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  • Matt

Gambling Against God

My spiritual beliefs can be boiled down to a simple notion; Chess against God.

For as long as I can remember, I've felt like I was in a constant conversation with what I can only describe as "God," which encapsulates everyone and everything that I experience in whatever this life is.

Day in, and day out, I'd pray to, thank, curse, and coerce the omniscient being my family and Christian school taught me about. Sometimes God was a benevolent friend, and other times, a fearsome, omnipotent teacher. The only constant was this divine feeling's omnipresence.

Around the same time I started school, I also joined chess club. I took to the game quickly, but felt frustrated when I couldn't beat everyone across the board from me. This desire to win fueled my motivation to learn, and my chess coach stoked that flame. He'd play me, letting me exert the force of the lessons I'd already learned, only to crush me with a new tactic to frustrate me and further fan my flame.

He'd never tell me answers, but always asked tough questions that eventually led to my own earned breakthroughs. He'd frustrate me, sometimes sharing some hints, then lending the best feelings of accomplishment and pride when I improved. This cycle of progress; euphoric victory followed by infuriating defeat leading to another lesson, established a lens to look at life through.

Beyond chess, life felt like a series of hard lessons endured, applied, then overcome. The only difference was no chess coach was seated across from me in real life... or wasn't there? What if God is teaching us the chess game of life? Pattern recognition. Action and reaction. Foresight, strategy, and applied tactics. I use these chess lessons everyday in life, and I'm not limited by 64 squares or 16 pieces. Chess was and is the training wheels teaching me to ride the bike of life.

-- Part 2 --

This past week, I spent three days in the Dominican Republican with titans of the insurance industry.

To be completely honest, I've always resented insurance. I felt like they took advantage of people, and I've had family members suffer through lengthy claims processes and the torture of having to jump through difficult policy hoops to recover money they were owed.

A big insurance carrier company spent ~$500,000 to fly out, feed, and entertain about 50 partners and prospective clients at an incredible resort, Casa De Campo. Plus, partners were invited.

My girlfriend is a bad ass insurance broker with a couple clients in attendance, so when she extended the invite to me, it wasn't a hard decision to say yes.

When I met her, she helped shift my negative perspective of insurance. Sure, there are big corporations and selfish individuals in the space, like any other industry, but overall, insurance is a well-intentioned life-raft for when God throws an unexpected catastrophe at us. It is a collective effort against the uncontrollable devastation that life sometimes serves up.

Like anything else in life, sometimes it goes right, and sometimes it goes wrong, but everyone on this offsite seemed determined to be on the right side of building companies and policies to help people out of situations they couldn't handle on their own.

During the trip, our group made amazing memories riding horses, shooting shotguns, playing golf, simmering in the spa, and embarking on a catamaran to a private island. While on the boat, I had a deep conversation with a British re-insurance broker that left an imprint on me.

The way his passion oozed out when he talked about quantifying risk ringed my nerdy brain bells. His descriptions of using past data to inform future policies made me think of how we use past chess games to formulate new strategies and responses to challenging moves. Then it hit me.

In the same way I saw life as a chess game against God, where some omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent force was teaching me life, like a wise old teacher instructs a child, this man sees insurance.

His lens for life isn't just dancing with God in this unique way, but actually putting up stakes for when he gets it right or wrong. Not only is pride on the line, but millions, and sometimes billions of dollars depend on the bets these insurers make on the most unpredictable and devastating phenomena life can throw at us from tornados to wild fires to floods to earthquakes.

When I internalized this realization and sought to learn from it, I felt a new level in my game of life begin. We are all making bets with our time, energy, resources, and prayers. We are all using our past moves, experiences, and borrowed wisdom to inform and de-risk these bets. We are all doing our best with this game of life, and there God is, sitting across from us smiling as we struggle towards becoming stronger.

What lens do you look at life through?

What game are you playing with your time alive?

What kind of coach has God been for you, and how can you be a better student?

Crack open the journal, leave a comment, or send me an email with your reflection. I hope to hear from you.

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