There are times when I feel like I can’t lose, and then there are times when I feel like I can’t win. It depends. I’m still not sure on what it depends, but it depends. I don’t know if it’s the difficulty of my opponents, the variability of the game, the position of the planets, or the mental and physical state I’m in.
What I do know is that when I’m in the middle of a losing streak, it’s very easy for me to adopt a losing attitude. My ability to maintain a positive and winning mindset in times of extreme pain and struggle is extremely limited. It’s not fun anymore. I want to yell like a little shit and punch holes in walls. I want a release. I want to give up. I feel a sudden urge for back to back cigarettes and two Heady Toppers.
Poker players refer to this as tilt. Emotion comes into play and decisions are based more on visceral discomfort than on sound logic. If I feel like shit, my results are shit.
As I’ve failed and failed throughout my life, one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given, one thing I’ve continued to do is play. The great thing about the human experience is we get to experience the same failures over and over again. Even if we aren’t the best or the fastest learners around (I’m neither, not pro material), we eventually catch on. We eventually improve.
Whenever I feel like I’m getting good at something, I’ve found it extremely helpful to acknowledge that I will eventually regress to the mean. I try not to dwell on it because negative thoughts seem to attract negative results and it’s best to ride the waves while they’re good, but understanding less desirable results may be around the corner helps me when those times come. By anticipating the pain, I’m more mentally prepared to withstand it and recover.
Another thing I’ve noticed is my brain seems to like to give me credit for everything good that happens to me. Whether it’s winning a game, having a good day at work, or having a positive interaction with a valued friend, my brain attributes that success to me. My lazy brain likes to say, “Yes, Evan, you’re brilliant and awesome. It’s all because of you, and everyone should know.”
In reality, its persistence and effort that have led me to the successes I’ve been so blessed to have. I’ve never been the most talented, I’ve never been the smartest, but I do have a pretty good work ethic. I do have the toughness to bounce back from painful experiences. Whenever my brain says, “Oh, you’re a friggen genius, bud”, it’s time to reset my attitude, to stay humble, and to remember that it’s my hard work that has gotten me to where I am.
Remember that when you’re on top of the world, you start driving blind. Confidence is amazingly powerful, but on the flipside, it can be dangerously debilitating. You start neglecting negative indicators, and you rationalize threats with hubris.
So my thoughts from this rant are this: Stay humble when you’re winning. When the odds are in your favor or you see something that others don’t, bet the farm. And finally, don’t be tricked by your own mind. It’s dumber than you think.