There are hidden lessons about entrepreneurship, business, and leadership buried inside of Netflix's new hit limited series The Queen's Gambit. Let's explore these lessons and get a glimpse of how The Queen's Gambit can directly effect our entrepreneurial journey.
The Queen's Gambit forces us to realize that everyone is a media company. You're listening to Synaptic Alchemy, the art and science of turning ideas into gold. A show about entrepreneurs and innovators and how they turn ideas into gold by examining the world through the alchemical transformation. I'm your host, Steven Cardinale. On today's show, we examine how The Queen's Gambit from Netflix can teach us many important hidden lessons about the ability to game our entrepreneurial story. Before we get started, make sure you like, subscribe, and leave a comment on this pod. When you subscribe, wherever you listen, you'll make sure you don't miss out on ideas or frameworks and mindsets all designed to give you an edge from going from good to great, to extraordinary to alchemical. Remember to pick up your copy of Synaptic Alchemy wherever you buy your books, whether that's Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple you name it. You'll find a smorgasbord of information to guide you towards turning your ideas into gold. Now on with the pod. The Queen's Gambit is Netflix's most recent juggernaut. A limited series generating 62 million viewers and sitting as Netflix's biggest, limited scripted series ever. The show's global reach-ranking number one in 63 countries, including the UK, Argentina, Israel and South Africa-and achieving a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, when it launched, provides ample support for both its popularity, as well as his cross-cultural reach. Although the show is work of fiction and drama, it holds many lessons to learn that can be applied to all of our entrepreneurial lives. Lessons both about the core ideas involved in making the show as well as core concepts about success, in general. Of course, these ideas are the most fun to explore through the lens of alchemy, the alchemy of The Queen's Gambit. So let's take a dive into The Queen's Gambit and our top five lessons for entrepreneurs, executives, and business in general. 1.) What are you doing? You might think that you are a software company, or a manufacturer, or a retailer, or any of 1,000 other companies. You're not. The Queen's Gambit forces us to realize that EVERYONE IS A MEDIA COMPANY. Yep, everyone. Even if you are not directly involved in production, you are a media company, In today's age, we no longer have the three network channels of the fifties and sixties. And we no longer have the 500 channels of the eighties and nineties. We all now essentially have an infinite number of channels to consume content. This means that just like the quote from Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, stated in a Wall Street essay back in 2011, "software is eating the world," we now have a corollary, "content is eating the world". The Queen's Gambit made chess, fashionable accessible, and exciting. Mary Higbee director of marketing at Goliath games, said that in October, before The Queen's Gambit premiere, sales for chest sets were up 178% over the same period last year. But then something happened, at the end of October when The Queen's Gambit was released, "our chess sales are up 1,048%" that's a 10 X increase. Chest.com saw an increase of 378,000 players in March of 2020. But that number pales in comparison to the more than 100,000 per day-yes, that's a per day number-of new signups. Even Google searches are experiencing a massive increase of 500% for the term "how to play chess" after the show's premiere. So what does all this mean for you as an entrepreneur? It means that even though you may not think of yourself as a media company, all companies today are media companies. The Synaptic Alchemy idea of Nigredo, the first step, "destroy something," comes into full play here. Destroying the idea that you were just a "fill in the blank" company has, has to go by the wayside. Having a media strategy--doesn't have to be a produce an award-winning Netflix series strategy--is vital to succeed in today's business landscape. Apply this to your company overall, the project you were working on or your personal brand. Getting your idea or name in front of a large audience is critical. 2.) Fitting in is overrated. If you are doing what everyone else has already done, don't be surprised when you get the results that everyone else already got. That's definition of average and if you have read this far or are part of the Synaptic Alchemy community. I know one thing for sure. You don't want it to be average. You wants to turn ideas into gold. You want to be extraordinary. You want to be an Alchemist. The costume designer for The Queen's Gambit - Gabriele Binder - understood this intimately and handcrafted the costumes for the main character, Beth, to truly reflect this idea. Gabriele crafted Beth's style to really stand out, which is completely apparent in the scene, when she attends a party with the girls who are essentially dressed the same way. But Beth's individual style has her completely stand out. She even seems to sit a little taller than the other girls. What does this have to do with you entrepreneurship and your company? Everything. Take a look around your organization, your product, or your team, and look at what you are doing that is designed to fit in. Fitting in is not always bad. There are times when conforming to norms is what it takes to win. For example, adhering to regulatory requirements may require looking like everyone else. But could you think differently about fitting in? Destroying a norm - the Nigredo idea of Synaptic Alchemy - and creating a new norm where you can shine. I had this exact experience when I was running my last company. We were in healthcare tech, a highly regulated industry. There were rules up the wazoo that we had to abide by. Everyone in our industry, looked at the rules and did whatever they needed just to get by. That's what's interesting about fitting in. It means by definition that you are average. So instead of just doing what it took to get by the regulatory rules, the team decided to kick the rules in a high gear and do 10x more than what was required. I was truly amazed at how a simple difference in looking at the status quo made such an impact on how our customers looked at us. We went from fitting in to standing out. 3.) Finding someone to learn from. All good leaders, have mentors. Finding role models and mentors is part of the alchemical spark that moves us from average to extraordinary and from extraordinary to alchemical. That's what Beth does in The Queen's Gambit. She's always reading books, watching games, talking with other players. She is completely obsessed with chess and is constantly learning from others. Even from Benny when she plays against him and he was the champion last year at the U S championship. I can tell you, I have a ton - and I mean, hundreds - of role models and mentors that constantly learn from. None of whom I've ever met. They are all between the pages of books and the audio podcasts or the blinking bits of video. The old business adage "Leaders are Readers" really brings this home. Especially for me. I adore consuming knowledge and ideas. I've been made fun of for this trait. As a kid, I wasn't out partying as much as everyone else. I was more like Beth, constantly absorbing - I even played chess while in college, although I haven't touched a board in many years. That's what made the difference for me, for mentors, between the pages in the books and now on the audio and video that I consistently poured into my head. As an executive, a leader, an entrepreneur, a business person, find a few mentors and CONSUME EVERYTHING THEY CREATE. Get obsessed with the concepts of thought leaders. Some of the things they discuss might not work for you. You may not agree with, or you may think are pure garbage. But study them just like Beth studies her chess. 4.). Scale matters. Beth, our chess prodigy in The Queen's Gambit, is never satisfied with staying put. She is constantly on the lookout for ways to expand her circle of influence. She is constantly working on getting to larger events and tournaments. Moving from local Kentucky, where she wins the state title, to the UC Championship in Ohio to the US Open in Vegas and eventually to an international tournament to play the biggest game of her life. Beth is always looking for ways to play more competent, higher-ranked, more well-known players, and to get front of a larger audience. As Beth's chess career explodes, so does her notoriety. That's what scale is all about - being able to expand your circle of influence. This is what the third step - Rubdeo - in Synaptic Alchemy is all about and its description really speaks tothe point:
"Scale Something." The sound bite for Rubedo has always hit me: "Create something Simple enough for Anyone to use and Available enough for Everyone to find." In your alchemical journey how can you build scale? Scale = Awareness. And Scale = Story? What story can you use to describe you personally, your team, your executive leadership, your entrepreneurial ideas, or your company? 5.) You're only as good as your last game. Oh, that's a hard one though. Once we have it an idea, once we have a win, it is tempting to just sit back and reap the rewards. While, there certainly is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of your labor as a leader, executive or entrepreneur, knowing that the wolf is always at the door, pushes us to do the next great thing. Beth knows that. She's written up in the papers after winning tournaments or beating high-ranked players, but that doesn't stop her. Beth's appetite for becoming the best, her passion for pushing herself is what fuels the series. Yes, that passion and obsession comes with a price - addiction, loneliness, awkwardness - so obviously I'm not advocating that type of obsession. However, personally having an eye on future growth, while at the same time vision for your future steps is always a winning combination. This plays out in Synaptic Alchemy when we talk about Big Picture and Little Steps. Always seeing the future while taking the small steps of the present necessary to drive towards that future. What was your last big win? Was it recently or in the distant past? If it was recently ensure that you use scale to build audience recognition of your win. It wasn't a distant past start planning now for your next win. These are just five of the business and entrepreneurial lessons you can learn from The Queen's Gambit. 1.) Cultivate the mindset of a media company. 2.) Work on standing out, not fitting in. 3.) Discover mentors where you can. 4.) Build a bigger audience. 5.) Cultivate a Big Picture &&& Little Steps mindset. I hope you enjoyed today's show, and that you learned something new about the Alchemical Transformation that you can use in your daily work, whether that is as an entrepreneur or an executive. Make sure to like, subscribe, and comment. I read each one and I really appreciate your feedback. Remember to pick up your copy of Synaptic Alchemy wherever you buy your books, whether that's Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, you name it. You'll find a smorgasbord of information to guide you towards turning your ideas into gold. I look forward to seeing you on your alchemical journey.