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What Poker Taught Me About My Work

Back at my old job, there was one partner who always got under my skin. Everything I did was wrong. If I wrote a document, it'd be covered in red ink by the time I got it back. If I asked a question, it would be met with annoyance. As a new attorney, these things got to me. I've always been a bright guy, yet somehow, I could not please this one-man review board, no matter how hard I tried. Eventually, I started messing up the easy things. I'd photocopy a document, send it out, and realize after the fact that it was a two-sided document, and I only sent one side. That's just a small example, but it seemed like whatever I did was no longer just wrong in the eyes of the one-man review board. No, I was actually doing things wrong.

When I stopped working there and started at my new job, I brought a lot of the baggage from that partner with me. It took me a while to relearn that I am talented. I let my old partner's comments dictate how I saw myself, and the result was a very literal form of work tilt. When I'd see the partner, my heart would beat faster, I'd get nervous, and I'd make bad decisions, similar to the bad decisions made at a poker table after you get that tilty adrenaline rush when your hand gets cracked or your opponent foolishly calls your genius bluff. If you've ever tilted before, there are various forms, but for me, the most common is a form of anxiety. I'm so upset that I messed up or got unlucky that I'm anxious in the next hand. I'm not thinking straight and I don't perform well.

This morning I had a bit of an issue at work. The Big Bossman was at an arbitration on one of my cases. At Court, he called me to ask about a missing document. He had a form of the document that would work, but he have a newer form that's better. Ultimately, everything worked out fine, but even so, the phone call ended when the Bossman said, "I'll deal with this when I get back."

When he hung up the phone, my heart was beating in panic mode. I asked my support staff about the missing document, and we eventually located it. Even so, I was flustered, and unable to focus on the other tasks on my To Do list. Eventually, we were able to reconstruct what happened. In actuality the mistake had nothing to do with me. I did my part, but it was still my case, and I couldn't help but feel that I was going to suffer under the microscope.

In the end, everything worked out. Bossman was irked at the whole situation, but not necessarily at me particularly. But in that interim, while silently, internally panicking, I had a moment to reflect, and naturally, I reflected on poker. I recognized that feeling inside of me. It was tilt. Poker bloggers often write about work tilt or life tilt as a general term for when things are not going your way. I never thought of it as anything beyond shorthand for calling something negative. Something arrived late, so its delivery tilt. Your wife threw you out of the house, so its marriage tilt. You got fired, so its work tilt. If all of these things happen at once, its life tilt. But the feeling that I had this morning was different from those broad "tilt" uses. This was quite literal work tilt.

The thing about tilt is that it is by its nature out of ones control. Maybe it can be controlled before it happens, and maybe afterwards it can be recovered from, but if you are in the throws of tilt, it essentially means that you are out of control. Your behavior is controlled by raw emotions (often misplaced emotions); your actions are controlled by impulse; your mind is controlled by panic, frustration or confusion. I took some time to focus on my present work tilt. I had to re-establish control over myself. Worrying was going to get me nowhere except for the fast track to coronary disease. I needed to re-center myself.

A long time ago, slb159 (get better, buddy) and I were chatting about the tilt he experiences when he folds a hand that would've flopped a monster. I never understood that form of tilt. To me, you folded when your hand sucked, so the flop didn't matter. The decision was correct. At the time, I preached acceptance. Accept the fact that you would have flopped a monster, and accept the fact that you had already folded. Don't dwell on these things because they are not worth thinking about, once you've accepted the reality of the situation.

Acceptance in a key tenant in Buddhism and meditation. Its also a key step in most Anonymous programs (including GamAnon...hint hint...wait a second, did I just hint to myself? shit!). The reasons are simple. If you accept the reality of a situation, you can move beyond fighting what cannot be changed, and you can regain a sense of control by focusing on what you can change.

That was what I needed. I accepted that there was a mistake made somewhere along the way that had nothing to do with me. I accepted that I might become the fallguy. I accepted that whatever was going to happen, it was out of my hands.

It didn't work fully. I still feel the adrenaline and tension coursing through my body as I type this hours later. But I'm learning.

So, what did poker teach me about my work? It taught me that tilt can affect performance in any environment. It taught me that tilt must be controlled before it happens, if at all possible, by accepting life's curveballs as they come. It taught me that once I hit tilt, I need to take a step back to recollect my thoughts and accept the reality of my situation before I can move forward.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 12:47 PM,


At 5:14 PM, Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Very nicely said. Great post.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Littleacornman said...

I'm with slb159.

Most of the time I can accept I made the right decision and be happy with that, but when I'm not hitting and I'm getting my cont bets reraised ,it's the monsters I've folded which tilt me.

At 10:31 PM, Blogger Amatay said...

Wicked blog mate. Link swap??


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