Never a Right Time to Walk Away

Happy New Year! One year closes and another begins, it’s traditionally the time we set our goals, our intention, what we plan to accomplish. I’m finding that especially difficult at the moment, because I have a ton of options, and the unrelenting belief that I could happily live out any one of them.

This “good problem to have” is still a problem. I want to begin, to get in motion, to be on the path to my goals, but I know my life can go in any direction I imagine. When you feel that way, sometimes it can be hard to get started. I believe it’s called the paradox of choice (or I might have made that up but anyway, cool term.) When we have no options, we often don’t consider other options, and we go about our merry way. The alternative of considering other paths and comparing our lives to others can bring on depression because we’re judging, being ungrateful for our actual situation, and creating separation from ourselves and happiness. The mental solution is acceptance of what is.

However, when you DO have a great many options, and the full well knowledge they are possible, there is an inherent struggle that takes place. Life is beautiful and I can make it anything I can dream of, but I don’t have forever to live. I don’t know if I get to do it over again. There’s no rewind button. So I can do anything, but I can think of a great many things! All this opportunity can become paralyzing. I suppose the trick is to focus on whatever you are doing and don’t worry about what you aren’t, but don’t we all have ADD these days? The real paradox is that we don’t want to miss out on anything, but by being distracted by what we aren’t doing or could be doing, we end up missing out on the greater depths of what is right in front of us.

You could apply this to a career, to a relationship, to the city you live in or anything. When you know you are capable of living any life you can imagine, it becomes exceedingly hard to choose. What if this would be better? What if that? What if I could make more money doing this? What if that would be more fulfilling? It’s not so automatic to practice acceptance because we’re really not sure what we should accept. On the one token, resistance is suffering, but on the other it’s suffering that propels us to take action and make real changes. Comfortable complacency has never been a goal.

Normally I would say it’s a bit cliche to make all your changes Jan 1. Chances are, if you really wanted to eat healthy and work out you already would be. I think we all just like the idea of perfect circumstance for making a change. A clean slate, a start date. If these things make it more effective then I suppose there’s no harm. Ideally, the best time to make a change is the moment you realize you want to. It’s great to seize the moment and ride the passion when you feel it, but we also need to work smart. A little bit of planning can save a whole lot of headache. Sometimes there are circumstances, often financial, that we must navigate. The problem becomes that we wait for these circumstances to be ideal before we make our leap, and circumstances are rarely ever ideal.

To anyone who follows my poker results, it probably comes as no surprise that there was a day this year that I absolutely wanted to quit the games I was playing. After a phenomenal year in 2012 I was sitting there in my apartment in mid-June having lost 90% of my net worth in past 6 months. It’s embarrassing that I wasn’t more responsible than to allow for that to happen, but I also didn’t really think it could happen. I guess I had too much of an ego. The interesting thing is as much as my ego had been tattered by that point, the only reason I didn’t quit was because I still believed in myself. I believed that I could get better, that I could work hard, and that I could prevail. It was a different form of believing in myself that caused my downfall than helped me recover. It was the prideful and ignorant ego that allowed me to fall this far, but it’s that ever-resilient won’t-take-no-for-an-answer spirit that allowed me to pull myself somewhat together.

For me, my external circumstances acting as a barrier to immediate change that day were financial. I didn’t have enough money to support myself while I tried to develop a new skill set I could make a living from. I firmly believe I could try to learn a different form of poker or a different skill altogether, and I could seek out the information I would need for a foundation and the mentors I would need to accelerate my learning. I was really ready to quit that day. I remember thinking that any time I were winning my opportunity cost would be too high to quit, and if I was losing I would feel like I owe it to my skill set to get my money up before I walk away, so there would really never be a right time to quit. I kept coming back to the way I felt about having to study or play. I didn’t want to do it. It wasn’t serving my purpose of a happy life anymore. I kept feeling like the only time to make a change is the moment you realize you want to, otherwise you’ll spend you life waiting for that right moment.

That is what dreamer James wanted to do. However, the shred of responsibility I do have told me I should take a little time and plan my escape, use my skill-set to get to a point where I can reasonably make a change so I’m not stressed and have better opportunity to succeed. I guess the reason I’m bringing all this up is because now that I won my challenge, I’ve gotten myself to a point where finance doesn’t have to be the circumstance. I have the breathing room to go for something. I could sacrifice a bit of opportunity cost to make more money or just be happier making less doing something else in the future. Unfortunately, that decision is still proving very difficult. The problem is I don’t know now what escape I should be planning.

If I want to get out of sitngoes there is no time like the present to start learning HU PLO or some other more interesting, compelling, and profitable game. A game that attracts more fish and is harder to solve. I’m surrounded by good players who would be happy to help me develop. However, what if I want to get out of poker? If I want to get out of poker it’s probably in my self-interest to push my existing skill set for a couple years while working on my financial literacy for investments and developing the skills to furnish my life beyond poker. Ideally I’d transition out of poker with a million dollars, and I sure don’t have that now. Learning a new game from scratch may not be my fastest path to that goal, but then again it’s not so imperative for an enjoyable path to be a quick or temporary one. I may say in poker much longer than a few years if I still enjoy it. Then again, there are more fulfilling ways of spending my days that I can imagine than poker. The numbers side hinges on how long I want to play poker for and how long different games will continue to be profitable for. The other side, the one involving my brain and fulfillment and happiness is even harder for me to predict.

On that particularly stressful day in June I also realized that since I quit looking for a job and moved to Vegas to play poker full time in 2008, I guess I thought I was done. Like “I did it.” I had a dream, I made it come true, and now here we are happily ever after. I didn’t realize that the journey continues. That I may have to take a risk again, risk failing again. When you deem that you’ve “become a success” that doesn’t just mean you get to “be a success story forever.”

It’s actually another good problem to have. How much more exciting a life to know that it’s not going to be a comfy ride. There’s going to be real struggle, real character defining moments. I’m going to gain and lose wealth, stability, familiarity and love. Life is gonna be real and I’m gonna feel it. Blood and tears. It makes for a better story than pillows and kittens, and I guess “anything for a story” has always been how I’ve lived my life. Now I just have to decide what story I wanna write.


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