As some of you may already know, I’m just getting back on my feet after a pretty intense bout with depression. Thanks to friends/angels, massive doses of Vitamin D3 and not just a little help from above, I’m back in a safe place and happy to be alive.
It’s impossible to take a holiday basking in the cold darkness of depression without coming back with some reflections and lessons. And all I’ve been able to think about these past few days is how skewed our perception of reality can be. Let me explain.
There is a tragic and not-so-uncommon anomaly in poker known as the “Bad Beat.” As a one-time professional poker player, I’m all too familiar with it.
Picture this. You are dealt pocket aces and make a big bet before the flop. The donk sitting next to you calls with pocket twos. The flop comes 9, 10, J. Your odds of winning are overwhelming. You go all in. The donk calls, knowing he might already be drawing dead, knowing there are only two cards in the deck that can give him any hope of taking this hand, knowing there are only two more community cards to be dealt. But he calls. And he gets a two on the river to take you out.
This is a bad beat.
When I was the victim of one of these hands, it would mean the end of my playing. Not just for the night, but for days and sometimes weeks. I would have to cleanse myself of the experience and it’s not something that’s ever come easy for me. My habit is to hold onto the misery of that bad beat for as long as possible. Without active intervention on my part, I’d never get over it!
I believe my difficulty in shaking these moments off is a key lesson for me…and possibly for you, too.
The average weekly-poker-night-with-the-guys guy loves nothing more than to sit around and rehash his worst bad beats. I’ve seen people exchange stories of bad beats for hours like they were war wounds. Each one trying to top the other with the stakes lost and odds overcome to their ultimate demise.
I have never, ever, not once seen a group of poker players exchange stories of their good beats. The ones where they called on a whim with pocket twos and took down those aces. The ones where they were terribly short-stacked and went all-in as a last hope of staying in the tourney only to get lucky six more times and end up winning the game. No. We rarely ever talk about those hands.
Why? Because our perception of reality is disfigured, imbalanced. Most of us at some point in our early childhood got the message that we, in some way, “weren’t good enough.” We carry that story with us like a security blanket. Its truth becomes engrained in our psyche and our egoic minds believe that the only way we’ll be “safe” is if we continue to be “not good enough.” We only seek out and acknowledge evidence that supports this “truth” and ignore all the rest.
In my observations, the greatest poker players in the world have a firm rule to never discuss their bad beats. They want to remain in the moment, in the true reality of the situation, and not let the past affect their present. They strive for balance and train their minds to see reality for what it is.
They know that living in the land of bad beats means a life of regret and mediocrity.
The truth is, if I’m sitting at a table for four hours playing poker, I’ll play hundreds of hands and get lucky dozens of times before that bad beat ever comes. A truly balanced mind can see this for what it is and simply shrug off the bad beat as something that sometimes happens to everyone.
But our egos want to wrap around those few seconds and disregard the other countless hours lived. It wants to hold onto that proof that we are not good enough so that it can remain in a place of familiarity and safety.
The paradox is that the very parts of ourselves which can be the most self-destructive are also the parts working the hardest to keep us safe. Unless, that is, we take an active role in moving towards a state of balance and presence.
Our true freedom lies in that choice.
We are all seeking something. Abundance, prosperity, love, friendship, success, or even just a little luck. But are you certain these things do not already surround you? Could you simply be missing it all by living in the land of bad beats?
And are you ready to join me in working towards a more balanced perception of reality where we see clearly and feel nothing but gratitude for all that we are given?
I want this to be the start of an ongoing conversation about this rather complex topic. I’d love it if you shared your thoughts, too.