Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Day 14: Structure

So now I'm two weeks into my year-long adventure, and I'm already learning at a pace that more than fulfills my expectations.

I am chock-full of things to write about. I have no anxiety whatsoever about having enough material to make a book. Every day, in fact, I find myself adding to my list of topics. I'm not crossing them off at anything like that rate. This is actually quite reassuring, although it makes it clear to me that the editorial and organizational task is going to be much more substantial than I anticipated. (Historically, I have hardly ever done second drafts in my writing. I think with this material, though, it's going to be essential, as I move from the incidental and sporadic pieces to what I hope will be a unified and coherent final product.)

I had not fully anticipated, either, how crucial it was going to be to structure my time ~ and this is something I must work on right away if I'm to make best use of the year. In these first couple of weeks, I've allowed my zeal to play cards, and a lingering "pre-job" attitude toward the game that says one must play as much as possible whenever presented with the opportunity, to run away with me. I have been playing long, undisciplined sessions, staying up way too late, and not getting on with the other mundane tasks that are essential for a balanced life (and thus, of course, one's best game).

Now, however, I must approach each session with the goal of optimal play. That means that I must come to the table rested, refreshed, with a mind cleared of distraction. I must get appropriate exercise and nutrition. I can't be thinking about the errands I haven't run or the phone calls I haven't made. I have to take care of business before I take care of business.

So as I go into the second half of this first month, I re-commit myself to the basic outline of a schedule that I set out with: at least an hour of exercise every day; at least two hours of writing every day; a minimum of four hours (a work-week's tithing) of volunteer or charitable work every week. And no poker until the daily obligations are met and the day's essential errands and chores are complete. I also have to start keeping regular hours, sleeping eight hours a night.

I know some of you reading this are rolling you eyes and thinking to yourself, "Well, DUH!!" Your lives are already well-structured, and the discipline with which you approach them is either that of necessity, ingrained habit, or deliberate choice. You're wondering why this is even an issue in the first place. Have I really been living that sloppy of a life? And if so a) why? and 2) how have I gotten away with it?

The answers to those questions are equally matters of pride and embarrassment to me. Honestly, there seems little to be gained by going into them, so (author's prerogative) I'm just going to skip it. Suffice it to say that I acknowledge that, for the purposes of my adventure, I've got to get a grip and stick to a well-ordered program. This will not be easy for me, at least at the beginning.

But, honestly, I will deeply regret it if I don't give myself every chance to achieve my goals in this year. And there is no way I can have the kind of success I hope for if I'm flying by the seat of my pants the whole way. I hope that eventually I too will become a creature of truly constructive habits, so that I don't experience what I believe to be critical structure as a burdensome and restrictive practice.

Some of the people I most admire wear the yoke of discipline lightly and joyfully. They have mastered themselves and they are free. It is a liberation I seek to emulate, but that I know will not come without a struggle.

Past time to get on with it, then.

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