"Simplicity is the key to brilliance," Bruce Lee once said. My buddy Friedman showed me a book about Bruce Lee called "The Warrior Within." In addition to being a movie star and martial arts instructor, Lee was a devout student of Eastern religions, who adapted what he learned to his mastery of martial arts as well as to being a father, husband, and teacher.
The book helped me to focus on what's important in my life. There were no specific instructions on what to do; instead it was a discussion of becoming self-aware and mastering the warrior within yourself to become successful. Lee kept describing martial arts as a form of self-discipline and less about fighting. It's about knowing your limitations and pushing yourself at the same time and working hard to achieve a level of mastery. I've tried my best to apply what I learned from Bruce Lee and Taoists like Lao Tzu and resurrected the poker aspect of my life. At some point over the last two years, I hit rock bottom and found a way out. And that was to dig deep inside myself to provide an honest self-evaluation.
Attaining knowledge in poker really means grasping and attaining self-knowledge. Part of being a professional poker player is accepting the consequences of your actions as well as taking responsibility for yourself.
Poker is a means to honestly express yourself. You can't fool yourself when it's crunch time, near the money bubble in a tournament when you're in a position to make a move, but don't and fold like a tart because you were afraid of not making the money. Your weaknesses were exposed when you were confronted with decisions. Perhaps you can cover up your liabilities against your opponents, especially if you play online. But deep down, you know that you don't have the testicular fortitude to take those tough risks, or you don't have the disciple or restraint to reel your aggression in, or you don't have the patience to wait for a more favorable time to get your money in the pot.
Poker is a way to figure out your limitations and how you react in certain situations. But being honest with yourself can be very difficult. Whether in poker or in everyday life, the more you lie to yourself, the more it's going to hurt you and your loved ones in the future. If you are blinded with fame and glory at the poker tables and you're not 100 percent honest with yourself that you need several more years of training before you take the shot, then you're going to fall hard. And you might be indirectly taking people in your life down with you.
The first step is being honest with yourself. Then and only then can you begin the journey to figure out who you really are. And being able to identify your weaknesses allows you to point out your strengths. And that's what you need to focus most of your energy on ... what you do best. Then you can take the time to improve those aspects of your life that are liabilities. The two pronged approach is a way to flourish and improve at the same time.
I reassessed how and why I played poker. I figured out my strengths (limit cash games) and weaknesses (no-limit tournaments). Then I focused on playing online limit hold'em and moved up in levels as fast as I can to maximize my win rate. I also cut back on no-limit tournaments. In the meantime, I studied more no-limit strategy and quickly discovered that I had more holes and leaks than I realized. Gaining knowledge doesn't end when you finish reading Super System.
While you have to constantly push yourself to learn more and more about the game it's one thing to figure out your problems, it's another to apply what you've learned and make it work.