"Be soft, yet not yielding. Be firm, yet not hard." - Bruce LeeI spent the past week down in sunny and breezy Florida visiting several old college friends and taking in the Langerado Music festival which featured some of my favorite bands and musicians. Over four days, I caught 21 different musical acts... Grey Boy All Stars, Yerba Buena, JJ Grey & Mofro, Perpetual Groove, Medeski Martin & Wood, My Morning Jacket, STS9, The Heavy Pets, Dubconcious, Lotus, Tea Leaf Green, New Monsoon, North Mississippi All Stars, Galactic, Bela Fleck, Trey Anastasio Band, Taj Mahal, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Matisyahu, Toots & the Maytals, and Widespread Panic. The major highlight was My Morning Jacket's set. Once again they proved why they are my new favorite band. Check their website and the next time they come to your town... go see them.
I went to this musical festival with the usual crew of Change100, the Joker, and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot. Sweet Pablo and his buddy Chris made a cameo as well. Feel free to stop by the Tao of Pauly for setlists, recaps, and pictures. I have not had time to edit the video footage.
Here are the recaps:
I often draw inspiration from my close friends, especially those I've known for a decade or more. They are the ones who have encouraged me to be myself and have been an amazing support group and willing to make sacrifices for me in my selfish pursuit of the arts. Their generosity and work ethic is admirable and I often try to examine their individual success in order to see if I can apply anything that they do to my line of work.
My friends included four different guys who grew up all over the country.... Long Island, Miami, Texas, and believe it or not... G-Vegas. Today, they are all successful in their own way. Two attorneys, a real estate guru, and a broker. They have four kids among the group and have careers that most of the population would be envious about. Aside from being friends with me, what was the one thing that they all shared in common? Balance.
They all lived balanced lives and each person attributes their individual success to a little luck, a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day... it was a balanced life that enabled them to avoid burnout. Living a varied life was crucial so that their sole existence was not just work, work, work.
Balance is one of the most essential aspects of Taoist philosophy. The Tao has basic respect for the natural balance in all things. For example, you don't try to usurp the balance of nature. You simply have to adjust to its flow. Respecting balance is one of the keys to success in whatever you do. Being able to handle the daily stresses of life, work, family, and poker requires you to possess the ability to maintain your sense of balance when things are not going your way.
Your boss just chewed you out and you are on major asshole tilt. Do you let that affect the rest of your life and allow it to spill over into your office work, relationships, or even at the poker tables? The simple answer is... of course not. But it's not an easy task to let something like that roll off you and not seep into your thoughts while at a meeting with a client, or while having dinner with your family, or while you are close to the money bubble in a tournament.
Back to the Bruce Lee quote... "Be soft, yet not yielding. Be firm, yet not hard." He's preaching balance and flexibility. Both are traits that my friends have and utilized in order to arrive at a successful point in their lives.
One guy is a lawyer by day and a musician by night. He taught me how to play guitar and he's played in bands since college and during law school. He attributed his guitar to what helped get him through stressful moments during law school and during the first few years in the workplace. No matter how awful his work load got, he always had that Friday night gig to look forward to, or as soon as he'd get home, he'd have his guitar in hand before he even took off his tie. Instead of hitting the bottle hard like most lawyers I know, he let out his daily aggression out through music.
Another guy is a real estate guru who once told me that I needed to stop writing for other people and focus on building up the Tao of Poker. That was three years ago. And, he was right. He used to be one of many real estate brokers in a big office and decided to go out on his own. He hit a homerun. His advice to me was to stop thinking about getting a few hundred bucks here and there and start thinking about the bigger picture. Six figures. Seven figures. He believed in my talent and said that I need to have faith in myself. Since I was still an unknown, I had nothing to lose. I made a lot of bad decisions along the way in my freelance career (like writing for outlets who have not paid me such as High Roller Magazine), but I also made some interesting gambles which paid off immensely. That guy's idea of balance was the work hard and play hard philosophy. He'd work for everyday for three weeks straight then get shitfaced in the Bahamas for four days before he returned to work for another 21 day run before he flew off to Europe. He was a machine and I'm not surprised he's sitting in a fat mansion in Coconut Grove.
My other buddy is also an attorney and he carefully balanced out work with friends and family. It was important for him to stay in touch with friends and be active in everyone's life. An avid golfer, he was always on the links which helped soothe the soul after a long day at court. He also focused on a serious relationship which eventually evolved into marriage and fatherhood. Having a family was important for him because it helped keep his passion of the law going strong. He told me that it was not hard letting a bad day of work get to him when he'd come home to his house and see his wife and kids.
The last guy is a broker and another a musician. He played guitar and drums in various bands over the last ten years. His clients think it's awesome that he's a musician and he definitely uses that as a selling point. They don't see him as a scumbag broker who wants to churn and burn their accounts. He's also a serious outdoorsy type of guy who loves hiking and skiing. He balances music and skiing with his tough work schedule. He couldn't think of life without either. That makes him happy and confident which his friends (like me) feed off of and it's also what makes him attractive to prospective clients.
What all four guys had in common was the willingness and ability to maintain a healthy balance in their lives. They understood what they wanted in life (which was a bonus) and pushed themselves as the surpassed their personal goals and milestones. They understood that you have to work but also knew that they would never allow their jobs to define their existence. The balance is what made each aspect of their lives special. The balance also helped breed confidence which is a necessary trait to being a successful person.
Over the last year, I tried my best to implement the important cornerstones that helped my friends get to where they wanted to go. I figured out that in order to keep myself sane and to avoid burnout, I desperately needed time away from the poker scene and from the tables. Less poker and more life. I worked hard, and partied hard. I made sure that my daily life encompassed many things, not just poker. I took on less freelance work and added more personal traveling to my schedule. I got back in touch with my musical roots and made a conscious effort to see as many concerts as I could. I limited my time online (sorry that I haven't been answering emails; something had to give!) and I spent more time outdoors. I also got into a relationship with an awesome chick despite the fact I basically live out of my backpack and are never in the same place for more than a couple of weeks at a time. Somehow, we've made it work for almost a year. I have a more balanced life now, and even though there's been a ton of bad shit going down (getting sick and the UIGEA), I've been somewhat calm despite the dire circumstances.
There are some people who are successful by doing nothing but playing poker, or trading stocks, or billing out 90/100 hour work weeks. But they will tell you that they are missing something. That something is balance. And unless you are able to give balance full respect, you eventually will be disrespecting yourself.
I've traveled the world, been to many cities all over the globe and met many different people from all walks of life. The one thing I learned from conversations with others is that life is incredibly short. Some of the happier people I've met have a special balance in life, while some of the more dour souls are the ones who are caught in a rut.
Instead of saying, "I wish I had more time to do......" Stop what you are doing and do it.
My friends were not afraid to pursue other interests outside of work and instead of coming to a crashing point where they wondered what life would have been like if they played in a band or had a wife and kids... they went out and did just that. Someday, you'll be gone. You might die a quick death but what if get sick and it takes a while before you finally kick off? Do you wanna be laying in a hospital bed in a puddle of your own shit and piss with tubes sticking out of you wondering what life could have been like? Or do you wanna be in that same spot and welcoming your impending death because you lived your life your way and you didn't have any regrets?
Balance means different things for different people. If that means quitting your job to play poker full time, then do it. If it means taking a shot at the WSOP main event, then go for it. if it means walking away from poker and gambling and pursuing a different hobby, then stop reading my blog.
There is more to life than poker. But, if you want to be successful at poker and what it to be an integral part of your life, you need to balance that out with something else. It's up to you to determine what that is. And trust me, when you're running bad at the tables and want to die because a you got sucked out on for the umpteenth time by the same donkette, you will feel a lot better when you step away from the tables and focus on something else like taking your kid to soccer practice or trying to pick up high school chicks off of MySpace or planning out that trip you always wanted to take to Kenya.
A balanced life will be able to fend off all of that anger, frustration, and depression that often accompanies a rough day at the tables.
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