Learning from the Greats
5 min read

Learning from the Greats

Issue #18: Living like a chess master, Scripture memorization, screen time at church, and more.
Learning from the Greats

Issue #18: Living like a chess master, Scripture memorization, screen time at church, and more.


Hey there!

Welcome to another edition of Reagan’s Roundup, the weekly newsletter all about personal productivity from a Christian perspective.

I recently suffered a humiliating defeat.

My 9-year-old niece beat me at what I thought was to be a friendly game of chess.

(And, between you and me, she was not very humble about her victory.)

Fresh off that brutal board game beat down, I came across this profile on chess legend Magnus Carlsen. And I read it with great interest, to see if I could pick up any tips for crushing my niece in our next match.

If you don't know him, Magnus Carlsen is the best chess player in the world. He became a grandmaster at 13 years old, and at 30 is currently World Chess Champion.

He is, quite literally, at the top of his game.

Michael Jordan, Jeff Bezos, or a chess champion, it's always fascinating to study people who have reached the top of their profession. Because when you study the best, you can glean insights that are applicable to success in any area of life.

I'll never be a chess legend (and likely will never beat my niece either). But I do want to be the best I can be in every area in which the Lord has placed me. That's good stewardship.

So, here are a few lessons I drew from this piece on Magnus Carlsen.

1. Passion to Learn
Carlsen attributed his rise to the top to his passion to learn everything he could about the game of chess. "I would constantly be sitting at my board reading some chess books, playing online, playing in tournaments whenever I could. And I think to become really good in chess, you really need that."

He also noted the connection between loving what you're doing and learning about it. He said, "when you have fun, then you're more interested in learning."

I've said before that the key to mastering any subject is finding a way to make it interesting to you. This is as true of chess as it is of Bible study or your job.

Joy fuels learning.

2. Physical Exercise for Brain Work
Though chess is obviously a mental game, Carlsen is a big believer in the connection between mind and body. He either goes on 30 to 60-minute runs or plays an hour or two of sports every day he's in a chess tournament.

That's right, this isn't merely his training routine, this is what he does this on the days he's competing!

He says it helps his game to let his mind wander while exercising, "Running is a time where I can go through game strategies."

God made us as integrated beings, we have both a mind and a body. Even though much of our work these days is mental, we neglect the mind-body connection at our own productivity peril.

Often, I find that if I'm slacking mentally, a quick walk is superior to a cup of coffee for mental clarity.

3. Don't Idolize the Greats
Magnus has learned a lot from chess legends like Valdimir Kramni, Garry Kasparov, and Bobby Fischer. But he's careful not to hold them on too high a pedestal or to try and copy their styles.

"It's never really been my style, according to my philosophy, to idolize players, to try to copy them. I just try to learn and get the best from the great masters, contemporary and from the past."

We have a tendency to grade ourselves against others. We can even do this in our walk of faith, comparing ourselves to others who have certain gifts. But trying to copy others who are differently gifted, only makes us less effective with our own giftings. Romans 12:6 says that we have each been gifted differently according to the grace given us.

So, it may sound cheesy, but it's true: God is most honored, not when you try to be the best, but when you try to be the best you, in his power and for His glory.

"Struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." – Colossians 1:29


🎙On the Podcast

Scripture Memorization

Every Christian should make a regular practice of memorizing passages from the Bible. Here’s why and some strategies and resources to help you get started.

I also compiled this guide of Resources for Memorizing Scripture.

The Redeeming Productivity Show is my weekly podcast. It's all about a biblical approach to personal development and productivity. Subscribe on your favorite platform.


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"The apps on our devices make life so much easier. But they make worship more difficult."

Why Amazon, Reddit, and the New York Times websites were down on Tuesday
This is a cautionary tale about having a single point of failure.

For about an hour on Tuesday morning, several high-profile websites were completely inaccessible. The popular content delivery network Fastly caused the problem. And Fastly traced the outage not to a system failure, but to a single customer. Some poor sap was changing a setting on his account and inadvertently exploited a bug that wiped out 85% of Fastly's network. Yeesh!

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I had never heard of Hemingway and used it to write this newsletter. Very helpful tool!

Gen Z’s Questions About Christianity: The Bible’s Authority
In this video, Michael Kruger answers five common questions about biblical authority and inerrancy.

These are the questions he answers:

  • How do we know the Bible is trustworthy?
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Freedom App*

The conundrum of modern work is that we must be productive on our devices while, at the same time, not being distracted by them.

Sometimes our focus could use a little help.

Freedom is a productivity app that temporarily blocks distracting apps and websites so you can focus. You only need one license and it will work on all your devices.

*Affiliate link


✍️Quote of the Week

"You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction."

– George Lorimer


⌛️That’s All for this Week

Thanks for reading!

If you're enjoying the newsletter, share it with a friend. And as always, you can reply to send me a message. I love to hear from readers!

See you next week,

– Reagan