Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Good day; bad day.

I had a very good day on the personal front yesterday.

You remember what it's like when you have a giant, painful, unsightly pimple right near your lip? It hurts, it looks bad, it gets more and more bothersome day by day. You know you could have avoided it if you had skipped the fried chicken or exfoliated more assiduously or just plain not had normal teenage hormones or SOMETHING. You try to ignore it, you cover it up with make-up, your nice friends tell you "It's not that bad, really!" but you know better. You can't bear to look at yourself in the mirror, you start turning down social invitations, and the pain near your lip makes talking or kissing miserable. This stupid little zit is messing up your life. It starts to feel like an enormous zit, a zit the size of the Matterhorn. You are irrationally afraid it will somehow infect your brain and kill you.

And then one day, finally, you've had enough. You are sick of thinking about that thing and of trying to not think about it. You apply hot compresses to the pimple. You perform the operation. The zit gives up the little solid pillar of hardened matter at its core, the pus flows, and maybe a bit of blood. The distended flesh and irritated nerves of the surrounding area on your face feel immediate relief. And the healing begins almost instantly. In a little while, all trace of it will be gone and not only will no one else take note of it, but you'll barely remember it was ever there yourself.

Yesterday, I popped a big metaphorical zit in my life (the healing has already begun). The relief was extensive. I was in a very upbeat mood. What better time to go play poker, right?

But I also had a bad day yesterday, and it was my own damn fault.

I was on happy tilt. I was also on only about four and a half hours of sleep. As I drove to the Ikea game, I asked myself: "Is this wise? You're kinda tired." But I was also floating on the confidence engendered by eight consecutive winning sessions. "It's okay, self, I won't stay long."

Meh. It wasn't that I played terribly. I didn't, I played okay. But I got stuck early, and then lost my buy-in and then another top-up, and then I got felted. I think I made one dubious decision (that early loss), but other than that my reads were good ~ the cards just didn't fall my way.

Nonetheless: I SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PLAYING. I was not capable of bringing my A game. And even if my B game was "good enough" for the circumstances, I should be practicing the discipline of only playing when I can do my best.

I made a series of unprofessional choices: I didn't make the correct decision in deciding to play in the first place. Nor did I make the correct decision to leave after I realized that I was going to want to dig myself out, but I was really too tired to make a marathon night of it. I could have saved a buy-in by acknowledging that and picking up and going. Had I been well-rested, I could easily have rebought yet again and stayed and ground it all back and more. But I wasn't, and I knew it, so I should have left earlier and taken the more modest loss.

Being a professional poker player is not just about the decisions you make at the table. It's also about the choices you make on your way to the table and in leaving the table and away from the table. My tweet to the contrary, being a pro is not a hat you put on while you're on the baize, it's an identity that has to inform your entire life.

Am I playing at being a poker player? Or am I really a pro?

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

2000+ Good Decisions

What does it take to win a large multi-table tournament, one that has thousands of entrants and runs over the course of three days?

By my calculations, it takes about two thousand good decisions. I figure a three-day event lasts a total of about 34 hours. At a well-run live game, you can see approximately 30 hands an hour. Of those, you'll only play a certain precentage (all told, including short-handed, and heads-up), let's say 20 percent. Some of the decisions will be binary (e.g., continue to play the hand or fold), but a lot of them will have multiple sub-elements (e.g.: choose to raise, and decide how much). I settled on 2000 as a nice round number.

At first blush, two thousand decisions doesn't seem like a lot. But ask yourself: how many times have you gone through the same motion 2000 times without error? (Breathing, blinking, and other autonomic functions don't count.) Do you think you could add 2000 columns of numbers, for example, without once making a mistake? Making 2000 correct decisions in a row, under pressure, is a huge challenge.

Sure, you could make a mistake or two and recover. If you're lucky. But in a tournament, one mistake can also be completely disastrous. You don't have to make the optimal play every time, but you do have to avoid making bad decisions. You have to do the right thing over and over, hour after hour, for two and a half long days of playing.

The next time you describe someone who wins a large-field tournament as a luckbox, remember this. Sure, they probably did run like god. Nobody gets through a huge game like that without running hotter than the sun, having good hands hold up and sucking out when necessary. But nobody makes it through a field that big on luck alone, either. Those people sitting at the final table probably made more good decisions in a row to get there than any athlete in the history of the world has ever made good plays in a row. That takes mental toughness, concentration, and stamina, and it is much harder to do than it looks.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I choose to persevere

I am pleased to report that Rex55 is blogging again after a period of quiet. Pay her a visit. Her candor is both refreshing and helpful to all those who want to understand what the poker life is really like.

She also appended a quotation to her post. I tracked down the original recording and offer this transcription:
Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it's not. It takes commitment, and you experience plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won't. It's whether you let it harden you or shame you into inaction, or whether instead you learn from it and choose to persevere. ~ Barack Obama, July 12, 2006, (at approx. 6:25 in video)

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Doyle Should Know

What people don’t seem to understand is that there is much more than talent and knowledge that is required to be a great poker player. You have to be able to handle adversity without going off the deep end. You have to have the character to handle the pitfalls of life. Also there is the ability to implement the things you do know. That is probably the biggest difference between good poker players and great poker players. ~ Doyle Brunson, on his blog.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 10, 2009

More on Money

There are a whole raft of interesting studies on the psychology of money, many of which have interesting implications for poker players.
The value of £100 is supposed to lie in how much beer or fuel it can purchase and nothing else. You should care no more about being short-changed £5 at the supermarket checkout than losing the same amount when borrowing money to buy a £300,000 house. Similarly, you should value £10 in loose change the same as £10 in your bank account that you've mentally set aside for your niece's birthday.

In reality we are not that rational. Instead of treating cash simply as a tool to be wielded with objective precision, we allow money to reach inside our heads and tap into the ancient emotional parts of our brain, often with unpredictable results.
Read more here.


Friday, April 3, 2009

A Good Checklist

Short-stacked Shamus pointed me to a useful checklist on Nat Arem's blog. Here are the basic characteristics that he considers essential for a successful poker player, and my brief self-evaluation for each.

  1. Even-keeled personality. I am not a volatile person. While I have suffered from depression in the past, I have never been a moody or highly-reactive person. Very few things really, really bug me or make me genuinely angry. Like anyone, I can be temporarily frustrated, but it blows over quickly. I am frequently shocked by how emotional and badly-behaved people can get both at the poker table and away from it.

  2. Good money management. This is a strong suit for me. I live frugally, and I very, very rarely truly splurge on anything. It is not a challenge for me to live within my means, and I have no aspirations to rock the balla lifestyle.

  3. Analytical mind. I spend a great proportion of my waking day thinking things through methodically. I love to figure out how various factors contribute to a decision. When I make a mistake, I review the entire sequence of events to determine what I might or should have done differently.

  4. Ability to view money as a tool. This does not come easily for me; I understand the concept, but it goes against my upbringing and previous understanding of the role and purpose of money in our lives. But accumulated experience playing at appropriate stakes is helping me learn to do this, and it is indisputably a vitally important attitude to cultivate.

  5. Overconfident and realistic expectations. Honestly, I'm not sure why Arem phrased his heading this way. If you read the description, it's clear he considers overconfidence to be a pitfall and, in contrast, values highly the ability to accurately self-evaluate and maintain expectations grounded in a realistic appraisal of one's experience. I like to think that I'm good at this, and that my view of my own abilities would match reasonably well with others' more objective assessment.

Needless to say, this is not an exhaustive list. I can think of quite a few more (I should hope so, since I'm writing a book that addresses the topic head-on). But it's a useful place to start.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Month 7: Nothing to Write Home About

I just realized that I failed to summarize Month 7. This is partially because it wasn't terribly interesting, and partially because I think I'm still a little shell-shocked from the losses of Month 6. Who wants to look at the numbers when the numbers are nothing but bad news?

Still, you can't take yourself seriously as a poker player without looking hard at your numbers. Going "la la la" and pretending that reality is other than it is… well, that's a recipe for failure both personally and professionally. So here's how Month 7 went.

It went weakly. I averaged a 10% profit on the money I put at risk, in both cash and tournaments. So I made money, but not much, and certainly not enough to be viable as a sole source of income. That's way too close to break-even.

Even harsher: I only recovered about a third of what I lost in Month 6. The only "consolation" there (and it's not much) is that I simply did nowhere near as much playing in Month 7 as I did in Month 6, and the total money I wagered with was only two-thirds what I put at risk in the previous month. It's hard to make a big recovery if you're not playing as much or for big enough stakes.

By contrast, Month 8 is off to a relatively strong start (of course this means next to nothing). In fact, this first week is the best first week I've had so far. This month will include a few days of my next trip to Las Vegas, although not the whole trip. If historical patterns (again, perfectly ridiculously small samples, but anyway) hold up, I ought to do well this time, as I seem to alternate between substantial wins and losses in Sin City. I suppose I should note that I'm actually well ahead overall on money made in Las Vegas ~ despite Month 6.

I've decided that I'm going to try an experiment for the rest of Month 8. I'm putting in place some win-capture and stop-loss rules for cash game sessions at casino-level stakes. If I am up two buy-ins, I will cash out and either quit for the day or take an hour-and-a-half break. If I go through two buy-ins, I will stop for a minimum of four hours at a casino, and for the day if I'm at home. In AC, I failed to get up from the table when I had the urge to lock up my profits while substantially ahead, and went on to regret it. I know poker is one long session, really, but one's mental condition and psychological state have a tremendous effect on how one plays (okay, maybe it's just me), and positive reinforcement (booking a healthy win) is the best way to keep me on track. Resilience is important, no question, but I do much better if I approach the table feeling less beat up.

Someday, perhaps, I'll be less vulnerable to this kind of emotional weather, but until then I might as well try everything I can to maximize the time I'm playing in a good frame of mind.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 13, 2009

Put To The Test

Must. Not. Tell. Bad. Beat. Stories.

La la la la la la.



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I call BBS!

I hereby take this solemn oath: I will never deliberately tell a bad beat story again. Ever.

Here's why:
  1. I don't like telling them.
    • They keep me living in the past and distract me from paying attention to what is going on right now, in the present.
    • They promote or prolong tilt.
    • They reinforce feelings of victimhood, which are never helpful in poker.
  2. No one likes hearing them.
    • The only reason anyone ever voluntarily listens to a bad beat story is because they assume it means that you'll reciprocate and they'll get to tell theirs. Stop the madness!
    • All bad beat stories are essentially the same, and can be summed up in five words: "I got really screwed, again." If you must tell a bad beat story, for the love of god, take the guidelines laid out in this article to heart.
If someone asks me how I went out of a tournament, or why I lost the third buy-in in a cash game, I'll oblige with details of the hand. But I'll only mention the specifics if asked.

You can tell me your bad beat story, if you must. But part of me will not be listening, part of me will consider it a foible of yours that you are determined to share every last detail of it with me, and part of me will be comparing your pathetically inadequate bad beat story with my extensive personal archive of horrible beats that I've suffered and finding it totally lacking in terms of quality, quantity, and depth of despair-engendering elements. I will make sympathetic noises, and I may actually even be sympathetic, but I will not gush.

Let's not enable one another: put an end to BBS!

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Put Down The Duckie, Or, Everything I Ever Needed To Know About Poker I Learned On Sesame Street

"You'll never find the skill you seek until you pay your dues."

If you want to be a great poker player, you're going to have to make sacrifices. You're going to have to get out of your comfort zone. You're going to have to shed habits and circumstances that are soothing and reliable, but are holding you back. You're going to have to identify things that work great for you in your life, but are leaks and impediments at the poker table. And once you figure out what those things are, you are going to have to ruthlessly eliminate them from your game.

"You know, I really love my duckie, I can't bear to part with him!"
"You don't have to lose your duck. You can pick it up when you're finished!"

[Tip o' the hat to a certain grumpy player who certainly knows how to let go of the squeaky toy, when necessary.]


Thursday, February 19, 2009


Can you take a licking and keep on ticking?*

It's an important question, because if you're a poker-player you will get beat. A lot. Sometimes more than seems statistically probable. But this is the way it goes.

You're playing a disciplined game. You're at the right stakes. You're not making irrational decisions. The table is exploitable; you've done your due-diligence and are clear on what it will take to win. You go and do what it takes.

And you lose.

Breathe, refocus, rinse and repeat.


Take a break, have something nice to eat, talk it over with a poker-playing friend. Shake it off. Return to the table.


Get a good night's rest. Read a little strategy. Go over your hand histories and your play. Learn something and reset.


Make a self-deprecating joke. Do the math on what your overall EV for the last few days would have been over a large sample size. Remind yourself that no small children or animals were harmed in the making of this downswing. Resolve to continue playing as best you know how.


Avoid the people who can't help but display, with gleaming sharp teeth showing through "just-kidding" grins, their share of Schadenfreude over your recent results. Remind yourself that you are 'rolled for just this sort of eventuality. Keep in mind that your goal is to both survive and prosper, and that you will not be able to prosper if you play with scared money or see monsters under every bed.


How ya doin' now? Hunh? Still playing your A game? Still making your best decisions? Still getting enough good food, good excercise, good sleep? Take a few days off, that's the ticket! Come back refreshed and relaxed.


Do you have the mental toughness to continue with this? Are you emotionally prepared to overcome a prolonged period of negative feedback that is legitimately unrelated to the quality of your play? Do you have reserves of good humor, optimism, and equanimity that will keep you from compounding your bad run with bad play, stupid life choices like -EV gambling, alcohol or drug abuse, and the neglect or destruction of valued personal relationships? Do you know how to leave your work, as it were, at the office? Do you know how to bend with the high wind of variance so that you will not be broken?

When they say that poker is a tough way to make an easy living, this is what they are talking about. Anyone of average intelligence can learn enough poker strategy to be a break-even or modest winner at modest stakes. Truly, anyone. But being a long-term winner requires a combination of personality traits and discipline that are rarely innate, but must be cultivated and sustained in the face of adversity. And this is why teh pokers is not ez, and why most people, in the long run, lose.

Go back to the game. Accept that you might lose. Make the right choices anyway.

*There's a highly-skilled online tournament player whose screenname is "Timex." I have no doubt this motto is the reason why.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Occupational Hazards

So far, I've identified two serious occupational hazards for me, as a poker-player.

The first is the negative impact upon my circadian rhythms and social life of the vampiric hours I keep. For example, last night I got home at about 5 am, and didn't get to sleep until around 6 am. I was so exhausted that I unplugged my landline, and silenced my mobile phone so as to not be disturbed. As a result, I overslept a lunch date with my godmother, and had to make a mad dash to the DMV before it closed to get my car registration renewed (yeah, that's another story, involving a $100 ticket which alerted me to the expiration... unlike, say, getting a notice in advance from the city which they're supposed to send but didn't). This week has also featured my having to cancel dinner plans with friends because the tournament I was in ran impossibly long. I am now facing the possibility of the same scenario happening this coming Saturday... I may just skip the game to avoid it.

The second is potentially even more problematic. Last night I absolutely CRUSHED the Crime Scene Game. Sweet, sweet vindication. Played awesome, ran good. It was just delicious. I made a 200% return on my investment, for an hourly rate of 30.5 BBs. Needless to say, this had both a positive impact on my mood and on my bankroll.

Now, you must know this about me: I am not much of a shopper. I'm simply not one of those gals who particularly enjoys shopping; I buy what I need and like and I'm done. I don't buy things as a therapeutic exercise. I am, by and large, a utilitarian consumer (even, I would argue, when I buy higher end computing devices). And yet... when I had my big score at the Venetian, I bought myself a little souvenir trinket at a jewelry store. It was very modestly priced, I love it, and it has garnered much favorable comment when I wear it.

Today, however, after finishing up at the DMV, I found myself at a Christian Barnard store sporting a going-out-of-business sign. Huge reductions. Bargain bling. Long ago, I bought my favorite watch at Christian Barnard, so I thought I'd stick my head in and see if there was anything cheap and appealing. Well, I found and bought for a song a pretty white gold ring of unusual design. At which point I should have patted myself on the back and walked out. But I did not. Instead I discovered the insidious world of Pandora jewelry, god help me. (As a silversmith and jewelry designer myself, I have to bow to the ingenuity of their scheme.) I now own a necklace, a bracelet, and five charms. Gulp. I am going to have to institute some pretty strict guidelines about acquisition of this stuff, because as far as I can tell it's the gewgaw equivalent of crack.

Needless to say, I would never have given any of this fripperie a second glance if I hadn't just had a big payday at the poker table. But that's exactly the point. Income from the poker table IS MY PAY, and not some kind of "whoo hooo! extra money! let's go spend it! yay!" windfall. I positively cannot afford to make a habit of this sort of thing.

Part of me, though, takes a certain rebellious pleasure in this expenditure. For most of my life, I've spent the absolute minimum amount of time and money on my personal appearance, and eschewed with an almost puritan fervor anything that smacked of unnecessary feminine adornment. Yet the further I plunge into the very masculine world of poker, the more I find myself enjoying gussying-up (nice clothes, cosmetics, and now ~ apparently ~ jewelry). I'm sure there some deep, twisted psychological reason for this, but meh. The key is to keep it all in some kind of moderation.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Romans 7:19

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

I know I shouldn't play when I'm exhausted. So what do I do?
I play when I'm exhausted.

I know I should work out every day, and especially on days when I'm playing. So what do I do?
I don't go to the gym and sit around while my legs atrophy.

Once the minimum intellectual requirements are met, the fundamental key to success in this game is pretty simple: self-discipline. That comprises physical maintenance, emotional equanimity, and mental toughness.

I have a ways to go.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 93: Back on Track

Well. That was interesting.

If you read the 2+2 Forums enough, eventually you will come across the concept of "life tilt." It's usually used in a humorous/exasperated way, extending the notion of "tilt" in poker (playing in a non-optimal way due to an emotional reaction to circumstances) into the rest of life. The phrase "life tilt" is funny in part because it's so clearly used as hyperbole, e.g.: "The way the guy to my right counted out his stack of hundreds by TWOS put me on life tilt." or "My girlfriend's constant hinting about a ring is putting me on life tilt." (Okay, maybe that last one isn't so much hyperbole for the 2+2 demographic.)

So consider this, to begin with, my confession. My confession of the sin of pride.

I have always claimed to tilt less than most poker players I know. Having seen at least my fair share of bad beats (more than my share? don't we all think so?), the miracle card just doesn't faze me that much. Rude comments don't piss me off enough to affect my game. Needling doesn't get to me. Even playing with people I loathe just doesn't put me off my game the way you might think it would. At the poker table I'm pretty thick-skinned and relatively unflappable. When playing alone at home online, I may rant and rave out loud ~ my array of invective can be quite impressive ~ but I like to think that my play remains pretty steady.

So what the hell happened the last couple of weeks?

Life tilt happened.

There was the incredibly frustrating trip to AC. There were some disappointing developments in my personal life. Logistics got the better of me on a few occasions; things I thought were settled ~ over-and-done ~ turned out to be unfinished business. And I was playing poker with a vengeance: way too much and with the wrong motivation (the desire to make up losses). I was not going to the gym, not sleeping enough, eating like a 400 lb. shut-in, and failing to keep enough company with people who love me and vice versa.

I have known for a while now that I am vulnerable to the cumulative effects of multiple stressors. In the last ten years I've had two episodes of fairly severe depression, both brought on by the convergence of several highly stressful events (in one case, for example: a car accident, quitting a job where my supervisor was a nutcase, and the collapse of a relationship all in the space of a couple of months). What I think I've failed to recognize is the much milder version of the same syndrome. There have been no catastrophes in the last couple of weeks, but the stressometer was definitely starting to redline. And I was not taking the proper steps to manage my response. This is classic vicious circle material.

Naming it does not solve the problem, but it's a start. Okay, so I'm pressing the reset button.

Here's the thing: I cannot sustain this experiment without a high level of self-scrutiny and a degree of self-discipline that I'm simple unaccustomed to exercising. And the key to this is management of my emotional well-being. I'm never going to be a poker genius; I don't have the raw talent and I'm not young enough to bake the skills in so that they are purely intuitive. If I'm going to have any edge at all, it's going to have to come from mental and emotional maturity. That means I must make the things that contribute to strengthening that equanimity a priority ~ a priority way ahead of the actual poker-playing.

To play good poker, my head has to be in a good place. And for my head to be in a good place, I have to be leading a good life. Duh, right?

If it's so easy, let's see you do it.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day 75: Still Standing

It helps that I came home and won a tournament in my A League right away. It doesn't help that I continue to run bad online.

But let me be clear: I tilt, but not for long. The Day 74 rant is history. When all is said and done, it was only a 2.5 buy-in downswing. Just not that big a deal, and nothing I can't recover from handily, in due time.

The real take-away from the experience is not yet another reminder about how frustrating being at the mercy of probability can be. The take-away is about everything but the cards: getting enough sleep, eating well, quitting a session when quitting is what's called for, and continuing to make optimal decisions when anyone else would be breaking out an uzi or a strong rope.

Poker is a mental game. It is all about using your head and trusting your gut. I remind myself that I am privileged to learn these lessons at manageable stakes. Acquiring the mental toughness and consistency to excel over the long haul ~ so that luck becomes irrelevant ~ is the hard part, and I believe it is ultimately what separates the recreational (and losing) player from the pro.

If I have one thing going for me, it is that I am resilient. I am also stubborn as hell, especially when I think I'm doing what's right. I am highly competitive and I am not easily beaten down. I've got some serious stamina; I regularly outlast much younger people at the table.

What I'm trying to say is that the latest unpleasantness, far from persuading me that this whole enterprise is a bad idea and I ought to just give up and move on to something more rewarding, has ~ to the contrary ~ quite hardened my resolve. I will learn more, prep better, observe more closely, choose more wisely, persist, and eventually prevail. I know I have it in me. It is a matter of doing what is necessary, and of ~ above all ~ discipline.

It intrigues me, at this stage of my life, to have come across an activity that truly stirs my ambition. It's actually something of a novelty to me to be so highly motivated. I am not a spectacularly naturally gifted poker player. I don't have a photographic memory, or an especially mathematical mind. I'm not particularly good at manipulation or deception. But I am a quick study, and I do have a certain ear for people's emotional pitch, and I am acquiring heretofore unknown degrees of emotional flexibility and behavioral adaptability.

Poker is a great teacher, and what it teaches you most of all is who you are and who you could be. For this, I am already grateful.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Words of Wisdom

I should memorize this:

One thing that you will discover as your game improves is that you will receive way more bad beats than you give out. If it were possible to play perfect poker, a bad beat would be the only way you would ever lose a show-down. Thus as a good player, you mostly get your money in while you are ahead and more and more of your losses will come from bad beats. To make matters worse, because you aren't getting it in behind very often, you almost never get to deliver a bad beat to someone else.

This gives you the impression that the game is somehow unfair to you, but in reality it's just your skill showing through.

This comes courtesy of Loki9 at the Poker Academy hand discussion forums.

To be fair, I should add that I played KK poorly yesterday and caught my 8-outer for a full house and a huge pot, thus bad-beating my opponent something fierce. It was the first bad beat I'd laid on anyone in a long time. And while I was delighted to win the money, I did have a twinge of angst knowing that I'd made a call I shouldn't have on the flop. On the other hand, it was his mistake to call my all-in shove on the river, as there was no way his two pair could have been good at that point (trips, straight, boat... he had so many ways to lose).

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: ,