One year ago today, the United States Department of Justice indicted the three largest poker sites- Pokerstars, Full Tilt and Absolute/UB. This day became known in the poker world as “Black Friday”, a day that left myself and many of my friends essentially jobless, some with large portions of our net worth left floating in space, and searching for answers. I won’t detail everything I’ve done to make ends meet over the last year in this blog entry (I’ll save that for the last chapter of “My Poker Story”), instead I’d like to talk about some of the things I’ve done to improve the quality of my life over the last year. I had actually begun doing a few of these things about 6 months prior to that day in April. It was at that time that I realized I wasn’t doing everything I could to reach my peak performance not only as a poker player but in all areas of my life. I started out making great progress and the results quickly followed as I had my best three month poker tournament stretch of my life. Then came Black Friday. Almost immediately, I decided there was no point in sulking and being depressed, I had to take whatever positives I could from the situation and do my best to continue to improve my life.
There is nothing groundbreaking in this list. This list is by no means exhaustive, there are many other things that I could include. I still struggle with some of the things listed below. One thing I’ve learned is that it is really difficult to make big dramatic changes to your lifestyle over night. It’s why so many New Years resolutions fail. Instead, it’s better to make small incremental changes each day. I try to focus on doing just a little bit better than the day before in everything that I did. If I have any kind of setbacks, I try not to let it get me down. That is one of the great things about life, no one is perfect and every day, hour, minute and second represents a time where you can improve yourself in some way. You don’t have to wait until New Years, or a new month or a Monday to start making changes. There is no better time than right now.
1. Eat better
The first three things on this list were the first big changes I made in my life. I had always eaten pretty poorly. I gained a decent amount of weight in college due to a lot of drinking and a ton of Grease Truck sandwiches. My weight bounced up and down as I went through various phases of trying to lose weight and falling off the wagon in the years after college. Once I started working with my friend Brian Bott, I was able to make positive changes to my diet that stuck. He had me keep a food diary that tracked everything I ate and the amount of fat, carbs and protein in each meal. He gave me a lot of ideas for simple meals to make and when to eat. I’m also very fortunate because Jody loves to eat healthy food. Playing in the casino every day can make it hard to eat well so Jody makes my lunch in the morning and I bring it with me. The mental and physical benefits to eating well have been unbelievable.
Despite all the alcohol and bad food in college, I was a pretty active person. After college, I went through phases where I’d exercise a lot and then not at all. Brian came up with an exercise plan that helped me focus on a goal. The gym can be an addicting place once you get into the habit of going. You begin to feel so much lighter and happier throughout the day and you sleep better at night. I began doing yoga as well and although I probably look like a big doofus with my 6″3 frame trying to get into these poses, I can say without a doubt that it has improved my flexibility, my focus at the table and my overall mental and physical health. The biggest thing you can do is to find a routine that works for you and don’t be afraid to try new things. Due to eating better and exercising, I’ve lost about 40 lbs. and feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life.
3. Drink more water
You feel so much better when you are properly hydrated. I bring my own water bottles with me to the casino for a few reasons. 1) It allows me to make sure I consume enough water throughout the day. 2) I save money by not having to tip the waitress for water. I did the math and by bringing my own water every day I’m going to save around $1,200 this year. 3) I help the environment by not using plastic bottles which inevitably don’t get recycled at the casino. Click here for a decent post on ways to drink more water every day.
I began to think about the importance of my breath after listening to poker mindset coach Tommy Angelo’s “Eightfold path to poker enlightenment”. I learned to focus on taking mindful breaths throughout the day and to focus on my breathing in key situations in life. Yoga has helped a lot with this too.
5. Dress for success
I had never really cared about dressing well until about 8 months ago. I went and bought a whole new wardrobe and now most days I go into the casino wearing some kind of button down shirt with my hair done. Of course I don’t dress like this every day because some days you feel like wearing a tee shirt and a hoodie but I can say without a doubt that my confidence has been boosted a ton by feeling like I look good. I feel like if I look good, feel good, I’ll play good.
With so much going on in every day life, it’s easy to forget to spend some time each day by yourself just thinking. I use my 40 minute ride to and from Parx to spend some time in solitary thought. I think about the things I want to accomplish and how I’m going to accomplish them. I think about how blessed I am to have such an amazing family and support system. This time allows me to disconnect from the world and be alone with my thoughts and I feel if you don’t have that time to yourself it is easy to forget about the things you want to accomplish and your reason for being.
Ironically, when I was in college I did very little educational learning. I learned a ton of things in the social sense but not so much educationally. In the last year, I began reading a ton. I read books about all kinds of topics and I stay up to date on all different kinds of news and technology through the internet. I love watching Ted videos as I’ve mentioned before to learn about all different kinds of topics. I also like to talk to people and learn from their experiences.
8. Get organized
I still struggle with this one even though I find that when I have things organized my life moves much more smoothly. There are countless ways to get organized in all areas of your life and I’m by no means an expert on this topic. It is one of the things that I try to focus on getting better at every day so if anyone has some tips I’d love to hear them if you’d like to share them in the comments section.
9. Turn ideas into projects
This is another area where I feel like I’ve come a long way but still have a lot of progress to make. There are a lot of really smart people out there who come up with great ideas but fail to turn them into projects. The biggest and toughest step is usually the first one: starting. Once people commit to taking action to start a project the process that follows is much easier to accomplish and commit to. Seth Godin talks a lot about starting in his blog and in his book “Poke the Box”. Much like going to the gym or doing any of these other things, once you begin to turn ideas into projects you will become addicted to the psychological rush of accomplishing.
10. Be inspired
One of my first posts on here was “Ten things that Inspire me” . Life isn’t easy. No one is perfect and try as you may but you will never be a perfect person either. You can however try to be the best person you can be and make incremental improvements to your life to make the most of what you’ve been given. Find the things that inspire you and stay positive. Look at people who have overcome long odds. Watch video clips of people like my friend Mark Adams who are enthusiastic about life and looking to help others be the same way.
I hope everyone enjoyed this list. I enjoyed putting it together and reflecting in my mind about the past year. I hope to continue to improve my life every day and look forward to hearing any feedback.