New York City
If you have been reading my main blog over the last few weeks, you know that I've been struggling with a lack of direction and having an insanely cluttered life. I've been mulling over decisions about how to implement changes with my life, specifically with writing.
Here's what I wrote over at Tao of Pauly:
I had been wasting my time as a writer and allowed several years to pass by without evolving. I've felt that my ability has been stuck in the same phase for several years. I've been wanting to experiment with new approaches to writing and have a slew of creative projects that I'd like to pursue. Sadly, I don't have the time to do either since I'm caught up in that eternal struggle between art and commerce. I've been focusing more on commerce the last few years and finally gave in and accepted my role as an entertainer and not as a writer. I've been compensated well for that but over the last few months I have been wanting to break out and go my own way.After spending ten months writing for others and bouncing all over the world, I took off the last two months of the year to focus on writing for myself. I started a new personal project. I have no idea if I will complete it, but I had gotten to a point where I had to try.
Luckily Bluff Magazine gave me an opportunity to write more creatively within the poker and gambling genre. But that's more like putting a band-aid on a gushing wound. I need more. When I bottle up all that angst and frustration, and I'm not allowed to create, it spills over into my personal life and depression seethes underneath the surface. I've been swept up in that metamorphosis more and more over the last year. I'm going to have to do something about it soon and come up with a solution and balanced life where I can continue the obligations and responsibilities that I have and at the same time, blaze a new trail that will make me content as a writer and allow me to unleash everything I have inside.
It's hard to explain, although 2007 has been the most successful of my life there were moments when I was utterly miserable. Sure I made some money along the way, but money doesn't secure happiness. I also paid a sincere price for all those insane hours and all that time on the road. I'm run down physically from jumping all those time zones. And I'm mentally drained from too much business travel.
My friends who have normal jobs and that do not work in the poker industry are baffled when I explain that the last thing I want to do after an assignment is hang out in a casino and play poker.
Poker used to be my passion. For many others it's their only passion. It's a hobby. An addiction. It's an escape from everyday realities. Life is brutal, unforgiving, and unpredictable. Most of you endure bullshit jobs and have to work for unappreciative bosses and nits. Your social life is not what it used to be or has reached a point of stagnation. But poker is a salve, a savior, a dues ex machina and that light at the end of the tunnel. You spend any free moment testing our company's firewalls by reading forums and poker blogs. And as soon as you get home, you fire up your favorite online poker site and play for hours until your ass goes numb and until you can't tell if that card on the turn is the 10c or the 10s. You finally quit because you have to get up and go to work the next day and reluctantly shuffle off to bed with thoughts of river suckouts and flopping sets are rattling in your mind as your head hits the pillow. Then you wake up and the process repeats itself. The cycle continues.
Alas, after a while the coolness factor of working in poker wears off and it becomes a job. And by definition all jobs suck. Although I'm fortunate and have a unique situation. I wouldn't want to trade what I do for 99% of the other menial tasks out there, but working in the poker industry can be a grind and the gambling demons punch holes into your soul. Lots of people I have met along the way burn out. Others fade away. Some go completely crazy and freak out, never to be seen again. There's a lot of turnover in the poker industry. Mostly everyone is underpaid and the ones who can find a better job move on quickly.
For a while I fed the monster and my entire life revolved around poker. I breathed, ate, drank, and snorted poker. Almost all of my daily activities were poker-related. There was no separation between work and my personal life. That's never good. The unbalanced ones rarely survive and I slowly slid into the abyss. I succumbed to the dark side. I got so deep into the shit that the only thing for me to do was quit before I imploded. And I walked away for a while.
That sabbatical lasted two or three days before I came to my senses. When I returned in the Spring of 2006, I made a conscious effort to separate my personal life from my work life. That meant I spent as much time away from poker as possible. The immediate result was that I felt happier and my writing flourished. I scaled back on clients and had more time to write instead of overextending myself which I did. I followed Flipchip's fatherly advice of "Work smarter, not harder."
I made time for things that had been absent from my life such a relationship and spending more quality time with friends. But after a while, more things got shoved onto my plate and before I noticed it, I was back to where I started. Overwhelmed and unable to sit and relax for a minute before it was time to take off to a new place.
As I found myself with less and less free time, I started coming up with better ideas and philosophies of time management. I was able to reduce wasteful time by limiting my blog/entertainment reading and my always looming email problems (I get too much). But instead of putting that time to good use (like seeing a concert or reading a book or sleeping or speaking to an old friend), I allocated that extra time to doing... more work. In essence, I added more hours of work per week instead of reducing them.
That's when I realized it was time for a change. An overhaul. I revamped how prioritize my time and any time that I saved I would allocate to something good, fun, and positive for my life... such as reading books or catching up with friends or getting in shape. I also vowed to reduce my work schedule and any time I was able to save, I would allocate to working on personal writing and creative projects. Anyone who has been a freelancer or owned their own business knows that it's a 24/7/365 job and that you are rarely disconnected. My goal was to eliminate that mentality and be able to conduct business inside of two days per week, which would free up five full days for myself. Twenty hour work week in two days. My experiment over the next few weeks is to set aside two consecutive days where I will focus on work and then take five off for creative activities, which could include playing more poker.
During the last year, I discovered that I had less time per day to read blogs and websites. Surfing the web became nonexistent because of time limitations. I would return from a trip and discover that I had 1,459 unread posts in Bloglines. In order to get through them I started skimming. Everything. Salon.com, poker blogs, items from the Drudge Report, and articles from the Wall Street Journal. I came to the conclusion that was all a waste of time. Skimming didn't accomplish anything and that's when I scaled back my Bloglines folder. The immediate result... I saved time and I paid more attention to the few items I did read.
I relied on my friends to keep me up to date with certain genres like sports, music, poker, politics, and entertainment. If there's anything important, I'll eventually hear about it anyway. Like the Absolute Poker Scandal. Or Joe Torre leaving the Yankees. Instead of wasting my time away sifting through the static, I eventually weened myself off the notion that I have to read everything possible in my Bloglines folder or what I have bookmarked. Simplify. I made the incessant mindless chatter disappear and now I'll use that time more wisely.
I wrote three of the biggest checks of my life this year which went to the IRS, my student loan lender, and most recently to an asset management firm. After managing my own money for all of my adult life, I decided to hand over my finances to professionals. I guess you can say that I'm outsourcing my financial future to a bunch of Wall Street thugs. I had to swallow a lot of pride because I used to manage money for a living. But the fact of the matter, I was only doing slightly better than the market and didn't have the time to keep up with everything to be a savvy individual investor. I made the decision to seek professional guidance. My money is in better hands now. And the transfer to an asset management firm has given me more free time. I used to have to pay close attention to my positions and holdings and read hundreds of articles and reports a week. I'll be saving time and making more money in the process. All that extra time I can now allocate towards personal writing projects.
I also had to come up with a solution to my email problem. I stopped reading/answering several times a day and limited myself to email in two increments of 60 minutes each. Of course there are exceptions and due to my weird schedule I have to answer/send emails at odd times. My goal is reduce my email interaction to an hour a day. I also stopped reading email before I go to bed and avoid reading email until a couple of hours into the day. I triage my email and read/answer as much as I can in an hour. If I can't... then I can't. If you sent me something and I never got to it... well that's what happens. I don't want to become a slave to the machines and I'm trying to get my life back. I'm sure that you understand.
My other solution is to get a virtual assistant and outsource several other aspects of my life. There's an personal concierge service based out of India that Tim Ferris (the author of The 4-Hour Work Week) uses to help him with research and other areas. My quest to get an intern for the Tao of Poker during the 2006 WSOP failed. Miserably. But Get Friday can be the answer to a lot of my problems. I signed up and will begin the process of interviewing my own personal assistant. Since it's based in India, the costs are under $10 hour. For a couple of big bets, I can get my own personal assistant from India to sort through all my email a couple of days a week. Man, maybe I can even get a couple of guest posts written for me?
The excess of traveling influenced how I thought about the concept of stuff. And things. I never realized how many useless things I used to have. Now, I have very little stuff and I'm always looking for an excuse to get rid of things. Not having a home over the last three years allowed me to experience the freedom to escape attachments and personal possessions. All I have is what I can carry on my back. And even then, I'm traveling lighter and lighter every day. I bought a new backpack a few months ago and it was smaller than my older one. That forced me to travel lighter.
I own very few material items. No place to live. No car. No furniture. I sold almost 80% of all of my books. My only possessions include a few paintings, Dead bootlegs, and boxes of mementos, photo albums, and souvenirs that I've collected along the way. There's nothing else except a couple of Brooks Brothers suits collecting dust in a closet in somewhere in NYC. I even donated the majority of my old clothes to the local church. Someone who needs a shirt or a jacket more than me should have it.
I even started carrying a smaller wallet. BG told me about the slimmy wallet. I started using it overseas and I've since put it to good use in America. I used to have a monster of a wallet of the George Costanza variety. Now, I just carry cash, an ATM card, my ID, and a Metrocard. Did I really need to have 57 different business cards in my wallet? Of course not.
What I'm doing with making some changes is nothing special. I finally had time to think about the last couple of years and assess how I've handled myself and my life. I'm proud of some areas and ashamed of others. My past is cluttered with mistakes but that's experience. Or life's hard knocks. And I'm sure I'll make more in the future. But I'm a gambler and I'm at a point where I'm not comfortable with the path I'm heading down. So I'm going to blaze my own trail and hopefully I'll find that original path that I started out down. We all get sidetracked in life. But so very few of us have the courage to change direction or go back to the point where you made your last turn off and proceed to venture the other way.
What does this mean for you the reader? I have no idea. Maybe I will post less. Maybe I will find time to post more. I'm hoping to find more time to play poker, which means I might have more to say about the topic. Bottom line, my goal is to improve as a writer and that includes my output here.
I have only one assignment between now and the 2008 WSOP and that's covering the Aussie Millions in January for PokerNews.com. It's still too early to decide who I'll write for during the WSOP, but I have been having thoughts about writing exclusively for Tao of Poker. Of course, that's good news for everyone if I make that vital decision. Or maybe I'll just whore myself out to the highest bidder. After all, I am a hired gun.
There are dozens of other assignments available to me right now. I have already turned down gigs to cover tournaments in Sydney and Macau. Over the next few weeks I have to make a decision about whether or not I want to follow the circus around next Spring or pass up on it completely. Wow, if I would be able to just write and travel and play poker between the Aussie Millions and the WSOP, then that would be as close to nirvana as I can get.
It's a goal. An appealing goal and I'm gonna try to pull it off. With the help of my patient friends and my new sidekick from India, anything is possible.
Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at www.taopoker.com. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.