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Throughout college I played poker professionally from my dorm room. Not many people know this about me because I never really talk about it, but the more I think about it the more I realize that being a poker player taught me some incredible lessons that have helped me become a successful entrepreneur.
Here are the top 3 lessons I learned that allowed me to make the transition from online poker player to online entrepreneur seamlessly:
1. AT THE BEGINNING, LOSING IS BETTER FOR YOU THAN WINNING.
Believe it or not, winning in your early days as a poker player is probably the worst thing that can happen to you.
This is because when we win, we tell ourselves that our positive results are due to our brilliance. We smile, stack our chips, and pat ourselves on the back for outsmarting the others.
However, there are a variety of reasons why winning at poker on any given night isn’t directly co-related to your skill set. I won’t to go into all of them here, but the main point I want to focus on is that winning as a beginner hinders your growth because it doesn’t let you stop and question if what you’re doing is actually correct.
Winning early on doesn’t allow you see the fact that you should probably still make learning your #1 priority. And, even if you do accept the idea that you don’t quite know it all just yet, winning doesn't really give you the motivation you need to stop and study…after all, why waste time learning when we can be making money, right?
It’s only when we lose that we stop and ask ourselves “Wait a minute - what’s going on here?!” I’ve been there and I’ve also coached 100s of other poker players from all over the world, so I know this to be true with 100% certainty.
Luckily poker players go through cycles; they can go on a hot streak and win no matter how bad they’re playing just as easily as they can go on a cold streak and lose no matter how well their playing.
The reason why I say that these cycles are actually good for us is because it forces us to get to a point where we question ourselves.
When we lose, we think differently. We ask ourselves important questions and try to figure out if we could have done something differently to have gotten a positive result instead of a negative one.
Just like with poker players, entrepreneurs need to focus on continuous improvement even when everything seems to be going perfectly fine.
Most of the time, early success for entrepreneurs is like early success for poker players. It’s heavily based on luck, circumstance, and being at the right place at the right time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. An overnight surge due to a random shout-out or retweet is an incredible opportunity for you. Just make sure you take it in stride and don’t let it blind you from the fact that it’s not sustainable and you still have a lot of learning left to do.
Due to the over-connected and information heavy world we live in, our environment is constantly changing. It’s more difficult to win at online poker year after year just like it’s harder to make money with an online business. There’s never been more competition than there is today and your customers are also way smarter than they used to be. So, if you’re not moving up, you’re moving down. There’s no staying where you are anymore because there are plenty of others working hard to step in and surpass you.
Lesson: Be aware and humble enough to know that there’s always room for improvement. Keep learning, especially at the beginning. Don’t wait for the bad times to seek self-improvement. Seek it constantly. Not only will it make your highs higher, but it will also limit your losses by making them smaller that they otherwise would have been.
2) THE BEST INVESTMENT YOU CAN MAKE IS IN YOURSELF.
The fastest way I was able to grow as a poker player early on in my career was to get paid help from someone who was already successful at the games I wanted to play.
I emphasize the world paid because you don’t want to find someone who’s going to help you for free. If they are willing to do it for free, chances are one of these two things are true 1) they won’t take it seriously enough and will let other commitments get in the way of your development, and 2) they probably aren’t any good at what they do.
Over a 1 hour Skype call, I was able to learn concepts that would have probably taken me 6 months or more to learn on my own…if I would have even thought of that stuff on my own. There are some tactics and strategies that I know I would have NEVER came up with by myself.
If you’re struggling to hire a coach, here’s the mentality you need to adopt: if someone is able to reach a certain level and I’m not able to get there on my own, it’s simply because they know something that I don’t know yet. All I have to do is pay them to find out what that is.
So, if you want to accelerate your results as an entrepreneur hire a coach or buy an online course. This is without a doubt the best way to move forward quickly and avoid getting paralyzed by the unknown.
Plus, when you’re getting started there’s a lot of value in learning how to do things the right way from the beginning so that you have a solid foundation to build on. This way, you don’t have to come back a year later and fix all the holes that are starting to leak.
Lesson: Stop wasting your time trying to figure it out all on your own. This is one of the biggest reasons why entrepreneurs end up quitting after months of struggle. Find someone who’s a few steps ahead of you and pay them to find out what they know that you don’t quite know, yet.
3) HOW TO DEAL WITH THE UNAVOIDABLE EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER THAT COMES WITH THIS TERRITORY.
We all know what it’s like when a poker player goes on tilt; they let frustration and negative emotions dictate their thoughts, decisions, and ultimately their play.
Over the course of my poker career I learned to manage my emotions and not allow them effect my thought process or decision making abilities while I’m at the table.
What if I’m bored because I’m not getting good cards and haven’t played much all night? Patience, don’t play hands you know you shouldn't be playing.
What if I got it all-in with the best hand and lost due to bad luck? No problem, I did my part by making the right decision before luck was involved, at which point, things were out of my control.
Believe it or not, the biggest skill playing poker professionally taught me was the ability to avoid gambling. I know it sounds funny because ultimately I’m playing a card game in a casino, but poker taught me how to be solid, how to stick to a pre-determined strategy, how focus on analytics, proven psychology and population tendencies, and most importantly, how to resist the urge to take a non-calculated chance.
Whether you like it or not, being an entrepreneur (just like being a poker player) has an unusual amount of emotional variance that comes along with it.
As entrepreneurs, we need to have the same mental strength that successful poker players have. We can not be phased by bad luck. We cannot take the wrong actions just to get short term results when we know they won’t lead to the long term results we’re striving for. And, we need to let go of things that are simply out of our control.
Lesson: Don’t take your short-term results personally. Accept the fact that some things are simply out of your control. All you can do is show up every day, do your best, and focus on executing the proven strategies on a consistent basis. That is the only way to eventually get to where you want to be.
If you're curious to know how I transitioned from poker player to entrepreneur, the answer is: I launched an online course.
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