The game of life always assumes many unexpected twists and turns. From day-to-day, it’s hard to know what opportunities and obstacles will come our way. The optimists among us tout a positive mindset as the shaper of our destinies, while the pessimists believe that the world has turned against us and we are doomed to failure. Somewhere in between is a happy medium. Many consultants have drawn parallels between a winning mindset and success in life.
Positivity breeds success, and the two are co-dependent. It is impossible to rise through the ranks in any discipline – commerce, sport, gaming, education, relationships – without adopting a winning mindset. Destructive tendencies lead to negative outcomes. People who blame others for their own maladies will always see fault in everything that they do. For these folks, nothing is ever good enough. This begs the question: What determines success to begin with? Is it happenstance, strategy, or a combination of both?
Making Every Hand Count
Every situation is riddled with plusses and minuses. Consider a typical game of Texas Hold’em poker, where a player is dealt a terrific starting hand with a suited Ace/King combination. This hand is considered a favourite by many poker players, and for good reason. The Ace/King suited combination is a pretty hand, and some players call it Anna Kournikova – the legendary tennis player.
It typically wins against all pocket pairs 50% of the time – except for a pair of Kings, or a pair of Aces. If it has no correlation with the flop (the first 3 community cards), the turn (the fourth community card), or the river (the fifth and final community card), you’re sitting with a pretty mundane hand with an Ace high.
But does this mean you should not play an Ace/King starting hand? If you going to win 50% of the time against all pocket pairs, it’s certainly a proposition worth risking money on. While you don’t know what other players are holding in poker, and often in the game of life, probabilities should predict your behaviour. A King/King combination, otherwise known as pocket kings or cowboys is second only to a pair of pocket rockets – Aces.
They will win against hands with Aces approximately 67% of time, and whenever you’re dealt a pair of cowboys, you’re likely beaming from ear to ear. How does this analogy translate into the broader reality of the daily grind? Well, if you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth, opportunity abounds. But the greatest challenge in life is not simply to acquire, it’s to maintain what you’ve acquired. In much the same way, a pair of Kings puts you on track to a successful outcome, but the way you comport yourself after receiving that hand determines your success or failure in life.
The Wildcards – Competitors and Snake Oil Salesman
If only life were simple. Truth be told, people with the strongest poker hands often lose the shirts off their back because they lack the necessary skills, psychology and emotional fortitude to understand their surroundings. A player in life, or in poker, who is able to keep his or her emotions in check is far more likely to succeed and generate a desirable outcome than one who goes on tilt.
Consider a poker player with a pair of pocket rockets or a pair of cowboys starting a poker hand in a high-stakes showdown. Is it possible that another player with a poker face steals victory from the jaws of defeat? Absolutely!
Poker is as much about playing your cards as it is about playing the player. This is the single -most important rule to learn in the game of life. It’s not so much what you have, it’s how you use it. As a rule, you are likely to win the majority of hands you play when you’re holding a pair of Aces, but if your guard slips and your confidence wanes, you may give in to your fears and be bullied out of a pot that should be rightfully yours.
A steely resolve and a smidgen of self-confidence may be all that you need to get you over the goal line. There are many such analogies between strategy-based poker games and life, perhaps the most apropos of which is this one by Jack London: ‘Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well!’