Month: May 2013

How much have you improved in the last year?

Stephen Merchant did a great stand up “Hello ladies” and aside from jokes, there was an interesting situation that illustrates the point I want to get you thinking about.

He told the audience how tall he was and asked if there was somebody taller than him. When no hands were raised, he said: “When every one of you is shorter than me, it means that I have been all your heights.”

It’s a good logical conclusion. In some point of his life, he has had the exact height as each audience member. He does not state that he is ultimately better at growing or that none could outgrow him in the future. Just that at that moment in time, he is taller and has grown through all the heights of his audience members.

Now, to make use of this example, I’ll give you a similar situation. See if there are commonalities:

Two players play a computer game. One is better than the other.

That’s all. Or..

There’s an exam. Half of the class gets B, half gets A.

I think both of these situations resemble the Stephen Merchant’s. When you are taller than someone, in most cases, you do not say that you are better than him or that he is inferior. He just (a) does not have it in his genes; or (b) he has not had enough time to grow yet.

Trying to go different different ways, but still equal in size.

Trying to go different different ways, but still equal in size.

When comparing your skills in a game or in school subjects, the logic stays the same in my mind. When you are better than someone, it just means that others have put less time in those activities or that you have an innate gift for it. I strongly disagree with statements that someone is not capable of doing something. I believe that everything is possible to achieve.

Now I’m not trying to say that everyone can run like Usain or that everyone can understand the numbers like Hawkins. They are the stars. The diamonds. The almost miracles. They are the top ends of human limits at the moment. When you set a goal to start training to run as fast as Bolt and focus on the process not the exact result, I can guarantee that you will reach your own limits. And if you have lower limits than others, then that’s fine. You were meant to. You have done what you can.

This comes up most often in sports. No one should make fun of others or criticise them for being less experienced. It’s very highly likely that the better one has put more time in playing. That’s it. So why not try to give out a little of your knowledge and make a friend? Last time I heard, friends are better than enemies. Be positive, they have the same potential as you do, they just need a little bit more time. You’ll have more fun also. And the thing is, like Stephen, even the tallest have started with being short.

And if you feel that you are not learning as fast as you would like, despite your efforts, then it is very likely that you should not focus on the result. Focus on the process, the evolving. Besides, everyone has something they excel in, and life should be about finding it and focusing on that(I sense a poker logic coming about this point).

So make the most out of your day and enjoy the growing.


What’s your top 3 qualities that you look for in friends?

Back from last weeks nostalgic soon to be series of  poker philosophy and this week introducing a new series again:

Top 3’s 

This series will be more of a quick post venture in the future, as I use these posts as a pretext to sort random stuff out in my head.

I think I got the inspiration to start a list of top 3’s when asked what my favourite movies were. Not an uncommon question I might presume. The thing is that I am quite a movie freak and with many, many movies I have had the spontaneous reaction that this has to belong to my top 3(5,10, etc.). So many movies have gained that reaction that when I thought about my favourite movies, the list was considerably overpopulated.

At that point I realized that I need to sort things out. I thought long and hard and finally came up with it:

1. Shaun of the Dead

2. Lord of the Rings Trilogy( Yes, trilogy. Because when you want to watch LotR, you go for the marathon every time.)

3. American Psycho

And I won’t even do honourable mentions or top 5 or 10, because then I could not stop. The human mind works better, when there are less aspects to concentrate on.(*) So when thinking about important thoughts or just thoughts, it is better to keep it as clear as you can.

Now, what I learned from that concentrated list making was that:

1.It was harder than one might think

2. It was fun

3. The act itself is very useful as you discover a lot about yourself

And because I saw so much good coming out of only one list of three, I decided to start questioning myself about 3’s in other matters. It is a really fun way to get to know yourself. And for a real life example, if you are, for instance, at a job interview, you are bound to leave a very good impression  to a potential employer, when he asks something about yourself and you already have a top 3 answer waiting to be unleashed at moments notice. No awkward silence.

So, without further ado, my own answer. Without these 3, I have found that people tend to stay in the “acquaintance” compartment:

1. Depth

2. Humour

3. Honesty

Be sure to think about this question yourself and maybe even let others know in the comments.

Stay classy, San Diego.

The World's End movie

Ah, coming out soon to please my senses


(*) And many other interesting ways to make yourself more effective and see how people act irrationally in a great book by James Montier, „The Little Book of Behavioral Investing“

In hindsight, to which requests would you have said “no” to?

This will be the introduction and first edition of my new recurring series on poker philosophy – life explained. A journey to become better at poker and better at life.

A little backstory. . in the 10th grade me and some of my classmates started playing poker. Internet poker had its limits for the 16 year-old, so live games had to suffice. Playing with 3 frequent players and only for change in the beginning, our little venture into gambling grew into an empire with 2 years.

Our crew constantly grew and breaks between classes seemed to be shortening. The stakes grew higher. We got many notifications from our teachers and the principal, because the playing was causing many guys to be late into classes, also skipping classes just to play. We found very innovative ways to conceal our playing and poster “teacher guards” to get into glasses on time. Furthermore, it turned out that playing for money was forbidden in school territory. We had a solution though. . bookkeeping.

We marked the buy-ins and bets in a simple form into a workbook(I now wish we had kept them all…just the sheer amount of workbooks we went through is quite staggering). In that way, you only had to have money once a week, to pay your debts(done Friday after school) and you could play as much as you want during the week. You always assumed, you would at least get even at the end of the week. Of course that wouldn’t be true for everyone. With our paper mark-up system,  we just got so far away from the idea of money as a material object and losses seemed to be illusionary. And that lead to quite substantial weekly turnovers. Basically every break we had went into playing. Also, classes where tables had drawers allowed playing at class time. Setting up tables and vision blockades so that our crew would sit near each other and the teacher wouldn’t see the sporting going on(yes, we firmly supported the view of poker as a sport). So all in all, I can’t even say how much time we spent playing poker in high school.

The more and more we played and researched the game(we got quite competitive, obviously) and the more we got into the maths behind it, all kinds of somewhat weird and simultaneously cool philosophical thoughts started to assemble in our hive mind and poker started to quite literally resemble life itself. . . and the hypothesis me and 2 other most frequent players set up was that one could find resemblances between every situation in life and poker and simplify each decision in life with poker logic. And that is what I would like to start doing in this series:)

High Stakes Poker

Never get’s old. Plus is there a Gabe Kaplan fanclub?

This edition will have the starting example and future posts will have many poker philosophies. First, the ability to say no.

Many life’s decisions can be simplified into “yes or no” decisions. Will you do that errand someone has asked you? Will you choose the fast food or make your meal yourself? Will you take that loan? Will you get out of bed early today? The list is endless. But the commonality is that it takes one binary decision to set future actions into motion. JUST  as in poker, the decision to get into the action by playing your hole cards or folding. That represents the basic decision you make.

And one action I recently learned  – saying “no” to requests. I am a positive person by heart and for a period I just couldn’t say no to people. I got jammed that way, overburdened. My productivity suffered and overall mood went down, because I could not live up to my promises. But taking that choice between getting into the pot as a model, one can see that saying yes to every hand just is not profitable in the long run. If you play every hand, you are bound to lose money. If you overextend on tables and play 10 tables, when you can only manage 5, you are bound to lose money. Jim Carrey proved the point in “Yes Man” – you have to make choices and assess situation when someone asks something of you.

You might take smaller responsibilities with greater ease and encouragement, in the same way that if you have a mediocre hand, you are inclined to take part in the pot if the stakes are low compared to you stack. That means if the initial effort is seamless, the upside of doing a favour is much higher. If the stakes are higher and a raise has been made, then folding should become a serious option. But of course saying “no” to all hands is the opposite of rational also – you can not improve your well-being without entering a pot(doing favours, saying “yes”).

So I hope you got a clue about my logic. It’s been 3 years since the last discussion on the matter and the thoughts are less defined in my head. And because I no longer go to the same class with my fellow thinkers and dissidents, I need your help to (re)discover the long lost world. Post comments on the hypothesis – argue against it and find flaws in my logic or point out new connections yourself. Also, challenge the hypothesis to explain a situation of your choosing.

Time to re-watch High Stakes Poker!

Have a nice week!

What would you change about yourself?

This is a post for those people, whose answer to the following question is “no”:

Are you at the point in life, where you want to be? . . or . . Are you the kind person, who you want to be?

When you truly can say that you do not want to improve yourself or your surroundings, then you are lucky. Even though, the situation can change at any given moment. If your answer at any point in time is a “no”, then it means your life needs improvements. It is a crucial point in self development – the realisation and acceptance that you are not yet your ideal.

Again, as in the last post, routine and the fear of change interferes progress.

A friend of mine once said: “We can not get to the point we want, if we do not make changes.” When you think about it, it is actually very logical. If you don’t make changes, then you maintain your status quo. And this is the logic I want to express in this post. If your goals are different from your current state, then by definition already, you can not get there, if you stay the same. Changes do not happen by themselves. One can not just sit by idly and hope for a “lottery of life” – this kind of action only makes you more unhappy, because you do not see progress towards your goal.

The change can even be something completely random. You just have to get out of your comfort zone. It frees up, little by little, the enormous amount of potential we all hold within ourselves. Settling down before you are ready is a mistake. When you are hungry, you might settle for a half a plate, but the merry mid-day sleep on a full stomach could be so much more delicious.

For example, a year ago I wanted to change. I had comfortable savings so that I could not go to work beside school and life was safe. But I wasn’t going anywhere that way. I saw that getting to be the person I wanted to be, in the way I was living, would take ages – I wasn’t doing anything for that to happen faster. So I deliberately spent basically all my comfort-money on travelling and after that I had close to 1 month to get something going, or I would get into starving zone. But that way, my back against the wall, I was working harder while noticing and using up more opportunities. And before that 1 month, I got a good sales job(my 1 goal was to have very good interpersonal skills) in a bank(my 1 goal was to learn how investing works) and with a schedule with which I could keep focusing on university too. Things worked out. When I felt that things were starting to feel out of balance again, and I had gotten what I need from that job, I quit. I spent 5 months on finishing my school and now I’m ready for new changes.

I mean, on most of the times the outcome is unpredictable and things might not work out the way you thought they would. But people can acclimatise with absolutely every situation – for me, that is a fact.. The act of changing itself gets you out of your frozen mindset. That already puts your brain back into active mode. .  Changes are good, they should not be feared. But the ironic fact is that  by default we are just the opposite of bold. No matter the short-term outcome, You’ll get there eventually. . you have set off the roll of the snowball-, or sometimes, the avalanche of progress.

All that snow waiting to be unleashed.

All that snow waiting to be unleashed.