Review: Go with the Flow

· 703 words · 4 minute read

Subtitle: How the Great Master of Go Trained His Mind.

Context: The author is a legendary Go player as a world champion and a teacher of the even more outstanding player, Chanho Lee. This duo made Korea the center of Go. So, many Korean kids, including me, played Go hard to succeed their legacy in the 1990s. I gave up the path as I realized I couldn’t be that great, but thrilled to see this book published in 2015 (right before the AlphaGo match). The English translation was published in 2018 and isn’t as great as it could be, but still worth reading with plenty of wisdom.

Cho cover

We struggle with our battles in schools, companies, and personal relationships every day. The world moves fast, and we continuously feel behind the rapid pace. It is hard to say how to live, but I think we can still agree that building a strong and independent core for ourselves makes our lives more meaningful. And that core is formed from the thinking mind. Instead of passively accepting the given conditions, the mind grows stronger by endeavoring to understand the fundamentals and build narratives on them. I think the value of the core has increased in the modern world for the following reasons:

  1. Rapid and disruptive changes: When the world shifts fast, you must judge how to leverage the old knowledge. How meaningful is GDP in today’s economy? Does GAAP accounting make sense when intangible assets play key roles in the business? Is employee tenure relevant for compensation? How can I continue to be competitive in the market? There’s no correct answer, but your core needs to make decisions and adapt to society. In the meantime, the core should be flexible enough to correct misjudgment.
  2. Flooding information: Accessible information grows fast, but the quantity doesn’t automatically come with quality. When there is a lot of fragmented data, each of us is responsible for connecting them. So, it isn’t surprising that fake news has become a social problem. Even when each fragment is reasonably truthful, narratives can conclude the story in any direction. For example, I often heard that people could easily find a new job in Silicon Valley after getting fired. It is probably true that you can find a new job that pays much less, but finding a satisfying job will still be challenging. Narratives can determine if there are plenty of opportunities or if job hopping is difficult.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought; it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. – Gautama Buddha

Lee Sedol

You continuously make decisions on Go. Of course, it has much clearer rules than our lives, but the complexity is immense that computers had no hope against human players before AlphaGo. Moreover, Go can be more brutal than our lives as there’s no one to blame but yourself, and only the last winner matters. So, Cho must have thought hard about managing decisions and himself.

When we see brilliant people, they seem to solve problems all at once without hesitation. However, Cho or other geniuses like Terence Tao1 show that’s not the case. Instead, they focus incredibly hard on a problem, relentlessly try different approaches, and eventually come up with the next steps. Even though that is also hard to imitate for ordinary people like me, it is clear that they are beaten hard by the difficulties likewise. So, this book provides an excellent opportunity how we can strengthen our thinking core from the grand master. I could enjoy the book more as I grew up admiring the author. ∎

More to recommend:

  • Principles – Dalio, Ray
  • Homo Deus — Yuval Noah Harari

Credit 🔗

Lee Jin-Man/AP/Rex/Shutterstock


  1. In Does one have to be a genius to do maths? , Tao suggests “the popular image of the lone genius” is misleading. Instead, you study others’ research hard to make incremental improvements on top of them after focusing hard on a narrow area. When humans had little accumulated knowledge, one genius could make groundbreaking changes, but now each individual can only contribute a small portion of the total knowledge. While the popular image is more dramatic, we shouldn’t confuse it with reality. ↩︎

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