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The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I want to win, but I shouldn't?

It was in Jacksonville, Florida, at the Predator Pro pool school, May 21-22, 2008.
In a conversation with Thorsten Hohmann, he asked me to tell him about my pool goals. I did not hesitate with my answer: "To win the US Amateur championship."

I felt pretty good about the fact that I even had pool goals, and I felt even better that I have had them written down (see Plan for Excellence in Pool). There was no question in my mind that 99% of the pool players, as well as 99% of the other human beings on the planet, do not have written goals of any kind. I have come to realize this after many years of business experience where Goals and Plans are absolutely essential if one is to succeed.

I wasn't so happy to hear Thorsten's response, which was essentially that I should not have a goal that involves winning. His reasoning is that we do not have control over winning, because we have no control over who we might draw in a tournament, we have no control over how well the opponents will play against us, etc. We only have control over how we play. And, if we play very well, then we just may win, but that is not a given. All we can do is to have as our goal "to play well".

Upon hearing this, I remembered that I have heard this
before, more than once. In fact, at the beginning of this year, I redrafted my pool goals to reflect this philosophy, and instead of stating my desire to win the US Amateur championship, and to run 100 balls in straight pool, etc, I simply called these "Possibilities".

The concept is to focus on the Process, not the Result. To be completely detached from the Outcome, and to focus solely on the Here/Now of doing the thing (the shot). This is a very Zen approach to life. The meditation is the doing of the thing. The result, the outcome is irrelevant.

So, while I had 6 months ago redrafted my goals to reflect this philosophy, I was still a person who impulsively replied that I wanted to WIN. Even though I have been intellectually converted to the concept of focusing on the Process, not the Result, I was still acting out of greed for the Win.

And again, just last week, I was sitting quietly with El Maestro, having a tall regular at Starbucks, and I slipped him a few affirmations which I had put down on a small piece of paper, a few words to keep me focused during a match. El Maestro saw the word "win" and immediately corrected me. Again. He has mentioned this very thing on more than one occasion in the past. His teaching was the impetus for me to re-phrase my goals as possibilities.

But with all of this expert coaching, I am still holding on to the need to win. Why? It could be my Type-A personality. It could have something to do with being the second born child in a family of 6 kids. It could be lots of things. What's wrong with wanting to WIN? It's totally American, isn't it? Maybe it is because I have built this bad habit over many years, and now it is difficult to teach this old dog a new trick. Maybe I just need more time to become more humble.

Yes, I want to win, and I may always want to win, but somehow I need to let go of that and focus completely on the moment of the shot, and trust that if I do that good enough, then the win will be the result.

And yet, pool is a zero-sum game. There are no trophies for "playing well". You either win, or you are just one of many names of also-rans. You are either on top of the list, or not. I truly enjoy being at the top of the list. I truly feel that it is where I naturally belong. However, according to the experts, I should not have it as a goal.

This will take some learning on my part.


Blogger poolminnow said...

Why do you want to win?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 5:34:00 PM  
Blogger Michael McCafferty said...

Because "winning isn't everything, it's the ONLY thing"...

see this link:

Because Evolution drives me to win, to propagate my genes, to survive in battle, to win the fair maiden...

(yeah, it's really all about the girls, isn't it)



Tuesday, June 10, 2008 5:54:00 PM  
Blogger poolminnow said...

Just because you have a destination, doesn't mean you can't be present to the journey....or even have to make it to the place you mapped out to make it worth the trip.

I say if winning the US Amateur Open gets you to the practice table, and makes it exciting, its a good goal. Yes, we can't control whether we win or not, but isn't that what makes it interesting and challenging? To me the point is to fully commit to something knowing you may not be able to accomplish, and still not pull back. Even if you lose you won't walk away empty handed.

Just another perspective....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 7:14:00 AM  
Blogger Michael McCafferty said...

Ah, so...

Genius from the mouth of minnow!

Thank you.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008 8:41:00 AM  
Blogger Robert Johnson said...

"Winning" is one way to measure improvement but CHALLENGE is what I shoot for. Most times I play someone a match (for free or not) with accurate handicapping to make sure I focus.

I sometimes expand my experiences by practicing curve shots, jump shots, kick shots, bank shots in preparation for safeties I might need to address in the future.

When I practice alone, I treat myself as a worthy opponent, and try to do good safeties if warranted.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 2:21:00 PM  

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