Monday, October 26, 2009

Success, Motivation, and a Balanced Life

I haven't written on here in quite a while, for the simple reason that I haven't really felt like it. A part of that is I haven't been playing much poker so I haven't had a whole lot to write about. This is compounded by the fact that writing about Sunday online tournaments or whatever no longer really qualifies as worth writing about in my mind unless I happen to win something big. I do tweet about them occasionally. There is a noticeable trend in the careers of many very successful young poker players. In the beginning we are obsessed with poker. We devote all our free time to learning and playing the game. We neglect other aspects of our lives to some extent at least to try to excel at poker. I'm not saying that's the ideal way to go about learning the game or this obsession is entirely a virtue in the grand scheme of the things, but it's a statement of fact of how most good players I know were when we learned this game. It definitely describes me.

I'm not saying this obsession is a bad thing either, just that things aren't black and white. It's a personality trait that helps us excel at things we really like. I certainly wouldn't trade it, poker has clearly had a massively net positive affect on my life, but there is some trade-off with other aspects of life that are important to your overall happiness. There are now a growing number of young players who have been lucky enough to achieve most of their goals in poker. At some point they stop and ask themselves, "what now?". The answer is usually realizing the things you have neglected, cutting back on poker to some extent, and moving towards a more balanced life. Given the sedentary and solitary nature of playing online poker this typically involves some combination of living a more healthy lifestyle and getting out more and meeting people/seeing the world. David Benefield (raptor) is the example that first comes to mind as he wrote extensively about this on his blog (for those who don't know his story he was a very successful young online high stakes cash game player). He definitely took it to more an extreme than most, with strict diets and workout regimens. He even took it so far as to retire from poker for the time being and return to school with the hopes of achieving bigger and better things, or at least something he'll find more personally satisfying.

So what is the point of all this? No, I'm not quitting poker. I don't think I'll do this forever but I really can't think of a better/more enjoyable job for me right now. The point is that my motivation to play poker 24/7 just isn't there right now. The great thing about the poker lifestyle is I have the freedom to do what I want. For a while I was doing my normal poker routine just out of habit and realizing once I got started playing that I didn't really want to be playing. So now before I play I always ask myself "Do you really feel like playing poker right now?". If the answer is no, then I don't. Seems pretty obvious right? But it took me a while to figure that out. Though for the longest time when I learning the game the answer to that question would always have been yes anyways.

So, I've been focused more on other things. I bought myself a great condo in downtown Toronto. I moved in and began the process of decorating said condo. I started working out more and eating a little healthier. Don't worry I'm nowhere near raptor levels on these but I'm making some improvements that work for me. I've been catching up with a lot of friends and making some new ones. And of course, I've been relaxing and being generally lazy as always. That one would be really hard to change. I still read and think about poker a lot. I'm staying pretty sharp, but with a lot less actual hands played. The main practical issue for me from a poker point of view is this is greatly hindering my ability to learn and master new games, but I'm ok with that for now.

So my little break from poker has been productive (by my lazy standards) and positive overall. But, I'm starting to get the itch to travel again. To play big tournaments and go after another big score! Unfortunately there aren't many good live tournaments that I'm interested in left in this calendar year. I'm planning to do the BCPC in Vancouver mid-November, though I'm treating that as more of a social trip than a serious poker trip, and probably the 5 diamond WPT at Bellagio in December. In January I will definitely be doing PCA and my annual trip to Australia for Aussie Millions and to visit all my friends down there.

I intend to get back into writing here more during these trips as there will definitely be tons of fun stories to tell, poker-related and otherwise. The idea of trying to write here at least once weekly is probably a thing of the past though.

Mike

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