit another person by mistake. The person who got hit got furious. He went on a tirade. I was at a distance, I couldn’t hear what he said, but it was clear that he was hurling abuses.

Now, this wasn’t even a major accident. It was a minor snafu at best. The person who got hit should ideally have brushed this off and gone along his way. An involuntary exclamation in anger is certainly understandable. The diatribe was out of line and a clear overreaction.

If the abuses were hurled at me, I certainly would have protested in indignation, saying that while I am sorry for hitting him with the suitcase, the abuses were uncalled for.

I took a look at the person who was receiving the abuse. His face was supremely serene. It was unbelievably calm. I did not think anyone who was being abused was capable of exhibiting a composed countenance. I will never forget this face.

I wish I had stayed back to see how this unfolded. I went along my way, but my best guess is that the calm person would have calmly apologised for the inconvenience, and spoken more soothing words.

If I ever grow up, I’d love to be so calm and serene when I am on the receiving end of a diatribe.

“I Married an Auto-driver. My Life is Ruined.”

An auto-rickshaw driver whom we have known for 20 years told us this story of his marriage.

As with a lot of marriages in Chennai, he had an arranged marriage. He married someone who knew his family closely.

His wife was miserable the instant she got married.

“I married an auto-driver. My life is ruined”, she told herself, and she told him.

She refused to speak to him. At all. For a year and a half.

Her husband remained sympathetic and understanding. “Her perspective is reasonable, I get it”, he said. He felt there was only one thing under his control. 

Patience.

He exercised it for a year and a half. 

His wife saw that he was a remarkable man for this superhuman display of patience, apologised for her petulance, and they have lived a happy marriage.

If I ever grow up, I’d like to have his attitude.

Image Credit: Frederico Respini from Unsplash

Note: I had written this post and scheduled to publish it today. It is a remarkable coincidence that Swamiji wrote about growing up in Grow Up.

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Prahalad Rajkumar

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