You don’t become the best at something by playing at a basic level against basic competition your entire career. If you want to be the best guitar player you don’t stop challenging yourself after you learn three chords. If you want to be the best chess player, you don’t play people who are not as accomplished at the game as you. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
But you don’t start out being able to beat the best
You start out by getting your butt kicked (a lot!)
If you’re picking up a ukulele for the first time, you can’t expect to be able to play like Jake Shimbukuro.
Ever watch one of those YouTube videos of a crazy-awesome Super Mario Bros. video game player? They can zoom through all the levels of the game in record time without ever losing a life and beating the game — but every one of those players started out by losing the game over and over and over and over again.
Each time they played they got a little further in the game, learned about the pitfalls of each level and how to avoid them, and the secrets to beating the each level in record time — but they learned by losing. You figure out how to dodge the cannonball when it comes flying out of nowhere by getting hit by that cannonball a few dozen times in a row.
You learn to be at your best by learning to beat the best
There’s no short cut. There’s no fast-forward button. You just have to sit down at the board and hear the people sitting across from you call out “checkmate” a few thousand times.
And I say “people” because you can’t just play one person to become the best. You need to play a variety of people who can humble you repeatedly. If you only play a single person (no matter how good they are) once you learn to beat that person you will only be able to beat others who play the game in a similar manner. In order to be able to win against all-comers, you need to lose against as many different players and playing styles as you can.
The more ways you know how you got beat, the more ways you’ll know how to win.