Ep143: Mastering the “Chess Mindset” to Achieve Any Difficult Goal (and Get Really Good at Failing Along the Way) | with Misha Tenenbaum

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“Chess teaches you that losing is learning.”
– Misha Tenenbaum

To master anything, whether it’s actually playing chess, training for (and becoming) an American Ninja Warrior, or climbing to the top of your chosen career, you have to know that failure is a HUGE part of the equation. And in fact failure should be embraced as part of the fun of achieving any difficult goal in life. Chess is not just a game, it’s also a mindset I believe you must adopt if you want to achieve anything difficult, because nothing worthwhile is easy. And doing hard things requires the right strategy (which is why one of the “Key Mindsets” I share with all the students in my coaching & mentorship program is to “Play Chess With Your Goals Instead of Checkers.”)

Today I’m sharing with you a very fun, in-depth, and candid conversation with my friend and fellow entrepreneur Misha Tenenbaum. Before founding EditStock and EditMentor, Misha was a film and television editor and AE who edited shows for the Speed Channel, Food Network, as well as indie films. He also worked as an assistant editor on shows like American Horror StoryJOBS (the biopic about Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher), the Fox show Wayward Pines, and Quarry for Cinemax.

But instead of talking about Hollywood in this conversation, instead Misha and I dive deep into the meta skills necessary to achieve near-impossible (read: Ridiculous) goals. Misha grew up learning chess and spent several years in early adulthood climbing the ranks in the chess world. We discuss how the skills he’s learned from spending years earning an 1800+ “Class A” ranking have transferred into many other aspects of his life. We also discuss the strange transformation that takes place along the path towards any goal where achieving that goal becomes irrelevant when you realize the journey is so much more valuable and rewarding.

Whether or not you have any interest in the game of chess whatsoever (Spoiler alert: I myself barely know how to play), there is a wealth of valuable information in this conversation that can help you apply a smarter strategy to achieving your own goals and mastering the art of failure along the way.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • The story of how Misha learned chess and his obsession with the game grew.
  • Not only is chess a game of strategy it is also a game of recognizing patterns.
  • If you don’t understand the strategy or tactics you won’t know how to play the game.
  • The differences between someone who memorized the patterns and someone who learns the strategies.
  • The rankings of chess players explained.
  • How to relate the levels of chess to editing or any other skill you want to master.
  • Becoming the best takes strategy and mindset shifts as well as dedicating your time and attention to that skill.
  • The story of Bobby Fischer and how the trends of chess change and recycle.
  • To break through a new level of your skill or craft, you have to innovate.
  • My story of deciding to train for American Ninja Warrior and the probability of it actually happening.
  • The side effects (read: benefits) of me FAILING at my goal to get on American Ninja Warrior.
  • The perseverance and dedication it takes to incrementally improve at any craft or skill you desire.

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Ep141: Michelle Tesoro (ACE) On Playing Chess With Your Career (Instead of Checkers) – pt1

Ep142: Michelle Tesoro (ACE) On Playing Chess With Your Health & Well-Being (Pt2)

The Queen’s Gambit (TV Mini-Series 2020) – IMDb

EditStock | Practice Editing and Build A Demo Reel

The United States Chess Federation – Players & Ratings

Chess rating system – Wikipedia

Bobby Fischer – Chess, IQ & Death – Biography

American Ninja Warrior – NBC.com

Josh Waitzkin — The Official Site of Josh Waitzkin & The Art of Learning

The Karate Kid (1984) – IMDb

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Episode Transcript

Zack Arnold 0:00

My name is Zack Arnold, I'm a Hollywood film and television editor, a documentary director, father of two, an American Ninja Warrior in training and the creator of Optimize Yourself. For over 10 years now I have obsessively searched for every possible way to optimize my own creative and athletic performance. And now I'm here to shorten your learning curve. Whether you're a creative professional who edits, rights or directs, you're an entrepreneur, or even if you're a weekend warrior, I strongly believe you can be successful without sacrificing your health, or your sanity in the process. You ready? Let's design the optimized version of you.

Hello, and welcome to the Optimize Yourself Podcast. If you're a brand new optimizer, I welcome you and I sincerely hope that you enjoy today's conversation. If you're inspired to take action after listening today, why not tell a friend about the show and help spread the love. And if you're a longtime listener and optimizer, O.G. welcome back. Whether you're brand new, or you're seasoned vets, if you have just 10 seconds today, it would mean the world to me if you clicked the subscribe button in your podcast app of choice, because the more people that subscribe, the more that iTunes and the other platforms can recognize this show. And thus the more people that you and I can inspire, to step outside their comfort zones to reach their greatest potential. And now on to today's show, to master anything, whether it's actually playing chess training for and becoming an American Ninja Warrior, or climbing to the top of your chosen career, you have to know that failure is a huge part of the equation. And in fact, failure should be embraced as part of the fun of achieving any difficult goal in life. Chess is not just the game However, it's also a mindset that I believe you must adopt if you want to achieve anything difficult, because frankly, nothing worthwhile is easy. And doing hard things requires the right strategy, which is why one of the key mindsets that I share at the very beginning with all of the students of my coaching and mentorship program is that you need to play chess with your goals instead of checkers. Well today, after a follow up to all of the conversations that I have with Michelle Tesoro, I'm now going to share with you a very fun in depth and candid conversation with my friend and fellow entrepreneur Misha Tenenbaum. Before Misha founded Edit Stock and Edit Mentor. He was a film and television editor and AE just like us who edited shows for the Speed channel Food Network, as well as indie films. And he also worked as an assistant editor on shows like American Horror Story, Jobs, which was the biopic about Steve Jobs to start Ashton Kutcher. He worked on the Fox show Wayward Pines and he worked on Cory for Cinemax. However, instead of talking about Hollywood in this conversation, instead, Misha and I dive deep into the meta skills necessary to achieve near impossible, read ridiculous goals. Misha grew up learning chess, and he spent several years also in his adulthood climbing the ranks in the chess world. We discussed how the skills that he has learned from spending years earning an 1800 plus Class A ranking and don't worry, we're going to discuss what that means in the episode, how all of that has transferred into the many other aspects of his life his career in building a business. We also discussed the strange transformation that takes place along the path towards any goal where achieving that goal becomes irrelevant, because you realize that the journey is so much more valuable and more rewarding. Whether or not you have any interest in the actual game of chess whatsoever. And as a huge spoiler alert, I can barely play myself. There is a wealth of valuable information in this conversation that can help you apply a smarter strategy to achieving your own goals and Mastering the Art of failure along the way. Whether you work in a creative industry such as Hollywood, you're already right here in Hollywood, or you want to know what it takes to make it in a business like Hollywood. I've got great news for you. I just released my brand new Ultimate Guide to Making it in Hollywood as a Creative. That is an absolute manifesto on a practical steps that you can start taking right away to either get started with or advance in your filmmaking career. No matter what creative craft you specialize in. The strategies that I provide in this guide will absolutely help you move forwards. I cover such topics is how to figure out which ladder you should be climbing and how to clarify the niche that's the best fit for your skill set. How to Become awesome at your specific craft, as well as how to pitch yourself. And most importantly, I do a deep dive into the art insides of networking, especially if you're an introvert like me. This is 15 years of everything that I've learned throughout my own professional journey distilled down to one jam packed guide and I'm offering it to you 100% free to download your Ultimate Guide, just visit optimizeyourself.me/HollywoodUltimateGuide and I will send it to your inbox immediately. Alright, without further ado my conversation with editor, entrepreneur and chess player Misha Tenenbaum made possible today by our amazing sponsors Evercast and Ergodriven, who are going to be featured just a bit later in today's interview. To access the show notes for this and all previous episodes, as well as to subscribe so you don't miss the next inspirational interview. Please visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast.

I'm here today with Misha Tenenbaum who is the founder and CEO of Edit Stock, which is a company that provides unedited footage from films that people can practice and edit with. And you're also now into a new program called Edit Mentor, which is a software application that teaches the world how to communicate and tell their stories with video. Misha, I have a feeling that you and I are going to be geeking out a lot today on a lot of very interesting topics. So it's a pleasure to have you on the show today.

Misha Tennenbaum 6:11

Thank you. I'm so glad to be here. And we're going to talk about one of my favorite topics today.

Zack Arnold 6:15

Which is

Misha Tennenbaum 6:16

The game of chess!

Zack Arnold 6:17

I assumed you're gonna say Trello because we could do a three part interview just talking about Trello, which is its own version of chess and the productivity world. that's a that's a totally new conversation that we could have. But yes, we're gonna talk all about chess, but how it applies to the game of life. So recently, as my audience may know, if they're regular listeners, I just concluded a two part interview that I did with Michelle Tesoro, who is the lead and main editor for the Queen's Gambit, we talked all about chess and how it applies to the game of life. And the caveat to that conversation is we both basically said, I don't really know how to play chess, but I love the idea of it. And I'm kind of in that same position, where one of the core key mindsets that I teach all of my students in my program is that they have to look at their career, they have to look at their goals. And they have to look at life. Like it's a game of chess instead of a game of checkers. Because I really believe you have to think 710 15 moves ahead. And it can't just be about how do I make the next checkers move? How do I figure out a way that I can, I don't know lose five pounds fast. Or that I can just find a couple of productivity apps to allow me to get a couple more things done during the day. Or I'm just going to chase after the next gig because they need a paycheck. I want people to be able to step back, look at the whole chessboard and strategize their life. But the hard thing for me is that I don't actually play chess. Yeah, I know the basics. And one of the things I love about the game of chess is that it takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master. Yeah, I could sit down and I could teach my eight year old daughter How To Play Chess in about 10 minutes. Here's what this piece does moves this way it moves that way, my brother did the same thing for me when I was about that age, anybody can play it, there's a very low barrier of entry. But you can dedicate your whole life to nothing but playing chess, and I love it when you can go that deep was something. So I want to talk to an actual chess aficionado, somebody that has lived it for most of their life, and better understand how I how my students and how anybody listening can take the concepts of chess and apply it to whatever their goal in life might be. So let's just start with a little bit of background, tell me why I'm talking to you about chess.

Misha Tennenbaum 8:29

Okay? All right, you're gonna love this story. It is actually editing related in a very in a small way in the beginning. First of all, I'm Russian and Jewish. So you like playing chess, like I played chess with my father, like everyone, you know, everyone that I know, plays chess, when I was a kid, I had chess lessons, but I didn't really understand or appreciate what I was learning at the time. You know, I liked it when I was young. But then I had a long gap where I didn't play or didn't play very much. And for several years, when I was like working and kind of getting close to burning out, like between the ages of 26 and 30. I like had this, you know, I'm going to do something for myself, someday I'm going to like learn this game. And so when I turned 30, I went to a chess club for the first time in my life. And I played a game against a random person at the club, who was better than me and beat me. And that was fine. It was fun, just the same kind of joy that anyone would get out of any, you know, game they enjoy. But then we had an international Master, which is a very high ranking, like very tough to achieve. ranking, took my game, put it on the board, and we all sat around the circle, and he went through it. And the level of understanding and detail that he went through it like it blew my mind that there was so much in there. And from that moment, I just became obsessed. And everyone out there who like who plays chess, you know, fairly regularly, like I cannot stop playing even to this day I play like probably 20 games a day. It is just when you play again and I used it on my weekends to fully leave work behind. Because when you are playing chess, there is nothing else you can concentrate on. If you do, you will just lose immediately. You know, it requires all of your focus all of your attention all and there has to be an there's such an evolution like a personal evolution that happens as you get better. I don't want to go too far without giving you an opportunity to jump in.

Zack Arnold 10:35

No, well, first of all, you don't need to wait for an opportunity for me to jump in. Like I told you before we started, all I have to do is say welcome Misha. And it's the podcast is yours, right? I don't have to do any work. That's why I love having you on the show. But I think that one of the things that's so interesting to me is that you grew up in chess was just a part of your life, the when you were explaining that I was like, Oh, yeah, that's kind of what it was like growing up in northern Wisconsin, where you just kind of have to wear a cheese hat and you follow football and you play it and you played in school. And even if you don't like it, you just do it. I would never see chess as that, then where I grew up in my upbringing, chess was the farthest thing that anybody ever would have done. But because of your upbringing, it was just kind of part of who you became. But you didn't really get into it until 30, which I didn't realize I would have assumed that you got into it. Maybe in like high school when a lot of kids get into it.

Misha Tennenbaum 11:24

We had a chess club in high school, one of my big regrets was that I didn't play my cousin played in it, I used to play against my cousin all the time. So one of the things that I love, sometimes, a lot of people describe it, as you know, it's a game of strategy, right? Which is true. But everyone feels like the strategy begins, like the minute you sit down at the board. And actually, it's all the work leading up to the minute you sit down with the board. Because it's impossible for anyone to be good at it right away that no one is and these like, you can be a child prodigy and be good at a very young age. But those kids are putting in 1000s of hours of studying. That was something that I learned very quickly I was being 30, I was playing in a chess club against six year olds, eight year olds, 10 year olds, and losing a lot. And at first, you know, my ego was bruised. And I'm just like, I'm an adult, but I'm smarter than these kids. And it just isn't about that it really isn't. You know, you sit down on a board, you really have to have what you would call like in meditation, the beginner's mind, you just have to be open, and not beat yourself up. Because chess is this like brutal game, where you could be winning for hours working just just hard, you know, hard and make one little tiny mistake and lose the game. And you just have to you have to learn like perseverance, being calm, and like putting aside emotion and looking at every situation as if it's a brand new one. Now every move is a new start. And you just have to let go of your ego and let go of like, you know, I've learned a lot of things from seven year olds playing chess against them. I'm glad that I had that those experiences.

Zack Arnold 13:15

Now, you said that most people assume it's a game of strategy, which obviously it is a game of strategy. And you look at a game of checkers and Oh yeah, I'm gonna do a jumper, a double jump, but you just you kind of play it as it is. And maybe you see a couple moves ahead. And obviously, chess is more thinking, well, this is kind of the general approach that I want to take. Maybe it's a more offensive approach. Maybe it's a more defensive approach. But correct me if I'm wrong. And this is mostly just because I spent seven hours watching the Queen's Gambit. So of course now an expert a chess Yeah. But it seems to me that it's largely also a game of being really good at recognizing patterns. Yeah, a lot of pattern recognition and being able to see different shapes and outcomes, just by looking at the placement of pieces.

Misha Tennenbaum 13:57

That's right. Actually, I don't know if you've ever seen that the experiment where if you were to put a picture of a real game of an actual, you know, position from a real game, put it on a bus and just drive it by a chess player, they could take the pieces and recreate it on the board. But if you were to put the pieces in a fake position that isn't from a real game, they would have a hard time, they wouldn't be able to they'd actually fall into the same limits that everyone's you know, mind inputs, or whatever it is the seven spaces, however many numbers you can remember in your head, like every one would be the same. It's the pattern recognition because for example, a castle King, you know where the three ponds are in front of them, you know where the rock is, you know where the king is, you chunk that knowledge, you know, and that does save you a lot of time like you might even say in a in a closed. I know this isn't gonna make much sense but like in a closed Sicilian defense. If White ever gets to play D4 then they're going to like open the center. So like the whole game, you're like looking at this one move. And you know that it's a pattern that emerges in this type of setup that you're always on the lookout for, where because you have experience, whereas a beginner might not see that move coming. In fact, that's why a lot of beginners get embarrassed really quickly, because they miss something that is such an obvious simple tactic that like when you're experienced, you know, to watch out for, but when you're new, it seems like a bolt of lightning.

Zack Arnold 15:30

One of the things that I kept thinking about watching the Queen's Gambit and I know this certainly isn't true about chess. But one can make the assumption Well, if it's just about pattern recognition, wouldn't it be the person that has the best memory that becomes the best chess player? If I just go through all the books and I look at all the pictures, and I save all the pieces are in this arrangement? I do accent of all the pieces are in this arrangement? I do y or I do z? Why can't I just get by in the game of chess, with a really good photographic memory and just reading all the books and remembering all the positions.

Misha Tennenbaum 16:00

You can do pretty well actually, you won't get to the top like that. But you can do pretty well. And the there's a so chess, like the game itself is broken up into sections, there's an opening part, there's a middle game part, and then there's an end game part. And with the end game, so the parts are broken up like this, all the pieces are on the board, that's the opening, when the king is castled and safe. And all the pieces are out, that's the middle game. And the end game starts when the Queen's are traded off the board. Okay. Now, normally in the end game, there's very few pieces. And there are actually what are called tables. So if you're a, if you have a position set up with seven pieces or less any seven, the game is actually solvable, I mean, there is a correct way to play that will have a definite result. Now, even with seven pieces, there's millions of choices. So the chances of you knowing those tables is rare, but the best players in the world do know them and do practice them. And it's the same in the beginning of the game, where there are moves you can memorize in the beginning of a game, that will give you an advantage. And that's that studying at home. But if you don't understand the reason why the strategy and the tat and you never study the tactics behind why those positions are set up the way they are, you definitely will be surprised. And you definitely will lose games, even to beginners who don't know what they're supposed to do in quotes. They just make a random move. And now all of a sudden, you're out of your preparation, right? Because they're not doing the thing that you memorized. So there is actually a component to it.

Zack Arnold 17:44

So what's the difference then, between you have one kid that starts at six years old, and he's practicing for 50 hours a week. And he does that for years, and you have kid B that's doing the same thing. They're not both going to be exactly the same level, they're probably going to be close, because a lot of it's based on pattern recognition and memory and shapes and everything else. But ultimately, I believe with anything and again, for anybody listening the same Well, what does this have to do with anything outside of chess? Trust me, we're going to get there, we're going to get to the bigger picture. But I want to just kind of break down the fundamentals. What's the difference between somebody that just reads the books, knows the pictures knows the patterns, and somebody that just intuitively becomes a great chess player? What are some of the differences for those that really, really succeed?

Misha Tennenbaum 18:28

So first, just I want to give you a scale so that we're not talking about like, what is good, what is great, there is actually an objective measure of this. And that's a thing called a rating. So your your skill level and chat. There's a lot like egotism in chess based around your rating, which now I find kind of laughable, but when I started, I took it very, very seriously and very personally. And it's part of that is because you set goals, but so I'm just going to go through the rankings really quick. Okay. So 1000 or less is like your total beginner, a little kid. Most people are 1000 or less in the in the real world. People who study a little bit, like just get the basic concepts. They're like about 1200. And then you're like a person who studies you're pretty good. Like you could play in high school, you're a 1400. And then 1600 to every 200 points, it's a new level, it actually goes d c, b a, at 1600, you're a B player, and you're like, you're not horrible anymore, you're kind of average, you're gonna beat any guy on the street, but you're not in the club, you're gonna be average, then 1800 is like you're the best of the average people. And then 2000 is you're an expert now, and the theory is, anyone can get to the level of expert with enough practice. And that's always been my goal, and I've got to go back and get there. I got to 1850 before I had that, and then It's a whole long thing, but basically took me two years to get to 1850 from 1700. And I got there, then I lost 50 rating points, like in a month, and I was like, I need a break from this, or my head's gonna explode. Because that's what it takes, you know, it's like, it's easy to go from a 10 minute mile to an eight minute mile, it's hard to go from an eight minute mile to a six minute mile. And the difference between six minutes and four minutes is world class. Okay, so at a 2000, you're like the best that a normal person get to, at 2200, you're considered a master, it's actually a ranking, you're going to be better than everyone at a club, you're like, very good. You're not a professional yet. But you're a very good player like mastery, you have a ranking, you're officially recognized, you have a title 2400 is now you're like, not quite a grandmaster, but you're an international Master, you're among the best in the world, may 2500, maybe is among the best in the world. And then 2800 2800. So just imagine 1000 points higher than me, that's like you are the number, you know, one through three people in the world. Very few people get there ever. And right now, just to give you some comparison, the strongest computer engines in the world play at approximately a 30 to 3300 level rating. So even for the 2800 guy, the best in the world, there's 500 more rating points, achievable.

Zack Arnold 21:30

Wow, says that a whole lot more information than I was expecting, which is super, super helpful. And it just brought up a whole lot of ideas and the new questions that I can ask, and how I want to start bringing this into the bigger picture. One of the things you said that I thought was really interesting, is you said and I might get the number wrong, but I think it was 2000 where you said a 2000? You're the best of any normal person. Yeah, right. This is where the best normal people get that aren't considered masters. Was that the right number? Did I get that right?

Misha Tennenbaum 21:59

Yeah, that's about right at 2000, you're going to be the best player in in any club or most clubs, and you're going to be a 2000, you're an expert, like you're going to be any guy on the street every single time, you're never going to lose to any of your friends, you're always going to win, there's a statistical that to those numbers. The way that you gain rating is by beating people with that rating. And it actually it's a it's actually calculus. So the chances are, if you're a 1500, and you play against the 1600, it means your chances of winning are 40%. And if you play a 1700, your chances of winning are 30%. If you play an 1800, it's 20%. And when there's a 400 point ranking, the different the chances of you winning are about 5%, maybe. So when there's 1000 point difference between you're an expert and someone's a beginner, they cannot be you It's impossible. Basically.

Zack Arnold 22:52

The reason I love this is I think that there, I could equate this to looking at a creative career, you could equate it to kind of any huge goal that you have. And we're going to get a little bit more into the my version of chess, which is American Ninja Warrior, and why I chose and how it equates to it. But there's a certain level, where I think just about everybody kind of hits that that middle area where you put in enough hours, and you're good enough at what you do. And you practice and you show up to work and you do a great job, there's a certain area where you're going to be successful. But then there's this other tier, where it's a whole new mindset and a whole new level of dedication and skills you have to acquire to like you said, going from running a 10 minute mile to an eight minute mile to a six minute to a four minute, it's two minute increments in between all of those. But to go from a 10 minute mile to an eight minute mile, just run a couple extra times a week and get in better shape and buy a nice shoes and lose 10 pounds. Like it's that it's anybody can do it if they apply enough effort and enough time to eight to six, doable, but that's gonna take a lot of dedication. I couldn't run a six minute mile like I'd pass out. I look like a chain smoker. By the time I hit that six minutes, and I'd be out like gasping for breath. But four minutes until I don't know the exact year. But it was unattainable. It was considered impossible until Roger Bannister did it right. And then they realize this is actually possible. And then of course, after that multiple people followed, but we're talking a tiny handful of human beings are able to run a four minute mile. Yeah. And I think the same can be said, of certain career paths or certain jobs that you want to get. Let's use editing, for example, because that's been your lifestyle and what you've done for 20 years and when I've done for 20 years, where I think that with enough time and enough dedication, anybody can become a professional editor and make a living off of it.

Misha Tennenbaum 24:43

100% agree,

Zack Arnold 24:44


Misha Tennenbaum 24:44

100% agree.

Zack Arnold 24:45

But then there's a totally different tier of projects and types of stories and challenges, and frankly, politics that you also have to understand and put into the mix, where there's only a very, very small percentage of people that crack through that door and break into it. And it's not just because they worked harder. It's not just because they put in more hours, it reaches a point of diminishing returns, where it's not just about doing that it's about having a different strategy and a different mindset.

Misha Tennenbaum 25:12

Can I can I actually, I want to add to that, because this is yesterday,

Zack Arnold 25:16

That's why you're here.

Misha Tennenbaum 25:17

This is super related to editing. When you get if I tell you, when you start, I'm your teacher, right? Let's say I'm the best player in the world. And I'm your teacher, and I say, Oh, I'm gonna get you to 2000. Like, you just stick with me. I don't care who you are, what your background is what you're you stick with me long enough? I'll get you there. Right. But the difference to go from 2200 to 2400, I would say this is if I were your teacher, I would give you the same advice, I would say, drop everything else you're doing in your life, dedicate every moment of your life to this thing. And you've got a chance, but maybe. And that's the difference, you know, and you have to at that level, and this is absolutely true that at that level, you have to say actually, the thing is, I love this, and and I'm going to do it, whether I get there or anywhere else, or get worse, I'm going to do this because this is it. This is my passion. It's my dream. No, there are no grandmasters who do other stuff. You know, they all they're all maybe their teachers, you know, but they have to study all the time, they have to keep up with trends. You know, there's actually trends, like openings come into fashion and go out of fashion. I could give you the most beautiful story about that. It's about Bobby Fischer.

Zack Arnold 26:31

Sure, go ahead.

Misha Tennenbaum 26:32

Okay, you guys should look this up. But basically, back in the 60s, there's this thing called the Chess Olympiad. Actually, I'm not sure 100% of this took place in the Olympiad. But there are national teams in chess, okay, there's like the five best players from Russia faced off against the five best players from Argentina. Okay, and the Argentinian team had been practicing this, this opening this move that they were going to do, and they researched and studied for months, you know, and they shut up the board. And somehow by just miracle, all five boards got to that position, which is like, you know, crazy that that couldn't happen. And in all five games, the Russians over the board, figured out how to crack that defense. And it was considered dead from now on that defense was considered dead. Okay, they actually called the game, the Argentinian massacre. That was the So okay, along comes Bobby Fischer in the life about 10 years later, and he reaches the same position and up from the Argentinean side. And the announcer says, Well, he's a great player. But what he doesn't know, he's not old enough to know the history. And to know why nobody plays this opening. He chose it. But it's really, it's a mistake, because you know, because of all this thing, and Bobby Fischer uncork something new. And the game he didn't win the game, it was a drop, but it was like a hell of a fight. And he almost pulled it off. Right. And from then on, that opening, came back into fashion, as people looked at it again, for the first time in 10 years. And so that is happening all the time, trends are changing, you know, nothing stays still the game, you know, now computers can analyze positions and show you something in an opening, not on the 10th move, but on the 20th move, or in one line that had been extinct for for decades. And you know, that it's part of being great at anything, is this acceptance that the world is changing, that you have to change that you have to keep that beginner mind, you know, the whole time, it never, it can never go away? Because the minute you start thinking, I've memorized my openings, this is what I always do. Somebody will beat you.

Zack Arnold 28:59

And the funny thing about that, to me is I would assume that chess just hasn't changed in hundreds or 1000s of years. It's the same board. It's the same pieces. How can you have trends, like in clothing, of course, you have trends, because you can invent new clothing, you can invent a new chestpiece Hey, I'm going to start using marbles. And we're gonna see which square rolls to like, that's a trend that's new to the chess world. But to have trends and new ideas, developing a game that doesn't change to me that this is mind blowing, to think do you have to constantly keep up with that. And when you equate that to either the editing world or just the creative world in general, everything's changing every day, new tools, new techniques. And this is a conversation that you and I had offline before we recorded. But I'd mentioned this idea that there are a lot of people that rise to a certain rank, and they're good at what they do that were let's say that if if we were going to rank them as editors on the same scale, through 1800s and 1900s, but I believe the reason And they're never going to break through 2000 is because they got really good at learning editing 10 1520 years ago, and practice became permanent. But practice didn't become perfect, because they just kept using the same techniques in the same muscle memory and the same habits in the same bin organization and the same tools. But they're not innovating. And I think that first of all, one of the things and I don't know if it's, I would assume it's this way in chess, but I believe in the creative world, you have to be willing to innovate, and try new things and learn new tools and new processes, if you're going to go beyond that 2000 level in the creative world as you would in chess. And it sounds like it's the same thing in the chess world

Misha Tennenbaum 30:37

it is. And it's just like what you said, like you think that the game isn't changing. I'm going to give you some examples, some really fun examples that you are going to love as you're gonna love this. Did you know that up until the 60s, I think it was until the 60s, you used to it used to be rude to not say out loud, if you're attacking the queen, you had to say guard ala femme, which meant protect your queen when you attacked it. earlier than that. You had to announce checkmate. If it was on the board and unavoidable, you would announce checkmate several moves before it happened. Now, culturally, you could you're not even supposed to say check in a game. If you say check, it's actually rude, you could lose half your time as a penalty for speaking at all during the game. So that's, that's an example of a cultural change. But actually, the game itself is changing. Because Originally, the pawns could not move to spaces on the first move. The King couldn't castle. And you know, what's funny is now that we have systems like say, chess.com, which records millions of games every single day, you can take data, and you can say, you know, is chess a draw objectively, if everyone plays the best moves? Well, what if we change the rules and say, You can't castle? What's the what are the outcomes? What if we change the rule that pawns can capture forwards and not just diagonally? What are the outcomes, and we can take learning machines and play them against each other millions of times with very different rule variants, and produce a predictable sheet, we can say, if you want less draws and more wins, you have to change the rules this way. The game is always changing.

Zack Arnold 32:22

So if I'm listening to this, and I'm thinking this all sounds great, going to be honest, I'm not really interested in actually learning the game of chess, however, I'm starting to see the merit and maybe taking a broader, bigger picture approach to my life, my goals, my career, and thinking, many moves ahead. I'm not sure how to get started. And I know where I started, because about three, three and a half years ago, as you know, I proclaimed the stupidest of stupid goals and said, You know what, I feel like crap. Right now I took a walk around the block, it was really hard for me, especially the uphill part, I've got a killer dad bod, my diet is complete and total garbage. And I just spent the last six months in a deep dark hole of depression. I know, I'm going to be on American Ninja Warrior. That sounds like a good holiday project. I'm going to start working on that. And the way that I approached it was one step at a time, one move at a time. And I'm a huge believer in drilling everything. So it wasn't. And I think that the reason this is so important to bring up but I want to talk about this with chess and with life in general as well. But I think most people, if not almost everyone would look at that and say, I could never do that. And you know what? I couldn't either. But there were things that I could do. And I said, You know, I know I can do at least one pull up. I can't do 20 at a time. But I can do one? And what if I learned proper pull up form and the muscles that I need to strengthen for more stability? And what are the other opposing exercises that make me better at pull ups? And then what's the next step? And I just drilled every little thing until I got good at it. And then I got better at that thing. And I learned a new thing. And every week it's like, I'm good at this. Oh, crap. Here's something else I'm horrible at. Yeah, something tells me the progression in chess is very similar.

Misha Tennenbaum 34:08

It's it's brutal. Because it you know, it's it's very hard. First I want to say, obviously, we've been friends longer than three years. And you know, I when I saw you set that goal, I thought you could do it, but I didn't expect you to do it. I don't know how to describe it. I was like, Yes, that could maybe, like maybe, you know, maybe like I don't know, but the chance I would not have even given it 1% like I owe-

Zack Arnold 34:32

The chances are actually what do you want to know what if we're not even talking about athletic ability, if we're just talking about the mathematical probability of saying I want to send it an application to get on the show, give or take 100,000 applications. There are 400 total athletes and half of those are rookies do the math. That's the mathematical probability. So I'm going to be perfectly honest, my response was the same thing. Like I think I can do it but no this is never really going to happen. And then all of a sudden, I get the phone call, and I'm like, Oh, wait, really, like I'm actually doing this. Oh, and I like went into massive panic vote. And now I'm super excited about it. But at the same time, I felt the same way. Because mathematically, it just seems so improbable. But what was so important to me was not the result. It was not achieving the goal. It was everything I had to change about my life in order to get to the point where I could achieve it, and be in that position. So I thought, if I'm going to be on the starting line, what is it going to take to earn that spot, even if I never get on the show? What are all the side effects of me failing at this goal, better health, more mobility, more energy, like my life has completely changed. And I haven't even been on the show. So it's not about being on the show or being on TV, everything changed because of that goal. And I have a feeling that progressing through chess and doing all the steps is going to teach you a lot of meta life lessons beyond the board. And that's really what I wanted to dive into. And I know that that's where you get super excited are the meta lessons that go well beyond the chessboard,

Misha Tennenbaum 36:06

I want to give you my my ninja warrior story about my greatest chess accomplishment, which was the day I crossed 1800. So to get there, you know, you It takes a lot of time, takes a lot of years. And at one point, when I was 1700, I got up to 1790, I think or 80, or something like pretty close. And I was like 1800 is like an inch away. And a year went by, okay, and I go to this tournament, and I'm the highest ranked person in my category because it's under 1800. I'm like 1790 and I lose something like four out of six games or five out of six games. And I dropped 100 points in one, something like that in like one tournament. And I get if you just look at the chart, it's like a year of progress a year a progress all of it's gone. Just Just like that, okay. I don't not like this. I can't it's hard to describe the feeling of pain. I was like, this is it. That's as good as I'm ever gonna get like, that was the pinnacle. Here I am now. A year later, another years. This is two years now in the making. I go to the same tournament this time. I'm like 1750 and I lose the first game, same tournament. And I just I don't know what it was. But I just said I will not lose again. That's it. And I like it just will not happen I win the second game and when the third game when the fourth game when the fifth game and now I'm in the championship round. Okay, and this is for the money but it has nothing to winning has nothing to do for the money, right? I want that 1800 and in front of me is a kid who has no rating he's from another country. He doesn't speak English. And he is completely unknown how good or bad he is right? No idea. He's He's new to the to the system. And he plays Ironically, the Queen's Gambit, which is a an opening where white gives up upon in exchange for an attack. And usually Black plays a little bit defensively gives the pawn back in order to have a more equal game. And I was like, Oh heck no, I'm taking the pawn. I'm keeping the pawn, I'm going to beat them with the pawn. And I'm like, fine, I've got this extra pawn and falling under a crushing attack. And all of a sudden he makes a mistake. Okay, makes a mistake. And I'm like, I'm gonna win. I'm gonna win this. And I've got now I've got the crushing attack going and I've got the extra pawn. And I'm staring at the board. I'm like, there has to be checkmate here has to exist the hasta. Like, I know it, I know it. I know. And I can't find it. Okay, and then one or two moves later, all of a sudden, my queen is trapped in the middle of the board. She's trapped. Okay, that's definitely I'm gonna lose. In a game. Each player has a clock. And when it's your turn, your clock is going and then you click the clock after you're moving, your opponent's clock is going. And this tournament, each side had about two hours. And after the 40th move, you get another hour. So the game could last six hours. Okay. I sat for one hour, staring at the board. Knowing the entire time that there was no way out. Looking for a way out the whole time. Just like I will do this. I will do it. I will do it. And the kid leaned over and probably said the one English word he knew he just he just extended his hand to draw. So I accepted. Okay, so we ended the game in a draw. And I was lost. I was in a lost position. He offered a draw because he was five or six and 0, and the draw wins him the tournament. So he was just fine with it. You know, and I accepted the job because it was the best outcome I could ever possibly hope for. After that game. I sat alone I actually left the tournament area and I sat alone for like an hour thinking I think We'll never achieve 1800 it just can't do it for whatever reason, I can't get over that obstacle. And I got home and the next day when they published the ratings, I was 1804. And then the night after that I could not lose. I was beating like 1900 players, I beat an expert like over 2000 I just felt like I was on top of the world. And it just, you know, sometimes knowledge like coalesces like that.

Zack Arnold 40:25

I think it's knowledge. Yes. And I think it's practice and experience. But here's the what I think was the deciding factor. And this is a really, really big piece that I think so many people miss with any goal, whether it's career related health doesn't matter. You said one thing that was very distinct, you said, I decided, I'm just going to win. Yeah, that's bold, right? You just decided I am not going to go to the same tournament, and lose and watch my score drop. I'm gonna win. I just decided it's going to happen. And it sounds crazy. And it sounds like all it did, did it doesn't really work that way. But that's one of the lessons that I've learned too. There's so much fear wrapped up in Ninja Warrior. And the fear is a little bit different. Because when you're on a chessboard, there's the fear of how you look and the fear of failure and the fear of losing with Ninja Warrior. There's the fear of I'm going to fall 20 feet and I'm going to break my leg

Misha Tennenbaum 41:16

And you're an introvert by the way and and millions of people watching

Zack Arnold 41:20

Yes, I'm very introverted. I consider myself an extreme introvert. And that's one of the things that I had to just decide. I said to myself, if I'm going to do this, I'm deciding. I am no longer an introvert. When I'm training Ninja, and one of the deciding moments of all of my training, there are several but probably the most distinctive one, I talked about this on a podcast. With this Ninja, I think maybe a year or two ago, we'll put a list in the show notes. But one of the first months that I was training, I just started with research, you know, the because the one of the barriers that people have when they want to achieve something as well, I don't even know where to start, right? Do you have Google? Do you have the internet? Because if you do you no longer have any excuses? How do I train for Ninja Warrior? Where can I train for Ninja Warrior in Los Angeles. That was that's pretty simple, right? Found a parkour gym. That was 15 minutes from my house didn't know it existed. As an introvert, I had to decide, I'm just going to walk in and not be introverted. And man was that terrifying because I never do stuff like that. And on top of it, for those that don't know, parkour, definitely nothing that I've ever done before jumping off of, you know, all kinds of like 20 foot things and like bouncing around on like pipes and swinging. It's definitely not anything that I have experienced with, but it's also a bunch of kids. I walk into parkour and I could be their dad. Yeah, it's kind of embarrassing. You really got to set your ego aside, but I went in one night, I had been watching a lot of Ninja Warrior just to get used to understanding the sports and how they do and I was already kind of a fan anyway, which is what drove me to do it. But I saw a guy over in the corner. I'm like, oh, that guy's a ninja. I recognize him. He's been on the show. And this thought came in my mind. I think I should go over and I should talk to him. No, no, no, you don't. Don't talk to strangers. That's scary. Don't do it. But I told myself, I decided I'm not going to be an introvert. So I have to be somebody different. And I have to change my mindset. And I just walked over and I'm like, What are you guys working on? Oh, we're doing this move and blah, blah, blah. They might as well been speaking Greek, no idea what they're talking about. And I said, Oh, cool. You mind if I just mind? If I try? would you would you show me because I don't know how to do any of this. But I'd like to learn. And it was kind of like one of those like, Who's this guy? And Shouldn't you be in bed? You seem kind of old for this. But I did it anyway. And guess what the the guy that I approach His name is Wesley Sylvester. He's a four time Ninja Warrior. Wow. And I've been training with him almost every weekend for the last three years. And he was what really made one of the biggest differences in me tackling things and deciding I'm just going to do it. So I would go at whether it's climbing a rope, like there's, there's a lot of stuff that I've done that if somebody were to watch, they be like, that's not safe, you probably shouldn't be doing that. Like, yes, I know that. But when you get up 20 feet in the air, and there's no mat below you. And you know that if you fall, something's going to break. There's a switch that goes on in your brain. And I never experienced that before. But it was deciding. I can't be afraid right now. Because if I'm afraid and I let go, things are going to be really bad, right? Because you want Well, I'm not strong enough or I'm not good enough. But when that switch goes, it doesn't matter. You figure it out. And I think maybe that was the switch that you felt were Yeah, I could read all the books and learn all the patterns. But at some point, I just have to decide I'm coming here to win.

Misha Tennenbaum 44:40

Yeah, actually taking that pawn. So in the opening that I always play it or did at that time is called the Slav defense or the semi Slav which are two variations of a similar, it's called the Queen's Gambit declined, meaning you just declined to take that pawn at all. And when I decided I'm going to win I took that upon as like a sign to myself, I was like, This game will be imbalanced, one of us will die, you know, I'm taking the pawn, and that's either going to cost me the game or win me the game, but I'm decided on move to, or whatever it was, yeah, I think it's literally move yeah it is move two I'm going for when you know, I also you brought up something about the Ninja Warrior that you probably didn't think about when you were you were thinking when you're joining Ninja Warrior that you're doing it for you, you know, like, I'm going to be a certain way I have my goals, I'm going to get to a certain place. But what you learn along the way, and what keeps you there, in my experience with all the things that I'm passionate about is the places you go, there are people there, and there's a culture there. And there are heroes there. And there are different aspirations there. And there's a world that you didn't know you didn't join it for that reason. But once you experience it, you can fall in love in a way that you can only fall in love with. Because you intentionally join that world.

Zack Arnold 46:11

Oh my god, I you could not have hit the nail on the head. I talked to people a lot, kind of semi jokingly about how I feel like I have split personalities, where the version of me that goes to an MPEG mixer with the editors guild or an ACE event like a completely different version of me than when I go to the beach and I'm swinging on ninja rigs and the culture of those two groups if you made if I took all of my friends, and I put them in the same room, oh my god, would that be awkward? Because they're so completely different. So it's like I have the right side of my brain, which is all the creativity and the editing and all the stuff that I'm doing with business. But then it meets the left side of my brain, which is just jumping into all the the athletic stuff. And then you put those two together in the same room and man, would that be an interesting, unique mixer. But that is indeed one of the the discoveries that I had is I thought I just need to ask people, how do I do a better pull up? How do I run off the Warped Wall? What's my footwork, right, because I'm an introvert, I got to figure this out all by myself, but I know I need help, I need some guidance. And I ended up finding this entire culture of people that just push me so far beyond what I thought I was capable of both physically and mentally. That I got to the point I think it was maybe a year or year and a half ago that I thought I don't give a **** If I get a ninja warrior. I don't even care about the goal anymore, because I love the lifestyle that I've developed so much. But I wouldn't have found the lifestyle without having the audacity to set the goal.

My sincerest apologies for the interruption in the middle of this interview. But if you are a content creator, or you work in the entertainment industry, not only is the following promo, not an interruption, but listening has the potential to change your life. Because collaborating with Evercast is that powerful. Here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview that I did with Evercast co founders, Brad Thomas and award winning editor Roger Barton

Roger 48:01

Living this lifestyle of a feature film editor has really had an impact on me. So I was really looking for something to push back against all of these lifestyle infringement that are imposed on us both by schedules and expectations. When you guys demoed Evercast for me that first time my jaw hit the floor, I'm like, Oh my god, this is what I've been waiting for, for a decade.

Zack Arnold 48:24

I also had the same reaction when I first saw Evercast, two words came to mind game changer.

Brad 48:29

Our goal, honestly, is to become the zoom for creatives, whatever it is, you're streaming, whether it's editorial, visual effects, Pro Tools for music composition, LIVE SHOT cameras, it's consistent audio and video, lip sync, always stays in sync, whether you're in a live session where you're getting that feedback immediately, or you can't get it immediately. So you record the session and you can share those clips with people on the production team where there's no room for any confusion. It's like this is exactly what the director wants. This is exactly what the producer wants.

Roger 48:57

What matters most to me is it makes the entire process more efficient, which then translates to us as creatives who spend way too much time in front of computers, we get to shut it down. And we get to go spend time with our friends and family.

Zack Arnold 49:10

The biggest complaint and I'm sure you guys have heard this many many times. This looks amazing. I just can't afford it.

Brad 49:15

Tesla had to release the Model S before they released the model three. So by the end of the year, we are going to be releasing a sub $200 version a month of Evercast for the freelancer and indie creatives. Anyone who is a professional video creator outside of Hollywood.

Roger 49:31

I think what we've learned over the last few months is that this technology can translate to better lives for all of us that give us more flexibility and control while still maintaining the creativity, the creative momentum and the quality of work.

Zack Arnold 49:46

I cannot stress this enough Evercast is changing the way that we collaborate. If you value your craft your well being and spending quality time with the ones you love, Evercast now makes that possible for you and me to listen to the full interview. And learn about the amazing potential that Evercast has to change the way that you work and live, visit optimizeyourself.me/evercast. Now back to today's interview.

What I want to follow that up with which I know was one of the the core reasons when I had said to you, I just pitched the idea. I'm like, you know, it'd be cool. Let's just talk about chess in the game of life. And you just sent me this big long email. And I think this is if it's not the core lesson or meta lesson that you pull off the board the sand that I've been pulling off the the ninja course, it's this idea that you have to learn to be not only okay with, but you have to embrace constant failure.

Misha Tennenbaum 50:37

Do you want me to read it?

Zack Arnold 50:38

Do it, read it, go ahead.

Misha Tennenbaum 50:40

Even for the best players, it takes years to become proficient, there is a cold, hard truth, that if you only play and never review your past games or study, you will never improve, it is quite literally impossible. Plus, chess teaches kids to never give up and to lose gracefully, and above all, to take ownership of the decisions that they make. If they win, it's entirely because they won. And if they lose, it's entirely their loss. No one helps you during the game. And there is no luck in chess, because you have perfect information. It sounds cold, but I actually like it when I play against kids who cry when they lose. And I've cried plenty when I've lost them, believe me, they learn to face their fears and accept that losing leads to growth. It's like how it's not all bad when a kid feels a little pain when they're in karate class, and they're sparring and they kick a board and their and their foot hurts, because eventually they'll kick through the board.

Zack Arnold 51:39

If that isn't a metaphor for life, I don't know what is one of the reasons that I think it's so important to talk about this, whether it's in the context of a creative job, or becoming an editor, or becoming a ninja or a chess master, or whatever it is, the only people that we're really seeing look up to are the ones that have already succeeded.

Misha Tennenbaum 51:57


Zack Arnold 51:58

And a lot of times we think, oh, they're an overnight success. I can't do that. That's not me. And what I always try to do is find the story underneath the story. So when I was researching ninjas, and yes, there are a few, they're just naturally gifted, they roll out of bed, and they go along the course. And they're amazing. Like, there are the very few that can do that. But the vast majority, it's all about their habits. It's all about their behaviors and the choices that they make to put in the hours after hours after hours. And when you see the highlight video for two minutes, you don't see the failures, all you see are the successes, which actually is a side note, when I put together my audition tape, it was a collection of all my failures and all the times that I fell down. Really, it was like a minute long of just me failing over and over and over and over. But then of course, being the film editor that I am, there was the payoff, which is me doing all the same stuff successfully.

Misha Tennenbaum 52:50

Oh, nice. Good way.

Zack Arnold 52:52

So that was the story that I told. But I think so many people are afraid of the failure phase, not realizing that it's necessary, and it's actually fun.

Misha Tennenbaum 53:01

Well, that see. And that's the thing, because so much of it is just your own perception of it. You know, like, you probably didn't make it up the warp wall the first time, but if you ran up it and when that was so cool, did you see how big that wall is I was this close, you can have that approach, or you can run up it and go, that wall is huge, I will never make it and you have the same result in the first run. But one of them you have that mindset and you know, you can have the other mindset too. That's actually why I think kids can be so good at chess at such a young age. Because they're literally not even thinking you know, they fail at everything they ever do with every they can't, you know, say anything, they can't write anything, they can't tie their shoes, like everything they're doing, they're failing that they play test, it's just another one of those things. But when you're an adult and you lose, we get this like pouty, you know, self interested, like, well, I this is nonsense, you know, I If only I you know, I don't have the money for a private trainer, like this kid has, like, you can't go to the library and open a book, you know, but it's it's all that you we just come up with the mountains of excuses of why, you know, I can't, I can't get good at chess because I have a job, whatever it is, whatever. Not like I broke up with my girlfriend last night. That's why I lost the game. And it's like you could just come up with anything. Or you can not worry about it. You can you can be kind to yourself and just like gentle you know, gentle perseverance.

Zack Arnold 54:29

It's funny that you bring bring that up that idea. One of the things that I tell my students is probably my biggest pet peeve and the number one excuse that it just it literally makes me a little angry, very irritable when people use this excuse for anything. I don't have the time. Right? Not if I had a nickel every time you use that excuse. And my response is always I'm pretty sure you have the same amount of time that I do that everybody else does. Because time is the one equalizer, you get 24 hours a day and seven days a week, just like I do, just like Bill Gates does, just like Elon Musk does. And just like all the other people that say they don't have the time to achieve the things that they want, which brings me back to one of the core things we keep talking about, which is choices. How are you choosing to spend that time? And is it putting in the 1000s of hours, you need to get to the point where you can become a master? Or are you saying Well, yeah, sure, they can become masters, I could never do that. That's that's just simply making a choice.

Misha Tennenbaum 55:31

Yeah, I couldn't agree more with all all of that. Because there's always a reason not to do it. It's always easier not to do it. And it's not, it's not fun losing a lot, even though we can enjoy it in a way. Like I've lost to some kids, six, seven years old. In fact, we have this joke, there was this one kid always wore a headband. And his mom always brought him on orange juice during the game. So we call him like a juice boxer. That was like our derogatory term for playing against kids like Isaiah juice boxer. But those kids man, they put in the time, they put in the effort, they play 1000s of games, they take a train every single day, they do it like it's homework, you know, and you can do it too.

Zack Arnold 56:18

Yeah. And that, I think, is on the exact, it's the same lesson. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, if you're talking about something as physical as Ninja Warrior, the assumption is when younger people come in, of course, they're going to be better, because they're more limber, and they're stronger, and they're faster, and they're lighter, and they don't have 20 years of garbage around their waist from sitting in a computer all day long. that to this day, they still can't get rid of that getting into my own personal problems. But the opposite could be said in the world of this physical sport, where Oh, well, if that person is older, right? Like I shouldn't be allowing people that are older to beat me because I'm the young one. And I think one of the most important lessons I've learned from ninja is it's not just about your biological age, it's about your mental age. Because with the group that I train with on a regular basis, I train every Sunday for four hours to learn how to stuff. I'm the youngest one there. Wow. And I'm also the worst, I'm the worst one there. And the guys that are just crushing me, are 47 50 57 and 62. And I always had the excuse, well, you know, I'm just getting old. But if that's not what it is, I'm allowing myself to get old. Because I can see that physically, these people are more than capable of doing these things. But it's because again, they made choices. The choice is to focus on diet and mobility and recovery and consistent exercise as a habit every single day. And choosing to keep doing a few more reps instead of I'm tired or this kind of hurts hurts uncomfortable. So I'd rather go home and watch TV and eat crap. Right? And again, it's it's all about these choices and decisions. Which is why when we talk about this larger strategy of chess versus checkers, it's all about making that choice.

Misha Tennenbaum 58:00

You've read or you I'm sure you've talked about at one of your zillion podcasts, I'm sure you've talked about, you know, there's that theory that I mean, it's not even a theory, it is the empirical truth that humans have sort of two mindsets. One is an instantaneous reaction to something that uses a shorthand for meme, you know, memories that you've piled up over the years. And then the other is a critical mind that takes more energy to engage, that we generally avoid. And when we engage it, we shut down other aspects of our consciousness to focus on this this one thing, and we don't like going to that place. But actually all the best stuff is kind of there, and you kind of have to go to that place. That's, that's the big like, that's the big item to embrace.

Zack Arnold 58:48

And that's the thing, I would assume that you have to experience on a consistent basis. If you're going to sit at a chess table for four straight hours, and strategize, because you watch a game of chess and you're like,

Misha Tennenbaum 58:57

What are they even doing?

Zack Arnold 58:58

I mean, you're just you're sitting there like, this is kind of boring. People have no idea the amount of mental energy it takes to have that level of focus that consistently without breaking it.

Misha Tennenbaum 59:08

I don't know if you know this, but you actually burn hundreds of calories playing games, chess, and at the end of the game after like, five, six hours like that, you're spent, I mean, you go to bed, you know, you're like, you're exhausted. It's not like you just hop out like you really have to it's work that's actually considered a sport.

Zack Arnold 59:26

It's funny, because that's one of the discoveries that I made fairly early on when I was dealing with all of my health issues, both mental and physical. And I discovered that biologically, the brain is only 3% of your body weight, but it burns over 20% of your calories. And that was a lightbulb moment. I'm like, that's why I feel like a truck hit me at the end of the day of editing. Because I would just my excuse was well, it's not like I did anything all day. Right? Like if I'm digging ditches will now I understand why I'm tired. But all I did was sit in a chair. Why do I feel like I just ran a marathon it's because my brain did and it burned all that energy. But like you said, it's a really scary hard place to get to. It's called you some people call it flow, some people call it being in the zone, I teach it as getting into a state of deep work using the term from Cal Newport. I but

Misha Tennenbaum 1:00:15

I have listened to your to your video.

Zack Arnold 1:00:16

I'm sure yeah, that was one of my spirit animals. But getting to that place once you get there. It's like a drug. Right? And I'm assuming that that one of the reasons that you play chess 15 to 20 times a day, is because you're putting together all of these various random thoughts about your business or life? Or how do I fix this problem with the software, and they're all floating around, then it all disappears for 20 minutes during a game. And when you're done with the game, aha, I know how to fix that one problem.

Misha Tennenbaum 1:00:47

That's exactly why it's like taking a walk, it does the same thing for my head, it clears up clears my thoughts because you, you sort of have to put down everything else, you know, for a minute. People think that focus is hard. And it's such a mistake, like actually, if you watch kids play, but even myself, This is what I used to do. Okay, Misha, I got to focus. And I literally would do this, Hey, Mike, don't let anything distract you, you know, pay attention, don't get up, don't go to the bathroom Don't you know just look at the look at it. And actually one of the things you have to learn is it should be gentle. You need to you just need to set that aside. And if you get distracted, you just say to yourself, oops, I got distracted, let's just come back. And accept you will be distracted. And accept that it takes when you're learning to play chess, like I could not have sat at the board and looked at one position for an hour like I did in that game that I ultimately you know how to draw. When you watch someone who's new play at like, two minutes in one minute in, they're doing this. They're looking around, they're getting up there, they literally will say okay, so you're here to play the game, you're here to study, you're here to learn whatever it is, and they'll literally do this, oh, I don't know what to do. So the right. But that's the whole thing, don't not know, think you know, like, that's the whole, that's the reason you're here. But they literally have not gained the ability to focus for that long period of time. And part of the reason is because they're working too hard. And part of the reason is, the years of losing all the losing is the minutes spent thinking and learning how to think for a longer, longer period of time and process for for more,

Zack Arnold 1:02:39

Which in my opinion is no different than staring at a timeline. Oh, I got to focus i got i have to solve this problem. How do we get the character from the left side of the room to the right side of the room, the footage doesn't line up, the director doesn't understand eyelines a camera direction, I just have to hunker down and figure it out. But like you said, it's more a matter of it's just it's this relaxed mindset. And of course, the first thing you have to do is eliminate all the outside phones and the chimes and things and the emails because that's a whole different world than being at a chess match. Right. But at the end of the day, if you want those creative ideas to flow, you can't force it, you have to ease yourself into it. It's very much just like a moving mental meditation, where you're it's, it's more it's why they call it flow, right that they don't call it get into a state of brick wall. It's called a state of flow because the ideas are constantly flowing. But how many people do you know that actively learn the skill of how to focus? Were you taught that in college or high school? Was were those concepts even brought up? Or was it just a matter of you got to power through and work as many hours as you need to to get the job done. And I'm just like, I'm so over that mentality, where if you learn the meta skill of focus, all of it becomes so much more effortless, because so much easier to get this stuff done.

Misha Tennenbaum 1:03:54

To your point, you know, mind and body are connected. That's one thing. And if you're spending energy and effort on trying focus, you're actually expanding the energy you need to do the focusing. And if you get it what's funny, that's why flow feels easy. The hard part is getting there. But doing being in the flow is actually the easy part because you're relaxed. You're just in the process, you know?

Zack Arnold 1:04:20

Yeah. And that's, that's one of the things again, that I learned from ninja is that if you're going to succeed, you have no choice but to be in flow. This is one of my favorite lines and I'm going to be paraphrasing and I'm kind of embarrassed I don't know it verbatim. But of course it comes from The Karate Kid I can't go through a podcast without at least mentioning Cobra Kai The Karate Kid because I'm just that big of a nerd. But there's this line that Mr. Miyagi says in the first one where it's like, you know, go on the left side of road. No do karate. Oh, that's okay. Choose right side of road. You do karate. Yes, that's okay. You choose do karate. Okay, guess so. squished like grape? Yeah, right was ninja. You're either in a state of flow and you're doing it Or you're falling flat on your face and you're wet. And there was like one of the things that I've learned like that I've experienced on a, like almost a metaphysical level is where we have an exercise that we do where you have to do 50 continuous push ups for time. They're called power stance was not actually on the ground. So it makes it a little bit harder to do that. And you can actually get a lot deeper. So your nose can actually go deeper than your hands because it's lifted off the ground, because it's lifted off the ground about six inches, okay? And the goal is that you do 50 as fast as you can. And physically, I'm thinking, My buddy can't do that. But when you learn how to find that flow state, I've actually done 50 pushups continuously in 37 seconds. Wow, I felt the same way. And when I did it, and I was like, how long was it like a minute, minute and a half, they're like, that was 37 seconds gone. Right. And then when you're climbing 20 feet in the air, like we literally climb on rafters and stupid stuff that we probably shouldn't be doing. But when you're up there, you can't think about anything else. You can't think oh, I just I had this fight with my co worker, or you know what, I got a late bill like you are all in. But even though there's a tension to it, and there's a lot of strength related to it. There's also a sense of ease, like I have to relax into this because if I don't relax into it, I'm dead meat. I've got a broken ankle in my near future.

Misha Tennenbaum 1:06:21

Yeah, I used to be friends with these rock climbers, I'm sure you know, I don't do anything like that. So

Zack Arnold 1:06:27

I love rock climbing. I suck at

Misha Tennenbaum 1:06:29

it, but I love it. Well, one of the things they you know, they would tell me is if you're holding the wall like this, you're you're burning all your energy standing still, you actually need to like relax and rest on your skeleton, you know, and not, don't use your muscles like that. That sounds like the same thing. It's like, if you're climbing the rafters like this, you're gonna burn out halfway up.

Zack Arnold 1:06:48

Yep. And I learned that lesson very, very quickly, when I started going to climbing gyms before all the pandemic had I done climbing gyms for a couple of years, before everything closed down, and fairly early on. And I think you and I even talked about it, this is at least a one point where climbing is essentially a physical chessboard, because you can't just get on the wall and start grabbing holds, you have to look at the whole run at something called you have to figure out the beta, you have to look at the whole thing. Where does my left hand go? Well, if my left hand is here, where would my right hand be? And when does my left foot move versus my right, you have to plan the whole thing before you grab the wall. Which brings us all the way back to what we were talking about, which is you have to look many steps ahead if you have a difficult goal, specifically, as we've been talking about in the creative world, where before you even show up at the board as you said to paraphrase, you have to do all the work before you make your first move.

Misha Tennenbaum 1:07:45


Zack Arnold 1:07:47

Before closing up today's show, I would love to ask for just a couple additional minutes of your time and attention to introduce you to one of my new favorite products created by my good friend Kit Perkins, who you may recognize as creator of the Topo Mat, here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview that I did with Ergodriven co founder and CEO Kit Perkins, talking about his latest product, New Standard Whole Protein.

Kit Perkins 1:08:11

I've been to health and fitness generally. But I want it to be simple and straightforward. bout a year, year and a half ago, I started adding collagen into my protein shakes. And man the benefits were like more dramatic than any supplement I've ever seen. So I thought if I can just get this down to coming out of one jar, and it's ingredients that I know I can trust, and you just put it in water. And you don't have to think about it.

Zack Arnold 1:08:31

When people think of protein powders. They think well, I don't want to get big and bulky. And that's not what this is about. to me. This is about repair.

Kit Perkins 1:08:37

So big part of what we're talking about here is you are what you eat. Your body's constantly repairing and rebuilding and the only stuff it can use to repair and rebuild is what you've been eating. Unfortunately, as the years have gone by everyday getting out of bed, it's like you know, two or three creeks and pops in the first couple steps and that I thought you just sort of live with now. But yeah, when starting the collagen daily or near daily, it's just gone. So for us job 1A here was make sure it's high quality, and that's grass fed 100% pasture raised cows. And then the second thing if you're actually going to do it every day, it needs to be simple, it needs to taste good.

Zack Arnold 1:09:10

Well my goal is that for anybody that is a creative professional like myself that's stuck in front of a computer. Number one, they're doing it standing on a Topo Mat. Number two, they've got a glass a new standard protein next to them so they can just fuel their body fuel their brain. So you and I, my friend, one edit station at a time are going to change the world.

Kit Perkins 1:09:29

And even better for your listeners we code "optimize" on either a one time purchase for that first Subscribe and Save order 50% off so if you do that, Subscribe and Save that's 20% off and 50% off with the code "optimize" it's a fantastic deal.

Zack Arnold 1:09:43

If you're looking for a simple and affordable way to stay energetic focused and alleviate the chronic aches and pains that come from living at your computer. I recommend new standard whole protein because it's sourced from high quality ingredients that I trust and it tastes great to place your first order Visit optimizeyourself.me/newstandard and use the code "optimize" for 50% off your first order.

Thank you for listening to this episode of The optimize yourself podcast to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes, as well as to subscribe so you don't miss future interviews just like this one. Don't forget to visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast. And as a quick reminder, if you're looking for a better strategy to achieve your goals, specifically in the entertainment industry, don't forget to download my 50 Plus page Ultimate Guide to Making it in Hollywood, which is available for free, no strings attached and optimizeyourself.me/HollywoodUltimateGuide. And a special thanks to our sponsors Evercast and Ergodriven for making today's interview possible. To learn more about how to collaborate remotely without missing a frame. And to get your real time demo of Evercast an action visit optimizeyourself.me/evercast and to learn more about Ergodriven and my favorite product for standing workstations the Topo Mat, visit optimizeyourself.me/topo that's t o p o and to learn more about Ergodriven and their brand new product that I'm super excited about new standard whole protein visit optimizeyourself.me/newstandard. Thank you for listening, stay safe, healthy and sane and be well.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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Guest Bio:


Misha Tenenbaum

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Before founding EditStock and EditMentor, Misha Tenenbaum was a film and television editor. He edited shows for the Speed Channel, Food Network, and indie films. He joined the Editor’s Guild in 2011 and worked as an Assistant Editor on shows like American Horror Story, JOBS, the biopic about Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher, the Fox show Wayward Pines, and Quarry for Cinemax.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared by Debby Germino and published by Glen McNiel.

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

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Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”