Number of cashes
Everyone asks, "How does one succeed? How does one achieve what he or she wants? How does one transform their game into what they really want?" I recently learned focusing on "why" rather than "how" led to success (in the material world) or shortcomings in poker. I am on the verge of my first losing year since I was 18. Since the year is almost over, the timing is right to reflect on where any of us are. The question should never be "how." The real question we should ask is "why." Why do I want to succeed? Why do I want to win money? Why do I want to achieve my goals in poker? When we start to ask why, the transformation begins. I am more passionate about the concept of transformation than ever I was about poker. I've had cycles of self-discovery through seminars, practical and spiritual books, and many internal cycles of trial-and-error. A search deep within my own core drives reflection on what succeeded, or caused me to have a learning moment (what some call failure). So let's begin to transform your game. What is your vision of the outcome? What would make you so hungry and determined that you would dedicate all of your energy and passion to meet your deepest inner needs? The more powerful the picture you create, the more energy you will find to fulfill your goals. My picture: conquering poker would give me ultimate freedom, ownership of my own destiny, allow me to travel to places a small town Thomasville boy could literally only DREAM of seeing. How to create this picture was obvious. I sacrificed school, relationships, every bit of free time, and my health and vitality (none of which are advisable). My dream would have been so much more valuable for my life if I thought about "why" before "how." The value of freedom, one of our deepest inner core virtues, goes beyond than just wanting money or material things. How much would you sacrifice to have the freedom to express your ideas, choose your own thoughts, to LIVE? Knowing why I wanted my success was inspirational. Freedom was far more important to me than victory, or money. Freedom was worth the endless energy and sacrifice. Lucky for most of us reading this article, we enjoy freedoms that just a few decades ago would have been just a dream. Still, to this day, we are fighting for our freedom to play poker with legislation across several nations. Let us be grateful for those who sacrificed their lives, to those courageous souls who stood up as leaders for a greater cause than themselves. So what inner need in you drives you in the most powerful way? Find peace, quiet your mind, and listen to your heart and soul. Brainstorm, writing ideas down as you go. Compare and contrast different driving mechanisms for you - positive virtues and negative, disempowering ideas. No one can do this for you. Everyone is driven by different wants; the key is finding what you NEED. I discovered freedom was my deepest inner core need years after becoming obsessed with the beauty of poker in my senior year in high school. Much like life, the challenge in poker was not about external events, people, or even luck. The challenge was controlling your emotions & fears, embracing uncertainty, and giving up any influence of failure. The challenge was deep within. I was a freshman at UNC Charlotte, attending class but only studying poker. I wanted money to buy things I never could when I mowed yards and helped remodel houses. From my mother, I was given the gift of a work ethic and drive to create my own money, rather than being given what I needed. I made a lot of money, around $30k by the time I was halfway into my freshman year. I was playing every night with almost my entire bankroll at the highest limits on Absolute Poker. I was playing golf every day and living an emotional roller coaster every night. One night I lay in complete pain, having just lost half of my roll - I stared at the ceiling, raging, no ability to move or eat or sleep. I watched the sun come up and decided to hop back on that insane ride, attempting to win back peace of mind as much as money. As you can imagine, I lost the rest. In hindsight, it was obviously just a matter of time with no bankroll management and no clear reason why I was playing. I committed to my mom that I would pay for school and tuition, the one thing my mother was previously paying. I was in over my head, everything I desired gone. I was forced to work at U-Haul every morning at 5:30 am, mow yards at home on the weekends, and work at my apartment complex to pay the rent. Life as I knew it was over. School was boring. I was truly discouraged. Eventually, I started to ask the question "why". It took me an entire year of this work, of brainstorming, of wondering how to succeed at poker without failing. It took me this journey to figure out what I should be playing for is freedom. I wanted freedom from someone else telling me what to do, from the ordinary everyday life, to create my own destiny. Without this vision, I would never had the motivation to push past the times where all anyone wants to do is lie in bed and wait for the sun to come up. Writing down the list is an exercise to find your vision, that which inspires you most. Don't continue reading this until you do have that on a piece of paper or your computer. You have to write this down to get it into your subconscious, or reiterate it every day over and over, like I did. You must confirm your choices, to the point where nothing else is acceptable. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? What if we assigned new meaning to failure in poker as being an illusion, just a transitory state between successes? Failure doesn't exist - anything we learn and grow from is never a failure. If you choose to live by this philosophy, your poker game (and life) will improve dramatically. Choice is the most amazing gift we have as thinking individuals. We have the power to choose our emotions and how we interpret what words mean. Reactions associated with a drastic, powerful event in one's life determine their future. Some view a crisis or setback as a complete rejection and an insult to their very being. Some view it as the greatest possible learning experience and growth opportunity. Most spiritual and worldly leaders prevail in leading people to view negative events with empowering, inspirational meanings. People who encounter near-death experiences are often are the best at enjoying life as it comes...the most empowering meaning of them all. Meaning controls everything we see, do, hear, and feel. Meaning is critical because of its connection with our emotional center. I have tried to control and even suppress my wild swings while playing poker, a task both vital and incredibly difficult to achieve. Emotional energy drives all of us. Playing poker tournaments, especially for a living, is an incredibly emotional experience. We "fail," or lose, an insane amount of time. Despite best efforts to control your emotional reaction, the downswings are taxing. I cannot think of many other jobs that have as much pain association on a day-to-day basis than playing poker tournaments for a living (not that I have experienced many jobs). So how do we change these negative emotions we attach to losing to positive reactions? This is by far the most challenging part of succeeding in poker. Whether you play tournaments or cash games, there are going to be so many events out of your control that it is impossible to avoid "failing." But if we learn and grow from the situation, failure no longer exists. The only thing we can do is avoid indulgence of these negative, destructive emotions. We must change the meaning of events that are out of our control. Letting external events change what we do control is a poker player's kryptonite. It definitely had me by the balls before going busto the first time, then again this year. Fear is the overwhelming emotion driving us to do uncharacteristically idiotic things. A common example is considering losing a failure - launching the emotions of self pity and frustration. This is the achiever model. Many successful people use painful moments to drive them, doing whatever it takes to avoid those painful feelings. I often would find myself playing much more during long downswings, chasing the next win to cure the painful losing feelings inside. Trying to quickly cure the pain is when we make irrational decisions, whether it be drugs, video games, sex, or alcohol. If we viewed the pain from a different perspective, we could prevent ourselves from losing control more often. We create more pain through avoidance rather than conscious awareness. Acknowledging the pain provides much more leverage to conquer it, and our fears. During losing streaks it is most crucial to take a step back, reassess what you are feeling and whether or not you are viewing things in a manner that is going to help or hinder not only your game but the business and life around you. Another technique to managing the pain is to confront it directly. Don't try to hide or run from it. Let yourself feel it, wallow in it. Get angry. Feel those most disgusting, fucked up emotions increasing your pain every time you lose. Imagine the worst suckouts, the angry conversations you've had, the most intense on-tilt arguments. The negative reactions weren't caused by losing; they were caused by the persistent, consistent indulgence of our fears and pain. A good exercise, as before, is to write down what really pisses us off, causing the ultimate pain in our lives. Make this a more vivid picture than any single event could create. This exercise might be very easy for some you that are naturally angry, or very difficult for those of you (like me) who have suppressed these emotions. If you become aware, then you are able to manage these emotions. You might even have to wait until an event sparks these feelings before you can consciously see the pain. But if you continue to suppress and deny, the feelings will bubble to the surface anyway, in uncontrolled ways, with unpredictable consequences. If negative thoughts are persistent and overwhelming in your day-to-day poker life, I suggest you do a few simple things in order to regain your feeling of control. First, take a break, be a day a week or a month. You must break the pattern right now if you want to succeed. You must have complete ownership of your feelings and meanings before you achieve anything. We all know how addictive the rush of poker success can be. We all know of examples in our own life, and the lives of others, of great destruction from the end of the positive run, with only the negative emotions remaining. Unless you want to be an 18-year-old Mike Sowers working at U-haul at 5:30 every morning with two other side jobs, broke, wondering how your dream went down the toilet...take what I say to heart. Manage your emotions through bankroll management and conscious awareness; you will find they complement each other very well. Create the dream or vision you want in your head, to drive the passion for what you want. When a negative thought or feeling gets in the way, instead of responding or expressing anger...I suggest jump up, dance, move, get out and run. Exercise, even simple movement, can clear you from a bad state, leaving you more rational and innovative. Do not try to dissect these fearful emotions just sitting around in a dark place, not eating or sleeping. Once you break the pattern, you are becoming conscious and gaining empowering momentum. I would never have had the energy to pursue my true passion to help and inspire others if I didn't get myself in peak state after a very painful moment. For years, I very rarely contributed to anything other than my family or those closest to me. I felt too drained, unconscious in avoiding the pain I felt every day. If you are not excited, if your body isn't exerting energy...you will feel no energy, and therefore not think clearly. We are creatures hard-wired to move. A workout before you begin playing, followed by a nutritious, filling meal, can be greatly beneficial. Before you start every session, and on every break play some type of song you can jump or dance energetically to. Do this for 10 days and see if you don't change the way you feel, process, and think about information in a more empowering way. My song is Zombie Nation - Woah Oh Oh. I also suggest to make this even more powerful is to get a big poster board and write down why you want to achieve success - chart your dream so that you can see it every day. Take time during each break in play to go over your chart as reinforcement. If you don't change anything else about your game, this alone will make you a better player. As an example, the first time I ever tried this during a poker session was the day I got back from a Tony Robbins seminar. I won a $150+13 tournament and finished 6th in the $500 on UB. I kept myself in a positive state the entire night, and work to continue to do so, not only in poker but in all other walks of life. Most of this are things I have learned recently, things I had no clue about even three months ago. A new dream gave me the hunger, the drive, the determination to delve into what I initially loved about poker - psychology. The psychology of why we do things, rather than what we do. The process behind how we judge success and failure. The blessings in my life - money, free time, great friends and family - guided and propelled me at much faster rates than I could have imagined. I am very grateful, and feel that I must continue sharing what I am learning with others. I hope that if this serves you, or you find your own dream, you do the same for someone else. We are all in this together and continuing the growth of consciousness in not only this country, but this world and universe is vital. I highly recommend two books, "The Power of Now" and "The New Earth" by author Eckhart Tolle, to anyone looking to explore deeper within. One was a recommendation by PocketFiver Doug112, the other from a friend and young successful man I recently met named Jonathan Budd. I am very appreciative and thankful. If you are in a very painful moment in your life, you will have a giant breakthrough if you become aware. We are more driven and hungry to avoid pain than to get pleasure. I hope this article helps explain the "why", rather than the "how" of turning this cycle around. The transformation has just begun.