James Chin is a guest columnist and a professional poker player living in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from The University of Texas.
Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit in the face.” So you’ve been going through life with these plans in your head, these perfect ideas of how everything will turn out, and eventually, it comes to pass that the world isn’t like how you envisioned it so perfectly in your head. What then? Do you lose your motivation? Do you only have the courage to live a perfect life?
Hopefully not. Hopefully, you realize that setbacks are an opportunity to learn more about how the world actually works rather than how you idealized it in your head. This is where being truly passionate about what you do and how you do it is more important as a motivating force than “living the dream,” full stop. Because you’ll have to, in a real sense, get over yourself: let go of this idea of your perfect self, study and experiment to see what actions actually work, and adapt those actions to a newer, better self. Perfect is the enemy of better.
In poker, it’s often said that there are multiple winning styles. One guy can have a very loose-aggressive style and win, and another guy can have a relatively tight-passive style and also win. Many poker players misinterpret that idea and take it to mean that you should play in the style that you’re comfortable with, because if you’re winning with your style and are uncomfortable playing in another style, then you’ll make more mistakes and be more apt to lose. It’s thus easier for them to stay in a zone of comfort (especially if they’re winning) rather than making short-term mistakes in order to learn and make themselves better long-term when game conditions might change and their formerly winning style becomes a losing style.
Don’t be afraid of failure. More important, don’t take either failure or success too personally. No one has a complete understanding of how the world works, and if your ego causes you to think that your understanding can’t be improved upon, then when circumstances change, you might be caught standing still.
Instead, embrace experimentation. An evolutionary understanding is much more robust than an understanding based on dogma and the comfort of inertia. When it comes time to get things done after getting hit in the face, you’ll be ready.