Since I find myself living through the most profoundly
transformative periods in my life, I thought that I should take the time to
write it all down; mostly for posterity’s sake, and partly because I’m sure
there are people in the world that struggle with the same things as me, and my
experiences and insights may provide a way out for them as well.
suppose I could rehash my poker story for some background, but it’s far from
groundbreaking, and it’s not even terribly relevant to begin with. What’s more
important is the type of person I was when all this change started. Since day
one, my life has been plagued by my inability to say no. Out of every single
quality that I possessed (This isn’t a blanket statement, I’ve actually thought
about this for hours), the one that defined me was my lack of self-control. I
would eat until I was sick every chance I got. I wouldn’t stop playing video
games even though school started in an hour and I hadn’t even looked at my
homework. Internet porn always seemed like a more rewarding use of my time than
lifting weights or running. I ended up being fat, lazy, and only succeeding in
spite of myself rather than because of any effort or skill on my part. I was
out of shape, failing in school, and had few friends.
bleak as I made that sound, and as bleak as it actually was, I didn’t even
consider changing my ways. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing I could
do to change myself, and I would probably stay this way forever. Oh, how wrong
as I would like to pinpoint the secret magical catalyst that turned my life
around, in truth it was a few different things:
Being taken off of the starting line my senior
year of football. This was a serious blow to my ego for obvious reasons. I had
gone from starting basically by default and not needing to work especially hard
to needing to fight for every single minute on the field. I fought as hard as I
could, but while I was at home watching TV, the rest of the team was working
out. I ended up splitting time with two other guys.
Losing in Golden Gloves. If you’re one of those
guys that thinks that no one or nothing can make them feel shame, try walking
through a crowd 1500 strong that just saw you lose in the first round. Big O
had taken time out of his busy life to train me personally, but I didn’t care
enough to train well on my own. Thinking about that fight still has the power
to light a fire under my ass to this day.
I started playing poker, and subsequently
started losing hand over fist, mostly because I would skip studying and go
straight to playing. My poker losses were really the icing on the cake, since
imo any mental weakness in a person is magnified like 100x when they play
poker. I was as mentally weak as they come then, and I was getting beat bad.
are a couple other ones, each one is a different story but they all end the
same. I failed because I didn’t put in the work. I can’t exactly tell how many such events it
took me to get my ass in gear, but the quantity isn’t really important. The
important part is that over time I grew to hate these losses and the mental
pain that came with them that I resolved to do whatever it takes to never lose
ever again. Obviously I won’t be able to go my entire life without failing ever
again, but the important part is that I was willing and resolved to change.
had resolved to make myself better. Great. What now? I needed a goal. A good
goal. A brilliant goal. A goal that was attainable, but only if I forced myself
to new limits. Creating good goals is, in my opinion, probably the most
all-around useful skill for most areas of life. A goal can be extremely short
term or extremely long term, but I always favored daily goals combined with a
few long term goals. A good goal should include a few things:
It should be attainable, but very difficult. It
should be on the very fringe of your ability, so you can build on it and learn
to push yourself even further in the future.
It should have a carrot/stick. This one will
change a bit depending on which type of person you are. For example, last year
I was having a lot of trouble playing more than 300 hands in one session (I
know, I know…). I set a goal of 500 hands per session and if I succeeded, I
could take one mile off my nightly distance run. If I missed the target or came
off my A game, I had to add two miles, and the consequences were non-negotiable.
This is actually a decent segue way into point number 3…
Hold yourself to your goals no matter what.
Remember that a goal is only as good as your ability to keep on track with it. You
have to, Have To, HAVE TO stick to what you set out to do NO MATTER HOW HARD IT
When you’re coming up with a consequence/reward,
make sure it’s harmless. I used to know a guy that would run the mile every
day, and reward a fast time with Krispy Kreme donuts. At the end of three
months of running the mile, he just couldn’t figure out why he hadn’t lost a
single pound or dropped a single second off his mile time. Don’t be that guy.
I know that
those bullet points sound more than a little vague, but that’s only because a
lot of it depends upon a person’s individual personality and what works for
them. There is no true one-size-fits-all approach; anything worth doing is
going to have to be tailor-made for a single individual.
I’ve decided to make a change, I’ve got a sick goal in front of me and a grand
one rising up in the distance like a mighty Swiss Alp. Now all we need is a
sweet Ferrari to get us there through the twisty mountain roads toute suite. We
need plans. Workout plans, diet plans, the works. Structure in life,
ironically, brings freedom. As dumb as that may sound, when you’re learning
self-control, the best thing you can do is set a daily routine so you can
practice holding yourself to a standard every day. There are literally
thousands of chores/tasks you can use to fulfill this part, but I’m a big fan
of the diet/workout route. I like it because it works for me, but what works
for me may not work for you. Keep that in mind. When you’re picking a workout,
there are a few things you should remember:
Know thy self, grasshopper. Pick something
that’s a bit of a stretch to keep up with, but attainable, just like your
goals. Your workout can even be a daily goal, complete with rewards and
consequences. Just refer to point number 4 under goals.
Have your workout goals rooted in specific
performance milestones. If you work out just to “Get
ripped/shredded/situation’d out so you can go fistpumping at Karma”, you’re
probably not going to get anywhere. On the other hand, if you have something
specific to work for, like a mile time/weight amount, you’ll almost definitely
have a better time of it.
Don’t buy into any ridiculous diet like Atkins,
Jenny Craig, etc. Those diets rely on altered food or neglect of certain food
groups that can have negative effects. Certain diets like the Primal Blueprint
are almost definitely better for you than fad diets, but as far as I’m
concerned we had it right with the old-school food pyramid.
So now we’ve
decided to change, set some goals, and have a daily regime to help us get
there. That’s step one. Now all that’s left to do is to keep on keepin’on. It
will be easy for the first few days, maybe even the first few weeks, but
eventually you’ll start to feel ground down. It is at this moment that you will
either succeed or fail depending on whether or not you stick to the plan. It’s
not an inborn gift or talent, it’s a honed skill. Saying no is without a doubt
the most valuable across-the-board skill you can learn. Once you figure out how
to say “No, I don’t need to eat that piece of cake”, “No, I don’t need to watch
internet porn”, or even “No, I don’t need to play poker right now, I’m
tired/tilted/whatever.” Imo the best way to think about it is to envision every
work assignment, athletic performance, poker session, etc. as a reflection of
yourself. Is the job that you’ve done something to be proud of? Is it as good
as it can possibly be? Take pride in yourself and in everything you do.
of all, you need to remember it’s not impossible to change. It’s not impossible
to stay off tilt if you practice and hold yourself to a standard. Sure, it’s
hard as hell to begin with, but it will get easier if you do it long enough. I
control yourself isn’t easy to be sure, but it is extremely rewarding after the
initial difficulty. It’s a long road, but it’s not impossible, and I’m living
proof of that. In the year since I decided to turn around, I’ve lost 75 pounds,
managed a 4.0 for two semesters in college, have more friends than I’ve ever
had before, and I’ve somehow managed to land the hottest girl on the face of
the earth. If you keep your head right, stick to your goals, and NEVER GIVE UP,
one day all of this can be yours as well.