I want you to think about the person most important to you. I want you to ignore your blood-relations first. So, the most important non-family member in your life. Now, I want you to imagine the split-second moment right before you met that person. They literally didn’t exist. You had no frame of reference, no history, nothing. Your ducks were in a row, so to speak. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, another entity collides with yours, changes your point of view, changes your belief system, really changes everything. Flash forward a month, a year, however long it takes, and suddenly this person is a fixture in your life and you can’t even imagine what life was like without them. Obviously this person could be a significant other, a friend, a mentor, a coach, anyone. One day, you just wake up, and they’ve ingrained themselves in your life, whether you (or they) wanted to or not.
I often relate this type of mental exercise to people when they’re talking about poker books. Poker books, I usually say, are only understood once you understand them. I read Doyle Brunson’s “Super System” as a 16-year-old, and while I found it terribly entertaining and engrossing, I learned roughly zero from that book in terms of application. Then, many years later, I looked back at it (as a pro poker player) and found that not only could I understand all of Doyle’s advice, but a lot of it was really sound! So, the information was all there, but the connective process wasn’t. That connective process is often called the “A-Ha” moment in the poker world, and it describes that singular instant where you finally get it.
Turns out, life is full of these moments when you suddenly “get” stuff. Are they representative of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory (that you need 10,000 hours to achieve mastery of something)? Or, do they happen randomly? I genuinely have no idea. Sometimes, I feel like they can be associated with the “moments of enlightenment” or “flashes of inspiration” that philosophers and artists experience while creating their masterworks. Well, the same thing happens in both life and in poker.
Usually, in my experience, it’s a process of condensing an excess of irrelevant knowledge and experience into the core foundation of a concept. When people first start writing about poker, they write using gigantic, verbose paragraphs. It’s virtually impossible to boil down to the really good stuff. One story that I can remember clearly, on the subject of writing: Elie Weisel, author of “Night”, perhaps the definitive Holocaust novel, originally delivered the novel at over 1,000 pages. Then he edited, re-edited, re-re-edited, and published it at 120 pages. 120 from 1,000. The core, fundamental concept was almost 10% of the original content.
Not to compare myself to Elie Weisel, but the same thing happens if you look at my earliest poker strategy posts and compare them to my latest ones. The later ones are very short and to the point. When I released “Easy Game“, people blasted me for making it too short. In my view, that’s a good thing. I remember some statement like this: real knowledge means the ability to explain it to a 3rd grader. If you can do that, you’ve got it.
So how does one create these moments of insight? Well, I don’t think you can reach out there and grab them. People can spend their whole lives straining for that feeling of awareness & connectedness and come up empty. Instead, you actually have to just make yourself open to it. Every time in my life that something truly amazing has developed it has happened because I was in a steady mental state. When you’re committed to learning, you will learn. When you’re committed to happiness, you’ll be happy.
Just this week, I was thinking to myself about how great my current situation is. I play poker sometimes, I coach and make videos, I sell books, I work with a couple of different startups that are really exciting, I take chinese lessons & eat dim sum and mexican food and I really don’t need to go anywhere but here to be really, really happy. And literally at that moment, a friend contacts me with a potentially life-changing offer that would take me away from my home and challenge me in totally different and new, exciting ways.
The truth is, you can’t really control when those moments are going to happen. A close friend (that I met while she was on a first-and-last date with a friend in probably the most profound chance-meeting of my life) told me recently that trying to control everything just isn’t the way. You’re here, you’re there, it’s day-to-day. And, while we disagree often, there’s a lot of truth in that. You have to keep trying, but you also have to let it happen.
It’s a delicate balance.