I am a divorcee.
The reason, as cited on the divorce paper, was a lack of communication, caused by the fact that I spent each night locked up in a room gambling, and then sleeping throughout the day.
A divorce is a painful thing.
I believe the aftermath of a divorce is more painful than the aftermath of the death of your spouse. This is especially true if you have children. A biological bond, tying you to the life of the one you loved more than anything else in the world, forever.
It was my second wife that taught me about the importance of boundaries. I wasn’t an avid learner. It didn’t come naturally. If it wasn’t for the patience of this wonderful woman, the only way the message would have been rammed home would have been through another divorce.
I used to lose myself in work. I blamed ambition. When my first wife blared at me for being absent I would return a volley:
“I am doing for you!”
But that’s not what she wanted.
When money puts on a pair of gloves, and steps into the ring with love, there is only ever one winner.
If you follow the teachings of Malcolm Gladwell then you may be familiar with his book Outliers. In the New York Times Bestseller, Gladwell coins a phrase “The 10,000 Hour Rule” where he asserts that the key to success in any field is determined by practizing a specific task for 10,000 hours.
Following through with his logic, if you want to be a professional poker player, then you have to spend at least 10,000 hours at the tables, refining your art. Ruthless ambition coupled with solid hard work. This is why the world calls you a grinder.
Playing poker can become a selfish pursuit. I win. I lose. I had a bad beat. I had a cooler. I was sucked out on. I played brilliantly. I played like a cock. I missed my flush. I missed my straight. I hit that miracle one-outer. I think I am going to go to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) for six weeks.
That last one is particularly difficult when you are leaving behind a wife, three screaming kids, and a Bulldog that likes to eat Sky TV remote controls. But it doesn’t stop you from going. It’s your job. You need to be there. Who cares about Sky anyway, you get your entertainment in Spearmint Rhino.
Boundaries are disappearing fast. We used to go to school at 8am, we would have dinner break at noon, and then leave school at 4pm. Our parents would insist that we were tucked up in bed by 9pm.
Those are boundaries.
Then we left school and went to work. We would clock in at 8am, we would break for lunch at noon, and then we would leave at 4pm. You would ask the wife for sex at around 9pm, she would say no, and you would go to sleep in a huff around 9.01pm. If she said yes, you got your head down at 9.05pm.
Modern life is eating away at our boundaries. Look around. What do you see? People are working countless more hours than ever before. How many people take work home with them? How many have mobile phones surgically affixed to ears? We cannot switch off. Weekends don’t mean anything anymore. It’s just one big work thing.
This is where choosing to be a professional poker player can be so amazing. It’s one of the main reasons people choose to play. Players call it freedom. It’s a life without rules. A life without control. But it’s also a life without boundaries.
With no clocking on or off, you have to be the one who decides to have an early night; to take a day off, or to treat the family and take them on a holiday. You have to make the sacrifices. There is no boss. It’s a beautiful game. But it’s not as beautiful when the people you love have packed their bags and buggered off to live with someone who notices them.
You have to set boundaries.
You don’t have to play every tournament.
Stand your ground.
Don’t live a life shuffling around on sand.
Some people think of boundaries as a constraint. A series of walls that block your enthusiasm and energy. They view them as a negative thing; a weakness. A trait that is frowned upon by the common man. These types of people are bulls. They believe they can cope with everything life throws at them. They can’t see the pain. They can’t see the damage that their focus can cause.
Boundaries are empowering. They foster loving connections. They deliver respect. They show that you care. Life is about other people, not just about you. Boundaries can also act as protection. They act as a filter so you can channel useless information, and other people’s agendas down a different gully. It’s a structured mechanism for choosing the important, and discarding the encumbrances.
Poker is a wonderful game. It’s this wonder that keeps us mesmerized. The deck keeps calling like sirens swimming in the sea. But beyond that sea are a set of jagged rocks. Boundaries protect you from those rocks. They liberate your relationships. They allow you to love the game, whilst those you care about, most in the world, love you right back.
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[Thumbnail image on home page, as well as image at top of page, by Jamie Adams from Hull, United Kingdom (Poker chips) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]