Lessons From “The Queen’s Gambit” That You Need To Run For Office

| Ally Cummings

Who else spent 2020 binging some Netflix? Social distancing was all the (necessary) rage last year so finding a way to pass the time was a must. It was during this time that many of us discovered “The Queen’s Gambit,” a Netflix limited series that has caught the world’s attention, and rightfully so. 

For those unfamiliar with this must-see, the main character Beth Harmon, who is a young orphaned girl with a troubled past, took the male-dominated sport of chess by storm and made a name for herself. Watching this series, we couldn’t help but be entranced. Will she win, how will she outsmart her opponents, and where will this journey take her? Sounds like a campaign run, right? That’s because the same lessons we learned from Beth Harmon are relevant for women who are considering a future run for office. 

Here are five lessons you can learn from this Netflix classic. 

(*SPOILERS ALERT: If you haven’t watched this show please know there may be a spoiler or two so read at your own risk. Checkmate.)


You Can Start Before You Are “Ready”

Beth is the perfect example of learning on the job. She even showed up to her first tournament without knowing how to use the chess clock. While it’s nice to be prepared, there is also something to celebrate in the power of taking action even when you feel you don’t meet all the qualifications. 

When it comes to running for office, women are able to find every reason why they can’t run. There’s this idea of needing it to be the perfect time to take the first step. So instead take a page out of Beth’s playbook and start before you are 100 percent ready. You might just surprise yourself and realize you were more ready than you thought.


Surround Yourself With People Who Believe In You

Who else remembers the excitement Beth’s friends expressed when they learned she became the World Champion? The journey through Beth’s life was one of tragedy, yet she built herself an impressive support system from different moments of her life. Each of these characters believed in her and gave her the strength to face obstacles in her path. 

When running for office, a support system is imperative to your success. You need to align yourself with people who believe in you, support you, and stand by you even when things get tough because on a campaign trail it’s bound to happen. It is easy for someone to walk alongside you once you have found success but it is during the times of the unknown and strife that your true supporters help you.


Be Open To Accepting Help

Whether it was mentorship by chess star Benny or financial and emotional support from her friend at the orphanage Jolene, Beth’s success came from her ability to accept help from those around her. When running for office, it’s important to recognize that you can’t do this alone and you are going to need help. You’ll have to embrace the opinions of others. It’s important to find people who might offer a different perspective, a different view, and challenge you during your run for office. It can be really hard not to take feedback personally, but when someone you trust offers you tips for improvement, be open to the advice, and see how implementing it might positively impact you.


Play Your Game But Be Flexible

“In your game with Borgov, you should play the Sicilian,” says Watts while training Harmon for her matchup against World Champion Vasily Borgov.  However, there was a catch in this strategy: This was Borgov’s strategy too. Harmon was worried that it would be dangerous to try to beat the best in the world at his own game?

“It’s also what you’re most comfortable with,” Watts answers. “You should always play your line, never his. You play what’s best for you.”

When running for office it’s important to create your plan and your messaging. These become part of your brand and the identifier for constituents who will potentially vote for you. Setting yourself apart from your opponents is important but it’s also important to be able to pivot. Like one move on a chessboard, those you’re running against can flip the script and you will need to adjust your game to reach victory. Embrace this, make your move, and get back on your playing field (or board).


Be Kind To Yourself and Believe You Can Do It  

The last but the most important lesson to take away. One of the most memorable moments of the series is when Jolene shows up at Beth’s door. During this time, Beth is in a dark place due to her substance abuse and is neglecting her diligent chess practicing regimen. The women have a heart-to-heart with Jolene telling Beth it looks like she’s at the bottom of a hole that she had dug for herself.

“My advice?” Jolene says, “Stop digging.”

We really can be our own worst enemy. When we are ignoring our achievements, our health, and what matters to us it can take a toll on the outcomes of our goals. Running for office is anything but easy so you need to be kind to yourself. The desire to be the best and to win is natural but sometimes the best thing to do really is to take a step back and stop focusing on everything that is going wrong. Celebrate how far you’ve come and remind yourself of why you decided to run in the first place. When pursuing public office, it’s important that you believe in yourself because if you don’t, you can’t expect voters to.


Now that you’ve completed your lessons by Beth Harmon, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and consider a future run for office. You don’t need to wait until you’re 100 percent ready, by joining our Community today you’re just reassuring yourself that you’ll someday do it and hold yourself accountable on your quest to create change. 




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