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David Kramaley, Co-Founder of Chessable: 'Human potential is limitless as long as we apply ourselves'

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David Kramaley is the co-founder of Chessable, an educational technology start-up that changes how players learn chess.

Chessable uses science-backed techniques, like spaced repetition, to make learning chess easier. The platform has a lot of content for intermediate and advanced chess players.

Traditionally, if you want to improve your chess technique, you’d open up a book and set up a board. Chessable took the chess books that have been written, that teach you why some moves are good and some are bad. Instead of you having to read the book, you practice it live as you go through it, page by page.

David is an advocate for lifelong learning and believes that the best innovations combine ideas from far and wide. He currently resides in the UK, but spent a large part of his life in NYC, where he completed his undergrad in Computer Science. He started a social games company that folded in 2012, and after that took some time off to travel, read, study, and got a detour into psychology.

Find out more about the books that influenced his journey, helped him broaden his mind and balance his worldview, but also why we should re-read some books.

Estimated reading time for this interview is 7 minutes. If you'd rather listen to it, you can do it on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

This is a tough question. I have many favourites that can all be answers to this question. I’ll go for The Lean Startup by Eric Ries for the business category. It has helped shape the way I work and build products, by making me a believer in keeping things as lean as possible for as long as possible, while slowly improving and validating your product. Business can be a risky proposition, and by taking this methodological, almost scientific approach, you mitigate risk and maximise your chances of success. For a non-business book, I’d probably choose a non-fiction book again but to be completely radical, I’ll go for fiction. I really enjoyed Down and Out in Paris and London. I think it’s meant to be a semi-autobiographical novel by George Orwell. I liked it because it was one of those books that had a big influence on the way I perceive and think about the world. Highly recommended.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

There was! “Think and Grow Rich” was recommended by a professor in a Computer Science class I had (random!). This book really convinced me that the human potential is limitless as long as we apply ourselves. I am in control of what I can achieve. If you apply yourself long enough and are willing to put in the hard work, you can literally think yourself to riches, and it’s not only meant in the sense of money, but everything!

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

This will be a curve-ball, but “Quantity and Quality in Social Research by Alan Bryman”. This is a very tough read, but the sections on epistemology really helped me broaden my mind and balance my worldview. It helps you think about what is true, and challenge the notions of “truth”. What is true? Well, it turns out that there is not a single agreed definition, and it can even be said that true is whatever the most of us agree on. Mind-boggling.

What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

Think and grow rich, Founders at work, The lean startup, Mistakes were made (but not by me), The power of habit, How to win friends and influence people.

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

I prefer paper books but will read on Kindle and my phone if I have to. Last year I got up to 27 books for the year, so about 2 a month. To achieve that reading standard I read at least once or twice per week. Sometimes on productive reading weeks, I could read every day for an hour or more for many days in a row.

How do you make time for reading?

These days no one has spare time! We make time by prioritising the things we really care about. I simply prioritised reading over everything else (e.g. relaxing, watching tv, going out, etc.). I found a good time for me was either right before I sleep or perhaps easier, while commuting or travelling somewhere.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

I believe a book can change you fundamentally from the core. There is no need to try and remember everything. The most important bits will stick with you and for those really special books you can and should re-read them.

Sometimes I do take notes on my phone’s notepad though. I do this when the authors recommend other books I might like, or the reading sparks a really cool idea for work or life.

How do you choose what books to read next?

I use recommendations from books that I have really enjoyed. I also like to take recommendations from good friends or likeminded people that I know or have read about. Sometimes I’ll pick something really random so as to not polarize my views! Or at least I try to.

Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I’m reading The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. I expect it to reinforce some positive psychology principles I know and help me put them into practice.

Links where you can follow David Kramaley or find out more about his projects:

All books mentioned by David Kramaley in this interview:

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