The Queen’s Gambit

Just because I’m an accountant doesn’t mean I’m immune from stupid financial decisions. I too have taken a few courses from the school of hard knocks. Overcoming personal stupidity is almost always a surgical affair. If correcting stupidity doesn’t hurt, this dumb action usually returns. Maybe not for everyone, but it does for the stubborn… of which I am a member.

This month I am turning sixty and I’m waxing nostalgic. Reflecting back on my actions and in-actions; those that tore my life apart negatively and those actions that brought me life have been sobering. In my solace, I have concluded one ‘hack’ that produces the highest return on investment. I call it the Queen’s Gambit (a chess term).

The Queen’s Gambit was immortalized during the game of the century on October 17, 1956, when the 13-year-old future world champion, Bobby Fisher played Donald Borne in New York City. In this match, Bobby sacrificed his queen for a better position and ultimately won the game. It was an incredible series of moves that was difficult to fathom from a grand master, not to mention a 13-year-old boy.

It was a move that at face value was counterproductive but in the placement of the game, produced the win. It took guts and confidence. Life sometimes requires that same guts and confidence to change the trajectory of the game.

Life’s “Queen’s Gambit” to me is an aggressive handling of pride and revenge. In business and personal relationships, giving up revenge or retribution has huge returns. Every time I gathered my courage to do so catapulted my opportunities to a much higher level.

However, using chess as a life metaphor has its disadvantages. In chess, there is only one winner and one loser. In life, there are many other combinations: Winner/Loser, Loser/Winner, Winner/Winner, and Loser/Loser. If life’s “Queen’s Gambit” is used consistently and properly, you can usually guide progress to a Win/Win.

I’m reminded of Harry Helmsley, a New York real estate developer who bought a building with the intent of demolishing it and building new. The New York Historical Society fought him through the courts for five years to preserve it. In the end… they won. After millions of dollars spent and very harsh words became the norm between them, Harry was forced to recondition the building rather than demolish it. He promptly hired the New York Historical Society to manage the projects renovations. He laid aside his animosity and won over his adversary. Harry laid down his pride for a better position in the game of real estate development.

I was in a very tenuous situation a few years ago; a situation of deep pain and loss. I had the immediate opportunity to act with retribution against someone who absolutely deserved it. I paused and strategically chose NOT to retaliate but to offer full immunity, grace, and opportunity. I had to lay down every ounce of pride I had. It was so staggering I had many family members and associates shocked and in wonder. It took only about a year, and I regained the trust of both the offended and the offender. I turned a Lose/Lose into a Win/Win at the cost of my pride. It was well worth the cost. I wish I had done that earlier in my life. It would have saved me much sorrow and further loss.

Being 40+ years in business I have come to conclude that Shakespeare was right when he said… “I have met the enemy… and it is I”. If I can just get over my ego, most of my problems would usually solve themselves. I must sacrifice what I seem to value the most, to get what is truly best.

Financial habits are almost always built around our own pride, not our intellect. We often THINK that it’s intelligence that we act on but it’s nearly always some form of pride or arrogance. Attitudes of ‘I deserve’ or ‘It’s finally time’ or some self-deceiving justification scheme that ultimately is rooted in somehow being entitled.

If I am totally honest, I’m usually challenged by my wife to evaluate financial choices. She is much more astute to my intent than I seem to be. My choices are almost always selfish and proud in nature (sometimes fear, but that’s for another article).

Being a decade closer to some form of retirement is a good time for reflecting. Taking the time to be honest about past failures is a great investment. At my age, I can’t afford to make many more bad choices or justify bad financial habits. Playing the Queen’s Gambit (laying aside one’s pride for future success) is the most powerfully beneficial move we can make. I wish I knew about it when I was in my 30’s or even 20’s.

About the Author:
Robert D. Scheper is a leading Accountant and Consultant exclusively serving the Lease/Owner operator industry in Canada. His first book in the Making Your Miles Count series “taxes, taxes, taxes” was released in 2007. His second book “Choosing a Trucking company” is the most in-depth analysis of the independent operator industry today. He has a Master’s degree (MBA) in financial management and has been serving the industry since he and his wife came off the road in 1993. His dedication, commitment and strong opinions can be read and heard in many articles and seminars.

You can find him at or 1-877-987-9787.

About Robert Scheper

Robert D Scheper operates an accounting and consulting firm in Steinbach, Manitoba. He has a Masters Degree in Business Administration and is the author of the Book “Making Your Miles Count: taxes, taxes, taxes” (now available on CD). You can find him at and or at 1-877-987-9787. You can e-mail him at: