Following my dreams

Dillan and Emma Taylor at an amusement park
Here’s a pic of my little sis and me at an amusement park. It has absolutely nothing to do with this blog.

Where are you?

I’m aware that these blogs have been a bit scattered for the past two weeks. Here are my excuses.

  1. Most of my writing lately has been for my book, which I’ll discuss more today.
  2. While slowly recapping my road trip, it’s becoming harder to remember the sequential details of each day. But fear not, I will finish the story.
  3. I’m building a group for founders/entrepreneurs. In other words, my creative energy has been kind of diluted.
  4. I’ve been actively trying to get off nicotine gum for the last seven days. What started as a stimulant for writing became a physical necessity. I’ve never even smoked a cigarette; who would’ve thought? (I’m also almost entirely off coffee.)

So I’ve fallen off the wagon. This is me getting back on it.

I want to share a few changes I’m making to this blog and give an update on the book.

Changes

Many of you subscribe to my once-weekly, then biweekly, now monthly newsletter.

That is no more.

It started as a fun little email I would make for my friends. But in recent months, as I spend more time on money-making projects and things that are reaching way more people, the newsletter has steadily become a chore rather than something I look forward to.

Lynne Tye, a badass entrepreneur I interviewed for my book, told me about the difference between giving up and quitting.

Here’s my rule for quitting: If the Resistance of the thing is greater than the value I get from it, I move on.

That’s what happened with my first podcast Fancy, my YouTube channel, and my daily vlog. I was wildly committed to each of them…until I wasn’t. And creating something out of obligation simply isn’t sustainable. Lack of passion is tough to hide.

So what now?

Starting June 1st, you’ll be able to subscribe to this blog.

There are about 45 of you who regularly check this site to see the latest post. Then when I post some on Facebook, depending on the topic, that brings anywhere from 20 to 700 extra eyes to the page. That system is a bit up in the air and it asks you guys to do most of the work.

So at the start of next month, readers can subscribe and get each blog sent directly to their email. Eventually, you’ll be able to choose the specific categories you want. (e.g. blogs about business, personal stories, writing, dating, habits, etc.)

Stay tuned.

Latest book update

I cried last Friday. Let me explain.

Eric Rosen is my favorite YouTuber. Here’s his channel.

He’s one of the biggest chess content creators in the game. His Twitch channel has 219k+ followers. He has close to 600k YouTuber subscribers. His videos have played an enormous role in my improvement and love for the game of chess.

Dillan Taylor interviewing Eric Rosen

I interviewed him for my book on Friday.

It was the most nervous I’ve ever been to meet someone. I logged into Zoom 20 minutes early. When the clock reached 3pm on the dot and I read the banner, “Eric Rosen is in your Waiting Room,” it genuinely didn’t feel real.

We spoke for an hour and a half and it’s one of my favorite conversations I’ve had to date. He was such an authentically kind and giving person. He took me through his entire journey in making it as a professional content creator—from 0 followers to hundreds of thousands, from tutoring chess to beating top 10 players, from learning how to set up a camera to getting tens of millions of views a month.

When we concluded and I closed the Zoom, I sat in this chair and watched the recorded file download to my computer. I couldn’t help but have a big dumb smile on my face and get teary-eyed. So many emotions.

Extremely grateful to spend time with people who are creating cool things. Proud of myself for putting myself out there. Inspired to do great work.

Anyway, hope that clears a few things up. I’m feeling jazzed about the future.

I’ll continue to share updates from behind the curtain of my book. I’ll finish recapping the road trip this week. And finally, in six days, I’ll be living in NYC for two weeks as a trial run before moving there.

Much to come in the near future.

See you tomorrow.

Let’s try this again

A Rook on a wooden chess set

Today, my buddy and I are competing in a chess tournament.

It’s organized by Charm City, the chess club that put on the first one we did in December. That went well. I got third place.

Then, a few months ago, I had a chess-existential crisis. I wanted to quit. I played another tournament and hated every second of it.

Now, with my new and improved mindset, I’m going to spend the day with my friend and try to have as much fun as I can.

I’ll shoot for open, tactical, and dynamic play. I’ll try to meet people. I’m excited.

I’ll tell you how it went on Monday.

I almost quit chess

Two people playing chess on a giant chessboard

January was a rough month for my chess career.

It was the first time since getting into the game in 2020 where I just didn’t feel like playing. It wasn’t fun. That scared me.

Was this all just a phase? Was my fling with chess over?

I trudged through my chess workbooks and daily puzzles. But I wasn’t enjoying it.

Then I got my ass beat in a classical tournament. I lost three out of three games. Coming off of a tournament in December where I got third place…it was crushing.

I went from thinking I was hot shit to wondering if I should ever play again.

But it wasn’t the awful tournament that made me unmotivated. I felt that way before the event. Why then? I spent over a year consistently amped to log on to chess.com and play every single day. And now I didn’t even want to look at my board.

What changed?

Then it hit me.

In chess, each player has an ELO rating. It’s a number that basically tells you how good you are.

When I started playing over quarantine, I was around a 900. Now, I’m around 1650. Grandmasters, the best players in the world, are close to 2800.

Dillan Taylor's chess rating over the year of 2021
Thanks, Queen’s Gambit.

From December 2020 to November 2021, my ELO steadily increased. Every few months, I’d be another 100 rating points higher.

Now, I’ve hit a ceiling.

My rating hasn’t increased at all in three months. It’s the heaviest plateau I’ve experienced.

My insight was: Most of my fulfillment in chess has come from my increasing rating. That’s not sustainable.

It’s well-known in the chess world that once you hit 1600, you’re considered an advanced player. At that stage, it takes much more serious studying and practice to improve.

I felt silly. If I expected my rating to continue climbing the way it had been, I’d be a grandmaster in the next five years. That’s actually impossible.

So if my unsustainable, ego-driven path landed me in a rut, what can I do now?

Well, I decided to change what I wanted out of the game. It sounds corny, but I made the decision to just have as much fun as I can when I play.

I changed my style entirely. I began playing a different opening. Before, I focused on slower positional play. Now, I go for more open and exciting tactical play.

It has led to more losses. But it’s also led to more dynamic and flashy wins.

My passion for chess feels immediately revitalized. In the coaching world, we say: What got me to this level is what will keep me from getting to the next level.

What got me to this level: Caring deeply about how good I was.

What will get me to the next level: Having as much fun as I possibly can whenever I play. (And studying and analyzing and blah blah blah.)

My buddy and I have another tournament coming up next weekend. I’m pumped. 😎

Roadblock?

A chessboard sitting on a bed

I’ve been in a chess slump for the past month.

My rating climbed and climbed over 2021. But now I feel I’m stuck around 1650. It feels like I’ve reached a plateau.

This has made me jaded while playing online. I even felt resentful at my last tournament.

The lesson? I’ve learned that my main satisfaction in the game has been my growth in it. It’s time to change that.

But now I’m approaching an advanced skill level. To continue improving, I’m going to have to really start studying and treating it less as a small side hobby.

The other day, one of my favorite chess streamers Eric Rosen said something which hit me hard.

“A lot of players obsess over their win rate or their rating. I think too many players forget about the goal of having fun with the game.”

It’s so cliche. So simple. I was one of these players.

This could easily be applied to any other area in our lives: career, relationships, health. We focus so heavily on improving or pursuing a thing. It can be wildly helpful to pause from time to time and ask ourselves the question.

How can I make this more fun?

I did NOT win a trophy

The chess tables at the Waldorf Chess Club

I played in my second chess tournament this weekend. It didn’t go well.

My first competition was in December. That one went much better.

In typical fashion, I showed up an hour early. I was the first one there. I met the head of the Waldorf Chess Club and we chatted about chess and sandwiches.

The other players piled in and we got sectioned into quads: groups of four. We would play each person in our quad once for a total of three rounds. I took math in college so I put this together quickly.

To spoil the whole thing, I lost all three of my games.

Here’s how each of them went:

  1. Neck and neck until he ruined my pawn structure (weakened my position). Beat me in the endgame because of my bad position.
  2. I tried to be crazy flashy and sacrificed two pieces for a fancy checkmate. I miscalculated and was then just down two pieces.
  3. A super even game that went down to the last few minutes. He was up a pawn and used that to beat me in a King and pawn endgame.

Here’s what I took from all this.

Losing sucks…

But it is valuable. For many reasons.

After a strong performance in my first tournament, I thought I was hot shit. I needed to be humbled to snap back to reality. Mom’s spaghetti.

As I learned in Brazilian Jiujitsu, being humbled, getting your ass kicked…It makes us kinder and more patient people. It gets us out of our heads. It destroys our egos. Our wellbeing stems not from our success, but our willingness to grow.

Only when our armor is damaged can we begin to make repairs to it. Otherwise we just walk around thinking we’re invincible.

I barely remember the winning moves I made during my first tournament. But the losing moves in this last one are engrained in my psyche. I can envision them right now as I’m typing this.

It’s an unfortunate truth, but losing is the best (only) way to get better at chess. That’s probably true in any endeavor: business, relationships, instruments.

When I meet with my chess coach next, we’ll have plenty to analyze.

Round 3 of Dillan Taylor's second chess tournament

The people I played this weekend were much stronger than those I played in December. It was a reminder that I must consistently go against better players.

The first competition pumped me up to improve at chess. It was a Winning is fun! I want to do more of it kind of motivation. This one energized me even more. But this time it’s a Losing is awful! I want to do less of it sort of thing.

The losing will never stop. It’s part of leveling up. It’s out of my control.

The only thing I can control is what these losses mean for me.

Back to the drawing (chess) board.

Second chess tournament

I’m about to leave for the Waldorf Chess Club’s Quads #45 Classical tournament.

If you’re wondering what some of those words mean…me too. But it sounds quite impressive.

In December, I played in my first competition and did well. This one will be much more challenging.

The pre-standings for Dillan Taylor's second chess tournament

You’ll notice I’m in the lower tier of players. That’s just my provisional rating, but it’s still hard not to let it affect emotions and expectations.

Today we play three games (rounds). They will be the longest games I’ve ever played—70 minutes for each player, 10-second delay. That means each game could take two to three hours.

The first round starts at 10am, the second at 1:30pm, and the last at 4:30pm. Long day.

I feel I got spoiled in December by not losing a game, which means I’m undefeated in my chess career. I’m not planning to lose today, but I’m emotionally prepared for it.

Playing better players is the only way to improve. So I’m excited to make some blunders and analyze my games with my coach.

Wish me luck.

On Monday, I’ll tell you how I did.

I won a trophy

A black pawn with a King's crown on a chessboard

My friend and I played in our first chess tournament this Saturday.

It was one of my favorite days ever. Not because of any result, which I’ll get into. But because of how fun the experience was. Let me explain.

1) I got to spend the day doing something I love with one of my best friends.

The tables eventually filled with boards and the chairs with players. I couldn’t take a picture of that because phones weren’t allowed in the room during play.

We got there an hour early. That’s my style. For any event, I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.

We settled in, validated my parking in the Hilton garage, and prepared.

My buddy brought a couple books and his laptop to do some last-minute studying. I took a different approach.

Since the hotel was right across the street from the Johns Hopkins campus, I took a 30-minute stroll. It was gorgeous.

A sign on the Johns Hopkins campus
I got mild anxiety walking around a school again…as if I was late to class.

I walked past their cafeteria, quad, sporting facility, as well as the largest gym I think I’ve ever seen.

I wasn’t thinking about chess at all. I was meditating over how cool it was to finally be competing in this thing I fell in love with over the past year.

It was refreshing to clear my head. I didn’t think twice about not doing any last-minute studying.

Before a big fight, a reporter went into the locker room to find Floyd Mayweather playing Xbox. He said, “Aren’t you going to warm up for the bout?”

Floyd glanced over and smiled. “If I’m not ready by now, I’m not ready.”

Yes, I compare my chess playing to the greatest boxer ever. But that’s how it felt. I was as ready as I could be. And that made me feel totally present as I floated by those Hopkins students.

2) We got to nerd-out with other chess peeps.

A crowded hallway during the Charm City December Action Chess tournament
Everyone waiting to see the next round’s pairings.

This tournament broke the Baltimore record for the largest private chess competition. There were 96 registered players. 51 were competing in my section.

Everyone was so kind. Between rounds, we could see almost every table in the lobby with a chessboard on it and people analyzing their last game or playing blitz.

It was cool to know that everyone in the room enjoyed chess so much that they too signed up to play in a tournament.

There were four rounds (games). We had a 30 to 60-minute break between rounds to eat, chat, and chill. Then the next pairings would post and we’d make our way to our tables.

The Round 2 pairings.
My Round 1 win. This was the first time I ever wrote down my moves during a game. I felt official as fuck.

For more than half of the players, it was also their first tournament.

Each round, you got paired up against someone with the same record as you. That way one would hopefully play people closer to their skill level. It also meant that each round got harder…and more fun.

3) I played well.

My first game was against a 13-year-old kid. I felt bad.

He was clearly newer to chess and I obliterated him. Starting out with a win boosted my confidence but I didn’t want to get complacent and expect each round to be that easy.

My friend lost his first game, unfortunately. He got paired against a pretty good player.

In Round 2, I got placed with another player who was 1-0. He was a super nice 20-year-old who drove down with his two buddies from Harrisburg, PA.

He was much better than my first opponent. But over time, I was able to chip away at his kingside, win his Queen, and be up so much material that he eventually resigned.

I could see him get visibly frustrated with himself during our game. We shook hands and wished each other well for the remaining two rounds. My buddy also won his game.

I was most nervous for Round 3 since I assumed my opponents would only be getting better. I was correct.

My third opponent was a calm and quiet guy with long hair. It was also my first game with the black pieces, which meant I moved second.

That was one of the most intense games I’ve ever played. I pressed him, then he pressed me, then I broke through. Then he blundered a piece. I was winning. My heart was pounding. Then…I blundered a piece! We got back to an even game and he got me in a perpetual check. We agreed to a draw.

I was kicking myself a little for not converting a won game. But I was mostly just happy I didn’t lose. A draw is .5 points. I was 2.5/3. My buddy, who lost his third game, was 1/3.

Last Round.

For whatever reason, this was the first game where I wasn’t nervous. Maybe it was because I was exhausted. We got there at 10am and it was now 4:30pm.

The guy was talkative and kind. I thought he would be my toughest opponent. But I won his Queen in 11 moves.

After that, I started trading pieces and chipping away at his defenses. I had checkmate in two so he resigned. He was pissed.

I felt bad because we were the first ones done out of 26 games. I was relieved to be finished and thrilled I didn’t lose a game.

I finished 3.5/4. My friend won his last game to go 2/4.

What this means.

To my surprise, I got third place out of 51 players. That obviously felt good.

The final standings.
I’ve never actually won a trophy before.

It also means I now have a professional record in chess. I have a provisional rating of about 1400. That’s like a rating with an asterisk.

Once I play 25 games (21 to go), I’ll have my actual rating.

Last night, I signed up for my next tournament—The 59th Annual Baltimore Open. It’s next month and the players should be quite good.

But for now, I’m celebrating a phenomenal start to my chess career. I played well, got some hardware, and had a blast with my good friend.

What more could I ask for?

My first chess tournament

Two men playing an intense game of chess

Last summer over quarantine, one of my best friends and I started playing chess together online.

It was just something competitive we could do while trapped in our homes.

I knew how to play from years prior, but had never taken the time to learn the game’s basic principles, strategies, or tactics. Now, I had a mission—a purpose.

To beat my buddy.

He was better than I was so the bitter taste of defeat was a powerful motivator to improve. My ELO (rating) was around 900.

We got super into it for a few months until I fell out of love with the game entirely. I looked at a board and couldn’t care less what happened on it.

Then I, along with 62 million other folks, watched Queen’s Gambit.

The show single-handedly increased awareness and interest in chess tenfold around the world. Chessboard sales skyrocketed. Chess streamers and commentator channels had enormous boosts in their following. I was a part of all these statistics.

Then something strange happened which improved my chess skills tremendously.

I got Covid.

For the first time since starting my own business, I took a week off and did nothing but order DoorDash and play chess. Five to ten hours a day.

My rating went up 100 points in four days.

Since then, I’ve played consistently online, read books, analyzed games, hired chess tutors, and spent hours watching my favorite YouTubers go over games and teach. Here’s my rating in 2021:

Today, that same friend and I are playing in our first over-the-board tournament in Baltimore.

I’m excited and proud of how far we’ve come in a year. I’m nervous to lose to an 11-year old kid. And I’m grateful to share one of my passions with one of my closest friends.

We play five games in six hours. It’ll probably be exhausting…but I’m so pumped.

On Monday, I’ll post about how it went and what I learned from the experience.

Wish us luck. 😊

First time at chess club

Last night.

I found out there’s a chess club in my city. They meet every Tuesday night in the Whole Foods cafe.

I showed up with my chess set and clock to a bunch of old men sitting and playing casual games.

For some reason, I was nervous on my way.

Not that I would get my ass beat (in chess). Something about hopping into a new community of people.

I guess at 27, I’m still giddy about making new friends.

They were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. The youngest guy (he was in his forties) welcomed me to his board for my first game.

I played two gentlemen, two games each. I absolutely destroyed them.

We played for two hours until the grocery store closed. I told them about my first tournament coming up this month and they were super supportive…as if we’ve been teammates for years.

Needless to say, the nerves were gone.

Things are never as bad as the possibilities our minds make up.

I’ll see them next Tuesday.