Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Bene Gesserit “Litany against fear,” from Frank Herbert’s Dune
The honest truth is I played poker to escape working. I found something that excused me from the obligation of dead-end jobs and college classes, so I did it.
It wasn’t that I was lazy, it’s that I just didn’t care. Video games, porn, pizza, even sports made me feel like Han Solo in a tuxedo gone back in time to win a fist fight with the guy who would otherwise invent cursive. And I was a pro at all of them, so who cared about the low volume and especially normal effects of real life?
Only, I didn’t really care about the rest either.
It all felt good, for a bit, but I didn’t feel alive. It felt like sleepwalking; every day the same dream. Video games, or scoring a goal made it feel a bit brighter, or louder, but it didn’t make the experience feel any more awake.
I was addicted.
The result, hypersensitivity to the above activities, coupled with an across the board dampening of pleasure. In other words, life was boring, except my addictions, which were both making life boring and what I relied on to escape boredom. I lacked passion because I couldn’t like anything new, and I wouldn’t try long enough to love it. I knew how to be good at anything but I would never be great because I was incapable of having the necessary honest conversation with myself about if I wanted to be.
The great ones dedicate themselves to their dream every day because they are motivated by love. To the great ones, being good is an insult and a form of settling that is simply incompatible with their level of desire. Their passion drives them to do the work and the homework right every day, and in turn they become great.
Yet here I was, talking about arguably the most important part of my life as if it was something I had no control over. I had been going with the flow for years. Wishing for an outcome and waiting to see if it would come. I was the limp, powerless ego I detested in other people. – Chad Fowler
Then I experienced the most important moment of poker, and perhaps of my life. I woke up unusually early for a morning following an un-particularly numb night of video games, but I didn’t get up. I was contemplating my life the way you can only do in a bed when you’re unable to sleep. Why did I feel so unexcited? I spent every moment doing whatever I wanted; surely, if anything was, that was reason to just be happy. I realized I hadn’t been doing whatever made me happy; I had been doing what was easy.
Suddenly, I was awake and in that moment I realized poker was something I had to do. I had found something I loved. All the shenanigans in my life that kept me at arms length from being great were simply fear: fear of success, fear of failure, fear of responsibility. If I dedicated myself to something I knew I would find out who I was, and I was god damned scared I might not like it. And I accepted my fears. I didn’t know what would come, but I was curious again. I now possessed greater desire than fear, and with it all of my self-sabotaging addictions no longer belonged in my life. Without a place to exist, they ceased to be.
I deleted and destroyed my video games, adopted a primal lifestyle of fitness and diet, learned to cook, and took up non-competitive practices of yoga, meditation, hiking, biking, and rock-climbing. I erased porn from my life. I began writing, and returned to playing both guitar and piano. I moved to Calgary and joined a group of friends dedicated to growth, awareness, expression, new experiences, and generally outliving the hell out of life. All because anything else was a compromise to the focus and passion fueling my desire to do what I loved.
I love poker because its challenges teach me who I am. I love poker and its something I have to do.
The moment of realizing you have something you have to do is the first step towards greatness. Without it, there is no point in even getting started.
Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping… waiting… and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir… open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us… guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d be truly dead. – Joss Whedon
Forward Acknowledgement: This is an article of strategies I learned from The Mental Game of Poker on the foundation of how to learn. The ideas, many terms and lines are taken directly, or slightly modified, from Jared Tendler’s book. Though the theories are nothing new(some frequently attributed to the psychologist Abraham Maslow), Jared Tendler brilliantly explains them and it was in his book where I truly came to understand the content. If you are interested in these topics, or if you like poker, pick it up.
THE PROCESS MODEL
“The Process Model” organizes the naturally recurring parts of your entire development so you can put the principles of the ALM (Adult Learning Method) and Inchworm into action day after day. It does not create anything new, but creates a foundation for mastery through organizing what you already do. The process model improves results-oriented thinking, and ultimately leads to a consistently high level of performance while maintaining steady improvement. It relates to every decision, as well as every event, a month of performance, a year, and even a career.
There are five parts of the process model that all work together:
- Preparation/warm-up: What you do before you perform. Whether it’s planned, random, or nothing at all, it’s how you prepare.
- Performance: Doing it.
- Results: The outcome.
- Evaluation: A review of your results right after performing.
- Analysis: Actively working to improve away from the activity.
The process model is something that applies to anything in life involving performance. You’ve already used it in countless areas of your life, including sports, dating, music, art, writing, and business. Even if you weren’t aware of it at the time, in some way you were using the process model.
Here is a more in-depth look at the process model when applied to professional football:
While the details differ greatly by activity, the intent of preparation remains the same: to be ready to perform at your best and win.
In professional football, preparation starts shortly after the last game, and ends just before kick-off. Throughout the week, coaches and players review game tape, run drills, lift weights, analyze opponents, formulate a strategy, and practice that strategy – all with the intent of getting ready to play at a high level and win. The day of the game, the players and coaches follow a structured routine to warm up their bodies, focus their minds, and review their tactical strategy so they’re ready to compete. They run drills, rehearse plays, listen to music, double-check equipment, and fire each other up.
Part of the reason preparation is so important is because of the range that exists in your quality of performance. In every moment you can be great, or you can be terrible. Preparation allows you to more likely perform at the peak end of your range, and sets you up to perform better than ever.
How you prepare is a matter of personal preference. There are no strict rules because ultimately it’s about doing what works for you. So you’re going to have to try things.
Here are some general things you can do to prepare:
- Review your long-term goals and set goals for the session.
- Review the corrections to your common mistakes.
- Review your strategy for improving your mental game issues.
- Use deep breathing, power poses, meditation and/or visualization to steady and focus your mind.
- Listen to a favourite song
Performance in anything is just as obvious and doesn’t need to be repeated. What isn’t obvious are the consequences when preparation and evaluation happen during performance.
Ideally, preparation has you ready to perform at a high level at the beginning of your performance. However, if you do nothing to prepare, the first 15 minutes of performance become your preparation. During a warm up, your mind isn’t yet fully in the action yet, and as a result your performance is marginal. Consequently, you make mistakes and fail to notice details that set up future mistakes until you achieve focus. You also become susceptible to other issues of frustration, fear, motivation, and confidence that snowball from poor performance.
Optimally, evaluation only happens after the session when you can objectively look closely at how you performed. However, people often review their performance in the middle of an activity, fixate on past mistakes, consider what they should have done, the position that would put them in, and how they would imaginarily feel. Basically, they are evaluating how they are performing while they are performing. In other words, they’re multitasking and play worse for that reason alone.
Removing evaluation doesn’t mean eliminating adjustments. Adjustments are how you stay at least one step ahead of the situation. Adjustments are key; evaluating while engaged is excessive. If you’re spending too much time reviewing previous activity, your adjustments aren’t known well enough. Ideally, they should be so well known that they are made automatically and without thought (Unconscious Competence). Otherwise, you’re no different from a quarterback making up a play at the line of scrimmage rather than calling an audible (a predetermined alternate play his teammates already know well). Instead of evaluating, take a quick mental note, and refocus on the action.
RESULTS ORIENTED THINKING
Not being results oriented gets a lot of attention these days, especially in the poker world. The solution given is often to ignore, block out, or detach from your results. People know it’s a mistake to focus too much on short-term results because of variance, but stopping is easier said than done. When you only focus on wins and losses, your emotions go on a rollercoaster because they are attached to winning and immediate results. Being focused on winning in the short run is not what causes problems; it’s the set of results you’re ignoring.
You also need to focus on qualitative results in the short run so your emotions can attach to factors that you have 100% control of in the short run. The process model provides the structure and organization to capture qualitative results since they aren’t easily calculated at the end of an activity. Use the process to focus more and more on the quality of your performance, your mentality, and overall improvement; and steadily your emotions will reorganize around this set of results.
If it’s all skill in the long run, then you need focus on skill in the short run. – Jared Tendler
In football, there are many ways to measure the outcome of a player’s performance. Typically, people think of results mainly in terms easily quantified, such as score, yards run, yards passed, interceptions, fumbles, and of course wins. However, it’s also essential to account for qualitative results, such as how well you performed, your level of focus, degree of emotional control, and your improvement of weaknesses.
The first opportunity to gain an objective view about what happened during play in a football game is immediately after you finish playing. When you’re actually performing – whether it’s football or anything else – you performing your best by focusing intensely on the activity itself and far less on how you are performing.
After football games and once back in the locker room, players talk with each other and have time to reflect on the game. Coaches also start a formal review of player performance, going through game tape and reviewing their own decisions to get an initial impression of what needs work before the next game.
Remember, although people tend to focus immediately on quantitative results such as wins, losses, and other easy to calculate statistics, because of variance those results alone are unreliable measures in the short term of how you performed.
Here are a few better ways to evaluate:
- Look closely at tough decisions to see how you responded.
- Estimate how much variance influenced results.
- Evaluate whether you achieved the qualitative goals you set before the session. If you fell short, why?
- Review how you did in the areas you’re trying to improve. Did you see any progress?
- If you’re going to analyze any situation later, right down any notes of how things had been feeling immediately before then or any other thoughts that you may otherwise forget.
Spending a short time to evaluate is also a great way to put down your activity after you’re done, so you can get on with the rest of your life, and to reset your mind before the next time you perform.
Analysis is the stage where you actively work on yourself away from the activity. It’s the best time to go into greater detail assessing your performance and the performance of others around you, as well as bring in additional resources to ensure your perspective has the right information.
In football, this includes a more detailed analysis of the game tape, such as scrutinizing the mistakes a quarterback made in reading the defense. Perhaps an audible was mistakenly called because he saw something that didn’t actually happen. While watching the game tape and reviewing his decision-making process, he can figure out what went wrong and then use the week leading up to the next game to fix it. Doing this kind of tedious work isn’t necessarily the most fun part of a player’s week, bit is often the most valuable.
Analysis doesn’t have to be done immediately after an activity; in fact, sometimes it’s best to take a break before diving in. There are many ways to work on your performance, such as analyzing situations you’ve noted, watching training videos, working directly with a coach, talking with others, studying experts, and of course posting on and reading articles online.
After you’re done analyzing, take what you’ve learned and adjust your preparation or warm-up to include the most up-to-date information. That way, you’re even better prepared the next time you perform.
Use the Process Model Every Day
Ultimately, the process model makes your approach to performance and improvement more active, organized, measurable, and efficient. When you use it over long stretches of time, you also improve your ability to learn and achieve results. Too often, people only start working hard on their performance when they’re feeling bad, performing poorly, or their success rate drops. Why wait until something negative happens? When pursuing and competing for their dreams, people gain an advantage by continually learning and improving. Use the process model every day to keep your learning curve steadily rising, so you never plateau.
What’s one part of “The Process Model” you can implement into your life right now? Share with us in the comments below.
P.S. If you want to accelerate your success in implementing these strategies and reaching your goals, we’d love to help you. Apply today to our Mentorship Coaching program and we’ll gladly offer you a free coaching session to see if we’re a good fit.